Dry January – You’ve got to be Kidding!!!

Even if we discount NYE, we still managed to pack in a few parties in the rest of January, whilst on Martinique. 

  • Dee’s Birthday, 
  • The day after Dee’s birthday, 
  • Gilbert’s 60th
  • Sherrie’s 40th and of course
  • Australia Day.

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So here’s how it unfolded….

After recovering from NYE sufficiently well to plot a course to Martinique, off we went from Barbados and had a wonderful sail on a very nice 90-degree reach – so much so thst we just took off and we ended up going far too fast – so half way across we had to reef the mainsail, and once that didn’t do the trick, furl in the genoa all the way in. And yet we were still too fast. We ended up having to loiter to the south of Sainte Anne until daylight fell and we were able to motor in and anchor amongst what seemed like a thousand yachts. Still with all those yachts it was not especially crowded and we were able to pick an anchor spot from numerous possibilities in 3-4m of water. The trick to St Annes is to anchor at the Club Med end as the water is far clearer up this end. St Annes is a really cute town with a nice dinghy dock – a great place to meander around.

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Then it was into the dingy and off to the marina in Le Marin, a few miles around the corner and into the bay. It turns out we could have checked in using a computer terminal in Sainte Anne but I needed to find Hubert from Net-Boat who was the lagoon agent to get ourselves organised to get things fixed.

The check-in in Martinique is dead easy so we could go in the next day to Le Marin Marina and get things fixed. The marina is really nice and really big and quite economical at 44 euros a day for us. The water maker pipe that burst was located and fixed, and our hull leak was re-glued and screwed. Interestingly it was the result of using round fenders rather than cylindrical fenders on the wall in Fogo. With the seam of our boat (between the hull and the deck) one third of the wall down, these round fenders tend to push the hull in too much and split the seam. Learn something every day!

We also serviced both our guest toilets with new seals and O-rings and fitted a new kitchen faucet. We also blew some boat dollars at the numerous chandleries. A good service centre as well. A very productive stop.

As well as working we also had some time to play, spending a wonderful Wednesday night listening to a jam session in the Marina bar as musicians and singers came and went singing Blues, Jazz and Reggae. Fantastic. We also caught up with lots of the B50 rally boats who all seemed to be in Martinique when we were there.

Marina work finished for the time being (we had to return when the rub rail replacement came from France), we went out and anchored in the bay so we could use the dingy dock at Leeder Price to do some provisioning – mainly just champagne for Dee’s birthday week. Then it was off to Sainte Annes again to catch up with Aura and their French friends, Gilbert and Isabelle, who in no time at all had invited us onto their Lagoon 450 for a wonderful dinner along with 4 of their other French friends plus Kim and Simon. Their hospitality was exceptional and we had a wonderful night, despite my French being as terrible as ever.

Next day we headed off to Grande Anse D’Arlet in preparation for Dee’s birthday at Ti Sable – a wonderful restaurant with a reggae band playing. We had a great sail between Martinique and Diamond Rock, which was at one stage HMS Diamond Rock when the British installed cannons and a fort to take pop shots at the French.

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Grande Anse D’Arlet is a wonderful bay, with a great beach, dinghy dock and cutesy beach bars and shops. On our first night in the bay we dinghied over to Geoff and Linda and had wonderful drinks and a chat on the back of their boat.

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Next day it was Dee’s birthday and Simon and Kim duly arrived on the back of La Mischief with a birthday cake and a bottle of bubbles. Definitely a different sort of breakfast.

That just about killed the morning and the afternoon was spent snorkeling and walking on the beach. We showered and went into Ti Sable about 5pm to secure a good seat for 10 with Kim and Simon. Maissie and Jinika Lyka duly arrived, as did Gilbert and Isabelle who also came in to help celebrate. Unfortunately Bill and Jade couldn’t make it because of engine issues and Ken and Jenny came up with a mad scheme to catch a ferry from St Lucia only to be foiled by exorbitant cab fares. It was a great night with great food and Reggae music catching up with old(ish) and new friends.

We had big plans for the day after Dee’s birthday, but alas, Kim swam over to La Mischief and the drinking started and continued throughout the day – with lunch and a bit of swimming off the back of Aura in between. A thoroughly lazy day with Kim. Simon, Gilbert and Isabelle. It was fun to be lead astray.

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Come Wednesday it was back to Le Marin to get our rub rail installed. Or so we thought. We found out there was an issue with the Lagoon 421 being superseded by the new Lagoon 42 and we now needed to wait until some third party factory coughed up the necessary parts.

No worries as we took a hire car around Martinique and had a couple of parties to attend to – back to back!

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Driving around Martinique is a must do. It’s a beautiful island and only 70km long by 40 wide so very doable in a day. We called into some nice towns and beaches on the Atlantic east coast before stopping for lunch at the St James Rum Distillery and Museum, then we headed across to the Caribbean West coast via some stunning rain forest and a short stop on top of the now extinct volcano that wiped out the old capital of St Pierre, killing all 20,000 residents except for some drunk and disorderly inmate who was shielded deep in a jail cell from the 2000 degree heat that swept through the town and sunk all the ships in the harbour.

