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Martinique ~ the Eastern Side

Announcers Voice: “Previously on s/v Let It Be….”

Seriously, it has been a while since our last blog because we have not had sufficient internet to publish, so as a reminder, our last post was about Guadeloupe.

Due to wind directions we chose to sail from Guadeloupe along the eastern side of Dominica to Martinique. Although we didn’t have a guide book that covered the eastern side of Martinique, we wanted to take a look and see if there were some decent kite boarding spots. I know; color you shocked!

With all charts up and running, we decided to enter Le Robert, a huge bay near the middle of the eastern side of Martinique.

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A view of Le Robert from the top of the mast.

Watching our depth closely since there were no markers and the depth changes significantly, we scouted out an isolated spot and dropped anchor.  There were no other boats, but the area was pretty and we thought we would take a look around.

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Captain was in favor of stopping right here!

Well it turns our, we had anchored near a popular, protected island.

I have tried to do a bit of research about the area because reading the French signs didn’t go well this time.  From the bit I have been able to translate, it appears we anchored near a fairly famous French area called Ilet Chancel. 

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After we anchored, several day boats, inflatable boats and kayakers arrived.

Ilet Chancel is the largest and northern most ilet in Le Robert. It is a popular stop for folks touring on day boats because it has the remains of an old sugar processing area.  The site has not been restored, but there are many partial walls, former kilns and supposedly a dungeon. Since the site is not well marked or restored and all information is in French, we allowed our imaginations to fill in the blanks.

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Perhaps an old kiln or oven?

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Not sure what this was, but of course we walked up the steps.

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Nature reclaiming a wall

So many people mentioned the iguana!  Apparently the Delicatissima Iguana is endangered and this little island is a perfect environment for them.  The other visitors were very quick to point them out. So many pictures were being snapped of the iguana that I thought we were all paparazzi!

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Looks like the one from Petite Terre

I am not a herpetologist, so I couldn’t spot why this iguana was special, but we took the obligatory picture!

While anchored by Ilet Chancel, we were able to help some locals who had some trouble with their inflatable RIB. We enjoyed chatting with Olivier Melissa and their daughter Anna. More about them later!

After enjoying the quiet of Ilet Chancel for a few days, and completing a couple of items on our project list (new lazy Jacks for the sail bag, changing out our main halyard, etc.) we motored just across Le Robert to Ilet Madame. This small island is another French marine park where locals enjoy spending the day hanging in the shallow water and picnicking on the shore.

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Sunset behind Ilet Madame

We anchored behind a coral reef between Ilet Madame and the Pointe de la Rose. This shallow area provided nice wave protection but allowed plenty of breeze.  These were ideal kite boarding conditions and Frank and I took turns enjoying the beautiful wind and water.

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Nice air, Frankly!

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My turn: no air.

Although Frank was at the ready in the dinghy, I was able to kite without support both days.  I cannot say I am willing to kite without help available, but I see improvement and I am having more fun with the sport.  It isn’t tennis, but it is a lot of fun!

Remember Olivier, Melissa and Anna Egloff?   Well they agreed to go sailing with us and joined us on our sail from Le Robert down around the southern point of Martinique and into St. Anne.  It was great fun spending the day with this delightful family.

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Anna is a doll and can I just say, wow, girls are a little different than boys! Anna happily entertained herself with her stuffed animals and was happy to stay in one place instead of climbing all over any obstacle she could find.  At first I wondered if she didn’t feel well, but nope, this little doll was perfectly fine, but also happy just to play quietly in one spot.

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Olivier has plenty of sailing experience and helmed most of the trip.

The Egloffs, originally from France, now live in Martinique. We learned a lot from them including that the world surfing tour has now had a stop in Martinique for two years in a row.  Olivier shared some amazing photographs he took at the event.  He is an excellent photographer and you should check out his photos

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photo by Olivier Egloff.

We completely enjoyed our day with Olivier, Melissa and Anna and are so glad they were willing to share their time with us.

