We don’t set out to do so on purpose, but it seems to just regularly happen that our passages coincide with holidays. This has been the case for many years now and has continued to be the case this year with some of our most recent passages which have included:
- Halloween Kalymnos Greece to Sicily
- Remembrance Day Bezerte Tunisia to Saida Morocco
- Our “First Kiss” anniversary (Dec 21) Tangier Morocco to Las Palmas Canary Islands
- Xmas Eve Tangier Morocco to Las Palmas Canary Islands
- New Years Day First day of Atlantic Crossing from Canary Islands to Martinique Caribbean
- Groundhog Day Martinique to Dominica
- Valentine’s Day Dominica to St. Martin
No particular significance to this, just a bit of synchronicity we find interesting.
However we have been on several non holiday passages the past two weeks and wanted to provide you with an update on those so here goes.
When I left off in the last blog Update we had just anchored in a small bay off Portsmouth on the NW cost of Dominica. Dominica was a particular highlight for Christine as she had sailed into Dominica back in 1994 with her husband Jim and son Tim (9 years old at the time) aboard their 54′ sailboat “Sunrise” so it was great fun to travel around this small formerly British island and revisit some of the same sights she had seen back then.
Dominica is quite different from most other Caribbean islands as it is one of the youngest to be volcanically formed and so it is much more mountainous and covered in verdant jungle. It is also one of the least populated with a population of about 74k and mostly underdeveloped island but this is a plus for us as we prefer these kinds of locations, cultures and people. We drove down parts of both coasts and through the capital city of Roseau.
We soon befriended the local “character” who goes by the name of Cobra and we hired him to take care of our whole check In/Out paperwork and then spent two other days having him show us around the home he was so proud of. One of the trips we took was on a relatively small rowboat that took us up the small river estuary that empties into Portsmouth Bay. This was something that Christine & Tim had done when they were here.
We also spent a very full day with Cobra driving through much of the island of Dominica and one of the stops was for a swim to some water falls inside a very narrow fissure in the cliffs. Can you spot Christine swimming back through the narrow inlet? Hint, her lifevest is red.
Here is a bit more zoomed in as she was just entering the shot.
What makes this area particularly interesting is that there are geo thermal hot springs everywhere. Some small little boiling mud pots like this and others creating whole heated streams and pools.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park is home to the volcanically heated, steam-covered Boiling Lake. The park also encompasses sulphur vents, the 65m-tall Trafalgar Falls and narrow Titou Gorge so we made stops in all of these.
Apparently we aren’t the only ones how like these mineral rich waters.
The younger topology and abundant rainfall also creates some spectacular waterfalls. This beauty was particularly fetching to me and the the double waterfalls were pretty great to see as well.
Dominica benefits from the abundant sources of hydro electric power generation.
No dams required when you have a vertical drop of water from the top like this example. Most of the pipes they use for this are created of wood strips held in a cylinder like a wooden barrel with large steel clamps to hold them all together. Amazing to see up close.
After a week in Dominica we took the next weather window to make the relatively short 40nm hop North to the Guadalupe. These French Caribbean islands all use an automated DIY check In/Out system which consists of a PC setup in a marina office where you fill in the fields in a form and is then printed out. You show your passports to the person at the store, give them 2 Euros and they stamp and sign the printed form and you’re done! So we stopped first at the SW end of Guadalupe and anchored out in front of the marina to check in . Unfortunately their computer system was down so I took a taxi into the main town a few kilometers north and went through the process at the Government office there.
That only took less than two hours and we weighted anchor and went up to a lovely little anchorage off the small town of Bouillante.
Not to be outdone by their neighboring island to the South, the Bay here at Bouillante has a large inflow of geo thermally heated water that creates a large section of the rocky beach that heats the seawater to hot tub temperatures up to 45C/115F and a big hit with the tourists as you can see.
As with many of the other Bays in this part of the Caribbean, there are frequent Karibatic winds that funnel strong gusts down the Western lee side of the mountains ashore and usually bring a lot gusty winds throughout the day and night and bringing a lot of the wet mist and rain with them. So after enjoying the big little Festival parade in Bouillante, we decided to move on and took the next good looking weather window to make the larger jump up North.
