Sunday, March 25, 2007

Martinique Feb 2007, originally uploaded by S/V Raft.

Picture: Carnival in Martinique

While we were home at Christmas we found a fantastic flight deal between Montreal and Martinique and had arranged for two sets of company to come and visit us. So it was now time to make our way to Martinique to check out the island for our visitors. The first of our visitors were to be Ross's parents, their first visit since we had left Canada in 2004. Although they are in reasonable good health, their mobility reflected their age, so our primary concern was how to get them on and off RAFT.
Picture: Ross and his parents, East coast of Martinique

Our first plan was to go into a marina, to make boat access easier and take advantage of the marina's showers and amenities. However, all the marinas in Martinque that we checked out, were Med moored and crowded. Having never docked RAFT in a Med situation this was going to be interesting. We booked a slip at the large Marin marina for the day the parents were to arrive, and were assured that the dock master and staff would be there to help us. That morning the wind was blowing 20 knots across the slip, and RAFT like all underpowered sailboats does not like to back up, especially into wind and swell.

As promised the dockmaster met us at the slip, and our friend Pete from Brilliant was onboard to give us a hand. (Pete and Stephanie had just spent 5 years in the Med, and were quite used to Med anchoring.) As instructed Bev had prepared two long bowlines and gave the dockmaster the starboard one. We thought he would secure it to the front mooring and control RAFT's sidewise movement. This was not the case, and we ran over the next slip's mooring ball and caught that line around our rudder.

The dockmaster said some very unkind things to us about our boating proficiency, and proceeded to cut the mooring line. Once free, the dockmaster wanted us to try again, but only bow in. This was of no benefit to us, since there would be no way any of us would be able to get on and off RAFT over the bowsprint and around the furling. After promising the boater who had had his mooring line cut we would return to make restitution, we enacted Plan B.....back to anchor in the Marin harbour.
Picture (left): Ross's Mom & Bev in dinghy (below) Sugar plantation ruins, Prequ'le Carnaval -- east coast of Martinique

At least the car rental went fine, the trip to the airport easy, and the parents' plane arrived early and no luggage was lost or damaged. The next two weeks we spent doing primarily land travel, up the east coast and to St. Pierre. Carnival was on, and we saw the parades in St. Anne and moved over to Fort de France for the last day to see the "big one". The last couple days of the parents visit were spend in Anse Mitan, enjoying the beach, and the public showers there.
Picture: Boats anchored below St. Pierre, Mount Pelee looming over St. Pierre's theatre ruins

Despite a few boat "bites" and bruises we think Ross's parents had a good time. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch in Ducos on the way to the airport, got them checked out, and waited for our next set of friends who were coming in on the plane the parents were taking out.

Enter Kathy and Pete into the Caribbean. These are sailing friends who we had been sailing partners when they had their boat Steelaway in the Bahamas (2004-2005), and when we were home the summer of 2005 had been guests on Steelaway in the North Channel in Ontario. So for the next two weeks, we were going sailing!!
Picture: Ross in dungeon where the only person survived. Picture: Bev in massive roots, Fort Shirley, Dominica

After checking out at Fort de France, we sailed up to St. Pierre so they had a chance to see the volcano ruins. On the way we saw four dolphins. Great start for their sailing adventure. Next, we were off to Dominica, anchoring in Prince Rupert Bay. We took a couple days to explore Fort Shirley, but even on a second visit, amazes us. We booked a guided tour to Syndicate Rainforest, hiking to the falls but you are not allowed to swim here since the rivers are a water source for Dominica. We hiked the nature walk through the rainforest and saw 3 parrots flying in the canopy. Everywhere we went our guide Winston identified the vegetation, trees and foods that were being grown. By the end of the trip we had a grocery bag of fresh oranges, grapefruits, pineapple and bananas. Unfortunately for the second time, the rum distillery was closed (closes at 3pm) so we missed the tour --something to look forward to on our next visit to Dominica.
Picture: Winston (our guide), Nature walk, Syndicate Estates, Dominica
Picture: Iguana at Fort Josephine, the Saintes

Another fabulous sail from Dominica to the Saintes and anchored in the tight deep anchorage (28') off the small village. You can now check in here at the Marine, the forms are faxed to Point au Pitre and returned in 20 minutes. The French make checking in very easy and convenient. But we couldn't get a baguette..all the shops closed for the afternoon. Next day we toured Fort Napolean, a wonderful restored French fort. The views are wonderful and well worth the trip up the steep road to the fort.

As we sailed from the Saintes toward Guaduloupe we saw a whale!! Our first since we started this trip in 2004. All we saw was its flipper, which was waving. Everyone caught a glimpse, but unfortunately it was too far away to get a picture. Despite the flukey winds off Basseterre, we had another wonderful sail to Deshaies. Pete was certainly enjoying his time at the helm.

But their time with us was coming to an end. We arrived in Deshaies on Friday, and they had to be back in Martinique Monday afternoon to make their flight to Canada. We had investigated ferries between Guadeloupe and Martinique, and knew that the high speed catamaran didn't travel south on Monday morning, but the slow all night ferry should to leave Point au Pitre Sunday evening and arrive in Fort de France Monday morning. Since the cost about half the price of a flight, Kathy and Pete were up to the adventure.

Picture: Carebret Falls, Guadaloupe

Picture: Pete making his jump!

The car rental place in Deshaies is not open on Sunday, so we booked the car for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday morning we headed south along the coast road to Basseterre, and around the south end to where you can drive into the National Park. The drive through the rainforest was wonderful and the hike to the 2nd Carebret Falls, great. We were able to see the top of the highest falls, but passed on the two hour hike to that level. Have to leave something for our next trip. We returned via La route de Traverse across the island and stopped with the tour buses at Cascade aux Ecrevisses where Pete finally had his chance to dive from the rock wall into the fresh water pool under the falls.
Picture: Grand Anse, north coast of Guadaloupe
Sunday morning we were heading over to Point au Pitre, we wanted to make sure we did understand the ferry schedule and that we could get Pete and Kathy on to the evening boat. There was a bicycle road race through the streets of PTP. This caused most of the downtown roads to be closed, and of course the ferry docks were downtown, right in the middle of the race. Bev had to stop and get directions and assistance with her limited French and Ross had to drive through parking lots, over sidewalks, make illegal U turns to get through the race course to the ferry docks. Once there, there was a typed notice on the slow ferry office, but we were told by the other ferry people, that the office would open at 4pm,

So we were off to explore the eastern wing of the butterfly for a couple hours. When we we returned to the ferry dock, there was still no activity at the slow ferry office, so Bev took another look at the notice and recognized the word "annulled", and got someone to translate the message to determine that the ferry had been cancelled. Off to the airport, and within a few minutes Pete and Kathy were booked on a flight to Martinique the next morning. All we had to do was extend our car rental for another day and all would be fine, and it was. Pete and Kathy got to sleep an extra night on RAFT instead of the ferry and we said our goodbyes at the airport instead of the ferry dock.

We really enjoyed both our sets of company, but after 4 weeks, it was great to have RAFT back to ourselves.