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June 2007

John first mahiJune 21 was the first day of summer.  That is the day that the sun is directly over the tropic of Cancer about 23 degrees north of the equator.  As we write this we are about 12 degrees north of the equator so the sun is north of us.  It is strange seeing the sun set to the north of west.  At noon the sun is slightly north of straight overhead when all our lives the sun has been south of straight overhead at noon.

In early June we left Antigua with our friends on Summer Wind and had a beautiful day of sailing to the French island of Guadeloupe.  We had a fishing line out and caught a small dolphin fish/mahi mahi/dorado, but it got away as John was bringing in the fish.   After a quick overnight stop in Deshaies, we traveled to the less developed group of islands just south of Guadeloupe known as Iles des Saintes.  We started the day with little wind, but as we rounded the southern coast of Guadeloupe, we experienced wind gusts over 30 knots and seas of 8 – 10 feet.  The quick easy trip soon turned into a longer, uncomfortable trip.  About 2 miles from Isles des Saintes, John caught a fish.  Ann slowed down the boat and John pulled in the fish.  In 8 – 10 foot waves, John landed his first mahi mahi which is also called a dolphin fish or dorado.  It was a beautiful fish and we enjoyed four delicious meals.

We swam and snorkeled in the crystal clear water at Isles des Saintes and reunited with cruising friends that we had not seen since the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.  When the next weather window opened, we traveled south to Prince Rupert Bay in Dominica, a lush green island with its highest peaks often in the clouds.

Several brightly painted local boats greet you as you approach the harbor and vie to be your boat boy (most are actually men) and assist you during your stay.  As we anchored, several additional young men hand paddled out to our boats on old surf boards to sell us bread or fresh fruit.   Ann turned down the bread (how would it stay dry?) but bought bananas and mangoes.

Trees on Indian River

 

 

Other cruisers had recommended Martin on Providence as a good boat boy/tour guide.  Martin shared his beautiful island with us on two tours.  Early one morning, Martin rowed a boat with us and 6 other cruisers up the Indian River.  He pointed out the beautiful birds and flora throughout the trip.  We also saw scenes where the Survivor TV series and Pirates of the Caribbean II were filmed.  We all shared a coconut and Martin gave each boat its own coconut to use later.  Ann used our coconut to make a delicious cake.

 

Indian River jungle, Dominica

Our second tour with Martin is best described as “Feasting through Dominica ”.  We were introduced to numerous trees and plants that grow wild throughout the country and were able to sample all the delicious tastes.  We had been instructed to bring along plastic zip lock bags to store the many specimens we would collect.  We took home bay leaves, cinnamon bark, and lemon grass.  Mangoes were getting ripe and we ate as many mangoes as we wanted and took some back to the boat.  We sampled pineapple, bananas, and a sweet Dominican apricot the size of a softball, but with a texture similar to a cantaloupe.  Throughout the day, we saw breadfruit, guava, papaya, banana, avocado, passion fruit, caster beans, soursop, cocoa, vanilla, and cashew.  (How can anyone here ever go hungry?)

Cashew nut treeIt was amazing to drive along out in the wild and have Martin stop the car every few miles, tromp out into the jungle with his machete and come back to the van with something else for us to eat.  Martin shared his extensive knowledge of the Dominican plants and the many ways in which the Dominican people use their natural resources for food as well as household essentials.  We learned that each banana plant produces only one stalk of bananas (requiring 9–12 months) before it dies, but will send out new shoots for additional plants.  We saw the cocoa fruit growing on trees and saw how dozens of cocoa beans are encased in a slimy white pulp.  Beans are dried in the sun and then roasted before they are ground into cocoa.  We also now appreciate the cost of cashew nuts since each cashew fruit (a sweet tasting fruit that may be used to make jelly) has only one cashew nut attached.   The nuts are separated from the fruit and dried and roasted.  In addition to the wild fruit trees, we saw beautiful wild tropical plants and flowers growing in the fertile soil frequently visited by brightly colored hummingbirds.

Cashew fruit and nut

Much of the Dominican economy is based on agriculture and we saw numerous, carefully tended small farms.  Farmers cultivate bananas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, lettuce, and eggplant on steep slopes with no mechanical assistance.  They often gather their crops and transport the harvest in buckets carried atop their heads.  The gathered crops are transported into the larger cities where they are shipped throughout the Caribbean islands and the world.  While we were in Nevis, we were told that their produce is delivered from Dominica two times a week.  Most of the Dominican bananas are exported to Great Britain.  While we were driving through farming country, we stopped and gave a ride to a local farmer, the father of the Prime Minister of Dominica.  He was proud of his country and encouraged us all to enjoy our visit and come back often. 

As we walked down the path of a dense rain forest, 3 wild parrots were spooked and took flight squawking among the tall trees and tree ferns.  At the end of the trail, we were treated to lunch at the Chauiere Waterfall and Pool.  Of course, John couldn't leave the fall until he jumped from the rock cliff into the pool, and we both enjoyed sliding down the natural rock water slide/waterfall.  We left Dominica understanding the great love that native Dominicans have for their country and will encourage everyone to visit.

John contemplates the jumpJohn jumps

 

 

 

John contemplates the jump

He jumps!

 

During our sail from Dominica to the French island of Martinique we saw abundant sea life. About 200 yards from the boat, we watched a small whale breech, blow and swim slowly away.  We also sailed through a large pod of dolphin of all sizes jumping and playing around Livin the Dream for several minutes.  Dolphin always seem to be having fun and we always get a big smile on our faces when they are around.

