Anchoring Fun and Games
19 March 2015 | St Pierre
This view of St Pierre from the anchorage shows it in a much better light. We've found many places in the islands are better viewed from a distance. The anchorage here is limited to a narrow shelf, with a sudden and rapid drop off into deep water. Now there is less wind, the boats turn with the current. We have 40m of chain out, and at one point ended up almost hitting a small local motor boat tied to a mooring buoy. It seemed a long way away when we dropped the anchor yesterday! So after a bit of dithering we decided to re-anchor, and were then bothered in turn by a charter boat that came in and ended up too close to us. It's hard to object in a foreign language, but we survived the night without bumping. This is definitely a place that would benefit from yacht mooring buoys!
Pompeii of the Caribbean
18 March 2015 | St Pierre, Martinique
We had an interesting sail north to St Pierre, with a heat-induced onshore land breeze giving us our first Westerly wind since we left the Med. At one point we were on the same tack as yachts coming towards us!
St Pierre was wiped out by the eruption of Mt Pelée in 1902, and the entire population of 30,000 were killed. At the time it was known as the Paris of the Caribbean, and old photos in the museum back this up. The Governor decided not to evacuate once the first rumblings were heard, as an election was due and he thought a wrong call would lose votes. The only survivor was the prisoner Cyparis, saved by the thickness of his cell walls. He spent the rest of his life as an exhibit in a travelling circus.
Today it's a sleepy place, badly rebuilt and all a bit scruffy. The sophistication of the south of the island seems a long way away. The surrounding countryside is very beautiful however, giving a good backdrop to the anchorage.
The Big Shop
17 March 2015 | Trois Ilets
A Big Shop at the Carrefour in the next town seemed a good idea. So this morning, loaded up with bags, we locked the dinghy to the town dock, making sure we left room for the ferry. The first challenge was to find the bus stop, and then the 08.00 bus failed to arrive. We flagged down a taxi driver, who refused to take a fare as he already had a passenger, a young boy he was taking to the doctor.
The Carrefour turned out to be a Carrefour Market, not the hypermarket we had hoped for, but a trip round this and the next door Leader Price (like Aldi, cheap and long queues), resulted in full bags and a spend of €300. Wine, cheese and ham were half the price and twice the quality of what we could buy in St Lucia!
The next challenge- getting back. After 15 minutes with no sign of a taxi or bus, a TC, or Taxi Communal, eventually pulled in. This was a minibus, half way between a taxi and a bus. Fares are fixed and on display, and as long as you are on the approximate route you get dropped off at the door. We shared the TC with two friendly but very smelly old ladies, and were indeed dropped off at the jetty. Cost for the two of us for a six mile trip- €5 with a tip. By noon we were back on the boat, hot, tired and thirsty, but mission accomplished.
A day out in Town
16 March 2015 | Fort de France
We used the ferry from Trois Ilets to have a day out in Fort de France. The anchorage off the city was busy and very rolly, so we were glad we chose this way of visiting. The city was rather a disappointment, and we failed in our main aim of finding a good restaurant for a long French lunch.
A Quiet Anchorage
15 March 2015 | Trois Ilets
After busy Sainte Anne, we were ready for a few days in a quiet and sheltered anchorage. Trois Ilets is a small town three miles across the bay from the capital of Martinique, Fort de France. Friends Gill and Colin, last met in Rodney Bay, recommended it to us. We had to nudge our way in between the small islets in shallow depths, but were rewarded by having the anchorage to ourselves, and enjoyed this lovely sunset.
The town's only claim to fame is in being the birth place of the beautiful Josephine, daughter of a local slave plantation owner and future wife of Napoleon. It is said that emancipation was late coming to Martinique as a favour from the emperor to her father.
14 March 2015 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
Martinique is a department of France, and relatively well off and sophisticated with good infrastructure. It does beg the question- what price independence? British sailors either love it or hate it here- we love it. The anchorage is busy, but there is plenty of room and the anchor is well dug in.
Today we set off early and walked through the delightful shady woods and mangroves to the southern tip of the island, with views like the one here back to the anchorage. We then returned to Sainte Anne for a continental breakfast before heading back to the boat.
The weather has been windy, squally and unsettled for a few weeks now, apparently the worst for 20 years. But at last we have a better forecast. so tomorrow we are heading up the island for a change of scene.
An Island Tour
06 March 2015 | St Lucia
We've had an island tour by minibus, joining eight mid-westerners off a cruise ship, which was a bit surreal. After visiting a smoking volcano and learning about how bananas grow, we were taken by speedboat to a beach for a barbecue lunch. The only safety brief was "hang on to your hats!"
On the Mend
20 February 2015 | Rodney Bay Marina
Barrie's op went well, and he was glad to escape the hospital yesterday and get back to the boat. The operating theatre was basic, to be polite. I passed the time with a lovely lady whose husband had been thrown off a cruise ship at death's door.
So we are having a relaxing week in the marina waiting for his follow-up appointment. Barrie is making a chocolate cake as I type, to cheer himself up. I'll post the next blog once I've something interesting to talk about.
16 February 2015 | St Vincent
Barrie has had intermittent "waterworks trouble" since Gibraltar, and recent episodes of kidney pain. The cause turns out to be a whopper kidney stone stuck in his ureter, and tomorrow he is being admitted to the local private hospital for surgery. Hopefully all will be sorted, but there is a chance only enough can be done to get him out of danger, in which case we will have to fly back to the UK for stage two.
