Down De Islands

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Mon 3 Jun 2013 00:43

Down De Islands


This is another long blog, so get your favourite tipple ready and settle down.........


It’s been quite an action packed month although at the outset we didn’t think it would be. As we got ready to leave Jolly Harbour we had an unexpected visit from Chris and Sharon from Quicksilver and Irene and Ray from C-Drifter who spotted us as they came into the dock. We were pleased to give them shelter from the torrential rain at that moment before they headed off to the local Rum producer at the nearby Post Office – this is the place that they do the rum run to – when they get supplies for the Tot Club in English and Falmouth Harbour......we are saving that treat for next year when we return to Antigua.


Leaving Antigua in the late afternoon we had planned a passage straight down to Dominica as we didn’t want to be caught in port with the weather against us.  The overnight sail was very reasonable and by sunrise the next morning we were off Les Saintes once more and heading towards Prince Rupert Bay and Portsmouth at the north end of Dominica.On longer passages we like to go overnight as we can then take our time and arrive with plenty of day light to sort ourselves out.  We sailed into Prince Rupert Bay at 10am and were met by Andrew who was our boat boy for our stay this time.  He showed us the way to a buoy and then expertly threaded our lines on it and handed them back to Susan to cleat off on board and within minutes was zooming Andrew across the bay to Customs and Immigration, before bringing him back again, for a very small fee. Dominica charges the least amount for using their buoys and as we knew we wouldn’t be doing much ashore at this end of the island we were pleased to avail ourselves and one and thereby put a little bit into the local economy. We now had a couple of days bobbing about, intending to do some cleaning along the water line but unfortunately when we got into the water to have a swim and then do some scrubbing we were surrounded by tiny jelly fish, only the size of a 10pence coin but packing a pretty nasty sting, needless to say we were out of the water pronto.


With the weather still with us we then day sailed down to Roseau to pick up a buoy from Sea Cat another local character.  After negotiating the rate for a couple of nights we agreed to go on a half day tour of the island, to see a waterfall of course and some hot springs...... In the morning we launched the dinghy and made our way to the dock, we were being joined by two other couples for the trip and this is what makes our life so interesting.  First of all Mr Sea Cat himself arrived and introduced himself – his name is Octavius – so he chose his business name as Octopus and from there it was a short step to becoming Sea Cat.


Octavius is a very much larger than life character who talks a mile a minute and is always ready with a smile, a laugh and information. He was also very willing to fit the day around our needs and so the first thing we had to do was to go to the FedEX office as Bert from Island Girl was anxious to pick up some medication that had been sent out.  One thing about all the various Caribbean islands is they all do things differently and in Dominica Bert found that although he had to go the FEDEx office to get the paperwork stamped he then had to go to the port to pick up the package. Needless to say before long it was all sorted out and we were off on our tour.


We made our way back through Roseau and started to head up to the mountains and almost immediately Sea Cat stopped the bus and ran to the side of the road and within a couple of minutes came back with a hand full of the local cherries for us to try....they were delicious, all the more so for being so unexpected and Andrew and Susan just looked at each other and thought this is going to be a bit like a taste of Trini – and it was indeed, amongst other things, a taste of some of the good things from Dominica. During the day Octavius stopped the bus on numerous occasions hunting out for us: cherries, cocoa beans in their pod, mango, papaya, bananas, jungle m & m’s(dried cocoa bean and sugar), laurel(bayleaf- good to keep the insects away), cinnamon, lemon grass, coffee beans, nutmeg/mace, guava, grapefruit, passion fruit and we saw avocados but they weren’t ready to eat. And this was just the foody bits.


Our first ‘proper’ stop was in Ti Tou gorge where a river comes down the mountains. Sea Cat had been warning us about how cold the water would be and whether he would join us or not. The path to the river was alongside a big water pipe, and you might not be able to tell from the photos but the pipe is made of local grown wood, with a metal section going over the river. We arrived at a pool just above the weir and 4 of us decided to get in quick before we changed our minds.  The water was refreshing but those of us used to going in Coniston Water or Lake Windemere found it very ok, cooler than the sea obviously but not freezing. We followed Octavius around a couple of bends in the strengthening current and then there was just Andrew and Susan with him making their way further up the gorge. It was very like going into a tunnel as the gorge walls almost closed above our heads with a small amount of sunlight making its way through the trees above. We couldn’t go very far up the gorge this time as there had been quite a lot of rain and the water was running fiercely in places, particularly over the first waterfall, but we certainly had a taste of it and after all the sea water we have been swimming in we found it delightfully different, no salt to wash off afterwards – great.


