Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Island Hopping North

 Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Nevis & St. Kitts, St. Barts

Saturday 4 February - Monday 20 February

We have the anchor up by 10 and make a quick trip into the lagoon to go to the IGY marina's fuel dock to top off on diesel and fill the extra gas can for the dinghy, leaving Rodney Bay, St. Lucia and heading almost due north to Martinique, YEAH no more easting, the worst point of sail heading east into the wind & waves. We are sailing, no need for the motor, double reefed in both sails with 20 knot winds on the beam doing 9 + knots corkscrewing through the 8 foot seas hitting us broadside. We are anchored in Grande Anse D'Arlet, Martinique by 1:30. It is a beautiful bay and one we have not been to before. We go through our desalting routine of washing the salt spray off the stainless, windows, the cockpit, anything we might touch, as much as we can with a few buckets of fresh water. This helps a great deal with keeping the boat a little cleaner. Many times as soon as we are done we get a rain shower which is always appreciated, washing off the deck and giving the areas we cleaned a 2nd rinse. We are in the dry season and have noticed rain showers are getting fewer and less intense, many of the islands already having grass & plants drying out. The French islands make it SO easy to check in !! In this bay you go to a little cafe right at the end of the dinghy dock. Using their computer, preset form, you fill in the boxes and print 1 sheet (your copy), take it to the person on duty and they stamp it for you and you are cleared in. This cafe charged nothing, sometimes they will charge a $1 the most we have paid was $5. The “English” islands could really use some help in simplifying their customs forms. A stroll down main street which runs along the beach checking out the little cafes and shops. Small place so does not take long, stop in for a drink on the beach and just enjoy the French atmosphere. On Sunday we hike over to the next bay Anse D'Arlet, another beautiful small bay / beach town, also an anchorage but with no place to clear customs. Mostly a rock path that has many inclines and declines before you finally get to the ridge to head down into the other bay. We enjoy the exercise and the beautiful views, have a nice lunch before climbing back over to our bay. Monday we are under way shortly after 7 am, motor sailing in calm seas up the western shore of Martinique. By 10 we are leaving the coastline and heading out into 6 foot waves as we make our way across to Dominica. By 2 we are picking up one of Sea Cats moorings again just south of the capital city of Roseau. Steve takes the dinghy down to town to go clear in while I stay on the boat to desalt. We have a lovely dinner at the Ever Green just a little south from where we are and right next to a dive shop dinghy dock we can use. Tuesday early morning we did get a nice rinse from a short rain shower, and the clouds hung around until noon. We went into Roseau to walk around and have lunch, refreshing our memories seeing what we did or did not remember about the town. Wednesday we are underway again by 7 AM motor sailing up the west coast of Dominica. As we near Portsmouth on the north end of Dominica the seas start to build and the winds pick up, one reef in the main and 2 in the genoa, sailing towards Guadeloupe at 9 + knots. We are stopping at the south end at a group of islands called Les Saintes. We are moored by 12:30 off the island of Terre-De-Haut. Clean the boat off, have lunch and go in to clear in. It is 3:30 Wednesday afternoon and many places are closing up. Island thing / French thing / no cruise ship in / break before dinner crowd or combination we are not sure. Steve goes to where the guide book says the customs office is but they are closed. So we walk around checking out menus at the many restaurants, Steve translating as best he can with the words he knows. Stop by the tourist office to pick up an island map showing hiking trails and points of interest. The main form of transport on the island are motor scooters, they have plenty to rent to zip around & tour the island but you can also just walk anywhere on the island as it is small enough. Thursday morning we decide the mooring we are on out in the middle is too rolly so we find one closer into shore before going in to check in with customs. The place is open but we learn that it is no longer the place to check in. We find the right place, go to the computer, Steve types our info in and pays $1 and now we are officially checked in. Go for lunch then take the walk / hike up to Le Chameau where there is an old lookout tower. The climb up is on an old road now closed to all but foot traffic, so other then the elevation (for me) a pretty easy hike. The views on the way up and the views