April 13th to April 18th – Prickly Bay to Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada

Grand Anse BeachApril 13th marks the beginning of our final week of relaxed cruising and sightseeing before commencing the process of de-commissioning Cutter Loose for summer storage.  On Sunday afternoon 4/13, it is off to Grande Anse to enjoy a sunset view at the beach followed by dinner and live music at Umbrellas beach bar in company with friends Donna and Steve of s/v Summer Love.

 

Steve Donna

Beach silhouettes

Patrick Shademan

On Monday 4/14, a hiking trip to one of the most attractive waterfalls on the island has been planned.  A group of nine cruisers cram into Shademan’s taxi for the 45 minute ride to Grand Etang.  Shademan (aka Patrick) specializes in transportation services aimed at the cruising community.  He is a trusted friend here in Grenada.

 

 

Warren GuideJust beyond the Nature Center is the settlement of St. Margaret and the trailhead for a hike to Seven Sisters and Honeymoon Falls. The hike passes through private property and the owner collects a small fee at his trailhead stand.  Our guide today is Warren, a friendly and energetic young man who lives nearby.  Compared to other hikes in the Caribbean, this is an easy 45 minute downhill hike through the rain forest to the falls.

Falls 1 and 2Seven Sisters refers to a series of seven cascading waterfalls.  The more strenuous part of the hike is the steep climb from sisters #6 and #7 at the base to sister #1 at the top of the cascade.  One may return to the base either by descending the trail or by jumping over each waterfall into their respective pools below.

 

E P at falls

 

Warren demonstrates his diving technique while we observe from the refreshingly cool water in the pool below sister #6. Before returning to the trailhead, Warren leads us to yet another nearby attraction known as Honeymoon Falls, so-named because of the heart-shaped pool beneath the falls.

Honeymoon Falls

 

 

 

 

Spice Girl

 

 

 

 

At the conclusion of the hike, Warren introduces us to his sister, Kionna, who offers a convincing smile, encouraging us to purchase some of her freshly harvested spices.

 

Similar to Simpson Bay Lagoon in St. Martin, Prickly Bay is the type of anchorage that does not easily relinquish its grasp on the unwary traveler.  Prickly is easy to enter but difficult to depart.  We have become addicted to shore side amenities, conveniences, sightseeing opportunities and social activities.  Even the invasive swell has treated us rather kindly, remaining benign and rocking us to sleep every night during our stay.  After eleven days at anchor, it is time to move on.

On Tuesday 4/15, the anchor is up in Prickly Bay for the short trip to Clarkes Court Bay, about five miles to the east.  The south coast of Grenada is a series of deeply indented fiord-like bays tucked inside an expansive network of barrier reefs and coastal islands.  These bays offer excellent protection from swells and the prevailing easterly winds.  Mount Hartman Bay, Hog Island Bay, Clarkes Court Bay and Phare Bleu Bay are all interconnected via a series of dinghy passages through cuts in the reef.

Calvigny IslandCutter Loose is anchored in the outer reaches of Clarkes Court Bay just to the west side of the reef at Petite Calvigny Point.  Here, 20 knot easterly winds ventilate and cool the cabin, providing sufficient energy for the wind generator to keep the ship’s batteries fully charged both day and night.  This vantage point offers views of the exclusive resort at nearby Calvigny Island where accommodations may be secured at a cost ranging from $30,000 USD to $124,000 USD per night.  From our anchorage, it is a five minute dinghy ride to Whisper Cove Marina where freshly baked bread is available for purchase every morning beginning at 10:30 AM.

There is a vibrant community of live aboard “condo” cruisers who spend the entire season in these bays, perhaps equal or greater in numbers to that of Prickly Bay.  Many have installed their own permanent moorings where their boats remain year-round.  The area is served by four marinas, each of which features its own bar and restaurant.  The restaurants compete with one another by offering daily specials as well as music and entertainment to attract cruisers.  In addition, Roger’s Beach Bar on Hog Island features a popular barbeque on Sundays.  The morning net on VHF 66 International is the source of all information that connects the cruising community.  A repeater station high in the mountains at Grande Etang makes it possible for all cruisers in Grenada and Carriacou to participate in the morning net, regardless of where they are located on the island.

Maria and othersAccording to an event announcement on the morning net, the social activity for Tuesday evening here at Camp Grenada is a full moon dinghy drift in Mount Hartman Bay.   At sunset, some fifteen dinghies raft together in the Bay.  Several cruisers from yesterday’s hike are in attendance, including Maria and Maurice from s/v Captiva and Diane and Larry from s/v Dove.

 

Hal and IngaEveryone brings an appetizer to share while waiting for the moon to make its appearance.  Ever so gradually, the eastern horizon begins to glow.  By 8 PM, the full moon is overhead, illuminating the entire Bay.  The return trip to Cutter Loose through the maze of anchored boats is made easier by the brilliant moonlight.

 

SunsetOur anchorage in Clarkes Court Bay has been a thoroughly relaxing experience, allowing time for reading, enjoying leisurely lunches ashore at Whisper Cove Marina and becoming familiar with nearby interconnected bays via dinghy.  It is a delightful place to spend the final days of our winter/spring voyage, savoring the laid-back simplicity of the cruising lifestyle.  On Saturday, we will move one bay to the east where Cutter Loose will be docked at La Phare Bleu Marina for a week of cleaning and preparation for summer layup.

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April 12th – Leatherbacks at Levera Beach, Grenada

 

On Saturday 4/12, the telephone rings at 6 PM, just as we are settling into sunset relaxation mode in the cockpit of Cutter Loose.  It is Cutty calling, our island tour guide from earlier in the week.  He explains that there are two last-minute open seats in his van for tonight’s turtle watching expedition at Levera Beach.  He will pick us up at the dinghy dock in 30 minutes.  This sets into motion a frantic rush to stow jackets, red flashlights, food and water into the backpack.

Levera National Park is located at the northeastern tip of Grenada, a 1.5 hour drive from Prickly Bay on narrow, winding roads.  Travelling by van under the cover of darkness provides an interesting glimpse into the lifestyles of Grenadians.  It is Saturday night…time to be out on the street corners and in the small stores and rum shops, conversing and playing dominoes with neighbors and friends.

