GET

Capella Marigot Bay

After making good progress in recent days, having caught up on the delay due to Matthew, we were unable to leave this morning due to an unexpected storm. Just a little one, but enough to create 21 knot gusts and 2m high waves that would be hitting us side-on as we attempt to cross to Martinique. While we struggle with our little delay our thoughts go out to everyone who has been so severely impacted by Hurricane Matthew since it developed after nudging us nine days ago.

We have though, been somewhat well looked over the past two nights. Our eternal thanks go out to everyone at the Capella Marigot Bay Resort and Marina. After a difficult day (another supposed rest day that turned incredibly tough) where we capsized early on - see George's account below - and spent the next 15 miles battling against wind and current, it was a huge relief to kayak into the sheltered Marigot Bay and paddle straight into the Resort's marina where we berthed the kayak and where overwhelmed by the frozen flannel and arrival cocktail presented to us. 

Arrival cocktail and burger after a testing first ten days

Arrival cocktail and burger after a testing first ten days

Marigot is one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean. The high hills surrounding the water make it incredibly sheltered; many ships use it as a hurricane shelter, and it has been known to be a getaway hideout for escaping pirates, who would sail into the bay and hide their ship behind the palm-studded sand spit of the bay. With sails dropped, the ship would become virtually inconspicuous. More info here.

We felt like we were escaping from the seas too after the morning escapade......

The Capella Marigot Bay Resort is incredible. Everything is presented with stylish precision and the customer service is 100%. They have everything and anything that is not to hand your personal assistant will sort for you. It seemed like within moments the whole staff team knew our names all have taken a huge interest in our expedition. We are staying in one of the fantastic Resort View Rooms (with a hot tub), which has all the bells and whistles including big TV and dvd player, expresso machine, complimentary minibar restocked daily, aircon (most important), and great free high speed wifi. Check out the different accommodation options here.

Our kayak steals the show at Capella Marigot Bay Marina

Our kayak steals the show at Capella Marigot Bay Marina

Happy birthday George

Happy birthday George

We would thouroughly recommend the all inclusive package - what more could you want!? The resort has four different restaurants and bars to eat at, including a swim up bar next to the pool, and the options of private and in-room dining. The food is fantastic and waiting staff, again, generous in their service They even presented George with a belated birthday cake at dinner!

Chef Shawn blocking the view of the breakfast buffet

Chef Shawn blocking the view of the breakfast buffet

Perhaps the greatest attraction is that there is so much to do in the local area. Unfortunately we have not had the time to try the spa and fitness centre, the rum tasting, sport fishing, sailjng, diving, tours or any of the other fantastic activities and attractions on offer. Luckily we have our own adventurous activity to contend with.

Staying at Marigot Bay has given us the opportunity to get our kayak repaired after a crack formed in the foredeck, right above the forward 'watertight' hatch that keeps it afloat. Imbert, local handyman, has done a fantastic job for us not only patching up the crack but also reinforcing the foredeck so hopefully it will not happen again! If you are ever local and in need of a job doing the Marina Office will put you in touch.

Imbert working on our kayak

Imbert working on our kayak

So there we are. One day behind but the weather is looking like we might be able to set off first thjng in the morning. We've still got a very long way to go and more challenges and discomfort lie ahead. Have a look at this map... after 10 days of hard paddling it looks as if we haven't even started...

Feeling 22

What did you do on your 22nd birthday?

 

 

George's went something like this...

 

 

After waking at 00:30 we packed up our soaking sleeping bags and ponchos and readied the boat to leave by 1am. An early start for the big day that lay ahead. The previous evening (our last night in St Vincent) had been an interesting one... After being turfed out of the RVA Hiking and Diving Centre we were left to camp on the local beach in front of a makeshift camp of local fishermen. Worryingly, though, we had been warned against camping in the North of St Vincent, or even being out after dark, in case we were to run into any of the local 'farmers' who turn to opportunistic crime to boost their revenues. Tourists - or two young white guys with a load of expensive electronics gear - are obvious targets.

