Friday, 28 December 2018

Mel's family and other animals!

We hope that you had a lovely Christmas and that it wasn't too much of 'a let down' (like for the Santa and snowmen in our picture!). You may feel 'let down' because you didn't receive a Christmas card from us - the cards we sent from Antigua haven't arrived :-( .

We spent the Christmas period with Mel's family (2nd photo) and other animals (3rd and 4th photos). We enjoyed all the animal company we had - human, other land animals and sea animals too!

There are two types of iguana in Puerto Rico. Here is a beautiful live example of one. On a walk in San Juan with Mel's Mum, we saw the gruesome sight of a dog eating one of these creatures. Mel's nephew, Cy, was sorry to have missed that sight!

Mel and Cy also went on a 'coqui' hunt one evening while we were all staying in the far West of the island in a place called Rincon. The coquis are tiny nocturnal native Puerto Rican frogs named after the really loud song that they make. They are very shy but love hanging out in bromeliad plants. If you look carefully you can see a coqui looking up from the centre of the plant in this photo.

Other wildlife highlights have been spotting an endangered 'manatee' in a lagoon in San Juan and seeing a huge variety of fish when snorkelling on Cy's birthday trip including the trumpet fish which is one of his favourites.

Mel is staying a few more days with her family on the Puerto Rican main island while Steve has headed off to another Puerto Rican island called Vieques. Steve (and later Mel) will be learning about permaculture and building a pond on an eco-farm / guesthouse there which will hopefully be a great place for local wildlife to hang out.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Two more boats and Puerto Rico landing!

After just one night in St Thomas, we were lucky enough to be introduced to a lovely American family who agreed to take us on the 4-5 hour journey to Puerto Rico. As you can see from the photo,  we were led by our youngest Captain yet! ;-).
As luck would have it, the family were heading to the small Puerto Rican island of Culebra - a place with fantastic snorkelling and an excellent ferry service to the main island.  As we had two clear days before needing to meet Mel's family there, we relaxed and snorkelled, seeing amazing large corals, two species of turtles and much more.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Cause and effect

After another night sleeping on the sail boat in Tortola harbour, we have taken a ferry to St Thomas.  We managed to get accommodation in a downstairs room in a hotel that was largely destroyed by the recent hurricanes and a hurricane related fire(in the second photo). It is the increasing severity of these hurricanes which made us more determined to travel here in as low carbon way as possible. The links between the changing climate and deadly hurricanes has not been lost on the islanders. In Antigua we visited this government establishment where electric vehicles, solar power and wind turbines are being adopted and promoted. Also, there was a nursery where various tree species are being grown and distributed to schools and parks.  This not only helps combat the causes of climate change but will, hopefully, make the island more self sufficient in the likely event of increasing climate catastrophe.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Catching the boat!

After the 'near misses' in terms of boats to Tortola, we suddenly got lucky and met a fantastic group of 4 Spanish men who have given us a lift to Tortola, in the British virgin islands. They are delivering a catamaran for the charter industry and we could not have been in better company.  Have just arrived after about 26 hours sailing.  Tomorrow we'll try and catch a ferry to St Thomas in the US virgin islands and just a short hop from Puerto Rico.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Missing the boat?

We've now been in Antigua for a week and we have done a few days of painting the cottage.  We decided, though, that we were not getting enough time to search for boats towards Puerto Rico. Now we have moved to a small guest house in the capital of Antigua, St. John's. We have visited several marinas and cargo ship offices but no luck so far.  Annoyingly, we have missed a few boats by a matter of days and now a super yacht show is happening so we may not find a boat for at least a week which is past our deadline.  
We are also getting time to enjoy the sights of this small island, especially the beaches.

The third picture shows Mel enjoying improvising a knife to eat rescued peanut butter with fancy super yachts in the background. Who needs superyachts costing millions and costing the Earth when you have free peanut butter and a spare business card to make a knife from? 😆.

We've been following some of the news from the climate talks which is giving us food for thought on this very vulnerable Small Island Developing nation (SID). 

The last picture is the view from the guesthouse where we are staying now.  From here we can see the huge cruise ships coming and going with their own environmental issues.   

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Greetings from Antigua

We safely made the short, night flight to Antigua on an old prop plane. We have been very lucky to get a workaway placement at very short notice. We are staying in a large, holiday villa whilst we help the owners to restore a small cottage ( with very small budget) alongside an Antiguan employee. We may get a chance to stay in the cottage as we have to move out of the villa by Friday. Our walk to work involves crossing this rickety old bridge and passing through 'butterfly woods' where there are hundreds of white butterflies.  Every white dot in the photo is a butterfly! We'll blog again soon when we have explored Antigua more.

