Martinique - Dominica - Quadeloupe - Les Saintes - Antigua
We stayed in Rodney Bay for longer than we planned as we had to wait for spare parts for Toots.
Fortunately this coincided with some essential maintenence on Graeme so we were not too agitated by the fact that the 'O' ring seal for the auto pilot took 3 weeks to arrive from Antigua - having only taken 18 hours to travel from Holland to Antigua. We were, of course, delighted to pay the US $70 delivery cost charged by UPS.
Keen to be on the move again, we had a smooth sail to Marin in Martinique and after a buying spree of French beer, wine and cheese we were soon back in good spirits. Our first sundowners in the lovely anchorage of St Annes went down well.
Over the next 4 days, we walked all the local trails around St Anne and then sailed round to the quiet anchorage of Anse Chaudiere for a couple of nights before dropping our hook in the charming bay of D'Arlet.
We thoroughly enjoyed D'Arlet but a northerly swell made us reluctantly weigh anchor for the more protected waters of Fort De France Bay.
Arriving in the anchorage off Fort De France, the capital of Martinique, was something of a surprise: we hadn't seen such high buildings since leaving Portugal over a year ago - felt like a huge city to us. After soaking up a bit of 'street cafe' life we had a brisk sail up to St Pierre in the north of Martinique before heading for Dominca.
We approached Portsmouth Harbour in the north of Dominica at dusk in torrential rain and poor visibility. Knackered after a long days sail, we politely turned down the numerous 'boat boys' buzzing around trying to offer us a mooring bouy and dropped the hook in good holding.
With a northerly swell, the anchorage was uncomfortable but we stayed long enough to do a walk into the rain forest starting from Portsmouth town.
To ensure our next anchorage was flat we decided to head for the protected waters Pointe a Pitre in the middle of Quadeloupe. Once the swell had gone down, we sailed back south to Les Saintes where we anchored in the busy but delightful bay of Pain de Sucre. Being Easter, we expected Les Saintes to be crowded but there was plenty of room and once again we found it difficult to leave.
We had been bemoaning our recent lack of fish catching but on our sail north to Deshaies we got a bit of a shock. Having doubled the strength of our line as a result of losing a dorado when our line broke, we deployed our new line and lure, fully expecting the reel to remain silent as usual.
Within minutes, the reel started to scream and all the line spooled out at great speed. Trying to reel in was hopeless; then about a 100 meters behind the boat we saw what appeared to be something like a marlin come out of the water and, with a huge splash, dive back down again; whatever it was, it was not happy. We both knew that there was no way we were going to be able to bring it in and just as we decided to cut the line, the line broke. Another expensive lure and line gone but we were more than relieved.
On arriving at Deshaies we were immediately enchanted by the town and could easily understand why it had been chosen as the location for the BBC programme 'Death in Paradise' starring Ben Miller, who undoubtedly has done us Brits some very good PR in this very French town. One lady cafe owner was particularly keen on Miller but our French wasn't quite good enough to know if her husband would have shared her enthusiasm! We became good customers and were warmly welcomed every time.
Whilst in Deshaies we walked up the river into the hills and swam in the cool pools.
And to add to the charm of Deshaies, the place where we checked out for customs and immigration, on a 'self-service' computer, was in a boutique called Le Pelican - fantastic.
Vive La France!
To bring us back down to earth, our sail to Falmouth Harbour in Antigua was awful. Had the temperature been 20C less, we could easily have believed that we were sailing in the English Channel to Falmouth in a full October gale. Our arrival in Falmouth Harbour saw us, kitted out in full foul weather gear, in 50 metre viz and torrential rain.
We arrived on the first day of the Antigua Classic Race Week. Intially, we had been unsure about going to Famouth Harbour at such a busy time but that soon evapoarated as we immersed ourselves in the fabulous laid-back atmosphere of the Classics Week.
Every night there was free live entertainment and between Paneria, the main sponsors, Mount Gay Rum and the Antigua Yacht Club there was enough hospitality to keep everyone happy.
We also managed to get a run in with the Antigua Hash House Harriers.
At the end of the Classic Race Week, the more serious racing of Antigua Race Week started; along with many other cruisers, we decided to move on. We are now anchored in Mosquito Bay.
Time to start preparing for the next big sail..........