The next day, Frank and I moved the boat to La Marin.  As luck would have it, some friends we met in Union Island, Grenadines, had some business to conduct in La Marin so we were able to get together.  Turns our Greg and Lynda Jo are looking for a boat and Greg was in La Marin checking out a few boats on their “possible” list.

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Future home for Greg and Lynda Jo?

When Greg told us he was pretty serious about one boat called, “Aquatauris” we had to take a look too!  She is a beauty, at least from the outside, and Greg tells us the interior is even better.

Greg joined us for dinner on LIB and we spent the evening discussing pros and cons of various sailboats.  The evening could only have been better if Lynda Jo had been with us.  Hopefully by the time this is published, Greg and Lynda Jo will be owners of their future sailing home!

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Tunnel anyone?

Our last full day in La Marin, we rented a car and toured Martinique.  It was a national holiday so nothing was open, but we still enjoyed seeing this beautiful island.  The variety of the terrane is fabulous and makes a driving tour constantly interesting. Here are a few views from the car.

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My favorite little town was Morne Rouge. It is a pretty town with a fabulous view, lush vegetation and a beautiful old catholic church named  Notre-Dame of the Délivrance.

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Main street Morne Rouge

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Notre-Dame of the Délivrance

Notre-Dame was first completed in 1867. In 1891 a cyclone severely damaged the church but it was quickly restored. Mount Pelee erupted in 1902 and again in 1929. Both times the church suffered damage but remained standing.  Interestingly, a statue of the Virgin Mary which was sculpted in 1953 still stands in the church, unharmed.

Notre-Dame of the Délivrance is a popular  pilgrimage spot for inhabitants of Martinique.

And my final photo for today is just to make you smile.  BTW, I did stop in. I wanted to get a diet coke with extra ice, just to have the ice!

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On our way to the McDrive!

Adventures Moving South and East on Guadeloupe

Having enjoyed Deshaies several times, we thought we should visit a few other towns in Guadeloupe.

After leaving Deshaies, we sailed to Point a Pitre which is the largest city on Guadeloupe. We found it an excellent place to stock up on items necessary for “boat projects,” especially at UShip where we found all sorts of French items for our French catamaran. I even found the cute little blue “courtesy” lights that gently illuminate the cockpit at night. Finding these little lights was difficult, but getting into the spots I need to replace them will be even more challenging!

Point a Pitre was a little too big city for our tastes, though taking the bus, walking the city and seeing high rise buildings was an interesting change from everywhere we have been since leaving Puerto Rico in November 2015.  

I did enjoy seeing the kids learning to sail. This is a common activity in the larger Caribbean cities and it always makes me smile when I see them.

St. Fra-3Look how they weave through anchored boats!
St. Fra-4A line is attached to all the boats if the kids need to be “rounded up.”

We ended up staying in Point a Pitre for five nights because we spent so much time planning projects, buying the items for up-coming projects and getting two pressing projects finished. We replaced our lost antenna (vital for VHF and AIS communication) and installed Iridium Go! which will allow us to access weather information while off shore as well as text with family when in the middle of the Atlantic.

St. Fra-2The white dome is our Iridium Go! and the antenna is waaaay at the top.

St. Fra-1Eye-spliced the Dyneema lifelines ourselves. 🙂

We also replaced our top lifeline wire with Dyneema line.  It has excellent strength and it won’t make rust spots when drying our clothing!

The highlight of our time in PaP was meeting up with Sail Pending and Escape Claws again. We shared sundowners one evening and Kristie made delicious homemade cinnamon rolls the morning the guys worked on fixing Sail Pending’s davit. YUM! I hope Kristie will share her recipe…

St. FraFrank, Tyler and Rich working on Sail Pending’s davit.

Once we left PaP, we went to St. Anne which is a darling town. We felt like we were in a small part of France and enjoyed walking the streets and browsing the patisseries.  However, the anchorage was very rocky from the incoming swell, so we only stayed one night. The boat was moving too much to even take pictures!

St. Fra-5Entering the marina in St. Francois

Our next stop was St. Francois. This seldom mentioned anchorage was fabulous. It has a very nice marina with many shops, restaurants and a grocery, a fishing dock where you can buy fresh fish and a beautiful anchorage that is very popular with local people. 

