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APRIL---The Windward Islands to Trinidad

Arrived in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, on March 31. Martinique is locally called Madinina--Island of Flowers. Columbus landed in Martinique in 1502 (his 4th expedition).  No settlement took place until after 1634 when the French made it a center for sugar production. The French and the British battled over the island throughout the 17th and 18th century until France gained permanent control in 1814. Tois-Ilets just across the bay from Fort de France is the birthplace of  Marie Josephe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, who reigned as Napoleon's Empress Josephine.

Stayed in Fort de France for 5 days waiting for 30 knot winds to decrease and the 12-15 foot northerly swell to diminish. Our daily routine--dinghy to shore, walk around, stop at a coffee shop to use the internet, buy a several baguettes and return to the boat usually eating one baguette on the way! Oh, the French know how to bake the best bread. Fort de France is built around a park, Place de la Savane--lots of renovation/construction going on while we were there. Stayed on the boat at night not sure if it was safe enough to walk around after dark.

The following pictures were taken in Fort de France. Computer time at the coffee shop that just happened to cater to gays. The coffee shop has a strong wireless signal so we made lots of calls using Skype and the customers were very nice. The second picture is a Laundry Ship. I needed and wanted to get some laundry done. This sailboat anchored next to us. Carl suggested that I ask the people on board if they would also do my laundry! The third picture is Fort Louis which provides the anchorage with protection from east winds.

Hopped across the bay to Anse Mitan on April 8th. Scooted along at 8 knots with only the head sail out. The wind was blowing at 20 knots with gusts to 25 knots. Anse Mitan is a tourist area with lots of restaurants and boutiques. It is a good place to watch people especially  the stylish French tourists! Used a computer at the marina for our clearance from Martinique--so easy and efficient.

Can't write about Madinina--the island of flowers without including at least one picture of native flowers. This picture was taken at Anse Mitan

Met up with Alan and April on MOODY BLUE  when we passed Grande Anse D'Arlet (Martinique). Had a great sail from the south end of Martinique to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. Winds were 17 knots with gusts to 22 knots so we moved along quite nicely.

The first European to settle on St. Lucia was the pirate, Francois de Clerc around 1550. The English tried to settle the island around 1605 but were driven away by the fierce Carib Indians. In 1650 the French established the first permanent settlement and thus began a 150 year long struggle between the French and British over control. Fort Rodney was built in the late 1700's and named after British Admiral George Rodney. From the fort's vantage points,  Rodney watched the French Fleet in Martinique. During that 150 year period, St. Lucia changed hands 14 times until it was finally given to the British in 1814

Dropped anchor in Rodney Bay near Reduit Beach a 11:45 AM. Customs and Immigration was closed from 11:30 to 1:30 so we had time to straighten up the boat and have lunch before taking the dinghy into the lagoon to clear. While Carl was at the Customs and Immigration Office, I sat in the shade watching people. I heard some voices coming from the dinghy dock--looked and there stood Mark and Debbie from SEA CYCLE.  Met Mark and Debbie in January 2006 at Normans Cay (Bahamas). Spent a few hours visiting with them--listening to their experiences while cruising between Trinidad and the Leeward Island for 2 years.

Below is a picture of a shop in Rodney Bay. I just love the bright colors that are used to paint buildings here in the Caribbean

Left Rodney Bay the next day headed for Vieux Fort on the south tip of St. Lucia. Had a great sail along the coast--on a broad reach with a few mild squalls. When we reached the Pitons, the winds dropped to below 5 knots!  The Pitons are two towering volcanic peaks that pop out of the ocean. Gros Piton is 2,619 feet high and can be climbed by experienced hikers. Petit Piton is 2,438 feet high and is not safe to climb. Between the Pitons is a beautiful bay,  Anse des Piton, where mooring balls are available for boats. Next cruising season, I definitely want to visit the Pitons.

Below are pictures of the Pitons as we sailed by.

