July 24, 2010... Kingstown, St. Vincent

Saturday is market day in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent.  We thought it would be fun to take the ferry there from Bequia and get in a little of the ‘big city’.  Up and out early (the ferry was at 6:30am!) we got to Kingstown in a little under an hour.  The market stalls were just being set up, so we walked a little and admired the old stone buildings dotting the city.  Once the market was in full swing we started in buying some beautiful produce.  It is always nice to buy from the people who grow the food.  This was the largest and liveliest market we had seen in any of the islands and was geared to real people.  It wasn’t a ‘display’ for the tourists, selling souvenirs and artisanal food items.  We also took in the fish market where some HUGE snappers, tunas, and barracudas were going fast.  By the time we got back to the ferry with our purchases, we were exhausted.  You just don’t realize how tiring walking and shopping can be until you sit down and feel it.  We welcomed the hour ferry ride back to Bequia, arriving in Port Elizabeth in early afternoon. 

July 20-23, 2010... Exploring Bequia

Five years ago we didn’t get much beyond Admiralty Bay and the town.  So, this time we ventured out to see more of the island.  One day we walked over to Friendship Bay on the south shore thinking we could go to the beach and snorkel there.  But the water was too rough and the beach just a sliver, so we just came on back to Admiralty and got in the appreciably calmer waters to snorkel.  Though the coral formations are not much to look at, there are a lot of fish.  Also squid.  And an eel.  There were several of these big blue fish (18 inches long) that had the coloring of a parrotfish, but not the beaks.  We tried checking our sources for ID, but come up empty.  Anyone out there know?
We also hiked over the ridge another day towards the northeast of the island stopping to see the views of the Atlantic from the Spring and Industry areas.  And another chance to walk along and smell the flowers growing abundantly everywhere.  Our long walk ended at the turtle sanctuary in Park.  This is a privately run, voluntary activity to help save the endangered sea turtles of the Caribbean.  Hawksbills and Green turtles are raised here and then released after 3-4 years all over the Grenadines.  Its a wonderful venture and its nice to get up close to the baby turtles that you just don’t see naturally on the reefs.

July 18, 2010... Back in Bequia

Sunday we were making really good time crossing from St. Lucia to St. Vincent, so we decided to keep going and head straight to Bequia, the first island of the Grenadines south of St. Vincent.  We had been here once before when we chartered a boat about five years ago, and had nothing but great memories of the place.  Making the Admiralty Bay anchorage before dusk, we were surprised to see about 50 boats anchored where we had had 3 before!  We circled around looking for a spot and settled for one between Tony Gibbons and the Lower Bay beaches.  Even with all the boats here (eventually the anchorage thinned out a bit to about half as many boats) Bequia is still beautiful.  There are more houses on the hills and more restaurants in the town of Port Elizabeth, but the water is still crystal clear and the beaches clean.  
We settled in to life here.  In the mornings the bread man would come by Anhinga in his boat and sell us a fresh loaf of whole wheat.  On days when we wanted fresh fish, we would wait to hear the sound of the conch shell being blown, meaning that a fisherman arrived in town with his catch.  If you didn’t hurry, you’d miss out -- the fish sells out fast.   We also decided to take advantage of a thriving boat industry and invest in a UV cover for the headsail, as well as an awning to keep the boat cockpit and interior cooler.   Avell Davis of Grenadine Sails built these in less than 36 hours.  The awning is already helping save our skin from the intense Caribbean sun. 
Admiralty Bay, Bequia:  +13° 0' 4.50", -61° 14' 41.52"

July 15-17, 2010... St. Lucia

Thursday's trip from Martinique to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia was FANTASTIC!! We sailed the entire way and have no sea stories to tell. Nothing broke on the boat; we weren't stressed at the end of the voyage; and maybe best of all -- we arrived dry! No rain, no squalls, no salt water washdowns from waves crashing into the cockpit. We anchored in the outer bay by Pigeon Island and were visited by a French family we had seen in anchorages from the Bahamas to Puerto Rico. It was great to finally meet Fred and Blondine and the kids and trade stories. We will likely see them again as we travel down the island chain.
On Friday, we kayaked over to the lagoon to check in and out of customs, emptied our pockets at the boat supplies store, then spent the rest of the day opening and closing hatches between rain storms. The rainy season. Sigh. Saturday we moved down the coast intending to stay on a mooring in the Soufriere park -- perhaps between the Pitons mountains. But, when we got there, we could barely see the peaks, and the rain!!! We decided to head for the blue skies which seemed to be around the corner on the south coast. We anchored in Laborie, a little fishing village. Some of the kids who were swimming at the town dock came out to talk with us as we were the only boat there -- so I guess we were a novelty. As they were for us. Tomorrow, passage to St. Vincent.

