Sunday, May 19, 2013


It was time for us to head to St. Lucia where we had planned to leave the boat for a few months while we head home to visit with family and friends.  In looking at the charts we had decided to make the trip from Les Saintes to St. Lucia in 2 long days.  We figured we could make it to the north end of Martinique and stop overnight.  The next day we could get an early start and head for St. Lucia.  We were looking at leaving Les Saintes on Saturday.  We would pass by Dominica on our way to Martinique, so I decided to look up where church would be on Dominica and Martinique to see if it was easy to get to church on Sunday.  In Martinique I found only one branch of our church, and it was near the center of the island.  That would take more planning time then we would have.  However, in Dominica the branch is easily within walking distance from the dock in the northern anchorage.  We decided attending church was important and we could shift our plans.

The new plan was to leave Les Saintes Saturday, for the short 18 miles to Dominica where we would have plenty of time in the afternoon to find customs and clear in, plus walk around the town of Portsmouth and find the church building.  Monday morning we would motor to a southern anchorage on Martinique for the night.  Then Tuesday morning we would have a short sail to St. Lucia. 

We arrived in Dominica and were hailed multiple times on the radio and welcomed by several small local boats.  We had read about the “boat hands” in Dominica, but were not quite prepared for their strong welcome.  They were all quite polite, but it was interesting being watched by 4 different little local boats, each waiting for us to get anchored and settled so they could offer us their services.  The boat hands offer river tours and hiking and rainforest island tours.  And will help with anything the boaters might need.  We will be using some of their services when we return in the fall and explore the beautiful Dominica.  We did purchase some bananas and mangos from one of the local boats. 

The church building was easy to find and on Sunday morning we were surprised to meet several young families living in Dominica attending medical school here.  We were a little saddened that very few of the members were locals, and wondered if it was hard for the locals and American church member student families to find a bond together.  In our travels we have found that the trials of the members of the church in the small branches on the islands are very different the the trials we face.  The families – students and locals, were all very welcoming and friendly, and we really enjoyed being in church and learning about Jesus Christ together.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Les Saintes, Guadeloupe


A few miles south of Guadeloupe is a group of small islands called The Saintes.  We had heard from other boaters how much they loved these little islands.  It is a beautiful place, with gorgeous sunsets every night.  The small town is very French.  Ferries run all day long bringing tourists from Guadeloupe over to spend the day on the main island of Les Saintes.  On of the interesting things about visiting the French islands is the mid day siesta.  Just about every shop in town closes from 1pm till 4pm.  Which can sometimes make it difficult, when you show up to go to the store for some quick groceries, and they are all closed for the afternoon.  Just one of those neat experiences, different from at home. 


We anchored behind the piton hill call Pan de Sucre. The other nearby anchorages required picking up a mooring ball or anchoring far behind the mooring field in a more exposed area.  We like this small quieter anchorage.   Behind the beach on shore was a resort that nicely provided us with internet access while we were there. 


We enjoyed our week stay in The Saintes.  We took the tender around all the islands exploring the area, and saw a few beautiful looking anchorages, but with only 2 towns in the whole area, we would not have had internet access if we had switched to one of these beautiful remote anchorages. On some of the islands the bushes were growing in a diagonal pattern from the wind.  If you look at the picture above you will see what I mean.  The greenery seems to swoop up diagonally.  The wind blows so much that they are pushed in this direction, it creates a pretty manicured look.


We enjoyed snorkeling right from the boat out to the cliffs off the island.  And towards the piton on a different day.  There are numerous other snorkeling sites in the area had we wanted to take the tender out to them.  It was nice to just jump in from the boat and swim for the afternoon.  We had noticed there were so many baby fish everywhere.  It is spring, and the eggs have hatched.  The kids convinced David to set up the trampoline for them to play on off the back of the boat.  We hadn’t had that out since we left the BVI’s.


We visited Fort Napoleon on Terre D’Haut above the town.  It was about a mile hike uphill to get to the Fort perched on the hill.  It is a small fort with nice displays on what it was like shortly after Columbus came to island.  It also included a history of the battle fought on the water over the islands.


