Our Final Push To Grenada

After an easy overnight, we approached Carriacou (pronounced Carri-a-coo) just after dawn. The island belongs to Grenada, and we planned to clear into the country here.

As usual, there were interesting sights along the way: interesting rock islands, and a waterfront house that caught Scott’s eye.

In the early morning hours, we made the turn into Tyrell Bay anchorage. The large bay was full of boats, boats and more boats…I counted 82! We definitely weren’t in Kansas (aka, the Western Caribbean) anymore.

Once we were anchored, Scott made his way over to nearby Tyrell Bay Marina, where the customs and immigration offices were located. He arrived just as they were scheduled to open, but there was no sign of the customs officer. Thirty minutes later, the young officer showed up, and let Scott and several other cruisers inside.

Apparently, he’d been at a party the night before, not getting home until the wee hours, and consequently had a late morning start. Scott, having learned much patience with customs and immigration in the Western Caribbean, just smiled, nodded and waited to be called on. There is an online service in place for several of the Eastern Caribbean islands, called Sea Clear. Clearance forms can be complete online before arriving, saving time when in the office. Customs officials like it, as they spend much less time deciphering handwriting.

Not all cruisers use this service, and end up having to fill out the lengthy forms by hand before getting their turn. As a result, Scott has ruffled feathers more than once, by being waived to the front of the line. Sea Clear, and Scott’s patient attitude, has made for quick and friendly clearance on several Eastern Caribbean islands.

Back to Carriacou…the immigration officer must have been at the same party, and must have stayed even later, as he never showed up at all! Once the customs officer finished his paperwork, he did the immigration clearance for Scott as well, and we were official in Grenada.

To celebrate, we headed to shore for lunch at the Lazy Turtle. In addition to other items, pizza was on the menu, and was billed the “best in the Caribbean.”

The pizza was far from the best in the Caribbean, but it fit the bill for lunch, and views back out at the crowded anchorage were good. Soon, the afternoon sun had us changing locations, over to some funky, wooden tables in the shade. After lunch, we spent time wandering the island a bit, then returned to Sea Life for an early night.

The next morning, we raised anchor and continued toward Grenada. We made one last stop at Rhonde Island, also owned by Grenada, for a few quiet nights at anchor.

There anchorage has room for only four or five boats, a nice change from 82! We enjoyed the quiet, space and Scott got some exploring in.

 

 

 

From Rhonde Island, it was just a day trip to Grenada. We passed more interesting rock islands, and Scott put some lines in the water hoping for a nibble; unfortunately, he got skunked again.

Moving down the west cost of the island, we passed the capital city of St. Georges, and the remains of Fort George.

 

 

 

 

We passed several types of interesting boats in St. Georges anchorage, and the large Sandals LaSource Grenada, before turning east, to head along the south coast.

An hour or so later we made our final turn, into Prickly Bay.  Again, this large bay was full of boats. There wasn’t enough room to lay out a proper amount of anchor chain, so we chose to grab one of the marina’s mooring balls.

 

We’d made it to our hurricane season home. Howard checked out his new surroundings, and we settled in.

Here are more photos of our final push to Grenada.

 

 

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

The Beautiful Island Of St. Lucia

Our next stop on the way to Grenada, was the beautiful island of St. Lucia. The island was named by the French, after Saint Lucy of Syracuse, and it is the only country in the world to be named after a woman. The French were the island’s first European settlers, after signing a treaty with the native Carib Indians in 1660. England took control of the island from 1663 to 1667, and in the years following, it was at war with France 14 times. Rule of the island changed frequently (it was ruled seven times each by the French and British), which seems to be a pattern on many of the Caribbean islands.

In February of 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state, and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Formerly the British Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Nations is associated with the United Kingdom, and made up of 52 member states, which are mostly former territories of the British Empire.

Scott and I vacationed on the island 14 years ago, and were looking forward to a return trip. Unfortunately, the island hasn’t been the most safe location for cruisers in recent years.

We learned early on in our cruising life, that visiting an island by plane, for vacation, is much different than coming by private boat. Cruisers interact much more with locals; shopping for food, eating at local restaurants and exploring an island’s hills, mountains and beaches.

In contrast, most vacationers don’t leave their resort, and for the most part don’t need to (food, beaches, water sports and entertainment are usually all onsite). When they do, it’s most likely with an organized tour of some kind. With cruisers being anchored relatively close to shore, they are more at risk of being boarded by desperate islanders, and unfortunately, boardings on St. Lucia have becoming more violent.

On many islands we visited, cruisers only experience the rare case of a dinghy being stolen, or a snorkel and mask gone missing’ in most cases, these things were left outside, or left unlocked. St. Lucia, however, has seen more and more cases of violent assault on cruisers, both at anchor and ashore. These incidents did not sway us from visiting the island. Instead, we adjusted our anchoring plan for safer locations, and  were extra cautious of our surroundings.

This volcanic Caribbean island is more mountainous than most, with its highest point being Mount Gimie at 3,120 feet above sea level. Here’s a topographical map of St. Lucia that I found online:

St. Lucia’s Soufriere Volcano, locally known as the Sulphur Springs, is considered the only “drive-in” volcano in the world. It’s a major tourist attraction on the island, with the road running right up to, and through, the crater of the volcano. Steam and sulfur waft out from the crater, providing a lovely, thick smell of rotten eggs. Boiling mud and water bubble just a few feet from the overlook. (We did not visit the volcano during this visit to St. Lucia, so I borrowed some photos online.)

The sulphur springs emit a mixture of iron, calcium oxide, sulphur, copper oxide, carbon and magnesium, creating the pungent smell and staining the surrounding rocks a green color.

The volcano is considered to be dormant, with its last eruption occurring in the late 18th century, unlike the highly active Soufriere Hills Volcano, located on the island of Monsterrat, who’s pyroclastic eruption in 1997 destroyed much of the island.

There are well-established hot springs and mud baths here as well. These bathing pools, hotter than the average bath, contain volcanic minerals which are believed to have therapeutic qualities for the skin, and are a big tourist attraction.

While stinky, mineral-loaded mud baths and hot springs are all well and good, the show stopper on St. Lucia is definitely it’s Piton Mountains. Here are some aerial views of the island’s beautiful signature attraction.

