Monday, December 21, 2015

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS AND MORE PROBLEMS

For the last month or so, I have been aware of an awful smell, whenever Al started pumping the head, even if just for water. As well, while sitting at the fore, I saw that refuse was coming out of a discharge hole above water. When I mentioned it, of course Al did not believe me, how is that possible? The discharge for head is under water. Well, I saw what I saw, and then, he saw it too! Odd, is it not?

It took us almost two months to put two and two together. First day free of commitments, Al sat on the toilet and started gazing at the system of valves which connect the discharge. The main discharge valve, which allows the flow from the head as well as from the holding tank through the sea-cock, was closed and stuck; that is to say, the pipe connecting it to the tank was full of refuse.

Last year, when Al opened that valve after the summer season, he had indicated that it was only half opened, but he had been afraid to force it open, lest he would brake the through hull fitting. This year, he said that he had no problem opening it, it was even too easy, and he thought it odd. Apparently he had not opened the valve, he just broke the handle and jammed the valve on that first day. After that, unbenownst to us, every time we used the toilet, we were pumping the discharge into the tank, without ever emptying it. When the poor thing was full, the refuse was over-flowing out through the aspiration line, the bulk of it getting concentrated in the holding tank.

First thing to be done was to empty the tank. So we looke in the Ti' Ponton (the register of  all cruser related businesses in Martinique for easy access to sailors). Nothing about sanitation, pump out even no mention of plumbing. The only mention was of plumbing parts sale at Le Ship ( a chandlery in Le Marin). Even Doyle does not mention a plumber.  However, a pump out station in St Lucia is advertised in his guide.

We discovered the problem late on Friday, and had to endure the week end contemplating and speculating. Should we buy a pump and long hoses, to clear the tank? They usually priced around 250.- to 300.- Euros. Go to St Lucia to use the pump out facility in Rodney Bay?

It was a long two days. Lucky we have another toilet on board. Early in the Monday morning, we set out to Le Marin from St Anne. First we took water from the fuel dock, and anchored at our usual place. Al started with Le Ship, and Marianne (the nice sales attendant who can speak English) who suggested that we should contact Le Marin marina. After a couple of calls, we were told to speak with the marina dock master through VHF, channel 9 (they do not bother with listening to channel 16).

The dock master told us to stand by, they were to get back to us as soon as they were able. Listening to channel 9 for two hours showed that they were really busy, so we waited patiently. Around 11:30, Al tried again, and was told to come to the fuel dock at 12:00. We did, and told to get tied to the slip at the back of the dock and wait. There was hope, so we sat there, looking around at the activity.

It took them two hours to get organized to operate the pump-out, which had been installed new during the extention of the fuel dock this year. Now four yachts can get tied at the same time, a big improvement, because the dock is always busy (except when the oil/gas workers are on strike, a few time as year).

Anyway, Al helped the agent, to use it the fist time. The twenty meter long hose, and it connectors were brand new, so Al had no scuples to assist. After waiting so long, the actual pumping out took ten minutes, the vacuum system being quite powerful. We pumped in some water, and were confident that it would be possible to dismantle the stuck valve without having a black shower in the bilge.

Next step to find a plumber. Our advisor in Le Marin, Levent the kebab man, asked around, and found out that there was one nautical plumber, Jean Claud, but he decided to hang his hat lately, and refused to work.

We went to the Carenage boat yard, thinking that they should have some technicians handy for the boats stored there. We talked to some people, and learned that only Caraibe Marine would have access to the repair guys. Caraibe Marine it is.

The attendant there, whom we know from our constant visits, indicated that he knew one plumber, and he called him. It turned out to be Jean Claud, who still refused to work.

What to do? I suggested Le Ship, since they sell plumbing parts. Lo and behold, Marianne listened to our plight, and declared that she knew one guy, who might help, but he was always very busy. When I asked if his name was Jean Claud, she said no, just Jean. Oh good, another plumber exists in Martinique!

Marianne called him, and indicated that he might pass by the shop the next afternoon, and she would call us as soon as he showed up.  She reiterated that he was extremely busy, and did not speak any English. We assured her that we could manage to understand him, being armed with our reference book " French for Sailors". It is a must have for everybody.

