After a short but intense visit back home in Switzerland and a long journey with a short stop in New York we arrived safely in Sint Maarten. It was great to be back on the boat together. André had arrived already a few days ahead and welcomed us at the airport.
We provisioned and soon got ready for sailing to St. Barths as we had booked two weeks of sailing classes there for Jaël and Amina. By the way, this is something really fantastic about France and all the French Islands. Sailing classes for all ages are always part of the school holiday program. So if you are on a French island in school holidays sign your kids up for the sailing classes. The wind forecast was not great as we were going against the trade winds and we had no time to wait for a quiet day as the sailing classes would start on Monday. So it was a bit uncomfortable but luckily St. Barths is the neighbour island of St. Martin, so not a big deal.
The number and size of superyachts in the anchorage outside Gustavia and in the harbour is crazy. We dinghied to town for a stroll around the harbour. Gustavia is a beautiful small town with a Mediterranean flair. You find many designer stores and up market restaurants… not quite the sailor’s budget. But there were a few places where we could afford having a drink or a meal. There was a small Christmas market near the capitainerie, with a few handicraft stalls, snacks, drinks and live music. I had just texted Rudy, one of our Réunion friends, who lived now in St. Barths, that we have arrived when we crossed each others way at the bar of the Christmas market anyway!
It was great to see Rudy again. Last time we had seen him in South Africa. He was crew on MONFREID and they had left Cape Town much earlier and were already on their way to the Caribbean when we arrived in Brazil. His brother lives in St. Barths and he had found a job there too. Due to a fateful encounter in Brazil Rudy has become a boatowner himself. So maybe in a few years he will sail back to La Réunion, who knows!
On Monday the sailing course started. In Amina’s class they were just two kids (including Amina) whereas Jaël’s class was almost fully booked. After one day they put the two small girls together with the class of the older kids. So after that Amina was mostly a passenger in Jaël’s boat. They enjoyed the course but after the great experience in St. Pierre et Miquelon the bar was set high! On the weekend we moved to the beautiful bay of Colombier, where we could grab a mooring ball. A picture perfect scenery, with a stunning beach, crystal clear water and a lot of turtles. And it was much more protected from swell than the rolly anchorage in front of Gustavia. What more could we wish for! A perfect place to celebrate our second Christmas in the Caribbean.
Another week of sailing class followed. Back in Gustavia we found a better anchoring spot than in the first week. In addition André’s new designed Flopper Stopper reduced the rolling a lot. Jaël had a small accident in the sailing class midweek, coming home with a bleeding scratch of a boom on her cheek. We fixed it with steristrip… The New Years Eve fireworks took place just in front of us. It was amazing and the sound of all the horns of the yachts at the end was impressive and gave me goosebumps. On the second of January Rudy borrowed the car of his brother and gave us an island tour. We finished with a swim at one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, plage du Gouverneur. St. Barths is truly a pearl in the Caribbean.
We normally wanted to leave for Guadeloupe but then we met a French family on a boat called “Rêve d’O”. They had a baby, two boys and one girl around the same age as our kids. So we decided to stay a little bit longer in the “le Colombier” anchorage. We even sailed to the remote neighbouring island called “Île Fourchue” and had a fantastic beach barbeque there together. Unfortunately “Rêve d’O” headed towards Sint Maarten to pick up her parents, who came for a visit. We exchanged contacts and hoped to meet again in a few weeks. We definitely had to leave for Guadeloupe now as André’s sister Karin had booked a flight to Guadeloupe on the 13th of January to visit us. We had a good sail to Deshaies and arrived there in the morning. It is a good and well protected anchorage in a beautiful bay. It can be busy but if you don’t go close to the beach you usually find a place. Deshaies is a charming little village with a bunch of very good restaurants.
We had just stepped on land when a police officer reminded us to wear a mask. Uups… that was not the warmest welcome… then we wanted to eat an ice cream but the restaurant did not accept my vaccination… It was too long ago already so the booster was due. The government had just tightened the rules. Luckily Xiaolei offered to drive us to the airport the next day to pick up a rental car and to do the booster at the vaccination center next to the airport. So by the time Karin arrived, André and me had already our booster done.