Said to be the most photographed site in the Caribbean, and most famous mountain pair on earth, the Pitons were created less than a million years ago by volcanic activity. Located near the town of Soufriere, in southwestern St. Lucia, the Arawak Indians considered the mountains to have mystical powers, and early European explorers noted their unique beauty. In 2004 the Pitons, along with the Soufriere Volcano, were awarded World Heritage Site status.

These volcanic plugs, land formations made out of volcanic material, are the most iconic sight on the island. They are the symbol St. Lucia, and also appear on the island’s flag.

Gros Piton, and its smaller sibling Petit Piton, are easy to spot from many points along the island’s southwest coast.

Although both peaks are available for climbing, locals caution against hiking Petit Piton unless you are an experienced climber, as the mountain is incredibly steep. Gros Piton is the higher of the two mountains. It’s easier to climb than the Petit Piton, but still a strenuous go.

Gros Piton rises to a height of 2619 feet above sea level, and is the second highest peak on St. Lucia, after Mount Gimie (3120 feet). Petit Piton rises to a height of 2461 feet, is steeper than Gros Piton and is therefore much more challenging to climb. Here are views I found online, of views from the top of Gros Piton:

We made our way from Martinique to Rodney Bay, on St. Lucia’s northwest side. The large bay provided an easy ride to customs and immigration, as well as several grocery stores. Customs wanted Howard to have a vet exam for clearance, but Scott managed to convince them that our cat would not be swimming ashore, and soon we were all three officially checked in.

Bright and early the next morning, we spotted Gregory , a local man who’s small boat was loaded down with fruits, veggies and plants for sale. Several cruisers were put off by him, but after having much experience with veggie boats in the San Blas, we were definitely game for some easy, door-to-door local shopping. We chatted with Gregory, bought some sugar-sweet, local mangoes and then he was on his way.

During our shopping run, we spotted an Indian restaurant on the marina grounds, so we decided to treat ourselves to dinner ashore, but not before enjoying a vivid rainbow on the horizon behind us.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner at the colorful restaurant, with views of the marina, and then headed back to Sea Life, taking care to be back on board by dark.

Not having long to linger on the island, we raised anchor the next morning, and headed farther down the coast to Marigot Bay. This scenic bay is a historical landmark, and was the site of many battles between the French and British navies. The bay was also used as the setting for scenes from the 1967 film Dr. Dolittle; the original musical film, not the Eddie Murphy remake.

Coming in, a line of palms hide an open area at the back of the bay, but these aerial photos give a better overall view.

Scott and I visited the bay on a day trip when we were on the island 14 years ago, and were eager to see it again. Entering the bay, we were glad to see that the Marigot Bay Beach Resort was still in business.

Not surprisingly, there had been much development in the past 14 years, with the addition of an upscale resort and marina at the back of the bay. We made our way in, and picked up a mooring ball just off of the resort.

The development has not detered the locals, who netted bait fish near us in the mooring field.

For $20.00 a night, we had use of the resort grounds, pools and restaurants…not a bad deal! The next day we went ashore to wander around, and then settled in for an afternoon poolside.

We’d made new friends in Fort de France, who had traveled to Marigot as well. Mark and Deb were also heading for Grenada, on their catamaran, Kefi. We enjoyed our day by the pool with them, in our posh surroundings.

Mark and Scott have similar taste in hats.

That evening, Scott and I took the dinghy out for happy hour at nearby bars in the bay. We enjoyed rum punches, cold Pitons (the local beer) and a beautiful sunset.

The next morning, it was time to push on. We passed local children having fun on a rope swing and enjoyed a few more scenic views as we said goodbye to Marigot Bay.

We made our way south along the coast, which was dotted with local cottages at the shoreline and multi-million dollar houses in the hills.

Eventually, we caught sight of the pitons in the distance. Coming south, they look much closer together than they actually are.

There are several resorts with terrific views of the pitons; some have open walls, offering unobstructed views.

As we approached the pitons, a pirate ship tour boat made for a great, “Pirates of the Caribbean” photo.

There are mooring balls at the base of these awesome mountains, but unfortunately the area around them isn’t safe for boaters anymore, so we didn’t stop. We did, however, take our time passing the twin mountains, to take many, many photos and just admire them.

Approaching from the north, Petit Piton seems larger, and it was obvious why this mountain is harder to climb.

Further along, Petit Piton shrinks in size, and Gross Piton rises above it.

As we pulled away from St. Lucia, I snapped some final photos of the pitons, just as St. Vincent came into view off of our bow.

We were on an overnight run to the island of Carriacou, part of Grenada, where we would clear into the country . Howard was hunkered down for the night, and a bright moon rose over St. Vincent to light our way.

Here are many more photos of our brief visit to St. Lucia, and the amazing Pitons.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Fort de France, Martinique

Leaving the quiet, scenic town of St. Pierre, we made our way just a few hours along the coast of Martinique, to the capital city of Fort de France. It was a good next stop, and offered larger stores for groceries. Along the way, we again enjoyed scenic views of this beautiful island.

 Fort de France became economically important after the eruption of Mount Pele, and the destruction of the town of St. Pierre in 1902. In addition to being the capital of Martinique, it’s also one of the major cities in the Caribbean, exporting sugar, rum canned fruit and cacao. I found some good aerial views of the city online:

The capital city has recently reinvented itself as a cruise-ship destination, with the construction of two new terminals. As we approached the harbor, it was clear we’d have an imposing neighbor nearby.

We anchored just off of the downtown area, and in view of Fort St. Louis, which is still in use by the French navy.

 

(Notice the McDonald’s in front of the cathedral, Scott was  thrilled.)

We enjoyed our first evening watching the cruise ship crew test lifeboats, and bracing ourselves against the wakes of the constant ferry traffic going to and from the town dock.

The many wakes were worth the colorful sunset views over the city.

In the morning, we made our way to the dinghy dock and into town, zigzagging the narrow, colorful streets.

We turned a corner, and came upon the colorfully ornate Bibliotheque Schoelcher (Schoelcher Library), at the edge of the city’s park. (the lighting was horrible in my photos, so I borrowed some online)

Abolitionist, writer and politician Victor Schœlcher left his vast library of 10,000 books to the General Council of Martinique in the late 19th century, on the condition that they should be kept in a private library open to all, with the intention of educating former slaves. Today, the library houses over 300,000 books.

We learned that the building was created in Paris, and then shipped to Martinique in pieces to be assembled…impressive!

