The Start of the Windward Islands - Martinique to Bequia

Published: June 24th 2011
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H.M.S. Diamond RockH.M.S. Diamond RockH.M.S. Diamond Rock

This is what is called Diamond Rock located on the south side of Martinique. Believe it or not the British commissioned the rock as a ship in the early 1800s and it was then called H.M.S. Diamond Rock. They equipped it with cannons & enough supplies for a full crew of men. For 18 months it was a highly unpleasant surprise for any ships sailing into Martinique.
Martinique was the last of the French islands that we will be visiting this season. The Windward Islands run from Martinique to Grenada and were to be the easier ones to sail as we were now heading south. We left Trois Ilets in Martinique around 6AM on a Friday, June 10th and arrived in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia about 1PM. The wind started out light, but then built to 15 knots which was great. We were in the lea of the island, but once we got away from the protection of the island, the seas picked up, the winds picked up to 22 knots and found we were fighting a current. As a result our hull speed dropped even though there was more wind. Fortunately about 4 hours into the crossing the seas evened out and we were able to pick up speed. We found out that Friday may actually be a lucky day for us as we had another whale sighting. This time he was a little farther away from the boat so didn’t get photos but we could clearly see the grey back as he came to the surface and the water coming from his blowhole. It is always
Pigeon IslandPigeon IslandPigeon Island

The entrance to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia is quite protected and hidden by what is called Pigeon Island.
exciting to see wildlife in its natural setting. Later that same day we got to see a very large turtle swim past us. We have seen turtles near our anchorages but this was the first time on a crossing.
Soon after dropping anchor our friends on Snowbird arrived in St.Lucia as well. Both of us were in need of a laundry so went ashore together to get this chore done. We found that they did not have a laundry mat, but did have a laundry service that washes, dries and folds your clothes. It was more expensive than doing it ourselves ($18/load), but we both needed it done so left our clothes with them. This gave us some free time to walk around the marina and visit the local hardware and marine store.

Unfortunately we missed our good friends, Denise and Jean Pierre by a few days. They flew back to Montreal for a few months, but we did see their boat tucked in to a dock at the marina. We were able to check into the country here and luckily could use an electronic check-in process to complete the paperwork before going ashore making the process much faster.
A great location for a fortA great location for a fortA great location for a fort

When you look around the back side of Pigeon Island you see a well hidden fort which made this the main base for the British in this area. This was in sight of Martinique on most days which was where the main French base was.
There appears to be lots of services geared toward the visiting yachts here, luckily we didn’t need anything done. It is good to check out what is available for the next time we are in the area.

The next day of travel was a short one as we only went to Soufriere which is close to the Pitons. On top of the cost of checking in to the country if you wish to anchor at the Pitons you need to pay an additional $25. As we were only staying one night we decided to stay near the village of Soufriere instead. The boat boys (most are middle age men) came out to the boat with various items to sell including fruit, wood and calabash carvings. From what we hear from other cruisers this will be the norm as we head south to the other islands. This was the first time we went ashore and were bombarded by kids wanting us to hire them to protect our dinghy while we explored. At first we didn’t want to do this, but finally after talking to a couple of them told them we would narrow it down to only 2 of
The PitonsThe PitonsThe Pitons

The Pitons stand out for miles as the easiest way to recognize St. Lucia. They are also the symbol seen on their national flag. It is hard to describe their beauty and capture their magnitude.
the 4 kids that were at the dock. We asked a local fisherman and he vouched for Peter and Johnson as being good kids so figured we’d rather pay them than have them getting into trouble elsewhere on a Saturday afternoon. The way we look at it is that as long as they are providing a service we would rather support them in this way –we want to reward their initiative of figuring out what services they can provide to earn some money. It is always a balance of not paying for every kindness a person does with supporting people that have the initiative to figure out a way to try to make a living.

On Sunday, June 12 we moved on to Wallilabou, St. Vincent. The guide books have been warning cruisers to stay away from St. Vincent due to the concern about safety as well as the persistence of boat boys. We originally thought we would not stop here, but had heard from some cruisers that it really was a nice place so decided to see for ourselves. This is another time when we were glad we didn’t listen to the guidebook. We were met by a
The Church SquareThe Church SquareThe Church Square

The church square is the dominant landmark in Soufriere, St. Lucia
couple of boat boys but they were very pleasant and not aggressive at all and were gracious when we stated we didn’t need their assistance. We had heard that if we dined at a local restaurant we could use their mooring. We were very glad we did this as we not only had to connect to a mooring which was easy enough, we also had to turn the boat around and have a stern line hooked up to pilings. This was easily accomplished with the able assistance of Davis. You could tell he had done this before. We were squeezed in between two boats but with assistance it was accomplished without a scratch on anyone! As agreed we made arrangements to have dinner on shore and it was quite a treat. The food was excellent and we finally had a chance to try a new vegetable known as callaloo.

