Born of the Sea

Preparing for a phased retirement on the sea. Muirgen (Gaelic for 'born of the sea')

15 April 2024 | Marigot Bay, Saint Lucia
08 April 2024 | Saint Lucia National Parks
06 April 2024 | Rodney Bay / Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
31 March 2024 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
13 March 2024 | Iles des Saintes
10 March 2024 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
03 March 2024 | Monserrat to Guadeloupe
02 March 2024 | Monserrat
29 February 2024 | Nevis
27 February 2024 | St Kitts
24 February 2024
20 February 2024
17 February 2024 | Jolly Harbour, Antigua
09 February 2024
08 February 2024 | Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes
18 January 2024 | Seaworth's Bluff, Antigua
09 January 2024 | Barbuda

Saint Lucia - Part 2

15 April 2024 | Marigot Bay, Saint Lucia
Donna Cariss
Monday 8th April was the day of the solar eclipse but we were just too far south to catch any of it, which was a shame.
We decided that we needed to visit Marigot Bay, after seeing it from the viewpoint yesterday but that would mean that we missed our weather window for the passage to Saint Vincent. There wasn't another window for a while, so we extended our stay in Rodney Bay marina by 2 nights first. With stiff legs, from the climb up Gros Piton, we hobbled round to see Nigel and Veronica, on Novara, get a tour, exchange info on anchorages and do a big book swap. Veronica had her sewing machine out and was making chaps for their dinghy.
On Tuesday, at 8am, we listened to the final cruiser net, the decision having been taken to end it as most people had gone home. It was a shame as it was a good source of weather information. We had pancakes for breakfast, paid up at the marina and had a coffee at The Corner, where they triple charged Pete, such that we had to return later to have them rectify their mistake. After lunch, we walker downtown to Dax for a final beer, our legs aching less today and went to Massey's for provisions. A bottle of duty free gin, EC 19.99, was purchased from the Market Place, at the marina and then we swam to cool off. When I returned from my shower, Pete was on board the catamaran opposite, getting information on Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and Grenada from Robin, a professional skipper. At 7pm, we met up with Nigel and Veronica for dinner, before saying goodbye and promising to keep in touch. They were going north, as they had an appointment to do some voluntary work, for their project, in Dominica but would be heading south again later.
On Wednesday we were going south to Marigot Bay, a distance of around 10 miles. We slipped our lines at 0825 hours, left the marina, via the dredged channel and motored around the headland before raising both sails. The wind was light and fluky, as we crossed the next bay, so I was helming and pinching up when I could, to get around the next headland. After that, the wind picked up, so the autohelm went on and we sailed at up to 8 knots, with a good current behind us and the wind coming round more on the beam, which is what Muirgen likes. Half a mile out from the entrance to Marigot Bay, we dropped the sails and called the marina on channel 12. Pete tried again as we entered the bay and again as we approached the mooring buoys inside the bay. There was no answer, so we picked up mooring buoy number 1 ourselves and then called the office on the phone to check that was ok. We had a beautiful view, from the cockpit, of a little beach, with palm trees; idyllic. Having dropped the dinghy in to the water, we rowed ashore and checked in at the marina office. Mandy, who Pete had spoken to on the phone and Vicky, were really lovely girls. They set up an account for us and said to pay when we decided to leave and they told us about the offer at the hotel, where we could spend the day, all inclusive, for US$70 per person. The hotel looked beautiful and as a 5 star, expensive. From the dinghy dock, we took the free water taxi across the bay, beyond our little sand beach, to Doolittle's, a bar and restaurant belonging to the Marigot Beach and Dive Resort. We had a couple of drinks there before taking the water taxi back and then rowing back to the boat. There we watched a lot of boats, mostly World Arc boats, arriving on the dock or on the buoys. It turned out that they were gathering for their final dinner and the parade of sail to the finish line by Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, on Saturday, having completed their circumnavigation. At 5pm, we headed to Chateau Mygo for happy hour. 2 Mai Tai's for around £6; bargain. With the wind gone and being very close to shore, we completed our mosquito prep, before bed. That requires hatches shut or with nets, spraying round the inside of the boat and letting the toxic stuff clear before going back inside to sleep.
Thursday morning, we decided to treat ourselves and spend the day at the Zoetry Marigot Bay Resort. Mandy added the cost to our bill and gave us armbands to wear and then we headed down the pontoon and through the gate to the hotel. First stop was breakfast, with waitress service; eggs benedict for Pete and pancakes with maple syrup and fresh fruit for me. With tea / coffee, juice / smoothy, we totted up over $50 between us. From the restaurant, we could see a small swimming pool below us, complete with waterfall and the edge of an infinity pool above and to the left of us. We headed up a level. All beds around the pool were already taken or reserved but we found ourselves a very comfortable pod on the other side of the swim up bar, which would be in the shade by midday. I went for a swim and was the only person in the pool other than the people at the bar. After a good few lengths, I took my place at the bar, with the jacuzzi bubbling around me and ordered a bucks fizz. I waved to Pete, on the other side and he soon joined me. We passed the time reading and sipping drinks and taking the occasional dip. Lunch was served either by the pool or in the Hurricane Hole, back down by the dock. We fancied table service, so dried off, donned clothes and went to the restaurant. We managed 3 courses, all small but delicious and I had cherry sangria, which was very refreshing. The restaurant wasn't cheap and we clocked up $70 each, including the drinks. The fee for the day was becoming extremely good value. Back at the hotel pool, after another swim, we had cocktails at the swim up bar. There we met Lewis and his girlfiend, Dave and also the ladies from the World Arc. Just before we had to leave, we ordered some fish tacos (a snack), just to ensure we didn't need to have tea. At 5pm, we had to leave. It was a shame but we had had our money's worth and a great day. Pete seemed to have some trouble getting back in the dinghy but he managed to row us back to the boat, where we watched a beautiful sunset through the palm trees on our beach.
Friday, having checked the weather and booked a buoy at Anse des Pitons, with Jahleel, we spent the day reading on board. I finished 'The Thursday Murder Club', which I enjoyed immensely. I hadn't realised it was written by the same Richard Osman as the compare on QI XL! We showered at the marina and returned to Chateau Mygo for happy hour. I tried to Amaretto Sour this time; very tasty. We chatted to a trainee accountant from London, for a while. Joanna, Caroline and Ric video called me from Leeds, which was lovely. Then two men from Romania, who were leaving their yacht in Marigot Bay for the hurricane season beckoned us over to chat. Claude and Radish (definitely not spelled correctly) insisted on buying us dinner, to prolong the evening. We tried to pay our share but Claude was having none of it. It was a hot and humid night, with lots of rain, requiring the hatches to be closed.
