The ultimate journey – A test of endurance.


The largest distance in open water we had tackled before now, the channel
 between Montserrat and Guadeloupe had topped out at about 40 nautical miles. 
This had taken us close to nine soaking wet hours. 

So now we faced out into an open perceivably
 endless gap of more than 80 nautical miles.

 It doesn´t take a professor to work out the simple math! 
As optimistic as we would like to be this journey would take us at least 16 hrs.
 Well, there  was a few variables. The wind direction and speed,
 the wave direction and height, and the swell direction and force
 were all going to join us on this last trip one way or another.
 Mainly the direction of it all would play a huge part in our speed.
 So we waited, and we watched!

We had done this many a time before, for every journey to be precise, 
but this time it was, one could say, more than twice as important! 
We spent these days of waiting with our friends Alex and Chris, and Gay and Rick.
 Both couples keeping us equally entertained for our time, less, spent and more, 
enjoyed in Prickly Bay. They cooked for us, gave us free use of their computers,
 Rick kept us constantly updated with all forms of weather forecasts, 
and Alex´s constant good humor left us smiling through all the anticipation.


Ok so two days later and we had waited long enough!
We ran around, madly filling our fuel tanks, checking out 
with customs, buying a last stock of food and updating the blog, 
until the crimson sky faded and night pulled in. 

We had planned a 1 o’clock departure time, leaving mid darkness in hope
 to arrive at land before nightfall the following day. But we were far from ready!
 So yes, we had everything we needed, and more or less we were set to go,
 but there was two things holding me back! One, the boat was a mess! 
Any boating type person will know how important it is to have everything in order, 
especially for the longest trip you’re going to make along the journey. 
And two, the most important…IT JUST DIDN’T FEEL RIGHT!

One thing along my travels I’ve learned to trust more than my eyes are my feelings.
 It was dark, there was no way we could prepare the boat exactly as we wanted it 
for such a trip and something more than fear, nerves and anticipation was niggling 
at the back of my mind. So we let our over eager egos go ahead and cross the passage
 without us, and we slept, for a more than needed, deliciously restful night with dreams
 of South America caressing our minds...

The morning after we knew we had done the right thing!
 Under the new days light we saw the boat. It was far from ready!

First thing in the morning we checked the weather again. 
It was still looking good, well, good enough. 
The wind (10-15 knots) had begun to come from the south and would
 now be slightly against us. Unfazed, we would take our chance, and the whole morning,
 we strapped everything down, taped everything else up and just for good luck, 
I dissembled and reassembled our ever not-so-trusty motor just to make sure 
the traveling problems were at a minimum. Gay, our new caring mother made sure
 we had absolutely all we needed (including binoculars, lots of ziploc bags and 
the most important thing: a cruising guide for Venezuela!!! Thanks mom!)

 Packed and emotional, we had a little spare time to try out our otherwise 
unused life-vests and harnesses. Happy with the test results we made 
the most of spare hours and napped under a palm tree.


That night we had taken up Alex and Chris' offer to sleep
 in their boat’s cockpit and with the alarm set I could barely force myself to sleep 
with the itching excitement bubbling up inside me.

I awoke 15 minutes before the alarm had chance to buzz the entire anchorage
 into a frenzy, and instantly, as if choreographed, me and Moon boarded Dick Brano,
 dressed ourselves head to toe with large white carrier bags to keep us dry, 
clipped on our harnesses, pulled up the mast light and headed out into the moonless night.


With only a small hand torch lighting the compass momentarily
 we mainly followed stars to keep bearings. 
At first the term “pitch black” couldn’t have been more on the mark, 
where ever the mark was? We couldn’t see anything!
 Once past the ten or so boats, dotting the way to the opening of the bay, 
we left the last glinting points of civilization behind and pushed on through
 the head on swell into a black so solid, it was almost claustrophobic.

But about 25 minutes later, the swell still no more in our favor,
 the moon began to rise, leaving highlights capping each wave. 
We were sailing on dancing black oil and it was incredible. 
Instead of seeing each wave as it rose and surged towards us, we learned to feel it,
 to sense its oncoming presence and maneuver to boat necessarily.
 Sailing at night was beautiful not in the eyes, but in the mind.

The wind slightly ahead, but still, like every day but a hurricane day, 
blowing steady from the east, the sail was full and we were pushing through. 
But this was the problem, we were still pushing through, even 4 hours on 
and the waves had not swung! We could no longer see Grenada's glow on 
the horizon behind us, but the swell was still coming at us from the front!
So we got a little wetter, we went a little slower and we bounced up and down 
a little more often, but we were going, and out there in the middle of a
 relative endless ocean, that was all that mattered!

At about this time we got the first little tail tell signs of it.
 The engine, our faithful little twice drowned motor, 
started to dip in power temperamentally. In a more than hopeful optimism 
we brushed off these first signs with a “I didn’t hear anything!” or a “seems fine to me”.
 And onwards we went. The thing is, about that moment when you can
 no longer see where you came from is that, well, that’s the exact moment when
 you realize you HAVE to get to where you’re going!


Five or so hours in, and the sky’s darkness eased, colors began to brush the sky.
 First the slightest greys and darkest blues, and then like a live canvas, 
the strokes of indigo purple and flaming red started to fill
 the blank space from the horizon up. Twenty or so minutes later 
the east was a glow of heated magma. And what better a stage to watch 
the world’s daily magic than from a vast shifting pool of reflection.

All of this was only hindered by one thing. The night had taken its toll on me.
 The disability to focus well, along with the constant erratic movements of the boat
 had brought a sweat to my brow. A lump started to rise in my throat, the bile had
 accumulated at the back of my mouth and my mind turned to only one thing, 
...sea sickness!

