Dominica and beyond

From Martinique we stopped off at Dominica to break up our journey north.  We nearly didn’t go to the island as like most people we confused it with the Dominican Republic but we were pleasantly surprised and even extended our stay there.  (On the sail there Clive saw a whale while I was downstairs having a snooze.  Typical!)

It was a nice smooth crossing and Peri sat up in the cockpit for a lot of the journey.

On our first day there we went on a taxi tour of the island with friends.

Our driver was called Winston and seemed to know everyone and everything about the island.  (It turned out that he wasn’t married but had 6 children from 5 different women.  One of the locals called him a ‘player’.)  We went up into the rain forest and he pointed out the different villages and we saw where the oldest woman had lived.  She was about 123 when she died.  Apparently Dominica has the highest population of people over 100 for some reason.  We drove up into the Carib Territory where the last of the Caribs now live.  They have bronze coloured skin and almost oriental features.  They were fierce, warlike people and completely killed off the Arawaks on a neighbouring island.  We stopped at the Emerald Pool which is part of the National Park and went for a swim under the waterfall.  I really wanted to see a parrot so was disappointed when Winston failed to deliver.

The following day we went on the Indian River Trip, starting at 7.15am.  Albert, our guide, rowed us up a narrow river that ran between mangroves and swamp trees, the same area had been used in Pirates of the Caribbean 2.  I was still desperate to see a parrot, but again no luck! 

Later in the day Albert came over to Sephina for a chat and I gave him a cold drink of Orangina in a thermos cup with a straw.  He was completely amazed that the drink was ice cold but the outside of the beaker was normal temperature.  It really freaked him out.  The things you take for granted!

After 4 days we decided to move on and went up to Isles de Saintes to join Stephen in preparations for his 60th birthday bash.  The town was a bumpy dingy ride around the headland and was full of little French cafe’s, bars and colourful shops.  Everyone seemed to have a scooter or an small electric buggy.  

As I’d failed to see a real parrot I treated myself to a stuffed one that now swings happily over the lounge table.

For his birthday, Stephen had invited a crowd of people he’d kept in touch with from the Oyster World Rally and so over the next few days Oysters arrived and we gradually took over the small bay, Pain de Sucre.  The birthday lasted for nearly 2 weeks and was one party after another, always starting at 5.30pm with sundowners.  On the official day we were invited over to Bubbles (62 foot Oyster) for champagne and the most enormous breakfast spread, kindly put on by Karin and Leo.  Then at lunchtime we all went ashore in our dinghies and took over a little beach, spreading out 3 huge Oyster flags and laying out a mouthwatering picnic.  The locals seemed to be interested and I’m afraid we were quite loud!.  In the evening we all got taxis into town and met up at a restaurant that Stephen had pre-booked weeks ago.  He’d organised the menu and taken orders from everyone and ensured that we had exclusivity of the venue, which was just as well as the after dinner dancing was slightly raucous but most enjoyable.

The following morning 20 of us all assembled on Babes (54 foot Oyster) where Paul and Trish did us pancakes for breakfast.  (Someone had given us duff information and told us it was Shrove Tuesday.)  Stephen was the only one who could face a beer as most of us were bleary eyed and on water only.  The next evening we assembled on Legend IV (54 foot Oyster) where Alan was doing his Tom Cruise cocktail impressions and Jean was rustling up the most delicious canapes.  We then all went over to Amelie where Stephen barbecued 14 steaks which was an impressive feat.

The next day we sailed up to Saint Louis on Marie Galante and radioed over to Bubbles who had already anchored there.  Gradually the others arrived and that evening we were feasted courtesy of Andrew and Suzanne from Pearl of Persia who were staying on Legend IV.  They booked a restaurant in town for the 12 of us and as usual we took over the place.  Paul ended up in the kitchen as we couldn't understand what the owner was talking about on the menu.  He just kept getting louder and louder the more confused we looked.

