A taste of Trinidad

Heading into our third (and final) month in Trinidad, I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made. In the heat and humidity, we’ve worked almost every day, seven days a week for the past 11 weeks (the cool evenings compliments of the rental airconditioner, is one of life’s little luxuries…). Yesterday, the final painting was completed on the hull – transforming our formerly shameful underneath to a smooth and curvaceous bottom – watch out Kim Kardashian!

Now that is a nice bottom!

Now that is a nice bottom!

All the 'mod cons' of a galley!

All the ‘mod cons’ of a galley!

After a big day’s work, at the end of every day we usually eat on board – curries, pizza, nachos, salads, stir-fry, whatever I can be bothered to whip up. Of course, I have all the mod-cons (potato peeler, pressure cooker, etc) and the nearby supermarkets have all the groceries I need, so staying in is easier than going out; plus we can save our money for more important things, such as A$350 for 200ml of Propspeed!

One day though, we managed to get away from Power Boats for the ‘Taste of Trinidad’ tour, run by Jesse James of Member’s Only Maxi Taxis. In a maxi taxi, we joined eight other yachties on a fun tour around the island stopping at local food huts and stalls along the way to sample some of Trinidad’s delicious gastronomy.

We tasted soursop, goat curry, barbecued pig tails, cow heel soup, fry bake, saltfish, chicken livers, a slimy plum fruit, plus heaps of other tasty and dubious dishes and fruits. Jesse even drove us across the island to see the eastern shore and the Atlantic and to stop – for lunch!

I must say though after relentless sampling from 9am until 7pm my stomach was packed to the gunwales; At the end of the evening when Jesse stopped the van outside yet another food outlet, I thought I heard him whisper ‘just one wafer thin mint’… but it turned out we stopped for a yummy homemade ice-cream. It was a fun and filling day out!

Fitting transducer with Supervisor Kitty looking on

Fitting transducer with Supervisor Kitty looking on

Back aboard, Wayne fitted a new Raymarine CPT-120 transducer which should give us higher resolution, photo-like, sonar images on our Raymarine MFD. Drilling a hole through the hull is always a little scary, but a tube of black 3M 4200 sealant filled any gaps to keep the sea-water out. This will be out main depth sounder while the original one will be used as a backup.

The transducer came complete with a 10m length of cable with plug at the end to plug straight into the MFD. Blue Heeler is only 12m long so a 10m cable should reach from the head to the cockpit, right? Of course the best route is usually the most direct (ie: a straight line), but as the cable path on our port side is usually easier, albeit a little longer, we fed the cable back then forward then reach over to the chart plotter at our starboard cockpit.

This cabling job didn’t take long at all as we’ve worked cables on the port side of the boat before. But a problem. After feeding the cable into tiny gaps and tunnels, once it had reached the cockpit the cable was 30cm too short! Hmm…

Back to the beginning – identify the most direct route between A and B. Could we really put a cable on the starboard side of Blue Heeler where no cable has ventured before? Do we go under the floor; behind the lounge; inside the bilge; overhead? With our combined troubleshooting minds we would solve this puzzle.

Cabling in a boat - fun fun fun!

Cabling in a boat – fun fun fun!

Wayne grabbed his hole drill; I emptied all the cupboards from one side of the boat to the other; we removed panels, lifted hatches, closed hatches; moved stuff aft, then forward, stepping over each other as we went. Only when we agreed on the cabling route did we remove it from the port side. All the stuff I’d moved had to be removed to the other side of the boat! Finally after a few hours we did it!

The cable pioneered it’s way from the head into a forward locker; the wet weather cupboard; behind the kitchen gizmo cupboard; behind our ‘library’; behind my canned peas, corn, and coconut milk powder (Oh, there’s my missing potato masher!); diverting sideways into the plastic container cupboard; moving upwards past the cordial bottles; into the cockpit panel; then hey presto, into the back of the chart plotter – with not one centimetre of spare cable! Phew! The alternative was to buy a 4m length of cable from nearby Goodwood electronics. Not only would an extra 4m of cable potentially deteriorate the signal, it would have been too easy for us!

