Monday, May 22, 2006

Farther down island

May 16, 2006   Tuesday        Little Bay, Montserrat
16.48.215N                             total traveled 34.3 NM

Finally were able to sail today.  Until today, the wind has been almost on our nose and we have had to motor sail, which we do not enjoy.  The movement of the boat is different when sailing than when motoring.  Plus sailing is quieter and you don’t have the diesel smell from the engine exhaust.  Sailing is much, much nicer.

Before we tell you about Montserrat, there was something that we forgot to mention earlier in our trip.  When we were in Leverick Bay on Virgin Gorda, we had the opportunity to meet Sal and Janet Manuccia.  They own a Moorings boat and had anchored behind us.  Judy has had email correspondence with Sal over the past few years on one of the internet email sailing lists, so it was a pleasure to finally meet him and Janet.  They brought a bottle of lovely wine to toast our new boat.  Thanks again, Sal & Janet.

We wanted to visit Montserrat because we had been here about 20 years ago.  Those of you reading this travelogue who have visited our old home might have seen a photo of Bill standing beneath a waterfall.  The photo was in the hall bathroom.  That waterfall was at the end of a rainforest that we hiked through back in 1986.  The Mt. Soufriere volcano on the southern end of the island erupted in 1995, then again in 1997, 2003 and 2004.  The volcano is still active and constantly spews ash that drifts westward for miles in the prevailing trade winds.   For this reason, sailors must either pass Montserrat at least 10 miles to the west or they must pass on the eastern side.  We will pass on the eastern (Atlantic) side.  Bill spoke with another cruiser in St. Kitts who had passed Montserrat at the 10 mile limit on the western side, and he said that their boat was still coated with the fine ash everywhere.  It even finds its way inside sealed hatches and ports which are waterproof.

The initial eruption covered the main city on the island, Plymouth.  The population of the island was approximately 12,000, most of whom resided in Plymouth.  The residents fled to the northern end of the island, and are in the process of building commercial and residential structures where none previously existed.  The total island population dwindled to only 3,000 but has now increased back up to 5,000.  We are not sure that the island will be able to sustain itself in its current condition. 

Montserrat used to have a thriving tourist industry, a Sea Island Cotton production facility, and a recording facility.  The song by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder entitled “Ebony and Ivory” was mixed at the recording studio in Montserrat.  McCartney did his recording in London and Stevie did his recording in LA, and both recordings were mixed at the studio in Montserrat

We did our part for the local economy.  We took a taxi tour of the island – at a cost of $100 US, which was a steep price in our opinions.  But the taxi driver was parked down at the immigration office waiting for any boat that might arrive and doing his best to get our business, so we felt that he should get rewarded for his efforts to work.  Far better than the younger guys who were just sitting on the sides of the road.  At least this taxi driver was trying to earn a living.  Hard to do when there aren’t any businesses on the island and virtually no tourists.  We were one of only four boats visiting the island.

The taxi tour took us well into the exclusion zone, fairly close to the volcano.  Bill took a lot of photos but who knows how well they will download.  It was amazing to see Plymouth under about 20 feet of volcanic ash.  Only the roofs of most buildings were visible. 

Paul McCartney still has a home on the island.  Seems like with all his money and connections that he could get some interest back in the UK to establish some form of industry on the northern end of the island.  If something isn’t done, the island will have an extremely difficult economic recovery.  Very sad to see the condition in which the people are living; especially when we remember when it was so vibrant.

We mailed a post card from the Volcano Observatory to Zachary.  We tried to write a message that a 5-yr-old would be able to read.  Also asked him to share the card with BeBe because we didn’t have her address with us.  Curious to see how long it takes for that postcard to reach Houston from Montserrat.

May 17, 2006     Deshaies, Guadeloupe    traveled 39.42NM

Motor sailed all day; down eastern side of Montserrat and over to the northwestern tip of Guadeloupe.  Waves 7-8 ft. and winds of 30 kts all day.  Still could not sail because wind is still on our nose.  Actually, we could tack back and forth and still sail; but we are on a time schedule so we are motor sailing instead.

