Thursday, December 26, 2013

MEETING OTHER TURKS IN ST ANNE AND MARIN

Two days after Oguz and Simone left, I thought I heard Al speaking Turkish with somebody, while I was busy in my cabin. Then I had a glimpse of a white head, and thought that the Swiss guy we had met earlier came to visit after all. Not really, this was a tall and lean stranger (Selcuk), actually in deep conversation with Al in Turkish. He said that he had been anchored in the bay for almost a month, and recently saw a mono-hull, anchored very close to us, flying a Turkish flag. This morning he went over to say hello, but was not received too warmly. However he saw our Turkish flag from that boat. Al raises the Turkish flag whenever we have visitors and presently did not have to time to take it down. After making sure that the flag was Turkish, Selcuk came directly to us. Of course we were delighted to meet him, invited him on board and spent some time together.

He has a 58 ft Catana called Orient Express, which he is sailing single-handedly at the moment, his wife and young baby are in Maine, USA.  He is getting ready to join them after Christmas. He is a most interesting person with an incredible life story.

Selcuk was the younger son of the owner of the  Bebek Hotel in Bebek, Istanbul. Bebek is where my mother was born, at my great grand parents' home, which was turned into an apartment by my grand father, where my mother's extended  family lived all their lives. I sold my share of the property ten odd years ago, so we had a connection there almost all my life. Bebek Hotel was built before I was born, so it had always been a landmark for us, one of the most prestigious hotels on the Bosphorus.
Selcuk related that his parents died when he was 16 years old (in 1968), and he and his  brother, who was five years his senior, were left alone to deal with the hotel for some time. It appears that he had enough of it after he married somebody and had a baby, and decided to immigrate to the US in 1984. He said he sold some properties, rented the hotel out, and landed in Florida, with US $100,000.- in his pocket, which he used to buy a mono-hull, and learned how to sail it from the vendor. He said he had always been interested in sailing, thanks to Sadun Boro, the Turkish sailor, who sailed solo around the world in our youth.

Selcuk said that he went up the US east coast by boat, and decided to buy a property in Maine, but never stopped sailing.  He said since then, he sailed around the world twice, demolished two boats until he got his present Catana built to his specifications about nine years ago.

Selcuk also told us about another Turk, Levent, living in Le Marin with his wife Guylaine, who is from Martinique. They own and operate Elite Kebab together, which is located across the street from the new marina. Selcuk offered to take us to Le Marin in his mega dinghy to have lunch there.

It was an interesting experience. It took him less than ten minutes to fly us there with his 60 hsp engine (as opposed to our 9.8). Levent is making a mean chicken donair, which he serves in sandwich or wrap, and making a lot of school children happy. I was really impressed with the taste of the chicken, which I ate with a salad. Apparently Levent uses a marinade before pressing the chicken pieces together around the donair skewer himself, rather than buying frozen from a supplier. But it is a lot of hard work from beginning to end. When I asked him if he knew that trade from before, he laughed, that in Turkey he only knew how to eat donair,  but never dreamed of making it himself. He said that he had met Guylaine in London, England fifteen years previously, at a language school, and they ended up in St Anne a few years ago. Apparently he has been labouring at this business for the last three years, but it looks pretty good.

Selcuk became a good friend of  Levent , and is planning to take him and Guylaine on Sunday to a sailing trip down to St Vincent an the Grenadines. Selcuk asked us to join him, but no thanks, I don't think we can keep up with him. He has little care about the weather or sea conditions to start sailing. His monstrous catamaran can handle anything it seems, and he is fearless. We are everything but. For the time being, I can hardly listen to the howling Christmas winds every night and day, let alone bring my nose outside of the bay.

They are due to come back on the 31st of December, and I invited them to celebrate the New Year's Eve together. I am to cook, and we are to gather at his boat (more space and ice making capability) for that night. We are going to anchor side by side at Le Marin, since Selcuk is leaving for Maine the next day. He needs a ride to shore to catch his plane.

There was only one year in most of our lives, that we celebrated new year alone (our seed family). It was our first year in Canada (1981). We had felt extremely sad. I had left my mother alone in Turkey, we knew nobody in Canada, except Al's professor at the University of Alberta. Al had done some work at somebody else's  lab, and earned an extra $1,000.-  that month, so I cooked an elaborate meal, but that was no consolation.

Now I have to find something new to wear. Last two years, our very good freinds Deniz and Zeynep had been keeping us company for the new year, and Zeynep was bringing me nice blouses to wear that night. It is a pity that they did not come this year, but I am hoping that we might lure them here a little later in the season.

BACK AT ST ANNE

After we left the airport we drove back on the highway (Al memorized every turn by now) and found the last parking spot close to the Jumbocar branch office at St Anne. We realized that we were tired, and happy to find our dinghy at the dock.

As we were busy trying to untie the painter etc, a young man asked if he could hitch a ride with us, indicating that he was at a boat close to the fuel dock. Of course we would never say no. We started talking to him. He said that he had been living in Le Marin on his boat, for a number of years, and he was earning a living as a skipper for hire. Now that his wife and children had moved away, he was trying to sell his 2000 model Fontaine Peugot catamaran for 190, 000 Euros and join his wife. We felt encouraged that Martinique prices are higher than US, when it is time to sell the boat (I hope many many years later).

He showed us his boat, and I recognized the pennant of the mooring ball. It was the mooring ball we took by mitake on our first day in le marin. I exclaimed that we were from the boat that had used his ball to moor, about a month ago. He got surprised, and apologized for inconveniencing us, which we shrugged off. He said that he had just returned from the Tobaggo Cays, Grenadines that evening. Of course we understood; we did not know that it was a private mooring.

Anyway, we felt good that we paid our debt by doing him a favor. Apparently he always left his dinghy secured at his boat's davids, whenever he went away, probably not to show that the boat is unattended. He said that he had been waiting for half an hour at the dock, until we showed up that evening. Unfortunately there are no water taxis in Martinique, unlike Grenada, Dominica or even St Vincent. Here one can only rely on fellow sailors to get any kind of help.

TROIS ILETS AND GRANDE ANSE D'ARLET

A couple of days earlier, Al went on the web and reserved a car from Jumbocar, in order to take our guests to the airport. While he was making a selection, he accidentally chose a two door Renaut (instead of our four door) and ended up paying 27.- Euros for the day, exactly half price of getting it from the office.
Anyway, Christian from Jumbocar had told Oguz the last time that Les Trois-Ilets was the St Tropez of Martinique, a major tourist area, and should not be missed. We had all day on Sunday, Christian was to bring the car to Marin, and was to allow us to leave the car at their branch office there the next day. I am really impresses by the service we got from Christian. I guess we became a major client after renting three times in ten days.

At 10:45 am Al and Oguz took the luggage to the dinghy dock at the main port, and took the car from Christian. Al came back for Simone and I, while Oguz waited at the car. A little after 11:00, we were all in the car, heading towards Les Trois-Ilets. It is located at the south coast of the bay of FDF, very picturesque, but at this time of the year, almost deserted. We got there, and searched a nice restaurant with a view. A few people recommended Creole Village, but it was closed on Sundays. Go figure. We found another one, which was not bad, in the nick of time before it started pouring down in buckets.

We had lots of time to kill, and St Tropez did not prove to be that interesting, or the beach very attractive, so we thought of going to FDF. We asked about the ferry, which starts from Anse a l'Ane and Anse Mitan, right across the bay, but no go, they do not work on Sundays.

Back to the car, and drive to FDF. It was a dead city! No traffic on the streets, the promenade of shops was deserted, but some scary looking guys. One of them quite agressively asked for money, and we went back to the car, and got the hell out of there. We checked out a beach at Schoelcher, immediate north of FDF, facing west. Nothing interesting, everything closed for winter (!) Hard to believe.
Al decided to take us to Grand Anse d'Arlet by car this time. We went all the way back to Les Trois-Ilets and took to the road that passes over the mountain to get to the west coast. It was after 4:00 pm, the road narrow and winding up and down. When we got to the bay, the view was spectacular, but watching the sunset at 5:30 pm would mean getting back on the dangerous road in the dark. Oguz agreed with me that we should not spend too much time there, but stop for a drink close to the main road to Lamentin, where the airport is located.

We passed the mountain road in daylight, and stopped at Anse a l'Ane at a beach cafe. Nothing interesting, except a bunch of drunk guys making loud noises imitating music. As soon as the sun set, it started to get chilly (are we spoiled or what?).
By the time we got to the airport it was around 7:00 pm. We spent some time together, but they were busy changing into their winter clothes and getting their boarding passes. There was a big crowd in front of them, so they insisted that we should be on our way. We felt sad to leave them there. I hope they would come back!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

SAILING TOWARDS THE DIAMANT

About a week after our guests came, we had to take water from the Le Marin fuel dock, so we thought we could sail in the morning towards Grande Anse D'Arlet at the west coast of Martinique first, and come back to Le Marin to anchor. Al thought that the major storm was stalled until the evening, so we would have time to turn the corner of the south coast of Martinique, which sticks out straight to the west, and come back. There is a small rock island called Diamant at the Pointe du Diamante, the major landmark visible from a long distance at the corner.

