Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Martinique July 2017

Martinique July 2017

Up at 0530! It is a long way from Portsmouth to St Pierre so we need to get an early start.
As usual we are motoring down the side of the island. We have a few rain showers but nothing too drastic, optimistically we try to sail but are thwarted by the wind bending around the south of the island and heading us! Eventually the log reads; ‘engine off, double reefed genoa and main wind E F5 seas Mod/Rough’ Here we go again! We had coffee and sandwiches while we were still in the lee of the island not realising how fortuitous it was.

Four Caribbean Martins fluttered around us for quite a while. We wondered whether they were trying to land on the boat. Eventually they flew off towards to bottom of Dominica. We also saw 5 Tropic birds, so pretty to watch.

The log does not give an accurate account of how uncomfortable the trip was. With the wind and waves on the beam every large wave crashed against the hull and if we were unlucky broke over us! Resting down below is interrupted every few minutes by the crashing of waves on the hull. It was not much better in the cockpit as we are constantly being thrown around. 

We also have to contend with shipping, the two yachts coming towards us present no problems, however, a forty five metre container ship coming towards us and passing 0.5 miles to our starboard needs careful attention. Still we cannot relax as a RFA tanker passes us and then turns across our bows! Fortunately he is three miles ahead so no problem.

The wind dies as we get in the lee of Martinique so Mr. Volvo is pressed into service. Anchoring close to the pier in St Pierre we discover that the anchor windlass is not working properly. It is screaming in pain! The wind is very fluky and boats are swinging all ways. We don’t have enough swinging room so we move. This time we have to raise the anchor without the windlass. By the time we are settled it is 1730. It has been a long day, we have sailed 66 miles in 11 hours. A cold beer is very welcome! The night is rolly and rainy, so not much sleep even after our hard day.

Double rainbow over St Pierre

Saturday 1st July. No WiFI so we have to check the weather on the kindle. It is very slow but at least we are reassured that there are no hurricanes. The weather for the next few days doesn’t look promising with rain, southerly winds and big swells until Thursday. We check our transits and discover that we have dragged in the night. So we reset our anchor again by hand without the aid of the windlass. It appears that there is a problem with the motor as the gearbox seems to be fine.
We went ashore to check in at the Alsace café but it was shut! The other option is the tourist office but that is closed at the weekend.

If we only knew what it was all about?

Another rolly night! In the morning we are entertained by a festival and parade around the town ending on the pier. The bishop(?) and other officials cast a wreath on the water so we think it must be remembering all those lost at sea.  We feel sorry for the participants as it is very wet. The rest of the proceedings take place under a tarpaulin, keeping the dignitaries dry while everyone else gets soaked!

Off to lay the wreath

Caribbean Martins keep visiting us again, landing on the genoa and the mizzen and chirping happily. Can they be the ones we saw in Dominica?

Three little birds! (There's a song there I think!)

We keep checking if the Alsace café is open as we can see from the boat. Finally it opens in the evening but it is raining heavily again so we will try to check in on Monday.

Monday is a calmer day but there is a storm brewing off the Cape Verde Islands so we need to get south. We manage to check in at the tourist office, get some shopping , do the laundry, have a nice snorkel. There is an amazing amount of life under the boat. Tile fish, Garden eels and an electric ray on the sand, many fish amongst the rocks at the shore including Chain morays. A big Barracuda swam by so we decided it was time to get out and finish off the day with a braai.

Balloonfish under the boat

Tuesday, 4th of July so we celebrated US independence with hot dogs for supper. Proper sausages of course, solidarity only goes so far! 

The next day as we were taking of the covers and getting ready to sail we had the Martins round the boat again, a male with his beautiful blue plumage calling at the end of the mizzen. A female arrived with some straw in her beak and was stuffing it in the back of the mizzen! In 3 days they had cased the joint and had decided to move in! Sadly, we had to throw their half made nest out amidst the poor birds franticly flying and calling at us.(Good job we don't speak Martinian! The air would have been quite blue!)

We were only going as far as Anse d’Arlet about 20 miles and all in the lee of the island. We thought we might have a pleasant uneventful sail for a change.

