Caribbean Cooking Class at Patrick’s, St. George’s, Grenada

How do you cook these strange Caribbean vegetables?

A great way to begin introducing yourself to edible Caribbean plants is to sample each wonderful fruit in season.  You still may need to make inquiries about what constitutes “ripe” and what part of the fruit is edible, but for this you need only inquire of the vendor.  You taste it in all its glory and you either like it or not.  We have been living on bananas, guavas, mangoes, jackfruit, sour sop, passion fruit, papaya, paw paw, starfruit, citrus, et al.  We have fresh fruit with nearly every meal and we enjoy rum smoothies with fruit we freeze in season.

But what of the many “strange” vegetables?  Cook them wrong and you may conclude that they are terrible and you will never try them again.  A case in point – at my dining table as a child, there was a rule that we would eat what was put in front of us until our plates were empty.  My siblings and I remember a single big exception.  At one dinner, for the first time, my mother prepared okra.  We had all had okra in Campbell’s gumbo soup and liked those little wagon wheels.  As dinner began, our father tried his first mouthful of okra and immediately conceded that no one needed to eat it.  From that day forward, okra was only ingested by members of my family in a gumbo.

Patrick’s Restaurant

We have had some success preparing several new vegetables after we have enjoyed them in a restaurant, but this has hardly made a dent in those we have seen.  Most recently, we enjoyed a sampling of 20 to 30 (we lost count) small portions of a wide variety of vegetable and meat preparations at Patrick’s Restaurant in St. George’s, Grenada.  After finishing our last course, we commented to our server, Milton, that we needed to take some cooking lessons.  Much to our surprise, he said, “We can arrange that.”

Photo from Patrick’s website http://patrickslocalgrenada.wix.com/eat#!
Photo from Patrick’s website http://patrickslocalgrenada.wix.com/eat#!
  
The following day, we set up a 2 hour lesson.
Karen, a longstanding friend of Patrick’s, who now owns the restaurant, greeted us when we arrived.  I had a great cup of coffee while we waited for our lessons to begin.  Our teachers were Sandra and Lisa. 
Sandra
Lisa
Karen speaking with patrons on a local cuisine tasting tour
We would prepare a green banana salad, pumpkin, christophine (aka chayote) in a cheese sauce, and okra and tomatoes.  I thought “okra?” remembering my childhood experience, but with little concern as we had eaten it in the restaurant and it was delicious.  I asked Lisa and Sandra why the okra my mother prepared was so horribly slimy.  We learned that it must be cooked in the barest minimum of water (or battered and fried) to prevent this.  In addition, Sandra and Lisa answered questions about other vegetables and offered additional seasonings we should consider.

The preparation space was limited and we could only imagine what a challenge this would be when the restaurant was full.  Sandra and Lisa laughed and admitted it could get pretty chaotic.  They have two huge, many burner, stoves, but each dish we prepared was cooked in one pot.  This type of cooking is ideally suited to cooking on an average-sized sailing vessel.

All four dishes were cooked from scratch in not much more than an hour – just in time for lunch.  Included in the modest cost of our lesson ($25 US) were all the ingredients AND the four dishes we prepared.  We were also sent on our way with a bunch of green bananas to practice what we learned.

Left to right:  green banana salad, okra and tomatoes, christophine in a creamy cheese sauce, and pumpkin
We greatly enjoyed our time at Patrick’s having a wonderful dinner, taking cooking lessons, and meeting Milton, Karen, Sandra, and Lisa.  There will be a much greater variety of traditional Caribbean vegetables, prepared efficiently in our tiny boat kitchen, going forward.

Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada

New Year’s

We celebrated the coming of the New Year anchored off Sandy Island, a small uninhabited island with extraordinary beauty.  This island is east of Carriacou, one of the several islands that are part of Grenada.  Some time ago, vegetation on Sandy Island was killed by seawater.  Were it not for a hurricane (uncommon in Grenada) that threw coral up on the sand strip, the island would likely have vanished.  Locals planted trees and undergrowth that, in combination with the more substantial coral base, stabilized this idyllic island surrounded by healthy coral reefs.
Sandy Island (center) off coast of Paradise Beach (right), one of the most beautiful beaches on Carriacou.

While we were snorkeling, a pelican feeding frenzy started up devouring some of the enormous schools of small fish on the reef. The pelicans are quieted down here, with full bellies.

We have seen more pelicans in Grenada than any of the other islands we have visited
West end of Sandy Island – where we snorkeled
This island is part of a marine preserve (Sandy Island / Oyster Bay Marine Protected Area – SIOBMPA).  The waters are clear and shallow – a perfect snorkeling spot.  We spent many hours on the reef and the photos below are just a small sample of the beauty and diversity of fish, invertebrates, and vegetation there.