This next passage would be a bit longer as we started to turn on the arc Westward to take us to the island of Saint Martin. This would be about 150 nautical miles and weather wise it was best to do this as an overnight passage so on the Lucky 13th, we left blustery Bouillante in the morning and took a short 10nm jump to a much quieter anchorage on the NW end of Guadalupe and enjoyed a very peaceful day at anchor there. Anchor up about 22:00 and we were off to St. Martin.
To help put this all in perspective, here is a map of the overall Caribbean on the Right.
We wove our way through the islands of Montserrat, Antigua, St. Kitts & Nevis and Barbuda and completed the 150nm trip at an net average speed of just under 8 knots.
** NOTE: I’ve received a few questions letting me know I have caused some confusion about these boat speeds I’ve been posting. To clarify, these speeds are calculated by taking the total distance travelled anchor to anchor and dividing it by the number of hours from departure to arrival. Therefore this is what I refer to as our “net average speed”. With stops along the way to clear sargasso weed or dodging other ships, our typical boat speed at any given time is usually a good bit faster in order to produce this net average speed over the whole distance. For those wondering, our typical cruising speed is usually between 8.5 to 9 knots which we are think is the sweet or Goldilocks just right combination of speed and fuel economy. We continue to consume an overall average of 1.8 to 1.9 Liters/NM. As we make more passages we will continue to try out different engine RPM, propeller pitch and boat speeds to see how these affect the fuel economy and I’ll continue to update you here as we gather those data points.
Saint/Sint Martin aka SXM
We have both been to SXM several times before on different boats so this was somewhat familiar territory for both of us for a change.
This is another quite unique island as the southern half is Dutch and the Northern half is French. SXM is also unique for the large bay captured inside the island with two entrances, one on the SW corner at Simpson Bay for the Dutch end near the large airport and then another entrance over on the North side of the Lagoon by Marigot Bay for the French side. There is a draw bridge over each of these narrow entrances and so there are set times each day for 2 to 3 openings for inbound and then another set for outbound ships. We arrived on the South coast of St. Martin in Simpson Bay but were just a few minutes too late for the last inbound opening of the bridge at 15:00 so we anchored for the night outside.
Worked out just great as we had a lovely view from our chairs on the front deck watching the planes take off and land literally right beside us as
Best of all, we popped a bottle of Champagne, (well OK, Prosecco) to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2023 and remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to have found each other and be sharing this life of love, laughter and learning. Our latest Holiday Happiness at sea!
First inbound bridge opening the next morning was at 09:30 so we picked up the anchor a few minutes before and joined the lineup of boats waiting to enter into the lagoon.
Here is a quick look back at the boat behind us just as we were approaching the bridge.
It can look a bit narrow at first but we have been through before and our narrow beam (5m / 16.5ft) gave us plenty of room to spare.
Just to put that in perspective, here is a shot as we entered into the lagoon and all these other “little” boats/ships had come through before us so there was LOTS of room for us!
After entering we needed to go through one more bridge where the causeway from the Dutch side to the French side crosses the lagoon. We preferred the quick and easy check in/out process the French have compared to the Dutch. This is a newer bridge that is a causeway that goes across the lagoon and it was supposed to open at 11am but after holding position for over an hour they informed us that the bridge wasn’t working and would hopefully be fixed by later in the afternoon. So we anchored just off to the side of the bridge and waited and fortunately they got it working and we were able to cross over to the French side just after 14:00.
The gusty winds seem to have followed us throughout this trip and continues here in St. Martin along with short bouts of rain mostly at night.
But we are very comfy onboard and have taken the Tender into both the French and Dutch sides to refamiliarize ourselves with this unique spot in the Caribbean. Christine has several sailing friends she knows here and we’ll get in some visits with them as well as some larger shopping expeditions for groceries in the well stocked Carrefour store as well as boat parts in the large marine stores here in this popular spot for all the super yachts so there are lots of amenities for us to take advantage of.
We will probably stay here for another week or so before we make our next jump over to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands so stay tuned for that in the next update in a few weeks.