Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Wednesday 22 June – Saturday 25 June

After Sea Cat delivers a bag of ice we are underway by 8:30, heading south along the shore of Dominica. We are leaving the Leeward chain of Islands heading for the Windward chain of Islands, new set of charts and guide books. We have double reefs in both sails since the weather prediction calls for winds 20-25, with possible isolated showers and gusts up to 35 and 6-10 foot seas. Moving along the coast seas and wind are fine, but as we pass Scotts Head the southern tip of Dominica and go from a depth of 700 feet to 7000 we get broadsided with a 10 foot wave breaking on the port side of the boat. Soaking us and the cockpit with saltwater, even some down the companionway that was open. That would not have been so bad but it was then we realized one of the small hatches over the dinning table was not locked down ! So a huge amount of salt water soaked one of the seats and the floor down below. Lock the window down, nothing we can do until we are at anchor. The rest of the trip was another great sail, moving along between 7-8 knots. Once out in the deeper water the seas evened out between 4-5 feet with an occasional 6 footer. Once in the lee on Martinique the seas died down but the wind became irregular again as it swept down from the mountains. Rolled up the main first thinking we could run with just the genoa, but winds too variable so rolled up the genoa and motored into St. Pierre anchoring close by Promise who had come down the day before. First we clean the cockpit out washing down the salt, where is the rain when you want it. Steve goes to check in while I start to clean up down below. Steve finds customs but since it is Wednesday afternoon, they have decided not to reopen after lunch. He comes back to the boat & we finish cleaning up the mess. Dave & Colleen stop by on the way back to their boat saying to hit customs at 9 am. St. Pierre has a very interesting history, back in 1902 Mt. Pelee volcano “exploded” releasing a huge fire ball (with the energy of an atomic bomb) that rained down on the city killing all but 2 of the 30,000 residents and leaving the town in ruins. Thursday we get to customs at 9, it is also the tourist office so we pick up a few pamphlets on Martinique but most were just in French I guess they don't get a lot of English speaking visitors? Find a postcard and the post office, get stamps & mail cards. Stop by the local market to pick up some fruit & veggies. Back to the boat to check with Colleen & Dave to see if they want to walk up to the Depaz Rum Distillerie. Head back out around 11:30 stopping by the ruins of the old theater & prison on our way out of town. A nice 2 mile walk up the road and we reach the beautiful grounds of the distillerie at the base of Mt. Pelee. A self guided tour through the distillerie and a lovely lunch at the restaurant on the grounds before walking back to town, via another road which turns out to be shorter and not as steep. Back in town passing by the ruins of an old fort that also burned. It is a sight to see the huge pieces of charred remains. Back to the boats around 5 for a nice cool swim. Friday morning listening to Chris Parker's weather on the SSB we hear 2 other boats (Gypsy Wind & Bright Hope) we had met back in PR. After the report Steve is able to hail Bright Hope and talk to Art, they are off shore heading straight to Grenada from St. John USVI. We head out at 9 and arrive at 11 in Fort De France, the capital city of Martinique. As we are approaching you can see more and more homes along the coast as we get into a heavily populated area. So you would think getting an internet connection here would be easy, turns out not to be so. St. Pierre we could understand but this is the biggest town in the Windward Islands, the capital of Martinique! We do manage to find a couple of spots in town to lug the computer into to check email. Walking around town seeing the sights meeting up with Dave & Colleen at the end of the day to have a drink before heading back to the boats for the evening cooling off swim. Saturday morning we go in to check out the local market, and that place and the streets are all busy, that is until 1 o'clock when everything closes up. All the stores and even the restaurants, except the ones in the mall, so we wind up there and go to a restaurant for lunch running into Dave & Colleen just finishing their lunch. It was strange walking back to the boat on deserted streets, they even had the street cleaner going. Back on the boat making plans to move on to St. Lucia on Sunday. Fort De France is a HUGE bay with 5-6 other smaller bays and little towns and anchorages, we look forward to seeing next time up, but for now we will be heading south.


