We set off on our last long passage of the Oyster World Rally, saying a sad farewell to South Africa promising that we would return to this wonderful country soon... the Rugby Lions Tour in 2012 maybe??!
This passage ahead was a long 5,000 miles, with only remote islands in between us and the Caribbean. The first part of the passage was to St Helena, a British island in the middle of the South Atlantic with a population of 5,000 very friendly "Saints". It's famous as the place of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile and death. but more importantly for us it's also known for Whale Sharks,.We managed to time our arrival to meet the Whale sharks on their migration south. These amazing creatures grow to over 15m and we were lucky enough to meet a very friendly and inquisitive one; although it was a little disconcerting being chased by a whale shark with a 6 foot wide open mouth.
The next island was Ascension Island, basically a military and communications centre (weird that it had the worst internet of our trip!), The island has only 800 inhabitants, most of them on contract for a couple of years and they loved having some new Oyster friends to play with. We were made very welcome and had a great time with BBQ's, Karaoke nights and diving with the locals. There was an extra bonus for Andy and Hugh being a British RAF base they had lots of great British beers!
Our third stop was a total contrast – the beautiful islands of Fernando de Noronha, 200 miles off the coast of Brazil. Both Ascension and St Helena had been very much working islands with limited tourism, Fernando was the total opposite - think Ibiza for Brazilians...wonderful beaches, beautiful people (in very minimal attire) and great cocktails...the perfect place to help Hugh celebrate his birthday!! Unfortunately we only had 4 days there before we had to set off again for another 5 day passage up the Brazilian Coast. An eventful passage with highs and lows...the high - we caught and landed an amazing 7 foot sailfish, the low- we got caught in a squall and managed to break our hydraulics. The joys of sailing!
The final stop on our travels to the Caribbean was Devils Island (real name Iles Du Salut, part of French Guiana) – a French penal colony that operated in the 19th and 20th century (famous for the film Papillion). The prison was infamous for its harsh treatment of detainees, with a death rate of 75% at their worst and with fierce currents and a large shark population escape was almost impossible. But escape we did and set off for our final long passage along the coastline of Venezuela, Surinam and Guiana - although following recent reports of Venezuelan pirates looking for some easy pickings we decided that the safest option was to sail in close formation with our fellow Oyster boats (a harder task than it looks when you have different sized boats and a strong current). Luckily no sign of these new “Pirates of the Caribbean” and we arrived safely in Grenada, where we tied up in their lovely new marina completing our last overnight passage (hoorah!!) . It's over 2 years since we started our journey in the Caribbean and it's a bitter sweet feeling - great to be back and nearing the completion of our amazing journey and yet really sad that we will be saying good-bye to our Oyster family and that our adventure is coming to an end.
The Meteorite Crew
Debbie, Hugh, Janice and Andy