Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Dominica to St Marteen - Caribbean Extravaganza

The sail from Martinique to Dominica was brisk and salty, as always, with Terrapin moving between 8-10kts in 30-ish kts of wind and 7-9 ft seas on the beam. The twenty miles between the two islands went by quickly and even in the lee of Dominica, we were still seeing wind in the mid-20s (typically the leeward side of an island has very little wind).

We anchored in Prince Rupert and checked into customs the next morning. We also made an appt with the vet to get Kala inspected (oh those British Isles). That evening our friends Edd and Becca arrived from Salt Lake City, just in time for the cruiser BBQ sponsored by PAYS (Portsmouth Area Yacht Services – a group who helps with cruiser safety and logistics). Since Edd and Becca had been traveling for about 16 hours, we headed back to Terrapin and Edd quickly celebrated their arrival with a naked cannonball off the bow into pitch black water. This was his first visit to the Caribbean and he was going to enjoy every minute possible.

The next morning we hiked and snorkeled and made a plan of every place we would like to visit in the next 10 days – as well as coordinating the best route to sail to St Marten where Edd and Becca would fly back to Utah. It was going to be an awesome week and a half.

Picking up the anchor the next morning was quick and easy and the sail to the Saintes was beautiful with 15kts of wind and 2-3 foot swell. When we arrived in the Saintes, all the moorings were full and there were boats circling for the next free ball like sharks waiting for chum. We decided to anchor in 25 feet of water close (but not too close) to a beautiful reef. Before the engine was off, Baxter dove the anchor to make sure it was set and Edd & Becca were off for a great snorkel. Of course, we can’t leave Kala out – we took her to a nice sandy beach for a fun swim and surf and everyone was happy and worn out.

We spent the next day in the Saintes hiking and snorkeling and celebrating Baxter and Edd’s birthday at tasty French restaurants. We had lots of places to see and things to do so the next day we sailed up to Malendure Beach with Becca taking the helm like a pro. Malendure Beach is just across from Pigeon Island and the Jacques Cousteau Marine Park, where we had recently been with Molly’s mom and sister. The snorkeling was some of the best we have ever done, so not long after we anchored, we all jumped in to say “Bonjour” to the turtles that were having lunch near Terrapin. The next couple days were full of snorkels, sunsets, good food, fruity rum drinks, and lots of laughs but alas, it was time to move again. As we pulled up the anchor, we thought it would be good to have one more snorkel so Edd and Becca jumped straight off Terrapin and swam around Pigeon Island while Baxter and I sailed around.

Our plan was to sail up to Deshaies, anchor and leave for Montserrat at 3 am., but as usual, the anchorage was very crowded and the only spot was in 40 ft of water. Baxter and I called an audible and changed our minds – we were going to say “au revoir” to Guadeloupe and just start heading the 40 miles to Montserrat. This area of the Caribbean is known for whale migration. Baxter and I have seen whale spouts near here in the past and even seen whales breeching in the far off distance – so we were all on the alert. Since it was so calm, I decided to move forward and sit on the bow pulpit and enjoy the calm waters when there it was – a big spout, about 100meters from the boat. In complete excitement, I let the others know and within 2 minutes, we had a pilot whale with a huge dorsal fin, an amazing spout, and a huge bright black eye right next to Terrapin. We were careful to steer away from him but it seemed as if the more we moved away, the more he came in for a closer look at Terrapin – what was this strange object in his ocean?? This is one of the things we love about sailing – being this close to animals and nature with opportunities that you might never have the chance to witness anywhere else in the world. Such a very cool experience from your very own sailboat.

We continued to sail towards the anchorage with a beautiful sunset as we sailed by the steaming Soufriere volcano. Becca and Edd kept an eye out for fish traps as we sailed in the pitch dark and dropped the hook in Rendezvous Bay between two boats and just off the beach. Anchoring is an art in itself during the broad daylight but is nerve wracking and tense in the dark with boats nearby, the waves breaking onshore, fishtraps and a shallow reef to avoid. After the hook was set, we took a deep breath, had a great dinner on Terrapin and got ready to leave early the next morning for St Barth’s.

The 78 mile passage to St Barth’s started great – 15 kts of breeze on a broad reach with Terrapin sailing at 7 kts – excellent conditions. As the day progressed, the wind dissipated and it was slow moving, making it a very long day. But as a sailor, you have to make the best of the conditions – so, with the four of us in assigned positions, we pulled out our new Ullman Sails spinnaker with the beautiful Terrapin logo. We were able to fly it for over an hour until the sun set and the wind started to pick up. When we have flown the spinnaker in the past, it has only been for a few minutes before the wind shifted or the conditions changed so this really helped us dial in a few things, like helming with the Spinnaker, the wind angles the spinnaker likes and as always, we mentally created new standard operating procedures for Terrapin on “How to fly the coolest spinnaker in the Caribbean”.

St Barth’s is definitely one of my top three fave spots in the Caribbean. As we came into Anse de Colombier in the dark, carefully negotiating the mooring field and the unlit boats (seriously, who does that? Who owns a boat that doesn’t have a single light on in a crowded anchorage?), we found a mooring ball tucked away in the corner, picked it up on the first try, celebrated that we no longer had to watch for fish traps, and enjoyed a nice late dinner and long overdue sundowner.

Jacques Cousteau Marine Park - round deux

Elkhorn coral
Off for a little nork-nork
Best looking spinnaker in the whole Caribbean
Visit from the pilot whale
His huge dorsal fin gave him away as a pilot whale
Soufriere at sunset
Becca at the helm from the Saintes to Malendure Beach - she was a natural
Things can get a little crazy if you have to anchor/moor in the dark two nights in a row...making frozen daiquiris in the hand crank blender

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