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We drove through the rebuilt St Pierre, now a small town and no longer the capital, along the Caribbean coast to Fort de France, the current capital, one of the biggest towns in the Caribbean. A great day of sightseeing.

Then it was party time. First off the rack was Gilbert’s big 6-0 party on the back of his beautiful cat. I managed to dinghy back to La Mischief about midnight, avoiding most but not all of the rum that was being consumed into the small hours of the morning.

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Then I needed to back up as Sherrie from Element was turning the big 4-0 and we had a great catch-up with some old and new friends until I could stay awake no longer. There was a little bit of a lull for a few days until Australia Day was upon us.

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Kim, Simon and I were the only Aussies on board our two rafted up Aussie boats, but we managed to induct various French, Canadian, US, Swede, German, British and South African friends into the strange ways we celebrate Australia Day. Kickoff was at 11am and we had a very large swimming pool out the back with all the pool toys attached, the stereo going with an all Aussie play list (Cold Chisel, ACDC, INXS, Australian Crawl, etc. etc.) a Barbie with sausages and steaks, inserted into bread with caramelized onions and good old tomato sauce, washed down with beer and wine. Gourmet Australian. And to top it all off Kim made a Pavlova – how Aussie is that.

16403011_10207591271932792_5292972201786597363_oStumps were drawn at about 10:30 pm (although nobody can recall the actual time), which prompted Rob to go for a bit of a swim. Now the thing to know  about Rob is he NEVER goes swimming after 3pm – something to do with sharks evidently, but there’s something particular about Australia Day that inspired him (he claims that it was not enough mixer for his rum). His swim started with a classic Back strokers start – you know where they hang above the pool off the blocks – in Rob’s case he was hanging off the side of La Mischief trying to get in his dingy that wasn’t there. Slowly this fact dawned on him, as did his limited options, so drop he did into the sea. Cathy was in their dinghy and we managed to get Rob to swim around to the back of La Mischief to the swim ladder. Brilliant. Except that Rob didn’t like that hull and decided to check out the other hull. Finding no ladder there, he decided to swim back to his boat. Well maybe he did, maybe he didn’t because it wasn’t in the direction he was swimming. The search party convened and set off in pursuit. Rob had the dinghy keys in his pocket, so Cathy rowed after him. Gilbert and I got our dinghies going in hot pursuit and Simon tried his hand at stand up comedy, alternatively paddling and falling off, in mildly hot pursuit. Gilbert managed to find Rob in the dark and steer him towards his boat and its ladder. I towed Cathy back and left her to sort out her aspiring Mark Spitz. It’s not a great Aussie Day Party unless there’s a good story to be told the following day – thanks Rob.

16178907_10207591256532407_1230884138882789877_oSpeaking of the following day, it began a little on the slow side. Kim brought over bacon and eggs and we added copious amounts of coffee and somehow the girls managed to find an unopened bottle of Champagne. We were still doing the rafting up thing so it was quite nice to easily wander from boat to boat.

Once we’d got our s@#t together, we managed to part company and head into the Marina one last time to get our rub rail attached. Job done finally.

Then it was off to Trios Islets for a couple of days. We were feeling decidedly lazy so we just went with the Genoa and no main and managed to do 5-6kts for most the way until the last bit where it was on the nose and we motored into a strong breeze. We decided to anchor in Anse Mitan because it looked the most protected but we later agreed that Anse A L’Ane was the cutest little village with a really nice beach and that would be our recommendation.

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The next day it was blowing its t#ts off so we decided to take the ferry over to Fort De France and check it out a bit more thoroughly – bit of a mistake as it was a Sunday and everything was shut. Everything. So back we came and did some bar hopping in the dingy, firstly visiting Anse A L’Ane and then checking out the beach bar at a near by Hotel in Anse Mitan.

Next morning it was out with the genoa only strategy for our short 15nm sail to St Pierre. We anchored in 4m and had a nice swim before checking out of Martinique, a bit confusing, as it was identical to the check in procedure using the same computerized form on a computer in a café. The café owner assured me in broken English that it was okay so hopefully it will be okay in Dominica. St Pierre has a nice feel to it with a reasonable number of small shops and restaurants. A nice final stop in Martinique.

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Next morning, it was up anchor and off to check out the wildly spectacular Dominica.

Beautiful Barbados

The only cruisers that seem to come to Barbados are the ones that cross the Atlantic to get here. That’s because it’s off the beaten track out in the Atlantic to windward of the Windward Islands. But we did cross the Atlantic so there we were.