Overnight, the water pump kept running, suggesting that we have a leak from the fresh water system. The bilges showed no sign of water though. All the ARC yachts were dressed and ready for their parade of sail and there was a party feel on the dock when we went to pay our bill and clear out with customs and immigration. We were told off for not hving completed our deprture notification on SailClear and it cost us EC 125 to clear out, making Saint Lucia the most expensive island to clear in and out of, so far. We left the mooring at 0940 hurs and both sails were up 15 minutes later but after another 15 minutes, we dropped the main as it was going to be another downwind sail. The wind was up and down and came round on the bean again and a couple of times almost head to wind. 3 miles out, we were becalmed, so we rolled the foresail away and motored passed Soufriere, where we were acosted by a boat boy. We said we were booked in with Jahleel and he wished us well and went away. We messaged Jahleel to say we were on approach. The sea around Petit Piton was very confused and the wind 25 knots but we started to get shelter as we motored into the bay, where we were met by Jahleel. Pete helmed, for a change and I passed Jahleel our lines, so he could thread them through the buoy. The service cost us 70 EC, including the advance reservation fee. We were in another beautiful spot, looking onto Sugarbeach resort, with Petit Piton towering over us and Gros Piton to the south. Just before 5pm, the marine rangers came for their fee for the mooring buoy, another 54 EC or US$20. They were very friendly and said they would be patrolling overnight and were on channel 16, 24 hours a day if we had any concerns or issues. That was comforting to know, especially after the yacht alongside us left. In the evening, a couple of men came out to fish, right behind the boat but they had lights and didn't seem suspicious. They were there when we got up next morning, at first light too. It was a wet and windy night around the Pitons. Next morning, we had rainbows.

Saint Lucia National Parks

08 April 2024 | Saint Lucia National Parks
Donna Cariss
Saturday was going to be a busy day. Before it became too warm, we washed the boat. Then we were going to Pigeon Island, in the dinghy, so we first needed to go to the fuel dock for unleaded petrol for the outboard. It was quite a long trip to Pigeon Island, out through the channel and across the bay to the northwest side. The sea was fairly flat, so we didn't get too wet on the way there. We pulled into the little dinghy dock and were met by Malachi, a Jamaican, who said he would take care of our dinghy, as he was just setting up his shop at the end of the dock. We were directed to the kiosk, by the road entrance, to pay the US$10 park fee per person. We walked up the track until we reached the old fort, on top of the hill that overlooks the sea. The fort had most recently been used in the second world war, as a signal station, by the Americans and they had created a causeway that means Pigeon Island no longer appears to be an island. Sandals resort is now part of the causeway, with its lovely sand beach. Previously, the fort had passed between English and French hands, as they fought 14 times for ownership of Saint Lucia, the English eventually winning the day. From the fort, there was a great view of Rodney Bay, the open sea and the bay to the north. Looking across Rodney Bay, I spotted plumes of water; there were 2, maybe 3 whales out there and you could see them rising out of the water. I told Pete and he shouted to the few other people that were up there with us. One of the young couples said they had hiked the pitons the previous day. They said it was tough but worth it and that it took them 5 hours. We would be doing that tomorrow. We retraced our steps, part way down and then across and up the second hill, steeper and rockier this time and with another great view from the top, straight over the causeway and Sandals Resort. We made our way back down, along the northern shore of the peninsula, where we sat on a swing seat and watched the surf rolling in over the reefs. It was time for a cool drink and we had spotted, from the top of the hill, that there were a couple of open air bars between the Park and Sandals, so we headed that way. Pete paid for 4 Pitons and was charged 40 EC. It's usually somewhere between 6 and 8 per bottle, depending on where you are and how upmarket the bar or restaurant is, so this was expensive. We returned through the park to our dinghy, stopping on the way to peruse Malachi's stall, where he persuaded us to buy a necklace for me and a Jamaican bracelet for Pete. The wind had picked up during the morning, so it was a pretty wet ride back to Rodney Bay. We ate fish tacos at La Mesa, for lunch. They looked quite different to the last time I had them but were just as delicious. Next chore was provisioning, for tomorrow's walk and the subsequent nights at anchor. We took the dinghy across the lagoon, to the dock we had spotted a few days ago and it was just a short walk to Massey's. Next up, Pete contacted Jahleel to book a buoy at Anse des Pitons for Monday night, as recommended by Davina and Antony. We didn't want to miss out and have to go to Soufriere, which has a bad reputation for thefts. Now we just needed to cool off, so we headed to the marina pool to shower, swim and relax in the last of the day's sunshine. There we met Nigel and Veronica, Kiwis who had lived in London for several years. They were sailing a 60 foot expedition yacht, Novara, whilst volunteering on a climate project and it turned out that we had plenty to chat about. They briefly considered coming to the Pitons with us the next day but eventually agreed that they had jobs to do on board that couldn't wait.