Just blocks away is the St. Louis Cathedral, the seventh to have been built at this site. (I borrowed this photo online, due to construction fences around the entire base of the cathedral when we visited)

What we found most impressive about the cathedral is that the present one was completed as far back as 1895. It was designed by Henri Picq, who also envisioned the Bibliothèque Schœlcher.  This current cathedral is constructed with an iron frame and reinforced concrete, which has contributed greatly to its longevity.

Inside, we learned that the wooden pulpit, 19 stained glass windows, organ and wrought-iron railing are all original to the 1895 structure.

Scott stopped for a McDonald’s fix, and then it was on to Leader Price, a local grocery store. We perused the aisles, and bought a few things at good prices. With groceries in hand, we called it a day.

The next morning, it was back into town to clear out of Martinique. As I mentioned previously, clearing in and out of the French islands is far less complicated than other islands in the Eastern Caribbean, and much easier than on the western side. Computers are located in various shops throughout the islands, and except for a few euros paid to said shops for the service, the process is free. Find a computer, fill out the online form, pay at the register, and receive your printed clearance papers…done!

However, there are a few challenges: obviously, the language can cause some confusion when filling out forms, and European keyboards are a bit different than what we’re used to…just enough to cause frustration. We stopped in at Sea Services to clear out, and Scott managed the process just fine, despite a small boy looking over his shoulder.

Once cleared out of Martinique, we had 24 hours before having to leave. We set off to find the local mall, where another grocery store was located. Along the way, we poked our head into the local open market, before finding the mall just a few blocks away.

It was strange to see a large grocery store inside of a mall, but Carrefour did not disappoint. We came out with more groceries, and cheap, French foods. Wine, cheeses and other yummy items are incredibly affordable on the French islands.

We made our way back to the dinghy, using strange, revolving gates to cross the main street.

Scott was in love with the dinghy dock here. It was huge, with plenty of space for dinghies. The edge was covered in stainless steel, providing a smooth, kind surface for inflatables, and offered many stainless rings for tying off.

Later that evening, we returned to town for dinner at one of the many food stalls lining La Savane park, near the waterfront. I was so hungry, I forgot my camera, so here’s an online, aerial view.

We opted for kabobs, and they were nothing like I expected…much more delicious! Chicken was carved off of a spit, similar to a gyro, then placed on bread that was thinner than a pita, but thicker than a tortilla. Next, yummy garlic sauce was added, followed by tomatoes, peppers onions and…wait for it….french fries! Then, for the “piece de resistance,” the whole thing was wrapped like a burrito and placed in a hot press.

Whoever came up with this thing was a food genius. The wrap of awesomeness was yummy in my mouth, long after I was finished eating it. We hope to visit Martinique again, to explore more of the island, and will definitely make a pit stop at Fort de France, for another fix.

Our short stay in Fort de France was over, as winds were good to make another jump toward Grenada. We were leaving one beautiful island and heading for another; next stop, St. Lucia. Here are a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

A Day Of Rum, At Depaz Distillery On Martinique

Martinique is home to seven rum distilleries, one of which was within walking distance of our anchorage in St. Pierre. A day of rum was definitely appealing to Scott, so we set off to visit the Depaz Distillery.

We climbed out of town, past more “volcano” ruins, and onto a rural road that led to the distillery. Our path was lined with sugar cane fields.

Dodging rain along the way, we eventually spotted the distillery ahead, with it’s grand manor house.

We walked up the lane, past the restaurant with Mt. Pele in the distance and began to explore the grounds.

Several out-buildings described how the rum is made, and a small museum in the visitor’s center depicted Martinique’s history of rum, and that of the Depaz Distillery.

Here is what we learned:

Rum’s origins can be traced to the Caribbean, where over time, each island developed its own approach to making rum, but Martinique’s is very different from the others.

Almost all of the world’s rum is produced by fermenting and distilling molasses, a byproduct of the sugar industry, and is referred to as “rhum industrial.” When sugar cane’s power plummeted in the mid-19th century, distillers in Martinique and its neighboring French islands began a large-scale production of rum that originated directly from sugarcane, removing the sugar factory (the source of molasses) from the standard process.

The juice of fresh-cut sugarcane is taken directly from field to distillery, preventing spoilage. This “land to bottle” style is where the island’s signature spirit gets it’s name: “rhum agricole, or agricultural rum. As a result, Martinique’s distilleries were booming by the early 1900’s. The number of operating distilleries has shrunk dramatically, from around 75 in 1935, to just seven today, but rhum agricole has held on.

Martinique is the only geographic area in the rum industry that has earned an AOC,  which translates to controlled designation of origin, which is a big deal. AOC specifies that a particular food or drink (such as the yummy blue cheese from Roquefort or the sparkling wine from Champagne), is a regional specialty, and notable enough to merit it’s own “identity.”

The AOC requires the cultivators of the sugar cane, and the producers of rum, to adhere to various regulations. Neighboring French islands of Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante make near-identical styles of rum, but only Martinique has earned this AOC mark from the French government, which was awarded to them in 1996.

Above the city of Saint Pierre, among the hills that gradually rise to Mount Pele, is the Depaz distillery, a grand sugarcane plantation manor. The original distillery and manor house were destroyed by Mount Pele’s eruption. The sole family survivor, Victor Depaz had been studying in Bordeaux, France at the time of the eruption. He returned to Martinique 15 years later, and began to rebuild his family’s extensive estate and distillery. His return was an emotional one, as the city of Saint-Pierre had been described by some who knew the family as the “cradle of Victor’s childhood, and the tomb of his family.”

Working tirelessly, Victor Depaz focused his efforts on replanting the surrounding land, specifically rebuilding the agricultural distillery on the hundreds of acres he called home.

As luck would have it, the volcanic eruption left extremely fertile topsoil, in which Victor planted rare “blue” sugar cane (blue cane is the only type that requires true volcanic soil to flourish). This signature estate-produced blue cane is considered the most costly and difficult to grow, and delivers the ideal balance of sugars for Depaz rum’s maximum flavor and character. Today, it’s his signature blue cane that produces the agricole rhum called Depaz, and it’s production represents only 3% of the world’s rum.

Eventually, Victor’s hard work paid off, and he successfully rebuilt the Depaz Estate to the brilliance it had historically known.

Nothing is, or can be added to an AOC designated rhum agricole, such as coloring or flavors. To further intensify the blue cane’s natural flavors, only oak barrel aging is permitted.