Had to beat into the wind from the Pitons to Vieux Fort. Anchored south of the commercial port. Took the dinghy to town. Still traveling with MOODY BLUE. When we arrived at the dinghy dock we were surrounded by young men who wanted to assist us (help secure lines and watch the dinghy while we went in town). Tried to discourage them but they were stuck on us like glue not leaving us alone. Vieux Fort does not have a tourist bon in its body--we were unusual guests. Walked down the main street--found a good bakery for bread and the vegetable/fruit market. While walking we encountered a mentally ill man with a knife that he was waving in the air shouting the words "I'm going to kill you." I immediately took a detour from the sidewalk to the street and signaled for Carl, Alan and April to do the same! One of the locals told us the knife man was harmless but I wasn't taking any chances. When we returned to the dinghy dock the young men wanted to be paid for watching our dinghies. It really is a scam--they wanted $20 EC we gave them $1 EC so they were quite insulted! Didn't sleep well that night. The anchorage is surrounded by high hills so sudden, strong gusts of wind come down the hills every 10 minutes to knock the boat around. Happy to see the sun rise and happier yet when the anchor was up and we were underway. Vieux Fort is not on our list of places to visit again!

The following picture is of the fruit and vegetable market in Vieux Fort

Our destination from Vieux Fort was Bequia. Forecast for 15 knots of wind so we left Vieux Fort with a single reef in the mainsail . The winds were much stronger--had to put a second reef in so we could control the boat. The seas between St. Lucia and St. Vincent were pretty high (influenced by both wind, current and the shape of the land).  I steered the boat rather than using the autopilot. It took a lot of muscle---at the wheel for 6 of the 8 hours we were underway. Saw 9 knots for speed over ground--considering that our bottom was very dirty we made great speed.  Sailed by St. Vincent---told by other cruisers to skip St. Vincent because of  violent crimes against cruisers. The northeast coast of St. Vincent is so beautiful.  Maybe next year we can stop in Wallilbou on St. Vincent.

Arriving in Bequia was a major milestone for us. We were now within striking distance of Grenada and then Trinidad with time to spare. Christopher Columbus arrived in the St. Vincent area is 1498. The British, Dutch and French all established settlements in the 18th century and started to bring in slaves. One of the slave ships was wrecked off Bequia. The Carib Indians on Bequia took the slaves as their own which became a problem for the Caribs. Because the slaves were fierce and war-like, the Caribs decided to fix the problem by killing all young male black children. The result--a revolt. The slaves killed as many Caribs as they could, stole their women and headed for the hills. The slaves continued to follow the Carib customs and became known as the Black Caribs. The Black Caribs resisted the British but were finally defeated and deported en masse to the Bay of  Honduras.

Bequia has an active whaling station--local whalers can take up to 4 whales a year. The whaling season is February through April. During whaling season the humpbacks are leaving the northern feeding grounds and moving south to mate. The whales are hunted in open boats with hand thrown harpoons. One humpback whale was harpooned about a week before we arrived in Bequia. The whale was not killed right away--did a deep dive into the ocean. It was found a few days later washed up on a beach. From my point of view--a tragedy.

The best parts of Bequia--- the boat building. All sizes of boats are built right on the beach using simple hand tools. Also loved the beauty of Admiralty Bay. Had my laundry done in Bequia. It is so easy---called Daffodil Marine Service on the VHF Radio. A small boat came out within 30 minutes, picked up the laundry and returned it all washed, dried and folded later in the afternoon. Each morning, a boat came by selling baguettes and banana bread for your morning coffee. Easy to get fuel in Bequia, call Daffodil Marine Service and they bring their barge out to fill your tanks!

The following 8 pictures were taken in Bequia. The first two were taken from the upper deck of Maria's Cafe. One of the goats escaped from its pen and was enjoying good flowers and leaves. The second picture shows part of the harbor with anchored sailboats. Picture three and four show the fuel barge used by Daffodil Marine Service to deliver fuel and water alongside the boat. Paid $7.00 US per gallon!!! Next are two pictures of the colorful pirogues with clever names. The last two pictures were taken at the WhaleBoner Bar/Restaurant. The bar, stools and entrance are made from whalebones (I don't like the killing of  whales but at least the bones are used for something).

