Sailing on a Schedule

A Week Aboard S/V Sabado: 12/03/2023 – 12/10/2023

Good morning! Have you seen our latest YouTube video? You can watch it here. 🙂

We spent last Sunday relaxing at home, eating fresh local fruit and swimming off the stern.

We watched a beautiful sunset that night, with calm seas and cotton candy clouds. Watching the sun disappear over the horizon never gets old!

We took the dinghy to shore Monday morning to do some sightseeing. We met up with our driver, who planned to take us on an island tour, stopping at the market on the way back so we could pick up some provisions. We knew there had been a miscommunication by our first stop: a waterfall with a line of at least a hundred tourists waiting to see it. We turned right around and got back into his car. We explained our aversion to crowds and how we hoped to see some less touristy spots, if possible. He explained that, unfortunately, with multiple cruise ships on the island that day, it’d be challenging to find what we were looking for. He took us to several viewpoints and the botanical gardens instead- look how huge these leaves were!

I’d be lying if I said we weren’t disappointed. There is so much to do in Dominica, and this was the only day this week we would have good weather to explore! It was out of our control, though. To make it up to us, our driver went the extra distance so we could go to the bigger market and the nicer hardware store, ensuring we got what we needed. When we told him we got everything except for eggs, he pulled over and knocked on someone’s door… a few minutes later, we were back on the road with 30 fresh eggs in our lap!😂  I’m happy to report that despite coming in a plastic bag, they survived the dinghy ride back to Sabado without a single crack. 

It rained all day on Tuesday. We watched from our saloon, pointing out every rainbow we saw in between computer work and chores.

We decided to leave Wednesday morning. We have a haul-out scheduled this month in Saint Martin, so we needed to start making our way North. We ditched our mooring ball and set sail toward Guadalupe, escaping another day of rain in Dominica.

It was a speedy, downwind sail with 17-22kn of wind. We dodged fish traps left and right as we made our way toward the mooring field- some strung together with >30ft of line that we were lucky enough to notice in time to avoid. We arrived in Terre-de-Haut that afternoon. The mooring field was packed! As we approached an available ball, I noticed it had a short, stationary eye. So, I put the boat hook down and laid on the trampolines. Ray got me right up to the ball, and I got both lines through the eye, laying on my stomach, reaching below the lifelines. I initially felt silly, but after watching a few other boats, I’d say our approach was the quickest and smoothest! 

We put the dinghy in the water and went to shore to check-in. We were instantly impressed by how nice the dinghy dock was: long and sturdy with large rust-free cleats. The water was clear, and the beach was lined with colorful fishing boats and cute restaurants.

The main street looked like every coastal European town I’ve ever been to, with open-air bars/restaurants, customers spilling out onto the street, shops selling linen dresses, and a myriad of languages being spoken all around. We stopped for a beer and returned that evening for dinner at Au Bon Vivre. The quaint French restaurant is known for its “menu surprise”: a multi-course meal that changes daily based on the availability of local ingredients. We chose the four-course option and took the waitress’s recommendation for a wine pairing. It was a lovely evening!

The following day, we walked around a bit more. We stopped at a cafe for coffee and a late breakfast. The espresso was strong, and the bread was fresh. We returned to the boat to read up on what to see and do here. We had paid for four nights on our ball and were eager to explore. Unfortunately, the mooring field was unbearable. The swell had us stumbling around as though we were underway! We checked the weather and read some reviews on the mooring field, hoping to hear that this was out of the ordinary, but the reviews confirmed with a blunt overarching message: “The town is charming if you can stand the heaps of roll in the mooring field.” It got worse overnight, and we were fed up by morning. We, and a slew of other boats, had left by 8 am. I wish I had taken more photos for you because the town is adorable, but in my defense, I thought I’d have five more days to do that! Anyway, we hoisted the sails right away, and it was far more comfortable sailing than it was in that mooring field. 😂

Sabado flew over to Guadalupe, and we cheered her on from the helm! We sailed with a SOG 8.5-9kn until we reached the island’s West side and lost our wind in the shadow of the mountainous terrain. We were feeling a little under the weather, so we dropped anchor for the night in Bouillante and went to sleep early.

Yesterday, we decided to head to Pigeon Island, a nature reserve and highly acclaimed snorkel/dive spot. We had no wind, so we motored the short 4 miles. The anchorage was packed. Any space available was either too deep for us to anchor in or was littered with fish traps. We took several laps around trying to make it work but ultimately decided to continue North. The wind and waves picked up, reaching 25kn as we turned into Deshaies. Luckily, there was a mooring ball available. It was similar to the one in Terre-de-Haut but even shorter! Sabado does not have an exceptionally high freeboard, but to reach the metal loop, I had to scoot my hips over the crossbeam, digging my knees and squeezing my toes into the trampoline for support. 😂 From there, it was quick and easy; Ray held the boat steady despite the strong wind. I bowed to the group of people in front of us who had been watching me from their cockpit. Are these types of pickups common in France? Is this why we see so many French boats back up to mooring balls and pick them up from the stern? Maybe we need to give that a shot… Although we did watch a local tour boat get on their ball using the lay-on-stomach-and-pray-you-don’t-fall-overboard method, and if the locals are doing it, it must be alright!

Ray made a couple of cocktails to soften the disappointment of missing out on yet another thing we wanted to do. From the island tour of Dominica to the charming town of Terre-de-Haut, and now skipping Pigeon Island… we couldn’t catch a break this week! Several factors are at play here: weather, the influx of boats traveling with the ARC rally, and our scheduled haul out in Saint Martin. The first two could be mitigated by slowing down, but we have to keep trekking North to make our haul-out date… schedules always ruin sailing! 🤷🏼‍♀️

All was as well as it could be until a friend reached out and told us he was moored where we are now just the other day, and his ball broke loose. Thankfully, he was getting back to the boat when it happened, but if it goes unnoticed (maybe at night or while you’re ashore), it can cause severe damage or total loss of your boat. With high winds in the forecast, I decided to get in the water and look at ours. The current and swell were strong, and the water was murky, but I took my time and dove several times to examine the shackles, chain, and anchor. Although there was rust, there was no sign of thinning that would indicate a weak point. Hopefully, our neighbors look the same… 😳

With newfound confidence in our ball, we decided to go to shore for dinner. We pulled up to the dinghy dock and realized half was missing!

Someone told us that earlier that day, the swell was so strong it popped the wooden panels off the dock. We were careful not to drink too much at dinner so we could navigate the obstacle course to get back to our dinghy. 😂

Customs and immigration are closed today, so we’ll be here until tomorrow at least. The only thing on our agenda so far is to try out the local bakery… 😍 

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