Friday 17 June – Tuesday 21 June

We have to fight the incoming waves and wind riding the outgoing tide which makes going out the Passe Du Bud Ouest (west pass cut) a little rough. But once outside and heading south we have a GREAT sail over from the Saints to Dominica with wind and waves on the beam. Doing 7.5 – 8 knots with a reef in both sails, what a ride. Three and a half hours later we are moored in Prince Rupert Bay on the northwest coast of Dominica off the town of Portsmouth. In this section of Dominica there is a group of men PAYS = Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security. They maintain the moorings and can arrange for tours, supplies, yachting services you might need, & give general information on the area, as well as ensure the area is safe. Boaters are a big part of the livelihood to this country and we are very welcomed here. Our dealings with this group was very professional and reasonable. No high pressure sales pitch, just letting us know they are available and there to help if we needed anything. Lawrence of Arabia got to our boat first, introducing himself saying he would check back with us after we had checked in and had time to relax. We have lunch on board while we wait for customs to reopen after their lunch break. As we are siting on deck we look over at a boat that had come in shortly before us and notice that it looks like the boat Promise, we met back in the BVI'S. We hail them on the VHF and it is Dave & Colleen so we make plans to see them later and catch up on where we have been. Steve & Dave go over to customs to check in and get back just as it starts to rain. Good to have the salt washed off the boat but not good to go into town. Finally about 5 it stops so we make a break for it and go into one of the local beach bars – Big Papa's. Have a couple of drinks while visiting with Dave & Colleen. Walk down to the Purple Turtle to have a drink and compare dinner menus, going back to Papa's for dinner. We all wanted to do the Indian River tour but it was too late to contact Lawrence, so when he came by Saturday morning we decided to do the afternoon tour since it was already later in the morning than when he does the morning tour. Spent the morning just looking around the town, postcards will have to wait as the shops that are open did not have any. Very friendly town, as you walk the streets folks say hi and welcome you to Dominica, some stopping to ask where you are from and to talk about the US and Dominica, wishing us a pleasant stay. Another HOT day, so back to the boat for lunch and a swim to cool off before our river tour. Monty (who works for Lawrence) comes to pick us up in his boat, and the tour starts as he explains the rusted big ships washed ashore are from a hurricane, making it clear this is NOT a hurricane hole. At the entrance to the river the outboard is turned off and the oars come out as no motors are allowed up the river (another good reason to have a guide). Even though the Indian River opens to the bay and has a tidal flow it is feed by springs up in the mountain so it is fresh water. Pirates of the Caribbean II had some scenes filmed along this river. Colleen & Dave are surprised we have not seen the movie so say they will lend us theirs. The amazing trees and plants along the way are beautiful and the sounds of the birds and frogs just add to this magical experience. Spotting many land crabs along the banks and several herons as we wind our way deeper into the woods. My words will not do justice to the beauty of this river tour so you will just have to look at the pictures. Amongst all this natural beauty way up the river, one of the guides came up with a great idea, and made a jungle bar from surrounding trees and bamboo blending right in with the woods. Back down river and back to the boats by 6:30 then over to Promise for cocktails as we watch the sunset. When we came out of the river we talked to Lawrence about what our island tour the following day would cover, and confirmed the 9 am pick up time (pick you up at our boat so we don't have to use our dinghy). Sunday morning Monty picks us up and brings us ashore to Kilroy (AKA Uncle Sam) who will be our guide / taxi driver today, seems Lawrence does the negotiation of what things will cost and then has helpers/friends do the actual tours. Kilroy is a great guide and a great driver we traveled roads winding up and down the mountains and through many villages, some very narrow streets you would think they should be one way. We cover a lot of territory, with lots of little stops so Kilroy can go over to the side of the road to grab a fruit or a spice growing to show it to us. Just about any type of fruit, vegetable, nut, spice & herb grows easily and everywhere here. Stops by an old distillery, the Carib Indian reserve, and many beach and mountain scenic view overlooks. All before lunch at a great place called Islet View restaurant. After lunch we stop at Spanny Falls, a short hike down into the woods and we come to the waterfall and a pool of water to swim in cold but refreshing. Colleen & Dave came prepared with a bottle of wine as we toast to a great day. Hike back out, stop for a beverage and to change out of wet bathing suit bottoms and the tour continues making a few more stops. Arriving back to Portsmouth around 6, back to our boats and Colleen & Dave join us for a late Thai style dinner that Steve makes for us from some of the herbs Kilroy picked for us during the day. Monday we move on down the coast to Roseau the capital of Dominica. Not as many boat greeters/guides down at this end, but Desmond Sea Cat's helper comes out to meet us and we use one of his moorings. He tells us Sea Cat is busy but will stop by later to see if we need anything. We go in to check in & out with customs, you can (so the book says) do this all at the same time when you 1st check in, but since we were not sure how long we would be staying they told us to check in again in Roseau. We finally find the customs office hidden behind a big black solid iron door/gate that had recently been painted