June 5th: Jolly Harbour, Antigua – Deshaies, Guadeloupe
At the beginning of June, we started to watch the weather. From now on, we would be heading almost due south, so our concern was the easterly trade winds and beam seas. Although conditions weren’t perfect, we found a window for cruising the fifty miles south to Guadeloupe. Just across from us was a sailboat, Symbiosis, which was heading in the same direction. We discussed the weather, and we agreed to leave more or less together on Sunday the 5th. In order to leave at dawn, we checked out of the marina and the country, and anchored out in front of the harbor entrance. We took a last dinghy tour of the beaches south of Jolly Harbour.
We left with no wind and calm seas. The forecast called for winds of ten to fifteen knots, and seas from three to four feet. Shortly after leaving the lee of Antigua, it was obvious that this was going to be a lousy passage. The winds whipped up to twenty-five knots, and the seas were pounding our beam at six to eight feet, with a short period. The stabilizers couldn’t keep up with the rolling waves, so we had to start a tacking course, varying from the direct course by 20°. We saw Symbiosis taking a course far to our port, which I supposed was better for the wind. About halfway across the passage, Rose was on watch, and she saw what appeared to be several fish trap buoys, red and yellow. However, the depth was over 4000 feet. We then got a hail from Symbiosis, and they said they had lost a few jerry jugs off of their deck – mystery solved!
Once we got into the lee of Guadeloupe, conditions calmed considerably. We had read that the harbor at Deshaies had a lot of free moorings inside, so we were planning to take one. Once we arrived, we could see that virtually all of the moorings were occupied by local boats, so we needed to anchor. It was a little crowded near the preferred anchorage area, but we managed to get the hook set. After such a lousy passage, we were relieved to be at peace. Symbiosis arrived shortly after us, and anchored in the southern part of the bay.
Position at destination: 16°18.454’N, 61°47.860’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 53%, Water temp: 82
Nautical miles for this leg: 49.69 Total: 10,058
Departed at 6:10am, arrived at 3:15pm
June 5th – 9th: Deshaies, Guadeloupe
The bay was very scenic, surrounded by forested green hills, with a quaint French-looking town. We had read that check-in was done at a store in town. We stopped by Symbiosis (Scott and Noi), but that had already checked in. We did agree to meet in town for lunch after we checked in. We were looking for a place called Le Pelican, which we thought was a bar. It turned out to be a clothing shop, which was more of a shack than a shop. We walked right past it at first, but we eventually found it. Check in is simple in the French West Indies, done on computers in local businesses. The only trouble is the French keyboard, which has a few different keys placed on it. Most annoying is the placement of the “A” where a “Q” normally sits. We met up with Scott and Noi, found the ATM at the post office, and tried to find a place for lunch. Since it was after 1:00, several places told us they were closed, or out of fish. We eventually found a place that was open and had fish. After lunch, we decided to visit the local botanical gardens the following day.
The gardens, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, are located on the hill overlooking the bay. Since it is a long way up, the gardens sent a van to pick us up in town at no cost. The gardens turned out to be fabulous, and well worth the time and the 15.90€ admission price. The gardens have an extensive collection of tropical plants, and it turns out that Noi is an expert on tropical forests, so she was a great guide. There was also a walk-in enclosure full of lorikeets, and we found a number of ripe mangoes to eat as we walked through. It rained off and on, but we were very happy that we took the time to visit. A sampling of the pictures we took are included here – for more of them, see the photo gallery.
Following our day at the garden, we went snorkeling at the mouth of the bay. There were several buoys set up for dive boats, but we didn’t see a lot of fish. We did catch our first glimpse of a lionfish. There were two of them resting between some rocks – they are active at night. We didn’t have the spear with us, but we were able to photograph one of them from above – you can make it out in the crevice between the rocks.
We then took the dinghy around the corner to see the huge beach, Grande Anse. The bay was probably a mile wide, with the beach about fifty feet wide. Behind the beach was dense forest, but there were some picnic and camping sites in the forest.
