Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tracks South and St. Lucia

We motored down the coast of Dominica and had a brisk sail back to Martinique.  We spent two nights back in St. Pierre so we could satisfy one last craving of baguette and patissiere before sailing down to St. Lucia on a rainy day.  The stormy weather made for unsettled winds and we had a decent, but at times frustratingly slow sail, compounded with a wicked current that made slow going for a few hours but we were greeted along the way by a pod of jumping dolphins.  We arrived just before sunset to the Rodney Bay Marina and tied up for a few days after covering about 100 miles from Dominica.  St. Lucia suffers from some security issues, so we figured the marina would give us peace of mind, and while the people are extremely nice here, there are folks stopping by at all hours of the day hoping for work varnishing, cleaning or selling fruit which means we've been extra careful leaving the boat, even just to use the showers.

The weather continued to be rainy for the next three days, ultimately filling a bucket we had left on deck up with 8 inches of water!  Navigator got a good cleaning, inside and out, and Chris did a lot of work on the Cutterman's Guide to Navigation Problems, you can check it out HERE.  Kellee read and sampled the yummy frou frou coffee and we both enjoyed some pizza, made by a guy who came to St. Lucia from Italy to share his serious pizza making skills.  When the weather finally cleared up, Chris did some boat varnishing and we ventured out to the nearby mall.  We had just run out of propane for the fantail grill and were excited to find some canisters in the ACE hardware and Kellee found a neat book about the fruits, veggies and herbs of the Caribbean and how to grow them.  Depending on where we end up putting down roots for awhile, she wants to try her hand growing some legit roots, we'll see if she can turn that thumb green!

Today is finally sunny again and HOT, we are approaching "Lahaina Noon", which means we'll pass under the sun, and it will be as close to us as it will ever be, and then will set to the north of us...we think that will seem a little weird, but neat.  The heat of the day usually drives us into the boat or into the water, luckily the marina has a pool and we are planning to venture over to one of the beaches for the afternoon.  After so many awesome adventures in Guadeloupe and Dominica, we aren't really motivated to explore St. Lucia, so we'll stick to Rodney Bay, spend one quick night between the Pitons (steep twin mountains right on the coast), then make tracks another 100 miles to the Grenadines.  We're going to skip St. Vincent, we hear the boat boys there are very aggressive and that theft can be a problem.  We figure if we really want to see that island, we can take a day ferry from Bequia (our next destination).

The Grenadines promise lots of little, sandy cays with some good snorkeling and palm trees.  From there we'll be counting down the last month of this season's cruising and gearing up for the Eur-Afric-Oz expedition...more on that soon.  The marina is thinning out, the season is quickly wrapping up, most of the boats heading across the Atlantic are staging in Antigua or St. Maarten, and Antigua race week signals the last big event before many boats head for destinations outside of the hurricane belt.  We are definitely feeling the effects, the anchorages are less crowded and we saw our marina neighbor strip down and clean his boat and haul out for the season.  We're keeping a weather eye on the hurricane forecast, once we're in the Grenadines, we'll be only a day's sail from Trinidad and will be able to avoid any developing early season storm.  We'll check in from Bequia and should have a nice night's sail under the full moon.

There are a couple new videos on the "video" link above that chronicle our recent adventures in Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dominica Part 3

Today we end our visit to Dominica, which has definitely been one of our favorite islands.  We already talked about the famous Boiling Lake hike below, but we had a few more adventures on the Nature Island besides that.

After Heather safely arrived from Virginia and told us about her new business startup "Bridal Brokerage" (HERE is a link), we took a trip up the Indian River.  Since outboard motors and tourists are not allowed by themselves, we hired Andrew to row us up the creek.  Among the wildlife were fish, crabs, birds, and vegetation.  Alas we did not see any Boa Constrictors, which apparently live here.

We also saw the location of a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean 2, which was an old house on the banks of the creek.  Pretty neat.

That afternoon, we went snorkeling in Cabrits National Park, which was a great trip, featuring lots of fishes, coral, and two eels and a sea snake.  The mountain drops off directly into the sea, leaving a sheer cliff face from far overhead to about 100 feet below the surface.

The next day we started a 2 day driving tour of the island (driving on the left, with giant drainage ditches on the side of the road waiting to gobble up our tires).  We saw several waterfalls and were refreshed by swimming in the natural pools.  Since the driving times are quite long, we stayed in a hotel in the southern part of the island for a night and enjoyed real showers and beds before tackling the Boiling Lake hike on Saturday.

