June 2015 ~ Windwards
Day 1749 ~ Baking DayJune 30th, 2015
The kids descended and decided to bake up a storm. Peanut butter cookies and simple white cake were on the menu. Funny that, when it came to dinner time, no one was hungry. Hmmm.
Day 1748 ~ Turtle SanctuaryJune 29th, 2015
"We went to the turtle sanctuary and saw the cutest puppies!" is pretty much how the kids described their experience at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary to Peter when he came to pick us up. A kid boat we met recently planned a hike this morning and invited the rest of us along. Traveller came as well as Nana and I. The two-mile walk out the road on the east side of the island took us about 45 minutes and ended at a large farm with sheep, dogs, puppies and, yes, even turtles.
The pens for the turtles looked a bit stark and prison-like, but the wild, though more pleasing to the eye, is a much harsher, and deadlier, environment. In general, only one in one-thousand baby turtles survive, but those released from the santuary have a 50% chance of living to a ripe old age of 200. The worker was informative and knowledgeable and gave us a whole host of facts:
- In the wild, turtles have a survival rate of 1 in 3,000 according to the worker; 1 in 1,000 according to their website.
- The sanctuary releases their turtles after five years, giving them a 1 in 2 chance.
- Baby turtles have a low survival rate because of their need to stay near the ocean's surface for oxygen. They cannot dive deep so they become prey to sea creatures as well as birds in the air.
- All but one green turtle in the sanctuary are hawksbills.
- Hawksbills are territorial and, because they are kept together in pens, bite each other often on the neck. The staff paints a natural antibiotic/antiseptic, gentian violet, on every turtle each day to prevent infection.
- Separate separate plates make up the hawksbills' shells which makes them highly sought after by hunters. Before plastics, the shells were used to make products such as jewelry, buttons and glasses frames. Now they are hunted for meat.
- Leatherbacks, predominantly found in Grenada and Trinidad, are the largest breed and can grow up to 14 feet in length and weigh 3,600 pounds! Green turtles can grow up to 1,800 pounds.
- Turtles can live up to a couple hundred years.
- Green turtles mostly eat grass, but hawksbills 'beaks' aren't designed to access grass and are predominantly carnivorous.
- The turtle's shell doesn't completely harden for 35-40 years.
- Turtles dig nests with a back flipper. When they don't feel any more sand, then they lay their eggs.
- Eggs have around a 65-day incubation period. The hawksbills will start hatching around mid-July.
- The owner of the sanctuary used to be a skin diver and turtle hunter, but for the last two decades has been protecting them.
The owner keeps two older turtles, ages 17 and 19. The 17 year old bears the name of the sanctuary, Old Hegg, and has become somewhat of a pet. The worker told us it probably won't be released until the owner is gone. The other will need to remain in the sanctuary for life due to the fact its shell grew too high and created too big of an air pocket to allow the turtle to reach deep feeding grounds at the sea floor.
Once we had visited all the pens and extracted all that the worker knew, we moved outside to the puppy pen. The owner raises dogs and a new batch of puppies were scampering about, something that overshadowed the whole turtle experience. A little black and brown one was a favorite and kept the kids busy for another half an hour.
After extracting the kids from the little cute furry things, we wandered back to town.
Day 1747 ~ Belmont WalkwayJune 28th, 2015
Belmont Walkway, 2012 project, Bequia (pron 'beck-way').
Day 1745 ~ Mostly SailingJune 26th, 2015
We were both up before the sun, raised sail and headed out at 5:30am. We motored for much of St. Lucia until the island rounds east. The last couple of times we left St. Lucia, we motored around the north end and down the east coast. Each time we regret this decision, but end up 'giving it a shot anyway'. Well, this time our plan is to go leeward (west side) the whole way. Since we have new engines, Peter no longer minds motoring.
