Flying Fish and Pounding Cats

"Mike, are you going to catch dinner for us?” Mom asks as my brother pads barefoot down the docks of The Moorings’s base in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, toward our Leopard 4300 charter catamaran, a rented trolling rod slung over his shoulder.“You know it,” he says, his excitement over spending the next week cruising St. Lucia, Martinique, and Dominica obvious. As we wrap up last-minute
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

"Mike, are you going to catch dinner for us?” Mom asks as my brother pads barefoot down the docks of The Moorings’s base in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, toward our Leopard 4300 charter catamaran, a rented trolling rod slung over his shoulder.

“You know it,” he says, his excitement over spending the next week cruising St. Lucia, Martinique, and Dominica obvious. As we wrap up last-minute preparations, I marvel at the steep, craggy hillsides, lush with mango trees, palms, and tropical flowers of every color, that spill down to the sheltered bay.

marigot_bay

In addition to being a popular jumping-off point for charters, St. Lucia offers a diversity of culture and nature that makes it a cruising paradise. Mountains and dense rain forests in the center of the island separate the lush western flanks from the wind-battered Atlantic shoreline on the east. The Pitons, the island’s iconic geological formation, rise sharply from the southwest coast. Banana plantations pepper the lower elevations, and small towns cling to the surrounding craggy hillsides.

When everything is ready, we exit the bay’s narrow mouth and turn north, toward Martinique. I spot the first flying fish as we enter the St. Lucia Channel, between St. Lucia and Martinique, just as the seas and wind spike. I point at the little flyers, but Mom and Mike are slow to turn. Looks are thrown my way: Flying fish? Yeah, right. While Mom certainly knows that flying fish exist, neither she nor Mike has ever seen one. Months earlier, on promises (mine) of fine weather, flying fish, and French wines and cheeses, we planned this cruise for early April, but now, as I drive into 25-to-30-knot northeasterly winds and 6-to-8-foot seas, I feel my credibility receding.

I think back to that morning’s chart briefing. Jens Kuesthardt, The Moorings’s Marigot Bay base manager, told us, “I’ve been around here for years, and this is by far the rainiest, windiest ‘dry’ season I’ve seen.” I see what he means as we motorsail farther offshore into the building weather—compliments of a massive high-pressure system that has stalled off Florida, sending unusually strong winds down the Caribbean chain—and our catamaran starts bashing along a west-of-north route that’s normally a fast reach.

The seas ease some hours later as we sail into Martinique’s lee. Flying fish sporadically appear, inevitably disappearing before Mom can confirm their existence. I glance at Mike, our unlucky fisherman, and we share a quiet smile, as he, too, has come up shy on his promises. Just then, Dad catches a glimpse of a menacing storm cell cascading down a mountainside and issues a warning; Mike and my wife, Coreen, quickly shorten sail as I drive. First come the winds, then lashing rain, which erases the day’s heat before abating.

Three hours later we’ve sailed up the western side of Martinique and anchor off St. Pierre, at the island’s northwest end. Now a quaint town of around 5,000, St. Pierre was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean” until Mt. Pele, which looms above it, erupted in 1902, killing all but two of the 30,000 inhabitants.

That night we discuss the steady parade of squalls and the stiff northeasterly winds and decide that another long beat to Dominica just isn’t in the cards. Instead, we’ll explore Martinique, slowly cruising back down the coast and eventually back to St. Lucia.

Clearing customs the next morning at a cybercaf’s self-check-in station is memorably casual (my passport stamp reads “Welcome to Paradise—Good Forever”), and we spend the morning wandering the town’s colorful cobbled streets. Our English is fairly useless in this overseas department of France, so we buy cheese and baguettes by pointing and smiling, and we happily learn that good French wines cost only three or four euros. Trs bien, indeed.

Coreen, Mike, and I spend the afternoon hiking in the hills above the town, past the Stations of the Cross to the Virgin Mary statue that keeps watch from an exposed mountain shoulder. The sweeping views of the anchorage, the town, and the surrounding mountains are impressive, as are the rhythmic squalls.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com The double range  Every skipper knows about ranging two objects in line to keep the boat on track in a cross-current. What’s less obvious is monitoring both sides of a gap such as a harbor entrance. ...read more

FamilyCruise

Bareboating on Puget Sound

Depending on where you are, Puget Sound can look no bigger than a mountainous version of the Intracoastal Waterway. That’s what I thought when I first laid eyes on it from the lighthouse at Mukilteo Park on a sunny day last July. Then I went to the top of the iconic Space Needle ...read more

Bali4point1

Boat Review: Bali 4.1

Coming fast on the heels of its predecessor, the Bali 4.0, the Bali 4.1 adds a number of improvements, many of them inspired by feedback from owners and charterers. She’s an evolution of a concept that has already proven popular and very many benefits from its builder’s ...read more

Headsail

Ask Sail: Silencing A Rattling Headsail

Q: Our Pearson 26 has a 110-percent jib that tends to rattle very noisily at the top hank. We only bought the old boat recently, but it must have been happening for a long time, since there’s a deep groove worn inside that bronze hank. The jib has an unusually large and wide ...read more

Alerion2048x

Alerion Yachts 33, the 90 Minute Get Away

Easy to sail, luxurious, and swift; the Alerion 33 is the solution to your busy life. The intuitive, simple rig design, easy set-up, and put-away mean there’s no need to wait for crew to enjoy a weekend, a day, or an hour out sailing. Her beauty and comfort are evident in the ...read more

anchor

Know how: Ground Tackle

Your ground tackle is like a relationship—the more you care for it, the longer it will last. So, how do you enhance the relationship? First up, think of the accommodations—a damp, salt-rich, often warm environment, just the kind of thing to encourage corrosion. What can be done? ...read more

DSC_7522

Boat Review: Beneteau Oceanis 46.1

The Beneteau sailboat line has long represented a kind of continuum, both in terms of the many models the company is offering at any given moment and over time. This does not, however, in any way diminish the quality of its individual boats. Just the opposite. Case in point: the ...read more