Some general observations about idiots, thieves, the French and local fishing boats
Some of the things that go on out here are unreal, for example over half of all the boats we see at night have the wrong lights on. Lights are important to us because they indicate what sort of boat we are seeing, how big it is and what direction it is going. One classic example was a yacht with its masthead tricolour on (which indicates sailing) plus its navigation and steaming lights on (which indicate it is motoring). The problem is when you combine the lights it isn't even a yacht. Looked at from in front starboard side the lights said it was a vessel trawling, and looked at from front port side it was a vessel fishing but not trawling. What creased us was that in the gloom we could make out large letters on the hull...UKSA - one of Britain's top ocean sailing schools!!

Probably the biggest idiot we've seen, who should be nominated for a Darwin award for improving the human gene pool when he runs out of luck, was a motor boat with no white stern light but he did have the red and green bow lights. It's just that the red and green were the wrong way round.

Changing subject, when you hear an anchor rattling down so loud it has to be close, you can bet your life it is a French yacht. They have an amazing ability to anchor right on top of other boats. On one occasion there was over half a mile of clear water off to our starboard side that was perfect for anchoring. The French yacht came up our starboard side swung directly in front of us and anchored, dropping back towards our bows and sitting over our anchor chain. We asked him to move because we were leaving in a couple of hours and he did move, not to the half mile of clear water but about ten feet to his right. Mind you he got his just desserts when we left because we as we hauled our chain, getting ever closer to him, we picked up a lump of fishing net and got temporarily stuck about ten feet from him. The worry on his face was a picture.

The French also apparently have the most awful reputation out here for thieving. We first became aware of it when Patrice (the French guy in Martinique) looked at us while we locked our dinghy to the quay. He then said "no need to do that now but make sure you lock everything from March onwards". We said "why is that". He said "because that's when the French boats start getting ready to go back to Europe and they steal everything before they go". We've since discovered that there is a well known saying here: 'Most people fit out their boats to go cruising, the French go cruising to fit out their boats'.

While all these idiots/thieves are charging around the place the poor local fishing guys continue to take risks. Every morning there is an HF radio safety net, run by cruisers, that reports missing boats. Recently we had a request to look out for two fishing boats, one had seven aboard and as far as we know neither boat has been seen or heard from again. It's very sad and Mike gets quite upset about it. You might think the fishermen are idiots for not carrying the necessary safety equipment but they simply can't afford it. An alternative would be to stop fishing and start thieving but they have too much pride for that. Maybe certain Europeans could learn something there.

Back to cruising
We went into Le Marin marina on March 23rd, ready for the generator service that was duly carried out with no problems. I took the opportunity to have my first running shower (water use unlimited) for about six weeks - lovely.

When we were in Le Marin we met up (and had drinks on our boat) with Tom and Lesley from Kobbe. We had spoken to them on the radio, to relay a theft incident for them, but not met before. We then cleared out of Martinique on the 26th and headed South back to St Lucia for a proper pit stop.

St Lucia
On the way down we had winds gusting to 25 knots and a very lumpy sea with a cross swell, but the sailing was good. On arrival we parked behind Pigeon Point and the following morning went into the inner lagoon to clear customs and immigration. We then went back out to Pigeon Point for a couple of lazy days and to walk/climb the two peaks on the point. Well, Mike climbed both I just climbed the one with Fort Rodney on it - the fort being named after Admiral Rodney not 'Rodney you plonker', as somebody suggested.

In the bay by Pigeon Point is a Sandals hotel that allows people out on small catamarans, kayaks and windsurfers. It was quite obvious that most people didn't have a clue what they were doing, which is OK if there is a safety boat out - there isn't! One day we rescued a windsurfer who was totally exhausted. Two days later we rescued a kayak with two exhausted, elderly people in it, all of them were being blown out to sea in strong winds and the kayakers in particular were very scared. We were appalled and we managed to get the attention of a Sandals ferry to come and collect the kayakers from our boat. Mike had a bit of a go at them about the non-existent safety precautions but they seemed totally disinterested. Watch that space because somebody is going to get killed one day and if you ever go to a Sandals...

