Thursday, December 18, 2014

THE TRAMPOLINE STORY

At the beginning of last season, we had seen that the trampoline started showing some signs of wear and tear. As we were scared of going through the holes while underway, Al thought of repairing it by weaving white string through the vulnerable portions. We laboured a lot, using pincers and my crochet needle and reinforced most of it, but it did not look all that good.



While we were at St Anne last year, Al inquired at our favorite Chandlery (Caraibe Marin) about a new trampoline to be ordered from France. 600.- Euros (about $900.- Canadian) seemed too steep, so we did not go ahead with it.  After we returned to Canada, Al checked on line and found a vendor in France who promised to send it to us for close to $800.- Canadian, so it seemed a good deal.  When we thought about where to receive it; Canada would require GST to be paid on top, and we would have to carry it in our luggage, and, Grenada would likewise might create a problem at the customs. Then he remembered our friend Levent of Elite Kebab in Le Marin, Martinique. We thought delivery there would be without any complications, since it is French soil! Al asked for Levent's address and ordered the trampoline, paying on credit. They assured him that it would reach Martinique in about two weeks (this was in June). We knew that Levent and Guylaine were to travel to Turkey at the end of July, ample time to receive our purchase.

As it turned out, they almost did not get it before they left. The problem was with the customs (!) There was a tax to be paid (120.- Euros) and inquiries and investigations to be made, since there was no invoice included in the package. Al had to send many emails to the company to supply the invoice, they claimed that it was included, etc, etc. After a long and arduous process, Levent was able to put the package in their home, and left for Turkey. He had to pay the tax himself of course. I was ashamed beyond reason for putting them through such an ordeal, but there was no turning back. We did not send our debt through the bank, since it is very expensive and an ordeal in itself, when dealing with European banks. All in all, it was a waste of effort on everybody, when we could have ordered the thing for the same price through the chandlery in Le Marin. Oh well, live and learn.

The first day after our arrival, we surprised Levent and Guylaine at their kebab house in the morning (they were expecting us the next day). After exchanging pleasentries, Levent showed us the package, and asked us if it was made in Turkey. What? No, we don't think so. Why? Apparently it was delivered in a carton box, which was bearing the name and address of a company in Tuzla, Turkey, however the sender was the French company. It was a bit puzzling, but Al thought the French must have recycled the box. Obviously they had been buying some stuff from Turkey and why waste a box?

Anyway, we were happy to get our hands on the long expected and discussed item. Al had been planning on how to install it for so long, that he could not wait to get started. He declared that we were going to keep the old trampoline as long as possible, while knotting the numerous ties all around of the new one.

We laid it out, pulling the corners first, but we could not stretch it. I noticed that the edges of the mesh were composed of two thick ropes, the inside one very sturdy, the outside scalloped, but a bit flimsy. I thought that the scalloped one could be slowly stretched by tying one by one, however it did not look right, to keep the sturdy rope out.



I suggested looking on line how to install it, but Al, who is a master of planning and visualization, could not be bothered to look outside for guidance.

He labored for two days, and was actually able to stretch it to its place, and discard the old mesh. After all that work, and securing one corner with elaborate knotting, he decided to look at the manufacturer's web-site. Lo and behold! There was a picture of the finished product, which showed that the knots should have included the sturdy rope, as well as the outside scalloped one.

All in all, it took us a week of working at it on and off, and I helped some, but not with the whole thing.




Now it looks very white (the old one was real canvas, this one synthetic), but the loops of the mesh are so big, that the hard nylon rope cuts one's bare feet, and toes get trapped in the holes. I wear deck shoes when I am running around on the trampoline while anchoring and catching a mooring ball, so it does not matter. What matters is, that our feet are not going to make a hole in the mesh while walking on it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

THE FINAL STRETCH

Monday morning, we finished breakfast around 7:30, and Al was leisurely getting ready to start for Rodney Bay, located at the north west corner of St Lucia. We always stay at the marina there, before tackling the channel to Martinique. As St Anne is close to the south east corner of the island, it is only 24 miles away. However, north easterly winds become on the nose,  easterly winds are quite helpful.

While Al was getting ready, I was looking at the chart, and it dawned on me that staying at Rodney Bay after three hours of motoring in the lee is ludicrous. Although it is a sheltered marina, which comes handy during northerly swells, it is a very hot and dirty place. As well, Al found numerous incidents reported in the last few months about Rodney Bay, regarding theft, assault etc in the marina, and larsony at the local bank in the village around it. The criminal elements installed a fake keypad at the ATM machine, which copied the bank information as well as the passwords of a few unsuspecting sailors who were trying to withdraw money from their accounts. They were swindled out of thousands of dollars through another branch of the bank at Vieux Fort (south of St Lucia), by the thieves, who used the card information.

Moreover, the police did not help the sailors when they complained, citing lack of evidence of any wrong doing. Really? Wouldn't the camera at the top of ATM machine record the suspicious activity of installing the fake pad? I thought that the bank officials and the police may have cooperated with the criminal elements,  and disregarded the video.

When I thought about the prospect of staying at the marina, I suggested to Al to skip it, and make the passage that day. The storms were expected to start on the night of Tuesday, better to reach to safety a day before. Al was surprised, but immediately saw the merit of the idea.

We were up and ready in a minute, and started our second long passage. This time we went underway at 8:10 am, prepared to motor all the way to the top of St Lucia. Halfway underway, we saw that a lot of favorable wind was accelerating over the valleys among the various mountains. Main sail went up, and we picked up speed. Our average did not go under 6 knots, at times more. At around 10:30 am we were level with Rodney Bay, but the wind was such that we sailed straight on, without turning east to the top of the tapering island.

The high mounds of St Pierre (north of Martinique) and st Anne (south east) rose above the mists as two separate islands. As we left the relative shelter of St Lucia, the ocean waves and the wind (varying between 20 and 35 knots) hit us. But we learned to ride the storms, so inched our way towards the wind (the best angle was 45 degrees), pinching towards St Anne where the wind was coming from most of the time. We unfurled the genoa, but it was almost flapping all the way. So the engine was on, in order to maintain our speed.

Around 2:00 pm, we could discern the barn-like apartments of St Luce, which is west of the lagoon of  Le Marin. We congratulated ourselves for making it in such a short time, in the light of unfavorable wind direction; and felt almost at home, less than an hour away.

While we were gingerly bobbing on, I saw in the sea several patches of floating carpets, made of  sea-grass living on the ocean surface. We had encountered them at different places before, but never that big and dense. I wondered if they would damage the propeller, but Al was confident, and did not bother to turn the engine off. We passed through several of them in quick succession. I was a bit concerned, but nothing to do.

As we got closer to the island, it became harder to point towards St Anne, since the wind was on the nose. Al pointed towards St Luce, and thought of lowering the sails when close, and motoring towards our anchorage. However, he started to feel that the engines were not contributing to our speed. He panicked a bit about the sea-grass, and started imagining about a vibration from the engine. He said we should turn the port engine down, in case of any damage to the sail drive, so that we could have power to release the anchor which requires that engine to be operational. When he turned the engines off and on, we saw that both were purring beautifully, but did not seem to have much power. We prayed for  no damage for the sail drive, and ploughed on. Le Marin is a good place to get anything fixed, all one needs is money.
By that time, we had approached the island quite a bit, and Saline Point, the south east corner, was to our starboard, which started to show its effect on the wind and on the waves; former negative, latter positive.

Al kept the starboard engine on, and decided to tack towards Saline Point, in order to get as close to St Anne by sail as possible. As always on catamarans, the powerful winds made it quite hard to tack, but we prevailed after two tries. We spent about an hour in getting close to our destination with two tacks, but in the meantime a storm cell decided to hit us, with 35 knot wind and a downpour of a torrent. Al told me to hold on to the genoa sheet around the winch, and to release slowly when needed, while he was guarding the main sheet at the same time, while passing through the accelerated winds. It was a bit tense, but did not  last long.

As we were quite close to the anchorage at St Anne, we managed to lower the sails, and Al revved the starboard engine. Poor thing, by itslef it was powerless against the 25 knot wind. I suggested starting the port engine as well to offset Al' s panic. When both were on, we were able to make 4.5 knots (which should be normal in such adverse conditions) and almost reached our usual spot overlooking the Buccaneer's Beach beside the Club-Med.

I wanted to get my anchor ready; so got my remote control, opened the winlass cover and released a bit of chain to get the anchor dangling overboard, while passing among several of the anchored boats.

The anchor dangled, and all of a sudden got released all the way. It was my turn to panic! "ALPEEEEL". He had heard, but first he had to steer our aft away from hitting the boat we were trying to pass. Then he came to help, but by that time the chain got stuck around the lead, and stopped. We saw that it had come off the gypsy wheel, probably due to constant beating of the waves. Al pulled it over the wheel, and went back to his rudder. I tackled with chain, and pulled the anchor out. Phew! That was the last draw. I had never experienced or anticipated anything like it before; and it was scary, especially when boats are so close to each other. Note to myself: never slack the chain before checking the winlass!