Deshaies is a lovely French fishing village.  Almost no one speaks a word of English.  We were able to clear customs; which was extremely lucky for us because the customs office is only open one hour per weekday and they don’t tell anyone which hour that will be each day.  We also found an ATM and obtained some Euros.  Found a “supermarket” and bought some fresh locally grown produce, yogurt and a few bottles of great Bordeaux

Judy wanted some club soda, but we couldn’t find any.  Bill did find something that looked like it was club soda; but it turned out to be a strong mint flavored club soda type beverage ----- NASTY STUFF!!!  Cannot believe there is a market for this crap.  So Bill made another dinghy trip back to the town and found some Perrier.  That is the closest thing we can find to club soda.  Judy is finding it difficult to adjust to the taste of the desalinated water.  Bill is drinking it with no problem; but Judy just can’t seem to force it down except a sip at a time even with the secondary drinking water filter that we installed, so she is becoming dehydrated.  We need to find some old-fashioned Kool Aid.  That should mask the taste enough to make it palatable.  Bill will have to buy some when he returns to Houston for work next month.  They don’t sell Kool Aid in the islands.

May 18, 2006    Thursday     Terre Den Haut, Iles des Saintes     34.62NM traveled

(Notice the decreasing trend in lat/long?  We need to get down to 10.40.000N before hurricane season for insurance purposes.)
We are anchored in our second-most-favorite place in the CaribbeanSt. Barths is our favorite; Iles des Saintes is our second favorite.  It is totally French and a beautiful, clean little place.  We haven’t been ashore yet, but the little town appears to have grown a good bit during the past 20 years.  They even have a ferry dock now, with daily tourist high-speed shuttles from Guadeloupe.

We arrived about 2:00 p.m. after motoring yet again with the wind directly on our nose.  We splashed the dinghy from its riding place under our mizzen boom; Bill cleaned the top decks and Judy is doing laundry.  We plan to stay here for 2 nights, so tomorrow we will visit the island.  Lots of artists shops and restaurants; lots of good French food.  Not sure how much of that Bill will enjoy, but Judy will be in her element.  We could rent motor scooters to get around the island, but you know that isn’t going to happen. 

Since Sunday afternoon when we sailed past Statia, we have heard the same woman on the VHF radio every half hour, all day long.  She is speaking in French, so we do not understand a word of what she is saying. 

This is what it sounds like:
“A bel a tush; a bel a tush; a bel a tush. (something, something Guadeloupe) Cosine; cosine; cosine. (something, something, croissant, something)”  ----  sometimes it sounds like “coside” instead of cosine.

It sounds for all the world like she is saying “beautiful butt, beautiful butt, beautiful butt.  Come to Guadeloupe.  Angles, angles, angles.  Come to the café and eat a croissant.”

Of course, she is probably saying something about an advice to mariners but we don’t understand and cannot find our French-English translation book.  It is on the boat somewhere, but neither of us remembers where.

BTW, when Judy asked a clerk in a store yesterday in Guadeloupe where to find an ATM, the clerk looked Judy straight in the eye and said in plain English: “Madame, you must speak French.”  If you don’t speak French around here, you are just on your own.  We have managed with everything so far, except for that woman on the VHF radio. 

If anyone reading this has any idea what she is saying, please leave us a message on our message board.  Hopefully we will find internet access in Martinique next week and will upload the logs.  Back to the laundry for now.

May 19, 2006   Friday             Les Saintes

Stayed another night at Les Saintes.  Just a beautiful place; patterned after Brittany, France.  We went to Sole Mio for lunch; Judy had a fabulous smoked fish salad.  It was paper thin slices of smoked wahoo, tuna and kingfish; and was served with a tiny dish of some sort of herbed cream.  Cream on fish sounds rather odd, but it was delicious, especially the wahoo. 

We went to Eduoard’s La Saladeria for dinner, which had a beautiful view of the bay.  We had some sort of grilled fish.  The proprietor spoke English but she did not know the English word for the name of the type of fish.  She said it was the little red fish with the big eyes.  And that is exactly what we were served – little red fish with big eyes which had been seasoned with herbs and grilled whole.  For desert we shared a chocolate macaroon topped with vanilla ice cream and with a magnificent chocolate sauce over all. 

We walked around the town a bit and spent the afternoon reading the sailing guides for the next 3 islands and planned our routes.  Just before sunset a very dirty boat arrived and anchored behind us a bit.  We assume that this boat had sailed down the west side of Montserrat because she was literally covered in ash.  It doesn’t just rinse off, so that boat owner has quite a chore of scrubbing down the entire boat now.

