Monday, January 22nd, 2007
The Picton Castle sits at anchor off St. Pierre, Martinique, very close to the wrecks of eleven ships that were lost in 1902 along with about 30,000 residents of the city when the local volcano, Mont Pele, erupted. Local dive outfitters seem quite busy, judging by the amount of boats filled with people in wetsuits cruising by. Ashore, there is a mix of old and new as the now less populated town has developed around the ruins. Many old stone walls and foundations still sit empty, even in the town centre. Looming over the town and the anchorage is Mont Pele itself, its peak mostly shrouded in clouds and grey mist even when the rest of the sky is clear. Our arrival in Martinique marks the end of one leg of our Caribbean voyage and the start of a new one. The leg we just finished began in early January at St. George’s, Grenada. On that leg the Picton Castle called in the ports of Tyrrel Bay, Hillsborough and Sandy Island on Carriacou; Petite Martinique; and Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Ashore we have had the chance to check out boat building, snorkeling, island tours, a turtle sanctuary, local live music, beach front bars, mountain hikes and more. We have sailed mostly in the day, traveling from island to island and anchoring at night. With a large group of mostly new trainees we wore ship twice, and made one overnight sail from Bequia to Martinique.
The trainees we have had aboard for the past two weeks have been an enthusiastic bunch. In addition to the individuals who signed up independently, we also had a group of 14 students from Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in Springfield, Massachusetts. The professional crew were kept on their toes, constantly answering questions, reviewing running rigging, and putting trainees through their paces in sail handling drills. The ship itself has benefited from such an eager crew, receiving a new paint job on the bulwarks, tar on the headrig and main and mizzen shrouds, paint on the t’gallant rail and the taff rail and the rail on the foc’sle head, paint on the overhead in the breezeway, a proper scrubbing on top of the galley house and all around the quarterdeck, new line to replace old line, a cleaning of the stove, and some fresh varnish on the spanker boom. Joe, our Grenadian carpenter, has been hard at work fixing the rescue skiff with a parade of assistants.
The Mount Holyoke students participated in our program as part of their January term, an opportunity for them to earn school credit for something outside of their usual areas of study. As part of their class, they have been writing occasional blog entries, which are currently posted on their site at mhcsailing.wordpress.com. Photos will follow shortly, once they return home and have a chance to choose the best from more than 500 they took. We encourage all our friends and families to check out their blog to learn more about daily life on board.