The rhum is aged in special small, charred oak casks, for at least three years, which we were told infused  “attractive” barrel wood, and mountain air aromas into the finished product. Aged rum from Martinique is among the most highly regarded in the world.

With our lesson over, we wandered on, past a huge water wheel and up to the sprawling manor house. Sitting high atop a hill, the views back down toward the Caribbean were amazing.

Once inside, Scott admired the large study, with it’s antique furniture and “mature” smells. He took note of the details, planning a similar room in his future.

Outside, the rear of the manor house was just as grand, and the surrounding landscape just as beautiful.

Of course, no day of rum would be complete without  a tasting, so after roaming the grounds and manor house, we headed for the tasting area of the visitor’s center.

Depaz rum comes in bottles of all sizes and styles. I found this colorful photo online:

We tried several of the rums offered (well, Scott did), and learned about  Ti’ Punch, the national cocktail of Martinique. It’s extremely popular in the French islands of the West Indies, including Guadeloupe and Haiti. The name is taken from the Creole, Petit Punch, and has been abbreviated over the years down to Ti’ Punch. The cocktail is created by adding a large amount rhum agricole (ick), with a touch of fresh lime juice and a splash of cane syrup. “Purists” agree that a real ti’ Punch should be served without ice..bleh. This cocktail was much too “flavorful,” shall we say, for me. (Another online photo)

Making ti Punch calls for a unique type of swizzle stick, made from and named after a perennial tree called the bois lele, which is native to the region. Its branches have a unique end, that spreads out into five separate, small sections (More online help).

Image result for bois lele tree

Image result for ti punch lele

Image result for ti punch lele

The “lele” is used to dissolve all of the cocktail’s ingredients. A bartender uses two hands on the stick, rolling it between his palms, similar to starting a fire, when mixing.

Image result for how to make ti punch

Ti’ Punch is usually served before meals as an aperitif, due its high alcoholic content. There is a tradition known as “chacun prepare sa propre mort” which roughly translates to, “each prepares his own death.” The bartender or the host will lay out the ti punch ingredients, and drinkers will prepare the cocktail to their own taste.

Having had our fill of all things rum for the day, we walked back to town, making our way back to the dinghy along the waterfront promenade, admiring it’s quirky shops and homes, while Sea Life waited quietly for us in the distance.

Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Bon Jour, Saint Pierre, Martinique!!

** Disclaimer: Yes, I am behind on my posts.  No, this post is not real time, meaning we’re not in currently in Martinique. Keep track of our current location through the Where Are We Now page. **

After a month in Virginia, Mom was healing like a champ in rehab, and Dad had food in the freezer. It was time for me to head back to St. Thomas, where Scott and I would point Sea Life toward Grenada, where Sea Life would spend hurricane season.

Soon after I returned, the wind forecast was favorable for an almost three day leg to Martinique (a hop, skip and a jump, after the hellish 6.5 days from Cartagena to Puerto Rico…ugh!). After two over-nights, and zeroing in on hour 50, we caught sight of the beautiful, volcanic island.

We made our way down the coast, admiring the steep, deep green slopes, dotted with small villages and bright green fields.

Our destination was the small town of Saint Pierre, not far down Martinique’s west side. I found this great geographical map online, marking Saint Pierre, and also showing how  mountainous the island is.

Image result for map of martinique

We approached the quiet town, and anchored at the south end. Local children played in the sand on shore, and we had views of Mt Pele in the distance. In the evenings, the sounds of tree frogs in the hills just off shore was music to our ears. It was relaxing, peaceful and beautiful.

Howard immediately liked Saint Pierre, heading outside as soon as the motor shut off.

He and Scott spend time relaxing on the side deck, taking in the sights and “smells,”

 

Scott enjoyed a celebratory, end-of-passage/arriving-at-a-new-island cocktail, while Howard enjoyed a post-passage scratch on the dock lines hanging nearby.

Knowing that this doesn’t thrill Scott, Howard will look back, to see if there’s a reprimand coming.

Later, there was play time on Howard’s “jungle gym,” aka our inflatable dinghy. For one reason or another, and always on passages, the dinghy get’s stored on the side deck, and Howard cannot resist jumping up on it.

It is free for cruising boats to clear in and out of the French-owned islands…big plus; cheap wine, bread and pastries…even BIGGER plus! There are usually several locations on the islands (stores and shops) who have a computer on site, and cruisers just have to enter their boat information, etc. and click “print” for clearance papers. There is even an option of clearing in an out at the same time, if you enter your expected date of departure.

The morning after arriving, we went to a local restaurant  just a block from the town dinghy dock,  to use the clearance computer. With the online form in French, the obvious language barrier made filling in our information a bit challenging at times, but the owner happily helped us. He spoke English, and helped me better pronounce a few key phrases (most important: Please forgive me, I’m just learning, and my French is horrible!), and served us cold, Lorraine beer while we finished our check in form.

Now that we were official, it was time to wander through town a bit.

Scott was also thrilled to once again be able to buy Orangina (still another French island plus), which he’s come to love.

We learned that Saint Pierre used to be known as the “Paris of the Caribbean,” and was culturally and economically the most important city on the island. Unfortunately, this town has taken quite a beating over time.

A hurricane pummeled Martinique in 1780. Known as “The Great Hurricane,” it produced a storm surge of 25 feet, which inundated the city, destroying all houses and killing 9,000 people. The devastating storm is the deadliest Atlantic Hurricane on record. Between 20,000 and 22,000 people died throughout the Lesser Antilles Islands, when the storm passed through them from October 10th–16th of that year. Specifics on the hurricane’s track and strength are unknown, because the official Atlantic Hurricane database only goes back as far a 1851.

The town was destroyed again in 1902. when the volcano Mount Pelée erupted. It’s destruction dubbed the Mount Pele Eruption the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. The eruption killed approximately 30,000 people with a pyroclastic flow (a dense collection of fragments and gases, which is much more dangerous than a lava flow).

Mount Pelée sent a cloud of super-heated gas and dust racing toward the city. Within a single minute, the 1,075 degree pressure wave flattened nearly every building in the city of St. Pierre. Anyone unlucky enough to be in its way would have instantly caught fire and burned to death. Even those in shelters suffocated, as the super-heated wave burned up the oxygen and replaced it with deadly gases; lungs were incinerated from the inside, with even a single breath (gross).