so NO sign saying customs & immigration through here. They were a little confused as to why we were checking in again also, but were very nice, did the paperwork and checked us out all for $2. Walked around town, found my postcards and a place for lunch. A local place advertising they serve Ital food, we thought Italian but learn it is just a type of cooking using natural unprocessed food with fresh veggies, herbs & spices. We have a huge great inexpensive meal. As we are walking to the PO we run into Colleen & Dave who had just arrived and are looking for the customs office. Steve shows them the hidden door while I go across the street to get stamps and mail my postcards. We continue walking around town, find a place to have a cold drink then Colleen & Dave go to find a place to eat while we go back to the boat to see what we might want to visit the next day. Dominica has many hiking trails to many waterfalls and lakes, but some can be hard over rocky terrain, so we are not sure which ones my knee will allow us to do. Tuesday Coleen & Dave decide to head down to Martinique while we do another land tour and get some laundry done. We talk to Sea Cat in the morning and decide on a couple of spots I can get to, and set a departure time for 9:30. A quick drive through town, stopping at an auto parts store to get a fan belt for the boat and to drop laundry off. Climbing up into the mountains again, everywhere you look green, green and more green dotted with colorful flowers. You can understand why the Dominicans are such happy & friendly people growing what they need, eating what they grow as Sea Cat put it. He also makes several stops showing us all the wonderful things growing along the road. Up into the clouds to stop by Fresh Water Lake, water level is low even though this is the rainy season and we have been getting a few showers every day they are still behind on their rainfall. Steve takes a little hike down and is surprised to see that the water pipe line we have been seeing for miles and miles is made out of WOOD. Meeting up with us waiting for him down the hill. Traveling down some rugged older roads Sea Cat asks if we still want to go to the waterfall for a swim. Coming down from the cold mountain air, not real thrilled about getting wet BUT this is why we came on this little tour so we say yes we want to go. We get there and he tells us this is the 2nd most visited spot, they are even doing construction to build a bigger parking lot and a bathhouse. We walk down the path and over a stream and come to this little 4 ft. waterfall dumping out into this little 15x10 pool just barely deep enough to wade in. Sea Cat says go on in I'll just wait here, well we are NOT impressed. Since we drove all the way here to this out of the way spot, and I did say I would go swimming, I get ready to go in wondering why this is such a popular place ??? Steve on the other hand says he will “give it a pass”, that he is not going to get wet for this. Sea Cat says well I guess I will have to just go in and show you, making Steve feel guilty so he comes in also. Sea Cat goes around the corner and we see the opening to the caves that you swim into. NOW we understand why this is such a good spot. We start swimming in but Steve has to go back to get the camera (did not think we would need it). Swim in a ways and come to another opening in the rocks where the water is rushing down. Steve & Sea Cat climb up and go back behind a waterfall. I couldn't make the climb up so waited behind. Needless to say our impression of the place was greatly altered. Sea Cat set us up perfectly and he said he would be using Steve's line about “giving it a pass”, all of us having a good laugh. Next stop Trafalgar Falls & hot springs. I make the climb to the hot springs but to get all the way to the falls you have to climb over a lot of big rocks so just Steve & Sea Cat go while I soak in the hot springs. Climb back out change into dry clothes to go by the River Rock Cafe for lunch. Stop at one of the hot sulfur springs, surprised at how hot the ground underneath gets, you can here it gurgling up, poke a stick down into the ground and it comes up with hot mud on the end, seeing a pool of boiling water coming up from the ground. Drive back towards town stopping at an overlook of the city. Another incredible day in this beautiful country. Wednesday we will head south to Martinique but look forward to a return trip to Dominica and the chance to explore more and doing some diving as we have heard it is a great place for that also.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Guadeloupe and The Saints

Tuesday 14 June – Thursday 16 June

Steve goes into customs at 8 to clear us out of Antigua, as I go to the Post Office that opens at 8:15 to mail my postcards. Steve has to fill out the exact same form ONLY difference one says arrival one says departure, you would think they could just add an extra line on one of the forms. As I enter the PO two workers are there so I ask for stamps for my postcards and the lady tells me no I have to wait, that the cashier is not there yet. By 8:45 Steve is done checking out and has come to find me still waiting for the PO cashier, seems she had to bring her baby to day care so is not at work yet. Yes life is different in the islands. A mail carrier comes by but still no cashier, finally the other lady working in the PO feels sorry that it is taking so long and says it will be okay for me to leave my money and cards with her and she will buy the stamps when the cashier gets in. HOPE she does !! Back to the boat, take the motor off the dinghy for the passage, stop by the fuel dock on the way out and we are leaving English Harbour by 10. Partly cloudy skies, chance of scattered thunderstorms, 10-15 knot winds with 1-2 foot swells both on the beam. By 11 the winds have picked up a little so we are able to just sail, no motor, feels and sounds great as we are doing 7+ knots. As we get further from land the swells increase to 4-5' with an occasional 6' swell, still on the beam so able to sail comfortably. Around 