Another day to wait, but we had other errands to run, and our place at the anchorage was not too bad. What else do we have to do. By the way, did I mention that the lock for the second head door was broken? It locks from the inside, but does not keep the door closed. Al dismantled it, and saw that one of the springs was broken. We had to order it on line.

The next afternoon, Marianne declared that Jean was not coming that day, but was going to come to the boat 8:00 am the next morning, and asked about the location of the boat. Had she mentioned how busy he is? It seems that one has to beg for service.
We had little hope that he would show up, but started to be on the look out around 7:30 am. He did come almost on the dot, he was a small but very intense man, and very agile. He took a look, and declared that the job was not easy. Thank you, as if we did not know.

The first thing to do was to clog the discharge hole, which was under water. He jumped into his dinghy, and tried the multitude of wooden clogs that came with the boat. He found the one that almost fit, and used a piece of "chiffon" (cloth) to make it tight.

Then he tried to unscrew the valve. No can do. He said that he needed electricity to cut the outer ring, and hopped into his dinghy to bring a portable generator, which he borrowed from a friend.

Since the work area is too tight, by the time he finished, he looked like a veteran of combat. He had multilple cuts on his forehead and arms, his white t-shirt had blood stains and black marks. It was a good thing that Al had the foresight of placing a garbage bag under the connection to the valve. As soon as the valve was dismantled, the refuse in the pipe came wooshing down (some of it to the bilge, but not much). Al used the other head to get rid of it, which had half filled the bag.

Al told him to close his eyes, and covered his face with antiseptic spray. But he refused to apply bandage to his cuts. He was a very humble and nice man, and lived through a tragedy in his life. Ten years previsously, he was a father of two, living as a jeweler in Bordeaux, France. Then his son died, and he, not abe to continue the status quo, started a new life in Martinique. He also mentioned that he was generally working as an electrician (much cleaner work), but since there were no plumbers available, he was taking that on as well. Well I tell you, it is a much needed service, and we were grateful.

Poor Jean fought for 4 hours, and asked for 160.- Euros. With some parts that he had to buy in the meantime, Al gave him 200.-. I think he deserved much more, doing such a dirty job, so we did not grudge him for it. God bless him.
Jean gave us his telephone number for any problems, but did not want us to advertise for him. He did not even made any business cards, fearing about more calls. He also made it plain that he would never work for the charter companies (who would need his services regularly).

GOING BACK TO ST ANNE

Forecast was 15 - 17 knots east-southeast, with gusts up to 20. A friend of ours had cautioned us that at least 5 knots should be added to the forecast in making the sail plan. Well, we had our reef in the main sail, and we boldly started at 7:30 am from Rodney Bay, two days after our guests had left.

Al was adamant that we should motor-sail  along the north shore of St Lucia, before heading north, in order to gain wind advantage, sailing north east to St Anne. So we braved the choppy waves, going east, parallel to the shallower shelf underneath; however the wind was south-easterly, so helped a lot to motoring. We made record time reaching Al's way point before turning north. After turning, of course our speed increased as well, even with the reefed geoa. While sitting next to Al at the helm, the waves looked too unnerving, so I went (with difficulty) to my usual spot at the cock-pit table, looking out the back of the boat, which steadies my stomach (doesn't help if I am scared).

We made and average of 7 miles/hour, while flying through three rain-storms, and reached  the calm of Saline Point  in les than three hours. First time in our lives, we saw the eastern portion of Saline during our approach, so Al got his wish of getting the wind advantage, but set us into a mine field of the fishing traps in the shallows of Saline beach. I was on the look-out, to slallom our way into the Buccaneer's Beach, our usual anchoring spot.

Oh, home at last, but not for long, another visitor is expected on 3rd of January, 2016.