We moved into the marina on April 1st and then the work started. Mike replaced one of the navigation lights that was still playing up; we had also had problems with the anchor winch that he cured with a new deck fitting for the remote control. I got on with the domestics including tons of washing and restocking the boat. I won't bore you with the details but it is amazing how the job list builds up when you are away from 'civilisation'.

Needless to say we did have time for socialising and it was good to see two boats that we first met in Graciosa: Bill and Cathy on Sogno di Mare and Mike and Angela on A Capella. The first get-together was at a beach barbecue organised by another cruising boat and the second was at a punch party thrown by the marina at which we had a great steel band - that kept Mike quiet for a couple of hours, he loves steel bands.

We were going to leave on Monday 11th April but the night before departure our fresh water taps started spitting. Mike investigated and the water pump diaphragm was split (he also found some other problems with it that meant a service pack wasn't enough). Although we have a foot pump for emergencies the thought of living without the pump for up to three months wasn't appealing, so we decided to stay in Rodney Bay for as long as necessary to fit a new one. Next problem - the chandler didn't have one and wouldn't be able to order one until the manager returned in about a week. Mike was talking about this to Scott and Billy on a USA flagged steel boat, Billy Ruffin, parked next to us. By coincidence Scott's wife, Svea, was flying in the following week and bringing Scott a new pump! We asked if she would mind carrying another of the type we wanted and she very kindly agreed. The pump was finally fitted on Wednesday 20th but without Scott and Svea's help we could have waited for weeks. Fitting the pump was, of course, the normal saga of a ten minute job turning into a half day job when we found that the pump design had been marginally changed (one eighth of an inch wider) which meant designing and fabricating a new base for it to sit on.

During this period I restarted work on our new mainsail cover. This was essentially the time consuming task of sewing the boat name to each side, as requested by my 'esteemed' skipper. A word of advice if anyone ever contemplates doing the same. Make your boat name short and don't make it one with lots of letters with curves, such as S's, O's etc.! The few we have were bad enough, or maybe I just need more skill...

Also during this period we got to know Rob and Maggie on another steel boat, Tanglewood, and spent an enjoyable evening with them at a curry restaurant. We were planning to leave on Saturday 23rd when David and Deborah on Water Music arrived, so we delayed departure to have lunch with them the following day. One thing we've learned is that plans should be flexible - we just never know what might happen next, even going to the shop for bread can take an hour when we run into people we know. It's half the fun of cruising.

There was consternation while we were in St Lucia amongst the cruising community because the BBC World Service, in its wisdom, had decided to change some of the frequencies and times of their programming and worse, cut down on the amount that could be heard on short wave in favour of the Internet. Fine if you're landbased or have unlimited access to the Internet, i.e not fine if you live on a boat. Having gone to an internet cafe and printed out all the new details I then found that some of the information was incorrect with regard to frequencies and times. Some cruisers (not just the Americans) were asking for the Voice of America and US Forces radio frequencies so they could listen to them instead, desperate indeed. Well done World Service.

We finally got away on Sunday 24th April and we had a major suprise that morning when our Ocean Cruising Club flag arrived. Before we left the UK we were looking for a yacht club(s) to join, with the wholly selfish motive of being able to meet people with more experience than us. Most of the clubs weren't our scene.In the end we joined The Cruising Association and we have met some of the other members on both sides of the Atlantic. However the club we most wanted to join was the Ocean Cruising Club - the club is very unusual in that you have to complete a qualifying passage in order to join, specifically a one thousand mile plus non-stop passage from A to B. Jane's brother, Simon, had mailed the flag to us in St Lucia over four weeks earlier so we thought it had been lost. Anyway the club's membership includes some of the greatest sailors of all time, and while we don't aspire to those levels we wear the flag with pride and look forward to meeting some interesting characters.

Our first stop was Marigot Bay where we stayed one night before moving further south on St Lucia to Soufriere. While there we treated ourselves (one year living on the boat) to lunch at the Dasheen, a restaurant that overlooks the Pitons and the pilot book describes as 'having the best restaurant view in the Caribbean' - it's true, the view is spectacular. Also in the bay were Water Music, Three Ships and Sogno di Mare - another good night out, this time at the Harmony Beach restaurant run by Benny, a local character and general Mr Fixit. It was while we were here that we think we saw a drug drop but I won't go into detail here because these things are best not seen.