1 we can see a thunderstorm getting close, and the winds are increasing and shifting direction. We roll up the genoa, and reef the main as the winds clock all around kicking up confused seas. Only get a few drops of rain but the wind and waves toss the boat around a little, next thing we know we have lost GPS and auto pilot. Hand steering get the boat back on course and Steve goes down below to see if he can figure out what happened. Turns out a book came flying off a shelf and somehow hit the autopilot breaker turning it off so all he had to do was flip it back on. 30 minutes later wind has died down, seas still a little confused but able to put sails back out and just sail again. Once we come along the coastline of Guadeloupe we lose all wind so roll up the sails and motor the last 3 miles to Deshaies ( pronounced Day – hay). We are anchored in Deshaies Bay off the town of Deshaies by 4. There had been some threatening rain clouds as we approached the coast of Guadeloupe and just as we are getting ready to go check in the guy from the boat anchored next to us comes up and explains that with the wind clocking around the bay boats will do a 360 spin and he is afraid we are too close. We think we have enough room but never want to upset someone already anchored we agree to move with no problem. Of course that is when the skies open up as I am on deck getting the anchor up and resetting it in a new location, but it is warm enough that it actually feels refreshing. The rain lets up for a few minutes but we can see more is on the way so checking in will wait until Wednesday morning. Hot and muggy, so glad we can run the generator and have A/C. The village has a customs office, but the word is that finding someone there is rare. So the place to check in at is Le Pelican, a combo internet cafe, photo/copy shop, & souvenir shop. We were able to check in and get postcards & STAMPS all in the same place, what a country ! Quick stroll around the quaint little town, stop for a bottle of water and to address the postcards, & drop them off at the Post Office. The tourism office is closed, we wanted to pick up some info for when we return as there is a lot to see and do inland on Guadeloupe. The internet service we signed up for in Antigua has an outlet here but the signal was not connecting, so we stopped by the shop and she told us they were aware of the problem and a technician was supposed to be out in the afternoon to fix it. Being that she said they had the problem for a week and that we are deep into “island time” territory we will be surprised if we get internet in the afternoon. Stop at the local fruit stand to pick up a few items and the grocery store then back to the boat for lunch. After lunch we go for a walk along the ridge by Hemingway’s restaurant to see the ruins of an old fort, a few cannons (the Caribbean is literally littered with these things!) and then back into town to pick up a few more things. The internet is still not working so Steve goes by another place and gets a days worth of service. Back at the boat we get cleaned up and go into town for a lovely dinner at L'Amer on a balcony with the waves lapping the shore just beneath us and a view of our boat at anchor. I have “Colombo Chicken”, which the waiter says is chicken cooked with “local spices” Turns out it's chicken in a delicious curry sauce which Steve figures is named after Colombo, Sri Lanka (ne Ceylon), but way toned down on the chili. The adventures of eating when you don't understand the language or local terminology, food was very good just different from what we expected ! Steve of course does not care as he will eat anything, the more unusual the better but I am not as adventurous when it comes to food. Thursday we are underway around 9 heading for Pigeon Island, part of the Cousteau National park. Stopping by to pick up a mooring and snorkel for a little before continuing south. No problem picking up one of the day moorings available to boaters, BUT no painter line just the loop to thread our line through, so I miss the 1st one and get the next one with Steve's help. It is a great place to snorkel and next time back would be worth doing a dive further out into the park. As we are circling the island and heading back to the boat the tide starts to come in and I can NOT make any forward progress. With my knee still on the mend I can not kick as hard as I need to to fight the current. Steve swims ahead and goes back to the boat to get the dinghy to come back and get me, surprised at how far I have drifted down the island as I wave my bright yellow fin to direct him to me. Back to the boat for lunch and back underway, once Steve finally gets our mooring line off as it had become JAMMED into the plastic tubing around the loop from the ball. Originally we had planed to stop at an anchorage just a short distance away, but now we decide we have time to make it all the way to the Saints by 5, so we are underway heading further south down the west coast of Guadeloupe. What a crazy shoreline this is to travel along, the wind comes down off the mountains and valleys and is constantly shifting. One minute it is 8 knots of breeze next it is 25, one minute it is an off shore breeze next it is an on shore breeze. Even the swells change ! It is still a breathtaking view making our way south along the coast, one of the most beautiful coastlines we have seen. Once past the southwestern tip of Basse Terre, Guadeloupe there is no more land effect and just good old wind on the beam as we cross over to the Saints. The Saints are a group of islands between Guadeloupe & Dominica, a great cruising destination that we will come back and explore after Hurricane season. For now we will just anchor overnight before heading on to Dominica. Again breathtaking is the word that comes to mind, we are still so amazed at how each place is just more and more beautiful. They have set up moorings in all of the designated anchorages, and we choose to stay out by Ilet Cabrit, since we will not even be checking in just passing through as hard as that is. Again I have trouble with the mooring, again no painter line just a metal ring and I can not lift the whole mooring ball up high enough to get our line thru, and with my knee can not get down to it, Steve runs up as I am walking the mooring and line back and he is able to get the line through and we are secured. I am thinking about starting a universal mooring design LOL, I can only wish. Expecting someone to come out and collect for the mooring, but no one does they are free for now. Dinner on board and finally have a nice breeze during the night to keep the boat cool and comfortable, that is until the 1 am shower that wakes us to do our hatch closing dance. Friday morning we enjoy the beautiful scenery from the boat as we read up again on Dominica our next stop on our journey south.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Wednesday 8 June - Monday 13 June

