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!!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Early Arrival at Rodney Bay

We have amazed ourselves by getting to Rodney Bay before the first of December.  It was our plan to head north from Grenada early, to stay out of the strong "Christmas Winds", but we certainly got wind.  Here is how it shaped up:

We were launched on the 23rd of November, and spent until the 26th just putting the boat together and fixing small problems.  Except for a couple of trips to little restaurants near the university with Lorna and Brian, we kept pretty low key and busy.  Indeed, instead of running with the Grenada Hash House Harriers, we maintained our exercise regiment hauling heavy groceries back from various locations.  Finally, with L and B, we made the short trip to the shelf outside St. Georges, and I did one last chandlery run.  Both Cat Tales and Peace & Plenty left for Carriacou on Sunday morning, with an anomalous wind from the south-east.  The sailing was beautiful, and Tyrell Bay was made without an extra tack or motoring.

Heading into Tyrell Bay, Carriacou
That does not mean without drama, however.  Peace and Plenty had a seawater impeller problem, meaning no cooling water to their heat exchanger and no water in their exhaust.  We tried harnessing the boat to the side of Cat Tales twice - the first time, we were still in some small waves, with poor alignment, and the heaving was too much for us; indeed the bow line broke.  Brian sailed under jib to calmer water, we reconnected and got them in far enough to anchor.  Before poor Brian had his first "anchor beer", he had to put in an hour as a mechanic, but he got the impeller replaced.

Brian and Laurie connecting our boats together to tow Lorna and Brian into Tyrell Bay.  They are still working on getting the life line repaired after the damage done that day.
Monday morning, we both cleared customs and headed north.  The wind had further clocked around so that we were on a lovely broad reach.  Most of the afternoon we were traveling over 7 knots.  Cat Tales handled beautifully, but Brian spent a lot of time at the helm of Peace & Plenty as she wallowed back and forth with a following sea.  We anchored in Bequia with the intention of leaving at 0300 hours, but we all had second thoughts as the sky darkened, lightning flashed from all directions all night, and we got communication about a dangerous squall line that swept through Martinique and St. Lucia at 2100 hours.  At 0300 hours, we made the decision to pull the plug, and went back to bed.  Dawn and I were awakened at daylight with breaking waves under our boat and our stern terribly close to a rocky beach.  After re-anchoring, we all spent the day in the rain and wind reading and trying to put together a picture of what had happened in Rodney Bay during the storm. 

Rainy day in Bequia waiting to sail north
Apparently, many boats we knew were very much involved.  John Fallon's boat Stopp Knot was blown into the shallows near Sandals, and pounded on her keel for a long time before Sandals dive boats worked together in the dark to get her back into deep water.  He's in the boatyard now, getting some keel cracks patched up.  Robin Unwin's boat had her bowsprit and a shroud ripped when a charterboat blew past, and his wooden mast is now in two pieces.  Steve McMullan and Jenny's boat  Tanglewood was stopped at the last minute when the anchor found a giant hunk of coral, but it apparently loosened the windlass (repairable).  We understand that some boats cut loose their ground tackle and headed to sea to avoid disaster.  At least no lives lost.  I have been snorkeling for John's lost sail cover, with no luck so far.

On the 30th, we finally carried on to Rodney Bay, but the wind and rain were the main event, along with a few freighters coming out of the mist.  These were monsters traveling at 12-13 knots, with bow waves bigger than houses, but they first showed only on our AIS devices (devices that use a combination of VHF frequencies and global positioning systems to provide a radar-like picture of impending doom), and only later appeared much closer.  However, in two cases, in spite of the visual information we had that insisted that death was imminent, the electronic devices determined that they were passing our track at least a half mile away.  ...and they did.  Both ships approached from the west, and the signals indicated that both, one a tanker and the other a container ship, were headed to Singapore.

A single Piton of St. Lucia in the mist.  Where did the other one go??
Both boats had some amazing sailing with broad reaching.  Cat Tales was often doing 10 knots with the smallest amount of sail and only 3 feet of jib, while Brian used only his jib and found his boat wallowed much less and had a great performance.

Since arriving, we have had a party on the marina boardwalk, and a lovely meal of curried conch with Lorna and Brian last night on Cat Tales.  We'll lay low and recover tonight.  I spent the afternoon swimming around where John had his mishap - apparently, he had a new mainsail cover folded up in his cockpit when the wind hit, and it went over the side.  No luck finding it so far.  Maybe Dawn will help tomorrow.

I should mention that we have been enjoying callaloo, christophene, plantain, green fig, conch, and a little tuna we caught on the west side of Grenada, aboard our boats since we were launched - in a hurry to pick up our culinary skills where we parked them last year.

Brian using our stern shower hose to add water to his Demerera Rum!  How handy is that?

After losing yet another bilge pump, I am rewiring the systems with quick connect plugs to make them easier to test and replace.  I am more than a little disappointed in the short lives these Rule 500gph pumps seem to have, with never an indication as to why they stop working.  I took the pump apart, and it was totally dry and shiny inside - no indication of the cause of the failure, and no way to reassemble.

