Deshaies, Death in Paradise and great sailing
23 April 2018 | Guadeloupe and Antigua
Northwards once more along the coast of Guadeloupe to Deshaies, pronounced Day-ay. Again the wind was whistling through the bay, chopping up the water and making things uncomfortable. It was difficult to anchor in a safe position and the skipper decided to change to a second spot further out, after the swing of other boats nearby was closely observed. We settled to a lunch of leftovers from Peter’s famous chicken paprika dish but it was one of those meals where we had to hang onto everything, as the wind gusted to 25 knots. We all had a siesta while the squalls rapidly passed through and then took the tender ashore to explore the township.
We booked dinner for 18:30 at La Savane, a restaurant meal we remembered well from the previous trip. The pretty fishing village of Deshaies is the setting for the series Death in Paradise. As this series has been a favourite with all of us, we were keen to track down the cafe, the police station, the beach shack and anything else we could, but to our consternation, the locals seemed quite unsure what we were referring to....maybe the series is not being released in French! After drinks at L’Amer we enjoyed a beautiful French cuisine meal at La Savane and watched the most beautiful colourful and dramatic sunset from our table. Even the moon and Venus made guest appearances before disappearing beyond the horizon.
The night was a bit wild but we awoke to a clear sky and the wind had abated. We decided to go ashore reasonably early for coffee and croissant and WiFi, as we continued to have problems with our internet data card in French territory. L’Amer cafe became our internet headquarters and we went in search of the elusive Death in Paradise sites. As luck would have it, adjacent to the Catholic Church up a short rise from the main street, we found the ‘Honore Police’ station and were lucky enough to be shown inside the building to see all the props that were so familiar and the police cells at the back. Our good fortune came about because the director of scenes, the film director and the film director were all in town for the start of shooting Series 8. The boulangerie was our next stop, a popular destination for everyone in town and we recalled how lovely the ‘sandwiches’ were, being a baguette filled with jambon et fromage, poulet ou thon.
In the afternoon we took a (fast) taxi ride to Pointe a Pitre, an hour or so away. Gaudelope is composed of two islands with a narrow mangrove lined channel separating them. Basse Terre and Grande Terre squished together roughly form the shape of a butterfly and Pointe a Pitre lies at the join on the south facing the Atlantic coast. The main attraction for us was the Museum Acte, a contemporary world class exhibition that reflects on the history of the slave trade and the indigenous people of the Caribbean. It is powerfully presented in a modern purpose built building using every possible medium to dramatically tell the story. This a dark part of mankind’s inhumanity that should not be diminished or forgotten. So many nations contributed to the treatment and trade of African slaves, starting with the seafaring Portuguese.
Our speedster taxi driver Jimmy, agreed to take us back along the coast road to stop at Plage de la Perle, where the beach scenes for Death in Paradise were filmed. It was right on sunset when we all piled out of the van and Jimmy pointed out that the actual building was quite a way along the beach. It was such a beautiful beach we decided to come back the next day for a swim. Next stop was the cafe that Jimmy assured us was ‘the one’, known as Catherine’s Bar. We had seen this very attractive bar overlooking the bay on our wanders but not pocked our nose into the little restaurant section across the road, which was full of memorabilia. As it was well past drinkies hour, we paid Jimmy for his ‘rapid’ service and took up our positions at a table overlooking the bay. We drank, ate, drank and photographed until we were all content, and then headed back across the calm bay to find Trilogy waiting patiently for her cockpit and anchor lights to be glowing.
The skipper had been closely watching the wind strength forecasts as we had one more significant passage to make for this cruising season. Gaudelope seemed to be such a windy island and there only seemed to be a few hours of reprieve around dawn before it started up. It was agreed that we’d have a rest day and sail on Sunday. Stephen and Caroline opted to stay on board while the rest of us went to Plage de la Perle. After some internet time we caught the local bus (van) to the beach and spent a lazy day wandering along the beach, finding the film set shack encased in fencing and enjoying a swim or two in the somewhat vigorous shore-break surf. We dined in a shady beachside cafe over a tasty curry meal washed down with a couple of beers. As it was hard to find out using our limited French if and when a bus would arrive, Peter thankfully negotiated with another cafe owner to give us a lift back to Deshaies. Back on board Sue and Peter cooked a delicious Chilli Con Carne for our dinner. It was good to have all had a free day, but the night continued to be filled with howling wind.
By 08:10 next morning, Trilogy was underway to Antigua, the second of the Leeward Islands we planned to visit. It was a much better passage than the same voyage 2 years ago, which had been tough and rough. We broke into rotating shifts and the weather seemed to decide to do sequential squalls throughout the crossing. We had to keep a keen eye not only on the sky but also the instruments. We reefed the main sail down to the second reef and changed from Genoa to Staysail, to keep Trilogy sailing well and safely. The great delight we experienced was seeing whales breaching some distance away, putting on a great display of their power and enormity. In our three seasons of cruising the Caribbean’s Sea, this was a first. Dolphins also made a brief appearance and a large fish grabbed the lure but after leaping in the air, got off, only to leave the line in a tangled mess! We sailed 42NMs in 20 knots of Easterly wind and by 15:00 we were safely anchored in Freeman Bay, English Harbour. We couldn’t help but reflect on the history of this port, the very same port that Lord Nelson had sailed into.