This village is known for being the location where the film, Pirates of the Caribbean (2 of the films) were partially filmed. It definitely helped in providing employment for many of the local people as well as continues to provide a draw for tourists to continue to visit. They still
Older ArchitectureOlder ArchitectureOlder Architecture

Many of the older buildings in Soufriere still have much of their detailed wood trim making them still look like they did in the 1800’s
have some of the sets and props that were used in the filming of the movie. Some are in rough shape, but many have survived the years since the filming. We decided to stay the next morning as we didn’t have far to go to get to Bequia so took a hike to the Heritage Park. There is a small waterfalls and pool with numerous paths lined with flora. A dam was built in the 1800’s for the arrowroot processing factory that existed until the 1970s. The water was used to help power the mill and the remnants of the dam still remain within the Heritage Park. We understand that arrowroot was brought to St. Vincent from neighboring islands to be processed, but as the demand for starch declined, the factory went out of business.

We were only a very short time in St. Vincent but the people that we met have convinced us that we definitely want to come back and explore much more of the island. It is very lush and is able to produce much in the way of agriculture for its own use. It also has many hiking trails throughout the island which will be
Dinghy Protection?Dinghy Protection?Dinghy Protection?

Johnson & Peter met us at the dinghy dock. They told us they would watch our dinghy and keep it safe. It is a minor detail that we locked up the dinghy and engine as they still stayed nearby to watch it so we could provide them some money for their time. We talked to some local fisherman & they said they were “good kids” so provided them a few coins for their time and they were very happy. It is a hard balance to decide how to handle these situations.
fun to try.

After our walk to the falls, we sailed on to Bequia which was only a few hours away. We had never heard of this island before coming to this area, but it was highly recommended by many cruisers as being very “cruiser friendly”. We will stay a few days to see for ourselves. When we left St Vincent one of the boat boys, Joel told us that if we were going to Bequia we should ask for Willie as he would watch out for us. It is always nice to have a name for the next port of call.

Fortunately for us when we arrived we found friends on Raconteur that we had met in Martinique. We planned a dinner together on shore. It was great to have fabulous food as well as time to catch up with JP, Leigh and Susan – thanks again for such a lovely evening.

One service we did not think we would take advantage was having our teak finished. Winfield stopped by our boat and said he could put 6 coats of finish on the teak and have it looking like new. We wanted to explore for a
The walls are tallThe walls are tallThe walls are tall

Just a very small portion of one of the gigantic walls lining the sides of the harbor at Soufriere, St. Lucia.
few days and knew we had to wait for the weather, so we broke down and hired him. He and Teddy have been doing an excellent job and they are very good at cleaning up each day. We would definitely recommend them to anyone! Bob typically isn’t happy with other people’s work but he is pleased with Winfield and it is looking beautiful once again. It will be much easier now to keep it up (at least that is our hope). We knew the sun and salt water would do a job on the wood, but it is amazing how quickly that happens.

As we needed to be here a few more days than we originally thought we have been taking time to explore. The village of Port Elizabeth has two main streets, Front Street and Back Street. It sure makes for easy navigation around town (the small size helps as well!) Bequia is known for its boat building skills as well as model boat building. Unfortunately we didn’t see any boats being built, but did have a chance to visit a couple of the workshops that build model boats to scale. The quality of the work is impressive
Sunset at SoufriereSunset at SoufriereSunset at Soufriere

Sunset at Soufriere harbor while on a mooring. Anchoring is not allowed here which is just as good as it was over 100 feet deep within feet of the wall.
and they even can claim that Queen Elizabeth has one of their models.

Now that we have been here for close to a week we understand why they say that you should definitely stop in Bequia. There are numerous services available here ranging from the delivery of bread, ice, diesel and water to the pickup and drop off of laundry. On land there are sail makers, marine stores, hardware stores, numerous grocery stores and bakeries. We have enjoyed walking around the island, trying their mango ice cream, visiting with the local vendors and seeing the sights. Best of all we have found the people of both St. Vincent and Bequia as being very friendly and willing to help in any way that they can.

Our long time friends on Happy Times joined the anchorage a few days ago and we were able to share a taxi tour of the island. The island itself is only 7 square miles in size, but it has fabulous beaches on the wilder Atlantic side contrasting with the calmer lea side that we are on. Hawksbill turtles are being raised in a sanctuary here until the age of 5 to give them a
Is it real?Is it real?Is it real?

Looks like a real building doesn’t it? Guess again.
better chance of survival in the wild. It is hard to believe that they eat approximately 50 kilos per day so stopped to visit this as well. We found that the markings on their shells are unique just like our fingerprints. Up close it was interesting to see the variety of patterns and colors of the shells. It is unfortunate that some do not understand the importance of conservation as you still find tortoise shell combs and jewelry for sale in the islands even though they are protected. It is projects like this one that really helps to ensure their survival.
It is not always calm as we have had quite a few squalls going though and we have clocked up to 37 knots of wind even in the protection of the bay. Luckily they do not last too long, but last Friday night got exciting as quite a few boats dragged and a few moorings broke loose so there was a lot happening but everyone ended up safe and no worse for wear. We were glad that we were not part of that evening’s activity except for watching the action from the stern of our boat.

