From the set of Pirates of the Caribbean II
December 19, 2011, 5:42 am, Portsmouth, Dominica
We arrived in Dominica (dom en E kah), the last of the Leeward Islands, late in the day in very blustery conditions. As we were looking for a mooring ball, a member of PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security) greeted us from his skiff and told us he would direct us to a good mooring ball. His name (and his boat's name) is Alexis. Once you connect with one of the "boat boys" as they are called, they become your concierge for your stay. Alexis is a native of Dominica along with many generations of his family. To say that he is in love with his island would be an understatement. He spent most of the next day with us and his love of the island was infectious. Not only was he able to tell us what it was like growing up in a rainforest, he educated us about how protective his country is of the island which has preserved so much of its beauty.
In the morning, Alexis rowed us up the Indian River (he was not allowed to use his engine as the river is a national park). That is where we passed the location for one of the sets for the Pirates of the Caribbean II. The Indian River is where they shot the scene when the group goes to visit the gypsy, Calypso. We stopped at a little bar up the river and walked around the grounds. We had fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice which was delicious. Alexis took a machete and chopped up a coconut for us. Then he made me an origami bird using a palm leaf.
In the afternoon, we went with Alexis on a hike through the rain forest. We got him talking about what it was like growing up in the rain forest. He talked about the food that he and his friends ate from the rain forest and how his family used many of the trees and plants for medicine. He was very proud that Dominica was the residence of the oldest living woman on earth. She lived to be 128. He even took us by the house she lived in. There must be something to living in Dominica and youth because we thought Alexis was about thirty but he told us quite proudly that he was 45. Mark compares this rain forest to his experience visiting the Muir Woods Redwood forest in California.
Alexis and Janet on the Indian River. Wish we had better pictures of Alexis. Stay tuned for a You Tube video of Alexis talking about his life growing up in the rain forest.
On the way back from the rain forest, we stopped along several plantations where we were able to pick grapefruit and oranges off the trees. Alexis picked me a bouquet of beautiful wild orchids. He also picked a cocoa fruit (the seeds produce cocoa). He opened it for us and we sucked on the seeds which were surrounded by a sweet pulp. Quite tasty.
We would highly recommend that any boater visiting Dominica ask to work with Alexis. His knowledge of Dominica is incredible. He provided us with a wonderful tour of the island and even sold me some snake oil which he was certain would help with my back pain. See photos of the rain forest and the rest of our experience in the gallery.
Sadly, we leave Dominica tomorrow on a 70 mile sail to Martinique.
Les Saints, where Janet liked fish and ketchup is brown
December 18, 2011, 6:32 am, Terre-De-Haut, Les Saintes
We left Dehaies Gaudeloupe Friday morning after a very rocky ride in the anchorage the night before. A front had blown through in the night and the wind and waves shifted sending everything mother nature had right into the calm bay. Several boats came into the bay in the middle of the night to seek shelter from the storm and a few turned around and left after experiencing the rocky conditions. Luckily, our anchor held but we lost a lot of sleep.
We arrived at our next stop, the islands just southeast of Guadeloupe called Les Saintes, late in the afternoon. This is a beautiful set of seven islands that are part of Guadeloupe. The main island, where we are staying, is Terre-De-Haut. It was not very long before we knew that Les Saints were going to be at the top of our favorites list. The place is gorgeous. Most people were riding bikes or scooters. We saw one car in the whole town. The streets of the main town are lined with restaurants, boutiques, bakeries and people just watching people, in French style, sitting at a street side café sipping a cup of espresso and smoking a cigarette.
Yes, they speak French here but some are a little more able to communicate with us than those in Deshaies, Gaudeloupe. I learned that speaking broken English using an Inspector Clouseau accent does not help with communications. Honestly, that is what you start to do. We want to thank all of you who commented on the Blog and sent emails in French. We are doing well on the translations but on the accent, not so good.
It took us 30 minutes to check out of the grocery store. First, we knew we needed some euros to make to process of buying groceries and anything else easier. But the bank was closed and all 3 ATMs on the island were out of service. So we had to use the master card. Do you know that French islands are unfamiliar with our American credit cards? Apparently, the European cards have embedded chips, not magnetic strips. They are inserted into card readers, not swiped like our cards. In the grocery store and almost everywhere else, we had to show the cashiers how to swipe the card. The cashier and the head cashier at the grocery store could not figure this out and had to call the boss at home to confirm the process. The other customers were very patiently waiting in line. Of course the language barrier had a huge impact. It all was pretty comical.
Those of you who know Janet, know she dislikes seafood. Well, at the restaurant we were having a hard time communicating with the waiter to order our meal. After a lot of effort, Janet gave up and said, "I'll have what he is having" pointing at me. The waiter understood and brought Janet what I ordered, grilled fish and French fries. The news is that she loved the fish. She may be open to changing her opinion about fish which is good because I appear to be quite the fisherman.
We both agree that Les Saintes are beautiful and a must see place. There are some more photos of Les Saintes in the gallery. Peter, you will be interested in seeing the wind surfers flying kites. We are leaving today for Dominica where we intend to boat up the Indian River and hike to some spectacular waterfalls and spring fed pools.
