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23 May 2014

Leigh rejoins

May 16
We moved Raconteur to Marigot Bay to welcome Leigh back aboard, for a short break from her Washington duties. She arrived in the afternoon, just in time to check out of St Lucia at customs, and we returned to the delightful Rainforest Hideaway for dinner. The cooking is still very good, and the dish presentation even improved.

On the 17th, we had a brisk passage to Chateaubelair in St Vincent. George the boat boy was there and we were able to give him the computer tablet we had brought him. He came back with mangoes, passion fruit and wax apples. We checked in at customs, rowing to the half-destroyed town dock which was carried away in last year's floods.

The 18th saw us taking a leisurely sail to Bequia, anchoring in front of Princess Margaret beach (which has some other more locally suitable name, though I can't remember it). We gathered some delicacies at Doris' the next morning and had some relaxing time.  Leigh indulged in a little cooking - Ann's Geera Pork and Mark Bittman's coconut rice - accompanied by a yummy baingan (eggplant) curry from the freezer.  See recipe here.

On the 20th, we crossed to Carriacou, regretfully leaving the Tobago Cays and the Grenadines in our wake. It was a fabulous sail, and we checked into Grenada and spent only one night in the rather crowded anchorage at Tyrell, indulging in a (ham)burger in paradise at the relatively new and delightful Slipway Cafe.

On the 21st, we started early on an easy passage to the south coast of Grenada, passing on the east side, stopping at St David's harbor for the first time. We enjoyed our first local Roti at the marina's bar and spent a quiet if a little bit rolly night. 

Only three miles the next day, the 22nd, where we wanted to be in Clarke's Court Bay in time to meet new friends LeAnn and Ron Marchman (who are in Grenada aboard s/v Tovarisch over in Mt. Hartmann) at Whisper Cove for (Thursday) chicken night, of course.

Today Leigh is sadly counting down the hours to her early Sunday departure; we squeezed in a shopping bus trip this morning and are planning a Callaloo Soup (thank you, Ann; recipe here) and perhaps a lambi (conch) curry dinner on board.  It is really like coming home when we get back to Grenada.  

Here are a couple of photos - we haven't been very inspired in that department this week.

 Racing practice off Bequia

Sunset from Admiralty Bay, Bequia

14 May 2014

Lingering in port

After a brisk passage (25 NM in less than 4 hours, anchor up to anchor down), we dropped anchor in Rodney on May 7 in front of the beach and an unbelievably loud DJ concert that was underway there.  We had happened upon the main weekend of the St Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival.  This is a lively week-long event that everybody gets in on.  There is a series of concerts with ticket prices up to US$80 at the main stage on Pigeon Island adjacent to the Rodney Bay anchorage.  But there are also dozens of free music events in Rodney Bay and Castries at hotels, shopping centers, public squares, etc., that draw good sized crowds of happy St Lucians, cruisers, tourists, Martiniquans and other islanders. Everywhere you go, discs are spinning, bands are setting up or performing, and people are walking or standing with a smile on their face and a little shimmy in their hips.

We enjoyed several of these, and also bought tickets for the Sunday afternoon / evening show at Pigeon Island.  We had attended this in 2013, where we had the privilege of hearing the great Diana Ross in concert.  This year the bill included slightly lesser, but interesting, names (notably, the Commodores and Maxwell). 

the Barrel O Beef in Rodney Bay, with tropical wave in background

Meanwhile, we had moved into slip E25 at Rodney Bay Marina on May 8 to clean up the boat a little and to see Regis for some post-installation consultation on our instruments (including the depth sounder) and a new starter battery.  Cappuccino and boat maintenance was the theme of the 3 days leading up to the Sunday concert.  At the same time, the edge of the first tropical wave of the season was moving through.  This had the beneficial effect of making it breezier than usual in the marina, and providing a number of helpful rain-water rinses of the exterior of Raconteur.  Vision caught up to us soon after our arrival (we think he has a sixth sense about JP's presence in the marina), so he and Mischana took on the job of washing and waxing the exterior and cleaning the stainless.  JP and Susan cleaned the interior and made yet another field revision to the bimini (maybe this time it will not come unsnapped and flap wildly when underway).  Vincent of Regis came by to hook up the new starter battery, adjust the depth sounder for the difference between the waterline and the transponder, and "trick" the autopilot into letting us recalibrate the compass angle.  We also replenished our protein, fruits-and-veggies, and flip flops.

