Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rodney Bay Marina, Saint Lucia

For the first time in our Caribbean history, we have brought Cat Tales into a marina.  What a different lifestyle this is.  More on this later.

We left you with a relatively heart-aching story on Dominica.  We did actually enjoy ourselves.  We got some charity goods delivered, including our own, purchased all goods we could to stimulate the economy: Kalinago weaving; a year’s worth of rum; the annual supply of lubricants, oils and magic sprays that Cat Tales craves; lunches and suppers in various restaurants, two PAYS suppers and a special cruisers dinner at the fort, food from the markets and stores, and an island tour.  We hiked some of our old and some new hikes, and enjoyed time with our many island friends.  However, there was once again a very short weather window in this windy season, and we took it after only 8 days in Dominica, on February 26. 
3 bottles of our favourite Demerara rum from Guyana we purchase in Dominica.  No extra charge for the Hurricane Maria damage to the bottles!
Still on the 'rum' theme, this is the Rum Shop where the 6 of us stopped the day before this picture was taken to avoid the torrential rain.  It took two rounds to stay dry on this rain event!  This is a picture of Laurie with yesterday's waitress.  She is explaining that she will NOT look at the camera across the street and will NOT pose for any photograph.  But Laurie's still happy to see her!
The trip back across the Dominica Channel was a little wet and a lot bouncy, but after a full day of sailing, we were back in relatively flat water in St. Pierre, Martinique.  An early start the next day had us back all the way around to Sainte Anne, and enjoying the bokit sandwiches and customs work at Boubou’s Snack Bar, still with Steve and Maria.  Finally able to take part in the morning FOD Net allowed us to get lots of news, including that Peace and Plenty’s sale was moving forward, and Lorna and Brian may actually be boatless or boat free in a matter of weeks, flying home from St. Lucia. 
We got in some time with friends and one more hike to the beach bars of Saline Bay, but soon heard that there was some potential foul weather coming that would send westerly wind and swells all around the compass.  

Since it was time for our migration south anyway, we crossed to Rodney Bay on Friday, March 2nd, and came directly to the marina.  There were tremendous swells, especially near Pigeon Island; but since we were well reefed down, it was exciting without being too scary.  The following seas into the harbour behaved themselves, although I did tend to steer with much more caution.

We do not even have the equipment aboard to enjoy shore power, but we did buy a package that allows us to fill our tanks with water.  We found showers and toilets ashore, and worry that we will not adjust to normal ocean camping again.  Every time we get ashore for a beer, the tables crash together and literally dozens of friends join us or we join them.  Meals as well are crowded, loud affairs, in the 4 different restaurants along the marina boardwalk.

Steve and Maria joined us for a bus ride to Vigie Lighthouse; where at long last we found the Archives open.  I have been attempting to do some research for a little newspaper article, and I think I finally have what I need.  Vigie Light is a manned station on a promontory just outside of Castries Harbour.  The hill played an important role in a major English-French battle in the 17th century, was host to a major occupation by the English for centuries – with significant ruins, batteries, and repurposed old buildings, and the manned radio at the lighthouse provides 24 hour coordination of the bay’s activities so that the low-flying planes at the airport do not hit sailboat masts or cruise ships.  So it is a good hike for cruisers, and it should make a nice little article.
Dawn and Aaron, one of 3 of the Vigie Lighthouse operators we hear directing traffic all night.

Native married quarters for the troops
On our way back to the marina, we spied the old workboat of our friend John Marley, who drowned here last fall.  It was a sad reminder that things and places change, and people leave our lives – often without notice.
Here sits Rasta John Marley's second to the last boat.  He never had the means to fix it up and continued for years out in the bay in nothing bigger than a bathtub.  Since he passed last summer, it is strange not to see his smiling face in Rodney Bay when we arrive.
Here is something interesting: A number of our friends have read Steve’s  (s/v Aspen) book:  “Voyage into Hell”, covering his circumnavigation and the related contact with Somali Pirates.  Well, the sailboat Quest, a primary subject in the book, is in this marina now, and we have met the new owners.  They are curiously intrigued with their own boat’s bloody past, have seeked out Steve and Maria for comment, and are enjoying their new lives aboard.  They neither changed the boat’s name, nor even repaired all the bullet holes, and seem to just enjoy the boat’s notoriety.

On our way to the grocery store, today, we took a side trip to the front beach at Reduit, part of Rodney Bay.  The worst of the swells seem to be over, but the whole front beach is busy with heavy equipment and labourers removing sand from the restaurants and parking lots.  Spinnakers – a local favourite for drinks, the Police Station (expensive property for that), and St. Lucia Resorts; all had a lot of activity; with the tourists running between them in swimsuits enjoying the extra entertainment. The swells are still hitting the beach at over 10 feet tall when they break, with a 15 second interval.

Our next stop is Bequia, and the trip requires us to leave at 3 AM to make anchor before dark, as both the rest of St. Lucia and the west coast of St. Vincent is troubled from time to time by bandits; and we would not get a restful sleep even if we remained unscathed.  The morning net tells us that there are massive waves from this anomalous weather system still messing with Bequia, so we are booked in for another night, and will stage outside in Rodney Bay for a Thursday morning departure.
The pounding waves have done quite a number on the Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia, as well as many of the other islands we frequent.  This is surge from the recent storms that have taken place along the east coast of the USA and in the North Atlantic.