December 15, 2011, 6:24 am, Deshaies (Day-Ay) Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is a French speaking country. And I mean French, and only French. This is the first time we have had a major problem communicating with anyone in the Caribbean. Sometimes communicating may have been difficult but one can manage to get the point across. Here, I had a very difficult time checking into customs. This is the first island where they had me use a computer to check in rather than fill out 3 pages of paper forms in triplicate. I thought this was going to be quick and easy. But did you know that French computer keyboards have the keys in different places compared to US keyboards? I spent thirty minutes correcting my typos. Do you know what the French call the United States? Etats-Unis. Try figuring that out from a drop down list of 200 countries. Checking into Customs still took an hour after all, and the nice customs official had to correct much of what I had entered into the computer. I could go on about it but let me just say that the experience taught us that we need to learn some French now, before we get to French Polynesia. By the way, the currency differences are starting to have an impact. So far we were able to use US dollars everywhere though we may have received change back in Eastern Caribbean Dollars. In Guadeloupe the currency is Euros and they don't wish to take any other currency.
We spent the afternoon at the Le Jardin Botanique, a botanical garden, which again was at the top of a mountain and we decided to walk there. We are getting our exercise. The walk was worth it as it was one of the better gardens I have visited with lots of exotic plants and great views. See the photos of Guadeloupe and the garden in the Guadeloupe photo gallery.
When we arrived back to our boat in the afternoon, a couple with their two young children came from their boat in their dinghy to introduce themselves. They are from Boston and are on a one year sabbatical from work to cruise the Caribbean. They kept their boat in the town next to ours in Rhode Island. Small world. We left of the Caribbean at the same time. We shared a lot in common about our adventures. I am sure we will see them again before we leave for Panama.
Friday, we leave for Les Saintes, a small group of quaint and picturesque French islands just south of Guadeloupe.
December 14, 2011, 2:23 am, The Passage to Guadeloupe
The passage from Antigua to Guadeloupe was eventful. No nothing to do with the weather, the boat or sea sickness. We caught a 4ft 5in Wahoo. We had about 4 strikes along the 6 hour trip but none of the fish took the bait. With an hour left on the passage, we got a big strike and the fish ran with the line. After 30 minutes of excitement, maneuvering the boat to keep the fish astern and lots of questions like "What do we do now", we were able to bring the fish on board.
Mark has not been fishing for 30 years and has not caught a fish in 40 years. The only thing he caught the one time he went deep sea fishing was sea sickness. If only we had it all on video. We learned a lot about how to be prepared when fishing next time. Wish we had bought that book that we saw in the book store in Antigua, "Blue Water Fishing for Dummies"
As we left Antigua, we passed through English Harbour one last time. We learned that there was a mega yacht boat show at the Nelson's Dockyard. At Last met her bigger sister there. Take a look at the photo gallery of English Harbor in Antigua.
No, This Picture Did Not Come From a Post Card.
December 13, 2011, 6:05 am, English Harbour, Antigua
Need we say more? The pictures are worth seeing in the Antigua photo gallery. Janet and I spent the first half of the day hiking (rather climbing) the trail to Shirley Heights, a site overlooking English and Falmouth Harbors. We asked the water taxi driver how long it took to hike the trail. He answered 20 minutes. He forgot to tell us that was how long it took to come back down. The views are fantastic. We have a photo that includes the path we took from our boat to the top of Shirley Heights. And yes, Janet worked up a sweat hiking the trail believe it or not.
We leave for Guadeloupe tomorrow, Wednesday morning. Another 50 mile day sail.
Goodbye Nevis, Hello Antigua
December 12, 2011, 5:59 am, Falmouth Harbour Antigua
The passage from Nevis to Antigua was pleasant. Seas were calm but the wind was on the nose at only 10 knots so we motor sailed the whole 50 miles. We pulled into Falmouth Harbor around 4:00 pm just in time to anchor in day light for a nice change. There are pictures of the passage in the photo gallery "The Passage from Nevis to Antigua" include Montserrat, the volcanic island, and the shore line of Antigua.
Our time on Antigua is strictly pleasure. We are going to act like tourists and check out the top attractions. No cleaning or boat work. So, Day One, we visit Nelson's Dockyard. This is the naval base of British Admiral Lord Nelson in the 1700s. It is a historic national park that is quite interesting. Aside from serving as a major tourist site, the restored naval base hosts the annual Antigua Classic Sailboat Races. A major sailing event that brings sail boats from around the world. All this nostalgia gave us the desire to visit on of the best sailing book stores in the Caribbean and pick up a copy of first volume of the Master and Commander series of books by Patrick O'Brien which came highly recommended by Bob Killebrew whom we met on the Caribbean 1500. All the pictures of Nelsons Dockyard are in the Antigua photo Gallery.
New Friends are Easy To Make
December 10, 2011, 5:34 am, Charlestown, Nevis
While checking into customs on Nevis, Mark met two other sailing couples who are living on their boats in the Caribbean area. They invited us over for cocktails at 5:00 pm. Mark and I are amazed at how experienced each couple is. We call ourselves newbies for the entire evening as each couple shares how they met, how they started sailing and their best advice for us. We have a fantastic evening and leave with all sorts of new information and ideas about how to survive the challenges we will face over the next two years. To our new friends David and Trudy on Persephone and Janice and Steve on Sailacious - thanks for a great evening and all of the encouragement. Hope to see you again when we pass through the Caribbean after the World ARC in April 2013.
We spent an afternoon at the Golden Rock Inn. It is a former old sugar plantation estate at the top of the mountain that is now a wonderful hotel and restaurant. It features hiking trails with magnificent views and some of the most interesting flora and fauna in the Caribbean. One can walk along the trails and see the Green Monkey.
We had a wonderful lunch at the Golden Rock Inn after hiking through the trails. We met the owner, who is from NYC and she shared some of her thoughts about having such a resort in the Caribbean, wished us well on our journey and said she would reserve us a table for lunch 16 months from now.
Check out the rest of the photos of Nevis in the gallery.
We leave for Antigua on Sunday, December 11, 2011. A little 50 mile day sail.