During our stay, we got a visit from another trawler dinghy (center console style). There were three people on board – one couple was on a Hatteras trawler near us, and the other guy was on a sailboat. They asked us about our plans, and we told them we were going to Grenada, where we had reserved a slip with US power (120V, 60Hz), since that was the only marina to have that power- essential for air-conditioning! They didn’t know this, so we told them the marina name and urged them to make a reservation. That night we had the most fabulous sunset that we had yet seen. The picture has not been edited – it really looked like this.
June 9th: Deshaies – Anse le Barque
After a few wonderful days, we were ready to move on. Our friends on Symbiosis decided to leave early in the morning, planning to spend the day and night near Pigeon Island, where the Jacque Cousteau Reserve is located. It was supposed to have some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean, but we were warned that it is usually very rolly as an anchorage. We left a few hours after Symbiosis, and headed south down the coast. It was a very calm day, and a beautiful cruise. When we arrived at the Pigeon Island anchorage, the few boats that were anchored were rolling fiercely. We looked at the south end of the bay, but it was just as bad. We didn’t see Symbiosis, and they didn’t answer a hail. The cruising guide listed an anchorage a few miles south of Pigeon Island that was more protected. We proceeded to Anse le Barque, which was a small anchorage protected from anything but a western swell. But like Deshaies, it was full of local boats on the free moorings. We managed to find a spot towards the outside of the bay that wasn’t rolly. Two other boats came in later- the anchorage was tight, but fairly calm. We were able to snorkel off the back of the boat.
Western shore of Guadeloupe Anse le Barq
Position at destination: 16°05.259’N, 61°46.161’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82
Nautical miles for this leg: 14.6 Total: 10,073
Departed at 11:45am, arrived at 2:30pm
June 10th: Anse le Barque – Bourg Les Saintes
We left early the next morning for The Saintes, a group of islands about a dozen miles south of Guadeloupe. Just before we pulled anchor, Symbiosis hailed us – they had just passed by on their way to Dominica. We told them we would meet them there in a couple of days. We had a pleasant cruise with little wind and no seas down the rest of the Guadeloupe coast. But, as soon as we rounded the southwestern tip of the island, all Hell broke loose. The wind was steady at thirty knots on our bow, gusting to thirty-five, and there were whitecaps everywhere. Despite the high winds, the seas were not large – probably just two to three feet. We thought this was just a cape effect, but the wind blew hard all the way to The Saintes. We were towing the dinghy, but it looked fine, which was a relief. As we entered the protection of Bourg les Saintes, the wind suddenly died down. You are required to take a mooring in the Saintes, and there were quite a few open. The French moorings are strange – they don’t have painters, just a huge eye on the top of the mooring, and most boats tie up tightly. Because our freeboard is seven feet, Rosé had to catch the mooring off the stern, then walk it to the bow. With the calm conditions, it was fairly simple.
Position at destination: 15°52.208’N, 61°35.084’W
Air temp: 87, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 18.44 Total: 10,091
Departed at 7:50am, arrived at 11:00am
June 10th – 12th: Bourg les Saintes
We went on shore to check in and grab some lunch. We knew we were in France, since all of the stores, including the check-in location where we would pay for the mooring, were all closed for lunch. We did find a nice cafe on the waterfront for lunch, and afterwards we walked around the town and paid for our mooring. The town looks quite French, with a lot of red-tiled roofs.
We spent the following day exploring the town. There was nothing remarkable about it, but it was a pleasant place to visit. The only downside was the ferry traffic. We were fairly close to the ferry channel, and the ferries had no concept of “no-wake” in a mooring field. We were rocking and rolling at least once an hour as a ferry powered by. We did engage in one small rescue mission. A French sailboat in front of us loaded six people into a very small dinghy, slipped the line, and then they could not get the motor started. I watched them try to get it going, and then I saw a ferry leaving. They were drifting back through the mooring field, and I figured they would be swamped by the ferry. I jumped in the Little Blend and towed them back to their boat. They were able to get the motor started, and went to town for the evening.
