Dominica, The Saints, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Montserrat

Beer of the moment: Kubuli (Dominica), Corsaire, 1664 (Guadeloupe), Wadadli (Antigua)

Sunday 1st February

We decided to make a day excursion with "Sea Cat" to see a bit more of the island of Dominica. It was quite expensive at $100 US but would have seemed cheaper if we had a bigger group going.

Our first stop was at the market beside the ferry terminal in Roseau. Sea Cat picked up a "drinking coconut" and had the top sliced off with a machete. It seemed like hundreds of people were doing the same. There is a lot of sweet juice in these coconuts but the flesh is thinner, softer and more rubbery than the coconut we are used to seeing. Locals drink the coconut and then scoop out and eat the flesh.

Picking up fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices was to be a big feature of the trip. Sea Cat would regularly stop the van, rush into the vegetation and come back with something or other that we had to guess what it was by tasting or smelling it. It turns out that Dominica used to have a healthy export industry for all kinds of fruit and produce - they even used to have a "Roses Lime Juice" factory on the island - but that business has been wiped out by cheaper competition from places like Puerto Rico.

Some of the stuff was fairly easy to identify like Grapefruit and Mango but we had lots of fun and games working out things like Passion fruit, Oregano, Basil, Ginger, Bay Leaves, Nutmeg, Mint and others. Perhaps the biggest surprise was coffee, which looks like little white beans until they are roasted and Cocoa which looked like a bit of spinal column shoved into a star shaped pepper. You can suck the soft outer flesh of the bean - its got a sweet pleasant taste but looks disgusting.

The tour took us through the rainforest to see some hot sulphur springs, where very hot smelly water and steam gushes out of the ground and to the Trafalgar waterfalls. The waterfalls were pretty spectacular as it had been raining quite a bit over the last few days. The water was pretty chilly in the pool at the bottom and the water force was too great to get directly under the falls - although we did venture in for a swim. It was like swimming in a bath of ice-cold water with a fire hose drenching you. Sounds dreadful but left you feeling so refreshed. It didn't stop Sea Cat though ! He managed to get under the falls climbed up a ledge about 10 feet up and started yelling and singing at the top of his voice before he dived in the pool. A nutter :) in the nicest sense of the word. On the way back we lazed in a hot spring to warm up - bliss.. 

We also checked out the rainforest, botanical gardens complete with parrots and the view from up high over the town. Dominica is a really beautiful island and we had a great day out made all the better by our entertaining guide.

Sea Cat

Sea Cat

We later spoke to Steve and Karen who had gone on their own to the "boiling lake" by bus and picked up a local guide for the three hour hike each way. They said it was great but they really needed the guide as the hike was tricky in places. They were both sore for days after so the hike must have been fairly arduous.

Monday 2nd

We sailed up the coast of Dominica to Portsmouth in Prince Rupert Bay. It was a lovely sail and for much of the way we had some pretty big fish jumping out of the water around the boat. I need to get into fishing.

The bay was lovely and wide with a long sandy beach. We had a good anchorage with lots of space just off the Coconut Beach hotel. There were the wrecks of four ships in the bay, seemingly parked right on the beach in front of the town. We had heard some bad reports of theft and hassle from the boat boys so reluctantly we stayed on the boat and didn't go ashore.

Tuesday 3rd

We had a fast reach the 16 miles to The Saints. A small group of islands south of Guadeloupe and the scene of a famous naval battle between Britain and France in 1782.

The Saints are beautiful, picturesque and very French. In fact there are very few black Caribbean people on the islands because they never had any plantations here - which makes it feel a bit odd.  The other amazing thing about the islands is that they have literally hundreds of mopeds. More mopeds than people even. The hire shops clutter every street. Its a favourite day trip stop for visitors from nearby Guadeloupe.

Wednesday 4th

We made the trek up to Fort Napoleon overlooking Bourg des Saintes. It was hard work in the heat, maybe we should have got one of those mopeds :)

The fort was built in 1867 and has a great view over the Saints and to Guadeloupe. It houses a museum which tells the story of the naval battle where Admiral Rodney inflicted a decisive defeat on De Grasse. 

The outer walls of the fort are overrun with iguanas. They are sometimes a metre in length and quite fearless of tourists.

