Our “Best Of” tour of the Grenadines

After leaving Dominica, we had to come to grips with the fact that our cruising season on Sanitas is almost at an end. Hurricane season is right around the corner, and it’s time to head south to Grenada to get ready. The country of St Vincent and the Grenadines still requires a COVID test and expensive health check fee to enter, so we almost skipped it. But…we had so much fun in SVG last winter, we couldn’t imagine heading south without stopping at our favorite anchorages. So here’s a glimpse of our favorite places south of St Vincent and north of Grenada 😎

We sailed Sanitas past St Lucia, admiring the stunning beauty of the pitons. And we had a salty sail down the coast on St Vincent before dropping anchor in what feels like our winter home of Bequia.

Our favorite things to do in Bequia are to hike to beautiful viewpoints, enjoy the fish chowder at Coco’s, to lime on Princess Margaret beach, and to catch up with old friends and make new ones.  This year, we also had the privilege of participating in the naming ceremony for Popeye and Lisa’s beautiful homemade wooden sailing dinghy Velocette.

We tore ourselves away from bustling, exciting Bequia and headed south to the paradise of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. There’s nothing here but nature, but wow is it beautiful. we snorkeled with turtles and rays, climbed to gorgeous viewpoints, and ate a delicious barbecue on the beach cooked by our friends Romeo and Juliette ❤️ If you’re ever in the area, Tobago Cays can’t be missed!

Our next little downwind hop to Union Island was a short, sweet sail. We nestled Sanitas right into our favorite anchor spot behind the reef in Clifton and went ashore to look around. Clifton looks great! Perhaps the number of tourists who are returning now as COVID restrictions ease is bringing valuable money back to the island. Lots of buildings have had a new coat of bright colored paint, and there are some cute new bars and restaurants. We made the 30-minute trek over the hill to the most beautiful beach on Union and spent the afternoon at Sparrows Beach Club. I warned you that this would be our “best of” reel, didn’t I? Lunch at Sparrows really did feel like a vacation from our vacation.

After another easy downwind sail, we cleared into the country of Grenada on sleepy Carriacou. We hiked with baby goats, got our Pfizer booster shots, and reconnected with a friend we hadn’t seen since Grenada. Every Wednesday afternoon is Paint and Sip at Allison’s Paradise Beach Club. It’s a great chance to meet other sailors, enjoy a delicious cocktail, and eat a wonderful meal. Our boat name sign that we painted in November 2020 is still there – along with a couple hundred newer works of art!

Sanitas will be pointing her bow south again in a few days, enjoying her last sail of the season. Soon, we’ll be back in her summer home in Prickly Bay, and Capt. Mike and I will be working our butts off to get her ready for hurricane season storage. Yikes. Until then, we’ll enjoy every sunset we can experience on the water 🌅

Chasing waterfalls in Dominica

We met up with the incomparable Kish Richards to explore more of the beautiful island of Dominica. First, we joined Holiday for lunch at Kish’s place. When I asked what was in the thick spicy soup she made us, Kish gave us a sly grin and said “meat” and made a scrambling running gesture with her fingers. Hmmm…Later, she showed us a picture of the critter called an agouti which flavored our lunch – maybe something like a big tail-less rat?

Sanitas in Portsmouth Harbor

We set out on a full day tour of the southern part of Dominica with Kish and a van full of other sailors. As we drove, Kish told us about the dramatic effects Hurricane Maria had on Dominica back in 2017 and how the island’s economy has not yet recovered. Kish herself had a great job in security at the huge American medical school in Portsmouth before the hurricane hit and the school left the island for good, leaving a ghost town of empty buildings behind to be slowly reclaimed by jungle.

Our first stop was a short hike to Trafalgar Falls. Oh my gosh! If I thought the Bwa Nef waterfall was beautiful, this set of twin waterfalls blows it away in terms of beauty. We visited on a rainy day so the falls were simply raging. Not safe to get too close or to go for a swim, but we just soaked up the beauty.

After a coffee break, we sought out our next Dominican waterfall. This time, instead of an easy paved trail, we earned our views with a steep and slippery scramble. Middleham Falls is huge! I couldn’t even capture its full height in a single frame on my camera. Supposedly, you can swim there on lower flow days, but we didn’t have to swim to get completely soaked from the spray on the viewing platform. Thus the theme of the day was established – we were going to be wet!!! All..day..long.