Hooray! Getting closer to Vitamin Sea!

Hooray! Getting closer to Vitamin Sea!

So the big jobs are done and the cleanup commences. Wiping, washing, polishing, greasing nipples; emptying cupboards and wiping down everything with vinegar to prevent mould. Our indulgences these days are electricity, water and showers, so we’ll stay a few more days on the hard making good use of these conveniences.

While Trinidadians look forward to their Independence Day holiday on Wednesday (Happy 54th Birthday Trinidad!), we look forward to an imminent launch for a dose of vitamin sea!

banner storm trinidad

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Chaguaramas, Trinidad

Hurricanes CaribThe hurricane season in this region runs from 1st June to 30th November with August and September the most active months. As you can see from the image to the right, Trinidad has avoided the majority of major storms over the past 150 years.  So far there hasn’t been anything of concern blowing in from the east but now that it’s August we’re keeping an eye on the weather forecasts a little more frequently. There have been close-calls for Trinidad and Tobago over the years – Hurricane Ivan probably the closest call back in 2004 – but not a direct hit for some time.

Trinidad has many public holidays – around 19 each year apparently – and there have been four during our stay at Power Boats. Besides religious observances for Christians, Muslims, Hindus, the latest holiday was Emancipation Day (1st August) which marks the end of slavery in the British Empire in 1834. Of course this is a holiday throughout many Caribbean countries, but not necessarily on the same day.

Like every day, we spent the holiday weekend working on the boat. Once Wayne had sanded our antifoul in preparation of applying fresh coats, it was obvious that the sub-surface wasn’t good enough to throw another couple of thousand dollars worth of primer and antifoul on. The epoxy layer under the primer was flaky and scraped off easily on some sections, exposing gelcoat underneath. There were also small blisters that needed to be sanded out. Perhaps the humidity or poor preparation in Thailand three years ago was the cause, but we’ve since learnt that unthickened epoxy doesn’t adhere well to gelcoat – who knows?

Our two options were to ignore it and hope it goes away; or do it properly by removing all traces of epoxy and sand back to gelcoat. After Wayne spent many, many hours sanding the hull back to the primer and removing all antifoul, he decided it was time to get some help if we were to get it back to gelcoat before Christmas! With me on our sander, Wayne on a rental 6″ orbital sander, plus two days help from a labourer on a 7″ sander, in a few days we managed to strip the hull back to gelcoat white and remove the small blisters that had appeared. Once the sanding was done and the bad layers removed, the hull was in good condition and we could prep it for painting.

Teamwork makes the dream work!

Teamwork makes the dream work!

In between sanding the hull, we also did plenty of other jobs. The paint on our poor Air-X wind generator was almost all off so that was repainted along with our weathered binnacle; the toilet seat we bought in Thailand obviously had a poor coat of paint that had badly deteriorated so the dunny seat also got a thick coat of Interprotect and Brightside – can’t imagine that will need painting in the near future! The second hand Tohatsu we bought in St Maarten needed the old paint scraped off; buffed then a fresh coat of black paint. Both our outboards received a service and with new Sunbrella covers they look good as new. In the back of Wayne’s mind over the past couple of years was a deteriorating exhaust manifold. This was rectified by local fabrication shop Chag Fab with some aluminium welding. We had our mainsail and our spare mainsail repaired at Superb Sails here at Power boats plus we had a useful teak drink holder made by local woodwork shop also at Power Boats. Always plenty of work to do on a boat!

Weekenders fill up the yard

Weekenders fill up the yard

But it hasn’t been too stressful. Each day we put in the hours making sure to finish in daylight so we can clean up and enjoy a cool evening inside the air conditioned saloon and watch old episodes of The Sopranos. For variety once a week we might go to the social BBQ held at the Roti Hut, or I’ll take a bus ride to the shops for groceries, while three mornings a week I cycle across to Coral Cove Marina for an stimulating morning yoga session with Nana, a fellow cruiser. Weekends are busy with locals filling up the yard with cars as they boat across to nearby islands. We bumped into a South African fella that we first met in Madagascar and last saw in South Africa, and another Aussie guy we also first met in South Africa, but generally most people leave their boats here while they travel back to other places around the globe to return in October/November.

