Wild Horses has made some miles over the past week. We left Le Marin on the south coast of Martinique and moved along to Fort de France, a big and bustling city at the south end of the Baie de la fort de France, Martinique. We had seen only a small fraction of this great town when we were here last Spring. Indeed, way back in late June, we stayed only one night, having decided to make the leap from there to Grenada in one big 24-hour trip in order to get out of the path of Tropical Storm Bret.
We were thrilled to be spending several days in this anchorage. The city is very walkable, with historic sites, well-stocked markets, delicious paninis, baguettes, cheeses and lots of people and activities. It was also decked out for the holidays which was wonderful to see. With our daytime temperature still reaching 29 degrees most days, it can be hard to remember that we are actually in December and just a few short weeks from Christmas. Hearing some Christmas tunes in stores and the sparkle of Christmas lights out in the street and at the harbour front was just what the doctor ordered. We thoroughly enjoyed this harbour town but we needed to keep moving. We are hoping to be in St. Martin, at the top of the Eastern Caribbean island chain, for Christmas and New Year’s.
We left Fort de France on December 2 and sailed north along the coast to our final anchorage in Martinique, the town of St.Pierre. We were looking forward to spending a few days here exploring the ruins from the 1902 volcano eruption that destroyed much of the town. Unfortunately, our plans were waylaid by cruise ships. The one town dock was off limits for landing dinghies while the cruise ship was in town so we were left to beach our dinghy in order to access the town. Although it sounds like an okay option, the surf was up for most of our time in St. Pierre so that meant the dinghy got pounded as we tried to land it. We also had to carry the dinghy up to higher ground to get it safely away from the surf. This is no small feat as our dinghy and motor weigh close to 160 pounds. My back aches just thinking about it! The worst of it, though, is that there was no where to lock the dinghy on the beach. Theft isn’t rampant in Martinique but we also didn’t want to make ourselves an easy target. That meant that we could only do quick trips in town so that the dinghy wasn’t sitting unattended for a long time. Sigh. There would be no big tours of the ruins this time around.
On Monday, December 4, we weighed anchor and sailed away from Martinique. This was a sporty sail to Dominica! We had full sails out in almost 30 knots of wind, which had us moving very fast. Our trip to Dominica was expected to take us just under 7 hours. We made it there in 5 hours. We were flying!
We were happy to arrive at the anchorage but we knew it would be a short visit. Last Spring, we had spent several days in Dominica and got to explore a bit of the southeastern town of Roseau and the northeastern town of Portsmouth. This time, we decided to only stay one night total, choosing the southern anchorage near Roseau. The first of the strong Christmas winds were forecasted to start blowing in a few days and they looked like they would stay strong for a good week. We, along with our boat buddies Caretta and Rode Trip, decided to try to get to Les Saintes, Guadeloupe ahead of the strong weather. In Les Saintes, we could hike, shop, dine and explore, all within easy walking distance of the dinghy dock.
At 0615 on Tuesday December 5th, Caretta and Rode Trip weighed anchor and started their 37 nautical mile journey to Guadeloupe. An hour later, Wild Horses also left the anchorage (we had to take Ocean into shore first). The first half of the trip had us motoring along the east coast of Dominica. The wind was down, just 5 knots, and its direction changed often due to the land effects. We would have preferred to sail but it was impossible with these conditions. But that all changed as we neared the top of Dominica. We got a call on the VHF from Rode Trip, warning us that the wind was up in the gap between the islands, reaching 35 knots at times. Some minor squall activity had also been forecasted and we were definitely seeing it start to form. Armed with this information, we decided to start sailing with reefed sails, letting only 70% of the sails out. We were glad we did! It was a wild three hour ride with the strong wind whipping up the seas from 6 to 8 feet, broadside to Wild Horses, and a few small squalls dousing us with rain. We rode up and down the waves, getting our decks soaked from ocean waves while the rain continued to pelt us. All was under control but it wasn’t entirely comfortable.
Seeing the islands of Les Saintes grow bigger before us as we got closer and closer to them, was a relief. Another call on the VHF had us learn that Caretta had made it safely into the anchorage. Shortly thereafter, Rode Trip also confirmed they were also okay and in the anchorage. Just then, another squall ran over us, making the islands invisible. It was very unsettling to be about to make our entrance into the group of islands and then to have them disappear just minutes later. Thank goodness for electronic navigation! Our chart plotter made it easy to stay on course so we continued on our way, with fingers crossed that things would improve before we got to the crab pot littered entrance way of Les Saintes. Thankfully, luck was with us. The rain slowed and our visibility improved, just in time. We dropped our sails and worked our way through the islands. We had made it. We were tired and ready for a beer, as were our boat buddies. As soon as we finished our clearance process, we found a great cafe and all seven of us (including Ocean!) said cheers to the challenge and success of the day. We were proud, tired, and happy. All crew and all boats had weathered the wind and storms of the day and come out without a scratch. Well, not quite, the crews were sporting a few boat bruises to mark the experience!
We are looking forward to exploring this beautiful French town and maybe resting on our laurels a little bit. I think we have earned it 😊.
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.