After getting dry and dressed we dodged the rain and made our way back to the bus, getting to know our fellow passengers a bit. Bert and Dorothy were from Island Girl and have a blog online if you want to follow their adventures; Bert is Dutch and Dorothy is from Indonesia. Jim and Janette , Canadians on board Out of Mind had a story to tell that made us feel even luckier that we already do(and again you can google this).They set sail from Canada in their boat View Finder to go across to Europe then down to the Canaries and back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Having made it all the way to the Azores they set off for Madeira only to lose their rudder on route.  Fortunately they were in contact with a fellow cruiser who rendezvoused with them and then towed View Finder most of the way to Madeira where the Portuguese navy helped them in. They had a new rudder made and installed and set off again. Then heading down to the Cape Verde islands this rudder failed and they limped into Mindelo and had another repair done. Leaving Mindelo for the Caribbean they were 600 miles out when this rudder broke too and now the drama really began.  They contacted their rescue service back in Canada who asked them to put on their Epirb on to make sure it was working and then helped arrange, through the Portuguese navy again, to be picked up by a 243 metre oil tanker.  They and their guests could only take personal items from the boat with them and once on board, View Finder was left to the ocean and not scuttled, and maybe will turn up in due course on one of the islands out here. This was in February this year by the way. Hearing the account of their transition from their boat on to the tanker, by way of a Jacobs Ladder, in what was very calm weather was pretty hairy and we were glad we didn’t have to do that. The tanker then took them to the Canaries where they sorted themselves out.  They are in the Caribbean on a (new to them) boat Out of Mind which is a stop gap until the insurance money comes through and they can get a replacement for View Finder. One of their regrets was that they did not have any suitcases or similar soft bags on board so really only took their laptops, phones, cameras and a few clothes with them, mainly due to lack of anything to put stuff in and would certainly have taken more electronics off the boat if they had had more suitable bags. Because we fly back and forth we do have bags to fill but at the end of the day if you are abandoning a boat that you live on, as opposed to holidaying on, there is so much personal stuff on board the choice of what to take would be heart breaking.  At least if you can take your computers you would end up with most of your photos but there is a lot of stuff on Andromeda with lots of memories attached and wouldn’t be the sort of thing to make it into a grab bag......hey ho, we feel even happier at the outcome of our own adventures anyway. (And at the end of this blog we have another little adventure to relate from elsewhere in the family).


Back to the trip......I bet you thought we never would get there......... well Octavius continued driving us around the Southern end of Dominica heading for the Trafalgar Falls, which are two falls very close together. There is the Father Fall and the Mother Fall. The Father Fall used to be a much bigger one before some of  its  water was taken to produce hydro electric power and in consequence the fall isn’t as spectacular and the Mother Fall is actually the bigger of the two these days.  Approaching the falls we got numerous sightings of them as we drove up the valley. Dominica is certainly full of lush, green valleys bursting with trees of all shapes and sizes, many laden with goodies to eat as we knew only too well. At the bottom of the falls is a little visitor centre with a bar and some stalls for souvenirs and after paying the small entrance fee we wandered down the path to the foot of the falls and a surprise awaited us.


After clambering down the side of the valley we reached the rocks below the falls and were told we could go into the pools there, and sliding down into them we found they were wonderfully, wonderfully warm, as they are fed from volcanic springs, and not from the falls themselves. Exploring further down we then came to one small pool that is fed both from the waterfall and the spring , so on one side it was lovely and warm and the other refreshingly cool, a natural sauna! This was delightful and we had a great time enjoying the contrast but the hot springs are so very reminiscent of a lovely bath tub these won out for Susan who enjoyed a nice soak only needing her book and a cup of tea to complete the experience for her.


Before too long we were back on our way going down the valley now on our return to Roseau and Octavius took us to the best viewpoints overlooking the city, but as usual the photos don’t quite capture it.  He also took us to some other hot springs where we could feel the heat through our shoes and see the water boiling and steam coming out of the ground as well as daubing us with some hot grey mud – which is supposedly very good for your skin, certainly was very warm anyway. We ended our tour back where we started all having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will certainly be looking up Sea Cat and his crew up when we return back this way next year. For anyone thinking of a different destination in the Caribbean, Dominica is the most lush and with its 7 volcanos, waterfalls and numerous hot springs and boiling lake, has lots to explore and is definitely worth considering.