Midway down the island, the winds picked up and we were able to cut the engines. It's always a nice feeling when the noise goes away and the wind takes over. As we crossed the south edge of the island, the seas definitely got bigger, though manageable and we were clipping right along. However, this is also the time when Peter's memory banks fail. Since we were making good time, rather than have to motor for part of St. Vincent, Peter veered due south to see if we would have good angle doing the windward side. No wonder the ride was so choppy and uncomfortable. What should have been slightly downwind, was on our forward quarter. Thankfully, I noticed our track and reminded him of past experiences. Grudgingly, he relented and turned 20 degrees west and the ride smoothed out some. Unfortunately, the damage was done and it didn't really change the way my stomach felt.
It wasn't until the center part of St. Vincent in the wind shadow of all the mountains, that the wind, speed and waves dropped. It's amazing what a little flatness can do to revive a person. I woke up, ate and felt much better so that when we crossed between islands again, I felt almost normal. It also helped that I refrained from moving around the boat like before so as not to kick it off again.
Twelve hours later, we arrived in Port Elizabeth at 5:30pm and joined our buddy-boat friends for a BBQ on the beach. Nice to catch up to the group again.
GPS location Date/Time:06/26/2015 06:21:11 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:06/26/2015 09:17:12 AKDT
GPS location Date/Time:06/26/2015 11:24:48 AKDT
Day 1744 ~ Surrounded by BeggarsJune 25th, 2015
I woke up about 5:30am, just in time to see Traveller rounding the corner on their way to Bequia. Since we were only going to the north end of St. Lucia, we didn't need to leave so early. Plus, Peter's still adjusting four hours from Alaska time and is wide awake until the wee hours of the morning, so he needed a few extra hours of sleep.
We went through the departure check list, then Peter scrubbed the anchor chain, two feet at a time. For being in such an open bay, the growth was prolific; the chain and bridle were covered with a thick slime. Ick. Once free of goo, we motored out about 9:30a, raised the sail and set our course at 220 degrees. Turned out to be a fairly comfortable ride with only a couple rogue waves coming up and over the salon roof. Saved from wetness again by our nice canvas awning.
We arrived a little after noon, so went straight in to the fuel dock to wait until they returned from lunch. Our diesel tanks slosh audibly when near empty, which they've been doing for several weeks now. Checking our log, the last time we filled up was at the same dock August 1, last year. After the diesel and while I filled the water bag with their slow-flow hose, Peter dashed over to the business that does propane and discovered that, since our last visit, they now fill-while-you-wait. We didn't have high hopes as we thought they used to have a next day service and we plan to leave at sunrise tomorrow. Good thing Traveller sent our cans with us, 'just in case' so that task is done.
Our next task was to make a grocery run, which includes buying a few items only found in the ex-British islands like real milk, black beans and refried beans. For some reason, the French limit their bean products to just red and white despite the fact we've seen many stores carrying the pre-packaged US "Taco Kits".
On the way in, a local man flagged us down. He needed to get to the other side and cruisers only go to one of three places in the lagoon, the chandlery, the dock by the cafes and the one by the grocery store. He hopped in and asked us to drop him off near the cafes. He seemed quite friendly and well-kempt so we both thought that perhaps this was a legitimate guy just needing a lift and not like a few cruiser stories we'd heard.
A couple years ago, one of our friends gave a ride to a local, gave him 5EC when asked so the guy could 'buy some food' and then was told it wasn't enough money. Never even said thanks. Well, this guy was all smiles and mentioned he was from Tobago so my skeptical side subsided even further. As we mentioned we were going to the grocery store, he told us that was even better for him. However, that's when things switched. His next words were to tell us that he hadn't eaten in two days and couldn't go back home because his passport was stolen. Peter agreed to buy him a loaf of bread and, as if to legitimize his request, on the way he quietly groaned that he was 'so weak'. Hmmm. Rather than having him following us around IGA, Peter handed him a 10EC note ($4USD) and sent him on his way. He was polite and offered his thanks, but it makes me wonder which part, if any, of his story was actually true. I really wanted to follow his trail out of curiosity, but refrained this time.
