09/04/2017 – Another three islands

The plan worked and we left St Martin on Wednesday heading towards Montserrat. This is the one island I was desperate to visit as, for me, it was a case of unfinished business! In 2010 we anchored in Little Bay, the only anchorage available then, on a Saturday afternoon. The helpful Harbour Master suggested it would be better for us to stay on the boat and clear in on the Monday morning otherwise we would have to pay overtime charges. John went ashore on the Monday, cleared in and out, returned to Fair Encounter (our previous boat) to take me ashore but I was unhappy about leaving the boat. The waves had started breaking right under our stern, then someone came out from the harbour office to say we should move further offshore. In the end we just left so I had a nice shamrock shaped stamp in my passport but didn't set foot ashore! We arrived shortly after sunrise on Thursday and John went ashore after breakfast to clear us in and book an island tour for the next day with Joe Philip. We shared the taxi with two other crews, Peacekeeper who had been on the Caribbean 1500 with us and Sundog 1 from Canada. It was an excellent tour and we learnt a lot about the volcanic events between 1995 and 2010. Basically, the volcano had been dormant for 400 years but woke up in 1995, starting off with steam but quickly progressing to pyroclastic flows which, over the years, spread in just about every direction! Plymouth, the capital, was evacuated and temporary offices were set up for the government close to Little Bay. Those temporary offices are slowly being replaced by permanent buildings. The island also suffers from hurricanes and the associated torrential rains have washed mud and volcanic material down the sides of the volcano, especially along river valleys, burying the golf course under 6 metres of mud for example and wrecking the airport. In some of the villages houses had mud up to 5 or 6 feet deep piled up against them. It is amazing to see how nature has now taken over with verdant new growth on the fertile volcanic soil, hiding the houses among bushes and trees. The threat level is currently down to 1 though the volcano is still venting gases, almost all the island is open though Plymouth is still in a closed zone. It was a really interesting and informative tour. ....... ....... On Saturday we left for an overnight trip to Martinique, arriving Sunday at about lunchtime. We were treated to the sight of yole racing. These are local boats with no keel and a huge square sail. The crew balance the boat by moving their weight from side to side, often sitting outboard on poles or lying on them. In extreme situations we saw them dangling from the ends of the poles with their feet apparently running on the surface of the water! We were not surprised to see one boat capsize. The freeboard, that is the height of the hull above the water, is very low and you would see crew bailing frequently as they tend to scoop up water when they are well healed. Tacking seemed particularly difficult, often relying on two of the crew flapping the huge sail from side to side to begin to gather some speed to allow the helmsman to steer. It would not be an exaggeration to say we found ourselves in the middle of the action. The first race finished not long after we had anchored and a couple of boats passed our bow while the other six were well astern of us. The start of the second race saw half the fleet passing close ahead of us and the other half were not far astern. It was quite exciting. The crews were basically youngsters though a few boats had some slightly older crew, one thing common to all was their level of fitness because they were rarely still for long. I believe each boat represented a different town. The main reason for the visit to Martinique was a shopping trip to Hyper U and the sewing shop in the mall because I needed 5 DMC embroidery threads! This is the only stockist we have found in the Caribbean. ........ ......... On Wednesday we cleared out and made our way to Rodney Bay, St Lucia, ready to welcome our friends on World ARC finishing on Saturday. Trillium, a Hallberg Rassy 46, left with us in January 2014 and invited us to join them at the final dinner and presentation on Saturday evening as their crew flew home on Saturday afternoon. We were invited to join the group travelling to Marigot Bay in a fast fishing boat, to lead the fleet back to Rodney Bay. As we walked along the dock in Marigot Bay, saying hello to the boats we had sailed with on previous legs of the World ARC, Trillium invited us to join them for the Parade of Sail. Sadly, I feel we have missed out because we have never taken our boat into Marigot Bay (major engine failure last year) though we have now taken part in the Parade of Sail twice thanks to the kindness of good friends. At the dinner our table of 10 comprised four boats which set off in 2014 and one boat from 2015 whom we met in Fiji, the rest of the boats on the Rally had started in 2016, either from St Lucia or Australia. It was a good evening. ......... ......... The current plan is to clear out tomorrow morning and set sail for St Martin (again!) for provisioning before spending a couple of weeks in the BVI. It should take us about 48 hours though the wind is not forecast to last so there could be quite a bit of motoring. .... ....... Joyce

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *