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.
Wallilabou Bay, Soufriere, Rodney Bay
03 April 2018 | Wallilabou Bay
Next day we had another snorkel, exploring further around the headland in the quiet, almost glasslike conditions. There was a decent drop off and the fish were plentiful, along with beautiful coral, especially the long bright yellow tubular variety. Large schools of tiny fish formed clouds to swim through. It is amazing to see the fish, en masse, change direction with an imperceptible signal. These tiny little fry are hard wired for survival!
After lunch we departed this perfect anchorage and motored 5 NMs to Wallilabou Bay, the second time we’ve visited the bay on this cruise. Last time we were pestered by the local traders the minute we slowed down, and it was no different this time. We were focused on our Mediterranean style of anchoring and the local guys in their flimsy row boats start to hang off the gunnels and demand attention. As I had been there before I could say I did not need any more necklaces, but Sue was then targeted. Then the fruit and veg man arrived and with a little bit of experience under our belt, we checked out the squishy tomatoes first and rejected them, but did end up with some squishy bananas!
When we were finally left alone, it was time to head ashore so that the skipper could get to Customs when they opened at 17:00 and the ‘Pirates’ set could be checked out by those who hadn’t been here before. We vowed that we’d watch Pirates of the Caribbean 1 that night, but as usual we were more interested in heading to bed. We got another dose of sandfly bites on dusk while having a beer but fortunately they did not follow us back to Trilogy.
After a peaceful night’s sleep we departed around 08:00 for the long sail back across the St Vincent Passage. Each time we have sailed this stretch of water, it has been rough, particularly in the acceleration zone on the northern end of St Vincent. When we were clear of Wallilabou Bay, the seas were calm and there was no wind. We motored with the main hoisted for several hours and it wasn’t until the middle of the day that a staysail was unfurled. The calm conditions provided the perfect opportunity for the men to work on adjusting the rigging, remarking the reefing lines and main hallyard to their optimal positions. By 14:15 we had anchored in Soufriere on the southern end of St Lucia but we were enveloped in a rainstorm that shrouded both the harbour and the magical Pitons. As always, the sky cleared quickly and it was time to go ashore, as the skipper had to visit the Customs Office and we wanted an ice cream!
Soufriere was again an intense experience, with people spilling out onto the narrow streets and cars forcing their way through. The ATM had too long a queue and the ice cream shop was closed! We wandered around taking in the scene, chatting when we could to the locals, who sat around in the shade wherever they could find it. It was very humid after the rain storm and we didn’t hang around any longer than was necessary for the skipper to complete the formalities. We returned to Trilogy for a cooling swim. After some debate about which restaurant would give us the best view of the Pitons and sunset, as there were no vacancies at our preferred option of Jade Mountain Restaurant, we went ashore for dinner at ‘Orlando’s’. Although a well rated Caribbean style restaurant and the food was good and presented well, the service was less than satisfactory. The staff tried but it seemed like we were caught up in a comedy of errors. From a menu that required you to choose either Menu 1 or Menu 2, each with a set 5 courses, we waited a long while to start as the staff overlooked taking our order and later served us all the same course twice. The Chardonnay on the wine list amounted to one bottle only and then a $70 USD bottle was offered as an alternative! The female chef came out when the main was served to explain what was on the plate and that was a nice touch, but we got the feeling this was to placate the developing situation. She noticed that as a female guest I was not served before the men, something I had noticed from the start of service. I felt relieved that she pulled the staff up on their practise but everyone else felt embarrassed! It was nice to experience some innovative local cuisine but charging 5 star prices was not justified.
We awoke to Good Friday and an almost full moon still in the sky. After a swim, we sailed north for a couple of hours to Rodney Bay. Being Good Friday, the fuel dock was not manned but fortunately a marina staff member turned up to assist us dock, as the light breeze was blowing us off the berth, making the bow harder to control. Trilogy slipped into place and the lines were secured. Sunset drinks came early as we celebrated the end of the southern cruise of the Leeward and Windward Islands. We ate at the marina’s Indian restaurant, a delicious and tasty change of flavours.
Next morning there was a flurry to get breakfast over so that cleaning could begin and the chandlery visited to collect the new bilge pump and other items. Later the bilge pump was connected and it worked a treat. The cleaning was done until we were exhausted and then we treated ourselves to lunch and some good Wifi at Cafe Olé.
Being Easter, it was decided that those who wanted to should take a break from Trilogy for a couple of nights before resuming the sailing programme. Sue and Peter opted to stay on board, while Stephen and Caroline, who had just arrived from Australia, and Garth and I, took some time out.
Tobago Cays, Troisants Bay and Petit Byahaut Bay
28 March 2018 | Tobago Cays
Palm Island had been idyllic, but as the pilot had warned, can be a bit rolly through the night. None of us slept well and we felt the urge to leave sooner rather than later. At 09:00 we released the mooring lines and headed for Tobago Cays that had been calling us for days. Just 5 NMs away, we dropped anchor in the cut between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau, almost exacting where we had been anchored a few weeks ago. This spot offers a degree of protection behind Petit Bateau from the prevailing easterlies. With the anchor nicely dug into sand, we took time out to take in the beauty of the surroundings over a cuppa.
