Sunday, December 23, 2012


Should you want to start a hot debate among cruisers, mention mooring balls.  Many of the purists loath the things while others like us are rather ambivalent about them.  The complaints about mooring balls are not unfounded and go beyond just not wanting to pay for a parking spot.

Often when mooring balls are introduced, anchoring is then prohibited.  Sometimes there are restrictions on the size of boats due to the distance between the balls or the weight bearing capacity that precludes us from using a ball (Annapolis, MD).  In other places (Georgetown, SC) the harbor is littered with derelict boats attached to the free moorings.

Example of a good mooring system

Many of the purists will tell you that they trust their anchor more than a mooring ball.  I must admit that I am more inclined to dive to check a mooring system than I am to dive on our anchor.  We have found poorly maintained mooring gear that has prompted us to move to another ball.  And, we have friends that reported moorings parting, usually at 3:00 AM in a good blow.

Conversely, the scars left by anchors and anchor chains on the bottom cannot be ignored.  The sea grass, coral, and sponge formations supports the small fish that feed the larger fish that many of the islanders catch to support their families.  Grand Anse d’Arlet and Petite Anse d’Arlet, Martinique is in the process of installing moorings.

"Photograph Pollie"

Snorkeling off the back of our boat we could already see the difference the moorings were making in the recovery of the sea bed.  

Enjoying the sea life (plus cheap wine and cheese in Martinique) is why we come to the Caribbean.

French couple attaching B-24 to our mooring

Hopefully, these moorings will be a success story.  The introduction of the moorings will enhance the sea life.  The moorings will be well maintained, and the charge for their use will be kept reasonable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


A Yole is a traditional Martinique wooden fishing boat.  Today these colorful boats are mostly used for island tours and racing.

Above and below are pictures of a young crew preparing one for what appeared to be a training session.

The boat is pulled up to the beach and a long pole is inserted into a hole in a seat at approximately the center of the boat.

The mast with the sail attached is laid on the beach and the mast base is aligned with hole of the mast step.

While some crew members use the pole as a lever to careen the boat, others attempt to step the mast.

It took several tries, but eventually they prevailed.

The boats have no keel and use a large paddle as a rudder.

Movable ballast in the form of crew members sitting on long poles wedged under the toe-rail of the leeward side keeps the boat upright.

The head-down crew member’s job seems to be bailing.

The Annual Yole Boat Race is a week-long event held each summer (July/August).  The around the island race consists of seven legs over seven days with celebrations and island style partying each night.

Monday, December 17, 2012

La Salette Shrine

Construction began in 1766

Like most small towns in the Caribbean, Ste. Anne is built around its church. 

 Vintage Peugeots for the wedding party

This limestone church is actually Ste. Anne’s second.  The first one was destroyed by the British.

Motivator is the only trawler in the anchorage

From the anchorage we could see an elaborate trail leading up the hill behind the church.  This called for a hike.

A small chapel was built at each station on the Way of the Cross.

The parish’s Calvary project was the brainchild of Fr. Hurard, who wrote in 1870, “The work required to do this proved considerable.  In fact, they had to clear the land, mark out a path and build retaining walls. The people were enthusiastic and generally took part in the task. Hundreds of men, women and school children lent a hand with this work on Saturdays.”

Chapel at La Salette Shrine

At the base of the cross stands a small chapel with sound equipment for the overflow.  Each year on September 19th, many pilgrims come from the island's many parishes to pray to the Virgin Mary, venerated under this title of Our Lady of La Salette, on the hill that is dedicated to her in Sainte-Anne. 

Today, the cross at the top of the hill shares space with a cell tower that probably provides financial support as well as electricity for the shrine. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ste. Anne & Le Marin

Sunset over Ste. Anne anchorage

Located on the southern coast of Martinique are two anchorages popular with cruisers, Cul-de Sac du Marin and Mouillage de Ste. Anne.  The quiet little town of Ste. Anne and anchorage lies south of the busier yacht service harbor of Le Marin.  Both were passed by on our trip south due to time constraints.

