May 2015 ~ Exploring Again
Day 1689 ~ Preparation DayMay 1st, 2015
The plan is to actually leave St. Martin, despite it's tenacious hold on seemingly every cruiser who ventures here. I don't know how many times I've heard people say, "I came for a *insert short time here* and ended up staying *enter a high multiple of the first figure here*". We did the same, three times. Our first year, we came for a day and stayed a week waiting on a part. Last year we stopped in for a month and ended up staying six and a half. This year, we're making good time as it's only been three and a half months.
Well, in order to leave, one must have water, fuel, food and clearance out. Water is today's order of business. I took all the water jugs we have (jerries, animal cracker containers, buckets) and dinghied to Philippe's dock. He won't take money for the water, so I try to give him a variety of food and/or drinks. This last payment was a fresh pineapple and a nice bottle of wine.
We have enough fuel to
Day 1690 ~ Jumble/LaundryMay 2nd, 2015
Peter went to the boat jumble (the monthly cruisers' flea market) and I tackled laundry so I don't have to think about for a couple weeks.
Day 1691 ~ A Day of RestMay 3rd, 2015
Our pre-departure list is going well and we're on track to leave on Tuesday. Tomorrow, we'll tackle some errands that require stores being open, but today we will rest.
Day 1692 ~ Moving OutMay 4th, 2015
Dutch business errands in morning, French business errands in afternoon, including clearing out of St Martin after 4 months. Peter and the girls moved boat out to Simpson Bay while I finished up the pre-departure tasks by dinghy.
Day 1693 ~ DepartureMay 5th, 2015
Yes, after four months, we broke through St. Martin's force field.
GRIBs (weather forecast for a general region) predicted 18-20 knots of wind and we saw 28-37 from about 3pm on until we got here in the lee of Guadeloupe. Not unsafe, but ugly, ugly, ugly.
We started out well as swell was from side to back quarter and winds were good. Clipping along at 10-11 knots with not too much discomfort.
Thought the lee of Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat would provide some relief...not. We did manage to eat a peaceful lunch just inside of Kitts about 1ish, but then the swell turned into a washing machine from every direction helped by the wind blasting down the flatter part. Ran with our one-reefed main from south end of Nevis the rest of way to hold our speed down to 5-6 knots. After Montserrat, to get to Guad rather than Dominica, had to make 1-5 knot adjustments both ways to keep pointing as close to the wind as we could but before we'd stall out. Thankfully we have an auto-pilot remote so just kept an eye on the wind meter while clicking and most of the stalls were remedied by just cranking the wheel over 'til the sail caught the wind again.
GPS location Date/Time:05/05/2015 09:33:29 AKDT
Day 1694 ~ Whirlwind DayMay 6th, 2015
Peter maybe got two hours of sleep at most. Just too crazy to leave me at the helm 'til about 4am when it finally dropped to 22-25kn.
Boat was completely saturated, even the floor just inside of the salon, with sea mist that constantly swirled into the cockpit after each blast of spray up and over our salon top. Lost a dozen eggs that rolled onto the kitchen floor. Thankfully I just happened to look down as the egg goo was headed for the wall and under the floor mat - only lost about 2 TBSB 'down under'.
Twenty knots west of Guadeloupe, the wind dropped from 22 to 8, motored the last 4 hours and dropped anchor in our preferred bay.
Spent the rest of the morning undoing beds (both forward beds are soaked). Peter vacuumed out about 30 gals from the forward locker that came undone at some point. Stbd side had some too, but normal leakage. I hosed down the cockpit as the slimy spray coated every exposed part in the cockpit.
Sasquatch, Day Star, Traveller are here too. There were some dragging incidences in Deshaies (as is normal).
Once our anchor was set, we hit the floor running. I did it laundry before leaving SXM, but every cloth item set or hung in the cockpit was salt covered or saturated and 2 beds-worth of linen from leaky hatches or water running down walls. Cockpit hosed down. 30+ gals of water removed from forward storage locker (one popped open during the passage). Three large bags of laundry clean, 2 of which were salt-mist/large wave passage related. Two wet beds now dry (forward cabins only - leaks from either top hatch or thru walls). Remaining egg goo found under mat (not under floor boards-whew) wiped up. Real food acquired and asleep by 8:30p.
