Thursday, April 26, 2018

END OF SEASON WRAP-UP!


Dawn and I are back in our cute, cozy cottage on Grand Lake, NB.  We moved out of a tiny house and into a slightly larger tiny house!  The season was great, but it is also nice to be staring into the fire, watching television, looking at the foggy ice, taking hot showers, and dropping dirty dishes into the slot in the dishwasher.  Having real bandwidth is fun too.  I’ll be waiting until next week to set up the hot tub and clean up the yard.  We are looking forward to attending a wedding in St. Andrews on Saturday, and we’re rushing around for appropriate attire.
I would like to take the time here to acknowledge Hugh Whalen and Liz Abraham.  We landed at the Fredericton Airport late Tuesday, and simply walked out and into their car to be whisked to their home for pizza and refreshments.  Hugh had my car at his door, with the battery charged, so we could drive the last miles to our own home.
Hugh checked on our cottage every Sunday for all of the winter, as he has since we started this.  He also does this service for the rest of the neighbourhood.  We could not do what we do all winter, every winter, without Hugh; and it is impossible to make it up to him, or even properly explain what it means to us.  Liz writes to us every Sunday to keep us up to date of the happenings at home.
We started our weblogs back in 2004; and for the first two years, the weblog did not accept pictures.  Well, we are almost back to that, as we just did not take the pictures we need at the end of this season.  Well, we’ll do what we can...
We had a lovely sail down to Carriacou on the 29th of March, timing it to clear Customs without holiday charges; and we stayed 8 days before heading to St. Georges, Grenada.  Our time in Carriacou was slow, with us ramping up on our work to put the boat away: Dawn cleaning inside areas with strong vinegar/water solution to avoid possible mold, Laurie starting engine work and doing some gelcoat repairs.  Except for some fun with Joanna and Bill of s/v Baidarka and Cathy and Tom of s/v Jumby, we stayed quiet with the work, some puzzles, and getting a bit of exercise.
Just how many people can fit on Peggy's Rock?  Always room for one more, just like a Caribbean bus/van! This was taken back in Bequia.
Anina (s/v Prism) found a secluded spot dangling over the airport runway!  Anina often organizes our hikes and challenges our legs and bodies!
The trip to St. Georges was also an easy, fun sail; and after trying to get holding in the anchorage outside the harbour, we stayed only one night before going into the marina of Port Louis for two nights.  We washed and waxed the exterior of the boat and enjoyed two lovely meals before motoring around the corner and into Prickly Bay.  There, too, we got ashore for some meals and fun, but focused on oil changes and interior cleaning.  We did get on a Hash hike with Cindy and Dan of s/v Sittatunga,  Kim & Dean Martin of s/v Dream Catcher, and Ken & Grace of s/v Pisces. 
Haulout was normal on Tuesday, April 17th, and we went directly to work to make the best of the short six days on the hard. 

The season, in retrospect was a wet and windy one.  We did well to get up to Dominica; and indeed, with the amount of destruction caused by the northern hurricanes, there was little reason to go further.  We spent an inordinate amount of time in St. Anne; enjoying the crowd of old and some new friends there.  We had an outrageous Christmas party on s/v Tarantella, and a killer New Year’s party in our cockpit with 12 of us.  Interestingly, the season was filled with so many friends in all the southern anchorages (not a chance to name them all), that having cockpit cocktail parties were curtailed in favour of afternoon lunches ashore, usually after a hiking party.  Still very enjoyable.
The sailing, for me was lovely, though limited to the very few weather windows the season provided – but for Dawn there were a couple of crossings she would have rather missed.  The trip between Dominica to Martinique was one!
The season saw the end of Denis’ weather, a revival of the FOD SSB Net, great hikes with crowds, fantastic lunches, and sadly, the end of Lorna and Brian’s Caribbean experience with s/v Peace and Plenty.
Lastly, we got three articles published in the Caribbean Compass.  You can see the latest one here, in April’s on-line version, on page 30-31:  http://www.caribbeancompass.com/online.html