We find it hard to know who to trust. Perhaps we have just been lucky so far, however we have actually been overwhelmed by how friendly everyone we have met has been, especially the locals. Most are fascinated, albeit speechless, when we tell them what we are doing. Most have never seen a sea kayak before and many never left their island so our adventure is mindboggling to them. "Wooooo... *pause*... *deep breath*... You err veeery very breeve mon" is their usual response. 

Nonetheless after a short night bivving on the beach and a number of unexpected downpours we collapsed camp and pushed off into the dark sea. This was the first time paddling at night for both of us and what a treat! All was good; a clear sky full of stars, a smooth sea, a light breeze on our beam. We made quick progress and were soon joined by scores of flying fish shooting in all directions. The numbers would increase dramatically when we turned on our lights to scan the coastline for outlying rocks and to spot breaking waves over shallow reefs.

We were setting off for Owla on the North East corner of St Vincent mainland where we would come ashore, break and have breakfast before setting off to cross to St Lucia. This crossing, The St Vincent Pass, is renowned for its rough water and strong currents. We were told that out of the last four kayak expeditions to attempt the crossing, two turned back due to rough water and one was pulled in by the coast guard. We were feeling optimistic...

This is George feeling optimistic

This is George feeling optimistic

Then...  THWACK! A rather large flying fish shot straight into Will's side. A solid bar of muscle plummeting through the air. One cracked into the side of the boat... and another one on the back deck... then  George was hit. It was a bizarre scene where nature seemed to be fighting back. We had planned for stormy water, strong winds and difficult currents.. but not a bombardment of bloody fish. They were drunk - I am sure of it. Or maybe the farmers got the better of them.

Anyway we made it to Owla at around 4am, had an Extreme  Adventure Foods dehydrated meal for breakfast, chatted to some local fishermen about the crossing ("know it innya hart mon, ye joost goote belieeve it mon, bless" was the advice), did a final weather check then set off at 6. 

 

And everything went very well. ..

For the first five minutes... 

Then it started raining... 

 

Happy Birthday George indeed! We felt it was going to be a long day.

The rest of George's birthday was rather uneventful... we mostly just spent the next nine hours sat in the same position paddling hard while aiming the boat for Switzerland to offset the current. And to be fair, I think we did pretty well...

Track across the St Vincent Passage 

Track across the St Vincent Passage 

By the end of the day we were tired, hungry and dehyrated. Too tired to appreciate the epic leg we had just paddled... or really to take much notice of the crack that appeared on the front deck (we are working to find someone to blame for this..).

Crack in the boat!

Crack in the boat!

Nonetheless, all became good when we were welcomed to stay in a cottage on the Balenbouche  Estate. We were welcomed in like long lost war heroes (we felt like it after the crossing) and after a quick shower we were sat down on the verander of a beautiful cottage in the woods of the estate with a pot of tea in front of us, quickly followed by a big plate of quinoa and curry. Uta, Anitanja and Verena took such great care of us - we are so unbelievably greatful for their support and generous hospitalty.

The estate itself is an old sugar plantation, complete with 18th Century sugar mill, historic plantation house and grounds, which include fruit orchards, pastures, lily ponds and nature trails. More information on the history is available here. If you are ever in St. Lucia we thouroughly recommend you pay Balenbouche a visit, be it just for the day, to stay, or just to say hi to the Lawaetz family.

Balenbouche Estate plantation house. See more photos  here .

Balenbouche Estate plantation house. See more photos here.

Admiring the 18C sugar mill

Admiring the 18C sugar mill

One of the old out buildings, now employed as a yoga studio

One of the old out buildings, now employed as a yoga studio

After our fantastic night at Balenboughe it was back on the water at 6am to head up to Marigot Bay... seperate post to come on this!

We were, though, lucky enough to pass the Pitons as we went...

Paddling past The Pitons

Paddling past The Pitons

So from here it will be an early start and we are off to Martinique! Another tough crossing and a very long day ahead but we are looking forward to the challenge. If you like what we are doing and enjoy following our progress, please consider sponsoring us to help us raise funds for the Get Exploring Trust. Click here to donate through Virgin Giving

Every donation, whatever size (and we really mean that!), makes a tremendous difference to our morale. It gives us a big boost to know people are following and supporting us!

