Trinidad to St. Martin: December 5-17, 2011

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Back to the Boat

We had an uneventful flight back from Bismarck, ND to Trinidad on Sunday, December 5th.  Jesse James' driver was at the airport waiting for us, although jokster Jesse had told him that his fare would be "two old ladies with white hair". We were back to the boat by 11:30 PM, but stayed up until nearly 2:30 AM unpacking.  In our absence, Steve (Receta) watched our boat for a time, and then handed it over to Rodney, the Crews Inn dockmaster.  Receta and Arctic Tern were given permission -- nay, were urged -- to raid our refrigerator while we were gone.

Barb was up early on Monday morning and discovered that the weather forecast for Tuesday sounded great for trawler cruising, so we decided to leave early the next morning.  We hustled off to Immigration and Customs at Chaguaramas and checked-in and out. We called Richard at Coast-to-Coast Air Conditioning and he came and removed his air conditioner. (It had been in one of our pilothouse hatches since just before we went on the hard in July, working so well that we decided to continue using it when we splashed, thereby relieving us of having to worry about plastic bags from the dirty water in the anchorage  being sucked into the cooling-water intake.) The exterior of the boat had gotten filthy during the two weeks we had been gone -- that is about all the time it takes for stubborn black streaks to appear, presumably a consequence of all of the diesel engines running 24/7 in the busy commercial harbor. We spent most of the day washing the boat, but we also visited folks to pay bills, got one last roti at Grace's, picked up our five cases of duty-free booze, and did some minimal provisioning, including purchasing a 10-pound turkey, since we hadn't had any turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving. That afternoon we were issued an invitation to attend a birthday party for Bill (Windsong) at the pool bar that evening.  We managed to carve out an hour to attend the party (which was well attended and a lot of fun).

Racing Northward

Dec. 6: Trinidad to Grenada -- 84 nm in 11 hours

The next morning we left Crews Inn at 5:12 AM. The seas were the calmest we have ever had for that passage. I put out the trolling lines shortly after it was fully light and about 20 miles later caught a smallish mahi-mahi that was nevertheless a keeper.  Twenty more miles along, in deep water and on auto pilot, I was reading a book on my iPad when I may have fallen asleep at the wheel. Of course, that would be irresponsible on my part, and would be the kind of behavior that could cause domestic discord, so I will not declare that I had indeed sleeping. But I can say that I remember being rather startled by two sounds: a fishing reel screaming and Barb shouting from down below that the reel was screaming.  By the time I got outside and got the clutch tightened sufficiently, there was precious little line left on the reel.  And way back, miles behind the boat, a humongous fish jumped out of the water. It took a long time to reel the thing up to the boat. That I could reel him in is a testament to how much better my arthritis is. We weren't certain about what was on the line -- there were things sticking out of the water as it neared. Turned out the things were a bill and thin long pectoral fins. The bill looked nasty. I knew the sporting thing to do was to get out on the swim platform and to somehow get the hook disengaged, but, as I say, the bill looked nasty. I could readily picture getting gored while trying to be sporting. So instead I gaffed him, and laboriously, oh so laboriously, brought him over the rail. And then we could see what we had: a gorgeous sailfin. It took me a very long time to fillet, and the result was a bunch of fish -- so much that at first Barb despaired of getting it all into the freezer. She decided to wait until we arrived at Grenada do any vacuum packing.

Pausing in Grenada

We arrived in Hog Island at 4:05 pm on the December 7th.  The conditions had remained calm for the entire trip and we didn't even have salt spray on the boat.  Beautiful.  With those conditions prevailing, we should have planned on continuing northward the next day.  But there were friends on Grenada, and so we opted to pause for a day or three.

Devi and Hunter (Arctic Tern) soon joined us and they inherited 1/3 of the sailfish filets.  Devi helped Barb vacuum pack all the filets and helped find room for them in the crowded freezer and refrigerator.  And of course there was a thawed 10-pound turkey waiting in the refrigerator to be eaten, so we all agreed to get together the next evening to enjoy it.

We checked into Grenada at the Le Phare Bleu Immigration and Customs office the next morning and asked for a month on the island.  (Actually, we had no intention of staying that long, but we have learned to always ask for more time than we think we need to save ourselves a trip back for an extension.)  We stopped in to chat with Gary Adams and learned that he no longer has his Doc Adams Blues Band -- he is re-inventing his act as a rock-n-roll band with just himself and a drummer. He reported that the construction is going well on their house being built on the hillside above the marina. From below, the house looks beautiful and the view from there should be spectacular. 