FIRST GUESTS ARRIVE

Our first guests, Laura, whom I know from the gym at MCMASTER UNIVERSITY, and her mother Nina was to arrive in Vieux Fort, St Lucia on December 3rd. In order to get ready for them, we left St Anne, Martinique on the 1st, and made the passage in four hours to Rodney Bay. It was quite pleasent, with moderate winds and small swells. We spent more time trying to anchor in the bay; it was a record of three times that we pulled the anchor in a row to find a sandy patch to keep us in place. The bottom of the northern part of the bay is very uneven and full of weeds and rocks. From 30 ft of water, all of a sudden you hit a shelf of 8 ft, and if you are not careful, the anchor gets pulled out with a jerk. Although there seems to be a lot of space, all the good spots were taken by a number of yachts, hense our struggle. Anyway, the fourth time we went quite close to the sandy beach, and dropped the anchor into a turquoise pool among the weeds, which seemed to hold. Afterwards, Al dove and saw that the anchor was barely holding, half covered in a thin layer of sand over the rock bottom. Oh well, it was not very windy, and we were to tie in the marina on the morning of the guests' arrival.

What was important at the moment was to find transportation to and from Vieux Fort, which is at the diagonally opposite end of the island, about an hour of driving. We had done it last year, by taking two busses, first to Castries, then to the airport, at the outskirts of Vieux Fort, on the way. We had engaged Elvis, the taxi driver, who was the neighbour of our Canadian/St Lucian friends Ken and Diane, to take us back to Rodney Bay with the guests.

Of course, the first person to contact was Elvis, to see if he was available. However, Al did not think that he was very keen on taking us on, so we thought we could test the numerous taxi drivers stationed at the gate of the marina. I figured that it is always a two way ride for the drivers, whether they start from the airport or the marina. Elvis lived in the vicinity of the airport, which was the reason for us to get there on our own. If we engaged a driver from the north, we could tag along for free!

We went to the taxi stand, where most of the drivers were playing cards and having a good time, but one driver, Linus was loitering around the parking lot. We approached him, and haggled down to the price of one way (US$80.-), our ride included.

The guests were arriving at 3:30 pm, and we started at 2:00 pm. Linus gave us a story about his sister coming on the same flight, and we had space for more people anyway etc. I had anticipated that he might try to squeeze more people in the car, which had a third row at the back, so we did not argue.

We arrived in good time, and welcomed Laura and Nina into the car. Linus was agitated and constantly on the phone. He first  mentioned that  his sister had one friend who could still fit, along with the luggage. After five minutes of waiting, Linus appeared with a long face, and declared that the sister became a party of four people, so they engaged a local taxi.

On the way back, of course Al had to deal with Linus' complaints about being deprived of his extra cash, which had to be compensated by us. Al was kind of firm, but ended up giving US$100.- instead, but I was not  impressed. Compared to Elvis, who was a gentleman, Linus was too vulgar and greedy. Note to self, do not engage people off the street!

After arriving at home, the visit went on famously. As far as we were concerned, we had a very good time, constantly talked for five days, while doing some sailing around the island for short periods. Both mother and daughter were adventurists, but Nina was not a sailor, or even a good swimmer. So she had been a bit apprehensive about our sailing agenda. We put her at ease, and assured her that we had always been fair weather sailors, and we were to keep moving in the lee of the island anyway.





We spent two nights anchored in the bay after leaving the marina the first morning. Since we were close to the shore, she was able to swim around the boat  without getting scared. Laura was an athlete and trapeze artist, so she was at home in the water.

The third morning, we put up the main sail, and headed to Anse Al Raye, a small fishing village, situated at the south of Marigot Bay. We reached the bay in a bit more than an hour, and approached the anchorage, which was close to the dock. However, Al found the bay too small, without much swinging room from the reefs at the sides; and turned around. Our rule is, if one of us is not comfortable with any place or situation, we change our plans. So we ended up in Anse Cochon, which is a favorite snorkelling spot, with mooring balls. It was a small bay, half of which was shallow with reefs to the north, south side deeper, where a few white mooring balls were installed. We took the last one, and stayed the night. It was a bit rolly, since Coshon is not as protected as La Raye, being a small indentation on the shoreline which is jutting out. These pear-shaped islands transport the swells along the shore.