Îles de Saintes and Cousteau Underwater Park
19 April 2018 | Guadaloupe
Having seen for ourselves the state of affairs in Dominica, it was time to make another passage to visit the next group of islands to the north called Îles de Saintes. It took a couple of hours to make the crossing, which presented us with wind speed ranging from 12 knots ENE to 15knots SE, on the quarter. The navigator set a course for Terre d’en Bas and a way point so that we followed Le Passé du Sud Ouest between Les Augustine and Terre d’en Bas for the easiest entrance. As we approach any of the Islands there are lots of things to think cautiously about, and in this case it was a shoal that lies about 150 metres west of the most visible rocks. Fishermen’s buoys are another ubiquitous hazard, often nothing more than a couple of clear plastic drink bottles bobbing on the surface. The skipper asks for a few sets of eyes to be watching and even then, they can sneak up unnoticed due to wave action. So far, so good!
Îles de Saintes are described as an irresistible group of islands: small, dry, and steep with red and brown cliffs - a total contrast to Dominica. We moored off the only small town Bourg des Saintes, which is on the largest island Terre d’en Haut. It is a charming seaside town, picturesque, with a handful of Caribbean style buildings in bright colours that have gingerbread trims.
The generator had overheated on the passage and the boys put in several hours replacing yet another impeller which had disintegrated. Our ‘Gennie’ does a wonderful job supporting the power supply for our consumption and we definitely need her to be happy. The girls enjoyed some down-time and once the work was done, we had a quick dip before the sun set.
Next day we had a plan which required us to go ashore by around 9:30 so that we could get stuck into le petit déjeuner with coffee and croissant, not to mention WiFi. Time drifted by at Le Mambo and ferry loads of day trippers and suitcase wheeling tourists wandered past. The locals make a living out of renting out rooms, along with scooter hire and serving delicious cuisine. We missed the opportunity to climb up to Fort Napoleon built in 1867 which has a commanding view of the harbour, but is only open from 9:00-12:00. In spite of the heat, we set on foot to walk over the hill to Marigot Bay, which turned out to be a local fisherman’s bay. We had our swimwear with us and felt disappointed there was no beach for swimming, so we kept walking over the next ridge to Baie de Pompierre. Alas, the bay was full of seaweed and stank something awful. The island supports many goats, many of whom were newborn. Even the local athletics track was being grazed by the local goat herd.
We retraced our steps and found a short cut back into the main township, feeling better for the exercise but with our tongues hanging out. We headed into a waterfront bar and attended to our thirst needs, along with grabbing a few more fresh veggies before heading back to Trilogy for a cooling swim. Dinner plans had changed to eating on board and a vegetable frittata miraculously appeared from the galley. The usual frivolity ensued over a bottle or two of wine and a night cap of Baileys, some choosing to embellish it with Scotch.
The sail next morning was 25NMs from Bourg de Saintes to Anse à la Barque about one third up the west coast of Guadeloupe. We motored a fair way out of the bay to find good space to hoist the main, but a combination of strong wind and a high speed barge entering the port, caused us to hang loose and then duck behind a headland to try to get better protection once we turned into the wind for the hoisting. The variable winds, choppy seas and strong currants all contributed to a challenging but not too uncomfortable sail on a quartering sea. On entry into Anse à la Barque, although it offered good protection from the wind, it didn’t have any other appeal and the skipper fairly quickly decided to sail further north to the Pigeon Island anchorage in the lee of Point Malendure.
Pigeon Island is the home of the Cousteau Underwater Park, which includes two islands and the coast northwards for about a mile. Anchoring in the Park is not allowed but it is only a short dinghy ride from where we planned to overnight. The wind was whistling across the island and rocketing across the bay when we anchored and that did not ease up all night long. There was a long swell rolling into the bay and Trilogy’s mast, along with all the other surrounding yachts was setting up a pendulum action that was quite uncomfortable. After lunch, the boys decided to deploy the drogue, which requires swinging the spinnaker pole to the starboard side of Trilogy and hanging the bag submerged in the water, to counteract the roll. There was an immediate improvement but we still had a noticeable roll. The wind was bulleting in gusts almost up to 40 knots at times, but our anchor was well dug in and Trilogy was secure. We settled for dinner below decks, courtesy of Stephen and Caroline and all feeling a bit tired after the sail and the hot, windy, rolly conditions we headed to bed for some less than smooth sleep.
We all slept well enough but even though the wind seemed to have lost some of its force, all agreed we would not stay another night. Firstly though, a snorkelling expedition to the Cousteau Underwater Park was on the agenda. We tied the tender to a small white buoy and headed off on a discovery tour. The fish were plentiful but the coral was somewhat disappointing. The fish were glorious to observe, large coral trout and parrot fish in good numbers. Large schools of smaller fish kept appearing from behind big boulders or in gullies between the rocky shore. This is a popular destination for divers and along the shore of the bay numerous beach dive shops offer this opportunity. It was interesting to look down through schools of fish to the divers below, bubbles floating up through the fish, who remained nonchalant about the human presence, somehow knowing they were safe.