Trinidad blog (1)Optimistically I think the boat will be ready to paint this week. The only hold up will be that August/September are the two wettest months in Trinidad! Each day around 10am a thunderstorm will pass over; followed by another one after lunch. Each time we quickly pack up our gear and sit upstairs to wait until it blows over. Usually in the afternoons it clears and we can continue.

The hull requires four coats of epoxy primer followed by two coats of antifoul – six coats overall as a minimum. We have the paint, the tools, and the time…

Trinidad blog (10)

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No time for limin’

trinidadThe crossing from Grenada to Trinidad is around 85nm. With a north-east breeze between 12-18knots, the evening of 15th June was an ideal night to sail. Back in January this year however, two incidents took place between Grenada and Trinidad which pricked up the ears of the sailing community. About halfway a pirogue with five armed men boarded two vessels at two separate times. The pirates (for want of a better name) allegedly stole from the vessels – anything from electrical items to dunny rolls. Fortunately nobody was hurt in the attacks. It is assumed the attack vessel was the same in both incidents and likely from Venezuela.

Word of the attacks spread swiftly through the sailing community. Following advice from various bodies, we took some precautions for our trip. Firstly we notified the Trinidad Coast Guard and local YSATT representative in Trinidad of our intention to sail at night. A Float Plan template is available from local Trinidadian and yacht services representative Jesse James. Secondly, our route was to the east of both the Hibiscus and Poinsettia Oil Fields, which are located about halfway. There were around five other yachts sailing the night we sailed.

But a strange incident did happroute to Trinidaden on our voyage. About 35nm south of Grenada, north of the Poinsettia oilfield, for some time I’d been watching a vessel heading north-west as we were heading south-east. When the vessel was about 4nm on our port side (identified via the radar), the vessel turned sharply and headed directly towards us. In what seemed minutes the vessel then crossed our bow within 50m. The vessel circled Blue Heeler in a clockwise direction, passed our stern and began motoring away. It appeared to be a fishing vessel around 15m long and was clearly lit. The vessel gave us no indication of its intentions and we certainly don’t enjoy having vessels deviate from their heading, come straight for us, then circle us in the middle of the night! The rest of our trip was fine except for the 2kn current against us for most of the way.

Approaching Trinidad

Approaching Trinidad

At daybreak we noticed the Caribbean Sea had turned brown. The Gulf of Paria is a natural harbour which separates Trinidad and Venezuela. Brown waters from South American rivers leech into the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Following a couple of tugs through the Boca Channel, by mid morning we’d arrived safely into the industrial port of Chaguaramas at the northwest of Trinidad.

Our first stop was Customs and Immigration. At the Crews Inn Marina there is a customs dock, but it was busy so we anchored out beyond the full mooring field. Customs fee to check in was TT$50 (about A$10) which is a monthly fee to cover ‘navigation’. We entered on our British passports as to enter on our Aussie passports would incur a Visa or Visa Waiver fee of TT$400 (A$80)  ;)

The next day Blue Heeler was successfully hauled out at Power Boats Marine Yard . We made sure we closed the through-hulls in both the head and galley in preparation of the high pressure wash (first time we learnt the hard way with thousands of PSI of water blasting up the hoses pushing barnacles, crap, and goo into the galley and head!). Before long we were wired up with an air-conditioner installed in the front hatch. Cool bliss!

20160616 Trinidad (10)

In the office we met Camille and her team and got the lowdown on the facilities at Power Boats. Laundry costs TT$15 per token (around A$3) and the machines are in good condition – four washers and three dryers. The toilets and cold-water showers are clean and there is the Boaters’ Shop that stocks all sorts of products (antifoul, epoxies, solvents, etc) plus a Mini-Mart for groceries and ice-creams!