After an introduction to the lives of leatherback turtles by the volunteers at the Ocean Spirit, Inc. Sea Turtle Conservation Center, our group is escorted to the beach to await the arrival of female turtles.  Three days shy of a full moon and under widely scattered clouds, the white sand beach is illuminated by a dim iridescent glow.  Warm temperatures, light surf and a comfortable breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay combine to create a picture-perfect night to be on the beach.  Volunteers from the Conservation Center are very strict on protocol.  They pre-warn us to stand to the side and rear of the turtles, but never in front of them.  No flash photography is permitted because turtles are sensitive to light.  Therefore, some of the photos included in this post are borrowed.

Between March and July, Ocean Spirit researchers and volunteers stand watch on this beach every night between 6 PM and 6 AM.  During this five month breeding season, some 1,000 female leatherback turtles arrive here at the place of their birth to bury eggs in the sand.  Nocturnal arrivals and departures reduce the likelihood of predators unearthing the eggs.  Since leatherback turtles are an endangered species, researchers measure and tag the turtles and record the location and number of eggs deposited in the nest.  Many of the turtles returning here have already been tagged.

measuring turtleAround 9 PM, excitement builds as volunteers announce that the first female turtle of the evening has just landed on the beach about a half mile from our staging area.  By the time we arrive on the scene, the female leatherback has already unloaded her cargo of eggs.  Because the location she has chosen for her nest is dangerously close to the surf, Ocean Spirit researchers intervene to catch the eggs as they are being laid.

eggs in nest 2Using sterile gloves and carefully placing the eggs in a bucket, they are relocated to a human-dug nest about one hundred feet further inland.  Meanwhile, mom is busy tidying up her original nest site, oblivious to the fact that her eggs have been relocated.  Once satisfied that the nest site cannot be detected by predators, she crawls slowly back to the sea.

turtle with childLeatherbacks are fascinating creatures.  They are the world’s largest turtles, weighing up to 2,000 pounds.  While their numbers are declining (especially in the Pacific), they can still be found in all oceans of the world.  We are permitted to touch the turtles during their egg-bearing trance.  Their skin is rubbery soft, not a hard shell as with other species of turtles.  Leatherbacks are world travelers.  They undertake the longest migration between breeding and feeding averaging 3,700 miles each way.  Leatherbacks can dive up to 4,000 feet in depth and remain underwater for up to 85 minutes before returning to the surface for air.  Their average lifespan in the wild is 45 years.  Their favorite food is jellyfish.  Males remain at sea for their entire lives while females return to the same nesting area about once every three years to bury their offspring.

man with turtleA short distance away, a second female turtle has arrived on the beach.  She is massive, measuring five feet in length and two feet in height.  Unlike turtle #1 earlier this evening, turtle #2 selects a nesting spot further inland, thus eliminating the need to excavate an alternative nest and relocate the eggs.  Turtle #2 swings her large front and rear flippers in a circular motion to sweep away the dry sand on the surface until underlying wet sand is discovered.  Slowly and methodically, she rotates her back flippers to carve a perfectly symmetrical indentation in the sand, two feet deep and one foot in diameter.

eggs in nestSatisfied with the layout of her nest, she deposits 70 to 100 eggs.  Some of the eggs have yolks (future turtles) while others have no yolks, the purpose of which is to provide moisture and buffer the nest.  Approximately 70 days from today, the hatchlings will emerge from the nest and scramble straight to the sea.  It is estimated that only one in a thousand leatherback hatchlings survive into adulthood.

returning to the seaThe entire process from arrival to departure requires about two hours of strenuous work on the part of the female turtle.  Shortly after 11 PM, turtle #2 and the crew of Cutter Loose return to their respective watery homes.  Tonight’s moonlit spectacle of nature has been an incredible experience…one that will be remembered for a lifetime.

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April 3rd to April 10th – Carriacou to Grenada

 

On Thursday, 4/3, the anchor is up in Tyrrel Bay at 8 AM for our final, open-ocean, trade wind sailing day of the season.  Our destination today is Prickly Bay on the south coast of Grenada, a distance of 38 nautical miles.  The wind is light out of the east today.  Cutter Loose is barely making 4 knots on a slow but steady broad reach towards Grenada, the Spice Island.  The tidal rips and the constantly changing currents near Ile de Ronde make for some interesting navigational challenges.  When the trade winds are howling, the bumpy and confused sea state in this cut can be a source of frustration.  But today, the water is calm.  It is a day to relax and enjoy this slow-paced, off-the-wind sail.

In the lee of Grenada, the sails begin to stall and flutter in diminished wind.  Moisture-laden cumulus clouds passing over the mountainous northern half of Grenada create occasional gusts which fill the sails and improve boat speed.  As the capital city of St. Georges passes to port, the clouds suddenly begin to appear dark and ominous.  Nearing the airport at Point Saline, the wind is gusting to 25 knots, catching Cutter Loose over-canvassed and sending its crew into rapid sail reduction mode.  Now within three miles of our destination, our turn to the east places the wind-driven waves squarely on the bow.  The squall diminishes in intensity on final approach to Prickly Bay.  Once in the protection of the harbor, the water becomes flat as the anchor is set at 3:45 PM.   From here, Cutter Loose is less than ten miles from the yard at Grenada Marine where she will rest ashore during the forthcoming hurricane season.

Each morning, departing aircraft passing overhead in Prickly Bay serve as a constant reminder that the sailing season is nearly at its end and that our remaining time here in the Eastern Caribbean is brief.  On May 1st, the silver bird will carry us home.  One of our priorities this season is to allow sufficient time for inland exploration of Grenada and to enjoy the camaraderie of sailors who call this place home.  Prickly Bay will serve as our base for shore side activities during the next few weeks.  There are two dinghy docks in this anchorage that provide access to grocery stores, restaurants, laundry services, boat supplies, public buses and taxi services.   In addition, there is public Internet service available in the Bay.  Despite its deserved reputation as being a little rolly, Prickly Bay is a safe and convenient place to be.

Hash sceneEvery Saturday afternoon at 4 PM in Grenada, an avid group of 50 to 150 runners and walkers meet to participate in the weekly HASH.  This event is sponsored and organized by Grenada Hash House Harriers, a local running club.  The HASH is a run/walk event, normally along a remote trail through the jungle.  In advance of the event, the HASH master selects a person known as the hare to mark the route with small clumps of shredded paper. The starting/ending point is usually a pub or a park, the location of which is announced via e mail a few days prior to the event.

