Thursday, August 25, 2016

St. Lucia, with caveat

Blog Neglect Warning:    Blog on hold!!!!  I ran out of steam and hope to get back to this sometime real soon. Hope to include St. Lucia, SVG's and the trip back north as well as Summer 16 trip to Yarmouth NS and Maine.   Meantime Pratique is on the hard and we pulled our skis out of storage for this winter!!!

Rodney Bay, March 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

On to Martinique

We left Dominica the day after the Appreciation Dinner.  Heading south for Martinique means we are leaving the Leeward Islands and entering the Windward Islands.  Also, since Dominica was the farthest we ventured last season, this is new territory for us on Pratique!

We arrived in Saint-Pierre, Martinique in the afternoon, and quickly discovered that the anchorage is beautiful, but tricky since the depths fall off very quickly from the shoreline.   This means all the boats occupy a narrow strip along the shore--too close is too shallow, and too far off is too deep. After re-anchoring once, we found a great spot close to town.

St. Pierre anchorage, Mt. Pelee in the background

Full moon at sunset, St. Pierre

At the tourist office
 We quickly learned about Saint-Pierre's history.  Before 1902 it was called the "Paris of the Caribbean" but in 1902 the town was completely destroyed by a volcanic eruption from Mt. Pelee.  Except for two people, the entire population of 30,000 was wiped out by the toxic gas that flowed from the volcano into the town.

Remains of the front stairway of the Grand Theatre

We learned about the lone survivor within the center of town, who was a prisoner in this dungeon:

Dungeon of  Louis-Auguste Cyparis
He survived only because the ventilation of his cell was so poor that the gas from the eruption wasn't strong enough to kill him, and he was found alive four days later.  He later became a celebrity, touring with the Barnum & Bailey Circus as "The man who lived through Doomsday."

Further south along the west coast of Martinique is the large Bay of Fort-de-France.  We took a few days to anchor in the city's busy but convenient anchorage.

The old Hotel de Ville

Susan's favorite store display

I get buzzed at Hair Star in Fort-de-France
Next we jumped across the bay to visit Anse Mitan and Les Trois-ilets, and we celebrated Susan's birthday at La Villa Creole restaurant, which was a really nice find. Around the corner and further south we snorkeled at both Anse Noir and Anse Dufour, and then we moved on to anchor overnight in Anse d'Arlet.

Next morning, on to the south coast of the island!  We rounded the southwest corner of the island and passed spectacular Diamond Rock

Le Rocher du Diamant
 We had a spirited upwind sail to Ste. Anne and Le Marin, where Pratique spent the better part of four weeks!

Le Marin

Ste. Anne, looking out to the dinghy dock and the anchorage from the church.
Diamond Rock is in the background to the left
Both Ste. Anne and Marin are cruisers' paradises. Ste. Anne's anchorage is a vast swath of 10-20' of water over mostly sand, and you can basically close your eyes and pick a comfortable spot and not be anchored on top of any other boat.  The village of Ste. Anne is quaint and very friendly.  

The Cul-de-sac du Marin is a very sheltered harbor with hundreds of slips and moorings and a lively town with lots of services.  While there we took advantage of an invitation from new friends Margaret and Dave, to tour the east side of Martinique by car.  They are guests of our friends Peter and Mary on Rubicon, and have spent a lot of time in Martinique. We drove up north to the Caravelle Peninsula and to the ruins of the Chateau Dubuc, an old sugar plantation with a great self-guided tour and hike:  

One of the many ruins of buildings to explore at Chateau Dubuc
This next one was of interest to us.  I'm thinking what's left of the "infirmary" is the broken foundation rather than the little wood shed:


Most of the self-guided tour of the grounds was by a fancy programmable headphone set, but there were several older "sound monoliths" scattered around that provided some very funny (unintended) audio presentations.  Here are two of them--Try to translate the Franglais to English yourself: 

Listening to one of the audio presentations.  Keep it together!

Next stop was a very well done banana museum called what else but "Le Musee de la Banane"  As opposed to our beloved "Banana-ville" on Guadeloupe, this was the real deal. A long, winding trail leads past innumerable examples of the world's banana varieties:

Back in Ste. Anne it was time for Susan to fly home to meet Rachel for a two week "Spring Break from B.U. and Pratique.  I had to fend for myself:

Night 1:  Pasta and sausage dinner!

Fortunately, not long after "Night 1" alone, some of the other cruiser friends we had met came to my rescue early:

Night 2:  Big spread and a night of "10,000" with friends

Many thanks to Barbara and Tom on Kalani, Mark and Donna on Persistence, Phil and Judy on Rum Runner, and Wayne and Mary on Meander for taking good care of me during Susan's absence! 

