Iles des Saintes, French West Indies
16 January 2017
With two reefs in both sails, we headed north for Iles des Saintes, a small group of French islands just 20 miles away. We had a great sail there and made for the only small town, Bourg des Saintes, on the largest island Terre d'en Haut, where we took a mooring close to the shore, as it was too deep to anchor there. Since the islands were never used for agriculture, no slaves were imported, and the local inhabitants are all there because they want to be, and we understand why.
Bourg des Saintes is a pretty town with a strong French feel. It is very popular with day-trippers from Guadeloupe who arrive on the many ferries that bring the tourism euros to the island to spend in the shops, restaurants and holiday activities. But the same ferries also take everyone away at the end of the day and quiet descends. We spent New Year Eve here with friends, Dave & Anna, enjoying a meal on the waterfront followed by music and dancing in a local bar. At midnight, we were treated to a great firework display as we popped the bubbly aboard Dave & Anna's boat, Apollo. We were very pleased to have arrived a couple of days before New Year because very quickly all available mooring buoys were taken and the only permissible anchoring area was exposed to wind and waves.
Mooring buoy 12-14.99m - 13 euros day/85 week/290 month Dec-May
Laundry 10 euros wash & dry
Lots of recycling but regular rubbish goes on street parallel to the main street
Make sure you have fuel and cooking gas before you arrive as it's not easy to get there
15 January 2017
Terre d’en Haut is small enough that you can get about on foot and we did quite a lot of walking and hiking. One such trip took us to Fort Napoleon, built in 1867, which stands on a hill overlooking the whole of the harbour. The fort has been very well restored and is now a museum and art gallery. Part of the museum is devoted to the famous battle of the Saintes, when England’s Admiral Rodney demolished the French fleet under the command of De Grasse in 1782. The surrounding gardens are well maintained and a walk around them gives commanding views across to Guadeloupe and Dominica.
Only open until midday. Get there early to avoid the crowds when the ferry arrives.
Baie de Pompierre
14 January 2017
This bay is on the windward side of Terre d’en Haut is protected by two rocky islands whose cliffs rise to about 130 feet. The horseshoe bay is surrounded by coconut trees and we can testify that the local goats love eating fresh coconut!
To get a different view of the bay, we decided to make our way over to the rocky islands which involved Chris balancing our bag on his head as we waded across the narrow gap between the bay and the islands. Just as the water got to chest height, the ground started to come up again and so we didn’t get a soaking. Most visitors stayed on the main beach but we had our own, private beach on the island where we had a picnic and did some snorkelling. We were both a little taken aback when a school of about 50 large Blue Tang’s swam by. I could have kicked myself for not having the camera with me. There were such a deep but bright blue with a yellow dot just in front of their tail fin.
Hike to Le Chameau
13 January 2017
The islands most spectacular view is from Le Chameau with an old Napoleonic lookout tower. From below, it looked very steep and high at about 1000 feet but the road up there was in very good condition and it took us about 50 minutes to reach the summit. The reward was indeed the view. We were above the height at which the small airplanes were descending to the tiny airstrip far below and Deep Blue looked like a pinprick in the harbour. The lookout tower was in need of some restoration but must have had an important job in its day with commanding views all around.
The island is full of well-marked walking and hiking trails and we noticed that one would take us down the front of the hill, through woodland and over rocks, so we decided to return that way. We were very pleased to have come down that way rather than have gone up that way, as it was much steeper and more of a direct descent. On the way, we were amazed to see a type of hermit crab living in the woodland, so high out of the water. They carried their shell homes on their backs as they scrambled about the leaves and tree roots. It was incredible to see.
Dominica, the nature island
28 December 2016
Everyone that we had met who had visited Dominica has raved about its beauty, so we were very excited to arrive in Roseau, the capital, to be able to see the island for ourselves.
Dominica (pronounced Domi-ni-ca, with the emphasis on the ‘ni’ and not like the Dominican Republic), lies between the French islands of Martinique, in the south, and Guadeloupe, in the north. It is an island of nature with nine potentially active volcanoes (most other islands only have one!), countless waterfalls, hiking trails, a boiling lake and as much to see below the surface as there is to see above.
We divided our stay into two halves, one week in the south at Roseau on a mooring buoy, as it was too deep to anchor, and one week in the north, at anchor in Portsmouth. Friends Dave and Anna were with us on their boat and together we snorkelled at Champagne Reef where warm bubbles ascend from the sea bed. We also saw in the wild torrent of water at Titou Gorge and were glad to be wearing life jackets as we were buffeted around the narrow gorge that led to a waterfall. We then hiked through rainforest to Middleham Falls, where the almost daily rain ensured that there was plenty of water falling down the sheer drop high above us. From here we continued our hike to the town of Cochrane, where the local bar also had ‘Pig Meat for Sail’! At the end of our hike, we were rewarded with fresh grapefruit that had fallen from the trees and a local taxi as we could walk no further.
Back in Roseau, the botanical gardens were given a great write-up in our guide with a parrot conservation area but the reality was a disappointment and three sad looking parrots in a cage didn’t seem like a conservation project to us. However, a group of local dogs escorted us up the short hike from the gardens to Morne Bruce, which gave us a birds-eye view of the city and a glimpse of a local bride who was having photos taken. Each day cruise ships of all sizes arrived into Roseau and the town came alive catering to the tourists but after everyone had left, it was quite quiet as everyone got on with their daily lives.
