Jungle Fever in Bequia

On Saturday, we released our moorings in Anse D’Arlet, Martinique for an overnight sail to the island of Bequia in the Grenadines.This meant we would pass right by St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Although we’d love to spend some time on both, we avoided them (especially St. Lucia) because of the frequent crime against cruisers in the area and the hassle from some of the people. The Grenadines have also seen their share of recent crime, including a couple of violent incidents. We planned to avoid certain islands in that group because of this. It is unfortunate that this is the case. Cruisers miss out on beautiful cruising areas, and the local economy takes a hit because we avoid the area.

For the first time in a long time, we were able to kill the engines and sail. And, sail we did! The seas were about 4 feet and just aft of the port beam. Winds were about 15 knots and we were averaging around 6 knots of speed over ground. It was about six o’clock when we were visited by a pod of extremely playful and acrobatic dolphins. Several were leaping from the water in unison and doing flips in the waves. My enjoyment of their aquatic antics was short-lived, however. Just after their departure, we were hit with the most intense squall we’ve experienced under sail. Fortunately, we already had a reef in the mainsail. My wind indicator isn’t working so I don’t know exactly how strong the gusts were, but I’m certain they were at least in the 30-35 knot range. The gusts hit and my boat speed accelerated to almost 10 knots. We quickly put a reef in the genoa and turned down wind a little bit until the squall passed. Once the leading edge of the squall passed, the rain continued, but the wind subsided and we could relax a little. A second squall hit about an hour later, but it lacked the intensity of its predecessor.

Of all the acrobatic dolphin moves, this is the best photo I"ve got.

Of all the acrobatic dolphin moves, this is the best photo I”ve got.

After the worst of the squall has passed

After the worst of the squall has passed

The overnight portion of the trip went about as well as could be expected. We continued to sail along at between 6 and 7 knots except for the times when we were in the lee of St. Lucia and St. Vincent. In those areas, the winds would get fluky and light, so we’d fire up the port engine for two or three hours to sustain our progress. As soon as we were out of the lee, we’d shut off the engine and enjoy a fine sail. There were, thankfully, no other incidents en route. About 6:30 in the morning we pulled into Admiralty Bay, a huge, well-protected bay with Bequia’s only town, Port Elizabeth, at its head. We dropped anchor in about 20 feet of beautiful, clear water, made sure it was firmly set, and then slept until noon.

The anchorage in Admiralty Bay (notice the lack of greenery on many of the trees).  Nearing the end of dry season here in the Grenadines.  There are no large mountains like on other islands to create clouds and rain.

The anchorage in Admiralty Bay (notice the lack of greenery on many of the trees). Nearing the end of dry season here in the Grenadines. There are no large mountains like on other islands to create clouds and rain.

We're anchored by Princess Margaret Beach (seen here) in Admiralty Bay.

We’re anchored by Princess Margaret Beach (seen here) in Admiralty Bay.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines together make up one country. St. Vincent lies south of St. Lucia, and the Grenadines are small islands which extend southward from there. Bequia is the largest of the Grenadines, and one with an active whaling station. Local whalers can take four whales a year from February to April, the time when humpback whales leave their northern feeding grounds and head south to mate and bear young.

A game of sidewalk cricket in Port Elizabeth

A game of sidewalk cricket in Port Elizabeth

We were tired and I was ill upon arrival to Bequia. You may recall my “very advanced” hike from Hades which totally wiped me out a few days ago in Dominica. At first, I thought that my symptoms were a result of overdoing it. But, then, the day after the hike I started to develop a splotchy red rash on my upper legs, buttocks, and axilla which then spread to the rest of my trunk, arms and legs. I have been extremely fatigued and weak. With minimal exertion, I get lightheaded and, at times, must sit down. I’ve not had a significant fever, though it’s possible I’ve had a low-grade one. I’ve had no headache, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. All in all, after several days of this, I think I’ve contracted some jungle virus. Dengue? Chikungunya? Zika? Some yet to be discovered virus? Who knows? Certainly not me!

Beautiful Water in our Anchorage.

Beautiful Water in our Anchorage.

