Nothing Much to Report Here

The sail across to Marie Galante can best be described as tack, tack, tack, tack……….

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Going East into the trade winds is slow going. 16665354_10207703042166978_6642751032015242993_o

We finally made it to the anchorage at St Louis at about 4pm. We picked out our anchorage not far from Balenac and pondered the fact that the water was not as crystal clear as the Cruising Guide suggested. Nice but not exceptional.

16602510_10207703068367633_7765160692832240781_oWe saw Balenac on shore – they had just got back from hiring a car and they told us about the Rhum Factory, where the Rum flowed freely. Given the next day was a Sunday, we decided to walk the 5km to the factory – a bit of morning exercise. We arrived at 10.30am and had a look at the factory, which being Sunday was not operating so we wandered around by ourselves. Then we returned and tasted a few rums, which weren’t bad. My backpack got a little heavier for the return leg, having purchased a 59% knock your socks off white rum – the Labat 59.

16711992_10207703046767093_2280276634769542427_nThe walk back along the beach was a bit longer but much more pleasant. Being Sunday, St Louis was dead so we made the snap decision to pull anchor and head for the main island. We thought we may be able to point as high as St Francois, but in the end we had to settle for St Anne – there would be no tacking this late in the day!

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Back in France Again, Again

This is a bit confusing. One minute we are back in France (Martinique) then we are in an ex-British territory (Dominica) then we are back in France yet again (Guadeloupe).

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But who am I to complain as the French have made sure you can buy good French wine, champagne with the added bonus of French Rhum, together with all those nice apple tarts and bagets. Yum!

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Our first stop in French Territory was the small island group of Les Saintes, a short but exhilarating sail from Portsmouth, especially the last bit where we hit an acceleration zone between the small islands. A hot tip when planning to go to Les Saintes is to get there early as the mooring balls in front of the town fill up early. If you luck out then you can either anchor further around, which is a bit exposed or grab a mooring ball over on Ile A Cabrit, from where you face a lumpy 1nm dinghy ride into town. We were lucky because we got there by 10.30am and got the last mooring off the town – perfect. Check-in was as per Martinique, using a computer screen in a local business.

Then it was off to explore the really cutesy town, with its restaurants that overflow onto the town beach, and a million and one dress shops for Dee to window shop in. We bumped into Aura and BnG who had hired a golf buggy to explore the small island – all that you need.

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After a swim in the crystal clear waters off the back of La Mischief, we hopped in A Little Bit of Mischief for the 1nm ride across to Aura for dinner with Kim and Simon. As usual the hospitality and food on Aura was magnificent and we enjoyed our last night together for a while as Aura were making a dash for St Thomas and we were taking a much slower pace.

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Next day we organized an island bus trip – 10 euro each, which took us up to the very impressive fort. It had great views over the islands and across to Guadeloupe was full of museum pieces from days gone by.

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It took us a good hour to see it all then we drove down to the other end of the island before the driver dropped us off at the protected lagoon on the West side of the island. We worked the length of the beach and I went for a snorkel, before lunch called. Well, we thought it had but when we checked into the one and only restaurant near the lagoon we were told it was “Complet”. At 12.50pm. Theres another tip for Les Saintes – make sure you have your restaurant sorted by 12.30pm at the latest. So we gave up waiting for the bus driver to return and walked the 30 minutes back into town where we found a set of very nice bagets for lunch. Ah, it’s a tough life with soooo many hassles.

We waited for the shops to reopen in the afternoon and did some provisioning in Carrefour before taking an early night before heading off to Mary Galante in the morning after radioing Terrapin so they could come over and grab our mooring ball.

 

Superbowl and an All You Eat and Drink Beach BBQ – We Are In!

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We left Roseau on Sunday morning bound for Portsmouth, 15nm up the coast. It was a fickle sail/motor as we headed for a rendezvous with Bill on Moontide, in time for the legendary PAYS Sunday night BBQ and Superbowl.