On Sunday (May 11), conditions were a still a bit brisk in the marina, so we decided against the 3 mile round trip to Pigeon Island in the dinghy (with the return in the dark), and took a water taxi instead.  

the flamboyants were in bloom on Pigeon Island

We arrived about 1 pm (concert start 2 pm) and had a drink at a little cafe on the island called Jambe de Bois (wooden leg) before entering.  

 Inside, we made a round of all the booths, and emerged with some chicken wings, pork curry and rum for our lunch and, from the many tempting local crafts, coconut-shell spoons like those we had eaten with at Moses' Rastaurant on Dominica.  The festival atmosphere was a delight.

Once settled on our tarp and boat cushions, we really enjoyed the show, some of which had to be viewed through umbrellas, as the tropical wave dropped intermittent drizzles on us throughout the evening.  Highlights for us were Monty Alexander, a Jamaican jazz pianist, and the Grammy award-winning neo-soul singer-songwriter Maxwell.  
superb jazz pianist Monty Alexander through umbrellas

The Commodores were fun to see and hear, but musically had declined a bit since their prime.  
The Commodores put on quite a show

At about 11 pm we realized we were both micro-sleeping, so we staggered down to the dock and snagged a water taxi for the trip back. 

The next day (May 12), we finally untied from the dock and headed out to the Rodney Bay anchorage, lured by the possibility of swimming and the need to stop paying daily marina slip rates.  And we can still come back in the dinghy for cappuccino if withdrawal symptoms become too intense. 

An hour later, S/V Receta anchored next to us, and we had a very nice time getting back together with Ann and Steve, talking about our respective adventures. The anchorage is a great place to meet new and old friends, and we were invited to join a party on S/V Nirvana, then went to a delicious group dinner at Spice of India.

On board S/V Nirvana with Ann of S/V Receta and Jack of
M/V Tusen Takk

13 May 2014

Martinique East coast

After a look at the weather forecast and the calendar, we decided we had time to peek around the corner of Martinique and explore Baie des Anglais before heading on southward to St Lucia to meet Leigh.  

This anchorage is reluctantly covered in the Doyle guide, and glowingly described in a Compass article by Don Street.  It is one of 50+ East coast anchorages described in the French Guide de La Martinique by Jérôme Nouel, most of them somewhat tough to access. Since the entrance is down wind and down wave, unmarked, with plenty of reefs and "basses" (shallows), it does require some attention.  

We cleared back in to France at Anse d'Arlet on May 2 (we arrived May 1, forgetting that it is French national holiday), took on water and fuel at Le Marin on May 4, and staged to St Anne for an early departure to the East coast.  The day we chose (May 5) was fair -- winds 13-14 knots and seas around 4 feet.  

All the same, the entrance was quite imposing, with no visible channel and reefs and rocks breaking everywhere.  Following Doyle's and Nouet's instructions, we got as far as the inner bar, where we began registering depths of less than 4 feet.  Panic (our draft is about 5.5 feet) was followed by confusion (we were still moving, not stuck fast in sand or mud).  At first, we thought perhaps the sounder was registering a layer of weeds as the bottom.  Then, it occurred to us that, with no instructions to the contrary,  the newly installed instrument was reporting the depth from the transponder in the hull, not from the waterline.  At any rate, we decided not to brave the inner coves without reliable depth measurement, so dropped anchor in about 10 feet tucked in to the West of Islet Hardy, one of a group of bird sanctuary islets that guard the outer entrance.  

Once a day-catamaran departed, only two other sailboats remained in the anchorage.  The water was turquoise, the anchorage breezy and cool (and slightly rolly due to currents), and the inner mangrove estuary (which we explored by dinghy) serene and beautiful.  It is forbidden to approach within 100 meters of Islet Hardy, but we enjoyed watching and listening to the thousands of birds who live there. 

Late next morning (May 6), we left vowing to return and went back to Le Marin to clear out and head South for our rendezvous at St Lucia.

