On Saturday, March 30th, we got ready early in the morning, and started towards Martinique at 7:00 am. The bay of Roseau was quite calm, so we pointed towards the Seven Feet Rock, which was marked on the GPS devices at an approximate position quite far in the water from Scott’s Head, the peninsula at the south-west corner of Dominica. Since the charts and our sailing guide do not mention anything about this rock, we had set a route and way points according to the chart. When Al was marking the way points on the GPS, we saw that the one near Scott’s head was smack on the rock. We could not understand how the Imray chart would not take the rock into consideration, but the chickens that we are, we changed our route to go around that general area, hence lengthened our trip for at least half an hour. Better late than sorry!
When we approached the south corner of the island, the wind started to blow harder, as a result of island effect we thought, with waves to match. There were several mono-hulls ahead of us and behind. Most of them passed close to Scott’s Head, and got underway on a direct route towards Martinique, which was barely visible in the mist.
When we reached the open seas, wind increased steadily to 22 knots, gusting to 29 at times. We did motor sailing for a while, but Al had reefed the sails from the beginning, since he had seen in the forecast that expected winds were to be 15 to 20 knots. We reefed the genoa as well, so that our speed was less than 5 miles an hour, since the wind was on the nose, due to our earlier diversion to the west. This passage was the most challenging so far, except going to Culebra, SVI. After an hour into the passage, I thought of turning back, but of course it was out of the question. The waves were quite high, which were jerking us unpredictably. I almost fell down while dealing with furling in the genoa, after Al shifted direction. I don’t like the winch area at the starboard side, since there is no place to hold on, except the coiled lines hanging at the side. Especially when sailing 6-7 knots, turning the winch becomes stressful without a place to steady oneself and hold on .
Apparently several storm cells were around us. Al changed route to go behind one, and the other approaching ones did not catch up on us, so we reached St Pierre, Martinique around 2:00 pm. I was dead tired, but we had to get to shore to clear in.
Saturday afternoon, St Pierre was a ghost town! Nobody on the streets, all the shops, including hair dressers, most restaurants and convenience stores, were closed. We found one café open, and asked the proprietor all our questions, in half English half French, and learned that Customs was no longer handled by L’Escapades as mentioned in the guide, but it would be closed anyway until Monday. I thought we would be gone by then.
Al looked around for a free WiFi place, to send our messages to family and friends, but no luck. He bought air time for his Orange cellular service provider, and sent text messages, to give our new location. We returned to Ruyam II, to relax a bit. St Pierre is not a welcoming town; some of its buildings looked burned. Apparently, a major volcano eruption burned to death its thirty thousand inhabitants in the year 1902, and some of the buildings or parts thereof are still standing, but give a stark and rundown appearance to the town. The beaches are also black, due to the volcanic ash.
We spent the night in its bay, which is quite sheltered, and early in the morning resumed the journey towards Grand Anse D’Arlet. This is one of the small bays at the south west corner of the island, which is a good staging place for the passage to St Lucia.
On the way, we passed the major town called Fort De France, which is known as the biggest in the Caribbean. The bay for the city is so big that the body of water looks like an enclosed sea. The land behind the bay is quite low, while there are high mountains to the north and south, which creates havoc in the winds. Passing the bay, which took two hours, was as bumpy as the open seas. However, it seems that I am getting used to the rough rides, and do not get as scared any more.
Since we started early in the morning, we reached the Grand Anse D’Arlet bay around 10:00 am, which looked crowded from a distance. The guide recommends the south-eastern part as a better anchorage, but it was full of sail boats and some speed boats. So we anchored on the northern part, which was OK as well, and not as packed.
We bought in Roseau, Dominica a small yellow ball to be tied to the anchor, which marks the location of the anchor. The last two times I have been throwing the ball with the anchor, which works like a charm. No more other boats anchoring on top of our anchor, which gives me a heart attack every time we weigh the anchor.
It appears that this bay is the playing ground of the city-dwellers; many day-sailers, power boats and jet skies came for the day and left before sun-set. In the afternoon the sail boats started to come by the dozens, and settled on all the available spots, Al counted over eighty masts. I guess we will have a lot of company on the way to St Lucia.
Al wants to spend one more night here, so that we can take the ferry from Anse A L’Ane, a close-by bay, where we can reach by bus. We will visit the “Paris of the Caribbean” tomorrow, and clear in and out at the same time, if we will be able to find the Customs office there. According to the guide, it is easy at Fort De France, we shall see!