Duhkxy sits in George’s lap on most dinghy rides, but does get adventuresome at times.  When close to shore he will sometimes launch himself into the water unless we remember to tell him to stay.  He likes parading around the sides of the dinghy, but is quick to get back in George’s lap if he slips.

Best of all, he has learned to sit patiently in the dinghy when we snorkel.  Sometimes he needs one or two reminders.

We had a delicious New Year’s Eve dinner at Paradise Beach Club on Carriacou.  This restaurant offers water rides from and to your boat (and you don’t need to jump off the dinghy in waist deep water).  I had ribs and George had tuna.  Both came with salad, potatoes, sweet plantains and caribbean rice;  all very delicious.
Paradise Beach Club, Carriacou
We are currently anchored off a pretty fishing village on Petite Martinique.  George just finished the laundry and I just finished the dishes from our decadent lunch of lobster and salad.
Ahhh  Fresh Sheets
Need a bigger pot

We are hopping in the dinghy to take Duhkxy to shore – boy does he love the beach.
Happy New Year to all!!

La Sagesse, St. David’s, Grenada

Back to Sailing the Caribbean

La Sagesse

Ice Floe spent the summer and fall months (hurricane season) at Grenada Marine (St. David’s, Grenada) “On the Hard” (a boating expression for on land).  When we arrived on December 5th, we taxied to La Sagesse, a beautiful waterfront hotel just a few miles from the marina.  We stayed there a few days last May after Ice Floe was put on the hard and have fallen in love with the setting, the food, and the staff.  The hotel offers a big discount through Grenada Marine and free rides to and from the marina.

It is not uncommon for boaters to live aboard their boats when they are on the hard, but it is miserable.  Your boat will be hot and you will need to contend with biting insects.  If you have just arrived, you will probably have the interior in complete disarray as you have stuffed your sails, cockpit cushions, and lots of other stuff in the cabin.  You will need to climb a ladder to get in and out.  You won’t have running water.  The outside of the boat will be filthy.

La Sagesse means the wisdom, and I think it is apropos for those who choose wisely not to stay in their boat on the hard unless necessary.  Those of you who know us are thinking “You guys lived in an 8′ by 12′ camper with two children and a dog…..”  For those who don’t know us (and perhaps do live on boats while on the hard) you may be thinking “What snobs…..”  I accept these contradictions and criticisms and sure am glad we can stay at La Sagesse.

Our room was in the one story part of the hotel where each room has an outside covered porch with a beautiful view of La Sagesse Bay.  The constant rhythm of waves rolling ashore and the chirping of tree frogs in the evening completes the perfect atmosphere for much-needed rest and sleep after a hard day’s work readying Ice Floe for the beginning or ending of our sailing season.

Ocean 2, our Oasis before Ice Floe was ready to “splash”
The view from our room of La Sagesse Bay

La Sagesse also has accommodations in a pretty multi-story building.

The grounds are nicely landscaped and orchids were blooming on many trees.  Perhaps best of all, Duhkxy, was welcomed everywhere, including the dining room where the resident dog. “Queeny” politely visited every table.

Circumnavigating Martinique

Exploring Martinique with Michael

Michael’s dinner contribution – a batwing coral crab
Michael flew into Hewanorra airport in St. Lucia and would be with us for 8 days (excluding travel days).  Staying in St Lucia was not an option as Duhkxy’s application to visit the island was denied.  Martinique is less than a day’s sail away from St. Lucia so we planned to spend our time with Michael there.  Hewanorra airport is on the southern end of St. Lucia and Ice Floe was moored in Marigot Bay, near the north end of the island.  To conserve Michael’s vacation days I took a cab to meet him.
Most islands in the Caribbean have few, if any, protected anchorages on their eastern (Atlantic) side and the swell and winds on the Atlantic can make for very rough sailing.  Martinique’s Atlantic coastline, in contrast, is protected by an extensive, shallow, reef and we were armed with information contributed by sailingbreeze.com on “Active Captain” of several anchorages.  “Active Captain”, an invaluable, crowd-sourced descriptions from boaters of anchorages, marinas, and hazards.  We were eager to snorkel the reefs and the ability to circumnavigate Martinique was ideal.

We decided to sail the eastern shore from south to north (new territory for us) and the western shore back (second time for us) and across to St. Lucia in time for Michael to fly home.  We concluded this was the best plan for all.  An approximation of our sailing route is shown below.
Sailing path and anchorages
Michael arrived in St. Lucia on April 26th and we were off to Martinique early the next morning.  Michael typically gets up around 4:30 am for work.  Just as I was making headway getting George to sleep in, the two of them began starting the day around 6:00 am.  I slept in as a silent protest.