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia: +14° 5' 27.18", -60° 57' 50.70"
Laborie, St. Lucia: +13° 44' 56.34", -60° 59' 48.54"

July 13-14, 2010... Last Stop in Martinique

Tracking weather to continue the voyage down island indicated that a Thursday trip across the St. Lucia Channel would be right. So, Tuesday we moved to stage at Petit Anse d'Arlet, the last cove on the west coast of Martinique. OK, so how many charming waterfront towns can there possibly be in the French islands? This is yet another, with a terrific dock, beach, esplanade, colorful beachfront church, wonderful flowers, bakeries and markets. AND, turtles! They keep coming around our boat checking us out -- seem to be bigger than the hawksbills we saw in the USVI -- but we haven't been able to ID them. Bittersweet, we kayaked in for our last visit to France before leaving in the morning for St. Lucia.

Petit Anse D'Arlet: +14° 29' 21.78", -61° 4' 55.80"

July 10-12, 2010... Les Trois Ilets and Anse Mitan

When we weren't in FdF, we walked around Le Bourg of Les Trois Ilets and also hiked up and down the hills to get around to Anse Mitan, the beach town nearby. Le Bourg is yet another beautiful Martiniquais town; great waterfront, historic church, town hall, and older houses with the fish scale tiles for which this town is known. We celebrated our first year cruising (13 July 2009 - 13 July 2010) with a fine French dinner at Fleur de Sel -- this may have been the best meal we've had all year. Would love to come back and repeat that experience sometime -- to celebrate year two?
Anse Mitan is a more commercial area with lots of tourist shops, hotels, vacations apartments, and a nice beach. We got a real treat the day we were there, having lunch in one of the beachside restaurants. A fishing boat roared up to the beach with a HUGE marlin or swordfish -- easily a couple of hundred pounds. The fishermen unloaded it on the beach drawing everyone around. They then took it out to the street and set up a table to sell steaks. We didn't buy - we had a 2-3 mile walk in front of us and didn't think the fish would make it back - but wow!

July 10, 12, 2010... Fort-de-France, Martinique

A couple of the days we were anchored in Les Trois Ilets we took the 20-minute ferry across the harbor to Fort-de-France (FdF) -- it was nice to be on the water and leave the driving to someone else! FdF is certainly a hopping place. Lots of people in the streets, vendors doing business, market in full swing, street drummers adding a rhythm to the ambience. Great place to sit at a cafe and people watch. The pedestrian-only street of Rue de la Republique is a nice addition to the city. A new mall with a Carrefour supermarket just opened in town, so we also provisioned for the trip ahead. Again, only wish we had more time to get to know the city. We'll just have to come back.

July 9, 2010... The Voyage Continues

No bad weather predicted north of St. Lucia, so we decided this would be a good day to sail down the Martinique coast to Fort-de-France. Only about 15 miles, we figured a nice sunny morning like this, great! Started out that way...good beam reach and we were making tracks south. But, by the time we hit Case Pilote, just north of the Fort-de-France harbor, it was a whole 'nuther story. Squalls. At least four. Lots of rain...no visibility...complete white out. Don't know what we would have done without the chart plotter because even though it was midday, we could see nothing. Ran below to get raingear -- the rain was painful, like hail, and clad only in bathing suits, we were getting pretty cold. Coming into the harbor (which is about 5 miles wide and kicks up quite a bit in the fetch -- like Chesapeake square waves on a bad day) we hit one squall and the wind instruments headed up into the 30s, peaking at 39 knots. Yikes! Never did that before, DON'T want to do it again. Luckily we had had time earlier to reduce sail and were only on a reefed main -- the prospect of a knockdown felt so real. Finally, finally, we could see the end of the harbor and make out our destination of Les Trois Ilets, across from FdF and behind the headlands of Anse Mitan. Anchor down in front of the golf course, only cruising boat here. Whew!

Les Trois Ilets: +14° 32' 41.10", -61° 2' 28.38"

July 7-8, 2010... St. Pierre, Martinique

Another great little town. St. Pierre, the capital of Martinique until it was completely destroyed by the Mt. Pelee volcanic eruption in 1902, was rebuilt in the late 1920s and 30s. Before the eruption, this was a town of 30,000 people -- all of whom were killed. This is now a small village of 5,000. We visited the museum to learn more about the town before the eruption and to see artifacts recovered after the blast. Like a Caribbean Pompeii. We enjoyed our stay, again loving the food in the French islands, feeling like we can always get what we want. The fixed price menus are a terrific deal and our dinner at La Vague, overlooking the bay (and Anhinga!) was no exception. Local fish, curried goat, creole appetizers, fruit sorbet and Patti's experiment with Ti Punch. Yow!