Day 1695 ~ May 7th, 2015
Day 1696 ~ Conquering La SoufrièreMay 8th, 2015
Daystar and Cora, from Proud Mary, started our rental car bonanza by climbing the 1,467 meter high La Soufrière (the suffering). The road ascends the first 5-6 miles, or to about the 1,000 meter level, to the trailhead. The next 1.2 km is through a thick rain forest then continues up to the base of the mountain. At this point (1,142 m), one can go around to the north side from either direction, but the west face Chemin des Dames (Ladies' Path) is not as difficult. The name comes by way of carving a path in 1935 that women could use to hike to the peak; perhaps the other way just didn't accommodate those corsets, petticoats and long skirts.
The volcano remains active and sulfur steams out of the many vents. Historically, there have been four major eruptions 1797-98, 1836-37, 1956 and 1976-77 though magma did not come to the surface. In between, there have been several fumerol reactivations as recent as 1990.
As we started up the steep mountain part, Nika had an asthma reaction so she and Peter wandered around the short paths near the base while the rest of the crew continued. I followed the group for a while, but after four sedentary months in St. Martin, my legs felt like lead so I continued on my own until about 20 minutes from the peak. Since the fog was getting thicker and I had already climbed the mountain in the fog in January, I opted instead to head down. Twenty minutes later, Daystar, Cora and the girls returned and we headed back to the car where a treat of locally made coconut-almond ice cream awaited. A couple in our group had a second serving.
We then headed back to the anchorage where we dropped the kids off to eat dinner and hang out on our boat and picked up Bill and Tinka from Proud Mary. A friend of ours raved about a Moroccan restaurant in Point-a-Pitre and we were finally able to give it a try.
The day being yet another French holiday, the roads and parking lot were jam packed, especially in the marina area where the restaurant was located. Nothing like walking more after climbing a mountain. Being the only translator for food never experienced before, it was a bit challenging to figure out what to eat. However, we managed and the food was plentiful and tasty. I think we returned to the kids about midnight.
Day 1697 ~ Whirlwinds and Mall RatsMay 9th, 2015
We have the car until 2pm and there's still more to do. We figured we had just enough time for a waterfall and the mall, if we leave early enough. However, since the adults were at the restaurant until midnight, and thus the kids while waiting for us, we just couldn't get going as soon as we wanted. By 9:30, we managed to round everyone up, get some coffee into those who needed the boost, and we were off. We took the road through the middle of the island. La Cascade aux Ecrivisses is situated along the route so we made a pit stop so the kids could swim a little before heading to Point-à-Pitre.
Arriving so early, we had plenty of parking and no one was in the waterfall pool. The kids explored up river for a bit, then it was time to go.
As has been our habit the few times we've gone to the mall, we took the wrong turn, only this time it was the exit before the correct one; we usually take the one after. At any rate, it cost us about 15 minutes, but we were able to get shorts and swim gear for all the kids who needed them. We rounded everyone up and made a dash for our anchorage, arriving with five minutes to spare.
A fun, but busy day.
Day 1698 ~ RecoupingMay 10th, 2015
After a crazy 24-hour rental, it was time for a recoup day. Kids back to lessons, boats tidied from the frenzy, boats prepared for tomorrow's said to Les Saintes, a group of islands just south of Guadeloupe.
Day 1699 ~ Bashing Into the Wind...AgainMay 11th, 2015
Headed out of our rolly anchorage around 9:15am. Had to motor most of the way down the leeward side of Guadeloupe. The wind gusted between 20-25 knots around us. As we passed the southern tip, the winds mounted and topped 37. Felt like déja-vu.
GPS location Date/Time:05/11/2015 06:42:04 AKDT
As we came within an hour of the island, the wind shifted 30 degrees, to our nose, of course. Firing up the engines, we motored the last bit and took a mooring ball near Day Star. Headed into town for a bit of food and found our other friends at the new playground.
Day 1700 ~ Fort NapoleonMay 12th, 2015
Seven boats, 28 people. We have seven kid boats in the area so we decided on a field trip. The girls were especially excited as we allowed them to skip math in lieu of making notes of the Fort Napoleon's defensive tactics. We met at the dock at 9am and headed up. With 13 adults, 15 kids and Pippin, it was no small group. The lady manning the entrance graciously gave us a group discount and made the pricing, normally a four-tier system, much easier to figure out - 4 Euros for adults, 2 Euros per kid.
Two of the little kids in our group wanted to get married so someone suggested a 'ceremony' at the playground and invited all the kid boats to attend. From that, a potluck was organized and we all went to our respective boats to prepare some food.
