Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dominica and Marigot Bay

March 25 - 30, 2017

We picked up the anchor to make our way back across to Dominica.

Once we were nearing Portsmouth we radioed Alexis for assistance. Originally we were going to anchor to save some cash but, after motoring around a bit we made the decision to take the mooring ball Alexis was offering.

Once we were tied up Alexis gave us his word that he would be back to discuss the different tour options. Before he left he gave us instructions on where to check in (unfortunately, the dock was way down and the dinghy motor was acting up) so Shaun and Bob ended up having to walk the 6 KM's. Alexis did come back and we negotiated a fair price to tour Syndicat Falls, one of the many falls for the following morning.

We all got up, ate breakfast and packed our day packs. Alexis picked us up by boat and delivered us into the capable hands of our tour guide. We were lucky, as he is actually a park ranger through the week and knew so much about the island.

We all hopped into the van and off we went for our adventure. We headed along the main road before turning off inland. As soon as we turned off the main road we were enveloped into the greenery and jungle. Dominica is a very lush island which translates to a lot of rain. The weather switched from rain to sun every few minutes. Luckily, the rain is warm. As we drove along the narrow roads further inland our guide explained about the island. We came upon "farms" of fruit and root vegetables, and fruit trees that seemed to be growing right out of the jungle. Every space of land that can grow food is used amongst the jungle itself, it's incredible.

Along the way our guide explained that one of Dominica's exports in the past used to be bananas. They are now grown cheaper in St. Lucia. Dominica's bananas have also been troubled with a virus that makes the trees sick. The main source of income today is tourism.

As we drove along he explained the different herbs and plants that the locals use in teas, cooking and for health. Whenever possible he would have the driver pull over, jump out of the van and disappear into the greenery and return with a plant or leaf explaining what they use it for. At one point we were driving along and he heard a parrot call. We pulled over to see if we could spot the green parrot. Luckily, Gavin spotted the bird camouflaged in the tree.

We drove inland further and arrived at a national park. We hadn't paid the park fee so we used the facilities and then hopped back into the van to head to our final destination, the waterfall walk. The trail crossed on to a local persons property so we paid a nominal fee and headed along the beautiful walk.

On the property there was a treehouse in a cinnamon tree. The kids loved it. Paige was stoked that she was able to catch her large lizard to date. Along our walk we had to cross the river 4 times. One of the crossings we had the chance to swing on a vine like Tarzan. It was really fun.

When we arrived back to the entrance, the property owner had cut up sugar cane ready for us to sample. I have a new addiction, it was so delicious. The trick is to chew or suck the cane and only swallow the juice. We were also able to see what a fresh cocoa pod looks and tastes like. This is unique, the cocoa bean itself is extremely bitter but the outside slimy bit has a fruity flavour with an odd texture.

On our drive back to the boat we were able to see fresh banana trees and where pineapples grow.

the biggest lizard yet
the treehouse
Syndicate Falls
a little blurry
Paige swimming in the falls
Gavin and Paige in the falls
the river from the falls
the walk back

natural art
the cocoa pod being cut open

the fresh cocoa bean
first stage pineapple
second stage pineapple
ready to pick
True to his word Alexis offered up a great tour to Syndicate Falls. When in Portsmouth, he is the only fellow to speak with. He is always friendly, dressed well, very polite and his boat is painted bright and in good shape. The link to their website is PAYS offers up many different tours and we have heard good things about them all. Using a tour guide gives the advantage of locals giving some history and information about the varied flora and fauna. The other option several families have done was to rent a car and tour the island that way. Had we stayed longer we would have rented a car as well and created our own tour.

We raised our anchor as we needed to start heading south back to St. Lucia to drop our guests off. Before our final destination, we wanted to show them Sainte Anne, Martinique. This is one of our favourite anchorages with its quaint town and lovely baguettes. WE were treated to a lovely meal at Paille Cocoa the evening before our departure.

On the crossing from Martinique to St. Lucia, Bob and Gavin were determined to catch a fish and tick off their last box on the Caribbean wish list. To their delight they caught a beautiful Mahi Mahi. Sadly, when Bob started to butcher it, it was riddled with worms. Overboard it went for fish food. We had a lovely sail back with fairly light winds.

We arrived into Marigot Bay looking forward to going for happy hour at all three bars. We ended our visit with our good friends, good food and good drinks. It was the end to an excellent visit.

the fish
proud moment
sunset in Marigot Bay
Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Martinique and The French Saints

March 16 - 25, 2017

Our friends from Canada visited us for the Canadian spring break. We arrived into Marigot Bay, St. Lucia to await their arrival. We love Marigot Bay, the mooring ball price (for Capella Marina) is $30.00 US and we get the use of the resorts bars and fabulous pools.

Our friends had a few "wish list" items that we hoped to fulfil throughout their vacation. The list was clear water, experience a jungle and to catch a fish.