Barbara sets the camera up while Wayne looks on
One of the challenges while island cruising is staying connected.  In Le Marin I signed up for a local hotspot service, but I found out quickly that while on a mooring at the Marina the hotspot doesn't work--I suspect the marina blocks it so you have to pay for their service. But I already paid for two weeks, so the only solution was to jump in the dinghy and motor down the channel to connect!  Here is one of my first selfies ever!   

At float in the channel, but well connected!
Now you know why it is so hard to keep up with this blog in real-time!

Final Martinique shots:

Ste. Anne

Ste. Anne Sunset, Diamond Rock at right. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Yachtie Appreciation Week in Dominica

The first ever "Yachtie Appreciation Week" took place in Portsmouth, Dominica on February 14-21.  We had this event in our sights for a while, so after a brief return visit to Iles de Saintes we made our way down to Prince Rupert Bay.  When we got there we were greeted by Alexis, our PAYS guide from last year, who made us feel welcome and at home.  Then we saw some familiar boats, including Avocation, of Hank Schmitt and OPO fame. Over the past year Hank organized funding of  new moorings in the bay for cruising vessels visiting Dominica, and so this week was given by PAYS and the island of Dominica as a "thank you" to cruisers who not only help the islands economy by visiting, but also helped out last year after tropical storm Erika devastated the island by flooding.

Boats at anchor and moored in Portsmouth for
Yachtie Appreciation Week

Nice! Right in front of Sandy Beach Wifi

Susan greeted by Alexis at the PAYS building
We started the week off just walking in town again. Somehow we missed this house last year:

We tip toed thru this block

"Shhhh. . . "

Local Stroller
Next few days we joined up with a number of the other boats (Kalani, Lagniappe, Persistence, and Rubicon among them) and participated in the tours of Dominica that were organized for all of us. Thanks again to Hank and also to Joan Conover on Growltiger for putting these together!

The first tour was led by Uncle Sam by van down the west coast of the island.   Traveling with us were Barbara and Tom of Kalani, and Greg and LizAnn of Lagniappe.

Driving down the West side of Dominica
Driving these roads provided glimpses of the devastation that was caused by the torrential rains and subsequent flooding caused last summer by Erika.  Most of the major bridges have been bypassed by temporary bridges, and travel north-south is fully restored.

Once down the coast we traveled inland to experience the TiTou Gorge and Trafalgar Falls.  The water in the Gorge was so cold it froze our brains so there are no pictures.  Here's Trafalgar Falls:

Father Falls and Mother Falls

Next stop was the Botanical Gardens in Roseau.  There were nice examples of the island's flora, and the Parrot Conservation Center displays several Jacko Parrots, but the most memorable scene has to be the fallen African baobab tree that fell on an empty school bus during Hurricane David in 1979.
Tom, Barbara and Uncle Sam at the Botanic Gardens, with onlooker.
Uncle Sam hangin' out

Crushed bus. Nobody got hurt!

The day ended with a soothing soak in the Soufriere Sulphur Springs.   Great tour, Uncle Sam!

The other tour we took was given by long-time taxi guide Winston, who was fantastic showing us a good portion of the north end of the island. He also said his hellos to no less than a hundred people as we passed them on the roads. I smell a run for mayor???  We traveled with Mary, Dave and Margaret from Rubicon (Peter stayed back on the boat to get chores done).  The north edge of Dominica is as spectacular as the interior, with lots of great vistas

We hiked down a trail to Chaudiere Falls, or nearly.  The last bit of the hike is to cross over rocks and then walk upstream to see the falls, but there were big rains over the past few days so the creek was running high and crossing was unsafe.

Winston puts the nix on crossing the river.
Oh well. At least I saw a cow:

"Hello, Cow.  How's ya mother?

We drove along the north coast to Calibashie and had lunch.  Then after lunch, the spectacular Red Rocks, a compacted mud/sand formation with a smooth red surface and several distinct crevasses:

The view northeast on  Red Rocks

Winston guides us to the edge!

Susan "volunteers" to go down into the crevasse to take a few pictures:

On the way home we stopped to see the Cold Soufriere which is a group of numerous small bubbling pools. What makes them unique is that the water that bubbles up from them is, you guessed it, cold, not warm.  They also give off lots of very strong sulphuric acid odor, Nice!

On the final night of the week the government of Dominica sponsored a farewell dinner for the participants of Yachtie Appreciation Week up at Fort Shirley.  It was well attended and well received by us all!

Dinner at Fort Shirley

Twilight on Prince Rupert Bay from the Fort

Final shots of the beauty that is Dominica:


We will!