View from Blue Heeler for the next few weeks

View from Blue Heeler for the next few weeks

Conveniently the office issues guests with a ‘Convenience Card’ to get a 5% discount at the on-site stores without having to carry cash. A Roti Hut is on site for lunch, or if you want something cheap, you can go outside the gates near Budget Marine and buy a ‘double’ for TT$4 (A ‘double’ is a national breakfast food which consists of chickpea (channa) curry between barra, or Indian fried bread). If you want western type food (steaks, burgers, etc) Sail’s Restaurant is also on site, but we’re pretty happy with rotis and doubles. Internet signal around the marina isn’t particularly good, but there is a dedicated Internet Room close to the Mini Mart that allows salty sailors to Google, surf or stream in the comfort of air conditioning.

Our first week in Trinidad rained every day, but we managed to get some work done between downpours. Wayne spent three days sanding the remaining antifoul from the hull and depositing it upon himself; ending up looking like a Smurf! I spent some time scraping and sanding evil barnacle footprints that attached themselves to the hull from the lengthy stay in the horrid waters of St Maarten. Our  Max Prop is back to shiny and bronzy while the bow thruster prop and tunnel is looking shiny and smooth. A puncture in our dinghy was patched and the Sunbrella dinghy cover had a much needed makeover. Wayne also took the engine apart to have a local fabrication shop work on our exhaust manifold and we have a couple of sails in for repair. There’s plenty of other jobs we have to get on with, but we’re not in a rush to get back into the water.

There’s not a great deal around the vicinity of Chaguaramas, but getting into the capital Port of Spain is straightforward. Across the road from Power Boats is a bus stop to catch a bus or Maxi Taxi to either Port of Spain or the Massy supermarket, or the Westmall shopping complex where there’s plenty of choice for provisioning. There’s also a small Massy supermarket at Crews Inn marina which is easy to walk to.

Downtown Port of Spain

Downtown Port of Spain

Although Trinidadians speak English, the influence of French, Indian, and African languages have created a gorgeous blend that makes the Trini language a delight to listen to (although I don’t always understand what they’re saying!). I sat with a woman in the bus stop and she talked and talked, but I struggled to understand exactly what she was saying!

So that’s what’s going on in Trinidad.

With a few jobs already done and most underway, we gonna be limin’ over duh coming weeks, yeah mon!

PS: Limin’ – To hang out to pass the time, or chill out.

Trinidad Liming

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Windward Islands – Cariacou & Grenada

The hurricane season in the Caribbean region is between 1st June and 30th November. Of course we don’t expect a hurricane this early in June, but we still have work on the boat that we really want to get on with. From St Lucia, Trinidad is 200nm south. But first…

St Vincent and the Grenadines

Yawn, early morning cuppa after overnighter

Yawn, early morning cuppa after overnighter

Sounding very much like a pop band from the fifties, ‘St Vincent and the Grenadines’ (aka SVG) is actually a chain of islands between St Lucia and Cariacou, Grenada in the Windward Islands. This season we decided to bypass SVG and continue south, but we’ll visit next season. Although supposed to be quite beautiful in their own right, sadly these islands are gaining notoriety through misdeeds such as assaults and yacht boardings, and a murder, over the past few months. Read more.

Cariacou

Cariacou, Grenada

Cariacou, Grenada

We arrived at Tyrrel Bay at Cariacou after a good overnight sail. The 102nm trip from St Lucia is the first overnighter we’ve done for a couple of months and I managed to sleep very well off watch. The trade winds blew steady from ESE at between 18-22knots giving us a lovely beam reach for 20 hours.