from up on top are spectacular. Back down and to the boat and we go for a cool refreshing swim in the beautiful blue water surrounding the boat. Friday we have an earlier start to walk up to Fort Napoleon, a much easier walk but they close at noon. More great views and the grounds to the fort are beautiful. They have a really nice museum, even if everything was in French I was very impressed at how much they had. Back down, lunch in town at one place, made reservations for dinner at another place then back to the boat for a swim. Saturday we go into town early as I need to go by the post office to get stamps to mail my postcard and they are only open for a few hours in the morning. The town is nice and quiet, just a few shops starting to open and a few people out. Get to the post office at 8:30 and there is already a line, some post office's in the islands are like banks and handle a lot of different transactions. Wait in line and get my postcard stamped and mailed, Steve meets me out front with a fresh pain d'chololate, its a good morning. As we walk back to town 2 ferries have already arrived and the streets are full of people we walk around a little then Steve goes back to the boat and lets me really look in the different shops. I'm not a bigger shopper, no room to put anything new on the boat w/o getting rid of something old. BUT it's fun to be able to take some time once in a while to see if I do find something new that would work better then what I have and the French islands are a good place to look for such an item. Can't do that with Steve waiting out front, so we agreed to meet later for lunch. Back at the boat later we get ready to leave in the morning. Sunday, 7 am departure, sailing down wind with just the genoa out up the south coast of Guadeloupe in 3-4 ft. seas. Once we turn north to travel up the west coast of Guadeloupe we have flat seas with winds changing every 10 minutes. We are trying to motor sail, genoa in & out ½ dozen times, on shore breeze & off shore breeze, lulls of 5 knot winds to gusts of 20 knot winds. It's a calm slow ride up to the west coast of Guadeloupe, anchoring off the northwest town of Deshaies (Dey-Hey) by 1:30. We went in that evening just to walk around and to see what else was new besides the great new dinghy dock right out in front of town by the dive shop. For such a small town Deshaies has many good restaurants to choose from. It was Sunday night and many islanders were winding up the weekend so the streets were relatively busy, a favorite spot for islanders as well as us visitors. Another early departure on Monday from Guadeloupe heading west past Montserrat to Nevis. Montserrat, has an active volcano, so you can't sail too close (exclusion zone) but you can see it from over 30 miles out and come within 2 miles. You can also anchor and visit the island's north side, volcano on the south end, but the anchorage is not good for the northerly swells we have this time of year so we are unable to stop at this time. As we get close it is such an impressive sight, you can see the ash flow and ruins of the old capital city, hope we can stop here on the way south. We have an easy motor sail the whole way with light winds and calm seas and are moored off Nevis by 4. The mooring field is about a ½ mile north of the capital town of Charlestown out in front of the beautiful 3 ½ mile long Pinney's beach. Tuesday we go into town to check in, 3 places to go and $62 US later we are checked in to Nevis for 2 days and St. Kitts for 2 days. A little more paper work and $ than the French islands but the people were all very friendly. After check in was complete we walked around town, then went for an early lunch so we could do an afternoon Island tour. They have a beautiful Botanical Gardens, with many Asian statues amongst the plants from all over the world that we walk through. Finding out too late that they have a wonderful Thai restaurant. Then we visit a few of the old plantations that have been remodeled into first rate boutique hotels, it is fun to see how they have kept the old plantation style mixed with the modern. Up in the cool hills overlooking the islands mountains and sea, beautiful places on a beautiful island. Back to town around 4, since we had an early lunch and the place we ate was having burger night and it has been a while since I have had my burger fix, we thought we might do an early dinner. Dinner did not start until 6, and there is not a lot to do for 2 hours in this town so we went back to the boat and once back on-board we did not feel like doing another dinghy ride back to town so dinner on the boat. Wednesday we want to walk the beach, they do not make it real easy for boats anchored out to get onto the beach right in front of us. You can either go to town and walk the ½ mile back to the beach or you beach the dinghy. Beaching the dinghy is not