Heading South from Antigua
After a lovely visit with Lisa and Guild in their new
home in Venice CA, we returned to Akka in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua
and prepared to head south toward Trinidad and Carnival. We acquired
two crew members: Suzie Jardine
is English and just a bit younger than we are; you may recall the
story about her losing her husband at sea. Danny
Gertman is a 25 year old Israeli who is working his way around
the world. In addition to youth and strength, he brings a desire and
knack for cooking, including baking bread daily. Yum!
We also had
acquired a used replacement handle for our outboard motor, so dinghy-ing
is now much more reliable. There is still a residual mystery problem
with the exact ratio of acceleration and choking, but we're working
that out. Each time we open the outboard motor cover to check things,
we find more of that wonderful soft sand from Barbuda. We think
we'll have it for years.
We left Antigua
around noon on February 3rd, bound for Martinique. The wind and
waves came up, and we had a boisterous 27 hour trip. Both Danny
and Suzie got seasick, a fate Andi avoided by using a Transderm
Scop patch. Despite the seasickness, the trip was beautiful. In
Martinique, we went to the capital of Fort de France and anchored
right at the center of the city. Martinique is a 'department' of
France, and looks and feels French, albeit with lots of Caribbean
Danny has an
easygoing, winning personality, combined with a marked readiness
to talk with strangers, even in French. The result is an amazing
set of instant friends everywhere we go. Our first night in Fort
de France, we walked into a bar for a beer. Danny turned to the
couple alongside us, talked with them for about five minutes, and
then announced to us that the couple had invited us to join them
for dinner at an Israeli restaurant in town. That restaurant turned
out to be closed, but the couple found us another restaurant and
we had a wonderful evening with them, conversing in a combination
of English and French.
more prosperous than Antigua, with much better roads, a bigger capital
city with larger buildings, and fewer street vendors (and consequently
more shops). We spent 3 days in Fort de France. We kept intending
to move across the large harbor to the less urban, more resort-y
Trois Islets, but never quite made it. Another contrast between
Antigua and Martinique: From our anchorage in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua,
we were awakened daily by roosters crowing, goats, dogs, and the
occasional donkey. In Fort de France, the cathedral bells chime
at 6 a.m. (and every quarter hour thereafter) and the fort itself
broadcasts a trumpet reveille. Honking horns and the occasional
car alarm complete the morning sounds.
We left Martinique
late afternoon on the 7th, bound for St. Vincent. It had been drizzly
until our departure, but the skies cleared and we had a fabulous
beam reach in about 15 knots of wind. We soon realized that our
time estimate for the passage, based on averaging 6 knots, was wildly
wrong, because we were going almost 9 knots. (Former crew members
will recognize this situation.) We proceeded to shorten sail to
try to slow down, first changing from jib to staysail, then reefing
the main once, then twice. We couldn't get Akka to go slower than
7 knots. So we proceeded under an almost full moon in 70 degree
weather, exclaiming again and again how beautiful it was, and complimenting
each other when we managed to slow the boat down. We passed St.
Lucia and got to St. Vincent at about 3 a.m., then sailed into the
lee of the island, finally slowing down enough to arrive at a harbor
in the daylight.
is an incredibly rugged, rocky island whose population doesn't seem
to be able to decide whether to try to extort our money or become
our friends. The guy who rowed his boat out to meet us at dawn that
morning offered to "tow us in." When we said no, we're OK, he rowed
alongside us as we came into the bay and railed on, saying his "name
is Death" and telling us to "Go back to Viet Nam." He pronounced
"Death" as "Debt", so we at first had difficulty understanding what
he was saying, but Danny understood his Creole accent and enlightened
the rest of us.
the people Danny and Rob met on shore when we went in to clear Immigration
were extremely friendly, as were the police, who checked us into
the country. The first young man we met on shore touched fists with
us (the local handshake) and said "respect." We replied, "respect"
and he seemed happy. Rob was glad that we had (as is his custom)
dressed up to go into town, out of respect.
is renowned through the Caribbean for the quality of its ganja,
so Danny asked a woman running a convenience store whether ganja
is legal here. She vigorously denied this, saying you would "be
taken away in handcuffs" if the police saw you smoking it. As she
spoke, a man standing just outside her store was smoking a cone
the size of a cigar. When we pointed this out to her, she said that
he would run if the police arrived. Danny had asked her what the
people here did for a living, and along with fishing she mentioned
"working in the forest" as a principal occupation. After our conversation
about smoking dope, she admitted that the forest work she had referred
to was really the illicit culture of marijuana.
Since that conversation,
we've seen people smoking dope on virtually every street corner.
None of them appeared to be running from the police.
We think they
hunt dolphins there, and sell the dried blubber and meat. They claim
these are not dolphins, but "black fish", which are "bigger than
dolphins". Maybe -- the people of the Grenadines are renowned for
their whale hunting.
Next day, we
attempted a climb of 4200-ft. La Soufriere, an active volcano. The
"easy way" up is from the windward side, so we dinghied around the
point from our anchorage to the village of Clare Valley, then rode
a bus (actually a "collective taxi", which is really a van run by
entrepreneurs) to Kingstown,
the capital. Each additional passenger represents another $.30 US,
so they pack people in like sardines, with everybody sitting partly
on somebody else's lap. Then another packed van to Georgetown, where
we hired a guide, Joel.
As it turned
out, Joel didn't speak much English, but only Creole. He got along
by repeating everything we asked.
"Why do they
put bags around the bunches of bananas?"
"Dey put bag
around dem banana before dey pick dem."
"Yes I know."
We're looking at about a hundred bright blue bags around bunches
of ripening bananas. "But why?"
"Dey put bag
around dem banana."
On closer scrutiny,
the bags are pierced with one-inch holes, but there is no point
pursuing this line. Joel doesn't know why.
We knew that
there was a road to the trailhead, so we asked Joel to get us a
car ride. He responded by flagging down a van, which took us to
a road that disappeared into a banana plantation. "How far to the
trail?" we asked. "Turty minute," he replied, so off we took, gently
but persistently upward, through huge stands of banana, plantain,
and coconut trees. About an hour and a half later, bulging with
ripe windfall bananas, we staggered into the turn-around at the
end of the road.
"How long to
Steps." What did that mean? Six actual hours, or two? Steps all
the way up the mountain? Who knew? So we (all but Suzie, whose bum
knee was acting up) headed up the mountain.
was fantastic, as we trekked through
rain forest, bamboo stands, valleys filled with huge ferns, and
eventually high savannah. There were very informative signs along
the way, describing the various flora and fauna, just like a nature
walk. And there were steps -- thousands of them, it seemed.
We got to a
place where the sign described the beautiful view of Georgetown
and the Grenadines, but there was no view, only dense fog and cold
wind. We had been on the trail for over two hours, and it was beginning
to get late. We asked about more steps. "No more steps," Joel replied.
"Just path straight up mountain." Recalling Into Thin Air,
we decided that the prudent thing to do was to turn back.
We found Suzie
safely where we had left her and returned down the plantation road,
stopping to whack the ends off some coconuts with Danny's machete
and drink the juice. And did we mention eating bananas?
We're off to
the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad over the next few days.