As if by perfect timing our first tank of fuel ran out.
 Moon, sensing (by the goblin my face had no doubt become) my condition, 
offered to tackle this one single handedly while I kept us flowing slow 
and steady with the waves. This was never an easy task, and doing it had nearly
 always been avoided while on the water. This normally required one person
 to lift up the needed tank of fuel and keep it balanced on top of the box, then,
 without getting any water into either of the two tanks,
(very difficult when waves are constantly splashing over your boat which 
stands no more than 20 inches off the water), the other person would
 open them up, put one end the hose in each of them, then,(the delicious part) 
suck hard on the bottom end of the hose until fuel flowed steadily out, 
stuff it into the empty fuel tank and, while steadying everything on a 
constantly moving boat, fill the tank to the top.


Thanks partly to my un-seamanship, and partly to my need in 
keeping the boat as flatly plaining as possible, Moon had to do it solo! 
Amazed, I watched as she performed to duty almost elegantly, 
even to the point that she didn’t get a single drop of fuel in her mouth. 
And on cue, when the tank was full and my focus could be broken, it came!

 I think I fed quite a shoal of Atlantic fish with the hefty portion of last nights 
chicken curry I generously sieved through Dick Brano’s blue net and down
 into the heave inducing kaleidoscope of water below. To the last morsel
 I gave up everything as an offering to Poseidon himself for safe passage,
 and in return I felt instantly better! Apparently even after taking my own boat
 through the Caribbean I still wasn’t cured from seasickness!

Then, well, time went on… and on, and on, and the motor, well, it didn’t!
The dips in power and speed got more often and that ever constant un-undulating
 purr got more irregular. But the day before, after cleaning every piece of engine
 I had learned about, I placed that same incorrect Yamaha engine cover on our 
Tohatsu engine and I sealed it like never before with a half roll of duct-tape and just 
to be sure a bungee cable and blue tarp. I was not, in the middle of the channel,
 gonna start ripping it all off and taking bits of the carb out to clean it! 
So I worked out that whatever was blocking fuel getting into the engine, 
could be temporarily removed by pumping hard on the squeezy pump in the fuel-line.
 I felt like an overworked lawyer with a stress ball, and after nearly ten hours 
of pumping us to Venezuela I was left with a right arm like an 
over-hormonal teenage boy. Either way we were moving!
 And like I said before that was all that mattered!

We caught the first glimpse of land quite early on, 
the day was clear and apart from the odd rain squall the weather was perfect! 
At first it looked like just the slightly darker gap between where the distant clouds 
ended and the horizon began. But about 7 hours in, Moon´s binoculars confirmed
 the giant long sprawling land mast to be Venezuela! 
Now we had a visual target!!


Throughout the entire Caribbean we had been warned about this trip!
 Even before we had finished building the boat, and there was more than 20 islands
 ahead of us people were already talking about pirates in Venezuela! 
About the overly strong currents throughout the channel, the ever worrying 
presence of giant cargo ships, which obviously, are full of lazy overworked Asians
 taking a nap at the radar detector, and the giant distance that lied between us. 

They would rave about squalls and giant waves, masked men killing
 and raping sailors and, how our boat was never made to do such a journey! 
It was as if they thought we would go out into this specially dangerous stretch of water, 
only for our engine to fail, our sail to rip, a storm would roll in and we would capsize, 
we would drift for days starving, only to be robbed by pirates of any remaining valuables,
 then a cargo ship would plough right through us and we would inevitably 
be eaten alive by man eating sharks! 
...
It hit me as I left the relative security of Grenada’s 
shores that we weren’t so much confronting our fears, 
but, we were confronting all of theirs!

It has once been said,
 “a brave men isn’t someone who doesn’t know fear, 
in fact, he is very familiar with it!”

And we were full to brimming! Neither of us ever said it, 
but I’m sure the constant warnings had left their mark somewhere deep 
within both of us, and we were out their facing it!

Of all the seeds of fear people planted in me, one grew out on top…
Pirates! It wasn’t the first time I had been aware of pirates in an area 
I was traveling but like always it wasn’t the valuables they could possibly 
steal that was bothering me! I was traveling with a beautiful girl! 

Pirates like all big thefts, do what they do because of one main thing, jealousy. 
The jealousy of what one man has and the easiest way to get it.
 If there’s one thing a pirate would be more jealous about than a pretty boat, it’s a pretty girl!
 And although we had been told numerous times to keep the flare gun loaded and ready,
 it never really stroked me as much protection from a group
 of bandits with shot guns and the like!


I caught a glimpse of the boat from afar, 
constantly watching it out of the corner of my eye as to not alarm Moon.
 It seamed to be a smallish boat (well at least compared to the enormous 
cargo ships passing us within a hundred feet!), but fast! 
And we appeared to be coming closer to each other! 

Moon at this time was going for another round 
of suck on the gas pipe and was pretty distracted. 
I tried to put off saying it for quite a while, but we were now within Venezuela’s
 waters and there was no doubt the suspected boat, after nervously stopping 
several times, was coming straight for us! I imformed Moon of our oncoming situation,
 forcing calm into my voice. She froze, her eyes glazed as she glanced 
around as if wanting to hide, but knowing, on our 16ft sit-on-top raft
 there wasn’t an inch of space. “It’s ok, we'll just say hola!" 
I tried to say with a un-faltered tone, but she just stood still, 
almost deliberately keeping herself behind the sail on the other side to 
the approaching boat. When it was near enough, I waved and shouted 
"Hola, como estan?", they didn’t wave back! 

