Paul Huntley
Thu 19 Mar 2009 21:48

15:17N 61:23W

19th March 2009, Roseau ,Dominica in the Leeward Islands.


Just arrived in Roseau the capital of Dominica. After a fantastic sail from St Pierre in Martinique, the Caribs called the island Madinina-the island of flowers. We departed from Anse Mitan to Fort De France on Tuesday morning and dropped anchor just an hour later in the Baie Fort De France the capital of Martinique. This busy city came as a shock with a great deal of traffic and hundreds of people bustling around the quayside bus station and ferry port. I went off to find the customs and the crew went exploring in town. The customs house had been demolished and relocated in a chandlers around the corner, you have to ring the door bell to gain admission, I was introduced to a desk and computer and told to complete the on screen form, get it stamped at the counter and that was all that was required, after so many clearances in and out of different islands with bureaucratic forms to fill in quadruplicate, this was a joy, five minutes and all done, it did take an hour to find the shop!!

Meeting up with the crew we wandered around the town before exhaustion and fatigue won the day and we found a shady bar in a small square for the first beer of the day. Next to us was a very old round-about, it stood motionless but soon the various prancing horses and vehicles started to resonate with the sound of children in anticipation of the ride to come. I noticed the Caller started the roundabout off with an burst of energy rarely seen it the Caribbean, as it gained momentum so did he this was a one man power galloper, faster and faster until he could no longer keep pace he leapt exhausted on to the ride gasping for breath. In the centre of the ride three musicians started playing traditional Caribbean/Creole music. Rhum with a twist of French. The ride and music continued for some minutes only slowing when caller and band all ran out of puff.

With a new port beckoning we reluctantly left this colourful Capital of Martinique and set sail on a good easterly trade wind of 15/25 knots bound for St Pierre on the North West coast. This small town had been the provincial capital known as the Paris of the Caribbean, until a devastating earthquake on the 8th May 1902 Assention Day, Mount Pelee had given warning but the local land owners and estate managers persuaded the population that there was nothing to fear, how wrong they were, On this fateful Sunday in May the the side of the mountain was seen to glow red and erupted at 08:30 killing an estimated 30,000 people and obliterating St Pierre.

There were two known survivors, one a cobbler working in his cellar and the other a convicted murderer in his prison cell,

The anchorage is calm and has a very steep shelving beach so it is necessary to sail in close to the shore to find anchoring depth. Sarah decided to stay aboard but Tim, Ewan and I went ashore to collect some urgent shopping and sus out the local hostelry.

We returned to Libertad for a cooling swim to check the anchor was set in the volcanic sand and play with the newly acquired tennis ball and frisby.As darkness fell I lit the bar B Q on the pushpit while Ewan prepared the home made beef burgers and sausages to accompany the potato and green salad prepared by Sarah whist we were ashore, a good team effort and a fantastic meal, eat your heart out Ronald Mac Donald, ours were much better.

I always find it hard to sleep at anchor with several visits to the cockpit to ensure we are not dragging; this was no exception despite a sleeping draft of several rhum punches. I hear some of the crew stirring at 06:30 and climb out of my bunk in search of the morning cuppa.

A post breakfast swim sets the mood for the day, we set the main and weigh anchor setting a course due north once again with a stiffening easterly wind on the starboard beam. Setting the genoa we gather speed to over seven knots and turn off the engine to enjoy the sounds of the bow wave and wake.

 We had a boisterous sail once we cleared the lee of Martinique and settled in to the Atlantic swell of 2/3 mts once in open water. The crew all found relief by selecting a bunk and sleeping the whole way, I enjoyed sailing Libertad in these perfect conditions dodging the occasional small fishing boat. We arrived at Roseau the capital of Dominica ahead of schedule and were greeted by a boat boy who showed us to a mooring.

Lunch on board over Sarah and I went ashore to clear customs and immigration leaving the lad to clean the boat from stem to stern. The Dutch cruise liner Zaandam from Rotterdam was in port disgorging it thousands of passengers on to the quayside to purchase the obligatory T shirt or other memento of their island visit. We returned to Libertad having been relieved of some more dollars in exchange for a variety of clearance papers to be presented at our next port of call.

We hope to have a day ashore tomorrow and visit the Victoria Falls, no not the one in Africa, and hike up in to the rain forest with a local guide. I will report on the next blog as to how we got on.

Best wishes to all my blog readers Paul.