Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Right after we waved good-bye to Ender and Buket of Istanbul yacht, Al received an e mail from Marc, who is from Switzerland and a friend of Oguz, Al' s high school buddy, whom we had hosted earlier this year. Marc was interested in buying a sail boat, and had been corresponding about it with Al for a couple of times.

Marc advised in his message that he was currently in Grand Anse D'Arlet, but wished to meet with Al after looking at some yachts moored at Le Marin. He said he had rented a car, and could come wherever we wished in the afternoon. We were going to be at St Anne later that day, to wait for our laundress to bring back our stuff around 5:00 pm, so decided to spend some time at Le Rendevous restaurant which had free Wi-Fi, to do our internet while waiting for Marc.

Marc came, accompanied by Sy, a young sailor-to-be in his twenties, who worked formerly as crew to some mega yachts, but had recently mutinied with a group of mates and left the yacht owner stranded at some port, before coming to Martinique. Sy was also looking to buy some sort of a vessel to sail to Brazil,  in time for the World Cup. I talked to Sy while having drinks, and learned that working as a crew member on the yachts was lucrative and easy, since one lived free of charge on the boat year-round, and worked maybe a month's worth, when the owners, mostly of Russian origin, or his guests would grace it with their presence. However, after a few years, Sy became wary of being treated like a door knob by the owners, and decided to start learning how to sail by part-owning a cheap boat. I presumed that Marc might have contemplated getting Sy and his partner Valentine as crew when he bought his yacht, hence his association with Sy.

Marc related that his wife, after spending some weeks in Martinique in rented villas shared by their friends, returned to Switzerland recently, leaving Marc to fulfill his dream of buying a boat and sailing to St Vincent and the Grenadines. I thought the dream is not all that far fetched, it takes a couple of days to get there, and maybe a month to thoroughly exhaust the charms of the Grenadine islands. Then what? Being all alone on a boat does not seem attractive to me (I might be biased!).  Marc let us know that his wife was a very good woman, but did not share his enthusiasm of living aboard a boat in their retirement, rather having an appreciation of taking university courses to enhance her general knowledge. Everybody to their tastes!
After some probing we learned that Marc is an accomplished sailor, having owned a boat in Switzerland, going around the lakes. So he did not mind being single handed if need be. And since his ambition is not very deep, and long lasting, he was thinking of returning to his life back in Switzerland after a month or so, leaving the boat somewhere safe at the end of his adventure. I suppose he did not wish to think everything through beforehand, and take things as they would come. I don't know what he might do if he loved the life style.

After a chat for a couple of hours, I invited them to our boat the next evening, to continue our pleasent discourse. He expressed doubt, on account of the damned strike in France, by the union of oil workers. There was a shortage of gas, starting the previous week, which had even affected us, when we tried to fill our cooking gas bottle. Thankfully, we were able to find one of the last full bottles to exchange our empty one a couple of days before.

Anyway, Marc indicated that he was using his tank of gas, driving back and forth between his hotel at Anse D'Arlet, and Le Marin, where the boats and  brokers were. He said that it was imperative for him to find some gas (maybe at the black market) soon, since he was going to meet at the airport new friends arriving in two days.
He did come, in the company of Sy and Valentine. Sy is a young New Zealender, while Valentine is a baby faced French lad, who first thing apologized for being French (!), so we promised not to hold it against him.

Valentine was full of stories and ideas. It seemed that the two of them were looking to buy a boat with their combined savings, and reach Brazil, where Sy had some familial association, along with language skills. After Brazil, who knows, the world is their oyster. Isn't it nice to be young and care free?

We had some drinks and food, and a jolly good time! As Marc was supposed to drive back to Arlet, (an hour of winding mountain roads) he did not want to stay too late. When we asked about the source of his gas, while all the stations were still closed, he related that his yacht broker put him in touch with a previous boat owner, who had just sold his boat, but kept his extra jerry jug of diesel, just in case. It became a lucrative decision, having Marc pay double for its contents. However, he was extremely happy. Marc told me that he was prepared to pay 100 Euros if need be, so he did not think it to be expensive, just convenient. Everything is relative to need and dept of pockets.

