25 February, 2013

Virgin Gorda - British Virgin Islands

Malua is at 18:30.316N 64:21.845 near Saba Rock in Virgin Gorda part of the British Virgin Island on 23/02/2013 
One can stay for weeks in Simpson Bay in St Maartin. There are chandlers, services, restaurants and more importantly other cruisers who just seem to spend week after week in the same spot. One entered the bay via the lifting bridge - in my case at 17:30 and can choose between the empty bay in the Dutch side or the less convenient and crowded French side. Where you anchor is where you check in. I did the Dutch side for a week and the total experience cost US$40. Some people just go through the bridge and check in on the French side and the cost is EU10 or so. Do check in if you anchor in the Dutch side. My friend on Pinball Wizard was boarded by the Dutch authorities and asked for his papers which he had completed properly. A sailing cat had the authorities along side for more than an hour then both vessels left together to destinations unknown. 
Well I checked out for a further US$5 and I was free to leave. I went through the bridge at 11:00 rather than the 16:30 outgoing and anchored in the roadsted then returned in the dinghy for some money, food and to access the slow wifi at the yacht club. Having done all that I returned to Malua with a kilo of Uruguay beef to prepare a stew for the passage westwards. It had great chunks of meat that turned out, with a bit of French wine to be three great meals, one of which I had that night and the next the following night. Still one remains in the freezer. 
I had prepared Malua for the voyage across the Anegada Passage with the weather window open for a good passage on Thursday/Friday. The seas and wind were predicted to rise on Saturday. I set off at 1:00 am Friday from the bay outside Simpson Bay. The moon was up, the wind from the east and for most of the passage very little swell. It was the best passage I have had all season. In fact it was so good I read, fixed the dinghy and cleaned up in my cabin - sorted my 12 T-shirts. 
I arrived at about 15:00 and was coming down the channel when the AIS picked up the yacht Distant Shores which I met at Navy Services in Port St Louis France in July/August. They had crossed with the ARC and have been sailing up and down the Island chain with paying guests. 
The AIS system I have - Watchmate has four profiles that one can select, Ocean, Coastal, Harbour or at Anchor. The parameter for the alarm and list of vessels changes from wide and many to few and only those within a mile of so with the at Anchor. I was able to see who was in the bay as I entered. It is a great facility if one wants to find a friend assuming they leave their AIS on while at anchor or coastal cruising. 
Today I checked in for up to a 30 day stay. So far the water looks good and clear and the anchorages great although the traffic on channel 16 is constant with yachts calling marinas and restaurants so I will have to find a way to block out the chatter. 
A magical moment on Malua

Simpson Bay St Maartin

Malua is at 18:02.00N 63:05.91W in Simpson Bay in St Martin on 18/02/2012
I left English Harbour and sailed up the west coast to Deep Bay. Here I walked to St John - the main town to get some fresh vegetables and to spend the last of my EC money. The walk is quite a long way so I took a bus out of town then was given a lift. 
I had planned to sail to Nevis the next island in the chain and continue to St Christopher and St Eustatius but the weather window was only open for two days before a strong wind front set in for four or more days so I cooked three meals of mince meat from the freezer, set it in the fridge and set the alarm for 1:00 am. 
There was little wind when I got up and set off out of the bay making sure I past by the sunken wreck. I hit the open sea and still only 15 knots and right behind Malua. It was a great sail down wind. I adopted my usual night watch position and watched the night sky pass over head. Dawn came and the sea was still flat and I was making such good progress that I would have arrived at St Barthelemy - St Barts just after 14:00. I looked at the chart and found St Martin was only 14 nm further north and I would reach that before 16:00. The wind was consistent and from astern so lets make progress and move further north while the going is good. This Caribbean is getting boring. 
On entering the southern waters of the island I saw some water rise from about 400 m ahead. Just a glimpse out the corner of my eye. When I looked again a whale was just off Malua's port quarter, just slowly moving southwards. I did not expect to see whales in these water. A great thrill. 
St Martin is divided Dutch side and a French side however the Dutch have a very large lake connected to the sea by a channel but a lifting bridge restricts the entrance. The bridge would open in two hour time for inbound traffic, so I just hung about waiting in line with about ten other vessels waiting to enter the lagoon of Simpson Bay. 
Passing down the channel and under the lifting bridge reminded me of the locks of France however this time I had the mast up. 
Just as I turned to port to select a spot to drop the anchor Pedro and Carol from Jack Tar came along side to invite me to share a beer at a waterside bar. What a great welcome after a 16 hour sail. 
A magical moment on Malua.