Roseau and Portsmouth, Dominica
17 April 2018 | Dominica
We had a wonderful fast broad reach sail from Martinique to Dominica, a distance of 40NMs. The breeze was lively, ranging from 20-25 knots ESE and with the 2nd reef in the mainsail and the staysail unfurled, it was exhilarating, although the quartering sea made the helming a challenge, which the boys relished! Flying fish were abundant and at one point we could see small dolphins leaping around the bow of a passing yacht, but alas, they chose not to come our way. By 15:15 we’d secured a mooring a little south of Roseau, having been greeted by the Sea Cat team in their outboard well before we approached the coast.
The greeting was extremely welcoming. Dominica is the most southern island to be damaged by the cyclones of 2017. The yachting fraternity have sailed right past since Hurricane Maria, hearing on the grapevine that there was nothing but devastation and lawlessness. Certainly we could see from well offshore that all the island’s trees had been stripped bare, but now 7 months on, the regrowth was starting to be apparent. As for the lawlessness, first and foremost you always have to be vigilant about theft when cruising. We had met Octavius, alias Sea Cat in 2016, and were keen to look him up again. He had promised in 2016 that he would keep Trilogy safe and so we felt prepared to trust him again. Sea Cat himself was not in the welcome boat, but his boys were well trained and looked after us. Once tied off to the mooring they decided they’d be back for a beer at sunset, and that they did! This was an opportunity to discuss the tour options for the next day, and it was agreed that Octavius would be available to take us on a tour to see the damage caused by Maria. The first sound from shore when mooring was complete was a grader shoveling large boulders and repositioning them into a rock sea wall. It was clear that the clean up was painstakingly slow!
Sea Cat was, as last time full of information. We joked with him about his 2016 claim that he would be the next Prime Minister of Dominica, which he’s adjusted to being content to be a ‘background boy’! He jokingly said that he’d have a ‘One China’ policy, if he stood for election. China is on the front foot throughout the Caribbean, offering infrastructure assistance but the motives are more to do with voting rights in the United Nations. It didn’t take long for us to realise the destruction that had been caused by Category 5 Maria that hit in the middle of the night. There had been some warning that Maria was likely to be severe and hit the island and those that could heeded the warning by leaving the island, but for the majority that was not an option. Low level concrete structures appeared to withstand the enormous forces, but nearly all metal roofs became airborne and hurled like missiles and household contents destroyed. The roar of the wind was most frightening and lasted for several hours. There are 365 rivers on Dominica and they all became choked by fallen timber and debris, which choked the flow, causing flooding, especially at the seafront. I read one eyewitness account that said the houses along the seafront were battered by waves that were higher than the roof line and higher than the coconut palms, with many lives lost, the bodies never to be found. Some areas of the island also suffered lightening strikes and the resultant fires caused even greater problems.
As we drove across the island through the mountainous interior to the west coast, power lines were down across wide areas, the roads deeply gouged and bridges washed away. There were crews from Venezuela working on the power repairs and from Trinidad workers were rebuilding one of the big bridges. Part of the plan for the day was to walk to Victoria Falls but as we passed through steady rain in the mountains, SeaCat said it would not be safe to visit the Falls. Another part of the plan was to visit Moses, a Rasta Man who runs a small cafe where he lives in a valley beside a stream. The access road to Moses’ house was blocked by boulders from a landslide and once we’d driven to that point, we walked down the grassy covered road for about a kilometre to reach his home. Moses’ son had bought a new car one week before Maria caused havoc in the valley, and it suffered a large dent on the bonnet from flying debris and has not been driven since due to the road block. While Moses collected fresh vegetables and herbs from his garden to prepare our lunch, we were lead down a path to the river and upstream scrambling across river rocks, for a refreshing swim in the rapids. Lunch consisted of a delicious spinach, taro and pumpkin stew followed by coffee or herbal tea. Moses was an amazing character to meet, well informed about life’s issues and the politics of the island. Rastas choose to live a peaceful life, doing no harm and eating a vegetarian diet, from their own garden or forest supply.
Once we’d retraced our steps uphill to the van, we continued to the west coast and saw the build up of debris, timber and boulders that had been dumped at a river mouth. The beach was thick with seaweed, that apparently was also the result of the hurricane churning up the seabed. It was a wild Atlantic beach but somehow all the debris added even more drama. We passed through a village that was making Arrowroot from tubers by soaking them in big blue drums, stirring the pulp and sieving the residue through muslin clothe. This product is in demand, not only in Dominica at present, but as an export commodity. As there is no type of cooperative established, like we had seen for nutmeg or cacao on Grenada, the potential for sufficient quantity to be produced for export is lost as each little community were doing the whole process by hand and producing only small amounts for their effort.