We arrived in Martinique around 1:30 pm and anchored in St. Anne.

St. Anne Anchorage (Martinique)

After checking in we headed straight to a small beach.  The moment Duhkxy’s feet hit the sand, Michael got his first look at what a maniac Duhkxy becomes on a beach.

Michael grabbed a picture of Duhkxy on the beach – faster than a speeding bullet
Wet and sandy – just the way he likes it
The next day we began our circumnavigation of Martinique.  The wind was down and we had a strong tide against us so we were motor sailing around the southern tip of Martinique when I caught a mahi mahi.  We fish with unattended hand lines so we don’t often see a fish hit the line.  Much to my delight, the fish struck the very instant my line was out and the mahi flew straight out of the water.  When I announced I caught a mahi, George thought I was joking.

Michael only looks tipsy – honest!!

Eastern Coast of Martinique

After landing the mahi we continued, now sailing, up the east coast en route to Port Vauclin, the first of the east coast anchorages described by sailingbreeze on Active Captain.

This anchorage is a wide open, increasingly shallow bay leading to a grassy sandbar.  These shallow waters were a playground for wind surfers and people bathing in the warm waters.  At a point where the water is only inches deep, we found sandy depressions with deeper water.  We followed the lead of others and immersed ourselves in these very warm pools while Duhkxy raced and jumped in the shallows.

In the photo below, you can see a barrier below the kite on the right.  This appeared to have been constructed to keep sargassum off the beach.  We understand that the sargassum on the Atlantic coasts had been especially problematic.  So much so that in some places, unhealthy hydrogen sulfide fumes were emanating from its decomposition.  The beach near this anchorage had enormous mounds of the seaweed that was being loaded into trucks and taken away.

Port Vauclin anchorage
Port Vauclin
From our anchorage in Port Vauclin
That evening, Michael did his best to reproduce his awesome blackening seasoning with spices we have on board (quite nice).  We had fish tacos and smoked the balance to savor it over the next couple of days.

Islands and rafts of sargassum are a recent problem in the Caribbean.
They make fishing very challenging and are fouling beaches
We spent the next couple of days sailing and snorkeling inside the reef and anchoring in Baie du Francois, and Baie du Tresor along the way.  The reef appeared to to be in a recovery phase with lots of new small coral heads getting started.  A fair amount of coral skeleton was covered with healthy plant and sponges which was a distinct improvement over the remnants of bleached coral.  There was certainly enough living coral, fish and invertebrates to encourage us and we hope to do more snorkeling there when we have enough time.  Michael spotted a batwing crab tucked in under a sandy shelf in ~ 6 feet of water and George was able to capture it with his lobster lasso and gloves.  The batwing crab in commonly found in this kind of shallow water

With our keel up we draw a little more than 3 feet but suggest a boat with a more typical draft would find enough water through this stretch, as well.

Michael demonstrating his romantic prowess
Baie du Francois
Small marina in Baie du Francois
Baie du Francois
Farmland bordering Baie du Francois
Baie du Francois
Baie du Francois
Loup-Garou, a beautiful, uninhabited, protected island just outside of Baie du Francois
Our sail beyond Baie du Tresor, now outside of the protective reef, was boisterous with winds up to 20 knots and swells of 10+ feet.  We can attest to the fact that Michael is a salty sailor.  He had no difficulty reading or going below despite the rollicking conditions.

Michael snaps a photo off the stern to capture the heeling of Ice Floe as we sailed around the northern tip of Martinique

As we sailed around the northern tip of Martinique, we paused to snorkel a reef in Anse Couleuvre, described as a top snorkeling spot in the “Snorkeling report” http://www.snorkeling-report.com/spot/snorkeling-anse-couleuvre-martinique/.

According to the description, snorkeling this reef was not advisable on a rough day.  It was blustery but there were no significant waves near two large rocks projecting out of the water that we believed marked the edge of the reef.  Michael and I headed out right off the sailboat as George was uncertain where he could anchor.  The current was strong against us and made just getting to the rocks exhausting.  In addition, Michael had very small flippers, great for fitting in a carry-on bag;  not so great for propelling oneself forward.

All in all, it was an ill-fated snorkel.  When we re-examined the maps of the bay we realized we had snorkeled off a small beach just south of the one recommended.  The reef was much closer to shore and was not contiguous with the large rocks we snorkeled on.  None-the-less, I offer a couple of photos of our very brief snorkel by the big rocks.  I am quite proud of my turtle photo.

Beyond the challenging sailing conditions and our strenuous snorkel, the day continued to challenge us.  Our gennaker sheet got caught in our propeller when George started the engine to avoid some poorly-marked fishing traps.  As noted previously, most were identified by no more than a soda bottle.  All’s well that ends well – we avoided the traps and George shut the engine down before the sheet was impossibly tangled around the prop and/or damage was done.

