Windward Caribbean islands
09 January 2016
Woken by a rooster crowing, the sounds of waves lapping on a beach and the intermittent whirring of the wind turbine. We've been cruising the Caribbean for a month now and still quite a few islands to visit.
Martinique for Christmas
By the time Fay and Dave arrived in St Lucia, it had been non stop party with ARC boats arriving in and catching up with rally friends. Unfortunately, the morning after their arrival we found a broken strand in each of our aft shrouds following a rig inspection. This was the end of our St Lucian island tour as we motored to Martinique to find a rigger to fix it.
We ended up hanging around between Le Marin and St Anne on the south coast of Martinique for a few days as we wait for the rigger. In the mean time we explore the white sandy beaches, the quaint town of St Anne with it's French boulangeries, markets and bus shelter come delicious poulet frites eatery and guy on the side of the road selling mango, passion and guava sorbet out of a cool box.
We eventually get our shrouds replaced, discover that we have a slight leak in our coolant elbow, tape it up and keep sailing. Around the coast, past diamond rock, a magnificent rock rising out of the sea, covered in trees, caves, birds and wildlife. Sailing around to Petit Anse D'arlet, we discover that the Christmas festival is on today so after a couple of beers in the bar come shop come rent a car place, we have our poulet frites from the street vendor and enjoy the show.
The next morning, after a visit from Sea Quark, we move to the adjacent anchorage to the north, Grand Anse D'arlet where we are greeted by a turtle coming up for air. On shore we scout around for a restaurant that will be open for Christmas Day and book in for what we envisage as a nice intimate dinner with a few friends and maybe 4/5 boats in a beautiful setting, long sandy beach, a few shack bars on the water front and not much else.
We spend a few days here with the turtles inbetween going up to Anse Noir for a snorkel, and attempting to get a hire car from the rental place. Turns out 'Hire a Car' meant hire 'the' car and we end up trying to find transportation for two hours before giving up and going to the bar. Not as great fishing here as in St Anne and Dave ends up with the fishing line caught around the wind turbine. Luckily the local fishermen end up giving us some of their haul.
We end up having a once in a lifetime Christmas with everyone. 15 boats and 56 people turn up to our intimate gathering. We celebrate Christmas Eve with a BBQ on the beach followed by drinks on Odyssey. Christmas Day is spent brunching on Moonshine and then a Christmas three course dinner of Lobster, secret Santa given out by Santa followed by hot whiskeys on Odyssey. Boxing day curry aboard Magic where we watch our first film in months.
27th December - Grand Anse D'Arlet, Martinique
We say goodbyes to most people in the anchorage. A nice farewell as everyone honks their horns. Up to Fort De France as it's time to drop off Fay and Dave who are catching a ferry to Dominica. We also drop off Maartje and Vince who are catching a plane to Hawaii for their next adventure.
We then find ourselves on our own again but not for long as we end up in a marina with Cookelu Meu and Trick, with Vitamina around the corner.
A productive couple of days in Fort De France as we managed to rent those elusive hire cars and take a day visiting the sights of the island. Lars' dad fixes our fridge, we detangle the fishing line from the wind turbine, we do a few odd jobs and in the process break the grey water tank.
In convoy, Trick and us are heading to St Pierre, although they overtake us sharpish. We pass Chimo motoring south and shout hi. Cookelu Meu are in St Pierre when we arrive although they are heading up to Les Saintes that night.
St Pierre, a lovely little town, destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1902, killing some 30,000 people, but leaving two survivors. A bustling market to stock up on fruit and veg, a laundry, lots of ruins, little bars and a handy check out facility in the tourist office for us to clear out of Martinique.
We spend New Year's Eve aboard Trick, drinking the random mix of beer they have left at the bottom of their fridge and come out at midnight to hear the church bells although something of an anti-climax in the bay as the fireworks seem to be on the other side of the mountain.
Everything from flat calm to 25 knots of wind as we leave Martinique behind. Back into the Atlantic swell, squalls that bring rain and gusts of 30 knots. We eventually reach the lush mountains of Dominica, hoist a new flag and take off the life jackets as we enter the calmer waters.
Trick have gone ahead and have arranged our mooring for us. As we approach Roseau, we are approached by a guy from Sea Cat, one of the boat boys, who is smoking, drinking and driving the outboard all at the same time, and why not for New Year's Day. He helps is onto our mooring and I go for a snorkel by the big rock. That night we entertain Trick on Odyssey and drink their Spanish Vermouth.
