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 Gerard Coulson | Home Prev 15 | Next 15 | Show all 

CLARABELLA CRUISING


Welcome to Gerard and Monica´s website of pictures of our family´s travels on our Camper and Nicholson 35, "Clarabella". We left the UK in July 2005 and arrived in New Zealand in November 2007 having sailed 16,864 nautical miles.

CURRENT POSITION: Currently (as at April '08) we´re in Christchurch, New Zealand, and Clarabella is up in Auckland. We are now settling back into a land-based lifestyle and I'll be updating this website with more pictures in the coming weeks. (click here to see our position on a map).


16 - 30 of 53 Total.
Colombia, Cartagena
16. Colombia, Cartagena  (December 2006 - January 2007)
The sail to Colombia has a fearsome reputation; strong winds and disproportionately steep seas.  Many boats sustain damage on this trip, we were OK but glad to get to Cartagena.  On the way we saw something of the coast; Five Bays was beautiful.  Rodadero was pleasant although it was here that our dinghy and outboard were stolen.

Cartagena, where we stopped over the festive period, was a beautiful and ideal place to be at this time of year.  The old town was clean, safe and very pretty with good eating out at very low prices.  Highlights included a mud volcano, which was hundreds of feet deep but with the mud so deep that you could not sink if you tried, and having plenty of kids around for our crew to play with.  Colombia has an unenviable reputation, but it has been our favourite country to date with the most pleasant people.  Go if you get the chance!
5666 Visits
128 Images
Gallery Album
Bonaire diving
17. Bonaire diving  (September 2006)
Bonaire is one of the best dive sites in the world; clear warm water and undemanding, easily accessible sites make it ideal for relaxing dives.  For me it was great!  There were plenty of other boats with keen divers on board, so I dived twice a day every day from different locations along the shore.  The diving was superb, beautiful coral, some good fish life and plenty of variety in dive sites. The Hilma Hooker was a great wreck dive.  Most days I dived to 100 feet and slowly back to 10m whilst swimming along the reef and back; the afternoons dives were shallower.  Airfills were cheap and easy. These pictures are all taken by Murray, a good friend from Decourcy Spirit; the results from his camera are far superior to those from mine!  He also takes credit for the video clip.
6147 Visits
66 Images
Shared Album
The ABCs
18. The ABCs  (September 2006 - November 2006)
The three islands of (from E to W) Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba make up the Dutch islands known as the ABCs.  Bonaire was superb; here we saw our first wild flamingos, got used to decent supermarkets and good food ashore, made new friends and Gerard did dozens of dives in this world-class diving area.  Our 10 days or so in Bonaire went way too fast but we enjoyed a cracking sail to Curacao.

Curacao was OK, the anchorage in Spanish Water was very protected and a great place to leave the boat for 3 weeks whilst we took time out to fly home and see our respective families.  After a cruise up and down the west coast of Curacao with our now long-time friends on Iceni it was time to make the fearsome journey to Cartagena.  But before that sad goodbyes to the Icenis who have gone north.