Due to the booster vaccination André was knocked out the two following days. Karin, the kids and me did a nice walk over the hill to the “Plage de la Grande Anse” and on the second day, we explored Malendure which is a little bit further down the coast, just opposite of the Jaques Cousteau Underwater Reserve. There is a beautiful beach with black sand and of course we had to try the handmade “Sorbet Coco”, Guadeloupe is famous for. And it truly is delicious and we highly recommend to watch out for the stalls with the wooden sorbet buckets. Every place seems to have his own secret recipe. We tried a few and were never disappointed. When André was feeling better we crossed the mountaineous part of the island and drove to a place where we could hike down to a beautiful waterfall. “Saut de la Lézarde” it was called and it was one of the best waterfalls we have visited so far to swim in. The hike down to the waterfall and back up to the car was quite adventerous though. Very slippery and muddy not very well marked, so we just tried to hold on to some roots and plants to avoid falling. But the swimming in the natural pool afterwards was divine and a great reward for all the effort.
Together with Karin we did another hike to a beautiful viewpoint “Mamelle de Pigeon”. The path was in surprisingly good condition at the beginning but then also turned out to be a bit muddier but nothing compared to the “Saut de la Lézarde” trail. After enjoying the beautiful view we walked the coastal trail from Mahaut to Malendure. Once again I realized how I enjoyed the hikes in Maine and Newfoundland. The problem in the tropics is that the hikes are either hot and dry or slippery and wet… there is almost nothing in between. Hiking in cooler clima zones in summer is simply perfect I would say.
André brought back the rental car and then we sailed to Malendure to snorkel around the Jean Jacques Cousteau underwater nature resort. Just when we got back into the dinghy to go back to Mirabella we saw a boat called ALISARA with two kids on board. We had seen them the evening before in a restaurant in Deshaies. We stopped at their boat and they told us they would anchor afterwards in Bouillante, which is just around the corner. The special thing in Bouillante is that there is a natural hot spring in the bay. I had already read about the hot springs up in the mountains near the volcano La Soufrière but did not realize that there is one at sealevel that is so close to the anchorage. Of course we where in for this and we told Douglas and Hermione, the names of the couple, that we will meet them there later.
We anchored in the bay of Bouillante and you could already smell the Sulfur in the air…. a little hint of rotten eggs. In the rightern corner of the bay you could see the people enjoying the hotsprings. And there was even a very well maintained dinghy dock just nearby – how convenient!!! The perfect time to enjoy the hot water is just before sunset or early in the morning. We enjoyed it at both times. And Jaël and Amina had a great time together with Alice and Arthur from ALISARA. We had a spontaneous dinner together. Unfortunately ALISARA was just about ready to leave for Antigua. But we exchanged contacts. Maybe our paths will cross again before we leave the Caribbean.
Next stop for us was Îles des Saintes. We anchored in the Anse du Pain de Sucre on the Island Terre-de-Haut, which is the most popular of these small islands that belong to Guadeloupe too. Karin still had a few days left with us and so we enjoyed this paradise together. The forecast was even perfect to sail back to Point-à-Pitre with Karin. So she did not have to take the ferry back to Grande-Terre. We had a great sail on the 24th of January to Point-à-pitre, where Karin could get a taxi to the airport. Once again it had been great to have her on board Mirabella.
We anchored near the Marina Bas-du-Fort off Ilet à Cochons. The anchorage is very calm and you can park your dinghy at the dinghy dock of the marina. ARIA was coming to the marina the next day as Karsten had to fly to Switzerland for business and Luca and Lucia would stay on the boat. In case of an emergency we would be near them and Xiaolei was in Pointe-à-Pitre as well.
We rented a car for two days to explore Grande-Terre. On the first day we drove all the way to Porte d’enfer and wanted to do a coastal trail there but it was too hot, so we just did a short version of it, enjoyed the breath taking scenery and made a picnic in the shade. After a short stop in La Grande Vigie we had the best Sorbet Coco ever in Anse Laborde. The beach was a bit wild and windy but the water was unbelievable clear. We ended our tour in Plage du souffleur, the complete opposite of Anse Laborde…. very calm, sandy with no rocks at all… it felt like swimming in a giant pool… we loved it! The following day, Xiaolei, Luca and Lucia joined us and we explored famous “La Pointe du Château” and had picnic and swim on the beach nearby. We had a wonderful day. Guadeloupe has really a lot to offer!