They put this fort in the right place.  The view from the top of the hill is incredible.  Just beautiful.  We enjoyed looking out over the islands and anchorages.



On the walk down from the fort the kids decided to split it up into races.  They had fun running down the hill to the next switchback and stopping.  They even let Matthew win a time or two.  Sometimes we would add more challenge, by skipping, or hopping, or going backwards.IMG_7826IMG_7872IMG_7879IMG_7900

David and I were able to get in a couple of Dives while we were there.  We hadn’t been diving since Saba, since I hadn’t gotten sick.  It was a whole new experience diving with the French.  First of all, it was more expensive than any of the other places we had been diving.  They only go out for 1 dive at a time.  And you have to get all your gear ready – even if you are renting.  Then carry and swim your heavy gear out to the dive boat, then load it onto the boat.  After your dive you swim and carry your gear back to the shop, unattach it, and wash it off.  All the other places we have been diving—they do all the work for you, it’s part of what you are paying for.  So not only did we pay more here, we had to do all the work ourselves.  But that is the way it is here in these French islands.  Another first for us was entering the water with a back roll off the side of the boat.  I was a little freaked out I would smack my head, but not at all.  It went smoothly entering the water this way.


Our first dive site was La Baliene, (the whale).  It was very pretty with lots of colorful sponges, boulders and canyons and tons of fish, especially baby fish.  We saw a turtle, and lots of drum fish, and a couple of eels.  The next morning on our dive we headed south to a spot called The Virgin.  It was also very pretty and colorful and full of fish.

Soon it was time to head south again.  This time we were headed all the way to St. Lucia where we would leave the boat for a few months to head home to Idaho.


Friday, May 10, 2013



We arrived in Guadeloupe late in the day, just as the sun was setting.  We had enough time to find a spot to anchor in the crowded and deep anchorage of Deshaies, Guadeloupe.  The next morning David and I went into town looking for the shop that houses the customs computers.  In the island’s of Guadeloupe and Martinique, both part of France, you can clear into customs by filling out a form on a computer, usually found in a internet cafĂ© or shop.  We found the shop, but it was closed because it was Sunday morning.  We headed back to the boat to wait for Monday. 


David had said that the boat had rocked terribly through the night.  Luckily I had slept through it.  Both he and Madison complained about it, so we put out a stern anchor to keep us pointed into the smalls swells rounding the bay.  The anchorage had cleared out quite a bit during the day, so that made it easier to put out a stern anchor.  With 2 anchors out we would not swing, so it was important to watch where the boats around us anchored – since they will swing with the shifting winds, and we won’t.  We found that in the evening, the winds would drop to none, and the small swell would push the boats to lie parallel to them and rock the boats.  We were happy that night as we stayed pointed into the swells and we watched the other boats in the anchorage rock like crazy.


The winds had been blowing a little out of the south which had all the boats facing out of the anchorage instead of to shore.  Little rainstorms were passing thru, and with them, sometimes dolphins would come into the anchorage and swim around.  It was so fun to watch them play right near the boat.

Monday morning we headed back into town, to clear customs.  If only all islands were this easy.  We simply filled out the computer form, paid $6 US to the store clerk who printed our form and stamped it.  No immigration to see or getting our passports stamped, but we were now cleared in and could come ashore and see whatever we’d like.  There is not a lot of English here.  French or Creole.  I am sad to say that my French was not good enough.  We got by, but I wish it were better.  Of course that would require more effort on my part of learning it.


I was still recovering from my crazy flu bug the week before so we weren’t in a hurry to tour the island.  We spent our days taking it easy in the calm anchorage.  The kids had school every day of course, than in the afternoons we’d go for a swim off the boat, or headed off to the cliffs on the side of the anchorage for a snorkel.  We often went into town to pick up delicious french bread from the bakery.  We tried their fresh croissant and pastries too.  IMG_7173

One afternoon David loaded up which ever kids wanted to go- Calvin and Isabel, and Madison and headed off in the tender, for a boat tour of Guadeloupe. I didn’t feel up to a few hours of riding in the tender, so the rest of the kids and I stayed behind on the boat for naps and quiet time.  They went and explored the north side and the river that runs thru the center of Guadeloupe.  They saw lots of farm land and beautiful country.  At one point they wrapped a line in the prop and David had to take a quick swim to remove the line.  It rained on and off throughout the day, but they said they didn’t mind.   