Then, at the produce section, I came around the corner and started pushing a cart out of the way thinking Peter left it in the middle of the walkway. I apologized profusely when I recognized the food nor the large pink and brown purse was ours. The woman seemed to understand, but then turned to me and told me that she would be making a large pot of soup for the blind and homeless today and wondered if I could add anything to her pot. After telling her that I just helped a needy person out, she said she understood.
Back at the dock, I was at least expecting a request from the self-proclaimed dock master there. He has been handing people groceries and watching their dinghies (of course, expecting payment) every time we've been to St. Lucia over the last five years. A couple years ago, I watched him hold a charter couple's two light grocery sacks for them. In return, the guy handed over a $20USD bill for his trouble. He's only stayed so long because it's a lucrative business! Of course, like every other time, he asked us if we could spare a morsel for him but I told him we'd already given to the needy today so perhaps a charterer will come by to help him out all the while searching around for that neon sign that says, "Pick ME today!"
All this and we can count the hours in St. Lucia on one hand. Really happy we get to leave tomorrow and makes me miss the French islands even more.
Day 1743 ~ Last MinutesJune 24th, 2015
Forecast says we can go tomorrow. Winds are supposed to slacken and provide a less bumpy ride. Traveller headed to Le Marin for fuel and water around 9am. Just Peter was going to go, but when I dashed into town and found the cafe providing the Customs clearance closed on Wednesdays, I grabbed our boat papers and hopped aboard as well. While the guys filled the boat, Marlena and I walked to the marina office to use their computers. We returned just as Peter and David finished paying. Good timing.
The afternoon was spent finishing up anything internet related and then going to town to spend the last of our Euros since there are no more French islands on our route south. Peter came up about 10 centimes short. However, just as he returned to town to put an item back, I remembered my pouch full of laundry money, 13,60 Euros. We just used Pippin's evening walk as another chance to make a quick run to the store.
All squared away, we returned the Traveller girls to their boat and set about with final preparations for dinner and an early morning departure.
Day 1742 ~ Canal des EsclavesJune 23rd, 2015
Ever since arriving in Martinique, I've wanted to check out the Canal des Esclaves (Slave Canal). While in St. Pierre, I got close. Marlena and I took Pippin for a walk one evening, but only had enough daylight to find the end. Several anchorages and car rentals later, I still hadn't made it. However, having to rent a car to pick Peter up at the airport yesterday, I until 1pm today to use it. I invited Marlena and her two girls to go along with Nika, Nana and I to walk the trail.
The 3.5 km long Beauregard Canal offers a beautiful walk through the mountains of Carbet. Built in 1760 with stones transported on men's backs, it's now commonly called the Slave Canal to honor the men who built it. The extraordinary construction, for its time, was designed to bring water from the river to the Carbet Plantations on the Caribbean coast to irrigate crops for the rum factories. Its regular slope of 2% was carefully calculated to allow a smooth flow but avoid erosion and still stands intact and carrying water 255 years later.
After driving the whole length of the island to get there, then taking a wrong turn at the end, we only ended up with 75 minutes for hiking that would still allow for the 1.5 hour drive back to Ste. Anne. The 'trail' is actually the outer wall of the canal, about one and a half feet wide with a severe drop-off to the valley way below. The hiking guides accurately warn those with vertigo to stay away.
The walk is beautiful, shaded and offers incredible views. The feat of building such a structure on the side of a steep mountain, and having it still function perfectly over two centuries later, is amazing in and of itself. I feel for the slaves who had a fear of heights.
While it was a long drive for a relatively short walk, I'm glad we did it.
Day 1740 ~ Summer SolsticeJune 21st, 2015
Laundry is piling up and, once Peter returns on Monday, we'll be looking for weather windows to head south. I can't pass up the opportunity for my last hot water wash so I collected everything and headed over. I love the French laundromats and their multi-size washers, clean facilities and a choice of water temperatures. All the machines were available so everything was clean in one 45-minute session. The day was sunny and breezy so the clothes dried on the lines quickly. Nice to have that chore done for a couple more weeks.
