My first experience of Sophistikate was just as much fun as I had hoped and literally dreamed of during the run up to my finals. I left for the holiday the day of my last ever University exam feeling incredibly fed up of revision, the library and most of all being stuck inside every day. To make matters worse, Oscar had been out on the boat for a week already, sending me photos of white sand beaches and clear blue seas. This just made practically living in the basement of the Uni library even less appealing – so when I finally arrived in Guadeloupe to be greeted by Oscar with a G&T in hand it was heaven!
As a relative newbie to sailing yachts, the two weeks flew by as I received an intense period of tuition in all things boaty. Most things seem to be just common sense, or like a dinghy but on a much bigger scale with a lot more power. The big thing I learnt and saw was how much maintenance goes into looking after a yacht (especially when that yacht has won five Oyster concours d’elegance awards!). It was an interesting time, as we were getting the boat ready to lay up for the off season, seeing the preparation that goes into that and all the tiny details you need to consider – from greasing the stainless and covering the instruments with tin foil to mousing out halyards and pickling a watermaker (the latter, still not 100% sure on what this involves…).
Aside from preparing for taking the boat out of the water we also spent a lot of time exploring Guadeloupe and Antigua and messing about with all the toys on the boat. Guadeloupe is an incredibly green island, with a beautiful botanical garden and a huge variety of flora and fauna. Saint Pierre, on the North Eastern coast is where the BBC drama Death in Paradise is filmed so we made sure we saw the police station and little beach bar. Whereas, Antigua is much more dry and almost arid in places but we rented a little 4×4 (that would not be trusted going up a gravel drive let alone the dirt tracks and goat fields around the island) and explored as much of the island as possible.
The sail from Guadeloupe to Antigua was interesting… I hadn’t quite found my sea legs at this point and it was a little rough! However, it was definitely fun and the flying fish taking off out the waves into the wind is a great sight and a lovely distraction! On arrival into Antigua, after some time dedicated to allowing the stomach to recover from the previous trip, a few days of wakeboarding, snorkelling, beach trips and ringoing followed. The highlight of this time though has to be the halyard swinging, everyone should try it! This photo only does it a half justice as when you are swinging at the top you feel soooo high up.
Whilst exploring Antigua we saw signs for the ‘Donkey Sanctuary’ and decided to stop off. We arrived totally naïve, ready to hug a few cute donkeys and having previously been arguing over who had rightful ownership over the last chocolate bar on board the boat, had never considered a pet. We left the proud owners of Lover Boy Ushi (known as just Ushi) who we have now sponsored and receive regular updates from. We are going to go back and visit him in January, as unlike as my sister thought, we are not going to be bringing him home to resettle in the New Forest!!!
We were waking up pretty early every day to try to beat the heat whilst working on the boat, but on one morning we woke up extra early to hike to the top of satellite mountain. The view is amazing up there, with us having 360 views around the island and really getting an idea for how small these islands really are . We should have gone up for sunrise and had breakfast at the top – so you should do that if you decide to go! Looking North, we were the only people around for miles and could only see herds of goats and the odd goat herders shed the whole hike. In the distance you could see a little shepherd hut and then in the far distance the towns around Antigua. It was a really great hike and perfect to kick off our training for Patagonia.
Overall, sailing from Guadeloupe to Antigua together and exploring the two islands a little was a pretty amazing trip and the first of many over the next year. I can see that it’s going to be a steep learning curve for me but I am confident that I will be fine, especially since Oscar seems to be a great teacher – so far… Now it is back to planning next year and training for the two months of hiking and camping in Patagonia.