06/28/2013, Port Louis Marina Grenada
We arrived on June 26, 2013 in Port Louis Marina in St. George's, Grenada. This will be our location for the Hurricane Season for this year. After the very heavy weather due to a Tropical Wave in Carriacou in the bay in front of Hillsborough with wind of 45 miles and very heavy rain we knew it was time to go in. Over the past month our trip was heavily influenced by waiting for weather windows and most of the cruisers we met agreed that it was a good thing to be in before July 1, 2013. In our last blog we posted in St. Lucia we said that we had to wait for a weather window a week away for the day we posted this blog and that we would do a lot of fun things during that time. It did not completely work out like we planned.
In St. Lucia we anchored in Soufriere Bay just under the volcano and next to The Pitons. We had daily rain showers from weather coming over the mountains and the rain contained a lot of sulfur particles from the volcano and the surface of Island Girl shows this very well. Instead of being rinsed off by the rain it was covered with a thin layer of mud. I developed a very nasty rash all over my body and lost most of the vision in my eye with the corneal transplant and I was afraid I had a rejection. The local doctor we visited even advised me to fly back to The States but that was in view of the location in Soufriere not possible. He gave me lots of medicine and after a few days the rash disappeared and I slowly regained my vision. Due to this we did not do the things we planned but we still had a good time.
We met a Dutch couple Ans and Harry with their boat Lion King sailing for 2 years in the Caribbean after arriving from The Netherlands via the north route. They visited England, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Canada and along the US east coast to the Caribbean. We shared some nice evenings together that we continued in our next destination in Bequia, The Grenadines.
The local boat people cleaned the bottom of Island Girl swimming from shore with only snorkel equipment and did the job in 2 hours without a rest. They were very disappointed and almost angry that I did not come in the water to check their work. Later in Bequia when I felt safe again to go into the water I noticed that they did one of the best cleaning jobs since we own Island Girl.
We used the dinghy to visit the coast along The Pitons and realized that it was a real pity that I was not to able to go into the water for some snorkeling or using our Brownie surface supplied air diving system. The water is beautiful and the other cruisers, people coming to this location from the cruise ships and resorts all over St. Lucia were telling great stories. So St. Lucia is definitely on our list to visit more extensively next season. Yes, we changed our plans; we will not go to the West Caribbean next season but will sail another year in the East Caribbean and we are planning to visit all the places we have skipped and spend more time on other nice places.
A lot of cruises were waiting in St. Lucia and Martinique to move south and the magic day was Friday June 21, 2013. The Tropical Wave moved out, the seas calmed down, but also the wind. An armada of boats left and started sailing south. We left first at 5:15 AM and as soon as we were out of the bay we saw boats everywhere. It also seemed that all agreed to do the same thing, skip St. Vincent and sail to Bequia in The Grenadines. The wind was light and under normal conditions it would have been a nice broad reach sail. However, the current was very strong; we had on average 2.5 kn. against us and I have experienced locations with even more. During the crossing from St. Lucia to St. Vincent a very heavy squall hit the armada and we had a gust of 32kn with full sails out and the UV protection of our head sail came loose and we had to furl this sail to avoid further damage. With a distance of 56 miles to cover we could not let the speed go down too much so our engine had to help us once in a while specifically in the lee of St. Vincent. We sailed close to the coast of St. Vincent and had an opportunity to see from a distance this beautiful island that again is on our list to visit next season.
We arrived in Bequia Admiralty Bay and anchored in front of the Princess Margaret Beach. This beach was original called Tony Gibson Beach but renamed after the late princess took a dip in the water during her visit to Bequia. Then a miracle happed: The sun start shining and suddenly we experienced the Caribbean like it used to be. We had blue sky with some nice white cumulous clouds, a lot of sun and a nice trade wind breeze with only at the end of the afternoon a rain shower. We swam, snorkeled, took long beach walks and just spent time in the sun on the beach. The water is pristine; the beaches are nice and clean with reefs with an abundant amount of fish. It was the Caribbean we had not seen since we arrived in the rain in Guadeloupe 2 months ago. Port Elizabeth is a very nice town with a very nice narrow boardwalk along the coast with nice restaurants and places just to sit and enjoy the view. We had coffee in the Gingerbread Restaurant and Hotel after we delivered our sail to the sail loft for repair and I had trouble to leave this place. We spent long evenings with our friends sharing stories and had a great time.
