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Dominica part 2 and long term planning

We are now back to our favorite Caribbean Island Dominica since 5 day. The reason this is our favorite is simply People, Nature and a sense of unchanged culture. It is said that if Christopher Columbus would return to this island today, this country/island would be the only one of the Carib Islands unchanged after 500 years. During our days here we have enjoyed guided and unguided hikes, the highlight being the Indian River tour. Our guide Alexis did a splendid job answering any question re plants and animals and his passion for the island and the wildlife/rain forest came across as truly genuine. Besides hikes we also attended a very romantic wedding party at the beach, hosted by Paul and Jayne who got married at the Indian River. A lot of Rum Punch, interesting food supplied by the 30 Yachties invited, and a lot of Dancing on the sandy beach. Great fun and some recovery needed this morning. At the party we also got some useful advice regarding our forward planning. Our latest, rev 0.4, plan is to sail south to Martinique and do some admin, catch up with some mail delivery, get a broken tooth fixed, fix a compass that has broken due to the extreme temperature, etc.

Early – mid June our next destiny is Bonaire, part of the Netherlands, some 500 nm SW from here. Our thought is to spend the Hurricane season , July-November, sailing around the so called ABC islands, and in December sail north to Cuba. With the very positive situation re Cuba / US relations, everything suggests that now is the time to visit this country before it is likely becoming yet another mainstream charter destination.

In the early/later hours yesterday we even discussed the next phase sailing with a seasoned sailor. Cartagena, Colombia, is now regarded as a safe destination. One of our projects that we have postponed for some time is to do something about our teak deck. We have some leaks and after almost 30 years it is due for a needed replacement. Whit what, we don’t know yet. But Cartagena seems to be a place where skilled labor and reasonable costs are available.

Before these long term plans, that by the way usually are radically changed, we have some more days in Dominica. Friday we have booked a “avrostnings-dyk” (a dive with an instructor to get back  to where we left diving in the mid 80’s). Still have to find our certificates somewhere in the boat.

 

Guadeloupe and surrounding islands

We have now spent two weeks exploring the French Island Guadeloupe and the neighboring islands Isle des Saintes and Marie Galante. This small area of the Leeward Islands has a very diverse nature with Isle des Saintes being rather dry and lowland and touristic,  the west part of Guadeloupe being more volcanic, with peaks of 1400 meters. Marie Galante reminded us of parts of Denmark, low gently sloping hills no more than 150 meters high, lovely beaches, a really tranquil atmosphere, a place to relax and enjoy life.

As a contrast, the capital of Guadeloupe, Pointe-á-Pitre and its large marina complex, was an interesting place to be reminded of the importance of ocean sailing in France. The huge marina had a lot of displays of both the 6.5m mini Transat sailing and the Route de Rhum heroes. This spectacular event happens every 4 year, with a singlehanded race from St Malo, Normandy to Guadeloupe. The latest winner completed this 3500 nm long race in 7 days and 15 hours.

As always since we came to the Caribbean, sailing has been very good. Usually a broad reach, 12-20 knots of wind and generally very small waves / swell. Fishing has been great and we have got several 2 kg Tunas and Barracudas, perfect for a couple of dinners for two. Usually we dine on-board but being in France, we could not resist a couple of restaurant visits.

We are now back in Dominica, this time in the north west anchorage of Portsmouth where we will stay for a week to do some more hikes in this beautiful part of the Island.

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Good snorkeling at Pigeon Island, a marine reserve initiated by Jacques Costeau

Dominica hike

Shortly after we arrived at the Roseau Anchorage we met two experienced Caribbean sailors, Darryl and Sarah from Northumberland, UK. They convinced us that we MUST make a hike, preferably with the SeaCat guides. The island of Dominica has large areas declared as Nature Reserves, with about 500 km, well maintained trails across areas of rain forest. So, 9 am next morning we joined the group of in total 9 people, led by our guide Octavius. First hike went to Middleham Falls, a nice 30 meter water fall, about 1 hour from the where we left our minibus. The trails are very well maintained. You wonder how much work there must be behind.