Nigel picked us up at 7.50am, by the market place, at the marina. We had a scenic drive to Gros Piton, a trip of about an hour and 40 minutes, as the road doesn't follow the coast but goes up and down over the hills, between each town. Nigel was chatty and interesting and a much better driver than Bongo had been on the tour of North Dominica. On arrival, we were allocated Maya as our guide. She looked like she might still be college age but turned out to be 33 with 2 children. We paid the park entrance fee, 125 EC per person, made a toilet stop and then had a briefing on the route and the stops along the way. We were encouraged to hire a walking pole each at 13 EC and we did so. We were great up to the first stop at the 0.5 mile point. We had a quick drink from our bottles, took some photos and stroked the cat that lives there and we were off again. The second quarter of the climb involved scrambling up a steep slope of pretty large boulders. For me, the walking pole was a hindrance, as I needed both hands to climb, so Pete carried both poles. We made it to the 1 mile stop and had another drink and chatted to an American guy who had decided that was far enough for him. There was another cat to stroke and tickle, photographs to take of Petit Piton, across the bay and then we were on our way again. It was now 11am and getting hot, although we were mainly in the shade and we were absolutely dripping sweat. Heart rates were increasing with the effort of climbing up and over rocks. In places there were handrails, made from branches and these were essential for me to pull myself up, as the height of the rocks was too much for me to get any leverage with my other leg. I had a couple of short, extra breathers on route to stop 3 at 1.5 miles. We were now in the rain forest. We were also meeting quite a few groups of people on their way back down, all offering encouragement and confirming it was worth the effort. Quads and biceps were now burning and sweat was turning cold at times. It was getting harder and harder to put one foot in front of and above the other. 5 minutes to go, then 2 minutes to go; we can see the light filtering through from the top. We made it. The summit really was a peak, no more than 15 metres diameter, a pile of rocks, with a Saint Lucia flag on a pole and a view out over the valley and the sea. It was a shame we couldn't see Petit Piton but it was obscured by bushes. There were lovely butterflies, tortoiseshells and some bright red ones, as well as mongoose and colourful little finches. I ate half a pasty and had a good drink, we did the photo call and then started our descent, not wanting to let our muscles seize up too much. I felt surprisingly good going down and we didn't bother taking a break at the first stop. I had expected my muscles, as well as my knees to start complaining immediately. By half way down we were more than ready to rest though. The rest of our water and orange juice went, we tickled the cat again and then we were on our way again. This is where we had to descend the boulder slope. For me, that meant making my way down on my backside, stretching for the next foothold. The early afternoon sun was on this side of the mountain and I was burning. I had a long-sleeved shirt tied around my waist for this eventuality, so unfastened it to put on. It was soaking wet with sweat but I put it on anyway. At the final stop, there was a man with a cooler, selling beer, water and Gatorade. Pete had a beer and Maya and I had Gatorade and we sat in the shade for 10 minutes to hydrate a little. We completed the round trip in 4 hours and 10 minutes, including stops, which wasn't too bad. Pete complained that I had held him up and that he felt like his nose was always right on my backside and that, when I actually carried my pole myself, I kept nearly hitting him in the face with it, which Maya thought was funny. However, Pete found having 2 walking poles great for coming downhill, whereas I preferred to use my hands and my bottom when necessary. We arrived back at the taxi, where Nigel produced Pitons from a cooler in his boot. That's the sort of differentiator you want in a taxi driver! 1 beer was enough for me and I selected beautiful, chilled water after that. Pete drank the remaining beers on the way back to base. We hadn't though to bring a change of clothes, or towels and we were soaked through, so we used a mat from Nigel's boot to keep his lovely, cream seats clean in the taxi. On the way back, we stopped at all the viewpoints, to take photos. At the Pitons viewpoint, a local lad took photos for us, arranging them so we pointed a finger on the top of each Piton, or in Pete's case, his bottle of Piton, while another local quickly made us a grasshopper and an angel fish from grasses. Pete tipped them for their efforts. We also stopped to look down on Marigot Bay, filmset for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie and a well known hurricane hole. It looked gorgeous and started to put thoughts in our minds of stopping there with Muirgen before heading to Saint Vincent. We arrived at the marina at 4.20pm, so had been out for 8.5 hours. Our legs were stiffening up so, having settled up with Nigel and included a tip, we headed to the pool to swim. Nigel and Veronica came over for a quick drink, in the evening and invited us to pop and see their boat before we left the next morning. After they had gone, after much deliberation, we decided to cancel our mooring buoy at Anse des Pitons, stay longer in the marina and then visit Marigot Bay. They had live country music on at the hotel opposite and the singer was really good so, tired though we were, we stayed up until 11pm, as we no longer had to set an alarm for the next day. I struggled to sleep and eventually realised that it was the caffeine in the Gatorade; a drug I am not at all accustomed to.

Saint Lucia - Rodney Bay / Gros Islet - Part 1

06 April 2024 | Rodney Bay / Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
Donna Cariss
The forecast for our passage to Saint Lucia, from Martinique, was north east, force 4, gusting 5 at times, with a 0.9 metre swell from the north east at 7 second intervals. After clearing the anchorage we put out the foresail, anticipating a downwind sail but knowing the wind might be distorted by the headland and southern tip of Martinique, initially. The conditions were dead on the forecast and we were enjoying the sail, with the autohelm steering the boat, once we were away from the land. The further we sailed, the bigger the swell though and we probably had waves up to 2 metres at times and the wind came round a bit, putting the bigger swells more on the beam, creating a bit of roll but it wasn't uncomfortable. I was sitting aft, on the starboard side and around 0930 hours, I noticed a large shape under the water, just before a pilot whale surfaced right beside me. It was around 3 metres long; what a sight. It was accompanied by a pod of large dolphins, some all black and some with white undersides. They didn't rise the bow wave, as we usually expect but they swam behind, to the sides and under the boat. It was almost as if they knew there was too much swell for us to go onto the foredeck to watch them play and they stayed aft to interact with us. They stayed with us for 15 minutes or so. Not long after they departed, another pod of smaller dolphins arrived and exhibited the same behaviour. It's always a magical experience having dolphins around the boat. 10 minutes later we saw another pod about 200 metres off to the startboard side but they didn't come to join us.
Now we were starting to see boats coming the other way, heading to Martinique. Why they would choose today to head north east, with a north east wind and swell, I don't know but there were quite a few, bucking uncomfortably in the swell, engines on. We were on port tack, so were the give way boat if anything coming towards us was under sail but everyone was motoring and power gives way to sail. At 1050 hours, we had a near miss with a yacht coming the other way. He had his mainsail up but was clearly motoring, as he was head to wind and his mainsail was flapping but he didn't look like he was going to give way. I took the helm, ready for a last minute change of direction. Eventually, when he was only 100 metres away, at most, he turned away but came by quite close, doing a slow clap with his hands as he passed us. Pete shouted at him that it was our right of way because he was under engine. The guy obviously understood the port and starboard tack rule but thought having a sail up was enough, even though he wasn't sailing. Although the swell was up and down, as well as the wind, it was largely on forecast and we managed to sail right into Rodney Bay, past Pigeon Island, before pulling in the foresail and starting the engine. Sandals resort is on the beach on the north side, with The Landings resort next door and to the east. It looks like you imagine the Caribbean, with sandy beaches and palm trees. We attempted to anchor off the hotels but weren't holding, so headed a bit further round the bay and anchored, at the second attempt, with 2.8 metres under the keel, at 1325 hours. The raised dinghy provided us with shade in the cockpit and the water was lovely for swimming, although you couldn't go far from the boat due to the jet skis, wake boarders, hobie cats and other motor boats swarming through the anchorage. It was interesting to watch the comings and goings and the number of attempts it took each boat to anchor. It was Easter Sunday and mid-afternoon the loud music started on the beach. It finished around 8pm, which was a blessing. I can stand the music, however crap it is but I really don't want to listen to a DJ shouting over it all the time. The music from Sandals and The Landings was also quite loud but much more pleasant.