We sailed for a while, but it was pretty rough especially around Fort de France.  Suddenly we had 3 navy patrol boats on a collision course, moving fast. We quickly took down the bimini in case we had to tack. (Our traveller is in the cockpit so our bimini is in two halves so we can have one half up when we are sailing. If we need to tack we have to get it out of the way.)
Of course, it was now raining. 

By now we could see they were flying French courtesy flags, so they weren’t after us, but getting too close. Almost at the last minute they turned 90 degrees and went behind us. We couldn’t see their ensigns so don’t know who they belonged to.

Jolly boating weather!

Approaching the Anse we were hit with 30kt winds and heavy rain, so we could not see any of the many pot markers we know are all over the place here. We missed them all and were anchored off Anse Chaudiere by 13:20, nice and calm in lovely sunshine!  Martins flying around again, so we did our best to shoo them off. They can’t have followed us surely?

Unfortunately we had to anchor twice more as the anchor did not bite in all the seagrass. Poor Richard had to do it all by hand. He has decided we are going to St Lucia as soon as possible and not leaving until the windlass is sorted or replaced. Fair enough!

I could not resist a quick snorkel – this is one of my favourite spots – and then another braai- a flattie this time (South African style spatch cocked chicken). 

Damselfish in an Anemone

Tomorrow, St Lucia.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

To Dominica.

Saturday 24th June 2017 to Dominica.

I don’t know how weather forecasting is done these days, but I believe the forecasters are a highly educated bunch, cocooned in air conditioned rooms, surrounded by the latest ‘super computers’, with access to the latest meteorological data from around the world?

So the forecast is, wind East F3/4, seas slight to moderate, chance of an isolated shower.

Bashing away in the trades again!

It is just over 25 miles to Portsmouth, Dominica; pretty much due south so should be a nice sail. Ha! Sailing gently out through the Passe du Sud Ouest we turn south to be confronted with a SE wind F5 and rough seas of 2 metres plus. Oh well only five hours of bashing to windward. Why do we do it? I suppose because we have checked out so we are obliged to leave the country. Really? I am sure it will be much nicer when we get to Prince Rupert bay (aka Portsmouth).

We sail to Prince Rupert bluff (the north point of the bay) and motor in. The bay is a sea of ‘white horses’ we had expected it to be calm. We are met by Titus, dressed head to toe in yellow waterproofs, he gets drenched several times as he manoeuvres alongside. Unable to hear each other over the wind we gesticulate that we will take a mooring (Lots of ball shapes between us and thumbs up signs). Poor Titus, he obviously drew the short straw as duty ‘boat boy’ this morning.  

Titus helps us onto a mooring in front of the PAYS building and then assists another boat onto the mooring next to us. We agree that he will take us to customs to check in. At XCD 30 for the round trip it is better than getting a soaking in our dinghy. We agree to take the mooring for a week as this is the best deal. Titus will be back later to collect the money.

Before Titus comes back we have a visitor it is Martin (Providence). We have known Martin for many years and have a long chat, it transpires that it is his mooring we are on not a PAYS mooring. We confirm Titus has put us on the mooring. It is not a problem as the beauty of the PAYS arrangements is that everyone works together. The weekly deal just got better. Thanks Martin!

Not quite the only boat in the anchorage!

Settling down for the afternoon we get another visitor, this time it is Alexis, “welcome home” he says. I think we have explained here the town is Portsmouth. Our home port is Portsmouth. Everyone here still thinks it’s a huge joke. Even the customs are joining in! Ah well it is always nice to be home even if it is windy and a bit rolly but that just makes it feel even more like home!

The following day things have calmed down, no ‘white horses’, the bay is calmer with a gentle offshore breeze and it is raining (at least they got that right!) Still at least the rain has almost filled our water tanks. There are a few cruising boats here but things are winding down for the summer. Many of the beach bars are closed and the PAYS BBQ has stopped, there are just not enough boats to make it worthwhile.

South Africans get everywhere!

There are a couple of boats that we know here and we agree to meet at the Madiba bar for a sundowner. If it ever stops raining, which it eventually does.