On Wednesday Steve goes to check out with the marina and customs shortly after 8 am, as I get the boat ready for departure. By the time he was returning the skies opened up again and it was pouring – NOT in the forecast this was all supposed to be north of us. We decided to wait a little while for the rain to pass, 5 hours later it finally does. Luckily the marina was not very full, and no one probably wanted to come out in the rain to tell us to move out since we were checked out, so we just stayed in the slip until about 2:30. By that time it was too late to go to St. Barth's so we just went back out into Marigot Bay to anchor. During the pre trip check of the engine Steve saw that the fan belt was ready to go, so while we waited for the rain to stop he changed that out with one of our spares. Anchoring out overnight will allow him to run in to town in the morning to see if he can get a new spare one. No luck finding one, so in hindsight we should have left late Wednesday to do the overnight passage to Antigua, since we had lost a day due to the rain, we decided to give St. Barth's a miss this season and just go straight to Antigua. Thursday it is another no wind day and by 10:30 we are ready to be moving and at least be creating our own wind for some air flow. By 2 we are passing the Island of St. Barth's in very clam seas, running at slow RPM’s so we don't arrive in Antigua at night. As we are passing St. Kitts & Nevis we see a huge storm approaching so we speed up trying to miss it. Almost make it, just catch the tail end of it with rain pouring down and winds up to 37.5 knots which made the seas choppy & confused. Luckily it only lasted about 20 minutes and we were out of it. The seas quieted back down and with the wind shift thought we might be able to sail, but that did not last long. So we are slowly motoring along towards Antigua with just the main, no other boats in sight. Watch a beautiful sunset as we get ready for the night watches. I like to have the sun rising when we are 5 miles off shore so I can see us approaching the Island, Steve plans it to be at the entrance of the harbour at sunrise. So we do a switch in watch rotation so he is at the helm from 3-6, which is when we came around to the south side of the island and he was able to carry the jib. Not for long as by 6 I am up to help take down the sails as we are approaching the entrance to English Harbour. I had actually been here 25 years ago staying at an inn on the beach. Remembering how neat it was looking out at the 2-3 sail boats at anchor. Well there are quiet a few more boats around today. I was not even aware of the marinas in the bay as a point of land restricted my view from the beach. We are anchored down by Nelsons Dockyard Marina by 6:30, waiting for customs to open so we can go check in. Finally someone asks to see our departure papers. Once cleared in we go in to look around the Dockyard, which is much the same as it was in 1745 when it was a British naval station. They have done a great job at restoring and converting the old buildings into modern day shops, inns, a museum and eateries. Next we take the short hike out to the ruins of Fort Berkeley that sits on the point of land jutting out into the harbour entrance. You can see why this was and is such a well protected harbour. Don't have to worry about any attacking nations these days, but it still offers great protection from Hurricanes, many boats already tied up for the season. Have a nice lunch along the waterfront enjoying a breeze, cooling down after being in the sun all morning. After lunch we walk over to Falmouth Harbour along the road. We had seen a huge mast, and were curious to confirm our thoughts that it had to be Mirabella V. Sure enough she along with several other huge sailing yachts are at the marina there. All being worked on before moving on or being secured for the hurricane season. Falmouth is another good anchorage bigger and more open so subject to a little more rolling if anchored out. Walk back to English Harbour and ask about the tents being set up along the waterfront. This weekend they will be hosting a sports fishing tournament and have 43 motor boats competing so will have food & drink vendors and music playing during the event. Back to the boat for a cooling off swim and a relaxing evening on board. Early night since neither of us slept much on the overnight passage and it was a long hot day. Saturday we are ready to take on a more challenging hike, the middle ground trail, going over to Pigeon Beach. It is only about a mile long but 1/3 is climbing straight up, 1/3 climbing down and the other (less than) 1/3 on level ground. There were some places climbing up that a slip would cause serious fall & injury. But the views along the way were spectacular and well worth the effort. Once to the other side we were very glad to see the beach bar & restaurant open, drop our stuff off and go for a swim before relaxing with a cooling drink and lunch. This was a one way hike for me so we took the road back and were surprised at how quickly we got back, but no views along the road. Once back at the Dockyard it is 3:30 and activities are supposed to start at 4 so we hang around