17 February, 2013

Martinique - A Windward Island

Martinique is the most northern of the Windward island in the Caribbean chain.  It is known as the Island of Flowers but I did not see many. The island with the exception of a few years has been French since colonization and still is very French.  What that means is that a cruiser traveling north can stock up on all things French which is of course wine and cheese.  When I arrived soon after New Year the wine shelves had been cleaned out and the new stock had not arrived from France however over the week I stayed the stocks were replenished and I was able to get some good Cotes du Rhone and some Bordeaux in bulk and in bottles.  The wine cellar is full and I now have to find an additional storage.
The main harbour is Marin which is just a mess of boats, at anchor, on mooring buoys and attached to many miles of finger wharf.  I chose to anchor near the entrance but quite close to the Leader Price dinghy dock.  Yes this supermarket has its own dinghy dock for cruisers - now that is service although the shelves are just bulk supply so one does not get the refinement of the Carrefour just up the road not that this supermarket is a patch on the ones actually in France but better than the "supermarket" I have seen further south.
After a few days of selective shopping at the above two and Dia I was ready to return to St Anne a large bay just to the east which is a very pleasant anchorage although some times crowded around the dinghy dock and restaurant which has free wifi.
I decided to start the trek north with a short sail along the southern coast.  I passed HMS Diamond Rock - that is right a rock that was declared a ship around 1800.  The crew would hassle the French navy as they came sailing by.  Napoleon was incensed by this rock of a ship and sent one of his admirals to deal with the situation.  Realizing that he could not take the rock by force of arms he used his good understanding of British sailors and sent a small vessel loaded with lots of rum.  The sailors captured the vessel and set about sampling the goods where upon the French attached and killed or escorted away some very drunk British sailors.  Villeneuve - the admiral was the same person to take on Nelson at Trafalgar but he underestimated the leadership of Nelson and on that occasion every man did their duty.
I turned into the great bay of Grande Anse D'Arlet for a second time and picked up a mooring buoy.  I found Harlequinn with James and Roni and Wyuna with Bruce and Gina on board.
The next day I set off north for the most northern anchorage of St Pierre.  The shore is very steep to so there is not much sand to drop the anchor and the wind seems to swing to the north which means that you lie parallel to the beach.  rather disturbing if you dropped the hook when the wind was off shore and the it swung to the north but any way I seemed to get it right.  A large super yacht got it wrong and had to leave just before dawn as they were swinging onto the beach.
I went ashore and took a walk to see how the volcano of Mt Pelee had engulfed the town and its 30,000 residents in 1902. One can now see the old lava flow down the side of the mountain.  Today it is fertile green strip from the top of the volcano right down to the sea.  the lava swept all before it killing all but two people - one a prisoner trapped in the goal.  When and how he was released is not said but he went on to be a major attraction with the Barnems Circus.
The modern town is a two street development running parallel to the high overhanging cliff.  If you walk down the road you can find some old ruins and the jail. Quite interesting.  I understand there is a road up the face of the cliff which one can walk on. It leads to a water channel similar to those in Mediera but I did not have time to find it.  Other say it is a pleasant walk as it follows the contours of the mountain slowly dropping towards the sea.  Another day.
I had an early night and took up the anchor as it was getting light to head towards Dominica and the most southern of the Windward Islands.