I have mentioned the troubles we have had with sensor alarms for the starboard engine.  To silence them I have had to replace our alternator with a low powered spare, and replace the oil pressure sender after only two years (Nigel Calder says they seldom fail!) Now, I’ve been troubleshooting a buzzing from the port engine, and have narrowed it down to another alternator problem.  With no spare, we’ll spend the rest of the season with intermittent beeping from that alarm.  We’ll get both alternators sent to the repairman as soon as we get on the hard in Grenada. 

We took off the cockpit window that we had used to install air conditioning in Trinidad, and finally cleaned up the mess around it and rebedded it.  I took it ashore and repainted the flat black trim around it as well, so it looks quite nice, finally. 

With Lorna cleaning out her lockers in anticipation of selling, we have acquired a sewing machine and a hand sewing awl.  I have used the awl to reinstall some Velcro on the dinghy, and am very happy to have it.  Still, I imagine we will use sailmakers, not make our own ;-)

Friday, February 23, 2018


We had sailed to St. Pierre, Martinique, on the 13th of February, even though the winds were high, so we might be well placed to use a forecasted weather window coming up.  Aspen arrived a day later, and as the weather looked good for Friday, the 16th, we noticed the area quickly filled up with other boats eyeing the opportunity.  Indeed, in dawn’s early light, looking behind us and ahead of us, we counted 24 boats on the move.  More had jumped the gun and were long gone, while others left after we turned the corner around the great volcano.  It was a one-day window, with high winds quickly returning.
It was a nice trip in 12 to 20 knots of wind, but over 6 foot waves with a 9 second interval – so quite jerky.  We got into the lee of Dominica by about 11:30, enjoying leftover pizza for lunch.
Hurricane Maria was a category 5 hurricane that sat on this island for 8 or so hours last October.  From the sea, we could see that the foliage was still sparse, and the trees everywhere appeared stunted like those on the Canadian tundra.  Landslide streaks down the mountain ridges looked like claw marks from giant hands or paws.  Steve of Aspen pointed out over the radio that it was much improved from a couple of months ago, when barely a spot of green was visible – even the brush between trees was brown from either the wind damage or blown salt.  We did not get close to shore until entering Prince Rupert Bay itself; and the trees on the hills and the Cabrits were in sorry shape to us.  Buildings we did not know existed could be seen all over the place, albeit typically with no roofs or with roofs of blue tarpaulin.
About 80 percent of telephone poles have been compromised.  Wires have to be tied to trees to get cars under them.

These blue tarps are found everywhere.  We all know that a tarp down here is only good for 6 months to a year, so what's next if they don't have money for roofs.
We went ashore on Saturday, and walked through town.  There was significant damage everywhere, with wires willy-nilly, tilted and broken poles, and houses in various states of destruction among those with good or barely damaged roofs.  Very few cars were left undented or without broken windows.  Piles of debris are everywhere, with almost all homes losing their electronics and electrical appliances to the blown salt water that entered everywhere.  However, the people seem happy, resilient, and friendly – very welcoming to us.  The bananas and citrus fruit remain unavailable at the market and in the stores, but they had excellent tomatoes and cucumbers; and chicken and fish were also quite available – so no starvation problem.  We finished our tour with a walk up to see Albert, one of the PAYS (Portsmouth Area Yacht Security) members, in the hospital.  He had a lower leg amputation as a result of sicle cell anemia, just before the hurricane, and had just returned to hospital after infection complications.  He said his own house had blown down, and his ex-wife and her boyfriend had temporarily taken him in.  Not a great situation.
On Sunday, we joined Aspen and two other couples on a tour of the island, primarily to deliver some materials to the Kalinago Indian community on the east coast.  The bundles of materials were initially purchased for Dominica by Kristen of s/v Silk Pajamas; but she had some ear and dental problems, then problems with her aging mother that called her home; and Cat Tales, Aspen, and Prism split the loot to get the job done.  Steve and I found a hardware store in St. Pierre and supplemented the loot with more tarpaulins, roofing screws and nails.  We left the goods with a healthcare nurse at a clinic near the Kalinago Reserve, and completed our tour of the island.
The east coast, and especially the Kalinago region, were devastated – there is no other real word to describe it.  We were shown: empty slabs on hillsides, where the whole house flew away – sometimes with the inhabitants; people living under tarps with only two or three of the original home’s walls; steep river valleys where the houses along the sides were blown away, and the inhabitants, when found at all were found as a result of the smell of decay; where the steep mountains turned in a mountain cleft, typically half the road was missing as a result of the rain overwhelming the culvert, and taking the guide rain, telephone poles, culvert pipe, and half the road 300 feet or more down the mountain – cars just ignored the danger, as did our driver.  The constancy of the destroyed vegetation got to where you stopped noticing it.  Our driver reminded us that some of the damage, especially to roads and bridges, was only partially repaired after Hurricane Erika in late 2015; and Maria repeated much of the damage, sometimes with much more violence.
The mud has been removed from the base of these houses. 
This is our driver Winston showing us how he curled up in a barrel for 5 hours to stay dry.  He's one of the lucky ones who didn't loose a roof.  Good thing he's small... (Sorry I couldn't get this photo turned!)