watching as things are set up and some of the early boats start to come in with their catches. We run back to the boat to change clothes and come back in to eat. Steve always wanting to try something different or unusual went for the goat water stew and pigs tail soup, I went for the grilled shrimp. Another great day in paradise. Sunday spend the day in the shade of the cockpit reading up on our next stop of Guadeloupe. Go into shore around 5 to catch a taxi up to Shirley Heights Lookout restaurant & bar. The restaurant / bar has been around for 30 years, it is actually on the sight of an old British lookout fort. The views are impressive but it has become too much of a tourist trap since I was here 25 years ago, they even charge you just to enter the property !!! Food & drinks were reasonable and listening to the steel drum band and people watching was fun, but won't be in a hurry to go back again. Found a taxi driver to bring us back down for the same price as we paid to go up, arriving back down to the wet crowded streets of the dockyard. No rain where we were, but plenty down at the marina, did not seem to disrupt too much of the tournament activities, as a lot of people still hanging around. Back to the boat to see how much rain came in through the port holes that we had left open (hatches were closed). Wasn't to bad, and since it was fresh water it was easy enough to clean up. Monday Steve wanted to walk up the trail to Shirley Heights Lookout so we go over to the beach where it starts. Since it is a higher ridge than the one we climbed the other day I waited for him on the beach. Turns out it was a much easier climb than the other side, which makes sense since a lot more people climb up this hill. He got some great day pictures of the view overlooking the Harbour, and I had a pleasant time relaxing on the beach. Dip in the ocean then a rinse off in the pool before lunch at The Inn's restaurant on the beach. Back to the boat to work on a clogged head problem, marine toilets tend to have a higher frequency of clogs than their land based counterparts. Steve had established a rule that the person that clogs it up cleans it, but he had mercy on me this time and did the dirty deed. Establishing who is the guilty party is not as easy to prove ( LOL ). Afternoon relaxing in the cockpit listening to a good band from over at the marina. Went to see what was going on but it was a private party of a Danish group making a film. Tuesday we will check out with customs in the morning and I will go by the Post Office to mail my postcards. The PO closed early on Friday and Monday was a holiday here. Apparently selling stamps is very restricted in the Islands as ONLY the Post Office can do so. Then off to Guadeloupe !

link to pictures;

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

St. Martin / St. Maarten

Monday 30 May - Tuesday 7 June

We head over to Spanish Town, on Virgin Gorda in the BVI'S to check out with customs, all goes smoothly with not too long of a wait. We now have some time to kill as we will be doing an overnight passage so do not need to leave until late afternoon. We go and check on Joe & Tammey's boat Tammera Sue that they had left to be hauled out to stay on the hard during Hurricane season. Chris & Robin on Toucan Dream are also there getting their boat ready to be hauled out the following day. What a job that is to get your boat ready to leave it on the hard for a few months, glad we do not have to do that. Back to the boat to get her ready for an overnight open water passage. With the little day hops it was easy to leave things laying on the counters and we kept the dinghy on davits on the back of the boat. With a passage we want everything secured away and we deflate and put away the dinghy. We have good weather predicted but better to be prepared before going off shore. At 3 we motor sail south past Virgin Gorda out the cut by Ginger Island. Saying goodbye to the BVI'S as we turn east into 15 knot winds, jib rolled up main out, only 1-3 foot seas so able to stay on the rhumb line and still have a comfortable ride for the next 80 miles. It was another hot, humid, light wind day as we got ready to leave and we were both still hot. So since it was smooth enough, Steve took a deck shower & I for the 1st time take a quick shower down below while underway. Steve had made an extra dinner the day before so we are ready for the overnight passage. A quiet moonless night just 3 boats passing heading west and one cruise ship off in the distance. We are making great time, over 6 knots and up to 7 when we had thought with current and wind against us we would do 5.5 to 6 knots of speed. So going faster this time is not a good thing as it will put us entering St. Martin before sunrise, so we slow down. By 5 am we are just 5 miles out so slow down a little more, also trying to avoid a nearby thunder cloud between us and the island, get a little rinse and by 6:30 we are anchored in Baie de Marigot. There are many options for anchoring and checking in, we have chosen to enter the bay / lagoon and check in on the French side. So we are anchored in Marigot Bay waiting on the 8:15 bridge opening as the morning is heating up. They say that the bridge monitors VHF 16 but when we call to say we will be entering we get no reply. There are several other boats waiting so we all just line up and wait. Outgoing traffic has priority, and it becomes obvious that there is some as the Catamaran first in line to go in starts to back out the channel. We make it through the Sandy Ground Bridge that is only 32 ft wide, why it is a one way at a time bridge and into the huge inner lagoon. We are re-anchored by 8:45 in the middle as we know after checking in we will head over to the marine stores on the Dutch side. We could have stayed out in the bay and gone in by dinghy to check in but since we would be making several trips to different stores the calmer / smoother waters inside make for better dinghy rides. The check in on the French side is self serve on the computer then you take the paperwork to the guy