Well, at last we are here, at our favorite winter anchorage.


Thursday, November 27, 2014

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES IN A FLASH

Al had been checking the weather constantly at the multiple sites, which consistently report about a potential storm approaching, first on Thursday, then on Wednesday; so we decided to hurry up and skip some of the ports that we stop at regularly, in order to break the sailing time. However, I hate the high seas that develop during the storms and the swells that never seem to subside long after, more than sailing a few hours longer at a time.

This year, we decided to do things differently, and debated about the ports to be passed. First we thought Bequia was a candidate, getting to Wallilabou, St Vincent is doable from Canouan, in about seven hours; however Bequia is the only place we know that getting water and diesel is easy. Al was apprehensive of starting a long stretch without filling the fuel tanks, on the way we used a lot of diesel (about one third), and it may be a bit tight , if we had to use the engines all the way. So, Bequia we had to visit, and clear out from; then skip Wallilabou and reach the Pitons, St Lucia. Al minutely calculated, and found that from the anchorage of Admiralty Bay, to the mooring balls of the Jalousie resort would be 51 miles. As we always estimate an average of 5 miles per hour for Ruyam II, we prepared ourselves to sail 10 hours.
After reaching Bequia in a bit over three hours, winds being favorable from Canouan, first thing to do was to call Daffodil Yacht Services to book an appointment for the mobile tanking station to come to Ruyam II. We called the telephone number provided in the giude book (our bible), but received a message. It was Saturday, were they not working? Since we wanted to catch the Customs officials before lunch, we hurried to the building.

On our way back, we stopped at the chandlery, very close to the dinghy dock to ask about Daffodil. The lady assured us that they should be working, however, if we could not reach them, we could use the services of Kingfisher tanker, anchored in the bay, right across from the chandlery. She also provided their number, which we called. There were people on board to help us anyway we wished. The only thing is, we had to weigh anchor and ride there to get our precious water and diesel. Oh well, it can be done. We cursed our cluelessness; we could have boarded the tanker on our way in, and maybe continue without stopping. Maybe next time.

Before weighing anchor, Al tried the VHF, since their number is also provided in the book, but got no response. I suggested trying channel 16 first, and it worked. They apparently monitor 16, and instruct to turn to 67 to communicate. I think this is the way people do business, not knowing if everybody is aware of their number. Phew, we got lucky! Daffodil promised to send the small catamaran with the multiple tanks at 1:30 pm, and we sat to our lunch with a sigh of relief.

The guy promptly came, gave us what we needed, and did not complain for taking too long to fill our water tanks, since we use double filters. Of course the water they provide from is not the cleanest, as was apparent on the first coarse filter, and discarded it immediately afterwards. No problem for us.

We decided to start at 6:00 am the next morning, in order to reach the Pitons at a timely manner, long before dusk at 6:00 pm. You never know what might happen on the way! Although we are generally not conservative people, we agree on being ultra conservative in our estimations, and hence we are always early for wherever we go. Even house parties, we get to the door sometimes before the hosts would be ready. As every Turk (and some Spaniards) know that the given party start time is an estimation for at least one hour early for the guests; however we had always felt like aliens, in Turkey, and even sometimes in Canada. We do not conform to the norms, but the people that we love seem to tolerate us. What else could anyone ask.
Long story short, we started at 6:10 am on Sunday morning, furled out the sails, but kept the engines running, since Al wanted to maintain 6 knots per hour. The channel between Bequia and St Vincent was passed about an hour and a half, and the lee of the island was achieved.

Doyle reminds the readers to be aware of th erratic wind schemes of St Vincent, probably due to it top heavy shape. He recommends reefing the sails when reaching the north portion of the island, since sudden burst of high winds were possible to encounter, due to the wind wrapping around the mountain.

We did encounter them, coupled with some storm cells, which gave our speed quite a burst at times. We reached the north corner in less than four hours, and started to sail in the channel. While we were riding the mini storms along the way, a depth finder reading caught my attention. It was 11.8 feet at some point off of the island I presume, but when I looked, the depth could not be measured, being over 500 feet.
This is a phenomenon that we had seen before about that area, which of course had scared me half to death. Moreover, both the GPS and the Imray chart mention that this particular area was not surveyed properly. Whatever exists at the northwest corner of the island, which we measured at 10-15 feet below the surface of the body of water which is close to 1,000 feet deep, seems to be also seen and reported by some people. Al speculates that it probably is a school of fish. Everytime we pass, in the same area and the same depth? We don't know what it is, but it did not hurt us yet.

The channel is 30 miles, and our estimation was six hours. We passed it in four, and reached the general area at 2:00 pm. Jalousie is the first sheltered bay between the Gros and the Petit Piton. It is small and very deep, so anchoring is not possible, but there are a few mooring balls that are maintained by St Lucia coast guard administration. And there are boat-boys to help find the pennant (deep in water, not fishable from high up), so we tied up around 2:30 and congratulated each other for our fearlessness (!). When it was over, I felt OK, but on the way the multiple mini storms were quite scary. The sea was relentlessly harsh - waves were not too high, but short and forceful. So it was a constant beating on the hulls. Thankfully, this time we were prepared and did not lose any of our breakables. But it was hard on the body. After a short swim, we were ready for bed around right after sundown.

CANOUAN


I like Canouan. First of all, the water of Charlestown Bay is pristine, unlike all the other islands, despite the small town overlooking it. We anchor off of Tamarind Hotel and use their services, like the dingy dock and the  restaurant. Their food is good, but  prices astronomical. We like their breakfast, which is good value, and the service is impeccable.

Most important feature of Canouan is the Customs facility, so that the Union Island hellhole can be avoided.

On Saturday morning around 8:00 am we weighed anchor and furled out the sails from Tyrrell Bay. I prefer going around the west side of Union, which is very close to Carriacou. Getting there was easy, we pointed a little east of north, and passed the channel in no time. Once we were in the lee of the Union, Al started the engines, an we motor sailed to the north west corner.

Canouan is to the northeast of Union, but on the way, to the east Mayreau is located. Further down to its southeast is the notorious Tobaggo Cays, a dangerous pool of reefs and rocks. To the west of Mayreau, almost at its entrance to Salt Whistle Bay, there are the Catholic Islands. When I read Doyle this time to check the route to Canouan, I saw that he recommends passing from the east of Catholic Islands. So, we decided to do what he says, although Al was complaining that west of the Catholics was a more direct route, however, one has to turn east to get to Canouan afterwards.

After Union Island, we pointed towards the Catholic Islands, but the sails became a burden, since the wind was on our nose. Wouldn't you know it, providence is always against us. Winds always come from the direction that we want to go, so this time it was northeast. Since we were not in a hurry, we did what any other sailor would do, we tacked, pointing towards the south corner of Mayreau, and turned when we were almost touching, in order to safely pass the rock formations  of the Catholics. I cursed Doyle until we passed them, which took an inordinate length of time. However, right after, the direction towards Canouan became much more favorable, since it is to the northwest of Mayreau. After dilly-dallying for a while, we gained momentum and reached Canouan by sail.

The sun was shining, the waves not too high, winds steady; all in all it was a good short ride of about 4 hours.

We anchored in front of Tamarind Hotel and got ready to get to shore. When I looked, I located the high dock to tie the dinghy, so we got there. Al was complaining that he did not remember the dock being so high, but I reached up, and tied the painter with a bit of difficulty. After that, getting onto the dock was a bit treacherous, many of the board being loose at the top, and the horizontal boards at the side to act as a ladder being too high and slippery. Anyway, we climbed up, while I congratulated myself for being quite agile thanks to my fitness training during summer. However, walking on the dock was a problem, there were many missing and loose boards. I walked from dead centre, following the extra beam in the middle. I could not believe the disrepair at such a posh resort, but we reached the shore safely, and did our business at the customs.

In the morning while retrieving the anchor, I realized that there was another dock a little further up, which was the one we had used the last time, which leads to the restaurant. The one we tackled was for the dive shop. It appears that we had anchored too close to the ferry dock, and did not see the dinghy dock blending into the landscape. Oh well.

Monday, November 24, 2014

BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN


Yesterday (Wednesday, Nov 12th), the sun was shining accompanied with a nice breeze. When we looked out, it looked like a regatta with the the sail boats racing to leave St George's. Unfortunately we had to wait for our propane bottle to be filled as well as the laundry to be done. But the current weather was encouraging, especially what we had experienced a few days back during the south passage, so the plan was made to start our Christmas pilgrimage to St Anne, Martinique on Thursday, November 13th, 2014. First stop Carriacou, about 28 miles away, part of Grenada. Major mistake number one.

When we woke up around 6:00 am in the morning, we heard the puttering of the rain, but did not think anything of it, since there was no wind to speak of. As well, the clouds seemed to concentrate on the island and the northern regions appeared clear. Nevertheless, Al checked several sites for the forecast, and could not see any disturbance other than "winds 10 to 15 knots, seas 3 to 5 feet" for the whole week. However, when Al looked at the French site which shows the current satellite images of the weather systems, we saw that there was a major one located on Trinidad/Tobago and Grenada, with multiple cells of heavy rain. That site used to show animated doppler images of the region which showed the recent (last three hours) direction of the moving weather systems locally, but not any more. Like everything else the app was updated, and the most important feature was dropped. We looked at the image, but thought that it was localized in the south - we were going north east. Major mistake number 2.

