So the Burnetts are currently on a mooring ball in Portsmouth, Dominica. We are currently recovering from an all-day tour of a huge chunk of this gorgeous island, which was pretty ambitious for people who were restricted to the confines of their boat just three weeks ago. Dominica pics and post to come, but here’s a story from Martinique that illustrates a key concept for cruisers: “Whatever anyone else says, you should always find out for yourself.”
So here’s how our Thursday went:
10:30 a.m. Want to know what happened before 10:30 a.m.? Too bad. There isn’t much. So at 10:30 a.m., Greg is checking out and Mel is prepping the boat for an offshore. They are still in Sainte-Anne, Martinique, where they just spent several awesome days socializing with other kid boats. But they unfortunately have a bit of a schedule now due to pending guests, so it is time to move on.
10:40 a.m. Mel sniffs one of the seven, slightly damp, saltwater-laden beach towels they have employed during the multi-kid water days over the last week. She throws them in the washing machine and is thankful she has a washing machine. She then forgets to start it.
11:00 a.m. Greg returns from checking out (so easy on the French islands!) with some eggs and a few more baguettes for the road. Because in Martinique, eating baguettes while traveling on the water, whether in dinghy or boat, is apparently the thing to do.
11:15 a.m. They weigh anchor (Mel on the helm, Greg forward) and wave goodbye to the crew of SV Element and SV Counting Stars as they exit Sainte-Anne. They are headed for another bay in Martinique, St. Pierre, which is about 30 nm north, or about 5 hours away. They chose to stop there instead of do a long overnight to Dominica, their next island destination. This is called “staging” a passage. Mel used to think that only old, scared people did this, but now she appreciates any technique that can avoid the wasted day of fatigue after an overnight passage.
11:20 a.m. They note they have a total of 4 kts of wind and decide to motor. Since they are still breaking in the engines, they motor on the port engine only at 2600 rpm, going to 3000 rpm for five minutes every half hour. This means they make really good time but terrible fuel economy.
11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. They motor up the coast of Martinique, occasionally rolling out the jib when they pass the deep bays and the wind picks up to 10-15 kts apparent at 100 degrees. Sure, they could have hoisted the main for an hour or so during all of that, but the winds were so variable they just thought: Meh. Just Meh. Here’s a tip: If you have shifty winds and see a boat motoring with just a jib out on the beam, that boat is full of cruisers and has probably sailed the Med.
At 4 p.m. they drop anchor at Anse Turin, just south of the anchorage of St. Pierre, known for having a narrow shelf close to land that then drops off dramatically to more than 150 feet. This means they anchor about 50 feet from the shore of a black volcanic beach, looking up at Mount Pelee, which annihilated about 30,000 people back in 1902. They pay their respects to Mount Pelee.
4:15 p.m.: Greg shouts, “Okay, everyone! Get ready to snorkel! Active Captain says there’s great snorkeling here, and Mel wants to take spectacular underwater pictures!”
4:35 p.m.: After some clothes changing and bickering, the family clambers into their dinghy despite the notable 3-ft swell from the south and heads off to St. Pierre proper. They tie the dinghy up to a “mooring” made of an old milk jug on a piece of string and dive in, heading to shore. After about 10 minutes of vigorous kicking against an offshore current, the family surfaces, looks at each other, and says, “I can’t see sh!t!” The seagrass bottom only had a few tiny fish. They swim back to the dinghy and decide they should just take their chances snorkeling around the boat.
5:00 p.m.: “Okay! We can save this! We’re going to have fun today, dammit! Our friends say it’s fun to swim right up to the beach here from your boat!” The family ties the dinghy up to Marvin and jumps in. Mel follows Greg’s and Allie’s lead and concentrates on tailing them. After only 30 seconds in the water, Mel surfaces, locates Allie and Greg ahead of her, and hears them screaming, “Back to the boat! Back to the boat!” Mel imagines all sorts of things: jellyfish, sharks, kraken…and then she looks back at the boat and realizes they are already a football field away from it. “Current!!! Aaaagh!” The family manages to kick their way back to the boat, clutching the swim ladder for dear life. They climb back onto the boat, comprehending the enormous success of the day. They forgot to check the tides.
5:15 p.m.: Mel failed to lay out towels for everyone (read: everyone forgot a towel), and so the family decides to dry off watching the sunset from the topsides and having their drink of choice. See pics.
In the end, the family had a great evening at St. Pierre. You should go sometime.