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Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

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Archive for the ‘Beaches’ Category

Martinique, French West Indies

Posted by: melissa

Volcanic in origin and surrounded by coral limestone reefs in the south, Martinique’s 416 total square miles resembles a right-handed mitten anchored in the north by the ominous 4,656 foot Mont Pele.  Martinique is centrally located in the Eastern Caribbean chain between the windward islands of Dominica and St. Lucia.  With a population of 430,000, Martinique is the second most populous island in the Lesser Antilles after Trinidad.  About one-third of the total population resides in Fort de France, Martinique’s capital city on the west coast.

Columbus discovered Martinique in 1502 but did not establish a colony, leaving the indigenous Caribs The Approach to the Very Beautiful Island of Martiniquetemporarily undisturbed.  In 1635, a group of about 100 French colonizers came from St. Kitts, settling on the western coast in the area later known as St. Pierre.  The colony built a fort, planted crops, and after many violent skirmishes, struck a truce with the Caribs to peacefully coexist on opposite sides of the island.  The 1650’s were enormously profitable for the French colony based on the shipping of agricultural goods to Europe, most notably sugar cane to France.  The roots of Martinique’s unusual, love/hate relationship with France began with this early colony … especially when a governor unsuccessfully attempted to enforce the Exclusif, an unpopular law prohibiting trade from Martinique to anywhere but France.

The Approach to the Very Beautiful Island of MartiniqueLike most of the Caribbean islands, Martinique changed hands several times.  In the 1700’s, the British gained interest in the rich and strategically placed island causing a struggle nearly two centuries long.  Even so, Martinique enjoyed relative political stability (for more than 20 years under the British flag) and avoided much of the chaos experienced in Guadeloupe and St. Domingue (which would become Haiti after North America’s only successful slave rebellion establishing a black republic).

The French reacquired Martinique for good in 1815 under the Vienna Treaty; however, the return to French rule was bittersweet for islanders due to France’s continued endorsement of slavery.  Sadly, it was Martinique’s own favorite daughter, Marie-Rose Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, better known as the Empress Bride of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was behind the reintroduction of slavery in Martinique.  After several slave riots, Victor Schoelcher mobilized the anti-slavery movement and abolition was declared in 1848.

Martinique's Black Sand Beaches Towards the NorthMartinique is a spectacularly beautiful island.  The imposing rocky cliffs in the north soften to rolling hills of lush rainforest, endless acres of banana trees, and sugar cane swaying rhythmically in the ocean breeze.  The southern beaches enjoy crystal blue water and white sand beaches while the sand becomes increasingly darker and striking towards the more volcanic north.

Rodney Bay Marina and Other Observations

Posted by: melissa

Rodney Bay is turning out to be a really nice marina.  Its location in a protected lagoon keeps the boat very flat, with the exception of the wake from marina employees zipping around in small power boats (about which I complain to no end).  We heard a rumor that the marina will be receiving a major overhaul to include new washroom facilities and even fancy floating docks.  The latter would definitely be helpful since tide change can make boat entry and exit difficult during some parts of the day.  As a matter of fact, I nearly went for a swim while jumping off the boat on our way to the airport to go to Trinidad.  It was SO CLOSE!  The dock was much lower than the boat’s deck, and when I jumped, I fell down, flipped backwards ass over tea kettle, and very nearly rolled backwards into the nasty marina water.  I personally thank Pilates for stopping my backward momentum!

The marina also seems to be a hub for a lot of circumnavigators and seasonal yachters, so we’ve met many fun and interesting people.  Additionally, the World Cup tourists have provided an international flair as well.  I typically like sporting events since sports fans can be so lively and delightfully competitive and passionate.  If you don’t believe me, go hang out in Pasadena during the Rose Bowl game, or go to the city that’s hosting the Super Bowl, and you will see some fun (and slightly crazy) people!  St. Lucia was crawling with cricket super fans crazy enough to follow their team half way around the world.  Very fun!

Nevertheless, a marina closer to the “real action” of St. Lucia (i.e. the pitons, fancier parts of the island, more renowned beaches, etc.) might be an improvement.  On this point, we probably differ from most yacht people in that we want to go to The Plantation Room at Jalousie or Dasheene at Ladera to clean out the wine list and sample the island’s finest dining establishments, but the driving proves difficult both in time and effort.  I find driving through Castries to be particularly harrowing, especially when a cruise ship is in port, which is nearly always.  Combine confusing and one-way streets with T-shirt-shopping-crazed, cruise-ship tourists on a deadline with speeding and rude local drivers … panic is inevitable!

Arrival in Gold Coast — Welcome to Queensland!

Posted by: melissa

Well, during the passage from Coffs Harbour to Gold Coast, we passed two milestones.  First, we said goodbye to New South Wales, and hello to Queensland.  Second, we left the latitude of 30 and higher behind us.  I am relieved to have re-entered the milder waters and warmer temperatures of the 20s … equator, here we come!