Ashore we meet the crews of ‘Overstreet’ and ‘Shameles’, they have planned a trip to Wotton Waven sulphur springs near Roseau and invite us along. The plan is to go by public bus, we will have to change busses in Roseau but as seasoned island travellers we are looking forward to our adventure. While we are planning the trip one of the locals overhears our conversations and says he can arrange a driver for the day at XCD30 each. This seems even better as it will cost over 20 dollars each on the buses. 

One of many broken bridges

The following day, we all (7 of us) climb into Charlie (Sunshine tours) taxi. It is a bit of a squash but no worse than a local bus. We have the scenic route south to Roseau. On the way there are several detours via Bailey bridges, crossing rivers where the road was washed away by the floods caused by Tropical Storm Erika in 2015. Subsequently one of the Bailey bridges was washed away as well! Crossing that river we had to use the old stone bridge that was built on the plantation in the 1800’s. Still standing but just wide enough for a car. Larger vehicles have to ford the river.

Town hall cum Courthouse cum Police station

We passed through many villages discovering another side of Dominica – a great range of architecture from colonial public building to traditional shingle houses.

We detour to drive the original old coast road which is only wide enough for one car, sometimes with the forest brushing one side and the sea right next to the wheels on the other. This used to be the only road between Roseau and Portsmouth.  

All rooms with a view

  We see the changes Erika made to the coastline. In some places villages on the sea have now got a beautiful beach that they previously didn’t have, while others have had the beach taken away, the sea is right up to the wall. It is all very interesting.

The Old and New - Note the novel planters, recycling Dominica style!
Abandoned rum distillery outside Roseau

Wotton Waven sulphur springs is deserted and we are the only visitors. The hot water bubbles and  boils out of the ground in small pools and there is the smell of sulphur everywhere.

Sulphur springs

 Charlie shows us a rock with a ‘mouse hole’ in it you can put your finger in it and feel the very hot air coming up from the ground. 

Even the shops were shut here

From Wotton Waven we went on to Ti Kwen Glo Cho. 

These rodent like creatures are called Agouti - Not sure if they were part of a 'Zoo' or a larder? - The locals eat them.

This is a beautiful spot with lovely  landscaped gardens and hot volcanic baths.

 The baths are fed by bamboo pipes with the hot spring water. Afterwards you can wash off in clear very cold spring water from the waterfalls in the gardens. 

The freshwater showers are also fed by bamboo pipes making it look all very natural. Antheriums grow all over, I have never seen so many in one place.

A Different Helliconium

 We are shaded by huge trees and tree ferns as we go from pool to pool up and down steps cut into the hillside edged in bamboo or wood.


Refreshed by our sulphur baths we adjourn for lunch to a lovely local restaurant with a view of the Trafalgar falls away in the distance up the river, River Rock Café and Bar.

A Purple throated Carib - seen on the terrace over lunch.

We return to Portsmouth late in the afternoon and have a late beer at the Madiba bar. 
An excellent day out. We also were lucky with the weather as it stayed dry for the whole day. Tomorrow we will be back to sunshine and showers again!
Apart from the rain the forecast looks good for a passage south on Friday. We plan to make an early start and go all the way to St Pierre in Martinique. It will be a full day sailing.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

South to Guadeloupe 16th June 2017

South to Guadeloupe 16th June 2017

It is Friday, I know you shouldn’t start a voyage on a Friday but it looks like a good forecast and we need to get going.

We are woken at 0330 by 2 boats anchored close to us talking on the VHF. Now we always leave the VHF on Ch. 16/68 just in case someone has a problem and we may be able to help. But really guys if you are planning to leave early and need to talk to each other why not agree a ‘working channel’ before you go to bed, not wake everyone up by discussing your plans on a hailing channel at zero dark thirty! (No names no ‘pack drill’ as they say but you know who you were!)

