St. Pierre, again

After an early morning vegetable market run in Fort de France, we went for a hike with taffit and Cathy in the Savane des Pétrifications park at the South-East tip of Martinique.


Doug almost got snowed-in, in New York, his flight cancelled. But he managed to find a flight out of the city in time, and via a few stops made his original connection from Guadeloupe to Martinique. We picked him up at the airport, on the way back from the hike.

The next morning, after returning the hire car and getting Doug a pre-departure COVID test for Guadeloupe, we sailed up the coast back towards St. Pierre.


We got maybe half an hour of sailing on the genoa, before stopping for lunch and a quick snorkel off Case Pilote, and then motored up to St. Pierre to check out of Martinique. Almost everywhere is closed on the island on Sundays, but there's a customs computer in a bar in St. Pierre that's open, and it's the perfect departure point for trips north.

We had considered spending the night off Dominica, but it felt a little too late in the day to make that trip, so we'll anchor here for the night and depart early in the morning for Guadeloupe.

Time on the water: 2:06
Distance covered: 12.1nm
Avg speed: 5.7kts
Max speed: 9.4kts
Crew: John, Clare, Stefano, Doug

Navionics Track

Down to Fort de France

Our stay in Martinique is nearing its end. We're picking up my friend Doug in Martinique this weekend, and then plan to sail up to Guadeloupe with him.

So, back to Fort de France, to do some provisioning and collect Doug.

It's a short sail, so we didn't lift the main, and just used the genoa to carry is back down the coast. Towards the end we got tighter into the wind and motored into the city anchorage. Clare took us into the anchorage, she's learning the ropes of taking the wheel while anchoring, but we had bad luck and it took a couple of attempts to set it.

We weren't able to find a car to hire in the city, online, and instead took the city ferry (our nemesis) across the bay to Pointe du Bout, which is more touristy and has cars for hire. So we were able to do a big provisioning at the Carrefour.

We drove down to meet up with taffit in Marin, who was celebrating completing his MSc exams that he had to take at 4am. At the bar, we ran into Rebecca and Michael of Brickhouse, and caught up on their recent adventures. A boat they are buddy-sailing with recently got boarded by armed robbers, off St. Vincent. The robbers visited Brickhouse before that, but Rebecca heard them and shooed them away. This happened in Buccament Bay just North of Petit Byahaut, a day or two after we visited the area. Unfortunately, incidents like this mean many sailors will continue to avoid the main island of St. Vincent, which really needs the tourism. The locals are apparently furious.

Time on the water: 2:35
Distance covered: 12.3nm
Avg speed: 4.8kts
Max speed: 9.7kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare

Navionics Track

St. Pierre

We had a lazy sail up the coast to St. Pierre, the historic capital of Martinique before it was wiped out by the Eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902.


We got some wind that took us half way up the coast, in an easy broad reach. But then, after some strong blasts as we approached the cliffs off La Sechre, it died away, and we ended up motoring up the rest of the way to St Pierre.

The area directly offshore from the town is full of historic wrecks from the volcano eruption, so anchoring is prohibited. You have to either anchor close into the shore, or further down the bay to the South. We chose to be way at the back of the anchorage. Unfortunately, a neighbouring boat full of young Swedes partied late into the night. Their music taste started off well enough, but descended into annoying depths. We were very happy when they set off the next day...

Wondered around the town a bit, to see the ruins from the volcano eruption. One of the 3 survivors of it was in solitary confinement in the jail, a cell with massive stone walls, sheltered up against a hill. It's the only part of the jail still standing.

St. Pierre still manages to have a small town Caribbean island feel, that the rest of Martinique has lost. It was a pleasure to visit.

Time on the water: 2:27
Distance covered: 14.3nm
Avg speed: 5.8kts
Max speed: 9.9kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare

Navionics Track

Les Trois Ilets

After the hubbub of St. Vincent, and the push back up to Fort de France to drop off Connor and Robin, we had a lazy few days anchored off the city.

The hourly ferries tried their level best to shake us to death with their wake, so when a spot opened up a bit further back into the anchorage, we moved up to get out of their way.