Goat looks onAlong the route, there may be one or more trail intersections that are unmarked, in which case, the participants must explore all of the alternative trails until the marked trail is found.  The participants shout “on-on” when they are certain that they have located the marked trail.  This helps to keep others on course.  Runners normally complete the HASH in an hour while walkers finish within 90 minutes.

shredded paper

Virgins christenedAfterwards, food, beverages and entertainment contribute to a street party celebration emceed by Simon the Hashmaster, who by day is an ex-pat marine electronics technician.  Participants are a diverse group of individuals, including children, members of the local running club, university students, cruisers and the public-at-large.  Several seniors in their 80s routinely participate in this event.

hash hikersOn Saturday 4/5, HASH #821 begins and ends at Peggy’s Bar and Grocery Store in Morne Delice, St. David’s Parish.  Today’s trail begins with a steep single-file ascent through thick vegetation.  Some sections of the trail seem to have been blazed just recently. The descents are often trickier than the ascents, requiring slipping and sliding one’s way down steep dirt hillsides, grasping on to tree limbs, roots and rocks where available.  The crowd thins out as the HASH progresses while some participants stop to catch their breath and a sip of water.

hash street sceneBy 5:30 PM, all hashers have arrived back at Peggy’s Bar where the music is thumping and the street party is already well underway.   The Hashmaster distributes certificates to newcomers while dispensing justice to experienced runners who have allegedly broken HASH rules. After an hour or more of celebration, the crowd gradually begins to diminish as we board Shademan’s taxi for the ride back to Prickly Bay.

dinghiesOn Sunday afternoon 4/6, we are met by cruising friends Donna and Steve at nearby Secret Harbor Marina for a two-mile dinghy ride to the outdoor concert at La Phare Bleu Marina.  From Mount Hartmann Bay, our course takes us under the Hog Island Bridge and into Clarke’s Court Bay where a series of buoys mark a dinghy passage across the reef to Calvigny Island.  Since the wind is up today, this turns out to be a wet ride in Steve’s brand new AB dinghy.

Doc AdamsSome thirty dinghies and their occupants are rafted together to listen to rock n roll hits from the 50s performed by guitarist and vocalist Doc Adams, whose functions by day as the island’s chiropractor.  The return trip from La Phare Bleu to Secret Harbor is downwind and dry.  We are back aboard Cutter Loose before dark.

 

On Monday 4/7, we join a group of cruisers on a narrated island tour provided by Cutty, a local taxi driver/tour director/amateur botanist.  Cutty’s brand new jet black Nissan mini-bus (with functioning air conditioning) is an excellent way to observe the countryside and learn more about the island while getting to know other cruisers.  Our tour takes us east along the southern coastal route to the windward side of the island.

Cutty

It is little wonder that Grenada is known as the Spice Island.  The spices most people keep in small jars in their kitchen cupboard grow alongside the road here in Grenada.  Cutty stops the van frequently in the middle of the road to harvest a cashew, nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon or bay leaf from a nearby tree.  Other drivers that we encounter on the roadways during our tour seem to have infinite patience with our frequent stops.  The roads here are in good condition, but very narrow.  Here’s a photo of Cutty serving beans from a ripe cocoa pod.  They have a citrus taste rather than a chocolate taste.

 

cashews

 

 

Cashews grow as an appendage on toxic fruit…one cashew per fruit.

 

 

 

 

 

Cloves

 

 

Dried cloves begin life as a flowering seed.

 

 

 

nutmeg weighin

 

Nutmeg is a cottage industry and cash crop here in Grenada.  Anyone with a nutmeg tree on his or her property can obtain a license to sell their fruit to the local cooperative.  The saying in Grenada is that people with nutmeg trees on their property will always have a few dollars in their pocket.

 

 

nutmeg trays and sacksNutmeg trees are a distinctive yellow-green in color, growing to about 60 feet at full maturity.  Ninety percent of all nutmeg trees on Grenada were lost during Hurricane Ivan in 2007.  New trees planted after Ivan are just now beginning to bear fruit.  In human terms, the average Grenadian lost seven years of supplemental income from the sale of nutmeg due to Ivan’s devastation.  The island’s economy is inherently fragile. Most jobs are concentrated in the seasonal and volatile tourism sector of the economy.  Supplemental income from the sale of fruits and vegetables helps many families to make ends meet.

Nutmeg with mace inside fruit

 

On the tree, the fruit is yellow, about the size of a small apple.  When ripe, the outer pod splits open and the fruit falls to the ground, whereupon it is collected by the owner and delivered to the Grenada Nutmeg Cooperative. The Cooperative pays the owner based on the size and quality of the fruit presented.

nutmeg closeup

 

 

 

MaceNutmeg is actually two spices in one.  Inside is the familiar oval-shaped brown nut covered by red waxy netting.  The red netting is the source of the spice known as mace.  At the Grenada Nutmeg Cooperative in Grenville, the mace is separated and weighed while the nutmeg is sorted on the basis of size and dried in large bins for three months before being sold to spice manufacturers.

Chocolate Guide

 

 

From Grenville, it is on to the chocolate factory at Belmont Estate, followed by lunch at the Belmont’s so-called “sheeple” restaurant (an eating and drinking establishment catering primarily to cruise boat passengers).  Samples of the 100% dark chocolate (no sugar or cocoa butter added) prove a bitter pill to swallow.

 

Belmont Estate

 

River Antoine SignNext is a tour of the historic River Antoine Rum Distillery near the town of Tivoli on the northeast coast of the island.  This facility has distilled rum in the same manner since 1785.  As such, it is the oldest distillery in Grenada.  Rum production is another important local industry, as there are rum shops (small neighborhood bars) on nearly every street in Grenada.

 

Sugar Cane Shack

Water WheelAt the distillery, locally harvested sugar cane is shredded into small pieces by a massive two-story wheel powered by water diverted from a local stream.  The processed juice from the cane is collected in basins and boiled.  The resultant syrupy liquid is then pumped into foul-smelling, open-air fermentation vats where it remains for eight days before being sent to the wood-fired distillation boiler.

Distillery guide

 

Rum bottles

 

The result is a very potent clear liquid (150 proof or 75% alcohol) that makes one’s head feel light merely by sniffing the stuff.  The bottling department consists of one worker seated at a small table pouring the product by hand into glass bottles.  Free samples are available for all in the tasting showroom, where one may purchase the rum of their choice and/or pre-mixed bottles of passion fruit rum punch.

