Our first landfall after our longest passage was Le Marin marina, Martinique. With land beneath our feet the unsteadiness one may think we would have after a month at sea didn’t eventuate. It took a few days though for my hips to work properly, after sitting down so long, after which I was walking a couple of hours each day.
At Martinique the process of clearing-in is done online and very easy at the marina office. Each morning I joined the masses to buy a freshly baked baguette, recalling the French I’d picked up in the Indian Ocean to help with the purchase. As we arrived just before Easter and while locals and visiting tourists spent the Christian holiday praying, sailing or eating chocolate, we spent the time sleeping, cleaning and provisioning, and catching up on news and emails.
Although our passage across the South Atlantic was relatively straightforward, Blue Heeler didn’t get through unscathed. Our auto-pilot needed repair but we’d have to wait until after the Easter holiday to have someone look at it. After the grueling conditions of the Indian Ocean, the autopilot had slowly deteriorated to the point where we couldn’t rely on it at all. After identifying the drive unit as the offending item, and not the locking device as originally thought, Wayne couldn’t fix it without parts so he stripped the drive unit apart and took it into the local Diginav store above the Caribe Chandlery. The friendly fellow seemed to know his stuff and in two days he replaced the pinion gear, the motor and a pin on the drive arm. I suppose given that this drive unit is probably the original unit, so around 17 years old, it’s certainly done well to last that long. During our time at Marin we caught up with Denise and Etienne of La Luna, who arrived a few days after us.
After ten days, refreshed, fully loaded with fresh food and fuel, and sailing in company with La Luna, we departed French-speaking Martinique and headed north to the English-speaking island, Domenica. The weather this day was windy; at one point we had 35kn on the beam as we rounded the southern end of Domenica, although much of the 24nm crossing between islands was around 20-25kn. Even after crossing the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, I still don’t enjoy heeling with wind on the beam and it took me a couple of hours to settle in to the trip!
We dropped anchor at the town of Roseau next to the cruise ship dock. Here we would get one of our depleted gas bottles filled, and check-in and out at the same time (very friendly customs guy but difficult to find the office). Throngs of taxi drivers all hoping to cash in on the passengers aboard ‘Celebrity Summit’ cruise liner currently in dock hovered around the port in striking distance to the fresh influx of tourists, including us. After deflecting the tour guides’ offers of cheap trips around the island, we diverted into the dubiously named ‘Save A Lot’ supermarket to compare the food with that from Martinique. The meat and vegetables were much fresher than in Martinique, and there’s a veggie market nearby too that has a good selection. The influence of the island’s proximity to the USA is evident; our hopes of a bargain were dashed as veggies are sold per pound not per kilo. Prices are generally in Eastern Caribbean dollars, but closer to the cruise ship also in US dollars so best to ask.
Next morning we tuned into local 104.1FM to hear the BBC news followed by Calypso music and announcements of local birthdays and death notices, the raised the anchor continuing our journey. Motoring 20nm north along the stunning lush coast to Prince Rupert Bay, we anchored in difficult hard sand and rock covered in weed. After three attempts we managed to snag a rock which held us overnight. This place is known for its Boat Boys; we had a couple of friendly guys approach us letting us know of a BBQ on the beach for the yachties, while another was selling fruit, but strangely he didn’t have any on his surf-ski and never returned with the bananas I asked for. They were all friendly enough and nothing like the persistent guys we met in Indonesia. You can even call these guys on VHF16!
A further 17nm and we sailed into the Iles des Saintes, a small group of islands south of the main islands of Guadaloupe, and picked up a mooring at the Ilet a Cabrit, less than a mile to the main island, Terre-de-Haut, where we would clear into the country. Once again the French online check-in system is simple and painless, and could be done at the L.S.M. (Les Saintes Multiservice). We also paid for the mooring fees here which made it very convenient. That night we enjoyed the company of the crew of La Luna and Gromit, who we hadn’t see since leaving St Helena back in early March. We’ll stay here a couple of nights before moving further on to Antigua, making the most of the transition period between the sailing season and the hurricane season.