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22 February 2015

Carnival and a full house in Portsmouth

February 16 - arrival in Prince Rupert

Another hop north along the coast of Dominica led us to Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica's main yachting anchorage. Already from miles away, the bay looked much more crowded than last year, with a five-master and a four-master cruise ships, a large motor yacht and many many sailboats of all sizes. We were surprised not to be met by the boatboys, but it soon became apparent that all the moorings were taken and they were quite busy ferrying the superyacht guests and crews (and being ordered around by the bossy female captain of M/V Sp****** Lady).

Knowing the poor anchor holding at the north of the bay, and seeing the seething mass of vessels crowded there, we moved two miles to the south of the bay at the mouth of the Picard river where we could put out a lot of chain and ride comfortably. We were not disappointed; when the next squall hit the radio was alive with vessels adrift, dragging their anchor through the crowd. Meanwhile we enjoyed quiet and beautiful sunsets.

We dragged our laundry and empty propane tank to town, only to discover that everything (including most bars and restaurants) was closed for Carnival. We threw back everything in the dinghy and went to watch the parade. It is done on a modest scale, 3 dogs to open, a group of dancing schoolgirls, the sound truck, the population of the village walking behind, and the "wilderness men" carrying vegetation and fruit to close. 

Quiet harbors of Dominica

We left Roseau in search of less rolly anchorages, and as we motorsailed north along the coast, we noticed an anchorage in the sailing guide near the little village of Mero, by the ruins of the Castaways hotel. We could not pass this up since the guide promised the best fruit juices of Dominica. 

We anchored Raconteur and took the dinghy ashore (there is no dock there) and a large wave deposited us a bit wet on the black sand beach just in front of Augustus Mason's fruit juice stand. We enjoyed his delicious fresh-made smoothies of papaya, banana, pineapple, grapefruit and orange, first as is and later before dinner, enriched with local "bush rum" (don't ask).

We took a walk through the village, very quiet, few yachts stop there and we were alone in the anchorage. Susan did a variant of geocaching (you have to answer questions about the locale and send a selfie).

Dinner was at Romance Cafe, a surprising and really good lamb Provencale.  

The next morning, we moved just three miles north, to Batali Beach and the best (and only) Belgian restaurant / hotel of Dominica, Sunset Beach Club.

A single portion of grilled lobster
Roger and Marcella are as welcoming as ever, and were doing land office business between Valentine's Day and a very active weekend crowd, both on yachts and from the nearby medical school.
We spent two nights moored there, absorbing many tasty calories and losing some of them at the pool and by snorkeling along the nearby cliffs.

14 February 2015

South winds and the spinnaker

February 9 - farewell St-Anne

The weather improved, and we did jump off the transom.  Every sundowner on Raconteur is great, but the ones at St-Anne are special, with a view of Diamond Rock and the sailboats coming in and out of St-Anne and Le Marin.

On Monday, we tore ourselves away - we had been promising ourselves a visit to Anse Noire, a small black sand harbor on the West coast of Martinique, where the snorkeling is said to be superb.

Once past Diamond Rock and the southwest corner of Martinique, we had a sweet 2-hour sail northward along the coast.  Anse Noire was lovely, but very small,  with variable depths and lots of fish pots.  There was only one other boat anchored there, but we could not find a comfortable spot.  In the end, we motored back south about 45 minutes to Petite Anse d'Arlet, a charming village that also has a customs station and several restaurants.  We found a spot to drop the hook in Anse Chaudière and made fish chowder with our homemade (boatmade!) lobster broth and the rest of our mahi-mahi.  So good.

February 10 - Petite Anse d'Arlet

The next day we had a almost-superb snorkel just off our anchorage, and a lovely French island lunch starting with ti punches at Le Littoral.  It turned out the customs office was closed Tuesday afternoon, so we developed a plan to check out quickly Wednesday morning and jump off for Dominica to take advantage of rare forecasted south winds.

February 11 - fair winds and following seas - up to a point

We raised the spinnaker twice on the way to Dominica (making this the second and third times in our entire Caribbean adventure so far).  We are not as good at this as a racing crew, but it is so worth it when that sail breaks out. 

We made fabulous time until the last 2 hours when the wind slacked, and current and swells fought us the last few miles to the Dominica coast.  We picked up a mooring at Seacat's area off Roseau, the capital of Dominica, and tried to settle down for the night.  Unfortunately, the south winds had created some pretty big rollers and then disappeared, leaving us at their mercy.  This was one of the rolliest evenings and nights ever, with dinner preparation more like a dance, and sleep intermittent at best.