It takes about two hours to motor up to the north west corner of Grenada (it is Gros Point, but turning around it and hugging the north shore up to Tanga Luanga is recommended, in order to be able to point to the narrow passage between the Sisters rocks and the hard place, namely Kick' em Jenny (the underwater active volcano zone).

Last time we passed through there, which was about the same time of the year, it was dead calm but so foggy that we became anxious about another sailboat crossing paths with us. That was the only stress I had encountered then.
This time, there was only one boat way ahead of us that we could have a glimpse of once in a while. Other than that and the fast Carriacou ferry, the sea was deserted. At times visibility was close to nil, due to heavy rain, with erratic winds varying between 15 to 28 knots because of different storm cells here and there, and east to west currents with short swells, after turning Gros Point.

When we left Grenada and approached the Sister rocks, rain was a major problem,  but the seas had not gained momentum yet.  As we wanted to stay away from Kick'em Jenny, Al steered toward the Sisters, which are in front of a small island called Round Rock, and changed the route as soon as we avoided the no-passage zone (1.5 km radius) around the volcano. Thankfully,  the rain somewhat abated to give us a clear visual, otherwise it would have been quite stressful to pass through the invisible narrow channel.




As soon as we cleared the lee of the Rock Island, the sea hit us with such force that Al thought we were tilting to the left. Our brita pitcher flew down and flooded (!) the floor, giving us a near heart attack to boot. Apparently the narrow channel between Rock Island and the Diamond rock a little furher, accelerated the sea towards us with the current.

It was interesting to note that the waves were not all that high, but they were irregular and full of force. It was not possible to move around in the boat, without holding on with two hands, not just usual one. And the rain. Poor Al was soaked through before halfway down, despite his rain jacket; and had to change all his clothes. Unheard-of for us. The times and the duration that we wear our rain-gear is limited. I can only think of a couple of times, but I usually go in during rain, since my part of the seat at the cock-pit is not sheltered by the bimini.

In short, the sigh of relief for passing the danger zone without a hitch, turned into more stress and discomfort when the side beating of the open sea started. Since visibility is almost nil, Carriacou seemed an ocean away, while Ruyam II slowly bobbed through the relentless waves. After about an hour and a half, north side of Tyrrell Bay became visible, and the rest was easy, since the shelter of the cluster of islands to the south of Carriacou  slowly tamed the sea.  We quickly entered the bay and anchored in 10 feet of water.  We were fortunate enough to find a place which was not too close to our neighbours, which is not the case most of the time, since Tyrrell Bay is quite popular for its western location and calm waters.

First thing we did was to eat something around 2:00 pm and rush to the Customs & Immigration located next to the Carriacou Marina, to get our clearance. Next stop Canouan, Grenadines.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SEASON FOUR - BACK IN GRENADA

After a little over of six months in Hamilton, Canada, we at last set foot on Maurice Bishop Airport, St George's, Grenada; and was welcomed by the caress of the warm and humid evening air, as well as our driver Richard. It felt really good to be back to our routine of living somewhat isolated from the world if need be, minding our own business with the sea and the wind.

But first Ruyam II had to be prepared as a home, to be scrubbed inside and out,  fitted with the various gears and  dropped on to the sea, so to speak. In a nutshell, a lot of work for the two of us and  hords of people besides.

We settled for three nights at La Sagesse Resort at the next bay to  Grenada Marine, and waited for the morning. At 7:00 am we were up and ready after a short breakfast, to be transported to Ruyam II. Mike, the owner of La Sagesse, understood our being anxious to see our boat, so arranged Rachel to drive us without delay. We had our luggage (three enormous collapsible bags full of essentials for Ruyam II, such as a a new cover for the captain's seat, mesh curtains for the cockpit, four mattress covers to be filled by thicker foam from Grenada, all made by yours truly.  We had six months worth of toiletries and a few clothing items for ourselves, most of our belongings being already there.






With all the excitement, we left Al's briefcase in the car, hence felt like idiots in front of the companion way without the keys. Oh well, Grenada Marine had our spare, as well, Rachel turned around and brought the briefcase almost at the same time as the marina security guy brought the spare key. We must be getting old!

After we gained access, it was gratifying to find Ruyam II without any mold (except on the ceiling of  the second head, which had a leaky hatch), despite the fact that the plastic covers we had tied over all the hatches having completely disintigrated. The mistake was using the garbage bags we had bought in Martinique, which were apparently bio-degradable. Maybe this year we will find a different solution, or not bother at all. Inside was quite clean, my efforts of cleanup before leaving had paid off it seems.

On the other hand, the amount of work is quite overwhelming at first, because of the relentless sun, without the bimini over the cockpit, and no sea breeze. This year our old bimini was discarded, and a new one was ordered from Turbulence sail makers, stationed at the marina.

Last year, while closing the boat, we had talked with the fibre-glass manufacturers at the marina about a hard-top, since I had set my heart on it. When we first asked around the marina managers, Jason (the boss) thought that it would not be less than US $10,000, since the metal supports would definitely would have to be changed (without taking a look at them). However the actual guy who was to make it mentioned that the frame was fine, and the fibre-glass top should not cost more than $5,000, which seemed reasonable. So we asked the guy to email us the actual quote later on, and almost decided to have it done. In the meantime, Al spoke with Martin from Turbulence as well, and got a quote, including a new sailbag. Martin was to use the existing bimini as the pattern if need be. However, I was encouraged by the initial estimate, and the assurances of the metal guy, attesting to the sturdiness of our existing frame.

In the end however, something happened between the estimate and the quote, and the price of the fibre-glass alone was boosted to ten thousand, even without the frame. It appears that the guys are  satisfied with their existing customers, and do not need our business. So be it!

Martin got an e mail from Al in the middle of summer to go ahead and cut the sunbrella, we had enough of the hard top story. We had no idea how it was going to turn out, so it was a pleasent surprise to see such a professional job. Moreover, Martin was extremely accommodating; we asked him to add some D-rings to the finished product after marking the places of the hooks I had made on the curtain, and he did not mind (well he did not show any negative feelings) installing the bimini twice, as well as doing some extra work, without charging an arm and a leg. Above all, he is such a charming person, so soft spoken and gentle that, it was a pleasure to deal with him. Our sail bag also is quite kick-ass. Every thing looks very good from outside.




While Martin was dealing with the bimini, it was our job to buy the foam for the mattresses. We had been to the establishment called Best Rest, where mattresses could be ordered to measure, but I did not like their fabrics or sewing style when we looked at them last year, hence the decision about making the covers at home. I had taken one of the existing covers home, and made them to contain double the thickness of foam to give us some more comfort.

After puttering around for a couple of hours on the first day, we decided to give the mattress guy a visit, and call it a day. It takes quite a while and effort to get there from St David's, and we were beat from the heat.

When we sat at the office, the owner of Best Rest Mr. Fakhri gave us such an exhorbitant price for the 7 inch foam, so that we decided to keep the existing foam, and buy 3 inch thick foam to add on. It worked very well, and filled the covers very nicely. To tell the truth, we did not know what to do with the old foam, which seemed fine anyway. It was a bit thin, that's all.  For some reason unfathomable by us, the guy was very happy to sell the 3 inch foam, but could not part with his 6 inch, since he charged triple for the latter. He also tried to sell us ready made mattresses with the thickness we wanted (double the width) for the same price as the foam. Go figure! His explanation; he was not in the foam business, but mattress business, and he would charge more for just foam. Does not make any sense, but hey, they do not seem to understand how business works, and make up their own rules along the way. It is amazing that they make any money to stay afloat. Anyway, it helped us at the time of need, and made our beds quite comfortable.

We arranged the pick up for the next morning, called our driver Richard, and planned some heavy duty shopping from CK for bulk stuff, like canned vegetables (mainly tomato which is not readily available in Martinique) and booze etc at the same time. All in all, the next day was also occupied with shopping and wandering around in the town. In the meantime, people started working under the boat for painting, which meant that I could not do any washing on the decks. It was frustrating, since outside the boat was filthy, and getting even worse with the constant traffic of riggers and mechanics. We concentrated on the inside, but did not accomplish much.

Al had reserved time for launch on Wednesday, and the boatyard honored it, although the rigging work had not been completed. As a result, we had to spend two nights tied to the concrete dock. Bad decision! Tide and swells made the shallow waters so rolly that the multiple lines to the dock created constant jerking in different directions and a lot of noise. At the same time, due to a full moon, there was such a strong tide, that we had to adjust the fenders several times a day. Once we were late to check, and reminded by a bang. In the low tide, all the fenders were completely submerged and left the starboard side in the mercy of the concrete dock! The gel-coat at one corner under the rubber band over the steps was damaged, along with some scratches at the side further along. It was unfortunate, but not a major problem, easily fixable with some putty. However, this was the first time that we had a mishap which could and should be avoided. I hope this will be the last of it.
Other than that, we endured the two sleepless nights, and escaped to a mooring ball for the third, right after all the work, including washing the decks with shore water was completed. While we were docked, all the passers by and the riggers praised our patience.

