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.

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3 thoughts on “From the Windward Islands to the Leewards : Martinique to Dominica

  1. Mmmmmmm, tres bon. Vive la France (wherever it pops up)! Bonhomie, reunions avec des amies, tout vas bien dans le paradis. Merveilleux!!!!! Tout vas bien dans le Strathkanaird, aussi, bien que il fait pluie (pah!) et, aussi, le vent est tres fraiche (brrrrrr). Je pense lambing commence semaine prochaine.
    Profiter du barbecue – beaucoup grand poisson!
    Sante, R & A & le chien chocolat

  2. Glad you enjoyed Dominica folks. I lived there for 2 years and went back for a day last year (off a Cruise Ship) after 38 years. It was by far the best stop of the cruise. Love the pictures but they make me just a wee bit jealous.

  3. Lovely – thank you for the postcard – we’d just read the post about Martinique. Most envious – weather in Strathkanaird always much worse than here! Very nasty sw’ly gale today with Annat Bay white. Sandy said he had been out fishing but earlier! Not too cold though snow forecast for tops next week – lambing snow. Love Robyn and Scott

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