An early start the next morning to get to Portsmouth by lunchtime. We sail past the towns of Roger, Massacre and Mahaut. I spot a possibly dead lion fish bobbing on the surface of the water. We reach Prince Rupert Bay by 1pm and are helped onto our mooring by Uncle Sam.
Uncle Sam takes Trick and us over to customs, which, it being a bank holiday, is the out of hours officers lodgings, an Arsenal fan who is watching the Watford v Manchester City game whilst doing our paper work as Joan and I sit on his armchairs.
After checking in, Uncle Sam takes the six of us on a tour of the Indian river. Once past the industrial looking river, the outboard is lifted up and the wooden oars come out as he rows us through the rainforest, explaining the flora and fauna. We get to see the witches hut from Pirates of the Caribbean, various birds, fish, crabs and other wildlife in amongst the thick jungle. A must see.
On return to the boat, we see that Cookelu Meu have taken up a mooring and head over for a beer before we set off in the dinghy for the Purple Turtle Beach club for more beer, grilled mahi mahi and wifi. There is a BBQ and party happening near the dinghy dock but we are all too shattered and head to bed.
After waving goodbye to Cookelu Meu again, we sail north back into French territory. Fluky winds and then all of a sudden we are back into the Atlantic swell and are hit by a squall giving us 35 knots and the Iles Des Saintes descend into cloud.
Around 20 miles later, the sea calms down as we approach the south east corner of Grand Îlet and with it the familiar lobster pots dotted around in our way. We sail all the way around Point Du Boisjoli at the tip of the island of Terre D'en Haut when we encounter an American yacht motoring right into our path so the engine comes on for some avoidance manoeuvres.
We pick up a mooring off the town of Bourg Des Saintes behind Trick who have us on for lunch, after which we leave them for their siesta while we go for a snorkel over the nearby wreck of a ferry in crystal clear water surrounded by fish.
An explore to shore for an ice cream and a stroll. The only way to get around on the small island's 'roads' are by motorbike or golf cart. Dinner back on the boat consisting of everything that is about to go off or is already gone off according to the label and then back into town for a promenade and beers with Trick. Everyone on the island has their doors wide open and no windows but wooden shutters.
In the morning, we go to check into France again in an Internet cafe come hostel and then stroll up to Napoleon fort. There are wild chickens and goats everywhere and we are passed by people on their scooters up the hill. In the afternoon we team up with Trick again and dinghy around the corner of Pain À Sucre and have a good snorkel over the rocks there. Great snorkelling although still not as good as Martinique's Anse D'Arlet, but we see a variety of brightly coloured fish, trumpet fish, a Lion fish, eels and a lobster.
A wet dinghy ride back against the wind so we have Trick aboard Odyssey to warm up with some hot Irish Whiskey. We then bid them farewell for now as they head up to Point À Pitre, Guadeloupe to drop off their guests as we stay on in Les Saintes.
The next day Liam and I rent electric bikes to explore the island of Terre D'en Haut on land. We make it to every accessible beach possible, up and down hills on broken roads, dirt tracks, around a mini airport runway, to secluded beaches with no one around, great scenery. We have done the island by 2pm so leave the bikes outside the rental shack (since the rental guy has gone on his siesta).
We cool ourselves down jumping off the boat and then having a cold can of beer with our feet in the water and then notice that Sea Quark are also in the anchorage. We share a drink with them, swap them a couple of crime fiction novels in exchange for some of their freshly caught tuna before motoring across to Îlet Cabrit, an uninhabited island, for the night.
Wednesday 6th January - Basse Terre, Guadeloupe
Woken at 5:45 by a rooster, I'm up and watching Pelicans diving at the water for their breakfast.
A great sail to Basse Terre, Guadeloupe, past the capital in the south and into anchor opposite Pigeon island. Another good snorkelling spot with turtles and fish and a spotting of a big Marlin before I return back to the boat.
A slow sail from Pigeon island to Deshaies the next morning. A nice town reminding me of a French ski resort town except 30 degrees hotter with dive shops instead of ski hire, a boulangerie and an extremely expensive Spar supermarket.
Another easy checking out of France on the computer in a souvenir shop before leaving tomorrow morning to Antigua.
Saturday 9th January - English Harbour, Antigua
A great sail, some 45 miles north to Antigua. A nice 15 knots the whole way, calm swell and no squalls. We anchor in Freemans Bay, after four attempts at dropping the anchor and end up behind Why Knot, another ARC boat. We're now preparing the boat for Dave to arrive. A beautiful dockyard full of super yachts. Downside, we've come back into checking in hell as you visit customs and then immigration, back to customs and then the port authority. Still can't complain as we wake up to the sight of sandy beaches and palm trees everyday.