Back at the playground, Mike was the officiant. He had them promise to be nice to each other, share their toys and not to get too sick. The kids all helped with the decorations. The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting and the kids playing together. Another enjoyable day.
Day 1701 ~ Recoup DayMay 13th, 2015
The kids were ready for a hiking break and wanted to convene at the playground again so after lessons and lunch they headed to shore.
Day 1702 ~ Hiking the CamelMay 14th, 2015
Three of the kid boats have moved on and four are left. To the west of town Le Chameau (trans. Camel), stands 307 meters high and is the highest point on the island of Terre-de-Haut. This morning, we decided to head up the main hill to the old watchtower. Peter hiked this the last time we were here and said it was not too long and shaded most of the way. Unfortunately, some memories get twisted with time and we found it an hour and a half hike up a steep, unshaded hill. Good thing we were with other families or our kids may have mutineed on the spot.
We did make it all the way without casualty and found the panoramic view to be quite impressive. The tower is still in pretty decent shape and now mostly used to secure radio and cell towers. We were able to climb a ladder to the first floor with two large doorways and the rest of the thick stone walls were filled with arrowslits every few feet (slits in the wall where soldiers can shoot intruding enemies).
On the return trip, most of the group went down the steep side and Peter, David and I took Nika and Nina down the roadway back to the awaiting dinghies.
Day 1703 ~ Enroute to DominicaMay 15th, 2015
Brisk sail to Dominica. Again, prediction was for 15-18 and we saw 22-35 knots of wind. Seas were choppy, but this time only a few waves caused spray to come all the way up. Cruised at 9 knots for much of the way and arrived in the bay by 12:30p. Day Star arrived with us, then Proud Mary and Traveller got in a half hour later.
We took a contingent from each boat into Customs to clear in. Dominica allows cruisers to check in and out in one trip for up to a two week stay. Very handy.
I was a bit worried coming to Dominica on a Friday. The ex-British islands are known for their obnoxious music blasting through the anchorages 'til the wee hours of the morning. We're hoping that by anchoring in the south end of the bay, we will be able to sleep tonight.
Day 1704 ~ To MarketMay 16th, 2015
Slept so well that I think we're going to stay anchored right where we are. Music did go all night, but we had to strain to hear a slight thumping from the bass.
Went to the Saturday produce market first thing. Managed to find a large 5lb slab of tuna before it was completely gone. Our bill? 40EC ($15USD). Managed to find some other tasty freshies to replenish our stores. Everything here is locally grown or caught so it actually has flavor.
Next, we went in search of internet. There are several open networks accessible from our boat, but we haven't managed to gain connectivity with any. There are two baywide hotspots that one can pay for, but we can't even get past the 'create an account' screen to do anything else. So far, we've had decent coverage and service with Digicel in both the French islands and Grenada, so we stopped at the office in town and bought our fourth Caribbean SIM card (since every island, but the French, have a separate system) so Peter could have more reliable internet service to serve his paying clients back home.
Invited our three other kid boat friends over for a grilled fish dinner. Traveller caught a mahi-mahi on the way over and he offered a hunk of that as well.
Tinka found an accessible hike in the cruising guide to the Indian River source from the downtown so she, Bill, Marlena and I decided to check it out. Being right in town, I also took Pippin as he loves to hike too. We started at the main dock, went up the hill and wandered through a residential area, eventually coming out onto the main road. The directions were unclear, but we eventually found the horse pasture where we were supposed to turn. From there, it was a more pleasant shaded walk along the powerline. We first came upon a really cool stream lined with huge buttress trees and their funky root systems. We then continued on up the hill, taking a couple wrong pathways, but eventually got to the point where we had to turn around to make it back before dark. It's likely that we got close to the source, but it was just dry due to the lack of rain, but we did get a panoramic view of the anchorage from near the top of the hill. All total, it probably took us around 3.5 hours and we also managed to find mangoes, (Caribbean) apricots and breadfruit along the way.
Day 1705 ~ Calm Before the StormMay 17th, 2015
When we were in Dominica in 2013, we found a local family-operated car rental close to one of the docks and had a very good experience. Peter and I walked over this morning to see what they had to offer for our four-boat crew of 16. We found several options, including a van that could hold 12-15, similar in size to the ones the local Caribbean bus drivers use and stuff 16-20. It may be a little snug, but we think it'll work fine as some of the kids are young and small. Better yet, for two days it will cost each family 2/3 of the price our family paid for a day's rental of a small sedan. We arranged to pick it up mid-day tomorrow and go exploring this lush island.