The West Coast of Martinique

We continued on around the north end of Martinique and down the western shore and anchored in the harbor of St. Pierre.  St. Pierre is a village of approximately 15 square miles and a population of 4000.  Since the establishment of the town, it has suffered two catastrophic natural disasters:  a hurricane in 1780 with an 8 meter storm surge killing 9000, and the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902 that killed everyone in the village (~28,000) save for two individuals.

Approaching St. Pierre
St. Pierre, Martinique, with Mount Pelée in background (reproduced from Wikipedia.org, ib:user:Zenneke)

It had been an exhausting, 12 hour day (so far) and Michael was of a mind to treat us to dinner.  We took the dinghy in to find a nice restaurant for dinner and chill.  The selection of open restaurants was quite slim.  We chose one we had eaten in previously, but Duhkxy was turned away.  We remembered afterward that previously we snuck him into the restaurant in his airplane carrier..

It was a pleasant, relaxing, dinner off a short menu.  Michael was decidedly unimpressed, but we have grown accustomed to the local offerings, and every dinner out is a wonderful treat.

Immediately, as you step off St. Pierre’s dingy dock, is a lovely public square lined with trees. When we visited, these trees were inhabited by a large flock of bright yellow and black orioles who were building nests.  Many dozens of nests were completed or under construction.

As this beautiful oriole begins constructing a new nest, note the proximity of nests to right and left.
These birds characteristically nest in communities like these with nests almost close enough to touch.
Farmland just beyond the town of St. Pierre
We set off the following morning heading for Anse D’Arlet, one of the loveliest towns we have encountered in our travels, thus far, in the Caribbean.  We snorkeled the north shore of the harbor;  one of the best snorkeling we did with Michael.

We visited the town and looked for a restaurant for dinner.  None, we encountered, looked particularly promising from their exterior.  Michael approached one, L’oasis, and took a peak inside and was pleasantly surprised.  He suggested we check out the menu board which offered a wide selection of entrees et al.  From the least inviting exterior, he had found an absolutely charming restaurant with outstanding food.

L’oasis, a 4.4 star restaurant in Anse D’Arlet (Trip Advisor) – don’t judge it by its exterior!!!
Magret du Canard (Duck Breast) – Michael and George both had duck
I had St. Jacques (scallop) risotto
 Ah… Desert
Happy and full, if a bit fuzzy
Approaching Anse D’Arlet

Michael’s last two days with us were spent sailing from Anse D’Arlet to Le Marin, and then back to Marigo Bay in St. Lucia.  We hope he enjoyed his visit with us as much as we enjoyed having him share our new “Way of Life” (Michael’s description).

A portion of artwork on building in Le Marin

Martinique to Marigo Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Michael joins us in St. Lucia

