26th - 28th February
It was a pretty wet crossing from Dominica to Iles des Saintes but we did manage to sail the majority of the way and we had sunshine for our first sighting of the islands. As you come through the entrance you are greeted by the magnificent basalt columns of Sugar loaf - stunning and reminiscent of the Giant's Causeway! We anchored in the bay and went ashore to investigate. A lovely town with friendly people and brightly coloured houses and shops.
We wandered around the town and poked our heads in the Church which has a wonderfully colourful frieze at the altar. The church was built in 1666 but had its bell tower destroyed in the 2004 earthquake. This has now been rebuilt remaining true to the 17th Century plans and the clock has a very pretty chime.
There are a number of reefs around the islands so we took the dinghy to one of them and went snorkelling with James diving for conch shells. None of the ones he managed to pick up were quite as pretty as the one he found in Carriacou so they ended up back on the ocean floor. The fish are numerous, brightly coloured and fascinating. We could spend hours just watching but wrinkled skin and a bit of a chill force us back to the boat and the warmth of the sun. Just as we got back to the boat the dinghy engine died on us! We then set about to find the problem - fuel leaking from a gasket! Easily rectified with loctite - thankfully Colin from Endorphin was around to confirm James' diagnosis! Puddle is now fine with her engine firing on all cylinders.
On Friday morning we got up early and visited the fort. It was built in 1777 by order of King Louis 16th and renamed in 1805 as Napoleon’s Castle. We enjoyed our visit to the museum with its models of the English and French fleets and other memorabilia. The grounds of the castle are now filled with various succulents and home to a couple of iguanas! It was quite a steep walk up to the fort, reminiscent of climbing Mount Olympus, so we felt we’d had our exercise for the day! We were also very glad we arrived for the 9am opening as we avoided the ‘madding crowd’ and the heat of the sun. The walk back down the hill was spent avoiding lunatic mopeds, electric bikes and minibuses filled with idle tourists!
The social life continues! Eric from Lunar Quest came across for tea and we went over to Endorphin for sundowners. Tomorrow is St David’s Day and we intend to celebrate on Ocean Rainbow.
20th - 25th February
We set off for Dominica in what appeared to be flat calm seas - we had even thought we might need to motorsail for a bit! Perish the thought, the moment we were out of the shelter of the bay the wind picked up and we were able to hoist all our sails although still with two reefs in the main. It wasn't too much later that we reefed the yankee and then the staysail had to come down as the seas and wind picked up through the acceleration zone between the islands. James got a really good seawater shower! We had a cracking sail and did the trip in only 5 hours rather than the 7 anticipated. We were met in Roseau by Dougie who gave us a mooring buoy and then took James across to customs and excise. Great service. Having arrived much earlier than expected we decided to take out our bikes (not used since the Canaries!) and investigate the capital of Dominica. The town was a mass of brightly coloured buildings with a mixture of food, rum and hardware stores. The rum stops definitely outnumbering anything else! The wiring of the town has to be seen to be blieved, a photo doesn't do the jumble justice! We managed to find an ice cream en route - a bit of a shock to find that the anticipated orange flavour was soursop! Very different, rather nice but too rich to be refreshing. It was fun to be back on the bikes but getting them on and off the boat and on and off the rickety dock was a bit of a challenge! We did a bit of WiFi at the Anchorage Hotel which is one of the dive centres in Roseau and found that Freebooter was due in Portsmouth the next day so we decided to sail on up there the next day.
We had another lovely sail (without the staysail though as Puddle was on deck for the short trip) and even had a bit of a race with a Hanse! but they definitely beat us when they decided to put up their main! As usual the winds gusted up to 30 knots off the headlands so there were times when we had a little too much canvas but it was fun! Portsmouth is a lovely bay and we managed to drop anchor and get it dug in on the second attempt. Andrew from Seabird Tours took our rubbish, agreed to get our laundry sorted out and said he'd take us up Indian River on Sunday. We went into town to investigate. The town is only three roads running parallel to each other so easy to find everything! We are on the search for a 50watt fuse (for our invertor which we blew in St Pierre!) but so far have failed in our quest. We think we will have to wait until Antigua but we are always hopeful and keep asking! We met up with Freebooter just as they arrived and arranged to meet later on and have supper on Ocean Rainbow. It was great to catch up with them and we arranged to share a hire car on Monday to tour around the island.