Tyrrel Bay is wide and can accommodate well over 100 yachts. In one of the cruising guides its referred to as the ‘most picturesque in the Caribbean’. Not sure about that, but it certainly has attracted many yachts of all shapes and sizes, and levels of deterioration, hooked into the sandy bottom. Some vessels look like they’ve been here through a few hurricanes, while others are polished to perfection and on their way to haul out in Grenada or Trinidad while they fly home to loved ones for the hurricane season. Cariacou Marine on the southern side of Tyrrel Bay has haul out facilities, reportedly very good, plus duty free fuel. There’s also Customs and Immigration for checking into Grenada which is very convenient.

Downtown Tyrrel Bay, Cariacou

Downtown Tyrrel Bay, Cariacou

I took a stroll through the short village and thought I might walk to Hillsborough, the islands ‘capital’. As it turned out a local man pulled up and offered me a lift. I quickly sussed him out then said “Sure” and hopped into the front seat. His name was Levi and we chatted as he drove. Cheerfully stuck to the top of his windscreen were large letters “HELLO THERE” and as he drove along, he seemed to personally know everyone. With a wave he’d yell “Hello There” to which they responded “Hello There!”

Levi dropped me off at Hillsborough and I thanked him for his generosity. I walked up and down the small town a few times then checked out a small supermarket. There’s a small bus terminal at the back of the shop for the return trip to Tyrrel Bay, and fortunately for me a bus stopped outside the shop. I jumped in and squeezed into the back seat. The front seat of the minivan was filled with boxes of new floor tiles, but the bus driver was keen to squeeze as many people in as possible. A skinny guy came on and squeezed next to me so that was four in the back seat. A large woman with a backside to match came on and took up three seats in front of us in the back! The skinny guy said “Hey, can you not lean back in the chair” as the weight was crushing his knees! As they say “How many people can you fit in a minivan?” Just one more!

Doggies at Cariacou

Doggies at Cariacou

At Tyrrel Bay I gave the driver EC$3.50 for the bus trip and walked back along the beach to the Iguana Bar and Cariacou Marine where I had a cool drink, chatted to some yachties and used the free wifi to check my emails.

On the last night at Tyrrel Bay as we watched the sun set, we splurged and shared a yummy pizza at the Lazy Turtle before going back to Blue Heeler to prepare for our trip to Grenada.

Grenada

Another good sailing day to Grenada. As we’d already checked in at Cariacou, there was no clearance required at Grenada. Just north of St Georges at Moliniere Point we grabbed a mooring – here is supposedly 100 or so under water sculptures so we wanted to view these. We dinghied over to the red moorings, tied up then jumped in. The water was a little murky but we managed to find a few sculptures (in fact we only found four!). The Parks rangers came by and we paid EC$26 for a mooring.

Next day we sailed around the bottom of Grenada on our way to the very popular Prickly Bay. Over the past year or so we’ve heard good reports of Grenada, including Prickly Bay. I’d read the bay gets a little rolly, but by the third night of rocking and rolling, I was wondering what all the hype was about!

Excellent wifi stations at Prickly Bay Marina

Excellent wifi stations at Prickly Bay Marina

Spice Island Marine Services is next to Budget Marine – both a short dinghy ride away – and has hundreds of yachts squeezed into its yard for the hurricane season (I’ve no idea how they get them packed so tight!). I was expecting Prickly Bay Marina to be much bigger but it’s hardly a marina at all; one small fuel dock, a mini-mart, and a laundry service. The Spiceland Shopping Centre is about 3kms walk away but the bus costs only EC$2.50 each way.

Prickly Bay Marina does have a good restaurant and the Tiki Bar with the best wifi counters I’ve seen (plenty of electrical outlets). For yachties who want to stretch their minds, there are regular events such as chess, dominoes, bingo, and trivia nights. For those that really want to break out a sweat, maybe a game of volleyball, a vigorous walk to the lighthouse or a swim across the bay! After a week here, the sun is shining, the roll in the bay has eased, I’m sore from a great free session of yoga, and after spending a morning with a few others helping young children read at the Mt Airy Young Readers group, I’m quickly learning what all the fuss is about at Prickly Bay!

We’ll be in Grenada for a little while longer before heading down to Trinidad to haul out and work on Blue Heeler so I’ll write more about Grenada later.

