Mr and Mrs Moonshine are thrilled to announce the arrival
of a new crew member on Moonshine. We shall be flying
home in July for an October birth in Salisbury. Of course
we’re bouncing off the walls, or rather deck with joy.
In mid February we sailed with great purpose to
Conception Island … however two months later back in
the UK we discovered we had already conceived in
January. We had made a secret trip back to UK for a CVS
early warning test. The Consultant viewing the small,
fascinating, wriggling creature on the screen informed us
that we were twelve weeks not seven as we had
anticipated. I extended my stay an extra ten days for an
amniocentesis test which in the hands of Mr Docherty the
excellent Consultant was remarkably painless, and we’re
delighted to say came out “fine”.
And so with us all celebrating let us take you through the
last “fun” filled months. Part of the reason we have not
up-dated the website before is that I have been muzzy
headed or asleep.
January - April
You will recall from our previous October - December
update that we had arrived in Nassau, in the Bahamas, on
Christmas Day. We had rushed to reach the Bahamian
capital in time to meet John’s friend “G”, which we did.
“G” stayed with us for two weeks as we travelled from
Nassau down the Exuma (middle of the Bahamas) chain.
JUNKANOO New Years Eve, Nassau, Bahamas
Junkanoo is the Bahamain’s carnival. Six months of hard
work creating costumes culminates in an all night carnival
on Christmas Day night and New Year’s Eve. The Saxon
Superstars and the Valley Boys are avid rivals.
Controversy was stirred up when the Valley Boys “won”
on New Year’s Eve, although the Saxon’s came first in all
the top classes. A discrepancy in penalty points led to the
Saxon’s being declared the winners. However, this was
again disputed. Finally a Review Committee decreed
Saxons the winners. The Prime Minister used to “rush”
with the Valley Boys. Perhaps that swayed the judges …?
Other groups who impressed were the breakaway group
from the Valley Boys, and the Prodigal Sons, and last
years winners, One Family although Roots put in a good
During the Carnival a young Bahamian girl, with Bahama
Mama proportions started shouting to the revellers. “Do
da belly, do da belly.” A rotund fellow swept off his coat
… out flopped his enormous belly. The crowd went mad as
he undulated the blubbery mass. “Doin’ da belly.” He is
an annual high light.
We sailed to Allan’s Cay which is inhabited by iguanas.
They are overfed but lazily chomped our limp lettuce.
From here we visited other cays (islands) - Shroud,
Hawksbill, and Wadderick Wells. We arrived in
Georgetown, the main town on Great Exuma at the
beginning of January when there were only one hundred
boats in several anchorages. In mid January “G” returned
to the UK having treated us to a splendid “thank-you”
Our extensive research into Breakfasts in America, and
Chinese Buffets, prompted me to embark on the Atkins
diet. The concept of high protein diet seemed to pass
John by. After attempting one day, seduced by scrambled
eggs and bacon for breakfast, he declared himself
shattered, and feasted at midnight on my night-watch-
only supply of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut. After eighteen
months, a 37 feet boat begins to run out of new hiding
places. This episode inspired “lyrics” (tosh) set to the
Jewish Wedding song Hava, “Rodriguez is big and bouncy
needs to loose pounds not just an ouncey”. These have
returned to haunt me.
The Georgetown morning radio net urged cruisers to join
volleyball, men and women’s Bible study, watercolour
painting, bridge “under the trees”, baseball and many
other activities. These exhortations (orders?) were
followed by, with few exceptions, banal thoughts for the
day. However, an exception wit reminded that when we
got in the water we were no longer top of the food chain.
One of the amusing pastimes was listening to the teenage
lurve soap opera inadvertently performed by the love
(lust?) struck youngsters on the VHF radio. (These are not
private channels, everyone switches to listen in, like a
party line.) We cringed and cheered as dates were made
and lost. One poignant evening, a guy who considered
himself The Dish, radio-ed, Rachel, his squeeze of the
evening to discover she was “showering“, (no doubt
glued to the radio madly signalling she was not there),
but, her oh so keen friend whose crush was clear for all
to hear, let cool be swept away as she tried, and failed to
have a nonchalant “chat”. Early, one morning a puffed up
dude was crushed by a very public refusal to enjoy his
A local band using an intriguing selection of home made
instruments packed an endearing dive, Eddie’s Edgewater
on Monday nights, for what they called a Rake and
Scrape. It also featured a seemingly boneless Bahamian
oozing to the music.
