The Hurricanes …

No doubt everyone will be very much aware of the devastation that has been caused to parts of the Caribbean by the category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Fortunately, being based in Grenada, we have not been unduly effected by them ourselves, although watching the unfolding destruction in countries where we have been and have friends, has been harrowing.

After Irma hit we were approached to take supplies up to St. Martin and the BVIs, but after getting first-hand accounts of the madness and mayhem that ensued in the aftermath, and still continues, we decided to wait.  Now Maria has passed and Dominica, another island we know and have friends on, has been all but destroyed.  There are relief organisations here in Grenada who are desperately wanting to send supplies up there … at present communications have not been repaired and it’s difficult to know how bad the situation is, other than ‘really, really bad’.

So .. we are going to be part of the relief aid.  Just had a meeting on board with the two main guys in charge, they want the Buzzard docked on the Carenage in St. George’s by tomorrow afternoon, starting to load Friday and hopefully be on our way early next week. That is, of course, weather permitting …

Love to all … we’ll try and keep you updated xx

More photos ..

Chris finally got around to giving me some of the photos that he took on his camera.  There are a couple from the Suriname-St. Martin trip last year which I’m sure you’ll like, and some more of the Canouan caper … enjoy!

Towing the barge into St. Martin.

Approaching the bridge on the Dutch side ..

  .. and coming through.

Almost a year later and on to Canouan …

One of the unsuccessful attempts to get the cat off the beach with a 100 tonne crane and excavator.

Chris and Samuel.

Blaze, Sancho and Fat-head starting work on the A-frames … and then up they go.

The first one’s in place …….                       while the Canouan Regatta goes on.

And finally the catamaran is level and the crew are happy, and so is Chris.

Meanwhile, back in present day Grenada, Mike and the boys are still working hard stripping and cleaning the cat and her engines so the pressure isn’t quite off yet, although I have been told, several times, that it won’t be long now. And Mike is starting to slowly catch up on some much deserved R and R and come down from his five month adrenaline rush, so normal service may well be resumed shortly (whatever that is).

It was Carnival here last weekend and whilst we didn’t have the energy to partake of the festivities ourselves, all our SVG crew managed to have varying degrees of fun.  Along with Seb, our latest crew addition who is a young guy from Huddersfield who just happened to find himself boat-less in Grenada, and is now being an invaluable help to Mike in taking apart all the various engines, generators, pumps and parts … and can’t wait to get his hands on the Matchless in the hold.

Love to all …

PS  Something seems to have gone a bit wrong with the photos but if you click on them the whole photo is there … honest.

 

Canouan completed … finally!

Can you believe … the Canouan catamaran, after almost five months, is finally in Grenada and on the hard … and with photos to prove it!

Mike eventually had to give up on the hope of help from the various barges and cranes and people’s promises, and resort to ‘medieval’ means of getting it out of the sand and over the reef.  He built a series of A-frames along the port hull, or at least what remains of it,   and then slowly chain-hoisted it up whilst simultaneously pumping out the sand.  And then it was up and over and alongside the Buzzard. Not looking very safe and in need of constant pumping and help from our crane, but no-longer attached to the land.  It took almost a week of 24/7 care and innovative engineering to get it stabilised and ready for towing.  Together with an an awful lot of barrels … but eventually it was all afloat.  Then it was just a case of waiting for the weather window, after Tropical Storm Don passed through, and the journey back could begin. 

Luckily the weather gods were smiling, and/or Mike’s timing was impeccable, and they only lost two barrels on the first leg over to Carriacou.

They over-nighted there, always mindful that things could still go horribly wrong, and left at first light to traverse the often unpredictable currents of Diamond Rock.  Managing a magnificent almost 3 knots, they made it into St. George’s just before dark.  (That was the first time I’d seen Mike for over 2 and a half months, having arrived back from the UK the week before.)  The next morning, and still with the weather in our favour they made it around Point Saline and into Clarke’s Court Bay.

The next few days were spent celebrating and sleeping in almost equal measure, and then the final leg of the trip, as the somewhat battered Bentley, with the help of various friends and dinghies, towed the cat down the Bay and ready for haul-out.

