Sunday, May 31, 2009

Danielle’s mom in Guadeloupe

Once in Guadeloupe we had to pick Danielle’s mom, Claudette, at the airport of Pointe-à-Pitre the biggest city of the island. She’s coming to spend a few weeks with us and sail south along the Antilles. One would think that I am in big troubles having to live with my mother-in-law for weeks in 40 ft boat but don’t be compassionate for me too quickly; Claudette is probably the best mother-in-law a guy can wish for. She actually lived with us at our house the last three months before our departure helping non-stop to sell everything in the house and getting things sorted out. Without Claudette we just don’t know how we would have managed to leave on time last September. Therefore, we are actually pleased that she came and get some sun with us even thought this means squeezing our stuff on the boat even more to free up the guest room. We really didn’t think this was possible but we managed to do it. Of course, now don’t ask us to get a screw out of the storage room after that!

Guadeloupe, like all the islands in the area, is beautiful. We may not find the babes in very short bikinis walking on the beach that we saw in the ads when we were kids but this is a nice place nevertheless. Pointe-à-Pitre is actually quite a big city with tons of stores where we can find things that we are not used to see such as this hat and dress store where Danielle actually bought a hat. This is the beige one on the bottom right of the red dress. She could have been wilder and buy the red feathered hat on the mannequin but let’s not push it! Unfortunately, we didn’t spend too much time in Pointe-à-Pitre and we left the day after for a very nice sailing to Les îles des Saintes about 20 miles south of Pointe-à-Pitre.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Arrived in Guadeloupe

One of the most interesting ride so far. The total millage is 42 miles and we started by motoring around the north side of Montserrat then we hoisted the sails and motorsailed for a couple hours, and then we just sailed for most of the way. About 11 miles from Deshaies in Guadeloupe the wind went from 15 knots to virtually nothing. We just motored the rest of the way and anchored after 8 hours at sea on May 23th.

Montserrat; the magnificent, the wounded, the resilient.

The volcanic island and British colony of Montserrat is probably the most incredible place we visited so far. First, the landscape is just magnificent with majestic hills and nice towns but this is a characteristic we find in most of the volcanic islands in the area. The key characteristic of Montserrat is that half of the island is in fact an active volcano and all the zones around the Soufrière Hill, this is the name of the volcano, are closed down to everyone but the scientists who monitor the activity of the volcano. We anchored in Rendez-vous Bay, just next to the new capital Little Bay. Surrounded by 200 feet cliffs the bay offers us a good shelter as well as splendid scenery. Looking at the cliffs we could see many birds nesting in that ideal environment for their safety. But the most intriguing part was to look at the goats walking in the very narrow ledges of the cliffs and just eating whatever they could find on the verge of the precipices. Their soft feet just allow them to climb the rocky sides of the hill without falling and for sure they don’t have vertigo. Finally, at night we could hear a loud hissing sound coming from the cliffs and one of the local policemen confirmed us that it was the sound of the bats living in the caves. That night we were seriously asking ourselves whether we should put the screens in the windows, not for the mosquitoes but for our flying neighbors!

Birds, bats and goats are very interesting but what we wanted to see the most was the volcano and see the lava flowing out the mouth of this Titan spitting the fires of Hell! Well it wasn’t exactly like that. You see, here at Montserrat the volcano is definitively active but its magma is very viscous and doesn’t flow per say. What happens is the magma gathers at the top of the volcano and creates the dome. Of course, at one point the dome becomes so steep that the stones can hold anymore and a sort of avalanche, they call the pyroclastic flow, starts and millions of tons of hot burning stones and ashes scramble down the hill destroying everything on its way. Some flows are small and stay at the top while others go all the way down until they reach the sea. But there is another phenomenon making almost as much damages; the mud slides. When the dome is very high and a violent rain happens, the entire dome can collapse and slides in an enormous mud slide burying everything along the way. Or, it can be more gradual and the mud slowly accumulates and buries houses and routes. On the pictures you can see a former river that is now an ongoing mud slide. Before, this was a golf course and one of the beautiful three stories houses built along the course got buried. Danielle is leaning on the roof of the balcony on the second floor. I told our guide that they could still make the place a golf course but only for the real players, not the kind of wimpy players who need a clean fairway of grass but the kind who go play in February in Canada with white balls! In the background of the third picture you can see the former city and capital Plymouth that got buried completely by the mud just a few years ago.