In St. Lucia , we enjoyed a trip to the market in Castries where we were able to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables from ladies in the market.  They are all very friendly and encourage you to look at their selections.  They will answer your questions and direct you to someone else if they don’t have what you are seeking.  The market is also filled with spices, local crafts, and food stalls with locally prepared meals. 

In southern St. Lucia, we picked up a mooring for several days between the famous St. Lucia pitons.  Petite Piton rises 2,438 feet at the northern end of the bay and Gros Piton rises 2,618 feet at the southern end of the bay.  The bay is surrounded by a beautiful reef and white sand beach, while the steep hillsides are covered in tropical rain forest foliage.

St. Lucia's Gros Piton

Gros PitonWe learned that Oprah magazine says climbing to the top of Gros Piton on St. Lucia is one of the five things you must do in a lifetime so of course we had to do it.  All the locals are interested in booking you with a guide (for an additional fee ranging from $10US - $25US) for the hike up Gros Piton or at least in arranging a taxi to the base of Gros Piton.  We were told that the hike to the base of Gros Piton was so long that we would be too tired to climb once we arrived.  After numerous discussions with locals about climbing Gros Piton, we set out on foot in the direction of Gros Piton with our friends Susan and Hale from Cayuga.  After a 45 minute walk along a steep road lined with mango, papaya, cocoa, and breadfruit we arrived at the small village of Fonds Gens Libre where we were met by Chad, an official Gros Piton guide.  The 2.5 hour hike up the piton traveled along a well-maintained but often steep trail through rain forest and dense foliage.  The trail provided great views of St. Lucia ’s southern coast and southern interior.  At the top of the Gros Piton, we could look northward and see the volcanic peaks to the north.  The hike was tiring, but it was a great life-time experience that we will always remember.  Now we have to find out the other four lifetime experiences recommended by Oprah magazine.

Fonds Gens Libre school children

St. Lucia school childrenWhen we returned to Fonds Gens Libre village (100 residents) everyone we met asked us if we enjoyed our tour.  We realized that Gros Piton and it’s designation as a World Heritage Site has introduced a tourist economy into this small, poor village.  As we exited the village, we met a group of school children walking home from school.  They also asked if we enjoyed our tour (this is obviously highly encouraged behavior) and we began to talk with them about school and their ages.  Their favorite subjects were mathematics, science, language (punctuation), and spelling.  A girl of 14 wants to be a doctor.  St. Lucia as well as many of the English-speaking islands we have visited (Saba, Statia, St. Kitts, and Dominica) have medical schools that attract students from North America that have not been accepted into a North American medical school.  The children were very smart and friendly.  Susan asked if we could take their picture and they gladly posed for our cameras.  They in turn wanted to take pictures with our digital cameras and view the pictures after they had been taken.  This activity continued on for about 15 minutes until John and Hale came looking for us to see why we were delayed.  It was a wonderful experience and good interaction with St. Lucia ’s young natives.

On the following day, we continued to enjoy the beauty of St. Lucia.  We visited a botanical garden filled with tropical flowers and plants, viewed the hot sulfur springs boiling up from volcanic craters, took a “shower” in a cold waterfall, and enjoyed a relaxing bath in a hot waterfall and pool.  Yes, the water coming over the rocks and falling about 120 feet is actually hot.  It drops into a pool which is about 100 degrees and you can sit and soak just like in a hot tub.

Flying Gernard

 

Our arrival in St. Vincent and the Grenadines was our first return to previously visited islands since we left Guadeloupe.  On Father’s Day, we were ushered into the harbor of Bequia by a large pod of 50 dolphin, jumping, swimming and playing alongside Livin the Dream.  The beautiful Tobago Cays is the highlight of the Grenadines.  We enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the area and the wonderful snorkeling seeing beautiful coral, tropical fish, squid, and dozens of turtles.  We saw an usual fish lying on the bottom with long wing-like pectoral fins.  Thanks to Susan our friend from Cayagua, she helped us identify the fish as a Gurnard. 

 

 

Gurnard in Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays are a beautiful cruising destination so people tend to spend a lot of time there.  We caught up with some of our cruising friends we had not seen since Puerto Rico and they threw a little cocktail party on the beach for us when we arrived.

Ray- Tobago CaysTurtle- Tobago Cays

 

 

 

 

Turtle in Tobago Cays

Ray in Tobago Cays

We officially entered the country of Grenada at the clean and quaint town of Hillsborough on the island of Carriacou, about 20 miles north of the island of Grenada.  We were pleased at the many tropical fish we saw while snorkeling around Sandy Island, but were sad to see that most of the coral was dead.  It must have been a very beautiful place at one time and we hope the coral will soon come back.

Soon after we anchored in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou a small local row boat approached to ask if we would like to buy mangrove oysters.  Robert gathers the oysters in the mangrove area, opens the oysters beside your boat, and gives you oysters on the half shell.  The oysters are small and the shells are thin.  Ann isn’t an oyster eater, but was suspect of oysters in such warm waters.  John was ready for an eating adventure and enjoyed the small, sweet oysters.  He ate them 36 hours ago and hasn’t gotten sick yet!

July will be spent in Grenada and Trinidad.  We are scheduled to haul the boat out of the water in Trinidad on July 23 and fly to the U.S. on July 27.