We returned to Portsmouth by a western road.  The west side has more in the way of flood plains at the mouths of the rivers; and these, sadly, were inhabited with many Dominican homes.  We did not visit Roseau, the capital; but were told that the tree trunks, branches, mud, and large rocks were piled six feet high through much of the downtown.  We did see significant villages with 2 feet of mud making the homes mostly uninhabitable.  Many of these had lost their roofs anyway.  The roads include many component bridges (Bailey Bridges); and in one location the driver (Winston) explained the whole concrete bridge and its abutments had been washed out to deep water by the river, assisted by the trees, muck and boulders.  On both sides of the island, new beaches still exist in rocky areas with no beach in memory; wholly made up of the black sand washed down from the mountains.
Along the shore of Portsmouth, you can see the damage done by the storm swells.  Some homes were destroyed in this way, and the shoreline is certainly different.  Our friend Bounty’s home lost its back kitchen, and he is hoping he can rebuild it at some point.  The Cabrits dock, very much necessary for the small cruise ships that arrive for the ecotourism, is in a bad way – repairable, but where will the money come from?
This is the cruise ship dock at the Cabrits Fort, completely stripped and non-usable.

Water is delivered to communities that need it.

Again, we must speak of the resilience of the people.  They are willing to tell their own stories of their survival, and insist that Dominica will recover.  Our driver, Winston, stopped at his own house, and displayed the juice barrel he put on his bed, then crawled into to stay dry during the storm.  Survivors talk about the wind screaming like banshees, and the pressure changes hurting their ears.  The people talk of the herculean tasks that have already been done:  clearing the roads, unblocking the rivers and streams, installing the bridges, installing some power, installing the tarpaulins and recovering what belongings they could, maintaining the shelters – most still needed.  They await more aid, and certainly more materials to fix their homes, those who have the money.  Dominica has always been a struggling island, second to Haiti for Caribbean poverty.  They had worked hard to promote ecotourism in the absence of beaches, and had made great strides.  This is a severe setback.
Tour guides are working, sailboats are calling, some cruise ships are returning, some vacation homes are back up and running, some construction sites are still continuing.  We look around to buy things that we might need for the season to help stimulate the damaged economy.  If any of you want to help, I recommend the Dominica Red Cross, with donation easily done on line.
Dawn and Maria on a hike in the Cabrits.  The trails there have been cleaned, but the foliage is not as dense at it once was.  It's greening up somewhat, and we expect that  next year, the jungle will return!
We are enjoying Yachtie Appreciation Week, spending money like crazy whenever we have an opportunity.  We’ve bought our oils and fuels, and sprays that the boat needs, and eat and drink offshore as often as we can; hoping that the economy feels it.  Tourism is a source of economic charity, and we’re part of it.   We’ll be here for a little while yet, as the high winds are still hounding us.  Our plan is to turn around and head back south, stopping in Ste Anne, Rodney Bay, and especially Bequia.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

WE SAILED? (Yup... but still in Martinique)

Yes, but not far.  On Thursday, February 1st, we determined we would start our trip around the southwest corner of Martinique and head for Dominica.  After the morning FOD Net, we hauled up anchor, rolled out the jib, and gently sailed for about 2.5 hours pretty much downwind.  We passed between the main island and Diamond Rock, and then carried on, still under jib only, to a little bay called Anse Chaudiere.  With nobody there, we had a quiet day and night.  Dawn checked for the underwater wildlife while I cleaned the propellers and boat bottom; both of us happy to be in clean, clear, water after so long. 
You'll have to look hard to see the octopus here.  Dawn just happened to see it moving along and at this point, it has turned the same colour as the rock and never would have been detected (center of the picture).
Steve and Maria (s/v Aspen) followed the next day, and after enjoying the water as we had, they climbed on board for one of Dawn’s famous “one-pot-wonders”; chicken, as is most often the case.  The evening was enjoyable, but at first light, Steve let us know that the snorkeling had aggravated a tooth he was nursing, and they up-anchored to return to Ste. Anne for dental advice.  Dawn and I carried on to Grande Anse d’Arlet, just a mile away; where we anchored off a beautiful white beach well used by European tourists.  Today marks one week since we’ve arrived here.
One item on our “do list” was the hike of Morne Larcher, we went ashore to figure out the bus schedule.  Morne Larcher is the large, dead volcano that overlooks Diamond Rock.  It has a documented hike, but the hike is too far away to get to without transportation assistance.  After figuring the buses out, we returned to shore to try out a plan.  We hopped on a large bus that actually took us for a two-hour tour of the whole peninsula.  It was a fabulous ride past anchorages we had tried in the past and areas we had never laid eyes on.  We were dropped off at the same bus stop, only 4 Euros lighter.
When in the French islands, baguettes are a must!

After enjoying the rest of the weekend with reading aboard, swimming, and a very sweet lunch ashore, we set up for a bus trip to the mountain to get this hike underway.  We arrived at 9:00, and had a great hike, just the two of us.  We climbed 410 metres up a drainage swale at 45 degrees, enjoyed the views, talked to people as far away as St. Lucia by hand-held radio, climbed down the other side, and made it to a lovely place called “Snack Fredo” for lunch and beer.  Yes, our legs were more than wobbly.  We caught the next bus back to Cat Tales after lunch, and floated around the end of the boat, exhausted but with a sense of accomplishment.
Dawn, heading up and up!  It was a steady hour and a half to get up to the top of this one!

The view was an exceptional reward!   Now...for the down, down, down!

A view of Diamond Rock taken from our trip around the corner of Martinique.  At the right is the mountain we hiked.

