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.