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Les Saintes

Les Saintes sont absolument magnifiques. Les gens se déplacent en scooter car l'île est petite. On dirait une ville de poupées. Il fair beau avec quelques averses, et l'eau est chaude. Nous avons commencé les leçons de math et de français à bord et il y a toujours quelque chose à réparer sur le bateau. L'île a des plages et des randonnées très belles et faciles d'accès.

Watch out for sea hedgehogs!
02/09/2007, Terre de Haut, Les Saintes

SAT word of the day: posthumously. And it fits the lobster that we ate back in Dominica very well. Since we bought it off a boat, it landed in our dinghy, spines and all exposed to the pop-able floor. And sure enough, we spent quite a long time finding the holes. Once those were patched up, there were even more! Those are yet to be patched. Yesterday morning, we set off early (to beat the hot sun in the middle of the day) to do a hike (la Trace des Crêtes). It wasn't exactly the hikes you find in Boulder, because we saw goats. Lots of goats. And we were winding through the trail around Manchineel trees (poisonous everywhere-bark and leaves). But it all paid off in the end. The trail dropped us off at a beautiful beach (Plage de Pompierre). "Watch out for sea hedgehogs" (sea urchins) and "no bareness" the signs warned us (see picture). While Spencer and Mom enjoyed a nice and refreshing swim, Dad and I put together a workout that can be done in small, confined locations (a.k.a. the boat). We took the road back to the dinghy dock and where you might find parked cars, we found parked scooters. Cars are just as rare on this island as scooters are in Boulder. Tomorrow we are taking the ferry over to Guadeloupe to rent a car and experience the tallest waterfall in the Caribbean.

Dominica to Les Saintes
Shelby and Mom
02/07/2007, Terre de Haut, Les Saintes

We forgot to give details on the second passage. Oops. We were MUCH more prepared for that one. Kids and mom on stugeron, rain jackets, bimini down, dinghy deflated on deck. It took a total of four hours, motoring and sailing at 7 knots. It was fun to have another boat from Germany tagging along. Shelby spotted a dolphin that jumped all the way out of the water!! Once arrived in Les Saintes, we continued our newly established tradition: eating out in our "new home". Here, it feels like vacation again, other than the recently commenced schooling :( On the bright side, we both past our first exams! Today we went snorkeling and got breakfast, which we pick up daily and consists of HOT baguette and croissants. Also, Spencer rented a windsurf for the morning and was accompanied by Mom in the dinghy, while she practiced her skill in a case where no one would get hurt if something were to happen ;) The restaurants are amazingly cheap and we will treat ourselves on several occasions. We plan to do more snorkeling and some easy hikes before leaving for the main Guadeloupe island.

La Dominique et Les Saintes
02/06/2007, Terre de Haut, Les Saintes

Après une semaine en Dominique, nous avons navigué jusqu'aux îles des Saintes en Guadeloupe. La Dominique est une île très fascinante - pauvre mais avec un reconnaissance que le tourisme fait partie de leur économie. Dès qu'on jète l'ancre, des "boat boys" arrivent sur leur barque pour proposer leurs services - de faire la lessive à vous faire des visites guidées de leur île magnifique. On a beaucoup aimer leurs fruits très sucrés (pamplemousses, bananes, oranges, papaye, fruit de la passion), leur hospitalité mais on a définitivement ressenti une différence avec les gens locaux. Ils parlent français, anglais et créole. Maintenant nous sommes aux Saintes que j' ADORE. Ces petites îles sont extraordinaires. Terre-de-Haut, la plus grande île est tellement petite qu'on peut tout faire à pied. On retrouve le français avec un accent créole. Les restaus sont moins chers qu'ailleurs et les croissants et les baguette sont les bienvenus.

Final Days in Dominica
02/06/2007, Portsmouth, Dominica

Sunday morning we had an unexpected visitor....the math book. Boat schooling started today which made Spencer and I realize that this wasn't totally going to be a pleasure cruise. Daddy taught me math while Mommy took on the job of Spencer's French and math studies. That didn't last long though because after one math lesson he asked me to be his tutor. After studying all morning, we thought we might get the afternoon off. Boy were we wrong! After a quick lunch we began to scrub the decks and polish the metal on the boat. I guess we're going to have to do chores on the boat just like we did at home...That night it was rolling so much that at 3 A.M. Mom and Dad got up to romantically put the stern anchor out. At breakfast we decided that we were going to make the passage to Les Saintes today so we wouldn't have to sleep with such large swells. As soon as we got our laundry back ($20 US washed and dried) we were off. Reflecting back on Dominica: we loved the Indian River, the guided hikes, and Fort Shirley; constant very light rain showers; very delicious fruits!

Impressions of Dominica
02/04/2007, Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica

We're hard up for internet access, but we'll try to catch you up with a text only post over the sat phone. Dominica has been an eye opener for us in many ways: to think that we almost past it up. For a quick background, Dominica is an independent commonwealth (1978) after a succession of father lands including Spain, England, and France. Despite the rich fruit produce, from pineapples to oranges to mangoes to ..., Dominica remains quite poor. Dominica is also the last home of the Carib indians, who live a separated life on a reservation high in the mountains. Though you do not see the Caribs themselves, you see their legacy in the dugout fishing canoes that work nets in the bay. The locals we have encountered have, for the most part, been soft spoken, helpful, and proud of their land. Dominica had a reputation only a few years ago for dinghy thefts and cat burglars. The local boat boys have organized into a cooperative to both protect the cruisers from theft (thus protect their business) and to carve out a niche for each, from Christian the fruit man who drops by each day paddling a windsurf to the 'yacht services' boat boys who broker whatever you might need from tours to laundry. They do race out a mile or two as you come in to welcome you and establish dominion over your boat, but they are not the competitive, aggressive breed of boat boy one might encounter elsewhere. With Dominica bounded North and South by French islands, locals catering to passing yachts speak French as well as English, allowing us to maintain our thin non-US veil in public. Contrary to our dread, based on dated reading, we have been most grateful for these guys.