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PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security) was founded by the local boat boys to provide security for the bay and to promote Dominica as a sailing destination. I’ve got to say they do a great job and maybe it’s a model other parts of the Caribbean could take on – although being Caribbean newbies it’s a bit early to make any definitive statement on what should happen elsewhere.

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Anyway it was great to finally meet Bill who I’ve heard heaps about, his sailing experience and bar attendance being second only to Sir Frances Drake – evidently!

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After a few beers and rums on the back of La Mischief, it was off to the PAYS BBQ, an all you can drink and eat affair for 50EC, a bargain especially given the strength of the rum punches. It was a packed affair and even though we got there on time, we got the last bit of space on the last table. The BBQ is PAYS way of raising cash to pay for night patrols, searchlights etc.

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Dinner and punches downed, we went into the back room to watch the Superbowl half time show. Unfortunately we couldn’t hear it because of the great band playing at the BBQ but we got the general gist of things. The game resumed and it looked for all money like the Patriots were going to loose big time. With the Patriots falling behind we pulled stumps and headed back to La Mischief. With Dee tucked in, I hopped on the Internet and frantically tried to follow the greatest comeback win in all time. Oh well, who could have predicted that one!

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16473051_10207657115578842_4334812334138999594_nNext day we were off with Providence to do the Indian River tour, the marque eco tour up this end of Dominica. We set off in a small runabout and once in the river, the outboard came up and the oars came out. We got rowed up the creek through the mangroves. This is another of the Pirates Locations and there’s still an old river hut there that the witch used to hang in. The highlight however was the wonderful vegetation, including the small display garden at the end of the creek that we got to wander around.

16587352_10207702922203979_6850583955355197946_oIn the afternoon and the next morning we hung out with Bill and Klara (who swapped boats) before they sailed northwards to Antigua. Then it was off to check out the British Fort that overlooks Prince Rupert Bay. Pretty impressive location for a fort. We had sundowners at Felix Beach Bar with a whole heap of Americans – a lot of whom had been hanging around the Caribbean for 8-9 years. Dominica tends to attract the more adventurous and we got a lot of good info in between downing some of the best rum punches we’ve had so far.

16722600_10207702942604489_4495396112085289800_oOn Wednesday, we organized a full day tour of the North of the island with Armstrong to see the rest of the islands highlights. First up was a waterfall, followed by a walk in what is supposedly the best rainforest in the Caribbean. Then we headed back down the coast to Calibishie, along some wonderfully wild coastline. We stopped for some great ribs at a beach side restaurant, washed down with local beer, before continuing on to see the Chocolate Factory, the Red Rock beach and the cold sulphur springs. After finishing the tour we thought we’d managed to cover most of the island, with the exception of the Carrib villages. Back at the boat – but not for long as PAYS were putting on another BBQ because of the large number of cruisers in the bay – and because Carnivale was coming to Portsmouth on Sunday and they wanted to avoid a clash. It was another great affair with lots of punch consumed.

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Next morning it was up Anchor and off to a hot date with Aura on Les Saints.

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When Nature Calls

We were excited to leave Martinique and head to Dominica. They say if old Chris Columbus sailed back to the Caribbean today, Dominica would be the only island that he would recognize, because as Frankenfurter says, it’s still a wild and untamed thing, largely devoid of physical signs of tourism.

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The sail across the strait was rollicking, the apparent wind touching 30kts a few times with a reasonable swell thrown in for good measure. But distances are short and we soon rounded the impressive Scotts Head at the bottom of Dominica.

Our first stop was Roseau, which a lot of cruisers bypass going straight to Portsmouth. Roseau is convenient to some of the most spectacular spots on top as well as underneath the sea. We picked up a mooring from Marcus (which are the best ones there with large blocks of concrete, connected to chain) in 23m of water and he dinghied us over to Customs. Customs and Immigration were reasonably straightforward costing us 20 euros to check in and out of the country at the same time (as we were staying less than 2 weeks). Then it was off to explore the town and pick up some duty-free grog at Pirates.