Later in the afternoon, those who felt inclined took the dinghy to visit the turtle sanctuary and beyond to snorkel on the outer reef. Since some effects of the bug was still being felt by the less hearty, it was a chance to recuperate. We had organised with 'Desperado', known to us a Caffa' to collect us at 6pm for our lobster feast on shore. With perfect timing, Caffa arrived and with knives, forks, serviettes, glasses and wine bottle packed up, we went ashore for a quintessential Caribbean experience. As the sun set over aquamarine water, the coconut palms swaying gently overhead and sand between our toes, the platter of BBQ lobsters were served to us al fresco. Dennis was our drinks waiter again and in his quiet way, looked after all our needs. He told us that the lobsters are sourced deep from the ocean floor from around Bequia and Union Islands. It started to concern us that there was an aweful lot of lobsters (at least 100 per night) being consumed every day at this venue. How long will it be sustainable? Once we had our fill, we walked the 5 metres to the beach where Caffa picked us up in his 'taxi' and returned us to our patiently waiting Trilogy.
By now it is Sunday once more. We can barely keep track of the days of the week and we find that the iPhone is the most reliable way of sorting out our confusion! With Easter coming up there was a bit of a planning discussion after breakfast about our movements. That freed up the rest of the day for more activities and as Peter was keen to launch 'dronie' from the highest peak on Petit Bateau (140' high), a shore party was formed. The climb was steep and rather rough, but the view more than compensated once at the top. We were fascinated by a beautiful bird call and after a lot of looking, we found the bird and he sang his song as if performing for us. Dronie was set up and was looking set to go when 'calibration failure' aborted the flight. The 270 degree panoramic view over the magical scene was indescribable. Unfortunately 'the cut' where Trilogy was anchored, was not part of this vista. Peter was keen to recalibrate Dronie and after lunch a second shore party headed back up the peak. The wind had picked up with a small squall passing around us, but he did manage one flight, but the camera did not work! The final activity for the day was a snorkel on the outer reef, tying up to one of several buoys positioned along the reef. The wind was up and the water therefore a bit choppy, but we were rewarded with an array of fish and coral, all in quite shallow but clear and sparkling water. Tobago Cays has delivered in every way.
Late afternoon we lifted the anchor and motored 5NMs to Troisant Bay on the west coast of Mayreau Island, between Saline Bay and Salt Whistle Bay. There were no other yachts in the bay and we appreciated having it all to ourselves. Most yachts head into Salt Whistle Bay, but from previous experience we knew that the swell can really play havoc, especially when it is crowded with yachts and they all start rocking and rolling. We enjoyed the sunset and all the usual evening rituals over a tasty chicken dinner. We headed to bed feeling tired but content.
We had rain overnight and awoke to an overcast morning. It was agreed to spend at least the morning in the bay, with a swim ashore and walk along the lovely beach. In the early morning haze we witnessed a beautiful sight when a schooner with full set of sails unfurled, made its way north, passing astern of Trilogy. With coffees and breakfast finished, the men had a brain storming session about the possible cause of some rust that has appeared in the stainless steel rigging. Meanwhile the girls swam ashore and walked the beach, which has a series of rather attractive burré style bungalows, that are apparently part of a hotel chain, but the burrés are privately owned. A playful dog joined us all when the boys arrived and she was a genuine 'sea dog', expressing her pleasure at being on the beach, digging several sizeable holes to pounce into and then heading into the water to wash off, along with all the usual catch and fetch games. When it came time to leave, she swam out with the boys and had to be given strict instructions that she couldn't come on board!
After lunch a dive party headed off the sou-west headland to see if they could find the wreck of Purina, a 100 year old wreck in 10 metres of water. They did find it but it was a challenge to free dive that far. More swimming in the bay filled up the rest of the afternoon before the sun started to sink. We were joined overnight by another smaller monohull yacht that had a couple and golden retriever on board. The dog was taken by tender ashore to enjoy his land time. We later saw him swim ashore with the couple, another example of a dog who clearly enjoyed sea life.
Away by 9:45 next morning, after all diving in for one last refreshing swim, we set sail north for Petit Byahaut Bay, St Vincent Island. It was a magical broad reach sail, the apparent wind consistent throughout at 18-20 knots. With one reef in the main and the staysail finely tuned, Trilogy made a steady 8-9 knots and relished the 36 NMs sail. Throughout the sail, water making was underway which has become a regular and successful activity. With top ups of the water tanks whenever we're at sea, the need to minimise water usage has made a difference to on board life.
By mid afternoon Trilogy had no sooner anchored in Petit Byahaut Bay than two catamarans joined us in quick succession. One left after a short snorkelling session, but the other, which dropped its anchor in Trilogy's swing room, looked like it was settling for the night. This caused much entertainment if not consternation on board Trilogy as it was clearly in an unsafe position. The sailing rule is that whichever yacht anchors first has the right to stay. We noticed that in response to an uncomfortably close distance between us as both yachts swung, that the other yacht put several fenders out along the gunnel. It became clear that there was an older couple on board and two crew who were meeting their every need. As the sun light was fading and we all felt concerned about what might happen in the night ahead, Steven felt compelled to diplomatically request of the male guest, if he could speak to the skipper. He appeared and when Steven explained that he felt uncomfortable about the yacht's close proximity, the skipper mumbled that he thought Trilogy should have said something sooner! Maybe we should have, but then again, maybe he should have demonstrated a higher level of seamanship! Before we knew it they had departed the bay, which was the best possible outcome!! We were able to settle in peace and having had a snorkel earlier on around the beautiful coral nearby, it was time for evening drinks and a delicious lamb neck casserole from our trusty pressure cooker.