When the Volcano in Tonga exploded, like many observers around the world, we saw a pressure-wave pass multiple times, over the next days:


The pressure usually rises and falls over the day, in a rough sine-curve. The sudden spikes up and down are the pressure wave. (Ignore the colour change in the graph, that was me reconfiguring data retention in InfluxDB.)

After a good week in Fort de France, it was time for some more exploring. We started with a very lazy motor down to Les Trois-Ilets. Along the way we practiced a hat-overboard drill, but we couldn't get quite close enough so John ended up diving in to pick it up.

The bottom in Les Trois-Ilets was quite muddy and we couldn't get the anchor to hold very well, so we just stayed for lunch, and then motored around the peninsula to Anse Mitan, where we dropped anchor for the night, near the Frederyk Chopin.


The next day we explored explored the town a bit. There are the ruins of the fort at Pointe du Bout, that was converted into a theatre, at some point mid-20th century, and is now decaying again.

Time on the water: 2:17
Distance covered: 7.7nm
Avg speed: 3.4kts
Max speed: 7.1kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare

Navionics Track

Smooth sailing to Martinique

With alarms set for 4am, we set off early from Chateaubelair, for Martinique. The air was pretty still, and we were expecting light winds (forecast was gusts of up to 17kts), so we pulled up full sails, and motored out until we could pick up some wind.

From then, we flew North, at 9-12kts, most of the way, a lot faster than we expected with such light wind. There were a couple of times we had to motor-sail for half an hour in the wind-shadow behind St. Lucia, but that was it.

We were very briefly visited by some dolphins, and passed a pod of whales. Sorry, no photos of either.

Connor tried trolling a fishing line behind us, for an hour or two, but we didn't catch anything.


Fort de France would be more convenient for getting Connor and Robin to the airport than Le Marin, so we headed straight there. This is an easier sail, than Le Marin, because the course wouldn't be quite so close to the wind. Making it round Saint Lucia and to Le Marin in a single tack can be tricky.

Behind the cliffs at Cap Salomon, Martinique, we were in wind-shadow again, and so motored across the bay up to the Fort de France anchorage, arriving around 2pm. This is a lovely anchorage, right outside the city, at the base of the old fort. It can be a bit rolly when the ferries race past, especially if you anchor where we did, right at the back of the anchorage, next to their channel.


After we arrived, we twisted Connor's arm for help with one last job: installing a UV water purifier drinking tap. Unusually, our fridge dumps its heat into our fresh-water tanks, rather than into sea water. This makes for simpler, longer lasting fridge plumbing, but at the expense of warmer fresh-water tanks that could grow things in them. It hasn't been an issue, but everyone we've mentioned this to has been concerned about growth so it seemed the prudent thing to do.

Time on the water: 9:42
Distance covered: 81.1nm
Avg speed: 8.4kts
Max speed: 11.7kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Robin, Connor

Navionics Track

Motor up to Chateaubelair

We spent a few days behind Young Island, at the bottom of St. Vincent, relaxing and snorkelling.

Managed to hire a car for a day and drove through the twisty mountain roads up to to Vermont Nature Trail in the mountains behind Kingston, the capital. This is a gorgeous 3.5km circular walk through primary rain forest and the remains of a cacao plantation that's being reclaimed by the forest. The area is home to the St. Vincent Parrot, although we didn't get to see any nearby, we could hear them squawking at each other in the treetops, and saw some in a distant tree across a valley.

Drove back through the fertile Mesopotamia valley, the breadbasket of St. Vincent, and walked some of the black beaches of Argyle.


Then it was time to head back north to Martinique, to drop Robin and Connor off, for their flight home. We found a local clinic that could do COVID-19 antigen tests, loaded up on St. Vincentian fruit, and checked out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

We planned to spend the night at Chateaubelair again, the Northernmost anchorage on St. Vincent, and leave from there first thing in the morning. On the way out, we stopped for a lunchtime snorkel in Petit Byahaut, a tiny little bay accessible only by sea, with reefs on both side. Given the short hops and light wind, we just motored our way up the island.