Day 1739 ~ Wild Goose ChaseJune 20th, 2015
My dive tanks are empty and the town is small. There appear to only be a couple dive shops in town and the one nearest us seems a bit deserted of late. Jason, Proud Mary's guest, and I went to the other one and thought we were in luck when we saw six guys sitting around. However, they informed me that the owner was on vacation and so they could not fill my tanks. When I asked about another option, they said the 'other one' is also closed for another couple days so I'd need to go into Le Marin. If the only two here were closed, I surely wouldn't want to dinghy in 3 miles only to find them closed too. I asked if someone could call to see if they were open, but they just shrugged their shoulders and said "we don't have the number". Thanks, guys, you're real helpful.
Went back to the boat to figure out our next plan of action. I found a number for the other dive shop at the beach called Kalingo and Jason encouraged me to give it a shot. Thankfully, the wifi has been great so the Skype call went through no problem. The owner answered, told me he was nearby and could fill in a couple minutes so we dashed over. Turned out, the shop was closed while his boat was getting repaired, but he just happened to be at the beach having a beer and didn't mind opening up to help us out. He also said to 'just call me' when we needed another fill and he'd be happy to open up for us. Now that's service!
Day 1738 ~ AccrasJune 19th, 2015
We'd been told about this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant that only offers one menu item, Accras, that sometimes comes in two flavors, shrimp or cod. They also only have beverage choices of water or beer. The best way to find it is to look for the alley with tables instead of cars.
When we walked up, there was an older lady sitting at the table reading her paper. When we aimed for her tables, she rose from her seat, walked in the kitchen and I heard the distinct click-click-click of the stove lighting up. The menu was simple, all we had to do was figure out how many accras we wanted. Tonight's choice only included cod accras, no shrimp. Beer was offered in a bottle or can. Water could be ordered with or without carbonation.
There were eight of us so we asked for 42 accras for starters. Oh, they even offered some tasty hot sauce. More of an appetizer, they were good. The atmosphere just added to the whole experience.
Day 1736 ~ Another Longer HikeJune 17th, 2015
I rented a car to join Proud Mary for a hike with their guest on the northeast side of Martinique. Nina wasn't up to going so I took Nika, Nana, Cash and Nicole with me. We parked at the marked pullout, then walked through some sugar cane fields to the trail head. The hiking map was a bit unclear so when we came to the picnic tables by the roadside, we thought we were done with one side of the trail. However, on closer inspection, we ended up only at the beginning of the loop trail at Pointe Rouge. We decided to keep going and just do half the loop, but the center short cut ended up being blocked off for some reason so had to do the whole 2 hour loop. In typical fashion, we ended up doing our standard three-hour hike with the kids only this time they gave up complaining and actually found it enjoyable.
Day 1735 ~ DivingJune 16th, 2015
There's a reef just across the anchorage so David and I decided to check it out. I still had 2/3 air in one tank and 1/3 air in the other from our St. Pierre wreck dives. The day was a bit overcast, but David snorkeled it earlier and said it had potential. We swam along the shallow edge for a bit, but I didn't have enough weight and struggled to stay down. Once I blew through my tank, David gave me his leftovers and a couple extra pounds off his belt so I could go longer. He's a natural a free diving so continued that way.
At any rate, we did discover that the reef was worth another tank and figured we'd try again when the day was clearer and our tanks started at full capacity.
Day 1734 ~ June 15th, 2015
Day 1733 ~ After Effects of No SleepJune 14th, 2015
The girls were quite subdued today after their all-nighter the night before last. They all slept around 12 hours. Even our normal Early Bird, Nika, slept 'til 10am.
Day 1732 ~ No SleepJune 13th, 2015
Not sure why they call them sleep-overs because sleep is the last thing kids do. On a boat, there's the extra challenge of weather and tonight provided the extra entertainment of raining enough to get all the kids inside, but not soak the tramp or deck, then repeating the process at 2am and 6am. Needless to say, the kids were quite subdued for most of the day.