usually a problem but most of this beach has waves crashing ashore steep to, so getting on to the beach would be easy getting back off the beach not so easy. We talked to the boat next door, who had the problem getting back off the beach the day before, and they said down by the Four Seasons Hotel they put some breakwaters in so the beach is much calmer to get the dinghy on & off the beach down there. We were worried they would not want us leaving our dinghy on the beach but they said it was OK. Great beach to walk up and down, then we stopped at Sunshine’s for lunch. The sign says it is home to the Killer Bee drink, so of course we have a couple each. No idea what was in these little drinks BUT they were killer !!! The food was good also, back to the boat for a little R&R. Thursday just a short 2 ½ hour trip over to St. Kitts, where we go into the marina at Port Zante. Reasonable rates and just easier to walk off the slip into town right next to the marina & cruise ship terminal. As we are tying up to the dock we see Kathy & John from Oceana whom we first met back in the Bahamas and they also spent the summer down in Grenada. They are making their way north also, checking out of St. Kitts as we check in. Checking into Nevis is good for St. Kitts also BUT you still have to go by customs to officially let them know you are here and give them a little piece of paper from Nevis. After lunch Steve goes back to the boat to give her a good wash down since the marina only charges $15 for all the water you can use. So even though we do little desalting after trips to be able to hook up a hose and really scrub the deck free of salt is a treat. I go and check out the 100 + shops around the marina, just trying to find a postcard !! Never thought finding a postcard could be so hard ! They have plenty of duty free diamonds, liquor, & cigarettes but VERY few postcards. Tons of t-shirts, shot glasses, beach towels and everything else you can engrave with the islands name, but only a handful of postcards at 3-4 shops ?? Guess cruise ship passengers don't send postcards. I did manage to find a couple to send off to my nephew so my shopping was complete. Taking advantage of our walk on walk off status at the dock we go out for dinner. Friday we made arrangements to do an island tour so we meet up with our taxi driver / tour guide at 9. In the islands most taxi drivers are also licensed as tour guides and the rates are fixed by the government. 1st stop is the old Romney Manor, old plantation grounds turned into botanical gardens and now home of Caribelle Batik. They show you how they make the prints and have many wonderful
things to choose from in their gift shop. I wanted to just get a throw pillow COVER not another pillow (Steve thinks we have too many already) but we could not agree on a design. Leaving empty handed, next stop is the Brimstone Hill Fortress & Fort George Museum. They have done a wonderful job restoring the fort and the museum is very well done. Once again the views are spectacular. Next stop known as Black Rock, where when the islands volcano last erupted a 1000 years ago the lava cooling in the ocean waters made these rock formations. Pick up some BBQ chicken & pork to eat in the van on the drive back to town, back to the marina by 1:30. We make use of the duty free liquor store and load up on good cheap liquor, clear out from customs & immigration as we will be leaving Saturday morning. And once again later in the evening because it is so easy we walk into town for dinner. Saturday Steve checks us out with the marina and we are underway by 8 with light winds and flat seas as we dodge the fish pots on our way past the island. Once we clear the island and turn north we have PERFECT sailing conditions, with just 2 foot swells and 10-15 knot winds just aft of the beam it is a GREAT sail all the way over to St. Barts. One of those sails you wish everyday on the water could be like. St. Barts main anchorage is outside the main town of Gustavia. They have an “inner” port and marina area, where many mega yachts tie up stern to the dock, with their anchor lines dropped way out in the harbour. Many small power boats along the wall with stern anchors plus moorings in the middle that you have to tie bow & stern to. A very busy area. There are also anchorages outside the port area all along the the north side and all along the south side of the channel, they even have one “section” where the super mega yachts (too big to go into the port) seem to anchor out. All the areas seem crowded but we find a spot on the south side right by friends Linda & John on Kool Kat and are anchored by 2:45. Go to check in stopping by Kool Kat on the way, John & Linda have been here many times before so we make plans to join them for dinner as they will be leaving the next day. Checking into St. Barts, a French island, is still