Cat Tales had a failure to shoot seawater from the starboard exhaust upon being launched, and even after being primed with water, the output was a little light.  Yesterday, I dismantled both the front and back of the heat exchanger, and found a partial blockage in the black section:  apparently a piece of fibrous waxed paper that had been able to pass through some of the exchanger before opening up and covering some of the tubes.

Laurie cleaning the fuel filter

Reading the manual...looking for clews about the oil pressure sensor!

Tearing the boat apart again!!
I had some luck with the cleaning out of a Racor 500 filter assembly, today.  I turned off the fuel, drained the unit into a little pail (cut up vinegar jug), and then used a construction syringe to spray the drained fuel back through the housing with the filter removed.  I was able to dislodge all materials on the vanes and on the bottom of the acrylic bowl without having to dismantle the unit with only six syringe-fulls.  The filter had not been replaced since 2012, and still did not look dirty, but the housing was no longer allowing visibility.  We checked the primary filter at the engine, and it was pristine.  Dawn and I jerry-jug our fuel aboard, apply algae killer, allow the fuel to settle, and then pour the supernatant into our tank.  As well, both the primary and secondary filters are 2 microns.  The system seems to work for us, and contrary to some older texts on the subject, the filters do not seem to be breaking down with extended use.

Presently, I am working on a faulty oil pressure sensor/sender.  I'll post about it next time.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What A Difference A Day Makes

Thursday morning finds us out in Prickly Bay, Grenada, just offshore from Spice Island Boatyard where Cat Tales was hibernating for six months.  It is a beautiful, albeit really warm day, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze keeping the boat straight and giving us some relief from the heat.

Yesterday, we rushed through our last chores before the travel-lift picked us up at 1100 hours and dropped us in the water.  The new through-hull fitting and the new saildrive membranes kept the sea out and both engines ran.  Trouble is, the starboard engine was not spitting water.  The lift and men left us there while we tore apart the raw water pump and traced the lines, and otherwise troubleshot the issue.  Finding nothing wrong but not getting satisfaction, I ran the engine while funnelling water into the pump, until water filled the whole system.  I then put the pipe back together, restarted the engine, and for some reason it worked.  We headed to the bay, got an anchor down, and calmed down.  
Cat Tales ready for the slings!

Laurie was hoisted up the mast by Brian to check all the lights and navigation gear.  Everything passed with flying colours!

I then attempted to get the outboard working, and failed.  It just would not start.  As we had experienced this on past launches, we simply pulled the cord 20 times, waited 20 minutes and repeated, hoping the new gas would soften the varnish-like substance that the old gas had left.  We finally had it working at 17:00 hours, too late to go to Customs for our cruising permit, but just in time to attend an invitation for supper aboard Peace and Plenty, floating 100 m away.

We had arrived in Grenada on November 14th, and had spent 8 nights in a tiny, air-conditioned apartment with "Tiny House" appeal, called Cool Running, just across from the boatyard.  We had worked full days getting things running, and were dead tired most nights.  We had arrived while Dawn was suffering from a pulled ligament in her shoulder, and we were envisioning a difficult time getting many of the "two-person" jobs done.  However, Lorna and Brian actually met us at our room when we arrived (they had talked their way in and had enjoyed showers before we arrived), and with a little effort over the next two days, Brian helped me get the sails on, the dinghy off, the outboard out, and the bimini up while Lorna assisted Dawn in running for basic provisions.  Dawn's arm began to heal and became totally useful by the weekend, so we were able to finish all chores.

We're going to a cooking class this afternoon with Esther and Omega at Blue Bay and well, here I pause, and here is the report!

They provided every detail and a couple of cheats for cooking a greenfig/vegetable salad and a fantastic chicken dish using local spices.  We sat, got entertained (with Lorna and Brian), fed, and beered. A fun afternoon, and quite a change from yesterday! 

I took on a fibreglass job as part of the recommissioning work this year.  The Fountaine Pajots are assembled from a series of manufactured mouldings, which are primarily held together with fibreglass  patches on the inside of the boat, thick enough to provide the required strength.  The cracks are filled with epoxy from the outside, and are either gel coated over or hidden under rub rails or other fittings.  When the decks were installed on the hulls, the rub rails covered some of the cold joint and gelcoat covered what extended to the rest of the hull.  In previous years, I had ground out cracks at the sterns and layered in fibreglass, and this year I did the same with the port bow.  It was not an easy job for a number of reasons:  1.  I have a mini-belt sander with belts, but the unused belts had dried out, and would break after just a few revolutions; 2.  I have a small oscillating palm sander that had also been affected by the heat.  When the pad sped up, the deteriorated disk disintegrated, throwing a black, tar like substance all over the deck and hull; requiring a 3-part cleanup process;  3.  My colour-matched gelcoat had been baked by the heat over the last few years, and would neither spread easily nor cure easily.  Regardless, I got the work done but for the sanding down of the gelcoat.  The high heat of the tropics really can make a mess of plans, tools, and materials.

We have installed a flexible 120 Watt solar panel on our Bimini to compliment the two12-year old 240 Watts on our stern, and now have an increase in amperage through our Bluesky regulator.  We should now have better luck equalizing the battery bank.

Here is a picture of our home at Grand Lake, NB, taken by Hugh with his drone!!