The rest of the day was spent on lessons, then kid play.
Day 1706 ~ Rental Car ManiaMay 18th, 2015
Kids did their lessons and we ate lunch. Bill and I went to pick up the van, then went to the Customs dock to get everyone. We piled in and managed to get all 16 in the 12-15 person vehicle. Thankfully, we had a couple of small 8 and 9 year olds and we left Pippin at the boat since we thought we might be driving most of the afternoon.
We headed south, then about halfway to Roseau, we turned east. At first, we weren't sure if it was the right road as it looked more like a one lane alley with huge potholes. We bottomed out a few times and hoped the metal pans were solid. Soon, however, the road widened slightly and we didn't wind up on some deadend street.
First stop was Spanny Falls. I was able to get a bit of a discount for our group, then it was a short walk down to the pool and falls. We had it all to ourselves and the kids found another trail leading to an upper falls. Most of the kids went in the chilly water, a bit too cold for the adults. Once everyone was cooled off, we headed back so we could make it to the east side of the island before dark.
We made it to the volcanic beach north of the airport as the sun set. Unlike our own experience a couple years ago on a sunny afternoon, the sand was covered with sargassum (a type of seaweed) and it was a bit too dark to get the full effect of the black volcanic beach. The kids filled plastic bottles with their samples that weigh about twice as much as the standard variety.
The rest of the windy trip back was in the dark so we didn't get to see the landscape and we returned to our boats, tired and hungry. Pippin was glad to see that his people hadn't forgotten him.
Day 1707 ~ Waterfalls and Hot SulphurMay 19th, 2015
We managed to get a fairly early start, but stopped at the gas station first to put air in the tires and avoid so many scrapes. The machine was acting strange which delayed our departure. Once on our way, we headed back south again, this time taking another road in.
Trafalgar Falls is a popular cruise ship passenger stop, but the last ship of the season left last month so we had the whole place to ourselves, again. Normally, access trails to waterfalls cost around 10EC ($4) for adults and half for children. Of course, this being a tourist draw, they've made the waterfalls part of the national park system so the entrance price is three times as high. Each guest is required to buy a park pass ($12USD), no discounts for children. Since we had 16 people, we figured it didn't hurt to ask about a discount anyway. Plus, prices printed in US dollars are a giveaway to who is really targeted (guessing the locals don't buy a pass to enter). She hesitated, but then offered to allow four kids in for free. We can deal with that; every little bit helps.
The walk to the falls was well-maintained, wide and mostly paved up to the viewing platform. Beyond that, you're on your own. Of course, they would recommend hiring a local guide to venture into this wild area beyond the spiffy deck with proper railings. However, even if we had factored in a guide, it would have been in vain because the kids were already halfway up the boulders before the stragglers in our group were even at the platform.
A scramble is more like it. I just followed the path down to the springs and happened to meet up with Bill, one of the dads. Together, we managed to find a way up the slippery boulders, some taller than me. Amazingly, I did make it up, often with Bill's helping hand for those extra-long stretches, but wouldn't ever be able to show anyone how. Despite the fact that I had no idea if I'd make it back down again, it was worth the effort. The upper falls were beautiful. The spray from the falls was so heavy, that I could only take a couple quick photos each time before having to dry the lens. Any heat that accumulated in the ascent workout dissipated with the fine mist from the cascading water hitting the rocks. Most everyone went swimming at this one, the water was so inviting. Eventually, between the cool water and constant mist, it was time to head back to the sulphur hot springs to warm up.
The springs were nice and warm after a cold swim, though anything 'hot' is not something that would tempt me on any other occasion. Plenty of room for all, it is supposedly 'good for the health' too, despite the rotten egg smell always lingering as a backdrop.
Once reheated, we headed into Roseau for a bite to eat. In the city and not having any ideas about recommended food joints, we chose the first kid-friendly place we saw, Perky's Pizza. How could we go wrong with pizza? Inside, we discovered another secret, some of the best roti (curry in a potato-based tortilla shell) we've ever tasted in the islands. Their special ingredient turned out to be mango chutney, seed shell still attached to the fruit.
After a tasty meal, we wandered around town for an hour then piled in for the long, windy road back to the boats. We got back before dark this time as we have one more half-day to go.
