There and Back Again

Now blogging from memory, 3 months ago.

We needed to get down to Grenada, and didn't want to wait for Monday to get a pre-departure PCR test. So, hired a car and tried to find somewhere on Martinique that would give us PCR tests, on Saturday. There was another storm on the way, and we were keen to get out of the way of it. This was harder than we expected, most places could only do antigen tests. Eventually we got pointed to a tiny little neighbourhood clinic, staffed by a single nurse, who let us in minutes after they were supposed to close for the weekend.


Tests done, we enjoyed Martinique a bit, getting some ice cream in town, and went up into the mountains above Fort de France to hike to a waterfall near Arboretum de Balata.


It was a lovely hike along the river to the waterfall, and a good swim. We decided to take a different route back, and ended up "bundu-bashing" along a long-closed path through the jungle. It took a few hours, but we made it back down before dark, returned the car, and had a final day with our friends on board, before heading back down to Grenada.

The trip back down wasn't daunting, because we'd just done it. But with just the two of us, we'd be taking watches on our own.

I don't recall too much about the sail down, other than seeing the perseid meteor shower, behind St. Vincent.


We anchored in Tyrell Bay, exhausted, and waited for our PCR tests to come through, so we could check in. Unfortunately, Martinique was going through a real spike in COVID-19 cases, and ours were backlogged. It took a couple of days and tricky French phone calls to get our results, and get back into Grenada, delaying our haul-out even further.

Time on the water: 20:52
Distance covered: 130.7nm
Avg speed: 6.3kts
Max speed: 11.6kts

Navionics Track

Overnight to Martinique

Apologies for the blogging gap, we'll come back with some more posts about the time in Carriacou, in the next few days. We'll probably add more photos to this post, too.

After lots of searching flights, we decided the best way to get our friends back to Martinique would be to sail up there. We'd planned for them to fly back, but there were very few flights, mostly fully booked, and very indirect. The best option route would be Grenada to Barbados to Saint Lucia to Martinique. Barbados has stopped visa-free access from South Africa, over COVID-19 fears, so Galina wouldn't be allowed to go land-side at Barbados, without a visa, which could take 3 weeks to get. Which all means, they'd have to connect successfully, between little Caribbean airlines, in Barbados, and then transit some other islands too, to get to Martinique. At some point, it's simpler to just sail up the island chain.

So, we prepared for a quick sail north to Martinique, drop everyone off, and head back down to Martinique, before the storms we can see looming hit.


We did some last minute shopping and checked out of the country on Thursday morning. Made the mistake of mentioning to the immigration officer that we hadn't got our pre-departure COVID tests, yet, and he stopped working on our check-out until we'd got them done. So, off to get antigen tests in a cute little village health centre in L'Esterre, and then back to complete the check-out, after he'd got back from lunch.

The forecast was for relatively light winds, from NE, so we departed under full sails, and did a fair bit of motor-sailing.

The anchorage we'd picked on the way down hadn't been great, and we were in a hurry to get back to Grenada for haul-out, so we decided to sail through the night on the way back up to Martinique. If you're not going to sleep, you can at least make progress while you're doing it. Planned alternating 3hr watches, through the night, and we settled into the watch system after supper.

The progress up to Saint Vincent had been relatively slow, with a few hours on the motor. It got dark, and we shifted into night mode, turning on lights, and the radar, in timed transmit mode, to get some visibility into the black night.

I had the first night shift, with Galina, 9pm-midnight, from the approach to the bottom of Saint Vincent until a hand-over as we were coming out of the wind-shadow towards the top of it. We had to motor-sail for quite a bit of this, as the winds were not very steady. If things were going to get exiting this would be the time of the hand-over, as we got to the end of the wind-shadow. But it seemed calm enough, so I went down for my nap.

As I settled into the pilot-berth for my 3 hours sleep, all hell seemed to be breaking loose above me. Things flying around in the kitchen, the sound of water sloshing everywhere, and heeling a little much for comfort. John called me up to help, in a bit, it turned out that the salt-water tap on the sink was siphoning due to the heel, and he needed some help to reduce some sail. Once we'd reduced the heel a bit, the kitchen could be mopped up and we found the valve to shut-off the siphoning water.

