Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Heading South

We had a few more beachy days with Meg around at Five Islands Bay with the special shell beach before it was sadly time to say goodbye. After a hearty lunch we took a taxi ride to the airport where we played eye spy until it was time to say farewell.

Back to an empty boat we started to make our plans to head south as the 1st of June is the beginning of hurricane season when all boats migrate south for the summer where the threat of a hurricane is less than the northern islands. There was a weather window opening on Saturday that would allow us to get to Martinique stopping overnight to rest in Guadeloupe and Dominica first. We filled with water again and did all the laundry by hand (half a day’s task when you are washing bedding!). We had a couple of days in hand so moved back around to Five islands bay where the internet is good and the seas the most amazing milky blue, we stowed everything away for the coming sail.

At 5am on Saturday morning we were up and underway. The sun was just rising over Antigua’s green hills to the east and it was the start of another hot beautiful day. Sim had hanked on the inner staysail so we had all 3 sails set and looking good. We motored down the west coast of the island until the breeze filled in and the sails filled. Sam and Jon on Imagine of Falmouth were leaving the same time although they were around in another part of Antigua. We agreed to call on the VHF enroute. We started out hard on the wind, the boat heeling hard but as the day wore on the wind backed and it turned out to be a lovely sail with a pleasant 15kts of wind and small seas. We both sat in the cockpit with the cat in her box and chatted and nattered about future plans. The sun shimmered on the sea like a thousand stars shining on a dark nights sky and I thought to myself, not for the first time, how lucky I am. We had heard Imagine calling us on the radio several times in the morning but they could never hear our reply. After a while we heard nothing, so decided that they were trying to call us to say they weren’t coming. We changed plans and decided to head to an anchorage further south to take a few miles off the journey the following day. But just to make sure we thought we better try Imagine on the radio one more time. This time they answered –and had left Antigua as well and were happy with the change of plan. That afternoon we pulled into a large bay by Pigeon Island halfway down the French island of Guadeloupe. The verdant hillside leads down to the dark sandy beach where palm trees and beach huts and bars dot the coastline. I love these coastlines; so rich and mountainous, green and earthy and reminds me of rolling English countryside except with palm trees. The bay is wide but offers little protection from sea swells built up from distant storms. Almost every time we have been here the roll has been bad. And sure enough this time was no different. Fishing boats tied to floats bobbed wildly up and down and all the boats from yachts to small wooden rowboats where all pointing out the sea. We dropped the anchor – but Alianna was pitching and rearing 3ft or more out of the water. Everything clattered and clanged and even the cat looked fed up – but we grinned and bared it and after the first beer it didn’t feel quite so bad. Sam and Jon came over for dinner. After a few more beers and wine it was time to call it a night as we had to be up at 5am the following morning for the next leg of the journey.

Sim the lucky so and so sleeps through almost anything but with the rolling boat and a head full of alcohol I was feeling quite crabby in the morning when I was awoken by the alarm clock at 5am. The indecency of it all is that I have to go and lift 30 meters or so of 3/8ths anchor chain with our manual windless – if that’s not a rude awakening in the morning I don’t know what is. But Sim takes pity on me and lifts the chain today and I am very grateful. It’s another 12hrs of sitting in the cockpit. Sim keeps an eye on everything tweaking sails, altering course etc. while I read a book feeling sorry for myself. The cat has decided she doesn’t like her box and has taken to the bathroom floor. We discuss what to eat for lunch and both wait eagerly for the clock to strike 12. But the boat is heeled over so much and just getting up is a huge effort that the thought of preparing anything becomes a huge task. So a can of ravioli eaten straight from the can seems like an excellent idea.

We arrive in Portsmouth, Dominica where we have been many times before. It takes us 4 tries before the anchor finally holds each time having to re-lift the chain that is dragging on the seabed. Once settled, we jump into the cool (ok warmish) sea and have a chat with Sam and Jon who have swum over to us. We wisely decided to give drinks together a miss as we have another long journey tomorrow.

We have a lie in until 6.30am in Dominica before once again we are on the move with another 12 hour journey ahead of us. We motored for 25 miles down Dominica admiring its coast line until we were clear of land and then sailed across the gap for another 25 miles to Martinique. It may not seem like a long way but our average speed is around 5kts which is more or less equivalent to 5mph. It can be slow going at times especially with unfavourable wind and with the northwest setting currents. But we had another good sail. The top part of Martinique is dominated by the majestic Mount Pelee, a volcanic mountain that last erupted in 1902 killing almost the entire inhabitants of the town we are about to anchor off. St Pierre is a picturesque little place running parallel to the beach. Many of the buildings have been built around the old ruins left after Mount Pelees devastation. It is a charming place with a church whose bell rings on the hour. It is made up of quaint looking buildings with hurricane shutters and ornate balconies. Tall narrow buildings adjoin short squat ones, each painted in different colours. Just as we arrive a rain squall hits us and washes the boat free of salt. We drop the anchor for another nights rest happy that we have made it to Martinique in time for the next tropical wave (a bit of yucky weather) that is moving across the Caribbean.

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