So I waited a couple of seconds longer and waved again.
 The boat, I could now see clearly, had about six men inside. 
It was about 20ft long, built from wood and with a roof covering nearly 
the full length of the boat apart from a small section at the front. 
There, on the bow of the boat, stood one man. 
But he had no look of greed and death in his eye! 
I waved and shouted again! He waved back.
 "Hola, de donde vienen?" he shouted over the sound of the motors.
"where do you come from?"

"Grenada!" I shouted back.
and from there, we yelled back and forth for a few minutes over the drone 
of the engine I was affraid to turn off. They turned out to be a happy smiling 
bunch of local fisherman from the penisula, and apart from thinking 
 that we were mad, they were no threat, and just curious of what the hell 
was floating past them out there? They gave us the bearing for their village
 and we parted ways before our poor motor died...

The shades of green jungle were beginning to break apart from 
the brown rock of the mountains and we now began to close in on Uquire, 
one of the only populated anchorages this side of the peninsula. 
From far, each cove and bay looked only marginally different, tired and confused, 
with still an hour or so to go before we would be close enough to see the waves 
crashing over the rocks, we just kept straight.


Sheltered from Trinidad, this stretch of the coastline, 
falls under a giant wind shelter. The sail was no longer propelling 
us forwards and with only the motor, we slowed in speed. 
But on the bright side, the ocean was a glimmering flat we had not seen 
since our first journey to St. Barths more than two months before.

When the land was close enough to throw a mango at, 
and the massive mountains surged above us, we checked our position and turned 
to follow the coast to the three rocks signaling the port we were searching.


As if by magic, 14 hours later and already more than
 bursting with emotion, they appeared!

One jumped into my periferal just off the port side, 
then another followed close behind. They were close to the length
of the boat, bigger than any we had seen before, and they were everywhere! 
As we jumped up and down with excitement, more joined us! 
We sped up and even turned around, now heading back towards Grenada 
just so we could go maximum speed. I didnt think it was possible that they
could swim with us without a real wake, but obviously enjoying themselves, 
jumping and twisting, more kept coming, groups of twenty joined us and eventually 
we were amidst a swarm of flipping and twirling marine acrobats.
< Dolphins, over 50 of them! 


We took turns to ride up front. They would breach the water
 coming within centimeters of us, they would come to the surface
 on their side and stare straight eye to eye at the strange creature
 they were hitching a ride with.

 A welcoming fit for an emperor, we had got to Venezuela, 
we were no more than 500ft from the beach and the residents had already 
come with all cannons firing. Before we had even sunk our feet into the sand 
we knew this was it! After over 4 months, we were here!!!


Smiles plastered on our faces, I releaved the engine to a crawl 
and we just sat there and bathed in the bliss as Dick Brano,
16ft of people's Junk; people's rubbish, people's donations, people's generosity,
 floated us gently into the bay of Uquire, Venezuela!

And what a bay it is! 
Pristine green jungle cascades down giant mountains 
and falls un-hindered, straight into an emerald pool below. 
A thin strip of cream beach, framed by ancient towering palms is only broken 
by the odd humble wooden huts and shelters of the local fisherman.

 Pelicans are everywhere! They scream from their nests, 
high in the trees circling the bay, they bob around in the water waiting
 for fishermans unwanted gifts, they sore past Dick Brano on invisible updrifts 
but inches from the water's surface, and every now and then they plumet like arrows, 
wings folded tight against their bodies, at full speed penetrating the otherwise
 shimmering lagoon to surface again, flicking their catch up into thier huge beaks.


The sand rasps against the bottom of the hulls and we grind to a pause between waves. 
Without thinking about the boat we jump down, splash through fresh cool thigh 
deep water and my memory fades on the sensations that fill us in those moments.

Before we could spell Venezuela, we were surrounded by what felt like
 the entire beach community, Spanish ringing into our ears from every direction.
 It was the biggest gathering of enormous genuine smiles I had seen since 
the monks in Cambodia. They were all so happy, and without even knowing why!
 This clearly doesn't happen all that often in these parts. 

Through over-animated happiness we briefed them on Dick Brano,
 and they told us to drive him round in front of the village.
 Before we hit the sand they all rushed into the water, and without a word, 
pretty much dragged Dick Brano up the beach without giving us
 the chance the dismount. Being almost carried up into paradise 
like royalty on some surreal throne, this was our first contact with 
the kind hearts and endless grins that fill Uquire.


Within an hour, they had fixed the engine, filled all our fuel tanks 
(repeating over and over that fuel in Venzuela isn't worth anything, 
and is cheaper than water) and fed us a mound of delicious fresh food. 
Before we knew it 4 days of rest, relaxation and ridiculous amounts 
of fresh fish had pasted. Completly cut off from the world, only accesible
 by boat through an apparent red zone of dangerous narco-traffickers
 and pirates, the fishermen of Uquire had build a smiling self suffient community 
aplaudable by the most passionate rainbow hippie. 

The entire world could fall around them and there would be not a sign of it here. 
Our days, now as part of the community, were used fishing, eating, gathering fruit,
 eating, playing with the kids and the puppies, eating, exploring, eating and then 
just before turning in for a well deserved rest, a little bit more eating! 
Not only did every face own that prestigious ear to ear rack of forever
 proudly displayed teeth, but I'm sure thanks to the fresh diet and phyical 
day to day work, they were some of fittest bodies we had seen for a long time.


Eventually we came to the decision, that we should probally 
let the world know we were alive, and while we were at it, 
it might be a good idea to check in with immigration! 