Anyway, we’ve not done much in Bequia, except to rest and relax. On the afternoon of our arrival, we went into Port Elizabeth to clear in to the country and then had pizza at Mac’s (Not bad!). On day 2, we went into town in the morning to visit the post office and then spent the rest of the day on board. I really haven’t felt well enough to do anything else. The water is so inviting, but I’ve not event felt like jumping into the water off the stern of our vessel. At least, Admiralty Bay is quite beautiful and a picturesque setting in which to convalesce from a viral illness. And… at least we’ve had very good wifi on the boat when I’ve not been able to do much else.

The waterfront Anglican Church in Bequia

The waterfront Anglican Church in Bequia

Port Elizabeth Anglican Church Interior

Port Elizabeth Anglican Church Interior

Walking along the waterfront to Mac's Pizza

Walking along the waterfront to Mac’s Pizza

The aptly named Gingerbread Hotel

The aptly named Gingerbread Hotel

View from our table at Mac's Pizza

View from our table at Mac’s Pizza

Belly full of pizza.

Belly full of pizza.

Sunset Bequia Style.

Sunset Bequia Style.

Today, my symptoms have further progressed. Now I have swelling and pain to my joints, especially my fingers. What next? We decided perhaps it might be time to get to a place where I could get some medical attention if needed. So, around 3 p.m., we took Dalí into Port Elizabeth to clear out of the country and have our last meal in the Grenadines at the Tradewinds Yacht Club. Early tomorrow morning, we’ll weigh anchor and cover the last 65 miles or so of our intended journey on this leg of our travels. Tomorrow night, we’ll be tied to the docks at Port Louis Marina in Grenada. In addition to the medical reasons for leaving tomorrow, our insurance demands that we be south of 12°40′ by June 1st, the beginning of Hurricane Season. Being in Grenada will accomplish just that.

This little guy (Henry Morgan) watched us eat lunch at the Tradewinds Yacht Club

This little guy (Henry Morgan) watched us eat lunch at the Tradewinds Yacht Club

BBQ Pulled Pork at the Yacht Club

BBQ Pulled Pork at the Yacht Club

Relaxing on the bow enjoying the evening breeze

Relaxing on the bow enjoying the evening breeze

Martinique

I awoke Thursday morning, yet still feeling as if I had been run over by a locomotive. But we all felt well enough to set sail to the next island in the Lesser Antilles, Martinique. We released the mooring and got underway around 6:15 a.m. The winds were in the 10-13 knot range, so the sea conditions were slightly more benign. We motorsailed south-southeasterly for 48.3 nautical miles and pulled into the anchorage which is just out in front of the town of Fort de France, the largest city in the Windward Islands. At 2:30 p.m., we found a small spot to drop our hook in 11 feet of water in between the many other sailing vessels in the already-crowded anchorage. Not long after anchoring, we dinghied into the very nice dinghy dock to walk over to customs and clear in (you can usually tell something about how welcoming a place is to cruisers by the condition and size of their dinghy dock). As in the other French islands that we’ve visited — St. Barts and Guadeloupe — clearing in was as simple as typing in our information in a computer. In none of these three islands did they actually ask to see our passports or boat documentation. Trusting souls! After clearing in, we did a little souvenir shopping along the waterfront before sitting down for dinner and using the wifi at McDonalds! Yes, there was one right on the waterfront! Neither of us were feeling especially well that evening, so we retired early. Unfortunately, a mosquito or two decided to have me for a midnight snack. I was itching so badly I had to take two Benadryl, which either stopped the itching or knocked me out.

Releasing the mooring lines in Roseau, Dominica

Releasing the mooring lines in Roseau, Dominica

Cindy piloting us out of the Roseau anchorage

Cindy piloting us out of the Roseau anchorage

One last rainbow, leaving Dominica

One last rainbow, leaving Dominica

One of Martinique’s most famous claims to fame is as the childhood home of the Empress Josephine (Napoleon’s first wife), who was born and grew up on a 200-acre, 150-slave estate not far from Fort de France. It is also famous, or infamous, for the 1902, Ascension Day tragedy when 30,000 people were burned to death in the northwestern village of St. Pierre. The entire town was destroyed as Mt. Pelée, a 4800’ tall volcano in the northern portion of the island, released a giant fireball of superheated gas that flowed down over the city, releasing more energy than an atomic bomb. Two people out of the 30,000 inhabitants survived, a cobbler and the famous Cyparis, a murderer imprisoned in a stone cell. We would have loved to stop in St. Pierre, but time was running out for us and we had to continue our progress southward.