downstairs and pay your $7.50 and you're legal. The self service computer took a little longer as the guy in front of us checking out did not know how to use a computer so a young girl came to help him. She was trying to be nice and helpful and stayed to help us, typing our info in one finger at a time. Verifying that Iowa City, Iowa and New York City were both in the USA. Except that she misread the passport and entered it as Lowa City, Lowa. Bless Steve's heart he did not knock her out of the way to type it in himself and was very nice thanking her for her “help”. We are cleared in free to go anywhere on the island. If you enter via the Dutch side bridge, which is newer, wider (56 feet to handle the Mega Yachts), and deeper they charge you to enter through their bridge opening where they do not do that on the French side. If you plan to anchor on the Dutch side there is a fee for that also, so we did like most check in on the French side then just go do your shopping on the Dutch side. No fees to anchor in any of the many bays surrounding the island on either side. First stop is to an electronic shop as our inverter-charger had started malfunctioning the night before we left the BVI'S. Steve was pretty sure it was the cooling fan that failed, and they confirmed it when we went by the shop to get a new fan. The guy had the same model out in his workshop so showed Steve what to do. Went for a longer then planned lunch as a big group got in right before us, but even though we were on the Dutch side we acted French and had a 2 hour lunch break. Next stop over to Budget Marine and Island Water World two big chandleries to see what is available. Finding a lot of spare parts but did not have the list with model #'s so will come back when we confirm which are the right parts. I did finally find a dinghy ladder that I had been looking for since the Annapolis Boat show. Should have listened to Jan when she said to get it, and we meant to go back for it but didn't. I am sure the boat show price was better but I am so happy with my new ladder, have already used it and it works great. I no longer have to do my beached whale impression getting back into the dinghy after snorkeling. A dinghy tour of the lagoon to see where other things are then back to the boat. Steve spends the rest of the afternoon and early evening sweating his way through changing the cooling fan out. The inverter-charger is located back in the “equipment room” a space with very little air flow that gets very hot and of course at an awkward position to get to !! Wednesday June 1 – Hurricane season begins and we are praying it stays quiet thru June so we can get further south. Back to the boat stores with the shopping list of spares and things to get. The Dutch might not have gotten our entry fee $ but they are making up for it with these two stores. Back to the boat for lunch then over to the French side to explore the town of Marigot – the French Capitol. The Island is duty free so they have shop after shop after shop of just about anything you could want. Not much more to the town than shops and restaurants! I just want a post card which is actually hard to find among all the clothing stores. Then I have to go to the post office to get stamps, a long line as they do money orders and Thursday is a holiday here so they will be closed. Luckily a man directs me to an express line (sign was in French so I could not read it) for just buying stamps so it does not take as long as I feared. Post cards and stamps in hand we find a place to sit and have a drink while I address the cards to send off. Walk around some more and we go into a little “mall”. I go to use the bathroom and notice a lady sitting out front with a sign (in French) all I recognize is the $1 part, but there is a phone near by so I thought she was selling phone cards. I come out of the restroom and comment to Steve how beautiful they were and he tells me that is why you pay to use them. Apparently that is a very French thing to pay to use the public restrooms, and it was well worth it. Enjoy a great dinner by the marina and dinghy dock, before heading back to the boat. Thursday weather prediction of no wind no waves means time to go visit other bays, so we along with 10 other boats are waiting for the 8:15 bridge opening to leave the lagoon. Motor sail up to Grand Case Bay and the town of Grand Case a town known for its restaurants. Only a few other boats there when we arrive but as the day goes on more come into anchor. Steve has some work to do on the computer, so we spend a relaxing day swimming off the boat and smelling the cooking from shore. We head into shore around 5 to check out the town and walk up and down the street reading menu’s trying to decide which one to eat at. Slow season and a quiet night so all the places have someone out front trying to encourage you to choose their place. You could spend a couple of weeks here just enjoying the beautiful beach and trying a different restaurant or 2 a day and be very happy. The smell of BBQ from the LoLos (5-6 local places serving up BBQ ribs, chicken, & fish) had my mouth watering all day and they looked just as good as they smelled. But Steve wanted something French so we found a place he could have frogs legs and duck and I found a veggie pasta dish, both were delicious. Friday we take the dinghy over to Rocher Creole, a rock island part of the marine park to go snorkeling. Only one other boat there when we arrived but by the time we made it around the rock island the place had filled up, glad we got there before the crowds. Back to the boat for lunch then off to a little island off the northeast coast called Tintamare. A uninhabited island with a beautiful sand beach on the southwest side and a reef on the northeast side. Pick up one of the nicest moorings I have seen and go in to explore the island and swim in the beautifully clear water. Discover it's a “clothing optional” beach, but the ones that have optioned for no clothing should not have. Leave there by 3:30 to head over to anchor in Great Bay off the town of Philipsburg