Thursday, February 16, 2017

Back in Dominica

Well, we've been busy.  Still, we could have written!  Does it justify a long blog?

We finished up our adventures at Marie Galante, revisited Les Saintes, and have been in Dominica for over a week.

After we caught and enjoyed the monster mahi mahi with the crew of Charlotte D, we rented a car with Jim and Cristine of the boat Ullr.  Ullr is an Island Packet 38, but a version with a weighted centreboard housing and centreboard.  The crew is one more set of friends we have met through the "Friends of Denis" group of people who get their weather each morning from Denis Webster of Tiger Lily II.  The trip around the island was a fun thing to do, with interesting, quiet country roads and an interesting French-Caribbean cuisine lunch.  We also did a hike with them and the crew of Discovery, Bob and Anita, and a rather poor attempt to find a good snorkeling area. 

After the snorkeling, Bob and I made up for it by hunting an invasive species that is depleting the reefs of young fish - the toxic spined lionfish - behind our boats.  Bob had a long hawaiian sling, while I had a much shorter sling with a barbed trident that I had purchased back in Marin.  I had much more luck, but between us, we killed at least nine of the suckers.  None of the fish had enough meat on them to be worth snipping the spines and cleaning, so we just let them float away, dead or mortally wounded.  One fish just escaped my barbs by swimming under a rock.  As I awaited to see if I would be awarded another chance, it scurried back out of the hideout with a big bite out of its belly.  Back at the rock, a small moray eel stuck its head out with what looked like a self-satisfied grin on its face.  Dawn also circled around and found one of our wounded victims was partially covered by an octopus that was gently working around the evil barbs on it.  I really felt I was having fun like a little kid.
Both Laurie and Bob sticking it to the evil Lionfish!

Trying again to get the one that "got away" and slipped under a rock!
 The trip downwind back to Les Saintes was a dream, with us only using our jib.  We also refused to fish, as our freezer was still crowded with Mahi Mahi.  We were joined in Les Saintes by Al and Michelle of Tarantella, Chris and Fran of Changes, and again Peter and Catherine of Charlotte D.  We did some hiking as well as visiting each other's boats for sundowners.  Great reunions with lots of stories.

We had one bit of trouble while there, however.  While waiting at anchor for a mooring ball to become available, two novice sailors who were taking lessons on a Hobie 16 slammed into our starboard stern.  The wind was howling, they were out of control, and screaming towards us on a beam reach, the main loaded, the jib loose, and both heads down straightening up the ropes.  Had they stayed on their trajectory, they would have put two bows right through the boat.  Dawn's scream got their attention, they looked up, and the helmsman tried to miss us by steering downwind.  With an unbalanced sail plan, he could not clear us.  His starboard bow hit the very stern edge of us - likely the only place strong enough to withstand it.  We had the sailing school come out and do the fibreglassing, but the gelcoat work will have to be done by me in Grenada.

Damage done by an inattentive captain of a fast traveling Hobie Cat while at anchor in the Saintes (Guadeloupe)

Our sail to Dominica on Sunday, February 5th, was reasonable: a beam reach in large waves but only 15 knots of wind.  I attempted it with all reefs in, thinking I could get it done with a minimum of sail.  However, after going 5 knots at the bottom of waves and 3 knots at the top, I shook a reef out and put a little more jib out to enjoy a constant 6.5 knots, with some blowing spray.  So, it was salty but enjoyable, and Dominica's very common rains cleaned it all up by morning.  The number of boats in the Portsmouth anchorage leading up to Cruiser Appreciation Week has been outrageous.  Last year, the inaugural event may have had 60 or 70 boats, still an amazing number for the area.  By Thursday night, before the event even started, I counted 120 yachts; and this week there has to be 140 at least.  The yacht service fellows are having a great, but busy time with it all.

Lorna and Brian arrived on Sunday; and even though they had a rough crossing and a heart-breaking amount of leakage of salt water into the boat and bedding, they came to Cat Tales for a supper of mahi mahi.