June 12th: Bourg les Saintes – Portsmouth, Dominica
On Sunday morning we left for Dominica. The seas were calm, and it was an easy passage southward for twenty-one miles. Portsmouth is known for its boat boys. They have formed an organization called the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (P.A.Y.S.). In season, the group does security patrols of the anchorage at night, and they maintain a number of moorings. The anchorage was quite large, and although there was plenty of room for anchoring, we decided to take a mooring. As we rounded the headland towards the bay, we saw competing skiffs headed out to us. The first boat to reach us was Daniel from Eddison Tours. The protocol for the boat boys is that they rotate between incoming yachts, and the same guy takes care of you. They help you to moor or anchor, they take you to check-in, and they can arrange tours and provisioning. They don’t get paid for helping, but most yachts tip them generously. Daniel found a mooring for us close to Symbiosis, and we arranged with him to check in on Monday morning, followed by a tour of the Indian River.
Position at destination: 15°17.523’N, 61°23.081’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 60%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 21.14 Total: 10,113
Departed at 7:30am, arrived at 11:30am
June 12th – 16th: Portsmouth, Dominica
We spent a relaxing afternoon on shore with Scott and Noi at Sandy’s Beach Restaurant, a small typical Caribbean beach bar. The boat boys hung out here, and there was a lot of weed around, and well as beach dogs. Noi wanted to adopt one of the dogs, given her love of all “cute dogs”. On Monday morning, Daniel picked us up and took us to the far side of the bay to check in. The procedure was simple, and they allowed us to check in and out at the same time. The total fees were around $30, so it was an inexpensive place to stay.
After check-in, Daniel took us to the mouth of the Indian River for our tour. As Daniel wasn’t certified to conduct the tour yet, we had another guide join us . James Bond, no less. Once in the river, it was strictly rowing, and James was very knowledgeable, pointing our the wildlife in the area. About halfway up, he showed us a shack that was used for filming one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. At the end of the river there was a jungle bar that had some potent drinks. Another guide showed up with a French woman, and he shared his ganja with me. What a country!
James Bond and Daniel
The Indian River was used in the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. One of the jungle hut sets was still in place, as was a skeleton hanging from a tree. After enjoying the potent jungle bar drinks, we headed back down the river. Once we finished the river tour, I had to walk over to a gas station to pay the park fee, which was just $5. We tipped both James and Daniel, and returned to the boat. The following day, we had arranged an island tour through Daniel. He offered us a big discount if we had four people, so Scott and Noi joined us. This created a stir amongst the boat boys. Symbiosis was working with a different guy, and he claimed that they had to book their tour through him. We did not get involved in the territorial dispute, so we told them to work out a split of their fees.
Our tour took us across the forests on the north side of the island, along the Atlantic Coast on the eastern side, then back across the Kalinago (native peoples) area, and finally a stop at the Emerald Pool. The forests on the island are absolutely beautiful, and the sheer amount of wild fruit and spices was amazing.
After crossing the interior and driving down the Atlantic coast, we crossed back over to visit the Emerald Pool. This waterfall and pool is surrounded by a thick rain forest that has turned the water an emerald color, earning it its name, Emerald Pool. The lush canopy of trees surroundings the edges, the open sky directly above, and a small cave behind the pools can give the impression of truly being in the middle of an uncharted island. The water was surprisingly cold, but very clear and fresh.
After playing around at the pool for an hour or so, and dodging the inevitable rainstorm, we continued on our tour, stopping at a small restaurant up on the hill for afternoon refreshments. The restaurant had many bottles of homemade sauces, including some that were appropriate for the 2016 US presidential election – very funny!
Once we got up into the Kalinago territory, we stopped to watch a boat under construction, as well as the roadside bakery where they were making bread. In a shopping area, there were some very nice baskets, so we added to our collection. Noi bought some mangoes (what a surprise!) and we continued to make our way back to the Caribbean side.
Once we descended back to the coast near the Canefield Airport, we had a high-speed highway back to Portsmouth. Our guide told us that the road was built by China, but Erica had washed out most of the bridges, which were still not repaired. We had to detour many times, using temporary bridges. Noi was thrilled when we stopped to gather native lemongrass, which she could use to make some delicious Thai dishes.