There are lots of reports of boardings and thefts from boats around Saint Lucia and even more in Saint Vincent, so Pete slept on deck the first night, keeping a torch handy, just in case. We had all the hatches locked, so nobody could enter that way either. One report, 7th March this year, described 3 boardings in 1 night, on the same boat, over by Pigeon Island, which is dark and more isolated. We had no trouble overnight and didn't hear of anyone else having trouble either.
In the morning, we took the dinghy into the marina, through the dredged channel, into the lagoon and went to customs to clear in. There were a lot of people there, the office having been closed on Sunday. We were served quickly, by a friendly young man, as we had already completed SailClear and had our notification code. We were charged 100 EC dollars. We aren't sure whether this is usual or because it was out of normal hours, being Easter Monday. I logged onto the immigation form again and this time I managed to select the correct combination of answers to avoid having to input a local address and phone number, so we were able to pass through to Immigration. The lady there was also friendly and helpful. The port authority desk was closed but she left our form on the desk there and advised us to return tomorrow to see the port authority official. We had breakfast in 'The Corner', a Turkish owned cafe and browsed the shops in the marina complex. We bought a bottle of duty free gin, EC$19.99 (less than £6) and perused the wines. They had Whispering Angel, a lovely rose but it was around US$30 a bottle. Wine seems to be prohibitively expensive in Saint Lucia, while beer and spirits are not, probably due to import duties. We took the dinghy south down the lagoon and tied up to a small dock by a festival tent. The ladies there said they would watch over it for us, while they were dismantling the tents. We walked to Massey's, a large supermarket, which stocks Waitrose products and did some shopping. The Waitrose wines that we had been buying in Antigua for around £4.50 a bottle were almost £10 here though. On our way back to the dinghy we stopped at a bar, Dax and had a couple of Pitons; another island, another local beer!On our way back in the dinghy, we spotted another small dinghy dock, close to the multi-coloured hotel and saw that there was a passage through. It would be closer to the supermarket for next time.
In the afternoon, there were lots of kites, all homemade, being flown from the beach. They were getting higher and higher and further out to sea, with the afternoon offshore breeze and dangerously close to our mast, where they could cause damage to the wind instruments. Kites kept ditching into the sea and then sinking, leaving plastic and long lines all over the place. There was no attempt by the locals to recover them. One came down by the yacht next door and he retrieved it with his dinghy and then Pete had to do the same, before a turtle became entangled in the rubbish. Today, the music ended around 6pm, as it would be a work day tomorrow. Before bed, we lifted the dinghy alongside and locked up again. Finally, we put the anchor alarm on.
Next morning, although we hadn't dragged, Pete wanted to re-anchor a little further away from our neighbour and with more chain out. We moved about 25 metres south and the anchor, after jumping for a short time, suddenly held, almost putting me over the bo so I let out 40 metres of chain. Pete snorkelled out and confirmed that the anchor was in but as before, not well in, so it must have been caught on another rocky ledge, under the thin layer of sand. I sorted the laundry and then we went into the marina in the dinghy, dropped off the laundry and visited the marina office for prices. We sat down for a drink and worked out the nightly price as around £26, so we decided to come into the marina today. That would allow us to do some sightseeing, without worrying about the safety of the boat. We returned to the boat, lifted the dinghy, put on mooring lines and fenders and finally lifted the anchor. Our neighbours were also just leaving, so there had been no need for us to re-anchor to have more chain out. We navigated the narrow channel, which is dredged to 4 metres, into the lagoon, site of the marina. Pete called up on VHF channel 16 and was answered on the third attempt and redirected to channel 17. Pete provided our length, beam and draft but didn't provide any other requirements, expecting to be met by a boat, so that he could discuss his preferences. However, he was just called back on 17 and allocated berth D19. It was a starboard berth with the wind behind us, Pete's least preferred option, as we kick to port and like to berth into the wind so it slows us down. Pete circled while I lowered the fenders to pontoon height on the starboard side and moved the mooring lines over. Pete was feeling nervous as it was so long since he had been on a pontoon berth, the Med being stern to mooring. I prepared to jump off with the midships line but the 2 marineros told me not to get off; that's what they were there for. I passed the midships line to the young lad and directed him to slow the boat down on the second cleat and he did it very well. Pete threw the stern line to the older man. I climbed off and tied the foreline and then we all moved the boat forward a cleat. All had gone well. We were hooked up to the water supply and given a receipt with the current meter reading. We didn't require shore power. Having checked in at the marina office and paid in advance for 3 nights, initially, we headed to the restaurant next door (Bosun's) for a refreshing drink and ended up having a light lunch of chicken wings. A mist was covering the hills and soon the rain started, gentle at first but getting heavier. Pete had to abandon his lunch to run and shut the hatches. He made it before the rain became torrential but got caught in it on his way back. He looked like he'd been for a fully clothed swim. The rain lasted for a good while, so we had to stay and have another beer. We were joined by a lovely, friendly, little ginger cat, with amber eyes. On our way back to the boat we walked to the end of our pontoon and found Papillon 2 berths beyond us. We said hello, introduced ourselves (they were Rob and Sherry, from Montana) and chatted about the whale we had seen but they had missed when they had been sailing behind us, the week before. Rob and Sherry were leaving the boat here for the hurricane season and were flying home on Thursday. Back on board, we drank the rum punch that we had purchased from the mobile grocer. It was too sweet and laced with cinnamon; not the best, so I let Pete drink most of it. As it was our first night in the marina and we could leave the boat, we went for sundowners at Boardwalk and La Mesa, then returned for baked camembert and French bread on board.
