Friday, July 23, 2010

St. Lucia Carnival

So Many Islands!  So Many Carnivals!
This time we are celebrating in St. Lucia.

Waiting for the parade in a downpour.  Good thing I brought the umbrella.  I was planning on using it for shade!

We started watching the parade about a quarter of a mile from the start but the bands weren't too organized and most of the participants were just walking, not really performing.  They just weren't into it yet.

St. Lucian's enjoying the party.

Watching the parade from his art gallery.
When the bands pass by the music is deafening, pounding in your chest and ears.  This guy will have no hearing left by the end of the parade.

We decided to go farther in on the parade route and eventually things got moving.  Maybe they were more warmed up or maybe the alcohol was kicking in but we finally saw some action.

We kind of liked the sailor band.  Wonder why?

There were discarded pieces of costumes all along the parade route.  You'd think they would try to keep it together until they passed the judges but when you're partying, you just can't worry about those things.  The St. Lucia carnival makes 7 for us so far.  I wonder if we'll make it to Grenada in time for theirs?

The rain continued to fall for the next few days.  During one short break we decided to make a run for it and go get some pizza.  Here's Pat and Carol doing a drive-by with the umbrella up.  The good news was that we were able to collect enough rain water to fill our tank and jerry cans, about 60 gallons.  We like when the water comes to us and we don't have to go get it! 

Next stop, Bequia in the Grenadines.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Boy, are we behind on keeping up this blog thing!
Our friend Tim emailed us the other day and wrote, "Where the heck are you?  It's been over two weeks since you updated the blog."  So here's a quick update on our time in Martinique.

After a great sail from Dominica, the first order of business was get to a restaurant.  The French islands have such great food.  Here's Pat (S/V Songbird) and Jim enjoying a some cold beer in Le Corsaire restaurant in Anse Mitan.  Note to our cruising friends; you can now clear customs at the marina in Anse Mitan.

Anse Mitan is a pretty tourist area with lots of great restaurants and shops.  This sign caught our eye.  Anyone interested in some tripe in cider?  Blegh!

This resort is uniquely Martinique.  It and the adjoining beaches are set in a series of small coves with shallow, calm water, perfect for families.

We didn't get in much sightseeing while we were here.  You may remember when we visited Martinique in early 2009 the island was on strike.  Fort de France was a ghost town with the businesses all closed, no taxis or buses running.  This time we found a bustling city of a 120,000 people.
We wandered up along the river to see the fish market and stopped in a few shops along the way.
This beautiful building houses a theater.  Then it was off to a mall for some more shopping and lunch before catching the ferry back to Anse Mitan.  There would be many more pictures if I had remembered to charge the camera up before we left!  We didn't get any other sightseeing trips in. Been there, still didn't do that!

The weather was very unsettled while we were there.  This is one of the many storm systems moving through the area one night right at sunset.

But the clouds did provide for some great sunsets.
Next stop, St. Lucia

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Carib Indians

There is no shortage of things to see in Dominica and so once again we headed out on a tour.  Our trip took us to the windward or eastern side of the island where there is one beautiful vista after another.

Our destination was the Carib Indian reservation.  The Caribs prefer the name Kalinago.  Carib is the name the Spaniards gave them.  We had previously thought that the Carib or Kalinago culture had been wiped out but here on the reservation are the decendants of this race of people.  Most have intermarried with people of African decent but there are still some full-blooded Kalinago. 

Our guide told us that the Kalinago would bring the bones of their dead family members back to their homes to worship them.  When the Spaniards arrived and saw the human bones they asumed the Kalinago were cannibals and gave them the name Carib.

This building is a replica of the common building or meeting house that would have been at the center of their village.  Only the men were allowed to enter.

An inside view of the meeting house.

This man is making Cassava bread the traditional way.  Cassava is a root vegetable that is ground to make flour.  We sampled some and found it delicious!

A traditional Kalinago canoe, carved from a single tree.

One of the small huts in the village.  Of course now the Kalinago live in modern homes.  They elect a chief who represents their interests in government.

An idol carved from the trunk of a tree fern.

Coastline view from the reservation.

Our guide told us about a tradition that the women still observe.  They collect a combination of herbs, always an odd ammount like 7, 9 or 11, never more then 21.  They go to where this stream meets the ocean and bath with the herbs,  The herbs are then thrown into the sea and the women walk back up the hill, never looking back.  It is supposed to cleanse the spirit.

Basket making was historically done by the men but has become the domain of the women.  The beautiful colors are achieved by soaking the fibers in stains from vines or from the colors of the soil. 