Saturday morning, around 9:00 am we set the main sail and started for Bellmont, St George's. Unfortunately wind was less than 10 knots, so we had to keep the engines running. We had never seen the seas as calm before at that stretch. So it was a pleasent ride, even around  the Saline Point, where the two opposing currents meet and generally turn that area to a washing machine, it was almost quiet. We motor-sailed all the way and anchored at our usual place.

During the next few days we completed shopping, obtained a short cruising permit and got ready for the passage to Martinique. In the meantime we saw and hugged all our acquaintances. The forecast is mild winds for the week ahead. We shall see.

Monday, May 12, 2014

ST DAVID'S

On 23rd of April, 2014 at 6:30 am we weighed anchor for the last time for the season at St George's and started the trip to St David's. We made this trip once last year, starting at Clarke's Court, which is located at the middle of the south coast, St David's being almost at the east end. However we had sailed (motored really)  from St George's to Clarke's Court countless times last year, so we know the way like the palm of our hands. I did not feel the need to look at my chart, since the yellow GPS tracks from last year show the safe path, a band really, after saving our multiple trips.
The winds were expected to be 15-20 from south east - our luck really, the worst direction for the wind, since the swells hit from the side, coupled with the current being against as well.

About 45 minutes after starting, we came to the south-west corner (Saline Point) with the help of the favorable current up to there. Once one turns east, one is caught at the washing machine where two opposing currents meet.  Since there is also a small island to the south (Glower Island), very close to the shore, the current in the channel between is the strongest.

We turned east and soldiered on. The most we could do was 4 knots, but mostly 3. Thankfully the way is not that long, and we know all the danger points, first The Porpoises, the three rocks at the south of Prickly Point, which are kind of visible in calmer weather, but almost awash in high swells. But we know where to look, so spotted them. In fact, passing close to Prickly is safer than going too far.

The next danger is Tara shoal before Hog Island, and we know that too. The green colour of the reefs are almost visible and quite far when taking a dead east route from Prickly, instead of turning towards the Calivgny Point. Entrance to Clark's Court is marked by a series of green buoys, which come quite far to the south. We had safely entered many times as our tracks show. While slowly progressing among the swells which looked like mountains coming towards us, I saw one swell that crashed quite violently at our port side, quite close to us. We both saw the depth finder showing 8 ft under us. Al immediately swerved to starboard, and reached the 25 ft zone, running parallel to the coast. Then we remembered that the first green buoy marking the shoal of 12 ft at the GPS map is not existing. The first time we entered Clark's Court, we had wondered about that, and thought that it was not necessary. It became obvious that when the seas are high, there is no margin of error for the lowest point of the swell. That was scary, and again complacency. This time it was my fault, if I had  looked, I would have forced Al to keep a safe distance.

After 3 hours, we reached the rock that marks the east side of the bay of St David's. Entrance to the bay is also tricky because of the reefs at the middle, but well marked. However, while turning to north to enter the bay, a huge wave crashed over us and soaked both of us at the helm, at the very last moment. But hey, we were there. The way was unexpectedly memorable. Usually we avoid sailing in adverse conditions, but when pressed for time, one does not have much choice.

We docked at the marina (at one of three berths) but the rolls were unbelievable. Al was convinced that the lines were going to brake the cleats on the boat by pulling on one and the other in turns. And the noise, it was not possible to sleep all  night.

The next morning at 8:30 am, Ruyam II got transported to land, to a convenient location, right across the gate to the marina.



We worked for three days to get it ready to close up. When we leave it clean and make it air tight, is stays free of mold or dust. Then we said good by to RUYAM II until November.

LAST WEEK IN GRENADA

Everyday we compained about the wind and cool weather this year, and we did not see the balmy weather hot enough to warm our bones (Turkish saying). At whatever anchorage we stayed, the wind kept on coming with a whistle (sometimes over 25 knots) even in the lee of high islands like St Lucia and Dominica, nights felt cool. We were hoping to find warmer temperatures in Grenada, but not much changed even there.

Imagine how we might have felt about the weather news from Canada, highest expected temperature on our arrival in Toronto being a meere 9 degrees C. This is all to say that we are not very thrilled about going back; however, we missed our chidren and friends and were looking forward to the 23rd of April. That is the day of travelling to St Davies to take Ruyam II on hard.

We did our rounds of saying good-bye to our friends (mostly the people at the marina, yacht club and who work at the shops that we frequent), and filled our time by mostly swimming and reading. One day Al looked up from the extension of his hand (his Samsung smart phone) and declared that a lunar eclipse was expected on the 15th of the month, very early in the morning, at 3:30 am eastern time. We could not figure out in what time zone the info on the eclipse was refering to, so set the alarm for 3:00.

When the moon is full, it usually shines in my eyes through the hatch window. Most of the time I get annoyed from the bright light and wake up . That night I woke up before the alarm at 2:30, apparently because of the change in the brightness; it must have felt quite dark all of a sudden. I rushed outside, and saw that only a small crescent was visible, the rest of the moon looked like an orange circle. Both of us settled at the aft deck under the starboard vinch, wearing lightweight jackets, and started to watch (see, it was cold at night). Al had read that it was going to last for about an hour and a half, so the change from crescent to full hollow circle was gradual.

After about ten minutes, Al decided that this eclipse was not as spectacular as the one we had witnessed the last time, while we were visiting Lido Cay, Sarasota in Florida, US. At the time, we were staying at a holiday complex, which had been reincarnated from a motel at the beach. Two rooms back and front were joined to create one-bedroom suites, with a bathroom and open concept kitchenette. My colleauge had bought one of those units about twenty years previously for US$15,000.-, which had been rented out when she was not using it. She had said that it had been the single best investment she had made in her life. When we had inquired about the price of the same unit, it had appreciated ten times. We had even contemplated on buying something like that to use for out retirement, but found the prices too high. We felt quite lucky in our decision against buying, after the great crush in the US real-estate market. As well, we would not have our current life-style, which would be a great pity.

Anyway, the previous eclispe had been so fast, that the progress of the shadow was visible. We had brought our picnic chairs to the beach facing the Gulf  which was very dark and enjoyed sitting there among some people watching the show.
This time we were the only people up, and there was some competing lights from the land around us. As well for half an hour the shadow did not change. After ten minutes Al decided to go back to sleep. I sat a little longer, but a huge cloud came and blocked the view. So I had no choise but go down.

The next morning we had to get water from the Yacht club for the last time. The fuel dock for the club is a bit cumbersome, the water around it narrow and shallow, and the wind usually blows away from it, so manuvering can be slow and difficult. However, Al has been very good at using the double engines to rotate the boat instead of the helm.

When we approached the dock, Kiran was waiting, so I threw the front line, and he loosely tied it. After one line is tied, there is not much to worry about usually. Wrong this time! The angle of Ruyam II was wrong, the aft being too far away, nose too close to the boat tied at the other side of the fuel dock. Did I mention that the fuel dock is about two feet wide, and goes as far as the front half of that boat.

When I threw the aft line, it fell in water, and Kiran could only catch it after the third try. In the meantime Al kept on going forward, and hit the other boat. Not very hard, mind you, but enough to make me miserable. It was the last time! And I could not understand why, I could not see the reason for Al to go forward instead of back without changing the angle.

Kiran ran to the boat after securely tying us to check the damage. Al was at his heels of course. Thankfully that particular boat had an aluminum gunwale running along the whole edge, and our smart Ruyam II only touched one point with its port nose. It was hard to see the damage, but Al put his finger on the small dent on the aluminum, and instructed Kiran to talk to the owner, to ask what he would like to do about it.
Next morning, while I was dealing with the laundry, Kiran gave the good news that the boat owner did not mind the incident, mentioning that those things happen all the time. Phew! What a relief.

When I asked Al what happened, he said that he was using the helm this time, instead of locking it and steering with varying the speed and direction of the two engines, and used too much power when the wind lost its strength for a moment.
I think that we started to get complacent, after becoming too proficient, and not pay our full attention. This should be a wake up call.

On Sunday, we heard about an activity to take place at Port Louis marina, so we went to check it out. At first we thought it was going to be a regatta, but could not see any activity outside the lagoon. When we dinghied to the usual dock at the marina, we were told to tie somewhere else, because of the swimmers. Really, somebody is going to swim in that cess-pit! When we got to the centre of the activity, we saw that it was a tri-atalon, and the poor young girls and guys actually swam there, biked and ran in different age groups. There were a good number of competitors, and a large crowd of spectators, having fun with food and drinks listening to very loud music. We spent a little time and had hamburgers and beer, but could not stand the loud music for too long.