First job next day was to collect the laundry. It was US$44, which wasn't bad considering we hadn't done any washing since we were in Saint Martin, about 7 weeks ago. I put it all away and changed the bedding, while Pete cleaned the dinghy. While doing so, he slipped the lines for the British yacht opposite and also met a couple from Amsterdam, Herri and Dorit. They had crossed the Atlantic, via Cape Verde, with a company called 'Viking' and had taken 22 days in total, in their 45 footer. They were leaving tomorrow and also planned to be in Guatemala for the 2025 hurricane season. This year they would stay in the ABCs. Pete worried them by speaking about our anchor drag issues, as they also have a 16kg CQR and are a heavier yacht. After lunch, I bought a wide-brimmed sunhat from Lifes a Beach, in the marina complex, before we walked down to Rodney Bay (the marina is between Gros Islet and Rodney Bay), along the main road, passing a larger Massey's supermarket on the way. We headed to Dax again for a beer and watched some crazy sports on the TV - Open road luge, where they use large skateboards and timber championships, where they do a team relay of sawing and chopping wood. We visited one fo the shopping malls and then provisioned in the Massey's that we had passed. We were hot and sweaty after carrying our provisions, so headed to the marina's pool for a swim. It was great to have a proper shower and wash my hair too. We had sundowners in the cockpit and went to La Mesa for dinner. The fish taco starter was amazing and the pinot noir, slightly chilled, was delicious. The meal was great value at £95 for 2 courses each and a bottle of French wine.
Being in the marina was great; secure so the hatches could be open overnight, no rolling in the swell, no worries about the anchor dragging, meaning a good night's sleep and being able to relax. On top of that, there's the facilities and ease of provisioning.
Next morning, we said goodbye to our Canadian neighbours, to Sherry and Rob, from Papillon and finally to Herri and Dorit on Zephyros. We went to Island Water World and bought a new engine mount for the outboard and a sturdy bucket. It's duty free if you have cleared customs. They also had a Dometic fridge freezer, of the type we had been looking at but much larger and fer too big for Muirgen. They told us they could aslo supply a smaller one but it would not be there until early June. We did have the option to order and have it delivered to the store in Grenada. We would need to consider that, as an alternative to buying one in the UK and bringing out with us next year. Today we decided to walk north from the marina and explore Gros Islet. We passed KPMG, PWC and Dentons (lawyers) and turned left to walk behind the boatyard, passing the Digicel head office. Then we turned right and were asked whether we were lost by a passing yacht services van. We walked on a bit further before Pete decided we were somewhere we perhaps shouldn't be, so we retraced our steps. An old rasta man asked us if we were lost and advised us to use the main road and turn left 2 streets further north if we were going to the town or wanted to go to the Friday Night Street Party next day. The guy was very poor, so Pete gave him his spare change. We called into a bar by the fuel pontoon and boatyard and met Patrick, his wife Chenelle and friend Phil, from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Lucia respectively. They were interesting and friendly. Chenelle was helping with the food on the barbecue, as she was a friend of the owner and it smelled delicious. Back at the marina, I went for a swim and met Marie, who we had spoken to briefly the previous day and Barbara, one of the cruiser net hosts. When I returned to the boat, the yacht that had been moored opposite had returned. Pete was talking with them and it turned out they were from Holmfirth. They had set off yesterday to go south but had engine trouble so had returned to have it fixed. They would leave again next day but it was lovely to meet Davine and Antony for S/Y Divante. They gave us some tips for mooring in the south of the island and a name and phone number for Jahleel, who has morring buoys in Anse des Pitons. We spent our evening in the cockpit, listening to some terrible music from the Harbor Hotel opposite. Luckily it finished at 8.30 pm.
Friday morning, we said goodbye to Davina and Antony and went to extend our marina stay for a further 3 nights. We had decided that we wanted to climb the Pitons, Saint Lucia's most famous landmark, on which its flag is based and the name of the local beer. There was a taxi waiting by the market place, so Pete enquired about a price and took Nigel's number. It would be US$220 for the day, the journey being up to 2 hours each way, with waiting time while we were hiking. Some chilled refreshments would be included. Nigel was available any day except Saturday. We booked the taxi for Sunday, to collect us at 8am. We returned to the bar by the boatyard for lunch. Pete was brave and had the fried lambi (conch) and I went with the jerk chicken, which nearly blew my head off. At 3pm our time, we listened to the Rhinos v Warrington match, Leeds losing heavily in the end, after losing 2 players to injury early in the first half. We went ot Boardwalk for happy hour and then had good music, mostly Reggae, from the hotel opposite. Tomorrow, our sightseeing would begin.

A Week in Sainte Anne

31 March 2024 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
Donna Cariss
On our first full day in Sainte Anne, we went to Le Marin by dinghy, a distance of around 4 miles. We had to avoid the coral heads by looking over the front, after a brief look at the chart before we set off. The close scrutiny, however, allowed us to avoid running over a small turtle which swam right in front of us. We explored all of the anchorages and mooring fields on our way to the marina and on the way back but everywhere was extremely crowded or too deep for our liking. The dinghy dock at the marina (north side) was very crowded but we managed to squeeze through and find a place to tie up. We bought spares for the Jabsco toilet and then returned to the dinghy dock. We were now jammed in and had to lift the dinghy over another to get out. On our way back, we had issues with the fuel hose and lost power right in the middle of the channel. Every few minutes, Pete had to sort the issue out. We stopped in Sainte Anne to do some shopping but ended up have lunch at a bar / restaurant on the beach. I had the peche du jour and Pete had a platter called ' The Beach', which included stuffed crab. This turned out to be a little plastic crab stuffed with crab meat but he enjoyed it. There was a small market, where we bought accras, 7 for €4. These are like bhajis or pakoras, with different fillings. We bought a mixture of onion ones and different fish ones. A couple of red onions set us back a whole 20 cents. In Carrefour, we bought satsumas and granny smith apples; a bit of a treat having fresh fruit other than bananas. Back on board, after dark, a large catamaran came into the anchorage and the guy appeared to be solo, as he was running back and forth from anchor to engine controls. He came through to the inside and ended up very close to the Hunter beside us and a catamaran behind. As the wind had turned from when we had all anchored, there was a good chance he would bump something if the wind or current turned again but it wouldn't be us.
