Friday, June 30, 2006

Martinique, St. Lucia and Bequia June 2006

Picture: anchoring under the fort in Fort de France

Still feeling uneasy, anchoring with our secondary anchor, we decided it was time to make for Martinique, where we hope we will be able to get new chain and sleep better at night. So after one night on a ball at Roseau, we were up early to head south. We had a great down wind sail, flying at 7.5 knots across the Dominican Passage. We anchored under the old fort at Fort de France by 3 in the afternoon.
Check in was very easy, Sea Services Marine, not only checked us in and out, were able to outfit us with new chain and rode by the next day. We even got a great price, since there was a boat show taking place in the anchorage, so we received a 15% show discount. Sharla, a former Canadian, who works there did a great job for us! We spent the remainder of the day, and the next walking the town. Fort de France has a European atmosphere, great French restaurants, and shops with affordable French wines, cheese and pates. Leader Price is a good store for this purpose, having a good selection of wines and other goods, and they will let you borrow their grocery carts to deliver you purchases to the main dock. That was a good thing, because we really loaded up on the $2-$3 wine, as Martinique will be the last French island we will visit for awhile.
We would have loved to spend more time in Martinque, visiting St. Pierre (buried in the 1902 volcano, and the anchorages on the south side, but as we are past the middle of June and tracking tropical waves every morning, we wanted to get further south. We will definitely spend more time on this island, when we head north next year. So we are off to St. Lucia. We were having such a great sail, that we decided to pass Rodney Bay and head for Marigot, which was described in both the cruising guides and by some other sailors as a lovely small anchorage. As we pulled into the bay, all we could see were condos, marina docks and lots of boats, so we decided to skip Marigot and head for Soufriere. In Soufriere we were surprised to find no other cruising boats, the park moorings were completely empty. Since we had to check in, we took a ball closest to the town and went ashore.

From the waterfront, the town appears to be very poor, people living in small metal huts, farming pigs and cattle right on the waterfront. Chickens and goats running free in the town. After checking in, we got caught up on a "tour scam". It started with him offering to show us where the bakery was. We thought he was just a helpful local. He did take us to a neat home bakery, still baking in a wood fireplace, where we did buy some great still warm bread. After that he started to tell us the island history, we realized this was his occupation and we asked him "how much?" which he would not commit. After he back doored us into the Botanical Gardens. This is where we drew the line, we would rather pay the admission fee, as it goes to support the park. We got rid of the "guide", we only giving him 10 EC (about $4 US) and he wanted more. Tough, we didn't want a tour anyhow, and he certainly was not upfront and honest with us. We continued to walk around the town and were looking at a tree along the road, which we thought was an almond. We asked a local, and he took picked up the fruit on the ground, and with a sharp piece of broken concrete, pounded out the almond from the center. It took a couple of minutes to get each small nut, a lot of work, but the nuts are good. We gladly gave him 10EC for showing us how to get almonds. We continued on our exploration of the village, and we came upon 2 men that were making cement blocks by hand. They had mixed the cement, were filling the moulds, packing it down, and sliding off the moulds. The man in charge said he could sell all he could make, just on the side of the road. 2.50 - 3.0 0 EC a block (about $1US each). In these communities, there are ways to make a living, but it is hard work.
The next day walked to the Sulphur Springs. Here hot gases are venting, and there are pools of boiling water, just like in Yellowstone Park, but no geysers. They advertise this as the "drive in volcano" We had never seen anything like it. The sulphur fumes have created a landscape just like around Sudbury, no vegetation, just white/yellow and then black rocks.. but this is natural. Along the road we picked mangos and when we arrived back in town we smelt fresh fish. On the main corner there was a fisherman hacking up fresh tuna and we bought enough for a great fish dinner.
We have been hearing about security issues in St. Vincent, boat boardings in Chateaubelair, etc. so we are hesitant to leave St. Lucia alone. But the Pitons and mountainous terrain, don't allow VHF communication with out boatfriends in Rodney Bay and we don't know when they are going to show up. It also prevented us from hearing about the violence in Rodney Bay. So we continue to stay on the mooring ball right near town, where we figure we are the safest. The boat boys do come out each day, trying to sell us fruits and bread, offer to clean the bottom etc but they have not been a problem. The boat boy at the dinghy boat is much more aggressive, but we continue to lock up our dinghy without need of his "protection".
While we wait for both weather and more boats we go do some more land exploring. We took the local bus to the southeast corner of the island (6EC each) to Vieux Fort. I had always thought of St. Lucia as a prosperous, touristy island. In Vieux Fort, there were no white faces, but it has an international airport that we didn't see a plane using, a fabulous Atlantic sand beach that horses and livestock are grazing on, and a lot of poverty. But there were no beggars, or tourist hockers, this area doesn't usually see non natives, and didn't bother us a all. Guess all the other touristy stuff is in the northwest corner of the island, the part of the island we missed.
We still are alone, but we are leaving St. Lucia anyhow sailing for Bequia. We really wanted to buddy boat this crossing, but we have been separated from the boats we were with in Dominica and Martinque.. We can see two boats following us out, we were able to contact the boat behind us, so at least we have one buddy boat, never met them but thats all right, we will have a drink together when we get to Bequia.