We weighed anchor in the morning, and started towards the rock.  As soon as we got to the safe waters (from fish traps), Al ordered the genoa to be unfurled, and on we went with 4.5 - 5 knots. It was not all that smooth sailing though, the wind was quite strong, with a forecast of 30 - 35 knots in the afternoon. As we went half way down, having wind on our backs, I started thinking that it would be much harder and longer to come back in the afternoon against such force. If we would go as far as the Arlet, we would have to stay the night, which is not advisable in high winds, the seas get quite rolly and untenable with north swells. We know, since we had been there the last time around. We were amazed to see how the Martinque sailors tie their dinghies to the high dinghy docks; they bring the nose of the dinghy almost to the deck, while only the back side touching water, so that they hang from the side of the dock, for them not to swing with the swells.

We turned around before reaching the rock, and had a short swimming stop at St Anne, before going in to the lagoon to take water at the fuel dock. While we were busy with the water, a  mono-hull came and tied to the back to get fuel. A young lady and a man started talking to Al, asking about our Swiss flag.  We told him that we had visitors from there, and Oguz struck up a conversation with them, who were also from Geneva. Small world. My mother used to say that if one had a bad reputation, there would be no escape from it. Thank God.

A little later, an old man, whom we had seen before at St Anne, came to ask about the same flag. He said he had seen our boat before, but the flag was not there, why now? We had to explain about our visitors. That man was from Bern, Switzerland, and was waiting for his wife to arrive in Martinique.

After our social interaction, it was time to anchor, somewhere close to a safe dinghy dock, since their departure date was around the corner. They only had one more day, before taking off on Sunday night. So we were planning on spending time in Le Marin, and let them taste the poulet boucane. I asked Simone what boucane meant earlier, but she had no idea (it must be a made up word). She was intrigued, and asked a vendor at the market. The vendor was surprised, "what do you mean? Boucane means boucane!" We laughed a lot afterwards, imitating him "c'est boucane!".

Le Marin is not very interesting, but well protected. So we were ready for the storms. As we do not know how St Anne would be affected by the storm, I would rather be in a protected place, especially while hosting guests.

GRANDE ANSE DES SALINES

Al was checking the weather report everyday, and saw that the rains were abating a bit, so proposed to motor to the Grande Anse Des Salines, which is the best known beach around here. It is a little south east of St Anne, almost at the tip of the peninsula but facing north west.

Getting there was not easy, fish traps everywhere. As we got out of the protection of the bay of St Anne and turned the point of Dunkerque at the south-west edge, we were hit by the full force of the eastern wind and waves. All three of us were watching the fish traps and made Al change course many times. At last we reached the beach and anchored at 8 ft of water, to swim at its pristine waters and  have lunch on board. There were a few huts in the distance and maybe a restaurant, but the beach was deserted.

I jumped into the water, but the swells were so high that it was hard to swim, and the water was as cold, despite its being so shallow. Swimming was no fun. Simone especially does not like cold water, she needs some encouragement at the best of times to plunge in. After a minute we both got out, and started getting ready for lunch.

The swells were hitting us from the side, the wrap around coming from south turning the Pointe des Salines to the east, while the steady wind was keeping our nose to east. I think it was the shortest lunch stop we had ever made, but Oguz (the head dishwasher) offered to wash the dishes before getting out of there. Major mistake, poor guy got seasick in no time, so I had to mix my ginger powder with cold water (tastes better with hot) to keep him steady. Thankfully it worked, and we got underway shortly.

Although the trip did not turn out as intended, our guests were so easy to please, they expressed delight at every turn (I hope not out of sheer politeness) and never complained.  At least it did not rain that day, so it was not a complete write off. But I would hardly be tempted to go there again, maybe by car, to walk on the endless sandy beach.

CLEMENT RUM FACTORY AND TRINITY

During our friends' visit we were not affected by rain at all. However, not being able to sail every day dampened our spirits a bit, so we decied to rent another car, and do some inland exploration and a visit to the Rum factory. It was on the spur of the moment, but the same diesel Renaut was ready in an hour from Christian, so we went all the way to Trinity on the east coast. The trip was pleasent, since the roads are well maintained, but winding over the many hills. Views of the east coast was spectacular, but the coast seldom visible , since the road was built inland among the mountains.

First stop was at the Clement Rum factory, located near Francois. Apparently it was one of the best maintained factories, and a tourist attraction. When we got there, we saw that the vast  parking lot was full of cars and several buses. Unfortunately the factory was not presently working, since their season was between June and September, but the grounds and buildings were open, with high tech personalized guide systems. It was a pity that we went there before lunch, and could not taste their multiple rums. I only had a sip of their best one (sold there for 52.- Euros a bottle), which was like brandy.



Right at the exit from the factory, we saw a sign about a restaurant, Cote d'est, and decided to try it.  Simone was looking at the map (in French) while we started to travel in the opposite direction of where we were supposed to go. After some time on the winding inclines of 10 % and more, Simone warned us that we were headed into the heart of the mountains, and not the coast. Al was not happy either about getting so far away from the main highway, so he turned the car around, and climbed with difficulty,  the steep hill we had just come down (Renaut is not very impressive, no power.)

On the way back, we saw at the last moment, that we had missed the turnout for the restaurant, but decided to try some other one on the main road. The east coast seems to be the tourist area, there should be some establishments to cater them.
We found an Italian place at the outskirts of Francoise, a town at the middle of the east coast, advertising pizzas etc. It had a high deck to eat outside, and a parking strip at its side, where Al just fitted the car next to a high wall, and came up. There were a group of students sitting at the deck, but nobody inside. When we tried to order something from the menu, we were told that only salads were available, since the oven had just stopped working. However, Al' s lasagna was promised. So we settled with some beers, and started to wait, and wait, and wait. We speculated that the propreitor must have sent somebody to the Carrefour accross the street to buy the greens. Even so, nothing can explain the incompetence in being so late to serve four clients. The group of children got one serving of chicken wings, and went their way.
After spending an hour, we ate our lousy salads and gladly went back to the car.

Christian had raved about our next stop, Trinity, which is a narrow peninsula, right before the second town, Robert, not far from Francois. We missed the turnout, but set back in the right direction by some school children, and went into the wilderness. I was hoping to see the both sides of the peninsula, but it was not as narrow as it seemed on the map. However, we were able to have some glimpses of the majestic mainland hills and the small bays in the sea. The south side seemed like a very calm and protected large bay, where some catamarans were anchored. (We would have to spend a lot of time cruising before we could venture out there, although it was inviting.)

While we were driving, I expressed my wish of stopping somewhere nice with a view to have coffee, and Oguz exclaimed that he was thinking the same thing at that moment (meeting of the minds!). We reached Tartan (in the middle of the peninsula, facing north) and saw that there were a number of restaurants and cafes along the beach. The weather was somewhat dark and cloudy, but it was not raining, so no matter. We sat at a table outside of a nice restaurant, where a  crowd  was served, but the function was winding down. We settled patiently to give the servers a breather, while enjoying the view. We ordered coffee and waited. After ten minutes, the server came back and apologized that the whole area had just lost power. What a day! We had no luck in food or drinks all day. Al bought some local chocolate from a small market next door as consolation. Is it me or these vendors are indifferent to serve their customers. I guess we have been spoilt in Turkey and Canada, with the ingenuity of the hospitality industry. In both of those countries, every customer is precious, and would be sent away satisfied; in Turkey because of the competition, in Canada because of the small size of the client pool.

It was getting late, we had a long way back, so we lost our wish of getting to the end of the peninsula, and returned to St Anne from the main highway to FDF, which we cut across from Robert. The most profitable part of the trip was stopping at the small produce market close to Riviere Salle. Nice local tomatoes, breadfruit (first and last time I saw it in Martinique), cucumbers, pineapples, watermelons, you name it. Unfortunately, one needs a car to get them, bummer.

Next morning, we went to Le Marin to do some more shopping, and Al drove up to St Anne, and set the grocery bags on the pavement  at the pier, Simone and me in guard, and went to the Jumbocar office ten minutes away to give the car back. The guys were going to walk back, so the two of us settled at some benches in wait. I was a bit ticked off, that Al did not think of  taking us to one of the establishments on the street, to have some coffee while waiting. We even thought of going somewhere ourselves, but laughed and decided against it. The guys would have a fit if they could not find us.  The wait was not that long, Christian had the sense to drive them to St Anne. I guess after charging Oguz 54.- Euros for the car (booking through the web has its advantages), he felt a tinge of shame.

Thank God for Ruyam II! Every time we come back I feel releived, to be away from the hustle and bustle of the life on land.  We had our coffees at last at home.

GUESTS ARRIVE FROM FRANCE

Al's close friend from high school, Oguz and his wife Simone were due to arrive on the evening of December 6th, so we had asked Christian from Jumbocar to pick us up at noon from St Anne.  When we got to the church before time,  we saw that he was already there, waiting for us. We went to the office together, and dealt with the paperwork. He asked for a deposit of 600.- Euros (presumably the deductible on the insurance), and sent us to our way.

This was the first time in our guest preparations, that we had not done our grocery shopping and some cooking in advance. I did not like the selection in the stores of Le Marin, and wanted to check out the big names we had seen lined along the highway to Fort De France.  But the first stop was the chandlery in Marin (Ruyam II has priority over everything).

