May 2007 Letter

About Us
About s/v Aquila
Aquila's Name
Photo Albums
Letters Home
Contact Us

The Saintes - Dominica - Martinique - St. Lucia

We have logged over 10,000 miles since moving aboard Aquila!  It just seems incredible to me.  I feel like I have learned so much, yet I still feel like I don't know anything.  Many things about this lifestyle have become routine (thankfully!).  But new things to figure out seem to pop up regularly that make me feel like I'm new at this.    And Mike, ... well Mike just takes it as it comes.  I get anxious about what might happen, and Mike doesn't worry about it until it does.  So here's to 10,000 more!

Be sure to check out the photo album for this month.  These islands are so beautiful!

We began this month in Iles des Saintes.  We anchored at Bourg des Saintes on the island of Terre d'en Haut and enjoyed this charming, clean, picturesque seaside town filled with red roofs, balconies, flowers and gingerbread.  Sure wish we spoke a little French.  The people are friendly and we enjoyed our stay, but very few speak English.  Our 4 days here made me (Linda) more determined than ever to learn to speak French.  We strolled around the town, then we hiked up Le Chameau mountain for a great view (pictured left).  We will definitely return to this group of islands next fall on our return loop from Trinidad.  Linda will practice her conversational French and Mike will make sure he is well stocked with beer before we arrive.  Mike bought a case of beer here and it cost $45!  We didn't eat out at any of the little restaurants because we wanted to consume as much of our defrosted meat as possible.  (freezer still not working)  Next time, we'll try some of these cute little restaurants.

On May 6, we made a 5-hour motor/sail to Dominica.  Mike switched on the freezer and it started working again.  It's completely empty now, so we put in a couple of baggies of water, just to make some ice for drinks.  We anchored at Portsmouth in Prince Rupert Bay which turned out to be absolutely awful.  A local beach bar blasted the most horrible screaming music all night long.  It sounded like someone was getting tortured and killed on an amplifier.  If that was music, then we are officially old fogies.  The next morning we went to check in at Customs, but had trouble finding the office.  It was in an industrial area and turned out to be an open door, with no sign of any type, into what looked like a kitchen where we sat at a little table to do the paperwork.  Next to the table was an old convertible sofa with the stuffing falling out.  The agent was a very nice man, but it was still very bizarre.  That evening, the freezer stopped working, the band started playing, and a large swell started rocking us sideways.  Another really bad night.  We had to leave so we could get some sleep!

We did a 4-hour sail to Roseau, the capital of Dominica.  Our cruising guide book recommended either Roots or Pancho as good boat helpers to assist us.  So when Pancho came out to meet us in his panga, we agreed to follow him to one of his moorings.  Then Roots came out and demanded that it was HIS turn, and that we should follow him.  He was very upset, ranting that they were supposed to take turns.  That was all a bit disconcerting.  We followed Pancho as agreed and we were happy we did because he turned out to be an entertaining and informative tour guide.  He apologized to us for Roots lack of professionalism.  The ocean swell was still present all night, but it was quiet and we finally got some sleep.  

The next day Pancho invited us to join him on a tour with a group of 7 others taking a strenuous 6-hour round trip hike to the Boiling Lake.  The others were Swiss and in their 20's.  We were definitely the senior citizens.  It was one of the toughest hikes I've ever taken.  (This is Linda talking, of courseAfter my legs were screaming from the constant uphill trekking, I started counting the steps up.  After 1,000, I quit counting and started getting scared about how I would ever make it back.  I was totally spent and we weren't even there yet!! The trail took us through slippery rainforest, over mountain peaks, streams, boulders, and into the Valley of Desolation where we hiked over bare earth with steam belching out of the soft hot mud.  (see photo album)  Pancho insisted that we all give ourselves a mudpack facial.  Mike was the first to join Pancho in smearing the hot mud all over his face, then all the others joined.  Well, ok.  I'll do it, too.  We've been climbing this mountain for 2 hours and at least this is kind of a break.  Pancho scoops up the mud and drops a blob in my hand.  Ouch!  Ow! Ow! Ow!  It's HOT!!  And it's like glue!  It just smolders there in my hands as I'm dancing around until it stops burning.  Oh, be a sport .. smear it on your face!  I better look 5 years younger after going through this!  We continue walking, the mud dries rock hard, the face can't move, and then we reach a stream and splash the mud off our faces.  OK, I admit, that was pretty fun.  Another 30 minutes and we reached the top  and looked down into the boiling lake.  Wow.  It's amazing.  The boiling lake is in a 50 yard crater.  This huge body of water, ... boiling!  As amazing as it was, all I could think of was how long we were going to get to rest before heading back.  My quads were jelly, my calves were knotting up, and the tendons in my knees were twanging.  Thirty minutes later, head 'em up, and move 'em out.  Then after 3 more hours of hiking, we got back to the trail head and returned to the boat.  I truly don't know how I did it.  

I couldn't walk at all the next day.  Mike was pretty sore, too.  Pancho came by to see if we wanted to take a short hike to a beautiful waterfall the next day.  What!!??  Are you crazy?!  Well, actually, I do want to see that waterfall.  OK, let's do it.  Other than slipping on a wet mossy rock and falling into the water, it was a great little hike, and the waterfall was beautiful.  Mike and I asked Pancho to stop by the grocery store on our way back to the boat.  The air conditioning in the store was so COLD on my soaking wet clothes.  But we needed to pick up a few things for our trip to Martinique.