The cliff on the south edge of the bay was taken over by Ti Kaye Resort, with numerous bungalows and two restaurants. We had lunch at the lower restaurant, which was serving Sunday brunch buffet (the spread was not what one expects in North America) for US$25.-, which did not include any drinks (not even water) and VAT and service charge. The food and ambiance were not bad, but was not worth the price, especially with our weak dollar. However, it was an experience.

This was our first time in Anse Cochon, and I liked it. However, our encounters with the locals are losing their charm. Especially the boat boys, who seemed to be younger this year, and they appear to have no scruples or sense of fairness. In the past, getting their help to tie to a mooring ball was 15.- EC. This year, the first time Al had to argue with an insolent boy who wanted 30.-. Now, Al declares that he is not giving a cent more than 20.- EC up front, and they say OK, but demand other absurd things when they finish; such as gas for the boat, or beer or smokes etc. It seems that sailors spoil them by complying, and they get greedier.

We were low on bread, and asked one of the boat-boys to bring us two loaves. He demanded 50.- EC, arguing that a loaf was 15.- at the market. No sense of propriety! I would rather make pancakes everyday, than give $25.- Canadian for bread.
The next morning we motored to the Pitons, which is a must see in St Lucia. The weather was overcast, and the mountain of the Petit Piton generated its unusual winds and currents, so it was a different experience for our guests. Laura ventured into the water with me, and we had a life-line in hand, so that the current would not carry us into the ocean. Let alone swimming, staying put was a workout, so we had a good time.

The visit was short, five days passed quickly, and it was time for them to return to Canada. Early in the morning of the 8th, we started the last leg of our trip, from the shouth west corner (Pitons) to Laborie on the south shore of St Lucia, halfway to Vieux Fort. Our guests saw the open ocean the first time, and experienced the waves coming at us, while we were struggling towards east. It took us 2 hours to cover 8 miles.

Another first; we had heard about Laborie from Ken and Diane, but had never ventured to get there. Other than being a safe place close to the airport, it is not a yacht destination. It is a small fishing village, but the people are nice and friendly, unspoilt by the outsiders.

The west side of the small bay is covered with high reefs, almost visible, but the east is sandy bottomed and shallow. The entrance is marked by two buoys, so navigating in is not hard, however staying there is debatable, since it is quite rolly in easterly swells, and untenable in south easterly. Best time for it is northerly swells, but this year they had not started yet, probably due to El Ninjo.

The only other yacht in the bay was a catamaran tied to a private mooring ball. So we anchored next to it, and went to shore to find a taxi, to take our guest to the airport later. There was a high dock, with a lower portion for the dinghies, but it was not well maintained, and seemed flimsy at places, and exposed to a lot of surge.  Getting out of the dinghy was a bit tricky, but our guest had become pros by that time.

We walked on the main street, peeked into the church, which had a commanding view of the bay on an incline, and the door open to the east, taking in the constant breeze. Natural air conditioning.

On the main street, there was a line of minibuses awaiting customers for Vieux Fort. If we could not find a taxi, minibus could be an alternative; but a separate bus was to be had from there to the airport,  which is at the other end of the town.
While walking around, I stopped at a clean looking eatery/bar called Mama Rosa's. It was not yet lunch time, so deserted, and a nice looking young islander was in attendance. I told her that I needed some information, and asked for a taxi driver she could recommend. She told me to follow her, and found Wilson, probably a relative of her. He promised to pick our guests from the dock at 2:00 pm, to reach the airport two hours before departure.

Wilson turned out to be a nice guy, and punctual, who charged 50.- EC for the drive to the airport (40.- EC is the minimum). Wilson is our future driver if we get to Laborie.

Friday, November 27, 2015

BACK TO MARTINIQUE

As soon as the attendant came in the morning (7:30 am), we paid for the water that we filled our tanks, and got underway. We hoisted the sails with a reef, and started our three day treck to Martinique.