Next morning, quite early, the skipper of the big cat left the boat, with 3 women remaining on board. The boats all turned and the cat ended up only 3 metres from the Hunter, whose owner complained but the women had no idea what to do. It would be almost dusk when the skipper returned and moved the catamaran. We decided not to move. It rained heavily for half an hour, followed by sunshine and everything steamed. Pete went into the water with his scraper and scraped the barnacles and weed off the bottom of the boat, which had been there since Tenerife and were slowing us down. There were lots of little, black crabs living in the weed and when Pete came back on board, there was at least one in his shorts. It rained heavily again in the afternoon. Once it had stopped, we went to Sainte Anne for a drink and to do some shopping.
On Thursday, we visited Sainte Anne again, to do more shopping and have a drink in our favourite bar, the one on stilts, overlooking the anchorage. Quite suddenly, the wind started to get up and there was quite a big swell building, so we dashed back to the dinghy. It was a very wet ride back, into the waves. The yacht had turned through 180 degrees and was bucking in the swell. It wasn't clear whether we had dragged the anchor or whether it was just the change of direction and the extension of the chain that had changed our position. Everyone was on watch for the next couple of hours. At 1815, just before sunset, we re-anchored, changing the anchor from the CQR to the Delta, which should cut through weed better. We were nervous after dragging twice in Portsmouth. Pete quickly snorkelled to check that the anchor was in and put the chain around a rock. We lifted the dinghy and engine on the side of the boat, using the main halyard and settled in the cockpit. Some Bretons, who had anchored a little earlier, using a kedge anchor, pulled up the anchor and left. We were happy about that, as they were never going to hold with that anchor and so little chain out. When it was fully dark, we could see luminescent creatures passing the side of the boat. They appeared to have a bright green light on their tip, with silvery luminescent bodies. There were quite a few of them passing for around 10 minutes. We have no idea what they were and we didn't see them any other night. It was the start of the bank holiday weekend and loud music played all night, from somewhere in the trees behind the beach. It remained calm overnight.
Good Friday morning, the sea was like a mirror, so we went for a swim. The water was so clear that we could follow the anchor chain all the way to the anchor and see it clearly without a mask. We went to look at the beach just around the headland but it was shallow and rocky, so we didn't take the dinghy ashore. There were a couple of cats anchored but well out from the beach. We spent the rest of the day on board, relaxing and reading. With some cloud and the cockpit facing north, it was lovely and shady. We could now see clearly that there was camping in the trees behind the beach. The music started again in the afternoon but didn't go on all night this time. They played a variety of music, so some of it was rather good to listen to.
We planned to sail to Saint Lucia on Easter Sunday, so on Saturday we had to go to Le Marin to clear out of Martinique. We decided to catch the bus from Sainte Anne, which was easy enough. The female driver was friendly and helpful and dropped us at a stop where we could walk down the hill to the marina, which is outside the town centre. As soon as we arrived at the marina, it was clear that we were in a different place to last time. Here there were several chandleries, bars, restaurants, an Auchan supermarket and many other shops. There was also another, much larger dinghy dock. We cleared out at the capitanerie and bought a St Lucia courtesy flag and some sikaflex from a chandlery. We messaged Peter, from Ocean Deva but they weren't around, having hired a car and gone exploring Martinique for a few days. We went to Le Double V for lunch and had some real meat for the first time in ages. I had steak and Pete had duck. It was delicious and not too expensive. Next stop was the Auchan, where we bought lots of French cheese. Then we walked back up the hill to where the bus had dropped us off. In my best French, I asked a young lady, 'Qu'est-ce que vous m'aidez?', then asked her where the bus stop was for Sainte Anne. She told us it was back down by the marina somewhere but she didn't know exactly where. So, she decided to take us to the previous stop, near the bus station in Le Marin; good of her as it was out of her way. All in all, we walked about a mile and a half to the bus stop. Once on the bus, we headed back down past the marina, the north side where we had been in the dinghy and then the side we had been today and just beyond the Auchan, the bus stopped. We had walked around in a big circle, only to find the bus stop was across the road from where we started!
Back on board Muirgen, we completed our SailClear notification for Saint Lucia customs and attempted to complete the new online immigration forms ( However, these are really aimed at people arriving by air or on a cruise ship and we were stuck at the request for a local address and telephone number. I took phone screen shots to prove we had attempted to complete the form and where we had come undone and then we gave up. We prepped the boat for the next morning's departure. The winds had returned to the east and it was quite breezy, with a bit of swell and we were bouncing up and down, with the anchor chain grating on something, telegraphing the sound into the forepeak cabin. With that and the music until 2am, we didn't get a lot of sleep. We were up at 0715 hours and ready to depart at 0750 hours, earlier than planned and were off to start the next chapter, Saint Lucia.

Back in France - Martinique - Saint Pierre to Sainte Anne

25 March 2024 | Martinique
Donna Cariss
We motored out of Roseau and put the mainsail up but we didn't have enough wind to sail until we neared the southern tip of Dominica at 0700 hours. Once we were sailing though, it was great. This was the most consistent wind and sea state that we had experienced since arriving in the Caribbean. We were sailing alongside Papillon, the same yacht that had raced us to the water buoy 2 days ago and it felt like we were racing now. They had a reef in the main, so we gradually overtook them and left them behind for a while. Around 11am, just before we crossed into French waters, we saw a whale, about 100 metres ahead of the boat. Pete heard and then saw the plume, as it breached. He shouted in time for me to see it arching out of the water and diving back down. We watched for 10 to 15 minutes but didn't see it breach again and later, speaking to the couple on Papillon, they hadn't seen it. 10 minutes later, we had a reef in the main and we continued to sail well for just over half an hour, until we came into the wind shadow of Martinique and had to resort to the engine. At 1200 hours, the wind came back, from the north west this time and we sailed again without reefs. It was nice to be on a starboard tack for a change. 45 minutes later, we had to go back to engine, as we could not reach Saint Pierre with 8 knots of wind, which would have been behind us. At 2pm we were on a mooring buoy, very close to the beach but still with 3 metres of water under the keel. The yachts and cats were all very close and it was bouncy in the bay. Papillon ended up next to us. We went to clear in, an easy process in the French islands. You just go to the designated place, in this case the Capitanerie and use the computer to complete the online form. This is printed out for you, stamped, you pay €5 and you're done; the same on departure. We went for a quick beer, did some shopping and returned to the dinghy dock, where we bumped into Peter and Ingrid, from Ocean Deva. They had arrived just after us, having sailed directly from Portsmouth, avoiding Roseau and were also on a buoy only a small distance from us. The dinghy dock was awful, with the swell throwing dinghies against it and under it. We had tied on tight and high to combat this as best we could. Back on board, we had a swim, spent a nice evening on board, with the swell disappearing and slept really well.