On the 31st of January we celebrated the Chinese New Year on ARIA and Xiaolei showed us how to do dumplings. It was also our last night in Point-à-pitre as we were leaving for Îles des Saintes the following day. Our friends from ALDIVI who sailed with us from Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea to Maldives were going to meet us there. We had said goodbye in February 2020. They took the way through the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and we decided to take the route around South Africa. Of course we were excited to see them again after two years!
ALDIVI came from Martinique and Jaël and Amina were already in bed sleeping, when they finally arrived. André and me welcomed them in our dinghy. Unbelievable to see each other again! Jaël and Amina got up early in the morning to see if their friends from ALDIVI have arrived. Oh how happy were they to see ALDIVI anchored just next to us!!!
All February we enjoyed Guadeloupe with our dear friends. We started with Îles des Saintes where the kids could enjoy a little bit of independence by going alone to the remote beach of Anse Crawen and explored Fort Napoleon together. Then we made our way back up to the West coast of Basse-Terre. Of course we wanted to show the natural hotsprings to our Mexican friends, so we stopped in Bouillante again. The snorkelling in Jean-Jacques Cousteau’s marine reserve of course was a must too. When we were back in Malendure we also met up again with our friends from “Rêve d’O” and spent a beautiful in the Zoo de Guadeloupe au Parc des Mamelles. We also had to say goodbye to ARIA as they planned to do a short stopover in Antigua and then head towards the Virgin Islands. We most likely will see them again back in Switzerland late summer or autumn. We had been cruising together for almost a year. It was strange to go seperate ways.
From February 20st on we were back in Deshaies, also one of our favourite anchorages in Guadeloupe. What was really special about our second stay there was, that there was a group of dolphins swimming around in the anchorage almost every day. Many people from the boats jumped in and tried to swim with them. Sometimes the dolphins left as quickly as they appeared, sometimes they stayed long time and really seemed to enjoy the company of the swimmers. I once was lucky too and could swim with them.
While we were in Deshaies, André had finally put Mirabella on the market for sale. It is a hard thing to do, put your family home of the last five years on sale… it is not like an apartment as it is more than just a home. A boat takes you to your dream destinations and is your safe harbour in the middle of the ocean (at least when it is well maintained otherwise it can easily turn into a nightmare). The idea was to put her on the market while we still had the option to choose if we go to Northern Europe or the Med. At the beginning not much happened, after three days we had the first potetial buyers who were also ready to fly to the Azores to have a look at the boat.
And then there was this Swiss family with two girls, almost the same age as ours when we left in 2017… while I was on the Grande Anse beach with the girls and ALDIVI, André had a long video call with them, showing them around the boat. The call took almost all afternoon. They were looking for a boat that is ready to go as they were planning to leave this summer. They got our contacts from a common friend who had met us in Mallorca in the early days of our trip. I had hoped for a perfect match like that. We all knew that it will be very hard for us to sell Mirabella as we are all so strongly connected with her and we discussed again and again if we maybe could keep her. But it does not really make sense when we are back at work and the kids in school. It would be way too expensive to keep her in the Med. So I was hoping for a family to buy her to let Mirabella’s voyage continue in a similar way. Andrea and Silvio, these are the names of the Swiss couple wanted to sleep over it and decide in the next days. To make things short… they said “yes” and our beloved Mirabella was sold within a week! Handover end of June in Italy, where we started our trip! It could not have been better, but the feelings were too mixed for jumps of joy. But we knew, this is the perfect match and were very content for that.
On the 25th of February we celebrated Berna’s birthday with a wonderful night out. The kids were all on ALDIVI for a movie night and we enjoyed a delicious dinner at “La Kaz du Douanier”. ALDIVI was getting ready to sail to St. Martin and we planned to follow and meet them there again as soon as the sale of Mirabella was confirmed by the 10% payment. ALDIVI left on the 28th of February. Just when we were all in the dinghy to say goodbye to ALDIVI and then have a last swim on Grande Anse Beach we discovered a beautiful oyster yacht called OYSA just next to them. A friendly couple Marina and Olgun invited us for a drink, when we were back from the beach. We enjoyed Grande Anse beach and Sorbet coco a last time. Later on Olgun and Marina showed us their boat. Amina and Jaël agreed that if we ever buy a boat again it would be a x-yacht again or a swan… Marina is from Belgium and Olgun from Turkey. They told us a lot about the beautiful cruising grounds in Turkey. Maybe we should try to charter a yacht there one day. Despite it was a very new boat Olgun had some troubles with his licium batteries. André offered Olgun to have a look at the batteries the following day. Most likely they were not configurated properly. André spent all morning on their boat fixed the problem. In return Olgun and Marina invited us for dinner on land and we spent a beautiful evening together.