Since he had  enough gas and more than half a day to burn until his friends' arrival the next day, he invited us to visit Cap Chevalier, at the south east coast of Martinique. As a matter of fact, not too far away from St Anne, directy to the east, over the hills. We had tried to visit the small community before, with our friends Levent and Guylaine on a Sunday. Major mistake, since it is a very popular destination for the local week-end crowd, the only narrow road leading to it was cramming with cars, as well as ambulance and police vehicles. It turned out that there had been a fatal drowning accident just then, and the road was blocked.
The day that Marc came was overcast, and a week day, so when we reached the park/beach of Cap Chevalier, there were only a couple of people para-skiing in the pool like confines of the shallow waters sorrounded by reefs. Unbeknownt to us, Marc was thinking of snorkelling around the reefs, and cool off. It was stuffy for a minute when the sun came out, then cold (with my standars) when disappeared, due to the constant unbridled east winds. Not my type of weather to swim. I was happy to walk along the beach, while Marc dipped his toes. Then it started to rain, so we took shelter in a beach bar, devoid of any customers.

It did not take too long for Marc to freeze his butt, and join us to get his car keys to change. Shortly therafter, we went on our way to explore the east coast some more, and turned south a bit. We were amazed to find a small community at the end of the road, comprised of a series of shuttered wooden stalls, which could probably cater to the fishermen; and a coin operated ice dispenser. The bay at the back drop however was amazing.

There was three separate small bays loosely connected, but so unexpedtedly calm and blue, that it was hard to beleive it was the east coast - nothing like the famous Cap Chevalier, altough almost touching its south corner. When I looked at the map, I realized that we had seen Baie Des Anglais. The same bay that our sailor friend Selcuk (the world traveller) had told us to explore by boat, instead of sitting on our bums at St Anne. Unfortunately the east winds never abated until now, and Doyle cautions sailors to refrain from tackling the narrow entrance to the bay if the winds were over 15 knots. So far that kind of weather did not present itself unfortunately. Next time I see Selcuk, I am going to say that we had seen the bay, how is not for him to know.

After a short time, Marc declared that he found the perfect boat, a 35 ft mono-hull, which had just arrived in Le Marin after completing a crossing (presumably Atlantic). Although it was an old boat, it was overhauled nicely, with essential parts, like engine, sails and lines renewed, wooden panels renovated etc. Marc indicated that after looking at the crap boats on the market, he saw the wisdom of snatching this one immediately.

Marc asked his son Nicholas (Nick) to come immediately, to accompany him on his trip to St Vincent, after his friends from Switzerland left Martinique.

 Marc and Nick had a wonderful two week sailing trip, around St Lucia and St Vincent, fulfilled his dream living in the "paradise", and was ready to sell his boat in Le Marin. I was dumbfounded to learn that he even found a buyer, two days after advertising for it. It turned out that the buyers had been thinking of buying the boat before Marc had seen it, but were not as quick to act as Marc. All in all, in a total of four weeks,  Marc was able to buy his dream boat, do his dream act, and  get rid of the boat  without spending any money. He is a smart dude, and also a very nice, laid back and gentle soul. Nick as well, so handsome, personable and warm, ready to embark on any adventure. I felt jealous about having a son sharing the dream of the father, and Marc expressed envy about our ability to live the life. We invited both of them to visit us next season, when they felt the oppression of the winter in Switzerland.

I also saw Sy separately, while spending time at the Le Marin marina one day, and learned that he and Valentine had bought a small boat, and were taking off to explore the lee bays of Martinique for a while. He decided that travelling to Brazil for the World Cup would be easier by plane, rather than taking the ardous route among the pirates and other dangers. We wished them well in their adventures.

It appears that Le Marin is a good place to buy or sell a boat!

Levent had inquired about good places in Dominica, and learned that the only restaurant not to be missed was owned by a Belgian couple in Batalie. We had never heard of it, but found it in the map. It was half-way between Roseau and Porstmouth, so we decided to make it a lunch stop on the way, moored to their ball.

First thing in the morning was to get water, so we asked Pancho to give us a hand getting tied to the pier of Drop Anchor. We had done that before, and it was a breeze to get water. We also had to buy bread, so we dragged Pancho from bed at 7:30, and moved over. While we were filling our tanks, Levent and Guylaine went to find fresh bread. They came back in no time, mentioning that there was only one type made at Sukie's bakery. We had our breakfast while tied at the pier, and got underway about an hour after.

