Monday, 2 April 2012

Grenada to St Martin

Hi from Clare,                                                                           Saturday 31st March 2012
Housing at Isles Des Saintes

Main street sans tourists

Town Square, Des Saints

Shop, Des Saintes

Anchorage at Isles Des Saintes

Lagoon entrance at St Martin 

Crowds waiting for us? or the 100 footer behind us

Just one of the mega yachts in the lagoon, St Martin

Since leaving Granada our focus has been on taking advantage of favourable winds to go north as quickly as possible. We are now in St Martins some 450 miles north of Trinidad.

We sailed from Granada to Carriacou, then to Les Saintes, Guadeloupe and Antigua before arriving in St Martin yesterday. Both departures from Guadeloupe and Antigua were 4am starts so we could arrive at our destination before dark. The 90 miles from Guadeloupe to St Martin was the best sail for the week being fast, comfortable and averaging 6.9 knots. Tomorrow night we will sail to Virgin Gorda to catch up with our Aussie friends Annie and Liam on ‘Gone with the Wind’. They went up the east coast of the USA last year. We followed their journey on their blog site gathering valuable information on how things work in the USA – but as you can imagine, it’s still a mystery!

Our first stop was Carriacou for one night. We arranged to have drinks with Mark and Sue on ‘Makushla’ who crossed the Atlantic this year and are also traveling up to USA. Carriacou is just a small town on a lovely sandy beach with a well protected bay for anchoring. We needed to check out so off to Customs and Immigration. Unlike the Med where C&I are often housed in very salubrious surroundings, here the Immigration officer is in a shed on the wharf along with the tractor, smelly fuel drums and broken equipment. He was watching the cricket (Australia vs West Indies) on the computer which I think would have been the only highlight in an otherwise monotonous day. Things were a bit livelier in the tiny Custom’s Office housed in the Police Station. The notice on the door said “knock and enter” - a necessary warning for us to move or get hit by the opening door when standing at the counter. The ‘lock up’ was near by and an inmate supplied the entertainment with singing, drumming and kicking the wall. We were quite amused but the Customs Officers completely ignored the commotion.

Our next stop was the small French island of Les Saintes just south of Guadeloupe. This is a pretty Caribbean island with lots of French flair. It has a large natural harbour with Fort Napoleon and Fort Josephine overlooking the bay and small town. The houses and shops are mostly old, small, wooden and brightly painted. Well stocked tourist shops with all the international labels enjoy the benefit of two or three cruise ships stopping daily. If there were no cruise ships in town the tourist shops shut and the place would resume its sleepy and lay back existence. It was mostly during these periods we enjoyed exploring the town. We stayed there for three nights waiting for favourable winds. We met an English couple Stella and Keith who were anchored close by. We enjoyed their company immensely and shared afternoon tea each day with them before a sun downer. The guys of course talked boats for hours on end and Stella busied herself making shade covers for the cockpit.

Reluctantly we moved on and had a fairly horrible sail to Antigua. It was a close reach so we were tipped over making it hard to move around the boat and necessary to hang on all day. By nightfall I was exhausted and not looking forward to our 4am start the next morning to sail to St Martin. However the next day was perfect as the wind was aft of the beam making life a lot more enjoyable. We both even managed a snooze through the day. The only disappointment was that we didn’t catch a fish, only great lumps of seaweed.

We arrived into St Martin in time for the bridge opening in the afternoon giving access to the large and well protected Simpson Lagoon. This was a huge bonus as we fully expected to spend the night anchored by the beach and rolling in the swell.

St Martin is divided across the middle with the French owning the northern section and the Dutch owning the southern part. We are apparently free to travel between the two without our passports - just motor across in the dinghy. The island has an international airport and duty free shopping everywhere. There are many mega yachts and expensive power boats in the marina and hundreds of boats at anchor in the lagoon. Yesterday was spent checking in, going to the ship chandler for cruising guides, supermarket shopping, defrosting the fridge and general recovery.

This afternoon we are looking forward to exploring the town. We will leave the lagoon tomorrow afternoon and sail over night to Virgin Gorda. The forecast is for little wind and so it will be a slow trip.

Love Candy xx