 The deadly eruption completely destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre (which was, at that time, the largest city on the island), within minutes. Approximately 30,000 people were killed instantly; the entire population of the town, as well as people from neighboring villages who had taken refuge there for safety. The city burned for days afterward.

Before:

After:

Apparently, there was considerable eruptive activity in the two weeks prior to the fatal blast, but since pyroclastic flow was not yet understood, the danger was thought to be from lava flows. It was believed the lava would be stopped by two valleys between the volcano and the city.

The main eruption left only two survivors in the direct path of the flow: a prisoner in a poorly ventilated, dungeon-like jail cell, and a man living on the edge of the city, who escaped with severe burns.

Mount Pele is currently in a dormant state, but is registering seismic activity.

The city of Saint-Pierre was never fully restored to its former self. However, it is now referred to as a city of art and history.  There were many reminders of the eruption’s damage, as we walked the streets.

 

The cathedral in town was rebuilt after Mount Pele’s destruction, and the “new” cathedral looks much different.  Only its lower floor, spared by the pyroclastic flow, was preserved in the reconstruction.

The large cathedral was undergoing a current reconstruction when we visited.

We walked along an upper road, and came to the remains of the Theater of San Pierre.

Able to seat 800 people, we read that it was often booked to capacity, with plays ranging from classical to vaudeville, as well as operas. On evenings when there were productions, the stairs and entrance railings were crowded with vendors, selling oranges, pistachios and sweets. The theater also hosted political meetings, and even balls during carnival time.

Due to economic reasons, the theater was closed, just a year before the Mount Pele eruption. The staircase is still pretty well intact, offering views back out to the Caribbean, but not much remains of the great theater’s interior.

On the other side of the theater wall, and down the hill, are remains of the prison, and it’s cells.

On May 7, 1902, a day before the Mount Pele eruption, Louis Sylbaris, the town troublemaker, ended up in solitary confinement here. Since all records were destroyed, and all witnesses killed by the eruption, what Louis was being imprisoned for is a matter of speculation. He later said it was because of a fight, but the cell he was in would have been where someone accused of a more serious crime, such as murder, may have been held.

Trapped in his cell when the volcano erupted, Sylbaris felt the intense heat from the 1,000-plus degree pressure wave, as ash came flying in through the tiny slot in the door. Suffering from burns and desperate to cool down, he urinated on his clothes and stuffed them into the opening. It was just enough to save him, and four days later, rescuers freed him.

Having survived the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century, Sylbaris became a celebrity, and toured the world with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was billed as “The only living object that survived in the ‘Silent City of Death.'” While the eruption was doomsday for the town of St Pierre, it may have been Loius Sylbaris’ savior.

We made our way back to the high road in town, to an overlook area with views of the sea. Fisherman cast lines off the docks below, to the north, and Sea Life was contently at anchor to the south.

Immediately below us…more of Mount Pele’s devastation.

Maritime commerce increased through the eighteenth century, and by the mid-century,  seven eighths of all the island’s trade came through St. Pierre, as well as that of St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Grenada. With such a high volume of commercial activity, there was a great need for warehouses and shops along the waterfront. As a result, Quartier du Figuier was developed.

Scott and I went down some steep, steep steps, to the road below, to get a closer look at the remains of the buildings.

Warehouses along the Quartier du Figuier held merchandise that had just been loaded off of ships, and also goods waiting to be loaded. Shops stocked items that ships traveling through may need, such as ropes, hoists, anchors, etc. Most of the buildings had upper stories, which were used for residences.

With a full day of wandering behind us, we stopped for a pizza to go, and enjoyed cold Lorraine beer while it cooked. Then it was back to Sea Life, traveling along the historic town’s shoreline, as we made our way in the dinghy.

Tomorrow’s plan…..a day of rum! Here are many more photos, of our stay in Saint Pierre.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Scott Explores St. John

While I was away, Scott had roughly three weeks to explore, and was deciding what to do with his time: Stay in St. Thomas? Wander over to St. John? Venture as far as the British Virgins? With many variables in play, out came the paper charts.

Even though we navigate using both GPS and our iPad, Scott’s still an old-school, paper chart guy. We are lucky enough to have dear friends who spent more than ten years circumnavigating the globe. Kirk and Gisela graciously gifted us a stack of their charts (fyi, paper charts are not cheap!), and Scott often goes to them as an additional source of reference.

He pulled some of Kirk and Gisela’s charts of the British Virgin Islands. Their charts are full of notes about snorkeling and hiking spots, favorable anchorages and even pay phone locations (remember them). We always enjoy reading the notes, and comparing them with current guide books, and the surrounding area.

The British Virgins were tempting, especially in May and June, when they would be much less crowded than in winter’s high season. However, traveling there and getting back to St. Thomas in time for my return, with allowances for weather, may not give Scott much time to linger. The fees for the BVIs were more of a concern. He didn’t feel it was worth paying to clear in, and for nightly mooring ball fees, if it was just himself, and not both of us. With no clearance fees for a U.S. Virgins, and cheaper mooring balls (sometimes free), Scott decided to explore St. John instead.

Here are some interesting things I discovered about the U.S Virgin Islands, and St. John, on the good-old internet:

St John is actually a volcanic island, part of a undersea mountain range which includes the larger islands of the Greater Antilles, the Virgin Islands, and the Lesser Antilles. There is a clear geologic record that stretches back some 100 million years, and earliest stages of the island’s formation began when the major continents were closer together. The first stages took place underwater, and the first volcanic flows were later uplifted and exposed. The oldest exposed rocks of St John are still recognizable as separate flows.

Image result for geological map of the virgin islands

Saint John was first settled by the Taino Indians, who migrated north from coastal areas of present-day Colombia and Venezuela, around AD 300. The Arawak inhabited the island until around the year AD 1300, when they were driven off by the more aggressive and warlike Carib (who obviously later inspired a name for the now-popular Caribbean beer)!

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The first European to discover the Virgin Islands was Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the New World, in 1493. He first landed on St. Croix, which he named Santa Cruz. He then sailed further north, discovering many more islands. A Catholic, Columbus named the group of numerous islands as Once Mil Virgenes (Eleven Thousand Virgins), in honor of the feast day of Saint Ursula, and the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her.