At present, we are sitting through another windy cycle; one that just seems to have no end.  We read, work through sudoko puzzles, go for short walks while our legs heal, and deal with the small chores.  We’ve also been working on another article for the Caribbean Compass, and will send it away today.  By the way, we have one article just published in February’s issue.  You can read it here:  http://www.caribbeancompass.com/online.html
Among the pictures, you can see a well camouflaged large octopus, and a fantastic bit of art on a boat driven ashore by Hurricane Maria; as well as some hiking pictures.  The old steam-driven cane crusher was in a back yard, just off the road, with no interpretive plaques.  The yard contained concrete vats, boilers and an old chimney, and a dilapidated building.  Dating at least back to 1850, and even if it is fantastically impressive, it is just a little reminder of what it was all about, years ago.  Funny to see such large machines looking ready to go, in a back yard.
Cane crushing equipment we just happened to stumble upon during a walk.  There wasn't a sign, but the place was well tended.  A nice view into their past!

This poor boat landed on the beach during one of the hurricanes.  We have no idea who did the artwork, but it's much appreciated!


Amazingly, and scary to declare, we do not seem to have any issues really dogging us at the moment.  Perhaps polishing some stainless and waxing sections of the boat would be wise over the next few days while waiting for calmer weather.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Ste. Anne, Martinique...yup, still here!

Again, we’ve been told:  “Time for an update!”
Tarentela heads to LeMarin and is boarded by 4 couples who just want a lift in to spare getting salty!  The drive back to the anchorage in our own dinghies is dry because it's with the wind!  Thanks for the lift Al and Michele!

We are STILL in Ste. Anne, Martinique.  This is approaching the longest we’ve ever been in one place, and with a big wind coming tomorrow, we’re going for a record.  To be fair, it depends on how you look at it.  Check this out:
On the 5th of January, not long after our last update, we were awakened by a weak voice on the VHF asking for assistance with a medical emergency.  Barbara on s/v My Island Girl (MIG – we’ll say), was calling saying her husband Winston woke up with an eye problem that he guessed correctly was a detached retina.  Within seconds, Brian had responded and dropped his dinghy, and he met Fred of s/v Dakota Dream (more about Fred later) with his dinghy at the back of the pack where MIG was anchored.  Barbara started to organize the abandoning of the boat while options were discussed and calls made.  Minutes later, Winston and Barbara were at the Fort de France hospital.  Finding their special equipment for these issues in disrepair, the couple caught an evening flight to Miami where professionals awaited. 
The rest of our little community organized with Barbara by email the handling of s/v MIG, emptying the larder and organizing the moving of the boat back to Rodney Bay, its normal off-season storage location.  That trip was done on Monday, the 15th, with Brian of s/v Peace and Plenty and Steve of s/v Tanglewood crewing her.  MIG is a Bayfield 44; a long, low, stylish monohull with an overhanging stern and bow, and a long bowsprit.  With a short waterline and a very full keel, she sails reasonably, tracks well, but manoeuvres with difficulty in confined spaces (I am told).  Cat Tales, with Laurie, Dawn, and Lorna went along as Plan A for bringing the crew back to Ste. Anne and their boats on the same day.
The sail was lovely, and Cat Tales enjoyed moving again.  Ashore for Customs and lunch, we met such a crowd of other sailors that it was a loud party in the little restaurant along the marina boardwalk.  We actually organized Plan B of the return, with Brian and Steve hopping aboard s/v Stoppknot, and assisting to get John Fallon and his boat over to Ste. Anne.  As we left Rodney Bay rather late (Stopp Knot needed fuel and water), we had the tedious and stressful job of coming the last 5 miles into the anchorage slowly and with flashlights to watch for fishpots.  Still, Cat Tales, with Brian aboard at the end, all of us overtired, ate our still-warm chicken roties purchased in St. Lucia and drank our stress away before retiring.
Brian and Steve preparing My Island Girl for the trip back to St. Lucia while Winston and Barbara deal with Winston's detached retina

John aboard his boat Stoppknot re-anchoring after arriving in St. Anne (with Brian and Mike aboard to help)

By the way, John is happy with his change of scenery.  We have given him the lay of the land, touring both Ste. Anne and Marin, and any chandleries he may have missed in the past.  He took in a beach barbecue yesterday, and is enjoying time with Mike of s/v Jackfish, anchored nearby.  A water barge provided him with service this morning.
We met Fred of Dakota Dream, a 37-38’ high-sided catamaran just out of charter, on the way into Bequia earlier in the season.  He was trying to keep up with Peace and Plenty, and was complimenting them on their speed.  Brian confessed he was also using his iron jib, but a contact was made.  Days later, when Lorna called for help as an Island Packet monohull (IP) was dragging down on Peace and Plenty, Fred was the first one there, beating me to the rescue.  Fred, Brian, a gentleman on another IP, and I all wrestled with the two boats, and pretty much used our dinghies as fenders as the unoccupied dragging boat slid by.  Brian re-anchored P&P up where the IP originated, while the rest of us figured out how to put out more chain and lay out an emergency second anchor on the IP.
Weeks later, we hear Fred came to the rescue again (via John of Stoppknot on the SSB) , when some children stole the dinghy off the back of s/v Jackfish (of Vancouver) while the captain, Mike, was napping in the afternoon.  Fred assisted Mike, and they found the boat, with the engine removed and broken, up a little creek in the village of Gros Islet.  At any rate, Fred has picked up a reputation for boundless energy, volunteerism, and “First Responder”.  He has been joined by his wife Sandy while here in Martinique, and is part of our larger group of cruisers.
Besides that, we have not much to report.  We have carried on with lunch engagements ashore (and weekly Ladies’ Luncheons), walks, hikes, toasts to sunsets, and even a dinghy drift; as people arrive and depart around us.  Dawn, with a chronic FOMO problem (fear of missing out), tends to accept most invitations and even create some events. 
The hikes have been amazing events, now that some of the rain has subsided.  We have had numbers as high as 23, as we have made our way along various hikes on the east coast and up the largest local peak (Creve Coeur – or Broken Heart).  I do worry that the walking and climbing has resulted in me wearing a knee brace – something I have not had to do for many years – suggesting I am wearing out.  Check out the pictures of the groups and views.
A group of us doing a steep mountain hiking trail