We found a parking spot almost half a mile away, and came to the door, but what were we thinking? We forgot that French people have lunch outside of their working places. All stores close until 1:30 pm or later. What else but have lunch ourselves. There was a small family-run restaurant across the street (Mouline Rouge) which was inviting, so we went up the stairs to the second level of the small building. There were  a dozen tables, and quite a few customers. The proprietor/server lady welcomed us warmly and led us to a small table at the front. The menu was limited, but was advertising house specialties. I asked for her suggestion, and ordered an excellent chicken, full of smoke flavor, which I like a lot. It was called "poulet boucane", something like barbecued chicken in my book.

As soon as we finished eating, buckets of rain started pouring. We had to change our table to stay dry, but was obliged to have coffee etc and wait for the end of this mansoon. It took us an hour to be able to venture out, but nevertheless completely soaked in two minutes just crossing the street.

Stephan, our friendly chandlery attendant, gave us an address of a gas filling station, somewhere in the industrial section close to the city (Fort De France - FDF) which was only accessible by car.  Al, with his infinite pessimism, insisted that we should fill our cooking gas bottles before the guests would arrive, although neither of them was totally empty. Of course he is right to keep a full spare, since we do not know how full either of them was. One of the bottles, which we started using after coming back, was from last year. The other we replaced in Grenada, but seemed very light to Al, probably because the bottle was made of  light-weight aliminium, unlike the old one.

The trouble is with the different system used in France; butane as opposed to propane in the Americas. Our boat started with butane, which comes in small blue containers, since it was a French vessel, but was fitted with an adaptor to receive propane in BVI. Two years ago, while visiting Puerto Rico, we had discarded all our blue bottles but one, and bought two propane bottles.

We (Al) like doing things in the hard way; so instead of exchanging our existing blue bottle, which is available even at the  corner stores in Marin or St Anne, we tried to find the Vitogaz filling station in Californie, somewhere in the boonies. As a matter of fact we found a mini refinery after spending an hour looking for it, but saw that it was closed for the day long before 3:00 pm on a Friday.  Who would work at that ghastly hour of a Friday afternoon. After spending more time trying other places the pedestrians suggested, we learned that filling our propane tank was not possible in Martinique. Nothing else to do but at least getting the much needed groceries before the plane arrives.

HiperU was a disappointment, despite its size. At all the supermarkets we had seen around here, the vegetables and fresh beef are lousy, fruits and fish are almost non-existent, but the prices are incredible. We bought whatever we could, and reached the airport almost in time for the arrival. (The best place for fresh produce is the road-side fruit and vegetable stands on the highway, such as the one at the turn-out of Riviere Sale.)

This was our first meeting with Simone, who is from France. Oguz has been living in Switzerland for thirty five years, but spends some time in Turkey every year. I only met him a few times, but he had been alone. We were excited, and they were a bit apprehensive, since Simone had never sailed before, and Oguz, although had spent a few days at a time on some sailing trips with their high school buddies,  had never been confined to a boat for ten days.




It turned out that Simone was a born sailor, Oguz not so much, he can get seasick quite easily. All the remedies were only needed for Oguz when we sailed within the large bay of St Anne a few times. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate much. It rained almost every day while storms raged outside. I am quite impressed by St Anne, while wind comes down howling (over 25 knots), the sea is mostly calm, no swells.

This year we are prepared for rain; we brought a 20 ft x 12 ft grey tarp from Canada and developed a technique to quickly lay it over the bimini, so that rain does not disrupt our life on the deck anymore. Too much wind is a bit of a strain on its lines at times, but no matter. It needed guite a bit of convincing on Al to buy the tarp, instead of ordering yards of Sunbrella and sewing the webbing to turn it into a protective cover for rain. A lot of work and money. After my insistence, he reluctantly agreed to bring the tarp, and resisted installing it for the first time, since he thought it would look bad from outside. But afterwards he is sold, although we might have to replace it every year due to wear and tear. However, I saw an identical one in Grenada at the big hardware store in the Spice Mall. Even if it lasts only one season, I don't mind; it is cheap and effective!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

LUNCH AT THE BEACH

On our way back from Le Marin, Al suggested getting off the taxico early on the way, to check out the place where we had reserved a car from Jumbocar earlier. The car is for meeting our friends Oguz and Simone at the airport on December 6th, who are coming from France (Oguz from Switzerland). Although we are big on buying things through the web, we would like to make sure face to face. Al had looked up the adress of the rental office, and found out that it was close to the Club Med resort, not in St Anne. So we set out to get there with the help of the GPS in his Samsung smart phone. It was around noon, and quite hot, we walked about fifteen minutesy in a small village of some sort, comprised of some vacation villas and a hotel, almost deserted at this time of the year. I presume that their high season is summer, when the French people have their month and a half of yearly vacation. We shall see if Christmas is going to make a difference in the population around here.

After finding the place, we talked to the nice young man at the Jumbocar office, but did not need to sign any papers, show a driver's licence or a credit card. We only got a promise from him to bring the car to our church front (mother of all rendez-vous places) at 11:30 or 12:00 am (We could not remember later which was decided, since he had said no to something). We started walking back. Did I mention that it was hot? I put my foot down to bend Al's rubber arm, to find a nice place to have a beer and some lunch, in that order. We had accomplished so much in one morning, we deserved some treat!

All the advertized places on that street were closed. We had to  walk a long way  back and some more, to reach the beach, that streched along a small peninsula, at the tip of which was Club-Med.

We had lost all hope of finding a place, but made a last ditch effort through a huge parking lot to get to the beach, where a deserted looking beach bar was located. Appereances can be deceiving, since the bar was open, without any customers or servers, but open. However, the place was somehow not appealing, whereas the one next door was. First of all it was more modest looking , and had tables on sand on the beach, under some trees and umbrellas; our kind of a place. The beach appeared to be a popular hang out for the people, there were quite a few, swimming or walking about.

We ate the best coal barbecued fish (snapper) in the Carribbean at this small snack stop, called La Ronde des Yoles. We made a mental note to bring our guests there for an outing.








The next morning we went ashore around 7:15, but saw that Yvonne was already there, waiting for us in her car. We surmised that she lived in St Anne, and it was convenient  for her to pick up the dirty clothes on her way to her shop. She promised to give us a call as soon as she started from Le Marin, around 5:00 pm. No problem, we'll be here.

Dealing with the laundry was a success, provisioning not so much, because the markets sell no local (Caribbean) fruits or vegetables. They have grapefruits from Israel. Are they crazy or what, the best grapefruits grow in Dominica, Grenada or even Cuba. Martinique does not seem to be trading with her neighbours, everything comes from Europe, hence expensive (We had not been able to check out the produce that the Dominicans are selling at the covered market yet). I wonder what the islanders are doing to fill their time. A Frenchman had told us last year, that the people here were living off social assisstance, and having lots of children to increase their pay. I started to beleive him.

OUR RECONNAISSANCE TRIP

Next morning around 8:30 am, we went to the side street, where we had a glimpse of a likely vehicle the day before. Lo and behold, there was one small minibus with two customers inside, and three islanders in front, chatting. When I asked, one of them confirmed that this taxico was going to Fort De France, and we could get down in the town of Le Marin on the way. Despite Doyle's caution about the taxicos starting only when filled (which is the case in everywhere else in the world), ours started with just four customers. The driver was a character, he kept on shouting after every pedestrian,  jokingly inviting them for a ride, while they took the time  to seriously decline him. The other ladies in the car and I had a ball, laughing at him.

He let us out at a make-shift bus station, quite a long way before our destination, which I thought was the Carrefour strip-mall by looking at the adress. We walked there, and saw that there was a self-serve laundrette and dry cleaning service, but not the one I was looking for. However,  the young islander in charge gave as a map, and showed where to go. It appeared that we had to go back a long way. But before that, we were determined to find the other boatyard/old marina in Carenage/Caren, close to where we were. In the booklet, a lot of serious boat maintenance services were advertised to be there,  along with the biggest chandlery in Le Marin. So we walked on, then down and found the boatyard and the supermarket Leader Price, which Rick had mentioned to be the cheapest, but not the dinghy dock that was supposed to be very close to the market. Al asked a guy at the chandlery how to get to the dock, and he signed that the only access was through the boatyard. Some security! We decided to check it out later, by coming by the dinghy, and walked along to the supermarket. It was a good size, and quite cheaper than Carrefour. Our Canadian friends know how to shop.

We returned to the main road, and saw a great boulangerie right accross, very inviting. While we were looking at the various bagette choises, a woman hit my back with the door, while entering the store, and expressed anger that I was standing too close to the door. I remembered my daughter's comment about the extreme politeness of Canadians; when one hits another, the one hit would apologize, while the hitter would be mortified and apologize more. She realized how unique this conduct was when she lived in Germany for a while and came home for a visit. I guess for the French, it is a given that the hitter is blameless, even though the glass door might be showing a person partially blocking the way. Hard to beleive isn't it? In all the time we spent in Martinique, we heard the word "pardon" only once, when a woman threw garbage into our dinghy from the dock (without looking of course).
Anyway, we got our baguette, and croissants for Al, and set out to find the laundry service called Diaka Laverie. We walked a bit, and came accross it. Inside was a middle aged lady, who could speak some English. When I made myself understood, she just said she could only pick the laundry up at 7:30 am by the church at St Anne, and not at the dock; and bring it back to the same place around 5:00 pm. No problem, but how much? She said 15 Euros for a load of laundry, delivery no charge. You can imagine my delight. This solved a major problem for me, do-it-yourself laundry is a pain, and costs 7 Euros (at the marina), but the food and drinks we pay for while waiting greatly enhances the expense. I had no problem with paying 30 Euros for two loads a week while we are anchored here , and felt like hugging Yvonne, while promising to be at the church front on the next morning. What a relief,  I started to like St Anne!