Aruba was rubbish; expensive, windy and unfriendly so we were pleased only to be passing through!
4258 Visits
68 Images
Shared Album
Offshore Islands
19. Offshore Islands  (August / September 2006)
From PLC we sailed to Tortuga, Los Roques, Los Aves and then on to the Dutch Antilles.  The Offshore islands of Venezuela are generally uninhabited, low lying and very beautiful.  Most anchorages are protected by coral reefs so navigation is undertaken with care, with the sun overhead or behind; coral is beautiful but entirely unforgiving.
3516 Visits
40 Images
Shared Album
Orinoco flow
20. Orinoco flow  (August 2006)
After a long trek back from the Gran Sabanna we stopped off at a ramshackle camp to take a tour of part of the Orinoco delta.  The Orinoco is the 8th largest river in the world, and the delta is inhabited by the Warao Indians who live on simple wooden and thatch structures at the waters’ edge.  They live a simple subsistence life, nicking electricity for their satellite TVs (their one luxury, often shared) from the local mains wire.  Our trip on the delta was interesting for the wildlife and the Indians, but a day does not do it justice and I’d like to spend more time here.
6412 Visits
63 Images
Shared Album
Inland Venezuela - we go on tour!
21. Inland Venezuela - we go on tour!  (August 2006)
The main reason for going to PLC (as Puerto La Cruz is widely referred to) was to take a tour inland and so it was that, with our good friends from the Dutch boat Orion, we hired an old Toyota Land Cruiser and a driver called J-P for the princely sum of USD35 per day (about £18) and we took a 10 day tour inland visiting the Gran Sabana region, an area of barren, open land with massive ‘Tepuy’s (a Tepuy is a small table-land) across the landscape.  We camped in tents pitched under thatched ‘Churuata’ belonging to the local Indians amidst breathtaking scenery, all so incredibly different to life on Clarabella.  We walked, talked, drove, climbed, swam and were eaten alive by industrial-strength mosquitoes in the most beautiful settings.  We made our way back to PLC via the mighty Orinoco River, a river I’ve always wanted to see since the Wombles hit kids’ TV show in the 70s!
4486 Visits
74 Images
Shared Album
Venezuela - en route
22. Venezuela - en route  (July / August 2006)
Venezuela: now the fun starts!  Any yachtsman who’s dreamed of venturing away from England’s green and pleasant land will have heard of Venezuela’s reputation for piracy, theft and general mayhem.  As we progressed further down the benign Leeward and Windward islands we were increasingly asked were we going to Venezuela, if so were we going with a ‘buddy’, were we armed, would we lock ourselves in at night etc but as is so often the case all the hype is generated by those who have the least experience and so after a lovely sail from Trinidad to Los Testigos – a dry and rocky set if islets belonging to Venezuela, about 100 miles off the mainland coast and inhabited by a handful of subsistence-living fishermen – we could not have had a warmer welcome from the teenage-looking guarda costa who ‘protect’ this guano strewn archipelago from all comers.  After a cursory glance at our papers he emerged from a back room with a glass of iced tea and we chatted for the next ½ hour about life.  The Testigos were beautiful, very peaceful after the bussle of Trinidad and we had the feeling for the first time of really going off the beaten track.  From there we sailed to Margarita, the main Venezuelan holiday isle, home of exceptionally cheap duty free booze (and thus home to a fair few dipso-liveaboards) where we rolled in Porlamar before heading off down to Puerto La Cruz, the centre of yachting in Venezuela.
1856 Visits
17 Images
Shared Album
Trinidad 2
23. Trinidad 2  (July 2006)
We also went to see the (apparently) world famous pitch lake from which (again apparently) the majority of the world’s road are surfaced, the Asa Wright Nature Park where we saw a huge variety of beautifully coloured birds in a lovely rainforest environment as well as touring to the Caroni Swamp to see the Scarlet Ibis flying home to roost.  My brother Ben was also in Trinidad on his boat Midnight for a while, so Clarabella and Midnight were alongside each other after 8000 miles of sailing apiece.  The cruising around Trinidad took us to Scotland Bay and Chacachacare Bay, both beautiful lush green bays in which we could hear the howler monkeys in the trees as we watched green parrots flying overhead.  We very much enjoyed Trinidad!
2912 Visits
55 Images
Shared Album
Trinidad 1
24. Trinidad 1  (July 2006)
Trinidad turned out to be one of our longer stops this year; we’re now south of the hurricane belt and so out of harm’s way.  Trinidad boasts the best boating facilities in terms of storage and repair in the Caribbean and so whilst we attended to numerous outstanding issues with the boat we took time out to enjoy my birthday with our friend John over from the UK to supervise work to his boat (Stromboli) and with car hire for 12 USD a day it would have been rude not to see something of the island, especially as the wildlife on Trinidad is amazing.  So we took tours to the Nariva Swamp to see parrots, macaws and monkeys, and to the north of the island to see the endangered leather-back turtles emerging from the sea on a bright moonlit night to lay their eggs, a sight that will stay with us all for a long time.
3837 Visits
58 Images
Shared Album
Grenada
25. Grenada  (June 2006)
A superb sail from Carriacou took us to Grenada, the island that was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.  Here we spent a couple of weeks in St Georges relaxing, and during this time I completed my Advanced Open Water Diver course.  There are some spectacular wreck dives off Grenada as well as some beautiful scenery inland.  We teamed up with Iceni to do a day's tour inland seeing abandoned aircraft at a disused airfield, the solar powered Grenada Chocolate Factory and a Rum distillery.  We also spent a week ashore at Spice Island Marine for a much-needed anti-foul and topsides polish.  This yard took a direct hit in Ivan, and hundreds of boats were destryed in this yard! As it is now hurricane season we were not sorry to leave and sail overnight to Trinidad.
5891 Visits
46 Images
Shared Album
The Tobago Cays
26. The Tobago Cays  (May 2006)
The Tobago Cays are without doubt the most beautiful part of the Caribbean – provided the trades are not blowing strongly.  We were very lucky in this respect and enjoyed a memorable time amidst impossibly blue water, the best snorkelling and good walks ashore.  The Cays (pronounced ‘keys’) are a group of very small islands protected by barrier coral reef, which protects the anchorages.  The snorkelling, particularly on the seaward side of the reef is stunning.  Visibility is 100ft + with marine life, on the wall of the reef, plentiful and varied.  Here we first saw Eagle rays and Sting rays.  Off the boat we watched turtles feeding, and they were happy enough to have us snorkelling above them, only a few feet away.  Monica was doing just this when she suddenly shot back into the dinghy: she had had a close encounter with a 6ft nurse shark!  I, of course, went into the water immediately, but the thing had swum off!  Boat boys kept us in basic supplies and we spent a very happy time here.