While the South side of the bay had a sheer wall, underwater, the North side had more complex reefs with a lot more fish hide-holes. We found a very playful octopus, swimming round and round a rock in a little bay. We lost track of it, but when we saw it again, it was swimming across the reef to chase after another octopus, and sit on top of its rock.

Well worth the lunch stop.

We arrived at Chateaubelair early enough to have a few locals pop by on kayaks to help us pick a good anchorage, and try to sell us fruit.

Time on the water: 2:34
Distance covered: 14.5nm
Avg speed: 5.6kts
Max speed: 9.9kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Connor, Robin

Navionics Tracks: 1, 2

Mild Bequia Blast

After a quick overnight stop-over in Bequia, it's up to St. Vincent. From our last brush with the Bequia Blast we were quite conservative with our sails, double-reefed main and a staysail. This was the right move, we sailed directly into a squall as we left Bequia.


But then things calmed down into a leisurely sail, and we unfurled the full genoa. We easily made it up into the Young Island anchorage on one tack, and tied up on the same ball we'd used previously.


After a dash into town for some provisions and roti for lunch, we got back into looking at the water-maker issues.

We had started it before setting sail, but it got to an even lower pressure than the day before, so I emailed Water Maker Services in Antigua for help. They didn't think anything was seriously damaged, just an air-locked pump or something like that. When we'd arrived at Young Island, it had stopped running entirely, it must have got air-locked while heeling under sail.

We did some digging and found that the raw water filter, before the feed pumps, was clogged again. I'd cleared this out the day before. This pointed to a problem in the sea chest's filter, so we opened that and found that it was letting grass flow around it. The filter was upside down and the ring that should be able to slide up to seal against the rubber on the lid had let the filter slide down inside it. Fixing that and cleaning the filters thoroughly got the water-maker working again at maximum capacity, producing better water than we'd seen all season. Success.

On a high from fixing things, Connor started tackling our wind generator. The "Silent Wind 400" has been shaking the whole boat when it runs. You get used to it after a while, but visiting friends struggle to sleep through it for the first day or two.

We'd ordered a bearing replacement kit for it, but hadn't got around to installing them. This turned out to be fairly easy, it's just a 3-phase alternator with a pair of bearings holding the shaft. A chunk of rust points to a failed bearing or two. Getting the old bearings out took some encouragement with mallets and a large bolt, but they came out and the replacements went in smoothly. Now we just hear the whirr of the blades cutting through the wind, you'd hardly recognise it.

Time on the water: 2:04
Distance covered: 9.3nm
Avg speed: 4.5kts
Max speed: 9.9kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Connor, Robin

Navionics Track

A Week in the Tobago Cays

After more than a week at anchor in the Tobago Cays, it's time to return to civilization. It's been a good week, most other boats don't stay that long, so we've seen them all come and go. Super-yachts, Tall Ships, >100ft monohulls, charter catamarans, families, and a tiny little 20-odd ft monohull painted a as fish, with a nudist French couple on it.


We had a small New Years pot-luck dinner with Mark from Pom, Susan (his crew up to Antigua) and Dean from Moxie, but were safely in bed by midnight.


Snorkelled in a few areas around the cays. The dinghy channel is interesting, because it has a strong current through it, so you can do a drift dive (if you don't guess the wrong direction for the current). Our favourite was on the South arm of the horse-shoe reef, where the current was relatively mild. Saw a few reef sharks there, some massive lobsters, as well as eels, triggerfish and the usual reef fish. The really special feature of the cays are all the turtles. They are everywhere in the anchorage and aren't too skittish, so you can swim quite close to them while they munch on sea grass.

We got some minor jobs done while at anchor. Connor went up the mast, a couple of times, and replaced our wind sensor. So we now have a working anemometer. Some of our instruments got a bit sun-burned while we were on the hard in Grenada, so we swapped the worst one with a spare at our Nav Station.


And while we were inside the Nav Station wiring, we hooked up our AIS receiver to the boat's Raspberry Pi. This is running SignalK, and provides the AIS feed to Navionics on our phones and iPad, so we can see nearby traffic. It also forwards the AIS messages on to Marine Traffic and AIS Hub.