After a few drinks we’d agreed that the next morning the women on the boats would go up the masts by 10am.  I sat on deck on my lap top and waited nervously to see if anyone else would do it being quite relieved when 10am arrived and no one had started the climb.  Our next plan was yoga on the beach at 11am.  Everyone turned up for this and even the men took part.  There were a few creaks and groans but we all felt like we’d earned a drink afterwards.  That turned into lunch, a boules competition and beach tennis.  That evening saw us take over yet another restaurant in town and this was our last supper together.

One by one we left and Clive and I sailed to Deshaies further up the island for a couple of nights where we checked out of Guadeloupe.  Deshaies is a pretty little seaside village and was used in the series Death In Paradise.  It’s like going from one film set to another at the moment.  Babes and Legend IV were also at the anchorage there en route to somewhere else.  

From there we motor sailed up to Antigua, arriving at Portsmouth Harbour and are now in Nelson’s Dockyard Marina.  We booked in for a week and I expected that we wouldn’t see anyone that we knew during our stay here.  But on the first day here we had a visit from Jean and Alan (Legend IV) who are in the next harbour, then we had a visit from David from Calypso who did the ARC with us .  Strangest of all was a visit from a guy who said he’d been told to look out for us by a friend of mine and it turned out that we knew his sister really well.  She went to my school and Clive and I went to her wedding.  Then today we had lunch with Dave and Aleisha from Gozwoz who are old friends from Wales and who also did the ARC with us.  It’s such a small world and to be in exactly the same place as people you know at exactly the same time is quite mind blowing.

 

So, we have a week here and then maybe we’ll scoot up to Nevis.  Who knows? 

Peri 13/2

Thornton hasn’t been too well lately so I’ve been going easy on him.  The last V.E.T. that he was bundled off to spoke very strangely and Thornton couldn’t understand a word that he was saying.  Then the owners also started to jabber on strangely, nodding and waving their hands about.  Poor Thornton had to have that thing stuck up his bottom again while he was there.  I don’t get what that’s about.  When he got back to the boat he told me all about his little boat ride and what the town was like.  The owners then had to put drops of liquid in his bad eye everyday.  It’s still closed but I have seen him open it if something gives him a fright.  Just to add to his woes he got a cold and kept sneezing all the time.  They started to call him ‘Snuffles’ and gave him even more attention.  He’s gone very thin so I let him have best pickings at meal time.  The other night the owners came back with a whole stash of meat for us, leftovers from a barbecue, and we both loved tucking in to it and then slept very well.  

On the whole I’ve been looking out for him and have been very nice so I hope he remembers that when he gets his strength back.

North by North West

Quite a lot has happened in the last few weeks.

We left the boat park in Grenada and the noisy thing in the kitchen has rumbled a few times as we have been going North. I know it is North because there is a pointer near the steering wheel that I look at occasionally, the boat boss owner never seems to take any notice of it as he seems to spend his time playing video games on a screen near it. Some times the noisy thing is turned off and we still seem to be going north quite quickly. Along the way we have met some of our old friends, a man who makes covers for things and his children who are very good looking, the nice vet inspection lady in Blue Lagoon who knows us so well she didn't even bother to ruffle our fur. We have seen a lot of Stephen and Debbie and the berk Peri thinks he has converted Stephen to a cat lover. He is deluding himself, come to think of it he is deluded most of the time! 

After the first week I started to feel a bit unwell and went off my food. I have been having a nagging tooth ache and one day I ate a hard biscuit and it got stuck on my bad tooth. I shrieked and ran crazy to the back bedroom. Our favourite owner spotted my angst and gave me cuddles. Over the next couple of weeks she kept looking at me and said I was getting thin. Flipping cheek, that implied I was fat before. I know our owners are always on some sort of diet but please, have I ever needed to diet? Well eventually I found it hard to eat anything and I took to curling up and sleeping for most of the day. I know I do a lot of that anyway but this was extreme. When we arrived at the boat park in Rodney Bay the big owner agreed I needed to see an animal doctor. When we arrived I recognised him as a very sweet man called Dr Scotland. I remember nothing after that and woke up at home with my favourite owner wiping blood from my face. The animal doctor must have slipped me a few vodka martinis as I couldn't walk in a straight line. I know they were vodka martinis as I have seen Debbie walk the same way many times. I noticed Peri getting jealous when I smiled and swotting me. I checked in the mirror and the animal doctor has given me a Hollywood smile. Peri says it must be ultrasound! He reads too many trash celebrity gossip magazines. The upshot is I am as handsome as ever and can eat anything and  the owners say I am ready for a trip to Martinique in France which is chique. The boss boat owner needs to look at the thing near the steering wheel more often as I hate to tell him France is 3000 miles due east!

