Escape from Rodney Bay
Our planned escape at the weekend was thwarted once again! We discovered that we were still getting a little water in the rudder locker. Of course, we immediately thought it must be the rudder again, but before making a fuss at the boatyard Richard decided to find the source of the leak. It would also be difficult for them to find. So, we stuck bits of paper towel in strategic positions and went shopping in the Rodney Bay Mall prior to collecting the new battery.
On the way back we bumped into (not literally!) Stonefire who we had last seen in Puerto Calero . Did not have long to chat as we had to collect the battery and they were leaving for Martinique next day, but it was good to have a quick catch up.
Back on the boat the locker and all the paper was dry – mystifying! Next day more paper towel in more places, and it was off to the marina for a bit of wifi and a swim in the pool. Back on the boat all the paper was dry but again a bit of water in the locker. Definitely not the rudder, so that was good but still mystifying.
Eventually we discovered that some of the bolts holding ‘Arry (the Hydrovane) had come loose. They are just above the waterline so it was only when a little wave broke or some wash hit the back of the boat that the water trickled in. Mystery solved, and a few tweaks with spanner and ratchet and we are once again watertight.
While out at anchor we have Brown Boobies and Royal Terns flying round and diving for prey with Magnificent Frigate Birds circling, hoping to steal their catch. We also saw an Osprey swoop to catch a fish.
Another nice thing about Rodney Bay is that each morning at 8:30 on Ch68 there is a cruisers radio net. New arrivals and departures call in, taxi shares to the airport arranged and “Treasures of the Bilge” are bartered. Island happenings are also announced, Ladies lunch every Wednesday at Bay Gardens and any safety and security issues discussed.
We acquired a nice 2 year old 5Hp Tohatsu outboard engine and disposed of our little 3.5 Hp via the net. We are now whizzing around the bay at a great pace and have made some new friends as well.
For those of you who think cruising in the Caribbean is all fun, think again. While waiting for some water to leak in and wet our tissues, Richard was cleaning rust marks off the deck with oxalic acid. I spent a whole day cleaning all the upholstery which was very marked after the crossing, partly from all the red dust. Not much fun in the heat.
Finally on Wednesday 6th March we left for Marigot Bay, one of the prettiest anchorages in the Caribbean, apparently. We set off at 9:30 with a F3 Easterly under main and genoa for the 10mile journey. A nice relaxing sail with lots of flying fish. By noon we were anchored next to Sea Gypsy, one of the Porto Santo crowd.
|Anchoring in Marigot bay|
The water is blue and clear so a snorkel seemed a good idea. Just under our stern was a little coral bombie with fan worms and butterfly fish, and large schools of other juveniles were swimming round us. We checked that our anchor was dug in and then went over and found Sea Gypsy’s as well.
|Rum shack in Marigot bay|
The four of us went ashore and had sundowners at a rum shack in amongst the palm trees on the peninsular watching all the boats in the anchorage. Then we went upmarket - to the Rainforest Hideaway, where they had advertised jazz. It was a lone piano player, not very jazzy, and the drinks tasted the same but were twice the price! A great evening.
|View from the rum shack|
Next day we went ashore. It is a very pretty bay and has been used in several films, but it is now very built up with a marina, a small mall and hotels so a little bit spioled. Across from the marina we had a lovely lunch in a wooden cafe built over the water. On this side of the bay the mangroves are protected so we had a little walk through them. There is a boardwalk at first with small yellow crabs disappearing under the boards as you walk along.
The mangroves are very atmospheric with black mud, fungus, black crabs disappearing into their holes and water bubbling up out of them. We were lucky to see a Yellow Crowned Night Heron as it flew and landed on a root. It stepped down and simply vanished, its colouring blending in perfectly.
On Thursday we upped anchor at 9:00 and set off in a nice F3 Easterly for the 10 miles to Soufriere. After about an hour the wind dropped and went SSW, so we motored the rest of the way, the magnificent Pitons coming closer and closer. There is no anchoring in Soufriere as it is a marine reserve so the mooring is all on buoys. Before we were anywhere near them Phillip came roaring up in his pirogue to help us tie up: “I will only charge you 20EC$.”! He found us one near town and opposite a few small rocks that are a Laughing Gull colony, so we had their happy calls as a pleasant background throughout our stay. By 11:30 we were tied up and Phillip gave us some information about town and knew who to see about diving.
|Arriving in Soufriere|
The buoys are run by the Soufriere Marine Management Association and we paid 40EC for 2 nights or 80EC for a week. You can get water from the town dock, but fuel only in cans from the fuel station which is not far from the dingy dock. Fortunately we did not need either.
|Soufriere from our anchorage|
Going ashore is quite wearing. There is a good but high dingy dock, but on it are various males from about 10 years up wanting to :
Look after you dingy
Find you a taxi
Take you on a hike up the Pitons
Take you on a hike to the rainforest
Take you on a hike anywhere
Sell beads and coconut shell bird feeders, etc, etc.