The Saturday market in Portsmouth is colourful and noisy - the market is located next to the Christian Union Church who seem to run a non-stop service from a stall outside their church building, they compete with the local lads who have their reggae music playing through gi-huge speakers at full blast and the general hubbub from the stall holders. All very colourful. We tried yellow coconut milk and the flesh but think we need to add rum before we're going to really enjoy it .... or else we will have to be very thirsty! We also bought a bread fruit and had great fun experimenting with it. We've had it all different ways but have decided that the best method is to fry bread fruit (that has already been boiled) with onions and garlic and use instead of potatoes.
On Sunday we went to the local Anglican church where we were treated to lunch after the service - courtesy of Dr Julie who was leaving the island after 21 years and retiring to UK. We met a lovely bunch of folk, sang some good hymns and had another great Caribbean sermon. We then returned to the boat to be met by Andrew and taken on our tour of Indian River. What a magical little trip it was. We didn't see iguana but we did see birds, nests, and creepy crawlies! Needless to say the trip involved a visit to a cafe where they serve Dynamite punch (James survived one!) and some lesser versions - Claire's was Passion Fruit. We then headed back down the river via the hut from Pirates of the Caribbean Pt II. All the locations used for the film are signposted - although not that well as we managed to miss quite a few as we made our trip around the island in our hire car on Monday! Sunday night was the Boatboys BBQ on the beach. It's quite a tradition and the sale of the tickets (at US$25 per head) helps to pay for the security patrols around Portsmouth. We met some lovely folk from neighbouring boats, enjoyed the rum punches and excellent BBQ tuna and chicken served with a rice salad and mixed green salad with an amazing avocado dressing. We also danced!! So there's a surprise!
On Monday we met up with Steve and Annemarie (Freebooter) to go and collect the hire car. Steve was our driver - truly excellent and his previous experience racing MGs was put to good use! The roads are amazing - some are in excellent condition, others potholed and very bumpy and some just seemed to have been washed away! We had a couple of unexpected attempts at flying but the car survived - not sure the seat belts would have served their purpose had they been put to the test though .... they were almost worn through in places. We visited Scott's Head - what a contrast between the Atlantic and the Caribbean sea. It was a shame that we had so little time as the snorkelling looked wonderful - definitely a place we need to revisit. We then went off to Trafalgar Falls. It was a bit of a scramble to find a cold pool as the water is low at the moment but the water was really refreshing and the best shower we have had in a very long time! We then went on to the hot pools and had a seriously hot bath - the first since August! We rather regretted not bringing our wash kit! We then set off on a tour of the island up onto the Atlantic side and then crossed through the middle of the island onto the Caribbean side - it was fascinating. What a beautiful country rich with lush green vegetation and totally unspoilt by building development - long may that last.
17th - 19th February
Whoops, a bit of a re-anchoring episode this morning as we found our lovely spot of the night before wasn't quite so good after all. We had rain during the night but not so much wind and our occasional checks on our position showed that we were in the same spot. The same cannot be said for this morning as we went topsides at 0700 and found that we were dragging. We didn't take too long to re-anchor and are now positioned on the other side of the bay and have been ashore for a cultural tour. Today we checked out the theatre and prison. The prisoners in the old days were definitely a lot smaller than the ones today! St Pierre is pretty and the town is interesting if rather run down. It is watched over by the Virgin of Sailors which is a prominent landmark overlooking the bay. Yesterday we had a look at the Church of Mouillage with its beautiful stained glass windows. It was sad to see the rest of the church in a bad state of repair as it must have been wonderful, albeit simple, in its day. The locals are lovely and eager to give their advice - especially when it comes to the pros and cons of various brands of rum! The volcanic eruption of 1902 is well documented and there are historical information boards everywhere which is very helpful. The only downside to the town is the traffic which is constant and noisy .... but, on a boat, who cares! We don't yet have a photo of Mount Pelee because of cloud cover but we shall be back so will be able to rectify that (we hope).
We were sad to leave Grand Anse on Tuesday morning (especially as Free Spirit were hosting a french themed sundowner party that night!) but the time had come to move on if we are to get to Antigua for March and have a chance to pop into the other islands on route. We did have a great evening on board Endorphin though and enjoyed Colin's Margueritas while waiting for the green flash! A lovely farewell to our time in Grand Anse. We had a great sail to St Pierre and were rewarded with a lovely display of 'breaching' from a passing whale. We need Edward on board with his photographic skills but we can assure you the splash was definitely created by a big whale. Hopefully when Edward and Verity visit we will be treated to another display and we can capture the moment.