Although Columbus was the first to discover the islands, the first Europeans to settle the virgins were the Danish. In 1671, Denmark clearly ruled St. Thomas, establishing the first permanent settlement there. By 1718, Denmark’s settlements expanded to St. John (They are credited with naming the island, in Danish: Sankt Jan), and in 1733, Denmark purchased St. Croix from France, uniting the three Virgin Islands.

Because the island provided perfect conditions for growing sugar cane (intense heat and fertile soil), sugar plantations were soon abundant throughout St. John, with slave labor being shipped in from Africa. The local Carib and Arawak populations were also enslaved, to the point of extinction.

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In 1917, during the First World War, the United States purchased the Virgin Islands for $25 million dollars from the Danish government in order to establish a naval base. Their intent was to prevent expansion of the German Empire into the Western Hemisphere. As part of the negotiations for this deal, the U.S. agreed to recognize Denmark’s claim to Greenland, which they had previously disputed. The U.S. Virgin Islands are an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States, which means its residents are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections.

More than 5,000 acres on St. John, about half of the island, is preserved and protected by the Virgin Islands National Park Service.

Laurance Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller’s son, visited the U.S. Virgin Islands by cruise ship in the 1950s. So moved by the island chain’s incredible beauty, he promptly purchased 5,000 acres on the island of St. John.

Rockefeller began construction of a resort on Caneel Bay, and in 1955, began developing an infrastructure on the island to provide the resort with power, fresh water and roads.

Photo of LSR at Caneel Bay

 

 

 

 

 

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He oversaw every detail of the development personally, and then in 1956, donated the land to the National Park Service, with the contingency that the land never be developed.

Image result for laurance rockefeller's virgin islands national park

Ok, ok….back to Scott.  He and Howard made the half day trip, around St. Thomas and over to St. John, and the anchored in Maho Bay, on the island’s northeast side. Along the way, views of massive houses; once there, a beautiful sunset.

From there, he headed around the eastern end of island, to Round Bay. While there, he visited Angel’s Rest Bar, run by Capt’n Peter.

On most days, the bar travels from it’s home in Coral bay, around to an area called Hurricane Hole Bay. Anchoring off of different beaches, it opens for business and patrons swim out to buy drinks and spend time (scary, when you consider that they have to swim back, after said time). The bar offers two things: a cup of beer, or a cup of rum with a splash of punch, each for $5.00. The bar closes when Capt’n Peter gets too drunk, or the alcohol runs out, whichever comes first.

Next, Scott headed to Little Lameshur Bay, on the south side of St. John, for some hiking.

He planned to walk  around to Reef Bay, and do the Reef Bay hiking trail (fyi, Caribbean Travel and Life Magazine lists the 2.5 mile trail on St. John as one of the 10 best hikes in the Caribbean). The path to Reef Bay took him past several ruins, and offered scenic water views.

He also passed a wall constructed of rock and brain coral. This coral was very useful as a building material, as it could be easily cut when still wet to fit into unusually-shaped areas. It was then put in the sun to dry, where it would harden.

Although very green, Scott was surprised how arid St. John was, as he passed by many large cactus plants along his way. Since leaving Mexico, in March of 2016, we’ve been surrounded by wet, tropical foliage.

Eventually, he came to Reef Bay, and the ruins of the Reef Bay Estate House.

The house was built in 1832, and reconstructed in 1844. In 1994, it was partially renovated by the National Park Service. After being cleared in 2009, the historic estate house has been left to deteriorate.

Next, Scott came upon the famous St. John  petroglyphs, They are rock carvings made by the Taino Indians, as early as 500 AD. The petroglyphs depict faces and symbols, and are situated along the edge of a spring-fed pool. The pool level never changes, so the carvings are always perfectly reflected in the water.

Scott passed many field stone walls, and wild pineapple. The plants thorny leaves made for good use as barrier hedges and living pasture fences.

Finally, Scott came to the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill.

The sugar mill industry died twice on St. John. In plantation days, slaves brought bundles of cane to the horse mill to be crushed.

Sugar mill

After Denmark abolished slavery, and St. John’s other mills began to collapse, Reef Bay’s new owners tried to revive the dying industry by installing steam power to crush the cane (the first of its kind). This one was built in Glasgow Scotland, in 1861, and is in surprisingly well intact.

By the early 1900s, a depletion in soil nutrients from sugar cane overgrowth, in addition to the introduction of the sugar beet in Europe, led to a decline in St. John’s sugar production. Reef Bay was the last operating sugar mill on the island, and most of the property was sold to Rockefeller’s conservation project in 1955.

Scott enjoyed more views of Reef Bay, before heading back to Sea Life, moored in Lameshur Bay.

Next stop, Caneel Bay, with more views of huge houses, and a sunset overlooking the British Virgin Islands.

While moored in Caneel Bay, off of the famous Caneel Bay Resort, Scott noticed the beach tightly lined with lounge chairs…not a normal sight. With a lazy day in the sun already planned, Scott set his chair in the sand, and then wandered down the beach for a look-see.

As he neared the resort, it became clear that each lounge chair had it’s own snorkel gear, towel and logo-ed tote bag. People were milling about, and as Scott chatted with one or two of the guests, he learned that there was a company function going on; a pharmaceutical company was celebrating the release of a new drug.

On his way back through the throng of lounge chairs, Scott was stopped by a server, who offer him a drink. He politely declined…until the third offer; after that, it was open season. Several cocktails later, a server came over to announce that lunch was being served in the nearby tent…excellent! Scott helped himself to a plateful of food, and then returned later, through the back of the tent, for seconds.

Wanting to preserve good karma, Scott “paid it forward,” by sharing the intel on how to gain a free lunch with a young, budget-challenged-looking couple who’d set up camp on the beach near him. Feeling that he’d kept his good karma intact, Scott headed back to Sea Life with a belly full of free food and drink, and enjoyed a post party-crashing nap. A satisfying day all around.

Over the next day or so, Scott saw many turtles moored, and hiked up the island for a stunning views of Caneel Bay, the resort below, and the Brisith Virgins off in the distance.

And of course…Sea Life moored below.

By now, Scott had circumnavigated, and conquered, the island. He enjoyed one last St. John sunset, and then made his way back to St. Thomas. I was flying back from the states, and it was time to set Sea Life on a path to Grenada.