Thursday, April 17, 2014

GRENADA AT LAST

Everybody laughs when we say that we live in Grenada, but it feels like home as soon as we enter its waters. We even got used to their way of speaking, and understand close to 70% if we listen carefully.

Since we were going to Tyrrell Bay, Carriacou (they pronounce it as Caricoo), going around Union Island on its lee was logical (instead of cutting through the west side against the mighty current and under wind). Most of the way we had to motor, but it was a very pleasent and windless day, so we entertained ourselves by looking at the resorts peppering the lee side of Union. There are amazing bays, but some are so isolated, they look scary, especially after the incident when one couple was killed on their a solitary boat anchored at the bay next to the village of Union. When one incident is publicized, whole island becomes out of bounds for most. Pity but true, why take a chance?

After staying one night at Tyrrell Bay, we headed to St George's, Grenada. Winds were fine, and we made good time until we reached the northern edge of the island (Sauter area) , we had to fire up the engines, since the winds in the lee of Grenada are erratic, changing direction at times, or dying down completely.

I suggested staying the night at Moliniere Point, where we know that two mooring balls are available. Since it is a marine protected area, anchoring is not allowed, and if the two overnight balls are not available, the daytime balls (red in colour) can be used; however during the day the commercial tourist boats have precedence.

Anyway, when we approached the Moliniere, we saw that the area around the point where several red balls are located, (the diving mecca of Grenada), was loosely sorrounded by some information bouoys. After we turned around the point to get to the over-night balls, we detected 8-10 new balls placed instead of the two, very sturdy looking and clean. Wow, after the ones we had used with a lot of trepidation, these balls welcomed us home. The ranger came around, very official looking young islander with a big smile, and charged us 27 EC (US$10). I was glad to give it, since it is such an important service, giving us the peace of mind to sleep well at night! I was sorry that there were not more people moored there. I remember people racing towards the balls in more crowded times, but nowadays the island is quiet. In about a month or so, people who leave their boats in the safe harbours of Grenada for the hurricane season will start coming back.

Next morning, we headed to St George's lagoon to fill our water tanks at the Yacht club. It was so nice to see our friend Kiran, who welcomed us and chatted with Al.
It is uncanny, how even the people on the streets recognized us, let alone the vendors of the grocery stores that we fequent. We saw some clean-up and face-lifting on te downtown area. It appears that the new government, which was elected last spring right before we left, started to spend some money. When we asked Richard (our taxi driver and friend) before we left this season, he had complained that the government was bringing new legislation about a personal tax, the first time in Grenada history.

We were surprised that it took them so long to think about it. Richard did not vote for them, so he was not happy. I guess it is inevitable to collect some taxes to perform the services required. Last year, we had been forced to listen to one politician during his day-long speech blurted to the whole neighbourhood by powerful loudspeakers. He mostly talked in slogans, one he repeated periodically "JOBS,JOBS,JOBS!" Well, jobs mean money, wherever it comes from.

Grenada is an enigma. We see cargo ships coming into the harbour every day, occationally three-four at a time, and leaving with the empty containers (visible by the displacement of the ship hulls)! So, always buying and selling what in return? All I see are the spices, rum and some cocao; not much of any enterprise or tourism. I have to inquire about the source of the stream that turnss the mills when we come back the next season.

CANOUAN


After more than a week, the winds subsided and we set sail for Canuan. It is quite near to Bequia, so we reached it before lunch and anchored close to Tamarind Bay Hotel, the famous five star luxury resort.

Canouan is a small and flat island, but shaped really different from all the others; like a crab with flailing tail.  It has a big bay on its leeward side, and small bays and reefs on the windward. North half of it is owned by somebody (?) And closed off, southern half is inhabited by islanders, who appear to be working on the several resorts along the Tamarind. It is a sleepy but pleasent tourist village, and despite being an attraction for many a chartered sailboat, the only dinghy dock (is it not essential?) Is provided at the Tamarind. The ferry dock is very high and cumbersome.



On the other hand, we saw enterprising people in pirouges, coming over to sell all kinds of goods, from fruits and bread to water and diesel. Two teenagers, who were helping with the mooring balls, approached us to be of some kind of service, and we gave them our garbage for 5 EC. Having read Doyle, I asked them what they were going to do with the garbage, and one of the guys laughed and assured me that he was going to take it to garbage bin at the dock. Then we remembered that  we did not have any bread, and asked them to bring a pack, and they agreed. Al gave them 20 EC up front (again Doyle cautions against it), and he promised to come back later in the afternoon.  We saw them going around for a while, then they vanished. At around 3:00 pm, I saw his  boat approaching while I was swimming, and he shouted that fresh bread was coming out at 5:00, "you understand?" What's there not to understand, we can wait.

I had a sinking feeling when 5:00 pm come and went. Were we taken for a fool? But no, I was so very happy to see that he came right before it got dark, and delivered two packs of bread instead of the one we asked. I am glad that the people realize the negative publicity hurts them in the long run!

Next morning was clearing out day, and I wanted to have breakfast at the Tamarind before going to the customs office at 8:00 am. We enjoy having breakfast at the resorts, the coffee, bread and the ambiance are always good an the prices nominally can never break the bank, whatever they are comperatively. As opposed to a dinner for example.

I remeber having dinner at the Tamarind, the very first time we had been to Canouan aboard our first chartered boat with our friends. The Skipper then, Deniz invited us on account of his son's (Mehmet) birthday. It was the third week of February, and the dining room was deserted that night save the seven of us. Since they have a dress code (for guys), the males wore long pants and shirts. It was a nice dinner, but I had wondered if it was worth the expense for Deniz.

When we settled at the same dining area around 7:00 am, there were several servers and only us. During the hour that we spent there, enjoying the food that we love best (coffee/bread), only another couple strolled in. How do the owners, whoever they are, afford to keep these resorts is a mystery to me. I guess we always see them at their low times.

Al and I reminisced about the old times, chatted with the nice maitre d'hotel and got directions for the government office, only ten minutes away on foot from the resort.
We reached the office complex exactly at 8:00 am but saw that it was still locked. While looking around, a young sailor walked in and started to wait alongside Al. I left the two chatting, and took a stroll on the main road. There were some stores and bars that were getting slowly ready to open up. Going all the way up and back did not take more than fifteen minutes. On my way back, I entered a small grocery store (a large vegetable stall really) to check the prices. A little more than Bequia, but understandable. However, the atmosphere was unbearable; some guy was smoking weed at that ungodly hour! St Vincent is the worst among all the islands when it comes to drugs. The wretched people everywhere, just smoke or drink. Is it a conspiracy or what?

When I got back, I saw Al in deep conversation with the sailor; a baby faced young French guy, laughing and talking in broken English. Apparently he was the hired skipper on a chartered boat, and he was taking his charges back to St Anne.
A young islander lady glided in and unlocked the door for immigration room, and settled in her desk. That did not help us, since we had to release the boats from customs. I thought the customs person must be a guy, being so late to show up for work on a Monday. True to my word, he (a giant of a young guy) came along, an let Al and I in to his room. When we showed him our papers, he gave us a form to be filled. The sailor, on the other hand, had his forms ready, so he got precedence with his eight people to be cleared at immigration. When Al gets impatient, I have to remind him that we have no plane to catch yet. The trip from Canouan to Tyrrell Bay, Grenada would take four hours at most (with the light winds that we had that day).

When the customs lady looked at our passports, she could not undestand why we had an entrance stamp on November, 2013 but no exit (which should have been the two days after). We had to explain that we could not see an immigration officer in Wallillabou, St Vincent on our way to Martinique, which was the reason for Ruyam II being cleared out, but not us. She got the telephone and started talking with somebody. We gathered that she had contacted the immigration officer in Bequia, who had cleared us in. She spoke with that undecipherable jargon wich passes as English among themselves. The only thing we understood was her last response "glasses". I gathered that the other lady remembered us (since she had to manually change the printed boat papers after the customs guy unsuccessfully tried to use the computerized clear in)  and verified our story. I am not sure if she had realized that we never had an exit stamp from St Vincent on our current passports, having had the same difficulty the first year around in Union Island. Why do not they learn from Dominica, and reduce the red tape by giving entrance and exit at the same time is beyond me. Do they really have a wisdom?

All in all, Canouan as a customs clearence destination is excellent! I recommend it to everybody.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

PASSAGE TO ADMIRALTY BAY, BEQUIA

Early in the Monday morning, we got the help of an islander to release our shore line, and hoisted the sails. Al was a bit apprehensive about the forecast, which told about 15-20 knots of winds, since the frequent gust take it over that a lot. So he was thinking of making a reef, but I urged him not to, since we can never get any speed if the winds stay around 15. He listened to me, but was watching some other boat on the way, and showed me a catamaran with a reefed sail.  See he said, we  should have done the same.

As soon as we approach the south end of the island, the winds got strong, although the trades had not yet started. It was the wrap around winds that first hit us, then after reaching the open seas, we picked up speed. It seemed that we were flying, I only saw 7 knots on the GPS, but apparently it got up to 8-9 which he did not tell me, and Al put his foot down to reef the sail at mid-channel.

