Log - 2/21 - 4/13/03 Seattle to Martinique to St Lucia

In this section Alan describes teleporting to Martinique (an island in the Eastern Caribbean) and sailing south to Saint Lucia. This page includes the following sections:

  1. Seattle
  2. My Abused Boat Arrives in Le Marin
  3. Cruising Again - Saint Anne
  4. Fort-de-France
  5. Grande Anse
  6. Sailing to St Lucia
  7. Rodney Bay
  8. Marigot Bay
  9. Soufriere and the Pitons

Seattle (Feb 22, 2003 - 48°N, 124°W)

In the late 1800's, Joseph Thomson a renowned Scottish geologist and explorer, was asked what was the most hazardous part of his expedition to Africa. Thomson replied, "Crossing Piccadilly Circus in London". Landing in Seattle, I could relate to Mr. Thomsom. An American metropolis is a bizarre and wondrous and frightening place. For two weeks I enjoyed being reunited with Katherine, getting tidbits for the boat, watching movies, and hiding from the scary, traffic-infested city streets. On March 9th I hopped aboard the 11 PM redeye to Dallas; on March 11th, at 9 AM, I finally emerged from the Martinique airport. My tired tongue attempted to speak Spanish to the French taxi driver. Luckily, his patience and English prevailed and I was driven to Le Marin, where Dockwise Yacht Transport (DYT) was waiting for me to unload my sailboat from their freighter.

My Abused Boat Arrives in Le Marin (Mar 11, 2003 - 14° 28´N, 60° 52´W)

When DYT transferred my sailboat to another freighter in Florida, they crushed my solar panels and bent the stern pulpit. Also, I think my boat was transported near the ships smokestack, it is disgusting. Everything above the deck is covered with a layer of sooty, greasy grime; and my hull has an area splattered with black adhesive gunk. What I consider rape of my home, DYT considers the normal wear & tear of shipping.

Cruising Again - St Anne (Mar 21, 2003 - 14° 28´N, 60° 53´W)

Ten days after my arrival in Le Marin, Katherine had arrived from the Washington and my sailboat was back in reasonable shape; so, we headed out to explore more of Martinique. Our first anchorage was off the nearby village of St Anne. There are an incredible number of cruisers in Martinique and maybe two hundred boats are anchored off St Anne. I smile when I think back to the time in Mexico when I whined about crowds when ten boats anchored at Agua Verde. At least half the cruisers seem to be European. The diversity is nice, and the European lack of prudishness helps to reduce the accumulation of laundry.

Fort-de-France (Mar 24, 2003 - 14° 36´N, 60° 04´W)

Our first trade wind sailing was a glorious reach northwest to Fort-de-France (the largest city in this area). A guidebook describes Fort-de-France as a bit of Paris dropped into the Caribbean; that is definitely hyperbole. Nonetheless, it is an interesting mixture of people, shanties, boutiques, grubby farmers' markets, malls, rastafarian dudes, and chic women. Provisioning was interesting thanks to the large variety of items brought in from France (including good cheese and cheap good wine). But, as we will probably find everywhere in the Caribbean, most food and boat parts are much more expensive than USA prices.

Grande Anse (Mar 27, 2003 - 14° 30´N, 61° 05´W)

After leaving Fort-de-France we sailed to the village of Grande Anse (translation: Big Bay) and mellowed out for a few days. Then we returned to Le Marin and repeatedly pestered Dockwise Yacht Transport (DYT) about reimbursement for the transport damage. After much pestering, DYT paid for the shattered solar panels and the repairing the stern pulpit (but they were not willing to compensate me for my week of grime recovery work).

Snorkeling in Martinique was mediocre.

Sailing to St. Lucia (Apr 4, 2003 - 14° 23´N, 60° 54´W)

Sailing the 26 miles south to Saint Lucia, s/v Squiz (TGN) set a new speed record. As we left Martinique we were hit by a rain squall with 30 knot winds. With heavily reefed sails, we briefly reached a speed of 8.0 knots. On a good day of sailing, I expect an average sailing speed of 5 kts. During the passage to St. Lucia we averaged 6.4 knots (7.36 mph); this was with a second reef in the main & a reefed jib! (For you land lubbers: a reefed sail is a sail that has been made smaller. On TGN, with the second reef the mainsail has about 40% off its possible maximum size.)

The seas were much better than the short, steep waves in the sea of Cortez; and, the boats motion was fine. I was down below and Katherine was steering as we approached St. Lucia, sailing at about 7 knots. Suddenly a loud, abrupt, BOOM. Katherine thought something on the rig broke; from down below I thought the sound was from the forward part of the boat - as if we hit something. No damage could be seen from within the boat and we were not taking on water. The best we could do was inspect the hull after arriving in St. Lucia.