Day 1708 ~ Cold SulphurMay 20th, 2015
One more day with the car and this time Pippin got to ride along. We only have it until 2pm and plan to stop several times. We managed to get everyone going fairly early and headed to the knob at the north end. Inside the ancient crater is a cold sulphur spring, the only cold one in the world. The sign said 20 minutes, but I think it took us half instead of twice that for a change. A viewing platform looks over the small area, but one can walk around the grounds as well. Where there are pools of water, the rotten-egg smelling gas bubbles up. In dryer spots, we just heard a hissing sound coming out of the ground.
Thinking the trail must go further, we continued on a short distance until we ended up in a farmer's field. I guess that was it.
Piling back in the car, we continued around the narrow roads and multiple hairpin turns. We found a sign to Bwa Nef Falls, but after 15 minutes, only found the Waitukubuli sign that requested a pass and payment. We passed some locals not too far from the beginning and they told us the falls were about 5 minutes past the sign. Oh well.
By this time we needed gas, but the north knob is mostly uninhabited except for a few farm homes and small villages. We got to the east coast and finally found a single pump in Calabishi. We got some snacks, let the kids run around the beach and, then it was time to get the car back.
Day 1709 ~ Creek WalkMay 21st, 2015
On our hike last Saturday, we found a secluded and shaded creek with a shallow pool so thought the kids would enjoy it too. After lessons, Peter and I walked through town, out the main road and cut in to the powerline trail at the horse pasture. There they cooled off for a while then we packed up and headed back, picking some lemongrass along the way.
Day 1710 ~ Postcards and Rabbit TrailsMay 22nd, 2015
Chill day. Finished the week's lessons in the morning. Nina needed to find and send her two postcards home so we ended up with five kids game for a town trip for postcards, stamps and a look around.
Portsmouth isn't very touristy, save for cruisers, so I didn't expect to find postcards on every corner. I also knew that I purchased some here two years ago, notwithstanding some challenges of course. A hardware store vision popped into my head, but I disregarded it as an image from another island.
We began our quest at the first store up from the town dock by asking the simple question, "Do you sell postcards?" What's most interesting is the wide variety of responses back. From blank stares to "what you looking for?" to "just next door" to more complicated instructions and names of stores in so heavy a Caribbean accent I couldn't quite envision the correct spelling. Someone suggested the stationery store, but greeting cards are not postcards. Another said the beauty shop definitely had them (wigs maybe, but no postcards). At any rate, all directions and suggestions were different yet in vain but we did come close after a dozen or so inquiries. I thought the directions pointed to a store on the next parallel street over, but I had actually passed what I thought to be a private residence on the way. Backtracking, I spotted the tell-tale rack of postcards through a cracked doorway and thought we hit the jackpot. However, on closer inspection, the front gate was locked in the middle of the day. A kind gentleman sitting by the road explained that the proprietor was inside, but likely getting dressed for an upcoming funeral and recommended I come back after 5:30p. So close, yet so far.
We continued walking south and, with two of the same suggestions in hand, headed toward the Indian River tourist office. Surely the starting block of a popular guided tour among the visiting cruisers and charterers would carry something touristy. It's also about halfway back to where our boats are anchored and the end of 'town'. On the way, we passed the only hardware store and realized right then that I should have listened to my initial instinct; the view through the open door matched the earlier image in my head exactly. I at least remembered where the post office was located so Part 2 was easy. While the other girls enjoyed the air conditioned government waiting room, Nina jotted her notes and we posted them right then and there. After all, the only way to mail a letter in this town is to observe its open hours; there are no letter slots anywhere else but under the cashier's window.
The main tasks done, we set off toward the tourist office to find a Dominica t-shirt souvenir for Nicole. Stopping in a clothing shop along the way, just in case, a customer informed us he just passed by and it was closed but he could be our tour guide to wherever we wanted to visit should we need one. He also suggested taking a bus to the university district for the t-shirt, and was ready to flag one down for us right then and there, but since our boats are actually anchored in that vicinity already, I quickly but politely declined.
The rest of the way back to the dinghy went relatively unmolested by tour guides and produce vendors. We'll just chalk this trip up to our 'island postcard adventures'.