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The folks at St. Francois know how to enjoy the water and this area was a mecca of activity without being overwhelming.  We saw kite boarders, windsurfers, skydivers, jet skiers and plenty of boaters.

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Six parachuters in this picture.

We loved St. Francios and stayed three nights soaking up the clear shallow water and excellent scenery.  We were entertained by the three boats near us where a bachelor party weekend occurred.  These guys had a great time with lots of laughter and silliness and we enjoyed watching their antics.

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Three boats full of Frenchmen for a long weekend. Sounds like Dr. Sues!

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The groom perhaps?

Among other activities, these guys rented water jet shoes and everyone took a turn.  Some were quick learners and others provided some pretty funny falls. I don’t know the significance of the shark costume, but it was hysterical to watch!

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We decided that St. Francis has the original “Reef Bar!” 

You can see in this picture that a boat comes out and sets up tables, umbrellas, music, food and drink. Initially we thought this was just a one time event for the bachelor party, but apparently this company is quite busy as they set up private parties three times while we were there.

Sail Pending arrived and anchored right behind us, so we “had” to go out to dinner with them. We had a great time at dinner in one of the restaurants in the marina.  Good food and excellent company!

Next we set sail for Iles de la Petite-Terre; two uninhabited islands a mere 9 nm southeast of St. Francois. These beautiful little islands are a marine park where the only building is a light house first built in 1840. Marine biologists live in a tent near the light house while studying the habitat.

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I think the French sign said this was the first lighthouse in Guadeloupe

About a mile prior to the entrance to Iles de la Petite-Terre, we saw a whale! We hadn’t even thought about seeing a whale and were delighted by the sight. Unfortunately, the only picture I got is so bad it reminds me of one of the grainy “Nessy” the Loch Ness Monster pictures so I’m not posting it.

Walking on Petite Terre we saw a variety of terrane in a short period including dramatic cliffs, flat beaches and lush vegetation.

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A pretty tidal pool.

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My studly hubby under a canopy of leaves.

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This iguana thinks he is all that!

Petite Terre had some of the best snorkeling we have seen. Frank pulled Captain in the floating chair and we snorkeled for about 90 minutes.  Then we were hailed by a park ranger…. apparently we had entered a protected, no swimming area. OOOPPPPS!  No wonder the snorkeling was SO good.

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“Orange” you glad I showed you this one? 

This is the brightest crab I have seen, though I admit I know next to nothing about crabs. I don’t even eat them.

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Dory might be in there, but I didn’t see Nemo.

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The lobster were huge and plentiful.

The lobster were so big I thought they might eat us! Seriously, some of them were so big that the foreleg before the first joint was about eight inches alone! I was afraid to get very close as I had no idea how far the their pinchers would reach.

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This lobster was waiting for me to come close and he was going to drag me into his rock cave.

Frank and I both would have like to stay in Petite Terre several nights, but weather dictated that we depart for Martinique before the winds turned south.  After just one night and two days we had to pull up anchor and leave these stunning islands. I sincerely hope we get to come back.

Captain was happy to leave though because dogs are not allowed on the island and she much prefers grass or sand to the boat deck for her business!

Deshaies ~ Our Favorite Little French Village.

Disclaimer: There are probably too many pictures in this post!

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Somehow this small village on the western coast of Guadeloupe has captured our hearts. We have been here four times in the last year, as a destination, a resting point, a respite from seas and just because we like it.

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Each time we stay in Deshaies, we find something new to like. This trip it was Au Jardin Botanique; the Botanical Gardens.  The gardens are a steep uphill walk on the road to the right of the dinghy dock for about 1.5 kilometers.  It is well worth the arduous walk as the presentation of the plants is fabulous.

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Looking back toward the entrance after the ticket gate.

I wish I could tell you about all the plants we saw in the pictures I will post below but, my knowledge is sorely lacking and ALL of the printed information was in French. I SO WISHED my sister-in-law, Emily Stich, was with us. Emily is an accomplished florist and she is fluent in French. Tell me this isn’t the perfect place for Em to visit with us?!

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So pretty it looks fake!