Iguana

Thursday 5th - Friday 20th

The anchorage had become quite rolly and a large ferry wanted us to move so that they could land some equipment on the shore so we set sail for Guadeloupe. The wind was around 30kots on the nose and the seas quite steep so we motor sailed all the way to Pointe a Pitre. This turned out to be a problem because we must have stirred up a lot of sediment in the diesel tank and by the time we arrived our recently cleaned fuel filters were very dirty again.

We anchored off a dry dock facility just up from the main marina. The holding was good and fairly protected but we did get a lot of wash from ferries and cruise ships. The marina could have been anywhere in France, there was very little Caribbean about it. Functional as opposed to pretty. 

We were lucky to move when we did. When Trade Secret arrived the day after they reported conditions were much worse. And so it proved, lots of wind and rain but at least we were protected from the big seas in the anchorage.

One thing that really impressed us was the friendliness of the local people. On Sunday we decided to hire a car to visit the 350ft waterfalls in the south of the island and to get some shopping at the local Carrefour. The hire shop was closed at the marina and Karen asked a local man if there was a bus or taxi nearby that could take us to the hire shops at the airport. He gave us his car to get to the airport ! He didn't even know our names and wouldn't accept any payment for the petrol. We kept thinking there must be a catch but there wasn't. 

We took the hire car to the Corbet waterfalls. We followed the signs for the 3rd waterfall but when we got there we found it was several hours hike from the car park. Karen, who speaks fluent French, asked at a local restaurant, which was closed, if there was an easier way and if there was anywhere we could have lunch. We were told that everywhere locally would be closed on Sunday but she invited us to have lunch with her family on their patio. We had a fantastic meal at a very reasonable price. It was great 'being part' of a local family for a few hours.

Corbett Falls  

We then took the drive up to the 2nd falls. From the car park a lovely trail through the rain forest takes you to the falls which are just incredible. Close by are some really hot springs. 

We met up with a group of sailors who were working their way south, they were holed up in Deshailes at the other side of the island and could testify to the poor weather conditions. They were snorkelling on their anchor every few hours.

Steve and Karen had to head south again to meet some visitors in St Lucia when the weather improved. We were sad to see them go as they had been great company and we had enjoyed many nights of hospitality on their boat (and them on ours) - plus had had a great French meal out with them and impromptu pizza ashore during a massive downpour.

Although we were by now fairly tired of Guadeloupe having been here much longer than planned, we decided to stay on to get the antifouling renewed on the boat. Cedric Lemaire came up with a better price than Antigua or the BVIs so we opted for two days in his dry dock.

Getting into the floating dry dock was a worry because it was only 30ft wide ( we are 23 feet), but it all worked out fine. The bottom of the boat was in a real mess, which is really poor performance from the 7 month old Boero Mistral 633 paint which was on it. We have opted for International Micron 55 which the yard claimed should be better.

While the yard cleaned and painted the boat Allan was planning to change the outdrive oil and anodes and sort out the fuel filters. First problem was that the standard anodes don't fit if you have ropecutters fitted, arggg!!, luckily the yard was able to mill down the extra metal on the anodes to fit.

Having fitted the anodes and replaced the oil. Cedric asked if we were not going to change the outdrive oil seals. He does this routinely ever year for his charter boat customers. So the oil had to come out again and Allan took the legs to pieces. The yard helped get the seals out but then muggins put the new ones in the wrong way round. Luckily he realised this before the boat was back in the water, so there was time to take things apart, again, and do it right.

Valentines night saw us at a local pizza restaurant. Pizza was great but it must have taken 3 hours to get served. We went in at 8.00 and didn't eat our main course until 10.30 by which time we were a bit past it.

We also met up with Matt and Susie Thompson, two Canadians from their boat called Audax who Allan had briefly met in Tenerife. They kindly invited us on board for drinks and we ended up staying for dinner. It was great to exchange tales of our adventures so far. Hopefully we will see them again as we head North.

In the marina we also met another Belize owner, Kevin and Amber on Sailor Vie. He crossed the Atlantic last year and they had been working their way south, having been in the Bahamas. They had air conditioning on their boat - nice. They had had their oil seals fail on them and a prop fall off so had to be hauled twice in a couple of weeks - expensive!. Hopefully ours are back on tight enough. We owe them a few beers if we see them again. 

Saturday 21st

We got up at 4am to sail up the River Salee which bisects Guadeloupe and takes a day or two off the trip up to Antigua. The reason you need to get up early is that there are two bridges over the river which only open at 5am each day.