Day 1711 ~ Four Hour TourMay 23rd, 2015
The Moms and kids headed north by bus to Segment 13 of the Waitukubuli Trail system. It runs from Capucin to Penville. The cruising guide says the 5 mile (8 km) segment should take about three hours, no problem. We started hiking at 1pm so, when we reached the top of the ridge at 2:30p, we figured we were halfway and stopped to eat lunch. Hiking further, we came to a sign with a handy 'you are here' arrow only it showed we weren't even 1/3 of the way in. Better step it up.
We continued on at a more rapid rate, either climbing up to a ridge, then back down or out to a point and back in to the valley. The vegetation was dry at the top and rain-foresty at the bottom of the valleys. The scenery was beautiful, but we were also a bit concerned about being able to find a bus too late in the day. We pressed on and on and on. Occasionally we'd even find some fruit trees along the way. One we think was an orange tree and we gathered several mangoes that had fallen to the ground recently. My backpack was getting heavier with each stop.
Just when we thought the trail was going to keep following the ridge out to yet another point, it turned in. A garden on one side and two goats on another wondering why we were trodding through their home, but we were very relieved to find 'civilization' at last. When we popped out on the road, we were surprised to find the very park sign we'd seen and considered walking when we had the car.
Unlike the cruiser's guide, the Waitukubuli park sign correctly noted the trail would take four hours. Just several paces beyond that, however, another sign stated '2 hours'. Yeah, maybe for serious runners or crows.
After our momentary relief of finally getting to stop walking, we realized that the road was awfully silent and it was awfully late on a Saturday afternoon. We could see over to Penville, but that was a good 30 minute walk and it's just a stop along the road anyway. Cars that go through Penville will eventually wind up where we were. A couple cars did pass, going the wrong direction, but they might fit 2-3, not 11. After a few minutes, we saw a bus coming. However, (1) it was full and (2) it was going east. He was gracious to us (or took pity) and, even though he was intending his current run to be his last fare (he lives in Penville), said he would return for us in 10 minutes. Relieved we wouldn't have to walk to the village to call a cab or walk all the way back to town (don't even want to think how long that would take), we relaxed.
Day 1712 ~ RoseauMay 24th, 2015
Daystar got an early start and were gone by 7am. We intended to have a slow morning but, since there was no wind and the sea was flat starting out, we decided to do our Swedish pancake breakfast underway. Mid-way down the island the wind did fill in and we were able to sail some.
Once close to Roseau, we just aimed for our other friends and a 'boat boy' named Pancho came to greet us. When we balked at his 40EC ($15USD) per night price and asked how much for two nights, he replied 60EC ($22). Not having researched prices beforehand, we accepted his offer and he zoomed off.
It wasn't long and a younger boy returned in Pancho's boat and the shore lit up. We evidently ended up in the middle of some turf war or hullaballoo between the locals. Two dudes on shore flapping their arms hollaring at the poor boy who took over. He seemed to have difficulty figuring out who to tend to first, but went to the closest one. After more arm flapping and chest pounding, he came to our boat and told us that we must detach from the mooring ball. In a normal anchorage, this may not have been an issue, but we were about 50 feet from shore and in 50 feet of water. In addition, there were no other balls visible. Peter promptly denied his request and to tell Pancho that he needs to deal with it, not us.
Long story short, Pancho sold someone else's mooring ball so the boy came for our money and handed it directly to the arm flapper closest to us. When I asked him about it, he assured me that all will be well for us.
Later, when we got together with our friends, Pancho came out like a swindler. First, he charged each of our friends only 50 EC for two nights and, second, it turned out the balls were owned by three different people, none of whom were Pancho. Aside from the creative business practices, we felt like we were camping in someone's back yard. Small, but tidy, houses lined the shore, each with their laundry hanging out to dry and kids played together in the water. The few docks that were present appeared to be attached to private property and the rocky beach didn't invite beaching the dinghy without damage.
Good thing we're only planning two nights here.
Another 'boat boy' came by later offering a $200USD guided tour. No thanks. All we wanted was a drop-off at the gorge tomorrow. Normally, we could just take the bus, but tomorrow is a holiday and most buses don't run so we have to come up with Plan B. Like in typical 'boat boy' fashion, everything is possible and they all have friends who can do whatever you ask, the question is for how much. Well, he would talk to his friend and get back to us.
Day 1713 ~ A Three-Minute Swim, ReallyMay 25th, 2015
By now, the kids are skeptical of whenever the adults say, 'Let's go on a short hike today'. Four hours seems to be the norm for the printed 2-3 hour exhausting mountain climbing expeditions. So, when we assured them, based on our readings and visit with the taxi driver, that was required for today was a 'three minute swim". They eyed us suspiciously but all agreed to go willingly "since it was only three minutes."
