February 2008

Each day we make an effort to be on the boat relaxing at sunset.  We enjoy the peaceful time of day and like to watch the sky light up with colors.  During February we were treated to several green flashes.  A green flash occurs very rarely when conditions are perfect.  It occurs when the sun drops just below the horizon.  The sky has to be clear, no clouds, no haze and you have to have a view of the horizon without islands or boats in the way.  It is actually the last of the sunlight shining horizontally through the water which allows only the green light in the sun’s spectrum through.  It is so rare that all of the conditions are perfect and the flash lasts for such a brief instant, that most people never see one.  To see the green flash, you stare at the sun as it sets and wait until the top of the sun reaches the horizon.  You try to focus on the horizon without a blink, or you may miss the beautiful, brief green glow.  Our cruising life gives us the opportunity to take time out at sunset and experience one of the special natural gifts that many people never witness.  Until this year, Ann had never seen one and John had seen only one.  In February we saw the flash three different times followed by “ahs” and applause, so it was a good month.

St. Anne Carnival Band

Early February was carnival time in many Caribbean islands.  We had decided to experience carnival in the small town of St. Anne on the French island of Martinique.  St. Anne is a town of only 5,000 and the carnival celebration was very small town.  There were parades on Friday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Yes, Martinique is one of only three countries in the world that continues their celebration into Ash Wednesday.  This very catholic country observes the Ash Wednesday service on Friday during the week of Ash Wednesday.  We assume the Pope has given his permission!


St. Anne's Carnival band

Carnival children's paradeThe children’s parade on Friday featured children in kindergarten through elementary school dressed in themed costumes.  On Sunday evening, there were 3 large trucks in the parade decorated with colored paper.  One truck featured the young Carnival princess (about 10), another truck featured the Carnival queen (in her teens), and a third truck featured an older women delivering some type of political message to the crowd.  Since we don’t speak French, we could not understand the message, but the tone was angry and maybe it is best that we couldn’t understand the message.

St. Anne's children's parade

Anyone could join the parade and many locals were dressed in costume.  Fishnet hose and brightly colored sweater-knit leg warmers (weren’t these a 70’s thing?) rolled down to the ankles were a popular costume with young people.  There were several men dressed in drag.  The parades on Monday – Tuesday night were very similar to the Sunday parade - the same trucks, same participants and some of the same costumes.  A band with drums and brass instruments was included a couple of nights.  The event was low-key, highly disorganized, but open to anyone for participation, which was a stark contrast to highly organized, fabulous carnival celebration in Trinidad that we had a preview of in our January log.

St. Pierre, Martinique was once the capital of Martinique and home to 30,000 residents complete with an 800 seat modern theatre, ornate cathedral, and beautiful and prosperous tree-lined neighborhoods.   In May 1902, the Mt. Pelee volcano erupted, destroyed most of the town and killed most of the residents.  There had been signs of eruption, but the government did not warn the residents or evacuate since they were concerned about negative economic impact to the area. Today Mt. Pelee towers amidst the clouds in the background, but is quiet and calm. The town has been rebuilt to 5,000 residents, but with little of the wealth and prosperity of the past.  You can walk around town and see the ruins of the once prosperous city.  It is interesting how some residents used the old stone walls to rebuild the newer modern structures.

Mt. PeleeRuins in St. Pierre









Mt. Pelee and St. Pierre today

Ruins in St. Pierre

Valley of DesolationDominica is one of our favorite islands and as we travel north we stop in the capital city of Roseau to do some land exploring.  We traveled by van about an hour into the Morne Trois Piton National Park , a UNESCO World Heritage Site where we planed to hike to the famous Boiling Lake.  Our hike started in the rain forest and we followed the well maintained trail ascending and descending in the rain forest and across streams until we began a steep uphill climb.  After about two hours we reached a peak that is above the tree line with views to the east of the Caribbean Sea.  As we start our descent from the peak, we entered into the Valley of Desolation with hot and cold streams colored red, yellow and blue from the various minerals.  There were numerous sulfuric steam vents throughout the valley, stunting the growth of any vegetation.


Valley of Desolation, Dominica

boiling lakeFinally, after three and a half hours we reached the boiling lake only to find it covered in clouds and steam.  The lake is an area flooded with blue-grey water with a fumarole underneath.  The fumarole is a crack in the earth’s surface which allows gases to escape from the molten lava below.  Each time the gases escape, the lake rolls and boils with bubbles like someone turned on the jet to a Jacuzzi.  The lake is 70 yards wide and is the largest in the world with temperatures of more than 180 degrees.  The lake is in a steep, rock-lined crater, so we could not walk down to the edge of the lake.  As we ate our lunch, the winds cleared the clouds and steam away for a few minutes allowing us to get a couple of pictures.  John soaked in a warm water stream before starting our return hike.  The return trip was only three hours, but we had heavy rain and were hiking through mud and running water during most of the trip.  At the end of the hike we got into the river wearing our hiking shoes to wash away the mud.  Ann decided her white socks were a lost cause and they went in the garbage. 

Boiling lake

When we reach Prince Rupert Bay in Portsmouth, Dominica we are met by our friend and tour guide, Martin Carriere, bringing us fresh bananas, oranges and tropical flowers to enjoy.  Another cruising boat shares fresh grapefruit.  We enjoy the fresh vegetables and fruits from the islands of Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe, and will miss them as we continue north to the less agricultural islands.



We waited for good weather for several days during February to continue our trip north .  An unplanned weekly stay in Deshaies, Guadeloupe gave us an opportunity to visit the Deshaies Botanical Garden.  The garden is beautifully groomed and includes many tropical plants and flowers from throughout the world.  The plants were well-labeled and it was interesting to confirm their names and the country of origin. The garden also had a large population of beautifully colored parrots who enjoy being fed by the tourists.  Bananas are an important export crop in several of the islands.  It was interesting to see the progression of banana blooms, tiny bananas, and maturing bananas on the plants in the garden. 




Parrots at the Deshaies Botanical Gardens

In late February, we sailed overnight from Guadeloupe to St. Martin averaging 6.9 nautical miles per hour, our fastest trip ever in Livin the Dream.  First on the agenda in St. Martin was to have the high-pressure pump for our watermaker rebuilt.  John got our watermaker up and working in late October, but the high pressure pump failed in late January.  The pump was rebuilt by a recommended repairman in a few days and at the end of the month, we have a working watermaker again.