Not much else to tell you.  We've been involved in barbecues, hikes, sundowners, and of course fantastic hikes.  Hopefully, the pictures can help tell some of this. 
Gorgeous scenery around Marie Galante while driving in our rental car!

If anyone ever wonders why we anchor on the west side of the islands, well, here's why!  This is the east side, and of course the wind blows out of the east almost all the time!!

Eight tired hikers after an 8 km of constant up and down !  We bused to the trail head in a bus (van) for a couple bucks a head and then caught another bus back down from another location for another couple bucks.  Lunch on the trail and scenery that would shock most!

Anina (s/v Prism), Cindy (s/v Sititunga), Lorna (s/v Peace and Plenty) and Dawn (s/v Cat Tales) attending the BBQ in Portsmouth put on by the boat boys who look after us here while in Dominica

The other halves of the girlie picture.  Charlie, Dan, Brian and Laurie all in the same order as the gals photo!

One bit of hard work I've attempted since last report involves alternator work.  Cat Tales has two alternators: a 55 ampere, and a 80 ampere; each of which has a specially matched shunt and amp meter.  However, as alternators have been replaced or serviced, they got mixed up with the incorrect shunts; and one seemed to be putting out way too little "juice".  I finally re-arranged the installations, cleaning all contacts; and have the assemblies properly working and reporting.  One full work day, two rags, one emery board, and a few dabs of dielectric grease (and one small cut on my hand).

All other systems are working well also.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Can You Find Iles de la Petite-Terre on a map?

(Because we have used the iPad for uploading this blog, many of the pics are very large. Click on the photo to see the entire photo depending on what device you're using to view this blog)

We are sitting off St. Louis, Marie Galante, waiting to run in to a nice French lunch with the crew of Charlotte D and their company, at a restaurant called Chez Henri.  We hope to use their wifi to share our adventures.

We attended the Sunday night barbecue with the PAYS crowd, and sat with new friends from the Victoria Falls expedition and a rental boat named "Life of Riley" we had originally met them in a Martinique restaurant.  It was the usual fun, followed by the usual recovery day.  We shopped primarily for the great Demerera rum on Tuesday, then had a wild but fun sail to Les Saintes on Wednesday.  With south winds forecasted for Friday, we stayed only long enough to clear customs, do a hike and have a poulet colombo pizza, then left for Marie Galante on those favourable winds.

A view from the top of Les Saintes

We have had one nice lunch, albeit with 4 euro beer, and a "Bokit" sandwich with 2.5 euro beer.  Sadly, the Bokits were like gristle sandwiches - so terrible in comparison to the similar lunch in Martinique.

Another spectacular sunset. This time from Marie Galante looking toward Les Saintes!

We went on a hike, just the two of us, called the "sentier de Vieux Forte".  Easy paths through low trees and along country roads, with a little mutt dog that insisted on accompanying us.  Upon our return, we added up the journey and realized we had traveled 19 kilometres.  

After a day of rest, and with a forecast of settled weather, we took a chance on a 16 km sail to a little place called Petite-Terre, to the northeast.  Doyle's Guide suggests that great snorkelling and a beautiful anchorage awaits IF! there are no breakers running across the entrance.  Sadly, the breakers were there; and it took only one to pick up my stern even before the water went truly shallow, and interfere with our ability to steer to make us turn around and head back to open water.  The sail back was nice, but uncomfortable with our tails between our legs (writers should avoid cliches like the plague 😜).
Nope...not going to try getting in here!  Breakers were constant and huge!

We were half way back when we got the idea to put a fishing line out.  Within a half hour, the wild zing of the reel being emptied of line brought us to attention.  We put the boat into the wind until we were on a stable but slow tack, and I fought a monster for about a half hour.  We do not know how we got to keep both our fishing equipment and the mahi mahi!  It was a big 54" bull, and as it became stressed, it changed colour from iridescent blue to iridescent green.  We realized it was being followed closely by its mate, that stayed blue.  We had so many mixed feelings while fighting the fish and landing him, but to get him off, we could only gaff him and get him aboard on the dangerous swells.
54 inch Mahi Mahi!!  The ONE to catch!