I managed to come to a transportation price our group and the taxi driver could live with. He met us at 10am at the dock and we wound northeast into the center of the island. Instead of taking the right fork to Trafalgar, we went left toward Ti Tou Gorge. Once there, we figured we'd want plenty of time to go through the gorge, hang out on the other side swimming and then get picked up so we told him to give us four hours.
We reached the end of the road and he explained that the gorge was a short walk away. We understood that we'd be swimming so were prepared with suits and dry bags to carry our things. What we never got from anything we read or heard, was that the 3 minute swim to the gorge is not a means to an end, it is the end. It took us three minutes, just as they said, to reach the waterfalls coming from a rock face too tall to climb. It was a cool experience, but not somewhere we wanted to 'hang out' for three and a half more hours.
We swam back out, dried off and warmed up; the water was quite cold. We did recall we had seen the sign to Middleham Falls on our way up. Armstrong, our taxi driver, had mentioned it being a 45 minute walk each way. A local man at the gorge said it was about a 30 minute walk to the turn-off. How bad could it be? The kids groaned, but didn't grumble.
We found the sign at the turnoff and I called Armstrong to add an hour and switch our pick-up point in case we lost cell coverage further in. We noted the time and started in. After about 45 minutes, we came to the trailhead sign rather than the actual waterfall. We're noticing a trend here - seems local knowledge bypasses key details.
We continued on since we still had time. We climbed and climbed and climbed for about 50 minutes. Once at the top, where two trails diverge, the sign pointed us down for 20 minutes, and steeply at that. Judging by what we found, we probably descended the whole 250 feet of the waterfall!
At any rate, we pressed on and did make it to the pool and, yes, it was worth it. Our kids, however, are never going to believe us again.
Day 1714 ~ En FrançaisMay 26th, 2015
Motored out of Roseau, glad to be done with this city. Portsmouth was great, but we'll give this one a pass next time. Sailed most of the way despite the calm start until the wind shadow of Mt. Pelée. The mountain was cloudless for a change, an imposing back drop.
We've never really liked coming here because of the deep anchorage, but there is much to experience so we wanted to at least try it. Back before Mt. Pelée blew in 1902, steep and deep gave advantage to the hundred or so huge schooners that would stern tie close to shore.
Just when we were about to give up, Traveller decided to try the next bay down and found a gold mine. Shallow, sandy and good holding with a nice long beach in front of us. A bit more of a dinghy ride, but at least Peter will sleep at night knowing we're not going to drag or spin around and bump another boat.
Day 1715 ~ 20 Days of LaundryMay 27th, 2015
Dirty clothes have been piling up to overflowing. I never did find any place to do it in Dominica and the last time we started fresh was the day we arrived in Guadeloupe from St. Martin. I did, however, find out that we all have about a 3-week stash of underwear so it's time. The other reason I really wanted to stop in St. Pierre was because I knew the town has a self-serve laundromat.
We planned a washing day with our kid-boat friends and headed into town. The French have the best facilities and generally offer 2-3 sizes of front loaders including one massive 14kg or 18kg washer so I can get it done in one big or a big and a small machine. They also generally include hot water, a rarity in the former British isles. We had the place to ourselves today and the seven washers were just about enough for us all. Marlena had to wait one round for a second load.
While waiting, we walked up to the information center to check in and collect some information and maps. It seems a bit odd, but we've not encountered any French tourism office employees who can speak a second language. Thankfully, I do speak some basic French so could get our questions answered. Even though one of the ladies said she wasn't able to make calls for tourists, which seems odd because tourists usually don't have local calling plans, she did phone the laundromat owner to tell him one of the machines ate Marlena's money but refused to start.
We finished up, I gathered some car rental and wifi information from down the street, found the 'best baguette shop' and headed back to hang everything out to dry thankful that we won't have to turn our underwear inside out to give them a second round.
Day 1716 ~ Discovery Center DiscoveryMay 28th, 2015
We all decided to check out the Discovery Center today. We told the kids they could use the trip in lieu of today's science lesson. Peter fixed the propane locker hinge that had broken off, the girls did the rest of their lessons and we headed out after lunch. Stopping by the tourism office for a map, the lady explained how to get there and marked it on the map for us; the second employee confirmed the same.
