Panama

Shelter Bay Marina is a beautiful and peaceful marina surrounded by rainforest. The staff there is very helpful and the atmosphere very friendly and relaxed. Everybody is waiting for the channel passage and tries to help each other. On the second day after our arrival the measuring took place and with a little help from our skipper Mirabella measured 49 feet only and not more than fifty which saved us 500 $!! Our agent Erick told us that there had been a cancellation and he will try to put us in on April 10th.  And indeed he managed to put us in. Next morning he confirmed the date. That was really fast!!!

It was almost a pity that we had to leave so soon, because we met a lot of nice people like Tove and Rasmus from DIES NATALIS , Elena and Woytec with Paul from IMAGINE or Annemieke and Rob from CHARLIE II  and just on the day of our departure INFINITY checked in – another boat from the Atlantic Odyssey. We haven’t seen them since Barbados and now we were both here in Panama! Jeremy told us that ROGUE would arrive on the next day, so we missed them. But hopefully we will meet again in Marquesas. The kids enjoyed the pool and Jaël trained her snorkelling skills. Finally Valerian also arrived in Shelter Bay Marina and joined the crew.  So we could try out if it really would work to have three additional crew sharing a cabin or if it would be too much.

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For the canal we had to move to the anchorage in the afternoon. The advisor was meant to come at five p.m. and finally got on board at 6 p.m. Our advisor Ricardo was a very nice guy. Very friendly and calm, explaining everything very well. He supervised Osmane who did with us his 9th canal passage. Everything went very smooth. Audrey and Valerian took care of the line at the bow and Mauro was on the stern line. We were nested to another sailing boat. So we just needed to care about the two lines on our starboard side. So it normally works like this: the big fat guy has to get into the lock first and then they add some sailingboats nested together in a package of two or three just to fill the room. The big ships pay around 200’000 dollars for passing the canal.

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Around 10 p.m. we finally arrived in the Gatun lake and stayed at a huge buoy for the night.  Next day at 8.00 a.m. our new advisor Edwin came on board and we started motoring throught the Gatun lake. In front of the Miraflores locks we had to wait for our nesting partner. This time it was a catamaran. His name was CHASING STARS and they had 5 girls on boat! So Jaël was very happy when she was invited to go on their boat after we were rafted together. She came back just shortly before the doors of the last lock were opening and Mirabella floated into the Pacific.

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We met CHASING STARS again in the anchorage after the canal and we are looking forward to meet them again in French Polynesia.

Valerian and Audrey decided to continue their voyage on the boat Valerian came to Panama with. During the days in Shelter Bay Marina and also during the canal we already felt, that three additional crew is too much and would not work for the long passage to the Marquesas.  We spoke to Mauro and agreed, that if we would find another person we would continue with two additional crew otherwise just with Mauro. Sometimes life is funny… we found Marine and it seemed to be the perfect match. She worked as a swimming teacher for kids and dive instructor on Martinique and was looking for a passage to French Polynesia. She also wants to learn more about sailing and so she joined us. Her first task arrived sooner than we thougt…

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We wanted to move to the fuel dock but our anchor was stuck…  first she tried to dive down to the anchor and check out what the problem was, but as the water was really murky it was very difficult for her to see or do anything. A French couple of another boat saw that we obviously had a problem with our anchor and offered us their complete diving equipment. That was so generous and saved our day. So Marine put on the diving gear and dived down. Our anchor chain was wrapped around some kind of metal thing. Marine could sort it out and so we finally could take the anchor out. Well done Marine and welcome on board!

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Crossing the Caribbean sea

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We left Martinique under perfect conditions. The new spinnaker pole was absolutely worth the waiting.  Thanks to the pole we were able to sail in a direct line towards our waypoint without jibing in a zigzag line as we had to do on our Atlantic crossing. The 450nm mile crossing took us less three days to arrive in beautiful Bonaire. The colour and crystal clearness of the water there is just amazing.

We stopped in Bonaire to await a weather window for the Columbian cost. The Columbian cost is notorious for its fierce winds and a sailor often is faced with more the 30kts of wind. Many of our cruising friends encountered strong winds here and some of our crew said that there is never less than 30kts here.  The waiting turned out to be a success on many aspects.

