Martinique and Dominica

14th March
Since going back to St Lucia, the winds had continued to get lighter, and when it was time to go back to Martinique there wasn't enough ! Twice I had to turn on the motor for an hour or so. This was a very new experience....................... we've used the motor so little. In fact I haven't taken on fuel since the Cape Verdes. Back on Martinique we stopped in the Petit Anse d'Arlet, next door to the Grande Anse where we'd stopped before. Different bay, different village, but still lots of turtles, and in the evening we went ashore for some jazz we'd seen advertised, in one of the cafes on the beach. We stayed on the next day getting some laundry done and found a little dive shop to fill up my diving tank.

16th March. We were running low on water and so we popped around the corner and tied up to the jetty in the Grande Anse. We'd heard that water was available here from the cafe at the head of the jetty. What we hadn't heard was that you could be waiting a very long time if the cafe is busy. It was Sunday lunchtime, and after two and a half hours we gave up and headed on northwards to Anse Mitan, a fairly unremarkable anchorage in the bay 3 miles across from Fort de France where we'd get water the next day.

17th. March. Filled the water tanks for 8 euros which was quite cheap and then went into town to get a few things, including a replacement set of oilskins for me for the return crossing. Spent the night in the anchorage off the town again before setting off up the coast to St Pierre. St Pierre is an interesting town behind which are the beautiful green hills of Mount Pelee. This is where the best growing ground is to be found and hence the most profitable plantations which is why it was the main french town on the island, despite the anchorage not being as well protected as the large deep bay of Fort de France. It is one of the few places we've seen still growing sugar cane, although there must be some on all the islands as they all have there own rum ! We visited the museum and saw pictures of the sophisticated town at the turn of the twentieth century just before it was totally destroyed with the loss of 30,000 lives in the volcanic eruption of 1902. It's only a village now, with a much smaller population. We'd have liked to get inland and hike a bit around there, but decided instead to do this on Dominica which has apparently far more virgin rainforest than the other islands. Also Noley was feeling a little stiff, with a little joint pain and didn't feel like walking much.

19th March. We left the anchorage around 8 in the morning for the passage to Dominica. The wind seemed to have returned, and so we were back to one reef in the main with the No1 jib and stays'l, although you never know quite what you'll get until you come out from behind the island. The sun was shining and we had an hour and a half or so, sailing in the lee of the island, of flukey winds. We were followed out of the anchorage by a couple of french boats, modern bermudan sloops of 42 and 45 feet who were creeping up behind. As we approached the end of the island the wind swung round until it was on the nose, as it so often is around the north of these islands, and we all used our motors for half an hour to clear this patch before finding a good F5 from slightly ahead of the beam. Holly Mae heeled over and and powered through the swell which wasn't large, but nevertheless sent some heavy spray the length of the deck.
It always makes life more interesting to sail in company and we had one boat ahead and another behind. Using the self steering we were maintaining a steady 6 to 7 knots and were holding our own with these bigger boats for quite a time but eventually, after a couple of hours, they were both ahead of us, although we hung on and tried not to let the gap get too big. Noley was still feeling bad, aching all over and very tired, and I thought she had a rash, although she disputed this.......................... anyway she went down below for a rest. She tucked herself into the port settee berth where she wouldn't be thrown out and went to sleep. The Monitor self steering really came in to its own then. I was able to leave the helm to tweak the sheets, make a sandwich or just have a break.

For the first half of a passage we always sail to windward of our direct course to offset any current and to allow for any possible unfavourable wind shifts later. If things go well and the wind remains from the same direction, then we ease the sheets, bear away, which usually gives us an extra bit of speed. This is what happened and for the second half of the race, sorry I mean passage, slowly but surely, inch by inch, the gap started to close. At that stage they were probably half a mile ahead and both to leeward of our course. It took an hour to pass the smaller of the two and another 45 mins and some sail tweaking to catch the larger. We sailed along side by side for half an hour only a couple of hundred yards apart as we approached Dominica. A few times a larger swell threw him off his course when Holly Mae's long keel kept a steady course, and we were creeping ahead. By the time we passed Scotts Head at the southern end of Dominica we managed to stretch this out to a quarter of a mile, and held this for another hour until we approached the anchorage at Roseau, the capital of Dominica. A very satifying sail !

We were wary of the boat boy who approached us until he told us his name was Pancho, one of the recommended ones from our pilot book. And he turned out to be honest and helpful as we took one of his moorings. He was offering us tours of the island and hikes, which we were keen on, but decided to leave it 'til the next day to see how Noley was feeling.

20th March. Noley woke up feeling bad still. I said, she had a fever. She said, no she hadn't, but agreed to see a doctor. As we were about a mile south of the town, I rowed Cub there, to save the walk, and when we tied up to the dock I asked a man where we could find a doctor. He walked us up the street a hundred yards, and knocked on a door. From outside, the house was modest, to say the least and when the door opened we were greeted by a kindly old man, scruffily dressed and in carpet slippers. The door opened into his living room/ kitchen and the TV was on. He welcomed us in and sat us down and Noley told him her symptoms. He took her pulse and blood pressure and diagnosed the cause as probably stress or acclimatisation. We thanked him, paid $10 EC (£2.50) and went off in search of a second opinion. The tourist information directed us to Medical centre, where the doctor fairly quickly diagnosed a case of Chikungunya, a mosquito born virus which produces a fairly unpleasant acute period of 5 to 7 days followed by a long recovery which may be months ! There's no treatment, but the symptoms can be relieved by paracetamol. Poor old Noley !
We've now bought one of those electronic insect exterminators that looks like a tennis racquet.................... just like the mad immigration officer on Carriacou !

21st March. So our plans of hiking on Dominica were not to be realised. With Noley needing plenty of rest over the next few days we decided to keep heading north as we were planning to meet friends, James and Kimara, in Guadeloupe on 24th.
We hoisted the mains'l and sailed off the mooring to cover the 20 or so miles up the lee side of Dominica to Portsmouth. Maybe it was just because of our frustrated desires to see the inland, but it did look a particularly beautiful island. But in fact all the islands are beautiful. They each have their own special charms and it's hard to pick a favourite, though strangely we're both agreed that Martinique was our least favourite. Maybe that's a bit unfair..........................our experience of each island is fairly limited.
Portsmouth is at the north of Dominica in Prince Rupert Bay. We arrived half an hour before sunset and had a quick swim. Never let it be said that a mere case of Chikungunya will keep Noley out of the sea.
There is a river here going up through the mangroves, which I had been looking forward to rowing up, but mangroves are full of mosquitoes, and mosquitoes are not our favourite insects at the moment so we just kept on going. We hoisted sail at 8 the next morning and sailed off the anchor.............destination Guadeloupe.