Bob, Brandy and Gavin arrived in safely on March 16th. We had a spaghetti dinner ready and then we headed out for happy hour beverages at the Hurricane Hole ( our favourite watering hole. Hassan is the bartender, he is very friendly and makes killer drinks.

our friends from Summerland, BC (left to right: Shaun, me, Robert, Brandy)
Bob, Brandy and Jordan
Jordan and Gavin in the sail bag
We stayed two nights in Marigot to allow our friends to acclimatise. We had also promised Paige that we would take her over to the basket weaving guy and have him teach her how to weave. We all headed over to the Doolittles beach area to claim our Capella Resort beach chairs while Paige had her lesson on basket weaving with a palm frond. It was a huge success! The fellow even gave her a spare frond to take back to the boat to test her skills. Unfortunately, while she was weaving the second basket, one of the 15 leaves fell off making it difficult to finish. 

learning to weave a basket 
mid way through
finishing the bottom
the finished product with her teacher
The following day we took our guests an hour and a half north to Rodney Bay to anchor in the bay for the night before heading over to Grande Anse, Martinique. As soon as we dropped the hook in Rodney Bay, Bob, Gavin and Shaun snorkelled the anchor to make sure it set properly. Once that was complete the kids went snorkelling and found an octopus with its conk shell.

We all got up the following morning for the sail across to Grande Anse, Martinique. It took us 3.5 hours and the sailing was a bit bumpy. A few of us were feeling the "mal de mere" but, we arrived into Grande Anse, Martinique  unscathed and dropped the hook. Once we were settled, we hopped into the dingy. All of us with the exception of Brandy (her newly replaced ACL wasn't up for the jaunt) made the walk over to Anse d’Artlet so that we could check in. It is a 2 mile gentle walk with loads of scenery and wildlife. We saw a lot of lizards, caterpillars and cows. Paige was showing Gavin the art of catching geckos along the way (which made the trip slower LOL).

Grande Anse has great snorkelling around the boat as well as in a roped off reef. Many turtles live in the bay. They like to settle at the bottom under boats. Gavin and Jordan were snorkelling off the bow and found some sea stars. After we snapped a photo they put them back. In the afternoon we all pilled into the dingy and headed over to the reef. The variety of sea life is incredible. We saw trumpet fish, moray eel, damselfish, parrot fish, blue tangs, trigger fish, trunk fish and many more.

Bob sitting at the bow experiencing the swell as we crossed to Martinique
Brandy and Gavin sitting at the port helm seat
Hawk moth caterpillar near Anse d'Artlet
large conch shell in the middle of the round about on our way to Anne d'Artlet 
a cow along the way
a really neat buddha in a yard
Gavin and Jordan with their sea stars
We left Grande Anse and headed up to St. Pierre. St. Pierre is the town where the Mount Peleé volcano erupted in 1902, killing 30,000 people. The only 2 people that survived were a prisoner and a cobbler. It majestically overlooks the area. 

We stopped at a small museum (one room) to look at pictures and artefacts from before the eruption as well as after. One of the first items we saw was a huge church bell that had been crushed during the eruption. 

As we walked around the town we were rewarded with picturesque ruins with vines growing around them with Mount Peleé ever present in the background. 

At first glance St. Pierre was not my favourite stop. Many shops were closed or abandoned. It had a feel of poverty. After some reflection I am reminded of the beauty and history.

Mount Peleé
view of Element from up on top of the hill
view of the main road
always a great shot while sitting on a cannon

Gavin, Jordan and Paige in the theatre

Mount Peleé in the backdrop
a cool old fountain
Mount Peleé from the theatre
a view up the steps to the fountain and just beyond the vine covered ruins
stone buildings make for great photos

the "rue de la prison"
I love the colours in this photo
After leaving Martinique we headed across to Dominica on our way up to Les Saintes. This was our longest sailing day and our bumpiest. Several of us were feeling green but, as soon as we were in the shadow of Dominica we had a reprieve. As we motored up the coast of Dominica and were passing Portsmouth, a motor boat came screaming out to see if we were looking for a mooring ball. We declined but the fellow introduced himself as Alexis and asked us to look him up upon our return. We did and it was one of our best decisions.

It was late in the day before we finally made it to Les Saints. We learned quickly that the mooring balls are highly sought after and are tricky to acquire. For that evening we had to anchor outside the mooring ball field. It was not our favourite spot but allowed us to have dinner and rest. The following day we weighed anchor to try and scoop a ball close to town. We weren't able to find an open ball so we headed back up to a small bay around a point. This proved to be an excellent decision because the snorkelling was the best we have seen to date. The parrot fish are huge and in large schools. As we don't have an underwater camera there are no photos. The area was teaming with sea life.

Terre de Haut is a quaint town with beach bars, tourist shops, boulangeries, and cafés. We were in need of dinghy fuel so we decided to rent a car. Shaun made two trips to the town. Each increasingly wetter and longer. Our dinghy wasn't running at full speed, one of the many to do list repairs. Most vehicles on the island are electric and so our rental "car" was a glorified golf cart. Also, there is only 1 fuel dock and it is only accessible by water or by foot. Always an adventure. We split the cost of the "car" rental with Bob and Brandy. While they had the car they took the opportunity to visit Fort Napoléon (éon_des_Saintes). They really enjoyed it. Our family caught up on internet and explored the small town. When they returned Shaun took us to this awesome bar called Lō Blue Hotel ( It proved to be a charming place to be with a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere. Had we had more time we would have explored more. However, we really wanted to take our friends to Dominica (this will be in my next post).

a close up of an iguana in a tree
Jordan took this picture of an iguana on the beach
Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element