Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for January, 2020

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Martinique (Part 2)

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Since setting sail from the U.K in 2016 I have had four Christmas Day’s away from home. The first was celebrated with my Atlantic crossing buddies in St Lucia, for 2017 I was in New Zealand, 2018 with my Indian Ocean sailor family in South Africa and now for 2019 with this salty gang in Martinique. Each one has been memorable and i’ve been lucky to have had such a nice variety.

On Christmas eve I took Fathom from the anchorage at Le Marin to St Anne’s, just around the corner, and anchored alongside Dustin on ‘Tiama’, Jeff and Cheri on ‘Grasshopper’ and Miki and Karl on ‘Fai Tira’. We had a nice afternoon on the beach drinking rum punches before ending up on Tiama for a bit of party. Christmas Day lunch was spent on ‘Grasshopper’ and we all cooked a dish and brought it along for a festive feast. We were joined by Liz, an old friend of Dustin’s from Hawaii, who had flown in for a few weeks holiday. Dustin then decided a second female crewmember would be a good idea so Alice, a French couchsurfer, joined ship. Alice had an interesting sounding tin pan instrument with her which inspired the rest of us into an impromptu jam session, me on guitar, Karl on his 3 string twanger and everyone else drumming along and singing made up lyrics. We thought we sounded great anyway.

 

Over the next week we sailed up the coast of Martinique as a flotilla but sadly had to bid farewell to Jeff and Cheri who were heading off to Colombia. It was great to buddy boat with the others and we always made a race of it between anchorages. Fathom, the smallest ship as always, just about managing to keep up. We made a stop at Anse Noire, a pretty but crowded bay and enjoyed some good snorkelling off the headland. Then past Fort de France where we anchored off ‘Dog Beach’, named after we encountered several playful dogs when taking a stroll that evening. More great snorkelling and Miki cooked us all dinner.

On the afternoon of the 30th we had reached Saint Pierre, a charming and pretty little town on the NW of Martinique which is overlooked by the domineering Mount Pelee. The volcano erupted in 1902, destroying the town and killing 30,000 people in the space of a few minutes. The only survivor was a prisoner who was locked up in a small dungeon like jail cell and somehow managed to escape with only a few burns. Imagine his reaction when he realised everyone else was dead. The anchorage at Saint Pierre is very narrow and there is not much space to drop the hook before the depth shelves deeply to 20m+. With plenty of other yachts around it was a battle to find a suitable spot but we all squeezed in eventually. One catamaran had dropped their anchor too close to the edge of the shelf and we watched after dark that evening as it dragged out to sea in the strong wind. It took a good half an hour before the frantic sweep of torch lights on the bow indicated the Owners had realised they were no longer located off the beach but a mile or so out to sea! No harm done and they got back in safely.

 

On the 31st an American couple in the anchorage offered to host us all onboard their boat for an early evening dinner party and we were joined by Finns – Anna, Tuamos and Sirkka, old friends of Liz. It was a fun night and later we ended up seeing in the New Near on Tiama while drinking Dustin’s pirate strength rum punches. As you are probably realising from reading this, the rum always flows in the Caribbean. I can confidently report that we all started 2020 nursing sore heads but quickly rallied and were back on Tiama that afternoon for some card games and sundowners on deck to watch the first sunset of the New Year. We thought it would be a good idea to raid Dustin’s fancy dress collection as you can see from the photo.

We stayed a few more days and one morning Liz, Alice, Karl and I decided to hike up to the summit of the volcano. To reach the start of the trail we chose to save some energy and hitchike rather than walk for three hours to get there. As we started walking up the trail thick cloud closed in reducing visibility before we got soaked in torrential rain. Thankfully as we approached the rim of the crater the clouds cleared allowing us a fantastic panoramic view across Martinique and down over Saint Pierre to our boats, tiny dots in the distance. The hike had been well worth it and also provided some much needed exercise.

 

The days ticked by and I was keen to get back to Le Marin to reprovision and give my liver a rest. Dustin and Liz planned to sail up to Dominica for a week so I offered to give Alice a lift back south towards the airport so she could catch her flight to Guadeloupe. It was another race along the coast, this time a head to head between Fathom and Fai Tira, a clear win for Fathom this time! Once back at Le Marin, Alice caught her flight out and I enjoyed some lazy days writing and catching up on boat jobs before picking up a bug that had been doing the rounds and feeling pretty rough for a while. It was great to have Miki and Karl closeby and to see Max and Tania again for a few days when they sailed ‘Alalila’ up from Bequia.

I still didn’t have a plan in place for the next months, the option of sailing towards Cuba and the Bahamas before an Atlantic crossing in May was an exciting thought but the route would be a challenging undertaking sailing solo. Another consideration was my cruising funds which were getting dangerously low and going that way wouldn’t be cheap. In any case there were more islands to explore nearby so no rush to make a decision. I was rather enjoying the lazy day sailing anyway.