Cash made pancakes for the crew. They all had various amounts of dozing throughout the night and played quiet card games for much of the morning, then headed to the beach in the afternoon while Nina and I went ashore with Pippin. I'm sure it will all catch up to them by tomorrow so all disbursed to their respective boats for dinner and called it an early night.
Day 1731 ~ Cape TrailJune 12th, 2015
After lessons and lunch, our six-boat crew (Sasquatch had to clean their boat from their week in the boatyard) met at the dock around the corner to try another trail, Trace des Caps (Cape Trail). This one starts just south of Sainte Anne and follows the coast around to the east side for 34km. Unlike Pelée, it's mostly flat and that's a good thing. With our crew, we'll just walk about an hour so 'til we find a nice beach for swimming and lunching.
We did find a beach and started to make a camp, but then I noticed an awful lot of red-banded trees and realized they weren't trail markers, but manchioneel trees. Having experienced the itching, burning and swelling once before, we quickly packed up and found a nicer spot. Shortly after the kids were in the water and everyone else was settled, a local passerby kindly informed us that the beach we chose is where the nudists and gay people like to hang out. For now, we were the only ones so we stayed put. The families with really young children stayed for a bit, but then headed back to get a head-start on the faster ones.
After an hour or so, two men came, stripped to their birthday suits and planted their stuff to the left of us. A few minutes later, another guy (who also forgot his swimsuit at home) set up camp to the right. One of the little girls turned to ask her Mom, who was focused on making sure the large waves didn't knock her kids over, "why are we being surrounded by naked guys?" Other men (clothed at this point), with beach gear in hand, paced back and forth on the path in front of us. Evidently 4pm is the magical hour. It was also our cue to break camp as the natives were getting restless.
Once back at the dock, we disbursed and the kids set about eating dinner and getting ready for their evening activity, our kid group of four was coming to our boat for a (no) sleep-over on the trampoline.
Day 1729 ~ Plan BJune 10th, 2015
There is a reason people don't build houses with sand. The kids, allowing plenty of time today, had envisioned constructing a little house, but were unsure about the roof design. However, they found out that three levels is all their bricks could sustain before being smashed flat under the weight. Despite their original design being thwarted, they worked several hours to create a nice little structure, complete with steps and a sign. These impromptu hands-on lessons are great.
Day 1728 ~ Sand Brick Assembly LineJune 9th, 2015
After lessons and lunch, the kids were anxious to get to the beach. Three other kid boats who were in Les Saintes with us are also anchored here. When counted, the numbers are staggering: 14 adults and 16 kids. We hadn't really been able to catch up since we parted in Guadeloupe, so we arranged to all meet at the beach.
We moved on down to a restaurant. Drinks and fries were ordered and the kids got to work. They decided to build a structure out of bricks and created an assembly line of sorts for the production. The only got a couple of rounds before it was time to go home, but planned to return tomorrow with supplies and a new plan.
Day 1726 ~ Kid Boat ReunionJune 7th, 2015
Daystar, Traveller and Proud Mary headed out from Fort de France in the morning and arrived just after lunch. Nice to have our friends around again and most of our basic chores out of the way. Most of the gang went to the beach in the afternoon; it's large, nice and not too crowded. I also found out that Traveller plans to take their big boat into Le Marin to get fuel, water and a dinghy prop tomorrow so I don't have to hoof it to the gas station after all.
After being apart for two whole days, the kids got busy planning more time together, this time at our boat. They enjoy playing board or card games, occasionally going late into the night when the adults aren't paying attention, and will switch off boats. We've got a good group with our four-boat crew. Even though they can't quite manage to stay awake as long as some of the others, the 8 and 9 year old Traveller girls do quite well keeping up with the crazy teens in the bunch.
Day 1725 ~ Car Rental CrazinessJune 6th, 2015
I have the car until 11am so want to make the most of it. My original plan was to shop on the way home from the airport, but it worked well to come back earlier and save the food shopping 'til this morning.