And then there she was  approaching the dock … and then in the slip

… and Mike was deservedly oh so very happy!

Early the next morning, and between the torrential down-pours, out she slowly came … disgorging all the ad-hoc flotation on the way.

Now only the job of cleaning, sorting, recharging the batteries (both literally and figuratively), and working out the next step remains.   

A really big thank you is sent to all who have helped on this amazingly long and difficult job, and especially to Chris, without whose constant work, encouragement and support things could have turned out quite a bit differently. And well done to my wonderful pirate husband .. always knew you could do it!

Love to all …

PS  Whilst I was in the UK I was given a clean bill of health … so double fantastic news from the Buzzard!

Canouan contd.

The salvage saga continues: the Buzzard is still in Canouan, and the catamaran is still on the beach. The plan for the Clarke’s Court barge to come and help didn’t materialise (or at least hasn’t as yet) as they suddenly got really busy and had to go up to St. Lucia on a different job. And in the meantime Mike got a call about another barge coming from Trinidad that was having engine problems off Grenada, and could he go help tow them in, which he did.

You would think that with two potential barges to help something might have happened by now, but the second barge (which is really the third), then had to go to St. Vincent to get fixed and won’t be back until possibly the end of this week. When you add in the delays and set-backs and constant work to ensure that the catamaran stays as stable as possible, this job is definitely not turning out as Mike had envisaged.

BUT … there have been upsides, honest.  Like the length of time we’ve spent there, which wouldn’t generally happen, has given us an amazing insight into the island and the wonderful people who live there.

The island itself is 3.5 by 1.2 miles and has around 1,000 local inhabitants.  It’s beautiful and quintessentially Caribbean with it’s crystal clear aqua-marine waters, reefs and sandy beaches.  It is however relatively flat, and until the exclusive, mainly Italian owned, resorts started appearing in the 1990s most of the water had to be shipped in from St. Vincent. Now there is a complete divide between the rich and the rest (reminding us very much of the time we spent in the Cape Verdes).

The main resort on the north end of the island (which the locals are not allowed anywhere near) is now the Pink Sands Club and was formerly part of the Raffles Hotel and Resorts chain that boasts an 18 hole golf course (originally The Trump International Golf Course no less).  The guests fly into the specially built airport on their private jets, of which you see (and hear) many, and now they also have the option of going straight to their mega-yachts moored in the newly opened Glossy Bay Marina. According to Forbes 2016 Canouan is set to become one of the world’s most exclusive destinations for the rich and famous, even more so than Mustique which is the next island along.

However the main ‘town’ of Charlestown, where we’re anchored, is very different, consisting of a building supply company/emporium of the weird and wonderful, a veggie market where you can only get whatever happens to come in that day on the ferry, and a couple of food shops selling not very much for almost twice the price. And of course the ubiquitous rum shops and beach bars where the locals (and sometimes us) hang out.

From day one on the island the locals have given us help, support and (often sorely needed) encouragement.  And after watching and being part of all the hard work and effort we’ve put in over the weeks, it seems like we’ve been officially adopted as ‘good, hard working people’, invited into homes and, fantastically, become an honorary part of the local community.

And it’s just as well that we do have local support because Mike and Chris have been the lone-rangers on the Buzzard for almost three weeks now. Unfortunately just before Easter I received some not so good medical results, I don’t think it’s anything too serious but something that does need further investigation and treatment that can’t really be done in the Caribbean.  I booked my ticket back to the UK (flying from Grenada) quite a few weeks in advance thinking for sure that the job would be done and we’d be back in Grenada by then … so much for thinking.

As we were (and as we apparently still are) waiting to know which barge was coming when, Angie decided to come back to Grenada with me to check on her own boat and have a break from the joys and frustrations of salvage life.  Instead of leaving the catamaran and incurring the time, effort and expense of taking the Buzzard down to Grenada it was decided that Mike would sign us out on the Bentley and whizz us across the sixteen miles to Carriacou to catch the ferry. Luckily it was a relatively calm day, and apart from the rope burns on my knuckles where I was hanging on, it was actually quite enjoyable and only took us just over an hour.