Dominica was once the fruit and vegetable bowl of the Caribbean. Today, it is hardly possible to buy any fruit at the markets- no bananas after Maria, and probably for the next couple of years, no coconuts, no pawpaw - we did manage to buy 2 very small pineapples and saw green passionfruit growing in the jungle. Vegetables were more available, but mainly the root vegetables- taro and carrots, and some cristophene, which we know as chokos. We spoke to as many people along the way as we could, trying to get a better understanding of the hardships they were facing and the loved ones they had lost. Many of the older people survived the hurricane but died within weeks as they lost their grip on what was already a struggle.
Next day we had another beautiful sail from Roseau to Portsmouth located on Prince Rupert Bay, a distance of 19NMs. The breeze was a comfortable 15 knots from the ESE and our top speed was 9.9 knots, with one reef in the main. It was great fun at the helm and everyone wanted a turn! Portsmouth is another destination we visited 2 years ago and we were keen to repeat the memorable Indian River trip. We were picked up at 10:00 the following morning by Michael and taken into the mouth of the river, where we transferred to a row boat. Michael, a botanist, told us his story of Maria: he had left with his partner and young daughter for Gaudelope Island prior to the storm. His mother was a Carib from Dominica and his father from Gaudelope, but from the age of three, he was raised in Dominica. This means that he has dual nationality and he has a number of siblings in Gaudelope, who were able to support him in his hour of need. Indian river looked totally different, most noticeably because the jungle canopy had been destroyed. Micheal said it took a month with 24 men working constantly to clear this beautiful river of debris. We saw a few birds and crabs but the habitat has been significantly altered and only time will make a difference. The parrot which is an emblem for Dominica has all but vanished, but the locals believe it will return. The bush cafe up the river was still there, but the jetty had been washed away and had to be rebuilt. Here we wandered the garden that last time had given us glimpses of hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower, but a reed woven version by Michael had to suffice this visit- and it is wonderful to watch the guide’s deftly create miniature birds, fish and grasshoppers from strappy leaf plants. We all succumbed to a ‘Dynamite’ cocktail ....in more ways than one!
Once back at the river mouth we ate lunch at the local restaurant, where some serious games of dominos were underway. Much yelling, banging of tiles on tables and cheering from the sidelines (the play area was roped off) was intriguing to watch and the score board kept tally...the Dolphins were the team to beat! After lunch, Michael took us up into the mountains along a steeply potholed road, until we stopped and walked about a kilometre along a forest track to Syndicate Falls on the Dublang River. We could not wait to get into the cool mountain water and frolic under the waterfall!
That wasn’t the end of the day because we had agreed to go to a beach BBQ that the local yacht club men were running. Michael picked us up at 19:00 from Trilogy and we enjoyed a fun evening of plenty of rum punches, BBQ chicken drumsticks with fresh salad and rice and plenty of loud music. Many other yachties were present and it was a chance to chat with them and the local men. We had come to respect their resilience and the slow pace of recovery that they all were facing. Timber roofing materials had to be imported and this was still the biggest issue for a lot of the homes. The government has not allowed trees to be felled for timber, in the hope that regeneration will restore the beautiful forests of Dominica. It had been another most interesting day and an opportunity to come to terms with what has sadly happened to the island.
Farewell to the Windwards
15 April 2018 | St Pierre
Post birthday, it was time to move on once more. We all enjoyed our last swim in Anse Noir, sighting a large turtle, exquisite baby squid with bright yellow eyes and the occasional small fish....this bay had also been heavily fished. By mid morning the 'anchor away' call was made and we headed for open water. The aft toilet has a tendency to overflow fairly quickly, so one of the joys of heading out of any anchorage is to empty both tanks (delightful odours) and then water making can begin. It is the way it has to be with 6 people living closely together....look after Trilogy and she will look after us!
Next port was Fort de France. This is the capital city of Martinique, with the remains of Fort St. Louis at one end of the wide bay while commercial and cruise ship docks were at the other end of the sweep. The skipper edged Trilogy in as close as he could to the dinghy dock facility, which was adjacent to the massive stone walls of Fort St. Louis. The sky continued to deliver a mix of weather in quick succession and this day was no exception. We waited for the grey clouds to blow away overhead and then piled into the tender for a visit to rediscover this 'big' city.
First stop was a lovely upstairs creperie cafe where we sat on the narrow verandah catching the cooling sea breeze. Galettes are a thin crepe, probably made from buckwheat flour and folded around a savoury filling into a large oblong envelope. These were delicious, as are all things French in the culinary world. The internet dose was equally well received, even exciting, as we have been unable to use our data for 9 days. It seems that although our provider has 190 countries listed where they claim their data can be used and Martinique was one of those listed, it was not the case! This can be extremely frustrating as any cruising yachtie will tell you, because you are then reliant on local restaurant WiFi providers, which means going ashore and then the WiFi is often unreliable. We have struggled to get any explanation from the company (Ekit) who keep requesting the same information we have already provided.... 'masters of Incompetence', to quote Peter. We then walked to the Digicel shop as Peter was also not having any success with that company's SIM. We encountered two very rude female staff in that shop, bar none, in all our travels. They refused to speak in English, when it was clear they perfectly understood the issue....another dead end!