I met Ken and Lynn from Silverheels at the dock at 7am. We met them four years ago in Grenada, they gave us their little Christmas tree, which we still use, and they'll be around for most of the time Peter is away in case I need some help. Plus, their dinghy gas tank sprung a leak so they couldn't get to Le Marin without a car or via bus to get a new one. It's just me anyway and I don't have a lot to buy so we made it a joint shopping trip.
For some reason, I thought it took longer than 15 minutes to get to Le Marin. In French style, it just gave us an opportunity to pass the time in a boulangerie with tasty pastries. Who's not to like that?! We arrived at Leader Price just after they opened and the electricity went out. It came back on shortly and thought nothing of it as we gathered our provisions. We then went to pick up Ken at the chandleries and he mentioned the power was still out. One could pay, but only in cash.
We headed back with plenty of time to off load groceries and stop to fill the gas tank. However, the power was still out and the gas pumps didn't work. I dropped them off and returned my groceries to the boat before taking one more pass by the station. Still no power, which means I will have to do the 20 minute walk on foot to fill my dinghy jerries. Rats. The gas station guy was kind enough to call the car rental guy to explain why I couldn't return the car full. I took the car back and gave him 10 Euros for the fuel.
Water was my next task as we ran out this morning. I asked around town, but it just turned into a wild goose chase. Finally, a restaurant owner agreed to either be nice or get a quick 10 Euros. He told me I could fill whatever jugs I had for that price. I grabbed lunch and the girls and we headed over to the restaurant where we had to walk the full jugs back about 50 yards to the dinghy waiting just outside the designated swimming area.
I was so hot by the time we returned that I went for a swim. Couldn't stand the green and black spots all over the water line so scrubbed those too. By the time I finished, I felt cool, but then I tipped over from all the busyness and ended up taking a brief snooze.
Late afternoon, Nina and I took Pippin ashore to check out the church on the hill called Le Calvaire and found a nice view of the town and anchorage.
Day 1724 ~ Burning DinosaursJune 5th, 2015
Need to be in Ste. Anne in enough time to rent a car and get to the airport at 1:30 for a 3:30 departure. Left at 6:30am, motor sailed. Current against us and going 3.8 knots while both engines are full throttle. Dropped the sails and hoped the current would slacken. It was finally after we passed Diamond Rock that we moved up to 5 knots. We had a few cents of credit to call a car rental place who happened to have one available so arranged for him to pick us up at Noon from the town dock. Dropped anchor about 11:30. Peter snorkeled the anchor, showered, finished packing and headed to shore. We completed all the paperwork and were on the road by 12:15.
Airport parking was full, but in French fashion where they consider every available square foot as parking (even grassy medians and crosswalks), we found a spot that our tiny car would fit. It also just so happened to be a few paces from Departures. These tiny tin boxes they call cars do come in handy. No one in line to check in so Peter headed to the gate and I headed back to the car, even getting out of the confusing lot, amazingly, before my 15 free minutes ran out.
Stopped at a dive shop along the way but they'd need at least 1-2 weeks to properly clean my regulators. It was only 3:30p when I returned so called the girls to come so we could go for a drive. This served multi-purposes of walking Pippin and doing a reconnaissance mission to find out more about the petrified savannah we saw on the hiking map.
Day 1723 ~ More than Just ShoppingJune 4th, 2015
Despite the pain, we managed to get an early start. Super U didn't open 'til 8:30a, so we had to wait a few minutes. Once done with our shopping, then things turned crazy. One in our group went into a diabetic seizure in the store and we found roadblocks everywhere we turned. They had the shot kit with them, but not the glucose test to determine next moves. The director of the store came to our aid, but even he, a native speaker of French, couldn't get the ambulance to arrive quickly or convince the doctor on the second floor to come assist in what could end up a life or death situation. A bit of a shock after seeing 6-7 police arrive, just yesterday, at the scene in less than 10 minutes to assist in the theft of Nana's back pack!
I did my best to help translate what was happening and what our friend needed; the director made several calls and talked to several people to find help. When the doctor refused to come out, he asked to borrow his glucose test kit since the pharmacy didn't have them in stock. He even refused that. Someone finally got through to the fire department at some point, but they were stuck in traffic and would be a while. Turned out that it didn't really matter anyway as, unlike with all US paramedics, French ambulances don't carry anything for diabetes.