And now I’m back enjoying the beautiful sunshine and much missed greenery of an English Spring .. or at least I was before it got cold and damp and started pouring down with rain!

Love to all …

 

 

Some news

So I was just about to post a blog saying how there was no news as we’re still in Canouan, still working hard, still getting intermittent northerly swells, and still dealing with equipment break-downs and the occasional personnel malfunction.  And still, after all this time, waiting for the barge and crane.  But then, news has appeared … the barge spent two days in the bay and we were getting excited about the prospect of finally getting the catamaran off the beach, and then last Friday, at midnight, a tug (Captain Bim no less, who we know well from previous adventures) arrived to tow them away up to St. Martin.

Needless to say we were not happy bunnies.  But yesterday we re-grouped, Mike called Connor down in Grenada and he said that the Clarke’s Court Bay barge and crane may well be available if we could come down to get it and tow it back up here ourselves.  Their barge would actually be even better as it can get into shallower water and we’ve worked with them before, in fact why we didn’t think of them in the first place is something of a mystery to us all.  So we’re now waiting to hear if and/or when we can go get it, whilst meanwhile continuing on with the never-ending emptying out of sand in the catamaran.  Some swells do amazing jobs of clearing it out; last week a swell washed away most of the sand along the starboard side and we finally managed to get the chain that had wrapped itself around the boat free, and yesterday some of the cleaned out cabins up forward had silted up once again.   You just never know what you’re going to find … such an exciting life we lead!

IF all goes according to our latest wish-fulfilment plan, we leave for Grenada early tomorrow, pick up the barge Tuesday, come back Wednesday, spend a few days doing the deed, putting the catamaran on the barge and heading straight back to Grenada.  Sounds like a wonderful plan to me.  Fingers crossed.

Love to all …

Currently in Canouan

A 61ft (2010) Privelege catamaran went up on the beach in Canouan, St. Vincent, almost four weeks ago, maybe even more than four weeks ago.  Mike went up, without the Buzzard, to see if there was anything we could do, and after two weeks and a multitude of multi-national phone calls and paper-work later it was finally decided that yes, we could try and get it off.

So, after a few running repairs to the Buzzard’s stern-tube and no. 5 cylinder, we left Clarke’s Court with Angie, Chris and Judd on-board.  We stopped off in Carriacou over-night, arrived in Canouan the next day and then left for Bequia to pick up the air bags that we’d tusselled with in the past.  Even though it was yet another fleeting stop it was good to catch up with friends we hadn’t seen for a while.

The next day however, it was back to Canouan on a rolling Buzzard and straight into air-bag repair mode.  It took quite some while to get them sorted and re-plumbed and sewn and blown-up, but the compressors and fittings did their job and they held the air.

Unfortunately though, during the intervening time between Mike first seeing it and us being in a position to try to take it off, they’d tried pulling it up the beach and over rocks and done more damage that the original grounding.  Still, the first few days on-site went well, our local work-gang established themselves, and Severin joined us as Judd, who had only come along to check the carpentry out had flown back from Bequia.  Before long the inside was cleared of debris and things were looking good.  The idea was to get rid of the compacted sand that had accumulated inside and around the hull, put the air-bags in and float it off … sounds oh so easy when you say it quick!

The next hiccup came when we found there was only one compressor on the island that was big enough to run the inventively designed sand dredges that Mike, Severin and Angie had fun making.  And although we did manage to get them running and working well for a day or so the clutch on the compressor gave out and unfortunately couldn’t be repaired.  So it was back to the dredge drawing-board and the design and re-modelling of various smaller water dredges that can be run from the gas pump.

These were also working well, and then the tides and swells went against us, coming from the north, making it impossible to work safely on the boat and leading to tiring and frustrating days when sometimes more sand comes in than you’ve managed to pump out.