The rest of the afternoon was spent either looking at the various city monuments or quenching our considerable thirst. We regrouped around 18:00 and then the next big decision about where to eat dinner had to be made. While some buried themselves in the WiFi, some research was done and we agreed on a taxi ride about 4kms away to a French/European/Portuguese restaurant called Le Petit Tonneau. It was a neighborhood restaurant and we felt like we were eating in the owner’s home, and probably were! We were first to be seated at 19:00 and we thoroughly enjoyed our French meals...Veal Cordon Bleu, Red Snapper, Côte de Beouf, with all the fresh vegetables. The ubiquitous Coqui, Caribbean tree frogs, were singing their hearts out in the adjacent garden foliage. When it came time to depart, the lovely owner turned cartwheels to find a taxi for us. The elderly mother came out to stand on the street with us and eventually proudly announced that the taxi 'arrivez'! It seemed like a quicker trip back to the dinghy dock and then, feeling pleased to see our tender patiently waiting for us, we made our way back to Trilogy, across the darkened waters.
Our final port of call for Martinique was St Pierre, the last recommended anchorage on the north-west coast of the island. It lies at the foot of Mt Pelée volcano, which had its last massive eruption in 1902. At that time, St Pierre had a population of 30,000 and was known as the Paris of the Caribbean, being the commercial, cultural and social centre of Martinique. The wealth of the island lay in the sugar plantations, most of which surrounded St Pierre. Ships would take rum, sugar, coffee and cocoa as cargo which made the plantation owners very wealthy. The volcano did give some warning eruptions in the month of April which took lives but the warnings were not heeded as evacuation posed huge problems. The roads were primitive and rough and the ferries, the main form of transport , did not have the capacity to evacuate the entire population. Besides this, the local business men would have suffered financial loss if the city was evacuated!! Several hundred citizens did leave the city but for the rest, the destruction of such an important city was unimaginable.
The end came at 2 minutes past 08:00 on 9 May 1902 when the side of the volcano facing St Pierre glowed red and burst open, burying the city, releasing more energy than an atomic bomb. An estimated near 30,000 people were burned to death, with only two survivors. One was the famous Cyparis, imprisoned for murder and ironically, survived in his stone cell!! In the Roman Catholic Church, where hundreds of worshippers were gathered for Ascension Day, including many visiting clergy. The church was destroyed and the rebuild did not start until 1923, a far less grand structure. Today there is significant restoration in progress and the standout feature is a beautiful tryptich of stain glass windows, which has the theme of La Résurrection, in harmony with the history of St Pierre.
The remainder of our time in St Pierre was a wander around the streets in the heat, enjoying the public garden with cemetery a little further up the hill, various ruins from the old city and as always, the waterfront. We found a restaurant for dinner and had a Lorraine beer at the local cafe, to get some WiFi time. There was a soccer league match between Madrid Real and Juventus and the locals were right into it. They were mostly guys in their 20s in the crowd, but also one mature woman all dressed up and then there was us. After the game finished a French guy approached and asked if he could have a chat. We were pleased to, of course, and it turned out that he had visited Australia, going to Melbourne, Darwin and Katherine that he mentioned. Then an Italian guy joined us and they were both fun to talk to and keen to learn of our travels. Australians yachties are relatively uncommon still in the Caribbean but Americans and British are prevalent and we hate being mistaken for either of them! Throughout this interlude, the heavens had opened up once more and when the sky had cleared we headed for the jetty for a return trip to Trilogy.
Stephen and Caroline came ashore later and we all met up for dinner at beach front restaurant. As it turned out, the service was extremely slow and although some of us enjoyed their meals, the three girls had ordered 'Écrevisses', which is crayfish and there was not much flesh to be found! A dessert to top us up described as a Coconut custard tart, turned out to be a light coconut tasting blancmange with no pastry - nice, but?? We saw many other tables of diners served before us and we got the impression that our lack of fluent French had put us in the 'too hard' basket. When we got back to the dinghy dock, we were met by a farcical scene, where a group of 6 seniors were climbing down the vertical ladder to their dinghy that was awash with water. The skipper was madly hand pumping the water out, yelling at his passengers not to get in 'yet'. Then he started the outboard that coughed and spluttered into action, he gave permission to load up and then the engine stopped. He tried incessantly to fire the poor sick motor into action, and when he had clearly flooded the motor, skipper quietly suggested that we tow them back to their boat. This he agreed to and they were grateful and extremely lucky that we were able to do that for them! How easy you can get caught out when you don't have oars. We were all very tired and glad to hop into bed. The heat and our stinger bites were causing us some grief and the air conditioning made such a difference to a comfortable night's sleep.
Next morning we were leaving the Windward Islands, having visited and explored the four main islands of Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia and Martinique and several smaller islands belonging to the Grenadines, situated between Grenada and St Vincent. St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenada are now all independent nations with a British tradition. Each has its own laws and customs. During the colonial period Martinique was nearly always in French hands, and therefore today, it is still part of France and a member of the European Community. It is noticeably a more affluent society but also a very appealing one.