Mount Pelée and St. Pierre on the northwestern coast of Martinique

Mount Pelée and St. Pierre on the northwestern coast of Martinique

On Friday, we cleared customs, did more souvenir shopping and enjoyed the bigger city atmosphere of Fort de France (Quite the contrast with the rugged nature of Dominica). We found a very nice supermarket called Carrefour which is situated in a nice modern mall. No Diet Pepsi, but at least they had Diet Coke (or Coca-cola Light, as it is known in the islands). We stocked up on that and few other items and continued shopping our way back to Beatitude. We had pulled our wagon behind us all day in anticipation of striking the mother lode of soda at Carrefour, which was about a half-mile away. It was full on the return trip.

On the excellent dinghy dock in Fort de France, Martinique

On the excellent dinghy dock in Fort de France, Martinique

The Rue De La République

The Rue De La République

A morning market on the Rue Isambert

A morning market on the Rue Isambert

The magnificent interior of St. Louis Cathedral, downtown Fort De France

The magnificent interior of St. Louis Cathedral, downtown Fort De France

Our trusty wagon that we've had since before we started cruising.  Great for hauling provisions to the boat.

Our trusty wagon that we’ve had since before we started cruising. Great for hauling provisions to the boat.

Beatitude at Anchor at Fort De France

Beatitude at Anchor at Fort De France

We decided to weigh anchor and make our way to the DCML fuel dock and fill up our diesel tanks. We likely had enough fuel for about 100 miles of motoring. They wouldn’t answer the VHF, so we shouted from the bow that we wanted fuel. Of course, they spoke little English, so it was somewhat of a challenge to figure out where they wanted us to go and to get them to help with the lines. Somehow, it all worked out fine, and we were soon motoring off to our new anchorage a few miles away. We made our way another seven or eight miles southward to a beautiful little anchorage off the town of Petite Anse D’Arlet which has a few lovely old houses and a picturesque church right in the middle of town. We arrived just before sunset and settled in for a rather rolly night at anchor.

Leaving our anchorage at Fort De France

Leaving our anchorage at Fort De France

Time to refuel!  Ouch!

Time to refuel! Ouch!

Approaching the picturesque Petite Anse D'Arlet, Martinique

Approaching the picturesque Petite Anse D’Arlet, Martinique

Beatitude moored at Petite Anse D'Arlet

Beatitude moored at Petite Anse D’Arlet

On Saturday morning, we did a few boat chores before heading into town for lunch at Le Littoral, a Creole restaurant overlooking the bay. From our table, we watched the local children compete in kayak relay races just below us. We were dodging intermittent showers all morning. We were hoping to find some wifi, but were unsuccessful, so we soon returned to our yacht.

Dalí ride into town.

Dalí ride into town.

Le Littoral

Le Littoral

Our Lunchtime view from Le Littoral.  Beatitude visible from our table.

Our Lunchtime view from Le Littoral. Beatitude visible from our table.

It's what's for lunch!

It’s what’s for lunch!

The local youth enjoying a day out on the water.

The local youth enjoying a day out on the water.

The beautiful promenade along the waterfront in Petite Anse D'Arlet

The beautiful promenade along the waterfront in Petite Anse D’Arlet

The Church which stands front and center on the town's waterfront.  The front doors open directly out onto the pier.

The Church which stands front and center on the town’s waterfront. The front doors open directly out onto the pier.

Around 1:30 in the afternoon, we released our moorings for an overnight sail to the island of Bequia, an isle in the Grenadines. More on that… next time.

Beatitude on her mooring at Petite Anse D'Arlet

Beatitude on her mooring at Petite Anse D’Arlet

The Boiling Lake

On Wednesday, I undertook the most arduous, asinine, amazing adventure I’ve ever attempted (except for, of course, this whole sailing and cruising thing). I signed up for a hike to Dominica’s boiling lake, the second largest in the world (the largest is in New Zealand, but not as dramatic according to one of the hikers today who has seen both now). It is a boiling cauldron of water approximately 250 feet across which is heated by a continuous flux of steam or gas generated by underlying magma which drives water up into the lake.

