As I write this I am getting Pandora ready for her run north to CT and I am hopeful that a few days after my crew arrives we will be able to head out for the run north.
They say say that bad things sometimes come in threes and that was my experience in St Pierre, Martinique when my friend Craig and I visited a few weeks ago with Pandora.
For those of us that have become addicted to e-mail and our phones, being aboard has it’s own set of challenges. I love the cruising lifestyle but being “off the grid” is a non-starter for me unless you are talking about solar panels and such. Wherever I am, I really need to feel connected and when I am not…
Well, hold that thought for a moment…
Mt Pelee dominates the skyline from the anchorage of St Pierre and is usually shrouded in clouds. When Craig and I were hiking up the side of Mt Pelee, the extinct volcano in Martinique that erupted violently in 1902, we got a first hand feel for what they mean when they say “the islands that kiss the clouds” and in this case, those clouds opened up an dumped on us in a violent thunderstorm, compete with simultaneous thunder, lightning and a massive downpour.
Convective thunderstorms are not common in the Caribbean and even hearing thunder was a first for me in two seasons of cruising the islands. To be high up in the mountains and experience thunder and the crackle of electricity so incredibly close was quite alarming, let me tell you.
In the hours we hiked up the mountain, we only had an occasional glimpse of anything in the distance. This is where we parked the rental car and after a short time even that was shrouded in clouds and mist. We never saw the distant ocean at all. Pelee loomed above us. We were told that the hike to the summit would take about two hours. Ha!
In the beginning there were steps. That didn’t last long and most of the run was a scramble over slippery rocks and often rough footholds chiseled into the bedrock. Much of the vegetation was tortured and low. But lush with the near constant mist and rain, year round.These fleshy flowers were everywhere. No trees, and the winds whipped up the slope with every plant hugging the ground. In every direction verdant green on the mountainside. Not a lot of photos after this as heavens opened and with driving rain. We had only gone about 1/3 of the way and kept going as we assumed the rain would not last long, as is so often the case. Not. The trail was so steep that we could hardly climb without using our hands to help pull ourselves along. After the rain became heavy the path started looking more like a raging brook.
The rain kept coming and got harder and harder. Incredibly loud thunder and lightning flashes were simultaneous. And loud? I have never really understood what was meant by the “crackle of thunder”. I do now. It was like the air itself was charged with electricity.
At that point “Craig, time to head back! Let’s get out of here!”. By that point the path had become torrent with muddy water pushing sand and small stones down the trail if you could call it that. Someone we passed along the way was limping badly as he’d stepped into a hole that was obscured by the muddy water.
Let me just say that the trail was steep, full of raging water and we were in a hurry. The good news is that I only fell once, on a slippery rock. Nasty bump on my butt and arm. Good thing I am fairly well padded.
So, back to the cell phone. As I was focusing on my footing I didn’t notice that my camera bag was slowly filling with water. As my camera is inside a padded section, the water pooled under it and while it was damp, it wasn’t flooded. Oops, my cell phone was in the bottom and floating. Mort…
Well, we made it back down the mountain and back to the car.
The day before, when we arrived in St Pierre we anchored in 50′ of water as the bottom falls quickly to over 100′ not far from shore. I had never anchored in such deep water. I wasn’t sure what was under us so I just put out all of my chain, some 200′. The problem was that if we dragged even a short distance we’d be in 100′ of water with scope of only 2/1. That wouldn’t do at all. And, compliments of the eruption of Pelee in 1902, there are plenty of shipwrecks not far from shore and I didn’t want to tangle with them.
Anyway, the anchor held and speaking of the the volcano, the city was completely leveled by the volcano and now you can tour the ruins which remain.
As St Pierre was a prosperous city, fueled by the profits of the sugar industry, there was a lively arts scene with an opulent opera house. Only ruins remain today. The grand staircase has been restored. Impressive. The view of the harbor with it’s black volcanic sand. Many of the buildings are pretty scruffy. I don’t think that the city ever really recovered from the devastating eruption. There are some gems though like this
Here’s the schooner Heron, from Maine, passing behind Pandora. She anchored nearby. Her owner charters her for day trips in Maine in the summer and spends his winters in the Caribbean. Heron was also in Bequia when we were there. I was quite taken with her. Her owner built her himself. The sunset did not disappoint. That evening, as I pulled the dink up into the davits, a line knocked my glasses off of my face. Down they went in 50′ of water. Such a bummer and what a way to cap off the day that I also “lost”, ie flooded, my cellphone. Oh yeah, I also noticed that my ensign was missing. I think it was swiped, pole and all, in St Lucia.
They say that bad things sometimes come in threes and the loss of a cell phone, prescription glasses, expensive ones at that, plus a missing ensign certainly qualify.
As far as the glasses are concerned, I have a few pairs of “drugstore” reading glasses and also purchased a new pair but it’s not the same. Just try reading #3 reading glasses and trying to look into the distance. Not good. It’s going to be fun on passage, at night, trying to see what’s on the horizon. Good thing I have a good set of binoculars.
Anyway, I’ll live but having to deal with crappy glasses and no cell phone for a month before I get home which reminds me that the cruising life can sometimes be difficult when things go “bump in the night”.
Ok, that’s about it for now. My crew arrives in a few days and Pandora’s about ready to go. In the meantime I am making plans here in Antigua for the arrival of the Salty Dawg Rally fleet next November and the two day event that I am putting on for the Seven Seas Cruising Association.
Yes, there’s plenty going on but at least I have a brand new pair of cheapo reading glasses to help me along. Yea, that’s just so fun but at least I have those three bad things out of the way.
“Bob, Bob, don’t say that, you’ll jinx it.”
Ok, fingers crossed.
Editor: Ok, don’t say it but yes I know that this post just didn’t come together. Clearly not one of my best but I am just sick of working on it so there…