We found the bus stop for St Anne by asking and looking around for a suitable spot (a clearing at the side of the street where the bus can stop witout disrupting the traffic). We only had to wait a few minutes with some elderly islanders for the bus to Sainte Anne to show up.

SAINT ANNE

First impressions of St Anne was favorable, the dock was nicely made and sturdy, the plaza where the ancient church was located overlooking the port, was very clean and well maintained. It is nice to be in a civilized place. We walked up and down the main street, passed by a cemetery at the most prominent point, overlooking the bay. This is the second time we see this type of tombs (first in Le Marin); each one was made like a small free standing room, covered with white tiles, gleaming in the, sun. One or two of the walls had openings (like large windows), secured by white iron grills, and nice vases containing plastic flowers were strewn about, at the top or inside the tombs. I guess the dead needed to be protected here, but did not deserve fresh flowers! The overall effect is quite bizarre.

Anyway, I wanted to check out the restaurants that Doyle so rave about. There were a few, but most of them closed. When I spotted La Dunette, I suggested having a refreshment and use their wifi. There were a few customers, its interior was pleasent looking with an uncomfortable seating arrangement. We found a place, ordered drinks and was immeadiately asked to pay 5 Euros for a tea and mineral water, but were not able to use the wifi. When I had a sip of the tea, it tasted like cream. It appears that their dishwashing was also made without soap, like their handwashing. No thanks, La Dunette is out of bounds for us.

We checked out the 8 a Huit market, which was a bit better than a Mac's (corner grocery store) with so-so bread and ample wine.  Not a major provisioning place. While we were passing by an ancient hotel, I used my French to ask about a laundry sevice, thinking that the hotel could have something. Non Madame, seulmant au Marin. That is not good, Le Marin is not far by boat, but we did not yet have a mental picture of anchoring there, taking a ball is too complicated, which involves speaking French on the VHF. I can not undestand what the islanders say in English on it, with all the cracking and disconnections, how is it going to be in French?

Thankfully I had picked up a booklet offered free of charge at the chandlery in Le Marin, while Al was busy dealing with the chain etc. In it, a lot of information useful for sailors is provided (in both official languages), including a small advertisement from a laundry shop, promising free pic-up and delivery at Le Marin marina and St Anne dock. The service was geared for mega yachts, so the prices could prove prohibitive, but I was determined to explore. I also read that there was a bus service of some sorts from St Anne to Le Marin and Fort De France. Telephone was out of the question, so the firts thing to do was to perform a reconnaisance mission, using the "taxico" (shared taxi/minibus). Knowing the jargon is essential, and we are equipped with a book I bought in Grenada; "French For Sailors".  A must for cruising around French speaking islands!








Wednesday, December 4, 2013

THE ANCHOR CHAIN and GETTING FUEL at Le MARIN

We went to the chandlery to ask about the chain, and of course ended up buying 50 ms (roughly 150 ft) of it for 400.00 Euros, almost the same price as St Lucia. Why wait, we would have to anchor outside Le Marin, and Al was a bit worried after talking to Rick.

Stephan, the nice islander who helped us, because he could speak some English, offered to deliver it to our boat, but not that day, the next morning, at 10:00 am. We had to stay one more night in the lagoon, but hey it was a good idea to start the season with a safe anchor.

Stephan told us to come to the store around 9:30 am, to install our markers, the colourful plastic buttons that fit into the chain links. Ours have the colours of traffic lights, in the same order, starting with 40 ft, then every 20 ft. The first set are single, second set doubles, the last one before the rope has all three colours, as a reminder.

We saw that Stephan had already bundled the chain as five strands of 10 meters, with he middle marked with a white line on the pavement. So we roughly converted the lenghts, and placed our markers. while Al was busy with something else, I was walking around the store and overheard another clerk talking to a customer (most probably German) in English, who was demanding a discount, citing the prices of the item they were buying in other countries. The clerk called his boss by phone, and confirmed that they could give a 10% discount.

I told this to Al, and he confronted the clerk, asking why we did not get a discount. His defence; we did not ask for it! It reminded me of Brian Mulroney (former Canadian Prime Minister), who got a bribe from a Swiss shady character and got away with it because the police could not prove it during the inquiry. Then he sued the government for defamation, and received another million dollars to boot. Ten years later, I listened to him during an interview, who claimed that he did not lie during the inquiry, the justice did not ask the right questions! I think the sad part for Mulroney was that, nobody in the Canadian public had a shadow of a doubt that he was guilty, whatever he said or did not say.

Anyway, whoever is reading this, be aware that if you shop in Martinique, be sure to ask for a discount, don't be a sucker like us. The clerk did not change the price of the existing invoice, but gave the discount for the later purchases, like rope to be spliced to the end of the chain and some other small items. Big deal.

Chain in place, we were ready to move on to St Anne, just outside the lagoon, but first we had to fill all our tanks; diesel, water and spare gasoline, to be ready. The fuel dock was just across from us and empty as can be, so we made a move towards it.

The attendant was not in sight until we came dangerously close, then came out of his booth, looking at us. I immediately waved my two arms, and he showed disgust to my waving, making himself understood that we should have called first. These people are quite funny, they think that we can understand them on VHF. Only sign language works for us!

Anyway, he grudgingly tied us to the dock and gave the necessary hoses. While filling the diesel tanks, Al asked him to tell us the amount of diesel dispensed for both of the tanks. He had to walk two steps to the pump at the far end of the dock (hence we could not see the counter), and he was mad one more time, complaining about the amount of work we put him through. I ignored him, Al tried to talk a bit, but not too much. We filled our only empty water tank, and the small jerry jug of gas, and got the hell out of there.



MARTINIQUE


November 23, Saturday morning, at 7:30 am sharp,  we started for our destination. While I was busy with the lines, Diane hailed us from their cock-pit, and wished us a safe passage. We promised to keep in touch, and left.

Sails went up in the bay, and off we went. The passage to St Anne, which is the southernmost bay in Martinique, is well protected from three sides - only open to the west. Somebody told us earlier that we should be aware of the possibility of a sudden storm coming from the west, which might happen every three years or so, mostly in the middle of the night. He gave us advice to create a safe escape route by making a dinghy ride, plotting the way on a hand-held GPS to the small bay at the east of Club-Med, located at the entrance to the narrow passage to Cul-de-sac de Marin, the lagoon. We took a mental note to keep his advice.

The distance between Rodney Bay and St Anne is roughly 25 miles, a five hour sail with the worst conditions. It turned out about right, worst conditions being the wind on the nose, instead of the east (our route north east, from the north-west corner of St Lucia to the south-east corner of Martinique). After two hours of quite close-haul sailing, Al refused to head up to Fort De France (to the north-west of St Anne) which every sailor would have done to use the wind power, but turned on the engines. After a while storm clouds gathered around us, the sails started flapping, the seas showed us what they were made of, hitting from the nose and the side, wind 25 knots and more. I did not watch it, nothing to be done but creep on. At times, both of the engines on full throttle, could only give 3-4 knots, with adverse currents to boot. But it was only two hours, and we made to St Anne around 12:30 pm.

The entrance to the lagoon of Le Marin was well marked, but so narrow, the first red buoy was almost on the land. I first suspected the markers designed the European way (opposite of North American of course), but I remembered a comment made on the internet (obviously by a European) about being confused by the red-right-returning design. Phew, although French soil, Martinique at least respects the fact that most of the sailors visiting are North American, thank God.

So we almost touched land before turning starboard, while passing through a maze of fishing nets. My jaws dropped when I saw the tell-tale white ball clusters right in the middle of the channel. I would think that the fishermen at least would want to protect their nets from the intruder boaters, but they don't seem to mind. Getting tangled up in the nets would harm us more, so they know that we would avoid them. The channel is as wide as a highway, and used as such, as hundreds of boats are docked, anchored or moored around the two marinas at the lagoon, which opens up to the south; a white field of masts.

We thought of anchoring, but where? Some parts have little water on top, marked by some boats left sitting on their sides. For some reason nobody bothered to salvage them.  Better to take a ball. As well, Rick had advised to go ahead and take a ball, and the guy would come to collect the fee sporadically, sometimes not charge at all, if he likes the sailor. 

Boat-hook at hand, my lines ready, we approached one of the few balls on our path, but penants were nowhere to be found. How am I going to reach over and tie the line to the ring at the top of the ball? Then I spotted one with a pennant, and we secured our boat to its long line. Is it really safe? Anyway, we had work to do, just stay one night, clear in and do some shopping, then get out of  the lagoon; hateful places to stay, no way of swimming, usually full of bugs, hot and humid, etc, etc. 