Here are many more photos, Scott’s time in St. John.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands…Scott And I Part Ways, Just For A Bit

The trip from Culebra to St. Thomas was a bit bumpy, but uneventful. We enjoyed the passing scenery, while heading for our anchorage in Brewer’s Bay: rocky islands, huge houses under construction, green hills and blue water. Howard felt it his duty to make sure we were on course.

 

We chose to anchor in Brewer’s Bay for several reasons: it was a quick ride to the airport, for me to fly in and out, it was much less crowded than the bays closer to the town of Charlotte Amalie,  it had easy beach access for leaving the dinghy and from there it was just steps to the main road.

The anchorage was definitely close to the airport..

Really close….

However, the views on the other side of the bay more than made up for the incoming and outgoing planes:

We also came to Brewer’s Bay to meet a couple who had been following our blog. Tristin and Martina had recently began cruising, and we’d exchanged emails about  questions and concerns as they prepared to leave. They are the first blog followers that we’ve gotten to meet in person, and it was fun to spend a bit of time with them, before I headed back to the states.

We’d made some good easting from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, and I could just as easily fly home to the states from here. Before I left, our first order of business was to stock Scott up with food (and drink) while I was away, so we headed for a grocery store. Safari buses service the island, for $1.00 per person, per ride, and it was just a short walk (up a steep hill) to catch one that would take us to town.

There were doorbell-like switches that ran along the ceiling of the trucks. When you neared your stop, just ring. As we jumped out and paid the driver, Scott thanked him with a friendly “Gracias!”  He’d obviously need time to undo 15 months of Spanish language on the brain.

We found a grocery store that was ok, and a liquor store that had one of Scott’s favorite spiced rum’s he hadn’t seen since leaving Key West. There was also a gourmet food store, where we chose some hard to find goodies, but no food for everyday meals. Before heading back, we walked through the cruise ship terminal’s duty-free stores. The stuff may be duty free, but they more than make up for that in price; it ain’t cheap.

Of course, St. Thomas is a popular cruise ship port. We’re always amazed at the size of these things, and how they keep getting larger and larger; like small cities!

We passed all sorts of safari trucks, waiting to take disembarking passengers to their excursions, tours and shopping in town.

We arrived back at the dinghy at Brewer’s Bay beach, only to discover that someone had tried to steal the motor. They’d gone to great lengths to try and get it off the back of the dinghy, even though it was locked securely to the boat, and the boat was securely locked to a tree (with a stainless steel chain). They managed to break the pull-start and damage the fuel line in, along with getting tons of sand inside the dinghy while they were at it.

Needless to say, Scott  was more than miffed. We’d traveled 15  months, through Mexico, Central America, Panama and Cartagena, without any kind of attempted theft whatsoever. Not three weeks back on U.S. territory soil, and bam, an issue….welcome home.

Scott managed to get the motor started, and once we were back on board Sea Life, and had unloaded our things, he got to work fixing the damage, with the cockpit becoming his usual workshop.

Without to much trouble, Scott repaired the motor, Macgyver-stye, and rewarded himself with an Aluminum Princess excursion.

Martina told us of a new grocery store that had recently opened, in walking distance of the anchorage. Scott did a recon mission, and came back with a good report, so one morning we walked up the hill and down the other side, to the store. It wasn’t eye-catching from the road, you’d hardly notice it as a grocery store, but inside was a different story.

They had a great selection of wine, beer and liquor, as well as a decent choice of produce and meat. I loaded up on items to make meals for Scott, and he grabbed some lunch meat from the friendly deli lady.

The boat was stocked with food and drink, and I was off to Virginia. Tristin and Martina had bought a car for their stay on the island, as she was working as a nurse at the nearby hospital. She was nice enough to taxi us over to the airport, and I was off, leaving Scott and Howard to have some “bro-time” aboard Sea Life.

Here are a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

A Short Stay In The Spanish Virgin Islands

** Disclaimer:  Yes, I am behind on my posts.  No, this post is not real time, meaning we’re not in currently in the Spanish Virgins. Keep track of our current location through the Where Are We Now page. **

The weather wasn’t favorable for a smooth ride straight to St. Thomas (going east, and consequently into the wind, is always challenging), so we chose to make a quick visit to the island of Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, along the way.

Culebra and Vieques are the primary islands in the Spanish Virgins, but there are also many other smaller islands closer to shore. They’re all part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and therefore also a territory of the United States. The islands belonged to Spain, before the Spanish-American War, and Spanish is still the primary language. Here’s a map I found online:

Image result for map of the spanish virgin islands

We raised the anchor at dawn, in our quiet, scenic spot along Puerto Rico’s southern coast, and began our short journey to Culebra as the sun rose.

Lush green hills, and many more windmills lined the shore, as we neared the end of mainland Puerto Rico.

It was still pretty early for Howard, so he took advantage of the usual “towel fort” that we build him for travel, and caught some more zzz’s.

We passed by Vieques, the larger of the two main islands, and were anchored behind a reef, off of Culebra’s southwest side by mid afternoon.

We’d had overcast weather during our trip over, but not long after we’d set the anchor, the sun came out to greet us. The view behind the boat was a mix of brilliant green, meeting clear blue, with many different homes scattered among the hills. Off of our bow, we had an open view to the bay, and nearby reef.

 

AND, we were lucky enough to spot flamingos!!….Honest to goodness flamingos, feeding along the edge of the reef!! Pretty cool, even if I had to look through binoculars to see them, and zoom the camera lens to capture a photo.

Howard took it all in from his shady perch up on the flybridge, beneath the Aluminum Princess. Later, he and Scott enjoyed the sunset together.

The next morning, we decided to dinghy into the bay, and explore the small (and I think only) town of Dewey. We passed the popular Dinghy Dock Restaurant, and continued on, through a short canal that lead to the western side of the island.

Once on the other side, a huge, Rasta-like, metal, monkey-looking sculpture welcomed us to a beautiful, blue water bay. Unfortunately, the winds weren’t favorable for anchoring here.

We came back through the canal, tied the dinghy at the town pier, and walked through town, which didn’t take long. Feeling hungry and parched, the Dinghy Dock called to us. While we had lunch, a school of huge tarpon waited in the water just off the restaurant’s pier for handouts.

 

Having conquered town, we made our way back to the anchorage. That evening, when Scott dropped the fish light in the water, it seemed the tarpon had followed us home. They were much larger than Howard was used to, and made quite a racket when jumping for smaller fish attracted to the light; scared Howard and me both…yeesh.