We had a day bobbing about to recover from exertions before we slipped off the buoy at 8.30am and made our way out to sea in the light rain, heading for Bequia. We sailed across the gap to Martinique, being treated to the sight of some dolphins joining us for a short time, crossing our bow and leaping and splashing around Andromeda. St. Lucia we passed in the night and only put the engine on when we were in the lee of St. Vincent and then only until we cleared the end of the island and could sail the rest of the way to Bequia in a stiff breeze. Approaching St Vincent was a bit interesting as we could see lights ahead of us and it looked like a big cruise liner but there was no AIS information until we were about 1.7 nm miles away when suddenly it seemed to change course and then the AIS info came up telling us it was the Carnival Valour, a 958ft long, 144ft wide cruiser beastie that we were glad had now obviously seen us and which was heading for Castries(St Lucia).


 The sun came up as we approached the northern end of St. Vincent and in the early morning light we could see a huge pod of dolphins leaping in unison hunting for fish, sweeping past Andromeda and oblivious to us – well so it seemed.


We did these overnight trips for two reasons; one it was getting late in the season and we had to be in Trinidad by the beginning of June, and secondly, we were going to meet up with Josh, from Barbados, who was going to be in Grenada towards the end of May, and whom we hadn’t seen for some two years.


Bequia is a very pretty island as I am sure we have said before and we spent two days there meeting up with Wade and Diane from Joana and exploring part of Admiralty Bay we didn’t get to last time. There is now a bread delivery service – lovely warm fresh bread in the morning, and a very efficient and low cost mobile laundry service, which we took advantage of. A number of charter companies now operate there leading to an increase in prices and the number of moorings in the bay. It is by far and away the busiest of the Grenadine Islands. Leaving Bequia for Mayreau and Salt Whistle Bay, we passed a sad looking boat on the rocks that wasn’t there last year – there’s a story there.


We had a good sail to Mayreau and once again took advantage of the mooring buoys in Saltwhistle Bay and the early morning bread delivery service. It was busy when we arrived but the second day saw us almost alone, apart from two yachts at anchor with no-one on board. The sea was pleasant but the weather was iffy – cloudy, windy and wet at times. On the third day, and after two years of trying, we finally made it to the famous Tobago Cays, although it was very wet and windy for the first day there. Of the places highly recommend out here, Bequia, Saltwhistle Bay and the Tobago Cays tend to top many people’s lists, and yes we’ve now ticked them all off. We would add a few others, but that’s for another day. On the second day we took advantage of a break in the weather and some sunshine and snorkelled over to the small island that forms the turtle sanctuary and managed to see about a dozen Green Turtles grazing on the seagrass, along with several large starfish and numerous other fish. The Horse Eyed Jacks were huge and seemed to delight swimming around and around us, full of apparent curiosity – wonderful. On a short walk on the island itself we managed to see two fairly large Iguanas, very ”dinosaurish” creatures. However the weather was not particularly Caribbean – hhmmmm.


As we needed to be in Grenada to meet Josh we left the Cays for Clifton on Union Island to clear out of the Grenadines and also spent a couple of days there, but not much was open until a small cruise ship arrived off the harbour . We were however treated daily to the skill and antics of some Kite surfers from the school on the beach across from us. Watching them battle their way up the bay so that they could get a really clear run in front of Andromeda’s bow was good entertainment. There were times we were sure their kite was going to get wrapped around our mast or the mast of one of the other boats around us but each time they managed to change their direction ok. The speed with which they tanked across the sea was impressive as well and they kicked up a good wake behind themselves.  Fred from Wings said that Kite surfing was one of the things he wanted to try but was going to wait until his back was in better shape, it certainly looked quite strenuous to us.


We left Union Island early in the morning and had a good sail down past Carriacou, the Kicking Jennies, (there are two of these in the area – one is a small rocky island and the other a submerged volcano that occasionally erupts and has an exclusion zone around it) and down the east side of Grenada to Prickly Bay and we even got to clear in before they went home for the day. The day after we arrived Josh left Barbados and so sailed into Prickly Bay along with Ryan and Rebecca on a Leopard 47 catamaran, Second Chance –just after lunch on Sunday. We were interested to see how Second Chance reacted to the swell at that time– we were all over the place, but a few drinks with Josh and co.- on the flat side as Josh put it-showed us what a very stable platform a catamaran makes by comparison and it was a very interesting contrast. Having last met Josh two years ago, it was good to catch up with what has happened in Barbados since we left – and plenty has. We also managed to catch up with Paul and Cathy from Topaz who we had met in Trinidad last year, they were the ones who came and pulled us off when we ran aground as we came into the dock. Paul was also man who got Machineel poison in his eyes last year, leading to a very bizarre afternoon for Susan.


