I can’t remember when we last had a comfortable, flat passage (apart from the gentle sail to and from Barbuda but that doesn’t count as it needs to be calm to stay there!).
We left Les Îles Des Saintes at lunchtime but as soon as we out of the lee of the islands it was bedlam again with the boat tipped up and us hanging on for dear life. Certainly tones up the leg muscles, bracing for a few hours against the cockpit table just to keep upright.
At least we sighted 4 small whales on the trip, quite close to the boat, making up for the miserable conditions. Dolphins joined us on the next passage as well.
So, quickly, we sailed into Prince Rupert bay on Dominica, greeted by Alexis, a member of the PAYS (boat boys security and yacht helpers) with a ‘Welcome Back’. Again we were only staying the night and I do feel we have a lot more of Dominica to see, just need the time to spend visiting the island properly. Another boat boy came along to sell some fruit and told us the season had been quiet a month earlier than usual, which must be a worry to them. The weather has been tough for much of the season, so perhaps a lot of people just hauled out early and went home. Coming out after New Year and hauling in March or April does make for a very short season for them and the vendors but it is nice and quiet everywhere for the rest of us.
The anchorage was very rolly in the northern end and we were going to anchor next to 2 other boats in the south of the bay, where we anchored in February but we noticed that neither were occupied so we reluctantly joined the rest of the yachts in the north. This area is covered by a PAYS security patrol at night, so seems safer and we are always cautious.
After an uncomfortable night we continued south at 0530 and motored a lot of the way in the lee of Dominica, due to lack of wind or very strong gusts through the valleys. As we approached Scott’s Head at the southern tip we had a reef in the main and another in the genoa and rounding the headland were off like a shot. Again.
More swell and higher winds than predicted, plus going close to the wind gave us a fast sail but we were well heeled over and bracing once more. All season we have been hurtling between islands and to be honest, I am getting a bit fed up with it! Oh for a gentle, flat, downwind sail, please.
We passed a couple of boats, making Rob happy, although he denied racing them and were anchored in St Pierre at the north of Martinique by just after lunch. Customs is done in the Tourist Office, which shuts after 1400, so we were too late to clear in. It doesn’t open at the weekend either, so we carried on the following morning to Fort De France. We needed to avoid a few fish pots and a couple of fish farms but the latter are well marked with yellow buoys.
The anchorage just under the Fort was far quieter than in January 2012 and we had plenty of space around us. The holding is good in mud. Once settled we launched the dinghy, left it at the brilliant dinghy dock and cleared in at Sea Services, the chandlery about a 10-minute walk from the anchorage. Just 1 terminal but no queue, plus it was free and uses the same DIY system the other French islands operate. No need for passports or previous clearance documents!
We then wandered around the town, checked out the Carrefour and shopping mall and not being impressed, carried on across the bay to a quieter one, Trois Îlets. We anchored by the golf course in good holding but several tatty old boats that have been dumped and left at anchor or on moorings really do spoil the area. We were the only boat with people on it.
The town is quite pretty with the red tiled roofs and on Sunday morning the church was full to overflowing, with teenagers kneeling down in prayer in the doorways. Not a sight you see often in the UK these days.
They have a nice new quay at Trois Îlets but nowhere appeared safe enough to leave the dinghy, so Rob waited whilst I quickly looked around the town. The dock is too high to prevent the dinghy swinging underneath and damaging the outboard, so not ideal.
After we returned to the boat, the wind really picked up and was soon gusting 25 knots and creating white-topped waves across the long fetch. We decided that it would be wise to move, especially being surrounded by old boats on dubious moorings and no doubt without any insurance.
It was only an hour and a half to Grande Anse D’Arlet, a bay we know well and most of the trip was downwind, so much better. We were soon safe and sound on a mooring right next to the beach as there were many buoys free. If the easterly wind continues it will be difficult to get to Marin but we can take a bus to visit the chandleries instead and also clear out from here, so it isn’t a problem. There are a few restaurants on the beach, 1 opens early morning and is frequented by many locals, another has Wi-Fi and there are a couple of supermarkets on the main road behind the waterfront, selling fresh baguettes, so we are more than happy to remain here until we leave for St Lucia, if necessary.
All good plans: The Wi-Fi ‘ne marche pas’, so I had to check WindGuru and emails on my Kindle. Windy for the next few days plus our friends on Blue Moon emailed to say they had some issues and can’t make St Lucia sadly, so we can now wait for better weather rather than have another 5 hours tipped over. It was calmer very early on Tuesday morning so we motored around the headland, passing Diamond Rock (where the British Navy stationed men and cannons somehow!) and headed into the wind for 8 miles into Marin.
The anchorage was busy with local boats but the good breeze certainly kept any bugs off the boat and we are even more concerned about getting mosquito bites lately, since a friend spent weeks in hospital after she lost the use of all her limbs, being effectively paralysed quite suddenly. Dengue and Chicungunya are both carried by mosquitoes and the latter is a new one to us. Our friend, Graham, on Eowyn, told us that the first case in the Caribbean was last December and there are now 12,000 cases, 3000 in Martinique, where we are now. Plenty of repellent, including the electric plug in type plus mosquito nets all help but I am beginning to think it is time we looked into health insurance more seriously. I can’t imagine how we would get help if we were both paralysed and out at sea but we should take a VHF radio to bed perhaps and hope we could still use it. Food for thought.
I am looking forward to getting to Rodney Bay this weekend, restocking the defrosted freezer, sending the liferaft for servicing and having some good Wi-Fi to apply for our US Visas and order new Lewmar hatches, antifouling and anchor chain for delivery to Trinidad. Haul out time again and our third hurricane season officially begins in just over a fortnight!