Reflections on Season Four

This year the cruising season was fluid as we were very dependent on weather patterns.  The original plan of heading to Panama had to be changed when we found out about Panama’s horrendous lightning season so we slowed down our movement through the islands.  We made our final landfall in Guatemala where Morphie is now taking a rest on the hard in RAM Marina, Rio Dulce, where we said our usual emotional farewells to her.   It doesn’t get any easier to leave her alone in a foreign country but at least she is not directly within the hurricane belt this year – fingers crossed!

Looking shiny

We have had another fantastic nine months on board and we particularly loved visiting and exploring new places.   And of course lots of diving!   Some of the destinations we had visited as tourists before so it was fascinating to visit by boat instead – and was a very different experience.

We visited six countries this year stopping at the following places:

  • USA:  Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Marathon, Key Largo and Key West
  • Cuba: Varadero, Havana and Cabo San Antonio
  • Mexico: Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos and Cozumel
  • Bay Islands of Honduras: Utila and Roatan
  • Belize: Placencia and Ranguana Cay
  • Guatemala:  Livingston, Cayo Quemado and Rio Dulce

The main difference this year was the difficult weather patterns combined by very strong adverse Gulf Stream currents which caused us to constantly revisit our sail plans.  Passages had to be carefully planned to make landfall in daylight hours and, with our SOG (speed over the ground) affected both positively and negatively by the Gulf Stream currents it was definitely more demanding navigationally.


But I’m glad to say that we managed to achieve our goal each time even if it did mean slowing our boat speed down during the night a couple of times.   There were also more overnight passages as the distances between destinations were longer.   On top of all these factors there was also an underlying threat from piracy in some of the waters.

For lots of reasons ranging from officialdom to poor holding and lack of suitable protected anchorages in adverse weather– and sometimes just plain convenience and/or security concerns – we spent a lot of time this year in marinas.  We have never really been marina dwellers and we surprised ourselves by actually enjoying the change.   It was great to be able to go off exploring and diving without having to worry about Morphie.  The costs were very different too:  $140 a night in Key West;  $25 a night in Mexico;  to $300 a month in Guatemala.

Highlights of the season have to include:

Florida – fantastic reunions

Out for lunch at Marina JacksJan and SharonJim and RichardUtopia reunionFinal dinner togetherBack to Mrs Macs

Getting ready for our African Queen experienceHaving fun

Cuba – revisited

Havana 3Havana 23Havana 29Salmon & shrimp cevicheHuge empty marinaHot dayHavana sunset 2Mosaics 4Isla Mujeres – great diving, new friends and just lovely!

Park dive 11Dive 2Out in the cartNight out at Sunset GrillHats 1Dive 4GoodnightBeach 3Reef dive 3Beach 2Mexico – in holiday mode

Fireshow 4Mayan pole 4Infinity pool 2Coba 4Morphie snug as a bugCozumel 2Coba 6Utila -wonderful diving

2 WhalesharkSunset Utila 21 Dive 8Dive 10Dive 3 - 7Dive 4 - 8Dive 2 - 2Goodnight UtilaRoatan – monkeys, sloths and new friends

Hangout 2Hangout 11Having fun at LFK 2Fantasy IslandMeeting the localsDive 4 6Guatemala – road trips, quality workmanship, new friends and reunionsFlores 1

Off out on the riverRiver 10River 8ReunionOur hotel 3New varnish 2Cruisers Happy Hour 2BBQ nightBobbing friendsPhilippa and TimAfternoon views 2Tikal 30Wisconsin – great visit to good friends on the way home

Dinner with the newly wedsBoys having funVisit to Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing CompanyLook at those clouds!Girls having fun on the lake

The disappointment this year was our inability to visit the outer cays of Belize which we had to abandon in the light of the poor weather we experienced.    So that will have to stay on the bucket list for now.  But we did meet a great bartender!

