St Lucia to Antigua
17 February 2010
Log reading 11,381 nautical miles
On the way to the witchdoctor
Reggae music is everywhere in St Lucia, especially in the expensive taxis and inexpensive minibuses, where the loud beat reverberates throughout. Caribbeans seem to thrive on this and tap and move to its rhythm. Their woven hairstyles are fascinating with both sexes taking great trouble in their creation. Rastas usually have so much hair that they wear a colourful bonnet to hold most of it in, with knitted tails hanging down their necks.
The buses have such little leg room, yet the long-legged locals manage to pack themselves in. Good morning or afternoon they say as they get in and "bas stap driver" when they want to get off. Their warm smiles make you feel very welcome. Customs and immigration procedures are tedious but even the officials are usually friendly and easy going.
A walk round nearby Gros Islet village was fascinating but not recommended at night. Security is tight around tourists. Nearby Castries with its local market was flooded with cruise ship patrons of various sizes who seemed to be interested only in the duty free shopping.
A gondola tour through the rainforest canopy was good fun and informative. They even had a steel band here where we boarded, providing the essential Caribbean rythym.
In the balmy evenings the bell frogs sing and it is easy to relax and enjoy yourself. The beer is cold and the food mildly spicy. The crew think of freezing, snow-bound Britain waiting for them.
A fruit and veg vendor motors between the boats with many flags flying above a makeshift palm bimini. Water taxis with reggae music pounding out, create wash that rocks Fandango.
Having fixed another of Jeanneau's installation problems, we sailed down to Soufriere and saw the famous Pitons from the best position before returning to Rodney Bay marina.
Heather and I took a taxi tour to look at the beautiful botanic gardens, the not so beautiful malodourous sulphur springs and a spectacular view of the Pitons from an upmarket resort. Despite having done this run for twenty years, our taxi driver forgot that the chocolate factory would be closed early on Fridays and this was a big disappointment. Journeying through shanty villages, our last night together before Heather took an early morning flight back to Oz was in dreary Vieux Fort.
Fandango's last night in St Lucia was spent anchored in Rodney Bay, off the delightfully "Robinson Crusoe" style Jambe de Bois restaurant. A climb from there to the ruins of the old fort on Pigeon Island was rewarded with spectacular views.
St Pierre on Martinique was interesting. It would have been wonderful to have seen it before Mt Pelee erupted in 1902. We took a long walk through the village outskirts to get to the rum factory with its chateau and big fig tree, refuelling on the free samples of the various brews. The following morning at 0500 we were jarred awake by the rapid ringing for some minutes of the nearby church bells. Sacre bleu was it another eruption warning?
Roseau on Dominica was a good example of a Caribbean town with its decaying colonial architecture, colourful shuttered houses with tin roofs and a few ornate balconies. Nearby Trafalgar Falls was spectacular and reached by walking through the rainforest.
Portsmouth was a wet and windy place when we arrived. A shanty town battered by hurricanes with rusting hulks along the beaches. Boat boys touting for business zoom around in wooden boats. We took a tour up Indian River in a wooden boat rowed by a local guide. This meandering, densely overhung jungle river was used in one of Pirates of the Caribbean movies where Cap'n Sparrow went to see a witchdoctor. We reached a jungle camp where you could spend a night or two. Just as well they don't have alligators.
It was a bit of a jump in culture to arrive at Bourg de Saintes on an island south of Guadeloupe. Nestled between green hills it was very picturesque and very French. Fort Napoleon was a long walk up a hill but worth it for the views and museum. Baie de Marigot on the other side, with its brilliant blue waters, was picture perfect.
Moving to the main island, we spent a night on our own at Pigeon Island (off Pt Malendure) after snorkelling there. At last, lots of fish. Big parrot fish swim so close you can almost touch them. Curious fish of all shapes and colours make this a great spot.
On to the top of Guadeloupe, we anchored at Deshaies. It was a bit congested and a French group on a live-aboard did little for the entente cordial by yelling abuse at us as we cruised by looking for a spot. We refrained from returning the stream of foul language but, in a calm polite tone when we were close enough, made a comment that had them explode like a cage full of screaming monkeys. Everywhere else we found the French to be polite, helpful and welcoming.
The next morning it was too rough to attempt the sand area to the north of the island so we decided to venture over to Montserrat and check out its active volcano. It put on an impressive display as we passed and we anchored in the north at Little Bay in order to escape the fall out. Apparently the north is normally free from fall out but we awoke to find the boat covered in a thin layer of ash and it was still falling. We didn't hang around to set foot on the island, it had set foot on us!
After carefully weaving through the shallow water to get into Jolly Harbour on Antigua, we spent the rest of the day getting Fandango clean. Despite so much hose water, we are still finding ash days later.
We bused around to St Johns, Falmouth and English Bays. Nelson's dockyard was interesting and has been well preserved.
Trevor went back to the UK for a fortnight and Fandango went over to Pinney's Beach above Charlestown Harbour on Nevis.