The next morning, we would continue on to St. Thomas. Here are a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Hurricane Irma….We’re All Clear!

Many people have reached out to us over the last week, inquiring whether we’re safe, and out of Irma’s path. As usual over the last several months, I am woefully behind on our blog. For continuity, and mostly to avoid my own confusion, I will continue to post in chronological order.

I have mentioned in several previous posts that we’d planned to head for the Eastern Caribbean, and make our way to Grenada for hurricane season. We arrived in Puerto Rico in late April, made our way south from St. Thomas in June and arrived in Grenada in early July. Sea Life is currently tied to a mooring ball in Prickly Bay, on the island’s south coast (just below the airplane at photo below).

Thankfully, we were well south of Irma’s path, and only had to deal with several days of large swell in the bay.

It seems there has been confusion as to whether or not we were in Puerto Rico, due to my latest post. Others just seemed to be asking in general, not knowing exactly where we are.

If you’ve met my husband, you’d know that there is no….way, in this lifetime or any other, that he’d have us in the upper Eastern Caribbean during this time of year. Not only would he be unable to sleep at night, I don’t think he’d be able to breath.

Scott has the utmost respect for weather. He cut his teeth on the waves, tides, currents, storms and surge, living on Shallow Creek, just off the Chesapeake Bay. Many weather classes were followed by a graduate degree in Western Caribbean cruising, earned over the last two years (holy cow…two years!).  The take-away??…Mother Nature rules, and we don’t mess with that.

We’re not sure why cruisers choose to be in these places at this risky time of year. I guess they get complacent, after years with no major storm hit. As we prepared to leave St. Thomas and head farther south, Scott met a couple who stay at anchor off of the island year round, claiming it has several good hurricane holes. Scott’s take? A hurricane hole is a hurricane hole….until is isn’t; Irma, case in point. Here’s a link that lists the extent of destruction to the islands affected by this massive storm.

There were days of warnings for this huge, catastrophic storm, with little to no doubt of it’s path and impact on the upper islands. Several boats arrived here in Grenada over the last week from places north,  and we were shocked not to see many, many more.

Aside from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada is at the bottom of the Eastern Caribbean chain, and relatively safe from a major storm hit…relatively.

Our insurance covers us here, but I can tell you that if something even close to Irma’s strength heads our way, Scott will run us south, to escape the possibility of endangering Sea Life and her crew.

We are definitely missing Panama, where we spent last hurricane season. Being much farther south, and out of hurricane paths, we hardly checked weather. This year, although we are pretty well south, there is still a very real concern for storms, and we’ve had to keep on our toes.

Ok…all that said, here’s how to ALWAYS know where our CURRENT location is. I’ve mentioned this many times before, usually as we’re heading off on a passage, but it holds true all the time, whether we’re underway or at anchor:

First, go to the Where Are We Now Page of the blog. Click on “Where Are We Now,” at the bottom of the text, and you are taken to the site for our Delorme In Reach Satellite Tracker (now a part of Garmin).

I apologize for the spider web of lines and dots. Scott is a little Delorme-happy, taking the tracker along on hikes, bus rides and tours, as well as various water excursions. You can zoom out, giving yourself a broader view of Grenada. Once you’re far enough out to locate the words “Lanse aux Epines”, at the bottom of the island, begin to zoom in. The blue dot above the pi, in Epines is where Sea Life is moored. Continue to zoom in, and you’ll see our location in Prickly Bay.

Clicking on each dot opens a small window. Click on “more” in that window, and you’ll get info. like date, speed, elevation, etc.  Continue to zoom way out, and you’ll see our path over the last two years (again..two years!).

I hope this helps you keep track of our every move, so to speak. We are thankful for all of your messages and emails, and are grateful to have so many out there concerned for our safety; Sea Life is secure!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Short Stay In Puerto Rico

Once officially cleared back into the U.S., we enjoyed a bit of down time. The last of our San Blas lobsters had escaped the eye of the customs officer (safely hidden in the back of the freezer), so I thawed them out for a celebratory lobster curry dinner. With no idea of when we’d find good lobster fishing or availability in the eastern Caribbean, we savored our yummy dinner.

From our slip, we had views of many birds and pelicans roosting in a huge mangrove nearby, keeping Howard amused for hours.

Paseo Tablado La Guancha, was across the bay from the marina, a boardwalk with many food stalls and local music. We wandered over one afternoon, to scope out options for a return evening visit.

In the evening, the boardwalk was full of yummy smells and lively music. We met our slip neighbors, Rick and Lori (s/v Papa Whiskey), for some food and drink.

Our decision to head for Puerto Rico from Colombia was made to get us farther east, rather than landing in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic. Our decision to land at Ponce was made for provisioning reasons. With a Super Walmart, Home Depot, PetSmart, several large grocery stores, and even an Ikea, Ponce provided great options for stocking the boat. We rented a car and headed off for a day of shopping. First stop, Playa Marine, a small store so out of the way, I’m surprised anyone finds it.

 

Scott didn’t find the anodes he was looking for, but we did get a can of varnish that was on clearance…hoping it was still good.

We headed back to town, amazed by the number of windmills in the area; they were everywhere.

 

And in case you forgot, there were constant reminders that you were in Ponce:

We made stops at the local grocery store, Walmart, PetSmart and Home Depot, filling the car. There was also the usual fast-food lunch, as well as a stop at the McDonald’s ice cream counter.

The plan was to make our way along the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and then spend time in the Spanish Virgins, before moving on to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, I received word from home that my mother had fallen, breaking two bones in her leg. Wanting to be there to help, I planned to fly home for a month. I could have flown right from Puerto Rico, but traveling from St. Thomas would be just as easy, and it put us that much farther east.

Weather didn’t allow for a smooth passage right to St. Thomas, so we planned to make a stop at Culebra, in the Spanish Virgins. We left Ponce, and followed the mountainous, windmill-lined coast to our overnight anchorage.

We anchored for the night off of southern coast, approximately five miles from the town of Salinas, surrounded by mountains and mangroves.

 

Howard relaxed and enjoyed the smells of the open boat at anchor, after a week of being stuck inside at the slip in Ponce.

It had been a cloudy, rainy day, but the late afternoon brought sunshine and blue skies. We had the area all to ourselves, and enjoyed the quiet, scenic spot. A beautiful send off, on our way east. Here are a few more photos.

 “Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”