Thursday, February 19, 2009


Ha! Now you've got that song in your head! Just a short update on our travels. No pictures. We don't like to photograph ourselves when we're swearing and making faces! We left Martinique on Monday with a good forecast for the next few days. We planned to do a 55 mile sail to Portsmouth, Dominica, then sail about the same distance the next day to Deshaies, Gaudeloupe and then head to Antiqua on Wednesday. Our trip started out well with nice wind even though we were in the lee of the island. About 2 miles from the end of the island the wind clocked around to the NW, an on-shore breeze. A few minutes later it died completely. We told ourselves to be patient, we were in spitting distance of the channel between the islands where there would be lots of wind. But we were dead in the water, not a breath of air to be had. We finally decided to start the engine but the engine had other ideas, It wouldn't start! We must have pushed the button a hundred times! I concentrated on trying to keep Merengue from heading towards shore which seemed like it was getting closer and closer. Jim kept working on the engine, trying to get it started. About 40 minutes later, it finally did. It was hard to enjoy the sail after that as we considered our options. We wanted to have an engine we could count on for the trip to Antigua, but getting parts in Dominica would not be easy. There are not a lot of marine facilities here. After trying various things and reading Nigel Calder's "Marine Diesel Engines", Jim thinks it's the solenoid that is going bad.

We planned on calling Alexis, the water taxi/boat boy/tour guide we met last time we were in Portsmouth but didn't have to. These guys are watching for boats coming in and he met us when we were still several miles out. He found a mooring for us and once we were secure, he stopped back to say hello, greeting Jim with a handshake and a big smile and giving me a kiss on the cheek. How nice to be treated like an old friend! We told him about the problem with the starter and he told us about a new marine store that opened up last week. It was too late to do anything that day but he said he'd stop by in the morning and we could use his cell phone to call the store. The marine store could get the part for us from St. Martin in a few days (cruisers, they are a Budget Marine authorized dealer). The part should come in today and hopefully the repair will go well. Jim is not looking forward to it. Can you blame him? You've seen the pictures of him hanging upside-down over the engine. Unfortunately the good weather window has passed. There is nasty weather up north that is causing big seas to roll down through the Atlantic and Caribbean. Doesn't look like it will moderate until the middle of next week, so we'll hang out in Dominica for awhile. We'll let you know when we're up and running again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Landfall Martinique - Sorry we're Closed!

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia is a favorite stop of ours. It's just an easy place for cruisers with great shopping and easy access to a marine store, hardware, fuel dock, etc. The Rodney Bay Marina was under renovation when we were here in June. All the new slips are completed including the new dock for the mega-yachts. The marina invited all the yachties to a customer appreciation party while we were there and even those of us anchored in the bay were invited. Free rum punch and beer gets any cruisers' attention. Those of you headed this way, they plan on holding these parties every other Thursday so don't miss it!
One of our island excursions was a trip to the Mamiku Gardens on the east coast of St. Lucia. Joe, Becky, Jim and I took a bus to Castries, then transfered to another bus that took us over the mountains to the east coast. The gardens are on the site of an old plantation. The flowers, especially the orchids were beautiful. Here's a glimpse of a few

Here's Becky and I checking the guide for the names of the plants.

February 7th we headed to Martinique. We didn't spend time on Martinique on our way south so we were really looking forward to doing some sightseeing with Joe and Becky. We planned to rent a car for a tour of the island, do a little rum tasting at the many distilleries, visit the museums, etc. Well, it was not to be. The citizens of Martinique were on stike! As we understand it they are protesting the high cost of living in paradise. I believe they are looking to increase the subsidy they receive from France. Apparently strikes happen from time to time and when it does, everything shuts down. When we went into the capital of Fort du France to clear customs everything was closed. Restaurants and stores closed, no buses or taxis running, garbage piling up on the street. We anchored several miles across the bay in Anse Mitan which is in the heart of a tourist area. The town is wonderful, full of sidewalk cafes, shops, a great bakery for fresh baquettes and a grocery. But by the time we left the strike had been going on for about 10 days. No ships were being offloaded so grocery stores and restaurants were running out of food. At one point the grocery store in Anse Mitan had about 20 people at any given time waiting outside for the opportunity to come in and buy food. They had to control the number of people going in and out because the store was too crowded. Remember, stores in Fort du France and elseware on the island were closed so I think people were traveling to shop in Anse Mitan. There was nothing available to buy but packaged goods and a few vegetables. The dairy and meat cases were empty. It was not a problem for us because we came well provisioned from St. Lucia. But imagine if you had flown in for a week vacation only to discover that the island is basically shut down and the restaurants are running out of food. It was really a shame. We stayed until the weather was good enough for us to move north to Dominica. The French islands of Guadeloupe and Le Saintes are also involved in the strike so we'll be skipping them this time through.

The view across the bay towards Fort du France. At night this is all lights. Fort du France is a large city of 130,000 people.

At one point there were 6 of these large ships anchored in the outer harbor waiting to either load or off-load their cargo.

We took a long walk one day to the town of Les Trois-Ilets seen here in the distance. This is the view overlooking a golf course. No golf today because of the strike. Today it's just a park!

We just had to show you these interesting cottages at the Bakua resort. They're built edge to edge in long, colorful rows. Nothing fancy. Just a bed and bath. They looked like a child's playhouse.