A larger group doing a flatter but much longer hike along the coast!  How's 5 hours???!

Lorna and Dawn hiking with a cutie patootie doing a photo bomb in the background!  Thanks Steve!!

We also rented a van for 8 of us, and went to tour a local historic distillery and museum.  That may be enough distillery tours, as they are all beginning to look the same:  glorious old boilers and steam engines, with more modern equipment and evaporation towers next door, and typically a spirit house filled with aging rum in wooden kegs, giving off good smelling spirits (often smells like rum cake, Hugh!).  The grounds of the distillery (Clement Rum) also included the beautiful original plantation estate house, lovely gardens, intriguing exterior artworks and interior art.  We also toured a fantastic ruin of a hotel on a hill, and the largest mall on the island for provisioning.  The road trip took us into very hilly country, with a side road that went along a ridge with the opportunity to free-fall the van down either side.  Between that and me having a terrible time getting use to the touchy brakes and clutch, the van-full were a little stressed.  I likely stalled the vehicle over a dozen times; starting with twice just trying to get over a speed bump 30 feet away from the rental place.
We are really thinking it is time to move on; and when the wind dies next week, we will surely go around the corner to an uncrowded, quiet place for snorkeling and boat bottom-cleaning.

Brian standing in front of the derelict plantation we found while renting a van

Got rum???  Let's not forget, this is French rum, not to be confused with the English rum we all love!
Princess Lorna being delivered to her boat in style!

After the replacement of the starboard alternator with the little 35 ampere spare, that alarm stopped.  However, a low pressure alarm started to chirp, blink, and buzz at low RPM.  As I had replaced the sender (no guage, just a sender) two years earlier, and the new oil and filter had not even seen 20 hours, I really assumed it must be the pump or an oil leak.  However, I tried another pressure sender, and the noise and light stopped.  Bad luck or poor quality control for the manufacturer, Sierra Industries.
Otherwise, we are caught up with our repairs and chores but for day-to-day items.  I cannot remember this happening before.  Luckily, l have some delaminating flip flops and loose temple on a pair of sunglasses to deal with today.  I could do some sewing and greasing...  (The superstitious among you may suggest I am tempting fate)  Laundry is scheduled this afternoon at the local Laundromat with Lorna and Brian!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Happy New Year from Martinique

Happy New Year 2018-01-03
The computer tells us it is the 3rd of January, and the internet tells us that we are in for even more rain, today and tomorrow, here in Ste Anne, Martinique.  The rainy season has been particularly rainy this season.  It is not so bad, as it rains in 20 minute squalls, then provides us with hot, humid sunshine for an hour or two.  Certainly we should not complain, as Hugh and others from Atlantic Canada explain that they are under threat of a winter hurricane up there tomorrow.  Likely, people will die!
News from home includes the trial of a neighbour of ours who attacked another neighbour.  We should not comment, but when the victim is still under medical care months later, and the aggressor is a head taller with a reputation for violence and insists he was not the aggressor, one must roll their eyes.
We arrived in Ste. Anne on December 7th, after a lovely 3 hour passage from Rodney Bay, but found the anchorage so crowded that we anchored about a kilometre from the main dock.  Good news is that there is a reasonable little dock just 3 minutes away that allows a sweet walk into town, a nice hike to a beach, and a Laundromat steps away.  The large mangrove estuary in which the Marin boat haven is situated is just another kilometre further, however, and the water is often a bit murky, especially on the falling tide.  Our chain looks like a long fuzzy, plush toy, with all the growth on it.  I (Laurie) get in to cool off and to bathe most days.
It is a massive anchorage that spreads a mile or more out along a relatively sheltered coast.  The holding is good in our area, and even with some blistering winds lately, no other boats have slid into or by us.  A 40 knot gust in a squall caught s/v Aspen and laid her over at 40 degrees while it readjusted her at anchor.  It was impressive.  No boats dragged near us, nor were there cries for help.
The temperature here is hot, not cold; but quite manageable in the harbour.  We sweat if we exert any effort onboard with chores, or when we go ashore for walks or shopping, but we are becoming used to it.   We read a lot, and I try to fix one thing per day on the boat, or carry out one maintenance item per day - which leaves me sweaty enough to need to get into the water.  Dawn is similarly busy with domestic chores.  Otherwise it is a lazy time.  We get together with our friends, but still watch our sunsets alone on our boats often enough.  
We have made 5 trips into the larger town of Marin, with its marinas and chandleries - two trips by water – with our dinghies being hauled in behind s/v Tarentela, and three by local bus - to arrange internet services, pick up the consumable boat and engine products, to get big grocery store things, and to increase the variety of our lunches ashore.  Always a crowd, and always fun but for the stress of buying internet data plans from phone companies in foreign tongues, which is apparently a very iterative process. We now seem to have 2 plans finally working from Digicel and from Orange - why and how is too complicated to answer.
We have made our favourite hike to a large beach on the south coast; favoured because after an hour or so, we have a fantastic little meal with cold beer before walking back, and because it is really a large mobile chat session with friends through picturesque shore-side forest.  There is a nice paved walking route through town that we frequent, but other hikes are not being done because of the wetness of the trails.
On board, I got another article completed and sent to the Caribbean Compass; this one on our now-retired meteorologist, Denis (and Arleen), who provided our weather for 12 or so years, but just sold his boat and returned to Canada.  It will be published in the February issue.  John of s/v Stoppknot has started up a net at Denis’ former time and frequency, and we are having fun on it; keeping in touch with the friends we met through Denis’ efforts.
The biggest thing about this period has been our lunches and get-togethers.  We had a giant buffet with 9 other couples on Xmas day at a restaurant called Touloulous, which included all you care to drink and eat; followed by a float in the ocean in front of the restaurant.
Bobbing in the water after Christmas dinner at Touloulous!