16427435_10207657206941126_7241041628293117298_nNext day it was up early and off to the Boiling Lake with Armstrong. The whole day cost us a 150 East Caribbean Dollars (75AUD, 60USD) each and involved a 6 and a half hour hike up, up, up and down, down, down. We soon wished we’d done a bit more hiking before we tackled this little challenge. The walk was quite spectacular going through untouched rainforest and down into the Valley of Desolation, before chambering up a river valley, down a rope climb and then to the rim of the boiling lake itself, the second largest in the world after Rotorua in NZ. As we approached it started to rain and we got soaked as we ate lunch at the Lake.

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That afternoon, Seacat put another Cat on a mooring quite close to us. We asked Marcus about it and he said he never put a boat on our mooring when Seacat had one on that particular mooring but said it would be okay because we were both Cats and would swing the same. I was still a bit nervous but didn’t do anything about it.

Then it was off to the Anchorage Hotel to wait for Klara to arrive. She was flying from Europe via Miami and Puerto Rico – the downside of Dominica is getting there is difficult.

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As we were going to bed, the wind dropped off to nothing and we managed to “sail” forward over our mooring and hit the other boat, chipping off a bit of our gelcoat as we hit the sharp metal rub rail of the older Outremer. Bummer. We both put fenders out and we got Marcus to get us another mooring first thing in the morning. The moral of the story is that if you have any doubts then act on them. Otherwise shit happens.

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Next day we could hardly walk but there was no rest for the wicked as we headed off on another Armstrong adventure in his minivan. First stop was Emerald Falls where we swam underneath the falls, the cold clear water reinvigorating our weary legs. This was followed by a drive to Fresh Water Lake in the mountains and then off to Titou Falls, where Johnny D. jumped off a cliff in the second Pirates movie. Armstrong did a recreation as did one of the others but Dee and I chickened out and took the stairs down into the pool. Armstrong then swam us through the narrow gorge to the first waterfall and helps us get to a small indent where we could stand by pulling us through the rapidly flowing water on a life buoy. He then managed to somehow climb the waterfall and then jump off it into the pool below next to us. One of the other guys managed to do the same and Dee gave it a shot but there had been a lot of rain and the waterfall was too powerful.

16463758_10207657104458564_3275607229741558657_oOur last stop of the day was Trafalgar Falls, two very impressive falls, and here we walked/climbed out to the base of the falls over some slippery rocks and sat in the warm sulphur pools at the base of the falls. By the time we scampered back down again it was getting dark and we were glad to get off the rocks whilst we still had a smidgen of light. Another great day on Dominica.

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We started to slow down a bit on Day 3, Desmond took us by boat a couple of miles south to do some snorkeling on Champagne Reef where the sulphuric bubbles come out of the seabed. Pretty cool snorkeling over the top of a group of bubbles. The sea life and corals were pretty good also. A real must see. After getting out Desmond took us around the corner to the cute little village of Soufriere, where, in front of the Church, there was some hot springs coming right out the beach into a man-made rock pool where you just lay and soak yourself in a mixture of cool sea water and hot spring water. And there is a bar! It took a lot of talking to convince Dee to leave.

16602479_10207657090818223_6042303027702914039_oDay 4 was diving day. You have to dive with a local dive operator in Dominica and we booked with Anchorage Hotel as this was the cheapest. They had a great dive boat as well, an 80 foot cat. We did a couple of dives around Champagne Reef and were impressed by the coral and the fish life. Saw a really cool sea snake and some very large crabs. Dee got to try out her new complete set of dive gear she got for Xmas and it worked a treat. Loved the fact that we were back diving in 3mm wetsuits. Perfect.

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16463761_10207657076537866_2642252222524762073_oDiving over, it was off to the opening parade for Mardi Gras. We had a great time checking out all the costumes and the music as well as all the Miss Carnivale entrants, of course. We finished the day with a nice dinner at The Loft with a whole group of yachties.

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16487046_10207657114538816_757526879609424692_oThen Sunday came and we were off to Portsmouth, a 15nm sail/motor up the west coast. The sailing is superb between the islands but the wind gets a bit fickle sailing in the wind shadow of the islands.

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And The Best Thing about Dominica was the friendly people!!!!