Friday, March 28, 2014

Sunshine Daydream

I think everyone can relate to those times in life where you have days that challenge your physical endurance, stress your emotional bandwidth and test your interpersonal communication to a point that you just want to say "Uncle" and make it all go away.  Sailing is not any different.

And then…along comes a day that is ideal.  Yesterday was definitely one of those ideal days.  We had fifty-five miles of ocean on a close reach with 15-20 kts of wind, 4 ft seas, moving the boat along at an average of 7.5 kts.  Those were the conditions from Guadeloupe all the way into Falmouth Harbor in Antigua.

There's no need to describe it or taint the moment with too many words…we'll just lock it in our brain and always know its out there for the days when we need some encouragement.

Kala giving Terrapin a big hug!
The Navionics Chart showing our speed at 8.1 kts.  Staying east of our course so we can fall off as needed.  
A great sail from Guadeloupe.  Antigua in foreground (colors not photoshopped.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Reverse It

"So much time and so little to do.  Stop that.  Reverse it." - Willy Wonka.

We are reversing course, heading north to Antigua.  That includes visiting some of the places we did on the way down, specifically Iles Saintes and Pigeon Island in Guadalupe.  However, this time we took the opportunity to do things we didn't do the first time.

We took a little time in Dominica for some rest and relaxation.  We didn't even take the dinghy off the deck (to Kala's slight dismay but she wasn't too fussed.)  Customs was closed and after our encounter with THE vet on the island the first time who was pretty much an egomaniac and made importing Kala as difficult as possible, we decided we would rather just not even deal with the potential issues.  We took the time to bend the staysail back on the furler, work on the port fuel tank, and buy fresh veggies from the Mango Man (who comes to your boat selling fruit.)

We pulled up our anchor and headed to Iles Saintes, reefed down due to our experience from Martinique to Dominica, we did not want to get caught off guard by an enhanced +15 kt gust.  It turned out to be a fantastic sail with reefs unfurled!

As we were going through the pass we were hailed by our friends Paul and Chris on SV Georgia who are heading south.  Their beautiful Outbound looked great under full sail as they passed through Passe de Dames - a narrow but very fun pass between shoals.  They are sailing in the opposite direction but we hope one day our paths will cross again.  You never know…

Speaking of friends, we were also able to spend time with John and Jen aboard Sv Aeeshah (which translates to "Living Life" or "Alive and Well" in Swahili) who we met on our hikes in St Maarten.  It was great catching up with them and we wish we could have spent more time.  We snorkeled at Pain du Sucre and the clarity of the water was amazing.  We've heard there are dolphins who swim with the snorkelers there, but they must have been on another play date.  Sorry to have missed them.

The next day was on to Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe where we took a dinghy trip to the Cousteau National Park for more snorkeling.  Jacques Cousteau said that this place was one of his favorite and best places to snorkel in the world so the french named the park after him. It was great but on the chilly side so we stayed for about an hour and a half and then headed back to the boat to get ready for our trip to Antigua, which included a sundowner with the last of our Rhum Agricole and then dinghy on deck.

Looking for dolphins to play with at Pain du Sucre (Sweet Bread)

Beautiful French churches

John and Jen, SV Aeeshah - great company to watch for flash vert.
Moored in Cousteau National Park.

I called him my "tie-dyed unicorn."  I've never seen his colors and he had a fin on top of his head.
Very big and cool tubes.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Déjà Vu

We checked the forecast and set our route from St Piere, Martinique to Dominica. We are heading north again to be in Antigua for Race Week. The forecast called for 15 kts from the east with 5 ft seas. Perfect!

We have learned that leaving early gives you a slight advantage over any wind that builds throughout the day AND we had 55 miles to cover.  So anchor was up at 6:30 am and we sailed through the lee of the island to the Martinique Channel. By 9 am, our staysail was sitting in the cockpit next to us instead of on the stay 60 feet in the air where it belonged. Turns out a 35 kt gust was the last straw for the halyard that was chafed as it comes out of the mast. Luckily, the sail stayed on the foredeck as it collapsed. We turned the autopilot on and Baxter and I worked in 30 kt winds and 10 feet seas coming over the bow to fold the sail, bring all the sheets forward (lots of fun on the leeward side with the toe rail in the water), keep an eye out for fish traps, make sure the oncoming squall is benign and keep the boat on course. Whoever said the Caribbean is always 16-20 from due east has not paid it a visit this year.

