Although it’s a shame to leave a fine island like Barbados so unexplored, we do have a bit of a schedule to keep to, so we cleared out Wednesday morning and took the dinghy to Speightstown for our final provisioning stop.  We left the mooring under sail and turned toward Dominica.

Once we left the lee side of Barbados and sailed back out into the open water of the Atlantic, things got pretty rough.  There were squalls around us, gusts were topping 30 knots, and steep 10-footers were making things pretty wet and uncomfortable.    Even Lauren was feeling pretty bad.  We’d hoped to sail up the east side of the islands in the NE winds, making a fast passage without having to motor, but the seas were just too much when there was another option.  An hour or so after sunset, we changed course to slip into the Caribbean between St. Lucia and Martinique.  Changing course made things a little bit more comfortable, and as the night wore on, the winds and seas started to drop so that by morning things weren’t bad at all.  As the sun came up, I could see both St. Lucia and Martinique as we neared the channel between them.

Unlike ocean-crossing, where seeing another sailboat is extremely rare, there is almost always a sailboat in sight somewhere here in the islands.  Several were rounding the SW tip of Martinique ahead of us and a couple were making the passage south to St. Lucia, passing us as we were making our way NW through the channel.  Just off of the SW tip of Martinique is a giant dome-shaped rock island called Diamond Rock.  It gained famed when in colonial days the English snuck cannons and sailors ashore the naturally impregnable fortress and shelled passing French ships at their leisure.  The rock was eventually commissioned the HMS Diamond Rock and (in the French version of the story), held by the English until boats carrying casks of rum were “shipwrecked” on the island, exposing the weakness in the English defenses.

diamond_rock (HMS) Diamond Rock

We sailed up the calm west coast of Martinique until, with an hour or two of daylight left, we reached St. Pierre.  Rather than sail overnight, bashing our way across the channel between Martinique and Dominica, we decided to stop and spend the night.  St. Pierre’s claim to fame is that it was the former colonial capital of Martinique until a fateful day in 1902 when Mt. Pelee, towering over the northern tip of the island, erupted and destroyed the town.  There was only one survivor, a man in jail in solitary confinement whose cell had 2-foot thick walls.  Barnum and Bailey thought that the story was interesting enough to hire him to tour the US with their circus.

cell The lone survivor’s cell

After seeing the one tourist attraction in town, it was time to take full advantage of stopping in a department of France, so we headed to the grocery store.  In addition to a wonderful garlic and herb cheese dip and a $3 bottle of table wine, we found that the store’s bakery had just turned out a batch of fresh baguettes.  While I happen to think the baguette is a pretty poor bread for those of us who can’t drop by a bakery every morning, it’s brilliant when it’s fresh, and we enjoyed our feast on the benches at the waterfront park watching the sun go down.  Back on the boat, Lauren added some toppings to a couple of the $1 frozen pizzas we’d picked up as well and dinner was served on the trampoline under starry skies.  Ahhh.  There are definitely things about this life I’m gonna miss.

st_pierre2 Anchored with St. Pierre and Mt. Pelee in the background

We hadn’t planned on our stop in Martinique, so at 6 am the next morning I was up lifting the anchor to start moving north again.  Between the boat and the shoreline, locals were dropping large fishing nets in the water that would be pulled in by several men on the beach.  Things get started early and here.  The windlass grinding away to pull in 150’ of chain is pretty much and alarm clock without a snooze, so Lauren was up not long after.  We finished breakfast before hitting the rough water in the channel between Martinique and Dominica.  The channel could have been much worse.  The winds were only 15-20 knots and seas didn’t get much bigger than 6’ or so.  Even with just the jib up, the boat made decent time without pounding too much, and by early afternoon we were motorsailing along the calm west coast of Dominica.  Another day and another sail in the lee of a beautiful, mountainous, verdant island.

We had time to make Prince Rupert Bay before sunset, and as we furled the jib to motor into the deep bay we were met by a Dominican “boat boy”.   “Eric Spaghetti”, as he introduced himself was actually a graying middle-aged man, but had motored his brightly painted boat more than 2 miles from the anchorage to meet and claim us first, so per local custom, he was our guy.  As we turned into the bay, his boat with its hand-painted “Eric ‘it’s hot’ Spaghetti” on the side sped away to claim the monohull coming in behind us.