We arrived safely in Bequia, no problems sailing by St. Vincent, and Calaloo anchored beside us.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dominica June 2006
After complaining terribly about the lack of sailing we have been able to do, we finally had a great sail from the Saints to Prince Rupert Bay. Once we cleared the islands, we set our sails, close hauled in the east winds (10-15knots) and made Dominica in one tack. Since it was Saturday, we had to go to the customs officers home (next to the commercial dock) to clear in. The cost, which was mainly the overtime fee was $25 US. After a quick walk through Portsmouth, which reminded us much of Luperon, maybe a little better, we were off to the Purple Turtle to help another boater’s son celebrate his birthday (local Kubali beer 3.50 EC about $1.50 US for a small bottle)
We have been learning about new weather patterns now, tropical waves and of course there is Tropical Storm Alberto, the first one of the new hurricane season, fortunately which will not affect us. But the tropical wave expected mid week will. So we decided to stay put, since Prince Rupert Bay is a good anchorage. In the meantime we will explore Dominica.
Sunday, we set off for Cabrits National Park. Cabrits means goats, after the goats that the British left on the island to provide meat for the soldiers. Fort Shirley is being restored, a lot of work is being done to maintain this 200 year old fort. But what really is amazing are the ruins of the Douglas Bay Battery, officers residence and commandants house being reclaimed by the immense vegetation. It could be a movie site for another Jurassic Park.
Monday, we rented a car with Tom and Christine from Rock and Roll. The rental guy suggested we go north and east first, as the roads are better coming back from Roseau, especially if we were travelling after dark. So off we went, on roads that twisted and turned, up and down the mountains, banana plants beside us clinging to the steep slopes. Our first stop, Valleyview Bakery. A small hut, where 2 guys were baking bread, commercially. The dough was mechanically kneaded, but everything else was done by hand, and the bread was baked in a stone oven, heated by a wood fire. Of course, it was great, hot and delicious. Next we stopped and picked some bananas at the side of the road, and we were off to the Carib Indian Territory. Here the road is lined with small stands selling baskets, wood carvings, fruits and local food. The old Carib woman at the one we stopped at, gave us a lesson on the local fruits and samples of passion fruit, while the young lad went out and picked fresh papaya from the tree in the yard. We passed a man frying what looked like tortillas, so we had to stop there too. On a broken piece of a cast iron pot on a wood fire the man was frying bread made from cassava (yucca), coconut and sugar…it was excellent. By now it was lunch time and Tom was hungry so we stopped at a small restaurant near a school to try their johnnycake and crab, and chicken.
We started out trek inland to Emerald Pool, another site in the National Park system. (each site costs 5.20EC each, but you can buy a day or week pass) Here we hiked along a wide well maintained path through the rainforest, to the deep, sand bottom pool at the bottom of a beautiful waterfall. We were the only one swimming in the fresh water pool. Apparently the next day would be busier, as a cruise ship is expected into Roseau. We were glad we were doing our trek today.
In order to get to Trafalgar Falls, we had to go into Roseau and back up another mountain, further south. The roads were getting narrower and steeper, with very few opportunities to pass. One would hope that they were one way, but they weren’t. Tom did an amazing job of weaving up and down, around the curves and dodging the other vehicles. We were happy to be in the back seat of this roller coaster adventure ride. Think Christene would have liked to be with us also. Trafalgar Falls consists of two high waterfalls, on two rivers emptying into the same river valley. It is an easy walk to the viewing platform and a more challenging one across the rocks to the bottom of the first falls. Only Tom was sufficiently adventurous to swim across the pool and climb up the falls part way and jump in. We took pictures. None of us were up to the climb to the bottom of the second falls….another time.
We returned to Roseau, and headed north, on the good road. Unfortunately it was after 4 pm by the time we were at the Machoucheri Rum Factory which closed promptly at 3pm, so we were unable to tour it, or buy any rum…something else to do another time. As we entered Portsmouth, we were surprised by the nice apartments around the Ross Medical School. We saw a pizza restaurant, so decided it was dinner time. Here we met a professor from the school, who have their boat in Grenada (on the hard in St. David’s) and they told us all about the school, and what it was like to live in Dominica and what to expect in Grenada.
Back to the boats after dark, very usual for us, but it had been a great day.
The next day, it rained, and rained, not too much wind, but lots of rain. We did laundry, and collected fresh water, and read.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Nevis to Guadaloupe June 2006
Picture: Ross at small waterfall on river hike