We decided to use the next weather window after our sail was repaired to sail to Carriacou the most northern island that is part of Grenada and skip the rest of The Grenadines and save it for next season. It was a very nice sail with some more wind so we could overcome the very strong current most of the time. Hillsborough is a port of entry for Grenada and most people move after the custom and immigration clearance to Sandy Island or Tyrrell Bay. Since we planned to leave the next morning early to Grenada we stayed in the bay in front of Hillsborough. At night when the Tropical Wave passed by with wind up to 45 miles I needed to watch the anchor for close to 5 hours and with the enormous amount of rain that was not easy to do. The bay turned out to be very exposed and I was happy when the storm calmed down around one in the morning. Due to this we departed later then we normally do and that was a good thing. This gave the Tropical Wave the chance to move out of our sailing area and we left at 8:00 AM for Grenada.
The trip from Carriacou to Grenada brings you over an active underwater volcano with a 1.5 mile mandatory exclusion zone. In case of volcanic activity the exclusion zone is extended to 5 miles. This area close to the Isle de Ronde is known for very strong currents and we saw already from far away high breaking waves in between Isle de Ronde and the Volcano Exclusion zone. Although we changed heading we had for about one hour the highest breaking following seas since we started sailing. It is a game of very fast slowing down and acceleration completely beyond your control. Needless to say that it was a big relief when we came in the lee of Grenada. We entered the Port Louis Marina at 3:00 PM and we got a nice slip with a finger pier, but only 220 V power. We went to town and purchased a transformer with all the other parts needed and installed this on Island Girl and now we have nice shore power.
We started to take down a lot of outside equipment in preparation for our 3 week trip to The States in August and we will continue to do this next week. We will finally give Island Girl a much needed cleaning. Despite all the rain she is very dirty and many metal part show corrosion.
The marina is very nice with good facilities, access to the beach and a nice swimming pool. After all the work is done we hope to spend some good times on the island and hope to report about that in our next blog.
06/16/2013, Soufriere and The Pitons
On June 6 we left Marin in Martinique for St. Lucia. We started to raise the anchor at 6 o'clock in the morning. Since we were anchored in over 30 ft. of water we had a long scope out and the chain was very dirty with mud. To prevent that all that mud comes in our bilge we use a water hose to clean the chain. However, that took some time and in the meantime a very big squall came over the hills and we had to wait to raise the anchor. Since we already took a lot of the chain out we had to keep the engine running in case the anchor came out. After the rain stopped we maneuvered out of the bay around the markers indicating the shoals. Just as we passed the last green marker the engine alarm went off indicating that the engine was overheated. We had the main sail out and while I tried to find the problem Dorothy sailed out of the bay with a nice wind. Unfortunately that wind completely died after about half an hour and we started drifting into the Caribbean Sea instead of in the direction of St. Lucia. The engine was completely out of cooling fluid but still did not want to start after I had filled the reservoir. Fortunately the wind picked up again after some big squalls passed by and we sailed with wind up to 26kn and a speed over the ground of 7.5 kn. to St. Lucia. I was lucky to be able to start the engine after we arrived in Rodney Bay to find an anchor spot. But afterwards the engine did not want to start anymore and we had to be towed into the marina. We found a great mechanic who found the problems, a hole in the heat exchanger manifold and water on top of the cylinders. We were lucky that a replacement manifold was found on the island and Saturday afternoon we did the first test and the engine was running fine again.
Rodney Bay has a lagoon which was dug out and the recovered material was used to build a causeway between the mainland and an island north/west of the island called Pigeon Island. On this causeway the Sandals Resort of St. Lucia was built which gives a lot of activity in the bay with kayaks, Jet Skis and hobby cats. Pigeon Island is now a very nice National Park with trails that take you to the top of the two hills. As is customary in the Caribbean on top of the lowest hill a fort was built and the highest was used as a look-out position. The fighting between the French, Dutch and English did not change the flags on these islands a lot but scattered forts all over the islands. We took a bike tour around the bay, visited a lot of nice places and found the new tax free shopping mall that can also be reached from the marina with the dinghy. We went several times with the dinghy to the mall to buy groceries and a couple of nice tops for Dorothy. The extension of the lagoon allowed the development of a lot of nice condos and large private homes and everyone has a private boat dock or can use a mooring ball in the lagoon.