Our time in Portsmouth was quite different. Whereas there were very few boats stopping in Roseau, we counted up to 50 boats either at anchor or on a mooring buoy in Portsmouth, including friends Barbara and Stephen, who were joined by Stephen’s son Dan. We met many years ago in the Mediterranean and it was great to see them again and also see Q-Queenie, their motor-catamaran, for the first time.
Even though we were just days from Christmas, you wouldn’t have known it. There were no bright decorations in the streets or Christmas carols blaring from every shop that you passed. It was only on Christmas Eve that the main street became pedestrianized and food vendors came out and there was excitement in the air as everyone busied themselves preparing for a 3-day holiday. Christmas Day for us started with drinks aboard Q-Queenie followed by lunch with Dave and Anne where we enjoyed chicken, not turkey, with roast potatoes, sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, stuffing and delicious gravy followed by mince-pies by Anna, stolen and a French Christmas log. We hadn’t eaten like that for a long time and so relaxed watching Love Actually on dvd. A good day was had by all.
Dominica has provided the setting for many scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean films (the Titou Gorge being one of them) and it was on a trip up the Indian River that our guide proudly showed us the home of the witch Calypso that featured in the second film. None of us had seen the film, so it didn’t mean much to us, but the rowing trip up the river was very nice and scenic and we enjoyed our ‘Dynamite’ drinks at the small bar at the end.
We really wanted to do a lot more on the island but the weather had other plans. We expected rain during our visit, the island wouldn’t be so lush and green and the waterfalls so impressive, if it didn’t rain but there was so much rain and strong, gusty winds that we didn’t feel inclined to go hiking and seek out the famous Sisserou parrots only to get soaking wet and cold. We’d had enough of that just getting shore and back! Maybe we just hit it at the wrong time of year but Dominica is definitely worth spending some time at and you really have to go inland to see its true beauty.
Roseau – mooring buoys at Dominica Marine Centre (40EC) are in best location for town. Call Markus VHF 16. They had a nice bar & restaurant with wifi and can refill gas bottled (30EC).
Portsmouth – Indian River guides formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS). A great bunch of guys who are there to help and look after cruisers needs. They are not pushy and can assist with anything.
Regulations – we checked in at Roseau and benefitted from the 2-week check-in/out at the same time system which meant that we didn’t need to check out in Portsmouth.
St. Pierre, Martinique
27 December 2016
Our last stop in Martinique turned out to be one of our favourites. Lying at the foot of Mt. Pelee, St. Pierre was once the commercial, cultural and social centre of the island but on 8th May 1902, Mt. Pelee erupted killing the nearly 30,000 inhabitants of the town, leaving only two survivors. Twelve ships in the anchorage were destroyed and the town was left in ruins, some of which can still be seen today.
The anchorage is in a lovely setting and the town was bustling with shops and restaurants catering to locals and visitors alike. The daily produce market is next to the fish market which was a hive of activity the day some local fishermen brought in a huge shark they had caught. Cries of ‘Requin’ could be heard in the anchorage as the fishmonger announced that he had ‘Shark’ for sale.
Once stocked up with some French goodies for Christmas, we waved ‘au revoir’ to Martinique and headed north for Dominica, our first new island of the season.
November & December Caribbean weather
14 December 2016
Le Marin Saturday market
14 December 2016
Beach picnic in St. Anne
11 December 2016
What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than a beach picnic.
With friends, Anna & Dave on Apollo, Jane & Paul on Delphinus and Anna & Daniel on Noomie we had a lovely time.
Thanks to Apollo for providing the dinghy table for our spread.
Bonjour de la Martinique
08 December 2016
With the hurricane season officially over (let's hope the hurricanes know that), it's time to start exploring again.
It's hard to believe that last season we took several months to travel from Martinique, south through the Windward islands, down to Grenada, and yet just 24-hours after leaving Grenada to head north, we were back in Martinique. And what a 24-hour journey we had, dodging thunderstorms, getting soaked through by torrential rain, going really fast then having to motor as the wind died away.
We made landfall in the delightful anchorage off the village of St. Anne before heading into the busy yachting centre of Le Marin a mile away to do some provisioning and boat jobs.
Martinique is officially a Province of France and so, everything you can do and get in France, you can here too. The currency is the euro and they use the metric system. After spending months further south, where we got used to eating lots of chicken and Caribbean curries, it is heaven to be here and stock up on all kinds of French food and wine. Another good thing that the French do is laundry. Whether in mainland Europe or in the Caribbean, you can always find wonderful launderettes that actually clean your clothes. I never thought, when I was a career girl, that I'd end up writing about laundry, but there you go and thank you France!
When we were here earlier in the year, we replaced the boat batteries, which are doing a fine job. This time around we needed an expert to look at our fridge. Patrice came on board, diagnosed that we had too much gas in the system, took some out and it has never worked better. We also needed to get our rigging inspected at the request of our new insurance company. That was done very efficiently and quickly by Gaetan at Caraibe Greement, who signed it all off and the insurance company are happy.
We are now back at anchor in St. Anne waiting for the weather to settle to allow us to start journeying north, through the Leeward islands and on to pastures new. In the meantime, fresh baguettes, cheese and wine are keeping us going.
Refrigeration - Patrice Fougerouse, Fraicheur Service, above Caraibe Marine.
Rigging - Caraibe Greement, in portacabins to the left of dinghy dock in Marin marina.