We left Guadeloupe on 2nd of March. Guadeloupe has become one of our favourite islands in the Caribbean. Hopefully one day we will come back.
In St. Martin we anchored in the Grand Case Bay this time. ALDIVI was in Marigot, where all the shipchandler and boat supply shops are but it was very busy and rolly there. So we decided to try Grand Case instead. We went ashore to have a look around and have dinner in one of the restaurants. The main street just behind the beach has a numerous amount of shops and restaurants of all categories between high end gourmet and local BBQ places called “lolo”. We wanted to try one of the lolo’s and walked back and forth studying the different menus. In one of the restaurants there was a family with kids and the girl waved and smiled at Amina and Jaël as we walked by. It was not our first choice restaurant but Amina and Jaël begged to go there because of the girl. The tables right next to the family were all occupied, but a little furher away there was a free table. We agreed to go there but told them that they have to go and talk to the kids themselves. And of course they did 🙂 It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It was an American family with three kids living on a boat called AMANI. They wanted to move to Marigot the next day to get a new outboard engine and get a few other things done there but Drew (about the same age as Jaël) and Ainsley (between Jaël and Amina) came over to MIRABELLA for some swimming around the boat and playing. We exchanged contacts to stay in touch and meet again, when they were done with their stuff in Marigot. Hermione from ALISARA contacted me, wondering about our plans. They were on their way from Antigua to the British Virgin Islands with a short stop in St. Martin. Perfect timing! We told them that we were in Grand Case and looking forward to meet them. They arrived on 7th of March and we had a great evening together and the following day the kids played on the beach together. ALISARA hat to move to Marigot to fuel up and we decided to go there too for one or two nights to do some provisioning in the big supermarket there. We wanted to move back to Grand Case for André’s 50st birthday, where we a had booked already for lunch with AMANI and ALDIVI in a cool beach restaurant.
We had lunch together with ALISARA in small French restaurant and walked up to the Fort afterwards. The kids loved that place. It’s the perfect location to do hide and seek! Unfortunately ALISARA could not join André’s birthday party as they had to move on to the BVI’s, where a potential buyer was waiting. So we had to say goodbye to them.
The following day we moved back to the Grand Case anchorage. ALDIVI and AMANI joined as well to celebrate André’s birthday with us. We had a great day in Captain Frenchy’s beach restaurant. The kids could play on the beach all day long and we enjoyed the good company. Time passed much too quickly because the following day ALDIVI was leaving towards Puerto Rico. It had been a fantastic month together in Guadeloupe and it was great to have them with us celebrating André’s half century so of course everyone was sad to say goodbye. Hopefully we will see each other again one day in Switzerland or in Mexico…. bye bye ALDIVI have a safe journey back home to Mexico!
We were monitoring the weather forecast for a while already to learn about the weather patterns on our route to the Azores. So far there was no good weather window yet but we were provisioning a bit to be ready quickly. It was a very windy period and the anchorage did not have the best protection. It did not seem right to us to leave the Caribbean with that impression. We wanted to leave from a place that we really liked. So we moved to our beloved “Colombier” anchorage in St. Barths on March 15th. To everyone’s delight AMANI joined us. We had a great time together and enjoyed our last days in the Caribbean in this beautiful anchorage. There were plenty of turtles you could observe while snorkelling and Jaël and Amina loved to do Art classes with Mary when she had time. Jack, Drew, Ainsley, Jaël and Amina got along extremly well. There was not a single fight during all the time they played together. It was a real joy to watch them play. It was sad to say goodbye to our friends but it was time to leave…
We left St. Barths on the 25th of March heading to the Azores. We knew that this passage could be tricky as it was still early in the season. The lows were still coming very frequently and you can only rely on the forecast the first half. The second half will be a surprise. The plan was to slow down if we see a low coming – and let it pass. Sounds reasonable in theory but is not so easy in practice… Read all about it in André’s chapter Caribbean to Azores!