May 20, 2006   Saturday        St. Pierre, Martinique              traveled 47.45NM

We left Les Saintes about 7:30 a.m. and arrived in St. Pierre, Martinique, about 4:00 p.m.  We had planned to stop in Dominica; but nothing about that island appealed to us, so we kept going.  The sailing guides say that the “boat boys” are really insistent in Dominica, and we did not have any EC (Eastern Caribbean currency) to tip them.  All the currency bills we have on the boat are either $100 US or $50 Euro.  Way too much to deal with a boat boy.  Plus, the anchoring is very tricky in Dominica – you must anchor stern-to and then have a boat boy take a line and tie your stern to a palm tree or a pylon.  The swell is supposed to be very bad there, so you must set your boat to be bow to the swell.  We decided it wasn’t worth the effort so we would just skip that island.

You should have heard about St. Pierre in your elementary history classes.  This is the location of Mt. Pellee, the volcano that erupted May 8, 1902, and killed about 30,000 people.  Every resident of the town was killed except one cobbler who was in his basement and one convict who was in a prison cell.  Funny, Judy always thought Mt. Pellee was in Hawaii and Bill thought it was in Italy.  It is really in Martinique.

There was a jazz festival on shore for the evening.  We ate dinner in our cockpit and enjoyed the music.  We arrived too late to attempt to clear customs today.

May 21, 2006  Sunday           Grand Anse D’Arlet, Martinique          traveled 20.1NM

NOT OUR BEST DAY!  Nothing seemed to go right today.

First, we launched the dinghy and went into town to clear customs.  We made 2 circumnavigations forced march of town of St. Pierre looking for customs.  Never found it.  They had a sign on their official office door telling visitors to look for them at the Cyber Café Escapade or at the Syndicat du Initiative near the Musee.  We walked around that town in the humid heat for 2 hours and never found customs, so decided to move on.

We decided that we would just go to the southern end of Martinique and spend the night; get an early start tomorrow for St. Lucia.  Since we were only going about 10 miles and would be in the lee of the island, we decided that it would be okay to just tow the dinghy like people do in the BVI area.  We also decided that we would try to sail instead of motoring the 10 miles.  Mistake on both parts.

By the time we gave up on being able to sail and decided to motor, we were about 10 miles out from our starting point.  The dinghy was bouncing all over the place, so Bill decided that we had to heave-to and put the dinghy on the davits.  This, in 7-ft waves.  We got the dinghy up on the davits, but then Bill didn’t like the way it was swinging so badly.  So we had to devise a way of tying it off without damaging the pontoons of the dinghy with ropes.  Finally got it done to his satisfaction, and we motored on in to spend the night at D’Arlet.

Had to make 3 attempts anchoring.  It was quite crowded and we couldn’t get where we wanted to be.   Finally did get anchored correctly, but Bill spent the whole night worrying about the anchor holding.

May 22, 2006    Monday         Soufriere, St. Lucia                 traveled 42.35NM

Left D’Arlet, Martinique, about 5:45 a.m. and arrived in Soufriere at 12:30.  Were able to sail the entire way; first time this trip that we have been able to sail an entire passage.  We were close-hauled about 2/3 of the trip and then on a beam reach for last 1/3.

When we awoke, Bill blasted our air horn 3 series of 5 blasts to awaken the people on a Moorings 4200 catamaran.  The cat was named “Bambi.”  They had lost their anchor holding and were quickly moving out to sea.  Good thing we woke up so early.   That boat had arrived fairly late last night and they were partying hard.  They had anchored next to us and Bill was further worried about our anchor; he was sure that they had anchored directly over our anchor line.   At any rate, their anchor didn’t hold and they were floating free.  We were able to pull our anchor and we left without incident.

The trip down was a great sail.  One freighter passed in front of us way too close for Judy’s comfort level; and we passed a boat towing a barge way behind it.  That was also too close for Judy’s comfort level.  Bill thinks Judy’s depth perception isn’t very good.  Judy does not like anything big and/or fast to be any where near our boat or our course.

At Soufriere, we moored behind another Amel Super Maramu, named Trade Winds from Road Harbour.  When we went in to clear customs, we were hit up by a local telling us that for a small fee he would watch our dinghy.  Bill asked him why we needed him to watch our dinghy.  He said because a few days ago some kids had put water into the gas tank of a tourist dinghy; but for a small fee he would watch and make sure no one puts water into our gas tank.  We asked the customs official what the normal amount would be to pay the local guy to not put water in our gas tank, and he just laughed.  Said that was a new one; he hadn’t heard that story before.  When we later returned to our dinghy, the customs officer was down at the dock with a policeman talking to the locals gathered around the dock area.  Apparently, the officials don’t want the locals harassing the tourists.

We haven’t found Wi-Fi in several days.  Hope to get this uploaded soon.

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