So with the boat still packed and ready from days ago, we got a few 
extra hands for a push and bobbed hesitantly out of the paradise 
that could have very well been our lives. 


As we neared the three un-mistakable rocks
 at the point, I revved the engine to a stop. 
We looked at each other, both confused and torn between worlds. 

A long way back on the journey, sometime when, 
no doubt incredible people were giving their all 
to get Dick Brano one step closer to the finish line, 
We had fell upon an the idea...

That if in Venezuela we meet a beautiful humble family, full of joy, 
unaware of greed and wanting nothing in return for their open hearts, 
we would give them Dick Brano. 

As we floated away from that beach beaming with smiles, 
off to start a new adventure, maybe to go up the Orinoco river 
to Angel Falls, we paused. And with less than a few words exchanged, 
we turned Dick Brano around, and sacrifising a journey we may never know, 
we went back to that place we had for those days, called Home... 
and put one more grand smile on each and every mum, dad and child of Uquire. 

For, what better way to end a journey built, traveled and succeeded on nothing less
 than hundreds of unselfish acts of generosity, than with one more?


Dick Brano now lives with a small family 
in an unknown hidden paradise called Uquire.

 Any one brave enough to confront fears forced
upon them 
by many will be rewarded with a small
example of how we all should live...

 Humble, Happy, and Free!

ONCE AGAIN, THANK YOU!


P.S
This is by far not the last epic journey we will undertake.
Already, there are many ideas for future challenges.
So if anyone out there would like to get involved and
help these sparks turn into flaming adventures...
Feel free to get in contact with us: 

hotbenjim@hotmail.co.uk
moonbyfoot@live.com

Hope you guys enjoyed the trip as much as we did!
And thanks for following :)




Carriacou and Monkeys on the final Island: Grenada!

The end of the Grenadines, 
essentially meant the beginning of our last island hop 
and skip before the final grand leap to Venezuela. 
 With a quick 30 minute down wind dash and we arrived 
refreshed in Hillsborough, the capital of Carriacou.
“Not knowing” that Moon needed a visa to enter the country 
 we spent a little time and effort at first trying to convince
 the very relaxed immigration officials to waver the fees based 
on the fact that we were “really cool”. 

Once that failed we ran about to get the nessesary photos in order 
and then proceeded the try and blag our way out of the customs boat fees, 
informing the officers that Dick Brano was in fact “not a boat!”. 
Although this worked for a few, the man main decided rules are rules 
and we were in total 120 eastern Caribbean dollars down. 
 (There are some things you cant do with junk!)


We had a quick stop at yet another gorgeous little island,
having our fist taste of the untouched beauty of Carriacou.
We played around on white sand, enjoyed the birds' show...

 had a little snorkel and then were ready to move on.



From there I was back to playing with my favorite 
toy-Dick Brano's never failing, yet never really working 9.9hp tohatsu engine. 
An hour and a half later, withered and unsuccessfull, I threw in the white 
Dick Brano embroided towel and Moon went to borrow someone's 
phone to call a man we had previously met in Bequia. 
In the duration of the trip we didn’t just meet knew people
on each island as we went! People recommended us friends,
family and aqaintences in future destinations, and some people
we met were actually from other islands futher down the line
and gave us there contacts for when we got there.

Claus was one of those people.
He, like many an other, had come to see the boat when we were
no doubt explaining to someone else what we were doing.
 Instantly, and almost without speaking a word to him,
he gave us his contacts and left us with little more than
"call me, we can help you with anything you need".
And so with those words, we did just that!


We thumbed a ride right to his gate, and when we were invited
into the house and met his wife Pamela, it was as if
we had been life long friends. We couldn´t have felt more at home!


Five days flew past in such open hearted company. 
We slept each peacefull night in there unique, one-off house, 
we ate each and every meal fresh from there garden, and Claus, 
the legendary bodger and do-er of all, welded us up some bracets for 
the rudders we were given in St Lucia (yes, some may be surprised that 
we only first used rudders in Carriacou). Also claus kindly gave us a full tube 
of the super strong but consiquently expensive 5200 marine silicone. 


So now we could seal up any possible gap and hole in the hulls and sail confidently. 
The boat we wanted to have super prepared in Grenada was now way ahead 
of schedule and if we wern´t so excited to see monkeys in Grenada I'm sure we 
would have made a break and headed straight for Venezuela right there and then!
But it wasn't all hard work and hard rest! 

In the company of such a perfect, happy couple, life was to be enjoyed! 
Every moment of each day was to be savoured and 
sipped down with cheese and crackers like a fine wine. 



We ate incredibly, we drank incredibly and the senses were always full 
to bursting with dazzling views all the time enclosed in surreen nature. 
We met the whole community and learned how the island worked. 
The in´s and outs, the do´s and dont´s and really got to grip and 
feel each granual of caribbean life.


They took us for tours to all points of the island. 
We had the un-beatable hitchhikers view from the back of a pick-up and made 
a full circle of the island, stopping at anything worth an explanation or a photo.



The problem we had had with the motor turned out to be, 
a missing piece in the carbureter. A tiny piece of rubber that blocks one 
of the jets was no longer there, but a quick bodge job with a piece 
of rubber we found right there in the street and an extra slither from Claus 
and Pamela's house proved to work just fine. 
Based on what Dick Brano is all about it seemed just perfect that 
with all the random pieces we had screwed to the boat, we should just as well 
screw a few to the working parts of the engine...
With a boat in a condition more than we could ever have hoped for, 
the word "excited" couldn't describe us more! 