We found ourselves getting a little behind in water-making, our tanks were emptying and we weren't keeping up. After a couple of days of being confused, we realised that the water-maker output wasn't getting into the tanks. It showed that it was producing 40l/hr (lower than it should, but still significant), but the tank level just wasn't rising much. The issue was a broken valve handle that wasn't moving the valve, we don't know how the water got overboard, but it must have, somehow. Once we'd replaced that valve handle, we were getting some water into the tank, but the water-maker was slowly decreasing its pressure and output, causing some anxiety. You get used to being able to rinse-off after every swim, and regularly wash the boat... One of the feed pumps seemed to be doing a lot less work than the other, so we replaced it, but that didn't really improve things.


On the bright side, we climbed a few of the islands around the cays, seeing several iguana and other brightly coloured lizards.


We headed up to Bequia from the Cays, an easy sail up past Canuan towards Petit Nevis, where we planned to stop for lunch. We were pinching fairly tight into the wind, but made it up on one tack. A massive Oyster 825, Maegan, overtook us on the sail up (probably taking a few more degrees off the wind, for speed), and was anchored off Petit Nevis when we arrived.

This is the old whaling station south of Bequia. Bequia is one of the few communities that still hunts whales (they have no other natural resources), and until relatively recently Petit Nevis was where the whales were brought ashore for processing. The whales are apparently hunted traditionally, with hand-thrown harpoons, from wooden row-boats.

It wasn't a great anchorage, we found the only patch of sand available (with 4 other anchored yachts), had lunch, and swam into shore to see the whaling station ruins, and snorkel a little. Then motored around the point into Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Past the spectacular Moonhole ruins.

Time on the water: 5:28
Distance covered: 30nm
Avg speed: 5.5kts
Max speed: 11.3kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Connor, Robin

Navionics Track

Back to the Tobago Cays

While we were having breakfast, at 8am, we got the call to come into shore and check-in with Daffodil of Daffodil Marine. She gave us our check-in ticket that we could use to complete customs and immigration, in town.


After checking-in and a little fruit and veg shopping, we bought some rotis to go for lunch, and set sail. Took a nice downwind run out of Admiralty Bay harbour, gybed, and headed down towards the Tobago Cays on a beam reach.

There were quite a few yachts out, going in both directions. So, we got to pace ourselves against a cat just behind us, and doge yachts heading towards Bequia.


When the wind was good, we flew along at almost 10kts, but behind Canouan we got a little wind shadow and crawled at 5kts. The cat behind us started their engines and overtook (we assume).

We entered the Cays through the north gap in the reef, and dropped sails, motoring around Petit Rameau to anchor in the back of the anchorage, in front of Jamesby, like last time. We were soon joined by the gorgeous old 1930s MY Shemara, who dropped anchor next to us.

Time on the water: 4:10
Distance covered: 26.9nm
Avg speed: 6.4kts
Max speed: 10.4kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Connor, Robin

Navionics Track

Bequia Quarantine

We set off late this morning from Chateaubelair, to Bequia, to check-in to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It was very still in the bay, so we could raise the sails from anchor. But that also meant we had to motor-sail for a while down the coast, before we picked up some wind.

When it did pick up, it was decent. The Bequia Blast lived up to its reputation, and blew us to Bequia in record time. We dropped down to the staysail, and were still hitting 10kts.


We'd expected to be able to check-in to St. Vincent in the afternoon, but no such luck. After sitting at anchor in the quarantine anchorage for a couple of hours, we heard that we will be able to go ashore and check-in, at 9am tomorrow morning.

The quarantine anchorage is on the north side of the bay, above the channel the ferries use. We'd anchored quite far back, towards the super-yachts and cruise ships. This got in the way of a corner-cutting ferry, who grumbled at us and asked us to move. So, we've moved forward, on the edge of the channel. I'm sure when he leaves he'll still be grumpy. Oh well.

Until 9am tomorrow, we get to laze around and enjoy the sunset.

Time on the water: 3:14
Distance covered: 20.3nm
Avg speed: 6.2kts
Max speed: 10.4kts
Crew: Stefano, John, Clare, Connor, Robin

Navionics Track