The computer on board has proved disappointing for e-mails and the cafe system available to me in the Caribbean early this past spring cost as much as 10 dollars per half hour so my developing computer skills made it too frustrating to use, especially when we were in foreign language areas. Now I hope to catch up with correspondence using this mini e-mail gizmo that allows me to compose (on it or a laptop) and send/receive using any phone anywhere in the world. My laptop is out of order presently, but this is working well enough standing alone and I am catching on to its various quirks. When the laptop is working again, I will have no restrictions.
While we were in Martinique, our landfall after the Atlantic crossing, we rested and worked on the boat as did all the others in the anchorage. I was cleaning and varnishing etc. scrubbing the bottom, renewing some of our temporary leads for the rigging, and coating the deck slats with preservative. Nev tightened the lashings, checked and improved the wiring and electrics, improved the steering system, and went over the engines. We slept and visited and were glad to be there. Our friends in Martinique, the Fercot family, were most generously helpful and we chatted about their boat building of a similar boat.
Having completed the most urgent work and restocked the fresh food lockers, we headed north on Feb 6 in the next leg of the trip.
Crossing the bay of Fort de France we did 9 knots with the main and jib only in warm and pleasant rain which we enjoyed while just standing outside letting it run off our skins. We anchored in Dominica off a palm lined beach and listened to a church youth choir singing at daybreak in the open air. The particular Caribbean lilt to the familiar hymns graced the misty morning and that sun rise will be a cherished memory.
Nev replaced the mast shims which had come free and we put new steering lines on the Monitor self steering because they wore through. I made tell tales for the rigging because our wind indicator has never worked properly.
On the 8th of Feb, we had a fine reaching wind to Guadaloupe and the best hull speed so far - 11.3 knots with only the main and jib up. These islands are real pretty but there is no way to adequately describe them. They are volcanic so they rise up out of the water in bold contrast to the line of the ocean and thousand of colours based on green tell of their fertility. The fragrance is magic.
The next island in the chain has been erupting in the past couple of years so anchoring is prohibited and we went to Antigua where we have Welsh friends. An extensive inner harbour provides safe anchoring even in hurricane conditions and boats are required during such times to be anchored by the committee that takes charge then. We learned a lot about their methods and will hope to never need that particular knowledge.
Nev repaired the windlass and we installed one of our spare winches to help reef the jib in stormy conditions. On the way to Antigua we had some gale force reaching winds and 10+ foot "square shaped" waves but all worked well and will work easier from now on.
On our lucky day we found an old but lightly used chart kit of the Chesapeake Bay at the free book swap.
The winds had been strong for days so Peace Four was getting a good shake down on this leg and we were learning to sail in more reaching winds and respected her ability to handle rough conditions safely. But adjustments were needed and now we knew what she required. New boats are like that and this one is getting better all the time.
Our stay in the famous Lagoon at St. Martaan provided the shelter and access to good but cheap chandlery so we made good progress. The custom of free anchoring is to be replaced by steep anchoring charges on the Dutch side so all the boats are moving to the French side now. It is less convenient there and budget cruisers will miss the old days.
On the way to St. Martaan, we had our first real "catamaran moment". At the top of the last island we were in the island's wind shadow and nearly stopped dead in the water while a heavy steel hulled sailboat kept coming up from behind simply because of her weight. But when the current swept us clear of the wind shadow, we shot forward and accelerated to 8 and then 10 knots in about 2 minutes! It was like being in a car when the lights change. We lost sight of the other boat in a short time and liked the sensation quite a bit. They arrived in the Lagoon the day after we did.
Our trip to the Virgins went well and we decided to spend our time on the American side this year. We only scratched the surface in our exploring and hope to go back for much more. It was a joy to see familiar American products in the store again like peanut butter and Bisquick etc.
The Virgins are a popular cruise ship destination and we noted the impact of 5 ships a day on the local economy. Each ship unloads about 2000 monied visitors who all ride the open air taxis driven by locals and shop in the several small shops. We both noted the heavy use of fragrances these tourists wore. They actually use so much they stink. What is wrong with the smell of recently washed body? I think folks are getting addicted to fragrance and do not notice how much they are using. Too much!
© Anne and Neville Clement, 2003