Capsizing in the Islands
The tippy tippy dinghy struck again. Initially it seemed
easy surging between two small islands from the ocean
side to calm Georgetown side. Enthralled by the undersea
garden and the feeling of flying over a coral shelf which
dropped thirty feet beneath us in crystal clear water we
turned too late to see a six foot ocean roller breaking
right behind us. Egg whisk engine going at full buzz we
clung on hoping to surf out. Didn’t work. Capsize.
When not falling out of Moonbeam II and acting as shark
bait, I wrote articles in my “office”, note the Birthday
hammock, and John soaked the dishes using a lobster net.
Sadly dishes were all the net caught despite tales of dog
size lobsters from other cruisers.
In mid February when we sailed screaming from packed
Geogetown there were over four hundred boats mostly
“Snow Birds” who were using the island as an American
retirement holiday camp. Georgetown’s infrastructure
was dodgy at best but swarmed by the loud, demanding
hordes was soon overwhelmed. The town and the friendly
locals lost their character. We got out.
Since the time seemed right, we headed for Conception
Island which one can only reach by boat. As we now know
we were four weeks too late. Even so amongst other
delights there was impressive snorkelling for a couple of
Old Man of the Sea
Senior Hemingway Rodriguez fished for our supper and
hooked a (truly) five foot Mahi Mahi. Half an hour of
struggle dragged the magnificent creature along side,
exhausted but still fighting he lashed out. Marvelling at
this old man of the sea’s flashing colours and
determination to survive, we knew he deserved to live.
John cut him loose to rule another day.
Still hopeful of supper we fished at anchor for jack fish, a
kind of small tuna. Success. Not. A lurking barracuda shot
out from under the hull and in two swift passes left us …
We headed south towards the Eastern Caribbean joining
two other boats, “Seafever” which had set out from
Australia seven years before, and Centime which had left
the States a few months before. The three skippers had
widely varying styles of navigation, hence discussions on
routing seemed interminable. Nevertheless all three
members of the Magellan Club learnt a great deal.
THE THORNY PATH
Is the name given to the difficult “sail” (motor) from the
Bahamas via the Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic
and Puerto Rico to The Virgins. Many eschew the Thorny
Path, instead sailing from the States, out into the Atlantic
to Bermuda, and down to the Virgins often being hit by
bad storms. Either way it is hard.
One thousand miles from the Bahamas to the Virgins it is a
beat to windward - a bash, a thump into the wind. It is no
fun especially in your first weeks of pregnancy.
The journey took six weeks. We often set off early
(between 3am - 5am) in the calm before the Easterly
wind began to blow hard. By around 11am we anchored
for the day.
No way BA, well alright then
After five months and many scratchy emails, British
Airways finally agreed to reimburse us for the extra fares
they charged us to change our flights the day before
Hurricane Isabel blew through.
In Big Sand Cay on the west of the Turks and Caicos we
saw hump back whales breaching, in the distance. Whales
are drawn from all over the world to breed on the
Mouchoir Banks north of the Dominican Republic. We
listened engrossed to whale song on Seafever’s under
water microphone, mesmerising.
We found ourselves in the Dominican Republic whilst next
door Haiti was experiencing a coup. A gunboat went out
daily to patrol the coast.
It was in Luperon, north DR, we discovered we were
pregnant and assumed it was only ten days. This did not
deter us from climbing a waterfall, or at least the first
seven levels. To come back down we slid down the rock
falls we’d climbed . The last level was a twenty feet jump
into the all time classic waterfall pool, great fun, and no
ill effects. On another action packed day John bounced
into another capsize outside the Luperon “Yacht Club“.
As he rinsed with diet coke, as we sped back to
Moonshine to sluice him off. The gungy “water” was thick
enough to walk on. Yeuch.
As we crashed along the coast of DR John took over my
night watches. I found myself queasy but primarily
extremely fatigued. Spanish speaking Seafever checked
in with the gunboat on our behalf.
On John’s Birthday at 8am two hump back whales
surfaced and swam twenty feet from the boat, amazing, a
magical gift. Escondido where we anchored for the day
was the nearest we had come to the Pacific. It was near
here Jurassic Park was filmed. A stunning anchorage.
Unfortunately as John had been on watch for almost 48
hours he was almost too shattered to celebrate the mini
party we threw for our fellow travellers.