I filleted him while we were traveling in the calm lee of Marie Galante, then cleaned up the fillets after reanchoring.  We have approximately 34 servings!  The boat looked like a crime scene, and it was another hour before our anchor beer.

Yesterday, we took it easy, then had the four people aboard Charlotte D for supper, dealing with much of the fish that could not fit in the freezer.  A large portion is awaiting Bill and Lynn coming to visit at the end of the month!

We plan to stay here until next Tuesday at least, and indeed have reserved a car for Monday.

A sweet little flower along our hike. Dawn believes it to be in the orchid family. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Northward to Dominica

We arrived in Portsmouth, Dominica, yesterday; after stops in Schoelcher and St. Pierre, Martinique; jumping to Roseau, and then coming north up the coast of Dominica.  The trip was not bad, but little fun; as we had to motor the 17 miles directly into the wind and swells, both coming from the north.  It is great to be here though, talking to the marine services boys and awaiting a big barbecue beach party for Sunday night.  Last year, with brother Ken's help, I had made some placards in English and French for Bounty (who says we are his adoptive parents), explaining what services he could offer to visiting yachts.  He reports it has resulted in a significant increase in business.

Lorna and Brian left Anse Chaudiere,in Martinique on the 4th of January, the day after our last weblog.  They returned to Rodney Bay St Lucia for an insurance survey and to enjoy some time with many of the cruisers who return there after each Christmas.  We enjoyed one last lazy day in that beautiful calm anchorage, then started to travel north.

Our first intended stop was Schoelcher, just across the large bay of Fort de France.  The trip was like open ocean, with sharp waves and wind gusts to 27 knots.  We found good holding in close, up behind some local moored boats and made tracks to find an advertised craft beer brewery.  The brewery was in a big restaurant which was in a massive theatre that had many showings - possibly a dozen.  It must be movie central for the whole island.  However, we noticed they were all blonde beers, no scenery, and at a premium price; so we lost interest, and determined that we'd buy two cold 1/2 litre Lorraine beers when we pick up the groceries, and drink them on the dock, looking at the ocean.  We did just that, and then headed back to our boat just after 1500h so we wouldn't be late for the Cat Tales Happy Hour. 

However, Happy Hour was not to be.  As soon as we left the dock, we noticed that Cat Tales was ass-to-the-wind.  Getting closer allowed us to see a half dozen pirogues with fishermen, one of which had tied a rope to our swimmer's handle and was using his 40-50 hp to pull her back along the anchor chain against the 20+ knot wind.  We quickly got on and tried to put some sense to the scene, but the fishermen were yelling in patois, and my bit of French was of little value.  It seems, or we guess that they had set a large net behind Cat Tales, and the current was carrying it into our boat before they could either set it correctly or harvest the fish or something.  We untied their line, turned the boat around, picked up the anchor, and made a very large arc away from the activity and back to sea.  I was quite happy to check that the little handle was not pulled out or loosened, and a little angry that the men had not considered tying to the giant cleat just a few feet away (assuming all that had gone on was necessary).  As we have learned, this kind of (possibly callous) treatment by the fishermen is common in most of the islands.  Indeed, we have learned that most island people do not understand the economic benefit of anything unless the money goes directly and immediately into their hand, and often act against their best interest because of this poor understanding.  This is a statement not made in anger, but in sadness.

We put our boat into high gear, and, after finding no near anchorages that suited us and the weather conditions, finally put a hook down in St. Pierre, just before dark.

A view of St. Pierre, Martinique from our hike up the hill.  This is a typical cemetery found in the French islands.