15th - 16th February
Grand Anse d'Arlet really is absolutely lovely. We went snorkelling in the fish reserve area and had a fabulous time - we look forward to coming back here with Edward and Verity in a couple of months' time and spending more time investigating the corals, fish, sponges etc. There are information buoys strategically placed in the reserve so you can try and put names to what you have seen - albeit french names! We love the Sergeant-Majors - very pretty striped fish! In the evening we went ashore and had a super evening at L'Amandier des Iles which had been transformed with hearts, roses and all things red and white into a great little party venue. We left just before midnight - the party finished just after 3am.
Sunday morning dawned rather early as James had woken to find no wind so an ideal time to change over the yankee sheets - great success and we managed the whole operation without dragging our anchor. Then Jon (Hecla) appeared with fresh bread which we then enjoyed over a leisurely breakfast. Next thing we know, Peter Whatley (of Ocean Cruising Club fame and also the expert who was responsible for the wiring in many Warriors) appeared and introduced himself. He came on board for coffee and not long afterwards we were joined by Simon and Hilda (Brisa) so a jolly crowd assembled for coffee and yoghurt cake.
We think we're moving on further north shortly as there appears to be a nice little weather window before the stronger winds come back again ..... and we need to gather our strength before another round of socialising hits us.
Black Tie and Hearts with a difference!
12th - 14th February
We reluctantly dropped off our buoy in Grand Anse to head for Fort de France but we had such a lovely sail it rather took the sting out of leaving the turtles behind. We dropped an anchor in the harbour after the 2 hour sail and then relaunched Puddle and set off for the town to do a bit of a recce about buses and taxis. We came back to a lovely BBQ on board and a good night's sleep - if a little rolly. Then it was up early to set off for the hospital - a lot of waiting for Claire but such good news at the end it was all worth it. James spent the time visiting chandlers and hardware stores with great success - we now have a new pressurised shower to mention but one item! Oh - and he got his hair cut! We weighed anchor just before 2pm and set off back to Grand Anse - only an hour's sail this time! We then picked up a buoy and settled down to a few days of peace and turtles. However, it was very rolly where we had settled and the buoy came back and bit us as the tide turned, banging against the side in a really annoying fashion. The upshot of this ... we moved and we are now at anchor on the other side of the bay which is less rolly .... all good for the forthcoming party! Included in the photos below is one of the unusual dinghy mooring in Grand Anse - specifically to prevent your dinghy getting stuck under the dock. When we first saw it we thought they had all miscalculated the tide!
Just had to have a special bit for the turtles - they are so graceful and make swimming underwater look so effortless! We love the radio controlled one .... definitely the leader of the pack!
9th - 11th February
Saturday night we had a few drinks with Brisa (Simon and Hilda) and Aleph (Mark and Suze) which lasted a little longer than we had all anticipated so Sunday was a fairly slow start and a bit of an admin day as we had found a bug (flying variety not a cockroach) in the bunk room! Yugh!! We turfed everything out and thoroughly defumigated! We think it came in with the potatoes as we found a empty pupae in the potato bag!!! Only one shell, only one bug? We hope so! Other than that we got everything ready to sail off again. We left Rodney Bay early on Monday morning for a really great sail north to Martinique. Yes, as usual, we were hard on the wind, but it was a beautiful day and we just bowled along with two reefs in the main, the staysail (at last !) and a full yankee after we passed the accelaration zone between the islands. We stopped off at Sainte Anne to do our laundry and to thank Pete from Arawak for putting us in touch with Trevor at Carriacou Marine. Then it was on to Le Marin for provisioning, topping up the water tanks and refuelling. We then weighed anchor and headed for Grand Anse to swim with turtles.
3rd – 8th February
As the blog has indicated, the time in Carriacou has been taken up with Whizz (Silent Wind 400+ wind generator). Trevor’s set up at Carriacou Marine is excellent and his boatyard staff work hard to be helpful, and we would certainly use his yard for any future work on Ocean Rainbow. Trevor is supported by Manny (Emmanuel) as the engineer and electrician who has a small workshop but also works out of the back of his motor boat. When needed, Manny works in liaison with Dominique who provided our mast and the struts for Whizz – Dominique also works off his ‘boat workshop’ anchored in the bay. We use the word ‘boat’ very loosely as you will see from the picture! Not sure it would survive very long if taken out to sea. Manny’s work is immaculate and he even took time to explain things to James. He had promised to have everything ready so that we could depart on Wednesday and he did, but it meant working until midnight on Tuesday and then back again at 0730hrs on the following morning! The work was finally finished at 1230 on Wednesday.