Octavius is a fantastic entertainer. Besides knowing every part of the island, he knows everyone around, while driving he suddenly stops, jumps out, grabs a fruit or some leaves and passes them on to the group. Examples include coffee, cacao, lemon grass,bay-leaves, star fruit, lime leaves, nutmeg. After reaching the water fall including a refreshing swim in the pool below, we returned to base. Next hike goes to Freshwater Lake, passing a slightly scary ridge. After these in total 5 hour hikes, we enjoy a bit of “cruise ship” adventure, meaning a couple of hundred meters walk to Titon Gorge, a fresh water pool which we could swim in to through a narrow 30 meter deep and partly only 2 meter wide passage. This place was a scene in the Pirate of the Carribean 3. Finally we get to Trafalgar Falls. Dominica was badly hit by Tropical Storm Erika August 2015 with more than 30 people killed. Plenty of the devastating flooding can still be seen and several roads are still blocked by huge boulders. The final climb was apparently made easier by some rocks washed away by the 400 mm rain/ 6 h that hit the island. All in all, we had a fantastic day hiking, with great company and with a super guide SeaCat who we can warmly recommend. Not a dull moment all day long and lot of laughs (and some blisters).

In the Roseau anchorage we also met our friends and the crew of S/Y Swede Dreams, Lola, Carlos, Luna and Paco. They looked to be in good shape and were actively looking to buy a bit of rain forest land, potentially for settling down as a family in this tropical paradise. We wish them all luck, maybe, once we have explored a bit more of this planet, we will do likewise and become landowners in some remote paradise…

Windward Islands

We have now spent a month in the “Windward Islands”, called that because the Englishmen had to tack to get to these islands, from their other colonies in the West India. What is so fascinating is that all islands are different and many of them are different countries as well (cost us a lot of different courtesy flags (smile)). Many are dry, but we found Martinique and Grenada rater green, Tobago Cays, Mayreay, Bequia drier. Now, in March/April, the spring is coming so many of the trees that have ben leafless will now bloom and become green.

Going north from Grenada we sailed to Carriacou and Tyrrel Bay for checking out of Grenada. We only stopped here for a night and went on to Union Islands the day after.  This was the first Island, for us, where we had no shelter from the wind and a reef taking care of the waves. We checked in at the small airport in Clifton, strolled through the “main street”, bought some very expensive vegetables, and enjoyed the view. Some Rastafarians were seen carrying their hair in the typical colourful caps. We especially enjoyed the dingy parking, which was fantastic, through an arch in the wall you came in to a basin made especially for dinghies.

Since our main focus was snorkeling in Tobago Cays, we moved next day, got a place anchored at 10 m depth and really enjoyed ourselves for the next 3 days. We saw a lot of reef fishes, new to us, many Turtles and Rays and on land quite a few Iguanas. We saw a few big fishes that we later understood were Porcupine fish (a fish that when scared blows itself up to a larger size, with or without pigs). The corrals to the east were badly hurt from storms. Now that the whole area is a nature reserve the corals are slowly starting to come back,. We enjoyed the islands so much that we went back later when we had my sister and brother in law on board. With them we also checked out the barbecue facilities. Very well managed with pick/up on the boat, lobster barbecue and taxi boat back in the evening.

At the second stop we also visited Mayreau, a small island with two anchorages, colorful houses and very few tourists . Staying in Salina bay, we celebrated Eastern and took walks in the neighborhood, as well as some very good snorkeling. Crystal clear water. The resident Turtle looked curiously at us.

By foot we also visited the Salt Whistle Bay, but found it more crowded and with more charter boats, than Salina Bay. The small street between the two bays was covered with very simple but cosy restaurants and bars. Hopefully the charter ships anchoring in the weeks, can fill them all.