After a few days we made arrangements to rent a van for a day, and early in the morning we headed off to see Guadeloupe.  If you look at Guadeloupe on a map, you will see it looks sort of like a butterfly.  The right wing is the island Grand Terre, and it is quite flat.  It was formed from an old volcano and has been eroded away.  The outer islands of the Caribbean are of this same age and formation.  The left wing of Guadeloupe is Basse Terre.  It is a younger island, and it’s volcano is still active and forming the island.  The inner loop of the Caribbean islands are of this age and formation.  They are all relatively young with rainforest covered hills and peaks, with potentially active volcano’s. 


We drove south along the coastal road.  It had many curves as it climbed up and down through the hills along the shoreline through villages and towns till we reached the south end of the island.  At this point the island becomes more flat along the south and west coast and there is a fast highway.  We hadn’t driven on a highway since we left Puerto Rico.  It was fun to see a nice roadway.  On the south end of the island we drove up into the rainforest and visited the 2nd chute of Cabret.  One of 3 nearby waterfalls.  It was a bit overcast, but supposedly on a clear day you can see these waterfalls out at sea.  We were only able to hike to the 2nd fall, as the 1st and 3rd were hours further. 


The kids had a fun time hiking on the short trail.  On the way back they would run ahead and then stop and join hands, blocking the trail.  As we approached, one of them would tell us a riddle.  We couldn’t pass until we answered the riddle, then they would run off again, to repeat the process over.  We don’t know to many riddles so after 4 or 5 they started repeating them.  It was a fun hike.

On the way down from the falls, we stopped to make another short hike out to a pretty lake, where it rained briefly on us and we were swarmed by mosquitos.  Matthew grabbed a giant leaf and used it as an umbrella to keep in dry, he remembered learning this from hiking on the island of Saba.  The trees and plants are so pretty up here in the rainforest.  I just love seeing the moss covered trees and roots, they are so pretty. 


We continued driving along the populated west coast of Basse Terre.  There is a small river that run between the 2 islands so it is hard to tell that they are 2 separate islands.  David had taken the tender down this river in his explorations a few days earlier.  We stopped at a Carrefour market to check out food and prices.  Carrefour is the brand of store we would shop at in Poland, so it was fun seeing the French grocery store here in the islands.  We were excited to see that when we return to our boat late summer we can stock up on food at the Carrefour in Martinique, also a part of France. 


On our way back to the boat, we pulled off the road to allow a bicycle race proceed by us.  The race had passed us earlier in the morning on the other side of the island, it was fun to see them again on this side of the island too. IMG_7396


Saturday, May 4, 2013


Montserrat is a small island part of Great Britain.  About 5000 people currently live there.  20 years ago there were about 14000, but then the Volcano exploded, and more than half the island was evacuated.  Most have not returned. 


We stopped at Montserrat for one night.  In the morning we headed into the harbor for a tour of the small island.  Our Taxi Guide, Charles, showed us around the harbor village.  There’s not too much there right now.  They are hoping to build a new town center and shopping center here, and someday maybe a resort development and Marina.  Right now, the tourist industry is not very big on Montserrat.  With the active volcano nearby, I’m sure tourists aren’t too interested in investing in resort property there right now.


Next we headed up into the hills. Montserrat is quite hilly, so much so, that you can’t even see the volcano from where we were in the harbor.  We stopped at a fresh water spring and tasted the water.  Our guide pointed out fruits and plants along the way that grow in Montserrat. 