It was as if we were all in a vat of molasses, trying hard but going nowhere fast. I was incredulous at the lack of help, the store manager was furious, but there was nothing that could be done to get what we needed. Finally, when our friend came-to and was able to get to the ambulance via wheelchair, a fireman walked up with the doctor's glucose test kit. The fireman explained to me what the doctor told him; I was incredulous. The doctor said he would have seen our friend in his office, but he couldn't himself leave to go downstairs. Really?! Should he have walked upstairs during or after the seizure? Secondly, he told the fireman that he would have given the test kit to someone he knew, but not to complete strangers who just might walk off with it. That's the lamest excuse I've ever heard and it wasn't me who was asking, it was the store manager inside the same mall! All I can say is it's inexcusable who calls himself a medical professional.
Thankfully, our friend made it through this horrible experience, on his own, and we were able to take him back to the boat to recouperate. Based on all our other good French experiences, I'm just hoping the doctor's actions were an anomale, but it does make us more consciencious going forward.
The others had returned already with groceries and one car. Peter and I followed with our friends and were an hour or two late with the car. I explained all that had happened and the understanding lady at the rental car company sent us on our way without even a penalty.
Kids headed to shore to run around in the park and Peter to shore for internet. Not to have just one crazy event per day, he returned a few hours later saying that a job-related emergency required him to return to Alaska as soon as he can find a flight out. We've checked before and, generally, flights out of French islands cost two or three times as much as, say, St. Lucia or Grenada. Maybe it's the time of year in which we looked because today we found the cost to be on par with St. Lucia, my least favorite island in the Caribbean. This means we get to stay in Martinique longer and he booked a one-way out of Fort de France, leaving tomorrow. Since everyone in our group is ready to leave all the excitement of the big city behind anyway, we'll move to Sainte Anne tomorrow, rent a car and I'll drive him to the airport from there. We could all use a bit of the small town calmness for a change.
Day 1722 ~ Mt Pelée CallsJune 3rd, 2015
Yesterday our group decided to do a rental car trip. We found two 7 passenger minivans available at an agency within walking distance of the dinghy dock. The plan was to leave right after they opened at 8:30a and do one full day at Mt. Pelée. However, when Greg and Bill went to drive away, one of the vans had a dead battery. They promptly fixed it, but we weren't able to leave until 10am.
We stuffed 16 people in (déjà-vu?) and headed north up the center of the island among the towering Pitons du Carbet. The roads were so windy that we had to make a pit-stop to settle a few stomachs. It was also a good time for Pippin to let off some pent-up energy as well. Continuing on, we turned west to the coast then took the small windy road up from Le Precheur to the trailhead.
Steep, windy roads were enough to slow us down, but we had a couple cow encounters as well. One bull stood off the side of the road, his chain ran up the other side. Between the overweighted vehicles and the attempt to avoid scraping the bottom as we navigated around dips, bumps and potholes, it was at this moment with all the stars aligned and the car died. With the bull only a few feet away looking anxious himself, we weren't about to get out to lighten the load. After several attempts at revving and spinning tires, Bill backed up to a slightly flatter spot to get a run at the hill. However, seconds before we would have cleared the rough spot and the large animal, he takes that moment to walk right in front of us. Unfazed, Bill keeps going and the annoyed cow actually continues and runs up the bank in the nick of time. Whew, that was close. Guess he sensed we meant business this time.
We made it the rest of the way without incident, but the fans of both vehicles were running high once they were parked and shut off. This should have given us a clue as to what we were in for, but we were clueless.
Gathering our things, we started up at Noon. Nika was having a hard time breathing, so I said I'd stick with her and we'd only go as far as she could go easily. I kept a VHF with me and sent another with the faster group. The trail began in the shade of the forest, but we soon reached the tree line. Ahead, the mountain peeked out from behind the hill and we could see scattered trees along the path. The others went on ahead and we took a slow pace to find shade, a nice patch of grass and a view of the mountain. About halfway up the initial trail, we found what we were looking for and sat down.