The only bump we found in Carriacou's smooth road of life appeared 
in the form of a small over emotional crowd at the bottem of the drive. 
When Moon rushed down she was greated by a man with a machete. 
No this machete wasn´t directed at Moon, but more towards a now very much 
cowarding snake that had been crossing the wrong road at the wrong time.
 Snakes in many parts of the caribbean, despite not being venonous, 
are connected as evil serpents to the bible and in the presence
 of many are disposed of quickly.

Lucky for this little tree python, Moon had distracted the man long enough 
for me to arrive and quickly take the little guy in my hand. 
The people were so shocked that we would touch the beast that the idea 
of killing it soon become old news and we released him to the trees in Claus' garden.



We had been dosed with enough generosity to last us months 
and were giddy with emotion to be back on the water. 
We said our goodbyes to Claus and Pamela's ever loyal dogs 
(Which had become Moons best friends and constantly tryed to be bed partners). 



And when the last hugs and words of advice were all behind us on the horizon 
only one thing was beating in our thoughts.
Kick 'em Jenny!

The name kinda says it all! 
This underwater volcanoe next to a small group of islands in the channel 
is marked on all charts with a 10 mile restriction (at your own risk). 
Its not exactly the fact that the volcanoe will, pop up and blow it top any minute,
 but more that the sudden incline in see level influences the large open swell to
 be forced high above it usual size. This combined with currents and a variation
 of confused rebounded waves from surrounding islands creates what could 
be described as "not so pleasant sailing"

The passage between Cariacou and Grenada is about 20 nautical miles.
 About 11 miles in, and just aproaching the first islet, the water began to change...

In many a larger boat, with the day we had, and the weather we had, 
they may not have felt so much of a kick. But Dick Brano´s shock absorbers 
were still on order and we got to really become a part of "Kick em jenny". 
The waves came from everywhere, and constantly forced themselves into one another,
 spray flying up and catching the wind to each give us a good soaking. 
As one wave came and forced the back of Dick Brano to windward another would 
come from the opposite direction and give the nose a shuv to leeward. 

We were being forced round in circles, but before completing a full piruete,
 we would be sent back round in the other direction. 
Each time getting a nice ferryground type bucking bronko ride, 
our fingernails white while we grip to anything within reach as to not be flung
 suddenly overboard into the mess lying but half a foot below us. 
Every twenty seconds or so we would be emersed in another dose of eye stinging froth. 
As just as abruptly as it came, about 15 minutes later, it was gone. 
The strugling we had made with both motor and sail was over, the islands began to drop
 away behind us and there was nothing but smooth rythmatic water lying ahead.

Only one and a half hours had passed, it had gone from calm,
 to spontaneously eratic and back to calm within less than two hours, and then,
 there we were, back under the shelter of another giant land mass, 
surging up from lylic blue mirror still waters. 

The final island - Grenada.

For the best part of the journey I always thought of Grenada 
as a place to take Dick Brano to bits and put him back togther again, 
confident that he was at the peak of his strength and capability. 
I had imagined removing each bolt and screw, replacing it a new. 
And being sure no little fault could let us down, we would head out into the blue,
 ready, with full trust in the boat we had built, built again and 
then just re-built with our own hands. 
And yes, Grenada would have been a perfect place for this! 
It had everything we needed! There were good people to help out, 
chandlerys and big stores for supplies and a multitude of locations 
where we could have done the work, from huricane proof marinas
 to easy pull out boat ramps. If there was anything we thought Dick Brano needed
 for this final trip, Grenada would have been just right for the job! 

But, there wasn't! As far as we were concerned Dick Brano was ready!
We had just spent the last three months not only traveling on him but also, 
continually adapting him, adding excatly what we had just learned we needed.
 Every experience, from being just slightly uncomfortable to completly 
capsizing had tought us something! And from experience only,
 we knew exactly what this boat needed! Dick Brano was ready!

That decided, we went to find monkeys. 


Mona monkeys are not native to Grenada, 
but were brought here along time ago from Africa. 
There have far but taken over the island. 
You can only find these beautiful creatures in certain national parks 
up in the mountains, far from people. But there is one acception. 
Near a large famous collection of waterfalls called The Seven Sisters, 
where tourists are plenty, the monkeys have learned tourists come not only with
 wierd flashing devices and some strange paper they are forever exchanging,
 but also, sometimes they come with bananas and mangos!



We grapped a ride with a local truck driver and we reccomended
 we see the waterfalls first and walk back up the road to search for monkeys later.
 He dropped us just across from the path leading to the Seven Sisters and we treked on. 
A small 30 minute stroll down a muddy lane, past holds of bamboo 
towering over head, we arrived at the first two of the seven cascades. 


 
The water was ice cool and coaxed a little "yelp" out as we jumped 
in and immersed ourselves in the pure mountain freshness.
 We swam, jumped, dived and scrambled up and down from waterfall 
one to waterfall seven, going back and forth from being cloaked in deep
 brown mud to being covered in nothing but a million shinny goose 
pimples glittering in the caribbean sun. 


Refrrreshed we got our feet dirty again and went in search of the monkeys.

The tourist season was gone, and we had forgotten our bananas and mangos,
 so finding these ourwise shy creatures wasnt as easy as we thought. 
People would say, "they were just down there down by the lake", 
and we would go to the lake only to be told disapointingly that they had moved on.


 Then we would be told that they probably won't 
come back today as there's no more bananas for them.
 We sat down and ate our lunch, hoping to entice them out with biscuits
 and bread, but we had no fruit, and they were not fooled!
Time ticked on and just as we prepared our bags to give up the hunt 
and head back we heard a shout, "There's one!"