The next morning, we dinghied and then walked to town, to clear in, visit the market (oh, those island markets) and grab some lunch in a non-rolly environment.  We stopped at the Fort Young Hotel for a daiquiri and light lunch in their charming bar area.  

Although you can't tell from the sea side, this hotel was created from an old stone fort and is impressive and unique on the land side.  We decided to move on the next day further up the coast, hoping to find calmer conditions.

08 February 2015

Geocaches, Cappucino, Indian, Pizza, Crepes, Moules et Frites and Baguettes

January 29 2015
From Marigot to Rodney Bay, it's only 10 miles along the coast and we did an easy afternoon motor-sail after enjoying our cappuccinos. We first dropped anchor very near Pigeon Island, but thought we were uncomfortably close to the reef with strong winds in the forecast, and moved to the south side of the bay, in front of the hotels.

We had ambitious objectives, including snorkeling around Pigeon Island, getting a haircut, revisiting the great Spice of India restaurant, pizza at Elena's and Susan's first geocaching adventure. The snorkeling was not to be; we kayaked all across Rodney Bay, a great exercise, but JP hit a sea urchin just as we were setting off the dock of Jambe de Bois, and also wrenched his back in the succeeding process to get back to the beach. We had to radio a water taxi and get back to the first aid kit.

We were quite undaunted on the other objectives however, and were able to accomplish them all, particularly when we understood how tiny the geocache containers were. One for Susan!

February 4 2015
A quick 30 miles across the St Lucia channel saw us just after midday in Martinique, despite a lengthy water / fuel / gasoline stop in Rodney Bay Marina. We  made our way through the various reefs of Le Marin and anchored in a very quiet spot off Pointe Cailloux reef. Time for customs check in and some CREPES! As an added bonus, we found our second geocache in an even tinier container, in the marina parking lot.  
With that under our belt, we were ready to go through our boat shopping list, which included the normal weird items, from a marine AM/FM radio to a single side band antenna cable and engine belts. 

The new bakery in the marina and Mango Bay restaurant provided the moral sustenance to deal with the Euro prices. 

One little disappointment - rhum agricole now comes in 3 liter boxes instead of  5 liters. O Tempora, O Mores! 

We completed a couple little projects too.

joys of an island market - Le Marin

February 7 A swim in Sainte Anne - what swim?

With over 1000 vessels at anchor or in the marina at any given time, Le Marin is not perfect for swimming but the mile-wide anchorage in front of Sainte Anne, 3 miles away, provides perfect clear water in a shallow 15 feet in  sand. We moved there but were greeted by constant squalls and rain on Saturday and Sunday. 

The seascape in the morning looked more like the Highlands than the tropics - oh well, soon we will be jumping off the transom again.

03 February 2015

2015 Season begins

Splash date was Thursday Jan 15, with the crew arriving the night before, but with much of the preparation work completed by Leigh and JP between Christmas and New Year. Apart from a defective bilge pump and some issues with the water filtration system all main systems worked and we were soon floating in Prickly Bay provisioning and finishing preparations.

We took delivery of some canvas from Le Phare Bleu on Tuesday the 20th and set off for Ile de Ronde, a small island north of Grenada on the way to Carriacou. We had a nice quiet evening there with 3 more sailboats joining us in this wilderness anchorage, followed by a somewhat rolly night.  We will be happy to use this as an overnight point again in reasonably settled conditions.

The next morning (the 21st) we completed the trip to Tyrell Bay in Carriacou, a very popular anchorage at this season. We anchored just behind S/V Receta and had a great time reconnecting with Ann and Steve over drinks on Raconteur and an excellent sailfish dinner (self caught) on Receta. 

We cooked our first lobster of the season.

With the trade winds in the south, it was soon time to move North.  

We departed on the 23rd to try our luck with the windward anchorage off the southeast coast of Mayreau.  This was lovely -- an easy entrance in decent light, with excellent holding and a panoramic view of the Tobago Cays, Union, and other southern Grenadines.  

The next morning (the 24th), we set off for Bequia, encountering a few squalls off Catholic Islands on the way - this is the sailor's car wash. 

We anchored off the Lower Beach of Admiralty after a fast passage. We tried our hand at fishing but only caught and released a large barracuda.

We took a long walk to windward and stopped at Firefly Plantation for a drink. Many trees were flowering on the way.

From Bequia, it is a 70 miles hop to Marigot in St Lucia, and we took the jump on January  28. We had better luck fishing in the passage, catching a five pound mahi-mahi. We were greeted by a pod of dolphins at the Pitons, feasting on the flying fish we were scaring up with our bow.