The snorkelling on the north side of the bay is the best we have seen since the Seychelles and we also had a rather surreal lunch at a small, first floor balcony restaurant in a back street of Soufriere. Below us was a man selling fresh tuna from a wheelbarrow, he was cutting up steaks with a machete. Opposite us a man was painting window frames while playing country music at full volume - it was all very strange.

St Vincent
We left St Lucia on the 29th April and sailed 36 miles to Wallilabou on St Vincent, where we cleared in to the Grenadines. Wallilabou was the main set for filming Pirates of the Caribbean and the set is still intact, so it was another surreal experience parking the boat in a pirates' lair. The following day we walked about a mile to a waterfall and pool for a cooling splash-about - it's getting really hot here now, hotter than anything we've had before in the Caribbean.

On May 1st we sailed 18 miles down to Admiralty Bay on the island of Bequia. There is always a lot of wind in the channel between St Vincent and Bequia, so we had a great sail. We stayed in Bequia for ten days, it's a really laid back place with small restaurants and a pretty walkway along the seafront. There is also a rastafarian-run fruit and vegetable market where the rastafarians all jump on you when you go in, begging you to buy from their stall. Initially it can be quite intimidating but when you get to know them it's really good fun.

One of the reasons we left the UK was we were fed up with the nanny-state telling us what to do and charging us ever more tax for the privilege of doing so. Out here the nanny-state doesn't seem to exist; Antigua has only just introduced income tax, in Dominica over ninety per cent of people are not even registered for income tax and presumably the rest work for the government. However, a slimy tentacle of the nanny-state can show up even here.

Bequia is a small island that most people have never heard of, it is seven square miles in area and has a population of eight thousand. Basically it is of no interest to anyone except cruising yachts and the friendly people who live there - but the occasional small American cruise ship stops there and the American government won't allow its citizens to land unless it is in a secure area. So the Bequians have had to build a security fence that runs about twenty metres each side of the dock and then turns towards the sea. The trouble is it doesn't reach the sea and you don't even need to get your feet wet to walk around it - it's a joke and since we think the Bequians are having the last laugh they have gone even higher in our estimation.

It was while we were in Bequia that we thought our watermaker had packed up. It's a fairly simple piece of kit that pumps salt water at high pressure through a membrane which produces drinking water. We thought the membrane needed to be replaced and we weren't going to bother to replace it until we reached Trinidad because it's possible to take on drinking water in most of the islands. However something rather strange happened the night after it failed because it rained and rained, over five inches of rain in total, much of it between 02.00 and 03.00, and Mike (dashing around naked on deck - don't think about it...) used it to fill our water tanks - perhaps somebody was looking after us. We eventually got the watermaker going again about a week later, after some extensive flushing and a new filter.

Mayreau and Tobago Cays
Our next stop was Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau, a twenty six mile sail in good winds with a fairly cloudy sky and showers threatening. Salt Whistle is one of the picture postcard bays with a curved beach lined with coconut palms but we only stopped one night before motoring dead upwind for 3 miles to Tobago Cays on May 11th. The Cays are probably one of the prettiest areas in the eastern Caribbean, made up of a number of small uninhabited islands, sandy beaches and beautiful turquoise water, all protected by a big horseshoe reef with good snorkelling. At night the sky is full of stars and you can hear the surf crashing on the reef, with nothing else between you and Africa. It really is wonderful.

We kept bumping into boats we know and one night we had Bill and Cathy from Sogno di Mare and Martyn and Lynda from Great Sensation over for drinks. We first met Martyn and Lynda in the River Guadiana (the Spain/Portugal border) and it's still a strange feeling when we see boats we first met so far away. There's nothing to do at Tobago Cays except swim, snorkel, sit on one of the beaches or walk to the top of one of the islands for a spectacular view. It is possible to buy bread from one of the boat boys and we also bought some very tasty red snappers that Mike prepared - we were still finding fish scales on the back of the boat weeks later.

