Saturday, March 11, 2017

Return to St. Anne

We are in a battering series of windy days now, in St. Anne, Martinique; and today is the most rainy of the series.  The weather has been seriously different this year, with cooler temperatures, higher winds, fewer safe sailing days.  Indeed, typical March weather in the Windwards is calmer and dryer, with some islands turning from the emerald green to dusty brown.  Not this year.  Oh well, great day to write a weblog.

We left Dominica on February 24th, but not before taking part in numerous hikes.  We had reported our retracing of Waitukubuli Trail segment 14 last weblog.  We also rehiked the route to Chaudiere Pool on the east coast and found a way to do a very difficult but enjoyable portion of Trail Segment 11; starting from Granby Street in Portsmouth and ending up crossing a beautiful suspended walking bridge inland from the IGA supermarket in Glanvillia.  This last one, led by Anina of s/v Prism, was super; but since it was expected to be a 3-hour walk and turned out to be a 5.5-hour hike with severe climbing and even some rappelling on a rope, it was a spirit-crusher for poor Lorna.  Brian had stayed at s/v Peace and Plenty to catch up on sleep after a GI bug kept him out of bed all night.  At the end of the day, we all celebrated our successful finish of a crazy long hike.  Good on ya, Lorna!!

Notice the hikers are still must have been early in the 5.5 hour hike!

Lorna walking the suspension bridge.  Although it terrified her, she knew that the alternative was 5.5 hours back, so OFF SHE WENT!

We also again enjoyed the Cruiser Appreciation Week, co-managed by members of the Salty Dawg Rally and the PAYS service group; attending meals, bar meetings, hikes, and impromptu musical jam sessions.

The return trip down the coast of Dominica, across the Martinique Channel, and into St. Pierre was not all enjoyable.  Winds were too light to do anything but motor behind Dominica, and a strange set of confused waves made the last hour of travel behind the Mount Pele volcano bad enough to rattle out the fillings in our teeth.  Interestingly, the open-water sailing was about as nice as it could get, albeit with no fish wishing an escape from the sea to our table.  As Lorna and Brian were with us, you might check their weblog to see how they found it.

Upon our arrival into St. Pierre, Lorna and Brian hosted us for a supper of barbecued pork chops in the anchorage, but the event was on Cat Tales as the irregular wave pattern was even splashing water into their cockpit.  Ever versatile, they showed up with the food, the plates, the cutlery, and even the barbecue; assembled it all and served us.  It was a great night, made more surprising by a radio call at 0730 hours the next morning saying they had left over an hour and a half ago in an attempt to gain calm conditions to round Diamond Rock for St. Anne.  We stayed, with plans to welcome Bill and Lynne Cabel on board in 2 days.

Laurie catching another lionfish in St. Pierre, Martinique

Snorkeling on a wreck close to the beach made for interesting fish hideouts.
The arrival of the Cabels was during the peak of St. Pierre's Carnival; and we whisked them from their taxi straight to a street-side bar to enjoy refreshments and watch the silliness.  It was Red and Black Day of the Carnival, in which men and women alike tend to wear red and black lingerie, and too many people just looked like New Orleans transvestite hookers and male (virgin?) brides.

Next day we toured the village with Bill and Lynn, paying attention to the ruins and the terrible history of the 1902 explosion, and including a rather steep half hour climb to the Depaz Rum Distillery and a cool river valley walk back to town.  Their visit also included sails around the west edges of the island, stops in a few sandy bays, numerous French lunches with feet in the sand, and a hike from St. Anne to Anse Saline for a meal and swim in the large surf.  Lynn got rather beat up by a series of two waves, and tells us she is still finding sand at the bottom of her soak tub in Fredericton.  The seven days went way too fast, and they were soon back in a taxi to the airport. 

We saw over a hundred dolphins along the coast of Martinique!  A wonderful treat for Bill and Lynn!  We certainly feel pretty lucky at any time we can see such a display!

Dawn captured this photo of a turtle in Grand Anse D'Arlet.

Lynn, with a view of some of the many boats in the harbour of St. Anne.

Lynn and Bill, sipping water after our hike straight up a steep hill of the 'Stations of the Cross'.
Our time in St. Anne is much as it was earlier in the season, with many people to visit, hikes to enjoy, lunches to eat, and - if the rain ever stops - sunsets to toast.  However, many of us are entering the last few weeks of our season down here; and looking for weather windows, repair parts, and final adventures before the bitter-sweet time in the boatyards and the long flights back to our other lives.

After our visitors left, Dawn attended a weekly 'Ladies' Luncheon' at the La Dunnett restaurant.  This is only half the women in attendance!
Laurie had an article on Rousea, Dominica, published in the Caribbean Compass this month.  You can find it here:


We've been plagued with a loud, irregular, chirping sound from our port engine control panel for weeks now.  The guilty buzzer is wired to: a water temperature sensor, an oil pressure sensor, an alternator exciter circuit, and a water leak sensor located between the saildrive seals.  It shares a lot of harness wires with the tachometer device as well.  After consultations with friends and internet allies, I determined to go at it systematically and scientifically, testing one thing at a time.  I dug my way to the saildrive seal sensor and pulled it out, cleaned, tested and returned it.  No change in symptoms.  I leaned back in and disconnected it from the engine wiring harnesses, but noticed that I had easy access at this time to the large negative bolt that connects the negative from the batteries as well as some other circuits.  It was all in good condition, but I dismantled, burnished, regreased, and reassembled it.  Returning to my original resolve, I reconnected the saildrive sensor - then realized I had still messed with two different variables, even if I did not clean the sensor connector to ensure salt was not the culprit.  Well the chirping has ceased, and the conclusions are compromised; but I'm okay with it all.

Except for a baffling but small ingress of rainwater into the bottom of the port hull, all other systems are working well.  We are planning to clean and reinstall all hull fittings this spring in the boatyard to solve the problem, a rather daunting task.  However, water ingress could lead to us returning to a boat full of black mold next fall - another of the Admiral's nightmares.

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!