Sunday was a recovery day aboard Navigator, enjoying some sun and jumps in the ocean before attending the weekly beach barbecue that the local boat guys put on.

On Monday we dropped Heather off for her flight back to school (only 5 weeks until graduation!), and picked up groceries for the next week at the local markets.  A quick lunch of chicken roti in town and back to the boat to prepare for our departure.

Tomorrow we head out for the trip to St. Lucia.  We'll probably stop in Martinique for a day or two along the way, since the baguettes are too hard to resist, but when next you hear from us, we'll be in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.

Hard to believe that in less than 2 months we'll be putting the boat in storage for hurricane season in Trinidad - many miles to cover between now and then!

In other news - we are finally far enough south (and in the right season) to get a good view of the Southern Cross at night.  Here is a picture of the cross rising over Dominica.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dominica Part 2: The Boiling Lake Hike

Today we completed a hike we've been looking forward to for some time...the hike to the Valley of Desolation and the Boiling Lake.  We think that a lot of the hype has to do with the name - if it were named "The Valley of Rainbows and the Sunshine Lake," it might not get as much attention.  

Either way, we hit the trail early, and made good time along the track.  After some gentle incline, we came to a river, and then started climbing steeply for another hour to the summit of a peak along the track.

From the summit, we descended into the Valley of Desolation, which is a neat geothermal area featuring near-boiling river water, sulphur deposits, and general geological wonders.  We followed the river valley east until one last climb brought us to the Boiling Lake itself.

The Boiling Lake is the second largest in the world - in fact our resident Boiling Lake Expert, Heather, has been to the world's largest on the North Island of New Zealand, and was pleased to report that this one was "neater."

After lunch at the lake of brownies and homemade bread, we retraced our track down to the river valley, up into the Valley of Desolation, up to the summit of the peak, down to the river, and gently back to the trailhead.

Luckily, at the trailhead is a really cool flooded slot canyon called Titou Gorge - it felt wonderful to take the plunge after a 5 hour hike.

All in all it was a great, but wet, day of hiking in a place that reminds you how active the earth still is.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Dominica Part 1

After arriving in Portsmouth, Dominica, we settled in for a couple weeks at anchor.  The first night was a bit uncomfortable because some swell was working its way into the anchorage, causing us to roll.  So the next day we repositioned and set a stern anchor in addition to our bow anchor to hold us into the swell, which is much more comfortable for sleeping.
We also noticed that our bilge pump turned on - that never happens. So after some research, we found that the shaft seal (the part that keeps the water from flooding the boat through the propeller shaft) was leaking a bit. It's a modern designed "dripless" seal, so that was bad.  However, it turned out that a couple parts had come loose, so we re-compressed the seal and cleaned/tightened every fitting, and all was well again. 
Once settled in, we started exploring the island a bit.  We hiked two segments of the national trail (the Waitukubuli National Trail - kind of like the Appalachian Trail).  The first segment we hiked was around the north end of the island, through several valleys with amazing vegetation and wild fruit trees to go along with the scenic vistas.  The second segment was to the summit of Mount Diablotin, the highest point on the island at around 4800 feet. This hike was ridiculous - the first hour was climbing a steep trail, and the second hour and a half were working our way through a muddy, tree root jungle gym.  Literally climbing up and over and through tree roots like an obstacle course for 90 minutes - crazy.  Unfortunately the summit was fogged in once we got there, so we had to repeat the process on the descent.  Regardless, it was definitely a fun and unique walk.  

Afterwards, we cleaned our shoes and legs in a stream and returned to town for some chicken roti and a good sleep.  Today Heather arrives from the D.C. area and we are looking forward to checking out the rest of the island including the famous Boiling Lake and Desolation Valley hikes.  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Happy Easter everyone, we've had a couple of "busy" weeks, but not much internet, so we have some catching up to do!

