From the Windward Islands to the Leewards : Martinique to Dominica

We had a very nice week in Martinique. We checked in customs in the south. It is a very easy and efficient operation on the French islands. In the office there is a self-service computer where you type in all your details yourself, print it and have it stamped, and its all, as a result, computerised unlike the paper system in the other islands. We cleared in at Marin where there are a huge number of boat services, chandleries etc. We bought, in one, a second hand charcoal BBQ! Yeah!
From there a great down-wind sail round to Grand Anse d’Artlet on the south west peninsula. There are three sweet villages separated by headlands. We anchored in the northerly one where we found ‘Swallow of Bristol ‘ and Vicky and Elliot, who we had not seen for ages. We had a lovely evening with them and met Elliot’s parents who were visiting them. Next day we walked up and round the headland to the next village south for some tasty cakes and coffee (when in France!) and then had a stonking sail up the coast, 10 NM or so to Saint Pierre, the old capital of the island. On route Dan caught a ‘great barracuda’. Way-hay – within 24 hours of buying the BBQ. It was tugging and trashing on the line but when Dan got it up to the deck we tried a technique we had been told about. We sprayed alcohol directly into the gills and it just went limp straight away, then head off.
When we arrived at Saint Pierre there was a big swell. There had been some bad weather in the north a few days before and this was the residue of that. The black sand beach was alternately black and then white with surf, washing up to the palm trees. We were ok on anchor off the beach though, we just gently rode up and down rather than rolling side to side.
We had a very nice 4 days in the sleepy Saint Pierre. This had been described as ” The Paris of the Caribbean” in its hay- day. It was the capital of the island and had a population of 30,000 when in 1902 Mont Pellee the volcano which over-shadows the bay erupted and completely obliterated the place. All the buildings, which were stone, were demolished leaving only rubble, foundations and low walls. There were only a couple of survivors, one of whom was a prisoner who was in a stone cell, which still stands today, the only building to remain. The town has been rebuilt on the same plan, new buildings incorporate parts of the old walls. There had been a big theatre, now only the grand staircase up to it and the foundations survive. There was a museum there which had some exhibits of objects and artifacts which had been picked out of the rubble at the time: some pocket watches, stopped at 8 o’clock ( the time of the eruption, 8 am) , the massive bronze church bell, warped and crushed, stacks of glasses which had been fused together in their stacks, smoked and crazed ceramics and other objects from life in 1902. There were also photos of the volcano shortly after the eruption when a massive spike of rock protruded from its summit hundreds of meters high, it later fell that same year, and the new and current altitude of the volcano settled at 1397m.
We had a cycle along the coast road to the north one day. Another day walked up Mont Pellee, the Volcano itself. We took a very early bus up to a village at about 500m alt then walked from there. Early in the morning it was cool and as we got higher we got into cloud so it was a fine temperature for walking, in fact refreshingly cool on top. A Steep and enjoyable walk. Surprising amount of vegetation considering its recent past, no trees on its affected slopes but thick blanket of greenery, big ferns, grasses, bushes, shrubs and flowers. We walked up the east side over the top and down the west, back into the heat at sea level.
We left at 4.30am on 3rd of April for Dominica, 55NM to Prince Rupert Bay. Its nice to be sailing at night and early morning because in the day it is jolly hot! we do not have sun shade when we are sailing. We arrived in the afternoon after a good sail. We even had some westerly winds coming up the coast of Dominica as a result of a land breeze on shore.
We were delighted to see Iron Bark anchored in the bay, our friend Trevor Robertson. We had a very nice evening with him. Dominica was an absolute delight. It promotes itself as ” the nature island”, it is very undeveloped, has no major hotels or complexes at all. It is mountainous and absolutely dense with rainforest. Portsmouth where were anchored in Prince Rupert Bay is the 2nd largest town after the capital Roseau in the south west. It is a very nice village/town, laid back and friendly. A string of low key beach bars along the front and little shops and market stalls on the high street, chickens scratch in the street. Not touristy, in fact I had to paint some of my own post cards ‘cos I couldn’t find any for sale.
Nina and Ken on Makiao arrive the morning after we had got there and we had fun exploring with them, for a couple of days before they had to head north. Dan had a couple of dives with them and a dive guide, he said it was excellent. And we had a couple of really great walks with Trevor from Iron Bark. One dotted between a track and the road up to the north of the island, another day we did a big circuit up behind Portsmouth through the rainforest and foot hills of Morne Diablotins. The forest was so dense we only got occasional glimpses out over the bay. It was like walking in a ‘green- out’, rather than a ‘white-out’. This walk was part of the national trail which covers the length and breadth of the island. Parts of this were tracked out in the 1700′s by the Caribs. The route steeply climbed up to and along ridges and down to river crossings. We ended at a particularly lovely river and had the most refreshing fresh water swim in the clear water, amongst the rounded boulders. Bliss.
We toured the island one day with the local busses. This was great. The roads are amazing twisting through the forests and round the coasts. We took one bus to the east coast, another over the island and south to the capital Roseau and another back up to Portsmouth. An all day trip for about 6 quid. Fantastic to see more of the place.
There is a river which flows out into the bay at Portsmouth called ‘the Indian River’ it is not possible to go up it in your own boat, but you can go with a guide, of which there is no shortage of. Morris on boat Cobra was a great guide, he rowed us the mile or two up stream pointing out bids, crabs, telling us the names and uses for the plants and trees. There were some very beautiful and impressive trees with huge buttress trunks and roots, vines and palms. We went at 7 am which was a great time of day to go, we saw lots of bird life, herons, moore-hens, humming bids and even a pair of the Dominican Parrots, the national bird which is on the flag.
We left yesterday ( 10th) for Isle des Saints , just to the south of Guadeloupe, about 20 NM away. Before we left Dan dived on the hull to do a full scrub on the keel and dory side. We do keep a tab on it by snorkelling but theses deeper parts are not always given the same attention. We had a fantastic sail up, and felt considerably faster with the clean bottom, no engine all day, departing or arriving, always nice. Great wind. we anchored off the village on Terre d’en Haut. We met three boats we knew in the bay, and had a nice drinks party aboard Hestur with them as the sun set.
So we’er back in France for a while, we will be re-stocking the cellar and enjoying the odd bit of cheese and salami I think. Just off for a coffee.