Many of the boats we know are spread out in front and behind us, all heading south, most to Trinidad, and there is quite a lot of radio chat every morning as everybody checks where everybody else is. Hurricanes develop from tropical waves and we had already had the first tropical wave go over, so while none of us were hurrying south (hurricane season starts in June, and we were already south of the main danger area) we were all keeping a close watch on the weather.

Union, Petit St Vincent and Petit Martinique
On Tuesday 17th May we left the Cays, weaving our way through the reefs to the south, headed for Union Island. Union used to be a threatening island with a very unfriendly population, so we were wondering what the reception might be. In fact the island has completely changed, the islanders are now very friendly and there has been a lot of investment in renovating and painting the buildings. It was really good to see, although how they've managed such a change is still something of a mystery.

While we were there we had a reminder of what the Caribbean is really about. We were talking to a young girl of school age on a day she (and all the other kids around) should have been at school. We asked her why the school was closed and she looked at us as though we were idiots and said "the cricket's on in St Vincent today". "Ah right" we said, obvious really.

We cleared out of Union on the 19th and sailed over to the channel between Petit St Vincent and Petit Martinique. The former is a private island with a very smart hotel on it, the latter is a real, unspoiled Caribbbean island whose only major facility is a fuel and water dock (where we filled everything up). The channel between the islands is protected by a reef and is a beautiful spot with good snorkelling. We could only stay one night because had to clear in to the Grenada area within 24 hours of leaving Union.

We cleared in at Hillsborough on Carriacou on the 29th, after a slow sail in light winds. The same day we moved the boat round to the main anchorage at Tyrell Bay. This is another small, sleepy island where four people on the half-mile beach is a crowd. We did on one accasion though see a traffic jam when a car stopped and another car couldn't get past it.

It was here we caught up with Sogno di Mare and Great Sensation again and we decided to go out one night to Lambi's, who were promoting 'barbecue and steel band'. The steel band turned out to be one guy with two steel pans plus a drummer - not quite what we were expecting but typical Caribbean.

Gavin and Pat on Seahawk arrived (also OCC members we first met in Tobago Cays) and gave us some tuna they had just caught; we had coffee and biscuits with A Capella and Bagheera (who left shortly afterwards) and then drinks and dinner with A Capella. We were also invited for drinks by another OCC member, Graeme and Anne on Rasi, who were making their first foray cruising having spent months repairing their boat after Hurricane Ivan. Overall it was a fairly social time although it was here we got the watermaker going again and Mike changed the engine oil and filter, while I did some clothes washing. We also took time to explore an amazing mangrove lagoon (which is huge) at the north end of the bay. Growing on the mangrove roots are thousands of thin-shelled oysters, which are edible but you are not supposed to harvest them because they are in a conservation area, so we didn't try them. The boat boys in Carriacou were selling something other than the normal fruit and veg or fish, and several of us took the opportunity to stock up on some very acceptable Chilean wine at low prices!

On Saturday 28th June we left for St George's on Grenada in loose company with A Capella. A Capella had never been fishing before but had bought some fishing gear in Bequia. They had been picking Mike's brains about what to do and we decided to have a fishing competition on the way down. Since we had two rods out and they had only one the result was a foregone conclusion...wasn't it? First we got a VHF call to say they had caught a tuna, they were over the moon about it. We had caught nothing. Then we got a VHF call to say they had stopped fishing because they had just caught an 8 foot long Blue Marlin. This thing was so big it took the two of them to get it aboard and they had to stop sailing because it was jamming the genoa reefing line on the side deck!! We had still caught nothing, although a little later we did catch a small Barracuda. Not only were we totally thrashed but A Capella sold the Marlin for 150 EC (about 30 UK pounds) when we reached St George's. Basically they went from no fishing, to sport fishing, to commercial fishing, all in one go. They very kindly invited us for a tuna dinner that night and we supplied the potato salad.

It was around this time that the bad weather started, some squalls, lightning and lots of rain. One day we went out to the anchorage outside St George's lagoon but it was so rolly that we just cleaned the propellor and rudder and went back to the lagoon. To give an indication of how bad the rolling was Mike didn't have to dive down on the rudder, it was coming up to him! We were slightly nervous when we reanchored in the lagoon because earlier when we lifted the anchor it brought up a sheet of corrugated iron. No doubt dumped in the lagoon by the hurricane there are probably hundreds of sheets down there waiting to foul anchors.