Hated to leave Bequia (I could stay there for a long, long time) but we had to move on. MOODY BLUE left 2 days before us because they wanted to be in Trinidad around the 20th of April.  We had a great sail to Union Island which is the southernmost island in the Grenadines (St. Vincent and the Grenadines make up one country). Winds at 20 knots with higher gusts so we had two reef in the main sail. Passed by some of the most popular and beautiful parts of the Windward Islands---Mustique, Tobago Cays and Mayreau. Oh well, plan to stop next cruising season.

Anchored in Clifton Harbor (Union Island). Clifton is open to the east--a huge reef provides protection from the ocean waves The reef broke the waves but we were not all that comfortable in the anchorage---dropped anchor in 25 feet of water and no protection from the wind. Thought about moving to either Chatham Bay or even going on to Carriacou but decided to stay. The anchorage was differet so we just needed to get used to it. It blew hard all night--the anchor held so all was well.

I tried to get a good picture of the reef that protects the anchorage in Clifton Harbor. This picture was taken off the bow of DISCOVERY

Next morning we left at 6 AM headed for St. George, Grenada. Winds blowing at 20 knots with moderate seas that increased as we approached Isle de Ronde just northwest of Grenada where the currents affect the wave height and interval.  Sailed directly over Kick 'em Jenny, an active underwater volcano that erupted in 1988 and 1989. There is a 1.5 km exclusion zone in affect at all times (but obviously not enforced since we passed right over the top of  the volcano--the zone is there for our safety). The exclusion zone increases to 5 km when the volcano is rumbling. After passing the volcano a huge pod of dolphins swam with DISCOVERY for about a half hour--pretty neat.

It was only noon when we arrived outside the St. George  Harbor so we decided to continue on to Prickly Bay (another 7 miles). A second pod of dolphins swam up to the boat but only stayed with us for a couple minutes  Anchored in Prickly Bay by 1:55 PM. Had a great sailing day and we made it to the southern coast of Grenada by April 15.

Grenada is known as "the Spice Island"--famous for its cocoa, mace, cloves, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. The landscape is beautiful with volcanic mountains, green valleys, tropical rainforest, waterfalls and beaches. Christopher Columbus arrived in 1498 on his third expedition. The French purchased Grenada in 1650. During the wars between France and Britain, the island changed hands several times until Britain obtained it via the Treaty of Versailles. The island served as the headquarters of the British West Indies from 1885 to 1958. Grenada became independent from the United Kingdom in 1974 obtaining dominion status within the Commonwealth.

There was a left-wng coup lead by the charismatic Maurice Bishop in 1979. Maurice Bishop wa a great admirer of Fidel Castro which did not set well with the US government. Bishop attempted to turn Grenada into a socialist state. He improved education and medical care but at the cost of freedom. Anyone who opposed him was thrown in jail and all independent newspapers were banned. Bishop's wife and children fled the country and moved to England while he was in power. Bishop wanted full control of the government---the opposition within his own ranks led by his second in command (Coard) stopped him by placing him under house arrest. A massive crowd freed Bishop and then marched with Bishop to Fort George. Eventually Bishop's opposition sent in armored cars, shot several civilians and executed Bishop along with half  his cabinet. At this point, the US along with several Eastern Caribbean Islands launched a rescue mission--welcomed with open arms. The rescue mission took place in 1983 with paratrooper landing in Grenada.

Grenada has an established cruising community with a Cruiser's Net for sharing information. The second day in Prickly Bay,  MT NEST, announced they would like a buddy boat for the trip to Trinidad. We talked to T NEST on the VHF Radio and determined that our travel plan and boat speed were similar. Mike and Terri on MT NEST are originally from Chisago City, MN. MT NEST is a 42 foot Manta Catamaran. Had lunch together and discussed the trip to Trinidad with a departure date of April 22. One day, Carl helped Mike clean MT NEST's bottom and then Mike helped Carl clean DISCOVERY's bottom. According to the both Mike and Carl, DISCOVERY's bottom was very dirty probably costing us one knot of speed.