We sailed from St. Anne, Martinique to St. Lucia on April 23rd to meet Michael.  George left at the crazy early time of 6:30 am, always mindful of the need to arrive in time to check in.  We had a beautiful sail in 14 knot winds on a beam reach.
As we made the crossing to St Lucia, a pilot whale came right alongside the boat.  What a thrill to see such a massive creature feet from the cockpit on the starboard side of Ice Floe.  We learned that pilot whales, actually a type of dolphin, swim alongside boats just as we have had other dolphins play in the boat’s bow wave.  The pilot whale is distinguished from the more typical bottlenose dolphins both in its size and the shape of its head.
The best shot I could get of the pilot whale that visited us
750 pound short fin pilot whale – photo borrowed from awesomeoean.com
Common Caribbean bottlenose dolphins – photo borrowed from wallpaperweb.org
We arrived to Marigot Bay in St. Lucia early in the afternoon.  As you enter the bay, the hilltops are festooned with colorful villas/homes/rentals.
Looking down on the bay in this photo borrowed from the Marigot Bay Marina and Resort, it is easy to see why this bay is popular as a hurricane hole.  The beautiful sand beach peninsula leaves only a small opening to the outer harbor.  An interesting fact is that French ships are known to have hidden from English ships behind the sand beach having tied palm fronds to their masts as camouflage.
Aerial view of Marigot Bay Marina and Resort reproduced from the resort’s website
Further out, beyond the sand beach on the left the Marigot Beach Club is situated.  The beach club offers day passes and longer rental accommodations, sets up outings such as kayaking, snorkeling, diving, et al.  A beach-bar restaurant named DOOlittles offers local fare and a boat shuttles between the Marigot Beach Club and the Marigot Bay Marina and Resort, as well as many additional restaurants.  A wedding was held at the Marigot Beach Club while we were visiting.
Marigot Beach Club
Marigot Beach Club
As you begin to enter Marigot Bay Marina, this duo of pale blue and white buildings house the administrative offices, marina showers, the Hurricane Hole restaurant, a bank, and some living quarters.  The two buildings are separated by a large courtyard with seating for the restaurant.  On our first evening in the marina, George and I had dinner at the Hurricane Hole that was offering a buffet of traditional Caribbean dishes and a show featuring a very talented tenor saxophone player alternating with performances of a traditional dance troupe featuring fire, fire swallowing, and fire breathing.
Marigot Bay Marina and Resort administrative offices, the Hurricane Hole Restaurant, et al.
We spent most of the two days before Michael’s arrival on boat chores.  However, we did allow ourselves occasions to take in the beauty and features of the Marigot Bay Marina and Resort.
Unfortunately, our application for Duhkxy to visit St. Lucia had not yet been approved so he could not leave the boat.  We took this opportunity to further our efforts to make Duhkxy at ease when we had to leave him alone.  Duhkxy made great strides in adjusting to our absence, remaining mostly calm, and assuming a lookout for us on the cockpit combing until our return.
Duhkxy escaped no ones attention as he stood vigil waiting for our return.
I took a 45 minute cab ride to the Hewanorra Airport to meet Michael – another great opportunity to see more of the island during this ride from the northwest side of St. Lucia to the southeast.  We passed through banana plantations, across mountains and through the island’s rainforest.  Our driver Moses was kind enough to stop at an overlook of a beautiful fishing village and at one of the many fruit and vegetable stands so I could replenish our stores.  The homes and villages we saw were colorful and well maintained.  We will certainly visit again for a longer time once Duhkxy’s permit is approved (spoiler alert:  it was ultimately not approved this year as Duhkxy was not old enough to have some of the required tests done).
After an interminable wait at the airport, Michael finally showed up with a customs agent beside him.  He quickly said “OK, they won’t let me in because of the incident in Grenada”.  Before I could respond, he countered with “Nah, they just need to know where I am staying.”  This is an odd question when you are staying on a boat and that is not a sufficient answer.  They must have a non-moving place.  The answer of the Marigot Bay Resort and Marina was sufficient to get us on our way, understanding we would be moving on from there.
Michael and Duhkxy quickly became the best of friends.
Although neither Michael nor George and I were able to enjoy the Marigot Bay Resort fully, save a couple of dips in the pool and a fabulous Indian dinner at Masala, the following pictures will give you a sense of why we aim to return next year.
In my next post, I will tell you all about Michael’s visit and our circumnavigation of Martinique. 
The Marigot Bay Marina and Resort is renowned for its beauty and accoutrements.  Accommodations include 915 square foot Junior suites starting at $390 per night in the off season and go up from there. HOWEVER, a slip on the dock ran us ~$40 per night and came with full access to the resort facilities, pools, spa, gardens and restaurants.  What a deal!  It reminded us of our great fortune staying in a marina in the heart of Paris for only 40 euro a night.  We wish all marinas were so reasonable.
The resort has two large swimming pools, one with a swim up bar – by far the most popular.

Additional water features are integrated into the grounds of the resort.

Koi pond
I luxuriated in the sitting area above this gorgeous dinghy doc writing my last post.
The winding paths through the resort are bordered by beautifully designed and maintained gardens and buildings.
Check out this pineapple.  Marilla and Mitch – how is yours doing?
Mangos – George and I have consumed a hundred each.

Deshaies Botanical Garden, Guadeloupe

Jardin Botanique Deshaies

The Deshaies Botanical Garden sits high up on a hillside overlooking Deshaies.  We read that a free ride can be arranged to and from the garden, however when I phoned ahead to inquire about a ride and whether Duhkxy would be admitted, we were told no dogs were allowed and asked if we were looking for a taxi.  Our conversation was compromised due to our mutual shortcomings in speaking each other’s language, so we decided to walk and took along Duhkxy’s airplane carrier.
It was a steep climb to the garden, but afforded a welcome opportunity to see more of Deshaies beyond its waterfront.  In one yard, two fishing traps helped answer our questions of what was tethered below the many small floats we dodged in waters 50 to 100 feet in depth.  The floats marking underwater traps are often no more than a soda bottle – despite our best efforts we have lost two planers and several lures when trolling – always a heartbreak for their value and our unintentional contribution to the many man-made hazards to sea life in our oceans.  We hope they are retrieved by the fishermen and find their way to useful use or proper disposal.
  