We had a hard time spotting the Customs Office shown in the sketch by Doyle, but got to the dinghy dock beside the official port to  Le Marin. By the time we were able to make ourselves understood about where to go, and dinghied to the other side of the marina, filled our customs papers and back, the big chandlery was closed (why work long on a Saturday?).  There was a DIA market close to the marina, but I was pooped to shop. We also had another mission to accomplish before going back to the comfort of Ruyam II. Next day was Sunday,  DIGICEL would be closed! 

We got directions from a clerk at a store that we should walk towards the town, and Digicel was next to Mcdonald's, a landmark for all. I made out with my French that we had to walk down to get to the office. It sounded like we would have to climb some height first to get there. She assured us that the trip would take fifteen minutes (by car maybe, but she did not specify although I mentioned "au pied").

Anyway, we started walking by the only road, passed a big hospital complex, a big sign "covered market" over a series of new white tents, completely empty. When would the vendors fill the tents? Who knows. On the other side of the road, there were tables and chairs arranged on the beach, probably  getting ready to serve dinner, but nobody around. Then I saw a bakery on a side street. Might as well get some French bread, and ask for directions. She was a typical mature islander; stoic, detached and slow to react. It takes a lot of effort to make them smile a bit, and lately we lost our boundless enthusiasm. Anyway, she relented a bit at the end, and gave us good directions. We understood that we had  to climb the hill to get to the town. So we followed the road up, and got there in no time. But before getting a glimpse of the end of the road, we passed by  a cemetery, and some seedy neighbourhoods. It was getting dark, we had to go back to the boat in daylight, and it was not even known whether the store would be open around 4:30 pm on a Saturday. I started to get ticked off and told Al to get back before it was too late, Digicel could wait until Monday. Who am I kidding, Al can not breathe  without being connected. So we pushed on, and found the Macdonald's soon afterwars. It was not that far, and only the Digicel store was open in the otherwise dead multiple-storey shopping complex. 
Al started chatting with the nice young clerk, Benjamin, who was extremely helpful and efficient. We got our pay-as-you-go telephone/internet access package for 50 Euros (hopefully to last a month; 10 Euros for 500 megabites) (as opposed to 50.00 EC ($20dollars) for a month in all the English speaking islands). Europe living standards are something else, but one has to earn Euros to keep up!

Anyway, we learned that Benjamin was half Dominican (from Dominica, the next island to the north, not Dominican Republic).  We had loved Dominica at the time we went by, so I asked Benjamin what he was doing in Martinique. He said it was easier here to find jobs with good pay. But then you spend more! That is absolutely true he said, in Dominica, he would spend a fraction, for living expenses. Oh well, he spent his childhood with his mother I imagine, and came to his father afterwards to make his fortune. I hope he realizes his dreams, he was the friendliest of all the people we encountered in Le Marin so far.

It was getting dark by the time we finished, but at least we had accomplished something; Al's toy, major passtime and  vital guide for finding our way at sea, was operational; but quite expensive, so he will reduce his usage (maybe) and try mooching off the free wifi of the coffee shops. 

The next morning church bells started at 6:00 am, God have mercy! The last time I heard bells was in Germany, while visiting my daughter, who had rented a studio apartment next to a church for three years. However the hours were more manageable.

Doyle mentions that the supermarkets on Le Marin could be open on Sundays until noon, so we decided to find out. At the moment we landed on the marina docks, I saw a delivery van bearing the signs for Carrefour and free shuttle/delivery service. I asked and they invited us to a bench inside, where two German ladies were already sitting. We squeezed in and waited a bit while the driver and his helper unloaded the  crates of food and distibuted to the yachts. 

The Germans were getting impatient, apparently they had been waiting longer than us, but hey, it was free, air conditioned, and quite early in the morning, nothing to complain about.

The trip turned out to be five minutes, but on the way we saw that the sign for the covered market was on top of a building, housing a real farmers market, full of green vegetables and fruits. That was the place to be! Al learned from the driver that the vendors would stay until 5:00 pm.

Carrefour was a dissapointment, but we were able to get some cold cuts and cheese. The vegetables seemed to be transported from mainland France, nothing local or fresh, prices incredible. We also found some wine (only French which I don't like, but they don't stock competitors'). As opposed to six crates of the German ladies, we had two small bags, but the driver brought us back, and helped us out. So it was good service.

By the time we took our bags to Ruyam II and got back, all the stalls at the market were closed, but there was one islander lady who told us that they would be open for business at 7:00 am the next morning. Al asked if the produce was coming from Dominica, and she confirmed. Al deduced the fact from her English. Who would deal with such menial work like farming in Martinique? 

Dissapointment twice. Might as well check out the small restaurant that Doyle raves about, located next to the chandlery, that Al was dying to peruse. 

There was nobody inside, but the ambiance was fine, looking into the sea and marina docks and beyond. The menu showed some unlikely prices, but they were not for week-ends, so we had a good meal that would have costed the same amount in Canada, but In Euros, so 30% higher. The only big difference; no soap in the washroom! The dispenser didn't seem to be filled for ages.

Back at Ruyam II, we rested, and was having a nice time with our sundowner scotch, watching the world go by (literally), since our mooring ball was almost on the channel. Then we heard somebody shouting something something Ruyam. When we looked up, we saw that a catamaran was next to us, a young man claiming that it was his mooring ball, that he reserved for the year. Nothing to be done, engines fired, lines released. We had to find another ball and fast, but where? When we got closer to another likely ball with a pennant, a fast dinghy approached, and shouted that we were not supposed to take the ball ourselves, should have called the marina first, and we had to pay. We did not know, sorry, of course we will pay, but are you going to help us now? He grudgingly signed us to follow him, and took us to a ball and slipped the lines through the hook at the top. He also told us to pay at the marina office next morning, reminding us that they would open at 8:00 am. No wonder, the balls had no pennants and nobody came around to collect the fee. Live and learn. I don't know what Rick meant, maybe he was thinking of another place. No harm done, we were safe. I thanked our lucky stars that we were not on land, having dinner or something. We probably would be arrested for trespassing on a Frenchman' s property!

Monday came at last, maybe we can see some people on the streets. We were at the marina office, almost right after opening. We had to wait for the attendent lady to finish up with the young man, who had endless questions. When it was our turn, while Al was trying to explain what happened, in English, peppered with some French words. All of a sudden two elderly Frenchmen came by and started an argument with the lady. From what I gathered, the guys did not want to clear in their boat, since they were French. I surmised that they came down from Guadeloupe, without bothering to clear out, although the French waters ended at the border with Dominica. They went on and on, and the lady humored them, ignoring Al. Well, we can have none of it! Al turned to the taller and very indignant man, and asked him to wait his turn. He kind of apologized, by saying "you are right", but continued hovering instead of going to the computer room next door, to fill out the damned form.

Anyway, we paid the 13.40 Euros, asked some questions of our own, and got the hell out. Just outside of the "Capitanerie", which was on the second storey of the Marina complex, was a the deck of a cafe, overlooking the sea, nice comfortable arm-chairs, and free wifi, very inviting. So we spent some time there, sent our emails etc, but had to run by dinghy to the other end of the bay, the old marina, where the chandlery is located. 

RODNEY BAY

It was a two hour ride from Marigot Bay to Rodney Bay, right at the top of the lee side of St Lucia. We had been there before, so we went directly into the marina (operated by IGY). Al called ahead of time, and learned that they had lots of space for us. The thing is, we never dock like the others (stern-to), tied from the back to the dock, and front to a ball. It is definitely more economical for the marina to keep the boats side by side, almost touching each other, but quite hard on the sailors. Especially, for the likes of us who do not possess a pasarella (a draw-bridge of some sort) to get to the dock from the cock-pit.  As well, we have no place to tie a fender to the back, to avoid hitting the dock. Anyway, Al always negotiates with the dock-master, and gets a spot to come-along to the dock. Well, Rodney Bay is an old fashioned marina it seems, because they provided finger docks for every boat (two share one on each side), so no problem indeed.

We needed to get into he marina to fill our water tanks, thoroughly clean the boat, do some shopping etc, getting ready to make the crossing to Martinique. Mission accomplished in one day, but quite tiring. Al also showed me their promotional over-night prices for the marina; 70 EC (almost the same as a mooring ball at Marigot). Why hurry to St Anne, and the weather was to improve in a couple of days. We needed some moderate winds to take us there, and it was coming on Saturday or Sunday.

We stayed three nights, and it was a good thing, since we saw our new friends. Al sent e mails to everybody (free wi-fi, compliments of the marina), and learned that Rick-Miriam/Claude-Celine were on their way on Thursday. Ken-Diane were also expected, but maybe the next day.

On Friday morning Rick came by and told us about his problems with his gypsy-wheel for the anchor winch. He talked about his chain not being compatible with his wheel, and having worn it off. We had the same problem last year, and had to change the wheel. So Al commiserated with Rick, and went on to show him our chain. Rick expressed some concern about the miserable shape of our chain, all rusted after 8-9 years of abuse. When asked, Rick gave the going price of chain suitable for our use, as US$4.00 a foot, which would translate to $600.00 dollars, not an arm and a leg. We almost paid as much earlier, for two aliminum gas bottles, but thought better of it. However, we had decided to take off on Saturday, and the chandlery would not work on the week-end, too much of a delay to wait.