During our visit we didn’t only see the path of destruction of the volcano but also how resilient the people of Montserrat are. After getting the majority of their urban centers destroyed they now use the monetary help from the European Union to completely rebuild a new capital and the economical infrastructures they need to come back to a normal life. Behind me you can see the constructions fields of the new capital. Montserrat now has a population of about 5000 and with all the construction projects they have virtually no unemployment. They are proud and apparently just keep going and assuming all the burdens that Mother Nature impose on them. Talking of the N lady, she doesn’t only fry the local communities but also offers a very fertile ground for pretty much anything that can grow. Besides the incredibly good mangos we picked during our visit we also tasted something quite unusual; the fruit of a cashew tree. On the picture you can see the red fruit and on top of it you can find the nut that we all eat. But the fruit itself is incredibly good and juicy. So juicy in fact that the best way to eat it is to pull the nut out and then throw the entire fruit in your mouth and chew. All right, this is not very elegant but jeez this is good. I really don’t know why this fruit is not exported or its juice commercialized but I am sure there is a business opportunity there. If you ever come by one of them, just don’t hesitate and eat it!

Arrived in Montserrat

We arrived on May 20th at the volcanic island of Montserrat from Nevis after a nice 33nm ride that took us about 7 hours. With the wind slightly on the nose we had to motorsail but using only one engine the fuel consumption was low. By the way, half of Montserrat is an active volcano, this looks promising!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Arrived in St-Kitts and Nevis

We arrived in St-Kitts and Nevis from St-Barth May 15th after one of the best sailing we had in this trip so far. With the wind on our side we got swung by the long ocean swell for over four hours on this 45 nm passage under a gorgeous sun with the magnificent volcanic island of St-Kitts in the background.

Grand Case, St-Barth and visiting friends.

Leaving Marigot we made it in a first step to Grand Case just a few miles north of Marigot on the St-Martin Island. We are now in the company of two friends from Ottawa, Garry and Darlene, who came to spend a few days with us under the sun. In Grand Case we had the pleasure of eating quite a Caribbean meal in town where they have tables and BBQs setup in a sort of plaza. We had grilled chicken, plantain, shrimps Creole, stuffed cristophine and rice and beans. Everything the palate needs to be delighted! We stayed just a single day in Grand Case but still we had the time to go snorkeling on the Rocher Creole where we were greeted by many fishes hoping we would bring some bread crumbs as they were used by all the usual tourists. But we are not usual so no bread! To go ashore we have to use our inflatable dinghy and to take us to the city dock. Our guest Garry and Darlene reminded us of the grace we use to have when trying to get from a boat rocked up and down by the waves into an inflatable balloon floating on the same rocking waves and then trying to get out of the same balloon to climb a 4 feet wall with only a rusted cleat, barely holding on the dock, to hold on! Danielle and I had our share of “spectacular” embarking in the dinghy but we are now getting better at it, well at least that’s what we think.

We then made it to the city of Gustavia on the island of St-Barth, which is probably the most expensive place in the Caribbean. Within one or two blocks you can do your usual shopping at Christian Dior, Cartier or Lacoste and spend 12,000.00 Euros ($16,200.00 US) for a watch and buy a hand bag at 50% discount for only 350.00 Euros ($473.00 US)! We honestly don’t know who can afford to shop here but they are surely not jobless sailors like us who have to spend ¾ of their budget on boat repairs! We nevertheless, treated ourselves by eating out one night, with no appetizers or desserts but still enjoying one of the best foods we had for years. French peoples do know how to cook even in the most remote islands.

While in Marigot Danielle cut her finger on the city dock. She asked me to look for a splinter that she could somehow feel. I looked but all I could see was a little cut so she cleaned it and we moved on. There is not a week that we don’t spill our blood in one way or another in this trip so far, so a little cut was not something to be concerned about. However, after about four days, the cut started to get infected and we started to be concerned. So we went to the hospital in St-Barth where the doctor opened the wound to clean it and to try to find the possible splinter or whatever started the infection but nothing was to be found. He disinfected everything and put a stitch to seal the wound. The next day her finger was swollen and the blood had spread a bit more but at this point we think this is just a reaction to the cleaning and searching of the wound. We now keep a close eye on this and Danielle is now put on the disability list and is forbidden to use her hand until the situation comes back to normal.