Local type of fishing trap
Lovely homes on road to Deshaies Botanical Gardens
Deshaies from overlook on road leading to the Botanical Gardens (Forefront, village homes and businesses;  On hillside, beyond the town, a cemetery)
The Deshaies Botanical Garden was opened to the public in 2001.  The extraordinary beauty of the botanical garden designed by Michel Gaillard, is complemented by an infrastructure of mature indigenous and exotic trees established much earlier by previous owners of the land, Guy Blandin (until 1979), Michael Calucci (until 1986).
Upon arrival, we were told Duhkxy could not enter the botanical garden, but could remain on leash in the reception area.  We were uncertain that this would be possible as Duhkxy had routinely responded with ear-shattering and relentless yips, and hysteria whenever either George or I moved beyond 10 feet of him.  Much to our surprise, he remained calm as we handed him over to the woman at the reception area and remained so.  We found him fast asleep when we finished our tour.
The gardens include winding paths of beautiful flower beds, water gardens, tropical birds, trees, frogs, lizards and bees….  Ending this post with pictures worth many, many, thousands of words.
Manmade waterfall above pond full of pink flamingos

Loriquet a Tête Bleue
Hummingbird of unknown species

A Hike up the Deshaies River in Guadaloupe

A bit of fun on the Deshaies River in Guadeloupe

The Deshaies River hike is described in Doyle’s Cruising Guide as a “one to two hour”…, “cool and shady scramble”… ”  The trail was said to end about 20 minutes after a road intersects the trail on the left at “a giant cave-like gully, with a waterfall at the back of it”.  It is noteworthy that he acknowledges that “Several readers have complained that this hike is difficult” although at the same time he challenges this assessment with a comment “on the other hand, a five year old hiked here for two hours without any problem”.

Let me start by concluding that we enjoyed the hike very much.  It was indeed shady, and we scrambled up and down many, many, many boulders, but we were decidedly not “cool”.  I venture we sweat a half gallon each.  There is considerable overall elevation to the hike as the river flows from the top of a small mountain (large hill just doesn’t quite describe it).  We found it to be a very strenuous hike and Duhkxy agreed!!!

Bring lots of water, shoes that can get wet, strong legs, and some degree of balance (I am decidedly not strong in that regard and managed the trail without falling – YAY!).

The trees and plants were beautiful and often distinctly adapted to their environment. 

We were surprised to see palm trees growing in this dense forest – having associated them in our minds as the lovely trees lining beautiful salt water beaches.

Coconut palms getting their starts in unlikely places
Massive exposed root base of palm forging its way through the rocks to the water and nutrients it requires.  On left, a massive white lichen.
Reaching heights we have rarely seen

We were three hours into the hike and we saw no sign of any road connecting with the trail on the left or right side.  This was cause for dismay as our plan had been to take the road back.  It would be long past dark if we needed to follow the trail back.  We forged on for a considerable while.

We encountered some very large ants industriously carrying loads much larger than themselves.

But, we did not find an intersecting road.  The following two pics are of the most beautiful river scum I have ever seen.

We marveled at the unusual way some trees grow in the tropics.  We hypothesized their growth habits evolved in a world that never saw a freeze or snow.  When encountering an obstacle, a limb may snake around it.  It is sometimes hard to distinguish a limb from a root.  Trees thrive growing on top of rocks or with three quarters of their roots undermined.

This tree above, and the one below, are part of the same living tree.

We found a large ceiba tree a little way into the forest on the left side of the river.  These trees grow to enormous sizes and have the most amazing roots that extend 10 or more feet beyond the tree.

George holds up Duhkxy so you have a reference for how big this ceiba tree is
George takes a rare photo of me in which you can actually see my smile
Well beyond the sight of the ceiba tree, its root continues to scrawl

Moist forests in the Caribbean have many “air” plants that grow on other plants and rocks.  The one below was common on the trail.

Plants grow attached to trees and atop rocks
Seedlings of “air” plants just getting a start

Exhausted, going on four hours, with no sight of road or waterfall, we turn back.  We look for two concrete blocks that may be steps leading to something George remembered seeing that might have been a house in the woods.  Beside the steps was an old sign with “Interdict” barely discernible (equivalent to no trespassing).  Upon finding it, we clawed our way up a steep bank hearing what sounded to us like religious chanting.  The grounds and buildings appeared to belong to a religious group.  There were several areas with stations of the cross represented and there was evidence of vegetable gardens and animal pens.  A woman who had just driven up kindly showed us how to get to the road and we wearily headed for a beer in town.

This fun story cannot end without my sharing information we found on this trail (after we survived it).  Accounts from a number of sailing bloggers indicate that, indeed, there is a road and a lovely waterfall at the end of the trail.  I think Duhkxy was just slowing us down.

Our favorite was from http://www.gowitheflow.co.uk/2017-2/guadeloupe-nov-17/deshaies-river-walk/

Michael (Uncle and brother) is joining us in two days!

