2009-2010 Caribbean / Bahamas Trip
Tuesday, January 12th, Admiralty Bay, Bequia
After nine days back in Grenada we are northbound (homeward?!) once again. After one last visit to the Market we left St Georges on Sunday the 10th (Happy Birthday Zoe!) After a night at Sandy Island, Carriacou we arrived in Bequia yesterday afternoon. We had two nice days of sailing in a row which seemed like a lot at the rate we've been moving recently.
We were able to accomplish several things on our return trip to Grenada. First and foremost was the additional extension to the wind generator pole. Another great job by Tech Nick. With any luck we will have no further blade incidents. On the entertainment side we did some things we missed the first time around. The first was the Sunday afternoon BBQ at Hog Island. On a bus one day I met a sailor from Norway (boat name: Embla (meaning "Elm" he tells me)) He recommended this weekly BBQ saying it was an interesting mix of locals and cruisers. Any function which involves hanging around on the beach of an uninhabited island, eating barbeque and listening to reggae is alright by me. We met several interesting folks including some New Zealanders (via Britain) on a boat called Isis. They had arrived recently from Trinidad after a trip to Patagonia, then through the Beagle Channel and up the east coast of South America. No shortage of interesting topics to discuss there.
We spent the better part of a day going to the Seven Sister's waterfalls in the Grand Etang. This involved catching the #1 bus to St. Georges from True Blue, then switching to the #6 towards Grenville. The local buses are really just vans, into which a huge number of people are stuffed. On the #6 Roger was crammed into the midst of a row of four (none of them small) while I was lucky enough to land in a row with four women including my seatmate who was a Mennonite missionary. Both she and I are relatively small in size so we suffered only mildly (on the hard corners.) At the waterfall entrance we hooked up with a guide named Daryl and his eight very pleasant clients. We had a lovely walk through what we consider to be jungle while Daryl pointed out a variety of plants. The falls were pretty and the pools were great for swimming. It was nice to be in fresh water, albeit a bit chilly, after months of salt water swimming. Too bad we neglected to bring our camera. Daryl offered to bring us back to True Blue after dropping off his charges at a variety of Grand Anse hotels. We were in the lap of luxury with a van seat to call our very own. Thanks Daryl!
Last but not least was our trip to the Friday Night Fish Fry in Gouyave. Gouyave is the fishing capital of Grenada. Every Friday they close off two streets in town and stalls are set up to sell all manner of fried fish, lambi (conch) and lobster. Drummers take up seats in the midst of this and things get pretty loud. I think that it gets louder the later you stay but we were with a group of cruisers who had rented a taxi and had to call it quits fairly early. Amongst the sailors in the group were a couple from San Francisco on a boat named Reality. They were leaving the next day for the ABC's (Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) and then on to Panama. They had a friend sailing with them who had spent eight years on his boat in the Pacific. Another night of interesting tales and good food.
Today, and perhaps tomorrow as well, we will be cleaning the brushes of the now famed wind generator. I hope someday to actually go ashore in Bequia.
Sunday, January 24th, St. Pierre, Martinique, French West Indies
We have recently shifted into an ever so slightly higher gear. Our late February date in St. John, U.S.V.I. is beginning to seem like it's actually approaching. In December it was merely a date on the calendar. We initiated this new pace by spending an entire week in Bequia. In our defense we did have to clean the brushes on the wind generator (our candidate for most attention loving piece of equipment 2009-10). After that was accomplished we spied another Pacific Seacraft 40' in the anchorage which naturally required a visit. One visit with Gene on Eli Blue turned into several evenings hanging out in our respective cockpits, an Island tour and a day of sailing. Gene arrived in Bequia from Martha's Vineyard in November, will continue on to Senegal in April, then head back to the Vineyard by July. He's following one of the triangle trade routes from America's slave trading days.
To my untrained eye Bequia is very similar in size and climate to Carriacou. It is very dry and hilly but not mountainous. Unlike Carriacou, Bequia conveys a sense that it is a "destination". Not in a Waikiki Beach sort of way but a destination nonetheless. The main harbor, Admiralty Bay is huge and full of sailboats and the occasional cruise ship. It's half moon shape and surrounding hillsides make you feel like you're in an amphitheatre, especially at night when you can't distinguish where the mast lights merge with the land lights. The main street (and pathway) along the Harbor front has a few little inns and several restaurants. More notable in the "destination" department are the number of vacation and retirement homes built by foreigners. There are lots of them. Some "neighborhoods" are completely made up of people from away while others are more mixed. Our Island tour guide, Kenny, claims that the locals appreciate the foreigners, saying that they help to keep the economy moving. What else is he going to say to a foreigner? At any rate Bequia is a beautiful island and still pretty laid back. Our not so brief stay was great.