We took the dollar bus to the capital city of St. Lucia, Castries. This is like on all the other original British Islands a privately organized bus system. The busses are vans with every space filled with a seat. The route is indicated with a number and the turning location. In Castries all the busses arrive and depart from a central location near the market. A third of the population of St. Lucia lives in or close to Castries and this is evident. In 1948 a huge fire destroyed a big part of the town and only very few historic landmarks remained. The large and elaborate cathedral has brightly colored interior frescos covered walls, but the outside definitely needs some work like most of the buildings in the rest of the city. Even the Derek Walcott Square, dedicated to one of St. Lucia's Nobel Laureates, the Hon Derek Walcott who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992 is poorly or hardly maintained. If you check our pictures you see one of the buildings with a sign "Registry of Deeds and Mortgages". I took this picture since it is related to my first job in the USA as General Manager with "United Aerial Mapping". The company was owned by "Stewart Title" one of the largest title companies in the US. UAM had a project to establish a cadaster in St. Lucia to be able to give people clear title on their property and thus allows them to get a mortgage. So this building reflected some good memories to this project done from 1985 to 1988. New buildings along the cruise ship dock are built to give the typical products you see in every town in the Caribbean where cruise ships are visiting. The open market is large and fun and I even purchased a new shirt.
We changed the oil in the engine, checked the cooling fluid and we were ready to continue our trip on 06/12/13. We left the marina and started our best sail ever. We had a broad reach with wind from 15 to 25 kn. with gusts to 32 KN and our speed was between 7.5 and 8.7 KN. Unbelievable but very true, we sailed half of the time with speeds of over 8 KN over the ground. We have a nice mooring ball from a private person and not from the SMMA (Soufriere Marine Management Association). The SMMA balls are very close together and in spots that are very roly. We took a tour organized by the same man and we really enjoyed it. The Pitons are absolutely beautiful no wonder they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We visited the botanical garden, the volcano, took a mud bath, soaked in the warm sulfur water and visited a small waterfall. Peter, the owner of the botanical garden loved the way Dorothy responded to all the fruits and plants in the garden. He gave us fruit from nearly every kind of fruit in the garden. Our driver 'forced' Dorothy to say goodbye to Peter so we could continue our trip. The visit to the volcano is great for people who have never visited an active or sleeping volcano. For Dorothy and me who have visited active volcanos in Indonesia and Guatemala this site was not very impressive. For me the most impressive part was the fact that the east slope next to the volcano site had newly planted pine trees. Our tour guide explained that this slope was originally the volcano site and the soil contains a lot of acid; to prevent mud slides the slope was planted with young imported pine trees. As it was again another rainy day I could not take pictures of the very rugged landscape and the Pitons but the beautiful area will remain forever in our minds. In the afternoon our mooring ball owner passed by and brought us a lot of mangos from his own tree. What a beautiful island, such nice people.
We were hoping we had a weather window in between two tropical waves but based on advice from the Caribbean weather guru Chris Parker we did not use this window. Since we have to stay at least 6 days in St. Lucia we are going to enjoy the time we have. On Friday June 14 we took a long walk on a trail along steep cliffs above the sea to a very nice beach with a beautiful restaurant called "Harmony Beach Restaurant" at the foot of the Little Piton. The food was excellent; the view and total scenery were the best I have ever experienced. On Saturday we took the dollar bus to Marigot Bay. This trip shows the real difference between the populated areas from Castries to the north of the Island. Not only is this part very populated it has a very nice hilly land scape and valleys with agriculture. The south is very rugged and the main road from Soufriere is a relatively narrow very steep road with nothing else than hairpin bends. The cliffs next to the road are very steep and scary but give beautiful views. The bus stop in Soufriere is next to the church that allows you to go in and thank the Lord that you made it back safely. Marigot Bay is a small, completely sheltered mangrove-lined bay, famous as a hurricane harbor. It is a great place to shop and eat. Dorothy took the opportunity do get her hair cut so it is more manageable on the boat.
To make this blog entry not too long we will post the remaining of our time in St. Lucia in our next blog after we make the crossing to St. Vincent.
06/04/2013, Marin - Martinique
It is Sunday (05/26/13) and it rains, sometimes a little, sometimes the sun peeks through the clouds, but it mostly pours. We are in Fort De France the capital city of Martinique. Fort De France has about 100,000 inhabitants which is 25% of the population of Martinique, but you do not see anyone on shore, the beautiful promenade, the park "La Savanne", Fort St. Louis are empty. No people to be seen. Even the ferries during the week passing by very close to Island Girl are not sailing. It is Sunday and according European custom everything is closed and people spend time with their families. Since we are already for 2 weeks out of generator power, we have only limited ability to use our water maker and we made this morning some provisions to fill our water tank with rain water. I took a shower on the deck this morning during one of the very hard rain showers. Fort De France does not have public hotspots we can connect to from the boat, so to get connection we have to go ashore, but since everything is closed this is not possible either. Mc Donald's seems to be the only place available, but it has been years ago we visited an American fast food place and to do this on a French Island is not very attractive to us.
