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The Caribbean Season 2013-14

Ree is now returning to the Mediterranean after a very successful Caribbean season which started on a high in December at the Antigua Charter Yacht show. Attendance of brokers and yachts were up on last year adding to the general optimism the charter market is improving again at last. Ree seems to enjoy an excellent reputation amongst charter brokers for being a ‘safe pair of hands’. No matter that she is not the youngest in the fleet she is nevertheless recognised as having been well maintained through her life, and with her winning combination of price, spacious practical design able to accommodate 10 guest in comfort, and nice performance under sail, she can still hold her own amongst the more contemporary designs competing in the charter market. It was particularly satisfying for Ree to be awarded joint 1st place in the CYBA Green award for yachts who had demonstrated a commitment to greener practices, something we onboard have worked hard to get right.

After the show Ree sailed south for St Lucia were she embarked a charter party who stayed with us for two weeks through Christmas and into the New Year. It was fortunate the itinerary and cruising area had been chosen with care as it was unusually wet for the time of year, but the party always found something to do ashore or onboard when the skies were not their usual bright blue. With plenty of time available and a drop-off scheduled for Grenada we were able to cover not just all of the Grenadines but also the gems of St Lucia and St Vincent, Islands unrivalled in the Caribbean for the steep-to lush and dramatic topography of their west coasts. Christmas Day was spent in the large well protected and unspoiled natural harbour of Admiralty Bay on the Island of Bequia were the guests were able to attend a Christmas Day church service in village of Port Elizabeth. Further south in the Tobago Cays where the weather finally returned to normal it was a delight to find this very well known highlight of the Grenadines, uninhabited islands protected by a fringing coral reef, still un-crowded.

Comments from the principal: (reproduced with permission)

“Dear Laurance, It has been a truly memorable cruise and we can’t thank you and the crew enough for the hard work you have put in. Thank you to Nuria for the wonderful food and endless patience in providing as many different dishes to please everybody. Thank you Monika (chief Stew) for your endless efforts running up and down the stairs with all the dishes, the inspired table settings and above all the superb cocktails. Gaelle (second Stew) you are wonderful with children and have been so kind to the little ones on top of all your other duties including the immaculate laundry and beautifully serviced cabins. Andrew and Calum (Mate & Engineer) you have worked so hard providing and helping with all the water sports, shifting deck furniture always with a smile and a pleasant word. As for Captain Laurance you have done a wonderful job coordinating it all in such a friendly and helpful manner. Please accept a big thanks you from us all”

In February we picked up a party in English Harbour Antigua, nominally our winter base, and then set sail for the best anchorage in Antigua, Green Island, where it is possible to tuck in behind a fringing reef and for protection from the wind, the off lying island giving the anchorage its name. There are walks on Green Island and some great beaches but our highlight on this occasion was a perfect BBQ spot on the lee side of the Island were we set up Tikki torches and chairs under a canopy of trees and clear starlight night. With music playing from our Beatbox and a surf and turf sizzling away this was a memorable evening. Later, this being Superbowl night, after the gentlemen in the party rounded up blazers and ties, all were able to watch the game at the nearby exclusive Mill Reef resort accessible via the yachts tender. We then set sail for the French Island of Guadeloupe, a daysail away to the south that with a perfect wind angle a good trade wind blowing we reached very swiftly. After customs formalities at Deshaies and a look around the picturesque village in the morning, there was another short sail down the East side of the Island to the Jacques Cousteau underwater park were there is outstanding snorkelling around Pigeon Island. So impressed were the party with the abundance of marine life and lovely coral and rock formations they went back for more, this time armed with GoPros to capture this underwater wonderland on film. Next stop after another sail southwards was the island of Dominica, wild and lush, where the party were rowed up the Indian river into the jungle by an expert guide on the flora and fauna to be seen. We then sailed North, back to Guadeloupe but this time to the small group of Islands lying south of the main Island called Iles des Saintes, noted for their Breton rather than French character, the variety of restaurants and good choice of beaches. They party left us in Guadaloupe leaving Ree to sail back to Antigua to work on keeping her in tip top conditions until our next charter.

Comments from this charter party:

‘the crew were most helpful and professional, the Captain in particular was the most hard working and engaging we have encountered’

‘the table accoutrements were lovely!’

‘this Captain and crew are the best!’

‘Laurance was the most hands on and hardest working Captain we have had on all our five cruises’

The season rounded up with a BVI charter for first time charterers. This location is always a winner and this cruise was no exception. All the sights are close together and there is no open water sailing to challenge anyone not used to the motion of a sailing yacht as there can be be down island. Despite their popularity these islands and anchorages never seem to get really overcrowded. After picking up at West End, Tortola we sailed to Norman Island were we anchored and put a rope ashore to pull our stern into shallow water over a good snorkelling area near a small beach - a location so lovely we stayed here for two nights while we did dingy sailing and other water sports out in the protected bay and BBQ’ued on the small beach in the evening. Next was Cooper Island were the resort bar was popular and more water sports in the south of the Island. The weather being stable we then anchored off the famous Baths rocks where all went exploring this very unique feature and then climbed the hill for lunch in the café overlooking the whole of Francis Drake channel. Sailing round to Virgin Gorda for more water activities we found a fabulous quiet beach for another BBQ followed the next night by dinner in one of the good quality restaurants in Gorda Sound. The week went very quickly and it seems this party were hooked and will definitely be coming sailing with us again.