From our standpoint, we could see the trail all the way to the top and monitor the progress of the rest of the group. When I spotted Marlena hoisting Hayden on her back, I radioed ahead and offered to keep the two youngest (8 & 9) with Nika and I. Good thing, as the trail was fairly steep going up the ridge, but turned into more of a ladder scale from the base of the cone the rest of the way.
The group made it to the edge that I could see in a couple hours, but then decided to press on to Le Chinois, one of the smaller peaks. By the time they all returned to where I was at 4pm, they were exhausted and thirsty having run out of water on the cone ascent. Lesson learned - bring more water than you think you'll need. Thankfully, we had one liter left in the car to get them down the hill.
In St. Pierre we stopped at the grocery for water and a snack, then headed straight back to the boats to crash. We have the cars until 10am tomorrow, so did plan a provisioning run at the Super U just out of town.
Day 1721 ~ Excitement in the Big CityJune 2nd, 2015
The day started pretty normal. The kids did lessons and the Moms went to town on a rental car reconnaissance mission. We could save around 10 Euros by renting at the airport, but it would cost six just to get each driver to pick up and drop off. There are no buses that go to the trailhead of Mt. Pelée, so we'd be at the mercy of a taxi driver which could end up costing more than a rental. In the end, we decided to rent two minivans and reserved them for tomorrow morning.
After lessons and lunch, the kids went to the park to play volleyball. I took Pippin over around 5:30p for his daily shore run and planned to bring the kids back with me. However, after making a tour of the wharf and large park, the kids were not to be found. Just as I was getting a bit concerned, I saw them coming toward me, talking a mile a minute. Essentially, the kids had set their bags down by a tree while playing. Three teenage boys sauntered over, stood by the tree for a while, then ran off with Nana's backpack containing a water bottle, an empty eyeglass case and Nina's swim shirt (which we had just bought). Nina and Cash ran after the boy and several pedestrians mobilized into action. One tourist from Paris called the police, another handed over the dog he was carrying to his friend and pursued of the thief and still others kept watch. The four returned to the park as it was already near their pick up time, in hopes of not worrying the parents.
I followed the kids down the street where a dozen or so people stood, about half were inquiring minds and the other half policemen and women. One elderly lady on a mission began to give me a piece of her mind, or so it seemed, but she spoke so fast that I couldn't really understand. It wasn't clear what part the other passersby had to play (if any). After telling her that I needed to talk to the police, she backed off a bit. Just as they were asking where and how long we would be staying, another officer returned with Nana's pack. As there was nothing of value to keep or fence, it had been quickly tossed aside. Even though the officers got a good look at the runner, they were unable to apprehend him, but did end up saving us over $30 and the hassle of finding another swim shirt and backpack. Once the stolen goods were returned, the police disbursed quickly. A elderly gentleman among the group just kept repeating (in English), "I'm so sorry...but welcome." After thanking everyone for their efforts, Grandma came back and imparted her warning about how dangerous this city can be at night. However, removing the kids before dark is precisely why I came to shore when I did.
The kids learned a valuable lesson; we're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. We were also reassured that good people outweigh the bad and they and the police were amazingly quick to respond to a relatively insignificant pick-pocketing incident. A story that ends well.
Day 1720 ~ City LifeJune 1st, 2015
Motor sailed to Martinique's capital city, Fort de France, today. Winds were fluky, as usual, and we had no wind, west wind, east wind and on-the-nose wind. We motored into the anchorage and set the hook under the fort wall just behind Traveller. Daystar and Proud Mary attempted to sail, but with the winds fanning out from the huge Fort de France harbor so they ended up way out there.
Late afternoon, several of us headed into town to wander about and check it out. We happened upon a shopping mall with a grocery store in the middle of the pedestrian-only district. We also discovered a huge park just across from the dinghy dock. The kids will like playing there.