We readily admit, our high school French is insufficient, but we managed to read bits and pieces of the posted signs or perhaps we just made up what we thought the signs said. Regardless, we spent a solid 3.5 hours wandering the grounds and admiring the beauty and variety of plants represented.

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Frank closely examined the plants!

Each of the signs told the indigenous country of the fauna and the number of countries represented was huge. We didn’t see many from the good old U.S., although our friends on Escape Claws and Sail Pending said they saw several in the desert section. By the time we got to the desert, we had absorbed all we could and we were ready to walk back to LIB.

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This photo is for my MIL, Jackie, who loves Bougainvillea!

In addition to flowers, trees and water features, the gardens had a few birds.  These flamingos were the only thing in the whole place that I thought needed something…. perhaps a bit of shrimp or algae to add some pink?

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Most captive flamingos need a little pinking.

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Somehow these birds made me think of Mission Impossible.

I have posted all these photos to demonstrate the variety of colors, the vibrancy of the blooms and some unique leaves in the gardens.  I hope you enjoy the pictures even without documentation.

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One of my favorite scents – Plumeria

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BLUE flowers?!

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Isn’t this cool?!

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This plant is a little “twisted!”

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Pictures of the individual species are beautiful, but they were even more stunning in the gardens because the plants were arranged to accentuate the colors, textures, similarities and differences of one another so well. If you stop in Deshaies, a visit the botanical gardens is worth the effort.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  It is light on facts but long on beauty.

Zipping Down the Leeward Islands

The last couple of weeks we have focused on two things: looking for kiting wind and getting down to St. Lucia where we were picking up our friend, Al.

The result is that we have spent a good amount of time making southern progress but I don’t have a lot of photos to show.

We managed to have a couple of great kiting days off Green Island in Antigua before the winds slacked off a bit and we began sailing south.

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Hunter does a melon 180

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Frank looking casual as he rides.

From Antigua we sailed to Guadeloupe where we stopped overnight in Deshaies.  We first visited this quaint fishing village in June but this time we only stayed one night. It was fun to share it with Hunter and have him experience a bit of French culture.

Next we scooted down the coast to visit Vieux Habitants, Guadeloupe where we had heard of a beautiful hike that started near a coffee plantation and ended at a waterfall.  Unfortunately, between our unspecific knowledge and our poor French, we wandered most of the day and never found the hike. 

Still, we enjoyed the day as I had a chance to practice butchering my high school French and we had a picnic on the lawn of a pretty bed and breakfast on the edge of the river.

Sailing south on the western coast of Guadeloupe took us past the Pitons. I would have loved to stop, but it wasn’t part of our plan this trip.

The area looks absolutely beautiful, but I must say that the aggressiveness of the ‘boat boys’ makes me much less interested in going to The Pitons.

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As we were sailing past the area, two boats zoomed toward us and tried to convince us to follow them to their mooring balls inside the anchorage. Neither accepted our “no” and they brought their boats way too close to LIB for my tastes!  This was less than pleasant and is making me reconsider stopping on our way north. I will have to do some reading before I decide if I will stop when we work our way north again.

Anyone want to offer advice or opinions and/or experiences at The Pitons?

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Regardless of that experience, you can see the area looks fabulous!

Iles des Saintes was the next stop. We had a very pleasant sail to Bourg des Saints on Terre D’en Haut.

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Guadeloupe is easy to see on a clear day.

The anchorage was very pretty and on clear days Guadeloupe looked close enough to be just a long swim away…. Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but it did look close!

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The anchorage itself was charming and the dinghy dock one of the best we have seen in the Caribbean.

Frank and Hunter tried to kite, but the wind was too light. So we spent a day tooling around Terre D’en Haut in an electric car/golf cart.

The views from so many places were so pretty it’s tempting to post too many photos…

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LIB in the foreground.

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A prettier picture of Bourg des Saintes.

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Cappy loved being free among the trees.

This stand of trees right by the ocean was shady and peaceful and I could have stayed here for hours just absorbing the serenity of it. 

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A colorful local.