With our sleep disturbed we are up before it is light and away by 0600. We motor sailed for a while then with all 3 sails set we were on our way. The log shows nothing exciting except that we handed the mizzen at noon as the wind had gone further forward of the beam and it was permanently being back winded by the main. Seas were slight to moderate for the whole trip and the wind was Force 4/5. Tamarisk passed us just north of Tete A L’anglaise and we sailed right to the entrance of Deshaies Bay before furling the genoa and dropping the main as we motored in to anchor.

A rare sight with our mizzen up

As usual there were no available moorings, most of them being taken by long term residents. We found a spot to anchor close to Tamarisk on the north side of the bay. It is now just after 2pm so we put the sails away, had a quick swim and a late sandwich lunch with a cold beer to celebrate our arrival. The log records 53 miles in just over 8 hours, 6.5kts moving average.

The very modern Library building in Deshaies

At this time of year we pay particular attention to the weather, it is now officially ‘hurricane season’. Our plans had been to rush south but with TS (Tropical Storm ) Brett looking to pass between St Vincent and St Lucia we might as well stay here. We seem to be getting plenty of wind and rain. Dave on Tamarisk recorded 39Kts the other night! Very choppy in the harbour and we seem to get a soaking either going ashore or coming back. At least it is warm rain! 

The storm has passed and all is calm. We plan to have a braai and invite Dave and Anna over from Tamarisk. There is a good meat selection in the supermarket so we have lamb chops and steak! What we don’t have is propane for the gas braai. The little Camping Gaz cylinder has run out and the supermarket that usually stocks the cylinders won’t have any until next week. Never mind we will have to cook on the stove. Still a great evening with plenty of French wine!

Blue headed wrasse

With calmer weather we can go snorkelling. It is usually nice here and from where we are anchored it is an easy swim to the reef on the edge of the bay. It seems to us that there is a lot more algae covering everything and that it was not as pretty as we remembered from two years ago. There were plenty of different sea urchins but no parrot fish at all. We only saw one turtle. Maybe its just the season.

Magnificent sea urchin

 The highlight of that night was a ‘Mayday’ call on the radio. This was handled very professionally by the French coastguard who eventually sent a helicopter to rescue the crew of a yacht that was sinking. We heard the helicopter pass over us on the way out to sea and then on the way back. A real life drama from the scene of ‘Death in Paradise’. We trust the people were OK.

Our very own 'RNLI' Richard rescues another dinghy that was floating off the dinghy dock. We returned it to the dock, I suspect the owner didn't even know it had gone for a jaunt on its own.

With the storm safely passed we are on the move south to the Saintes. As always we either have no wind or too much. This time we have very little wind as we motor down the coast of Guadeloupe. What was I saying about too much wind? Yes we have it in the gap between Guadeloupe and the Saintes, wind, rain, big seas, then more wind and rain. The visibility was down to 100metres at times in the rain. Fortunately it cleared as we arrived, in time to pick up a mooring just off the town jetty.

Galene from up the hill where we take the rubbish and recycling is. Note how empty the anchorage is. Plenty of mooring balls but not many yachts.

At least the boat has had a good wash! We have named the harbourmaster here ‘Hawkeye’, as we had only been on the mooring for about 10 minutes when he turned up for his money! The moorings here are actively managed. A bit different from Deshaies. The wind has moved a bit north so the moorings here are a bit rolly. The wind is forecast to go easterly later in the day and it does, so it all calms down.

The perfect end to another day in paradise! Time for a cold beer.

The town (Basse Terre) is very quiet in spite of the multiple ferries plying between the islands all day long. They have funny opening hours here. Not just the usual long lunch. Some establishments are open in the morning, others in the afternoon! Makes shopping a bit tedious but remember it is paradise! (Well that’s the name of the local ice cream anyway!). 

The highlight of our shopping is that we are able to exchange our Camping Gaz cylinder. This is the same cylinder we exchanged in the Cape Verde islands in January 2013! It was very rusty and had been repainted several times but was exchanged for a nice clean one without question. I feel a braai coming on!

Very pretty!

An interesting aside is that our UK O2 sim works here in the Saintes. As we still have time left on the plan we are on the same deal as we would have been back home. 

We have paid for 2 nights and as the weather looks good we will be off to Dominica on Saturday.