15284041_10207103445297431_3923450827266464016_n After turning on the motors to make the 8pm cutoff for Customs and Immigration, we made landfall just before dusk and made our way around the south of the island to the main port of Bridgetown. We got there around 7pm and had to wait for a couple of cruise liners to leave before we could proceed into the Shallow Draft Marina. One of the many advantages of the rally was the quick and (relatively) easy check-in. Jimmy and Pascal were there to greet us and had organized for Customs and Immigration to be right there at the marina. After successfully checking into Barbados and a quick meal on the town, it was up early the next morning and off to the Careenage, which was to be La Mischief’s home in Barbados, in time for the bridge opening at 8am – Barbados time. We arrived with music blaring in preparation for the night’s concert, just off the back of our boat. The Careenage is a wonderful location, right in the centre of town. Coming in was a bi15241819_10207135408256485_7132856256116527320_nt daunting, with about a metre each side as we came through the opening.

We quickly settled into Barbados, swimming and drinking Rum at the Yacht Club on the beautiful beach at Carlyle Bay. The Barbados 50 celebrations were in full swing and we took fu
ll advantage of the concerts and activities. One day we took a local “reggae” bus up the Eastern Coast – now that’s an experience.

Next day, Dee went touring the island with Trevor and Linka whilst I stayed behind to join the rally’s tour of the Mt Gay Rum Distillery. Wasn’t to be missed15259490_10207135409176508_6556172139913229074_oThe highlight of the Barbados 50 celebrations was a free mega Concert at Kensington Oval. We got there a bit early to make sure we got the lay of the land and after that we ended up outside drinking at one of Barbados’ many, many rum bars. With a few rums under our belts, we wandered back inside and marveled at the oval with the Gary Sobers Stand, the Three W’s Stand, the Joel Garner End, and the Greenidge-Haynes Stand –15241290_10207135410296536_1180799526136080429_n it’s a pity there were no cricket games scheduled when we were there. But I digress – back to the concert, which was opened by Prince Henry (more commonly known as Harry) and Rhianna singing the National Anthem. Then the music got underway working its way from the 1960s to present day, the highlight that stuck out for me was a jazz saxophonist who was one of the best in the world. We ended up leaving at 2.30am after giving up waiting for Rhianna who came on after we left as the last act.

15319062_10207135409296511_1333536728213769582_nFun times over, we set about leaving the boat in the Careenage, the small river basin that runs through the centre of Bridgetown. The only other option was the Shallow Draft Marina, but this wasn’t really a viable option because the local boats leave and go and anchor in Carlyle Bay whenever a southerly pops up and comes straight into the Marina.15267504_10207103537059725_7190857612757792791_n

 

Then it was off California and Western Australia.

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Coming back straight after X-mas, we spent a few days recuperating at the Barbados Yacht Club, making sure we were ready for a big New Years Eve Celebration. And what a celebration it was!!! Five remaining Rally boats plus Andy and Allison and some lovely bejans that we met in Miami saw in the New Year in style at the Yacht Club that put on an excellent buffet followed by lots of dancing at the beach with an excellent 10 piece band, singing all the stuff we love and an amazing fireworks show.

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day, Jan 1st, we took a taxi up past Port St. George to visit Garry and Marti, who own an old Plantation House called Colleton House whose foundations were laid in 1652. We met Garry (who started Cruising Helmsman magazine in Oz) and Marti, who is from Hungary, in Leros Marina couple of years back. It was great to catch up again. Garry took over the house from his Uncle who ran Oilsearch in Papua New Guinea and he showed us an amazing collection of PNG art in the stables building, better than I’ve seen in a lot of museums. The House itself was started by Sir John Colleton, an English Royalist who fled Cromwell back in the 1600’s.15825915_10207390765800264_6225945048796371929_n

New Years over, we then got ready to leave the Careenage. Whilst we were away, we had provided a home for a few million mussels and we needed to get a diver down to clear them from our props to make sure we could motor out. We also had left a hose in the water and this took some cleaning with multiple applications of bleach. Assante who left before us had to sail out when they couldn’t engage their motor.

It was good to get out of the Careenage and anchor in Carlyle Bay. We anchored near the cruising club out of range of the discos further up the beach. It was delightful swinging over clear sand with the odd bit of coral. We got visited by the turtles but didn’t get up early enough to see the race horses swimming around the boat.

 

Talking of race horses, we spent a relaxing afternoon at the races in the historic Garrison Savannah. Didn’t walk away with any fortune but it was an interesting crowd and some of the horses looked magnificent.

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There was one more thing I wanted to do on Barbados and that was to see the Concorde that was housed there. It was thrilling to get up close to this  magnificent aircraft  and see how passengers travelled in first class style. We got to walk around the aircraft and go inside as well. They showed us some great vintage footage as well. The aircraft remains in pristine condition and the tour guide was great.

But our time in Barbados was coming to an end as we looked forward to checking out 15873567_10207424599886095_6265663718596035678_n(some of) the rest of the Caribbean. We had originally decided to head south to Grenada but we’d blown a hose when we turned on the watermaker, and we cou
ldn’t get under the cupboard where the salt water was pouring out, so we decided to head for the Lagoon Agent in Martinique to get everything fixed. A good decision as he traced the problem to an outlet valve that was closed when the boat was left in the Careenage.
So off we went, leaving behind the beautiful people of Barbados, so friendly and helpful and safe.