Later on, while we were having lunch at one of the restaurants in the marina,  we saw Lost Our Marbles coming into the docks, Ken on the ready with the lines.  They tied right accross fro us, to the other dock, where we could see their cock-pit. We went over to say hi, and invited them for a drink around 5:00 pm.

They came over, and we learned their story. Ken was originally from St Lucia but raised in our neighbourhood in Beaconhill, Ottawa and graduated from Colonel By High School; Diane was born in Cambridge, Ontario. They both worked for the Canadian Air Force (Diane was Avionics person, Ken did not specify). They must have obtained early retirement (they both look much younger than us), and came to St Lucia on a 26 ft mono-haul,  and settled in Vieux Fort, on a multiple acre land. After they lost their mast on the way etc, they decided to upgrade to a slightly old catamaran, which they bought from Grenada Marine in St Davids, Grenada; our marina. They love living on the boat, but do some farming on their land as well. They have no use for the produce markets, yey.

We had a great visit with Diane, while Ken had to leave to meet up with a young man from Netherlands, the Reagonal manager for Heineken beer, who was also sponsoring a regatta, starting from Rodney Bay. Ken was to race and host the Heineken guy on his boat. They both came back to Ruyam II and it was a party.


MARIGOT BAY

On november 20th, we weighed anchor for the Marigot Bay, about two hour away from Vieux Fort at the middle of the west coast of St Lucia. It is a small bay, but very protected and considered as an hurricane-hole, when it is not very crowded. Unfortunately it is very popular, with a luxurious marina and housing development.

As soon as we entered the channel, an islander on a fast dinghy (Thoamas) approached us and ofered to tie us to a ball on the south side. According to Doyle, it was possible to anchor at some spots among the reefs, but Thomas shot down that idea, and offered to charge us 50 EC ($20 dollars), a bargain. Al declined, accusing him of highway robbery (jokingly), mentioning that we were practically islanders ourselves, not charterers or tourists. Thomas relented, and reduced the price to 40 EC, and reluctantly accepted. Then he chatted with Thomas at length asked him where to go eat and take our laundry, etc,  and when it was time to pay up, gave him a ten dollar tip. I think Thomas was flabbergasted, but did not say anything. He had told us that the Doolittle Restaurant/hotel would do the laundry with more reasonable rates than the marina (The Marina).

Thomas came back to visit later that day. He asked how we were doing. His boat was full of local handcrafts hats, baskets made of palm leaves etc. He handed a nice basket to us saying that it was a gift from the hearth and he hoped we enjoyed our visit to Marigot. It was very nice of him.

We got ready, and dinghied over to Doolittle. Before we unloaded our laundry bags, we checked with the lady in charge of the small laundry facility. There were two ladies in fact, and the slightly older one hesitated a little, and asked us if we were staying at the hotel. Whe she learned that we were yachtsmen, she agreed to get it done in a few hours, and free of charge (!)  She just told Al to give the girl (who would be doing the work) a good tip. It appears that it was the laundry facility of the hotel, and not a business. Worked for us.

We sat at the side of the restaurant, facing the lagoon, where major activity was going on. Day-sailers coming and going, small boats running around etc. One of the day-sailers stopped in the middle of the channel, and let its customers swim to shore. Oh my God! I had seen the like of that water only in the lagoon of Road Town, Tortola. One could see the grease floating on the surface, and the algae o covering the bottom almost up to the surface. Same here, the poor tourists swam happily, mouthing the awful water, and stood on the rocks scattered at the shore with bare feet, without seeing where they were stepping.  Watching them gave mee the creeps. My feelings of pity for the cruise-ship/resort customers who come to the Caribbean have no end. They spend so much money for so little, that it is unbeleivable.

One night was more than enough for Marigot Bay. The reason of our exploration was to find an alternative to St Anne, in case we would not be able to spend the lenght of time required to avoid the northerly swells. Vieux Fort and Marigot Bay wern't it.


Monday, November 25, 2013

THE REEF

It was a good feeling to be able to relax in the morning, and not have to rush. Late in the morning we collected our documents, and dinghied to the wharf. Of course Christopher spotted us immediately, and came by to chat. Whe we asked him for directions (mistake) for the port, which was in plain view, but entrance seemed blocked from the fish market, which was fenced off. Christopher offered to show us a short cut, which passed through a steep wooded hill, kind of slippery going up. Al was not happy, and made some remarks, but Christopher assured us that it was much shorter than going around the town. Well, I had seen the entrance on the street the day before, on our way back. It would have been easier walking on the street as opposed being alone with a strange man in the wilderness. Oh well, we knew that he was harmless, and he took us to the guard at the entrance to the port. When we explained our business, we were allowed inside, and Christopher still lead the way, and stayed with us when we were talking to the officers. First customs, then immigration. Immigration officer was a nice lady, and chatted with us while Al was filling the form. Apparently she had been to Canada many times, having family and friends in Toronto. Of course she had seen and loved Hamilton as well, on her way to the Niagara area. We were instant friends with so much to talk about!

I was thinking of having lunch at the Reef, but Doyle mentions that it would be closed on Monday nights. So I asked the officer, and she confimed, but indicated that there was another restaurant next door, which would be open.

We set out to the town, and got into a minibus up to the Reef. As we saw some cars parked in its grounds, we decided to check if they were open. Yes, they were. It was a very pleasent setting, just like the tea gardens in Turkey, small wooden tables under the shade of several trees, which were like oversized umbrellas. And the view! It was facing the eastern beach, with a small island close by. The sea was not rough that day, but breezy. The food was not spectacular, but reasonably priced. Overall it was a great experience.

On our way back, we had to walk, while no buses came by, but it was not far from the town. It appears that American medical  universities set up shop in most of the islands. The biggest is in Grenada, St George's Univesity is well known, and its campus resembles the universities we know. The one in Vieux Fort is an apartmentin the middle of the road, not very impressive, but I haven't seen the inside, so no comment. However, in the Carribean when there is an American university, there is an IGA market. It appears that they have to provide some familiar foods for the students. We checked it out too. At least it was cool inside, gave us a breather.
All in all, it was interesting and pleasent  to look around the town, which is very small and sleepy. For  all the major commercial activity that a port and airport would expected to bring to a town that size, it did not look prosperous at all. However, people on the streets were nice and friendly, and the merchants were used to dealing with tourists, but not spoiled by them, i.e every white face was not a dollar sign. So we chatted along and had a good time.

On our way back to the boat, we talked to Ken, who told us that they were coming to Rodney Bay, about the same time as us. We promised to spend some together, and exchanged e mail addresses.


VIEUX FORT, ST LUCIA


The water was calm as a mirror, and  we started motoring up against the current. Progress was slow with 2 knots of current, but steady. As we approached the tip of the island, some wind encouraged us to raise the main sail. We motor sailed for a while, riding the wind, which died down as we reached the channel. We had to turn into the wind in order to set the course to north east, to the south-east tip of St Lucia.  Vieux Fort is tucked in a little bay at the very tip of the island, and protected from the south and east winds by a small peninsula lying to its south.

After half an hour, all the winds and waves died,  except some sea-swells, which were gentle and infrequent, a real anomaly according to our experience in this part of the world. The ride was very pleasent but hot. We were able to explore the north and eastern side of St Vincent (having nothing better to do), and started to feel bored. We also looked at the other sail boats in the distance, trying to guess where they were headed. Nobody was going our way, since Vieux Fort is not a popular yacht destination, while approaching it is hard,  against the wind and current. It is a fishing village with a commercial port and international airport.

We felt a little lonely, so entertained each other, ate sandwiches at the helm. He even took a shower while I was watching.

After a couple of hours, little dark clouds started to gather around us, which were so low that I had the urge to reach out to touch them. The fog enveloped St Lucia, but visibility was not too bad as we got closer.  While we were debating if it was going to start raining, a sudden wind started to hit us on the nose, with almost square waves. We found ourselves in a major storm, with abut 8 miles to go to reach safety. I was a bit worried, but since we could see how close we were to the land, we gritted our teeth and held on.  Al was saying that none of the forecast sites reported it, otherwise we would have stayed on. Oh well, we have to experience some excitement sometime. The storm was localized, and only lasted until we reached the port , and completely died down, letting the sun start baking us.

Doyle mentiones two small areas as amenable for anchoring, one just outside of the three sided break-water protecting the fishing boats, where dinghies were welcome, and the other at the southern side of the bay, opposite. We saw two sail-boats anchored on the north, and a big luxury motor boat at the south side. Of course we headed to the break-water, it being close to the village and the port, where we had to clear in at the customs office.

We anchored between the two boats, and were getting ready to get to the shore. Since it was Sunday (November 16th, 2013) we hoped to find a customs officer. Then we heard a dinghy coming our way, and the owner (Ken) hailed Al. He introduced himself as the owner of the Canadian catamaran anchored next to us, Lost Our Marbles; and cautined us about some theft having occured recently during the day, and promised to keep an eye on our boat while we would be away. That was a bit unwelcome news, but what can one do? Lock the doors and windows, and hope for the best.

