Wednesday, June 29, 2011

St. Lucia

The Pitons, viewed from offshore of St. Lucia
 Rodney Bay in St. Lucia is quite cruiser friendly.  There are several nice dinghy docks from which you can access the marina, shops and restaurants, the main road, and mall-based supermarkets.  We attended a cruisers’ meet-and-greet at the Boardwalk Bar located, naturally, on the marina boardwalk.  It was nice to finally see the faces behind the voices on the radio and identify the sailors on the boats that we’ve seen in several anchorages.  We stocked up on food, fuel and water here.  Unfortunately, didn’t have an opportunity to do any inland exploring because we were anxious to have some time in the Grenadines farther south, but this is definitely someplace we want to stop again. 
Another yummy dinner (or five) caught by Chris. The picture's not crooked, we're just heeling.


We haven't seen traffic lights in a while
  Martinique, another French island, was interesting to visit.  Fort de France is a busy city – the first traffic lights and actual traffic that we’ve seen in a while – with a bit of a French/New Orleans feel.  The narrow roads of the waterfront district had shops below, and balconied homes above.  We especially loved this jungle balcony.  But, of course, the colors and vegetation were all Caribbean.  We also anchored at Anse à l’Ane, a pretty little beach community.  We tried to go hiking, but were thwarted by really overgrown vegetation (the rainy season has started here, and everything’s growing like crazy) and a very large Rottweiler, who seemed quite friendly (I’m sure the drool hanging from his mouth was from the heat and not rabies) and anxious to be patted, but whose owner seemed rather frantic to get him away from us.  I didn’t think we were that scary looking, so perhaps he had unknown personality traits that she was trying to spare us.  I think he just wanted some company.
All the colors...

Chris hiking the road, looking for the trail

One Great Thing About the French Islands…

…besides the baguettes, pastries, etc., was that so many of the buildings, both commercial and residential, had roofs full of solar panels.  In other places we’ve seen the odd building or house with panels, but here they were more the rule than the exception.  It’s really nice to see, considering how much sun there is – free energy beyond the initial investment.  We have solar panels on Mr Mac, and don’t know what we’d do without them.  They require no maintenance, and have a twenty-year warranty.  It doesn’t get much simpler than that.  Of course, if you want to store the energy for use when the sun is not out, you need a battery bank, but that, also, is low maintenance.  Chris checks and augments the water levels in our batteries twice per month (it takes about half an hour to do them all), but there are batteries that don’t even require this much maintenance.  It’s really a shame that places like Florida are so backward that they complain about fuel and power prices, but don’t take advantage of what nature provides, especially since they have so much sun.  We also saw a nice wind farm in Les Saintes, the turbines turning nicely in the breeze.  There are those who argue that they’re an eyesore, but how picturesque is a coal-using power plant?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Scimitar Sun Wins the Gold Medal!

Once again, Chris took the top award for fantasy novels in the ForeWord 2010 Book of the Year Awards.  This is a national award for books released by small publishers, and he had some stiff competition.  You know what’s extra special?  He won the same award last year for Scimitar Moon.  Woo hoo – two in a row!  Scimitar Heir, the third book in his Scimitar Seas series, will be coming out in September.  Will he make it a trifecta?  We are soooo happy and proud!

P.S.  For those of you who have enjoyed reading Chris’ books (or the Cornerstone Trilogy, which Chris and Anne co-wrote) and would like to keep them coming, why not write an online review?  It doesn’t have to be long or fancy, just your opinion of the book.  Readers can leave reviews on, Barnes and,,, or any book-review site you prefer.  It really helps!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Traveling up the Indian River

Land crabs among the tree roots on the river bank
Cannons overlooking the Prince Rupert Bay anchorage
Chris and Lynn irresistibly drawn to the rum distillery
 Okay, here’s another recommendation for those looking for a special place to vacation in the Caribbean, and a promise that we’ll be back here again.  Dominica is a terrific island.  Volcanic in origin, it has steep green mountains blanketed in lush rainforest, waterfalls, and hundreds of rivers.  We took a couple of tours, courtesy of the gentlemen of the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security (PAYS).  One was up the Indian River in Portsmouth.  No motors are allowed, so Monty, our guide, rowed us upriver, not an easy task with eight people (not including himself) in a heavy wooden boat.  But he happily identified the various trees and shrubs that grew along the banks, and pointed out critters that we would have otherwise missed, such as fuzzy baby herons balancing on the branches overhead, or land crabs scuttling amongst the mangrove roots.   Far upriver we stopped at the Jungle Bar, and Monty took us hiking through a plantation, where we got to taste coconut milk, papaya, and mango, and suck the slime off of cocoa seeds (sounds disgusting, but is actually quite tasty).  The second tour was an all-day affair led by Winston, who drove us around half the island.  At our request, he took us to the Macoucherie River rum distillery.  Established in the 1800s, this business uses only sugarcane harvested from their twenty acres.  They have a water-powered cane grinder and a wood-burning steam engine, and the rum is distilled in a glass jar in a box.  Definitely low tech, but so much more interesting than the glitzed and whitewashed Bacardi tour we took in Puerto Rico.  We also saw a bay leaf distillery, swam in the Layou River and in Emerald Pool (a World Heritage site), tasted the fruit from which cashews grow, ate at a terrific restaurant with a world-class view, hiked out a rocky shore to see a cave allegedly dug by a drug smuggler as a hideout, and attended the opening festivities for a new fishing facility in Portsmouth, where we picked up some fresh tuna for about $3.50 a pound.  This it to say nothing of the incredible views all day.  On our own we hiked around the ruins of Fort Shirley and the Cabrit hills, and snorkeled on some great reefs in the marine park.  And all this was just a sample of what there is to do on this island.  Yes, we will be back.
The incredible rainforest vegetation - look at the size of those leaves!
The view from our table at lunch
Anne and Lynn enjoying the waterfall at Emerald Pool