10 May 2014

Old French lyrics, for a change

Just remembered this song which propelled singer Desireless to success in the late 80's, and is perhaps in the spirit of the blog

Au dessus des vieux volcans,
Glisse des ailes sous les tapis du vent,
Voyage, voyage,
De nuages en marécages,
De vent d'Espagne en pluie d'équateur,
Voyage, voyage,
Vole dans les hauteurs
Au dessus des capitales,
Des idées fatales,
Regarde l'océan...

Voyage, voyage
Plus loin que la nuit et le jour, 
Dans l'espace inoui de l'amour.
Voyage, voyage
Sur l'eau sacrée d'un fleuve indien, 
Et jamais ne reviens.

Sur le Gange ou l'Amazone,
Chez les blacks, chez les sikhs, chez les jaunes,
Voyage, voyage
Dans tout le royaume.
Sur les dunes du Sahara,
Des iles Fidji au Fujiyama,
Voyage, voyage,
Ne t'arrêtes pas.
Au dessus des barbelés,
Des coeurs bombardés,
Regarde l'océan.

Voyage, voyage
Plus loin que la nuit et le jour, .....

Au dessus des capitales,
Des idées fatales,
Regarde l'océan.

And for a rough translation

Above extinct volcanoes, Slide your wings under the curtain of wind
Explore, Explore, Forever
From clouds to marshes,
From Spanish wind to tropical rain, Explore Explore
Fly high, Above capitals, Above deadly ideas
Watch the ocean

Explore Explore, Beyond night and day
The unbelievable space of love
On the sacred waters of Indian rivers, Explore
And never come back

On Ganges or Amazonas, By the Blacks, the Sikhs, the Asians
Explore Explore
Throughout the kingdom, On Saharian dunes, From Fidji to Fuji Yama
Explore Explore, Never stop
Above barbed wire, And blasted hearts
Watch the ocean

1987 by Jean-Michel Rivat and Dominique Dubois, album Francois by Desireless, dedicated to Gopala

Batalie and Syndicate

Roseau to Batali 26 April 2014

We spent Saturday visiting the Roseau market, the best we have seen so far in the Caribbean. The choice of tropical fruits and vegetables is wonderful. 

On Sunday (April 27), we sailed / motored to Batalie Beach, 17 miles to the north, a small bay with three or four moorings in deep water, a dinghy dock, a dive shop, an hotel, Sunset Bay and the best (!) Belgian Restaurant in Dominica, the Lobster Palace.

The whole is owned and operated by a genial Belgian couple. 
With a steady local following and many med students, the restaurant gives full credit to its name. The grilled lobster with garlic sauce nearly defeated us. 
The owner gave us a yachtie discount and brought us a big bag of papayas, mangoes and grapefruits, together with our digestif, a citrus infused rum reminiscent of limoncello.  

Enjoying such hospitality, we spent 3 relaxed days, returning each evening to explore the menu further...

Meanwhile, fishermen were seining ballyhoos nearby, and JP rowed out to get some (half a bucket for 2 beers, although the fishermen wanted to give them away) 
Half an hour of cleaning later, voila, la petite friture. If this starts sounding like a food blog, you should see our real food blog....

Seining for ballyhoo

We arranged an excursion with "Doctor Birdie" who specializes in ornithology excursions and is real knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of Dominica (and many other places). He is a fun guy who real enjoys nature and touring, and takes his vacations birdsighting in the Galapagos, South America, Alaska...

We set off in the early afternoon for the area called the Syndicate, an old orange plantation long converted to small farms and to national park, which has reverted to secondary growth forest.

Our first stop was Syndicate Falls, a short half an hour walk from the end of the agricultural road.

Armed with binoculars, the walk let us observe a dozen different birds plus the endemic gecko whilst getting upriver.

We also enjoyed getting to know better the vegetation, including the many different ferns, arborescent or otherwise.

Then, with a bird scope, we went into the national park to see the Dominica endemic parrots, the Redneck Amazon Parrot (no cars on blocks in front of his tree) and the national bird and flag emblem of Dominica, the Sisserou (population about 600) or Imperial Amazon Parrot. The Redneck obliged in several spots, but the Imperials we sighted hid behind the trees, half a mile away across a valley. 

We returned to Batali at night and prepared to move back to Roseau on April 30 to clear customs and make our way to Martinique.