As we started chatting, we learned that Ken was originally from St Lucia, but grew up in Gloucester (our neighborhood in Ottawa), almost next to our home, his sister having lived in our condo complex. Ken's wife Diane was from Cambridge (Ont), and they returned to St Lucia when Ken got an early retirement. Small world eh!
Ken also told us that the customs office would be closed on Sundays, but we could clear in at the airport, about 45 minutes away on foot. Completely doable, except the mid afternoon sun glaring made it a bit difficult. There would be no buses (minibuses really) running on Sundays. Ken told us the route to take.

On we went in our dinghy, to the fishermen's wharf. As we approached an islander (Christopher) on the dock tried to direct us to the side where some big  boats were tied to some wooden cleats. Nowhere to secure our cable with the lock. Al did not listen to him, and headed to the northern side, where some chrome loops were installed. While securing the boat, Al shouted that our insurance company did not cover the boat when it was not locked. Christopher assured us that he wanted to keep an eye on our boat, which was the reason for his suggestion, but he could also see that part as well. He looked pathetic, so Al gave him a few bucks, and asked him to watch.

We went merrily on our way, which meandered through the town, and around the whole grounds of the airport. It was more than an hour and a half. Nothing for me, but Al is not very fond of walking. It was quite an interesting road, passing by the eastern shore of the island, with beautiful beaches and parks. Many minibuses were parked around the park,  the drivers obviously having a picnic with their families.
We also passed by a restaurant called The Reef, facing the east shore on the beach. Doyle raves about the place, so I was curious, but we had no time. We were to be off the next morning!

We reached the airport at long last, and saw that 7-8 planes from Europe, Us and Canada  had landed at the same time, customs was a beehive, officers frustrated. We went into the security zone, (I doubt that we could do it in Canada/US without being arrested) and mentioned our boat registration. One officer gave Al the forms and told us to get out. Al was looking around to find a table to fill the form, and I insisted on going to the small cafe located at the departure side. We had been on our feet close to two hours, and the officers were to be busy for a while, no need to hurry!
We sat down, and Al took his time filling the form and taking some refreshments. I quit drinking beer or coffee at such occasions. Now everwhere I ask for tea, much more soothing and refreshing. Of course Al can not understand not having a cold drink when it is hot. Well, I don't understand either, but it works. My mother used to say that drinking a hot beverage when it was hot, would  make one sweat, hence cool the body. As far as I am concerned, it works.

Anyway, after a half hour we returned to the secure zone to give the form. The officer told us to wait at least an hour, before they could even look our way. We went out, and decided to go back to the boat and try the office at the port the next morning.

 It was almost 4:00 pm, no time to linger around in unfamiliar environment!

We learned from somebody the price of a taxi to town was 20 EC, and found one on the spot. We were tired enough to get back in style. I realized that we were tired, and there was no rush to continue the next morning. I put my foot down to stay one more night, and Al did not object. Our next leg was about 4 hours, up to Marigot Bay on the west coast, almost in the middle of the island. Last time we passed by St Lucia, we had stayed at the Pitons, close to the south corner of the island for our staging. This time we wanted to explore all the good anchorages, to fall back on, in case we could not stay long in St Anne.

WALLILABOU

Another day of calm seas and almost no wind! We motor sailed with just the genoa, but could not make more than 4 knots, due to 2 knots of head on current. Slowly but surely, we crawled to St Vincent. Around 1:00 pm, we were tied to a mooring ball at the front, and to the pier at the back, by the help of Sean, who had greeted us at the mouth of the bay. People have been complaining about the boat-boys (some of them quite old) who are rumored to be fighting among themselves to get the business of helping the yachts. The two times we had been here, we only saw stoic islanders trying to earn a few bucks by providing an essential service (tying the boat to shore requires a free dinghy and not easy for the people like us who carry it on the davids). The mooring balls are so close to each other, that securing the boat quickly becomes vital. Long story short, it was a pleasent experience, and we had a good relationship with all the people who came to help.  One man on a wooden boat asked for the mooring charge of 20 EC dollars, and mentioned that we could get it back if we ate at the restaurant, who owned the mooring balls. The restaurant was the set for the movie called Pirates Of The Caribeean, starring Johnnie Depp. It is quite desolate at the moment, with a few customers, who only stop there because of the customs office. We learned that the officer came around 5:00 pm on Saturdays, so we asked the fee collector to take us to shore. Geting in and out of his little row boat was an ordeal, since it did not have a horizontal bottom for a foot-hold, and very fickle, worse than a canoe. But we managed. We sat at the restaurant for a couple of hours, had a few beers and lunch. The customs officer showed up earlier than expected, so Al gathered our documents and hurried to the office almost adjacent to the restaurant. There is not much else in that small and desolate bay; a two-storey building complex, housing a few offices (all but the customs were empty) and the restaurant with a couple of rooms for hire at the pier, and a few huts in the distance at the beach. It gets deserted at night.

Before we went to bed that evening, Al exchanged some pleasentries with the owner of the neighbouring yacht. He was from Brazil, spoke little English, but was able to communicate that he was planning on leaving the next morning around 6:00 am.
When I got up in the morning around 5:30, there was no sign of life on the boat. Al had been worried that the boat-boys would not come early to the bay to release our lines. Our only hope was the neighbour leaving before us, giving us room to swing around.

I made tea and was puttering about, while Al was still in bed, when I heard the Brazilian shouting at us. I looked out, and he made a gesture indicating that he was going to untie our line first, since his line was tied to the same post, under ours. He jumped into his dinghy, and stated paddling towards the post. I alerted Al  immediately, so he got ready at the helm, and started the engines. Good thing! As soon as one line was loose, which I started to haul in, Ruyam II shifted towards the neighbour. Al had to steer her away to avoid a collision, while the Brazilian was untying his own boat. Al decided on the spot that we should start our trip immediately, he could have breakfast underway. Wow, that was a first; he would never start the day without eating, and taking his sweet time getting  ready. I on the other hand, wake up early and get ready in a flash!

Anyway, our way to Veiux Fort, St Lucia was about 35 miles, so starting early made sense. As well, Doyle warns about some wrap around winds at the northern tip of St Vincent, which come from nowhere and hit one suddenly, so he  suggests motor-sailing to be able to control the boat.

ADMIRALTY BAY, BEQUIA

We had a long way to Bequia from Tyrrell Bay, Carriacou, about 35 miles; so we started early, raised our sails immediately and went under way. It was a very pleasent trip, most of it on wind power and quiet, with the exception of occasional rain. We had two of the GPS devices on, and both showed our direction dead on, but Al could not believe that we were headed towards the islands ahead of us, one closer, the other kind of shrouded in the fog. The way we were going, Al thought that we were going to pass them, and go where? No other islands in sight. As we approached (traveling almost sideways due to the push of the current and wind), the land mass opened up, and we spotted Kingstown as a large cluster of white houses on the island at the back. We saw that Bequia also had a southern town apart from Admiralty Bay, which is around the corner of Devils' s Table, the bay facing west.

By the time we anchored at Princess Margaret Beach and got ready to go to Customs and Immigration, it was almost 3:00 pm. Anyway, we had to clear in, so jumped in the dinghy, and rushed there, in order to avoid paying double fees for over-time (after 4:00). When we got to the counter, there was nobody else, so the nice officer gave us his full attention. Al mentioned having EC-clear (central computerized clearence system for the Eastern Caribbean), and the officer found us in the system, which was entered in Nevis and corrected in Monserrat in the spring of 2012. He told us that most of the information was missing, and he started to fill in the blanks. It took him quite a long time, and other people started rolling in. His sargeant came to the counter to help, and subtly reprimanded the nice officer for taking too long. Al thinks that he got embarrassed and forgot to save the changes he made to the form, since when we looked at the printout afterwards, the information did not make any sense. Anyway, we decided not to mention the electronic clearence any more. We will get it fixed in Wallilabou on our way out.

When the formalities were over, we realized that we were dead tired. I asked Al to stop at a cafe/bar close to the dinghy and have a breather before going back to the boat. It was nice to spend some time on land - but we missed Ruyam II immediately. Land is too hot, dusty, full of bugs (my nemesis), noisy etc.

Next day our trip to Wallilabou, St Vincent was not going to be very long, so we decided to get water in the morning. Doyle mentions a marina at Admiralty, a good place to try you would think. We called all the telephone numbers; one was restricted in-coming (sounds like a cellular), the other was out of service. When we looked, we could not see any boats tied to the docks. Al decided that they went out of business, so called Daffodil Marine Services, who bring the water or diesel to the boats. When Al called, they answered very professionally, brought the water on in their boat ten minutes after the order, and waited patiently while Al fumbled with our multiple filters. The whole thing lasted less than half an hour. We had used the same service two years previously as well, and I found them more efficient and professional this time. It appears that they started to make a lot of money from servicing the hundreds of yachts visiting Bequia year round.

We were ready before 10:00, so got underway earlier than anticipated.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TYRRELL BAY

We reached Carriacou in good time, despite the fog and the rain, which made the weather quite cooler. We had to wear our jackets which had been sitting in the closet for some time (Al's was a birthday present from Deniz, which was selected by their son, able seaman Mehmet, so very special; mine was a present from Al, also special).
We anchored in the bay, in close proximity to others all around. Then we spotted a 38 Lagoon with a Canadian flag (Me Gusta), that we had seen at St George's. After a while, I also saw the yacht that had played hide and seek with us, anchored a few boats back. It seemed that everybody was headed the same way. Tyrrell Bay is the point of entry/exit to Grenada, so first thing was to clear Customs and Immigration. As we were getting ready to leave for the office, a couple (Rick and Miriam of Me Gusta) in their dinghy approached and hailed us.   Rick metioned having seen us in St George's, and we acknowledged, since we had admired their new boat (2010 model), which looks better in every way (please don't feel bad Ruyam II, we love you all the same).