Bonaire was really a fantastic place to stop. We went to a nice restaurant on Sunday night and met a family from Germany on a boat called HUMMEL.  Jaël and Gesine, their girl, got along well together right from the start and we decided to go snorkelling together the next day.  So we checked out Klein Bonaire by snorkelling. It was the best underwater world we had seen so far in the Caribbean! All sorts of beautiful corals and a lot of coloured fishes.

Even at the mooring buoy the water was so clear that André could dive after the scissors that Amina had thrown into the water while I was cutting her hair. At 12 meters down it was a bit of a free dive. The scissors needed a polish afterwards and Jaël took the chance to “correct” Amina’s haircut early in the morning, while we were still sleeping…

Finally we stayed 5 nights in Bonaire.  By then the wind around the cape of Cartagena had calmed down. We had perfect conditions! Sailing from Bonaire to Panama with no more than 20tks of wind, very enjoyable, unusual conditions. The weather routing worked out perfect. We decided to go to Panama first and do the San Blas Islands only if we would have to wait longer for the channel passage.  Thanks to the excellent planning with the stop over in Bonaire and our fantastic new crew members Mauro and Audrey the crossing of the Caribbean sea turned out to be the most relaxed passage so far.

The skipper was happy about the fast passage and I enjoyed the comfort that Jaël and Amina had two additional crew members to play with.

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Martinique – Goodbyes & Provisioning

20180208_125438After having spent very windy but beautiful days with Karin around Anse d’Arlet, Anse Mitan and Fort de France we had to say goodbye to her.

She took her flight back home and we headed back to Le Marin where we had an appointment with a technician for the motor service at 8 o’clock the following day. The original plan was to stop in Grand Anse d’Arlet and meet YUANA at least for a few hours as they where heading to Dominica early the next morning. But the wind had other plans. In Grande Anse d’Arlet it blew with 30 knots and it was packed with boats. This is one aspect of living on a sailboat which is not always easy to deal with. You can make plans but mother nature always has the last word… We would have loved to see YUANA one last time but it was just not meant to happen. We will hopefully see them back in Switzerland sometime in the future.

Fortunately not all our cruising friends had gone, so we could catch up with FALKOR, KISU, JAJAPAMI and MOJITO and also met new boats like OLENA, who crossed the Atlantic in January with Jimmy Cornell’s last Odyssey. OLENA is a Swiss family with three kids and they got along very well with Jaël and Amina. So we spent many pleasant hours on the beach or on the boats with sundowners and dinners including Birthday party on the beach from Emma and Kai from FALKOR and Cyliane from OLENA.

As Markus and Gaby from KISU were already making fun of our home grown mussel farm and we had to wait anyway for our spinnaker pole to be delivered by middle of March we decided to haul Mirabella out in Saint Lucia for a new antifouling. So we left Martinique for Mirabella’s «beauty week» and had to finally say goodbye to our dear cruising friends from KISU, FALKOR and JAJAPAMI as well.

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In Saint Lucia everything was perfectly organised and the people on the ship yard were very friendly. It was a strange feeling to sleep on the boat on the dry without any sound or movement of water.

Only the long ladder was a bit of a challenge for us with Amina but everything went well and thanks to André`s persistance within a week everything was done and Mirabella looked really good. Luckily the marina had a pool.

The kids loved it and Jaël made great progress in swimming. After that week she started to swim in the sea without floaties and swam around Mirabella for the first time. She was very proud of it and we were very proud of her.

On the ship yard in Saint Lucia we also met Mauro from Italy who was looking for a boat to Panama or the Pacific. He had just crossed the Atlantic from the Cap Verde Islands. So he joined us for the way back to Martinique. The passage from Saint Lucia to Martinique was completely different than the first time end of January. We had absolutely no wind and had to motor…. a completely new experience in the Caribbean for us. Jaël enjoyed the presence of Mauro. As he grew up in Bozen and studied one year in Germany he can speak German as well. So he passed the kids test as well and we arranged with him to meet in about two weeks in Le Marin, to join us for the crossing of the Caribbean Sea. Before we wanted to have some family time and do also some provisioning in Fort de France.

We were happy to see FALKOR again in Grand Anse d’Arlet and also later on in Anse Mitan. But then in Anse Mitan it was really the final goodbye. FALKOR stays another season in the Caribbean so we unfortunately won’t meet again. We will definitely miss our cruising friends from the Odyssey… but that is just the way it is… at least we can follow their blogs and stay in contact and share experiences that way.