The Windward Islands are a joy for cruising yachts. Good trade winds ensure wonderful sailing and delightful anchorages. We have had a great time and there is more delights to come as we journey north.
Anse Dufour and skipper’s birthday!
10 April 2018 | Martinique
After a rolly evening at anchor, with the wind against current effect causingTrilogy to toss back and forth, Trilogy settled to a gentle rock throughout the night. We headed ashore to explore D’Arlet, but no sooner had we tied up the tender than we were on a local bus heading back to Diamant Bay, to visit the Anse Cafford Memorial.
The story goes like this: 8 April 1830 (exactly 148 years ago, as I write) a ship anchored in Cafford Cove, which is considered a dangerous part of the coast. This was observed from shore, but given the huge swell, there was no way to warn the captain except by signals that were not needed. At 23:00 the ship foundered and sinister cries shattered the silence. Immediately slaves were deployed to help with a rescue and witnessed a large number of people in the raging sea and others clutching the mast. At dawn the next day, 46 dead bodies were retrieved and 86 ‘captives’ were saved, who were all Africans. The memorial is in memory of those unknown victims of the slave trade and in celebration of human brotherhood. Set on the cliff above the cove, 15 sculptured forlorn figures stand sentinel, heads bowed, facing the sea. A graphic of a similar ship to the one that sunk depicting the way slaves were shackled shoulder to shoulder below decks with no more than a body length to rest in, was a shocking reminder of the inhumane treatment slaves suffered even before they reached the cane fields.
From here we walked down the road to the cafe on the beach. It was around 11:00 and we all settled into Ernest cafe, right on the beach, happily sipping some cooling drinks. This was such a perfect setting, we decided to miss the 12 noon bus back to town and stay a while soaking up the magnificent atmosphere of the French rustic cafe, filled with art posters from Paris galleries and a refreshing sea breeze wafting through the open shuttered windows. The restaurant served meals from midday and so, we found ourselves being treated to a delicious French cuisine lunch, cooked for us by Ernest. It took us a while to realise that a man sitting on the cafe verandah in a soft pink shirt and cream trousers in his 60’s, was in fact Ernest. He later donned an apron and told us he was honoured to cook for visitors from a land so far away! One of the gems of travel!
We headed off down the road to the next bus stop, working up quite a sweat in the process. We calculated the bus would arrive on the hour, but that came and went and we started to wonder if a bus would come. We spoke in our best French to some young boys who said ‘only bus AM’! It was Saturday and maybe the French take a different approach to their weekend services. A group conference was called and the decision was to walk back to Ernest and ask if he could call a taxi. He was very obliging and tried many friends and eventually a guy arrived to take us back to D’Arlet. He headed off in the wrong direction for some kilometres which was a bit unnerving, but eventually he turned and made a Uturn and we all were relieved. It seems that there is some rule about the direction of traffic flow after noon on Saturday.
Back at Les Anses D’Arlet, the sun was shining and the white sand beach was quite crowded. For those of us wearing a swimsuit, a cooling swim was next on the agenda, but as there was no change facility available, some of us had to wait. The little village which has a picturesque church at the end of the jetty has magnificent mountains towering behind it with the foothills a lush green. All shops were closed and the town was otherwise quiet. On return to Trilogy we all had another swim and the skipper decided we would stay the night. More rock ‘n roll and more evangelical French babble was the evening’s entertainment while we enjoyed a second small meal of leftover lasagne. After our wonderful day, we were more than content.
Not long after breakfast, we motored away from L’Anse D’Arlet to Anse Dufour, a picturesque small fishing village with a white sandy beach and lots of pretty bougainvillia blossoms. Being Sunday, there were plenty of locals already on the beach, but the snorkelling is what was beckoning us. We headed across the bay and followed a series of sharp drop offs which was home to a myriad of fish and coral. One cave formation had a large school of small fish hanging about in its narrowest section which provided lots of fascination and photographic moments. Later swimming to shore, we walked the beach and took in the scene. We noticed at midday the beach almost cleared and it we presumed they had all headed for the beach front restaurant. We settled for a tasty ham and salad wrap followed by a bit of free time in the afternoon. More swimming but this time the stingers had been stirred up by multiple small craft churning the water. One dive boat full of snorkellers shocked us by ‘dumping’ the novice snorkellers in the middle of the bay before the anchor was set. Then the anchor was not laid out properly and the boat was drifting through the middle of the snorkellers. We knew where the good coral was in the bay and these day trippers had clearly not been told where to go, as they were only seeing the grassy seabed where they stayed. We became alarmed as the boat continued to drift towards us and the engine had not been started on the dive boat. We all arrived on deck clutching our fenders to protect Trilogy should a collision occur. Thankfully it didn’t but we did not rest easy until all the fledgling snorkellers were back on board and the boat departed, with us staring in dismay. The day ended with the usual sundowners in the cockpit followed by a tasty chicken and vegetable with rice dish, thanks to Caroline.
