Monday, December 31, 2012

Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua.

27th-31st December 2012

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From Martinique we sailed to the lush Island of Dominica.This was just an overnight stop for us in the bay of Portsmouth and next morning we continued north to the Islands of Isle de Saints on the south side of Guadeloupe.

Isle Des Saintes

We have stopped at The Saints  group on previous occasions and really like them. Liam and I went to a very funky caf√© for lunch while my sister and niece had a walk around town and checked out the shops.

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As with all the French Islands, and the same in France, many business close between 2 & 4 pm for their siesta. Not a bad tradition if you ask me. Nothing like having an afternoon snooze to revitalize the system. The bay had changed slightly since our last visit and there seemed to be more mooring balls installed. Rather than anchoring we picked up a ball, something we rarely do. The cost was only 12 euros for the night, not bad really given the water was 62ft deep.The town is very pretty with brightly coloured houses and interesting wall murals.

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Even the local cemetery was brightened up with plastic flowers and colourful conch shells adorning some of the graves .By nine the following morning, after a quick run to the patisserie for baguettes and other French delicacies, we were on the road again.

Deshaies

This time we had a run of 22miles with 15 knots out of the ENE and a small chop on the waves. Once we got behind the Island of Guadeloupe just to the north, it was flat water and fast sailing to the town of Deshaies at the northern end of the island. Once the anchor was down and set the girls were in the dinghy and ready to explore this two street town, which didn’t take long.

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There are a few restaurants, a patisserie and a couple of supermarkets and a gift shop and that’s about it. Although we never seem to arrive in the anchorage at the right time of day, apparently an enterprising guy trudels around the anchorage in his dinghy about 4pm taking orders for baguettes and croissants, which he delivers fresh and hot to your transom at 7 am the following morning.What a great service!

Antigua

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Antigua was our next objective and we were staying there three nights, one of which would see the new year in. English Harbour was the place to be and we found a snug spot up in the front row in a depth of 11ft. Being Sunday afternoon the big attraction is the Shirley Heights bbq and Steel Pan Band experience.

This was a must see for our visitors. So along with the crew of Sundancer 2 we piled into a taxi and headed up the hill to enjoy the music, bbq and watch the sun set over English harbour and  the distant island of Montserrat. Perfect.

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We saw the New year in on the lawns of Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour along with the Sundancer 2  and had a great night.  A DJ belted out tunes through loud speakers, rum was the drink of choice, party animals danced the night away and fireworks lit the skies. For good or for bad 2013 had arrived. 

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Friday, December 28, 2012

A Caribbean Christmas

21st-26th December 2012

Martinique     

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Our 20 mile passage across to the French Island of Martinique was way less eventful, read as “sigh of relief”, than the previous one when we did damage to the boat. The wind was ENE 15-18 knots with just a slightly choppy sea.

As we couldn’t use the jib, our forward sail, until the turning block had been repaired, we sailed with the mainsail and a little help from the motor arriving at Sainte Anne just before sunset.

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Sainte Anne is a small, pretty village with a very large, protected anchorage on the south end of Martinique near the entrance to Cul-de-Sac de Marin. Club Med shares the same bay a little further around, and as most would know they usually enjoy the prime real estate sites with long stretches of white sand on the doorstep. That kind of paints a picture of the bay.The colourful village is very French with hardly any signage in english.The church and town square are the dominant features and the streets are lined with pastel coloured shops and houses.

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We spent 5 days here and in between trips ashore to the patisserie or supermarch√© we sorted out our Christmas menu, wrapped prezzies and decorated the boat. On Christmas eve the town put on a nativity pageant, which Helen and Bridget went to as well as a Christmas Eve mass. Liam and I opted out of going to both of these events and instead socialised  with friends on Sundancer 2 who had a last minute change of heart and sailed north to join us for Christmas.

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The big day dawned with the usual exchange of gifts, followed by a French breakfast of croissants and to-die-for pan chocolates. Then we feasted on a traditional GWTW Christmas lunch of prawns, smoked salmon, roast chickens, veg and salads. To celebrate the day we were joined by s/v Skylark: Elizabeth, Ed and their wonderful dog Luna, as well as s/v Sundancer 2 : Ian, Helen and son Dylan.                  IMG_0014                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With10 on board it was another great Christmas shared with sailing friends, Luna the wonder dog, who loved her presents, and for a change family as well.

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Boxing day in the town square was lively. Craft stalls were set up early with vendors displaying everything from basket wares to home made jams. A band  with drums, guitars and singers was soon in full swing and the whole place took on a party atmosphere.

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After stocking up on a few last minute gifts from the market and of course some lovely fresh baguettes we moved on to Grand Anse d’ Arlet, a small fishing village a few miles further to the north. It was fairly laid back and quite when we arrived with just a few people taking in the sunset from the beach.

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There didn’t seem to be much of a town here but there were a few restaurants and bars down on the beach. After a quick walk around and a sundowner ashore it was time to head back to the boat for a peaceful night’s sleep.Tomorrow we’d be heading north to the Island of Dominica.

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

 

Bequia & St Lucia.