Tyrrel Bay itself is very simple with limited provisions and only a narrow beach around the bay but there is some snorkelling which is ideal for children (as Claire found out when she spent an afternoon with Seppe and Fien while their parents were otherwise occupied anti-fouling their boat). The main attraction for folk coming to Tyrrel Bay is the boatyard and, as we waited for various bits and pieces to arrive from Grenada on the ferry, we watched as boats came out, were scrubbed off, anti-fouled and put back in the water again. It was a real production line!
On Sunday afternoon Rhian and Rob from Beyzano came across and introduced themselves. They had seen the Welsh flag and came to speak to a fellow countryman! Over a few drinks we had the chance to find out much more about the islands. Beyzano has been cruising the Caribbean for a couple of years already. A couple of days later (Tuesday) Claire went across to Beyzano for reciprocal drinks (leaving James to work on the boat with Manny!!) and met Christine and Adrian from Quadrille II (Adrian comes from Penarth! The Welsh seem to get everywhere!).
On Wednesday at 1300hrs, we sailed out of Tyrrel Bay, bidding a fond farewell to Hans & Katrin on Nautilus who we may not see for some time, as they are heading through the Panama Canal, and set off in good winds for St Lucia. Progress upwind is always slow as you can’t go in a straight line to your destination and with Ocean Rainbow it is perhaps a little slower as, bless her, she isn’t a speedy racer and we had shortened sail to make sure Claire’s wrist was never under pressure! We had thought we might make it to St Lucia with only one night at sea but we were kidding ourselves and we had a second blustery, rainy, bumpy night with strong winds (40+) gusting through – oh, and let’s not forget the lightening! We arrived in Rodney Bay at 0730hrs and dropped an anchor in the south of the bay just off the main channel into the marina (shorter distance to take Puddle ashore!). James went ashore and cleared customs and immigration and also managed to leave our gas cylinder for refilling (what a relief as we had no wish to change our cylinders over for the small ones that most yachts seem to have) and then he was back – almost within an hour – just before the rain started! In the meantime, Claire had managed to get everything stowed away on the boat so it was time for the ‘fat boy brunch’ that we had been promising ourselves since the early hours of the morning. We’re now settling down for a couple of days R ‘n R and hoping the sun comes out!
1st - 2nd February
Waiting for Manny to come and measure up Ocean Rainbow for the wind generator mast is going to take a lot of patience but we are keeping ourselves occupied! We met up with Katrin, Hans, Fien and Seppe from Nautilus, Monique and Maarten from Amideau and Ellie and Benn from White Spirit for a beach BBQ just opposite Lambi Queen on Friday night. There was supposed to be a steel band playing but the speakers needed so much soldering the band were really late starting by which time we had all repaired to our boats for a nightcap! However, our BBQ was great fun with Seppe starting the fire under Dad's supervision using nothing but grass and a broken piece of glass. He was occupied for hours whilst we adults enjoyed a swim and a chinwag. We were heartened to find that neither Amideau nor White Spirit had found the crossing easy ..... actually we have yet to find anyone who crossed in 2013 who didn't find it a challenge!
Saturday we moved Ocean Rainbow to the jetty in anticipation of further work towards the installation of the wind generator! No change .... Manny says he'll come on Sunday! Claire went off and bought a few more veg from Denise and found out that there was a local Anglican church, which Denise attended and she said the singing was good. Times of the services 7.30 and 9.30am. Sunday dawned bright and early and after a leisurely breakfast we strolled up the beach to find the church for the 9.30 service. Imagine our surprise as we saw smartly clad folk all wandering down the road towards us .... it transpired that Denise has said the service was from 7.30 am TO 9.30am. We had arrived for the closing hymn! Shame, but we maybe back here for another Sunday and at least we will be prepared! The treat of the day though was to finally have a Hamburger and chips at The Slipway. We had been looking forward to this since Pete and Cathy (from Arawak in Sainte Anne) recommended it. They were excellent. Now that we have satisfied our curiosity burgers are off our menu, we will be eating lambi (conch),pan fried seared tuna or pork tenderloin stuffed with tomato and coconut!