We also visited Fort Napoleon which was built in 1867. The fort is well restored and held an eclectic assortment of displays. We began our tour too close to the lunch hour as the closing bells rang not long into our visit.  I especially enjoyed the models of old wooden ships and seeing the interior cross sections of what the ships held and how things were stored to balance the ship.

I’ll stick with Let It Be, her modern equipment and two engines, thank you!

We barely touched Iles des Saintes and I really hope we will stop for a week or so on our return north, but this trip we wanted to skip on down to St. Lucia so we could accomplish a few boat projects, re-provision and prepare for some guests to arrive.

Arrival in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia marked our first Windward Island as opposed to one of the Leeward Islands. Once again we experienced only a fragment of St. Lucia as we only afforded ourselves of the conveniences offered such as laundry, groceries, chandleries and restaurants. This stop was more of an opportunity to repair and prepare than explore.

Hunter continued to spend a good portion of each day programming, since that is his job. Frank and I set to work cleaning, crossing off maintenance items and generally preparing LIB for visitors.

The best part of our stay in St. Lucia was meeting up with David and Amy of Starry Horizons. You may have already seen the beautiful pictures David and Amy took for us as we left?! Kind of makes us want a drone too.

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LIB heading south to Vieux Fort, St. Lucia.

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LIB on the left and Starry Horizons on the right.

A rare photo of Frank, me and Hunter.

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David and Amy, these excellent pictures are much appreciated.

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Starry Horizon and crew.

We had a chance to have dinner and catch up with Amy and David because of their incredible willingness to accommodate our schedule!  Our time with them went much too quickly and Amy and I have since exchanged texts saying, “wait, I forgot to ask ….” or “Oh, I wanted to look at this on your boat…”   

I just cannot tell you how much I enjoy the company of the two people and how hard it is to know that from here forward our Helias will take us in opposite directions! 

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SH looks pretty in the fresh morning light.

I have every confidence that Amy and David will have an amazing journey on Starry Horizons and we will follow their blog, FB and videos faithfully!  Happy, safe and fabulous journey you guys. Our love and prayers go with you!!!

Next stop Vieux Fort where we pick up Al Young, the first of our 3 kiters to arrive.

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Sunset in Iles des Saintes

As always, thanks for reading our blog…. sorry the s-l-o-w internet has delayed my posts!

Longest Sail Yet….

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Our last evening in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Okay, let’s admit right now, we do not have much passage experience, so “longest yet” for us is nothing for many others.

Still, we are doing our best to build our experience at a reasonable rate and not jump from square one to 10, thereby skipping the learning in between.  This sail was an excellent next step for us.

Our first overnight passage was from Virgin Gorda, BVI to St. Martin (84 nm) and that went very well.  We had a great weather window with almost flat seas which made our maiden overnight excellent.

Our second passage was from St. Bart to Antigua (80+nm) and, like the first one, was an upwind sail. So the wind angle and seas weren’t perfect but we made it and added to our experience.

This last sail was from Guadeloupe back to Virgin Gorda, BVI and a total of 202 nautical miles.  I know that isn’t a long distance for many cruisers, but it was a perfect step for us since we are fairly green and we don’t yet live on Let It Be.

Happily, once again we had an excellent weather window and this time we were with the wind and waves which made me a very happy 1st mate – especially since I did not get sea sick this time!

So what do cruisers see and do on passages? Well, of course we see a lot of this:

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Ocean, ocean and more ocean.

But often we saw other islands, some we had visited on our way south and others we just didn’t have time for on this trip.

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Hmm, I am pretty sure this is Montserrat.

We spent the night listening to music or audiobooks, but also staring at the sky because the beauty there is beyond description. The stars are truly innumerable when earthly lights don’t interfere and the sundeck is the perfect spot to watch for shooting stars.

This trip Frank trolled for fish and managed to land a skipjack tuna! We have had several hits on the line and were unable to land any fish, but success was finally ours.

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Frank is thrilled with his catch!

Some friends have asked us what the difference was and how Frank was able to land this fish. In other words, do we now have the “secret” for catching fish?   Well this picture might give away the secret:

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Frank kneeling to the sea gods as he reels in the fish. 