While we were in the lee of the island, there was no need to set sail. Batalie beach was about two hours away, so it was a leisurely sail, motoring. Thanks to the GPS, we spotted the building obscured by vegetation, and came close to the corner of the small bay. There was one mono-hull anchored, as well as tied to a buoy from the side front. Immediately to its aft was a mooring ball. I called over VHF several times for help, but no answer. While trying to decide what to do, Al went ahead and approached the mooring ball. It was so close to the other boat that if I had missed we would bump into it. The sea was calm, so I did not miss, but I had my share of excitement for the day in the process.

The boats were swinging freely, so we thought tying ours to shore would be a good idea. Then we saw some long and different coloured lines lying at the stony beach. Al and Levent got the dinghy down, got to the beach and started bringing the longest looking one to Ruyam II. However it was not long enough, so I brought our long line, attached it to the aft cleat and gave it to Levent. The two hooked it through the line and tied it back to the boat. The lenght was just right! I hade a sigh of releif, seeing the other boat swinging away from us.

The water seemed clean, the weather hot; nobody can keep me away from swimming for long. Al was the first to get in, and mentioned that it was cold, due to a little spring flowing into the bay. That was it, Levent crossed his arms and said forget it. I swam around the boat, and felt the temperature changing in the water in different streaks. It appeared that cold fresh water was dispersing in the warmer sea, making it interesting, and very clean, since the little stream was coming from the wilderness of the rain forests at the back. The swim was wonderful, and I urged Guylaine to join me. Well she was not sorry for it, we swam almost an hour, around the boat and away.

When it was time to have lunch, we went ashore. We had asked Pancho to make a reservation, so it was imperative. The setting of the restaurant was nice but laid back, overlooking the bay through palm trees and flowers, but the menu was a disappointment. Too high prices for not much to eat. I ended up with fish soup, which I think was the only item worth its price. Guylaine did not like it, so switched with Levent's calaloo soup. As a parantheses, Martinique does not have caloo! When we mentioned that fact to the server, she could not beleive it, and Guylaine was intrigued.

Guylaine further asked for a cheese sandwich, the guys for hamburgers - all disasters, from presentation to taste. The worst was the toilet, although clean, it had no running water. That was it for me, I was disgusted, and made a show of washing Guylaine's hands with drinking water (she was the first to go). The owner came by a little later, and explained that they had a problem with their water pump, and her husband had been busy with the repairs. At least!

When I asked the server if we could spend the night there, she said they were full. Apparently they had 12 rooms. When we corrected that we wished to stay on our boat at the mooring ball, that was no problem and free of charge. So that was good.
Our dinner on bord RUYAM II was much better I tell you, with raki and such. Who needs to eat out. I have been weaned out of the restaurants in the Caribbean, if the place is decent, the prices are astronomical. The islanders try to cook for peanuts, but their taste in cooking is foreign to us. Martinique was the best, having the French cuisine as a guide. English cuisine is non existent, so the one developed in their islands is a hodg podge of tasteless greasy food. This is my opinion, others might differ.

Staying the night at Batalie Beach was pleasent. The next morning, we had no hurry to start, so three of us, Levent excepted, swam in the morning as well, and started around 10:00 am. We reached Portsmouth before noon, and got gelp from one of Cobra's guys to get his mooring. As a matter of fact, he was the only guy looking for customers, everybody else being busy partying on the last day of the carnival. Thank God it was over, any other life is a standstill while it is on!

When we asked to be taken to Indian River, Cobra's guy promised to come for us at 3:30 pm. Ample time to explore the Cabrits. All of us were tired from the sun or the earlier swim, climbing as far as Fort Shirley was more than enough.

The Cabrits national park is immense, covering a whole mountain at the north edge of the Portsmouth bay. The fort looks miniscule, situated at a third of the height of the mountain, overlooking the bay, so climbing the paved road was not that impressive.

Last time we were at Portsmouth, we had taken water from the cruise dock at the foot of the park. This time we saw a mega sailing yacht docked there. While the passengers were loitering around the decks, the crew (mostly Asian) were scattered around the small coffee shop, adjacent to the park interpretation centre. It had WiFi, and dozens of tiny young men were concentrating on a laptop or pad, as if their life depended on them. I guess the mega yacht had also stopped only to get water, since by the time we went back to Ruyam II, it was gone.