The river is only 6ft deep in places and is fringed by mangroves. It looks like a bit of the Norfolk Broads in some spots.

When we moored south of the bridge we though there might only be a couple of boats making the trip but when we woke we found that about 15 boats were making the northbound trip. It all started well enough, we were last in line, when a catamaran two boats in front of us firstly ran aground then on getting going hit one of the bridges, very hard. We were not going to make the same mistake.

We decided to press on to English Harbour in Antigua rather than stay overnight in Guadeloupe - and to avoid the bugs which were eating us alive. And what a beautiful sail it was. With a clean bottom we managed to make 8 knots all the way.

English harbour was beautiful and full of yachts so we opted for an anchorage in Falmouth just around the corner.

Bev had been to Antigua before and raved about the place. Allan was immediately captivated too. Its a great island.

Sunday 22nd

We took a taxi up to the famous Shirley Heights Sunday night party. Its held at a great venue on top of a hill overlooking English Harbour and the south of the island. They had a couple of great local bands, a bbq and plenty of rum punch. Party starts at sunset and goes on until late. Fantastic.

Shirley Heights

Monday 23rd

The anchorage was really busy so we had to take the boat over and tie up just across from the historic Nelsons Dockyard - which was no hardship really. We arranged for Richard from Total Fabrication to make up a couple of stainless plates we wanted. Richard is an English sailor who arrived in Antigua 6 or 7 years back and decided to stay on. Well you would with a beautiful island, fantastic weather and personal taxes at about 13% !!

Nelsons Dockyard

Tuesday - Friday 27th

Time has just flown and what an excellent place. The food shopping is excellent so we stocked up with plenty of things we haven't seen elsewhere. 

It is also reasonably cheap to eat out so we went to Mad Mongoose and the Dry Dock two places in Falmouth. The Dry Dock has wireless laptops for web surfing and does "dinner movies" where you eat in front of a large outside film screen with full surround sound, We went to see Pirates of the Caribbean which reminded us of our time at the film set in Wallilabou and the Pitons.

They also have a great bookshop called Lord Jims Locker at the marina yacht club. We picked up a few cruising guides for the Pacific and a couple of paper charts. We definitely have to go now....

Having had our repairs done we went back to Falmouth Harbour for a couple of nights. It was full of mega yachts, including one owned by the Italian prime minister and another by John Paul Getty. It must be amazing here during the Antigua Race week.

Saturday 28th

We set sail for Montserrat, only about 30 miles to the east. In a fresh wind we made great time on the crossing, often seeing over 8knots.

Only the North portion of the island is inhabited after the Volcano erupted in 1995 and there is a two mile offshore exclusion zone around most of the south, so we anchored in Little Bay and paid the extortionate $135 EC (about £27) customs clearance fee.  

We were anchored next to a German charter boat, the only yacht in the bay. Some local guys passed in a fishing boat and were most amused by the Germans nudity - they really laughed and cheered loudly. 

Allan met Sam Sword, a taxi driver who had been recommended to us by a Belgian couple so we arranged a tour of the disaster area for the next day.

Sunday 29th - Yes it's a leap Year !

We got up early for our tour of the island. Sam took us down to near the old capital Plymouth, through the rainforest. Devastation is a word Sam uses a lot but in this case its totally justified. You can't get all the way into Plymouth, its still too dangerous - there was another eruption just 6 months ago. The houses look perfect but as you get closer to some in the suburbs you see that most are just ruins. Covered in ash and rotten by acid rain and lack of maintenance. The big beneficiaries seem to be pigs. They are roaming all over the place and have taken up residence in peoples garages and use once lovely swimming pools as water troughs.

As close as its safe to get. You can see where the side of the mountain blew out and part of the devastated former capital of the Island.

Volcano at Montserrat

The houses were amongst some of the prettiest we have seen, its all such a shame. Since the eruption more than half the population of 11,000 have left, many to the UK as Montserrat is still a British Dependency. The locals we met are all pretty philosophical and friendly. They are gradually reclaiming their island but it may be a long time before they can rebuild in Plymouth. Apparently there was a minor eruption in September 2003 which caused them to extend the danger zone once again.

All too quickly it was time to move on again and a brisk 30 mile sail to the North West sees us anchored off Charlestown in Nevis.

 

© Copyright Allan & Bev Dornan 2016