We arrived at the Volcano Museum, which we knew would be closed, since it was Saturday, but it had a good view of the Volcano and valley below.  Charles pointed out the “gut”--  a river bed that fills with water or mud when it rains, but is most often dry.  The kids had learned about “guts” in St Kitts.  In St. Kitts they filled with water, here mud.  In one area there was once a river that flowed, the river is now buried under the ash and mud, and when it rains this area flows mud and debris down from the volcano.  The river of water still flows underneath it’s new covering.  The interesting thing about these mud guts is they are creating new land.  The mud and ash that flows down piles into the sea and the shore line is expanded little by little. 


He pointed out the valley of homes north of the Volcano.  The area there is lush and green, and from our distance it looks like people could live there, that nothing had been destroyed.  But because of it’s proximity to the volcano and fumes, the homes were evacuated and can not be lived in.  He drove us through several areas like this.  In fact he drove us thru the area he had once lived, but can no longer.  He told us of how he and his family could easily walk to town from their home and how he liked where they had lived.  Where they live now, he said, is different. 


We drove across the large mud gut and over near the valley or the town of Plymouth.  It was once the capital of Montserrat and the largest town here.  Now it is mostly destroyed, and what remains is covered in feet upon feet of ash.  Along the way we passed a thermal energy plant.  This is a new project on Montserrat.  In the last few years they have started to drill for thermal energy.  They are hoping the project will go well and they can send some of the power over to the more populated English island of Antigua.  Another source of income to the island from the volcano is gravel.  Each time it rains and more is washed down from the volcano, they sift out the gravel and export it. 


We drove into an evacuated area above Plymouth. This area is monitored by a guard along the road as you enter the area.  He takes a count of everyone in the vehicle and allows only daytime entrance into the area.  As we drove by homes you could see in the windows items that had been left behind, tables, chairs, filing cabinets, dishes, tools,…  It was very sad to see so much left behind.  Charles took us to the remains of a hotel he once worked at.  It is completely intact, but covered in ash.  From there we had a closer view of Plymouth and could see what had happened. 


This volcano did not erupt spewing lava everywhere, so it looks different from what we had seen on the Big Island of Hawaii, where lava is flowing.  There is no lava flow here or lava rock from a lava flow.  This volcano boiled and heated inside until it could take no more, then it blew it’s top, but not with lava.  It blew up from the hot gases collecting inside, and down came the gases, rushing out through Plymouth, destroying and burning everything in it’s path. (in the pictures you can see this area that was cut thru the town, it incinerated everything and left portions of the town in tact where the gases didn’t reach).


Then it rained ash everywhere. The ash piled higher and higher.  Then the rains came and created canyons of mud flow and ash down the volcano, pushing the mud and ash out to sea creating new land, and growing Montserrat.  Charles pointed out to us where the land use to end, and the ocean began.  Now a new shoreline extends a few hundred feet out.  Where we were at the hotel, he explained, the gases never came, but the ash rained and rained down.  Now much of what has been covered in ash is starting to grow plants and bushes, and it is starting to look more green than brown.


On our way back we stopped at a couple of view points.  He took us to the top of a hill, where our van barely made it up, only after David and Madison hopped out to walk up to make the van lighter.


As we drove back thru the mud gut from the way we came, Charles drove out to the new beach.  We got out for a short walk.  The kids found pumice stones that had been washed down from the volcano.  I didn’t know pumice was made from volcano’s, but it is a kind of lava rock. 



From here we drove over to the housing area where they moved everyone too.  The government had built new homes for people who needed them, and was now selling them to them. 


We enjoyed our morning tour of Montserrat and had the anchorage afforded more protection we probably would have stayed longer than one night.  In the afternoon we started our short sail to Guadeloupe, we stayed close to shore so we could view Plymouth and the volcano from the seaside. 

Only 19 people were killed during the eruption.  Everyone had been evacuated beforehand, but a few kept going back to get more things, and some got caught by the eruption.  It is somewhat sad and devastating what has happened here on this island, but at the same time, it is fascinating how land is created and growing by this process.













I know there are a lot of photos, but it was just so interesting. 

Two years ago the island was hoping life would get back to normal, when the volcano erupted again. Fortunately this time the eruption flowed on the south end of the island, where no one was living. So there was no one to evacuate and no homes lost. In this area there are new guts and canyons of mud and ash and growth to the island.