Anyway, Rick started chatting with Al in a very friendly manner, and we invited them for a drink a little later, after we dealt with the business at hand. Miriam mentioned, that at the moment she was baking bread anyway, they would have more time later.

They did come around 4:00 pm, carrying their own drinks and a recipe for the bread. Apparently the trick of making bread on the boat was using the pressure cooker as an oven, by taking the sealer ring out. I use it for cooking, but never heard of baking bread in it, I'll  try it one day.

We had a very nice visit, which got even better when the other Canadian couple, Celine and Claud joined us. Their boat is called Nanny-Farr (it sounds like my name, so I won't forget it). Rick told us the history of their friendship; their boats were tied  side by side at one of the locks in the Canadian waterways near Montreal, Quebec; which was the starting point for both of their journeys south into the Caribbean, after they retired from work (but not from life). They did not exactly travel together, but met up in some places, during the last two years. We hope to see them again, since we are headed to the same place, although they are planning to sail further than Martinique eventually, as was their custom every year, possibly up to BVI and back. Rick's love of sailing occasionally drives Miriam up the wall apparently, when he refuses to turn the engines on, even with 2 knots of winds. Thankfully we do not have that problem, but we rely on the engines a little too much sometimes, nevertheless, I'm quite happy that we have power (wind or engine) at all times. However, when we first started sailing on our small Mystere hobby-cat about ten years ago, Al decided to be as stubborn one day, while we were trying to sail on the Ottawa river when the wind completely died down, and we started to get drifted towards Montreal with the steady current. I suggested using the paddles to get us back to our yacht club, but Al wanted to sail (!) When he saw that it was pointless, we grabbed one of the mooring balls of the club in our path, and Al jumped in the water to get to our power boat tied at the docks. However, a good samaritan passing by in a boat came to our rescue and towed us to the club instead. That day we learned not to ever sail down-stream from the club, and use paddles when necessary.

NEW SEASON, NEW ADVENTURES

After the last year' s inactivity, we started the new season with a relatively ambitious plan. We decided to reach St Anne, Martinique in less than a week, since Al saw a window of extremely calm weather for about 7-8 days, starting with Thursday, November 14, 2013.

We did our major provisioning from the discount stores of St George's, Grenada, like the Marketing Board, CK'S, ACE, and the adjoining Bulk Meat store and Foodland, with the help of our driver and good friend Richard. He expressed surprise about our shopping habits; since all the ex-pats go to Spice Island Mall and buy from IGA, paying almost double for the food that is not very different from the other markets. There are some items that only IGA carries, such as good yogurt and cream cheese, cookies, bread sticks etc. But it was not worth our while to visit IGA this time, we are headed to France, cheese and bread won't be lacking; but the prices remain to be seen.

We also obtained a full tank of cooking gas from our other driver and friend George on the last day, when Al panicked, realizing that the second tank at Ruyam II was empty (as if we were getting ready to an Atlantic passage). We spent half of the day and a lot of money trying to find a place to fill our tank; Richard suggested George, who performs all kinds of services for yacht owners, including taking care of the boats in their absences.

Anyway, we were ready to roll early in the morning, but it started raining. No matter, it did not last long. It was the rainy season, and it had been coming down in buckets a few times a day, but not for long.

We weighed anchor at 7:30 hours, and started up the west coast of Grenada; destination Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, from where we were to clear out of customs. I was a bit apprehensive about this trip, because of the route passing through a narrow path between the active volcano (Kick 'em Jenny) and a series of rocks and small islands. The year before, when Deniz and Zeynep were  visiting, we had attempted the same trip when the wind was much stronger, with high seas. As soon as we passed Gouyave (close to the north-west corner of Grenada), we started to feel the rap-around winds. Since Zeynep was sitting at the bow, I went down to accompany her, and started to watch the waves coming towards us. It gave me such a fear, that I asked everybody to quit the trip and turn around. Al was a bit reluctant, but our gracious guests humored me, and we went south to visit Prickly Bay instead.

Anyway, this time we were determined to get under way. I did not have a bit of anxiety; the seas and wind was calm, we were making good progress, and playing hide and seek with a mono-hull, who had started the same trip just ahead of us. As they were trying to sail, they were cris-crossing the field, as opposed to our steady motor sailing towards the channel.

As we approached to the no-sail zone of the volcano, the sky became completely black, and the fog renderred visibility almost to nil. We had seen some other sail boats coming and going a bit earlier, so we knew that they were somewhere in our path, hopefully not too close. I turned the main GPS on, and watched our progress in the danger zones, and the fog turned into heavy rain, but lifted after a while. I think I sweated a bit, but was not overly anxious. I guess I am getting used to the excitement. I have to admit that, I had missed the feel of the wind on my face, and the exilaration of  looking over the sea from the cock-pit.

Thank God, the fear that paralyzed me last season, is over. I think  the reason for being so paranoid last year was a series of mishaps, that had occured at the beginning; like launching Ruyam II with loose engine belts and no cooling water (poor mechanical service and skipper' s lack of experience); radar reflectors dropping on my head while tidying up the lines right after the launch; starter battery failing at the morning of Deniz-Zeynep' s arrival, both of the belts being shredded while underway, etc, etc.

This year, I do not have any bad feelings about going places, I hope we will have a season of safe and happy sailing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Before the new season starts

Thank God we are back in Grenada, after a summer of constant work.

This year we decided to rent out our condo in Ottawa and help my daughter to buy a house in Hamilton, big enough to accomodate us as well while we stay in Canada.

It just came to me when I saw the offered rental conract for the third year for the condo, which increased my poor daughter's rent to almost 1, 500.- dollars. I kow that paying that much a month would cover any mortgage payment and related expenses. So I suggested looking for a house, and she reluctantly agreed, after I assured her that we would look for a place with an in-law suite, with seperate kitchen, bath and entrance. As a mater of fact, she got warmer to he idea after actually seeing such a house, where her friends had got built to live with the parents of the wife. She realized that it is a passable concept for people oher than the Chinese and Indian Canadians (the husband is Mexican). Anyway, we started looking at some condos with developed basements, but none was suitable. If they had seperate entrance, they lacked a kitchen, or windows, etc. One day, after Al came to Hamilton to visit Ayse, we were spending time outside the house, while the cleaning lady was busy at home, we passed by a house for sale, advertising an  in-law suite. I called the realtor a Chinese lady (Jian), which sounds like  my brother's name.

Anyway, I called Jian, and she came in about an hour. The house looked small and old from the outside, so we were not prepared for the nice looking tiles and kitchen , as well as all the amenities we wanted, except the seperate entrance. But the deal maker was the price, it was 100 thousand less than all the condos we had seen. Its location was also not bad, two blocks away from my daughter'rented condo. She was familiar with the area, and not too far away from her work place.
 
We put an ofer, and decided to get possession in he middle of September, when my ordeal started. I had to return to Ottawa to clear our condo, the clutter of which had not been dealt with for fifteen years.   I used dozens of garbage bags to seperate garbage from   charity. The hardest was to convince Al to deem the items he wished to throw in the garbage as  potentially useful for somebody. We  made two trips to Shepherds Of Good Hope dowtown Ottawa and numerous ones to Salvation Army close to our home. Then packed-tranported our stuff (filled the large truck to the rim)-filled our side of the house wihout much settling, and started painting Ayse' s side. Three rooms had to be painted  because of hideous colours, and did or got done a lot of repairs and changes to almost everyhing in the house. After a month and a half of constant work, Ayse' s stuff came. The movers who did both of the transporting, were asking me how we were going to fit into his seemingly small house.

When it was completely done (about a week before we started foe Grenada), we liked what we did, but before then, Al was ready to explode with every occasion. He was sour grapes the whole time. He was angry with me for moving away from Ottawa, where we have a lot of friends. Yes, but I was spending half of my time in summer staying at my daughter' place anyway. Now we have good accommodations at least. I hope to see our friends in the Caribbean or Hamilton.

We have two friends in Hamilton, whom we knew from before, as well our neigbours are quite friendly. The moment the truck brought our furniture, we met with our neighbours across the street. They are a nice family feom Afghanistan. The man of the house, Mohammad, offered to park his car elsewhere when he heard that the truck was coming to our driveway, and introduced himself to Al. They hit it off immediately. After a couple of hours, when the truck had left, he came to our door, accompanied wih two nice ladies, bringing food to feed an army. I invited them inside, but they declined very graciosly. So we had some conversations during the renovations in the house until we were ready, and invited them for tea a few days before we left. It seems that we are going to have  a neighbour whom we can trust to help Ayse, if she needed immediate assistance.

A week ago (3rd of November), we landed in St Geoege's, Grenada. We stayed at La Sagesse resort, and worked on the boat for three days, and launched on Wednes day (the 7th). We are very happy!