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.
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.