We set sail at 4 a.m. for Martinique.  We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time for this 52 nautical mile reach.  We started out with a little bit of rain.  The wind was 17 knots gusting to 27 for much of the day on a pretty close reach.  We had to sail a bit off course and then tack back to keep the wind off the bow.  We arrived at 2 p.m.  It was windy and gusting in the 20's right in the bay.  We headed for the more weather-protected side of Fort de France Bay and anchored at Trois Ilets.  I mis-read the chart and led Mike over the only shallow spot in the whole anchorage.  Oops.  We felt our keel rub the bottom and we stirred up a little mud as we powered off into deeper water.  We had a relaxing afternoon on board, and a peaceful night in this flat, calm water.  The next morning we moved to Anse Mitan anchorage, which is a check-in port.  There are no charges to check in to Martinique and the paperwork is a simple one-page form completed right there at the fuel dock!  We had a really nice lunch at the restaurant on the dock and walked through the little town.  A couple of days later, we moved across the bay to the Fort de France anchorage.  Fort de France is the capital of Martinique and the largest city in the Windward Islands.  Martinique is a French island, so again, communication was a challenge.  We walked into town to find an internet cafe, and stopped at a cute little bakery for one of those tiny little cups of coffee and a pastry.  Oh, and just to tease us, the freezer started working again.  We went grocery shopping, but didn't have the confidence to buy anything frozen.  Which is a good thing, because the freezer stopped working again the next day.

On May 16, we sailed about 6 miles to Grande Anse d'Arlet anchorage.  This is a very pretty and picturesque little village on a white sand beach.  We snorkeled along the rocky side of the shore and saw more fish than I've ever seen at one time.  Schools of fish in the tens of thousands.  We even saw a sea snake.  I need to get an underwater camera.  So many fish!  It was really something to see. 

A few days later, we sailed to Marin, our final port in Martinique.  The winds were 25+ knots, pretty much on the nose, and the seas were 6'.  It was 12 miles to our destination, but we logged 19 miles getting here.  I'm starting to get used to this 25 knot stuff.  We reefed the sails, altered course, and tried our best not to use the motor.  We anchored in the enormous protected Cul-de-Sac du Marin bay.  The next morning, we dropped off 2 loads of laundry ($36!) and went to have lunch at a wifi hotspot so I could check email.  Mike was on his second beer before we noticed they were $10 each.  Man, this place is expensive.  (My mind is drifting off to fond memories of Mexico about now.)  We met an American couple at the dinghy dock and the 4 of us stood in the hot sun and chatted for 1/2 hour.  We were all so excited just to hear the English language!

On May 22, we checked out of Martinique and motor/sailed 25 miles to St. Lucia.  We took a slip in Rodney Bay Marina for 4 nights.  We washed the boat, went shopping, did all the maintenance things, ate out a couple of times, walked to the beach, had a drink at the St. Lucia Yacht Club, and just enjoyed being here.  This is an English speaking island, and everything seems so much easier.  We met Jerry and Teri from Oregon who just flew in a couple of days ago to pick up their newly purchased 88 foot sailboat, Absolut Freedom.  They have a crew of 4 who will sail with them through the Panama Canal and up to Oregon where they will keep her until they officially retire and move aboard in a few years.  They plan to cruise like us.  We shared stories, and exchanged contact info to stay in touch.  It was fun to meet them and tour their fabulous yacht.

We left Rodney Bay and sailed to the scenic wonderland of Soufriere and the towering twin Pitons.  We picked up a mooring in this protected marine area.  The first night we stayed in an area called The Bat Cave.  Yes, there really is a big cave full of bats there!  The water is crystal clear and we snorkeled right off the boat.  It is obvious that this is a protected area because the reef is so pretty.  The coral is huge, colorful and not damaged.  However, it was quite rolly, so the next day we moved over to a mooring at Malgretout, located at the foot of the Petit Piton mountain.  Had a delicious Caribbean dinner at the Harmony Beach Restaurant.  Bennie, the owner, arranged a tour for us the following day to the botanic gardens, mineral baths, boiling volcano, hot waterfall, and the Ladera Resort with the most spectacular view of the Pitons.  Paul, our guide for the day, was knowledgeable and we had a very enjoyable day strolling leisurely through the lush gardens, letting our shoulders get pummeled under the hot waterfall, and then sipping tropical drinks at the hilltop resort looking out at the sea.  Before the day was over, Mike learned that we could hike to the top of Petite Piton (2460' elevation), which he plans to do when we pass this way next fall.  We returned to the boat and the water was so amazingly clear I felt like Aquila was floating in an aquarium.  Colorful tropical fish could clearly be seen swimming all around the boat.  We enjoyed some great snorkeling here, too.

Our next port of call was Admiralty Bay in Bequia, a long day sail of 54 miles.  In case the sea conditions weren't good, we decided to set sail at 5:30 a.m. so we would have plenty of time.  Turns out the wind was a brisk 18-22 knots on the beam.  We enjoyed a fun 7-8 knot SOG for about 5 hours.  The dolphins swam with us a couple of times, entertaining us with their leaps and spins.  We lost our wind when we got in the lee of St. Vincent.  Then we had to motor for awhile, arriving in Bequia about 2 p.m.  We went to dinner at Tommy's Cantina to have Margarita's, tacos, enchiladas, nachos, rice and beans.  We were craving some Mexican food.  (It definitely wasn't Mexico Mexican food!  Oh well.)  Back on the boat we reclined on our cockpit cushions, enjoyed the warm evening air, sipped on a glass of Frangelico, looked at the full moon and the stars in the sky, and felt grateful for the charmed life we are living.  We marvel at how fortunate we are to also have such wonderful children and terrific grandkids. 

We plan to spend a couple more days here and explore this island before continuing southbound.  We love to hear from you and want to thank you for your messages and emails.

Bonne journée!

Click here see this month's photo album.

(Next Letter Home)