Soon our fisherman friends Dwight and Stevie arrived for an afternoon visit. Dwight has been going by the boat Lightheart every week to clean its bottom. Martha and Peter are back in the States where Martha is recovering from a back injury that she got while jumping last month down the highest of the Seven Sisters waterfalls in Grenada. They spent the hurricane season in Grenada and became good friends with Dwight and Stevie.  Peter is an awesome diver and he often accompanied Dwight and Stevie on their fishing trips. 

We enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner with Devi and Hunter and then had a few rounds of bridge. Next day, we got together for lunch with Chris and Yani (Magus).  By then it was clear that the seas were going to remain benign for the next few days, so we decided we should make tracks north before the Christmas winds started. (Some time in late December strong winds typically begin and the seas often stay quite high which limits the days for traveling comfortably).   After lunch with Chris and Yani, we ran back over to Le Phare Bleu and checked out and did some final provisioning. We spent our last evening playing cards with Devi and Hunter and left early the next morning at dawn.

Scene from tranquil Hog Island anchorage

Chris (Magus) with his rudder that is being repaired

At lunch at De Big Fish with Chris and Yani

Dec. 9: Grenada to Bequia -- 75 nm in 11 hours

We arrived in Bequia at 4:56 PM.  We had calm seas the entire way.  We decided not to fish since we had no room for more fish in our refrigerator and had lots of turkey leftovers.  :-)  As usual it took us a couple of tries to get the anchor to hold.  The Bequia anchorage is not one of our favorite places.  We flew the yellow (quarantine) flag and did not go ashore. 

Dec. 10: Bequia to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia -- 69 nm in 10 hours

We arrived in Rodney Bay at 3:43 pm.  Sad to pass by the Pitons without stopping.  Barb's cousin Geri and her family are going to be vacationing in St. Lucia at the end of the month and we had thought we might be able to see them there.  But we just couldn't pass up all the good weather to wait there for 20 days, so on we go. 

Chatter on the VHF and flags on arriving vessels revealed that we had settled in to the anchorage very near the finish line of the 2011 ARC.

Twin peaks of the Pitons

Dec. 11: Rodney Bay to Portsmouth, Dominica -- 98 nm in 13.66 hours

We cruised past Martinique without stopping, but along the way saw an attractive boat with handsome red sails. The island is also a favorite and we look forward to stopping there on our way back south. At the north end is the famous Mount Pelee which erupted in 1902 and wiped out the entire town of St. Pierre (except for one jailed individual). 

We planned to stop in Roseau in southern Dominica but as we approached I urged that we press on to Portsmouth.   Barb was not eager since it would be dark by then.  We tried calling Seacat in Roseau to ask him about available moorings, but were not able to raise him so we headed in toward the mooring field.  As we approached we saw that all boats were facing west with their sterns toward the close shore.  The last time we were there, while on a hike TT2's mooring broke lose and she floated off.  On that occasion, she floated north and west (away from shore). The owner of the mooring saw it happen and rescued her. We have not used a mooring since then (except in Bonaire) and continue to distrust them. So as we approached the mooring field, neither of us felt comfortable given the conditions, and so we decided to go on to Portsmouth.  We knew that a full moon would rise at 6:41 pm and hoped that would help us get into the Portsmouth anchorage when we would arrive some time after 7:00 PM.

The sun went down at 5:30 PM and as we cruised we both saw the longest and brightest green flash yet. Barb stood watch for floats and we stayed way offshore to minimize the possibility of coming across fish traps.   Unfortunately, clouds (and mountains) to the east got in the way so we didn't get much help from the moon until after we were anchored but our spotlight was sufficient.  We were pleased that as we approached the anchorage, Alexis -- one of the local "boat boys", came out to greet us and see if we needed a mooring or anything else. We really appreciate those guys who make life more pleasant for cruisers in Portsmouth.  They handle security in the anchorage, give us rides when we don't want to use our dinghies, take us on tours, provide moorings, etc.

All of our turkey finally gone, I grilled sailfish filets that night.  Yum!

Handsome sailboat

Panorama of Mt. Pele and St. Pierre

Southern Dominca -- where the scuba diving is excellent

Dec. 12: Portsmouth to Deshais, Guadeloupe -- 51 nm in 7.25 hours

A short day today. We arrived in Deshais 2:25 PM and had plenty of spots to choose from to anchor.  We bought a month's worth of HotHotHotSpot wifi in Grenada and have been able to use it in all of our anchorages except Rodney Bay.  Thus, we spent the afternoon on the internet and had a relaxed time.  Good that we got there early, as the afternoon wore on more and more boats came into the anchorage.