Once we returned to Portsmouth, the skies once again opened up, so we decided to have dinner on shore. We ate the BBQ at the Sunset Beach bar. It was marginally good, but we wanted to help the local economy out. We had a great time in Portsmouth, and Daniel was very helpful. We would definitely recommend him as a guide for anybody visiting Dominica.
June 16th: Portsmouth – Roseau
The next morning, we motored down the coast to the capitol city of Roseau. Despite the cruising guide claims of multiple moorings, we had a hard time locating one. We finally found two open moorings a little south of the town. That area is quite deep, and sixty feet or more, so we decided to take a mooring.
Position at destination: 15°17.419’N, 61°23.106’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 51%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 19.6 Total: 10,132
Departed at 8:00am, arrived at 11:15am
After tying up, we headed to shore to see the town. There was a large farmer’s market happening, so we were able to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, which were delicious. Adjacent to the market was Quincy’s favorite restaurant – KFC. We found out that Noi had quite a thing for KFC, so we stopped in for some lunch. While the food was similar to stateside KFC’s, the chicken pieces were small, typical of the chickens we often saw wandering about the streets. We figured that Quincy would not be too picky. When we returned to the dock to get back in the Little Blend, there was a dive boat that had just come back, and the mate was cleaning a lot of lion fish. We asked out how to clean them safely, and he offered us several of them at no cost.
June 17th: Roseau – St. Pierre, Martinique
We left early the next morning to no wind and calm seas, and we departed for the French island of Martinique. We were bound for St. Pierre, which was actually completely destroyed by a volcanic eruption of Mt. Pelée, which sits just east of the town. The eruption killed 28,000 people – there were only two survivors, one of them safely bunkered in the town’s jail. The trip down was easy, and we decided to anchor south of town. Next to the town there is an anchorage that sits over a narrow shelf, with a very steep drop-off. As we expected, there were not many choices in the anchorage, which was filled with local boats. Instead, we anchored off of Anse Turin, located about a half-mile south. The shelf was much wider, with a very attractive gray sand beach and a park.
Position at destination: 14°43.749’N, 61°10.914’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 54%, Water temp: 84
Nautical miles for this leg: 36.92 Total: 10,169
Departed at 7:00am, arrived at 1:15pm
June 17th – 19th: St. Pierre
We hopped in Little Blend and zoomed down to the town dock, which was typical for the French West Indies: a modern concrete fixed dock, but very high. Fortunately, there were numerous ladders, so we could easily climb to the top of the dock. Being Friday afternoon, we needed to hustle to check in. Our cruising guide said to go to the Tourism Office, located on the north side of town. We walked around quite a bit looking for the office, and got directions from someone that spoke a little English. Like the other French West Indies, check-in was self-service at the office, with the very annoying French keyboard: instead of QWERTY, it is AZERTY. The A and Q keys are transposed, which wreaks havoc on a touch-typist. We were fortunate to arrive at 2:45, since the office was closing at 3:00.
After completing check-in, we walked back to centre ville (downtown). It was a little slow, but we got some panini sandwiches, and stopped at the local bar for some drinks. My friend Steve from Antigua had warned me several times about the French rum, called rhum agricole. I ordered a rum punch, which was like no rum punch I had ever seen. I got a Ti punch, which consists of 2oz of rhum, a little bit of lime juice, and some sugar syrup. It was horrible – if one was to drink toilet bowl cleaner, it might taste like ti punch. The rhum there has an awful taste that makes your throat clamp down and gets your face scrunched up. I can’t really describe it, but the closest word I can come up with is sour. It tastes more like cheap tequila than rum.
After the “rhum experience”, we returned to our respective boats for the night. We got woken up at six in the morning by a local fisherman on a small fishing skiff. He didn’t speak English, but I got the gist of what he was saying. He and some other fisherman wanted to string up a net in the bay, and we were anchored where they wanted to deploy the net. We went ahead and moved the boat, and watched them deploy the net, and catch almost nothing. Later that morning, we all went ashore to visit the Saturday market, which had some great produce and some interesting arts and crafts. We had breakfast at a local bakery, and walked the town some more. In some places, you can still see the foundations that were inundated by lava in the 1902 eruption.