We turned into the wind, but the swells were so high, it was an ordeal to keep standing to release the main halyard. A bit scary, but not impossible. After the reef, we made a steady 7 knots, until we reached the mouth of the Admiralty Bay, in two hours straight. I am glad that we tried something different this time, instead of being constantly afraid and limping along the way. In one of the books that we had read, it was mentioned that, the first moment you feel uncomfortable and ask yourself whether if you should reef the sail while underway, you should! reef it. That is to say, one feels the strain of too much wind on the sails, which become dagerous of course. Having sailed our small hobby cat for ten years previously, we acquired the feel quite accurately, from the accompanying sounds and forces. This time Al was more afraid than me (surprise surprise), maybe because he expected it.

It was an adventure in itself, and an experience, which I am grateful for. I think I am losing my usual reserve, after listening to people who went through much more than we had ever ventured for. This does not mean to be reckless in any way, but allow ourselves for some thrill once in a while.

After we  anchored at our usual place in front of the Princess Margaret beach, we saw that the water was uncommonly clean and calm, but the wind was constantly howling and not seem to abate at all.





We were thinking of clearing out of St Vincent at Canouan (we just learned about the customs/immigration service provided there, since it had an airport) and not at Union Island. Union is a pain and not safe. I hate the harbour itself and the people who crowd around, the two offices are not at the same place, but leaving the boat unattended while tied to the pier does not feel secure. The last time we cleared out from Union, Al only went as far as the customs, and skipped immigration, since he had to go to the airport for that.

Anyway, this time it is going to be from Canouan, but its harbour is not very protected. While listening to the howls of the wind, we decided to stay put at Admiralty, which is the best place to wait for a calmer day.

It appears that St Vincent in general, and Admiralty in particular are learning how to deal with foreigners; we have not encountered the combattive behaviour for snatching up the business from competitors, or forcing the potential customers to buy their products, as many a blog writers had complained before.

JALOUSIE PLANTATION

Saturday morning, we released our lines and got out of Rodney Bay. Next time we come we hope to stay anchored at the bay outside.

We were headed to the Pitons for staging, before tackling the passage to St Vincent. The weather was nice, and the way not too long, so we motored down, and got there before noon. Last time we has stayed at the Pitons, we had chosen the mooring balls of Harmony Estate, but found the water in the small cove extremely dirty, being close to and downstream from Soufriere town. We had looked at the debris going in circles around the boat cought in the current and not clearing away. This time we want to go to the other side of the Petit Piton, where some mooring balls were also offered. Jalousie Plantation is a high class resort, tucked in the far corner of the Piton, so calm and clean.

When we got down to outside Soufriere bay, Gregory of the pirogue called Beautiful Isle approached us to offer help for going to the town. We told him we were going to Jalousie, and he promised to come for help, after he dealt with the mono-hull in front of us, who was also going to the same place. We followed the boat, and saw it having anchored in front of the resort, but Gregory was nowhere to be found. As we approached a mooring ball, another islander came by, and assured us that Gregory had called him to help us, since he was busy elsewhere at the moment. No matter, the help is required fo fishing out the pennant, since it is left sunken without a floater. It took a few minutes, but the guy asked for 30 EC for the service. Al did not go for it, and gave 20 to the dismay of the guy. It is usually 10 - 15 EC around these parts, we could not understand the sour face, and Al gave him a cold beer as consolation. Half an hour later Gregory showed up, and asked if we had paid the guy. Of course, what do you think? It was apparent from the whole affair that they were going to share the money, Gregory having found the work. Al talked to him for a while, and gave him some money as well, which made him happy. He gave Al his card, and obtained a promise to contact him when we came to those parts again, mentioning that he was working as a water taxi and land guide for excursions. I don't know what to think, these people rely on sailors a lot for a living, but what they earn does not seem to be a lot.

The water in that small bay was amazing. We swam to our heart's content, and passed the day leisurely.






The next morning it was time to get underway for Wallilabou, St Vincent. Among all the anchorages around here, Wallilabou is the most dismal looking. It is very small, the water is murky and rolly with whirls and swells. The boats have to be tied to land from the mooring balls, which are next to each other. Once the land line is released, the boat starts to swing and hit the one beside. Last couple of times releasing the line early in the morning became a problem. But hey, deal with the problem when it presents itself.

We had selected a window of calm weather, so the passage to St Vincent was pleasent but somewhat slow. It is hard to get what we want all the time. Even the winds were mild, the swells were not, so the ride was bumpy and slow, but we reached the lee of the island on time, and afterwards was motoring all the way to Wallilabou, located around the middle of the island. Unfortunately it is the only anchorage there to clear the customs, as well as being safe. I read about the next anchorage around the corner, which has a small resort, but it is not feasible to go there because of the customs ordeal.

When we approached the bay, I called our guy  Davies, who answers channel 68 on VHF, and got his help for tying to a ball. Davies has a row boat to give a two minute ride to the shore, since it is not worth the effort to lower the dinghy. He also works at the restaurant and collects the mooring fee, which is redeemed if the boat owners eat there. That seems the only business generated for the restaurant, every time we have been there, the occupants of the few tables were the sailors waiting for the customs lady to show up (around 5:00 pm every day, including Sundays).

THE WAY BACK HOME

After more than three months in St Anne, Martinique, it was time to return to Grenada. We had bought our plane tickets back to Toronto for the end of April, and wanted to spend some time in St George's bay before that. We said good-bye to our friends Guylaine and Levent on the afternoon of March 14th, weighed anchor at Le Marin early in the next morning, and set sail towards Rodney Bay, St Lucia. It was a short and pleasent sail, going south is never a problem around these waters. The current seems to be favorable most of the time, the wind almost always.

We had not cleaned Ruyam II with feesh water for so long, that I wished to spend some time at the Rodney Bay marina, which had been cheaper than most we had seen so far. Last time we were there (early December), they had incredibly low rates, due to a promotion.

We reached the bay around noon, and went into the channel without delay. I called on VHF and the guy told us to proceed to a spot at the dock. When we got there, I looked and looked to no avail, there was nobody in sight to give us a hand.

Thankfully it was a very calm day, and Al was able to slowly slide by the finger dock, onto which I jumped down with the front line. This was the first time that I did such a thing, always having had people on the docks to receive the lines. Anyway, I jumped and tied Ruyam II, before she hit the dock.  It was good that I did not know in advance what I had to do, otherwise I would have got scared and maybe botch the affair. When our friends Buket and Ender of Istanbul yacht told us about their similar experiences in the marinas around Europe, we were quite surprised. Live and learn. However, I was not impressed with the IGY employees. Are they trying to change the culture around here.

Although we had stayed at this marina twice before, we had never explored the vicinity by boat. We had walked around and even taken a bus to Castries (capital city) at those times, but had neither seen the extent of the lagoon, nor the bay outside.

First mission was to get to the small village around the south end of the lagoon, which had a big shopping centre and American style grocery stores, one of them being Canadian IGA, as shown by Doyle in a detailed map. So we started in the general direction by dinghy, and surely saw the top of the shopping centre, and a small dinghy dock at the corner, almost obscured by the private docks of the villas/apartment complexes sorrounding the lagoon.

The dinghy dock was manned by an islander, who promised to take care of our dinghy (for a small fee of course), and helped us out. The dock was tied to an alley beside a restaurant, which lead to the European style village with many shops and restaurants. It seems that all the establishments there were catering to the inhabitants of the million dollar villas in the area. I saw an advertisement for a one bedroom apartment for sale, for over three hundred thousand US dollars. Thanks to them, it is possible to buy stale peppers, grapes and apples, as well as angus beef for exhorbitant prices at those grocery stores. We made a turn at the store and bought a few items. Unfortunately, nobody seems to go for the local produce or meats, which are available at the open market in Castries for a fraction of the prices, but an hour away by bus. This time we decided to buy from the neighbourhood, and did not venture there.

Same day, we also dealt with laundry and filling our propane gas bottles. There is one lady in the marina working for a company called Suds, which provides the service for both. As far as convenience goes, her services are good; same day pick up and delivery at the boat, but they do not come cheap. She charged more than Yvonne at Le Marin, Martinique. We paid 40 dollars for laundry and as much for two bottles of gas. We had not seen such prices in our three seasons around the Caribbean. Oh well, we know now where to avoid for the necessities of life. (Doyle thinks Rodney Bay is the place for any kind of work done on the boat. I beg to differ.)

I should make one correction however; on our way back from Dominica, we realized that a portion of the UV protection piece on our genoa was ripped, which had to be repaired before we could use it on the trip back to Grenada. The sail maker Ken at the marina was praised  by Doyle, so we asked him to take a look. He came and after seeing that it was a small job, reluctantly agreed to sew a new piece, saying something about the next morning. We had to ask him several times for an estimated price, which came out vague;  one or two ours of labour plus materials. He charges US  $45.00 per hour. Al thought that he was probably going to charge around US$150.00, and got prepared for it.