The next eight hours were rolly and gusty. As soon as we had the sails trimmed for 17 kts at a 60 degree wind angle, they would gust to 35+ from 150. As we pulled into Prince Rupert in Dominica, we were pretty tired but used the last of our personal energy reserves to tie up to the PAYS mooring water ball and fill our water tanks (over 120 gallons). 

We are not sure if we're staying in Dominica for more than one night. We have a few issues to work through - including what seems to be another bee in the fuel tank (yes, that reared it's ugly head today as well) and re rigging the staysail halyard. However, customs is not open on weekends and checking in here is difficult with Kala so we may just move on to Iles Saintes. 

I think we'll sleep on it…

Our messy cockpit with the staysail in front of the wheel…and it's only 10 a.m. with 7 hours to go. It is going to be a looonnngggg day.

Ridin' it out.

The torn staysail halyard.  The little black thing in front of the upside down dinghy is not supposed to be there and the string hanging off of it should be attached to the TOP of a sail.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


It seems to be election time here in Martinique.  And the propaganda is as annoying as a presidential election in the U.S, sans tv.

Basically cars are mounted with ENORMOUS megaphones and the driver drives from north to south east to west screaming something in French.  He usually waits until everyone is at home so he will have their undivided attention, around 6 pm and goes until about 10 pm.  Yes, we can hear him loud and clear from the boat and if we weren't so lazy, we might have followed through with our mutterings to track him down and rip that megaphone away from him.  By the way, it's five candidates who apparently are all campaigning this way.  At least that is what I have derived but if anyone else has a better explanation for Megaphone Man, please enlighten me.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Aliments Francais

Not only has our vocabulary changed, but our pantry and refrigerator look a little differnt too.  N'est pas?

So when in Rome….

Rhum Agricole is made from processed sugar cane versus molasses like traditional rum.  It has more of a whiskey/bourbon taste than a sweet taste.  Some of the best and most traditional distilleries are in Martinique.

The Wiki explanation of Rhum Agricole

We also indulged in vegetables which I haven't see in our local Smith's in Utah, including christophene.  Christophene was brought by the early explorers from Mexico and Latin America to the Caribbean.  I think I understand it to be a cross between cucumber/potato/jicama.  I am going to give it a go tonight with a tasty gratin…wish Baxter luck :)

Mix match of veggies.  Christophene is on bottom left.  Peppers are sweet and super hot…mademoiselle made sure to tell me not to confuse them.

Peanut butter pate

Kala mange aliments français aussi.

The nectar named after a volcano.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Grand et Petit Anse

Big and little bay…

Traveling up and down Martinique's west coast has been great…high on the fave list.

We have spent time in Grand Anse and Petit Anse and St Anne and Marin.  There is something for everyone in each place.  Grand and Petit Anse also had free (yes, cruising friends I said FREE) mooring balls.  The only issue is there is no pennant, so put on your best Plastic Man face and lean over the edge of the bow.  Baxter and I actually switched roles where he picks up the mooring and I drive the boat.  That way I don't go head first into the water while Terrapin drives away.

The anchorage in St Anne has been really nice.  Great wind to keep the wind generator going, sunny days to charge the solar panels and miles of 15 feet deep sand (with a scattering of weeds here and there.)

We will eventually pry ourselves off this french island and head north again…until then "Bon Journee!"
Kala having fun while I check out the starfish from the dock.
Be on the lookout for this - that HUGE obvious fish trap (aka coke bottle) in the center of the picture (sarcasm intended)
This is what happens if you don't see it.
Kicking back in Ste. Anne.

Beware…she might get ya.

Our great lunch shack in Martinique.
Love pomme frites and Lorraine Blonde.

Je t'aime dessert!

Le Roche Diamant

What'd I tell ya about the French and their Amels?

Who says dogs don't snorkel?
Sunset selfie

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Back to Bees-ness

Back to the bees and our port fuel tank. If you think you're tired if reading about it, you can imagine our frustration.

To recap briefly, we sailed from Virginia to the BVI and each time we ran the engine on the port tank, it would stall. Over the course of four months we have spent hundreds of dollars trying to determine the cause and repair the issue. A few weeks ago, we found the culprit...a bumble bee. Yesterday we switched to the port tank to make sure it worked. And it did...perfectly. Great...on with the rest of the day.