We're ending this season's blogging with a little story of Dawn being a hero:
When we paid for a 2 day stay at Port Louis Marina, we had time to eat out and laze a bit by the pool in the afternoon once the work was done.  I was reading a book while Dawn was watching 3 little children (about 2, 4 and 6 years old) all decked out in their waterwings play with their mom and dad.  They were very entertaining and the parents were most attentive.  At one point, the oldest daughter took off her waterwings to show mom and dad that she could swim a few strokes.  This went on for awhile and eventually, Dawn spotted the 4 year old getting out of the water and taking off her waterwings, evidently wanting to copy the older sister's actions.  Dawn watched carefully, knowing that neither mom or dad had picked up on this turn of events.  The little one walked the 3 steps into the pool and simply sunk.  Not a peep, no flailing, nothing, just a cloud of hair on the surface.  Dawn sprinted over screaming all the way.  The parents pulled her out and nearly fainted at what might have happened.  The mother asked later how long we thought the child was under and we were happy to report that it was a matter of seconds.  Glad this turned out well.

These are little pottery fish bought from an artist in Bequia.  They will go with the 2 large pottery fish that Dawn bought from the same artist last year.

Cat Tales at the dock in St. George's, Grenada.  This is where we worked to wash and put leave-on wax on the outside of the hulls to save time once we're hauled.

TECHNICAL
I’ve been offered some technical assistance by my friend Roger Michaud, who intends to get to the bottom of my issue with oil pressure senders.  He intends to test and inspect the three failed senders as well as analyse the season’s oil filter.  I am intrigued.
After the boat was out of the water, I borrowed a grinder and ground into 8 funny mounds on the interior stern of the hulls above the water line, until each squirted the yellow, vinegar-like substance that proves the bumps are related to osmosis.  I am letting them dry out, and will fill them with glass and gelcoat upon our return in November.  I hope to start the repair process with the low viscosity epoxy: “Git Rot”; so capillary action might carry the material down the channel that the fluid originally traveled.  I will have to do some research on this first.
Laurie working with a borrowed grinder and borrowed face mask.

Pungent water oozing out of one of the osmosis bumps Laurie grinded out.

You can see the osmosis byproduct seeping down the side of the hull over the hull stripe.
This heavy fitting's threads failed to hold back the 900 psi water of our watermaker, and got eroded.
We also took out the port escape hatch, on the inside and down by the waterline.  We had become convinced it was leaking and, indeed, the caulking had failed.  We think the caulking failed because of the manufacture of aluminum salts as the frame corroded.  We sanded the frame down and applied an expensive primer prior to reinstalling to attempt to stop the process from recurring.  Were I to do it over, I would have sprayed the frame with zinc chromate before the primer, but I didn’t think it out.  We still have to track down the gasket material for this 1996 hatch before we complete the installation.  Wish us luck.
A dismantling and analysis of the watermaker assembly found numerous parts that need to be replaced.  If something drips at 900 psi, you can expect some corrosion and erosion.
The mainsail and boombag went into the sailmakers, and although we have not seen the results, a repair and inspection cost $800 Can.  The sailmaker said that it had suffered some sunburning, and easily ripped the top panel in front of us.  Still, that mainsail is from 2004, and it will hopefully do for another few seasons.
We are also having to make decisions on a new trampoline, with a probable cost of $1800 Can., and we’ll likely buy new chain in Grenada this fall as well.  The old one just will not stay in the gypsy any more.
As for the season on Cat Tales, we can say she worked rather well; requiring not really as much time in repairs as in past seasons; in spite of the work we are facing.