Did I mention we were going to get wet? Our next stop kind of took me by surprise. Kish told us we were going to visit Titou Gorge and I envisioned another scenic nature hike up a scenic river bed. Not exactly. We we told to change into our swimsuits and pay 5ec to rent a life vest. Next thing you know, we were even told to kick off our water sandals and to jump one at a time into a pool of very cold water. After a few steps, the stream was too deep to touch bottom, and the line of us doggy paddled our way upstream. The gorge immediately narrowed to only a couple meters wide, and we craned our necks to look up at the undulating sone walls covered with moss and dripping ferns with a rim high above our heads. Again, because of all the rain, the force of the water was too strong for me to make it all the way upstream to the small waterfall, but Capt. Mike fought through it for the best view. Once he gave up on his grip of the rocky wall, the stream spun him around and spit him back out downstream like a water slide.

The thrilling conclusion of our island tour was a snorkel at Champagne Reef. Remember those seven volcanos? The geothermal activity at this point on the island manifests as a steady streams of bubbles making their way through the porous material of the coral reef. We swam along the reef in snorkel masks and fins, drifting through the streams of bubbles, catching the bubbles with our fingers. Colorful reef fish nibble at the coral and at the bubbles. I was surprised to find that I could hear the bubbles popping and fizzing. So peaceful, and a unique experience!

After a sunset rum punch on Champagne Beach and a fresh fish dinner at Sunset Bay Club, Kish dropped us off at the dinghy dock long after dark. We tumbled out of the van with armfuls of soggy clothing and dinghied back to our boats to rest up and dream of our next Dominican adventure.

My new Dominican friend Beverly

Dominica, the Nature Island

We’ve been trying to make it to Dominica since before COVID. Everyone told us we’d love it – the hikes, the rainforest, the waterfalls, the mountains! Finally, this April, Dominica eased their COVID entry requirements, and Sanitas pointed her bow toward Portsmouth harbor. From sea level, Dominica looks like Jurassic park. Verdant green mountains soar toward the sky with peaks wreathed in clouds, sparkling waterfalls flowing into one of the 365 rivers, crossing black sand beaches to rejoin the ocean. We dusted off our hiking shoes, and set out to explore.

To warm up, we hiked Cabrits National Park and historic 18th century Fort Shirley. Great views from both peaks, and we pretended the harbor was filled with tall ships and Buccaneers instead of cruising sailboats.

Curious about the gorgeous tropical vegetation all around us, we took a tour up Indian River with Titus, who knows the name and medicinal or cooking purpose of every plant or flower we passed. Titus taught us about the birds, snakes, and crabs that live along the river banks, and sent us home with a bouquet of tropical flowers and a big bag of cooking herbs.

Seven volcanos make up Dominica, and there are signs of geothermal activity everywhere. At Cold Soutrière, we dipped our fingers into the bubbly, sulphuric-smelling mud pools and got up close and personal with the first volcano. It was the first stop on a tour of the northern part of the island where our guide, Winston, told us every stop would be “a surprise.” Personally, I prefer the joy of anticipation…and knowing whether I need to wear hiking shoes or flip flops for each walk. 🤣 It was a easy walk to our first Dominican waterfall of Bwa Nef, but not all of them would be so easy to find no conquer!

Red Rock looks a bit like the Flinstone’s town of bedrock. The iron in this soft, crumbly rock turns it a distinctive orange-red and allows the rain to crumble and carve it away, constantly changing the shape of the coast over time.

Capt. Mike was in heaven when we finally stopped at Pointe Baptiste Chocolate Factory. This small family business produces gourmet chocolate from organic cacao beans and cane sugar and local spices into chocolate bars and rum truffles. Oh my gosh, delicious!

On the road (water) again!

Once we got Sanitas’ engine fixed, we didn’t waste any time! Laundry, groceries, filling the water and fuel tanks, moving from the marina to the anchorage…in about 24 hours we had Sanitas ready to move. A good weather window was coming up at the beginning of April and we wanted to be ready to take advantage of it.

Take advantage of it we did! Around noon on Tuesday we raised anchor and started north. The engine purred like a kitten (or maybe more like a tiger) when we used it to navigate out of the anchorage and get ourselves on our point of sail. But as the Captain says, “We’re a sailboat!” and we didn’t use the engine for long. We had a glorious sail up the west coast of Martinique, past Diamond Rock, and anchored in St Pierre just before sunset.