Copamarina, Puerto Rico
The notorious Mona Passage crossing to Puerto Rico was
unusually benign, weather on our side, for once. We
indulged in John’s Birthday dinner at a beautiful resort
on the south coast which claims to be in the top ten most
romantic resorts of the Caribbean. (Ultra spoilt that we
are “Caribbean” to us means Eastern Caribbean between
the Virgins and Grenadines but in such a charming place
why be picky?) The gardens, swimming pools and elegant
tropical huts around the bay in which we were anchored
made a pleasing back drop for Moonshine! We salivated
over prawns in a heavenly spicy sauce, Lobster Risotto,
and Surf and Turf. One of the best dinners since Europe!!
Parque de Bombas
Whilst punching along the coast of Puerto Rico we
anchored in Ponce, a large southern town where we
visited the bizarre Fire station. Lonely Planet describes it
as straight out of the Wizard of Oz, and it is. Even more
surreal it backs onto a pale blue Cathedral.
We followed the music from the Ponce anchorage to a
boardwalk full of eateries, and sound systems, where
salsa dancers with some years in their steps took to the
By March we were feeling the pressure to reach St Martin
or Antigua from where we would fly home for tests.
Ironically we discovered in Charlotte Amalie, the capital
of the US Virgins we could have had them in Puerto Rico,
but we were not heading back there, and more to the
point, bashing back again. So it was on to St Martin
where I drooled in the French supermarkets at gooey,
unpasteurised cheese, steak tartar and (finally)
reasonably priced red wine, to no avail.
With one week to go before we flew home Ginette our
magic travel agent in St Martin secured us almost
affordable flights on Virgin from Antigua. Phew. And
even better we were due to fly back on the same flight as
John’s mother, Eileen when she flew into Antigua for
her long planned holiday.
White Flappy Things
After weeks of motoring we actually hoisted the sails and
turned off the engine and sailed from St Martin for
Antigua. Bliss. Briefly, within a few hours, opposite St
Barts, the wind died. We motored past Eustacia and St
Kitts. We’ll draw a veil over my bizarre navigating that
Freemans Bay, Antigua
One of the most beautiful anchorages, in the world, no,
not an exaggeration. (See Where are they now) The
morning we sailed in, at six am after a tiring overnight
passage, it was particularly dazzling.
For two busy days before we flew home, we put the shine
back into Moonshine. A morning of masking and painting
ended in gasps of horror. Deck paint we had bought in
America left Moonshine’s aft (back) deck resembling a
lunar surface. Thankfully we could peel off the pock
marked mask. Moonshine was moored in the Catamaran
marina, spotless and ready for John’s mother’s arrival in
two weeks. The fridge and bathroom were given a
thorough bleaching. The water ran out as we finished our
Plenty of time to spare, kitted in our best up-grade-us
please outfits we were about to set off to the airport…
John dinghied back to collect our bags and in slow,
excruciating motion lost his balance and crashed into the
water one foot from the dock. The laptop was saved.
And, I didn’t laugh. John trashed the gleaming bathroom
and the immaculate yacht in his now last minute wash
(with the last squeezed ounce of water) and burrow for
John returned to Antigua with his mother on the 14th.
Moonshine, our home, was safe and sound, although the
fridge was growing hither to unknown cultures. On
hearing why I was still in the UK the Antiguan marina
manageress squealed, “You been doing the rudeness one
month too long.” It was Classic week which attracts
vintage yachts and their gentlemen owners from all over
the world making John’s job of solo, “entertainments
manager” easier. The super-yachts rolled into town,
amongst them Georgia currently the world’s biggest
single masted sailing yacht, (her mast is taller than Nelson
‘s Column). But on the horizon Mirabella is even bigger
and about to be launched in Southampton …
The anchorages were packed. Moonshine was squeezed
into the last inch of English Harbour. All John and Eileen
had to do was decide which party to attend. Ashley, my
cousin who crossed the Atlantic with us, presently
crewing on Windancer of Chelsea, assisted in the social
whirl, and like John kept an eye on the various yachting
millionaires who circled Eileen.
Not such a pleasant experience was Eileen’s sail around
Antigua from Non Such Bay, on the east coast, back to
English Harbour. The local weather forecast was out by
fifteen knots, (a lot) and did not mention the sea state.
As Moonshine sailed out from the security of the bay we
found ourselves with a twenty foot swell from two
directions, and winds maintaining a steady 35 knots, and
gusting to 42, storm force 9 - not good at anytime
particularly fifteen weeks pregnant with a virgin sailor.