No more posts until we know.
15 February 2015 | Rodney Bay
We set off early and took the dinghy over to Pigeon Island. This has always been a very strategic place and still has much evidence of the British occupation from 1780, when it was used to keep a watch on the French in Martinique.
It was a hot and sweaty climb to the top, but well worth it for the view.
Lunch was a "Jazz Brunch" at Jaques Waterside Inn, where we filled up on an excellent buffet and enjoyed the playing of Augustin Duplessis, a local saxophonist.
A welcome Vision
09 February 2015 | Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia
There are always plenty of people keen to provide services over here, which takes a bit of getting used to with our DIY mind-set. However, it does help the local economy. Vision helped us tie up when we arrived in the marina, and came back with a quote for various polishing and cleaning options. We agreed for him to work on the hull, and he did an excellent job. We were less enthusiastic about his singing whilst he worked!
Between the Pitons
08 February 2015 | Soufriere, St Lucia
We had two nights here on a Marine Park mooring buoy. It was too steep to anchor, and the buoys also protect the coral. Soufriere is quite run down, and could do with some of the dollars being spent in the many all-inclusive resorts surrounding it. But the location is spectacular, and checking in to St Lucia was painless.
Our fastest sail ever!
07 February 2015 | On route to St Lucia
The crossing to St Lucia can be rough, with the full force of the Atlantic and usually a NE wind. But we were lucky; there was some south in the wind, and we had a 2 knot current with us for a change. We kept our nerve and resisted the temptation to reef, and maintained over nine knots for much of the passage, with a record 9.5 knots for a while.
As an extra treat, we were joined by three dolphins, who stayed with us for about half an hour, playing in the bow wave. They must like the extra speed as well!
Rock Side Cafe
06 February 2015 | Keartons Bay
Many cruisers bypass St Vincent and head straight to St Lucia. It has a bad reputation for security, and little tourist infrastructure outside the all-inclusive resorts. An international airport is soon to open, but the cost of this is controversial on a very poor island.
Despite this we decided to have an overnight stop, based on a recommendation. Rock Side Café above the small Keartons Bay takes reservations only, so we rang ahead to book. Orlando met us and tied us between two buoys, and later rowed us ashore to be met by his wife Rosi, an elegant German lady. We had a delicious three course fish dinner at a very reasonable cost.
But as the only boat in the bay we felt quite vulnerable, and locked ourselves in for the night. Clearing out was a long performance and we paid our first bribe to a policeman. We probably should have refused, but opted for an easy life.
Lively Port Elizabeth
04 February 2015 | Bequia, The Grenadines
This is a very popular anchorage. For sailors heading south, it is the safest they've felt for a while, and many stay for weeks. As in Carriacou, the islanders embrace those arriving by yacht, and there is an excellent choice of restaurants and bars ashore. Every morning begins with a cruisers net on VHF CH 68, where businesses can announce what they have on offer that day. Daffodil's boat comes round the moored boats, offering water, diesel, ice and a laundry service.
There is a strong history of boat building here, but it's many years since the last trading schooner was built. The islanders still have "aboriginal rights" granted by the International Whaling Commission to catch two whales a year, but last year none were caught.
Mustique is Closed
02 February 2015 | On route to Bequia
We left Tobago Cays heading to Mustique, to catch the last few days of the annual Blues Festival at Basil's Bar. Sailors who can't afford £5,000 a night for a villa are still welcome to take a mooring buoy for up to three nights, and have surprising access to much of the island.
But with wind, waves and current on the nose, it became a very slow and unpleasant passage, so we decided to head to Bequia instead. We then found out that Mustique was closed to visitors as William, Kate and all the Middletons were there for two weeks, so the wind gods must have known.
Lobster on the Beach
01 February 2015 | Tobago Cays, Grenadines
The lobster was fresh and tasty, and the setting as good as it gets. However, the anchorage is really rolly. Its full moon and spring tide, so the reef isn't doing a very good job of keeping the swell out. Its also rather crowded in paradise, so we are moving on tomorrow.
Too good to be true...
31 January 2015 | Tobago Cays, Grenadines
It was an hour's motor into the wind this morning to get to the famous Cays. We are anchored in just three metres depth, with only the horseshoe reef between us and the Atlantic. The colours are unbelievable, from turquoise to deep blue. There are a lot of yachts anchored here between the four small islands, but it doesn't spoil the magic. A turtle has just swum past to take a look at us.
Tonight we are going to a lobster barbecue on the beach, organised by the boat boys. We can take our own drinks, so there's a bottle of white wine chilling in the fridge.
30 January 2015 | Clifton
There is the most corny bar on the reef, built from discarded conch shells (and a fair bit of concrete, not mentioned in the guide books). We took the dinghy over before sunset, and enjoyed talking to some non-sailing tourists for a change, here for the kite surfing.
29 January 2015 | Union Island, the Grenadines
The anchorage here is surrounded by reefs, and quite tricky to enter. The main reef runs north-south, and as the wind blows constantly from the east, you have to creep in close to the reef to drop your anchor, and then drift back into deeper water. We are used to the Med where the wind often goes round the clock overnight, so this takes a bit of getting used to. There is a strong cooling wind, but the reef stops the swell and the bay is quite calm.
Clifton has an excellent open air fruit and vegetable market, with lots of cheerful ladies calling us over to buy. The fridge is replenished but at a price. I suspect we are paying the tourist price for everything.