Our departure from Coffs Harbour was delayed by a couple of hours because of the tide.  Low water was at 10:30 a.m. so we waited until noon to give ourselves some leeway.  Plus, Coffs Harbour was hit hard by a recent storm that pounded the harbor and damaged the marina.  The channel entrance was still undergoing some redredging as part of the recovery. 

We went through the breakwater and headed offshore slightly, but only about 2-3 miles to try and avoid current.  As night fell however, we started seeing more and more fishing vessels, and we were forced to go further out away from the coastline to stay out of traffic.  The wind completely died and we were forced to motor as well. 

At dawn, we passed by Byron’s Bay which is the eastern most point of Australia.  By that time, I was heavily into my next book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a plot driven page turner which is nice on long passages.  Andy highly recommended it, as well as the sequel called The Girl Who Played with Fire.  Evidently there’s a third in this Stieg Larsson trilogy, but we don’t have it onboard. 

Anyway, I was totally engrossed when a humpback whale surfaced and blew its spout less than 50 yards away from the boat.  It was startling, but so incredible.  We’ve seen a lot of whales now, and it never gets old.  It’s just amazing to experience such a rare and exotic animal in such natural way … no tour group, no whale-watching guides, no throwing food in the water … just observing a whale doing what whales do, and have instinctually done, for millions of years.  Being that close is like meeting a dinosaur or something.  It’s awesome, in the truest definition of the word.

The sun was shining and as predicted, the weather was really warming up.  I may be able to put away my Newcastle Knights hat and scarf for good shortly!  Unfortunately, 20 knots of wind turned right on the nose, so it looked like motoring the rest of the way.  Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise were quickly in view — it looks like Miami with sky rises and huge white sand beaches. 

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

The approach to Gold Coast was pretty chaotic.

We located the channel entrance mostly by following the 30 or so boats heading in after a Sunday afternoon on the water.  The currents going over the sandbar were weird enough, but the wakes of macho, speed demon, power boats bounced us around as well.  Dinghies, jet skis, fishing boats, whale-watching power catamarans, party barges … it was pretty much total chaos.  But, we turned the corner and followed the very distinct aids to navigation, easily found the marina, filled up with diesel, found our slip, and settled in.

Ooh Ah, Mooloolaba

Posted by: melissa

Although Noosa is my favorite Sunshine Coast destination, Mooloolaba is really nice as well.  To put it in Southern California terms, if Noosa is like a small Laguna Beach, Mooloolaba is like a small Huntington Beach.  The beach is absolutely amazing and the Esplanade is very charming.  We found a fantastic Indian food restaurant, although with AUS$9 Kingfishers, we racked up some pretty hefty tabs! 

The Beach at Mooloolaba from the Boardwalk

The Beach at Mooloolaba from the Boardwalk

With a population of about 10,000, Mooloolaba is 60 miles from Brisbane making it an easy beach getaway.  The word, Mooloolaba, is probably derived from the Aboriginal word “mulu” meaning snapper fish, or “mulla” meaning red-bellied black snake.

Rosslyn Bay, Queensland

Posted by: melissa

The last couple of days have been fairly quiet … lots of reading, cleaning, sleeping in, relaxing, etc.  Rosslyn Bay is pretty sleepy, and I’m diggin’ it.  Keppel Bay Marina is really great … nice people, calm water, reliable power, public transportation, cheap rental cars, clean facilities with good water pressure … we’re enjoying it.

Spectacle happily tied to the dock at the very nice Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay.

Spectacle happily tied to the dock at the very nice Keppel Bay Marina in Rosslyn Bay.

The Rosslyn Bay resort is just down the road situated on the very picturesque Kemp Beach.  I’ve had the entire beach to myself several times this week.  The resort has a restaurant with pretty good wood-fired pizzas. 

Andy went to switch over the propane tanks and found a bigger problem than a mere empty tank.  It’s clear there a leaky hose/connection in or around the place where the tank connects to the boat.  Unfortunately, I just bought a ton of groceries, many of which are perishable and require stovetop preparation. 

We are thinking of getting a hotel room at the Rosslyn Bay Resort to watch the U.S. versus Algeria match.  Access to the kitchenette is another argument in favor of that otherwise frivolous plan.  I mean really, who gets a hotel room down the street from their house to watch television?  I just hate throwing food away … such a waste.  But we’ll watch the match, cook dinner, Tupperware some meals for later this week, boil the eggs, swim in the pool, etc.

But the best part of this marina is that the restaurant is fantastic!  The Waterline Café wins all kinds of restaurant awards, which, frankly, isn’t saying much here in Queensland, but at least it shows some effort and pride.  Between the culinary wasteland of Scarborough and the busted propane line rendering the stovetop useless, we really appreciate the Waterline Café!  Poached eggs and grilled toast for breakfast, chef’s special Panini for lunch, and braised short ribs for dinner … lovely!

Yesterday, we jumped on the ferry to Great Keppel Island which was a fun daytrip.  An easy 45-minute hike deposited us at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.  We sat there all day completely by ourselves … a fantastic afternoon.

One of the many gorgeous and secluded beaches on Great Keppel Island.

One of the many gorgeous and secluded beaches on Great Keppel Island.