The day dawned and it was the skipper’s birthday. Peter had organised a H-a-p-p-y B-i-r-t-h-d-a-y song to start the day and put a smile on the dial. Our planning had been to move to Fort de France for a special lunch but the skipper overruled this plan, saying he did not want to be in a ‘city’ and would rather remain in Anse Dufour. We prepared a cooked breakfast of baked Spanish eggs, but we could only imagine sipping the French champagne! Peter had prepared two loaves of bread for baking and by morning tea time we were tucking into delicious fresh wholemeal bread. The local fishermen were busy casting their nets and we got a close up view of the process. Two small boats work together, firstly by doing fast wide circles of their proposed area to net. Then dried reeds are dropped on the surface (presumably for burley) then the nets are laid out in the circular pattern and the second boat is holding the start point. Once laid out, they start to haul the nets in, firstly pulling out and tossing back any fish too small. After a while one man gets in the water to herd the fish away from the gap and another beats the surface with a long stick, before the final retrieval of the catch. From what we had seen, there were not many good sized fish in the bay, so what we saw was that the catch consisted of a load of hand span size fish, which felt quite sad and wrong!
The skipper mounted a dinghy expedition along the coast to explore the next few bays and to snorkel our way back along the interesting looking sections. The water was clear and the snorkelling excellent but the dreaded stingers were still around. We had worked out that the floating weed was probably the source of the stingers, which we could at least do our best to avoid. We watched a turtle dive deeply to a large ‘chimney pot’ coral and appear to rub itself back and forth along the top edge and feed on the internal surface. Squid were also spotted swimming in formation and numerous schools of different sized fish were happily grazing on the coral drop offs.
Peter had used his best French to make a dinner booking at the beach side restaurant. He reported that he had either booked for 7 people at 6 or 6 people at 7! Late in the afternoon, a local fisherman came alongside and speaking only French, made it somehow clear to those on board that he wanted us to move as he would be fishing the bay at night. We recalled that the pilot had warned that you need to be prepared to move if asked to by the fishermen. The skipper was off on a long snorkel and by the time he got back, the light was falling and it was a nuisance to have to relocate, especially as our dinner lans were in Anse Dufour. We lifted the anchor and were fortunate enough to find a suitable spot to anchor in Anse Noir, the bay next door. Before long we were all in the tender and making our way to the jetty. No sooner had we locked the tender chain than a huge shower of rain appeared from nowhere. We had a steep set of stair to climb in order to get back across the headland to Anse Dufour and with torches and rain gear to pull out, we all got quite wet. That wasn’t the end of the problems...the restaurant was closed and the woman that Peter had spoken to earlier in the day, just shook her head at him! After checking Google Maps for alternate restaurants and finding none, with our tails between our legs we retraced our steps to the jetty and back to Trilogy. We can only presume she had seen Trilogy disappear from the bay and decided to close for the day!
With no birthday dinner sitting ready for us to eat back on Trilogy, there was a last minute inspiration of salmon cakes served with a lettuce and avocado salad and garlic and rosemary pita bread. Copious wine with good cheer, made a fitting birthday dinner and we all agreed that it was probably better than the restaurant would have served...but we’ll never know!
Martinique - ooh la la
10 April 2018 | Ate Anne Martinique
All three couples, Garth and I, Stephen and Caroline, Sue and Peter regrouped on board Trilogy on Easter Tuesday. Sue and Peter did a wonderful job off putting the sparkle back into Trilogy with much rubbing and scrubbing. They also had climbed Gros Piton, the taller of the two Piton Peaks. It was a hard walk and they were really tired from the steep climb. The rest of us had not been nearly so strenuous in our activities and felt ready for the sail north.
The day was filled with grocery and grog shopping, more repairs to Trilogy and catch up discussions. When we all gathered for evening drinks, it was agreed that we have dinner at Chic Restaurant, a beautiful restaurant we had discovered at the Royal Resort. The boys needed to put on long pants to dine at Chic but they soon stopped protesting when they realised how elegant the surroundings were. We all enjoyed the evening, especially meeting Mark Annius, the charismatic sommelier who recommended the wines that perfectly accompanied our meals. This restaurant is outstanding on a world stage and is a hidden gem in St Lucia.
Next morning the skipper announced we would depart at 11:00. Everyone scurried around finishing up bits and pieces and we cast off pretty well on time. First stop was the fuel dock, where we topped up the tanks for the journey north. We headed out into Rodney Bay and readied the decks for a sail to Martinique Island, a distance of 35 NMs. Setting a course of 030 on the compass, it was a fast reach, achieving 8-9 knots in east-sou-east breeze of 15 knots. We all took turns at the helm, enjoying the exhilaration of Trilogy skipping steadily along. We deployed the fishing line but we were without success, probably because we were moving too fast for a fish to keep up with the lure!! The Quarantine flag was hoisted once more, indicating our intention to visit Customs on arrival in the French Territory.