But, we’re still working away and haven’t given up yet.  In fact, there’s a barge with an 80 tonne crane on that has been working on a new marina on the island and Mike knows the owner from their time on the putty in St. Martin last year.  So our latest plan of action is to get the barge around to help lift it off.  Of course a lot depends on timing and tides and luck and hard-work, but I’m pretty sure that if it can come off in one piece, or at least the number of pieces it’s in now, then Mike’s the one that will make it happen.

Needless to say we won’t be making it up to Antigua this year … who needs the Classics when we have all the fun of Canouan!

Love to all ….

Christmas and Beyond

Happy New Year Everyone!

Our Christmas started with what seems to be becoming the annual pre-Christmas dinner sail on Scrappy.  Followed by lunch on board for ten.

Although the weather was good the wind was up so we ate inside.

Between Christmas and New Year (28th December) we finally got to go into Clarke’s Court Marina to get the stern lifted so we could work on the damaged prop and stern-tube.

As usual it wasn’t all plain sailing: there’s a bank just before the slip which we were just slightly too deep for, and then when we got there at 8.30 sharp it took several hours to move a tri-maran that was on the dock in front of us and then to get the hoist in place and the strops under the ‘belly of the beast’.

By this time it was 12.30 … and the real work began.

We had been promised at least a day in the slip but after only an hour we were told that there was another boat coming in that had to be lifted and we had to be back in the water and away by 3 pm … definitely not what we’d expected.  It meant that whilst we did what we could we couldn’t do all that we’d intended …

… and back down we went

Even though things didn’t work out quite as planned, it was a successful day.  We got in, got some work done, got out and back on the buoy … and now we know that we can do it, which is good because we’ll have to do it again before leaving Grenada.

We also have some engine work to do and are waiting to fix one of the injector pumps, yet again.  Meanwhile work continues on the decks and accommodation and wheelhouse windows.  The Buzzard is definitely starting to look much better than she was.

In Grenada this weekend it’s the annual Workboat Regatta on Grand Anse Beach, which we’re going to tomorrow.  And next week is Grenada Sailing Week, and Mike will be racing on the classic 116 year old wooden ketch (or possibly yawl?), Galatea (classicyachtinfo.com/yachts/galatea/).  They’ve just left Clarke’s Court to go around to St. George’s and are looking GOOD …

 

 

I’ll let you know how it goes and hopefully have some more photos for you.

Love to all …

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

My sincere apologies to anyone out there who may have been wondering what’s happened to the ‘Buzzard’ blog over the last few months.  I’m hoping that normal service will be resumed in the New Year.

At present though, I am back on-board and have been for close to two months now.  It took me quite some time to get re-acclimatised to the heat of the Caribbean and life on the boat, but I think I’m finally beginning to feel a little more settled, and it’s wonderful to see all my friends out here. Mike had organised a bus-trip of friends to meet me at the airport (via several rum-shops) when I arrived … I was a little on the jet-lagged/spaced out side but it was great, and somewhat surprising for me, to see so many people so pleased to see me back in Grenada.

We spent the first few weeks I was here in something of a daze.  I think Mike had been beaten down a bit by his Suriname/SXM trip and he was very much in need of a break, so we rested up and took to sailing Scrappy most afternoons, with me actually at the helm.  But then it was back to work as usual, trying to get the Buzzard back in order after the beating she also took on the trip.

There were various engine problems, including the exhaust and the injectors and leaking fuel lines that had to be fixed.  And there was a massive amount of clean and tidy-up to do, which we’re only just about on top of now.

When they’d got the rope round the prop off St. Vincent there was some damage which lead to a vibration, which in turn lead to a loosening of the stern-tube bolts and water coming in.  The first we knew of it was when the bilge alarm started going off at 3 o’clock in the morning when we were anchored off St. George’s having helped tow a barge in.  Luckily Mike managed to fix the inside flange of the stern-tube so we don’t have water coming in, but the outer flange is proving a little more difficult to fix.  The plan at the moment is to take her to the hoist in Clarke’s Court, and although we’re too heavy to be lifted out completely, they hope to put us bow into the dock wall and then lift the stern enough to be able to work on the prop and the stern-tube.  This is apparently going to happen soon, Mike was hoping to get it done before Christmas but time’s running short so we may have to wait until afterwards.  Everyone’s oh so excited at the prospect of seeing the Buzzard with her stern in the air …

Once that little project’s been done then we’re going up to St. Vincent to get the cap-rails replaced and the structural damage on the gunwales sorted out.  All fun and games around here.