 

 

Thank you USAFrom the distillery, Cutty drives past Pearls Airport on the beach near Grenville.  This facility was closed in 1984 when the new Maurice Bishop International Airport was opened on the south coast near Point Salines.  Nowadays, the old airport is used for sanctioned drag racing events.  Alongside the runway at Pearls are several Cuban military aircraft that were “de-commissioned” during the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983.  To this day, most Grenadians express appreciation for the U.S. intervention.

After a final stop at the Grande Etang Forest Reserve to feed bananas to the mona monkeys, it is back to Prickly Bay, just in time for sunset.  Thanks to Cutty’s insights and driving ability, we have come to know the back roads and villages of Grenada as a result of today’s tour.

Esther and OmegaOn Thursday, 4/10 we attend cooking class at True Blue Resort, an easy 20 minute walk from the dinghy dock past St. George’s University.  Resident chefs Esther and Omega demonstrate the fine art of preparing callaloo fritters and fish cakes to a group of 20 some cruisers.  Callaloo is a leafy green, similar in color and consistency to spinach.  Fish cakes are made from boiled salt cod.  Both dishes involve mixing a batter and ladling the mixture into a sauté pan of hot oil.  The result is not exactly health food, but it is a common dish that can be found on most menus in the Eastern Caribbean.

Bike repairDuring our walk back to the dinghy dock, Marc at Mocha Spoke is busy replacing the rear brake cable on my Bike Friday.  In addition to being the owner, barista and chief wrench at this coffee shop/bike rental shop and bicycle touring business, Marc is the organizer of Tour de Spice, a triathalon that will take place here in Grenada on April 27th.  Mocha Spoke is a popular hangout where SGU students are cramming for final exams.  The mocha frappes and intense studying here are quite refreshing.

Each day during the morning cruiser’s net, the VHF radio is buzzing with new and exciting things to do here at Camp Grenada.  We will definitely run out of time before we run out of things to do on the Spice Island.  Stay tuned for further adventures.

Babyface

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March 31st to April 3rd – Union Island to Carriacou

 

Beach shotAfter four days in the Tobago Cays, the anchor is up for the short downwind run to Chatham Bay on the west coast of Union Island.  Chatham Bay is a large, wide-open anchorage surrounded by steep hills.  It is appropriate for cruisers seeking protection from the easterly trades and entertainment at the half dozen beach bars that dot the shore.

 

inside rest looking outwardOther than a few fishermen shacks, there are no dwellings here.  Recently, the government constructed a dirt road that connects Chatham Bay to other areas of Union Island.  As a result, the number of beach bars increased from one to six.  With the sudden increase in competition and the relatively small numbers of cruising boats calling here, these establishments are apparently struggling economically to survive.

Restaurant bldgSoon after the anchor is set, Cutter Loose is approached by a parade of small boats.  After two seasons in the Eastern Caribbean, we have grown accustomed to visits from all manner of salesmen.  Typically, they offer fish, lobster, fruits, vegetables, T-shirts and taxi services.  Today, our visitors are beach restaurateurs offering information about their lunch and dinner specials.  They urge us to make a menu selection and a reservation so that they can prepare adequately.

inside restaurantOur lunch of grilled tuna, fried plantain, rice and slaw at Jerry’s Palm Leaf Bar is delicious and the staff is attentive and engaging.  After lunch, we learn about the underhanded tactics used by some of the Chatham Bay restaurant owners to attract business.  One owner informs us that his outboard motor has been stolen by a competitor, preventing his marketing outreach to incoming yachts.  Another owner allegedly informs visitors that her competitors have recently closed their restaurants for the season.

Everyone seems to agree that there are fewer yachts visiting Union Island these days.  At least in part, this is the result of a 2013 incident at the Frigate Island anchorage a few miles south of here in which a cruising boat was boarded by would-be thieves brandishing machetes. Cutter Loose is one of a dozen cruising boats anchored in Chatham Bay tonight.  Although Chatham Bay has not heretofore been unsafe in any way, safety in numbers is comforting.

Truthfully, we have been uncomfortable with Union Island ever since an aggressive boat boy by the name of Tiger harassed us in Clifton Harbor in April, 2013.  The boat boys here rent moorings, some of which do not belong to them and others of which have been known to go adrift.  There is very limited space to anchor in Clifton Harbor given the preponderance of local boats, an abundance of visiting yachts, an increasing number of moorings and the narrowness of the channel between the reefs.  The boat boys hover near the entrance to the harbor, knowing full well that many skippers will relent and agree to a mooring after several unsuccessful attempts at anchoring.  Ashore, Clifton seems to attract an element of substance abusers and persons with mental disabilities.  To be certain, this element is a small percentage of the population, but sufficient to inspire caution when walking the streets of Clifton.

Why would one choose to visit Clifton Harbor?  It is an outpost in the wilderness, the southernmost community in the Grenadines and an official port of entry to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Yachts call here to fulfill clearance responsibilities at the Customs office.  It is the price to be paid for the privilege of visiting the Tobago Cays.

On Tuesday, 4/1, the anchor is up in Chatham Bay.  Cutter Loose is underway, motoring into the wind and leaving the reef surrounding Frigate Island to port en route to Clifton Harbor.  The harbor is crowded with visiting yachts, as usual.  Waving off the solicitations of local boat boys, we proceed quickly to a small opening inside the reef where the hook grabs solidly on the sandy bottom.   Because the anchorage is crowded, Cutter Loose is on a short 3:1 scope…not ideal, but hopefully sufficient given the short duration of our stay.

We are greeted at the dinghy dock by a topless woman of African descent wearing what initially appears to be a diaper but turns out to be an over-sized pair of men’s briefs.  She is screaming angrily at nobody in particular. Presumably, this is the official Chamber of Commerce welcome to Clifton.

Officers at the harborfront Customs office inform us that instead of working at their office in the village, Immigration officials are working at the airport today.  They instruct us to proceed to the airport where both Customs and Immigration can be accomplished simultaneously.  Thankfully, the airport is but a 20 minute walk from the harbor.  The Immigration officer at the airport cannot understand why we have been instructed to clear here rather than at the village office.  After several minutes of confusion and indecision, both Customs and Immigration officers agree to process our paperwork.  We are officially cleared for departure from SVG.

Mission accomplished, it is a brief stop at the bakery and a visit to the friendly ladies at the fruit stand before returning to Cutter Loose.  The total elapsed time of our visit is less than two hours.  The anchor is up and we are underway from Clifton Harbor without incident or negative encounter of any kind, notwithstanding the fact that our visit here is unsettling.