The small interpretation centre/museum at the base of the fort had a familiar feel - with good reason; Al showed me the plate commemorating its funding and architects as the Canadian government.

We returned to the boat five minutes before Cobra's guy came to pick us up with a pirogue, with three more people, two young men and a girl. All French, who had just returned from a sailing trip to Montreal, Que and back. When they saw our Ruyam II was registered in Montreal, they blurted it out.

We sped to the mouth of Indian River, which was not too far away from the anchorage. There we changed boats (motors are not allowed on the shallow river). Our rower was the same as the last time, and the ride was equally enchanting. I had never seen the type of trees anywhere in the world, and the variety of birds. Our guests liked what they saw,and took many pictures and videos. Money well spent!
We were looking forward to having a beer at Cobra's bar, at the end of the river; however the prices seemed outrageous, so we just sat there, waiting for the other group to finish their stroll. Our major mistake was not taking bug spray along; I was eaten alive, and had to keep moving around in the garden behind the bar. It is interesting that there were no mosquitos on the water, although the river is almost still, but the bugs were on land. To be on water is always a relief!

That concluded our excursion and the holiday of our guests. Poor things work so hard six days a week, and everyday that they close shop is lost revenue. They took advantage of the general holiday for the carnival, when they had to close for three days anyway, and made it a break. Having a personal service business without any helpers is a real trap. I had experienced it as well, before I started working for the Canadian government. I never lost sight of how lucky I had been in my later years to be able to retire from that job, which felt as play anyway. Going to work every morning was a celebration, until I was ready for retirement.

We spent one more day in Roseau, and started our passage back to St Pierre, Martinique. Although the wind was the right strenght and there were no waves, the swells hammered us. Moving around was impossible on the boat, so Guylaine slept, and I read for the first time, while Levent and Al sat at the helm. I found that reading was more soothing than watching the mountains of waves. Live and learn!

St Pierre anchorage was not as crowded the second time around, so anchoring was easy. We lazed around for the last night, and felt sad that it was over so soon. Since we had been on the move almost every day, the time passed very quickly.

Next morning we started early, sails full until the Arlets, but had to supplement with one or both of the engines. After we passed the Grand Anse D'Arlet, we lowered the sails, and revved the engines. The ride back to St Anne is beating against the wind and sea after turning the soutwest corner. The last time we were coming back from the Arlet, we had passed from the inside of Diamant Rock, but found the channel hard, with at least two knots of current against, which had slowed us considerably. This time we turned around the rock, but found out that it was almost the same lenght of time, since the way was longer. No way to win!

The trip from St Pierre to Le Marin was almost 6 hours, last portion of beating more than one third of the time. After getting water at the service dock at le marin, anchoring and lowering the dinghy to take our guests to the marina, across where they work and live, it was mid afternoon.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Before we started out, Al had checked the recent updates on Doyle's website about Roesau, Dominica. The only thing we saw was a comment on Pancho, our guy, being erratic in his service. Doyle suggests using some other person for getting help, such as tying to a mooring ball,  getting water and cooking gas, or finding a taxi for land trips. When we read the update, I almost wrote to Cobra (Andrew O'Brion) of Portsmouth to ask, who had recommended Pancho to us for the first time; but decided to take our chances. The worst part was, that it was the carnival time in Dominica (as well as many other islands), and finding help or food would be a challenge.

When we neared the part of Rosau waterfront that we knew from before, I got to VHF and called Pancho. Thankfully he answered and told us to approach a blue motorboat, without much other guidance. While we were looking around, the Marine Security guy for the port (Maurice) on a big orange dinghy came close and offered to help. When we said Pancho was waiting for us, he first argued that Pancho did not have a boat, then signalled us to follow (everybody wants to sell their own mooring balls). When we reached the big motorboat on a moor, we saw that Maurice picked Pancho up from the shore, and brought him to a ball close by, waiting for us. When somebody hooks the lines, getting tied is no problem.