Truly I jest…. we do not have the secret, but hopefully just as our experience will make us better sailers, practice will make us more successful fishermen.

This trip we had our first and second visit by dolphins! So often I have heard about dolphins visiting boats but experiencing it firsthand was thrilling. They glide and jump and dart about with so little effort and with amazing speed.

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Jumping in front of the bow.

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They are literally right below the forward beam!

Both times the dolphins played alongside and in front of our boat. The first pod consisted of about 10 dolphins. The second pod had closer to 15 dolphins and they swam with us for a solid 10 minutes.  We both wished we could jump in the water and swim with them.

Other activities that consume time on a passage…. sail handling! Those who know Frank, know he has plenty of energy, so we tend to tweak and test sails often. We sailed with a main and jib, we sailed with a jib only, we sailed with a spinnaker.  Yep, we played with all the toys.  But that keeps Captain Frank busy and we learn in the process.

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Virgin Gorda, BVI

After a pleasant 28 hours of sailing, Virgin Gorda was in sight.  We had survived our longest sail to date with no serious issues, thank God.

Returning to the BVIs was similar to returning to familiar streets after a long driving vacation; you have had a really great trip, but it’s also nice to be home.

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Deshaies, Guadeloupe ~ All This in ONE Day!

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The main street of Deshaies.

WOW! What a fabulous day we have had here in Deshaies. This small fishing village has a strong French feel and very little English is spoken. Needless to say, our communication is poor since we don’t speak much French, but that hasn’t prevented us from having fun!

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Church bells ring at the hour and half hour!

Today began with 8 am Mass. Fortunately all Catholic Masses have the same format and I had my on-line missal with todays readings and Gospel in hand. Without it we would have understood almost nothing. Once the Mass was complete, the priest and congregation immediately began an additional service of some sort.  I am not sure why or what the significance was as the only thing I understood was the Litany of Saints.  All told, we were in church for two hours.  We enjoyed some delightful music and were able to receive Communion for the first time in weeks.

After Mass, we decided to take a walk we read about in the Chris Doyle Leeward Islands guide book. The book said “anyone ready for a cool, shady scramble should follow the Deshaies River as it winds its way into the mountains.” P1000404

Create your own path on this beautiful stream.

Well this “scramble” is actually a pretty intense hike as we had to traverse over, under and around boulders. The “path” is not marked and this hike is really an opportunity to get in touch with your inner child and explore a river without having your mom reminding you to be careful and not go too far! P1000403

Photo Op!

After a solid two hours of rock hopping, we found the road that would allow us to walk home. However, the guide book also said the very adventurous could carry on another few minutes to reach the furthest point along the river. Have you ever known us to stop before completing a challenge? Onward! P1000401

It was a shady climb.

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End of the line….

About 20 minutes past the road, we found “the end” which was a crystal clear waterfall on the backside of a cave that opened into a small circular area before cascading down through the rocky river. Also a perfect place for a very chilly swim!

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Looking out from the cave.

After a total of nearly 3 hours of hiking, we started our walk back to Deshaies via a road. One of the first things we encountered was a retreat or convent of some kind called St. Michael the Archangel. It was a beautiful, peaceful area that included an outdoor Stations of the Cross and a shrine to Mary! P1000421

The photo doesn’t capture the serenity of the setting.

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There are 10 “beads” between each post; a giant rosary!

After this point, the road descended pretty quickly past houses, dogs, cows and chickens. We were quite happy to reach the dock and dinghy back to LIB!

Frank and Captain took naps while I enjoyed some quiet time reading and watching the sun set.

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I thought this would be the end of the day.

One more trip to grass for Captain led us to discover that June 21st is the Festival of Music in France and in Deshaies.  So off we went, back to town to enjoy a walk down main street to check out the celebration.

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The largest ensemble we saw.

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The group with the most unique sound.

There were five tents interspersed along main street and each held a unique musical offering. We enjoyed strolling along and stopping to hear the various groups.

I have to admit, sitting on a street curb, listening to a local orchestra with a quarter moon shining in the night sky was rather enchanting.

I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to experience such a variety of places and people!

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