January 29th we sailed from Dominica to to Grande Anse D’Arlet, on the island of Martinique. A steady 15-20 knots and widely spaced, six-foot seas made for an easy, 50-mile jaunt. We found Grand Anse too touristy for our taste, so the next morning we sailed to Marin, a bustling town of boat yards and marinas with a large bay full of sailboats at anchor. No Hinckleys or Island Packets, here: instead, a large fleet of French-designed, aluminum cruisers made Strider feel right at home! Owen and Megan enjoyed the perks of French civilization, especially the warm baguettes and tasty cheese. Colin hit the chandleries for some European boat parts. Blaire found a stylish French tank top. We all visited the Leader Price supermarche. It’s fun to shop in French grocery stores, because just about everything is better, from the meat and produce to the prepared foods. And while the red meat is more expensive than in the states, everything else is similarly priced or cheaper – especially the wine. Red Bordeaux in a box runs about $3 a liter, and it’s good. This particular grocery store is made for sailors, with a shopping cart path that leads straight to the dinghy dock in back. When we arrived we found about ten dinks loading their groceries, and on our departure a woman in a sailing dinghy filled her craft with groceries and sailed home.
February 2nd we hoisted anchor and set sail for the Grenadines. For this 100nm passage we decided to sail through the night in order to arrive at Bequia during daylight hours. We also chose to stray from the beaten path by sailing down the windward coasts of St Lucia and St Vincent, thereby avoiding the wind shadows that compel most boats to motor along the these islands’ western shores. So, from the southern tip of Martinique we steered a heading of 160, near close hauled, for the first few hours. We bore off onto a beam reach when we were sufficiently east to remain at least 5 miles off the shores of St Lucia and St Vincent. This kept us in a couple thousand feet of water, too deep for local fish traps that might ensnare our rudders. It also gave us some cushion for the unexpected. Sailing down a lee shore can provide some beautiful sightseeing, but when things go wrong you risk being swept onto the rocks. That’s doubly true at night.
It was a beautiful evening: a full moon, Venus and Jupiter overhead, and 18-20 knots of wind on the beam that pushed us along 7 knots with a double reefed main. The seas were a bit rough. The easterly trade winds, a 4-5 foot northerly swell from an Atlantic cold front, and a 2 knot current from the south combined to create “lumpy gravy,” as Blaire’s uncle John calls it, with irregular, 10 foot crests. While Strider handled it beautifully, and Colin and Blaire enjoyed the sailing, Owen was confined to the cockpit most of the night with mal de mer. Fortunately, by the early morning hours he fell asleep on his bunk and awoke as we approached Admiralty Bay, none the worse for wear.
Presently we are enjoying Bequia and catching up on some school work and boat maintenance. And, for the first time in a while, we have reliable (if slow) internet. So check for blog posts, especially from Owen and Megan.