July 6-7, 2010... Onward to Martinique

An afternoon departure would get us to St. Pierre on the NW side of the island in the morning. Leaving the Saintes, we had a pretty good east wind, 15-17 kts. The seas weren't horribly big, but probably more than 6 ft. We were sailing well, the wind kicked up to 20-25 and we were screaming across the Dominica Channel. Just holding on, we looked forward to the island lee and calmer water. We got it! So our sail down the west coast of Dominica was unexpectedly pleasant. Then the wind died. Then the wind is up to 20 knots. We didn't know what to expect next. On goes the motor and we tried to strategize for the next Atlantic passage between Dominica and Martinique -- fairly long at 25 miles and with high winds and seas, a possibly mean route. And it was night time. Our worst fears were realized and the passage was rough. But we made it across on a reefed main and got into the lee of Martinique and took a deep breath. We realized we had to slow the boat down in order to arrive after daybreak, so we sailed with the reefed main and staysail for a few hours watching for light. By 6:30 we were anchored in front of the town. Breakfast...then to bed. Relief. We successfully made it to the 14th parallel and the Windward Islands.

St. Pierre, Martinique: +14° 44' 28.08", -61° 10' 38.70"

July 5-6, 2010... Les Saintes

Weather. It rules us. Woke up Monday with an incoming tropical wave. By 10am we were in a deluge of biblical proportions, the seas churned up, and the wind howling. Deciding to move the boat to a more secure spot, we donned raingear, raised the anchor and shot across to the anchorage behind Pain de Sucre, a beautiful rounded hill on Terre du Haut. The day was a rainout, but we didn't mind having time to putter around the boat. Anyway, we figured we had almost a week to explore Les Saintes as we waited out weather before our next big push on to Martinique.
But, Tuesday morning we got the word that it was going to be the best day for travel till at least the following Monday, maybe Tuesday, because of TWO MORE inbound tropical waves. So we decided to leave in the afternoon for Martinique. That meant we would head to town, replenish some important food stocks (like French bread...) and just get to see the place. What a wonderful town. Absolutely beautiful, gorgeous flowers, well-maintained homes, cute shops, endless restaurants, scenic views everywhere. We tried to take in as much as we could, promising to come back and spend more time...after hurricane season passes. Back to the boat (a fairly long hike up and down hills and unpaved paths, kayaking from the beach with our purchases (the bread stayed dry!)) and we were approached by French Customs, who wanted to board our boat. They were extremely pleasant and didn't stay too long. We think they were bored and wanted something to do.

Pain de Sucre, Les Saintes: +15° 51' 45.78", -61° 36' 0.24"

July 4, 2010... Happy Birthday America!

Moving day. Headed out for a nice sail south to Les Saintes, a small cluster of islands off the southwest corner of Guadeloupe. All going great till we hit the channel where the Atlantic winds and waves intruded on our Caribbean idyll. So that part was a motorsailing bash headlong to get to the islands. But get here we did; no room to anchor near the town, so we tucked up at Ilet a Cabrit. Only one neighbor, quiet night, beautiful sunset. Tomorrow we explore.

Ilet a Cabrit, Les Saintes: +15° 52' 28.20", -61° 35' 50.16"

June 29 - July 3, 2010... Settled in to Deshaies

Yup, we could live here. Terrific anchorage, nice town. Very friendly people. Great restaurants where we ate christophene and breadfruit for the first time. (Let's not forget the best food - the bread.) Patti's French is starting to come back and has extended a bit beyond restaurant French into bus French. Yes, we took the bus to Pointe-a-Pitre (a couple of hours away with a transfer in Ste Rose -- shorter on the way back with a nonstop bus.) The city was pretty -- nice old wooden buildings -- and a lively shopping district. The bus trip makes for a fun way to see a country -- we headed up into the mountains and had terrific views of the sea below, the landscape is gorgeous, the vegetation so green.
Deshaies was having a big festival this past weekend, so we took in some of the activities. One night went to the church to see the local choirs perform. More interesting though was watching the audience. Afterwards a traditional music group played on the outdoor stage -- great drumming and singing. Saturday was the day for the races -- sailboat races and rowing races in the anchorage around our boat. We had front row seats. Saturday night the festivities continued and the best part was the quadrille dancing (like square dancing).
But cruiser midnight comes early and we crashed way before the music ended. Of course, we were tired having kayaked around the headland to the Grand Anse beach earlier in the day. The beach was so beautiful; but so hot! We had to run to the water from our towel so as not to burn our feet. As we paddled back two more boats were coming into the anchorage -- John recognized one of them as Bel Ami St. Thomas -- who we had met in Samana, DR! Small world. So we visited with Dave and Victoria who are also on their way 'down island'.
Though we really love Deshaies, all things must end and we have to keep heading south. So, tomorrow we head out to Les Saintes.