Mount Pele, just outside of St. Pierre.  It's rare to see it without clouds covering the top!
Laurie walking the beach south of St. Pierre

We were surprised to find okra growing along the roadside.  It grows on top of a long a tall skinny stick like bush.  Okra is the thickening agent used in gumbo because of its sticky consistency.
 St. Pierre was very pleasant.  We combined our trip to clear customs with a hike up and out of the town and then a truly excellent French lunch.  While we waited for a weather window, we also got in a great snorkel and swim and a walk on the beach.  Sadly, on a wreck in shallow water, we counted six lionfish - an invasive species that looks beautiful, but has long, poisonous barbs that look like long feathers.  This species is very docile, but just sits and vacuums up the young reef-dwellers we love to visit.  Which reminds me, I had bought a rubber band-loaded trident in Marin, and had killed my first lionfish in Anse Chaudiere.  These ones, however, were too deep for me.

Denis of Tiger Lily II, our weatherman, told us Tuesday was a great time to get to Dominica, and it was a fun sail - for me.  Dawn found it just a little bit scary.  We stopped at Roseau and rented a mooring ball for 3 nights.  We spent one full day hiking in and around Roseau, and the next with a hired guide who took us to the east side of Dominica and up the White River to Victoria Falls.  The tour was with 3 other couples and we were all picked up at our boats at 9:00 am and delivered back in the dark around 6:00 pm.  The drive to get there and back was outrageous, especially with the damage done in Hurricane Erica a season ago.  I'll let the pictures tell you that story.

Roseau as seen from our hike up Morne Bruce.

Dawn hiking up "Jack's Walk" to Morne Bruce Fort from the Botanical Gardens in Roseau, Dominica
More outdoor furniture ideas for the resourceful!

Moses, a rasta who lives at the base of our hike, fed us "Ital" lunch.  He made us a vegetarian stew made of roots and vegetables from his land. 

After crossing the swift river a few times and swimming a short section, all that was left was to clamber up the last section to get to the pool.  This was a very challenging hike that Octavious (from Sea Cat tours) took us on, indeed!  You can see Laurie getting up one of the last sections to the left.
Hearty Ital stew full of starchy roots, carrots, green beans and okra to thicken.  The rastas don't eat salt, but it could have used a smidge...


Not much good news here.  I have to research some anomalies in our Raymarine electronics to see what is up.  Hopefully some calibration might straighten most of it, but we are also getting error messages about the AIS antenna.

We had the bad luck of burning up an alternator belt on the way in to Roseau.  Repair was quickly accomplished, but I have spent at least an hour cleaning up the black soot that totally coats the port engine compartment.  As well, the search for the source of a nuisance leak in the port hull continues.

Good news is that I was able to source an Italian tap for the bathroom while in Canada, and replaced the existing one that was deteriorating earlier this month.  Of course, like anything on Cat Tales, it is easily done if you know how to stand on your head!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hiking Martinique

I(Dawn) will head into the little town of Petit Anse  d'Arlet to get an Internet fix and will post this little blog. 

After a few days in Anse Mitan to see the fireworks, we headed back down to the south part of the coast of Martinique with Peace and Plenty. The water is very clear here although there aren't many fish to see. 

Here is a great example of how not to anchor!

...and another!

Snorkelling in Anse Chaudiere just off of Petit Anse d'Arlet. 

Here is a beautiful tree growing out of the roof of a restaurant in Anse Mitan. 

In between hiking we take time for socializing. Here's Laurie demonstrating an ocean wine gimble. 

We decided to do a hike starting from the next bay over, Petit Anse, and determined that we would need to take the bus from here in order to have enough steam to do the entire hike. Well, as usual, the bus schedule was obtained too late and we had missed the first bus. Because it said that the ride would be only 4 minutes, we decided to hike to the beginning of the trail head. We knew that it would be steep up and down to get to the next bay, however, we had no idea a that we would have to go all the way up and down four times to get to the other side. So...2 hours later, we obort our hike and settle instead for a short hike to see Source Chaude. This is a sulfur pool where many used to go to clean up at the end of the day!