3 days in Saint Lucia

We enjoyed St. Lucia very much from what we saw of it. We cleared customs on 24th March with a three day clearance for the country, in Margiot Bay. This is a little nook of a bay half way up the west coast. There is a sheltered hurricane whole lined with mangroves protected by a sand spit and set back between tall cliffs. The place has been very much developed into an expensive and squeaky clean marina. We anchored off before the sand spit. We managed to find a scruffy shack selling good and cheap food for lunch though. This is where Admiral Barrington is reputed to have hidden his fleet of British war ships, unseen from the sea and protected by the palm lined spit in the late 1700s.
Next day we sailed down the coast 3 miles to a beach we had read had some good snorkelling spots. It was a beautiful place. The reef we snorkelled on was brilliant. Clouds of Sargent fish ( yellow and black stripy ones) swam up to me, and the corrals were large and developed. There were some big bowls and tubular mustard coloured columns. There was also a wreck there which had been sunk on purpose as a dive spot. We took the dingy over to it and tied it on a buoy. The deck level of the big frater was 10 meters down but with fins on and by pulling ourselves down along the rope which was connected to the buoy (our dingy was tied to) we could get down to it. It was eery and had quite a lot of growth on it with some big corals on the bow. Very dramatic.
We then headed 10 miles up the coast to Rodney Bay in the north and anchored off Pigeon island for the night.
On 26th March we took some busses down the island to Soufriere which is the town just to the north of the impressive Pitons: the islands’ most striking geographical aspect, which have even lent their name to the local beer. We took a bus first to the capital, Castries then another to Soufriere. We went there as much for the bus ride as the destination, as we had seen this side of the island from the boat and we could see the road twisted and dipped trough the trees and hills, it looked beautiful. It was a stunning trip. The island is thickly wooded, it looked like jungle as we drove through, but glimpses out showed dramatic views of the steep raveens and hills. The further south we went the further we got from the built up and developed north. The villages were beautiful, colourful and old. Soufriere was lovely, we spent some time wandering the streets. We decided to take a boat trip round to the beach between the Pitons. The Pitons are two steep individual conical peaks. Petit Piton rises to 743m and Gros Piton to 777m, dropping to sea level between. We chartered a super fast speed boat and blasted round there in minutes from the town, it was a thrill, had a drink at the 5 star hotel at the bottom of the peaks and zipped back then back up to Rodney Bay before dark.
We left the following morning for Martinique where we are now. We arrive in the afternoon at St. Anne in the south and went ashore. Felt rather disorientated as we stepped ashore into a little French village. Martinique is actually a part of France, so we are using our rusty french and spending Euros. C’est tres jollie!