Posted on 25 Jan in: Caribbean

Saint Lucia & Martinique (Part 1)

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December 2019: With gale force reinforced tradewinds on the way imminently there was just time to sail up to Saint Lucia but it was still a feisty windward bash, particularly in the acceleration zones at the north of Saint Vincent and the southern tip of Saint Lucia. As ever, Fathom was sure footed and just about managed to keep up with Dustin on Tiama despite being 8 feet shorter. Grasshopper joined the convoy an hour later. The approach to Saint Lucia is always spectacular with the Pitons providing a dramatic backdrop, Gros Piton rises 798m out of the ocean while Petit Piton is 753m. It wasn’t possible to anchor but there were moorings available for approx 20 US dollars a night. It was a relief to be in a sheltered bay and out of the strong wind. A nice evening followed as Cheri and Jeff invited Dustin and I over for a spag bol dinner and one or two rum punches.

approach to Saint Lucia and the Pitons

The next morning all three boats departed for the anchorage at Rodney Bay, about 20 miles up the coast. It turned out to be a motor sail as even though we were in the lee of the island, 35kt katabatic gusts barreled down from the mountains followed by several minutes of calms making it frustrating to come up with a suitable sail plan. Once anchored at Rodney Bay, the same spot I had anchored Fathom in for Christmas 2016, we all went ashore to clear in with customs and immigration. After Saint Vincent and the Grenadines it was a bit of a shock to the system to see a modern boardwalk with plenty of bars and restaurants. The local Piton beer was a nice change too. It was good to catch up with Anthony Davies from the Royal Solent Yacht Club and get up to speed with all the gossip I had missed from home over the last four years….a surprising amount!

Rodney Bay was the furthest point I had ventured north in the Caribbean before so I was keen to keep on moving and discover some new islands. After a few days in Saint Lucia all three boats set off in convoy again. There was always a competition to see who would be first to leave in the morning. This time I won and the look on Dustin’s face as I motored past him still at anchor at 06:00 while he hadn’t even taken his sail cover off or finished his coffee was priceless. The lead didn’t last long though and it was yet another windward bash, this time probably the roughest so far with gusts up to 28 knots and horrible short period slab sided waves. I tucked 3 reefs into the mainsail with a heavily rolled foresail but it wasn’t pleasant. These strong tradewinds are normally referred to as the Christmas winds but had set in a few weeks early this year.

 

Martinique is pretty much like being in France with the EURO currency and lots of French speaking white people. The best part about being on the island is definitely the supermarkets, the selection in Carrefour and Leader Price a real eye opener and genuinely quite exciting. Oh to have freshly baked baguettes each morning and a fridge full of brie and camembert. The lagoon at Le Marin on the southern tip of the island is where we all anchored and it must contain the largest collection of yachts in the Caribbean, a real yacht city. The chandleries are first class and even the self service laundries are ultra modern.

There is never a dull moment hanging around with Dustin and sure enough one morning even a trip to the laundry provided some entertainment. He had offered to pick me up in his dinghy but turned up a little bit late and uncharacteristically pissed off. It turned out that he had put his large bag of laundry on the deck while launching his dinghy from the davits but out of nowhere the wash from a large superyacht had rolled his boat from side to side and his laundry bag had fallen overboard and started sinking. At lightning speed Dustin dumped the dinghy in the water and somehow with his one arm managed to pull the now waterlogged and extremely heavy bag of clothes into the dinghy. In the process lucky to only lose his best pair of shorts and save the rest of his wardrobe and all his bedding from disappearing forever into the murkey water. After we had tied up at the dinghy dock the two of us couldn’t even carry his laundry bag two paces between us as it was soo heavy, so I commandeered a shopping trolley and we proceeded to the laundry, the sodden bag sprinkling water as we went. The sight of Dustin loading his salt sodden clothes into the washer from a shopping trolley in the middle of the laundry room provided some entertainment for the other laundry goers.

While anchored at Le Marin I got in touch with Miki and Karl, a great couple I had first met in Grenada last year and who sail a Nicholson 32 ‘Fai Tara’. They are fun company and suggested I moved and anchored next to them at the other side of the bay. What followed was a fun evening catching up and playing music, me on guitar, Karl playing his homemade 3 string version and Miki providing the percussion. It was a reminder that I had really missed playing music and jamming in a group, and we all agreed we should do it more often. For the last few weeks I had been assuming it would be a very quiet Christmas this year and I had no plans in place, but with Dustin on Tiama, Jeff and Cheri on Grasshopper and now Miki and Karl we had a nice gang and it promised to be a good one. Another example of things just working out.

Posted on 11 Jan in: Caribbean

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