Had a week in Grenada so we took time to tour the island. Grabbed a bus (mini vans) for a ride to St. George. As we came over the hill into St. George, there sat MOODY BLUE at anchor. We thought they would have been in Trinidad. Oh well. Rode the bus all the way to the bus terminal and then walked around for a while. St George was bustling. School must have just ended because there were hundreds of kids in school uniforms walking the streets with the universal backpack. Hopped  a bus for the ride back to Prickly Bay. The bus that stopped for us was packed with school kids. The bus driver drove way to fast even for Carl. It was a scary ride home. The following day, MOODY BLUE came into Prickly Bay. They decided to store in Grenada this year. We were envious. It would have been nice to be at the journey's end. Contacted our insurance agent who did get permission for us to stay in Grenada (increase in the deductible for wind damage from a named storm). However, we could not get our flights changed to travel on the same days (one or two days on either side) so the plan to sail to Trinidad remained in place.

The following picture was taken in St. George. I had planned to take other shots but Carl warned me to hang on to my camera and purse--the streets were so crowded. With that warning, I put my camera away.

Friday night we went with Mike and Terri to the fish fry in Gouyave. Gouyave is the fishing center for the island. On Friday nights, the main street is filled with food booths serving many different types of seafood in a variety of ways. Mike, Terri, Carl and I walked by every booth looking at what was available before making our final selections. By far, the best seafood that night was a tuna kabob.

Monday before we left, we went on an 8 hour tour with Mike and Terri and 5 other people. I was surprised to see how much damage still remains from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Housing was shipped in because so many homes were destroyed. The Prime Minister's home is still in ruins--a sore spot for the citizens because they are paying the PM's rent and he likes his rental home so he is in no hurry to have the government housing restored. Hurricane Ivan destroyed more than half of Grenada's nutmeg trees. The trees take up to a decade to mature so the nutmeg industry is still hurting. The rain forest was heavily damaged but slowly making a recovery.

The following pictures of St. George was taken on our island tour. The first picture is of the Grenada Prison. During Hurricane Ivan, the entire roof was blown off. By the way, Coards who was found guilty for his part in Bishop's execution is sitting in this prison. The second picture shows the St. George anchorage. The third picture is of Fort George (where Bishop was executed and the fourth picture shows all that remains of one of the churches after Hurricane Ivan. (0469, 0470, 0472, 0474)

On this tour we learned all about the spices, fruits and various plants on the island. The first picture is of cocoa--the pod. Next is a branch with coffee beans. The third shows a nutmeg.

Next stop on the tour was Annadale Falls, a mountain stream dropping 30 feet into a pool surrounded by flowers and various plants. Three young men in Grenada's colors of red, green and yellow will jump the falls for a donation into the "Jumper Box". The next 5 pictures were taken at Annadale Falls. (0480, 0481--Carl you need to rotate this photo, 0484, 0488, 0489)



From the falls we went up, up, uphill to the Grand Etang National Park. This park preserves 3,816 acres of rain forest. Grand Etang Lake fills the crater of an extinct volcano. The highlight at the Park was the Capuchin Monkeys. Carl was very comfortable about getting close to them.  I, on the other hand, did not want to get close to them. They have two very long fang-like teeth. One monkey scratched Terri when she handed it a banana. wo good reaosons why I did not get up close and personal with a monkey


Have you ever seen a cashew? Carl is holding a cashew that was just pulled off the tree. The cashew nut that we eat is in the top portion of the plant. I now understand why cashews are so expensive--very labor intensive. Also the cashew nut is toxic until it is roasted.