The view from the beach with the Anse Mitan anchorage behind.
That's it from Martinique. I guess we'll save our rum tasting for another time.
C'est la vie!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Grenada to St. Lucia 2009

We left Grenada more than 2 weeks ago to spend the next few months visiting the Windward and Leeward islands of the Caribbean. We apologize for not providing more frequent updates. Good internet access has been sporadic.

Here I am the day before our departure scrubbing the anchor chain. I would scrub a section, then Jim would pull a length of chain up and chip out the barnacles that had avoided my brush and formed inside the links. Even though I had scrubbed the chain every few weeks for the entire time we were in Grenada, that really only took care of the plant life and small barnacles on the outside. A coral reef had formed on the 20 feet or so of chain that hung suspended in the water from the surface to the bottom. The rest of the chain laid buried in the sand and was virtually clean.

Here's what the chain looked like before Jim started in on it with a screwdriver.
Once we left Grenada, we moved quickly up the island chain stopping for the night in Carriacou and Union Island before arriving in Bequia in the Grenadines. The sailing was not great. We had confused, sloppy seas north of Grenada. The winds at this time of year are E-NE so we are always close hauled, beating into the wind and big seas. Note to self; do this leg of the trip in November before the Christmas winds start to blow. They won't settle down until March, if we're lucky!
We were struck by how busy all of the anchorages were. Of course we came through here in June last year which is off season. But there are so many boats everywhere! Carriacou was packed. When we sailed past Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau we counted 18 boats in a bay that seems crowded when there are 8. Bequia was packed and the moorings in Souffriere, St. Lucia were full. There is no such thing as the undiscovered Caribbean.
It was great to be back in Bequia! We love it there. It's a beautiful little island with a picturesque bay, lovely beaches, great restaurants and more.

In Bequia we met up with our friends Joe & Becky (Half Moon). It's been great spending time with them again. One of the highlights of our week in Bequia was attending the jam session at the Bequia Music Festival. This group was a Dixieland Jazz Band from New Orleans.

This are local artists from Bequia.

The jam session was great. I'm always amazed at the talent, how musicians who have never played together before can sound this great. We were lucky to be in Bequia when this was going on.

The next day we left early for St. Lucia. We did not recheck the forecast before we left and it had deteriorated. The winds and seas were fine in the channel between Bequia and St. Vincent although we did get some showers. Then we had the predictable no wind in the lee of St. Vincent. Out in the channel between St. Vincent and St. Lucia it got nasty. We had 20-28 kt winds with gusts in the mid-30's. The swell increased to 10 ft and the wave interval was not 9 seconds as predicted. It was more like 5-6 seconds. So we had 4 hours of big wind and seas as we guided Merengue up one side of a wave and down the other. The rail was in the water a lot and spray kept flying in on us. We arrived in St. Lucia tired and salty.

A few miles off shore the seas started to settle down and we had this rainbow beckoning us to come to St. Lucia.

In Souffriere, we picked up one of the last available moorings that was situated off the south shore of the bay near town. The first time we visited Soufriere was 20 years ago and while there are many more tourists visiting, little else has changed. We are always struck by the poverty here. Most of the houses are shacks with no plumbing. We saw children heading off to school but many more remained to play by the ocean all day. We were told that families have to pay to send their children to school. If this is true it's easy to see that most cannot afford to do that.

We think this is a pig-pen along the shore. During the day, the pigs roamed the rocky shore in front of the houses.

Just across the bay, a beautiful schooner-style cruise ship.

Jim couldn't resist a shot of this boat moored behind us. Hinano is one of his favorite beers because it comes from Tahiti. Hey, can we come over for happy hour?
Only about 15 miles north but about a million miles away from the poverty in Souffriere is Rodney Bay where we are anchored now. Named for Admiral Rodney of the British Navy this is a beautiful bay with beaches, hotels and restaurants. The only down side to this anchorage are the jet skiers who seem to like to use the anchored boats as an obstacle course. But hey, they're on vacation. Let them have their fun.

On Saturday we hiked up to the fort where Admiral Rodney kept an eye on the French in Martinique and then continued on up the hill to take in the view. You can just barely see the ruins of the fort at the tip of this peninsula.

It's always great when you come into a harbor and see friends you haven't seen in awhile. Here we are with David and Jan (M/V Deja Bleu) whom we haven't seen since Nov 2007 in Luperon, Dominican Republic.

Here are a few shots of ruins from the barracks and other buildings that made up the military complex that dates back to the 1700's.

See the rock sticking out of the water about a mile off-shore? You'll notice the side is hollowed out. Admiral Rodney had his troops use it for target practice.
Well, it looks like we may be in St. Lucia through next weekend if the seas don't settle down. We're getting some weird weather here. There are merging swells according to the weather sites, one from the east which is normal and the other from the northwest which is not typical. Consequently all the normally protected anchorages along the west shore have had about a 2 ft swell rolling through them. That makes cooking, sleeping and just living aboard uncomfortable. It's predicted to last all week but last night it settled down a bit and we were able to sleep well again.
When we leave St. Lucia we'll head to Martinique with Joe and Becky (Half Moon) to do some sightseeing. Then Jim and I will push north to meet friends in St. Martin in March.
Stay tuned!