Astra Log from St Maarten 29 Jan to BVI's 21 Feb 2008

Jeremy & Sally Paul
Tue 19 Feb 2008 12:07

Well it’s been awhile since we were letting you all know where Astra has been and what’s going on .  We dragged ourselves from the delights of St Maarten and the Soggy Dollar Bar and went to Saba on 29th January which had good diving, Statia which had a pretty church at the top of a very steep slave path and very good value Internet Café. Then on to St Kitts where Sally and Jeremy swam in to the beach from Frigate Bay, and a night in Montserrat on 2nd February which still looks pretty desolate in certain areas from the eruption years ago. The islanders were the most friendly we have met;  not being used to many visiting yachtsmen the only bar in the port wasn’t serving food;  seeing our disappointment the locals gathered together and pretty much gave us their dinner.  Ash later wandered off to another bar and had similar treatment.  There’s a rather humbling irony here – one of the most devastated people going out of their way to be generous to us.

Then on to Antigua.  We were there a while and it was combination of R&R and hard work;  Astra has been revarnished and now looks immaculate down below, although the attendant dust and mess not to mention the difficulty of accessing the cabin with the companionway removed during the operation made it all a bit tricky.  Ash joined the Antigua Yacht Club, had a great time and quite a few Laser victories – that’s our boy – and a lovely week with Shelley.  As well as loads of maintenance work we got pretty familiar with the best bars round English Harbour and met some good people.  We went to the 20:20 Cricket with our old chums from Sea Topaz and saw Barbados beat Grenada.

On 15th February George Beckley arrived who is to be our other long term crew and we left for the BVIs to join the Swan Rendezvous where Norah was also turning up for an indulgent week chatting with her mates and trying not to be too stupid on a yacht.

The repaired spinnaker was put through its paces on the sail up to Virgin Gorda and looked good. The Swan Rendezvous is organised by Nautor and comprises fun races (well, Swan owners don’t really do anything other than serious racing) a few jolly events and a lot of socialising and too much rum punch……... Ash won the Laser race for Astra and really was top banana as there were some very accomplished sailors out there, both owners and professional crew. We’re doing pretty well in the Boules competition too and George was triumphant in the Hors d’oeuvres event, producing the most delicious darling tiny Yorkshire puddings filled with horseradish and roast beef. 

Down at Cooper Island after a fantastic sail with so much tacking our winch monkeys were exhausted, we had lunch ashore with more talking to other Swans.  Those encountered so far are all delightful and many are such old salts that they’ve done ocean crossings several times and are full of tips and advice. And some even have pretty daughters on board which always makes things more interesting…….

21st February scheduled a full lunar eclipse and we had a marvellous view of the whole cycle – in tee shirts on a beach, how fab is that?  And George, being a whizz at Maths and all things astronomical, explained exactly what was going on so we understood it much better too.

Another punishing Laser race for Ash this afternoon (Sally and Norah are considering taking out a Pico each to confuse the fleet so our boy romps home, but it’s probably not a good idea) and then the final round Virgin Gorda race on Saturday.  There’ll be 12 beautiful yachts all pushing hard and no compromise before the last night at Bitter End.  We’ll let you know how we get on!