Our destination of Petit St. Vincent is only five miles southeast from Clifton Harbor.  Unfortunately, a passing squall increases the wind speed to 20+ knots from the direction of our destination.  Rather than motor into six foot frothy seas, we opt instead for a comfortable broad reach to Tyrrel Bay on the island of Carriacou.

Tyrrel Bay is a large protected body of water nearly surrounded by a semi-circular beach.  It is an official port of entry to the nation of Grenada and Carriacou.  The harbor is filled with work boats and cruising yachts.  There is a small community of liveaboards that spend the entire year in Tyrrel Bay.  Since the Customs office at the boatyard remains open until 4:30 PM, there is plenty of time to clear in before quitting time.  This is our final clearance of the season, since Cutter Loose will remain in Grenada again during the forthcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

To our surprise and delight, cruising friends Paula and Scott are sanding and painting the hull of Scherzo in the yard. We enjoy a barbeque chicken dinner together at the boatyard restaurant.   On Wednesday 4/2, we join in an afternoon cruiser’s game of Mexican Train dominoes where we learn some new twists that add interest and intrigue to the game.  Tomorrow, it is on to Grenada in what will be our final open-water sail of the season.

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March 27th to March 30th – Tobago Cays

 

Our tour of the Grenadines resumes on Thursday, 3/27 with a relaxed downwind sail to the Tobago Cays National Marine Park, located 21 miles southeast of Mustique.  After three days of relative calm, the easterly trade winds are making a comeback today.  At 7:45 AM, the wind is already blowing at a steady 20 knots, making for a smooth and speedy broad reach past the tiny islands of Petit Mustique, Savan and Petit Canouan.   Leaving the island of Canouan to port, the autopilot is set to track a waypoint near the island of Mayreau, the northern gateway to Tobago Cays.

aerial viewOne mile northeast of the northern tip of Mayreau are two large outcroppings known as Baleine Rocks, which are awash in foamy surf.   Once south of Baleine Rocks, a course to the southeast takes us into the Tobago Cays National Marine Park.  Entering the park, the shallower water becomes iridescent turquoise, stunning in its intensity.  Within the park, four tiny islands (Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradel and Jamesby) are protected from the Atlantic Ocean by the 1.5 mile stretch of Horseshoe Reef located just a stone’s throw to the east.

CL at anchorOcean waves crash furiously on the reef, revealing its underwater presence.  Beyond the reef lies Petit Tabac, a small sand spit dotted with palm trees.  Beyond Petit Tabac lies the continent of Africa, 3000 miles to the east.  Cutter Loose is anchored inside Horseshoe Reef on the windward side of Jamesby Island, where the wind driven chop is a scant one foot despite sustained easterly trade winds of 20 to 25 knots.

Cats at anchorHaving arrived at this, the crown jewel of the Grenadines, the pace aboard Cutter Loose slows to a standstill.  The gradation of brilliant water colors alone provides sufficient entertainment to capture one’s attention for days on end.   Gulls hover effortlessly in the sea breeze in search of sustenance, squawking and squealing with delight at the skirmish of baitfish being driven to the surface by predators.

sunsetEven the constant change in weather is a fascinating sight to behold.  Afternoon squalls appear on the distant eastern horizon, steadily approaching the Cays with their payload of convection, precipitation and enhanced wind.   The residual byproducts of squalls are dramatic late afternoon cloud formations, spawning pink, peach, fiery red and orange sunsets.  Being here is a total escape from life’s distractions.  We are in touch and in tune with nature.

Beach shot 2Our days are filled with reading, listening to music, walking an assortment of beaches, swimming with the sea turtles in the Baradel Island turtle sanctuary, snorkeling on the reef and relaxing in the cockpit playing board games while gazing at our stunning surroundings.  At night, the sky is filled to capacity with stars, planets and constellations.  This is a magical place.

 

Park RangersEvery day, there is an influx and an exodus of cruising boats from the anchorage.  Cutter Loose is one of 18 boats anchored here overnight.  The Park Ranger visits each boat to collect the $10 EC ($3 USD) per person daily fee for the privilege of being in the Park.  Each morning, Mr. Quality arrives in his pirogue bringing freshly baked baguettes from nearby Union Island.  Other boat boys are kept busy guiding bareboat charterers to mooring balls.

lobster shackBoat boys here do not solicit business from cruising yachts unless requested. An occasional fisherman, however, stops alongside to offer a freshly caught fish.  An enterprising young man has set up a gas grill in a shack on the beach where grilled spiny lobster is offered for lunch.  Most of this activity takes place in the narrow cut between the islands of Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau.

lobster cleaning

Lobster table

Beach shot

One of the beauties of remaining at anchor in a remote place for several days is the satisfaction that comes from the freedom of living self-sufficiently aboard Cutter Loose. Given the abundance of wind and sun here in the Cays, our energy needs are fulfilled almost entirely by solar panels and wind generator.  There is sufficient wind and solar energy being generated to power the watermaker simultaneously with refrigeration and other boat systems.  The use of the diesel generator is limited to about 30 minutes each day to heat water for showers and dishwashing.  At 7 AM each morning, the ship’s batteries are nearly fully charged, thanks to the D400 wind generator that never sleeps.

After four relaxing days at anchor in the Tobago Cays, it is time to bid farewell to this lovely setting.  On Monday, 3/31, Cutter Loose will set sail for to Union Island.

Blue White Ketch

 

 

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March 24th to March 26th – Mustique

 

CANOUANOne of the interesting things about sailing in the Grenadines is that the islands here are steep and spaced not more than 20 miles apart.  Regardless of one’s location, there is a volcanic island jutting steeply out of the sea, the outline of which is faintly visible on the horizon.  The scenery here is reminiscent of the 1970s era TV series Adventure in Paradise, set in the South Pacific.

 

From Admiralty Bay in Bequia, it is a short 15 mile sail southeast to Britannia Bay on the island of Mustique.  Today, the wind is light from the east northeast, which makes for a relaxed close reach to Mustique in calm seas.

Anchorage from FireflyApproaching Admiralty Bay in mid-afternoon, there are about a dozen cruising boats moored in the harbor.  Visiting yachts are required to make use of a mooring. The moorings are owned by the Mustique Company, as is just about everything on this island.  We are greeted by Slick at the helm of the corporate dinghy.  He is dressed in corporate attire.  He maneuvers the corporate dinghy alongside to assist with mooring lines.  He is very polite.  Already, we are feeling the uniqueness of this place.