After a few months juggling with various medications Al seems to be doing ok at the moment and none of his symptoms have re-occurred which is fantastic news.  And whilst I’m not quite a 100% I’m definitely better than I was and have been back noodling for the last four weeks.

So, whilst 2016 has had its fair amount of trials and tribulations things are looking better by the day and we’re hoping for, and wishing you all, A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR!!!!

Love to all …

PS  A special big thank-you to all my good friends and family in the UK who made my stay more bearable than it would have been otherwise … I couldn’t have got through it all without you … xx

 

Mike’s blog …

Below is a blog that Mike wrote when the Buzzard first set off for Suriname.  A little out of date now but gives you an idea of the beginning of their adventure ..

 

We’re well on route now. Nearly 2 full days in, left on Tuesday 16.30, rounded the top of Tobago as it was well on the way to fullight (new word?). All day Weds chugging down the East coast of Trinidad, not much to see, we’re 20-30 miles off. Everyone’s right impressed/chuffed we’re averaging 6knots….. seas are calm next to no wind and a tad rolly, nothing much to us ‘old’ salty sea dogs ……you know what’s coming…………….. All the house power goes out! …. No biggy we’ll sort it…………..Yeah right………..

Down to the engineroom, bit warm and the reset (red flashing light) and code are displayed..OK..reset..

Powers up, no probs.. 5mins later same again… DRAT!… OK what’s the sh*t??? The engine room is too hot!!!! HHMM? No power to run the fan… Double drat!!.. Now starts the fun…… Needless to say plenty sweat (neither of the other two .. luckily) later, we have house power!!!! ……… we’ve slowed to 4 and a hair kts…etc…bla blah blahh… made it thru’ the night…still at ‘reduced’ speed…

BONUS!!!!!!!… sometime I believe well after midnight as Ian’s ( He of the “Just getting over Zika and sweating like a good’un” fame was going off to his bunk, checked the lines…. Nice mahi/dorado/dolphin (not Flipper), too tired to do anything else,uts it in the galley sink.. RESULT!!!!!!!!!!! They DO feed at night on the full moon!!…

Early this a.m. Gary and James are beavering away at the ‘temporary/needs a bitta fine tuning to make it permanent ‘fix’… more bla blah blahh . By mid morning we’re back up to 6, the sun’s shining, the nav program is ‘off in la-la land’, really doesn’t matter as long as the independent “Otto von helm” is steering, ‘cos we’re 60 miles off Venezuela turning thru’ the ‘disputed area’ into Guyana, saw one ship so far today!!! .. Some unknown assailant was punching the nav system!!!! 25 MOB’s (Man Over Board) symbols… numerous waypoints off in numerous directions…. Etc etc.. like bla blah… Hours of weird computer time later, No names on the charts, no toolbox, no help menu etc etc 0h and itsa funny orangey/reddish hued shade as well!!.. luckily we ‘know’ where we’re going…

Been a wonderful, more of the same just ‘chuggin’ right along’with the odd weird swell to make the odd unwary mug/plate head for the floor/deck kinda day. Andy’s baking ciabatta and we have mahi and (?) to look forward to in a coupla hours, Ian’s curled up like a giant kid in 3 bean bags… James is in his better clothes, his 8-10 morning watch was spent with Gary (see above or pay attn..) ..Gary’s been sittin and relaxin.. Chris was napping but decided a shower was in order.. Niels and Andy did some extra computer/wheel time and showered etc.. yea, you know it… We’re doing way better than just ‘muddlin along’…

LATEST NEWS !! At 16.30/48 hrs in/out we’ve covered 280 nms, averaged 5.65 and 5.75 kts per day and the second one was with 10 hrs at almost 2kts slower… Exactly another 280nms to go.. We’re REALLY hoping we’ll arrive a coupla hrs before dark to make it in the river and possibly a Sat evening beer or ten (not for me, I’m on antibiotics with a gammy/infected leg).. in Paramaribo Suriname… go look it up, we had to….lol..