John enjoyed a moonless sail, with steady wind. They didn't need to run the engine once. The stars and bioluminescence around the boat were spectacular, Jakob and John say they hardly said anything to each other, just enjoying the stunning night's sail. They did get some good practice doing watch by radar, estimating the position and course of a tanker they passed. Generally the sea was pretty empty, we didn't see much traffic, and we stayed far enough off-shore to avoid fish pots.

I hadn't got much sleep, in my first night under way, so I got up at 3am, a little yawny, ready for the sunrise shift. Rooibos tea and chocolate biscuits kept us going, until the virtually new moon rose and the sky began to lighten.


We could see a freighter in the distance, slowly approaching port in St Lucia waiting for it to open and send them a pilot. The wind was steady enough that we also kept the motor off. And again, we handed over as we were ending the (mild) wind-shadow behind St. Lucia, to the John and Jakob crossing crew.

While Galina and I were trying to get our last bit of sleep, John and Jakob broke into song, they must have been loving their morning sail. I was exhausted enough to mostly sleep through it without too much difficulty, but Galina had a hard time.


We had some breakfast, as we were approaching the South end of Martinique, sailing towards Rocher du Diamant, because the wind was coming out of the Marin bay, as usual.


We were tired enough to not want to spend a couple of hours tacking our way into the bay, and motored in along the coast, arriving around midday in Le Marin. We had made great time, arriving earlier than I'd expected. Probably because we'd been liberal with the engine when the winds were calm.

Anchoring was painful here, as usual, when we could find a spot where we weren't too close to other boats, we couldn't get a good grip on the anchor, and vice-versa. But after an hour of attempts, we ended up behind the floating dry dock, at the back end of the anchorage, with a reef behind us sporting a rotting wreck, to remind you not to drag.

By this time, the Capitainerie had closed for the day (August in France), so we would have to wait to check-in until the next morning. We found a spectacular lunch, at a restaurant that was trying to close, and then spent the day passed out, recovering.

Time on the water: 21:40
Distance covered: 135.6nm
Avg speed: 6.3kts
Max speed: 9.9kts

Navionics Track

Arrival in Grenada

Thankfully after a terrible night's sleep, this was going to be a far easier day's sail than yesterday. We had only half the distance to cover, and everyone was now well accustomed to crossings. Nobody got sea-sick today, at least not more than just lightly queasy.

We were woken up at 4am by an (incorrect) anchor-drag alarm. Got another hour's attempt at sleep before our intended sunrise wake-up. We may not have had enough sleep, but we were only too happy to get out of that anchorage and head South (after a breakfast and quick swim, that is).


Jakob pulled up the anchor and raised the main sail (2nd reef), and we started a beam reach South towards Bequia. Galina took some time practicing the helm in some fairly decent wind, pushing us at 8-11kts.


The little islands of the Grenadines gave very little wind-shade, and we flew South all day. The crew entertained themselves lazing in the sun, sleeping, playing Sudoku, and learning some basic knots. Tests, next time we're on the water!


Finally, we approached Carriacou, and headed in to anchor in the quarantine anchorage. Grenada is enforcing quarantine far more strictly than Martinique. As we were arriving in port, we could hear the daily clearing procedures taking place, so we quickly announced our presence on the radio, in the hope that we could be included today.

It worked, they asked us to anchor ASAP and head to shore. Anchor caught first time, phew. I rushed to print PCR test results and our clearance paperwork, and we scrambled into the dinghy to head to shore. But were a little too rushed and didn't properly look at the map to figure out where we needed to be. So the port authorities were a little annoyed at our driving in circles and tying up the dinghy in the wrong place. But they gave us a provisional health certificate, and we'll get our arrival PCR tests on Friday.

Now we can settle into a good night's sleep and a week's quarantine. We'll be forced to have to avoid other people, relax, and swim off the boat a few times a day.

Time on the water: 6:21
Distance covered: 46.8nm
Avg speed: 7.4kts
Max speed: 11.2kts

To St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Now that our crew are accustomed to boat life, and some sailing, it's time to do a crossing. Our crossing from Martinique to Grenada will be split over 2 days, hopefully. First a big day, down past St. Lucia to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and then a hop down to Carriacou in Grenada.

We would have liked to overnight in Bequia, but that was just a little too far for a 1 day sail, so we aimed for the Southern end of St. Vincent instead, the Blue Lagoon area. Not in Blue Lagoon itself, the entrance is a little too shallow, but one of the anchorages nearby.