Part of the hike to the boiling lake

Part of the hike to the boiling lake

Sea Cat on a kindler, gentler (if there is such a thing) part of the hike

Sea Cat on a kindler, gentler (if there is such a thing) part of the hike

Cindy is painting aboard Beatitude while I am near death.

Cindy is painting aboard Beatitude while I am near death.

A look back  (we started at the green and red roofed buildings)  This is not halfway.

A look back (we started at the green and red roofed buildings) This is not halfway.

Sounds cool, huh? And it was. Even the hike was cool — except for its difficulty. It is an 8-mile hike through the jungle climbing up mountains and descending into valleys until you arrive at the longed-for lake. One of my fellow-hikers told me she looked up hikes on Dominica which were rated in difficulty on the following scale: Easy, Medium, Difficult, Advanced, and Very Advanced. This hike was, of course, very advanced! My nearly 6-decade old body did not appreciate what I put it through. As I sit here writing this on Wednesday evening, I am chilled and shivering and I can hardly move secondary to stiffness and joint pain. Thankfully, my thoughtful wife had cooked some of her delicious spaghetti and had it ready and waiting when I arrived back aboard.

It was about the 1.5 mile mark on the way to the lake that I realized I was in trouble. My legs and arms were already shaky and I felt a sense of doom. This feeling of impending death continued for the next 2.5 miles as we continued from Titou Gorge to Breakfast River, where we stopped for some fresh water. We then continued up Morne Nicholls which has an altitude of 3,168 feet. From there we completed a dangerous descent into the Valley of Desolation (aptly named), hiking past sulfur springs and hot pools. Finally, we ascended another mountain until reaching a peak overlooking the boiling lake. There, we had a brief lunch that Sea Cat, our guide, had carried up in his backpack. Unfortunately, the only way out was four more miles of grueling, and at times treacherous, climbing and hiking back to Titou Gorge. I would never have done it if I had known how difficult the hike was, and I’ll never do it again… but I’m glad that I did it this one time.

Some of my fellow travelers making their way up the mountain behind me

Some of my fellow travelers making their way up the mountain behind me

There was some vertical rock climbing involved

There was some vertical rock climbing involved

This is the path upwards.

This is the path upwards.

The hiking party at the summit of the highest point (over 3000' feet)

The hiking party at the summit of the highest point (over 3000′ feet)

At the summit

At the summit

IMG_8395

Yea, though I walk through the valley of desolation...

Yea, though I walk through the valley of desolation…

In The Valley of Desolation with sulfuric gas choking me

In The Valley of Desolation with sulfuric gas choking me

Kenny, our second guide, with a mineral facial in the valley

Kenny, our second guide, with a mineral facial in the valley

My boiled egg, boiled in the hot springs in the valley

My boiled egg, boiled in the hot springs in the valley

A black-colored stream.  Not sure what made this one black.  Most of the water in the Valley of Desolation was a grey color.

A black-colored stream. Not sure what made this one black. Most of the water in the Valley of Desolation was a grey color.

Pressing on, though I lost a shoe over the side of a 15-ft embankment

Pressing on, though I lost a shoe over the side of a 15-ft embankment

Sea-Cat rescues my shoe

Sea-Cat rescues my shoe

Standing on the edge of the cliff by the Boiling Lake.

Standing on the edge of the cliff by the Boiling Lake.

The boiling lake at last!

The boiling lake at last!

Boiling Lake

Boiling Lake

When Christopher Columbus was trying to describe the topography of Dominica to the Queen and King upon his return to Europe, he was unable to do so except by crumpling up a piece of paper into a ball and showing it to them said it looks like this. I can verify Columbus’ account as being completely accurate, for I have hiked the steep mountains and valleys myself.

Beautiful sunset to cap off a crazy day.

Beautiful sunset to cap off a crazy day.

I don't feel so well. :)

I don’t feel so well. 🙂

Good night, Dominica!

Good night, Dominica!