For the afternoon, we went to the beach in Scott’s tiny dinghy – it was much easier to beach than Tropical Blend. There was a bar on the beach, where we cleverly avoided the rhum punch, instead opting for local beer – Lorraine. Scott tried a different beer- Desperados Red. With a name like that, it’s hard not to try it, but the look on his face said it all.
June 19th: St. Pierre – Grande Anse d’Arlet
We discussed our next port while we were exploring St. Pierre. There are a number of anchorages in Fort-de-France Bay, but the area is fairly industrial, the bottom is littered with snags, and there are reports of thefts from boats. We decided to give it a miss, and we planned to rent a car to spend a day visiting the city. Instead, we headed for Grande Anse d’Arlet, a decent sized anchorage and small town a little south of Fort-de-France Bay. The day started out very nice, but as we approached Fort-de-France Bay, the clouds darkened considerably and we got hit by a squall, with thirty knot winds and horizontal rain. We were safe and secure in our cabin, but we called Symbiosis to warn them to break out their foul weather gear.
Once we cleared the squall, we approached Grande Anse under overcast skies. One of the reasons we selected Grande Anse was the large number of free moorings in the bay. However, once we arrived, we found the situation to be very similar to Deshaies in Guadeloupe – all of the moorings are taken by local boats. We did see one open mooring on the northern side of the bay, but once we got there, we discovered there was a heavy rolling swell – no wonder the mooring was open. Instead, we cruised over to the south side of the bay, where there was some open water with twenty feet of depth, outside of the mooring field. We dropped the hook and watched as another squall dumped rain on us.
Position at destination: 14°29.979’N, 61°05.275’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 61%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 16.55 Total: 10,186
Departed at 8:15am, arrived at 11:15am
June 19th: Grande Anse d’Arlet
After the squall passed, we went to the traditional ultra-high dinghy dock to find a restaurant for lunch. The ladders on this dock were mostly gone, but Scott and Noi scaled the dock like a pair of spider monkeys. We elected to tie up at the end of the dock, where there was a working ladder. It started raining again, so we hustled in to the first restaurant, which was quite busy – this being Sunday afternoon. Only one of the waitresses spoke any English at all, so we were shown to her area. Noi was keen to try the fried ballyhoo, a small fish with a large needle-like appendage. They were surprisingly good. After lunch, we dragged ourselves through the puddles and went back on board. Tied up in the bay was one of the strangest craft we had seen, and we guessed it was a type of glass-bottomed boat.
The following day we explored the small town, which was pretty dead, found some lunch, and Scott arranged to rent a car the following day for a trip to Fort-de-France. We did some snorkeling off of the wall near our anchorage. The bay was full of turtles, who were feeding on grass in the center of the bay.
The next day Scott drove the rental car to Fort-de-France. It was nice to be on the right side of the road again, after so many wrong side of the road countries. We quickly discovered that Noi had a skill at back-seat driving. “Curve, Scott” “Curve, Scott” “Curve, Scott”. Once we emerged from Scott’s curves, we were amazed to see a near-freeway. Fort-de-France is one of the largest cities in the Caribbean, with a population of around 100,000. It’s a near-freeway because it still
has some roundabouts. We decided to go downtown and wander around. We managed to find a parking lot for the car, and exited to … another rainstorm. We dashed onto the main library, known as the Bibliotheque Schoelcher (library). It’s a famous building in FdF, and on this particular day, it was hosting a jazz festival. There was something delicious about a loud band playing in a library… After the rain stopped we wandered around for a while. Scott was looking for a chandlery, which we managed to find, but he struck out. After some shopping, we hopped back in the car to find the large grocery store we had seen while driving in, Hypermarket. It was the biggest store we had seen in a very long time. It had all sorts of goods, a fabulous wine section, and the best deli I had ever seen. It was connected to a small mall, which had a food court for lunch. We wanted to eat at one of the restaurants, but they didn’t seem to have anything that was on the menu, so we ended up with Quincy’s favorite fried chicken. We bought a lot of provisions, as the selection, quality, and prices were quite good.