the Dutch Capitol. Take showers and go into town to find the dinghy dock. Steve spots a grocery store so he wants to just look, and he gives me a hard time for just wanting to look in the gift shops. Then we stop by a bank ATM since on the Dutch side they give you a choice of $$ or euros (French ATM's you can only get euros). As we leave the ATM and start to walk down to Front street, the “main” street, we notice everything is closed up, dark and deserted not the place we want to be after leaving the ATM. We are just a street up from the boardwalk and things are much more lighted and lively along here. They are having boardwalk festival night so not all the restaurant or shops are open, but quite a few are as we stroll down to see what we have to choose from. A couple of live bands are setting up and families are showing up to join in the festivities. We find a place for dinner and enjoy people watching as we eat. After dinner walking around stopping for a drink to enjoy some music before heading back to the boat. This anchorage is another they say can get rolly and it does but we have been in worse. Saturday morning we wake up to see a cruise ship has come in, yeah that means the stores will be open. What a difference between day & night, more people were out Friday night with less places open. Now during the day with just one cruise ship in port everything is open all along the boardwalk, and Front and Back Streets. Again with a person standing out front trying to get you to come into their store or eatery, even taxi drivers seeing if you need a ride. I had broken my cheap pair of polarized sunglasses, and wanted another pair for off the boat (our good ones we leave on the boat so as not to loose or break them) and found a pair for $15. We like Philipsburg with the boardwalk and the 2 main streets as a much nicer walk around town then the French town of Marigot. Stop at a Persian restaurant for an early light shared lunch before leaving Great Bay to head to Simpson Bay, on the opposite side of the lagoon form Marigot Bay by the Dutch bridge. Go through the bridge by dinghy (free) make an exchange and get a few other boat things we thought of. As we are ready to go in to Buccaneers for a drink and listen to some live music we get a short shower. Rain stops so we head in for a while and enjoy some good music and meet a new friend before returning to the boat for dinner. Sunday we complete our circumnavigation of the Island by returning to Marigot Bay under very hazy conditions. With the foretasted bad weather due on Monday & Tuesday we decide to go into the Marina Fort St. Louis located on the north end of the bay. As we approach we call on the VHF radio and get no answer so we were going to get fuel so just go to the fuel dock and try to call again with no answer. Get tied up with help from someone walking by who reminds us they are French and close for 2 hours for lunch and to call them back at 2. Have lunch on board while we wait until 2 when we can get a hold of someone to come down to give us fuel and direct us to a slip. Get the boat tied up just as it starts to rain a little, go check in with the office and then Steve loads all the gas cans into the dinghy to go get gas, as they only had diesel at the marina. He makes it back just in time for the heavy rain, glad to have power to run A/C with this hot humid rainy weather. Monday turns out nicer then predicted, overcast skies, hot & humid but no rain yet. My left knee (real one NOT implant one) had been hurting when I did any kind of rotation motion. Not sure what I did just started really hurting. I had been wearing an old knee brace but it was not really giving me much support and I knew I needed a better one. Marina directed us to a doctor up the street so we walked up, entered into the waiting room, no reception and waited with a few other people there. A short time later the door opens and the doctor wearing jeans and shirt comes out with a patient and says next. After the 3 ahead of us are done we go in, no paperwork to fill out just name age and what is the problem. He takes a look at my knee moving it around and says it is ligament damage and I need a better knee brace to immobilize my knee for a while and it will heel on its own. Writes me out a prescription for a knee brace. Next he looks at a lesion on Steve's arm that has been there a few weeks and irritating. Turns out it is a wart, writes a prescription for something for that, pay him $80 for both of us and we are done. Next door to the pharmacy and RX 's filled just in time for lunch. I am walking a little slower as this knee brace restricts the bending much more but that is what I was looking for and can feel the difference in the support to my knee. Back to the boat still cloudy, hot & humid but no rain. Steve works on a boat project of putting a photo-cell sensor on for the anchor light so it will come on automatically at dark. This way we don't have to remember to turn it on when we leave in the afternoon so it will be on at night. Tuesday early morning showers then just overcast with no winds. Thinking the weather forecast of storms as missed us, we head out to the grocery store just after an early lunch, pick up a few things and just as we are checking out the skies open up. POURING RAIN !! Called a cab to go back to marina but don't even want to run out to the cab since it is raining so hard. Does not take long to realize we will just have to get wet. Run out & load the cab up, get to the marina Steve gets a cart to get things back to the boat, no need to run as we are soaked thru. Oh well it is all fresh water so won't hurt, get things on board, into dry clothes, dry everything off to put away, time for a Bloody Mary ! Decision Decision Time !! As I have said we are one of the last making tracks south this late in the season. So it is time to get going and we have decided we will come back up after Hurricane season in November to explore more of the Islands we will miss or not see enough of on the way down. Wednesday morning we are heading south.

Link to pictures;