Saturday, 24 November 2018

End of Barbados placement

Our 2 weeks in Barbados are now at an end and we have created an educational nature trail. The central point of the trail has a variety of plants, both wild and cultivated, as well as a good view of the Atlantic. We tried to highlight food plants, from which we harvested a small selection (which we have enjoyed eating). We also had outings to other nearby conservation projects to get ideas.  In the photo you will see our host Teddy and his son Kevin, as well as the other volunteer Helen.

Apart from volunteering,  visiting projects and beaches,  we have spent a lot of time and energy in the last two weeks, trying to find a way to leave the island without flying.  Although we eventually had an offer from a fishing boat to take us to the Grenadines,  we reluctantly decided against as we had no onward offers and those islands are no nearer Puerto Rico. So... reluctantly we have decided to fly the next short leg.  On the positive side, we are taking a small,  low- flying turbo prop plane to Antigua. This is the lowest carbon flight possible.

So we're off tomorrow - next stop Antigua where we will continue our search for boats towards Puerto Rico.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Working hard (for once!)

We have now finished our  first week in Barbados. We have been very welcome by host Teddy, his son Kevin and fellow volunteer Helen. We have been helping to create a nature trail on what used to be a sugar plantation. We have surveyed the  nature and hacked out a trail.  We have enjoyed using machetes in a variety of ways.  

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Bajan Bonanza!

A beautiful sunrise together with sight of land after 10 days straight at sea was a great way to start the day this morning.  And things have got better and better.  Captain Sergey and his team achieved a smooth and impressive landing, given the very small amount of space available!  Disembarking from the ship was also smooth,  thankfully.  From the port, we wandered into Bridgetown,  the capital of Barbados.  There we paused at an organic, plant based cafe at the corner of the bus station and sampled the local public transportation which dropped us exactly outside 'Debushes' - our home and place of learning and sharing for the next two weeks at least.  Teddy - the owner and designer of the land - and Helen - the current project manager of Teddy's dream to create an educational nature reserve freely open to the public,  were there to greet us,  as were a vast array of plants and animals including bamboo and banana plants, humming birds and  mongoose. We feel like we are in paradise.  More about the people and wildlife including photos in posts to come no doubt. 

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Life at sea

As we near the end of our westbound transatlantic crossing, we thought we'd share some reflections.

One thing we love about life on board is the range of nationalities. There are people from every continent (with the possible exception of Australasia) with dozens of different languages being spoken.

The crew work incredibly hard.
Every day they are maintaining and fixing things on board.  In the picture,  one of the engineering team is sewing up a rip in a sail, while being tethered to a spar.

Being in the middle of an ocean is truly awe inspiring,  although Steve should remember to stay safely on the deck!

We feel incredibly lucky to be able to do this trip although the level of service and luxury is something that we find difficult,  especially as we've found out that the crew do not get a full day off during their entire contract (which can be as long as 9 months).

Apologies that you won't have been able to track us as well as we thought because it turns out that the tracking websites only work around one hundred miles from land.  

Friday, 2 November 2018

Hold on tight!

After a very calm start to our journey,  the swell has picked up. Initially we found this a little alarming and unsteadying, but we have quickly got used to the movements of the boat.  Although some of our fellow passengers and crew initially had some sea sickness,  we have been lucky not to suffer. Hurricane Oscar passed well to the North and had no noticeable effect on us.

The fledgling starling in the photo stowed away with us in Morocco and disembarked in Tenerife, also had to hold on tight!

We wanted to post a video of the waves crashing against the port holes but it won't upload so Mel will try to post it on her Facebook page instead.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Landfall in Morocco and Tenerife

Two days ago our boat stopped in Safi where we enjoyed some local dishes in the old town. Today we arrived in Tenerife and spent a lovely afternoon at a reclaimed rubbish dump which is now a beautiful botanical garden.  We are just about to leave Tenerife and start our 12 days non-stop crossing of the sea. 

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Under sail!

We had a disappointing start with not enough wind and had to use the engines with only a small amount of assistance from the triangular sails.  But we are very happy to report that we've now been under full sail only for over 24 hours.  We've even had a chance to climb the rigging.  We're now docked in Safi, Morocco for the day. To answer a question that we've been asked,  there is a picture on our last blogpost showing Steve next to the boat, for scale. The top of the masts come to below the bridge of the cruise ship behind.  Finally there is also a picture from our cabin port hole. 

Friday, 26 October 2018

First day on the clipper

Although very fancy inside, the Royal Clipper is a lot smaller than most other cruise ships. We continue to explore the ship and particularly its environmental impact. 

We are currently in Portimao (Southern Portugal). Next stop Morocco,  in two days. 

Thursday, 25 October 2018

First sight of the ship!

Our transatlantic transport - The Royal Clipper.  Don't forget you can track our progress on the links above. 

Transport in Lisbon

Lisbon is set over 7 steep hills. Many narrow streets wind their way up them and there are trams and lifts between levels.  On the flat bits, we  used our favourite mode of transport to cycle along the coast.