The work is beautiful.  These two small, covered baskets and the fan sold for just 13 EC each or about $5 U.S., remarkably inexpensive for such intricate work.

After many visits, we continue to find new things to love about Dominica.  It is truly the unspoiled jewel of the Caribbean.

Friday, July 2, 2010


We are currently in Dominica enjoying the beauty of this island.  But before I get to telling you what we've been up to, I should tell you a little bit about the trip here.  To give you a full picture of our life and in the interest of full disclosure you might as well know about the bad as well as the good.  There are no pictures of our trip from St. Kitt's to Montserrat to Guadeloupe because, well, it was miserable to say the least.  Actually miserable is a bit of an understatement.
Montserrat to Guadeloupe goes down in the top 5 list of our all time worst sails.
I can't think of the other 4 at the moment but I'm sure there were others.  This one is still fresh in my mind.
Forget the forecast.  It wasn't even close.  4-6 foot forecasted seas were 8 feet with the occasional 10 footer.  Winds were in the mid 20's with gusts in the 30's.  Confused, sloppy seas.  We were able to tack NE and then south to Guadeloupe on one tack, close hauled flying the staysail and reefed mainsail.  Waves were crashing over the bow and a few made their way into the cockpit.  We arrived salty and exhausted.  It wasn't any better for Pat and Carol on S/V Songbird who were traveling with us.  Big boat or little, it was a rough sail.  We were very happy to stay in Deshaies for a few days.  We needed the break.

After all that rough sailing, it was nice to have an easy, short sail down the coast to Pigeon Island.  Located just off the west coast of Guadeloupe, Pigeon Island is home of the Jacques Cousteau Marine Park.  We were looking forward to some great snorkeling.

Heavy rain showers blew through shortly after we arrived.  When the seas calmed once again it was time to jump in for a swim.  Carol and Pat yelled over for us to hurry, we didn't have much time.  The heavy rains had washed soil and debris down the mountains and into the ocean.  A dark mud-line was visible along Guadeloupe and the current was pushing it our way.
That light-colored line is dirt, sticks, branches, leaves and garbage that have all been washed out to sea.  We enjoyed about 15-20 minutes of great snorkeling before the water started to cloud and we began to see debris in the water.  We were only back on the boat for about 10 minutes when the mud-slick surrounded us.  It continued to surround us for the rest of the night.  By morning it had all been swept away and the water was amazingly clear again. 

The next morning we sailed to Les Saintes, a group of islands south of Guadeloupe.  Still lots of rain in the area but not right where we were.  It was a beautiful sail.  Almost made me forget the trip from St. Kitt's.  Almost.

Last Sunday we enjoyed another perfect sail to Dominica.  The weather forecast was good for several more days but we opted to stay in Portsmouth where we could catch up with our favorite tour guide Alexis, do some hiking and explore more of this beautiful island.
We wasted no time!  Monday we headed out with Pat, Carol, Alexis (right) and our taxi driver Stanley (left) for a day of hiking.

Alexis took us up in the mountains where small farms dotted the countryside.  In Dominica they are called plantations, probably a holdover from colonial days.  The plantation owners usually live in one of the villages and come to their plantation each day to work the fields.  They were growing bananas, pineapple, mangoes, avocado, papaya, watermelon, pumpkin, limes, dasheen, cocoa, coffee, nutmeg, ginger, herbs, the list goes on and on.  I think you could bury an old shoe here and it would probably grow.  The soil is that fertile.

Alexis took us up and down the hills pointing out the various plants and picking fruits and herbs for us to take back to our boats.  Eventually the trail led us to a waterfall, only the first one of the day!

This is a processing building were the produce is crated for shipping.

We stopped at this plantation to purchase fresh-picked pineapples.  They might be the best we've ever tasted, sweet and juicy.

Bananas cut and waiting to be sent to market or shipped to other Caribbean islands and Europe.

A short stop for take-away food from the food shacks near the university and we were off to the second hike of the day to another waterfall.

This one was a bit more strenuous.  The trail followed the riverbed and sometimes was actually in the river as we had to pick our way upward toward the falls.

The scenery was breathtaking!

Our reward was a magnificent waterfall with a pool to swim in.

Every turn brought something beautiful to see.

Hiking finished, Stanley took us for a drive-by of the Prime Minister's house.


End of the day.  We stop in the village of Penville to meet Alexis' mom and then we head down the street to a rum shack for something cold.

A nice, cold Kabuli, the local beer.

Look at all those happy faces!
Left to right; Felix (Alexis' dad), Stanley, Jim, Pat, Alexis and Marie, the proprietor.
Alexis spending some time with dad.

It's been a long, wonderful day.  Time to take our precious cargo and head back to the boat.