Al and Michele in the foreground - frolicking!

Touloulous restaurant Table #1 for 10!

Touloulous Table #2; 10 more of us!
There is also a place called Boubou’s, where Philippe serves bokit  - a sandwich in a bread pocket.  Our favourite is named after the restaurant and includes hamburger, fried egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrot slivers, (all known as les crudités) cheeses, and some very tasty condiments.
In the boatyard is a restaurant called Le Sextant, which has very French cuisine at low prices.  The plat du jour always is accompanied by 250 ml of chilled wine.   We have had crevettes and a chicken dish, always with healthy and tasty sides we do not see on other islands.
I will leave two or three other places out of this, but you get the idea.
I should also add that we had an outrageous cockpit party on New Year’s Eve on Cat Tales, with twelve in attendance.  Initially, one would expect that would be too crowded, but before midnight, there was even considerable dancing.  Check out the pictures.  ...and yes, we made it to midnight and beyond!
New Year's Eve aboard Cat Tales

Turn it up!!

The foolishness continues into 2018!!

Steve and Maria making the long trek over to our boat.  All gussied up for New Year's Eve!

Lorna and Brian are anchored behind us, with Aspen beside us, and Tarentela was just another boat away, until they headed north yesterday.  L&B has just returned to their boat with some people Kristen met at the laundromat last week who are looking for a boat. (L&B want to sell).  S/V Baidarka with Joanna and Bill, S/V Tanglewood with Jenny and Steve, and three other new friends are also all close by; with more heading our way daily from Rodney Bay.  We may soon have to leave just to survive.

After 4 trips up the mast with numerous fittings, I have concluded that the jib furler will have to fend for itself; indeed I do not think the deterioration is continuing.
Laurie working up the mast on a relatively calm afternoon in Saint Anne, Martinique (photo compliments of Aspen, anchored beside us.
The alternator alarm that I was troubleshooting – not just this year but last, was eliminated by changing out the alternator for a spare – suggesting strongly that the problem is some kind of short among the windings or the internal diodes.  So I now have an alternator to be investigated in Grenada.  With a boat with two alternators and two starters, we send something to Al Bernadine of Goyave for repairs most years.
When Cat Tales came home to Canada in 2002, the engine control handles crumbled in our hands and I reconstructed them out of putty, epoxy, polyester, and a few other products; as I could not source replacements.  Well, portions of the work again started to show trouble, primarily as the aluminum core of the original handles was growing as it oxidized.  I have reconstructed them again, and epoxy-coated them.
Laurie working on the repair of the handles for the engine control.  Many steps to finish this job!
With that, we just have small chores to keep us barely involved until the next thing breaks.  No worries - it is a boat; something will give way. We all have a saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t use it!”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Heading for Martinique

It is time for another update – not just because the last one was November 26, but because we are leaving for Martinique tomorrow, and anticipating significant frustration in dealing with communication.
The few days after our last blog continued at the same pace, doing similar stuff: victualizing, getting boat parts, and picking off the constant repairs and chores – especially those intended to be done in the boatyard. 
We could have spent weeks in Prickly Bay, and certainly had intended to spend a week in the anchorage outside St. George, enjoying that city and the second chandlery there.  However, we all had “itchy keels”, and Peace and Plenty, Tiger Lily II, and Cat Tales headed for Carriacou on November 30, during a forecasted weather window.  Tiger Lily II was being sailed by the new owners, but with Denis and Arleen aboard as consultants/guests, as per the purchase agreement.
The weather window promised under 18 knots, low waves, and a little veering to give us a southerly component.  As Carriacou’s Tyrell Bay is to the east of Carriacou, we would either need some southerly breeze or have to tack back and forth to the east.  As it was, we all made it without a tack, and well before dark.  Indeed, as we headed into the harbour, a sweet voice declared that tonight was Pizza Night at the Iguana Pub in the Tyrell Boatyard, with specials on both staple foods: pizza and beer.  We, along with Lorna and Brian (Peace and Plenty) met all four crewmembers of Tiger Lily II, as well as Baidarka and Prism’s crews for what turned out to be a raucous party with great pizzas; a fantastic way to end the “Friends of Denis” era, with Denis and Arleen in attendance.  Sure, we’ll be meeting up with other members of the tribe for the rest of our lives, but can it be the same?
Interestingly, it also signalled the start of my writing an article describing the FOD phenomenon for the Caribbean Compass, and it will probably be in the February issue.  I am checking facts and rounding up the pictures now.