We headed out of Admiralty Bay on Monday January 18th headed ultimately for Martinique. That left the small matter of two intervening islands; St. Vincent and St. Lucia. This is where our sprightlier pace begins to show itself. We were very torn about St. Vincent. Although visually stunning it gets mixed reviews for boat safety. In the end we chose to spend one night in a small bay called Petit Byahaut on St. Vincent's southwest side, then move on to St. Lucia for a one night stay there as well. Petit Byahaut is a beautiful, tiny, coconut lined bay which was the sight (until rather recently) of an eco resort. Our cruising guide (2009 edition) lists it as still operational. Operational it is not. That was fine with us. The "buildings" were very well hidden leaving us just the spectacular views of the beach and surrounding hills and cliffs. We shared the small bay with only two other sailboats. It was a lovely night in St.Vincent.
Why we opted ahead of time for just one night in St. Lucia I can't really say. Part of it may have something to do with the fact that there are many places where you can't anchor and must pick up a mooring ball. In addition to the mooring fees, there are park fees and lots of boat vendors. Perhaps another time. Our motorsail up the back of St. Vincent was very dramatic. The mountains were stunning and we'd occasionally be caught in showers coming off of Soufriere, the volcano at St. Vincent's northern tip. In the pass between St. Vincent and St. Lucia we had another terrific sail. Our destination was initially the Pitons on the southwest coast but all the moorings were taken by 2:00 so we continued on to the Bat Caves off of St. Lucia's Soufriere town. It was a picturesque spot with only five or six moorings. Among the various vendors who graced us with their presence were a pair of gentlemen in matching polo shirts selling wine. Somehow I found them easier to deal with than the fellow who showed up wearing just his boxers (covered in hearts) who was trying to sell fruit. They had laminated cards with elegant descriptions of each of their offerings and the prices were reasonable. The fact that they sweetly called me ""my lady probably didn't harm their chances either. Two more bottles of wine joined the others already in our quarterberth storage area. We fell asleep to the sound of the mooring ball gently clunking against our bow.
On Wednesday the 20th we motored up the leeward coast of St. Lucia. Our destination for the day was the anchorage at Ste. Anne, Martinique. We had a great sail from Pigeon Island, St. Lucia to the southern tip of Martinique. The wind was coming out of 55 degrees and the seas were relatively small. Because you can never tell what you're going to get when you come out from behind an Island we had a reef in both the main and the genoa. The reef in the genoa came out fairly shortly after we started the 20 mile passage and the reef in the main came out after we were passed by a catamaran. We had a great sail (especially when we went by the catamaran) that found us in the lovely harbor of Ste. Anne, Martinique at the end of the day. The other notable item of the passage was that Roger caught (and released) an 80lb. swordfish. No lie. It was a beautiful thing but would have fed an army. With no freezer at hand the fish was turned loose. Despite the thrum of Club Med from the far end of the beach we passed a pleasant night in Ste. Anne.
We opted to check in to Martinique at Fort de France, so early the next morning we made our way around Diamond Rock and headed up the southwest coast to the capital. We had a great sail (our fourth day in a row) downwind until we reached the harbor then a broad reach that had us screaming toward the fort for almost five miles. After a brief dance with the roller furling we dropped the hook off of Fort St. Louis and voila! we were there.
Check-in was simple-ish. Just fill in a computerized form at Sea Services, a local chandlery, and you're good to go. We located a rental car place and an internet cafe (no wifi!) and the tourist information office and headed back to the boat to roll in the wakes of the many ferries that come into the nearby ferry dock. Of note on the Fort de France waterfront was the spectacular dinghy dock. It was the most spectacular dinghy dock I have ever seen in my life, bar none. See photos. Those French sure know how to build a dinghy dock.
Friday the 22nd was Island tour day. We picked up our lovely little KIA from the Fort de France Budget Rental Car office shortly after 8:00 a.m. and made our way north through the rain forest and the mountains. The roads were in amazingly good repair after what we've been used to for the last several months. The drivers were also quite pleasant. No incessant laying on of horns. Plenty of passing, sure, but very civilized. Martinique is the largest island we have visited thus far. It is incredibly varied with mountains, agricultural areas, a volcano and wonderful beaches. You name it Martinique has it. Everyone we've met has been very helpful and pleasant. After a 3/4 circumnavigation of the Island (we'll do the rest by boat) we arrived back in Fort de France shortly after 6:00 p.m. Exhausted. Just after 9:00 p.m. the drums began. Amazing drums. Lots and lots of drums. Played with incredible precision. They were being played on the harbor front and went on till after 11:00. They were so good that I sat up in the cockpit in my altogether listening, amazed. Saturday morning I asked a shopkeeper at the vegetable market about them. After we reached an understanding of what I was trying to say she said "Ah!" It was one of the drum corps practicing for Carnival. I felt so lucky to have heard them. A concert all to myself.
Saturday the 23rd, we left Fort de France and headed up the coast to St. Pierre. The city of St. Pierre was destroyed by a volcano in 1902. We had visited the volcano, Mt. Pelee, during our car trip and now we were in the anchorage that it looms above. On the harbor floor beneath us are the wrecks of twelve ships that sank during the eruption. Quite spooky. The town itself is beautiful from the water. Many of the buildings look ancient, though obviously aren't. There is a cathedral that stands above the smaller buildings and chimes it's lovely bells. The anchorage is a bit of work. There is a fingernail of relatively shallow water which drops off precipitously not far from shore. Newly arriving boats drive to and fro looking for a place to get their noses in far enough to snag some sand but not get in someone else's space. It's a trick.