One of the nice features with sailing in the Caribbean is the closeness between the islands. Our next stop, Bequia, was only approx.. 20 nm away. We anchored in Admirality Bay (one of the biggest natural anchorages we have been into), both on our way going north to pick up my relatives in Martinique and south on our way down to Tobago Cays with them. We tested both the northern side of the bay and the southeast side. Both OK, maybe a bit more swell on the eastern side. The village is nice, not very big, with colorful houses climbing the steep slopes, checking in and out is OK and the snorkeling and swimming is lovely, in clear water. The people are also colorful, with some men wearing the typical Rasta hat. We found some nice restaurants and enjoyed ourselves. Eva also managed to exchange some books in the “Fig Tree” restaurant.  Bequia is rather dry and expensive due to almost all goods being imported, eg a medium sized Pineapple costs 8 or 9 Euro. A passenger ship or two were anchoring in the bay, but most of them left at sunset, rushing off to the next island. Compared to Martinique it seems that most inhabitants are previous slaves, where Martinique has more Europeans from France, as it is part of the French government.

We checked out from the Grenadines at Bequia and, due to recent violence, skipped St Vincent. Having to deliver our relatives in time, we also skipped St Lucia (will go there on our way back south) and went directly to Martinique, Anse Mitan. Good shelter and good holding. It turned out to be a very nice village filled with shops, restaurants and people. We feel we need the mixture of nature and civilization. We stayed there for the last days in March, did some shopping and waved good bye to my sister and husband. It has been very pleasant having them onboard. (Don’t know where we see each other again, but we are already longing for that.)

In Martinique we have tried a couple of different harbors

  • Le Marin. A big yacht harbor and anchorage with maybe 1000 ships all sizes and shapes. The village is small with plenty of chandlers, supermarkets and restaurants
  • St Anne. An anchorage outside Le Marin with plenty of space and clear water
  • St Pierre. A small village on the west coast further to the north. We stayed for three nights enjoying the scenic views of the volcano, Mt Pelee. The volcano had an outbreak that devastated the village 1902. 30.000 people died due to fume and ashes. Today only 4.000 people live in the village and you still see ruins from the old time when St. Pierre was the commercial center of Martinique.

Nature

The nature is rewarding, if you keep your eyes open. We have seen a lot of turtles, dolphins, rays when sailing, snorkeling in these clear waters is fantastic and on land you might see some lizards and listen to all the birds. We are now also entering the rainy season, spring, so the flowers are everywhere.

The Mangrove that we explored in Martinique was spectacular, and some sailors use it for shelter during the hurricane season. Looking at the trees and their roots, you can understand why. Unfortunately the water is more murky when you are close to the Mangrove.

 

Until next time,

BR, Eva & Peter

Dominica

In case you wonder - the menue is for real

In case you wonder – the menue is for real

We are now literally in (or very close to) the rain forest. You can anchor in the bay of Roaseau, but the narrow shelf very quickly descends to 40+ meters depth so we decided to use one of the mooring buoys offered. Dominica has implemented a very lean clearance procedure. As long as your stay in this country is no more than 14 days you clear in and out at the first and only meeting with Customs. Also they leave your passport alone, no stamps, which is a benefit since our passports are quickly being filled up here when a new country usually is within 5 hours sail. We have only been here two days but already understand why many sailors like this place. Friendly people, almost no tourists except the 10-15 boats anchored, and a fantastic nature, both above and below the sea. Huge turtles swimming by our boat, Frigate birds hoovering high above, apparently many sperm whales 4-5 miles from the shore, etc. Tomorrow our plan is to take the dinghy to Champagne Reef which has a very big coral reef area, abundance of fish and a bottom shelf releasing bubbles from volcanic activity (alas the name of the reef). More pictures to follow when we get better Internet access.