But don't get the wrong impression, we love Martinique. After a great visit to St. Pierre, enjoying the festivities and the mountainous area in the northern part of Martinique it is really fun to be in a large city as Fort De France. The shopping is great not only for fun shopping like clothing and all other things we do not need, but also for provisioning and boat parts. The shopping malls are very large and "The Galleria" is not much different than any other American Shopping Mall. Except for the food sections, they are much better than any food store in the States. You can find any type of food, produce and especially the fine food products. Dorothy and I do not like shopping, but we visited these large stores since we needed some stuff and we found everything we needed which was a new experience since we left Miami. Fort De France is an old city and most of these large stores are our out in what is called the industrial area. We rented a car for 2 days so at the end of our trip over the island we visited the stores.
The first day we visited the South/East part of the island. One of the reasons was that we needed parts to get our generator fixed and the city of Marin has the largest yacht center in the Caribbean with a huge marina and every yacht service and technical assistance you can think of. If you approach Martinique from the south (St. Lucia) it looks like two islands. The reason is a large valley in between the hills and mountains on the south/east and south/west coast. This valley and the Atlantic coast are used for agriculture and you see why Martinique is called the banana island when driving through this beautiful rolling terrain with endless banana fields. The landscape is beautiful and the road network is again like in all the other French Islands in great shape. The roads are wide with very good surface, good striping, great road signs, easy to drive and find your way. Every road is bordered by hedges of evergreens and colorful plants. The views over the Atlantic Coast with many nice bays protected by reefs are breathtaking.
The second day we went back to the north part of the island using a very winding road through the highest mountain range in the center of the island. The terrain is very similar to Dominica with lush jungle vegetation in all shades of green, but with beautiful roads. And we climbed and climbed and the temperature went down. Our car did not have AC and in this mountainous area there is no need. We drove all the way to "Le Morne Rouge" on the south slope of Mt. Peleé. After a nice coffee break with some great pastries we drove along the Atlantic Coast and the slope of Mt. Peleé to the end of the road in "Grand 'Riviere". Here the drivable road stops and a trail follows the much rugged slope of Mt. Peleé on the north/west side of the island. So for us this was a dead end and we had to return to "Le Morne Rouge" and "St. Pierre" to drive along the west coast of the island back to "Fort De France". On our way back to Fort de France we stopped at a roadside Creole BBQ stand to buy a rack of absolutely delicious baby back ribs, fresh from the grill. We both had a piece while the lady was cutting the ribs and we took the remainder back to Island Girl that we enjoyed with a Cuba Libre for me and a rum punch for Dorothy. Life is good!
Monday May 27, 2013 the rain is still falling but it is a wonderful day it is Dorothy's birthday. Normally we don't reveal a lady's age but this one is very special, since Dorothy is now also on Medicare. Since we did not have Internet we decided to take breakfast at Mc Donald's that has free internet. French people, however, do not eat breakfast at Mc Donald's and did not open until 9:00AM. So we spend the time to do something I should have done in previous days and bought Dorothy some nice festive dresses and shorts suited for the Caribbean temperatures. Since we don't like using the dinghy at night in this rainy weather we had a birthday lunch instead of dinner. It was great and the result was the same we drank a little too much and had a very quiet time when we came back on Island Girl late in the afternoon.
To finally get some expert to look at our generator problem and to get the needed parts we decided to leave the next day to the south side of Martinique to Marin with the largest yacht center of the Caribbean. To get there you have to transit from sailing south along the west coast to sailing east along the south coast and passing in between the mainland and a very large rock called "Diamond Rock". In this transition area the wind direction changes dramatically and the Atlantic current and Caribbean current meet each other creating a rough washing machine sea environment. Just when we passed the Diamond Rock a big squall came over us with some heavy rain (see pictures). It seemed to us that this squall with rain pushed down the waves since the transition was not too bad at all. Marin has a large marina with 600 slips and an enormous amount of anchored sailboats. I have never seen so many sailboats in one place. Yes I said sailboat, you can hardly find a power boat in this area. You can find every type of marine service; we found our part and I was able to repair the generator myself. However, due to the deep discharge we did over the last weeks we needed a real long charging period to get our batteries back in shape. Then we had problems with the refrigerator and needed to call another technician who at the same time checked our electric system, the batteries and gave our system a clean bill of health.