Denis and Arleen toasting to their next chapter.  Last we heard they were looking out at SNOW back in Canada!!

Tyrell Bay also provided the quiet that allowed us to turn the three large bundles of callaloo, onions, peppers and spices, into the biggest and best-tasting callaloo soup to date.  We had Lorna and Brian as well as Charlie and Anina over to try it out, and they gave us – especially me – rave reviews.  (I know – Dawn tells me how and what to do)
A weather window arrived rather quickly, and once more, an island got the short shrift from us.  We sailed for Bequia on December fourth, again having a very nice time of it, as the waves were low and the angle of the wind allowed us to arrive without a tacking duel.  Just as well, for sure, as Peace and Plenty had lost their autohelm, and had to take turns standing at the wheel and reacting to the waves and wind.  At least the overcast sky kept us a few degrees cooler.  It was also a short stay:  We stretched our legs, hit the chandlery, tried a new restaurant over by Daffodil Laundry station (with the crews of Baidarka and Changes), and looked for a weather window.  Getting north at the start of the season is easy – as long as it is at the start of the season.  Soon, things will change with more northerly winds with more strength – and we’ll visit all this real estate on our way back south in the spring.

Laurie just happened to be up the mast doing some work when Joanna and Bill motored by to say goodbye!  They didn't even notice Laurie way up there until I pointed him out.

Laurie up the mast checking things for safety and repairing bungie cord and changing out a lightbulb for an LED bulb.  I'm at the bow trying to stay out of the way in case he drops a tool...

Tyrell Bay.  Baidarka (Joanna and Bill) heading over to see us.

The sail to St. Lucia on December 7th was also quite pleasant, although again arduous for Peace and Plenty – hand steering.  We left at 0400 hours, and arrived at 1800 hours; truly a long day.  While Lorna and Brian stood at the wheel, Dawn and I lounged about and grumbled about a speaker that vibrated too much during a few Neil Young songs.  The wind continued to veer all day, allowing us to make the easting, and only returned to our nose at Castries – forcing an hour of the Iron Jib to make port before dark.  Although Rodney Bay was reasonably empty, it took Dawn and I five tries to anchor.  Terry of Silk Pajamas took pleasure in reminding me, as we passed his boat, that I had a published article on how to anchor in the October issue of Compass – and I should read it.  Mercifully, Peace and Plenty grabbed the bottom on the first try, and promptly went to bed.
We have continued to victualize and socialize while here: meeting John Fallon at the Bread Basket for lunch, re-engaging with the people at the chandlery, meeting Robin Unwin, the friend and local shipwright at the boatyard pub, and meeting Steve of s/v Tanglewood at the mall food court – all the while hauling our other friends around with us; including Steve and Maria of Aspen, who came in yesterday and are planning to leave with us tomorrow.  We have also spent an evening with Terry and Kristin of Silk Pajamas; who have Martin of Providence, one of the Dominican PAYS boatboys aboard to address the ARC participants.  Oh yes, that’s a big thing, as we are in sight of the ARC finish line as these happy sailors cross and are greeted.  Lorna says one came in this morning before we awoke, with a jury-rigged spinnaker on a pole that was not the original mast; so there has been some trouble for some of them.  They have all been sailing across the Atlantic for a couple weeks and are tired and happy to be in Saint Lucia!
Lorna and Brian sailing on Peace and Plenty leaving Carriacou heading for Bequia

One sad note is how so much of Rodney Bay reminds us of Johnny Marley, our friend, who died while we were gone.  We saw him almost daily, on every visit, since 2005; and really did enjoy the friendship.
I have just finished a report for the Caribbean Compass resulting from playing “20 Questions” with Martin (from Dominica) regarding the status of Dominica since Hurricane Maria had her way with the island.  Chasing down pictures has been an event, with us and others emailing out for recent stuff. Hopefully, the report will convince some sailors to visit and help their economy recover.  We are going in today to hear Martin speak formally to the group, and to hear Chris Doyle, the author of our cruising guides, address new sailors into the Caribbean.
Tomorrow, we sail for St. Anne.  The weather looks lovely for the trip!

We are getting kind votes of approval for our newly painted stern steps, and enjoying that immensely; though it does reflect what a mess they were before.  Our new traveler bearings have made sail handling a joy.
Odd jobs continue to be crossed off our list, and leaving more space on our “white board” for other things.  One chore is taking some time:  The handles on the Morse/Teleflex engine controls have been deteriorating, and I have devised a repair.  However, I could not get them to come off the controls due to differential metal corrosion.  Many sprays of penetrating oil, a lot of wiggling, and regular whacking with my new impact driver over a few days allowed access yesterday, and we hope to have a complete, painted repair a day or so after we make Martinique.
I have lost confidence in our forward trampoline’s strength, and have undertaken a stopgap measure until we can source a replacement.  I spent hours feeding through a small line in a zig-zag pattern to make it less likely somebody could be lost.  The picture shows the result.

Laurie spent a few hours out in the sun spinning his web to reinforce the trampoline.  A new trampoline is on our list to find somewhere over the next season.

Furling problems at the top of the jib furler.  A job for Martinique next week.