Alarms set for 4:50am, we planned to get moving by 6, and pretty much made it. No time for a morning swim before-hand.

Had to head out quite a way, to get well past the fish-pots, before pulling up the sails. At that point there was a good swell, and so it took a while to get the sails up without snagging them on the lazy-jack lines. With a forecast of gusts up to 30kts, in the channels between the islands, we went out on 2nd reef, again.

And then we were off, straight out of the bay. We started off on a broad reach, and sailed on reaches of some sort for most of the trip.


The sea was relatively flat, making the crossing quite easy. Nothing like our wet crossings on the way to Martinique.

We were expecting to be becalmed behind St. Lucia, as we were with Guadaloupe and Dominica, but the wind kept blowing, and we made a good 9kts for a lot of the back-side of the island. No fish pots to contend with, either :)


We spent the day watching some gulls catching flying fish around us. Lots of circling and diving at shoals of fish eventually nets a squirming meal. Our youngest crew member did get a bit sick, and rather bored, but took a long day of sailing very well. The crew entertained themselves with some Sudoko, drawings of flying goats, and attempts to photograph rainbows.


The next crossing to St. Vincent and the Grenadines went pretty smoothly, too.

We passed the recently erupted La Soufrière volcano, and then started to get becalmed as we got behind the bulk of the island.


So, motor-sailed a bit, and eventually motored the last hour to our anchorage behind Young Island and the spectacular Fort Duvernette. A local taxi-driver tried to sell us a mooring ball by Young Island, but we found some good holding on the Indian Bay side of the anchorage. Reading the guide book later, we probably should have taken the mooring ball, our anchorage wasn't great.

The training yacht Ocean Star, that we saw in flamoth was also anchoring in quarantine here. We dropped a little close to them, but just far enough to be safe.


It was a little rolly, but we thought we'd be able to sleep through it, no problem, after such a long day. Little did we know how bad the night would be: the wind howled and waves rocked the boat hard side-to-side, when we swung side-onto them. While Shaianna slept through the night, no problem, the rest of us struggled to get any sleep — being shaken, rattled, and rolled, when not worrying about the rocks on one side and yacht Ocean Star on the other.

Easily the worst night I've had on anchor. Was tempted to up-anchor and night-sail / motor to Bequia. Maybe we should have.

Time on the water: 12:55
Distance covered: 88.8nm
Avg speed: 6.9kts
Max speed: 11.5kts

Anchoring woes

In preparation for the trip to Grenada, we needed to get PCR tests done, and provision for the trip.

We booked PCR tests for 8:30 in Marin Marina, so we decided to anchor in Le Marin the evening before. We went to the same spot we've anchored in a few times, behind the reef, and just couldn't get the anchor to stick. Every time we tested it, it would drag along the seabed.

The sun had set by the time we gave up on this spot, and now we had to find somewhere new, in the dark. So, went to try a new anchorage on the north-west side of Le Marin bay, in front of Ilet Douqesnay. This was at least marked as anchorage on the chart, so we had high hopes of being able to get good holding.

Turning on the radar made me a little more comfortable than relying on lookouts in the glooming dark.

There was only one other yacht in the anchorage, so it was easy to find a spot clear of them, and we seemed to get good holding.

We just made our 8:30 appointment for nasal scrapes in the morning, glad we didn't have to go through that anchoring dance at 8am, with the appointment looming.

Afterwards I dropped Shaianna and Jakob back at the yacht, while Johno and Galina went provisioning. I went back to pick them and the provisions up with the dinghy. We'd need to be self-sufficient for the sail down to Grenada and then a week's quarantine there. Lots of groceries...

I hadn't noticed when I dropped them off, but the yacht had drifted back a bit, and continued to while Jakob and Shaianna were alone on it. The cellular Internet on the boat had run out of data-cap, and we'd been unable to top it up recently (probably anti-fraud systems seeing a suspicious volume of top-ups), so Jakob had no way of contacting us.

When we all got back, the yacht had dragged quite a distance. Thankfully it missed the jetty on one side, and the island on the other, but this all gave us a good scare.

We found another short-term anchorage to wait in Le Marin, while I did check-out paperwork at the Capitainerie. That went fairly smoothly, except that I forgot everyone's passports in the Capitainerie, and had to go back for them (after they'd closed, thankfully they waited for me). And Johno accidentally kicked a block while jumping to meet my returning dinghy, cutting the bottom of his foot.