I have yet to see the postings from the kiddos, but no doubt they spoke to the incredible fruit that grows everywhere in this country. Within an acre, you'll see everything from bananas to oranges to grapefruits to pineapple. It will be hard for us to ever go back to grocery store produce after eating the or-so-sweet finger bananas and grapefruit juicier than an orange.

To the extent that one can given a wide economic and cultural difference, we do interact with the locals. One of our best mornings began early with the Saturday market, biggest of the week, to nab some more (can't get enough) fresh produce (cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes, and a pineapple for about $3 US). On the way back in the dinghy we happened across a couple of local fishermen in a dugout canoe hawking lobster. I'd like to say we caught lobster, but truth be known, we bought lobster. Hopefully we can reverse the shame in the near future. Closing in on Norska, with Shelby COMPLETELY wigged out over the lobster flipping around in the dinghy (the lobster had a posthumous last laugh when we discovered holes in the dinghy floor (inflatable) from this spines), a guy in the water asked for a tow to the fish market, a good quarter mile down the beach. He was towing a very full stringer of everything from Parrot fish to eel, speared at least another half mile away at the point. Seems that's what he does: go to the point, spear a bunch of fish, and swim the catch nearly a mile to market - yikes! No wonder he wanted a tow. Warily, I invited him to just hop in as I couldn't imagine towing him and his catch all that way. Man and fish delivered, we netted a large conch for the trouble. I am ashamed to say that until this day, I had never cleaned a conch. No worries, Di-Di noticed the conch and my perplexed countenance and remedied that particular hole in my education in short order. Didn't have a machete, but hammer and chisel worked well enough... These encounters define Dominica, in my mind, forever.

As far as boat things go, we've just about finished licking our wounds from the passage from Martinique. Among the larger projects was swapping winches. The main halyard winch jammed up, while reefing down of course. This winch has driven me crazy. One part gave out and I had a replacement custom machined (Barient winch). Now it appears that that part gave out because one spindle had frozen in a gear. The spindle was turning in the base instead of the gear turning on the spindle: another winch abused in childhood. Unjammed, it works, but can't handle the halyard loads so I swapped it with a cabin top winch that is rarely used. Good news is that water maker, with the added water/air separator, now works just dandy underway. We've just about given up on keeping the dinghy in the davits during passages. We always remove the outboard, but on the way to Dominica a splice on the dinghy's grab line gave way allowing the dinghy to swing wildly in the davits. At 85 lbs. the dinghy was literally flying and trying to flip in the davits. It was a bit dicey getting it under control. It seems clear that while a dinghy might behave while lashed in tight to the davits, it doesn't take much to have a situation that could easily lose the dinghy. We'll deflate and lash it down on deck going forward...

Holed Up
The Gang
02/04/2007, Anse De Colombier, St. Barths

An island of a different sort. Much to our surprise (sans Cath), we've really enjoyed St. Barths. Before 1950, less than 600 people lived in St. Barths. Under the visionary guidance of Remy de Haenen St. Barths transformed itself from a sleepy island to the most chic- of-the-chic in the Caribbean. The emphasis is high end international tourism. While the island is distinctly French (its origins lie in Brittany), English is widely spoken. The main port of Gustavia is well known and something to see, but a little bizarre because of the extreme wealth circulating about. We did enjoy it, though I couldn't spend more than an afternoon gawking. Less known is St. Barths other side, which we saw through Anse De Colombier. St. Barths is the most environmentally conscience Caribbean island as seen in everything from its protected waters, to its recycling program, to the surcharge for biodegradable grocery sacks. (Plastic is a huge pollution problem in the Caribbean: especially plastic grocery bags and water bottles.)

A lot of construction and booming, but still some places to get away from it all. There is hardly a structure visible from Anse De Columbier, but a wonderful hiking trail along the edge of the windward coast leads to a small community that supports a number of vacation villas. A two hour hike yields our baguettes for the day! The water is as clear as we've ever seen and turtles abound in the anchorage (a nesting site for green turtles.) Gustavia was viciously rolling - worst yet for us. Anse De Colombier is much better, but the wind has picked up to a steady 25 kts, gusting every which direction, and sending boats all over the anchorage. Still, we can sleep through the wind easier than a bad case of the rolls. Les Saintes is still our favorite, and we still miss the fruits of Dominica, but St. Barts has climbed near the top of our list in a surprise showing.

Soon we'll be heading back to the French St. Martin (Oyster Pond) and parking while we visit with Bill's parents.

Carnival prep and local market
Everyone (premeditated again)
02/03/2007, Portsmouth, Dominica

Friday night was music non-stop in the bay. This is preparation for the carnival (around Feb. 19). Though this music was nice for a while, it kept us up longer than we would have hoped it would. This morning, after the daily rain showers subsided, we went to the weekly local market to buy local vegetables. Those showers create incredible rainbows and make for the lush vegetation all over. At some point we will put all our pictures in the photo gallery once we find a cheap wifi place. So far, it's $5 US an hour.


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