Rodney Bay (Apr 4, 2003 - 15° 05´N, 60° 57´W)

Our first day in Saint Lucia we splurged and spent a day in the Rodney Bay Marina. We took care of a lot of fresh water chores, like washing off the salt, doing laundry, and filling the tanks. Then, we pulled out and anchored in the bay. Overall, Rodney Bay was a deceptively pleasant introduction to St. Lucia.

I donned mask and flippers and inspected the hull for damage. We definitely had hit something. A foot below the waterline there was some yellow paint on the leading edge of the hull. At a depth of two feet, three square inches of gel coat had been gouged; and the outer layer of fiberglass in a one inch oval was slightly smashed. To prevent gradual water absorption into the fiberglass, I performed and temporary underwater repair by covering the damaged area with MarineTex epoxy putty.

Marigot Bay (Apr 6, 2003 - 13° 58´N, 61° 01´W)

We set sail for the "big" town of Castries to top off provisions hunt for food and boat stuff bargains. According to the Chris Doyle cruising guide, Castries has two potential anchorages. The first choice turned out to be too crowded with moored party barges for anyone to anchor. We may have been able to anchor in the second location, but it was chaotic and noisy with motorboat and nearby street traffic. No other cruising boats were anchored anywhere, which is not a good sign. We decided to be sail a little further south to the "idyllic" Marigot Bay.

Marigot Bay looks delightful while approaching, it is practically a hurricane hole. Unfortunately, setting the hook the unconsolidated muck on the bottom was time consuming and frustrating. Although we were not completely satisfied with our anchoring, we finally settled down to eat lunch. Then the charter catamarans started trickling into the bay. The majority of charter people do not possess the necessary skills to safely cruise. Charter boats zoomed into the bay, dropped the anchor and chain in a pile, and then backed up slightly without really setting the anchor. Of course the charterers don't take into account swinging room or the location of other yacht's anchors, so after about an hour they normally have to pull up the hook and move. We asked one charter boat to move because just after they dropped their anchor and a bunch of chain beside our anchor. After that we created a float to mark the anchor location (It is labeled "Squiz"). Often something seems to go wrong in the anchor locker while charterers pull up their anchor; a few people are always staring into the anchor locker, looking confused. It can be entertaining to watch if it is not happening to close to your own yacht.

Then there are the boat boys. We read about them & tried to be mentally ready. They want to sell you any number of goods & services. Some of the boat boys have learned to wait until after you finish anchoring, but others hang on to the side of your hull like leaches while you're pulling into the bay and anchoring. Then there was the local police boarding us. They were polite enough, but they still haven't learned what fenders are for; and they didn't give me a chance to get some fenders in place. So when one of the boat boys violated the no wake zone speed our hull & teak rub rail took some rubbing against the police boat.

The best part of Marigot Bay was meeting Chichi and John aboard s/v Pachamama (translation: Mother Earth). They too are wandering south, and we have really enjoyed making some Caribbean cruising friends.

Soufriere and the Pitons (Apr 8, 2003 - 13° 51´N, 61° 04´W)

Petit and Grand Piton The dramatic Pitons dominate the scenery of west central St Lucia.

Diving around Marigot Bay was poor, so we really looked forward to heading south to the central coast of St Lucia, where the have set up marine management areas to help preserve the remaining coral reefs and marine life. Unfortunately, information about the regulations and fees for boating in this area was limited and conflicting. Fortunately, when we arrived in the Soufriere Marine Management Area things we straight forward. To avoid damage to the reefs, mooring balls have been set up in most bays; you just tie up your boat to any available mooring. In the evening a park ranger boat makes the rounds and collects reasonable user fees -- US$15 for two nights or US$20 per week. If you went to areas deeper than 20' the snorkeling was good, but not great. And, since the locals are permitted to fish in much of the Marine Management Area, there are no large fish.

One of the mooring sites was between the Pitons -- two huge (2500'), steep, formations. Beautiful but windy! Continual gusts, up to 40 knots, swept off the Pitons and buffeted our boat! After an unrestful night of that nonsense, we were so desperate to get out of there, we tried to sail southeast to Vieux Fort. This town was a mere 10-mile journey to windward. We were beating at two kts into the headwind and current and sizable waves! After basically going nowhere for a couple hours, we gave up, turned around, and zipped back to a the least rolly of the moorages near Soufriere After a couple days, our Mo-Jo returned, and we sailed south to Saint Vincent.

Petit and Grand Piton Katherine's hair properly expresses our frazzled feeling after attempting the upwind and upcurrent passage to Vieux Fort.