easier then the English islands BUT it is St. Barts so it does cost a little more $53 US for 3 nights -yes they charge to just anchor here. Took a little longer as it was busy, but the guy who was doing 5 things at once was very helpful and happy doing his job. Walk around town a little then back to the boat to clean up for dinner. We go in with Linda & John and they point out a few good restaurants and we enjoy the stroll around town reading menus before picking a place to eat. Stopped in at Le Select for a drink learning that this is supposed to be the place Jimmy Buffet wrote the song “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, the place sure is paradise but I saw a guy with a hamburger and I was not impressed. Sunday we go into town thinking we will take a taxi tour that Linda & John recommended or rent a scooter & do our own island tour. It's early 10 am, and nothing is open except a couple of bakeries and a couple of restaurants but NO taxis at the taxi stand and no open scooter rental places. So we decide to walk along the waterfront to the other side and go up to the Fort Oscar overlooking the harbor and the anchorage. We get up there and find out it is the national police headquarters and you can not visit (we overlooked this bit of info on the map). Walking the street up there trying to find other views, we make our way to the south headland where the ruins of Fort Karl are. Great views of harbor, town and shell beach just not of our anchorage. Still the weather is great warm but with a nice breeze so a great day for walking and exploring the town, even if everything is closed. Have lunch along the waterfront then take a walk up the east side headland to the lighthouse and Fort Gustave, now a weather station. More great views of the harbor, town and our anchorage. Not much more has opened, still no taxis at the taxi stand and we noticed there had not been any ferries, so I guess Sundays are quiet days. Back to the boat relaxing watching the boats come and go, dinner on board. Monday we are up and see a cruise ship coming in to anchor, so we hurry and get into town by 9, before too many passengers get in. We decide to rent a scooter for the day at 30 € instead of the hour taxi tour for 65 € (taxi can be up to 8 people), which at the time seems like a really good deal. Steve has not driven any vehicle in almost a year (11 months) and a lot longer since he has driven a scooter. We were not too concerned it was an automatic, and very heavy which made for a comfy ride with the 2 of us on it. The problem was it was under powered with the 2 of us on it (kind of like our dinghy). So going up hills we could not go very fast and cars started to pile up behind us. Steve trying to be nice and courteous would move over as much as he could and try to let people pass. But the side of the road was where most of the cracks and holes were so if we needed to get back over some drivers did not want to let us. Then we had side street traffic that you could not tell if they were going to stop until the last minute, so if we slowed down and it happened to be on a hill it was hard to get speed up again to get going. Pulling over to a look out spot, as we are stopping we hit dirt & gravel and the bike skids out from under us and we go down. Of course I wind up under the bike, but just a few scrapes and sure to be bruises. Wipe the dust off and get the map out to see where we want to go for lunch. On the way there going down to the hotel / restaurant we go over a speed bump (NOT the first of many we went over this day). We were going downhill, so Steve had his hands on the brake, and when we hit the unexpected bump, his hands reflexively hit the brakes, the front one harder than the rear, causing the back of the bike to jump up, my helmet hits Steve's helmet and I get launched off the bike onto the ground AGAIN ! Just another little scrape on my other elbow, back on the bike and continue to the restaurant. We sit and relax and have a nice leisurely lunch putting off getting back on the scooter as long as possible. We make several more stops and go up and down many more hills just one time the hill was too steep and the bike came to a grinding halt so I got off & walked up a little ways. Finally between my legs hurting from squeezing Steve so hard hanging on and Steve's hands cramping from holding the handles so hard we decide to call it a day and return the bike by 3:30.   I think this was the scariest thing I have done since we left Kemah.  Back to the boat hot showers, some aspirin for me, relax a little before going into town for dinner. St. Barts is really a beautiful island we can see why it is so popular even if you have to put up with a VERY rolly anchorage. Tuesday we will make the short trip over to St. Martin where we will be for a few weeks.

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