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After beautiful days in Grand Anse d’Arlet and Anse Mitan which we spent with snorkelling and swimming we moved to Marina z’Apricot. Thanks to Laure from OLENA we had an excellent contact for renting a car and so we did. The plan was to optimize our storage and also use spare room under the beds in order to have additional room for those things we would not find in the Pacific at reasonable prices.

On André’s Birthday we spent a beautiful day at the Saut du Gendarme with a very refreshing bath in the waterfall followed by a picknick.

In the afternoon there was even enough time to try out two Kayak at the local swimming pool. They had a cooperation with Decathlon so we could really try the kayaks out before buying them. So after the days in Marina z’Apricot Mirabella had really gained some overweight…. two kayaks and lots of food, beer and wine. Somehow we managed to store everything.
After a peaceful night in Anse Chaudière we sailed back to Le Marin middle of March to get our long awaited spinaker pole. And finally it was really there. Our new crew member Mauro joined us and later on Audrey from France as well. We met Audrey already on our first stop in Le Marin end of January. Originally Audrey and her friend Val were interested to join us to Colombia but because of the delay with the spinnaker pole we had to change our plans. As Val had an appointment in Colombia she decided to fly to Colombia. We will probably meet her in San Blas Islands. But Audrey was still interested to join us on passage to Panama and also would be interested to cross the Pacific.20180305_111543
So at last everything got into place somehow in the right way. Mirabella is in awesome shape, we are stocked up with food and also Jaël and Amina have grown in the last 6 months… Jaël has learned how to swim and Amina has learned to use the toilet and wears nappies during the night only… Pacific here we come! But first we will cross the Caribbean sea with a stop over in Bonaire.

Getting North

After leaving Grenada we had a wonderful sailing day and made our way North towards Carriacou. Two pelicans welcomed us in front of Sandy Island. What a wonderful place! A white stripe of sand with a few palmtrees, about 15 pelicans and a lot of hermit crabs – that’s it.

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Hike along the beach – Sandy Island
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Sandy Island – Pelicans diving
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A wooden swan?

FALKOR and KISU joined us on Sandy Island as well.  Emma, Kai, Jaël and Amina explored the island like small Robinson Crusoes and we enjoyed snorkelling and watching the pelicans. The snorkelling was actually so good that André and Markus from KISU planned to go diving on the next day as Markus has his diving gear with him on KISU.

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So the next day we were getting ready for the big dive… We were all on KISU. Gaby was ready to look after the kids, Markus and André were ready, squeezed in their wetsuits, diving bottles prepared and I was ready to assist and keep watch in the dinghy. So actually everything was ready but…. Unfortunately not the wheather. It turned out to be one of the rainiest days since we have arrived in the Caribbean. So around 3 p.m. Markus and André finally gave up and had a glass of wine instead.

After all it was better like that, then in the evening André’s right ear startet hurting and on our way to Clifton (Union Island) next morning we stopped in Hillsborough on Carriacou where André went to the hospital and got some antibiotics for curing his infection of the middle ear.

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Hospital in Carriacou – luckily ‘only’ an ear infection.

 

Therefore we changed our original plan and skipped Tobago Cays as diving and snorkelling was off the list for at least two weeks. We stopped in Bequia instead and met KISU again.

As Karin was arriving on the 27th of January in Fort de France we sailed from Bequia straight to Martinique with just one over night stop in St. Lucia. The passage between St. Lucia and Martinique was quite rough with big waves but we arrived in Le Marin just right on time.

Baguette, pain au chocolat, cheese… foodwise Martinique is heaven… it is the best place for provisioning. And also for getting any repairs on the boat done. But it is Carribean so things can take a while… it took for example 6 days to find Karin’s luggage. Her bag was first stuck in Guadeloupe then flew back to St. Marten and finally was sent to St. Barths (no idea why). Luckily they confirmed there the receipt of the bag by mail otherwise it certainly would have been lost.

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We all enjoyed the days with Karin and are looking forward to see her again in French Polynesia.

Wunderschönes Grenada

«On this beautiful island, where there is so much to see» – treffender kann man es kaum formulieren als Sabrina Francis in ihrem Song «Home» vom Album «Think in colour».  https://youtu.be/Of2XipW2kNY

Grenada hat unglaublich viel zu bieten!