Until then enjoy the beautiful flamboyant tree…

image

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Windward Islands: Martinique & St Lucia

imageBeyond the Leeward Islands, at the southern end of the Lesser Antilles are the Windward Islands. These include Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenadines, Cariacou and Grenada, and to the east Barbados. Ships from Europe generally arrived in the region to the south of Dominica; hence the islands to the north were on the leeward side, and those to the south to windward. Trinidad and Tobago, our destination, is not included in the Caribbean islands and is geographically part of South America – literally a stone’s throw from the economic turmoil of Venezuela.

Martinique

From Domenica, the first stop along the Windward Islands is the French island of Martinique. Apart from the French keyboard testing my QWERTY touch typing skills, checking into the French Islands is straightforward, usually at a convenience store or tourist centre and for usually a few of Euro only.

The sail from Roseau in Dominica to St Pierre in Martinique was lively. The southern end of Dominica created gusts (on this day up to 35 knots), ultimately settling to steady trade winds between islands. To lessen the impact of wind bullets roaring down the steep island we put a reef or two in the sails. For the remainder of the open 28nm voyage, seas and wind steadied to around 2m and 25knots respectively, easing further once under the wind shadow of northern Martinique.

St Pierre, Martinique

St Pierre, Martinique

The anchorage at St Pierre is a narrow section along the shoreline with a deep drop-off not far from shore. North of the main dock we managed to anchor in 12m. A small tourist office sits high on the hill above the massive stone wall. Here is a computer terminal for checking in, plus a small pot for small donations. Along the narrow streets, St Pierre has the usual patisseries and boulangeries (plus a place selling coffins!). Many of the stores were closed and we can only assume because it’s no longer high season.

Baguettes and, er, coffins at St Pierre

Baguettes and, er, coffins at St Pierre

St Pierre used to be the capital of Martinique (now Fort de France) until Mont Pelée erupted back in 1902 pretty much wiping out the town and 30,000 inhabitants in minutes. Apparently one of the three survivors was a prisoner who, fortunately, was holed up in solitary confinement. I wonder who found him? I’m surprised the pyroclastic flow didn’t cook him like a pizza oven!

The following day we had a lovely sail south 15nm to beautiful Anse D’Arlets at the south western end of Martinique. Sitting back enjoying the sailing on this beautiful day, my eyes noticed a spume of water in the distance followed by a large spray. It could only be a whale! The sperm whale, longer than out boat, seemed to be sun baking as we sailed close by.

Grande Anse Martinique

Grande Anse Martinique

Grande Anse has many moorings which we believe are free to use, but also plenty of anchoring ground in this wide bay. As soon as we hooked a mooring, we both jumped into the clear water to cool off and to double check the mooring block and tackle were in good order, which they appeared to be. A gorgeous place to stay a few days!

Grande Anse, Martinique

Grande Anse, Martinique

Moorings available to yachts stops anchors destroying the sea floor and promotes growth of sea grass, which in turn attracts sea life to the area, so that’s a good thing. There’s plenty of turtles here. But without regular inspection moorings can be dangerous to the unsuspecting yachtie. After an early morning swim, then a coffee in the cockpit watching turtles swim by, I noticed a boat on the outer edge of the bay dragging his mooring. Quickly Wayne tried to raise him on the VHF but no response. He then made an “all ships” announcement to anyone who could go over the the vessel in a dinghy to help, as ours was still strapped on deck. No response from any of the fifty boats in the harbour. (Many boats particularly on moorings tend to have their VHFs off and no anchor alarm on. Plus the fact, many of the boats don’t speak Australian!). As we quickly assembled and launched our dinghy, the sleepy skipper in the runaway sloop popped up on deck and realised he was almost on the rocks at the northern end of the bay! He quickly had his vessel reversing away from the rocks still with the mooring ball attached to his bow cleat! We resumed drinking our coffees as the lucky sailor motored away to another location.