Sand spit at

Sand spit at

 

Basking in Bequia

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The Caribbean route so far ( courtesy of Atol – chart in our pilot book, and Dan with a photoshop red pen)

 

We had a great week and a bit in Bequia, the island just to the south of St. Vincent. We arrived on the 14th March and left yesterday (23rd) very early am to make our way up to St Lucia where we are now – anchored in Marigot Bay half way up the west coast.
Bequia is a small island of 7 square miles. The main town of Port Elizabeth is on the west coast at the head of Admiralty Bay, the main anchorage. There were many boats anchored in here. We got to know some of them during our stay, and other friends arrived and joined us also.


Port Elizabeth is a very pretty place. The main front street is parallel to the beach: palm trees and other tropical plants line the shore and are silhouetted against the blue water, little stalls line the quiet street . The traditional open sailing boats and the Bequia youth sailing club boats sit rigged and ready under the trees, sometimes with their sails hoisted. Further along by the pier the big red and white, orange and green ex-Norwegian ferries sit stern-to loading and unloading passengers and produce from the other islands. The ‘Friendship Rose’ is a traditional sloop built on the island, she is a tourist tour boat and does regular trips out to Tobago Cays and Mustique, she has her mooring right off the beach here too, her white and mauve hull look cool and beautiful in this colourful setting. There are so many overlapping shapes and colours and compositions of boats and plants. Looking out into the bay there are the many visiting yachts on anchor and moorings and to either side the protective and steep headlands enclose the bay. The southern peninsula has a very attractive skyline of bumps and hills, completely wooded it stretches out and ends in a few off lying islands which continue the ridge into the sea.
The longer we stayed there the more we liked the place.
We took a ferry trip on Monday the 17th to the island of St. Vincent. This was very fun. There was quite a swell running and the ferry heaved through the sea across the channel. On the way back the swell had grown and all the school children who were commuting back on the afternoon ferry were squeeling and giggling. St. Vincent itself has a bad reputation for yachts : of theft and hostile behaviour towards them , so we thought that going by ferry would be good way to see the place . We only saw two yachts anchored over there, compared to the many in Bequia.
Kingstown is the Capital, it is on the south of the island. We had a good few hours there exploring the streets, market stalls and the beautiful and calm Botanic Gardens. The town did not have a tourist atmosphere at all, it was a real town with a lot of history and we enjoyed It. We could see from Kingstown as we looked inland that the island was extremely lush, steep hills bounced straight up as a back drop, cultivated along way up. A few days later when we sailed past St. Vincent on our way up to St. Lucia we could see more of the stunning landscape of the island as dawn broke over the hills and revealed the rainforest clad peaks.
We went out for a drink on the 17th, St. Patricks Day, this turned to several more and we had an entertaining evening with some folks we met. Tracy, an Australian woman had been on the same ferry as us back from St. Vincent, and although we hadn’t spoken to each other on the ferry, we recognised one another and got chatting, we met some other friends of hers and sampled a few of the local bars! Tracy is hairdresser, and she agreed to cut my hair.
A few days later she came out to the boat and we set up a temporary salon in the galley. Tracy has worked for some of the top Salons and on huge cruise ships so I think this new environment and my seat made up of a bucket, chopping board and cushions was funny for her, but it didn’t deter her from her work. We had a lovely afternoon swimming and snorkelling from the boat.