Just hanging on the top deck, ..doing time ‘til watch/bunktime or….?, listening to Dire Straits..Ian just said ‘If you dig out the schematic for the fuses under the dash we’ll figure out why the VHF noworky”…lol … we thought that was going to be a simple job for Weds a.m. but…(see above etc..)

Friday a.m. woke up ‘cos finally slept on our bunk…. Great..normal except when the lurchy/weird rolls happen… the mattress is slightly too small for the frame…. Suddenish lateral slidings and an abrupt stop usually once once or possibly twice in either direction hhmm… ok.. I’m up..the speed’s now up to 6.5kts

cool… now noon and we’re up over 7kts IF this keeps up we’ll be at the entrance before noon.. just a temporary blip over 7, but a steady 6.7kts, still around noon……

SO back to the VHF and sat phone charger (12v)… Ian’s up and in the next ‘shortish’ while we’re gonna sort it and call the guy in Surname and Dr.Jules etc….

HaHa, Started by checking the fuses, while we’re doing that then “Otto” goes on strike, no power..bla blah .. get the sat phone charged and VHF powered up ..ok .. now the otto. Cover off, check we have power inside it’s a go Houston!…. Absolutely no lights no nothing…..now handsteering!!!!!!

Called the guy in guy in Suriname, no answer….then the guy in SXM (St Martin)….he called Suriname, no probs…. I call SXM he says ..told him manana.. ok can I double check the no. you gave me?. Says will call back and hangs up….DUH….

Called Jules and the not fully charged battery died…manana.. she knows I’m alive..off to me bunk soon now only 7.07pm.

Happenings

So … not quite sure how to start this one.  I think I’ll do a section on what’s been going on in the UK, where I still am, and a separate Buzzard section so that if you’re not interested in the boring (or not so boring) family saga you can skip down to the really exciting stuff.

In the UK -
My wonderful happy holiday has not been working out quite as planned.  My son, Alastair, had been having leg pains a week or so before I arrived, and the week after I got there ended up being diagnosed with DVT and a blood clot behind his knee.  His calf and foot were massively swollen, his spleen was enlarged, his blood count was low and he was severely anaemic.  Because they didn’t know what was causing it, he was put on anti-coagulants and B12 injections and placed under the Haematology Dept. at Castle Hill Hospital.  After numerous visits to doctors and clinics they did a bone-marrow biopsy and a CT scan both of which, although showing slight abnormalities, didn’t come up with anything conclusive (that was a good day because they had been fearing that it was leukemia, which it wasn’t).

Then he started showing other symptoms, like horrendous blood clots coming up just under his skin around his neck and face, together with swollen lips and ears, and excruciating leg cramps.  At this point he was admitted into hospital to see a dermatologist and get a biopsy taken.  The clots started to re-absorb after four days and he was discharged with a tentative diagnosis of Antiphosopholipid Syndrome (aka APS or Hughes Syndrome), which is a rare auto-immune disease.  Unfortunately it’s incurable but with the right medication and monitoring, can hopefully be ‘managed’.

We finally thought we were getting somewhere then he suddenly began being violently sick with severe stomach pain and constipation.  After a second emergency dash to A&E he was re-admitted to hospital and placed on intravenous fluids and pain-killers.  Eventually he was moved onto the acute assessment ward (for the second time in less than a week) because, apart from the stomach cramps and sickness, his wrist had become really painful and hot and had and started swelling up with red blotches appearing.

This was last Saturday and he’s still in the hospital now, but …THE GOOD NEWS, they appear to be finally joining up the dots of his various symptoms which they believe are all connected with APS.  Now he’s finally stopped being sick they’ve put him on steroids and when I spoke to him this morning he was, for the first time, ‘feeling better’!!!!  He’s waiting to see a Rheumatologist now who can hopefully make sense of all his disparate symptoms and work out what the next step is.