Pancho looked a bit tired and unwell. When we asked, he explained that he had been at the hospital for a couple of weeks, because of dengue fever and some other bacteria, which had entered his body through a cut on his feet while he walked in a muddy puddle. He said that he almost did not make it, but was getting better lately. He was his old giddy, lively self, full of jokes and laughter; but his eyes showed the strain he had gone through.

When we mentioned our wish of exploring the land the next day, he promised to help. We were quite tired from the crossing, and hungry (settled aroung 2:30 pm), so we ate and lazed around that afternoon.

The next morning, Monday (March 3rd), first thing was to register Ruyam II and crew to the port authority and customs. Dominica is the best among all the islands around here, people can clear in and out in one stroke, if  their stay would not exceed  two weeks. Al and Levent  took the dinghy and disappeared for a couple of hours, while Guylaine and I chatted leisurely.

After lunch, Pancho asked us what we wanted to do as sight seeing. When I said just the Gorge and Trafalgar falls, he urged us to get ready immediately (around 2:00 pm), since it was a lean day for the taxis (no cruise ships! ). I was a bit sceptical that we could make the rounds for the two places in daylight (sun coming down at 6:00 pm like clockwork), but he assured me that it was plenty of time.

We got our hiking boots and wet-shoes, put on swim suits under our garments and took little else, and got underway. Our driver was a nice islander (pity, can't remember his name), and took us to Gorge first. Since we had been there before, we wasted no time in getting ready and plunging into the pool, from where the swim on the small stream starts towards the roaring waterfall in the dept of the cave/corridor. It is kind of dark inside, with a little bit of light showing through the cracks. Actually, the stream seemed to have cut through the stone, leaving two extremely high walls, covered by vegetation at the top.

As soon as he set foot in the pool, Levent started complaining about the cold water, but we did not listen, and urged him on. Poor Guylaine had to follow, although not very happy abut the cold and the strenous swim against the immense current. Since it is dark, one does not feel the force of the water; and wonder about the reason for making such slow progress, but getting out of breath. Only after reaching the top, where the river drops down through the mountain wall in clear daylight, one realizes the enormity of the force. It is almost impossible to swim to the mouth, as the walls of the cave are wet and smooth, nowhere to cling. Guylaine appeared to have been out of breath getting there, and complained about not being able to take a rest, so we turned back without spending much time at the mouth. I so much love this experience that, their not sharing my enjoyment dampened my spirit a bit; but hey, everybody to their tastes. I guess we are more used to swimming in cold waters (Canadian lakes are cold!), Guylaine being a Martiniquian, Levent not having swam in Black sea in Turkey, were not as fit. Although they half-heartedly admitted that it was a unique experience, Levent especially, declared that if he had time to think, he would not have plunged ahead.

We assured them that next stop was going to warm their bones. Trafalgar has two water falls in the distance, one steaming hot full of sulphur, the other ice cold. As it happens, one gets to the hot stream first, which forms several pools on its rapid descent among big boulders. When one sees the orange tinged (because of the sulphur) stream, it is a matter of minutes to reach the first pool. We left our backpacks on the convenient ledge beside the pool, we sat in the shallow hot pool. Oh man! After freezing our butts and keeping our wet swim suits on for almost an hour, it was a treat. After spending half an hour wallowing in the hot (I mean steaming hot) water, and having a back massage under the miniscule waterfall, we saw other people started coming. The pool is not big enough to hold unrelated people, so we graciously gave way to the new group. It was quite tiring to stay in anyway, so we left at the right time. The others went to the cold pool, reached by hopping around large boulders going down, but I preferred staying with our bundles. When they came back, we saw that more people started streaming in. It was obvious that we had stolen the most convenient time slot to get there. It was a hit with our guests, so all was not lost after all. I am sure there are other places in Roseau equally nice, but these are my favorite. If we go again, we might try to explore the other places, but would not skip on the two!

When we returned, we felt quite beaten, and we had no bread left. Unfortunately, all the bakeries were working half time that day, and our driver could not  find any when we started the trip. We were back before 5:00 pm, so we suggested going to the nice hotel situated in Fort Young, not far from the jetty in front of the Marine Association. We took to the dinghy, and got to the jetty. Swells in Roseau are legendary, that jetty is high, long, narrow and scary, but handy. Al found an opening among the other dinghies, and alighted us. Guylaine and I walked to safety of the land, and looked back, to watch Levent and Al struggling with tying the dinghy, nose high up, to avoid swinging under.