We met lots of new people in the anchorage in Bequia and some familiar faces too. Luna of London was anchored near us in the bay, we were close to them also in Tobago Cays. They are heading up to Antigua where they will celebrate their circumnavigation in April after completing the Oyster Round the World Rally. Roberta and Stephan from Luna came for dinner one night to Hestur, they brought the most impressive huge and succulent looking steaks which Dan and Stephan delighted in which they had brought all the way, in their freezer, from South Africa and some delicious and memorable wine also from South Africa. We had a very jolly evening with them.
Our friends Nina and Ken on Makaio (who stayed a night aboard with us in Carriacou during Carnival) arrived . They had hot footed it up from Granada. We had fun catching up with them.
They also have bikes aboard so one day we went for a tour over the island with them. We cycled over to the turtle sanctuary on the north east coast. It was great to get the bikes out again. We stopped at a beach under the shade of some very tall and elegant palm trees. Ken found some dried and browny pale coconuts on the ground which had fallen from the trees. With the skilful use of his machete he made quick work of getting in through the husky exterior to the little hard coconut – nut itself inside. They were delicious, small and rich. Amazing to find such a tasty thing inside what looked very unpromising from the out side. We all had a shot of de- husking them and soon had a pannier full of little brown coconuts.
The turtle sanctuary had tanks of Hawksbill turtles at different stages, they are reared to the age of 5 then released back to the beach they were taken from as hatchlings. We saw some tiny baby ones which were exceptionally sweet.
Another day we had a great snorkel with Ken and Nina on a place called ‘Devil’s Table’. This was off the northern headland of the bay. We went over with our dinghies and tied them up to a little mooring there. Dan took the GoPro camera so we did manage some underwater photos on that. Each place we snorkel we see different things, and there is a different atmosphere. Here we saw some fairly large and developed coral. There was a sort of raveen we could swim through and see the corals and fish above us as we were diving down . Ken spotted some barracuda in the water.
On Saturday evening (22nd )we arranged a BBQ with some friends from the other boats. We had it on the beach just beside where we are anchored Tony Gibbons’ Beach AKA Princess Margrets’s beach. Ken and Nina from ‘Makaio’, Andy and Kerry and kids , from Inverness on board a beautiful steel boat – bound for Australia, and guys from ‘Arina’ , ‘Restless Spirit’ and ‘Atriums’. It was a lovely evening, the ‘meat man ‘ had been in town that day so the BBQ was well stocked up with his produce, we all brought different salads and things too. After a short sleep that night Dan and I upped anchor at 3am and set off with a good breeze for St. Lucia 70 odd miles north (to windward). We have checked into St. Lucia for three days ( it is possible to get a three day entry when you check in here, and as long as you leave with in that time you don’t need to go back to customs and immigration to clear out, as you effectively clear in and out at the same time) we will head up to Martinique next after exploring here.

Heros in a half shell

Here area few more photos from the Cays of the underwater wildlife, which I didn’t have space to post last time- the photos of the Massive StingRays which Dan risked life and limb for will be added later …. Sadly we experienced water ingress in to the underweater camera, so thats it kaput. – however the go pro is still working. I took an underwater notebook with me and did some drawing of the turtles and fast little fishes.

We had a nice while in Canouan. Good to see Tony again. I made a batch of Marmalade as the oranges I had bought from the fruit stall turned out to be Siville. Dan made a sun shade for the cockpit, with some material we bought way back in Maderia, but didn’t get round to doing anything with till now.

We sailed up to Bequia yesterday, 20 NM. A good sail, one tack. We gave Mustique a miss, due to its upwind situation and entry fee. Bequia is very nice , lots of goings on