At 15:50 we anchored in Ste Anne, a wide open bay, with several convoluted inlets, making it very attractive. We all opted for a swim to cool off, except for Caroline who had decided that lasagne would be her dish for the evening meal. It had been agreed that each couple on rotation would be responsible for preparing the dinner, and another couple would do the wash up. Since the men are all preparing for the Atlantic crossing, they all need ‘galley time’ to become familiar with all aspects of meal preparation. The lasagne was delicious, as was the leafy salad and red wine accompaniment.
We needed to check into Customs, which is a simpler procedure in a French Territory. You simply go to the local cafe, sit at a keyboard that allows for an online registration and departure on the same form, buy a coffee or ice cream and pay a small fee for WiFi usage. No sign of a Customs Officer! No sooner had we tied up the tender than we met the Canadian couple Marj and Tom, who were anchored adjacent to us on their Jenneau. Marj seemed delighted to have a conversation in English after some weeks in Martinique. Sue and I chatted happily with her and we shared some ‘must dos’ for the island and for St Lucia, where they were heading. We later wandered the pretty township of Ste Anne, which consists of two streets running parallel to the beach and at the jetty which is approximately in the middle, there is the classically designed Catholic Church and a bell that tolled on the hour with a town square in front. We entered the church which has the same simplicity we have come to expect of Caribbean churches, except that two large chandeliers hung above the centre isle...so French! We soon found the boulangerie and treated ourselves to something that is also distinctly French. Only French is spoken throughout Martinique so we found ourselves digging deep to salvage what French we could remember. Sue and I went to the markets where we found a good array of fresh Martinique grown fruit and veg and an enormous selection of Caribbean spices and sauces. Stephen and Caroline opted to climb the small knoll behind the church and they found the Stations of the Cross, which stirred something deep in Stephen and we all had a few laughs!
Eventually all gathered at the Gare Routière and took the local bus to Marin, which is a pleasant small town but is also one of Caribbean’s largest yacht centres. After checking out the town centre by walking up and down the hills it sits on, we worked our way down to the marina to quench our thirst. We found a large cafe cantilevered over the water and you couldn’t help but notice the huge number of yachts in the marina and beyond, at anchor in the bay. We were all delighted with our French cuisine lunch which was washed down with large glasses of draft beer and copious water.
After lunch, the boys had a field day in the chandlery shops, which lined the marina foreshore. There were several shops but one stood out as a comprehensive supplier of just about everything a boy could dream of for his boat. The girls were happily occupied checking out some boutiques that had a mix of clothing (French made, of course), gifts and swimwear. The boys ended up with more shopping bags than the girls, which says it all! Back at Trilogy after a thoroughly lovely day, we were treated to a light and delicious fish dinner, cooked by Sue and Peter.
Next day dawned after the obligatory rain overnight to a sunny morning. We headed back into Ste Anne, for another outing. The planning side of things for our cruising takes a steady commitment to research of the pilot and/or the Internet. Peter and I had worked on a 4 day plan for Martinique, which because of poor internet connectivity so far for Martinique, took a lot longer than usual. Being a democratic regime on board the good ship Trilogy, this is another task that will in future be shared between the three couples. This way everyone had the opportunity and experience of planning but also of consulting with the group and executing the outcomes of those discussions.
The plan for the day was a visit to Le Moulin de Val d’Or, which was an educational demonstration of how in the years of slavery, sugar cane was harvested and prepared for the mill and the manual mill process of donkey powered crushing wheels to extract the juices from the sugar. We turned up at 11:45, to be told we were too late for a demonstration before lunch and that we should return at 14:00. This was a disappointment but clearly nothing would change the gentleman’s mind. Some quick thinking by Peter had us jumping back in the taxi and heading for Saline Beach on the south coast of Martinique, a beautiful beach in a bay that was not recommended as an anchorage. We joined a beach full of people, who were enjoying the sunshine and gentle surf. We headed for a beach cafe for a drink, but before long a big squall that was looking ominous out at sea, descended on the beach and sent everyone scurrying. We shifted tables to a protected one and ate our lunch of salad filled baguettes or grilled fish with salad in the hubbub of loud chatterunder the shelter. Once the rain had passed, we ventured out to walk the beach and enjoy the water. We caught a taxi back to Ste Anne and by 15:00 Trilogy was departing Ste Anne for Les Anse d’Arlets, 13NMs north along the east coast. This was a pleasant motor assisted sail, passing by Diamond Rock, which has the right shape for such a name and is known as a recommended dive sight.
Trilogy anchored at just after 17:00 and we all jumped in the water for a cool down. Little did we know that there were sneaky almost invisible stingers in the water that were waiting to latch onto any exposed skin. Those who went the furthest towards the beach where there is a colourful coral covered bombie to snorkel over, were stung the most by something that seemed to be in some surface weed. The itch took several hours to appear and was pretty vicious! Dinner was Beef Bourguignon which was again a tasty meal. The local evangelical group were on a bit of a crusade and their deafening noise was quite unpleasant until 21:00, when they fortunately packed up and we could rest in peace.