You can also donate by text....

Please sponsor us and spread the word!

Please sponsor us and spread the word!

"Extraordinary Sea Journey"

So for lack of a better story the Grenadian news company GBN have run a two minute feature on our trip that went out across the Caribbean a couple of nights ago. "An extraordinary sea journey" was how they described it! It was strange having a camera in your face at 0630 in the morning while still out of breath from carrying a 45kg kayak down the steepest hill in Grenada. There were definitely points for both of us where we ran out of words, or even knew what we wanted to say but our mouths decided no, we will not function today. Well that is our excuse for the tongue-twisted performance - enjoy...

After our fantastc stay with Annie and Phillip at Petite Anse we left mainland Grenada and it's friendly faces behind and pressed on for Carriacou. On this crossing we got our first taste of big(ish) waves (although we don't think the gopro footage does it justice) and we got to feel our kayak, a Seaward Passat, in rough water for the first time...

 

Particularly amazing over the past few days have been our Celtic Pro Sea and Touring 650 Paddles. They are super lightweight, efficient and powerful... we will post a few videos of our kit, equipment etc. over the next few weeks but for the moment you can see some of the awesome stuff we need to get us to Miami here. Most importantly our hands are doing ok.. only a couple of small blisters so far.

Tropical Storm Matthew over the Windward Islands

Tropical Storm Matthew over the Windward Islands

Meanwhile Tropical Storm Matthew is making it's way past just North of us and it looks like we will have to sit out for another day tomorrow. No danger to us though as we have the kayak safely secured in the Carriacou Yacht Club's boat shed and we are being very kindly hosted by Allison in her storm proof concrete house. Althouh just a few miles north in St Lucia they are experiencing 80kmph winds and 5.5m high swells! Allison in fact runs tours on the island and the surrounding area. She is currently fundraising to expand her project and is looking for support here.

TS Matthew and it's predicted course

TS Matthew and it's predicted course

 

Finally a massive thank you to everyone who has shown there support and become founding sponsors of the Get Exploring Trust by sponsoring us on this expedition.

Get Exploring Trust

What on earth drives two young blokes to cast away from sunny little England, great friends and cool beer gardens to spend three months working hard day in day out in the extreme heat with no shade during the day, enduring salt rashes, physical and mental exhaustion, large swells, reefs, sea sickness, sharks and large open water crossings?

Good question.

In fact, we have started to wonder the same thing!

Fortunately, we have a fantastic motivation that is pushing us forward with our planning, fundraising and ultimately the paddling. The Golden Arc Expedition is the launch pad for our fundraising to start the Get Exploring Trust (Charity reg number: 1166901).

GET aims to inspire young people from all backgrounds to get into the outdoors, to test themselves in different environments, and to push their limits. We want to help people develop their character through exposure to challenging, exciting and inspiring experiences. The Trust offers small to medium size grants to individuals who need financial support in order to achieve this aim.

Moreover, we want to support individuals who have engaged in outdoor pursuits in using them to enhance their CVs, have the confidence to discuss them in interviews and maximise their experiences to develop as characterful and employable individuals.

We passionately believe in this aim and hope that you will buy into the idea too. In an age when it may be most needed, adventurous training seems to be dropping further and further down the list of priorities. The potential for GET is vast, however it starts at a very basic level. It may be as simple as a grant to buy a pair of walking boots, train tickets to Scotland for a navigation course, or even a place on a British Exploring expedition to Greenland, the Himalayas or the Amazon.

More information about GET can be found here.

How can you help? I hear you cry! 

Well thank you very much, I am glad you asked. We will be open to donations on our Virgin Giving page shortly. We are currently just waiting to receive our HMRC number from Mr Taxman so we can claim gift aid on generous donations. In the mean time, please put a couple of quid, or more, aside so that when we are up and running we can go full throttle and raise a bit of cash. If 3 months and over 2000 miles of pain and suffering in a kayak isn't worth a few bob then please let us know what is and we will see if we can fit it in next year!