June 22nd: Grande Anse d’Arlet – LeMarin
The next destination for us was LeMarin, a very large bay and yachting center on the southwestern coast of Martinique. The weather was once again heavy overcast, and once wecleared the smaller Petit Anse d’Arlet bay and turned east, we got slammed by heavy winds and seas of four to five feet. Heading directly into the wind, Symbiosis could not make much headway, and we only managed about four and a half knots due to the opposing waves and current. We arrived at LeMarin much earlier than Symbiosis, and we were amazed to see how many boats were anchored, moored, or in the marina – literally more than a thousand! The bay is peppered with reefs and moorings, so it took a while to find a safe place to anchor. We were right off of the main channel for the marina. The winds were still strong, but very steady from the east, so we did not swing into the channel. Symbiosis arrived about an hour after us and anchored in our vicinity after trying a shallower spot ahead of us. They were warned off by a typically friendly French boater [/sarcasm off].
Position at destination: 14°27.815’N, 60°52.336’W
Air temp: 87, Humidity: 63%, Water temp: 83.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 15.92 Total: 10,202
Departed at 8:10am, arrived at 11:15am
June 22nd – 24th: LeMarin
LeMarin is a huge yacht center. The marina is home to an enormous charter fleet, mainly around 700 catamarans. Apparently it is very popular with French boaters, duh, but we had really never heard of it. There is a large commercial complex on shore, with a number of chandleries and boating specialty stores, and a few decent supermarkets. Even in June, the dinghy dock was very crowded – we guessed that a number of boats in the anchorage were liveaboards. While looking through one of the chandleries, we were surprised to see Pete and Mary from Neko – we had not seen them since we left Shelter Bay, Panama. They were staying at the nearby St. Anne anchorage, and we agreed to meet them later that day for lunch.
The wind continued to blow steadily at 20 knots+ during our stay at LeMarin, making for wet dinghy rides. We got some laundry done, as well as some more provisioning at Leader Price, a mini-warehouse store. After we accomplished our shopping goals, we decided to head around the corner to St. Anne.
June 24th: LeMarin – St. Anne
Contrasted to LeMarin, St. Anne is a quaint French town, somewhat like Bourg-le-Saintes in Guadeloupe. The anchorage was very large, and we had no problem finding a good spot in about sixteen feet of water.
Position at destination: 14°26.238’N, 60°53.198’W
Air temp: 86, Humidity: 71%, Water temp: 85
Nautical miles for this leg: 2.62 Total: 10,204
Departed at 9:40am, arrived at 10:30am
There was a Club Med resort to the north of St. Anne, with a very nice public beach close by. We relaxed on the beach, and we did some snorkeling on the reef off of the resort. We spent a few relaxing days on and off shore, and the wind finally laid down, so we made plans to cruise south to St. Lucia. We did not check out at the marina in LeMarin, as you must leave within 24 hours. St. Anne has a customs terminal in a small café called “Snack Boubou”, which was more convenient than going back to LeMarin. We went ashore to process our checkout, and of course, Boubou was on vacation, so we had to go back to LeMarin. For some reason, I decided to take the dinghy – it would have been smarter to catch the bus. Scott and I went on a long, wet ride, but we got checked out.
June 27th: St. Anne – Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
The next destination for our tour was St. Lucia. We planned on staying at the Rodney Bay marina, a large, modern IGY facility with US power to run the air conditioner. It was a pretty smooth day, but with little wind, we arrived about a half an hour ahead of Symbiosis. The docks at Rodney Bay were great – new floating docks, wide slips, it was quite nice. Customs had an office at the marina, so check-in was fast and easy. We didn’t know how long we would be staying, but we had a nice base to stay in.
Position at destination: 14°04.499’N, 60°56.995’W
Air temp: 86, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 84
Nautical miles for this leg: 23.46 Total: 10,228
Departed at 7:00am, arrived at 11:15am
Position at destination: 16°05.259’N, 61°46.161’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82
Nautical miles for this leg: 14.6 Total: 10,073
Departed at 11:45am, arrived at 2:30pm