We waited around on the next day for him to show up. When in the afternoon Al went in to check, Ken  scolded him for not bringing the sail early in the morning to start the work. He argued that he would not be able to return the sail the next day. It meant staying one more day at the marina, but no matter, we were determined to make the most of it, and had a lot to do.  Apparently he expected us to bring down the sail and deliver it ourselves. Taking down the genoa is not that hard, so we managed to make a neat bundle, but delivering it was the problem. Our part of the marina had only one trolley when we asked for it. The guard told us to go to the section for mega yachts, and get one from there. Getting the trolley was our morning exercise. We never appreciated Port Louis marina in St George's until now, which Al finds pretentious, but they provide excellent service!

The next day, we donned our swimming suits and headed outside to the bay as our second mission. Doyle was talking about a yact club somewhere on the beach, and I wanted to check it out. We had seen several resorts side by side at the south side, with no place even to land our dinghy. It was interesting to note that the club was tucked in among the resorts, without having access from the sea! No dinghy dock or a piece of beach to land the dinghy, since the sea was roped out for the swimmers. So after making a tour by dinghy, we headed to the north side, and saw a dinghy dock at a complex called Landings. While tying there, we asked if we could have a bite to eat, and the guard welcomed us. The dinghy dock was next to the beach, from where the restaurant  was accessed through a small seating area, like a beach bar in front of the secluded restaurant. We sat there for a while until lunch time, went in the water, which seemed clean but full of weeds; we enjoyed the sun without attracting any attention from the servers, who were busy with the breakfast crowd.

It appeared that this place was an apartment complex rather than a resort, possibly a time share, which could be the reason for welcoming outsiders.







When lunch time came, a server strolled by and gave us menus. The clientele seems to be from US, prices in US dollars and US standards. Al had not brought his credit card, just some EC dollars, and it would not be enough to eat there for both of us. So we returned the menus and promised to come back some other time. Not likely, it is not worth paying money for bad food and bad service.

Last day before taking off, we did a lot of cleaning up, filled our water tanks. It appears that I used a lot of water, and it turned out that Rodney bay was selling their water like gold. We had not seen such an exhorbitant amount added to our bill. Al mentioned that the lady who calculated our bill remarked about our water usage. It seems that she made a mistake in her calculation, there was no way we could have used that much, but he did not argue and paid the bill. The last time we passed by the marina we were offered a reduced price due to a promotion, but when the time came to pay the bill, Al was charged the full price and some by the same lady. Beware! Unfortunately Al hates making a scene.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

NEW FRIEND MARC AND CAP CHEVALIER


Right after we waved good-bye to Ender and Buket of Istanbul yacht, Al received an e mail from Marc, who is from Switzerland and a friend of Oguz, Al' s high school buddy, whom we had hosted earlier this year. Marc was interested in buying a sail boat, and had been corresponding about it with Al for a couple of times.

Marc advised in his message that he was currently in Grand Anse D'Arlet, but wished to meet with Al after looking at some yachts moored at Le Marin. He said he had rented a car, and could come wherever we wished in the afternoon. We were going to be at St Anne later that day, to wait for our laundress to bring back our stuff around 5:00 pm, so decided to spend some time at Le Rendevous restaurant which had free Wi-Fi, to do our internet while waiting for Marc.

Marc came, accompanied by Sy, a young sailor-to-be in his twenties, who worked formerly as crew to some mega yachts, but had recently mutinied with a group of mates and left the yacht owner stranded at some port, before coming to Martinique. Sy was also looking to buy some sort of a vessel to sail to Brazil,  in time for the World Cup. I talked to Sy while having drinks, and learned that working as a crew member on the yachts was lucrative and easy, since one lived free of charge on the boat year-round, and worked maybe a month's worth, when the owners, mostly of Russian origin, or his guests would grace it with their presence. However, after a few years, Sy became wary of being treated like a door knob by the owners, and decided to start learning how to sail by part-owning a cheap boat. I presumed that Marc might have contemplated getting Sy and his partner Valentine as crew when he bought his yacht, hence his association with Sy.

Marc related that his wife, after spending some weeks in Martinique in rented villas shared by their friends, returned to Switzerland recently, leaving Marc to fulfill his dream of buying a boat and sailing to St Vincent and the Grenadines. I thought the dream is not all that far fetched, it takes a couple of days to get there, and maybe a month to thoroughly exhaust the charms of the Grenadine islands. Then what? Being all alone on a boat does not seem attractive to me (I might be biased!).  Marc let us know that his wife was a very good woman, but did not share his enthusiasm of living aboard a boat in their retirement, rather having an appreciation of taking university courses to enhance her general knowledge. Everybody to their tastes!
After some probing we learned that Marc is an accomplished sailor, having owned a boat in Switzerland, going around the lakes. So he did not mind being single handed if need be. And since his ambition is not very deep, and long lasting, he was thinking of returning to his life back in Switzerland after a month or so, leaving the boat somewhere safe at the end of his adventure. I suppose he did not wish to think everything through beforehand, and take things as they would come. I don't know what he might do if he loved the life style.

After a chat for a couple of hours, I invited them to our boat the next evening, to continue our pleasent discourse. He expressed doubt, on account of the damned strike in France, by the union of oil workers. There was a shortage of gas, starting the previous week, which had even affected us, when we tried to fill our cooking gas bottle. Thankfully, we were able to find one of the last full bottles to exchange our empty one a couple of days before.

Anyway, Marc indicated that he was using his tank of gas, driving back and forth between his hotel at Anse D'Arlet, and Le Marin, where the boats and  brokers were. He said that it was imperative for him to find some gas (maybe at the black market) soon, since he was going to meet at the airport new friends arriving in two days.
He did come, in the company of Sy and Valentine. Sy is a young New Zealender, while Valentine is a baby faced French lad, who first thing apologized for being French (!), so we promised not to hold it against him.

Valentine was full of stories and ideas. It seemed that the two of them were looking to buy a boat with their combined savings, and reach Brazil, where Sy had some familial association, along with language skills. After Brazil, who knows, the world is their oyster. Isn't it nice to be young and care free?

We had some drinks and food, and a jolly good time! As Marc was supposed to drive back to Arlet, (an hour of winding mountain roads) he did not want to stay too late. When we asked about the source of his gas, while all the stations were still closed, he related that his yacht broker put him in touch with a previous boat owner, who had just sold his boat, but kept his extra jerry jug of diesel, just in case. It became a lucrative decision, having Marc pay double for its contents. However, he was extremely happy. Marc told me that he was prepared to pay 100 Euros if need be, so he did not think it to be expensive, just convenient. Everything is relative to need and dept of pockets.

Since he had  enough gas and more than half a day to burn until his friends' arrival the next day, he invited us to visit Cap Chevalier, at the south east coast of Martinique. As a matter of fact, not too far away from St Anne, directy to the east, over the hills. We had tried to visit the small community before, with our friends Levent and Guylaine on a Sunday. Major mistake, since it is a very popular destination for the local week-end crowd, the only narrow road leading to it was cramming with cars, as well as ambulance and police vehicles. It turned out that there had been a fatal drowning accident just then, and the road was blocked.
The day that Marc came was overcast, and a week day, so when we reached the park/beach of Cap Chevalier, there were only a couple of people para-skiing in the pool like confines of the shallow waters sorrounded by reefs. Unbeknownt to us, Marc was thinking of snorkelling around the reefs, and cool off. It was stuffy for a minute when the sun came out, then cold (with my standars) when disappeared, due to the constant unbridled east winds. Not my type of weather to swim. I was happy to walk along the beach, while Marc dipped his toes. Then it started to rain, so we took shelter in a beach bar, devoid of any customers.



It did not take too long for Marc to freeze his butt, and join us to get his car keys to change. Shortly therafter, we went on our way to explore the east coast some more, and turned south a bit. We were amazed to find a small community at the end of the road, comprised of a series of shuttered wooden stalls, which could probably cater to the fishermen; and a coin operated ice dispenser. The bay at the back drop however was amazing.

There was three separate small bays loosely connected, but so unexpedtedly calm and blue, that it was hard to beleive it was the east coast - nothing like the famous Cap Chevalier, altough almost touching its south corner. When I looked at the map, I realized that we had seen Baie Des Anglais. The same bay that our sailor friend Selcuk (the world traveller) had told us to explore by boat, instead of sitting on our bums at St Anne. Unfortunately the east winds never abated until now, and Doyle cautions sailors to refrain from tackling the narrow entrance to the bay if the winds were over 15 knots. So far that kind of weather did not present itself unfortunately. Next time I see Selcuk, I am going to say that we had seen the bay, how is not for him to know.

After a short time, Marc declared that he found the perfect boat, a 35 ft mono-hull, which had just arrived in Le Marin after completing a crossing (presumably Atlantic). Although it was an old boat, it was overhauled nicely, with essential parts, like engine, sails and lines renewed, wooden panels renovated etc. Marc indicated that after looking at the crap boats on the market, he saw the wisdom of snatching this one immediately.