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Grand Anse, longest beach in Eastern Caribbean
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Riding the Dinghy home

Da wir Loni nicht zumuten wollten, nach der langen Reise nachts noch mit Gepäck ins Dinghy steigen zu müssen und auch noch Mirabella’s Batterien auswechseln lassen wollten, checkten wir erst einmal in der Marina «Phare bleu» ein. Die ehemalige 10 vor 10 Sprecherin Jana Caniga hat hier zusammen mit dem Musiker Dieter Burkhalter ein Boutique Hotel mit kleiner Marina aufgebaut. Herzstück der Marina ist ein liebevoll umgebautes, ehemaliges Lightship auf dem täglich das Frühstücksbuffet serviert wird und abends regelmässig Musikkonzerte stattfinden. Des weiteren gehört ein Restaurant und ein kleiner Pool zu der Anlage. Die Kinder fanden natürlich vor allem den Pool toll. Als dann YUANA einen Tag später auch im Phare bleu einklarierte war die Swiss Connection (fast) wieder komplett. Die Kinder genossen zusammen mit Loni den Pool und waren fast nicht aus dem Wasser zu kriegen.

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Why do kids like the pool so much more than the sea?

Um unsere leeren Vorratsschränke wieder aufzufüllen, buchten wir zusammen mit KISU ein Taxi, welches uns über sehr schmale und kurvige Strassen zum Supermarkt brachte… hier Auto fahren, ist eher gewöhnungsbedürftig… Die Locals sind ziemlich schnell unterwegs. Vor unübersichtlichen Stellen hupen sie zweimal kurz, brausen aber im selben Tempo weiter. Am Strassenrand hat es Ziegen und ab und zu ein Huhn… Kinder natürlich auch, aber denen scheint man schon früh genug eingeschärft zu haben, sich von der Strasse fern zu halten.

Wir wollten noch mehr sehen von Grenada und buchten deshalb denselben Fahrer (Terry) für einen Landausflug zusammen mit YUANA.  Eine Wanderung im Regenwald mit Bad beim Wasserfall, das war der Plan. Auf Wikiloc hatten wir einen vielversprechenden Weg ausfindig gemacht. Vom Grand Etang Reserve wollten wir zum Seven Sisters Wasserfall laufen. Alleine die Fahrt zum Grand Etang Reserve war ein Erlebnis. Terry entpuppte sich nicht nur als angenehmer Fahrer (soweit dies bei diesen Strassen überhaupt möglich ist), sondern auch als guter Reiseleiter. Er wusste viel Interessantes über Land und Leute zu berichten und liess uns an besonders schönen Aussichtspunkten aussteigen und Fotos machen. Er lieferte uns beim Grand Etang Reserve ab und wir zogen guten Mutes los. Dank GPS und Wikiloc fanden wir problemlos den richtigen Weg. Die starken Niederschläge der vorangehenden Tage, hatten aber deutliche Spuren bzw. viel Matsch und Wasser hinterlassen. So hangelten wir uns von Baum zu Baum durch den wunderschönen Regenwald. Nach einer guten Stunde siegte doch die Vernunft und wir kehrten um. Wir kamen bei diesen Bedingungen einfach nicht schnell genug voran. In der Karibik sind die Tage kurz, der Regen stark und es wird früh dunkel…

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Visitor center Grand Etang Forest Reserve

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Was also anfangen mit dem angebrochenen Tag? Die leckere dunkle Schokolade, die wir zur Stärkung am Souvenirshop beim Grand Etang Reserve kauften, brachte uns auf die Idee, eine Schokoladenfabrik zu besuchen. Somit war Plan B geboren und Terry fuhr uns zu Jouvay, einer kleinen Schokoladenfabrik im Nordwesten der Insel. Das Stichwort «Schokoladenfabrik» versetzte die Kinder natürlich in Hochstimmung… dementsprechend laut ging es auf der Fahrt dorhin zu und her.

Die Degustation versetzte auch uns Erwachsene in Hochstimmung…. Was in dieser kleinen «Fabrik» produziert wird, ist dunkle Schokokalade auf höchstem Niveau, welche sich bei Globus in Zürich teuer verkaufen liesse. Auf dem Rückweg zum Phare bleu reichte es sogar noch für einen Stopp bei den Concorde Falls (der untersten Wasserfälle sind einfach zugänglich von der Strasse aus). So hatten wir also doch noch unseren Wasserfall und konnten gleich die dreckigen Schuhe und Hosen waschen.

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Concord Falls

So kehrten wir zurück auf MIRABELLA, glücklich und zufrieden, erfüllt von einem herrlichen Tag und begeistert von dieser wunderschönen Insel.