Big ships dock close-by the lagoon and it was interesting to watch them approach the dock, turn sideways on to the dock, then use their bow and stern thrusters to edge slowly onto the dock. One day a Chinese ship got it all wrong and even though it dropped both anchors, trying to stop, it ploughed straight into the quay with a tremendous crash, punching a big hole in the bows.

Two good things about being weathered-in in St George's are that there are a supermarket selling fresh meat and a chandler, neither of which we had seen for weeks. Books are a key part of the cruising life, we all read, and thus a book swap organised by the chandler was a major social event, especially with fresh bread and tea and coffee for sale (proceeds to a local charity) and back massages on offer! One thing we had to get used to is that Grenada is a fairly religious island and everything in the capital shuts on Sundays except...the yacht club bar.

We also explored the town and saw the devastation caused by hurricane Ivan last September. There are damaged buildings everywhere but the most striking thing is that the three main churches are all but destroyed. These aren't flimsy structures (like many of the houses), we went to take a close look at one and it's walls were three brick lengths thick! To put hurricanes into context, wind pressure increases at the square of the increase in wind speed. Most people think it is windy when the wind speed reaches 20 miles per hour and you have to start leaning into the wind. Ivan came through at 150 miles per hour giving a wind pressure over 49 times what you have to lean into.

We finally got a break in the weather on the 7th June and we took the boat round to Prickly Bay on the south coast of Grenada. We bumped into Water Music for the first time in weeks and had a pleasant meal with David and Deborah. We also met up with Rob and Maggie on Tanglewood who we hadn't seen since St Lucia. I had a haircut and Mike changed the generator oil and filter.

While we were in Prickly Bay we saw something that cracked us up. The Rastafarians don't cut their hair and to keep it tidy while working they pile it up under a woolly hat, the hat can be up to two feet high. Consider what would happen in the UK if a Rastafarian wanted to work on a building site where hard hats are mandatory. Out here they simply perch the hard hat on top of the woolly hat, it looks very funny (and very tall!) but given the amount of hair it's probably quite safe.

Prickly Bay was quite rolly so we moved the boat further east along the south coast to Hog Island on the 12th. The whole of the south coast of Grenada is a tangle of different sized and shaped reefs, so the pilotage is interesting, particularly if it is blowy with a sea running. Hog Island is one of the quiet spots, well protected by reefs and with only a small beach bar ashore that holds a barbecue every Sunday (yes, we were there). We spent another three days at Hog before we went out of the reefs and back in again to a small marina in Clarke's Court Bay. We would have stayed longer in Hog but the weather was due to turn again and we wanted to organise an island tour.

The island tour was a great eye opener, particularly seeing the hurricane damage to the rain forest. Whole areas of forest have been stripped of foliage, apparently caused by salt spray driven right over the island. In addition to ninety per cent of homes being damaged, nearly all the nutmeg trees have been destoyed. Nutmegs account for about thirty per cent of Grenada's income and since it will take about eight years for the new trees to mature the economic damage is severe. We visited a nutmeg processing plant (needless to say it was fairly quiet) which still uses methods and equipment over one hundred years old. The whole process could be easily automated but the job losses would just add to the economic woes.

Something that we had noticed was that eggs were very scarce. When we questioned it we were told (don't laugh) that most of the chickens were blown away by the hurricane. Obviously they are trying to rebuild stocks but the strange thing is that the eggs being hatched now are mainly producing cockerels and nobody knows why.

One of the saddest things about the hurricane was how people behaved. Apparently the government left just before the hurricane hit and the cost of the looting that followed the hurricane was greater than the hurricane damage. Order was only restored when Trinidadian troops arrived. One story we heard was that there had been occasional theft from yachts on the south coast and the yachties thought they knew who was doing it but the authorities wouldn't act. After the hurricane the alleged thieves were seen heading out to a private island, presumably to loot. However the island's owner had brought in some French mercenaries to protect the island and none of the alleged thieves has ever been seen again. It is also noteworthy that there has been zero theft from yachts since they disappeared.