Friday, March 23, 2018

HI FROM BEQUIA, ST. VINCENT


Yesterday, we announced on the FOD (Friends of Denis) morning net that Dawn and I were going for a walk on Lower Bay, just to snoop around and climb some of the steep driveways.  Well, we were met by ten more people at the dock.  By our reckoning, that is a note on a net about nothing inspired twelve people to go on a hike to nowhere.  We did see the bay from some new vantage points, and had a lovely lunch at Keegan’s beach bar; and really, these hikes are little more than mobile conversations, where we change partners every ten minutes for new debates or bits of gossip.  It is really fun. 
We left Rodney Bay on Thursday, March 3rd, at 3:00 in the morning as planned, and with highly reefed sails, had a comfortable but long day to Bequia, landing at a little after 3:00 in the afternoon, tired and salty.  We got the cockpit cleaned up and the sails away, and had a nice evening on the boat anchored well out in Lower Bay.  It was windy and swelly, but we slept well anyway.
Here, like Rodney Bay, we seem to know many people:  some, like Susea and Gene of Moody Blues, and Cathy and Greg of Indigo and Fran and Chris on Changes we’ve known for over a decade; others we’ve met a little more recently; and others still we are meeting as a result of the FOD net.  Many of us are very much on the migration back to the south to put the boats away.  Indeed, Maria and Steve of Aspen left two days ago and are already in a marina in Grenada doing the odd chores required.  We haul out a bit later, April 17th.
The crowd here does keep us hopping in the usual manner.  We’ve had a hike up to Peggy’s Rock, another along the northern ridge to Industry Estates, and the hike yesterday in Lower Bay.  
Hiking with friends up to Peggy's Rock.  Hot and very sweaty!

From the top of Peggy's Rock, the sights are stunning.  Only thing missing is a place to buy cold beers!
We signed up for a rum shop tour last week, and got thrown together with a crowd of 30+ put on an old school bus and run over to Paget Farm; where we enjoyed walking between 6-7 interesting rum shops; complete with the local characters.  It was quite fun; and the ex-pats from the US who arranged it are to be congratulated.  All enjoyed it, and money got to move to a poorer part of the island.
The local rum shops are quaint to say the least.  The bus took us over to Paget where we were able to walk to 6 rum shops and then the bus took us back.  A good time was had by all!
We’ve been enjoying the restaurants and the town as always; and that means in large crowds with extended tables most often.  Bequia seems to be changing for the better.  There is a group of people that calls itself “Action Bequia”, that seems to have turned the corner on litter and garbage management.  Although they are involved in numerous other endeavours, we believe this is the one that will pay the most dividends.  I always felt embarrassed for the community when the smaller cruise ships disgorged their tourists ashore.  This year, as a result of the hurricane damage in the north, the number of ships is doubled, and they are seeing the cleanest Bequia that we have ever experienced.  Good for them!  Among the boats in the bay are an abnormally large number of mega yachts.  They too have fewer destinations to choose from.  They don’t seem to know just how big they are and often anchor right in with us all.  Very strange feeling indeed.
Finally, garbage and recycling in Bequia!  

Lorna and Brian of Peace and Plenty (Dawn’s sister) have sold their boat to a fellow Canadian from BC.  He took ownership last week and Lorna and Brian have been staying at a friend’s boat on the dock who were kind enough to loan it since they were back in the US.  Lorna and Brian fly back to Canada next week and will be enjoying time with their daughters and grandchildren and shoveling snow!  We will miss them here in our sailing community greatly!
Lorna and Brian - happiest day when they sell the boat.  Trev - happiest day when he buys his boat!

 
TECHNICAL 
My previous post about nefarious engine alarms can be disregarded now.  I spent some time in the port engine room, unwrapping wires and poking around, and came up with a broken wire.  I cannot tell you what its purpose is, or how it caused the alarm, but once reconnected, all is quiet!  Nothing else to report except that we have started to make our haulout lists – meaning we are smelling the barn.


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.

TECHNICAL
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

DOMINICA

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!

TECHNICAL

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!


TECHNICAL
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.

TECHNICAL
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!”