Marc asked his son Nicholas (Nick) to come immediately, to accompany him on his trip to St Vincent, after his friends from Switzerland left Martinique.

 Marc and Nick had a wonderful two week sailing trip, around St Lucia and St Vincent, fulfilled his dream living in the "paradise", and was ready to sell his boat in Le Marin. I was dumbfounded to learn that he even found a buyer, two days after advertising for it. It turned out that the buyers had been thinking of buying the boat before Marc had seen it, but were not as quick to act as Marc. All in all, in a total of four weeks,  Marc was able to buy his dream boat, do his dream act, and  get rid of the boat  without spending any money. He is a smart dude, and also a very nice, laid back and gentle soul. Nick as well, so handsome, personable and warm, ready to embark on any adventure. I felt jealous about having a son sharing the dream of the father, and Marc expressed envy about our ability to live the life. We invited both of them to visit us next season, when they felt the oppression of the winter in Switzerland.

I also saw Sy separately, while spending time at the Le Marin marina one day, and learned that he and Valentine had bought a small boat, and were taking off to explore the lee bays of Martinique for a while. He decided that travelling to Brazil for the World Cup would be easier by plane, rather than taking the ardous route among the pirates and other dangers. We wished them well in their adventures.

It appears that Le Marin is a good place to buy or sell a boat!
SUNSET BAY RESORT AT BATALIE BEACH

Levent had inquired about good places in Dominica, and learned that the only restaurant not to be missed was owned by a Belgian couple in Batalie. We had never heard of it, but found it in the map. It was half-way between Roseau and Porstmouth, so we decided to make it a lunch stop on the way, moored to their ball.

First thing in the morning was to get water, so we asked Pancho to give us a hand getting tied to the pier of Drop Anchor. We had done that before, and it was a breeze to get water. We also had to buy bread, so we dragged Pancho from bed at 7:30, and moved over. While we were filling our tanks, Levent and Guylaine went to find fresh bread. They came back in no time, mentioning that there was only one type made at Sukie's bakery. We had our breakfast while tied at the pier, and got underway about an hour after.

While we were in the lee of the island, there was no need to set sail. Batalie beach was about two hours away, so it was a leisurely sail, motoring. Thanks to the GPS, we spotted the building obscured by vegetation, and came close to the corner of the small bay. There was one mono-hull anchored, as well as tied to a buoy from the side front. Immediately to its aft was a mooring ball. I called over VHF several times for help, but no answer. While trying to decide what to do, Al went ahead and approached the mooring ball. It was so close to the other boat that if I had missed we would bump into it. The sea was calm, so I did not miss, but I had my share of excitement for the day in the process.

The boats were swinging freely, so we thought tying ours to shore would be a good idea. Then we saw some long and different coloured lines lying at the stony beach. Al and Levent got the dinghy down, got to the beach and started bringing the longest looking one to Ruyam II. However it was not long enough, so I brought our long line, attached it to the aft cleat and gave it to Levent. The two hooked it through the line and tied it back to the boat. The lenght was just right! I hade a sigh of releif, seeing the other boat swinging away from us.




The water seemed clean, the weather hot; nobody can keep me away from swimming for long. Al was the first to get in, and mentioned that it was cold, due to a little spring flowing into the bay. That was it, Levent crossed his arms and said forget it. I swam around the boat, and felt the temperature changing in the water in different streaks. It appeared that cold fresh water was dispersing in the warmer sea, making it interesting, and very clean, since the little stream was coming from the wilderness of the rain forests at the back. The swim was wonderful, and I urged Guylaine to join me. Well she was not sorry for it, we swam almost an hour, around the boat and away.

When it was time to have lunch, we went ashore. We had asked Pancho to make a reservation, so it was imperative. The setting of the restaurant was nice but laid back, overlooking the bay through palm trees and flowers, but the menu was a disappointment. Too high prices for not much to eat. I ended up with fish soup, which I think was the only item worth its price. Guylaine did not like it, so switched with Levent's calaloo soup. As a parantheses, Martinique does not have caloo! When we mentioned that fact to the server, she could not beleive it, and Guylaine was intrigued.

Guylaine further asked for a cheese sandwich, the guys for hamburgers - all disasters, from presentation to taste. The worst was the toilet, although clean, it had no running water. That was it for me, I was disgusted, and made a show of washing Guylaine's hands with drinking water (she was the first to go). The owner came by a little later, and explained that they had a problem with their water pump, and her husband had been busy with the repairs. At least!

When I asked the server if we could spend the night there, she said they were full. Apparently they had 12 rooms. When we corrected that we wished to stay on our boat at the mooring ball, that was no problem and free of charge. So that was good.
Our dinner on bord RUYAM II was much better I tell you, with raki and such. Who needs to eat out. I have been weaned out of the restaurants in the Caribbean, if the place is decent, the prices are astronomical. The islanders try to cook for peanuts, but their taste in cooking is foreign to us. Martinique was the best, having the French cuisine as a guide. English cuisine is non existent, so the one developed in their islands is a hodg podge of tasteless greasy food. This is my opinion, others might differ.

Staying the night at Batalie Beach was pleasent. The next morning, we had no hurry to start, so three of us, Levent excepted, swam in the morning as well, and started around 10:00 am. We reached Portsmouth before noon, and got gelp from one of Cobra's guys to get his mooring. As a matter of fact, he was the only guy looking for customers, everybody else being busy partying on the last day of the carnival. Thank God it was over, any other life is a standstill while it is on!

When we asked to be taken to Indian River, Cobra's guy promised to come for us at 3:30 pm. Ample time to explore the Cabrits. All of us were tired from the sun or the earlier swim, climbing as far as Fort Shirley was more than enough.

The Cabrits national park is immense, covering a whole mountain at the north edge of the Portsmouth bay. The fort looks miniscule, situated at a third of the height of the mountain, overlooking the bay, so climbing the paved road was not that impressive.






Last time we were at Portsmouth, we had taken water from the cruise dock at the foot of the park. This time we saw a mega sailing yacht docked there. While the passengers were loitering around the decks, the crew (mostly Asian) were scattered around the small coffee shop, adjacent to the park interpretation centre. It had WiFi, and dozens of tiny young men were concentrating on a laptop or pad, as if their life depended on them. I guess the mega yacht had also stopped only to get water, since by the time we went back to Ruyam II, it was gone.



The small interpretation centre/museum at the base of the fort had a familiar feel - with good reason; Al showed me the plate commemorating its funding and architects as the Canadian government.

We returned to the boat five minutes before Cobra's guy came to pick us up with a pirogue, with three more people, two young men and a girl. All French, who had just returned from a sailing trip to Montreal, Que and back. When they saw our Ruyam II was registered in Montreal, they blurted it out.

We sped to the mouth of Indian River, which was not too far away from the anchorage. There we changed boats (motors are not allowed on the shallow river). Our rower was the same as the last time, and the ride was equally enchanting. I had never seen the type of trees anywhere in the world, and the variety of birds. Our guests liked what they saw,and took many pictures and videos. Money well spent!
We were looking forward to having a beer at Cobra's bar, at the end of the river; however the prices seemed outrageous, so we just sat there, waiting for the other group to finish their stroll. Our major mistake was not taking bug spray along; I was eaten alive, and had to keep moving around in the garden behind the bar. It is interesting that there were no mosquitos on the water, although the river is almost still, but the bugs were on land. To be on water is always a relief!





That concluded our excursion and the holiday of our guests. Poor things work so hard six days a week, and everyday that they close shop is lost revenue. They took advantage of the general holiday for the carnival, when they had to close for three days anyway, and made it a break. Having a personal service business without any helpers is a real trap. I had experienced it as well, before I started working for the Canadian government. I never lost sight of how lucky I had been in my later years to be able to retire from that job, which felt as play anyway. Going to work every morning was a celebration, until I was ready for retirement.

We spent one more day in Roseau, and started our passage back to St Pierre, Martinique. Although the wind was the right strenght and there were no waves, the swells hammered us. Moving around was impossible on the boat, so Guylaine slept, and I read for the first time, while Levent and Al sat at the helm. I found that reading was more soothing than watching the mountains of waves. Live and learn!

St Pierre anchorage was not as crowded the second time around, so anchoring was easy. We lazed around for the last night, and felt sad that it was over so soon. Since we had been on the move almost every day, the time passed very quickly.

Next morning we started early, sails full until the Arlets, but had to supplement with one or both of the engines. After we passed the Grand Anse D'Arlet, we lowered the sails, and revved the engines. The ride back to St Anne is beating against the wind and sea after turning the soutwest corner. The last time we were coming back from the Arlet, we had passed from the inside of Diamant Rock, but found the channel hard, with at least two knots of current against, which had slowed us considerably. This time we turned around the rock, but found out that it was almost the same lenght of time, since the way was longer. No way to win!

The trip from St Pierre to Le Marin was almost 6 hours, last portion of beating more than one third of the time. After getting water at the service dock at le marin, anchoring and lowering the dinghy to take our guests to the marina, across where they work and live, it was mid afternoon.