Selfie with Kieron

Because we have been staying longer in one place than usual we have met lots of new people – some that have become new friends and others that we will be happy not to see again LOL.    The Western Caribbean because of its low cost of living – despite exorbitant clearance / departure fees and just plain corruption in places – attracts a lot of liveaboards that just do not go anywhere and, to all intents and purposes they are living on their boats and only move when officialdom requires them to do so to remain legal.    But we have also met many people who have travelled the world and are now slowing down to find a place to stay…..     We’ve received advice and gathered lots of relevant knowledge from the cruising community along the way which we were particularly grateful for – the sharing of waypoints, on-line charts and films are commonplace – and makes for a co-operative and friendly way of life.   But, that said, we have come across people that only travel in company to the exclusion of all others…….   So usually friendly, sometimes not!    I think the fact that we are moving on each year allows us to just gloss over this element of the cruising life and not get embroiled when there is a local difference of opinion LOL.

So what’s next?   Well, next season, is the biggie!   We plan to head to Panama (via the San Blas islands if the weather allows) continuing to go in the ‘wrong direction’ against the currents.  Early next year (probably February) we’ll go through the Panama Canal leaving the Caribbean behind us and head off into the Pacific Ocean.   First stop after the canal transit and provisioning up in Panama City we head to the Galapagos, the Marquesas, the Tuamotos, the Society Islands and eventually hoping to make landfall in New Zealand.   Tonga and Fiji definitely feature…but the actual passage will be dictated by weather and timing of the cyclone season.   So we’ll be gone for a year rather than nine months with thousands of miles to cover – with the longest passage about five weeks at sea.


We have many exciting challenges ahead and are currently researching satellite communications – we already have an SSB radio on board.   The combination of satellite and long-range radio will enable us to get up-to-date weather and routing information as well as keeping you all posted on our progress.   One major decision has been about whether to take crew to help us this year – we already have volunteers to be our line handlers through the Panama Canal – but we have decided to go it alone.   It is our dream and we don’t want to share it!    Many people get crew to assist on this passage – not least to avoid sleep deprivation –  and we know that some people think we are crazy but I guess we’ll just have to live with that LOL.

So this is a final “Bye for now” this season.   Please come back to read all about our preparations for Season Five later in November.


Reunions home and away

Wednesday we got busy with domestic duties and getting all the laundry done.   Thursday we had a lazy start and then I headed off to Finley’s third birthday party – was lovely to see Rachel and the kids again.  The Nanny Jan welcome was amazing!

Finley and Kiera

Friday we collected mum and spent the afternoon tidying up the outside space ready for the BBQ we’d planned for Sunday.    The evening was lovely and hot so we enjoyed sitting in the garden with a few cold ones.

Saturday was hectic with mum and I shopping for food followed by Richard who headed out for drinks and ice.    Phew job done and we had an Indian curry delivered – was absolutely lovely!  

Sunday morning we were up early and prepared the food and, by 1 pm, I was able to take a rest waiting for the first guests to arrive at 2pm.  

Waiting for the guests to arrive

Sadly the weather was a bit mixed but thankfully it didn’t rain hard….    We had a lovely time catching up with everyone and I think they enjoyed themselves as there was very little food left over and they didn’t leave until late in the evening LOL.


Monday it was time to clear up and take mum home.   Then it was back home to pack for our trip to France….and at three am on Tuesday morning we were up and getting ready to drive to the airport. We got to Stansted Airport on time and dropped our checked luggage off before heading through security.   All pretty chaotic but actually was quite speedy so we enjoyed a coffee / pastry breakfast before boarding.  We took off slightly late and, pretty soon, we were over France and on terra firma just after nine o’clock.  Not the best airline – we’ll never complain about American Airlines again LOL.

We were met by Carolyn and Ron who took us to the lovely town of Eymet – we went for a wander around and a reunion cold beer – enjoying the lovely square and sitting out in the sun.

Eymet 1 Eymet 2 Eymet 3 Eymet 4 Eymet 5 Eymet 6 Eymet 7 Eymet 8 Eymet 9

We then headed off to the beautiful villa they had rented for a few weeks to celebrate Ron’s 70th birthday.    As we arrived we were met by their two Scottish Border Terriers Jamie (10) and Rufus (5) who were very excited to see us too…..   

Villa 4 Villa 1 Villa 3 Jamie Rufus

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the pool, doing a bit of bobbing, and catching up over a lovely BBQ dinner.

