Island Hopping. St Lucian makeover

Thu 1 Feb 2007 02:14
Tuesday night the 16th as I write, been on my own now since Friday 12th.
Slowly plodding through the list of jobs, feeling totally apathetic after
all that has gone on. Replaced the broken hinges on the saloon table with
some smart new stainless ones. Had a major tidy up of the cockpit lockers,
sorted out the tangle of rigging and flag halyards. Tried and failed to make
some sense out of all the post Atlantic crossing junk up in the forepeak,
reckon I will have to jettison a lot of that as no longer required.
Clothes, pillows, bedding, sails, all crammed in as only someone as sloppy as
me can cram. Have decided to go for the varnished finish to the woodwork
around the boat after seeing the results obtained in this hot weather. A
small army of people are busy maintaining the boats left here after the Arc
and doing a great job. I have had a quote for the work and they are starting
tomorrow, Wed. Must try to keep busy and make best use of the time
alongside, engine maintenance tomorrow. I am seriously considering leaving
the boat here for six months after I return to the UK May/June. After the
long haul to get her here it seems pointless to rush her back to the cold
water up north. There is almost endless wonderful cruising to be enjoyed
here. Anyway, doing sums with that in mind.
Friday 19th. Jan 07.    Work rubbing down in preparation for varnishing going ahead apace and looking very good already Bit of a disruption to the daily routine but the activity around the boat has jerked me out of the previous lethargy so the job list is dwindling rapidly. The plan to sail south again is starting to crystallise in my mind and I find myself making plans, based on the previous experience down south, for departure in about a week. Must take security more seriously, a couple I met on the dock were upset as their dinghy was stolen in Wallilabou, one of our previous stopoffs in St. Vincent. Travelling alone may also present problems but we will see.
   Monday 22nd. Work on the varnishing has been going well. 2 undercoats and two top coats done so far, the boat is looking much better, it even feels better, bit like your car does after a polish. Getting a bit restless here now and anxious to be off, only a couple more days. I have been helping to move some boats around due to shortage of crew.
   Wednesday 24.  Major change of plan. Another much larger ARC boat is looking for more crew for a trip to the northern islands and I have jumped at the chance to join. I feel a bit bad abandoning Thisbe here in St Lucia but it will only be for a while. Bit daft to miss the opportunity of a trip in a new 50 footer, all mod cons, showers, watermaker, all nav by swanky chartplotter etc etc. Martinique first stop. Spent the night in a nice anchorage near Pigeon Island and set off north Thursday morning, spanking along at 7 to 8 knots, effortlessly ploughing through the big waves between St Lucia and the south end of Martinique. Anchored in a little creek of the bay of Fort de France which is huge. The volcano which devastated the island in 1901 is visible with its cloud topping in the distance. The creek is near a little town called Trois Islet, very smart and busy little town with a definite Creole feel, the people have a different look about them, generally a bit lighter and kind of more arty, very interesting. Plan was to stay here for a couple of nights then make our way up the island.  Stayed for three nights in the end and then set off  to another anchorage, St Pierre. The city is right at the foot of Mount Pele, the volcano  I mentioned earlier which last erupted in 1902, resulting in the death of 26000 people and completely destroying a very elegant city, once known as the Paris of the Caribbean. The new town, not a patch on the old of course, is built among the burnt remains of some of the old walls, a very busy and roly anchorage, but it  is the last decent place to stop before the jumping off for a 55 miler to Dominica. Most people like to stay overnight there and then make the trip in a day, arriving in daylight. We explored St. Pierre and sailed over to Dominica Monday 29th, arriving at Prince Rupert bay at the north end of the island in the afternoon. A bit exposed to a fresh N/E wind but a pleasant enough harbour.  The usual ramshackle town sprawling along the seafront, the rusting hulks of half a dozen small ships hard up against the town where they have been laying since a hurricane blew through sometime during the last five years. The trip up the Indian River is a must for visitors, a brackish small river winding among the mangroves, well used so looking a little muddy and tired. Engines of any kind are not allowed in an effort to preserve what remains of an interesting swampscape. Small boats, mostly crowded with American tourists off  the cruise ships anchored in the bay and done up to Dixie in huge lifejackets,
are rowed up and down the three quarters of a mile stretch of four foot deep water by the locals, and given a commentary on the flora and fauna growing along the banks. Coconuts from the trees, which make up the most of the growth, are laying all around, sprouting where they lay, adding to the impenetrable feel of the surroundings.
After a short walk along a well trodden trail and a coconut drink climbed for by one of the guides, (apparently if they fall they are too far gone to be palatable) We returned to the start and made arrangements to go up a local mountain by minibus in the afternoon. At nearly 5000 feet it was a welcome change to the heat lower down. The rainforest at the top was wonderfully cool and interesting, huge trees growing up straight as arrows from strange, webbed, above ground root systems.  The trees,  many of which had strange plants clinging to their trunks, were spread densely all over the mountain and adjacent peaks. Still surviving we were told due to it being uneconomic to log them. Before returning to sea level we visited a very dramatic 200 foot waterfall, a good day out.
The following day we did the three hour sail across the rough gap to Les Saites, a group of islands off the southern tip of Guadeloupe. On the way we caught a fish, a two to three pound tuna, the first catch after dragging, and losing, lures for over 5000 sea miles.