We walked to Fort Young Hotel lobby, but the timing was off, the lobby and atrium bar were deserted, dinner not starting for a while. So we went out, and walked down the road to the side entrance to the hotel, to get to the Panderossa bar, situated on the second floor, overlooking the bay. The sun was warm when eye level, but the terrase where we sat was inviting. We checked the menu, and saw that prices were highly reasonable, for the limited (but ample) fare. We ate and drank, watched the sunset, and had a jolly good time.

Going back in the dark was a problem. First the narrow jetty, which looks like a high bridge. When we got to the end, we realized that there was a lower dock at the side, for the dinghies. Al descended into the dinghy, and brought it around to the lower area for us to embark. That was easy, although we had to compete with some incoming people, who did not want to part with their dinghy, and crowded the tiny platform.

We started our return trip in the dark. We had left the mooring light, as well as the light in the cock-pit on, but could not see any of them among the many boats moored around. We passed the dim lights on the shore, and kept going. Due to the carnival, the houses lining the shore were mostly dark, and Al was driving quite far from the shore, cutting across the bay.  We must have passed Ruyam II, obscure among the many boats, and approached another cluster of lights after a dark patch at the shore. I was convinced that she was back somewhere close to the string of houses, and urged Al to get near the shore, and check out the only sign of life on shore at the brightly lit building. When we came close we realized that the building was Ancorage Hotel, a little south of our place, we being right across Drop Anchor (restaurant/bar). It was a relief (as always) to reach our beloved Ruyam II.


When Levent mentioned his wish of taking a break from work during the Carnival in Martinique, and closing the kebab house for a week, we offered to take him and his wife Guylaine to Dominica. It is fun to have company,  as long as the weather is nice, otherwise the responsibility creates too much stress for me. Al checked the forecast over and over, and declared that the winds and waves were to be perfect for sailing during the first week of March.

Sailing from St Anne to St Pierre was a breeze, straight to the west until Diamant Rock, then turning north on the lee of the island for a short time (passing the Arlets) where the winds are erratic because of the high mountains and valleys , then getting hit by the strong but steady easterly winds of the large bay of Fort De France. First day, we did not turn the engines until almost reaching St Pierre around 2:00 pm.

Finding a place to anchor was another matter, since the bay is quite deep (40 ft plus) almost up to the beach. After trying for a couple of times among the packed boats lining the beach, we went to the south side, to snatch the last decent place to the dismay of an approaching mono-hull, and settled. It was a beautiful hot day, so all of us jumped into the water to cool off. While I was descending on the swim platform, I saw a jelly fish with four dark spots on its back, swimming by. I do not like jelly fish, period. I did not swim away from the platform, just did some exercises, while constantly checking the waters, ready to pull out. Then I felt a shock of burn on my arm, but could not see the cause of it. I presumed that it was a micro-organism, which occasionally hit us around these waters. I had felt spot-burnings in BVI and Mexico a few years back, but not recently, either in Grenada or St Anne.

Anyway, when I got out, I saw two circles forming on my inner arm, made of red dots.  Guylaine and Levent were snorkelling, and stayed in water longer than me and Al, who also felt a sting, but did not have any reaction. Poor Guylaine, she was the worst hit; her body showed a lot of stings, which looked like a series of diabolical pricks, itching like crazy. I ended up giving her several antihistamine tablets over the next few days. It seemed that whatever had stung us, was a woman-hater, not affecting the guys in the least. Swimming in St Pierre is out for me from now on!
The next morning around 7:30 am, we were ready to weigh anchor to start for Roseau, Dominica. As St Pierre is very close to the north edge of Martinique, we sailed into the open seas in no time. The wind was fine, but the easterly swells made the ride bumpy, hitting from the side. I hate going down to use the head while underway, the noise of the water hammering the hulls is unnerving, especially when the mountains of waves are above head, seen from the side window. The best place to sit is at the helm, it being the highest point , from where the waves look managable.

The crossing took about six hours, good sailing the whole time. Since Al was apprehensive about gusts, he had a reef on the main, but the angle was right, so we progressed with a decent speed.