And there was, actually there was two, the perfect couple!
At first they wouldnt come within a hundred metres of us, 
happy and safe high up in the trees, but once the bananas and mangos
 an on site restaurant had given us came out, so did they.

They climbed straight down, branch to branch and tree to tree, using perfect
 agility and strength in a flawless combination to bring them acrobatically 
within arms reach of the succulent fruit. They ate straight from our hands.
 They were gentle, carefull, precise with each movement. 
They felt no fear of us, and apart from a slight glance every now and then 
to check for more food, they pretty much ignored our presence. 
We climbed with them, ate with them and even groomed them. 

And as they came when the food came, they went when it was gone.
It was an incredible experience to have such an intimate connection with 
animals not held within the human confinds of a cage or leash. 
They came becase they chose to and they went when they were satified.
 It was the perfect interaction between two completly different, yet equally free beings.
In other words "IT WAS EPIC".



We spent ou first night in a tiny little private beach,
 owned by the marina and surrounded by it own breakwater,
 it was as if it was there for Dick Brano by order.


The tent was set under one of the two wooden palm frond covered sun
 shades and depsite a short lived encounter with a german lady
who was more than displeased with our trip
 (she actually used the words "stupid" and "inconsiderate")
 our first night on Dick Branos personnel beach was quite and peaceful.


Or was it?
 The tent. The best invention a traveler can come by.
Its your house, your security, your protection from all that is meant to
stay on the outside during those nesasary hours of rest.
 You can put it anywhere and feel like you have returned back to your bedroom,
 exactly as you left it last night and the night before. 
It stops the wind when it windy, is waterproof when its raining,
keeps you warm when its cold and cool when its too warm.
As an adventurer you cant leave home without it!
And before I sound to much like an american commercial for Campland...

Well the downside to a tent is the surprises
 the new terrain you have just moved into will have.
 Some nights the tde may come up higher than you thought
and you awaken soaked and partially floating.
 Some nights your tent may leak and you awake to a steady flow
of droplets that seem far too precisly aimed at the spot on
your face right between the eyes.


This time we had aparently placed the tent exactly above a giant ants nest.
Wether they wernt happy with there new all too close for comfort nieghboors
or just because they wanted a piece of the "welcome to the nieghboorhood" cake.
 Either way, they had come right to us to express themselves.
I awoke suddenly to a small stinging pinch between the legs
(and no not on my thighs) then there was another on my left ear,
and again in between my finger.
They were like small jabs with a needle, but the sting would turn into the pain
delivered by a drop acid as it eats into your skin. Moon turned on the light,
 and we were both greated by the floor and walls crawling with a
 single moving mass of thousands of ants!!!

Thirty minutes of scambling around in the pitch black,
swatting and slapping away, shaking out everything that was in the tent
and that had been consumed by a layer of the angry attacking bugs.
We moved, piece by piece, to the other hexagonal shelter and one item
at a time put each thing back in its original space, ant free.
 There we floated away on raft, swaying gently, and bobbed off into
the blackness of bliss that eventually caught up with each exhausted day...
The next day we moved to the south of island, Prickly Bay to be precise.
The trip was smooth, hassle free and we got to catch a glimpse of the bearing
 we would take when we would leave for Venezuela.
Nothing but endless open ocean and the impression of an infinity of water.

Prickly bay is one of the main yachting stops in the south of Grenada
 and had all the last bits and boobs we needed to get ourselves ready.
We met so many people here! Mainly they would see the boat and
just want to know the story, some had already heard about us and just
wanted the chance to chat in person, and some we had already
met somewhere up the caribbean chain.

 Rick and Gay were a sweet american couple we had met
 just a few days before in georgetown, the capital of Grenada.
 They had already helped us out with their computers there and now
 were even more willing and excited to help us get anything we needed before departure.
 Also Alex and Chris, who we had met over two months before
when they gave us a ride in St Barts, sent us a msg saying they would be in town
 and we had to meet up before we left.
With a combination of these two lovely couples and a handfull of other
 positive people within a day we were pretty much ready....

A True Paradise... The Grenadines.

How about . .
A Little Vacation chaps?

Bright pearlesent white sand cays glissen in the mid-day sun,
sometimes topping out at no more ten feet above sea level,
they appear like perfect mirages in a turquoise blue desert!


You pull closer to notice two palm trees arched over to provide
just enough shade to stay cool with a gentle breeze couressing your face.
After dodging the coral splattered kaleidoscope, teeming with a rainbow of fish,
turles and rays, you drag your boat no more than two feet up the soft cotton wool sand.


You pick a fresh coconut hanging from one of the palms,
before blissfully collapsing at its foot. You turn, prop your back against the trunk,
 take a good sized gulp of the naturally refrigerated milk, and nearly have to slap
yourself to awaken from the perfect dreamscape that surounds you.


With nothing but a handful of equally awe-inspiring islands
dotting the vivid blues and greens of the mirror lagoon that surrounds you,
could you imagine a better place to be, on your own little raft, completely free?

Of the 32 islands the grenadines has to offer,
Dick Brano took us to visit 11 of them.
The distance from St Vincent to Grenada is over 60 nautical miles
but with a scattering of the perfect paradise islets in between,
 the biggest crossing from one to the next would take us no more 1.30hrs.
This was it! This was why we were in the Caribbean!
Now we were living a postcard!

As a quick sum up to how incredibly easy the passages were between islands.
They were all just that! incredibly easy! Wether the we travelled directly
into the wind or straight along with it, each journey came and went with such ease,
 that it was as if we were traveling on the perfect go-kart in the perfect theme park.
We were now cruising faster and smoother the we had ever been before.
After beating Dick Brano through so much water he obviously felt out of place in,
he was now exactly where he should be!