We found Tourist Information and had a wander round town. There are supposed to be remnants of French Colonial architecture, but it felt more like wandering around a movie set for a dusty Wild West movie. Wooden buildings with balconies hanging over the rough pavements filled with women selling fruit and veg and foot wide and deep gutters on either side of the road made crossing a hazard. There were little bridges over them here and there. It could have been quaint and interesting, but just felt sad and uncared for.
We looked in the two supermarkets which were quite well stocked and bought a cold drink as there were no really appealing bars or cafes, arranged a dive for Sunday and went back to the boat. The water was really clear and it looked interesting snorkelling round the boat. However, on the way we had passed through patches of brownish sludge, which we though looked like some big ship had emptied its holding tanks. The warden from the SMMA said it was the “fish season” and normal for this time of year. We think he meant spawning, but we had seen some larger more solid looking bits out at sea, so were a bit doubtful. This layer of sludge kept coming and going on the tide, so we really did not feel like swimming in it. It was also leaving tide marks on the side of Galene. I also did not use the sea water tap, in case. So this spoilt the area for us not being able to swim.
Saturday we again ran the gauntlet of the “Boat Boys” on the dingy dock and had a lovely walk up to the Diamond Mineral Baths and Botanical Gardens. It took about ½ hour uphill, but we saw a slightly better part of town and then walked past a Mahogany plantation, dodging the big seed pods as they crashed down.
The gardens are beautiful and a real mix of plantings. Nutmeg, Avocado, Mango , Cocoa, Banana and other fruit trees mixed with forest trees and an understory of various ginger lilies and rainforest flowers , a beautiful Jade Vine and hummingbirds flying around. The path leads to the mineral baths first built in 1784 for the French troops. Empress Josephine is said to have used them as her family owned the estate.
|Pink Torch Ginger|
|Purple throated humming bird|
Now, there are 3 which are just about 3m square white tiled pools where you can enjoy the warm water. We walked up to the Diamond Falls first, used in the Superman II movie. Not very big, but pretty, with the wall behind different colours from all the minerals leeching out of the water. Then we ordered chicken rotis at the cafe and had our mineral soak. There are freshwater showers for afterwards and then we went to share out rotis with the bullfinches which hop all around the tables.
|Butterfly fish in a sponge|
Sunday, our dive was arranged for 9:30. We were to be collected from the boat! What a luxury! So, about 9:50 our dive guide arrives – this is going to be our first dive from a pirogue! We had chosen to dive the Pinnacles, across the bay from our mooring. The water was a bit cloudy but it was a good dive – the Pinnacles reach almost from the bottom (20m) to the surface and are covered with huge sponges, sea fans, wire coral and other corals. Various reef fish including some big blue parrotfish and needlefish surrounded us and out in the blue yellowtail snapper mingled with many other fish. An interesting one was a Barred Hamlet – Hamlets are predators which mimic non-predatory fish to get close to their prey of shrimps and crabs in daylight.
I was a bit worried about getting back into the pirogue as it is a hard boat, but the curved hull is really quite close to the water and it was very easy.
The fishermen all use them here and they dive a lot for conch and lobster, so they obviously designed them for that as well. We were duly taken back to Galene, no lugging around of heavy dive gear!
|Sharptail Eel - Uncommon in the Caribbean|
The afternoon was spent watching our Laughing Gulls, the pigs in their sties on the beach, the goats under the banana trees, the locals building an extension on stilts and another family on the beach with Dad taking the little ones for rides in a kayak. He set off with an older son holding a 2 year old in the front and he had a just walking baby on his lap. When he came back, he put the now sleeping baby over his shoulder, beached the kayak using 2 hands on the paddle and stepped off!
We decided we could not face all the boat boys again for another excursion ashore and on Monday we headed back to Rodney Bay, planning to water and provision and try to reach Dominica by 20th March to watch the Windies v Zimbabwe Test.
Friday 15th March
Big swells from the north for the last few days combined with NNE winds mean we are once again still at anchor in Rodney Bay. It is that swelly that we have got out the non slip mats and are using our “Muggy” for drinks again!
Waimangu, another of the Porto Santo crowd, have arrived as well, so more catching up to do.
Behind us we have Impressionist, a Westerly Conway, and they also used to be Channel Sailing Club members. The cruiser net has arranged a BBQ at the Ocean Club on Saturday, so as the weather is not due to really improve until Sunday, we are staying here. We will watch the Saturdays 6 Nations game do the BBQ and leave on Sunday for Martinique, probably giving up on the cricket.