It has been quite a while since I’ve written and this is a pretty long post. We’ve stayed busy with guests and are finding unlimited WiFi (needed to upload photos) not as readily available the further south we move in the island chain. Since my last post we’ve visited seven islands, each one a separate country (St. Barths, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, Dominica, St. Lucia and Martinique). We’ve been switching currencies from Euros to Eastern Caribbean Dollars and back again. As we’ve learned a little history of each island, most have changed from French to British control and back again several times throughout their histories. Some are now independent countries (Antigua, Dominica, and St Lucia), while the others are departments of France (St. Barths, Guadeloupe, Saintes, and Martinique).
We spent a few days in St. Barthelemy (St. Barths), which is quite the playground for the rich. We anchored in the harbour off Gustavia and took a hike up to Fort Gustav overlooking the harbour. The views were spectacular! The yachts, both motor and sail, lining the waterfront were huge, measured in the hundreds of feet. We were especially dwarfed going past them in our dinghy. The waterfront is lined with high end shops (i.e. Hermes, Tiffany, etc.)
Our next stop was Antigua which required an overnight crossing. We had waves on the nose most of the time which made it a bit uncomfortable, although we made it safe and sound into Jolly Harbour about 0730. Antigua is an English speaking island, which made communications easier for us. We met fellow Virginians, Neil and Shawn, on S/V Escapade in the mooring field and enjoyed a meal with them at a local pizzeria. They are in their third year of cruising through the Caribbean and had great information to share. The next night they showed us the way to Jolly Beach where we watched a beautiful sunset while enjoying drinks on the beach.
My Dad and his friend Doris joined us for several days aboard Delphinus. We made the most of our time with them, starting with a helicopter tour of the island. The helicopter ride was a first for Dad, Doris and I, and was exciting. The pilot took us over the marina where Delphinus was docked and many other highlights of the island. We passed some sailboats practicing for the upcoming Caribbean 600 race. We finished the day with dinner and drinks on Jolly Beach.
We moved Delphinus to Falmouth Harbour, another place filled with mega yachts. Here there were more sailing yachts than motor yachts. We took advantage of the Sunday night barbecue at Shirley Heights, a high point on this end of the island and a great place to watch the sunset. We were entertained for three hours with non-stop playing by a local steel drum band, followed by a reggae band. Both bands played with incredible energy and talent.
The next day we walked to English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard. We arrived in time to climb to Fort Berkley Point and watch the start of the Caribbean 600 race. This is a 600 mile sailing race with about 100 boats participating, in several different classes. The fastest boats (triamarans) finished the race in about 30 hours, while the rest of the fleet took three to four days to complete the course. We finished off the day exploring the exhibits at Nelson’s Boatyard and admiring the yachts.
Too soon it was time for Dad & Doris to depart and for us make our way to our next stop, Guadeloupe. We anchored off of Deshaies (pronounced day hay) for a few days. Guadeloupe is another French island and we’ve found that the further south we move through the island chain the fewer French islanders speak English, making communication a bit more challenging. We have the basic greetings down (i.e. bonjour, au revoir, etc.) and can usually order in restaurants, but have found that understanding the locals is still a big challenge.
The highlight of our stay in Guadeloupe was the visit to the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Garden). They maintain a very large collection of tropical plants from around the world. Although the signs were only in French, we could at least tell where the plants were from originally. There was an enclosed area with beautiful, brightly colored parrots who would land on you if they thought you had food for them. So many of the colors in the garden and on the birds were so brilliant that they appeared to be almost artificial.
Next we made a brief stop at Terre D’en Haut, Iles des Saintes (The Saintes). Pete wanted to hike to the top to visit Fort Napoleon and I opted to “hike” through the town and all the little boutiques. We each had a good time and met for lunch at a nice little waterfront restaurant.