The mooring fee is $200 EC (about $74 USD) for a stay of up to three nights.   One may stay for just one night, but the fee is still $200 EC.  This is somewhat expensive by Eastern Caribbean standards, but not unreasonable.  Admiralty Bay has a reputation for being a rolly anchorage, and many guests visit for only one night, including charter boats on a tight schedule.  The timing of our arrival appears to be good.  There are plenty of moorings and the weather here in the Windward Islands is expected to remain settled for the next few days.

Statue

 

After the decline of the sugar plantations on Mustique, the island was purchased by Colin Tennant in 1959.  He installed roads, utility infrastructure, planted thousands of coconut palms, built an airport, a village, a school, a library, a hotel and a mansion where Princess Margaret honeymooned in 1960.  This set the stage for Mustique’s ascendance as a destination for the rich, the chic and the famous.

 

 

House behind gate

 

Today, the island is owned and managed by the Mustique Company, which is controlled by the individuals who own property on the island.  In addition to the hotel, there are about 100 mansions, private homes and villas, some of which are available for rent.

 

Wading bird

There is also a tennis club and a bird sanctuary on the island. Mustique is an exclusive place for the well-heeled.  Our presence here is living proof that there are no rigid requirements for gaining admission to this island.  Anyone arriving by boat may enjoy full access to the island.

 

Palm Lined RoadThe entire island is tidy and well-manicured, slightly to the point of sterility, but nonetheless pleasing to the eye.  Even the roadways are gorgeous. Everyone drives around the island in four wheel drive ATVs.  Employee housing is provided in Lovell Village and on-site at hotels.  Some of the employees live on the island of St. Vincent and work rotating shifts with one month on Mustique and one month at home before returning again to Mustique.

Sugar Mill and fountain

Road surface

Pink and PurpleIn the village near the dinghy dock, there are a variety of clothing boutiques, a grocery store, a bakery/ice cream shop, fruit stands and the famous Basil’s Beach Bar.  Basil’s is known for its live music and jump up parties on Wednesday nights.  From time to time, a celebrity in residence makes an appearance at Basil’s.  Basil’s is a funky looking structure.  Perhaps this is a planned counterpoint and an escape from the rampant perfection of all other places on the island.

FOOD STORE

Cliff with Beach hike 2Mustique offers a fine network of hiking trails, including a perimeter trail around the island.  On Tuesday, 3/25, we walk along local roads to the gorgeous beach at Macaroni Bay on the east coast.  From here, a stone trail interconnects the various bays and beaches along the island’s east and south coasts.

 

WALKWAY ALONG PATH

Smiling turtle

On the Beach

 

Today's Special

 

At the completion of our hike, we pause for a late lunch of grilled lionfish at Firefly, a restaurant on the promontory overlooking Admiralty Bay.  The reefs of Mustique will forever be protected as a result of our menu selection.

 

 

 

Top of the Cliff

 

On Wednesday, 3/26 we set out to explore the northern half of the island, including a 3 hour hike along the rocky northeast coast trail before a well-deserved break for lunch at the relaxing Cotton House Beach Café.

 

 

Lunch Cotton Hotel

Yellow villaWe have tramped over much of Mustique during the past three days, providing insight into the lifestyles of the upper echelon.  The island’s bent towards control and perfection is a unique commodity here in the Eastern Caribbean.  It’s buildings, beaches and attractive roads are a treat for the eyes and well worth the visit.

 

Turtle do it

On Thursday morning, we set sail for the Tobago Cays.

Corea's Grocery Store

 

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March 21st to March 23rd – Bequia

CL further away

Piton RaysOn Friday March 21st , the anchor is up at 6:10 AM in the small town of Canaries, St. Lucia which serves an overnight staging area for our departure to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Cloud cover and early morning backlighting provide one final dramatic view of the Pitons before we bid farewell to St. Lucia.

Today’s 68 mile journey to the island of Bequia takes us southeast about two miles off the lee shore of St. Vincent.  Today proves to be another robust day of trade wind sailing with 19 to 25 knots of breeze on the beam in the open ocean cut between St. Lucia and St. Vincent.  Approaching Baleine Point on the northern tip of St. Vincent, the “cape effect” delivers ten minutes of 35 knot wind gusts before diminishing to 12 knots in the lee of the island.  Most cruisers still consider St. Vincent off limits as a sailing destination, choosing instead to proceed directly from St. Lucia to Bequia.  Today, there are a few yachts anchored in the protected harbor of Wallilabou where our course shifts slightly to the south east, placing Cutter Loose on a close reach across Bequia Channel to Admiralty Bay and the town of Port Elizabeth.  This tighter wind angle insures yet another layer of salt on the foredeck.  At 3:45 PM, Cutter Loose is anchored comfortably near Princess Margaret Beach with another satisfying day of sailing now in the record books.

BookshopBequia is the northernmost island in the island chain known as the Grenadines.  Admiralty Bay is the principal anchorage in Bequia.  This harbor is filled with cruising boats from many different countries.  Ferry service is provided from Port Elizabeth to Kingston, St. Vincent and several islands in the Grenadines.  In addition to cruising boats, crewed charter boats are well represented in this anchorage. They arrive late and leave early in the morning on their whirlwind trip to and from Tobago Cays to the south.

Gingerbread HouseOn Saturday morning 3/22, the first item of business is to clear Customs and shop for fruits and vegetables at the public market before stopping at Doris’ market.  Doris’ husband is the butcher and the baker.  His fresh bread and spinach/feta croissants disappear rapidly, which attracts the early morning cruising crowd.  Today, our lunch destination is restaurant row on Belmont Walkway, a narrow ribbon of stone pathway that passes along the water’s edge.  The Gingerbread House is a popular place for cruisers to gather for coffee and conversation, and to catch up on e mail.

St Mary's

 

On Sunday, 3/23 we are among the first to arrive at the 9:30 AM worship service at St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Port Elizabeth.  This church was constructed in 1829 on the site of an earlier structure that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1798.

 

Rev Weekes

 

During this two hour service, Rector J. Everton Weekes delivers an inspiring message about life’s choices relative to good and evil.  He functions as a roving Rector, responsible for churches on the islands of Canouan and Mustique as well as Union Island.