Arriving in St-Barthelemy

We arrived in St-Barth on May 12th after a choppy crossing from St-Martin. We were hoping for a better wind angle so we could sail but unfortunately we had to motor most of the 19 nautical miles ride to St-Barth. The good news is this didn’t take much more than 4 hours and we had to face a long swell instead of the choppy short waves we had since the Dominican Republic.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Relaxing in Marigot (St-Martin)

It is amazing how much cultural change there is from one island to another in the area. In Dominican Republic it was Spanish speaking, relax and barely any rules then in Puerto Rico it was completely different with a mix of Spanish and English and a developed USA based culture, St-Thomas was English and populated with a majority of black people and now St-Martin being a French territory, speaking French and English with a completely mixed population. All these cultures are living about 30-50 miles from each other yet being so different. After traveling for hundreds of miles east against the wind and the waves it was nice to stop a few days in the large bay of Marigot while waiting for a friend couple joining us from Ottawa who are going to spend a few days with us. There is not much “touristy” stuff to see in Marigot and we just took the time to clean the boat and wander around in town and in the stores. Marigot is a premium place to get your boat repaired with great chandleries (stores for boats) and every kind of repair facilities. Luckily for us, Chocobo is still in good working state after all the refit we did in Puerto Rico hence we didn’t have to spend much money here for a change. If you look at picture on the right, you’ll see us in 2004 and the picture on the left are us now in 2009. Not much difference except that Danielle is a bit more visible hehe! For those who are still smoking, don’ quit otherwise you will become more visible too.

Twice a week they hold a farmer’s market at the waterfront and we were hoping to replenish our fresh fruits and vegetable but we stopped quickly once we faced the local prices. There are no bargains to be found here, prices are high and they don’t deal down. Nevertheless, Danielle managed to get a certain discount by changing all the Euro figures the lady at the stall was telling her to the same figure but in American dollars. They accept both here. The American dollar being cheaper than the Euro this gave us about 30% discount but still it was expensive. We definitively miss the Dominican Republic where you could buy a pineapple for $1, here you can’t get it for less than $6. Don’t forget, they grow the pineapples on the next island here! So we bought most our food at the supermarket. But the good news is that now we get some real patés, wine and cheese. If you wonder what the small white balls in the bowl are; they are hard boiled quail’s eggs. We were told they were excellent so we tried them. They were good indeed but they tasted just like regular eggs, just smaller! The wine and the paté de foie were to die for though.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Let me introduce you to a nice couple that we met along the way. This is Philippe and Mary-Anne. They own a Manta 42 2007 and have been sailing for over 2 years. They are done with their sailing and would like to sell her. If you ever thought when you were reading our blog that you would like to do it as well, it is the right time to get one of these nice Manta. Check their web site by clicking to the following link

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Arrived in Sint-Maarten (France)

We just arrived in Sint-Maarten from St-Thomas after a 100 miles trip that took us 22 hours. This was finally the last leg of our trip east motoring against the waves and the wind. We were supposed to spend a few more days in the USVI and BVI but a good weather window showed up and we didn’t want to let it go. With stronger winds this passage could have been a nightmare. It was bumpy on the second half but not too bad. We are just happy that the travelling east is over.

Carnival and meeting with friends.

Our stay in the Virgin Islands would have been relatively short; only two days. We didn’t have in mind to stay very long but maybe not that short. The fact is that a weather window showed up to make our last passage to reach the Antilles and the Island of Sint-Maarten and decided to take it. Before that, while we were in Puerto Rico we received an email from Geoff and Ruth on board of their sailboat Geru offering us to meet them in St-Thomas on May 1st. This was in line with our timeframe to get there so we managed to meet them at that time. Geoff and Ruth are two engineers that Roger worked with in Ottawa. They left a year before us in a journey that took them along pretty much the same path we took and down to the Grenadines. They are now on their way up north and we were very happy to see them again but this time on the water. For two nights we had dinner with them and chat until 2am. This may sound early for some but when you live on a boat you irremediably tune with the sun hence we usually go to bed around 8pm! Yep, we may still be young but sleep the geriatric way! If you are interested to read their adventure, they also have a blog. Click on this following link

This time of the year coincide with the Caribbean Festival in St-Thomas so it was a very good time to be there. For the two days we were there, and the whole week before, the town was celebrating with parades during the day and loud music during the night until 3 in the morning. The party being held close to the waterfront we were able to clearly hear the loud music all night. One thing we noticed in the Caribbean is that speaker companies are doing very well. People here like it loud and I mean very loud. On the boat we could feel the vibrations of the base on the walls and the floor. Does that bother us when we sleep? Hey, you are talking to people who sleep on top of a running diesel engine during their overnight passages so a few musical decibels we can deal with that! Besides, on the last night we had the chance to watch a wonderful firework that was held right on the waterfront so watching it from the boat was the best spot you could have. As a matter of fact, we were so close to the firework that we had to change position of the boat in the afternoon because we were right in the path of the falling rockets.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Arrived in US Virgin Island

Arrived in US Virgin Island (St-Thomas Harbor).