Then we left Le Marin for a more comfortable night off Sainte-Anne. Off down South first thing in the morning.

Some pictures from the last couple of days in Martinique:


Sailing Introduction

Time to get the new crew out on the water for a sail. Before we can do the big 2-day crossing to Grenada, we should probably give them a feeling for sailing the yacht.

After a lazy morning and early lunch, we set out for a sail around the bay.

Had to motor out well past the line of fishing pots to put up the sails. And straight away we ran into trouble. Just after hauling up the mainsail, the shackle on the main sheet popped off the traveller.

So, dropped the sail again, fixed the shackle (with some mousing to hold the shackle's bolt in place), and raised it again. All good exercise for the new crew in training :)

The wind wasn't very strong, so had the mainsail on 1st reef, and used the full genoa. Got some nice speed up, and a bit of heel.

We didn't really have anywhere we wanted to go, so we just went out past Pointe des Santes, and back again. Saw a nice bay on the return leg and headed in for a swim.


The anchorage off Pointe Catherine was quite rolly, so after a swim we motored back to Sainte Anne for the night.

Time on the water: 2:20
Distance covered: 8.9nm
Avg speed: 3.7
Max speed: 9.7

Navionics Tracks: 1, 2.

Motor back to Sainte-Anne

We had a local mechanic come and look at our engine, in the morning. The vibration problem didn't show itself, but he did detect a vibration in the transmission or drive damper that he thought was worth more investigation. An transmission oil change showed no metal particles, so at least we don't think anything is being chewed.

Le Marin is very well protected and calm, keeping the boat fairly still. We had an easy night for our new crew to get used to boat life. But it's also quite hot and crowded in Le Marin, and we wanted to get back to the clear water of Sainte-Anne.

So, a quick motor back out the channel, and then a little more rolly night off Sainte-Anne.

Time on the water: 0:40
Distance covered: 2.4nm
Avg speed: 3.6kts
Max speed: 7.3kts

Navionics Track

Motor into Le Marin

We didn't make it into Le Marin before sundown yesterday, so today we motored around the corner, through the reefs, into Le Marin.

Le Marin is a sea of yachts, packed fairly tight together, with a couple of huge marinas. Many of the yachts in the bay are on moorings that won't move much, but we need space to swing on the anchor, and finding an empty spot isn't easy. We thought we'd found a good empty spot, but as we headed for it, a Catamaran came around from the other side and took it.

So, we ended up anchoring a bit further out, behind a reef, away from the crowd.

Of course, the engine behaved itself perfectly today, after scaring us a couple of days ago with heavy vibration. This problem is going to be hard to pin down.

Went into town to do laundry and find some lunch. It was Bastille Day and everything closed early, but we just managed to grab a loaf of bread from the boulangerie before they shut for the day, behind us.

Finally, in the evening Galina, Shaianna, and Jakob, arrived to join us, from Germany.

Getting out of the dinghy to pick them up I must have dropped my phone into the water. It's gone, into the murky depths... So no photos today.

Time on the water: 1:22
Distance covered: 3.3nm
Avg speed: 2.4kts
Max speed: 6.7kts

Navionics Track


We didn't make it round to Le Marin on our arrival into Martinique, we stopped half-way down the island, at Fort de France. The anchorage there is very central, in front of the fort, but also a little busy. Ferries constantly buzz back and forth, starting at 6am, and so do the church bells.


After running a couple of errands this morning, we planned to get down to Le Marin, so we could get someone to look at the engine's odd vibration.

Le Marin is the yachting capital of Martinique, a bay down in the South of the island, surrounded by mangroves, with more little bays off the sides that one can tie down for a hurricane, in. Aside from the many reefs, you can anchor just about anywhere in the bay.

The sail down to Le Marin started easily enough, motoring out into the channel and hauling up sails while waiting for a container ship to drop off its pilot and get out of the way. The motor sounded a lot better today, unless the problem reappears, I don't think we'll have anything for a mechanic to look at. Strong gusts were predicted, so we settled for the 2nd reef again, but used the full genoa, most of the day.

We hadn't seen too many fishing buoys on the north of Martinique, but as we went further South, and closer to the shore, they started to pop up everywhere.