From the Cays we hopped south out of the path of potential hurricanes, stopping at Mayreau again then to Union island where I collected my dive gear – in the town called Clifton! - and helped a customs chap not charge me any duty…!  Then we spent a a night or two at Petit Martinique and Petit St Vincent, both fairly unremarkable despite friendly locals before leaving the Genadines for Carriacou, officially part of Grenada.
5090 Visits
33 Images
Shared Album
St Vincent & the Grenadines
27. St Vincent & the Grenadines  (May 2006)
The islands below St Lucia and above Carriacou form the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines.  We spent some weeks in this chain, starting at St Vincent.  We did not particularly enjoy the island, despite it being home to some beautiful scenery as well as the film set of Pirates of the Caribbean.  St Vincent has an ugly reputation for crime against yachties as well as being one of the world’s major centres for the production of marijuana.  Wherever we went we were plagued by pushy boat-boys, some of whom had clearly been sampling the local home-grown produce or worse.
We enjoyed seeing the film set of Pirates of the Caribbean in Walilibou bay (Keira was absent sadly), where we went after the very beautiful Chateau Belair and Cumberland Bay.  Before leaving St Vincent we took a tour up the island to see the extremely beautiful Montreal Gardens, full of lovely tropical flowers, plants and fruit trees.

In Bequia we stopped for a week or so, during which I did the first of my dive courses, qualifying as an open water diver.  This included a number of absolutely stunning dive over pristine coral populated by riotously colourful reef fish.  I even saw a seahorse!  Tom didn’t want to be left out so he had a trial dive in Bequia too, although he’s too young!