Bequia. 

The first island on our stop, was in fact one of the biggest,
but at only 7 square miles its not exactly Australia. Here we became tourists.
Enjoying all each island has to offer on the way down, we started by checking out
each and every nook and cranny of Bequia.

Still stuck in our ways,
we were as always waiting for good weather before moving on.
This gave us a nice couple a days before having to dash of.
We visited the Turtle sanctuary, many a stunning beach...


But the most interesting of all, The Moon Hole.
Without knowing much about it, we just hitched a ride there and started to explore.
Based on a strip of land petruding out the southern end of Bequia,
the moon hole is a collection of minimalist houses and buildings, built using only
the rock that surrounds them.


What started of as quirky project for an artistic architect
 has now become a large self sufficient community of like minded people.
The main house, that was built under a large arching rock meant for some
sort of lunar alinement has since been abandoned due to falling rocks but many
 of the unique structures are still lived in.


Of course, as with every island there were people that helped us!
Alick, a local sailmaker fixed our sail problems and Baker,
 a charter boat owner provided loads of food and fruit, but not before bringing us
on board and feeding us a delicious dinner.

Papa, from Mama and Papas restaurant provided us with the ever important
internet connection to keep everybody updated and continued to show his
hospitality by bringing out plates of scrumptious five star food.
(Never a shortage of food on this trip!)

We took our call from mother nature and made
a break for the next island in the chain... On the way we stopped at a
 small island we have since renamed Dick Brano Island!



The snorkeling on Dick Brano Island is excellent 
so if your in the area be sure to make a short stop over.
 Oh, and please donate a small docking fee
of $100 per person to our account ;)

...Then there was Mustique. 


Other than the thousands of constantly humping tortoises
(One of the national statues on the island is actually to two giant tortoises getting jiggy),
people on Mustique don't get much freedom.


The entire island is privately owned, and gradually being sold
 to some of the worlds richest people and celebrities.
To move anywhere other than the small strip in front of the beach
you need to be taken there by someone in the know.

So thats exactly what we did! Moon stuck her thumb out
and immediately stopped the first car trying to pass.
Nicolas, who stopped turned out to be the gardener of an unnamed celebrity,
 so he drove us straight up to the mansion for a little tour of how the other side live.

We stayed on the beach right in front of Dick Brano
and pretty much next to the fisherman. Here we met Marlin.
No, not the fish but the fisherman!

And in the most unlikely place, using his tools, knowledge and pile of bits, 
we attached a pump, fixed the constantly leaky hulls and patched
up a new hole in the sail.


We took the opportunity to lose some dead 
weight and found a buyer for the spare, broken engine 
(it had only ever worked once and never again). 


In a land of the rich and famous Dick Brano also found himself with 
a slight facelift, and feeling light and ready we moved on...

Canouan was a short lived stop over.
 We were building with giddy excitement worthy of a kid on chistmas eve.
The Tobago cays were in sight and after hearing nothing but
WOW about them, we couldn't hold ourselves back any longer!
We swam and we ate, then we were gone!


The cays are protected on the windward side with
 a perfectly embracing horse shoe reef. This made it a better option to cross over,
first to Mayreau and from there make the upwind hop.

This didn't turn out to be huge problem!
Mayreau has one of the most textbook Caribbean beaches this side of the world!


 And here we stayed!
We walked to the top of the islands highest point
(probably at about 200ft, the people on the island are higher!).
The views were nothing less than Wow. Simple adjectives just don't cut it!
Our mouths were silent, but our senses were screaming!

A local rasta (aptly named Blackboy), refreshed us at his bar,
 and gave us the power our camera batteries desired. We were ready!
There was only 20mins of relatively calm water separating us from the most
naturally alive and preserved place, this side of the Caribbean.


"There's one!, and another!, and there's two more!"
We were surrounded! We had only been in the cays 15 minutes
and the wildlife had already topped anywhere we had previously seen!

We were finally in PARADISE!


Turtles, They were everywhere! Dozons of them.
Singles, pairs and groups. The invisible boundary on the map stated there
 was a turtle reserve, and even though there wasn't a fence in sight,
surely enough, just where it was marked, there were turtles abound!

We swam for nearly an hour, constantly diving down
and holding our breath for a fraction of the time they do, 
to glimpse a fraction of their underwater lives.

They chomped down on sea grass, breaching only
momentarily for a tiny gasp of air before plunging back down again. 
We swam along side them, watching them in awe, as they watched us in confusion.
 Some were bigger than I could stretch my arms wide 
and rode with an entourage of cleaning fish!



After we were satisfied our ears were close to bursting from
the constant equalizing of pressure, we took to the land
and made fast straight for the top of first cay.

We were so caught up in the thrill and beauty of our surroundings
 it was a good 10 minutes before we pinpointed the constant rustling in the bushes.
Iguanas, large and primal as if straight out of an eighties sci-fi movie.
Even at lengths up to 6ft they scaled the smallest branches of the spindliest trees,
and climbed giant cactus somehow without even the slightest scratch.
And they were plentiful, each sticking to his/her territory, but still leaving enough
room to see another one every 10 or 20 footsteps.


The next few hours floated away on a gust of wind.
We snorkeled with the most abundant underwater life to date,
from colorful fishes to exotic species...

We met some other people cruising through, and managed to dodge the park
authorities by telling them that Dick Brano was just our dinghy
and we were on another boat...


