6th February 2020
We’ve packed in a lot since our last post, and we’re well into the New Year. Time has been going so quickly, and now it feels like it’s sped up even more, as 2020 starts flying by. It’s hard to believe we left Ireland 7 months ago already.
After we left St Vincent, we made the short crossing to St Lucia, where our first stop was the very dramatic Pitons, in the south of the island. These two impressive mountains stand out on the horizon for miles around and we picked up a mooring ball right between the two for a night. The scenery was stunning and we discussed over our sun downers how they looked too steep to climb – we were soon to meet friends who proved otherwise!
Our next stop was Marigot Bay where we spent New Years eve. The price of our morning ball there included access to the nearby hotel pool and bar, where we spent many long hours enjoying the rum punch, and a non salty swim to cool off. New Years eve was a fun night, with plenty of rum and fireworks at midnight. In an effort to clear the heads, and in keeping with our normal tradition at home, we set off on New Years Day for a very hot hike up the nearby hill with friends from “Defiant” and “Belle”. What was labeled as an “intermediate” walk on the guide soon turned into an “Advanced” as we scaled the hillside with the help of ropes and ladders, but the views from the top were more than worth the effort! Keen to make the most of a great weather window, later that afternoon, we cast off the lines, and headed further north to our next stop in Rodney Bay, in the north of St Lucia.
In spite of some previously mixed reviews of St Lucia, Rodney Bay was a favourite of ours – we anchored near Pigeon Island, where we enjoyed some surprisingly excellent snorkelling, and explored the old Fort and view point with the “Defiant” crew. We really enjoyed our stops there, since Christmas, I’d been feeling bit homesick and not quite myself, but getting off the boat to explore, enjoying a few good hikes and hanging out with other cruisers really helped to get me back “on an even keel” – pun intended!
After a few days here, Martinique was our next island on the list, and we had one of the best sails so far on our crossing from Rodney Bay over to St Anne, in the south of Martinique. The French islands are really quite amazing, and we now know why the cruisers all look forward to them so much! We anchored up in the gorgeous St Annes, which has a brilliant purpose built dinghy dock, and the best boulangerie! Every morning we went ashore and indulged in fresh Pain au Chocolat or Croissants, and picked up a freshly baked baguette still warm from the oven to take back for lunch. St Anne felt like paradise – all the sun, beaches, sparkling water and palm trees of the Caribbean, with the added bonus of fresh pastries, cheese, and French wine!! This was also a place to really stock up the provisions on the boat – we could buy pretty much everything here, so we made sure to do a couple of really big shops in the proper supermarkets while we had the opportunity. There is also a Decathlon here, so we made sure to top up the stock of shorts and bikinis as well!
One of the big highlights from our time in Martinique was climbing Mount Pelée. This is the islands famous volcano, who’s devastating eruption in 1902 wiped out entire towns in the north of the island – more on that later! We hired a car with a bunch of other crazy cruisers, and set off from St Anne at 6am to drive north to Morne Rouge, where we’d begin our hike. Mount Pelée is nearly always covered in cloud, but we’d been told that our best chance of catching a view was early morning, so by 7:30am, we were all lacing up our runners and beginning our ascent. In hindsight, we picked a pretty bad day to climb, but that sort of added to the fun in the end! We trekked up in the rain and wind for about 3 hours, until we reached the “Caldera”, or crater at the top. From there, we looped around the edge of the Caldera to the far side, then climbed down into the bottom of it – it was really quite the adventure at this point. It was a very steep climb back out the other side (there were a few ladders involved), and a few ginger biscuits were needed to fuel up! It rained so hard that we never really did get to see the view, but we had a great time, and in spite of the sore legs the following day, it was a definite achievement! Thanks to all the gang from Saoirse, Adrenaline, Belle, Music and Bacchus for being such great company and sharing the fun!
After we left St Anne, we anchored in Anse D’Arlet, a really pretty little bay, with a small village, and great snorkelling. On our sail over, we caught a reasonably sized Barracuda, but not much else! While in Anse D’Arlet, we tried our hand at Lobster fishing, and had limited success – all credit to the Soairse guys, who managed to snare two, that we cooked up on the BBQ that evening, along with a tasty little Lion fish! Lion fish are taking over the reefs in the Caribbean, as they have no known predators, and can lay up to 2 MILLION eggs each year. So we were glad to do our bit and catch one for dinner (Thanks Saoirse!) Other highlights included a very scenic walk up and over Morne Champagne, into the next bay of Grande Anse, which was also really picturesque.
We spent a couple of days in Anse Noir, a cute little bay, with a black sand beach (hence the name), and loads and loads of turtles! They swam all around the boat, and we saw several of them hanging out in the sea grass while we snorkelled.
Soon it was time for us to head back to St Lucia, where we had flights booked to Miami for our next Melges 24 event. We spent a couple of days in Rodney Bay giving the boat a thorough wash and clean and making her look beautiful again after a couple of months of hard cruising! Before we flew, we tucked her safely into a berth in the Marina, and enjoyed a pizza in Elenas – best pizza in the Caribbean (so far!)
The airport in St Lucia is at the opposite end of the island to the marina, so we hopped in a taxi, for probably one of the most scenic taxi trips ever! We wiggled across the island, over huge hills and along beautiful sandy beaches – we could see why St Lucia is the honeymoon capital of the Caribbean. However while beautiful, there were defiantly a few questionable attitudes to health and safety, and our taxi driver tailgated a rather dubious looking truck up the very steep hill – we were a little relieved when he finally sped past him on a sharp corner and took off down the hill at breakneck speed. Having arrived at the airport in one piece, our flight arrived as scheduled (not always the case in the islands!) and we departed for Miami.
As always, we thoroughly enjoyed a few days of racing, catching up with friends, and all the luxuries of land life. Noteably, this was also the first time in several months to wear a pair of jeans, and a jumper – all very weird! Unfortunately, we also picked up a rather nasty cold, which made the flight back to St Lucia after the regatta a bit of a marathon, and we spent several days trying to shake it off when we got back.
We were keen to leave St Lucia fairly promptly, and push on north. The day after we arrived back, we set off back to Le Marin in Martinique to re-provision on all the fresh bits, do some laundry and a few other boat jobs, before heading on to St Pierre, in the north of the Island. St Pierre sits at the bottom of Mount Pelée, and was formerly known as the “Paris of the Caribbean”. It was once the thriving cultural and economic capital of Martinique, but the entire town was destroyed on the 8th May 1902 when Mount Pelée erupted. The town was re-built, and is now a really pretty little spot, with loads of history to explore. There are ruins of the old theatre, and the old prison, where one of the few survivors in St Pierre on the day of the eruption was found. He’d been locked in a cell awaiting trial, and the this prison walls protected him from the ash and lava. Another highlight here was the zoo, which has been developed among the ruins of the old plantation house, and is really stunning, with beautiful gardens.
We’ve absolutely loved our time in Martinique, and we certainly plan to stop here again on our way back south at the end of our season here. For now, we’re getting ready to move on further north.
Until next time….