We found the ruins of l'Eglise du Fort (Fort Church) and turned up the hill as was indicated. A half an hour later, Peter said that he was getting a feeling we were going in the wrong direction. We were heading inland and the center is quite visible from the water as we sailed in the other day. Hmmm. We managed to find some folks at home to ask and they pointed us back to the church. Instead of turning right like we did, we should have gone straight. Hmmm.
This isn't a matter of misunderstanding the language. I have a map with a star marked by the tourism office. Of all the tourist stops in St. Pierre, the Discovery Center is the largest and the one that blends in the least. The building, in my opinion, is a boxy blight on the verdant green hills of Mt. Pelée, yet those employed to give accurate infomation to those new to the town don't even know. Odd.
At any rate, we did finally find it at 3:30p and even got a group discount of 2 Euros less than the standard fare. The man assured us there were things in English as my command of the language is limited. We were ushered upstairs quickly because one of their movies was about to begin. I asked the woman at the desk if the movie was in English and she said no and didn't invite further discussion. After a disappointed look on my face, she hesitatingly offered English subtitles, but when she was clicking through the menu, English showed as an option for both Film and Subtitles. She chose only the subtitles even though we were the only 15 people in the whole building. Hmmm.
The movie was interesting, but about three times too long as it seemed to repeat itself about three times. Attempting to read the words and look at the imagery was challenging. The words went by so quickly before we'd had a chance to see what they were talking about; the younger kids in our group could only watch. Then, once the movie finished, we wandered about the rooms, most of which were filled with only information panels in French and few photographic/visual displays. There was an odd assortment of subject matter, including a Caribbean stamp collection and some information on the Panama Canal. The volcano room focused on volcanos in general even though the picture windows all faced Mt. Pelée. There were no artifacts on display. I soon realized that it was an Earth Science center, not a Pelée museum.
Just before they closed, I also noticed flyers pinned up with a device and a corresponding number. Perhaps this was the device in several languages so non-French speakers come away learning something and their either not offered to those who don't ask about them or it was too close to closing time and the lady didn't want us to not be able to hear through the headphones when it was time to close.
Over all, it was an odd experience and definitely not what I expected. We would have learned and seen more at the old volcano museum with it's assortment of panels both in French and English along with its varied displays of Pelée artifacts. Nevertheless, our adventures continue.
On the return trip, we stopped at the old theater and prison next door, both in pretty good shape for being over a century old. Old ruins from Pelée's 1902 explosion are scattered around town and what makes this town rather unique and interesting.
Day 1718 ~ Wreck DivingMay 30th, 2015
I haven't been diving in a couple months so it's time. David from Traveller is game to go as well so we jump in the water from the boat and wander about the anchorage. Mostly grass bottom and a gentle slope, there's not a whole lot to look at save for snake eels and the occasional fish swimming by. Having no markers, we get ourselves turned around and end up surfacing a fair way from the boats. With about a third of our air remaining, we decide to check out the old transport barge wreck lying in 30 feet just to the south of us. What a gold mine! There's little left that indicates it used to be a 130 foot ship that sunk when Mt. Pelée blew in 1902, but what is there is completely covered with the many colorful types sponges and coral. Many types of fish swim in and around them, adding even more variety.
After returning and rinsing off, the Traveller girls came over to make some bubble creations on the back steps.
Day 1719 ~ Slave CanalMay 31st, 2015
We ran into town in the morning to fill the dive tanks, then planned another trip to the wreck with the kids later on. Because it's so shallow, we felt it a good chance to get some in our group under water for the first time or refresh after a long hiatus. Greg, who got certified long ago, went first then I took Cora down for her first run. You'd have thought she'd done it before as she descended without a hitch and then swam among the fish and coral. We had to go up only because she was getting cold and her lips were turning blue.
In the afternoon, I took Pippin for his daily walk. Since we found out a few days ago that dogs weren't allowed on the beach, I had to go up the road instead. Marlena came along for company. The Slave Canal isn't too far of a walk (at least that's what the hiking map says), but we got a late start so weren't sure if we could make it there and back before the sun set. We reached the town of Le Carbet and, since we were so close, we decided to go for it. It ended up being about 15 minutes further, downhill, of course, but at least now we could say with accuracy how far and what it looked like. We probably couldn't get the gang to do the 45 minutes on the unshaded road, but it seemed like a cool hike to plan when we have rental cars perhaps.