Also on the tour we visited the old international airport. On the ground are two wrecked planes, one Cuban, one Russian. These are leftovers from the attempted communist coup some years ago and both planes are full of bullet holes.

We really enjoyed our stay in Clarke's Court, the marina is situated in a conservation area that is effectively parkland and very pretty. There are only a few boats there at any time and the bar building is more of a club house where we held barbecues some nights followed by a film, or played pool, and I started to get into dominoes which is a cruisers' favourite. There was a small drama one night when our 240 volt AC lead caught fire at the dockside power point - obviously something shorted but fortunately there was no significant damage because the night security guard spotted it and switched the power off.

The weather while we were in Clarke's Court was fairly dire and we didn't make the bays to the East.

When the weather did change for the better we decided to head down to Chaguaramas on Trinidad while we could, albeit slightly earlier than we had planned. We got a taxi over to Prickly Bay to clear out and set off about 4pm on Friday 24th June. The wind was 15 to 20 knots from the ESE, so we were sailing fairly close to the wind. The passage, which was our 41st night at sea since we left Burnham, was uneventful. We kept in touch on VHF with five other yachts also making the passage and saw few other ships. We did however have to steer round an oil rig that is situated on the direct route from Grenada to Trinidad, it made an impressive site all lit up in the middle of nowhere. At about that time the wind began to drop and it died completely as we approached Trinidad.

Although Trinidad is viewed to be part of the Caribbean chain, it was originally joined to South America and you can see Venezuela stretching away to the west. Thus the wildlife is very different from the other islands and that's where the vultures come in...

Just off the west end of Trinidad are some small islands and the channel we entered to reach Chaguaramas is called the Boca de Monas, part of a series of channels called the Dragon's Mouth. The name is appropriate because strong currents and counter-currents run there, giving whirlpools, breaking waves and the most incredible series of standing waves - in bad weather we suspect it would be positively dangerous. We were just negotiating this mess, our speed had dropped to 0.9 knots in a very strong current, when Mike said "look up". Circling above us were vultures, dozens and dozens of them, far too many to count! Welcome to Trinidad.

We cleared in at immigration and customs and while in immigration Mike was asked what time we arrived. Mike said "I've no idea, I don't wear a watch and I don't even know the date, how about putting down twenty minutes ago?" The lady official was not impressed.

After clearing in we made our way to a marina berth at Coral Cove. In many ways it was a strange moment because Plan 1 was to sail from Burnham Yacht Harbour to Trinidad. You might be wondering what Plan 2 is and we don't have one, we'll decide where we go next while we are in Trinidad. We've been 'on the road' for over a year, therefore we'll stay in Trinidad for three months which is most of hurricane season. Also there is a huge list of boat jobs to be done, the last of which is to haul Kelly's Eye out and antifoul her, before we set off again.

Where we are parked is very sheltered, with a mountain range to the north, so it is extremely hot and humid. At the first opportunity we hired an air conditioner that fits over the forward hatch, working below decks is now bliss and we can sleep properly at last - above all we know we have somewhere cool to escape to when the heat gets too much.

Chaguaramas (where the marina is) is an amazing place, there is a narrow industrial strip of land with small marinas, haul-out yards and every yacht facility (from upholstery to stainless fabrication) known to man, just what we need. Yet behind the thin industrial strip is national park rain forest stretching for miles up into the mountains - the residents there include howler monkeys and it's all slightly surreal.

Since we arrived we've hardly had a night on the boat because so many of our friends are also here, plus we are meeting new boats, plus there is an informal cruisers net that organises barbecues, outings etc. We thought we came to rest, but it hasn't happened yet. For example...

On the night of June 30th we went to a beach on the north east coast of Trinidad to see the turtles come ashore and lay eggs and to see the hatchlings (Mike calls them Turtlets) make their way to the sea. The turtles are Leatherbacks which are huge at about five feet long - they look like monsters from the deep as they appear out of the sea. After lumbering up the beach they dig a three foot deep hole with a bell chamber at the bottom where they lay the eggs. The hole wouldn't be easy to dig with a spade, yet they do it with their back flippers. While they are laying their eggs they go into a trance and only then can you shine a light on them, take pictures and touch them - it was a fantastic experience. The turtles then fill in the hole spreading sand and tamping it down with a precision that you wouldn't believe. Then they have a ten minute rest before lumbering off back to the sea. Each turtle comes ashore three to five times per season and they must be exhausted by the end.