First afternoon Pool bobbing Chef Ron

Wednesday morning and we headed out to Chateau des Vigiers – which is a beautiful old building sitting on a golf course surrounded by stunning gardens.  

Chateau Chateau 2 Chateau 3 Chateau 4 Chateau 5

We had a lovely lunch at the Brasserie in the grounds and wandered around admiring the modern art before heading back to the villa.  This area is stunning with endless fields of vines stretching as far as the eye can see.

Wine country

BrasserieLunch at the Brasserie Golf course art Golf course art 2

We then had a lovely afternoon and evening bobbing in the pool, playing with the crocodile and enjoyed the spacious outside dining area.  

Pool bobbing 2 Pool toys Pool bobbing 3

Jamie was guarding the villa and Rufus was constantly asking when he could get in the pool with us – when we kept saying no he decided to commandeer one of the sunbeds as his own and kept an eye on us from this position throughout the evening LOL.  Anyone would think it was his birthday – well, actually, it was the day after!

Guarding the house Time for a swim Rufus watching from his sun bed

Thursday Richard and I stayed by the pool snoozing while Carolyn and Ron headed off to the airport to collect Gary and Pam.   They arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the water, catching up, and another celebration BBQ with a few glasses of lovely local wine.   It ended up quite the party night….


Friday we all headed off to explore Saint Emillion….and enjoyed wandering around the town….this is an amazing place with fantastic views surrounded by vineyards and old chateaus.    The dogs were with us and they behaved amazingly well – particularly as it was so hot.   

Saint Emillion 1 Saint Emillion 2 Saint Emillion 3 Saint Emillion 4 Saint Emillion 7 Saint Emilloin 5 Saint Emillion 8 Saint Emillion 9 Saint Emillion 10 Saint Emillion 11 Saint Emillion 12 Saint Emillion 13

We decided to have some lunch and the waiter made a great fuss of the dogs giving them premier cru water under the table LOL.   All too soon it was time to head back to the villa where we had a lazy afternoon.

Lunch in Saint Emillion

In the evening we headed back to Eymet for dinner in the square after an extremely speedy taxi trip through the country lanes.    It was lovely and was the perfect way for us to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary!   Hard to believe it’s been that long….

Back to Eymet Dinner in Eymet

Saturday is market day so we started off at St Foy la Grande and wandered around the stalls – largely clothing and artisan goods – although we did find the oysters and loved the umbrella shades over the street.   The boys (as in the dogs) were getting a lot of admiring looks as we wandered around the small streets.   St Foy

St Foy 2 St Foy 3

Having had our fill of this market we moved on to the town of Bergerac – which straddles the Dordogne River – and we found quite a few statues of Savinien de Cryano de Bergerac.   He was a French novelist, playwright, epistolarian and a duelist and his work was part of the libertine literature of the first half of the seventeenth century.  The town are clearly proud of their famous descendant.  

Bergerac Bergerac 2 Bergerac 3 Bergerac 4 Bergerac 5 Bergerac 6 Bergerac 7 Bergerac 8

After a lovely lunch (sadly with poor service) we headed back to the villa leaving Gary and Pam there who wanted to do more shopping….   We had another late party evening outside – and couldn’t believe that it was our last night and the final opportunity to wish Ron a happy birthday…   He even had a special shirt for the occasion LOL.   

Time for dinner Birthday boy

Sunday morning and we headed off to Issigeac – this is another lovely little town and was absolutely packed – with most of the stalls being about food / wine / cheese and even some pygmy pigs!  

Issigeac Issigeac1 Issigeac 2 Issigeac 3 Issigeac 4 Issigeac 5 Issigeac 6 Issigeac 8 Issigeac 7

We found a quiet corner for a final cold one before heading to the airport.   By two o’clock we had said sad farewells and were waiting for our flight back to London.   We had had a brilliant time in France – thank you both so much for inviting us.

We arrived back in the UK to quite a chilly grey day and had a decent drive home before having an early night.

This morning – Monday – and Richard was up early as he started work today to top up the sailing kitty.  So I’m back to domestic duties……and plan to do another blog to reflect on this season’s experiences before I sign off.   So please come back soon.

Bye for now