For the past few days we have worked our way up the western side of Martinique. I wanted to stop in Les Anses-d’Arlet for a couple of days but it was just too crowded with boats. This time of year in the Caribbean there is a phenomenon called Christmas winds. From December to February, the wind blows hard from the northeast. It is typically 25 knots on the calmer days. This means many of the cruising boats do not move. They find a spot and park for an extended period. This is what we found when we entered Les Anses-d’Arlet. The bay was packed. We looked for a spot to anchor and tried a few times. In addition to there being limited anchoring space on a shelf before the water becomes too deep, the bottom is grassy meaning the anchor will not set well (sand or mud is best). We can compensate for this by letting out more chain and taking stress off the anchor by not pulling upward on it. However, more chain means we are going to swing in a wider arc. The sheer number of boats didn’t allow for this luxury. After dropping the anchor we like to “back down” on it. This means we put our engine in reverse and pull on the anchor for a couple of minutes to ensure it digs in. Knowing the anchor is dug in deep gives us peace of mind when we go to bed. Our anchor did not dig in with the minimal amount of chain we could lay out and instead drug across the bay floor. Knowing winds were on the increase we gave up and moved to an area with fewer boats. Our backup plan took us just a few miles north to an isolated mangrove bay near Les Trois-Îlets. If there are no beaches, bars, restaurants or free Wi-Fi, they are no cruising boats. We had our secondary location all to ourselves and both got a great night’s sleep.
We are on our way to Guadeloupe. Hopping between the islands can be a little tricky due to the high winds. Our boat is very capable of conditions far worse than this, but I’m not sure we are. So, we watch the weather closely and pick a window for a calmer day. When we sail we prefer it to be fun rather than an event of hanging on for dear life. We saw a window of lesser evils and moved up to the northern tip of Martinique so we could jump off to Dominica the next morning. The lesser evil meant sailing in a steady 25 knot breeze on the beam. As usual, the forecast wasn’t quite right and the wind was closer to 30 knots with gusts to 40. There is a big difference between 25 knots and 30 knots. This is the point when things start to become airborne on a boat.
Before setting sail we go through the routine of securing everything on the boat. We never quite know what the weather is going to toss our way so best to prepare for the worst. Cindy does the cabins and I secure the deck. It is absolutely amazing how things will shift during a passage. I used to fly a lot in my previous life and I can hear flight attendants say after landing, “Please use caution when opening the overhead bins as contents may have shifted during the flight”. I can’t tell you how many passengers I watched ignore this sound advice and popped open the overhead bin only to have someone’s bag tumble out and conk some poor sole in the aisle seat on top of the head. It is the same on the boat. Things shift and we open cabinets never quite knowing what we will find.
If the boat falls off a wave, things become airborne. This is what happened when Bubba made an incredible leap. Bubba was full of iced tea and was sitting in what is usually a pretty safe spot at the helm station. Bubba took off and flew from the cockpit down the companion way and into the galley. Bubba now has a bruise or what we refer to on the boat as a “love bump”. We are glad it was Bubba and not one of us that took the tumble.
We have arrived safely in Dominica where we need to sit and wait a few days for some more nasty weather to pass. We are going to wait in Portsmouth Harbour for the next 6-8 days before we continue on towards Guadeloupe. Dominica was hit badly by hurricane Maria and suffered an incredible amount of damage. Once we have had a chance to look about, we’ll post some pictures.