New life in mooring field at Grande Anse, Martinique

New life at Grande Anse, Martinique

Although our mooring appeared to be fine, the northern area of the bay was in fact quite rolly. We decided to disconnect from the mooring preferring to anchor in closer to the action in a designated anchoring spot. Careful not to cause more damage than necessary, we dropped the pick on a sandy patch. From here was a good swim to the beach in the clear water and back to the boat for some much needed exercise. Beneath in the sea grass swim large turtles, sea snakes, but not many fish. Lots of huge starfish too.

View of Petit Anse from Morne Champagne

View of Petit Anse from Morne Champagne

Along the beach road at Grande Anse most of the restaurants are closed, except for a few beachside bars with plastic chairs and tables. On the upper road above the beach is a small grocery store for our daily warm baguette, while below at a beachfront souvenir store cum lavarie I had two bags of laundry washed and dried for €13 per load. Très cher! Sunday was another matter with catamarans overloaded with punters from Fort de France soon filling up the anchorage with snorkellers enthusiastic to spot the many turtles in the bay.

At the casual beachside venue Ti Payot we stopped for a drink and to use the WIFI. We had thought of grabbing a bite too. By 6pm though, the kitchen closed, chairs and tables were stacked and the lights switched off. The bartender locked up he said “Bonne nuit” and left us sitting there in the dark with a handful of others to finish our drinks and our Googling!

Petit Anse, Martinique

Petit Anse, Martinique

To the south is Petit Anse, about 2kms walk along the road. It’s a cute place and a pleasant walk to get there, but not much happening. There is a trail across Morne Champagne that links Petit Anse and Grande Anse. The walk starts a little steep then is easy enough on a narrow rocky path. It takes around 45 minutes with stunning views peeking behind tall bushes.

Clearing in or out of Martinique can’t be done at Grande Anse. At Petit Anse’s Cyber Base, which is just south of the dock on the land side of the road, you can use the online clearance system for €1 and get internet for €3 for one hour. It’s an easy walk from Grande Anse anyway.

St Lucia

Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia

Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia

The great thing about the Leeward and Windward Islands; they are close enough for day sailing, about 25nm apart. We waited a few days until the wind shifted easterly and eased slightly before our next sail some 26nm so St Lucia. The day sail to Rodney Bay at St Lucia couldn’t have been better. Beam reach, 15knots, blue skies, full sails and even current with us for a while too – dare I say, perfect!

Arriving about 300m offshore from fancy resorts, white sand and sunburnt punters glowing from under beach umbrellas, we dropped anchor in 5m of water. I couldn’t see the bottom as I could in Martinique.

Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, St Lucia

Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, St Lucia

Pigeon Island is to the north of the bay and is US$7 park entry to visit the ruins of Fort Rodney for spectacular views of St Lucia and a decent afternoon activity. There’s a dock to park the dinghy where it’s a short walk to the payment counter. In the park is a restaurant where we joined Brian (Coruisk) for a meal. Besides the three of us, only one other table of guests were there that night. Strange as it was a Friday night, but once again it’s no longer high season. The restaurant had a jazz duo playing some great sax and we enjoyed them nonetheless.

Another day we caught a minibus to the capital of St Lucia. Castries is a typical Caribbean city – large central market selling cucumbers, mangoes, tomatoes, melons plus other stalls selling souvenirs from the region. Like many small Caribbean towns there are places where the locals shop and where the locals want the tourists to shop. The cruise ship dock has a shopping area selling diamonds (of course!), perfume and other duty free items, while along the back streets you can buy inexpensive chicken roti and a rum punch.

Spectacular Pitons, St Lucia

Spectacular Pitons, St Lucia

On our way sailing south we slowed down to admire the impressive Pitons which point into the sky some 750m or so from the sea. A couple of boat boys zoomed towards us and greeted us with a “Welcome to paradise!”. We’d already decided to sail overnight so we waved them away and continued our voyage south along the island chain.

Hanging out on the pick on a sunny afternoon at Martinique

Hanging out on the pick on a sunny afternoon at Martinique

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