Ft. Shirley in Cabrits National Park, seen as we leave the Prince Rupert Bay at Portsmouth

Placid seas on our voyage toward Guadeloupe

Dec. 13: Deshais to Whitehouse Bay, St. Kitts -- 79 nm in 11+ hours

We left just before dawn and passed Montserrat around noon.  We finally put our fishing lines back out and I caught an 11-pound mahi-mahi just south of Nevis.  Guess what we had for dinner that night?   There were three other boats in Whitehouse Bay, so we weren't alone there as we usually are.  It's a beautiful spot with a nice dinghy dock and a road nearby, so it is possible to catch a ride or call a taxi from there.  Of course, we were flying the yellow flag so we stayed aboard.  We popped popcorn and watched a movie before calling it an early night. 

Panorama of Montserrat

Venting at the top of the active peak

View as we pass

The former town of Plymouth -- destroyed by the volcano

While Barb takes a turn at piloting, Chuck keeps a keen watch

Between Montserrat and Nevis lies the uninhabited "kingdom" of Redonda

There will always be room in the frig for more mahi-mahi!

Dec. 14: St. Kitts to St. Martin -- 66 nm in 9.33 hours

We left White House Bay in the darkness of early dawn.  Soon there was enough light to enjoy the sight of this sailboat:


North of St. Kitts lies Statia, home of a large petroleum depot. We wended our way through the queued tankers and were neither challenged nor challenging. As we passed Statia we could see to the north Saba, one of our favorite dive destinations.  Later, as we approached St. Martin, we were pestered by a brown booby, who kept landing on our solar-powered night light.

Statia Petroleum depot

Some of the many freighters awaiting their turn at the spigot

We passed right in front of the freighter -- note that she is anchored!

Soaring island of Saba

Half my kingdom for a BB-gun!

All in all, another beautiful cruising day with still no salt spray on the boat. Seven days of sweet cruising.  We arrived about 20 minutes too late for the 2:30 PM bridge opening into the Simpson Bay Lagoon.  We knew that a weather system was going to arrive later that evening, so we wanted to tuck into the Lagoon and not have to worry about potentially big swells.  Since we had to wait until the 5:30 pm opening, we anchored in Marigot Bay and relaxed for a bit.  Fortunately, we got into a conversation with some folks passing by in their dinghy and learned that the bridge on the French side of St. Martin was out of order.  Yikes! By then it was too late to get the dinghy down and go check in.  It was also too late to go around to the southwest side of the island to enter the Lagoon through the bridge on the Dutch. Such is life!  We would go around in the morning. 

Pause in St. Martin

The front that was slated to arrive at dawn actually arrived about 2:00 AM on Thursday the 15th.  Since the wind was from the north, the Marigot Bay anchorage really got rough. Things in cupboards that had been perfectly happy during our entire cruise from Trinidad now began making all kinds of noises.  We ended up shoving towels into a number of cupboards to quiet things down and fill up some empty spaces.  We also had to put a barrier in the fridge to keep things from tipping over.  Needless to say it was not a pleasant night. Next morning we listened to the 7:30 AM net and received assurances that we could enter on the Dutch side and move through the Lagoon over to the French side to anchor, thereby avoiding the Dutch bridge and mooring fees.

By 10:00 AM we were safely anchored in the Lagoon and the world was looking pleasant again. We got the dinghy down and headed in to check-in.  Oh, the French know how to do check-ins.  We sat at a computer, typed in our information, and asked it to be printed out.  Then we paid them 5 or so Euros for the convenience of it, and were on our way.  We were craving a pizza, and so we picked out a past favorite pizzeria that we knew had wifi.   It wasn't until after we had ordered that we discovered that the wifi wasn't working.  That forced us to go to a boulegarie (bakery) afterwards for a fabulous French dessert and there we caught up on our email, etc using their wifi.  Every table in the bakery was taken by someone using a computer of some sort.  One must order something to get the password, but that seemed perfectly acceptable, especially since the tart made a superb topper for our pizza.

Smaller sailboats ahead of us approach the just-opened bridge

Fishing from an old pier next to the bridge

As this is written on the evening of Dec. 16, the weather forecasts seem to portend that the seasonal "Christmas" winds have arrived, which means the winds will be extra-strong for days and days at a time.  But there appears to be a slight lull in the making, so we are planning on checking out on in the morning and exiting the Lagoon tomorrow afternoon in order to be staged to start on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 18, the long trek from St. Martin to the British Virgin Islands.

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