We had good wind, so we turned off the engine and had a great sail to Grand Anse in Martinique. We turned the engine back on only to motor into the mooring field. I'll give you one guess as to what happened. Nothing...the engine wouldn't work and stalled twice before we switched the fuel feed and return back to the starboard tank and added "troubleshoot port fuel tank" back to the to-do list. 

Later that afternoon, we took the fuel pickup out of the tank hoping to find another bee (easiest answer to this pest of an issue). No bee. Ugh! Baxter went to one end of the fuel line in the lazareete under the cockpit to blow through it just in case there was a clog and I waited on the other end in our cabin with a peanut butter jar to collect the evidence. 

Wouldn't you know it...another bee. Bigger and greasier. I wonder how many more are waiting for us. 
Yeah…another bee.  No matter how frustrating it is, at least it is an easy fix.

Bigger Bee.

Monday, March 17, 2014

More Saints and Volcanos

After leaving Dominica, we contined onto the largest of the windward islands, Martinique. We found what looked like a great little town on the chart and hoped it would be all that we expected since we haven't heard any other cruisers mention it.

St Pierre, named for a pirate who settled here, is on the northwest corner of Martinique and at one point was considered the "Paris of the West Indies". It had been the commercial center of the southern Caribbean and the capital of Martinique since the 1600s. It was settled by the Arawaks, then the Caraibs, then the French, the British and back to the French....UNTIL 1902. St Pierre had a population of 30,000 and 29,999 were killed by the eruption of Mt Pelee except one prisoner in the town jail, Cyrus. 

Quite a story of this little town and when you see an artist sketch with pirate ships anchored out front, it looks exactly the same as today. 

The anchorage is on a 20-foot shelf about 300 meters wide but drops to over 100 feet on the seaward side and has a steep shore break on the land side. We found a perfect spot, dropped the hook, took care of lots of chores and indulged in our inner Frenchmen (very few people speak ANY English)

Have I mentioned we really like French islands?
Baxter and Kala as we motored down the lee of Dominica

Someone wanted to come play on our bow.

Looking at us straight in the eye.

Having a blast…this lasted for about 15 min.

Dolphin and whale spotting (yes, we saw both but couldn't get the whale was camera shy.)

The lay of the land.  Anchorage on the left (you can see the small shelf of 20 ft.)

French islands are the best.  Clearing into "customs."

A full-fledged lavarie (notice the cost $10 USD for 14 lbs., that's just to wash.)
Grocery shopping in the market.

The Battery.  Houses from the 1700s that were built for those who worked at the fort.  Destroyed by the volcano.
St Pierre (Terrapin on right, towards the front.)

Mt Pelee volcano.  Twelve boats sank in the anchorage when it erupted.

French towns all have their own beautiful churches.

Token Carribean sunset.  I'm a sucker.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Pronounced Dom-uh-neek-a, opposed to Doh-min-i-ka. I stumble in writing about this island because I'm not sure how to express our impressions succinctly.

We have heard so much about how wonderful it is…so much hiking, so many beaches, so much to do. We were excited.  In fact, we only met one boat that said "meh...we could skip it." After being here for four days, we tend to agree with the latter. That is not to say it's not beautiful and there's not a lot to do. However...all hikes require that you hire a guide to take you and most trips cost $25-$50 USD/person - not expensive but having the adventure of self exploration taken away and having to pay someone to tell you a banana tree is a banana tree isn't exciting for us. After hiking through the S. Pacific and quite a few islands in the Caribbean we would rather just get lost, wonder about strange plants and animals and go find out for ourselves. For us it is part of the mystique of exploring.

Since Dominica is volcanic, the beaches are not like those we love. They are black gritty sand and the ones we have been to all have glass, debris and garbage bags floating around. 

None the less, we really enjoyed the market on Saturday.  There was so much local activity…we couldn't describe it if we tried.  It was electric!  Dominica is also truly beautiful.  The rain forests and mountains are enormous and the island seems to go on forever.

We absolutely appreciated the island for what it is but we're excited to move south to Martinique.

Taking Kala for a ride.

Different than other beaches.

The mouth of one of the rivers with a wreck to the left and tree in the center.  Very lush rain forests throughout the island.