We saw many beautiful flowers along our way on the paved road. This, I believe is a form of hibiscus. Isn't it a beauty?

Lorna and Brian still smiling after all the up and down to get to the next bay!  What good sports!

Petit Anse, Martinique 

Post card beautiful!

Lorna and Laurie hiking to the Source Chaud (hot springs, but not so hot)

Our return trip actually included a bus ride. So many times we have waited in one of these bus stops, only to be disappointed and forced to make the trip on tired legs.  The buses here are huge and air conditioned. It would seem, that whatever France has, these French islands have. It's a shame they didn't scale the size down a bit as the switchbacks and outrageous steepness of the roads doesn't make manoeuvring them that easy. At every turn, they blow their horns to warn walkers and drivers of their BIG BUS presence!

Yesterday also involved a wonderful lunch in the little town. We are always amazed at how cold they keep their beer!  The French cuisine is a treat, for sure. 

Lorna and Brian have decided to leave us here and head back to St Lucia for a few weeks. They have many sailor friends who arrive there after Christmas and they'd like to spend a little time with them. Laurie and I will stay in Martinique for a few more days and then will head north to Dominica and then on to Les Saintes. 

Happy New Year to all!  

Ha, I can hear a bus rumbling down the hills blasting the horn as I type!


Here's our newest solar panel. This one is in addition to the two panels over the davits. Lots of power for Cat Tales!

A little over a week ago, Laurie spent the better part of a day working on our 2006 Tohatsu dinghy engine in the hot sun in the lee of a small dock.  It had been unable to accelerate in gear for some time.  Although plugs were cleaned and regapped, needle valves were exercised, tank filter was cleaned and fuel filter was replaced; he attributes success to a debunking spray that was liberally sprayed throughout the carburetor assembly to remove the decade of mixed gas varnish.  Tiny bolts, slipping gaskets, and blue air.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas an hiking in Martinique

The rains and high winds continue with Cat Tales bouncing and dripping. Most afternoons have been drier than overnight and we have been able to get off the boat for a little exercise and fun. 

Lorna and Brian arriving at Cat Tales before sundown!

After a few sundowner get togethers onboard it was time to think about Christmas. There are so many people we know here that it became obvious that getting together on someone's boat was not an option. We took a walk to a beautiful beach bar called Touloulou's at the end of the beach and booked a table for 12 for their buffet. It was 45 euros a head, but that included our drinks, so we were in!  Well, before you knew it we had found other friends who were wondering just what to do for Christmas, so we told anyone interested to go to Touloulou's and add to our table. 32 people later, and pretty much filling the place, we headed there for dinner and a nice relaxing bob in the ocean afterwards. A good time was had by all!

Lance from s/v Queen Emma giving a Christmas kiss to Arlene from s/v Tiger Lily II. Lou from s/v Suzanne having fun photo bombing in the background!

An after Christmas float in the ocean before heading back to our respective boats. 

Lorna and Brian exercising after dinner. 

Ok enough of the eating stuff. It's time to let you know that we did a major hike yesterday to help work off the Christmas fun!

Yesterday 6 of us met at the town dock at 10:00 and proceeded out of town and walked across to the east coast. Besides the usual violent ocean the east coast often provides, we walked through beautiful beaches, dense brush, low estuaries and dry volcanic clay badlands, finally arriving at the big tourist beach with economical BBQs and cold beer. It was 1:30 and ALL of us were worn right out!  The treck home was a bit mucky because of the rain, but it was only the last 15 minutes out of a 5 hour hike. 

Lorna and Brian still smiling as they approach hour 3 of the hike!

This one says it all. 

Foot washing before lunch and cold beers!

Today we're making a last run for vegetables in hopes that tomorrow we can sneak around the corner by Diamond Rock to les Anses d'Arlet for hiking and snorkelling. Let's hope the winds calm down soon or we'll just have to stay here in St Anne, which is no hardship. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Winds Continue!