Three years ago during one of our vacation trips in The Bahamas we met Renske and Dutch sailing their self-built 44ft aluminum boat called "Aait Vedan". They sail the Caribbean in a real cruisers pace and left this year in November from St. Maarten. We met them in November in Miami when they flew back to their boat. We are anchored 2 boats behind them and we had several nice visits with them.
The weather is not cooperating to continue our trip to St. Lucia and our weather Guru "Chris Parker" advises that cruisers save their energy until June 6 or 7 to continue their trip. We have a very strong wind in the anchorage that helps to keep our batteries charged, but sometimes it is a little scary in such a crowded anchorage. And then the rain, it rains and it rains; not constantly but in very heavy showers. When it rains the hatches need to be closed, but that makes it very warm in the boat. This means when the rain stops the hatches need to be opened again and this is activity of closing and opening the hatches is almost a full time job. At night you wake up due to the rain coming in and the hatches need to be closed or you wake up since it is too warm and the hatches need to be opened. This is the hard life of cruisers. The good thing about the rain is that we do not have to use the water maker. We collect the rain water to fill our tanks, that gives us unlimited showers both in the bathrooms and out on the deck.
On one of our daily trips to shore we saw some kids playing in the water with small Yoles. These are locally built sailboats used in intense racing competition. The younger kids learn the skill in a playing environment, but the older ones know how to use these boats without a keel; to keep the boat in balance they hang on to two wooden poles that are not attached to the boat but just kept in place by some pecks and resting under a board along the edge of the boat. The mast and boom are made from bamboo and attached to each other with strings. See our pictures how this works. They went out with 30 kn. wind onto the ocean and returned about 3 hours later. We estimate their age to be about 14 to 16 years old.
We will leave on June 6, 2013 to St. Lucia and will report on this island in our next blog.
05/24/2013, St. Pierre - Martinique
St. Pierre in Martinique is a small town in the north/west part of Martinique. It has a very nice and large bay and with favorable weather it is a very good anchoring place. We stayed 8 days in this location; we had no swells or city noise and every night we had a good night rest. We were anchored very close to shore next to the town dock. Going a little more off shore the water becomes very deep. The local fishermen were throwing their nets out every morning just close to this wall and if you are anchored where they believe the most fish is, they ask you to move. The fishermen are not allowed to fish close to the dock so we could stay where we were and just look at their activities.
St. Pierre was called the Paris of the Caribbean and was the center of agricultural and trade activities of the French in the Caribbean. Shipping, trade, culture, and commerce were all centered here. In the early 1900's, about 25,000 people lived in and around St. Pierre. An old picture of the bay shows many large ships loading and unloading products to be shipped to Europe and the surrounding islands. The plantations around this area were very prosperous and since slavery in the French islands was abolished much earlier foreign workers like from India brought a rich culture.
But all this came to a very rough end on May 8, 1902. On this Sunday morning Mount Peleé volcano erupted. This did not come as a surprise to the informed people, but the politicians and business leaders did not want to interrupt the nice business climate and convinced the population that it was safe to stay. The lack of infrastructure to evacuate 25,000 people also played a factor. This eruption did not bring a lava stream or other material but very hot gasses and a huge fire ball. An estimated 29,933 people burned to death, leaving only two survivors in the center of the town: Leon Leandre, a cobbler and the famous Cyparis, imprisoned for murder in a stone cell. Twelve ships in the bay were destroyed at anchor and sank and you can still dive to their locations.
Many ruins still remain including the prison, theater and the warehouses along the shore. The only complete structure is the cell in which Cyparis survived (see our pictures). This cell was built in the back side of the prison against the cliff wall with walls and round roof of about 2 ft. thickness. When you stand in this cell you can imagine that this man survived, but it still took 4 days until he was found having sustained serious burns.
In 1924 reconstruction of the city started on top of the foundation of the old buildings. In many cases part of the building was still standing and this was used to rebuild. The first floor of the Cathedral was still standing and is part of the current structure (see our pictures). Many of the old streets were built from cobblestones that the ships coming from Europe used as ballast. Some of the stairs from the coastal road to the second road are still intact and used. The city of St. Pierre never regained its prominence and now has a population of about 4500 but it has a very active historical and cultural society that organizes events especially in the month of May.
We participated in the interactive presentation in the restored part of the theater, watched a very good and fun street parade; we took many pictures during the Saturday market of many people wearing traditional and beautiful dresses (see our pictures). The town center just behind the town dock and our anchorage is transformed to a festival area with a stage. Every night a different local band is playing music that we can enjoy while sitting in the cockpit of the boat. On Wednesday May 22 a day of festivities is taking place and that is another reason we stayed for 8 days in this little town.