We spent several days walking around, touring the ruins and the local museum. Being French St. Pierre had no shortage of very tempting restaurants. The menus featured such things as octopus, shark and tuna, all caught locally. We ate a wonderful lunch at Le Tamaya restaurant. I had fricasseed crayfish and Roger had veal in a coconut cream sauce. Very decadent.
Sunday, January 31st!!, Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica, W.I.
On Tuesday morning the 26th we left Martinique headed for Dominica. Because we had to check out of Martinique first thing in the morning we knew we'd be able to make it only as far as Dominica's capital, Roseau. The sail was quite a boisterous one with winds on the beam of 25-30+. Roger clocked us at 8.8 knots at one point. It would have been slightly more appealing if we didn't get rained on several times. Such is life. We arrived in Roseau by three in the afternoon and picked up one of the last available moorings off of the Anchorage Hotel. Anchoring in front of the Anchorage (a misnomer?) was not a hugely appealing prospect due to the depth. Dominica is known for it's beautifully rugged interior and we planned to explore it from Prince Rupert Bay. The Bay is located at the northwestern edge of the Island where we were headed the following day.
We were very surprised by our sail up the leeward side of Dominica on Wednesday. In past experience the trips up the leeward sides of the islands have involved a good bit of motoring. The islands are so tall that much of the wind is blocked. Not so this time. We got an early start out of Roseau and made our way north with the main up. Before too long the wind made an appearance and the genoa came out. Before long the wind was blowing 30-35 knots. Surprise! We were very near to three other boats during the trip. With each wind change, the crews of each boat would scramble to make adjustments. It almost seemed choreographed. You'd almost think these cruisers were competitive. In the seventeen mile trip the wind careened from 0 to 35 to 0 to 35 and found us heading into Prince Rupert Bay with the sails down and lots of spray flying over the dodger. A very interesting ride. Portsmouth is the main town on Prince Rupert Bay. It is a small but busy town with very friendly locals. For many years Dominica had a reputation of having very aggressive boat boys. After yachts began to avoid the island the boat boys became organized and trained and now belong to a very professional organization. They provide tours, taxis and services and are a pleasure to deal with. We were met by Alexis on our arrival. He showed us to a mooring (which we took hoping to keep the boat boy association afloat) and asked if we needed anything. It was like arriving at a hotel. Wind was still blowing like stink. We checked in to Dominica and called it a day.
Thursday morning a cruiser stopped by in his dinghy wondering where customs was. We pointed and chatted a bit. Dave and his wife, Sharda are on a catamaran named Morgan.. Over drinks that evening we talked about our respective travels. It was great to hear about their favorite cruising grounds which range from Trinidad (where Sharda is from) to Belize.
We got back together Saturday morning to rent a car for an Island tour. The only rental car available was a fairly large SUV which screamed "I dare you to fill the tank". We sighed and went on our way. I'll try to keep this short and sweet. I know it's no fun to read the details of even your best friends car trips. The first thing we noticed about Dominican roads was that they are not maintained by the French. It was going to be an interesting drive. Roger quickly developed a very healthy respect for using the horn on the corners and we thereby avoided probable tragedy. The windward coast was spectacular. Sharda and I requested a quick stop at one of the more accessible beaches to get a sense of the beaning possibilities. No luck. Soon we were headed back inland to the Central Forest. We stopped at the side of the road to buy a water coconut from a nut salesman. He lived across the small river beside the road. Within pirouetting range of his stand he identified the fruiting trees we could see, including coffee, avocado, mango, banana, coconut, and three I can't remember the names of or uses for. By this time we had become lost several times and were getting pretty hungry and decided to eat at the first place we saw. Lunch at the yoga retreat was interesting but perhaps not the local experience we were hoping for. After lunch we drove up an incredibly steep road and found ourselves headed towards Roseau. Somehow we had managed to miss the Carib territory altogether but we weren't turning around. After a brief stop in the capital so the driver could stretch we headed north towards our starting point.
The only hitch in the home stretch involved the first day of Carnival. After inching forward into the south end of Portsmouth behind a large float with LOUD music being played (live). We were able to squeeze into the bank parking lot where we were told to leave the car. We joined the crowd chipping their way up the street behind the parade. Another fine Island day.
We spent part of our last day in town taking an Indian River tour with Alexis, our boat guy. The trip involves being rowed up a river to see birds and fish and an overhanging canopy of trees. Also joining us on the tour was a family of six Chileans. They have come north for the last two years during the Winter (their Summer) to spend a month sailing their boat in the Caribbean. They leave the boat on the hard wherever they run out of time. They were wonderfully friendly and fun to spend a morning with.
Tomorrow we head to Les Saintes where I am hoping to find an incredibly talented French hairdresser who can fix the damage I did when I tried to trim my own hair.
2009-2010 Trip Logs