Saturday, June 11, 2011

“What a facinating, modern age we live in.”

This is a quote from Master and Commander, a terrific movie based on the nautical novels of Patrick O’Brian (yes, this is the correct spelling for his name, though the name usually is spelled O’Brien).  Captain Jack Aubrey is commenting on a new style of ship design, which in the movie is the French ship Acheron, but in reality was the design of the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides, go and visit her if you’re in Boston).  The books are based during the time of the Napoleonic wars, in the late 1700s/early 1800s.  Sailing in the current day and age is quite different, with all the communications, GPS (Global Positioning System using satellites) and electronics available.  For example, here’s a shot of our computer tracking us in realtime using GPS.  The little boat represents our location, and the boat moves along the chart as we sail along the west coast of Guadeloupe.  However, it’s interesting to note this reminder on the chart: The surveys of Guadeloupe were, with a few exceptions, taken in the 19th century.  So, we’re using 21st century technology to show us where we are on charts that were, in large part, plotted using sextants and lead lines.  What a terrific way to consider the influence of the sailors of yore on our sailing in the present day.

The French Islands

Checking out the botanical garden in Desharis, Guadeloupe 

Lunching at a colorful restaurant on the Deshais waterfront
 The French Islands that we visited, Guadeloupe and Les Saintes (The Saints), were interesting because neither of us speak any French.  However, between the French dictionary and sign language, we were able to communicate with the non-English speakers.  The islands were beautiful, the towns quaint, and the breads and pastries delicious.  However, one aspect of this culture that we found rather disturbing, given our overwhelmingly friendly experiences on all the other islands we’ve visited, is that the inhabitants were quite standoffish.  The cruising guide mentioned that these islanders weren’t much for smiling, but hell, they didn’t even acknowledge you when you nodded or smiled or waved or said “Bonjour.”  But we didn’t stop trying, and we had terrific responses from a few people, which made the effort worth it.  I realize that it’s a cultural difference, but it really cast a pall when we were walking around town.  Okay, enough bitching.  We found a nearly perfect anchorage on Grand Îlet in Les Saintes: good holding in sand and not too deep; short swimming distance from the boat to great snorkeling in warm, clear water; a cute uninhabited island where we collected three coconuts to eat; and for most of the time, we were the only boat there!  We also spent a couple of great days on brand-new (and free!) moorings off of the beach at Îlet à Cabrit.  We found that these islands are great cruising grounds.  We just wished the people were a little more affable.
Chris foraging for coconuts

The tiny roads of Bourg, Les Saintes


Our anchorage at Jumby Bay

Sugar-mill ruin at the bottom of the hill on the left
Antigua is a beautiful island, with rolling hills, turquoise waters, and lovely anchorages.  There were lots of shoreside resorts, many small and discrete with bungalows tucked into the trees – very nice.  But what stuck in our mind about this island was all the sugar mill ruins.  They were everywhere!  One poked up out of the foliage on a hill otherwise bereft of any structures, another was the centerpiece of a beachside resort, and another sat in the middle of a golf course (perhaps this gave someone the idea for a windmill on a miniature golf course!).  Long ago we had seen a magazine article about an old sugar mill that had been remodeled into a home – it was beautiful!  Now to find an old sugar mill we could afford…

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Fantastic Flora and Fauna of Saba

Chris is dwarfed by the tree ferns and other foliage
During our hike in the rain forest, we saw a lot of plants that, at home, you usually see in pots or nicely lined up in landscaping.  Here, they towered overhead, brilliant flowers contrasting against the deep-green jumble of foliage.  You could hear tree frogs peeping everywhere, but they managed to stay hidden from sight.  We did, however, see this cute lizard, which is found only on Saba.  


Spotted lizard to the left of the flower