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June 9, 2005

Pirates of the Caribbean

We went to Dominca looking for the Black Pearl, the ship used in the recent filming of "Pirates of the Caribbean II", but unfortunately we found quite a different kind of pirate! After a hard sail across from Guadeloupe in 20 knots and 8 foot seas, we arrived at Portsmouth, Dominica. We'd been told that the Black Pearl, and some of the movie sets, were still around, although they'd wrapped up filming the week before. But the Pearl wasn't there; she'd already gone back to the Bahamas. We had been warned that security was an issue in Dominica, so we weren't planning to stay and explore the beautiful island, just fly our "Q" flag for one night's stay. Since the Pearl wasn't around and we still had a few hours of daylight left, we set out down the coast to an anchorage recommended in the cruising guide. 

At dusk, hot and tired, we arrived at the anchorage. It was deserted: the hotel on the beach appeared closed, and there were no other yachts. It made me a little nervous, especially when we saw that a man was apparently living in a cave on the shore, but we didn't really have another option. We decided to play it safe, though, and brought our valuables inside and locked ourselves into the boat when we went to sleep. We even dug out our little cans of pepper spray and put them next to our beds. 

A little past midnight, I woke up to hear Neil say, rather cryptically, "He's here!" and suddenly turn on the lights in our cabin and yell, "HEY!" out the back window. He'd been awakened by a weird bonking noise coming from the wind vane on the transom (right over our heads) that was different from the bonking noise made from simply rolling in the swell. A man was climbing up the windvane and trying to board the boat. There was a big splash when Neil yelled, as he jumped back into the water. He never got aboard.

By the time we got the companionways unlocked and the flashlights gathered, the man was long gone. Needless to say, we did not get any more sleep that night, and at dawn all we wanted was to get away from Dominica as fast as possible. It's really a shame, because it is a gorgeous island and we'd have loved to explore it. I called the Coast Guard when we went past the capitol of Roseau (I'd called the night before but gotten no answer) and the officer was very nice and apologetic and asked that we not judge the island by these isolated incidents. We know, though, that they're not that isolated; since we left there have been two more boardings that we know of. It's fairly mild piracy, they're just looking for cash, but still, it's scary. I am sure that, as has happened in other places in the Caribbean, the authorities will soon realize how bad for the economy these incidents are, and start really cracking down on the crooks.

So, after a hard days sail and no sleep, we set out across another rough channel between Dominica and Martinique. It was a long, seasicky day, and we were very relieved to arrive in the harbor of Forte-de-France, Martinique. We enjoyed Martinique, despite the high prices and endless rain squalls, and stayed for five days before heading south again. Here some cruisers in Anse Matin go up their mast to retrieve a halyard:

We decided to bite off a big chunk and take a 24-hour passage past St. Lucia and St. Vincent all the way to Carriacou. It was a spectacular sail, 22 hours of mostly broad reaching in flat seas in the lee of the islands, with slightly more exhilarating bits between the islands. Unfortunately, we did not catch any fish. Fortunately, when we arrived in Carriacou we met up with our friends on Galadriel again, whom we haven't seen since late April. Everybody's happy! Plus, we're "legal" for hurricane season, since we're below 1240' N, required for coverage by our insurance company. Here's Sandy Island at Carriacou, where we snorkeled with Galadriel, with one of the numerous rain squalls in the distance... it's nice to have the decks always clean!

Next: Grenada...