Das Auswechseln der Batterien klappte tadellos und versetzte den Skipper in Hochstimmung. Das Stromproblem hatte uns schon seit längerer Zeit beschäftigt und nun war es innerhalb weniger Tage gelöst, was für ein Erfolg! Zugegeben – die Bordkasse freute es weniger. Jetzt passt die Kapazität der  Solaranlage und die Grösse der Ladebank zusammen und auch der Alternator produziert viel mehr Ampere als zuvor.

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New batteries!

Mit Dinghy Ausflug nach Hog Island, Baden am langen, wunderschöne Sandstrand der Grand Anse, Fish Friday und der Besichtigung der grössten Muskatnussverabeitungsstation in Gouyave verbrachten wir weitere unvergessliche Stunden und lernten viel Interessantes über Land und Leute. Auch die Konzerte im Lightship der Phare bleu Marina genossen wir sehr.

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Sea urchin being prepared for lunch
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Nutmeg sorting station
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Fish Friday, Gouyave

«Think in colour» von Sabrina Francis wurde ein bisschen zu unserem persönlichen Grenada Soundtrack. Hört euch doch einmal das Lied «Home» an – das sagt alles!  https://youtu.be/Of2XipW2kNY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mirabella – Welcome to the Caribbean

Sailing Mirabella  – welcome in the Caribbean

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Barbados

Incredible how far we have gotten in the last four months… We quit our jobs end of August, subrented our apartment and startet our sailing adventure in Varazze (near Genova) middle of September. We sailed along the Côte d’Azur to Mahon in Menorca, continued to Mallorca, the south coast of Spain, Smir (Marocco) to Gibraltar. We left the Mediterranean sea behind us, sailed to wonderful Graciosa (small island north of Lanzarote) and arrived safely in Santa Cruz Tenerife in early November.

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Cap d’Antibes
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Morocco
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St. Tropez
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Gibraltar

There we joined Jimmy Cornell’s Atlantic Odyssey and crossed the Atlantic in 21 days. We were very lucky to have Jakob Bekhoi joining us for the crossing. This made it a lot easier, as one person usually is busy with the kids. After 21 days we finally celebrated landfall and were overwhelmed to arrive in Barbados.

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Amina – shortly before the Atlantic departure
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The kids of the Atlantic Odyssey

The kids have done extremely well… thank God they did not get sea sick at all. What a pleasure for all of us to feel the soft sand and swim in the warm crystal clear water after three weeks on Mirabella without land.

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Jaël and Amina fooling around on the Atlanric crossing
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Parasailor!
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Jakob caught a tuna, yummy

After restocking food we started to explore the Caribbean sea. First stop was Bequia where we spent Christmas together with KISU and FALKOR who crossed the Atlantic with the Jimmy Cornell Odyssey as well. After Christmas JAJAPAMI joined – another boat from the Odyssey.

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Visiting a local school in Barbados

The skipper of Mirabella is already used to the fact, that it is always difficult to move on from one place to the other as the first mate intends to stay a little longer… same thing happend in Bequia as well… the crew was charmed by this beautiful spot with the lovely Belmont Walkway. But finally we moved on to Tobago Cays after a short overnight stop in Canouan.  Tobago Cays are a group of small, uninhabited islands protected from the sea by the Horseshoe reef. No doubt snorkeling must be beautiful there but the conditions were fairly rough. But we found a perfectly protected small beach which was an absolute paradise for us and the kids.

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Tobago Cays
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Tobago Cays
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Sandy Island

New year’s eve we spent in Union Island together with the «Swiss Connection» of  the Atlantic Odyssey which includes YUANA, MARIPOSA and KISU. It is really nice to have cruising friends and we enjoy this social contacts very much. Also Jaël and Amina are always very exited to see a familiar boat and love to spend time with our new cruising friends.

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Kids from Falkor and Mirabella

Over sundowners we can exchange our experiences and informations with each other which always helps a lot and gives new ideas. After leaving Union Island we wanted to sail directly to Carriacou. However, Dölf from MARIPOSA sent us such a nice picture of the anchorage in Petit St. Vincent that we spontaneously changed our mind and stopped in Petit St. Vincent. What a charming little place.  KISU joined as well and we then had our private little regatta to Grenada the following day 😊

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Leading the race with KISU
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Petite St. Vincent