Funeral at Sainte-Anne’s Church

We opted for the quiet of Ste. Anne because we were able to dinghy into Le Marin for provisioning and spare boat parts when necessary.  Besides, Ste. Anne has a very inviting dinghy dock right off the town square.

The little town of Ste. Anne is quite picturesque and offers some shopping and several eateries.

Accras Alley

Ordering food can be a challenge, however.  Pollie really enjoyed a salad at one restaurant, so she ordered it again at the next.  Both were good, but totally different.  This little shop closes down the street at night and sits out tables to serve cheap drinks and accras (deep fried corn meal and fish balls).

Sn@ck Boubou

The only downside is Internet access.  WiFi is very limited to nonexistent in the anchorage forcing us to lug our computers to Internet Cafes.  But as a fellow cruiser pointed out, this forces us off of the boat and out meeting people, oui. 

One thing we have found to be very frustrating is the shop hours.  Seldom are the hours posted, and most take a two hour lunch.  While looking for plumbing parts, we were told that one place closed from 1200 to 1330, while another closed from 1300 to 1500.  Many of the restaurants close on different days during the week, and many only serve during certain hours.  Other than bakery fare, breakfast is out of the question.

Other than the occasional specialty boat, cruise ships are not seen on this end of the island, so French and only French is spoken.

  All in all, we enjoy the French islands even if we encounter an occasional language problem.  We find them cleaner, safer, and more prosperous than their former English colony neighbors.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bamboo Bursting

As with everything else in St. Lucia, Christmas has its own peculiar traditions.  In sharp contrast to carols, which encourage peace and goodwill to all men, you’ll be treated to the sounds of bamboo-cannons shattering the quietness of cool December evenings. This is called bamboo bursting
Traditionally beginning November 2 and lasting until December end, echoes of explosive sounds are heard over the hills.  It’ll often begin by sundown and last deep into the night.
Participants in this traditional folk method of welcoming Christmas are primarily young boys. With next-to-harmless, non-ballistic cannons, each team tries to outdo each other in achieving the loudest ‘booms’.
To craft cannons, mature bamboo stalks about six inches in diameter are cut to varying lengths – the longer, the more resonant the bang, The ends are then trimmed and all nodes inside are broken except for the last one – serving as a receptacle for the fuel.
Above the receptacle, a small one-inch hole is bored away from the end of the bamboo.  The bamboo’s open end is then elevated slightly by placing stones beneath it, and the closed end rests on the ground.  Lastly, kerosene is poured through the hole and a bottle lamp (A ‘Shal’ in Kweyol) is kept nearby as the ignition source.
To fire, a thin stick is dipped into the kerosene and set alight by the flame from the ‘Shal’.  The flaming tip of the stick is thrust into the hole above the receptacle and the expert firer then extinguishes the flame by clamping his hand over the small square hole.  This process must be repeated several times to warm the kerosene until a few modest pops are heard.  As the kerosene vaporizes, explosions of the fuel and oxygen mixture grow into thunderous roars.
Ferocious blasts of hot air and blinding flashes of light are propelled through the elevated end of the cannon. Sometimes small objects are placed in the bamboo cannon to be hurtled away by the force. While it’s exciting, bamboo bursting is not easy. It requires precision and expertise to avoid a disappointing or dangerous experience.
The cannon crew usually consists of three or four persons. One controls the ‘shal’ and refuels the cannon, one handles the lanyard and another blows to clear the smoke – which is important to do between firings. It’s crucial for the crew to also notice if cracks develop in the bamboo as they continue bursting, as the wood eventually dehydrates and may shatter under the force of explosion.
Despite the hazards however, bamboo bursting is one of St. Lucia’s fun Christmas traditions. Until the kerosene’s exhausted, boy’s island-wide will carry on throughout the night in celebration of the season to come.

