Saturday, May 28, 2011

A bit more beating!


We left Les Saintes on yet another 46mile beat up to Dominica, bypassing Portsmouth, and heading on to Roseau, the port of entry at the southern end of the island. Dominica itself is a very beautiful looking island, filled with rain forest vegetation, hikes, mountains and waterfalls…..making it another of our must spend more time here islands… but not this time!
The anchorage down at Roseau is deep, rolly, and not very appealing! The only thing it had going for it was its proximity to Martinique, a mere 36 miles away! We anchored there shortly after lunch, and put up our yellow flag, with no intention of checking in, hoping that the bureaucracy would not trouble us before we set off at 6.00am next day. (Mary and I have really become quite brazen about evading the unnecessary paperwork, cruising permits, entry fees, launch and recovery of the dinghy, involved in a quick overnight stop.)
We were happy to up anchor and set off on our next leg, which proved to be a fast, wet beat with winds between 18 and 25 knots. We did the 36 miles in exactly 6 hours, which included about 10 miles only averaging 4-4.5knots. We sailed with a full main, staysail, and about a No3 genoa, right up to the last 6 miles before Martinique, where we took a reef in the main. There is almost always an acceleration zone as one approaches or leaves the islands, where winds gust and build way above average. This has become one of our common strategies. This can be important around Martinique, St Lucia and St Vincent in particular, but is very common throughout the island chain.
Along the way we flew past a Jeaneau 40 with 3 reefs and a rag of headsail. Later in St Pierre, they told us that they had left Roseau at 3.00am, and arrived an hour after we did, taking a full 10 hours! They told us they were in no hurry, but looked exhausted!
StPierre is a town on Martinique, which also shares a tragic volcanic eruption history. Mount Pelee erupted in 1902, having given plenty of warnings. Why St Pierre was not evacuated remains a mystery, but when the mountain side collapsed, it buried the town, killing all 29933 residents. There was only one survivor- the single occupant of the town jail! No, he was not the guy who first said” Who said crime doesn’t pay!”
Although it is also a quaint town, with lots of history, the anchorage is rolly and only good for a one night stay! We had intended to move on down to St Annes/Marin at the bottom end of Martinique, a mere 32 miles on. The first 16 mile leg to Fort du France, turned into a very uncomfortable bash into 25-27knots, so we bailed out and decided to call in at the capital for the night. We anchored alongside the Fort, went ashore for a walk around, just to get off the boat for a while! We bought a new boat hook, and failed in our quest to find Mary a “second skin” for her snorkeling. The town is described as vibrant and very Parisian and French. Bull! It was grubby and third world! We went back to the boat, and moved 3 miles over to a very pretty and protected little beach called Anse D’Lane, where we spent the night.
The slog resumed next morning , as we beat our way towards St Annes, tacking inside Diamond Rock, before resuming our starboard tack on to St Annes, which is a very big, shallow and protected holiday resort area. Just around the corner from Club Med, lies the Cul Du Sac Du Marin, which is the yachting mecca of Martinique with every conceivable service …. including all 17 yacht charter companies of the Caribbean.
I’ve had a bit to say about the anchoring skills of some of these bareboat clowns, and I suppose I should have appreciated bareboat sailing hazards too! Yesterdays experience was another eye opener! We were beating as hard on the wind as we could manage, doing about 6.5knots on starboard tack into 22knots of wind. Bearing down on us were two charter boats fresh out of Marin….a cat and a monohull, both with only badly trimmed headsails, but effectively on port tacks. The cat continued to come straight for us, making no attempt to drop down and enable us to pass port to port. Rules of the road be damned … they do not know them! This sudden awareness on my part forced us to do a quick snap tack to port for two minutes, before making another quick tack back to starboard, so that we could pass safely between them, as they all smiled and waved, oblivious of the near disaster!
As Mary remarked afterwards, they were probably too inexperienced or stupid to have even appreciated our slick collision avoiding tacks! I did however fulfill one of my lifelong dreams! That is, I gave the Cat skipper a fully orchestrated French National salute, complete with a full right arm wind up, catching my right bicep in my left hand, to show him a fully extended right hand middle finger pointing skywards! Very satisfying!!!

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