Believe it or not this is the very abridged version of what’s been going on with my wonderful son!  And although it’s been hard going I’m so pleased I’ve been able to be here for him … I’ve just extended my stay for the second time.

Also, in amongst all the bad stuff happening, there are good bits.  The English summer has been wonderful; my mum and I spent a week with my sister in the Lake District which was set out in all it’s scenic glory, and at the end of August we actually had the almost unheard of phenomena of a hot and sunny Bank Holiday Monday. Of course the good weather has all but gone now, the night’s are drawing in and there’s a definite autumnal nip in the air but, despite the advent of cold feet, it’s still beautiful.

So .. enough about me.

THE BUZZARD -
This is a very limited version of events as I can only relate what Mike’s told me and I know for sure there are things that happened that he hasn’t told me … probably good and bad and even more adventuresome.  They were away for eight weeks and three days in total, but last Friday finally made it back on to the mooring in Clarke’s Court.

To begin with they ended up having to spend two weeks in Suriname because the barge that they were supposed to be towing back was most definitely ‘not fit for purpose’.  So they had to find another barge, of which there are apparently many in Suriname, but even the best of the lot needed pumping out and welding before they could contemplate towing it out.

However, after two weeks hard graft and some minor hiccups with officialdom, they set off for St. Martin.  The weather was calm and first few days went reasonably well until, just off the outside of St. Vincent, the barge started taking on water.  As usual with these things it happened in the middle of the night.  They had to drop back with the Buzzard to go alongside and pump it out and put the Bentley in to stop any collisions.  The barge managed to rip part of our rub-rail off when it was alongside, and they got the the tow rope caught round the prop and Ian had to go in to free it.  (And Mike wonder’s why I’m not keen to go on these trips with him!)

Anyway, they got enough water out to stop it sinking and made it into Otley Hall in St. Vincent.  They then spent almost two weeks there getting more welding and repairs carried out.  Not absolutely sure what else happened there as Mike’s communications were quite sporadic, but when they eventually set off again they were minus James and Andy (James never to be seen on the Buzzard again (again), but hopefully that’s not the case with Andy, something I’ll no doubt find out in due course).

There were various tropical storms developing in the area but luckily they made it safe to St. Martin in about four days.  The barge was picked up outside the lagoon by two smaller tugs and Mike followed them through the bridge and into the lagoon … and got stuck on a mud/sand bank just underneath the airport.  Of course it just happened to be on the highest tide of the month, and a storm hit the following day so they couldn’t get the smaller tugs out to help pull them off.

In all they were on the bank for ten days, and then only got off when a barge and excavator was brought out to dig a channel.  No doubt providing some great harbour theatre for the yachts in the bay.

After that, as far as I can gather, it was all relatively delay-free plain-sailing, which is just as well as they were on a mission to get back to Grenada for Mike’s birthday on the 18th.  They went to St. Barths to pick up some garden statues, Antigua to drop off, Dominica to get water, Martinique to stock up on wine and cheese, Bequia and Carriacou briefly, and actually made it into Clarke’s Court, not only in time for his birthday but also in time for the Friday night full-moon party.

I do know they were really pleased to finally get back, and all I can say is a big THANK YOU to the valiant crew who stuck with the adventure … no doubt topping up their store of stories to tell for quite a few years to come.  Now all Mike’s got to do is the repair work on the Buzzard and the Bentley which apparently needs doing, and then no doubt he’ll be ready for the next adventure.

Love to all …

PS  In amongst all the stuff happening with Al and Mike, I also had a ‘happening’ of my own when my routine smear test came back positive for ‘high grade (severe) dyskaryosis’.  I went last Monday to have a colposcopy and the offending cells removed for which, being the wimp that I apparently now am, had to have gas and air.  I’m waiting for the test results to come back but feeling positive that all will be well and I will finally be able to get back to the Buzzard.  At the moment my Caribbean life feels like a million miles away rather than the 5,000 it actually is.