Monday, April 20, 2015

Fish fish fish...

Even with a decent wind angle to sail to Marie Galante, the sea and wind conditions in the Dominica channel (and between all the island passes) tend to be rough. It was windy and seas were steep in the pass, but things got smoother as we made our way to the island.

Unlike Guadeloupe to the north and Dominica to the south, Marie Galante is flat. Very flat. At least it looks flat until you start hiking around it.

Flat Marie Galante in the distance, as seen from Saralane on passage from Guadeloupe to Dominica 
We arrived on Easter and expected everything to be closed, but we dinghied ashore anyhow and just walked around town to stretch our Dominica-hiking sore muscles. Just like in Fort de France on New Year's Day a few years ago, walking around the deserted streets of Saint Louis gave us a unique look at all the quiet and colorful facades without the normal hustle and bustle of daily life.

Saint Louis is only a few blocks in either direction so after strolling around here we headed off along the shore and into the hilly farmland for a hike.

Spider lily
Clockwise from top L: wooded path with spider lilies, Anse de Mays, cart with cut sugar cane, bull and shed
Bulls and cows were in the fields and along the roads

Land shaped by hand, no machines at this farm
Almost looks like autumn 
Unsure about how closed town would be on Easter Monday, we traipsed back in, hoping to rent a car to explore the island. Things were still pretty sleepy, and though a few car and scooter rental shops were open, there wasn't a car or scooter to be had. And seemingly, none the next day. No buses were around either. Normally, we'd just stick around another day or two and see what turned up but for some reason we were both antsy and felt like moving on. It was one of those maybe-we'll-come-back-another-time-and-see-something-else feelings that just needed to be respected, so off we went.

We're day sailing our way north to catch up with friends and family in the USVI... sailing downwind each day is VERY NICE. We sail up the coast of Guadeloupe, then to Monserrat, St Kitts and St Martin on our way to the Virgins.

A ferry load of people arrives in the Saintes as we do.
Sunset in Petit Anse, Guadeloupe
John H is first in line at the dinghy dock in Deshaies
Our previous visit to Monserrat was on a gloomy day, but we had a perfect beautiful Caribbean day this time, and seeing the ruined town from the water was sobering. The smell of sulfur followed us as we sailed up the coast past the deserted town of Plymouth.

Ash flow reaching to the water's edge
Ruins of Plymouth
A haze of sulfur over the deserted town
Perspective on just how much ash covered the town...there's a multistory building on the left, but only a roof visible on the right. 
Our attention was suddenly diverted from the ruins of Plymouth when our fishing line whizzed off the reel.

Tuna #1
No question about dinner that night. Next day we left early for St Kitts and....

Tuna #2
I'm getting good at this. Practice, practice.
.... tuna for dinner again. Ho hum.... more fresh tuna. 

We had other visitors on the way to St Kitts too, both welcome and unwelcome. Birds were everywhere - always a good sign - and they were very interested in our lure. We debated bringing the line in so as not to tempt them, but they were smarter than the fish and opted not to take a bite.

Diving bird - Monserrat still visible through the haze 
Usually there are loads of flying fish around; they pop out of the water and zing across the waves until they plop back in. I was below packing away our tuna bonanza and when Skip heard a series of small thuds against the boat that he assumed were flying fish who hadn't expected to find a boat mid-flight. It wasn't flying fish. It was squid. Lots of little squid, who likewise did not expect to encounter a big solid object between the time they left the water and the time they returned to the water.

About 20 little squid met an untimely death on our deck and left an inky mess in the process. Recalling how difficult it was to remove the squid ink from the topsides when we had a 'squid event' before, we thought we'd better get the ink off the deck fast.

Harnessed in and scrubbing the inky deck. A couple of squid bodies are in the foreground
Aura around the sun at midday
After the tuna, the diving birds and the squirting squid, things quieted down for a bit. Then the fishing line whizzed like mad and we reeled in something other than a tuna.

This barracuda liked the green lure
In case you can't see his TEETH  in the first shot
Enough fishing for one day. We drop the hook in St Kitts and jump in for a snorkel around the sandy anchorage.

Skip brings up a treasure
Starfish were everywhere....
A quick trip to St Martin gives us time to provision and squeeze in visits with friends we see around the lagoon out in the anchorage and in the boat yard.