17th – 21th December 2012

Bequia

From our last anchorage in Salt Whistle Bay we thought we might head east over to the Island of Mystic. This small private island has many upmarket villas and is reputedly the summer home of choice for the likes of Mick Jagger and others of the jet setting showbiz league. Sadly the wind gods had other ideas for us, so our next stop was Bequia instead. Arriving mid afternoon we settled in just off the white sands of Princess Margaret beach and before long the four of us were in the dinghy and heading into town. Many cruisers like Bequia, it’s a cute little place, and  they tend to hang in the anchorage for weeks at a time.This was GWTW’s third appearance here and we still couldn’t quite get the attraction of the place. Horses for courses I guess.

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One thing that we do like about the place is the very good fresh veggie market just along from the town dock, and this time finding Doris’s supermarket in one of the back streets was a real bonus. Helen and Bridget strolled the town for a few hours snapping up a few more nick naks to add to their selection of souvenirs, and a chance meeting under a shady tree saw us catching up with Phil and Monica from “Miss Molly”, who we’d seen in both Trinidad and Grenada a few weeks earlier.

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Later that evening after sundowners on “Miss Molly” we all hit the local pizza restaurant for dinner, the girls then went back to town for the Christmas Pageant which according to them was a bit of a dud.There were  lots of pretty lights but not much else happening. After one night in Bequia the girls were ready to move on and so were we.

Next morning the wind had come in from the ENE at 15 –20 kts and the seas between Bequia and St Vincent , the next island north had swells of 5-8 ft which made for a choppy crossing. Once in the lee of St Vincent things calmed down and we scooted along with a full main and jib. It was great to be sailing in fast in flat water. St Vincent is a mountainous, lush  Island with the foliage stretching from the high peaks all the way down to the sea. Not many yachts stop here.The island has a high risk reputation earned over many years of theft, and some armed robbery incidents. We did see a couple of boats anchored in two bays, but we were still not comfortable in taking the chance.

Leaving the calm waters of St Vincent behind, we continued north towards St Lucia across the 20 mile passage that separates the two Islands. At 1145am we had 17 miles to run when disaster struck. The wind and seas had picked up quite a lot and suddenly there was an almighty bang as white water hit the port hull  and proceeded to tear part of our port side trampoline away. Bugger!!

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Then not 15 minutes later, another almighty bang. Shit! This time it was port jib sheet separating from the jib clew. The jib was left flogging wildly at the front of the boat and we quickly had the engines on and turned downwind to furl the sail. Not one of our neatest furling attempts, it looked like a dog’s breakfast by the time we were done. Still shell shocked from the morning’s events we hastily put a reef in the main, good decision, got the boat back on course, excellent decision, and  then got our heart rates back to normal, even better decision, thank God.

With our house now in order, or should that read tatters, we took stock of what had actually happened. After few minutes we realized that not only had the sheet failed but the jib turning block on the coachouse roof had also torn off, taking the mounting pad and part of the fiberglass with it. Bugger, bugger bugger!!

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It was not a good day out there on the water. Now for those of you non sailors reading this, none of what happened that day was life threatening. It was just major adrenaline pumping and a big expensive mess to fix. But hey, this is cruising after all.

St Lucia

By late afternoon we were safely tied to a mooring ball between the beautiful soaring peaks of the Pitons at the south end of St Lucia, and it goes without saying, with a very strong G&T in hand. The clear deep waters around the base of the Pitons were hard to resist and it wasn’t long before we were all diving in hoping that the stress of the day’s earlier events would just float away.

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St Lucia proved to be  great stop for us.  We moved up to Rodney Bay at the northern end of the island, a place where there is always something going on. It’s kind of the centre of the universe when it comes to St Lucia and is also the finish line for the ARC Rally (the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Most of the 200 boats that took part were already in port but there was still a party atmosphere with those in the marina and the anchorage proudly flying their rally flags. As we well know it’s a pretty significant milestone to be able to say that you have sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. As we sat chilling-out dockside late that arvo, we were amazed when Ian from the Aussie yacht Sundancer 2 strolled by. The last time we had seen he and his wife Helen was in Positano on the Amalfi coast of Italy back in 2010, and now here they were in Rodney Bay. What a small world this is.

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St Lucia is yet another lush Island with rainforests, high peaks and winding roads. We decided to hire a car from Cost u Less rentals and see as much as we could, mind you that only took a day. As with a lot of tourist destinations some places are touted up to be more interesting than they actually are as we quickly found out. Without going into a lot of detail we had a good look around Fort Rodney then drove the coast road through Castries, the capital, Marigot Bay, a popular bay on for cruisers and charterers and then on to the seaside town of  La Soufriere for a lunch stop in the shadow of the Pitons. After a quick walk around town, it looked a bit dodgy so we headed back to the car and were off to the bottom of the island and up the other side arriving back in Rodney Bay just on dusk.

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That same night was the local Jump Up, or street party, at the neighbouring village of Gros Islet. Most of the streets were blocked off and both  locals and tourists came out to enjoy the party. Food stalls, make-shift  bars, loud music and dancing made for a fun time.

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The forecast for the days leading up to Christmas was for strong winds.  As we had seen as much as we could in St Lucia we decided that the French Island of Martinique would be a good place to hunker down and spend a few days. Next morning we said goodbye to our friends on Sundancer, who were going to continue south, and we pointed our bows north for a Christmas in Martinique.

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