Our activities during the other days while in St. Pierre consisted of a lot of walking to visit all the historic sites; visits to the bakery and grocery store. On one of the first days in town after visiting the Tourist Office for both immigration and custom registration and collecting all kind of brochures about the places to visit we went to the small museum with a lot of pictures of St. Pierre before the eruption. And for sure these pictures tell the story of a very vibrant and well to do city. Pictures of the aftermath of the eruption are sometimes very graphic with human suffering and a town that was completely burned down. Many artifacts found in the ruins are displayed but the most significant one is the bell tower of the cathedral that is completely malformed. We visited the ruins of the theater and the prison and all the other buildings, the bridge and the old streets.
Our next favorite place is the bakery with its wonderful bread and all the other pastries. The coffee is great and we always meet some nice people. The market is directly next to the dock so every time we check out all the available fresh produce and fish. We walked about 2.5 miles uphill to visit the statue of St. Mary overlooking St. Pierre and the bay. On Sunday we walked again uphill for another 2.5 miles to the Distillery Depaz that was closed for the long weekend. This walk was a little more challenging as it started to rain halfway and we made some unneeded detours. Our most challenging hike was the extraordinary walk along the Canal de Beaugard. Built by slaves in 1760, this about 3 ft. wide channel brought water around a steep mountain to supply the distilleries of St. Pierre. The channel is fairly level to allow a steady flow of water. It was built with an 18 inch wall along the cliff of the mountain and you walk on this 18 inch wall with the channel on one side and on the other side a very steep up to 90 degree cliff. The views are panoramic but please do not lose you balance since I don't think you will survive a free fall of several hundred feet. I have only a limited amount pictures since I was too busy to keep my balance and pretend I was not scared, so if you are interested check this site on the internet: Canal de Beaugard Martinique.
And then the day we were waiting for arrived May 22; the day to celebrate the end of slavery on the island of Martinique. We had been watching all the preparations and enjoyed the concerts every night from the stage which was the center of the presentations. We took the dinghy early to the town dock to be part of this great event. Then it started to rain and basically it rained the entire day until close to sunset. It was not a little rain, no it was pouring and the best thing to do was run from one booth to another. The parade was still going on but we felt so sorry for the people who were part of it. The best exhibition was a large tent from a small company building toys from scrap material and I found a lot of toys I used to have after WWII and I joined the kids to play with most of them.
When we finally decided that we had enough of the rain and walked to the town dock to take the dinghy back to Island Girl the dock was closed since workers were preparing the fireworks. At the same time I was told to remove Island Girl as she was anchored close to the town dock. So the only solution was to go in the water, swim to the dinghy, pick Dorothy up from the beach, back to Island Girl and move her to another spot. Every newly arriving boat to this spot was told to move. The fireworks were great but when we saw remnants hitting the water I was very happy not be in our old spot anymore.
The next day we had a very nice sail to Fort de France the capital city of Martinique; we have a nice anchoring place next to the old fort. In our next blog we will continue the stories of our adventures in Martinique.
05/16/2013, St. Pierre - Martinique
Our trip from The Saints to Dominica was like all the days before, after it finally stopped raining, there was no wind and it was hot. It was a very weird experience to sail in the Caribbean where usually the trade winds always blow to make an open sea crossing without any wind. But like we said in our previous blog we arrived in Portsmouth, Dominica and enjoyed the most beautiful view of the mountains covered with dense jungle vegetation and all the other things this island has to offer.
If you do not like the color of green in all different shades you will not like Dominica. Dominica is green and not just green it is beautiful green. The very rugged mountains are covered with dense jungle type of vegetation with every type of plant and fruit you can imagine. During our tours over the island the tour guide stopped the bus at many places that had a specific type of plant, tree, brush or fruit and we recognized it from any of the other countries Dorothy and I have lived in or visited. Dorothy recognized many of the species from Indonesia and the environment is also very much the same. We have considered Indonesia as the most beautiful country in the world and we have now found on one island many of the treasures you find on the 30,000 islands of Indonesia. Dominica has 7 volcanos and although there is currently no threat of a major eruption they are active which is evident in the hot water springs, hot mud and the release of hot gas. Dominica is also the land of rivers (365 of them); although in most cases these are mountain creeks that flow into the Caribbean Sea or the Atlantic Ocean. Only one of them, the Indian River is accessible by boat. The Atlantic wet weather is pushed up by the Dominican mountains that gives an abundance of rain on the east side of the island but also the west side, although drier has a lot of rain. The month of May is supposed to be the driest month of the year, but not this year. This year Dominica has a record rainfall in the month of May. The amount of rain makes the vegetation even more beautiful, but we have also seen the incredible problems that this can cause in a mountainous area; mud and/or rock slides. The worst one caused part of a road to disappear into a large ravine and 2 people died who were on their way to the airport early in the morning when their car drove over the edge. We have seen rocks the size of mining dump trucks either on or alongside the road. The good part was that on all the locations road crews were working to fix the problems and in many cases with temporary detours around the hole. Dominicans told us they like the rain because that will keep the ocean cooler and reduce the chance for hurricanes.