St. Bart’s to Guadaloupe

Beautiful mural on concrete wall in Deshaies, Guadeloupe

From Ile Fourchue we returned to the St Barts mainland to provision up.  The following morning, March 27, we began our sail to Guadeloupe at 6:30am.  The trip would take three days with lay over in Nevis and Monserrat.  We would not go ashore on either of these islands as Duhkxy did not meet requirements and we were not cleared to do so.

The first two days we sailed as close to the wind as Ice Floe can sail and endured 5-6 foot swells.  Wind was around 12-15 knots interspersed with squalls into the low to mid-20s.  This was pretty rough sailing and adding to the challenge, we fished most of the time.  Sadly, I only caught one very large and one pretty small barracuda!!  Are there any fish left in the sea?

The Soufrière Hills Volcano on Monserrat

We passed by Monserrat and viewed the Soufrière Hills Volcano blowing smoke from several places.this previously dormant volcano erupted violently in 1995 and 1996, burying the islands capital, Plymouth, and requiring the relocation of half the island’s inhabitants.  Fortunately, the town was evacuated prior to the major eruptions, but 19 lives were lost.  The southern two thirds of the island remain uninhabitable and the volcano remains active.

Our third day required us to motor sail as the wind was down to 5 knots.  The squalls were, however, the most severe we have encountered – with a top speed of 35 knots.  The sails were set for the squalls, with a reef in the mainsail, and no jib.  Nonetheless, a sudden 35 knot wind with substantial swells is a mighty force.

We arrived in Guadeloupe on March 29th around 5:00pm. We were bone-tired and ready for an early night when we anchored in Anse Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

The information we reviewed concerning the anchorage in Anse Deshaies had prepared us for it to be crowded.  Free moorings were all occupied by local boaters.  The depth of the anchorage drops off quickly.  We anchored out a bit, repositioning ourselves twice and settling in about 30 feet of water.  It was a comfortable anchorage with plenty of breeze, little swell, and a short dinghy ride to restaurants and a small grocery store.  Our only concern was Ice Floe, along with all the boats in the cove, continually shifted direction.  Of greater concern was that it was not unusual for one boat to swing in one direction and the boat beside it another.  With a great deal of anchor chain out, we regretted not having set a float to mark the anchor’s position.  This would give other boaters an idea of the substantial area Ice Floe might occupy depending on how she swung.

The following photos and comments are from our first day in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Local fishing boat in Anse Deshaies
We had a fabulous lunch of local fish and pork while entertained by bananaquits
Land crab ready to duck into its substantial underground home
Land crab half hiding in its underground home
Picture-perfect home on the waterfront of Anse Deshaies
The dormer of this lovely home with a balcony set up with children’s size chairs

Visiting St. Barthélemy

Hilltop view overlooking Gustavia Marina

St. Barthélemy, also known as St. Barth (French) and St. Barts (English), has approximately 10,000 inhabitants.  The language is French and many inhabitants speak little to no English. It was fun when I found myself in situations where I knew as much, or more French than the person I was speaking with knew English.

St. Barts is a wealthy island – sort of the Caribbean version of the Riviera’s St. Tropez.  It is said to be frequented by the rich and famous, although we met no celebrities that we were aware of.  We were told because many island inhabitants are well off, the recovery from the 2017 hurricanes was very fast.  Any able-bodied person could earn 50 euros / hour (~ 55 US dollars) just on a cleanup detail.

The culture is decidedly French.  We enjoyed our first pain au raison and strawberry tart since we returned from Europe and fresh(ish) baguettes became a staple once again.  I do not mean to imply that a store would sell a day old baguette; only that they were not baked fresh every hour and purchased warm.

Most food must be imported as the soil is dry and rocky.  However, much like in France, most properties have a collection of well-maintained fruit trees native to the Caribbean (mango, papaya, breadfruit, sour sop, bananas, coconuts…)

Sour sop – Wikipedia describes sour sop (aka custard apple) as having an aroma similar to pineapple with a flavor described as a combination of strawberries and apple and sour citrus flavor and an underlying creamy texture reminiscent of coconut or banana.  We have yet to have the opportunity to try it, but who could resist with that description.

Most natives are indifferent to other people’s dogs.  Duhkxy is learning not to expect pats and praise from everyone he meets (which is a good thing).  He now rarely runs to jump on people unless they encourage him to do so.  He also finds that he is not welcome in supermarkets and many stores.  Restaurants are about 50:50 as to whether they will permit a dog to enter and many beaches are off limits.  The beach restriction is primarily to ensure dogs do not disturb turtle nests, but it sure has been hard on Duhkxy, who loves nothing more than to run and play in the sand.