 

Bequia Beach Hotel

 

On Sunday afternoon, a hilly hike to Friendship Bay on the east coast of Bequia provides an opportunity for a stroll along the beach and a visit to Bequia Beach Hotel.  Upon our return to Admiralty Bay, Princess Margaret Beach is active with families enjoying a relaxing day outdoors.

 

Colorful house

 

The more time we devote to exploring the nooks and crannies of Bequia, the more we have come to enjoy this northern gateway to the Grenadines.  Bequia is the starting point for a slow-paced tour of the Grenadine island chain.  On Monday, we set sail for the island of Mustique.

Art Gallery Door

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March 15th to March 20th – St. Lucia

On Saturday 3/15, it is a short and sweet 25 mile sail from Sainte Anne, Martinique to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia.  The wind today is relatively light and slightly north of east at 13 to 16 knots.  From Sainte Anne, the wind angle to Rodney Bay is a comfortable 120 degrees in 2 to 4 foot wind-driven swells.  This is the ultimate in relaxed sailing.  Cutter Loose is making 6 to 7 knots over ground as she comfortably carves her way through benign conditions to Saint Lucia without so much as a hint of salt spray or seawater on deck.  Could it be that the calmer weather of spring has arrived here in the Eastern Caribbean?  Or is today’s sea state an aberration?  In any event, the anchor is down in Rodney Bay at 1 PM with plenty of time to clear Customs before the office closes.

On Sunday morning 3/16, Cutter Loose is tucked into a slip at Rodney Bay Marina.  Unlike our earlier visits, there are many available slips in the marina.  In fact, the marina is offering a special rate to attract new business.  Guests paying for a two-night stay receive a complimentary third night.  This comes as welcome news since our motive for visiting Rodney Bay Marina is to wash, polish and provision the boat.  The extra free night will provide a cushion of additional time to attack our list of chores, not the least of which includes a visit to the local inflatable shop to repair damage to the dinghy sustained at the Fort-de-France dinghy dock during Carnival.  Dinghies take a beating at the concrete pier dinghy docks in the Eastern Caribbean.

CL in slip

 

Time passes quickly at the marina as the ship’s to-do list shrinks.  Cutter Loose is looking reasonably ship shape after a thorough cleaning.  The galley is packed with provisions to carry us through the next few weeks in the Grenadines and well into our time in Grenada prior to haul out at the end of the season.  In the coolness of the evenings, we reward ourselves with meals ashore.  After all, Patricia has earned a well-deserved break from her outstanding work in the galley.

 

 

Ladies LuncheonOn Wednesday 3/19, Pat attends the lady cruiser luncheon at Bay Gardens Resort on Reduit Beach. Every Wednesday at 11:45 AM, all cruising women are invited to gather at the resort for lunch, conversation and an afternoon swim in the pool.  These outings provide a valuable opportunity to learn from others and to build lasting friendships, not to mention the provision of time away from the boat and spouses.  Upon her return to Cutter Loose, Pat is buzzing with information about new friends and issues of importance to the cruising community.

Rasta boatBrisk trade winds have returned to the Eastern Caribbean in time for our departure.  One final task involves topping off the fuel tank with duty free diesel from Rodney Bay Marina.  This is an excellent yard in which to purchase fuel, inasmuch as the significant volume of diesel pumped here insures a fresh, clean supply.  Vessels ranging in size from Rasta fishing boats to smaller cruising sailboats to 100+ foot mega yachts all take on fuel here.

With Customs formalities completed, Cutter Loose will depart in the morning for the island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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In Memoriam: Steve Black, 1943 – March 17th, 2014

 

Steve BlackSteve Black was the founder of the Bermuda Rally and the Caribbean 1500.  These annual group sailing events introduced thousands of East Coast sailors to offshore passage making.  Through classroom education and camaraderie with other like-minded sailors, Steve actively encouraged coastal cruisers to become offshore voyagers.  As Director of U.S. Sailing in Newport, Steve was imminently qualified to lead these cruising rallies, having completed dozens of offshore voyages, including a single handed transatlantic crossing.

One of Steve’s skills involved the ability to prepare would-be voyagers for going to sea. He focused on the mental aspects of offshore voyaging.  He understood the first timer’s fear of the unknown.  He treated fear as an asset.  He dissected the fear factor and explained how to manage fear to one’s advantage.  Steve imparted the confidence needed to tackle a challenging assignment.  To be certain, he instilled good seamanship skills.  But his methods could be applied equally to other challenging aspects of life.

I first met Steve in the spring of 1995.  He was the keynote speaker at a Passagemaking Seminar in Norfolk, Virginia.  I attended this event with Pittsburgh friends Chuck and Jeanne Berrington.  Two months later, I completed my first offshore passage from Hampton, Virginia to Bermuda aboard Relationship, the Berrington’s brand new Island Packet 40.  Later that same year, I crewed aboard Relationship again, completing the 1500 nautical mile journey from Hampton, Virginia to the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.  Being at sea and arriving safely at a lush tropical island after nearly two weeks of ocean sailing captured my soul and imagination.  I was so exhilarated by the experience that I vowed right then and there that someday, I would sail my own boat to the Caribbean.

On behalf of all of us who dared to dream about longer passages, I wish to say thank you, Steve Black.  Your watch has come to an end.  With your guidance, the helm is now in good hands.

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March 6th to March 14th – Anse Mitan to Sainte Anne, Martinique

Near dinghy dock resortOn Thursday March 6th, Cutter Loose is under sail from the metropolitan city of Fort-de-France across the Bay to Anse Mitan, a compact resort town on the Pointe du Bout peninsula.  Several hotels and villas provide accommodations for land-based tourists who use Anse Mitan as a base for exploring the island. Frequent ferry service connects Anse Mitan with Fort-de-France.  Each day, Main Street becomes filled with day tourists who arrive here by ferry or rental car.  They come here to enjoy the trendy clothing shops, bars, restaurants and beaches.

Grand Anse d'Arlet

Main St shops

CL SILHOUETTECruising sailors are attracted to Anse Mitan as a slower paced alternative to Fort-de-France.  Other than a small marina filled with local boats, there are no marine services available in Anse Mitan.  Its protected anchorage, beaches and sidewalk patisseries are a sufficient draw to attract dozens of cruising boats.  Given its western exposure, the anchorage offers outstanding sunset views.  At night, the lights of Fort de France twinkle in the distance.

Hotel Kalenda ruins

 

Not everything is picture perfect in Anse Mitan. The Kalenda Hotel was once the premier resort destination on the Pointe de Bout peninsula.  Now, its graffiti covered ruins serve as a constant reminder of the destructive power of hurricanes here in the Caribbean.