So now it was time to head south for the hurricane season and to meet our insurance requirements, so looking for a weather window we headed south and had a good overnight sail to Trinidad, speeding along at a good rate for the first part of the trip though we were very much influenced by the current which slowed us down mid-way across. Even so we arrived off the northern coast of Trinidad at first light and took our time going through the Boca to arrive at the dock at 9am after sailing over 1748 miles this season. It was the start of a four day holiday, so it there were overtime fees to pay this time Ho hum but at least we were ahead of the other half a dozen boats that followed us into the Immigration and Custom offices. Another surprise was the hail we had from Clint as we passed Idea tied up to D dock at Crews Inn Marina and who we caught up with for a brief chat, he has now moved on and is heading back across the Atlantic for the second time this year to do some regattas in Europe and we may catch up with him next year at the St. Martin regatta. He also reported that his family have all made a complete recovery from the Dengue Fever they contracted earlier this year.


And now the very big news and an interesting(!) story.......welcome to the Phil and Ruth and “Stig” saga.....hope you are still awake and with us! Or maybe time for another top up.......


We were waiting for this news before we posted this blog but had no idea what a story it would be here goes.....About three weeks before Stig(Phil and Ruth’s name for their unborn baby) was due –   and the day before Ruth’s birthday - a deer jumped out in front of their car as they were on the way home from visiting Ruth’s parents. All three, Ruth, Stig and Phil, were ok, but the car ended up needing a lot of repair work. The deer did not survive the encounter, sadly.  Ok, with time marching on, fast forward another week or so when Ruth managed to break her arm – no-one knows how it happened, but it did and a half cast was applied with the news that they wanted to put a full cast on on Stig’s due date. Phil was now a very busy man. Ruth finally went into labour and was told that Stig was the wrong way round with his back to her back, not an ideal position, and very uncomfortable for Ruth. Then shortly before the final stages of labour arrived, Ruth was told that she needed an operation on her broken arm! Are you feeling stressed yet? Eventually after some 3 days of labour, with Stig turning round at least three times, Oliver James weighed in at 8 pounds and 1 ounce at 7.30 n Friday morning, with the memorable birth date of 31.5.13 and they are both are doing very well. Ruth, our hearts and thought go out to you. Phil, boy do you have some work ahead looking after Ruth and Oliver and moving home and will be a very, very busy man. Congratulations to you both and we are looking forward to seeing two new grandchildren when we return to the UK in a few months time. Ruth’s operation was scheduled for the day after Oliver’s birth and everything went ok so hopefully the arm will soon be back to full function. Oliver, what an arrival and we are sure you will know the story off by heart very soon!


Happy Wedding Anniversary Virginia and Brian they celebrated 62 years on 23rd May.


So now we are in Trinidad and our adventures will quieten down – Susan will re-start “Net Controllering” and Andrew will probably get involved in the weather forecasts. However for now, we hope all our readers are well and there will be more in due course.


P.S. In an earlier blog we mentioned the two friendly dolphins in Les Saintes and predicted they would become a tourist attraction. And so they have. None other than Chris Doyle wrote an article on Les Saintes where he was actually in favour of the mooring buoys. However he also, very significantly, mentioned that the dolphins are a mother and daughter, known as Notched Tail and Jo Jo, and are to be looked out for. Just thought we’d throw that in. They are a very tolerant and boat friendly pair, and we can only hope this friendliness doesn’t lead to anything untoward.


P.P.S We also want to say how much we appreciate today’s technology, even though we are so far away through the magic of Face Book and Skype we have been able to keep in touch with all our friends and family and especially with the two new arrivals this year have seen photos of them very quickly, it must have been much harder years ago when you only got news if there was any post waiting for you in port.


P.P.P.S. Latest news – Ruth and Oliver are home now and confusing their cats.


P.P.P.P.S. Photos to follow


Andrew and Susan

Andromeda of Plymouth

Trinidad andTobago