We left Les Saintes and sailed a short run to Dominica, but we had left a little late in the day and didn't arrive at the anchorage until after dark.  Luckily, Pancho, one of the very helpful boat guys prevalent in Dominica (pronounced dom-in-EEK-a), guided us through the minefield of moorings and we were situated for the evening.  The next day we joined a nice retired couple from Montreal on a tour of the southern part of the island.  The taxi driver was very knowledgable and showed us several locations where they filmed the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Along the way he was constantly pointing at fruit, cocoa, nutmeg trees.  He took us to Piton Gorge, but we elected to come back when the cruise ship crowds weren't in to see the narrow gorge.  We ran into our friend Rich from s/v Kelly Rae, another Pacific Seacraft 34' and made plans to meet up in Martinique.  Trafalgar falls was the highlight of the day, we enjoyed a swim in one of the pools and took in the awesome views.  That afternoon we checked in at the surprisingly diligent customs office and headed back to the boat.  

The next day we went diving with Jorge, who spent many years in Connecticut (!) but fell in love with Dominica and stayed.  He showed us Soufriere Pinnacles, a beautiful wall dive chock full of coral and sponges and lots of cleaner shrimps and a massive porcupine fish.  There was a very friendly turtle that actually came towards Kellee, usually the turtles swim the other way when they see you coming, but he sure was curious!  The second dive was just as impressive, and also had an old ship's cannon, and the end of the dive brought us to "Champane bubbles," actually a volcanic seep of hot gases - the area looks like a bunch of champane bubbles, and the water is pleasantly warm, almost like a jacuzzi!  We crashed hard that night and sailed the 35 miles to Martinique the next day.  The trip was quick, but the occasional wave would soak Chris at the helm while Kellee smartly huddled under the dodger.

We anchored in St. Pierre, Martinique, which became our home for the next 10 days.  We spent the first day running some errands in town and chilling on the boat, and had a yummy pizza and popcorn dinner aboard Kelly Rae (our first cruiser dinner!)  Kellee made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dinner and we made plans with Rich to hike the next day.  We grabbed a bus (more like a 15 pass van with an aisle in the middle) and Chris managed to convince the driver (in French) to drive us off the normal route all the way to the trail head.

The hike up was akin to a never ending stairclimber, and we were fogged in for most of it, but once we got up to the caldera rim, the clouds cleared and the views were amazing.  This was Mount Pelee, the same volcano that erupted in 1902 and wiped out the town of St Pierre.  Once called the "Paris of the Caribbean," all residents of the town were incinerated along with the 12 ships in the harbor, now sitting on the bottom in 80 feet of water.  Several buildings in town used ruins from the eruption as part of their construction, giving the downtown a unique vibe.  Anyway, the mountain itself has a knife edge caldera rim that we were hiking on, and a dome that grew up inside the rim, making for startling scenery.  We opted to try a different trail down the mountain, and were graciously offered a ride at the trailhead by a young tourist couple from Paris, saving us a good six extra miles of walking back to town.  Rich came over that evening for some sextant comparing and shared a dinner of bbq chicken.

The next couple of days were low key, did some hull cleaning while dodging the occasional jellyfish and did a lot of reading.  Chris spent a lot of time working on his sextant training videos, both filming and editing.  The following day we took a crazy bus to Fort-de-France, the metropolis capital of Martinique, and checked out the marine store, local architecture and shops.  There is a library that was built in France and then transported brick by brick to Martinique and reassembled in FdF, so of course we had to check that out.  We walked through the mall, mostly to enjoy the air conditioning, and ate lunch at a roadside cafe.
In the last couple of weeks it's gotten noticably hotter, we're hoping not a sign of things to come.  Kellee will jump in the water just to cool off and stay in her bathing suit for the entire day!  We got back from FdF in a bus held together with ducktape and a prayer, just after customs had closed for Easter weekend (a four day affair in these parts).  So, we just puttered around the boat for most of the weekend.  We went ashore to do laundry and walk around checking out the ruins and of course getting more pastries.  There was a big farmer's market, so we walked through and picked up some spice mix for chicken and watched a guy lop the tops off of coconuts and funnel the water into recycled plastic bottles and selling it.

This morning we checked out of customs, stocked up on baguettes and pastries and set sail for Dominica.  It was a "sporty" transit, 8 foot seas and 25 knot winds, but Navigator handled it well and brought us across at a whopping 7 knots.  We are back on a mooring in Roseau at the southern end of the island and will head up to Portsmouth in a couple of days.  Portsmouth is better protected and closer to the airport.  We'll spend the week exploring this beautiful island and eagerly awaiting the arrival of our friend Heather.