St. Pierre, Martinique

Yesterday we brought Marie and Crister to the waiting taxi at Anse Martin to get to the Martinique Airport. Almost two weeks spent together with walking, snorkeling, sailing, eating and of course enjoying the company. We already miss them. Today we sailed 3 hours north to the historic town of St. Pierre. This town was the capital of Martinique until Ascension Day 1902. That day meant the immediate death of 30,000 people exposed to a volcanic eruption of Mount Péele. All but two inhabitants were killed.

Today the village, much smaller than it was end of the 1800’s, is a sleepy but very nice and relaxed oasis. Sailing yachts are anchored on a narrow shelf of 3-7 meters depth that quickly descends to 100’s of meters so careful anchoring is essential. Today we had one of many nice reunions; Dan on the Gecco 39 Katrina who was our neighbor in Las Palmas in the Canarias, and in December Cape Verde. We had a nice tims sharing our different experiences of the journey this far.

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Rainbow over Martinique

Anse Matin, Martinique

We are now back in Martinique in Anse Matin, a very sheltered bay close to Fort de France. We sailed a night sail from Bequia on Tuesday afternoon and had a windy and wet night with rather steep 2-2.5 meter swell from north east. With Tina Princess’ heavy displacement and semi long keel we still felt comfortable and had no problems with sleep. Yesterday was a shopping day and we all invested in swim gear and t-shirts.

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In need of a Selfie stick

Happy Easter / Glad Påsk

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Finally – A close up pic of a Sea Turtle

Greetings. We have been a bit slow on updates the last couple of weeks. Last post was from Tobago Cays, and we are today actually back to the same spot we used for anchoring earlier this month. In between, during these three weeks we have been island hopping, Bequia, Martinique, Bequia, Mayreau and now Tobago Cays. In Martinique we spoiled ourselves using a marina mooring with electricity (no real need) and water (very! useful). At Martinique we also picked up Marie and Crister, Eva’s sister and her husband. Nice to see them again after a year. We have tried to bring together traditional Easter  food – on Good Friday we enjoyed “Janssson’s Frestelse” = Potato with Ansjovis, and Easter Eve Lamb Shank.

Of course we spend a lot of time under the water while we are here. Eva managed to get some nice pics of a 50 cm Sea Turtle. Besides Turtles, big (80-90 cm) Sting Rays patrol the beaches very close to land. Fantastic place.

Tobago Cays and the Grenadines

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After a week spent in Prickly Bay, Saint Georges and Carriacou, we finally cleared out from Grenada in Tyrrel Bay. Having sailed many long hours and in some cases days between destinations it feels very comfortable to be able to see your next destination when you leave harbour. Our next goal was to reach Clifton Harbour, a Port of Entry into Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Admin was taken care of by the Airport (rather Air strip) officials, efficiently and friendly. Clifton turned out to be a relaxed place, full of seaside small bars / restaurants. We stocked up our supplies for a few days out on the Tobago Cays. Still remembering costs of food from Brazil, we had to accept maybe 5 times more expensive costs for everything. We managed to negotiate one grapefruit, one pepper, one carrot to XCD (East Caribbean dollar) 15 (SEK 45, € 5). The motor / sail to Tobago Cays and the fantastic Horseshoe reef took only one hour, with careful navigation in crystal clear water. The anchorage, as expected was crowded but we found a nice spot. Tobago Cays and in particular this bay is spectacular, the reef to windward is partly submerged so the horizon to the east is unbroken sea. This means perfectly calm water but no protection of the trade winds. These islands / reefs are now a marine nature reserve. Every day the park rangers came by to collect the 10 XCD for the Park fee, others came for garbage collection, for selling lobsters, for fresh bread etc. We spent four days in these islets, mostly snorkeling , checking for turtles and some island walking (not very far since the biggest island is about 300 meters by 50 meters wide). On the islands were plenty of large iguanas (lizards), which including tail were about 1.5 meter long. Some of the reefs to windward were half dead due to the last hurricanes but we found some remaining large corrals with many different types of fish.

We really enjoyed our time in these waters and most likely we will come back later this summer.