We spent the next couple of days in Dominica. Dominica is an independent country today which was alternately controlled by the French and English throughout its history. Here is where we met our first “boat boys.” These young men approach your boat as you enter the harbour to help you find a mooring ball and then offer any other services they have available. The “boat boys” in Dominica are an organized, professional group of men in a group called PAYS. They provide security in the anchorage and on the dinghy docks, in addition to helping with clearance, arranging tours and other local activities.
We were approached by Maverick who introduced himself and led us to a mooring ball and then offered to take Pete to shore to clear in. Maverick also told us about the barbecue that evening on the beach, organized by PAYS. He obtained tickets for us and then arranged for the Indian River Tour the next morning. The beach party was great with unlimited grilled fish, chicken, ribs and rum punch, followed by dancing. All for just $20 each.
The next morning Maverick picked us up from Delphinus and took us to meet our tour guide, James “007” Bond, at the mouth of the Indian River. James was a wealth of local information and quite entertaining as well. We had another family on the tour with us who were from France. James switched easily between French and English. He pointed out wildlife, native plants and even Calypso’s house (from Pirates of the Caribbean). The midpoint of the tour is where the river becomes too shallow to continue and there just happens to be the Jungle Bar for a break from the tour.
We didn’t have the time to fully explore Dominica like we would have liked to and plan to spend more time here when we return next year. It is probably the most undeveloped island of those we’ve visited so far and the locals seem to want it that way.
After meeting Colleen and Brendan at Vieux Forte which is near the airport, we sailed back to Rodney Bay. The shoreline of Rodney Bay is lined with resorts and is a popular anchorage. We added our paddle boards to all the other recreational vessels (jet skis, Hobie cats) in the bay.
From Rodney Bay, we sailed down the west coast to Marigot Bay. There, if you pick up a mooring ball owned by the marina, you have access to the amenities of marina and the neighboring resort. The mooring field was very crowded and busy with local boat traffic. We took advantage of the resort pool for a relaxing afternoon. That evening we all saw our first green flash! Sorry – no pictures.
The next day we sailed further down the coast to the Pitons (Petit and Gros). The Pitons are two distinctive peaks next to each other and separated by a small bay. This is part of a national park and no anchoring is allowed. We were greeted by a boat with three young men onboard as we entered the bay who guided us to a mooring ball. Here the “boat boys” are younger and more aggressive in wanting to sell us services. After paying them for their “help” with the mooring ball and repeatedly refusing any other help they reluctantly left us alone. We were able to snorkel near the Sugar Bay Resort at the head of the bay, and saw quite a lot of different sea life. We all saw another green flash at sunset that night – two in a row!
We traveled next to Soufriere where we arranged a tour of some of the sites away from the coast. We were met at the dinghy dock by McGavin who drove us to Diamond Botanical Gardens, Maho Falls and Morne Coubaril Estate.
At Diamond Botanical Gardens we were met by a tour guide who explained the plants and agriculture of the island while leading us to the waterfall. The colors behind the falls are the result of the many minerals in the water and are said to change daily. The falls are a mix of fresh spring water that flows through volcanic rock. No swimming allowed here.
Maho Falls allows swimming in the pool beneath the falls and appeared to be a popular tourist destination based on the number of buses and cabs there. Since this is also spring water it was quite chilly.
Our next stop of the day was the Morne Coubaril Estate to go zip lining through the rain forest – probably one of the most exciting adventures of our time on St. Lucia. Sheldon and Dalton were our guides and were very good at their jobs. Now I have a pretty strong fear of heights but decided to try this since Pete, Colleen and Brendan were so enthusiastic. At the first line I couldn’t bring myself to step off the platform and asked Sheldon to just push me. Being the professional that he is, he refused to push me but did offer to ride with me in tandem. That worked and eventually I got up the nerve to try a couple of the lines alone. I think it took about an hour for my heart rate to return to normal after we finished. We had fantastic views from the tree tops in the rain forest, which I don’t think we would have seen otherwise.
As I write this, Colleen and Brendan have returned home and we have moved on to Martinique. More on Martinique in my next post.
Stay tuned and stay in touch!