From Bequia we had a lovely sail to Canouan (not very pleasant) and to Mayreau. Mayreau’s a very small island with an archetypal Caribbean anchorage at Saltwhistle Bay, a tiny church, a school and terrific views over to our next stop, the Tobago Cays. [Please see separate Gallery]
17319 Visits
66 Images
Shared Album
Dominica and St Lucia
28. Dominica and St Lucia  (April and May 2006)
Dominica was our next island on the way south.  We had really enjoyed being near Roseau, the capital, on our way up and although it failed to reproduce its charm to the same extent the second time around – mainly because we anchored off and Oh how we rolled… - we nevertheless had a great time doing another tour to a part of the island that had not yet explored.  Here we also met up with Iceni again, a Warrior 40 whom we first met all those months ago in Spain and with whom we crossed the Atlantic in radio contact.

We passed down the west coast of Martinique promptly as we had covered this region fairly fully on our way up (we did ‘pull in’ to stock up on French comestibles, notably bread and croissants!) and headed back to St Lucia, our point of arrival in the Caribbean. It was good to be back, people remembered us – they would with 5 of us on what is in Caribbean terms a very small boat – and we enjoyed seeing more of the island.  After a pause for thought in Rodney Bay we headed down the island towards Marigot Bay.  I had been looking forward to Marigot for months; it is billed in the pilots as ‘idyllic’ and the ‘epitome of a Caribbean hideaway’ etc; we arrived there to find the ‘charming’ bay was in fact lined by a very unpleasant building site, noise, and a charter boat company.  We nevertheless gritted our teeth as the 35 knot squalls ripped through the anchorage and went ashore for supper.  Whilst ashore, and the supper was truly excellent, the little bay filled up – literally – with many dozens of charter boats who had just collected their charges.  Suffice it say that we were literally and figuratively fending off complete landlubbers in charge of huge catamarans who had not the faintest clue how to anchor.  After dark they got to grips with their barbecues whilst bumping into one another and competing to see who could play the loudest music.  I have a lovely memory of one idiot trying to light his gas barbecue by pouring outboard fuel into it and gingerly offering it a lighted match.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the results in daylight!

So we moved off down the coast to the Pitons, two very tall, steep peaks formed by volcanic activity and offering lovely anchorages.  The first of which was 2 boat lengths off a sheer cliff in which a narrow cave housed a colony of bats; I managed to snap a few with the camera and flash as they sped by the boat looking for insects.  We enjoyed some beautiful sunsets here, swimming and snorkelling from the boat and we took a tour inland to see the sulphur springs.  A word about tours:  You can pay about US$100 for a pretty basic private tour in a minivan with a surly driver or you can DIY by taking a local bus (also a minivan, but usually in a poor state of repair apart from the stereo which always works exceptionally well) for EC$3 (about 60p).  Guess which we did!
5337 Visits
38 Images
Shared Album
Isles de Saintes
29. Isles de Saintes  (April 2006)
On our way north we briefly passed through the island group called the Saintes, and we were pleased to be able to spend longer there on the way south.  It is a beautiful area of quiet tropical anchorages served by a pretty village, surrounded by good walks.  One of these took us up to the Fort Napoleon, where we encountered our first iguanas at close quarters!  We also had Easter here; it seems that the UK is the only place on earth that sells Easter eggs so we were very lucky to find ‘kinder eggs’ for the kids but we had anyway painted our own eggs and made decorations for the boat.
3152 Visits
47 Images
Shared Album
Guadeloupe again
30. Guadeloupe again  (April 2006)
After an unpleasant 14 hour slog, during which our watermaker pump broke down again, we made Deshaies on Guadeloupe.  This was a pretty bay with turtles swimming around and some pleasant walks ashore.  It was a relief to get back to French bread and croissants etc after the muck which they call bread elsewhere in the Caribbean!  Down the coast of Guadeloupe we stopped briefly to snorkel in the Jacques Cousteau National Park around Pigeon Island, a beautiful area of turquoise water, startling visibility underwater and exceptional marine life in the form of coral and tropical fish.
2191 Visits
21 Images
Shared Album
 
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