Tuesday, December 6th., we, along with Peace & Plenty, cleared out of Rodney Bay Customs, and headed across to Ste. Anne, Martinique.  The weather window we chose was not exactly sanctioned by our weather-router, Denis, but it really was not terrible.  It would be hard to compete with the exciting sails from Grenada!   To make up for the extra north angle of the wind, we both motor-sailed hard up on the wind to attempt to arrive east of Diamond Rock, and really could not get up much speed because of the pinching to windward and because of the rather rough sea.  However, the sea calmed down within 6 miles of the Martinique coast, and, although Lorna and Brian brought their sail down and motored direct to Ste. Anne, Dawn and I tacked, turned off the motor, and had an hour of pure sailing to get the bad taste of motoring off of our palate.  Yes, we took an extra hour to get in to anchor, and yes, we missed a blessed fresh-water rain shower, but it was worth it.  We anchored just behind Peace and Plenty and just beside Silk Pajamas, at the end of the anchored boats.

Ste Anne is a sweet little touristy town tucked in from the wind along the channel to the great marine centre of Marin, where I first found Cat Tales back in 2002.  Ste. Anne has a tremendous 18 foot deep shelf of sand and grass that attracts boaters of all types, and right now there are just short of 200 monohulls, catamarans, trimarans, sloops, schooners, ketches, cruising trawlers, cruisers and charterers,  and weekend warriors at anchor; with probably twice as many at anchor and at the docks inside Marin about 2 miles away.
Lorna and Laurie cooling down during a beach day!
Brian taking a break from floating around. 
We ran into old friends Joanna and Bill from s/v Baidarka. Looks like Brian and Joanna called each other before choosing the day's clothing!

Since we arrived here, we have experienced more rain than any time we we have been in the Caribbean.  More is expected, with high winds expected tonight and lasting until after Christmas.  We were planning a magnificent hike along the south coast, but the wet trails are apparently close to impassible.  High winds will keep us and many friends right here until after Christmas; but that is just fine!
When a cruise ship comes into the bay, tourism and security comes out in full force!

That is not to say we are staying boat-bound and growing mushrooms!  We have enjoyed a big party in our cockpit, had some sundowners In a few other cockpits, enjoyed some truly fantastic French restaurants, bistros and cafes, had some asphalt hikes and bus rides, and even a beach day.  We also took Cat Tales to town: running into Marin for shopping with four boat crews represented in our cockpit and trailing dingies.  Although it was fun, with an excellent lunch, the most amazing part of the trip is that Cat Tales needed no parts from the Chandleries!  (That just means we have a full stock of spares on board)   

We should tell you that, as in past years, Internet in the French islands is a pain for cruisers - with the companies only good at getting the money, not in the delivery of service.  Oh well, a break is good.
Along a walk, we ran across this statue, Freed Negro

Hikers with hats!

This is a standard pose for Laurie as he examines the menu and provides us with information, although he almost always orders the poisson!
Love this 
bar in the restaurant!  It is actually the bow of a "yole", a local racing sailer.  The tree in the background is pretty special too!


I had some "fun" with the repair of an oil pressure senser/sender for the starboard engine.  Because of a faulty jumper wire I used for troubleshooting, I ended up studying wiring diagrams, pulling apart the boat and wires, and testing wiring harnesses for a full day before back-tracking and determining that the sensor was faulty after all.  I took it out, cleaned it, tapped it gently with a hammer (John Fallon's idea) and then it fell apart in my hands. Half of it was ceramic and must have been cracked.  The good news is that such sensors are rather generic and economical, so I had a new one in my hand in an hour.

Dawn, while swimming under the boat at bathtime, noticed that the fairing boots that we had worked so hard to attach around the saildrives last May, are completely loose.  They have been removed and we will spend the season without them.  Obviously, regardless of technique, the correct adhesive must be employed!

Wishing everyone a fabulous holiday season and all the best for 2017!!