This wasn't our cart, but it could have been. Confit de Canard!!
John and Fran from Kia Ora. John checks out Skip's senior citizens card for the USVI 
I may as well bring us more or less up to date and include a photo of the mahi mahi we caught on the passage from St Martin to the Virgin Islands. No tuna for dinner tonight! Fish fish fish....

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hike hike hike....

Once we finally tore ourselves away from Antigua and Barbuda, we moved more quickly than we usually do. We sailed to Deshaies Guadeloupe and met up with Bennett and Susan on the Outbound 46, s/v Pratique where we boulder hopped up the Deshaies River and swam in the fresh water pools. Fresh produce is abundant here and we stocked up on these tiny sweet bananas.

We stopped for a snorkel in the marine park at Pigeon Island and found it too rough to stay very long. The wind was whipping through the park making the sea choppy and difficult to snorkel in, so we headed back to the anchorage where the snorkeling was great. I'd taken the camera with me in the park but opted to leave it behind when we snorkeled in the anchorage, and that, of course, was when we saw the octopuses (octopi?) chasing each other. And the big turtle. And the even bigger barracuda. I swam back to the boat for the camera and managed to find one octopus but by then he’d given up chasing the other one.


One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish
In the company of Pratique, we sailed to the crowded Saintes, where we cleared out, then continued on to Dominica.
Pratique flies
Captain Skip shakes out a reef
Gratuitous photo of Dominica gato ashore
We’re always happy to be back in Dominica! We missed Albert the last time we were here and when he saw us arrive he zipped over in his new boat. He’d been building it when we saw him last and he gave it the same cool paint job as his old boat. His new boat has the same perfect spot for him to put his feet up and lounge against the outboard when he’s not doing anything else.

As it turns out, our friend Hank has some history here in Dominica and he was helpful in getting materials to Albert to complete his boat. And who should we see sitting in the cafe ashore in Portsmouth after we cleared in? Hank. With friends and crew aboard on their way to St Martin. Crazy small world out here.

Hi Albert!
Relaxing in the his ride
Martin came by and talked us into joining a group the next day to hike Segment 12 of the island trail. The trail guide refers to this segment as “Difficult and Long”. Yes and yes. I guess I underestimated how much sitting around we did in Antigua; this trail was more of a challenge than others we’ve done and we were pretty sore for a few days. It turned out to be a rainy, foggy day as well so our views were limited to what was right in front of us. No matter…. I spent the entire time watching my feet trying not to slip and slide off the trail. I was mostly successful, though the big mud stain on the back of my shorts attests to my lack of success at a few points.

Starting out in the rain and fog
Farmer way up in the hills

Quick rest stop on the steep trail
Fallen flowers from an African tulip tree 
Martin drinks from one of the many spring water taps that are everywhere in Dominica
I was ready to swear off hiking for a few days, but we only had a few days in Dominica this time around and Bennett and Susan hadn’t been here before, so the next day we walked up to the fort on the western Cabrit and got a view of Prince Rupert Bay and Portsmouth.

Prince Rupert Bay anchorage
The winds were forecast to be light for the next few days and our plan was to head east to Marie Galante, which we’d been bypassing each time we came this way. Those plans changed when we ran into friends Alastair and Esther from s/v Cranstackie at the Saturday morning market in and they convinced us to hike Segment 11 with them later in the day. We're so easily swayed when it comes to spending more time in Dominica! 

Fishing boats at the pier by the market
We’ve hiked this portion of the trail a few times and I now know the difference between the trail guide description of “Difficult” (Segment 12) and “Hard” (Segment 11).  Note to self: stay off the “Difficult” trails.

We called out for our friend Johnson when we reached his farm, but got no answer. His pig sty was pig-less but his farm looked great and we filled our water bottles with at the spring he took us to when we first met him. As always, there were grapefruit everywhere - and they were a welcome reason to stop along the way for a rest.

Alastair comes ready for anything.... but only peels a grapefruit with his impressive knife. Skip comes ready to peel a grapefruit. 

Johnson taught us to always travel in the rainforest with our machete, so when there's something bigger than a grapefruit that needs a sharp edge - out it comes.

The big knife!
Skip, Esther and Alastair hear something in the trees
Crew of Cranstackie
Hot and sweaty hiking buddies
Esther with trusty hiking stick

In the rainforest
Muscles still sore, but feeling pretty righteous about all the hiking, we said goodbye to Dominica yet again and headed for Marie Galante.