Next morning, while it was still calm and the dinghy dock was safe, we went ashore to buy provisions at the Super U and Carrefour Express. We had the dinghy lifted and were ready to leave by 0945 hours. Ocean Deva had already left, heading straight to Le Marin. The wind was very frustrating, up and down between 4 and 20 knots and forever changing direction. Eventually, we dropped the sails and motored, as did everyone else. Then, as we rounded the headland towards Fort de France, the wind hit 26 knots on the nose, so we headed for shelter, from the wind and swell, dropping anchor at Fond La Haye, a little fishing port just north of Schoelcher. We were alone there, although the anchorage at Schoelcher soon became busy. We listened to the Rhinos lose to Saint Helens on the radio and go out of the Challenge Cup. The night started calm but by 2am, with the wind dropped, the rolling started. At 6am, the rolling stopped and I went back to sleep, to be awoken by the alarm at 7.45am.
The wind was forecast to be quite strong from the east, so we decided to head for Anse Mitan rather than Trois Ilets, as Mitan was on the west side of the small headland, Trois Ilets on the east side. We motored across the buoyed channel and found the moorings and anchorages to be very busy. We eventually anchored, backing up towards the CAM buoy, which marks a wreck which is clearly visible above the water, especially at low tide. Pete snorkelled to check the anchor and reported that it was in but only 10 feet from a large underwater fish cage. After lunch, when we were confident we were holding, we went ashore and walked up the beach and down the one street that was the town. We headed through the backstreets and found ourselves on the other side of the headland, looking at Trois Ilets, which was quiet, calm and not busy at all. Shelter was being provided by the larger of the three islands. We headed to a bar / restaurant, Le Kano, for a drink, sitting in the courtyard at the rear, where it was cool, with fans that sprayed water. Entre Deux Mers turned out to be a very good white wine. The waitress was lovely too, so we had a second round of drinks. Back on board, we were harassed by jet skis and small speed boats coming through the anchorage at full speed, with no regard for their impact on the anchored yachts. When everything calmed, we lifted the dinghy, filled up with diesel from the spare cans and spent a happy evening in the cockpit listening to music. After dark, a large yacht arrived and anchored quite close to us but not too close. They did well to anchor in such a busy place. We set the anchor drag alarm before going to bed.
At 6am the anchor alarm went off. We had swung round 75 feet but all was ok. We were ready to leave at 8.15am and needed to take care not to catch the anchor on the fish cage. We managed to sail, on the foresail, downwind for 25 minutes, during which we struggled to avoid a French yacht who seemed to want to pass port to port, under sail when we were give way yacht on port tack. After that we lost the wind and had to motor. Pete saw an eagle ray jumping, chasing fish. As soon as we rounded the headland we were hit with 21 knots of wind on the nose, against the tide, giving Pete a long face. There was no point trying to sail as we were close to our intended anchorage. We had passed Anse Noir, which we had been told had excellent snorkelling but it looked full. Due to the wind, we investigated Grande Anse but that was all mooring buoys, so we continued on to Petit Anse d'Arlet, as originally planned but headed for the south side for shelter. It was Sunday and we could hear the gospel singing from the church, high on the hill, above the anchorage. We both snorkelled to shore but there was nothing much to see. The anchor was well in though. Around lunchtime, 3 small motor boats arrived, sporting silver balloons and playing loud music and they anchored close to the shore, tying off to trees or rocks. As the afternoon went on, the number of boats and jet skis increased to well over 25, all tied together. Now they seemed to have a DJ and the music and commentary got louder. It was a real party. Shame about most of the music they played. By 8pm, they had all left us in peace.
The anchor alarm went off at 0023 but we were just turning with the current. We were up at 6.15am, thinking that we would try to beat the wind, to get round the next headland, on our way to Sainte Anne. There was no wind at all to begin with, then, as we approached the Passe des Fous, a narrow gap between the mainland and a large, sheer rock, we were hit by a squall. It was the worst possible place, with the wind and tide funnelling through the strait. We could manage only 1.2 to 2.3 knots under engine. From the north, the rock looked like a tiger, from the east, like a St Bernard (see gallery) and from the south, was the spit and image of the elephant man. By 0940, having made it through the strait and the squall, we were sailing, although tacking backwards and forwards, slowly making progress towards Sainte Anne. We arrived at 1155 hours, having taken 5 hours and 15 minutes to cover what would have been 13.5 miles in a straight line. We anchored in the most westerly place, Cay Caritan, where there were fewer boats. As we looked east, towards the town, the boats became more and more crowded together. The bottom is sand and rock and it took 2 attempts for the anchor to hold. Pete snorkelled and the anchor chain went round 2 large rocks. I swam and then had a deck shower, washing my hair too and then we went to Sainte Anne. It was about a mile to the excellent dinghy dock. We had heard reports of dinghy thefts from here, so locked the dinghy to the dock. Unusual for a French island, there was a large trash bin at the end of the dock. We found a lovely bar, on stilts over the water, with a good view of our dinghy. We spent a comfortable night on board.