This article republished with the permission of: Tropical Traveller - St. Lucia Magazine

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Migration North

Grenada Sunset

With hurricane season officially over, according to the insurance companies, most boats departed Grenada and headed north.  A few are planning to head north then west to cruise the Western Caribbean.  Few of the U.S. or Canadian boats we met were headed home.  Most plan on staying in the Caribbean.

One boat we met is headed east.  Their first leg is out of Martinique where they will be place on a Dockwise Yacht Transport that will take them to the Mediterranean.  There they plan to enter the Eastern Mediterranean Yacht Rally.

Sandy Island

Our first stop was Sandy Island near Carriacou which is still in the country of Grenada.


Because all of the boats travel at different speeds and the crews have different agendas, it does not take long for the boats start to disperse themselves to different anchorages.

Bocce Ball on the Beach

However, it was Sunny’s 50th birthday on November 21st, and we were all invited to Bequia to help her celebrate.  The celebrations began with “beach games.”

Sunny Abercrombie

That night at dinner, the birthday girl got the two things she has always wanted, a machete and a coconut bra.

The next day we all celebrated Thanksgiving together with a very traditional meal prepared by one of the local restaurants.

Admiralty Bay, Bequia

Bequia in the Grenadines is a popular anchorage, but soon it was time to move on.

The Pitons

Our next stop was on the island of St. Lucia at the town of Soufriere.

 Soufriere seems to be the bedroom community for the nearby resorts.

The contrast between the town and the resorts is rather striking.

Our next stop is one of our favorites, Marigot Bay.  This small hurricane hole in the mangroves is home to a Moorings Charter base and has several nice restaurants.

This time we discovered that our mooring fee entitled us to use the pool at the nearby hotel.

  Jeff from Izzy R crewing on Loose Cannon

We managed to get to Rodney Bay just in time for the Mango Bowl Regatta.  From here we plan on heading to Martinique.   The prevailing wisdom is that we need to be out of the Windward Islands and into the Leeward Islands before the Christmas Winds

Monday, November 26, 2012


In his novel The King of Torts, John Grisham aptly describes Mustique as, “…the exclusive island owned by the rich and famous, an island with everything but a runway long enough for private jets.  Rock stars and actresses and billionaires had mansions there.”

Celebrity such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, David Bowie, Raquel Welch and Shania Twain are said to be regulars at Mustique.  But, we had no celebrity sightings.

Anchoring is not permitted, and the fee for a mooring ball is $200 EC ($75 USD) for the first night, but then you get two free nights.  This has a tendency to discourage many cruisers on a tight budget.

Because Mustique was our first stop in the Grenadines, we were required to check-in with customs and immigration.  This involved a quick “taxi ride” (pickup truck with benches in the bed) to the airport where affairs were easily handled.  John Grisham was right; Mustique’s runway cannot handle jets.

Of course Mustique has the obligatory boutiques that Pollie found interesting.

And, I found the bakery and coffee shop.

To work off the pastries, we found many interesting places to walk or bicycle.

Tortoise Corner

The plaque associate with this sculpture said that the art work was gift from a couple to their many friends on Mustique.  There has to be a story behind this bequeath.

Should one tire of the normal island activities, Mustique has an equestrian center.

Of course the tack room is clean and orderly.

One nice tradition in Mustique is that most all businesses close from noon until 2:00 PM for lunch and siesta.

Dinning on Mustique can be expensive.  At Basil’s we had three beers and four shrimp for a total of $120 EC.

The pricing was somewhat justified by the d├ęcor and view.

However, the next day we found the locals restaurant, The View.  There lunch for two consisting of curried turkey, rice, and a salad along with three beers was $55 EC.  That evening on the boat we had grilled lobster purchased from local fisherman for $16 EC a pound. 

Mustique is a great playground for the not so rich and famous too.