EVEN IF IT TAKES A WHILE TO DOWNLOAD THIS SHORT VIDEO, PLEASE BE PATIENT.  YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS DUHKXY SHOWING HIS GREAT LOVE FOR SAND AND BEACH.

The capital of St. Barts is Gustavia, a very beautiful town with a busy marina and crowded anchorage.  As such, we anchored Ice Floe in a cove, Anse de Colombier, a short distance away and visited St Barts by dinghy and by car.

The island , just 9.7 square miles, is very small, even when compared to most of the small Caribbean Islands.

On the evening we arrived, the Gustavia marina and harbor were full of enormous sailing yachts.  We learned shortly afterward that a series of sailboat races was planned for the weekend.  The contestants were by invitation only and qualifying sailboats had to be a minimum of 30 meters in length.  What a sight!!

These boats sailed neck and neck in relatively light wind
These two goliaths sailed so close to each other they sometimes looked like a single vessel with a bizarre attire of sails.  The one created a wind shadow for the other, perpetually keeping it a bit behind.
An unusual instance in which competing boats chose vastly different sails
All the ships carried dozens of people to serve as ballast to minimize healing
Some beautiful classic sailboat types participated
The lovely schooner was so swiftly overtaken by this sleek, black sloop, it looked like it was standing still

To see more of St. Barts, we rented a car and traveled every public road on the island.  Our first road rivaled the steepness of anything you have seen or driven on in San Francisco.

Photo absolutely fails to show how steep this road was.

We finished our week’s visit St Barts on one of its small, unihabited, islands, Isle Fourchue.

We anchored in the cove where you see a couple of other boats in this photo and spent two days exploring and watching the sailboat races.

This barren, rocky, island was once home to many goats.  Unfortunately, they exhausted the food supply and the few remaining, after most starved, were relocated.

This sparcely-leafed vine left behind seed pods that sprung open and resembled silver flowers.
Areas of the island were covered with these beautiful barrel cactuses.

It was now time to move on to our next Caribbean island in the French West Indies, Guadeloupe.

A Must Do Hike in St. Barthélemy, French West Indies

From our beautiful, quiet mooring in Anse de Colombier, you can take a short hike that provides mountaintop views of several bays (Colombier, Petite, Paschal), as well as, very diverse flora and fauna.  If you are not traveling by boat, this hike can be taken in the opposite direction starting in the Village Flamands.
You begin this hike from the left side of Anse de Colombier beach (looking from the water).  There is a stone staircase that leads to the trail.  While there is some elevation for the hike, the path is well established and I would describe it as appropriate for anyone accustomed to climbing stairs and walking on a dirt and rock path.

Our Experience

As the hike neared the crest, we encountered many goats.  They were not timid, even when Duhkxy barked.  Many were accompanied by their spring babies.  We continued to encounter goats throughout much of the hike.
We were immediately rewarded with a hilltop view of the tranquil Anse de Colombier where we moored for several days.  The bay is teaming with sea turtles and offers a quiet, less crowded setting compared to the anchorage off Gustavia, the capital of St. Barth.
Directly north we saw Anse Paschal, with its massive collection of sargassum seaweed.
A short way on, waves crashed against the shore of Le Petite Anse (also on the north side).
Flocks of Tropic birds soared above and around us.
We always enjoy observations of pants with unusual features and flowers and this hike did not disappoint.  The rocky coast seemed as though it would be inhospitable to pant life, but its abundance and variety is a remarkable testimony to adaptation and evolution.

small and mid-size lizards darted across our path.

Views of the villages ahead beckoned us on.
As we neared the end of the trail, we saw a tortoise.
And then two more another, then several more, and still more.  We speculated as to why the tortoises would be congregating in this particular spot.  Closer to the village of Flamands we got our answer – a tortoise watering station had been set up.  We have subsequently seen tortoises throughout our travels in St. Barth, but never in such numbers, and never, fortunately, as roadkill.
Lovely cottages sit on top of the ridge overlooking Le Petite Anse.  The view of this cove and the villages beyond must be seen from this vantage point.

The trail led directly to a street within Flamands.

As we visited Flamands, Duhkxy was admired by several villagers, but most did not give him a second glance – this is very characteristic of French culture.
We visited a small grocery store for some libation.  Duhkxy was not permitted to enter.  I commented to the woman at the checkout “Ce n’est pas La France” (This is not France), to which she smiled and nodded.  She let me photograph the cigarettes she had for sale.  The frightful visual warnings of diseases linked to tobacco were exactly as in France.
Private properties in Flamands commonly fruit-bearing trees (sour sop, papaya, coconut), much like in France.
And there were flowering shrubs everywhere – much like France.  Beautiful hike, beautiful village, beautiful day.