Thursday, December 18, 2014


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


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.