As you may recall from reading THIS previous post, we had a very successful passage across the Atlantic from Las Palmas Gran Canarias and arrived in St. Anne on the South end of the French island of Martinique in the early morning hours of January 15th. After 14 days at sea it was an abrupt but enjoyable transition to life on anchor and we spent the next two weeks in the huge anchorage beside the small village of St. Anne.
There were literally hundreds of other boats taking advantage of this unusually large shallow sandy bottom anchorage area which makes for ideal anchorage in about 6 meters/18 ft of water. This sundown photo from shore only shows about a quarter of the anchorage so difficult to capture in one shot.
Martinique and Guadalupe to the North are what are referred to as “overseas departments” of France meaning they are technically considered a part of France which provides them with many benefits compared to the other Caribbean islands. Martinique has a land area of 1,128 km2 (436 sq mi) and a population of about 370k with a great variety of terrain from near desert to high mountains. Philip had a rental car and so we spent several days driving around the island to get a better feel for its diversity. First settled by the French, Dominica became a British colony in 1805, though a much neglected one that led to their independence in 1978.
If you look at the bottom of the map above you can see that the bay we are in just off of St. Anne continues a long ways NE and you find several hundred more boats anchored in the neighboring bay off of the larger town of Le Marin where there are also several large marinas and charter boat facilities. So we didn’t exactly have this all to ourselves but the island treasures more than made up for it.
We took the Tender all the way up this bay to check out the facilities in Le Marin and Philip kindly drove us there several times so we could stock up on what we needed from the large chandleries, grocery and hardware stores in this much larger town.
We had changed course part way across the Atlantic to land in Martinique rather than our original destination further south on the island of Grenada when we found out that our long time sailing friend from Switzerland was going to be in Martinique enjoying his latest passion of kite foiling. It had been over two years since we were last with Philip so one of the many gifts of the past two weeks has been time with him. Here we are tasting some of the local artisan rum at a distillery we toured.
The history of many of the Caribbean islands is mixed with the creation of rum as sugar cane was such a major crop on most islands.
This particular distillery is trying to capture the variety of different sugar cane using the traditional manual processes and made for a very fun tour.
This is all located on the grounds of an old historical site that provided a dramatic setting for the distillery with all its now well restored old buildings.
On one of our many outings with Philip we went over to the area where he kite foils and timed it to be on a Sunday afternoon when there is a weekly jazz festival which made for a very chill afternoon.
Being so close, we took several walks along the southern end of Martinique which had its own diversity of idyllic sandy beaches.
and ocean vistas like this looking South over to the island of St. Vincent. As you can see, the Sargasso weed we encountered all the way across the Atlantic, is very prevalent here as well.
On January 23rd, I reached my own milestone during our time at St. Anne with my very own embarras de choix of gifts including time with Philip and a surprise virtual B’day party that my Beautiful Bride secretly orchestrated. Over 35 of my dearest friends and family called into the group video from a vast swath of the planet stretching from Auckland NZ to Switzerland to make this an eXtremely memorable birthday. My thanks to all who gifted me with your time on this very special B’day call.
RIght now, our thought is to make our way North from here as we wander our way through many of the other Caribbean islands and then follow the arc of other islands East over to the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. We will start our Northern journey by going up to the next island of Dominic which has a special place in Christine’s heart from her previous time there on her sailboat Sunrise in the 1990’s.
We keep our eye on the weather forecasts every day and on Thursday (Feb. 2nd) the constant Easterly Trade Winds were down a bit so we hoisted the anchor and headed up to the NW corner of Martinique for a short overnight anchor before heading out into the straits between Martinique and Dominica.
After relatively short sail of about 30nm and we arrived in the small roadsted at Le Prêcheur (see map above) late in the afternoon after leaving Saint Anne about 2pm.
This map will give you a better sense of this string of Caribbean islands that we will be cruising through in the coming weeks. After a good nights rest anchored off of Le Prêcheure we weighed anchor on Friday morning and headed North to cross over to Dominica. The forecasts for lighter winds didn’t prove to be very accurate as we had average winds of +25 knots with gusts to 35 and 2 meter/6.5ft swells on our Starboard beam aka right side. The constant higher winds on our side helped to reduce the roll a bit and we put the paravanes out for the whole crossing which smoothed the ride out considerably. We passed a number of charter catamarans heading south and they were having a very rough ride in these winds and seas as the swells were quite short periods.
As soon as we got in the lee of the southern point of Dominica the swell disappeared and we pulled in the paravanes for a lovely smooth ride up to the NW corner of Dominica to an anchorage off the small town of Portsmouth. Overall trip from St. Anne to Portsmouth was 86nm and we continued to motor through lots of Sargasso weed so we had to slow down and clear the paravane lines two times but our overall speed averaged about 8 knots in spite of the more boisterous winds and seas so we were quite happy with this performance.
NOT to be confused with the Dominican Republic the egg shaped 300 square miles of Dominica is very undeveloped compared to the other Caribbean islands with very few sandy beaches and instead filled with spectacular geological wonders; canyons, hot springs, mountain trails, jungle, ocean cliffs, thriving reefs. The weather has been unusual for this time of year with high 25+ knot winds constantly blowing out of the East and bringing misty overcast skies across the island to where we are, pretty much all the time.
Not at all uncomfortable as we are well protected by the mountainous island with almost no fetch between us so even though the winds come racing down the slopes the waters are flat and the boat is very comfy just swinging side to side in a wide arc on the anchor chain as the gusts come through. Our 110kg/240lb Rocna and overall anchoring setup is another of our better decisions and really helps us SWAN, Sleep Well At Night.
Since we arrived in Dominica two days ago, we have been getting short bursts of rain with a few bigger downpours from time to time so it is one of those “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes” kind of situation. Ideal time for us to rest up and catch up with our various jobs and projects. We were able to get a very good SIM card from Digicel when we arrived in Martinique and it is supposed to work all the way through the rest of the Caribbean all the way North just short of the Bahamas so we’ve got quite good internet connections which have become about as basic as electricity for us.
So that is the latest sit rep for you. We will probably be here in Dominica for the next 3-5 days keeping an eye on the weather looking for the winds and seas to calm down a bit to cross over to what Christine refers to as “the butterfly island” of Guadeloupe, another French island. Stay tuned for that and the update on what else happened here in Dominica.
Thanks for taking the time to join us on these latest adventures and please put your comments, questions and suggestions in the “Join the Discussion” box below.