Dec. 14-19, 2012 — Le Marin, Martinique to St. John, USVI

On our six-day voyage from Le Marin to St. John, a passage of 380 nm, we landed one tuna, three mahi-mahi, and two free divers.

We began the trip with a short hop of 30 nm up to St. Pierre, where we spent a comfortable night absent the swells that so often plague that anchorage.

Next day we made 74 nm up to Les Saintes, Guadeloupe, where we avoided the painterless mooring balls by anchoring in Anse Petit.  Early next morning, while it was just getting light, we arose to find that a shift in the wind had placed a neighboring vessel right on top of our anchor.   The maneuvering roused a sleepy captain, but in the end he had only to glare as we weighed anchor and Barb blessed him with her friendly smile and wave.

As we passed along the western side of Guadeloupe, we caught the fat tuna, some of which we later had in filet sandwiches for lunch.   About three miles south of Pigeon Island, we were about a mile offshore when I heard shouting through the open port door.   Directly abeam of Tusen Takk II, even further out than us, two of the distant four “dots” I had noticed earlier, and had dismissed as fishing buoys, were now waving arms in the classic “jumping jack” gesture that means “help”.  We immediately pulled in our trolling lines and turned back to motor out to their position.   As we approached it became clear that two of the “dots” were indeed floats, but that the other two were young men wearing black wetsuits.  We could not understand any of the many things they said, since it was all in French, but by sign language it was soon enough clear that they very much wanted to be rescued and brought aboard.   They wore long fins, wet suits, weight belts and masks and snorkels, and sported impressive spear guns.   One of the floats was a fairly large bright yellow inflated plastic ball with a dive flag affixed.   The other float was a brilliant orange u-shaped affair with inflated sides and plastic “floor”, but no “stern”, apparently useful for one person to lie in and propel by kicking.  They could not understand us, and we could not understand them, since the only words we had in common were the English words “thank you” and “OK”.   Well, I did ask if they wanted to look for their “bateau”, but that was the only French word in my query.   They indicated “no”, and pointed toward shore, so we slowly headed directly in that direction while they obviously searched for something.  I assumed it was a boat that had gotten away from them and that they were hoping had drifted to shore, so I was surprised when they registered pleasure and pointed to yet another dark float.   We went up to it and I again asked about a “bateau”, thinking that perhaps their vessel had sunk and that an affixed float was fortuitously still visible.  Again, “no”, accompanied by the French word that explained what was on the submerged end of the line on the float, but alas, we could not understand.   In any case, they wanted to get off at the float, and so we parted with them saying “thank you” in English, and me saying “bon chance!”, thereby nearly exhausting my French vocabulary.

Later, we caught a nice mahi-mahi, our favorite fish, owing to its flavor and its moist and flaky texture when prepared correctly.

We spent the night at Five Islands Bay in Antigua, arriving just at dusk, due to the delays caused by our “catches”, after an 80 nm trip.  Another early start the next morning helped us to arrive after 79 nm at Ile Fourche, the barren island north of St. Barth, where we anchored in sand after reading in Doyle’s guidebook that our boat was too big for the moorings.   Next day, we again started at shortly after 5 am, since we wanted to get to St. Martin in time to do some shopping.   We anchored in Marigot Bay and took the dinghy through the French bridge in order to check in at customs, our first such act since leaving Le Marin.   Later, some walking and some shopping and some pizza consumption at “La Belle Epoque”.  Next morning, Dec. 19, my birthday, we got up super early and departed at 3:45 am to begin our 97 nm trek to St. John, USVI.   Along the way we caught two mahi-mahi, hooked simultaneously, one on the port side and one on the starboard, one hauled in by yours truly and the other hauled in by Barb. Later we were joined by an enormous pod of spotted dolphins that played in the compression wave off our bow.  Some stayed for a very long time, making me wonder how or if the pod ever regroups.  We arrived just at dusk and immediately took the mooring in the extreme northeast corner of Francis Bay, which mooring being directly in front of dear friends Hunter and Devi (Arctic Tern).   But to read about our various activities in the USVI, gentle reader, you must tune in to the next exciting episode of “Chuck and Barb Go Cruising”.

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