The security in Prince Rupert Bay is excellent. A group of Tour Guides started an organization to patrol the bay and offer all kinds of services to visiting yachts. This organization is called PAYS, Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security. They installed and maintain 30 mooring buoys in the bay and as soon you enter the bay one of their members approaches your boat to guide you to a buoy if you wish and offer you the services of their organization. The members rotate on each vessel coming in so that each member has always a chance to have customers. The name of our PAYS member was simply Albert, but you have other more colorful names like "Lawrence of Arabia". To raise funds PAYS also organizes a BBQ on the beach in the PAYS Event House every Sunday night. Nearly every member attends and it also gives you the opportunity to meet fellow cruisers while enjoying the Rum Punch that is included in the price.
Over the long weekend starting Thursday a group of sailors arrived from Guadeloupe for a regatta. This gave a lot of activities in the bay with the start and finish and the evening parties going on until 5 in the morning.
We did three tours and explored the surroundings of Portsmouth on foot. The first tour was "a must do": Exploring the Indian River close to Portsmouth done by our assigned tour guide Albert. To visit all the National Parks you have to buy a daily or weekly pass, the proceeds of which funds the maintenance of the parks. The maintenance is excellent and the country wide trails are the best you have ever seen. You can cross Dominica from south to north and east to west on trails over steep mountainous terrain and visit all the volcanos, waterfalls and parks. After paying for our weekly permit we rowed onto the Indian River. The use of outboards or other engines is not allowed. And I was back in Suriname, traveling through a coastal river running first through a swamp with mangroves that quickly turns into a narrow creek completely overhung by huge bloodwood trees on both sides. Part of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" was filmed here and one of the huts that was built for the movie set is still intact.
We took an island tour and basically drove over the entire island except for the south side and visited the Emerald Falls that has a nice pool partly covered by rocks. I cannot describe this tour in detail; the impressions are too overwhelming for me to explain in words. Think of any tropical plant, fruit and/or tree and we saw them, tasted the fruit. The landscape along the Atlantic coast is very rugged, with large swells that are pounding the cliffs and little bays. The interior of the island is dominated by the 7 volcanos and steep terrain. The main roads have two way lanes, but all the others are narrow and steep; these are the improved trails built hundreds of years ago.
The tour we took from Roseau with the world famous tour guide "Sea Cat" (official name Octavius Luguy) was the most exciting thing Dorothy and I have ever done. Mr. Sea Cat does not only have superior knowledge of the island, the flora and fauna, but he also has the most exciting way of presenting this information. He stops everywhere on the narrow roads to pick a fruit or plant, comes back in the car and let everyone taste, smell and touch and asks questions like a quiz. The funniest one was when he let us taste roasted cocoa beans mixed with sugar and called the mix "organic chocolate". We went to Titou Gorge where we swam in a pool with very cold water that goes into a cave and to the Trafalgar Falls that are two waterfalls that fall down the side of a mountain with a spread 90 deg. wall completely covered with vegetation (see pictures). We saw for the first time a wooden pipeline that transfers water to the hydraulic electric generators. Trafalgar Falls we swam in a warm water creek that comes out of a hot spring. Mr. Sea Cat put a stick in the ground and put the mud on my leg and I had a feeling that I burned my leg. The mud is very hot and it is next to a hot water spring that allows you to boil eggs, which people did. Just to give an understanding how we enjoyed this trip: It rained the entire day so hard it was like streams of water came down on us but we had fun.
After two nights of rolling in the bay of Roseau we left Dominica for Martinique with pain in our hearts. Nature cried with us as it was raining. We made the crossing with a completely gray sky and one squall after another with 25 kn. wind and 8 to 10 feet of swells and waves. About 15 times the waves washed completely over Island Girl, but luckily our side covers kept us reasonably dry. Arriving in St. Pierre, Martinique on 05/15/13 and the sun is shining!
