Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Island Hopping

We’ve been in the mood for sailing lately. Over the past 10 days we’ve traveled from the south of Martinique to the north of Guadeloupe …. stopping in at 7 anchorages along the way.  I haven’t posted a blog during this time, as our internet access suffers when we travel … we choose not to purchase data plans when we know we may not stay long in a country.

Sailing north along Martinique’s lee shore was great, as we had wind but no seas. The peak of the volcano at St. Pierre was clear (an uncommon occurrence) – this is one of the most picturesque anchorages in the Caribbean.  

old and new blend - check out those old sails being used as shades

Remains stand from an eruption which decimated the town in 1902, and new buildings have sprung from the old foundations.

We watched the sunrise over Martinique on the day we left. Dominica could be seen even before we cleared its’ northern tip. 

bye-bye Martinique

With a 10-15 knot east wind, the sail in the open channel between the islands was great; but in Dominica’s lee, we motored north for almost 5 hr. to reach Portsmouth. Our reward – an almost cloudless sunset.

the fishermens' dock in Portsmouth

We love the Indian River in Portsmouth. We’ve been up the river twice on boat tours; so this year we chose to walk the trail instead.  The photos show it better than words can describe it.

a pig farm at the trailhead

huge roots of the bloodwood tree

I love Dominica for its’ hiking and its’ sites. On a second day, Gil & I took a local bus from Portsmouth to Bense,  a small community on the windward side, which is near the trail head to Chaudierre Pool.  To find it, we asked several locals for directions. We followed a ridge trail with stunning vistas

that's Guadeloupe on the horizon

can you find the mudslide?

.... then followed a farm access road

pointsettas grow a little bigger here!

and eventually met a Canadian Dominican, who after living and working in the Vancouver area for 30+ years, returned to Dominica to retire. He purchased 10 acres of land and was in the process of taking lumber from it, planting crops, and creating crayfish pools. He had nine men working his land. Gil & I were impressed by their work – with only a chainsaw, they were felling trees and cutting them into boards – incredibly straight ones!

Less impressive, was the news he gave us that we had missed the trail to Chaudierre Pool! He welcomed us to enjoy the running stream of water and natural pool on his own property.

We did take a small break here, but then chose to backtrack in search of the trail we missed. 

Dominican guard rail .... Gil could see tree tops less than 50 feet away

We did find it, and we followed it through lush forest until we were likely to get our feet wet crossing a stream. We were feeling tired and hungry, and chose to abort and head back into town for lunch instead!  Back at the bus stop, a couple of local guys came by and offered to drive us to Calibishie for lunch. Rather than wait for a bus, we accepted their offer. They dropped us off at a popular seaside restaurant, where we enjoyed a hearty meal. Re-energized, we decided to walk on to an area called Red Rock ….. aptly named…..

The day was getting on, and we still needed to catch a bus back to Portsmouth, so we trekked it back to Calibishie and waited and waited and waited…..  and finally gave up waiting. We had hitch hiked once before in Dominica, and we thought it might be more fruitful to do it again. It wasn’t long before someone stopped and offered to ‘taxi’ us, and we accepted. We managed to get back to our boat in time for sundowners!

From Portsmouth, Dominica we sailed north to Les Saintes, a group of small picturesque French islands. 

our anchorage at Ilet Cabrit - we're the smallest boat at the back of the pack

As the main anchorage in front of the town of Bouges Des Saintes was ‘rolly’ (too open to northeasterly winds), we chose to anchor at Ilet Cabrit where it was calmer. Ilet Cabrit is the smallest of Les Saintes, inhabited by only chickens and goats, 

and is home to the remains of Fort Josephine. We walked up to it, and quite enjoyed the views…

Ilet Cabrit also had some good snorkeling…


sea cucumber

butterfly fish



another ugly sea cucumber

scrawled file fish

Once more, Gil & I got ‘itchy feet’ to sail again, and headed north for Guadeloupe. The forecasted winds were stronger than we typically would ‘go’ in – ENE @ 20-25 knots, gusting to 30 – but the distance in the open channel from Les Saintes to the lee of Guadeloupe is only about 10 miles, and once in the lee of the island, it would be smooth sailing. We reefed our sails and set off. That was a ‘salty’ 10 miles! The southern tip of Guadeloupe was especially choppy. We were relieved to reach the island’s lee, where we had a good sail north to Pigeon Island. The French chose their islands well…. we were able to SAIL in the lees of both Martinique and Guadeloupe. We couldn’t manage that in the lees of Grenada, St. Vincent or Dominica. Why is that, I wonder? 

As I write this, Gil & I have moved to Guadeloupe’s northernmost anchorage at Deshaies, where we are waiting for weather to sail to Antigua. The tradewinds have strengthened, as they do this time of year. The “Christmas Winds” have come, and with them the opportunities to sail safely and comfortably are fewer. The lighter wind months of October and November spoiled us; but now we must weather watch and pay respect to those weather gods!

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