After a pleasant walk to the bakery in Basseterre, St. Kitts, we paid our marina bill ($57 US for the 3 nights) we were off to Nevis. The wind continues to be on the nose, but at least we are in the lee of St. Kitts, so we motored southeast. We had hardly anchored off the Four Seasons Resort, when we were radio invited by Rock and Roll to a potluck on their boat that evening. Tom and Christine hosted a spaghetti dinner for 13, and we all fit. It was a great opportunity to establish relationships with the new group of boats we would be travelling with as we all head south. Each boat has a slightly different timetable and destination, but along the line we will be seeing or hearing each other on the radio.
Dawn the next morning we left with Paanga, heading for Guadaloupe. We were doing okay, motor sailing close hauled toward the north end of Montserrat. Because of the ash venting, travel on the western side was not recommended. At 1230 we got an excited call from Paanga, they had experienced 30-35 kn. Winds as they rounded the northern point of the island. We reefed our sails and tacked further north to remain in the deeper water. It was a very rough sail around the north end. We experienced 30Kn winds, huge waves, and the inside of RAFT was just a mess from the pounding and sea spray.
Fortunately we knew that the entrance to Deschaies (pronounced De Hay) was straight in, and Paanga had left a night light on to guide us in. We arrived in around midnight and we happy to get the anchor down. No real damage, but everything was wet and salty and in disarray.
The next morning we checked in with the French officials, no problem and no charge and set off on the hike up the Deschaies River. It is not a well marked trail, in fact there didn’t appear to be trail at all, we just climbed the rocks as we made our way up the river. Near what we thought had to be the top, we stopped and skinny dipped in the fresh water…it was great. Doyle’s guide book promised a road at the top, which we never saw. Finally we took off up the river valley, into a field, over a gate into a monastery. We asked the monk, which way back to Deshaies, and he pointed to the left. We walked down the concrete road, picking mangoes as we went. Once we were in town, we met some other cruisers, talked a little before heading back to RAFT.
Picture: picking mangoes along road

As we approached RAFT we noticed that the snubber was off, and that we were anchored with our secondary anchor on rode. Very quickly we found out that our chain rode on the Bruce anchor had broken, and RAFT was adrift in the harbour. Other boaters came to her rescue, before she drifted out too far, found the key we always leave in the ignition and used the second anchor which is always ready to reanchor her. What wonderful people cruisers are. We were able to find out easily who we were indebted to, and gave our heartfelt thanks. Then we set about finding our anchor and what had happened. Fortunately we were only anchored in 18 feet of water, and with 100 feet of chain on the sand, it was easy to find and follow it to the anchor. With the help of Gary from Rainbow Rider (a diver) we were able to retrieve the chain (it ended up in the garbage) and our anchor which was attached to our spare rode.
As to why the chain broke, all we can say, is that the chain had rusted badly over the summer in Florida. We tried to clean it with acid, paint it with anti rust paint, but it continued to flake rust all winter, gumming up the windlass and making a mess of our decks. We thought it was a cosmetic problem and were planning on getting new chain in Grenada, part of our summer list of things to do. Obviously, it was more than a cosmetic issue, and one of the links gave way. Not going to chance it again, it all was disposed of, and until we have the opportunity to replace it, we will be anchoring with 50 ft of chain and the rest nylon rode. This will require putting out more scope and allowing more swinging room and maybe even using 2 anchors if necessary. We were very lucky the chain broke where and when it did and no damage was done to RAFT or any other boats.
We were getting anxious to start moving south, especially as Chris on his morning weather reports is starting to talk about tropical waves and the first tropical depression of the season. We head off for the Saints. We have a nice sail in the lee of Guadaloupe, and stayed close to the light house as we come to the southern most point. The winds were unusual, even westerly (onshore) for the middle of the island, and piped up to 35K in one gust at the south end. We were doing fine tacking across the open ocean to the Saints until we were about 5 miles out. Then we were hit by a 2 knot current against us, and that slowed us right down. But we did find a place to anchor near the fishing dock in only 22 ft of water, but there were lots of boats, and moorings around us. Especially after yesterday, we did not feel that comfortable. We didn’t even drop the dinghy, to do any exploring. Bright and early the next morning we were on our way to Dominica.
Picture: Windmill farm on the Saints