We had
The back of the buildingThe back of the buildingThe back of the building

The only thing behind the façade of the building was scaffolding. This was part of the scenery used in the filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean. They spent 6 months in Soufriere filming the first film and 3 months on the 2nd one. This definitely helped the local economy as they hired many extras for the film and the props and scenery left behind are still a tourist draw.
heard that the Kingston, St. Vincent Saturday market was worth going to so we got up early and caught the 6:30AM ferry for the one hour trip over. We were very glad we did as the market is the biggest we have ever seen with great produce and prices. We came back on the ferry with a couple of bags full of great produce, but more importantly an appreciation for the kindness of the people of St. Vincent. Everyone we met was pleasant and would take the time to explain how to cook the produce they were selling, how to make passion fruit drink or answer any other question you might have for them. They are another reason why we definitely have St. Vincent on our list of islands to come back to explore.

This past weekend was Carnival on Bequia. We were able to hear much of the music from the boat so didn’t go in for the evening events, but did make it to the Monday Jump Up. Everyone told us it started at 3PM. When walking on Front Street you could see that there were people around waiting “for something”. It looked like any small US
Flora in St. VincentFlora in St. VincentFlora in St. Vincent

We are always impressed with the flora here. Everything seems to grow in only a size fit for a giant with magnificient flowers and greenery.
town when people are staking out their space to watch the parade. We picked our spot as well. There were many families with kids, a few vendors with drinks, popcorn and snacks and an expectation of something to come. About 4PM we decided to take a walk along the water front, stopped for a drink and appetizer and found out from the waitress that things still wouldn’t have started yet so we had time to relax. We got back to the center of town and people were still waiting. Now the vendors were starting to sell more substantial food for the evening so now had a clue that it was going to more than just a short parade we were waiting for. About 6PM the music got louder and Front Street became a sea of people “jumping” to the music. The scene was a sea of colors as they had groups wearing various colors of jerseys as part of their costume. Everyone was having a great time and we even had quite a few that “acted for the movie camera” for us. It was great to see people of all ages participating in the celebrations. We left the town about
Fig TreeFig TreeFig Tree

This fig tree seems to have grown right out of the dam located at the Wallilabou Heritage Park in St. Vincent. We found out from a local that the dam was built for use by the Arrowroot factory that operated from the 1950s to the 1970s. They processed all the arrowroot grown on the neighboring islands as well during this period until the demand died.
dark to get back to the boat but could hear the music continuing until 11PM that night. Needless to say, things were slow going Tuesday morning in town. This celebration was quite different from the one we saw in St. Thomas. First, this was a much smaller event and more informal than in the BVI’s. The big difference we saw was that even though there was some alcohol flowing at both locations, this one was mellower and more family oriented. This coming weekend is the big Carnival celebration on St. Vincent which we heard is quite the event with the traditional costumes of carnival. We would love to see it, but time is marching on and we need to get to Trinidad early enough to arrange for pulling the boat before we leave for the US.

We are starting to put our itinerary together for when we are back in the US. We have a few doctor appointments set up; we will be getting together with our TYC sailing group in TBurg on September 10th and working on meeting with others as well. We already know that those 2 months will pass by very fast, but are looking forward
More beautyMore beautyMore beauty

It reminds us of the flowers on a Christmas cactus but it definitely is not. The colors are so rich and vivid against the lush green.
to seeing as many of you as we can. It is hard to believe that it is almost a year since we left the dock in Cayuga NY. It has definitely been enjoyable, but are looking forward to seeing family and friends back home as well.

Additional photos below
Photos: 72, Displayed: 32


Another sample of floraAnother sample of flora
Another sample of flora

We definitely need to have a tour of the gardens here in order to learn all of the various flowering plants here as we can’t resist taking photos of them.
Everything is giant size Everything is giant size
Everything is giant size

The leaf Bob is holding wasn’t even the largest that we saw here, it just was the closest one at hand. Note that Bob has turned in the baseball hat for a straw one as it is much cooler.
Getting  a Power ShowerGetting  a Power Shower
Getting a Power Shower

They encourage people to enjoy the fresh water pool and waterfalls. Bob took full advantage of it and got quite a power wash!
Still anotherStill another
Still another

The paths within the Wallilabou Heritage Park are lined with numerous flowering plants such as this one. Unfortunately none were labeled which we hope with be added for the benefit of all to learn from.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to grow ferns and other plants as big as this in your garden?

Piles of bamboo that were being used at a construction site on St. Vincent.
Watching the WeatherWatching the Weather
Watching the Weather

That squall is definitely coming our way while sailing to Bequia. We could see it coming so had time to prepare for the 35 knot winds and rain that it brought. Luckily they are short lived and blue skies followed this.

Tot: 3.337s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 26; qc: 119; dbt: 0.0518s; 3; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.7mb