At present, we have an irregular buzzer coming from the starboard engine, suggesting some sort of short related to the alternator, and the port engine seems to want to set fire to its alternator belt regardless of tension.  I also have a couple of allen screws missing from the top of our jib furler.  I took a picture to show our rigger in Le Marin, Martinique next week.  (We actually didn’t get our mast and rig survey until Dawn cranked me up the mast in Tyrell Bay)  So... there is always something to do on Cat Tales.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Out of the Boatyard and Afloat in Grenada!

We spent 6 hard days working on Cat Tales inside the Spice Island Boatyard in Grenada, and were launched last Tuesday, six days ago.

While Dawn washed off the old wax and installed new, cleaned and sorted inside the boat, I reassembled the engine pumps, hoses, filters, and anodes, reinstalled the propellers, and fixed some major faults at the bottom of the port swimming steps with fibreglass and gelcoat.  Together we put up the bimini shade, removed the sails from inside the boat and bent them on, and put new KiwiGrip antiskid on the swim steps, both sterns.
Repairs being made to the bottom step before tackling the anti skid paint

Laurie showing the "plan" used to get the rolling bearings to stay put.  We  brought the paraffin wax down from Canada because we had this already thought out!

Taping and painting.  The set up time was so fast, you had to remove the tape before the bottom step was started!  Very happy with the finish, and long overdue!

As always, the heat, noise, and dust of the yard were relentless, and we retired to the air conditioned little apartment across the street tired each night.  Actually, that apartment was more inviting than ever, this year, as Lorna and Brian met us inside on the Monday night we first arrived from the airport, with the refrigerator stocked with cold beer, bread, eggs and cheese, and a container of wine.  They also met us for supper many of our nights there.  The landlord and staff allow this, as not only did Lorna and Brian rent there weeks earlier, but the staff have trouble telling the sisters apart.
On one of the nights in the boatyard/apartment, we were able to get together with 5 other couples for a “Friends of Denis” supper.  Although the service at the chosen venue was more than terrible, all enjoyed the evening.  As well, it may have been notable as Denis and Arlene: long-term sailors, close friends, and dependable weather source: have just sold their boat and may not meet with any of us down here again.
Saying goodbye to Denis and Arlene (at the end of the table and to the left) was difficult.  They'll be greatly missed down here.  They are the 'glue' that holds this great group of friends together!!

We left the boatyard without any trouble, unlike past years when either an engine does not start or does not spit water in the exhaust.  We moved out into the bay a bit, and dropped anchor.  Although we had dozens of things that had to be done, we stopped everything, had a beer, and read books for an hour or so before gently attacking the do-list.  Since then, we have the list down to only 8 or 9 items, depending on who’s asking.  We have one pic of Cat Tales in the lift, attempting to demonstrate how small she is compared to what the lift capacity, and compared to the other cats in the yard.
More than that, we have attended a wonderful cooking course at a nearby resort and attended a Hash House Harriers trail race last night, complete with beers and an “oil down” local meal.  And....we both have finished two books each.  Last night’s Hash was loads of fun; as we were able to join Al and Michele of Tarantella and Charlie and Anina of Prism on the bus, trail, and at the party.  Another picture shows what happens to the first-timers or “virgins”: they go home smelling of beer, mud and sweat.  You also get a view of the diversity of hashers:  young and old, cruisers, locals, foreign students, etc.
Cat Tales is being picked up and delivered to the ocean for another 5 months of living the dream!

Al and Michele from s/v Tarentela on the left.  Charlie and Anina from s/v Prism in the middle and Laurie on the right.  I, of course am taking the picture!  What a muddy mess we were, but the icy cold beers fixed us right up!!

The ceremony for new Hashers (virgins) is always fun to watch.  It's such a well kept secret, they don't even see it coming!

Our plans are to stay at least 2 more days while we sort out a little welding job, a credit card issue, and some fuel; then just go around to St. George’s Harbour for a victualizing of fresh vegetables and fruit.  I hope to get some callaloo for soup.  From there, we’ll take a big jump days later to Carriacou for more relaxing, minor chore management, and to pick up some conch, often called lambi.

Two big jobs that caused us concern should be discussed:
1.      Replacing the bearings in the traveler car:  We had real trouble last year with the traveler refusing to move and spitting plastic – what was left of the ball bearings.  We sourced the new bearings, then worked hard last spring to loosen and remove the end fitting to the traveler.  I finally borrowed an impact hammer, and liked it so much I went out and bought one.  We then had to remove the push-pit (stern frame that terminates the lifelines – opposite of the pulpit at the bow) to allow the car to slide of the rail.  Now, the hard part.  The bearings ran between the car and the rail, with a return slot to deliver them from one side to the other of the car.  Without the rail, the balls fall out!  As you can see from the picture, the solution was to whittle a rail out of paraffin wax, install the balls, place the car endcaps on, then slide the car off the paraffin and onto the rail.  It worked, but not immediately.  (no balls lost, however)  Cleaning up the pushpit and rebedding it was not technically difficult, but a fair job.

2.     Repairing the port stern stair and installing KiwiGrip:  We had a failure at the step after an aluminum dinghy banged against it, and were surprised to find, after grinding out for a repair, that there were three previous “bruises” on the step that had been ground out and filled with poor filler.  I had to grind all three out and properly layer up repairs, cover it all with gelcoat, and sand down to a reasonable finish.  Cleaning up the old non-skid material was an awful job, and I almost suffered sunstroke from working on it.  Finally, Dawn assisted while we taped, slathered, and stippled the new material.  We’re both very happy with it.