 

HOTEL GRAFFITI

 

Town of RobertWith five rental car agencies, Anse Mitan is an excellent place to begin a self-directed driving tour of the island. On Monday March 10th, we are off in our rental car to tour Martinique’s magnificent east coast.    Commuter traffic congestion is already building as we enter the six lane N5 expressway to Fort-de-France at the Riviere Salee interchange.  To escape the bottleneck near the Aime Cesaire International Airport, we exit the N5 and drive east to the town of Le Francois, then north on the rural coastal road to Le Robert and on to La Trinite.  This highway offers outstanding views of Martinique’s Atlantic coastline with its numerous numerous islands, bays and craggy headlands.

Ruins at CaravelleOur destination this morning is Presque’ Ile la Caravelle.  This peninsula juts east eight miles into the Atlantic Ocean.  The trailhead to an interesting network of hiking trails is located at Chateau Dubuc, a coffee plantation dating to 1671. The Chateau was later appropriated by the French military to fend off attacks from the British Navy. It was destroyed by the great hurricane of 1766.

 

Lighthouse

 

From the Chateau, it is an easy 30 minute hike to the Caravelle lighthouse.  Given the elevation of this vantage point, the Nature Island of Dominica is clearly visible forty miles to the north.

 

 

 

 

No Lunch Never

 

Following our visit to Caravelle, we continue north along the coast through the town of Sainte Marie and on to Marigot for a leisurely mid afternoon lunch at Anse Charpentier.  No meal is complete without a visit to the Pipi Room.

 

PiPi Room

JambonOn the return trip to Anse Mitan, we exit the N5 expressway in Genipa to shop at the huge Carrefour supermarket.  With its huge selection of fresh meats, fruits, vegetables and cheeses, this store is light years ahead of its sister stores in downtown Fort-de-France in terms of selection and quality.  It is obvious that this particular store caters to a more affluent suburban clientele.  Our nearsighted perception that all grocery stores in the French islands are alike turns out to be incorrect.

champagne aisleWhile cruising, one’s impressions of an island are formed primarily on the basis of a coastal orientation.  Touring the interior of Martinique and the suburbs of Fort-de-France is an eye-opening experience.  Thanks to support from mother France, the island’s roads and highways are in excellent condition with good signage.  The island’s economy appears robust, as evidenced by a vast industrial zone surrounding the airport.  The quality and diversity of the housing stock far exceeds that of other islands we have visited.  Satellite dishes are mounted on many homes and apartment buildings in Martinique.

Cheese caseGenerally speaking, the Martiniquais appear to be more prosperous than their Caribbean neighbors.  Conspicuous for their absence are panhandlers on the streets of Fort-de-France and scheming boat boys in the harbors.  Granted, there are certain neighborhoods in Fort-de-France that are struggling, but this is indicative of a city that is over 400 years in age.  To our disappointment, there are relatively few Wi Fi hotspots in the Fort-de-France metropolitan area as most residents gain Internet access by way of 3G smartphone service.

Rasta manThe anchor is up in Anse Mitan on Tuesday March 11th en route to Grande Anse de Arlet.  This is a sleepy little one street beach town on Martinique’s west coast.  The town encourages visits from cruising yachts through the provision of free moorings.  Since there are no lines on the mooring ball, boaters must feed a mooring line through a metal loop at the top of the ball.  This is quite a challenge from the deck of a sailboat since the top of the ball rests about 15 inches above the water.  One of the prime forms of entertainment in the harbor is to watch arriving yachts attempt to capture a mooring ball.

 

Side StreetSettled weather remains in effect during our two day visit to Grande Anse de Arlet.  One minute, there is barely a hint of a breeze.  The next minute, winds of up to 20 knots accompany a passing shower.  In the absence of sustained wind, boats in the harbor are riding to current and swimming 360 degrees around their moorings.    Several times each day, the mooring ball raps against the hull, signaling a turn in the tide.  Our mooring lines have joined together in a royal tangled mess under the ball.  In hindsight, it would have been preferable to anchor in this harbor rather than tie to a mooring ball.

church

 

On Wednesday 3/12, we hike amidst raindrops to Petite Anse de Arlet, the sister city to the town of Grande Anse de Arlet.  As its name implies, it is the smaller of the two towns.  Local fishing pirogues dominate the inner harbor, beyond which are anchored a handful of cruising boats in the outer harbor.  Despite its size, Main Street is active with tourists who have retreated from the rainy beach to explore the town.

 

Library

 

We learn that the Customs clearance computer is no longer available at La Petit Bateau, a beach restaurant in Grande Anse de Arlet.  Since the town of Le Marin is the closest clearance center, the anchor is up on Thursday 3/13 to fulfill Customs formalities.

 

Paille CocoOur destination today is the town of Sainte Anne on the south coast of Martinique.  Once beyond Diamond Rock, it is a motorsail directly into 15 knots of wind en route to Sainte Anne.  Following the requisite pain chocolat and café on Friday 3/14, we are aboard the 8 AM bus from Sainte Anne to Le Marin.   With Customs formalities completed, it is back to Sainte Anne in time for lunch at Paille Coco.

 

Political Car SpeakerIt is election season here in Martinique.  Candidates broadcast their message to the electorate in cars with loudspeakers attached to the roof.  From morning to night, the blaring sound of stump speeches can be heard for miles.  Some candidates drive through the towns and villages speaking extemporaneously to the people, while other candidates broadcast pre-recorded speeches mixed with dramatic music.  In the evenings, the town plaza in Sainte Anne is the stage for amplified public speeches by the candidates.  One does not actually need to be in the town square to participate in this public forum.  The volume is so loud that all of the town’s residents can hear the speeches from the comfort of their homes.  The individual speeches are long and these events drag on for hours.  Being tolerant and understanding of the noise is the least we can do in support of the democratic process here in Martinique.

Diamond Rock SunsetWe have enjoyed a total of 26 days of cruising in Martinique in 2014.   Despite the peculiarities of the French, there is much to be said for the lifestyle, food and sightseeing opportunities in Martinique.  The tri-color courtesy flag has been neatly folded and placed into storage.  The French dictionary is back on the book shelf.  Unspent Euros are secured safely in the vault.  On Saturday 3/15, our time here in the French West Indies will come to an end for the season.  Cutter Loose will sail south to Saint Lucia in the morning.

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