Dominica - Jewel of the Caribbean - South of the Island

21 March 2024 | Dominica
Donna Cariss
We had decided to do a tour of the south of Dominica from Portsmouth, rather than leave the boat in th capital, Roseau later, as Roseau is known to have swell and there isn't the protection of PAYS down there. Jimbo and Lil decided to leave this trip to a later visit, so we were doing it alone, at 500 XCD, plus any additional entrance fees and lunch. Bounty Bonto collected us from the boat at just before 9am, introduced us to Max, who then took us to our driver and tour guide, Allington Walter. We weren't sure what Max had to do with the transaction. Allington proved to be knowledgeable, very pleasant and humorous. It took about 45 minutes to drive down the coast to the outskirts of Roseau, before turning up into the mountains. First stop was Freshwater Lake, at around 2500 feet. It was a little grey up there but the lake was pretty. It is used for hydro-electric power and a portion of it is buoyed off to swimmers so they don't get sucked down the pipe. We didn't choose to swim here, as the air temperature was a little cool and we knew we had other opportunities to get wet later in the tour. Round the corner from the lake, we saw many springs running out from the hillside into a roadside culvert and the water in the culvert looked orange. Allington said this was due to the mixing of water from hot and cold springs. He pulled over and we were able to fill up our water bottle from a piped cold spring and then wash our hands in the next one, which was hot; amazing! We were in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, home of the famous boiling lake, which is currently a 3 hour hike, each way, from our next stop, Titou Gorge. Allington told us that they are building a cable car, across the valleys, to Boiling Lake, so tourists can visit without the challenging hike and we passed where the cable car would start from. We could see cranes on hilltops and helicopters flying in materials. At Titou Gorge, we hired obligatory life jackets and purchased waterproof phone cases, dinned swimwear and entered the cold water outside the gorge. We could have taken a guide but didn't feel the need and we were lucky enough to have the gorge to ourselves. We swam through the narrow opening and continued through until we reached a place where the water was pouring in. Here we had to climb up the rocks to enter a small, high cavern where a waterfall entered the gorge. The power of the water was tremendous, in such a small space and I had to cling on for the photographs. We returned through the gorge and warmed ourselves (Pete was shivering) under the piped hot water springs, before climbing out and changing. It was a fun and interesting experience. Next stop was the River Rock Cafe, for lunch. Again, we were ahead of the crowd and had our choice of tables, on the deck, with an unforgettable view of the mountains and a bubbling river in the valley below. Hummingbirds flew around, stopping briefly to drink the nectar from the flowers but never long enough to get a photograph. Lunch was the usual Creole fare of chicken or fish with rice, beans, fried plantain, breadfruit and taro, plus a beer or two. It was overpriced at 150 XCD, including tip but we were obviously paying for the view. Five minutes up the road, we stopped at Trafalgar Falls, which had just been out of our sight at lunch. There are 2 falls and it's less than a 10 minute walk from the visitor centre. Entrance was free as we had our national park permits. We sat for a few minutes taking in the view, before climbing down to the river and started making our way over the rocks and up the nearest waterfall. Pete went higher than me, in his flipflops and ended up scraping his leg on the way back down. Outside the visitor centre, we purchased a colourful sunhat for Jimbo, as it was his birthday the following day. It was just his thing. We stopped briefly at Wotton Waven to see the sulphur spring. It was small and very smelly and not much to look at; just a steaming, muddy puddle. However, it was the source of the hot water at Ti Kwen Glo Cho pools, where we enjoyed a laze in a bath tub fed with hot spring water, a bathe in the warm mineral pool and an extremely cold, spring water shower. Allington joined us for the soak in the warm pool. The experience cost just US$10 per person and rid me of all the aches and tension in my neck and shoulders. I have slept much better since then. from there, we returned to Portsmouth, passing Mero Beach on the way, where a number of yachts were anchored. Allington Walter was worth tipping, even after we had paid top whack for the private tour, with there only being the 2 of us. If you're in Portsmouth, Dominica, contact him directly for taxi or tours on +1767 614 5878. As soon as we were back on board, Jimbo came to pick us up for sundowners on Full Monty, with Guy and Michele, where we did our best to pick their brains on everywhere south of Dominica. We gave Jimbo his hat, wrapped in pages from a yachting magazine and he loved it. Then we sad our goodbyes, as we would be heading south to Roseau next morning.
Wednesday 20th March, the birthday of many of my friends - Joanna Apter, Heidi Clewer, Liz Walmsley, Jimbo Lillywhite. I wished them all a happy birthday via Facebook and / or WhatsApp. Before releasing our mooring buoy, we called PAYS on channel 16 as we needed to go for water. Another yacht immediately called up saying they were ready to go for water, trying to beat us to it. However, we made it to the water buoy first and Papillon had to motor round in circles until we were done. We had been told that water was 50 XCD, no matter how much you took but the water guy made us pay him 60. Pete should have argued the toss, as Alexis, Bounty Bonto and Titus had all told us it was 50. At 0835 hours we slipped the buoy and motored by Freedom Girl and Full Monty to wave goodbye. We put the sails up straight away and were sailing well with 10 knots on the beam. This lasted for 10 minutes and then the wind died to nothing. It was just the usual land breeze. We motored until 1155 hours and then managed a decent sail for 50 minutes before dropping the foresail again. At 1330 we dropped the main, as there was still little wind and the sea had become confused, so the mainsail was banging from side to side. The tide was still rising to the south of us but falling to the north, which may have explained the sea state. 1 mile out of Roseau the wind suddenly hit us on the nose, out of nowhere, at 22 knots. As we came into Roseau, slowly, heaving up and down on the swell, we radioed Marcus and Sea Cat for a mooring buoy. There was no answer, so we approached an available buoy ourselves. Just as we reached it, a boat boy arrived to assist. He said the buoy would be 50 EC but that went to Marcus, so the guy needed a 10 EC tip. As we only had 3 x 20 EC notes, there wasn't a lot we could do to protest. Tied to the buoy, we had 31 metres of water under the keel. The wind was blowing 24 knots, which was keeping our nose into the swell, so we weren't rocking side to side, just up and down. The wind eased at sundown and then the rolling started just as we were going to bed. I slept sideways on in the aft cabin to combat the roll and did manage to sleep reasonably well. The wind was non-existent.
Next morning, we were up at first light, 0545 hours to make the passage to Martinique. Ablutions completed and orange juice downed, we were starting preparations to sail. I put my head up into the cockpit and initially thought that some boats had already left, as I couldn't see them and then I realised that they were still there but we had moved. The fishing boat that was 50+ metres behind us was now slightly in front and to the side of us and the yacht that was on the buoy close inshore and way behind us was also now in front of us. During the night, we had dragged the mooring buoy about 75 metres and we were only 20 metres from the pilings of an old jetty. The instruments showed we now had 32.5 metres of water under the keel. We made a sharp exit and were on our way by 0610 hours. Sailors beware of the buoys in Roseau; expensive and unsafe!
Vessel Name: Muirgen
Vessel Make/Model: Westerly Typhoon
Hailing Port: Hull
Crew: Donna and Peter Cariss
Muirgen's Photos - Tor and Randi
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