After spending a week in the Marina Bas Du Fort in Pointe-a-Pitre is was time to move on to our next destination Marie Galante. Since I like to start a crossing to a new destination early in the morning which is impossible in a marina where you need assistance from the marina staff, we left late in the afternoon on 04/29/13 to take an anchorage in the river. The next morning during my equipment check I discovered that the macerator pump of our waste tank was not working. So I had the nasty task to pump out the waste tank manually, de-install the pump and open it to check what the problem was. The pump was clogged and the impeller was damaged. The good thing was that I could go to the marina with the dinghy and buy the needed parts. Before all was done it was too late to depart and the rain was coming down again with full force. The next morning (05/01/13) after a heavy rain shower the sky cleared and we left for Marie Galante. We had three large squalls on our way but we managed to sail around them and anchored in the main anchorage bay of Marie Galante, St. Louis.
Marie Galante is one of the islands of Guadeloupe and is again one of examples how well the French Islands are managed and maintained. This is especially the case if you compare the French Islands with the original British and Dutch Islands. Marie Galante is clean, has very well maintained roads, public service is excellent and the island has a great agricultural use, mainly sugar cane fields but also other types of use like vegetables and fruits. Where in the world will you find fully computer controlled public bathrooms, chemically cleaned and disinfected after each use: In Marie Galante (see pictures)? If you visit the towns early in the morning you see the cleaning crews out on the streets and before daily business starts the street are clean again. Everywhere you find garbage bins for public use.
The island is beautiful with different types of terrain. You find very steep hills with dense jungle type of vegetation, cliffs of the Atlantic coast line and nice rolling hills in between used for agricultural purposes. We rented a scooter and drove on the all roads except for the real steep ones and the dirt roads. We visited the beautiful bays and beaches on the west and south coast, the cliffs on the north coast and the very secluded beaches behind the reefs on the east coast. We visited the Distillery Bellevue not only for the free rum samples, but because it is one of the best restored wind mills and factory. It was nice to see a modern distillery in operation. The Habitation Murat on the south coast gives you a very good idea how great the sugar cane plantation owners were living. The ground, the mansion and the ruins of the mill, factory and slave houses are very well maintained and the view over the ocean and the hills are breath taking. We had lunch in one of the very nice local restaurants with Creole menus and all together it was a very nice visit.
On Saturday (05/04/13) we left early in the morning to The Saints (Iles des Saintes), a small island group that is part of Guadeloupe south of Basse-Terre. We planned to stay on these islands only 2 days and that was a mistake. Although they are small the islands have a lot to offer in beaches, a nice fort, nice restaurants, magnificent views and last but not least very nice people. The islands are just a short run (6 miles) from Basse-Terre and day tourism is the basis for the economy. At 9 AM the first ferries come in and the businesses are awaiting their customers. At 5 PM just before the last ferry departs it is very nice and crowded on the town square at the ferry dock. After the last ferry departs the town is nearly empty. As an ex-employee of the Public Works Department of the City of Miami Beach I am still interested how these departments are working in the places we are visiting. The Public Works Department of The Saints is the best. First class facilities and before the first ferry arrives the crews are on the streets to do repairs and clean the streets. One crew member was using a vacuum cleaner the size of a mini smart car to clean up debris from the front street that is a pedestrians only area. We normally leave early in the morning to our next destination, but the office that handles the customs computer for clearing in and out is closed over the weekend so we first had to go to town before we could leave on Monday morning (05/06/13). So we experienced the town with is small restaurants opening for breakfast slowly waking up. It was fun and even I who is very hyper about leaving early in the morning enjoyed myself. In this and previous blogs we described the endless of rain we had since we arrived in Guadeloupe 3 weeks ago. On the last day in Marie Galante the rain stopped and also the trade winds. It was a set of circumstances explained by Chris Parker that made the trade winds disappear. Surprise, surprise, our sail from Marie Galante to The Saints, normally a nice run with North/East to South/East wind needed the engine. And during our sail from The Saints to Dominica we had no wind at all! Due to this complete lack of wind it is hot, not a little hot but really hot. Of all the years I spent in the Caribbean I have never experienced days without wind, but now we have no wind that is cooling us off at night, but we are still sleeping well.
We are now in Portsmouth, Dominica enjoying the most beautiful view of the mountains covered with jungle vegetation and we will report on our visit to this island in our next blog.