Finally--lunch time. We ate at the River Antoine Rum factory's restaurant. The meal was fantastic and the presentation was worth taking  picture of. By the way, my lunch was tuna with a creole sauce

Next--the rum tour where a strong white rum called Rivers is made. River Antoine Rum Factory claims to be the oldest water-driven distillery in operation in the Caribbean. The mill was built in 1785 and uses the same process to make rum. The water wheel is used to crush the sugar cane. The dry cane stalks are used as fuel to heat up the sugar juice. Large wooden ladles are used to scoop the juice from one copper pot to the next--each copper pot is hotter than the previous one. The liquid sugar is moved to concrete fermentation tanks through PVC pipes and valves. From fermentation the liquid is distilled using wood logs for heat. Eventually the alcohol content is checked any liqour less tan 75% or 151 proof is distilled again. 151 proof rum is piped into huge igloo water coolers from which bottles are filled with rum. Quality Control uses hydrometers to check alcohol content. After the tour, we were offered rum to taste. It was too strong to drink (no mix offered) so mine ended up in the trash can. This rum is not sold outside of Grenada--it is consumed locally. (0510, 0513, 0514, 0517, 0518, 0522, 0524, 0527, 0529, 0531)

The last stop on the tour was at a roadside hut where we had refreshments. Outside the hut was a passion fruit tree. I took a picture of the flower. Passion fruit juice with decent rum is a refreshing drink.

Left Prickly Bay at 3 AM on April 22 with L'AME LIBRE, NO DOUBT and MT NEST. Wind forecast was for 15 knots from the east and 5 foot seas. The morning flew by. Had  a favorable current pushing us until around 10 AM. The winds picked up to 20 knots about 40 miles out of Trinidad and we were dealing with a 2-3 knot unfavorable current. No problems with the Venezuelan Pirate that was supposedly harassing cruisers by the oil drilling platform. About an hour out from Chaguaramas we saw the US Coast Guard Cutter 912 (Legare) patrolling the coast of Trinidad. Felt very safe with them as our escort!

Tied up at the Customs and Immigration dock at 3:30 PM. Hurried to Immigration where we encountered an officer who was having  a bad hair day. He told us all to sit down and just wait (we understand that normally you can start filling out the paperwork while waiting but not this time). Normal closing time is 4:00 PM but Immigration is there 24 hours a day. If you arrive after closing you must pay overtime. This guy seemed to think we waited for the last minute to come in for clearance just to iritate him. . Filled out the paperwork in triplicate using carbon paper. I screwed up with one form--supposed to make 4 copies. The officer yelled at me but then put one carbon copy of the form in his copy machine He then announced that everyone after us would be charged the overtime fee. Lucky us. Next over to Customs where we interacted with a really nice officer. It took us 2 hours to clear Immigration and Customs---15 minutes at Customs and the rest at Immigration.

Oh , it was great to be at our journey's end! Tied up to one of the moorings, had an early dinner and off  to bed. Wednesday we checked out Power Boats where DISCOVERY will go on the hard for routine maintenance and some special projects. Looked over the marinas and started to plan our work. In the evening, the 4 boats that traveled together from Grenada met for dinner at Pizza Joe's to celebrate our crossing. Karen and Eddie on NO DOUBT are storing their boat at Peake's and then returning to the US to spend most of their time in Colorado and Arizona--back to Trinidad after hurricane season. Nancy and Jerry on L' AME LIBRE are also going to store at Peakes and return to Indiana and then drive to the Seattle area--back to Trinidad after hurricane season. Finally MT NEST, Mike and Terri store at a yard that specializes with cataramans--they are going back to Minnesota and will return to Trinidad after hurricane season.

Our time is focused on getting the boat ready for "the hard" and finding contractors for our special projects. So far, so good. Still in the dry season. It is my understanding that it will rain every afternoon in July. We have a dehumidifier for when we are off the boat in Michigan and a room air conditioner that we will use on the hard and at a dock.

The last three pictures were taken in Chaguaramas:The gang celebrating our arrival in Trinidad; Our escort--USCG Cutter 912; and a picture of some of the boats.

Submitted by:
Marilyn Thoreson
May 2, 2008