We set the alarm for 4am and were underway well before sunrise. Setting off in the dark is always a bit disconcerting, but the harbor in St Pierre is wide open with few hazards, so it wasn’t dangerous. We mainly had to watch out for fishing boats and floats for lobster pots. Sunrise at sea is always glorious, and this morning we even had a beautiful bright double rainbow to welcome us back to the sea.

Conditions were perfect for a fast, salty sail. We had easterly winds pretty consistently from 90 degrees between 12 knots and 20 knots. However, we encountered a lot of variation in conditions as we traveled part of the day between the islands of Martinique and Dominica (where seas can be quite big, and winds are strong and sometimes swirl as they are funneled between the islands) and partly in the leeward protection of mountainous Dominica (where wind and waves were lighter, and we actually had to motor sail for about an hour when we had no wind at all). Capt. Mike was kept on his toes putting in reefs and shaking them out. Bringing out the headsails and furling them in. We both ended up with callouses as our soft little hands had to become accustomed to line handling again.

Seas hit us on the beam which makes for a very rocky and rolly ride. There was a period of about an hour when we experienced the worst of the wind funneling effect with consistent 29 knots and I mostly just held on for a very wild ride. Capt. Mike took a picture of me in what he calls my gecko pose. You probably can’t tell from this photo but we are heeled over about 30 degrees so I’m bracing myself with my legs and holding onto the companionway and the winch. I’m kind of huddled in the protection of our bimini because waves on the beam create a great deal of splash.

Speaking of splash! We had a huge wave hit us without warning, and Mike and I were both soaked. The cockpit was swamped – good thing we have good scupper drains – and both bilge pumps turned on, and an alarm started beeping loudly. The worst part of the chaos was that we had forgotten to close the companionway with the sliding boards. So at least a couple of liters of that huge wave ended up with in the cabin. We spilled a bit of wind off the main and once I was sure that the Captain had things under control, I went below to survey the damage. Bilge pumps seemed to be doing their job. The alarm came from the lpg propane gas sensor, so I turned the propane solinoid off at the breaker panel. Mike disconnected it back at the tank just to be sure. I mopped up the saltwater lake on the cabin sole, rolled up the rugs, and did my best to dry off the port settee. I wiped down the breaker panel and port bulkhead. It’s the first time ever that I had to wash saltwater off the INSIDE of the portlights as well as the outside. Looking back on it, we weren’t in danger, but things were pretty darn exciting for a while.

Speaking of water in the cabin, I found a new leak, or what sailors call euphemistically “saltwater incursion.” I noticed that small drops of water were landing on the cushions of the port settee. I first thought that we hadn’t closed the cowl vent well enough. Nope. Watching for a while, I observed a drop forming on the zipper of the headliner, growing, growing, and then falling onto our lovely comfy couch. Darn it! That’s a problem to investigate for another day.

All in all, we averaged over 6 knots today which is crazy fast for little Sanitas. We made it to the mooring field near Terre-de-Haut in The Saintes, Guadeloupe with plenty of time to pick up a ball before sunset. After a day and a half of very active sailing, we were much too tired to go ashore. But after taming the chaos of the boat a bit, we could enjoy a magical view of the island during dinner and then a well-deserved early bedtime.

It’s Alive!

At long last, Sanitas has a working motor!

After two weeks of recovery from Covid and two additional weeks of waiting for our fuel injector pump to be rebuilt (and a lot of stops by the mechanic’s office, asking if there was any news) our diesel engine is back together!

Monsieur Rubin of Mechabat told me that the clean and shiny refurbished fuel injector pump is “bijoux” or jewelry for Sanitas. He spent two hours contorted into the tiny engine compartment grunting and swearing, finding the parts that fell to the bottom of the space, bleeding the fuel lines… And finally telling Capt. Mike to start her up. She started on the first try! Apparently, mechanics in France have the same saying as they do in the USA, “There’s always one part left over” and Rubin explained that the one bolt remaining in the Tupperware containers wasn’t that important. I hope he’s right 🤪

We had already taken advantage of our proximity to Le Marin to buy groceries, do laundry, and take lots and lots of warm showers. All we needed to do was pay for our mooring ball (€110 euros for the month) fill up our water and fuel tanks, and we were free!!! Where to next, Sanitas?