The coast around Cap Salomon was gorgeous. Green mountains ending with sheer cliffs into the sea, some caves below. Every bay has a couple of masts in it. We got frequently becalmed in the shadow of the mountains and only made a few knots, close to the coast.


But once round Point du Diamant, we started to pick up some nice wind. It was coming almost directly from the corner of the bay we wanted to get to, so had to tack towards it.

This was some really nice sailing, the best we've had in weeks. Not too fast or rough, just nice easy, steady going, with enough wind and waves to make it fun.


To cap it off, a pod of dolphins came past, hunting fish around the boat. There was lots of jumping and frolicking in the bow wave. This is the first time we've had some dolphins along for the ride, been waiting to run into them.


The late start and all the tacking meant we weren't going to make it into Le Marin by sunset. We cut the tacking short, and motored directly upwind from the middle of the bay, but that still wasn't going to get us into Le Marin in good light. Given the bay is full of reefs, it's probably best not to enter it for the first time, at night.

So, we anchored outside the entrance, in front of the town of Sainte-Anne. This is another big anchorage, with 30+ yachts spread out on the flat shelf in front of the town. The water is crystal clear, and even in the twilight we could see the sandy bottom and feel comfortable that we're safely anchored.

Le Marin can wait for tomorrow morning. It's just round the corner.

Time on the water: 4:55
Distance covered: 29.6nm
Avg speed: 6kts
Max speed: 10.4kts

Navionics Track

To Martinique

A big day. We planned to cross the channel to Dominica, pass it, cross to Martinique, and head most of the way down it to our anchorage in Point du Marin in the South of Martinique.

That would be 110nm, almost twice the length of yesterday's passage. The previous owners claimed the yacht could make 200nm / day passages, but that means maintaining a 8.3kts average over 24hrs, we've been averaging about 7kts (and not sailing 24hr/day).

Got up at 4am, to be able to get going around first light. Got the sails up on 2nd reef again (maybe wiser sailors would have used the 3rd reef), and headed down across the channel, past Iles des Saintes towards Dominica.


We used the staysail a little more than yesterday, it was great for the channels between islands where the wind pumped. The seas were big, and winds strong, but we got across in a couple of hours, and started down behind Dominica. It was shrouded in rain-clouds, but thankfully no fishing buoys. The glimpses we did get were beautiful, we'll have to come back. Lush forests, and not very built up.


The wind shadow wasn't too bad, we did have to motor-sail a bit, but got wind most of the way down. The cruising guide warned about strong gusts at Scott's Head on the Southern end of the Island. The warnings were absolutely correct, went from being almost totally becalmed to wanting to reef our staysail a bit, because we were being overpowered by the wind.


Crossing the Martinique Channel to Martinique was a fairly brutal 3hr upwind pounding, into wind and big waves. We made about 7kts, but it was a struggle. The decks were constantly awash, and we had many waves breaking over the entire length of the boat. The dorades (air vents that don't let water in, pioneered by Dorade) were overwhelmed by some of these waves, and my bed got a good salt-water sprinkling. 3rd reef probably would have been better, but it was too late to take it in, and we seemed to be doing OK, so we stuck with it.

Our quarantine flag was still up from the night before, and the winds on the crossings shredded the edge of it. Not really made to be flown under way...


Finally, we got behind the shelter of Martinique's volcano, Mount Pelée. First a more leisurely sail, and then becalmed by the rest of the island's wind-shade. Motored-sailed down through this, but the motor started getting quite a bit of vibration to it, something wobbling on the drive-shaft, by the feel of it. John had a peek down under the stern, to see if we'd caught a fishing buoy line, but it looked clean. We'll have to have a proper look, and maybe get a mechanic out, in Martinique.


It was becoming obvious that we couldn't get down to Point du Marin, by sun-down, so we re-routed to Fort de France, half-way down the island. Got a nice bit of wind as we came up to it, a good last sail of the day.

With 97nm track miles for the day, it was tempting to sail a few more tacks to cross the 100 mark, but we were tired and wanted to get anchored while there was still good light. 100nm can wait for another day.

Anchored in front of the Fort, and got a swim in before the sun went down.


Martinique is very built-up, compared to the islands we've been on. It's quite a culture-shock after a week on Barbuda. But, very relieved to be able to take a day off, after some hard days sailing.

Time on the water: 13:20
Distance covered: 97.6nm
Avg speed: 7.1kts
Max speed: 11.4kts

Navionics Track