To say the hatchlings are sweet is an understatement. Most dig their way out and head off towards light, the phosphoresence in the sea - shine a torch at them and they will come to you. However some of the hatchlings at the bottom of the hole fail to get out as they get exhausted. We saw the ranger dig the exhausted ones out with his hand and he gave us one to 'resuscitate'. The poor little thing seemed nearly dead but after about five minutes of massaging its tummy the little flippers were waving about like mad and it seemed just as strong as those that made it on their own. Mike then took our one down to the sea.

It is no wonder that Leatherbacks are endangered because less than one per cent of the hatchlings survive to adulthood. Also the females only return to the same beach to lay eggs after twenty five years, by which time someone has built a hotel on it. Fortunately that won't happen in Trinidad, the turtle beaches are protected and all credit to the locals. Not only is there no building on the beaches, you have to have a permit to go on the beach.

Finally, Leatherbacks eat jellyfish and there aren't many jellyfish around here so they go looking for food - Trinidadian leatherbacks have been spotted in France! How they navigate there and back nobody knows, nature really is a wonderful thing. Since that takes us to the end of June I'll stop writing about what we've been up to and leave you with a few impressions and general comments about how we are finding things.

The first thing to say is that cruising is seriously hard work some of the time - humping gas cylinders, cases of drink or fuel containers around; lifting the dinghy and outboard engine on and off the boat; walking miles to buy things etc etc, all in high humidity and temperatures. However we are stronger and fitter than when we left the UK.

The boat is a constant source of work because we have to produce our own electricity, make our own water and pump everything around, light the boat and so on. We have three engines (main engine, generator and dinghy outboard) that require maintenance and occasional repair that we do ourselves. Then there is the rigging and sails... Of course Kelly's Eye isn't just our home, she also keeps us safe when the going gets tough so we have a 'boat comes first' policy. Day or night, whether we are sleeping or eating, if the boat needs attention she gets it - TLC in the extreme.

The above is not so much a downside as a challenge that comes with the territory. The upsides of cruising are threefold. First, freedom. The sea is the only place left in the world that isn't regulated, we can go where we want, when we want or just stay where we are. Certainly we have to deal with occasional officials but they are invariably welcoming and interested in what we are doing. Second, the places and experiences. We see places that most people can't visit and we have time to explore if we want to. Some of our experiences have been of the 'money can't buy it' variety - vultures over the Dragon's Mouth being an example. Third, the people, both local and other cruisers. It always seems that islanders welcome visitors from the sea more than they welcome airborne tourists, perhaps because many of them understand the sea themselves. As for other cruisers they deserve a separate paragraph.

At the end of a full season we now know there are three distinct types of cruiser, with the odd sub-section. There are those doing an Atlantic circuit (a surprising number), who we said goodbye to months ago. There are the 'snowbirds' who come down here in the northern winter and usually leave their boats on the hard here during the summer. And, like us, there are the full-time cruisers who are now mainly in the USA, Trinidad or Venezuela for the hurricane season, wondering where they might go next. Each section has different motivations but everyone seems to have a can-do attitude and a practical streak. When we first met some of the ocean cruising brigade in Graciosa we said you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch of people and that remains true today.

Experienced cruisers always say that 'the first year is the worst'. Although we've had the odd moment we would rather not repeat, year one has been mainly kind to us. We've learned from our mistakes and we've learned how to make life easier by simplifying things, it's just practice really. We hope we enjoy year two even more.

And before ending this update here's a few more boat names, heard on the SSB radio, that we think should get to know each other so we can have our childish senses of humour tickled:

'Toot' and 'Pip' (the initial call from Pip would go Toot, Toot, Pip, Pip)
'Allelulia' and 'Joyful and Triumphant'
'Meander 2' and 'Zigzagging'
'Endangered Species' and 'Natural Selection'