 

Still in France!

We  were so taken by Martinique that we decided to hang around for a bit longer.  After our first week in Marin we headed north up the coast and anchored off the capital, Fort de France.  A very busy but little town with plenty of Chinese shops selling everything you could possibly want and a lot of stuff that you really don’t want.  Every other shop seemed to be a ‘costume’ shop and as we didn’t spot any nurses or school girls wandering around we assume that this is for the lively club scene.   We were right next to one of the cruise ship docks and we had fun watching them arrive at 9am and then leave at 6pm prompt by which time we were on deck just finishing our sundowners and looking for the green flash as the sun disappeared into the water.  There was a guy at work who used to go on cruises and said he'd look out for our boat in future so if you were in Martinique this week Gwyn, it was us sunbathing under the Welsh flag.

We found an out of town shopping centre alike to an American mall with some upmarket shops and even took a bus ride up into the hills to Jardin de Balata which were almost prehistoric and quite stunning.  We stayed for a week and were just in time to see the first few classic sail boats cross the finish line after sailing from Lanzarote.  Second in was Argyle (Gryf Rees Jones’s boat) so we raced over in our dinghy waving the Welsh flag amongst the press dinghies.

We’re now further up the coast in St.Pierre which used to be the capitol until the entire population of 29,933 was wiped out by the local volcano in 1902.  Actually, 2 survived and one was a murderer in a nice thick concrete prison cell!

Thornton has had a rough month.  We took him to the vet in St.Lucia as I thought he needed a tooth out.  It turned out to be an infection at the back of his mouth.  The vet gave him a shot to knock him out and Clive and I ended up as assistants in the operating room.  Clive holding his head and me shining a torch into his mouth.  There was a lot of blood and when we arrived back at the marina with a blood soaked unconscious cat we got some very strange looks.  He was on strong antibiotics for 2 weeks and made a full recovery but then last week he suddenly couldn’t open one eye and the third eyelid was right across.  I bathed it with warm water and after a few days we took him to the vet here who couldn’t find anything wrong with his eye.  He said he looked a bit dehydrated and gave him a couple of injections, steroid and more antibiotics.  We have to put drops in his eye 3 times a day and I’m making sure he has plenty of water. (I’m not his favourite person at the moment.)

Other than that it’s business as usual. We’re off for a walk later today to another rum distillery and then we plan to leave here in a couple of days, but our plans usually fail for some reason or other.

 

Vive la différence.

We’re now in France!  Well not quite, but it feels the same.  We’re on Martinique which is French and boy can you tell the difference with the other islands that we’ve been to so far.  Proper roads (with street lights), proper cars (even though they’re left hand drive), bistro cafés, supermarkets stocked to the gunnels with canard, smoked salmon packs big enough to feed a small village and cheap, cheap, cheap French wine.  Even the chandlery has an espresso machine by the door so you can get your caffeine fix while you browse around the fishing rods and snorkel gear.  On the downside, we are no longer greeted by big smiles and everyone saying “hello” to us.  But there’s something reassuring about the French indifference and Gallic shrugging when things go wrong instead of trying put things right, so all in all it’s like being in the South of France.

The marina is surrounded by mangroves and there are an alarming number of wrecks to be seen.  Some are completely submerged with only their masts showing above water and this is the stark reminder of the forces of nature or the need for boat maintenance.

Today we went in the dinghy to a pretty seaside town called St.Anne’s for lunch and on the way back we spotted a massive turtle popping up to the surface for air and then disappearing as we went by.

So we’re here for about a week and then heading up to Dominica where I think we’ll be back to basics.