Outside of the large bowing horse shoe reef there was another island,
and after finding out not only was it the island used in "Pirates of the Caribbean"
 when Jack Sparrow was left shipwrecked, but it was also the sight of the
crashed remains of a russian space shuttle.

We dedided not to follow the dinghy full of americans as they tried to find
their way through the gap in the reef only to end up exactly on top of it,
waves crashing straight over the top of them.

Instead we followed the two bouys nicely marking where the safe passage was.
The island itself is no more than a sand cay held together by palm trees
and protected from the ever present atlantic by bars of reef.
You could walk full circle of the coast in about 15 minutes to arrive exactly
back where you started, at the battered and half buried remains
of the 2010 launched russian spacecraft.

Not much is left of it other than a few chunks of the exterior shell,
and a couple of skeletal slots for cameras and antennas,
 complete with russian cyrilic lettering...


We tackled four of the five cays on this day,
and as the sun was preparing to drop so were we.
We collected fire wood, diced a couple of large breadfruit,
threw them in a pot with some onions and set the oven to full.

Being that this was a holiday we opted for the larger of the two tents we got given
(the massive baby making tent Darren had provided in St Lucia). 
The treat was sweetly welcomed as the fresh great flowed straight 
threw the large panels of mosquito netting keeping us cool for the night. 


After the enormous soup was shared and devoured equally by us 
and the little beach dwelling crabs, we curled up in a corner of our 
portable palace and drifted of. 



"What the f*#*e? (fudge)"
Wakey bloody wakey!! The wind howled, and the large open bedroom
we had fallen to sleep in had transformed into a flat ravenous plastic serpent,
whipping and slapping us awake. Before we came to the cays the weather was
predicted to be 5 knots of wind with gusts of 7 to 8 knots?
Ummm, well we can safely say that sometimes the weather man
does get it a little wrong but... this was a equal of 30 or so knots!

The tent had been blown down, over an almost to bits!
We dashed around, semi conscious and semi dressed in the heaving rain
desperately trying to keep our things dry, while erecting the smaller tent and
trying to keep the large tent from blowing half way to Venezuela.
Fine, the way we travel isn't always what some would call comfortable,
but we thought this was a holiday! It doesn't rain on holiday! (sure)

The orange tinged sky brought a fresh new day,
and although the wind had died off since last night, it was still blowing
 strong and rain clouds made a regular drop off to be sure drying every
soaked item from last nights episode wouldn't be a simple task! 
Eventually we were dry, and packed enough to make a move, a
nd with the wind stiring heavily from the east we launched out of paradise
for our first really straight downwind run. 

We had some fun as we passed the channel just between Palm island
and Union as the changing tide had brought with it a good confused stretch of water.
We approached palm island from the windward side and had to cram tight into 
the far corner of the bay to avoid the wind straight of the ocean.

Palm Island is another private island, but this time its owned by solely
one very private resort. Obviously "we didn't know this" and went about
our usual way of exploring. The island itself has been dominated by cabins
and villas so as imagined it did just look like a large resort.
So, un-interested, we headed to the restaurant/bar to ask where was
the nearest place we could get bread? Of course there was no supermarket
so after hearing what we did the, one of the chefs made us a couple
of chunky cheese rolls and sent us escorted by security of course back to our boat.

Union Island, conveniently placed only 10 minutes across
the water from Palm Island was the island belonging
to the Grenadines chain we would visit... 



But on the way, a small, interesting looking coral islet snatched our attention.
We had previously been told of an island in the Grenadines that a man
had built himself out of shells. He had started from a coral shoal and
finding himself a governmental loophole, gradually piled shell upon shell to,
instead of buying land, create his own!


Now, over ten years on the island is a fully functioning,
self sufficient bar, restaurant and, the creator Janti's island home.
Janti welcomed us and our boat with open arms, reggae music and drinks
on the house. We actually became so comfortable on Janti's private island
paradise that we had no urge to leave.

By the time we had thought of going and finding a place to sleep,
he had already provided a spare room and Nichol, 
one of his friends from Grenada cooked up a feast. 



We spent, well more indulged in three nights on Happy island. 
There is no hotel, apartment or rooms for rent on Happy island. 
We were simply lucky! Janti took us in as instant friends and provided 
everything we needed and more... check out Happy Island on 


https://www.facebook.com/happyislandgrenadines.



Before our feet began to tingle, and a tingle turned into a itch,
and finally when the itch became a full blown, jumping, twitching madness
 that moved us ever forward through the Caribbean,
we dragged ourselves away from Janti's hospitality and made
a hitchhikers quick tour of Union. The houses were quaint, quirky and colorful.
and for such a small island the mountains were dramatic and rose and fell
 with a power reflected in names like Mount Olimpus. 

Time however moved fast and before we could surf another coconut tree,
 drink another coconut or great another underwater cilisation, we were gone.

The chain that made up the grenadines fading into the distance,
a perfect scattering, gods grains of land, dotted and lined the horizon in a caribbean salut.
The word paradise is thrown around a lot in the Caribbean,
and even in this very blog the word will appear over and over again.

It becomes meaningless as the mind struggles for another way to describe
 what only your senses can bring you to feel.
 Your eyes are dazzled with colors from crystalline blue waters to lucid green jungles,
 your ears are alive with tropical sounds of parrots calling and lapping waves
on the coral shore, your taste buds explode with an aray of sweet juicy fruits
it has never experienced, the smell of pure fresh air, unpolluted by man or
building fills your nose and is only cloaked by the fragrant aromas of frangipani
and jasmine flowers, and from your fingertips to the ends of your toes,
that never relenting atlantic breeze caresses every sensory nerve in your body.
There is only one word that can possibly describe this place...

Paradise!