Sods law, for the first time, the day before, the anchor
windlass (winch to haul up the anchor) had broken and
we were forced to return to English Harbour to fix it. The
green water rose high above us as we ploughed into the
massive waves brightly remarking to Eileen that this was
not usual but fine. Eyes tight shut throughout, the
newcomer to sailing was very brave. Eileen and her
prized Mountgay Rum Antigua Racing Week cap survived
to sunbathe another day.
In London trendy clubbers were sold the ultimate
experience, (for 3000 pounds). They and Norman Jay and
Jazzy B (of Soul to Soul) were flown out to Antigua for a
one off Good Times Sound System Reunion Open Air Party
to be held in Abracadabra. (I knew Abracadabra as a
dodgy nightclub where we had danced my December 02
Birthday away, great fun, but not the centre of hip.)
John, the veteran of the “in” 80s scene takes up the tale.
“It was rare groove only, no hip hop or house, all the
classics, Gwen Macrae, Jimmy Bo Horn, Aretha. It was
great, lots of guys approaching 40 telling stories
about Good Times warehouse do's in East London. 16
years on "Givin all my love" still sends a tingle up your
spine as the bass line opens, the crowd went crazy.
The young guys, ie 28ish kept saying to us, wow you
were there in the eighties, you're legends.” But, in the
end John concluded it Was what it was when it was, and
best to let it go.
Antigua Race Week
Those who were reading our newsletters eighteen months
ago, will remember when we crossed Biscay arriving in
Gijon, northern Spain. The “Le Figaro” single-handed
racers were there too doing the “testosterone strut“,
preparing for their second arduous leg. So too in Antigua
the genteel charm of Classic week gave way to the
competition and ego of Race week. Aerodynamic racing
machines which grace the pages of Yachting World
gleamed in front of us on the docksides. Carbon fibre
rigging, Kevlar sails, liveried crews scouring the results,
raging arguments over the Protest Committee, all made
up the machismo of Race week. That and the breaks to
boats and men.
A young man of 28 had his leg mashed in a pre-race
accident. The cruising community donated pints of blood
to save the leg which had multiple fractures. Whilst he
was being stabilsed it was impossible to move him to a
private clinic. The leg could have been saved but
tragically the filthy conditions in the Antiguan hospital
led to infection, and on his arrival (by Medivac) in
Germany, it had to be amputated.
Race week culminated in the Lord Nelson Ball for which
we brushed up with sartorial panache. It was held as all
the good parties are at the Admirals Inn where John had
given Mummy and I our splendid Birthday party in
December 02. I wore the same flowered skirt which with
the added distraction of my (recently, increasingly well
upholstered) plunging-top, camouflaged the extra curves
and complimented Senior Couture Rodriguez’s suited
elegance. The silver-wear on display was impressive as
were some of the outfits. As with most Caribbean events
chaos reigned. Competition for tables was intense. We
snapped up a table for two. The chief sponsor was not
happy with the sponsors table. During the negotiations it
became apparent this was the Governors table. There was
no sponsors table. A table was commandeered from half
seated, protesting guests. Our table for two was now in
between the Governors and Sponsors table. Just as the
Governor in full regalia, plumes et al, and his party, were
manoeuvring their way through those racing for tables,
eight crazy and delightful Italians armed with chairs,
blocked his way heading for our table for two which
swelled to ten.
Calm after the Mania
Now Antigua is quiet. John is working on repairs to
Moonshine - the outboard engine, the windlass (winch for
the anchor), the auto-pilot, and so on, and on, and on.
Most days I do my lengths in the pool at the Inn At English
Harbour, one of the finest and most enchanting hotels on
the island, where I discovered Virgin Pina Coladas are
much more delicious than “experienced” rum ones. The
other treat we have discovered are the “Antigua Gold”,
small, sweet and exquisite pineapples which are peeled,
turn up-side-down, held by the stem eaten like ice
We took a mini sojourn to the East of the island and
rejoiced in one of the most magnificent sails of the
cruise. (The crash back was pretty awful.)
Although I have no intention of “doin’ the belly” my
bump has caught up with my blubber, and at eighteen
weeks, (four and a half months) I’m beginning to bulge.
We shall sail down through the islands to Guadaloupe, Ils
de Saint, Martinque, St Lucia, and to the Grenadines.
Keep us in touch with you. Send email, (we have no TV!)
Nicola and John.
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