Cruising in St. Lucia and Martinique - Page 2 of 5

[Relaxing in the cockpit while at anchor]  
Relaxing in the cockpit while at anchor. The instructor, Jeff Werner, is at left, with the other student at right. This was the first stop on our cruise, just off Pigeon Island at the northwest corner of St. Lucia.  

The sailing school used 45-foot Beneteau's, which were roomy and comfortable with decent performance, to boot. The boat had two double-berth cabins aft, each with a private head. There was a big double-berth cabin forward, also with a private head. The main cabin was quite spacious, with lots of seating room around the table, and lots of room for cooking in the galley area. There also was a chart table with some electronics, including a non-functional GPS.

On deck, the boat had a large and comfortable cockpit, with a centerline folding table and a dodger and large bimini. The boat was rigged as a sloop, with a large roller-furling headsail. Halliards and the mainsail reefing lines ran back to the coachroof in front of the cockpit, where there was a set of line stoppers and a winch. This made for easy access, but put a lot of line tails in the cockpit. The boat had an electric windlass, but we noticed, to our consternation, that the chain was the wrong size for the gypsy and kept slipping, a potentially dangerous situation. The boat came equipped with a sizable hard dinghy with a reliable outboard motor.

The boat performed quite well under sail, and was fun and easy to steer. While pounding through the waves on our passage to Martinique, we noticed that this particular boat seemed to have a leaky hull-to-deck seam. Some water came into the boat and accumulated on the countertops. We also heard some oil-canning of the hull as we plowed through some of the bigger waves. When we practiced maneuvering under power, the boat handled very well both in forward and reverse, thanks to its big spade rudder. All in all, it seemed like a fine boat for chartering.

[Looking towards shore at swimming horses]   [Sunset from anchorage]
While we were at anchor off Pigeon Island, a group of people brought several horses down to the beach and let the horses go swimming, which they seemed to enjoy.   This was a fairly muted sunset, viewed from the anchorage. We always watched for the "green flash", but we never saw one.

We had a great instructor, Jeff Werner, who was an old hand at liveaboard cruising and an excellent teacher. Although the course was supposed to be fun, it was also supposed to be a formal learning experience with an extensive curriculum. Every day, Jeff would teach us more cruising information, frequently using a small whiteboard that he brought. The school also provided a very useful textbook by Steve Colgate that was full of practical details. This is a rough list of what we learned: sail handling (setting, furling, reefing), sail trimming (for different points of sail), line handling, anchoring, docking, maneuvering under power (forward and reverse), "man overboard" procedures, steering, watchkeeping, navigation, trip planning, provisioning, cooking and cleaning, dinghy and motor usage, etc.

This was not an introductory course—you were supposed to have some sailing experience. The goal was to learn from an expert all the skills required for bareboat chartering. At the end of the course, the instructor gave you a written assessment sheet, rating your skills in all the important areas. If you rated OK, you could show the sheet to a chartering company as one piece of evidence that you were qualified to bareboat charter.

[The other student at the helm]   [Sailing to Martinique]
This is the other student at the helm, enjoying our boisterous sail to Martinique.   View from the cockpit while sailing to Martinique.

[Approaching Martinique]   [Jeff dressed for a rain shower]
This is the view approaching Martinique. There was a little island to the left that was a useful landmark.   We frequently got an afternoon rainshower, short and sweet. Jeff is prepared for rain as we approach Martinique.

[Anchorage at Martinique]  
This is our first anchorage at Martinique, near Sainte-Anne at the southern end of the island.  

We had a really nice sail from St. Lucia to Martinique. It was an easy daysail since the islands are only about 25 miles apart. The prevailing winds are from the east or northeast, so while traveling up the west coast of St. Lucia, we were in the lee of the island. Once we passed north of the island, there was some increased wind and swell as we sailed across the open ocean. Once we reached Martinique, we were again in the lee, so we had a good protected anchorage.

Before we left, the students did detailed navigational planning, under Jeff's instruction. While sailing, the students would typically take the helm for an hour at a time, with Jeff calling out when to change. Since there were only two students, we had a lot of time at the helm, which was fun. I remember we had to steer an accurate course that was fairly close to the wind, since we were trying to reach our arrival waypoint without tacking.

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