Sailing Letter February 2016

Time flies. We are now in the Caribbean Islands, enjoying ourselves. The visit to Suriname lasted about 2week. Very wet weeks!! The boat started to squeak and be swollen. Doors not possible to close, everything damp. We had rain every day, small or large squalls. But…not all was depressing. The first morning in the marina of Domburg we woke up hearing a terrible howl. Howler monkeys across the river. We saw them in Costa Rica many years ago. They are black and rather small, but with a terrific voice. A specific type of swallow was circulating round the boat ( Blue-White swallow), and we heard bats at night.

The marina in Domburg is run by a Dutch guy, so we moved from French yachts in Jacaree to Dutch in Suriname. Very nice people everywhere! The marina is well managed, with moorings, pool and a restaurant where you can get a nice Parbo beer (100 cl) for a decent price. The marina comes with its own taxi driver – Harry. He takes you through Immigrations and Customs with “pre booked” time slots and best service. (Thanks Harry).

In Suriname we intended to do some jungle trips, but first week was spent trying to exchange our batteries. After being through 8 different shops (Harry again) we fixed it. We had to raise my bed to make room for the new batteries, but now they are in place. Apparently nothing last longer than 3 years with the humidity and heat on these latitudes.

The surroundings to the marina was very interesting with a lot of birds, local houses, canals from the plantation times, small eateries etc. We felt positively embraced by the fellow yachties, including a very nice couple from US who had being circumnavigating for the last 17 years. Always something to learn.

The last week we managed to do a “not planned” trip into the Suriname River. We rented a car and drove for 3 hours to the river “bus stop”, where all the taxi boats were aligned to take the next path. Here we also saw all school-taxi-boats, picking up the youngsters from school and bringing them to the villages upstream. Since we took an ordinary taxi we passed some native villages, where the women were doing the laundry and washing up, the children swimming after school and the normal life just went on before our eyes. Gave us an insight in what it might have looked like many centuries ago. We stopped at a small hostel for the night and enjoyed the surroundings including the King fisher diving from one of the trees at the riverside. It was the most “far away” experience we have had so far.

Mid February we felt like having too much humidity. Rust instead of sun tan so we set sail for Tobago. Knowing that waters outside Venezuela is not safe, we aimed for Tobago and reached Charlotteville after 3 days of pretty OK sailing with AIS and the lanterns dimmed.

Charlotteville is a small village but still a place where you can clear in to Tobago & Trinidad. Unfortunately the problems with ATM-s not accepting our foreign cards and getting correct currency still haunted us. Since we landed before 08.00 in the morning we had to pay overtime fee. NO ATM and no cash made us uncomfortable. Fortunately we got a ride with the Customs guys to Scarborough, where our money problems were solved.

Back in our bay, we settled in with our neighbors, having a beach party, doing some snorkeling, buying fresh tuna, mountain walking and learning how to NOT submerge the dinghy when landing. PHU.

End of February we set sail for the Caribbean Islands. Anchoring in Prickly Bay Grenada after a nights sailing. Good space but still murky water. Checking in via an internet service. Still the chase for money in an appropriate ATM remained. After a half day we were settled in and the yellow flag was taken down.

The stay in Prickly Bay was used for visiting  the chandler, dinner with Dutch friends and a visit to Swedish friends we have read about but not met before (SY Charlotta). To meet people that have been sailing for a long time and who have a world of experience, is always very precious. Thanks to Lasse and Inger.

Last day of February we moved to St George harbor and anchored in clear water (for the first time in months). After stocking up on food (not so much, it is very expensive), nutmeg, water and diesel we set of to the Grenadines. New country. New surroundings. New month.

New species:  

  • Humming bird
  • Southern Lapwing
  • Mot-Mot (the bird that have been the prototype for the Windex?) It has 2 long “feathers” with two flat squares as a tail.
  • Pelican
  • Big variety of fishes. Peter saw 2 Rays jumping out of the water. Getting rid of fleas?

 

Until next time,

BR, Eva & Peter

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