It was the usual route with stops in Bequia, in the Grenadines; Jalousie at the Pitons, St Lucia, and our destination St Anne, Martinique. Starting every morning around 6:00 am, stopping around 3:00 pm, get beaten by waves and wind in between. Quite tiring when there is no respite, but this year we were in a hurry to come to St Anne, because we have to go back to St Lucia to meet my friends coming from Hamilton, Canada. We will spend the week together there, since it is not worth sailing back and forth in such a short time. We will go on land to explore together, and maybe sail to different anchorages around the island to have fun. Making a passage and back within the week is too stressful, especially if weather does not permit. We shall see.

Isn't this uncanny, that after four years of not even seeing a cocroach in the boat, we should encounter two kinds of pests inside, and one outside at the same time? (The outside crustaceans are actually helping, not a pest I think, but still.) This season is marred with problems it seems, I hope it will not continue. Being a Turk, I can only think of the evil eye! In Canada we talk about our life on board with everybody, it sounds like boasting most of the time. Well everybody, you can see that it is not always a picnic, so please do not wish us evil!

CARRIACOU

While we were still in Canada, about two months previously, Al read somewhere that the submerged volcano in the middle of the way to Carriacou, Kick 'em Jenny, started some rumbles, and degassing activity. The underwater volcano is active and the peak is slowly rising, closer to the surface (500 feet since the last eruption). When any activity is detected in the volcano, the no-sail zone radius is increased from 1.5 miles to 5 miles, which obstructs the usual route, since there are a series of small islands on the edge of the small zone. In order to avoid the dangerous area, people have to take a route about 10 miles to the west  of the normal one, and come back to Carriacou, which is a little to the north east of Grenada. Alternately, one can follow the north coast of Grenada to the east, and pass from the east of the small islands. This route is closer to Carriacou, however, getting there is the problem; wind, current and waves are on the nose. In normal conditions, the wind is quite strong, pronounced by the island effect, and boaters seldom pick that route. But this time, the wind and waves were the mildest we had ever seen, so Al did not change his decision of taking the easterly route, even though we saw at least 5-6 boats before us, picking  the westerly one.

We were looking around to check out the eastern sides of the small islands (Diamond rock, Round Rock, Sisters, Les Tantes on the north, London Bridge on the southeast side etc) and taking pictures, having a good time.



 Then I tried to wash my hands, and saw that there was no water at the tap. I asked Al if he had turned off the water pump, but he had not. Al looked around on the inside, switched the pump to the other tank, but got no water. Then he went to the lockers at the bow to feel the tanks. When he tapped on the tanks, he saw that they both were empty, and the bilge pump was also working. Mystery to the max, didn't we fill both of them the last thing the night before? having used up all the water was not a possibility. Since we were motoring all the way, we did not hear the bilge pump working, I only saw its light flashing while passing by the control panel. It appeared that we had emptied our tanks into the sea while motoring the last few hours.

The pleasent trip turned into another anxious wait until we reached Carriacou, where a boatyard is getting established in the recent years. I checked Doyle, and saw that there were a number of mechanics servicing big boats. I was sure that somebody would give us a hand to find the problem.

We reached Tyrrell Bay around 3:30 pm, and anchored. First thing to do is to clear out of Grenada. Luckily Customs and Immigration is next to the boatyard. The clearence procedure did not take long, and we managed to climb the second floor of the Customs building to speak with the boatyard office. It was 4:30 pm on a Friday. Half an hour later everybody would leave to party!

Anyway, when we explained our problem to the nice receptionist girl at the office, somebody sitting behind her told us to follow him to the boatyard. We found a small group of guys puttering about a shed. Our guide explained the problem to one of them, and he told us to weigh anchor immediately and get tied to the fuel dock, so that we could put some water into the tanks and see where it was disappearing to.
We rushed back, I pulled the anchor, tied the fenders in a flash and gave the lines to the attendant. The problems are never ending, but thankfully the remedy is not too far off! I asked the fuel dock attendant if we could stay the night there, and he said yes. I hate anchoring in the dark, expecially at such a crowded anchorage like Tyrrell Bay! Who knows when the problem would be fixed?

The nice plumber/mechanic came to the boat, got us get some water into the tanks, and started looking systemmatically, at the tanks, the pipes, the bilge etc., discussing with Al. I was beat, and wished to splash some water and get away from the nerve wrecking situation. I gathered my tablet etc., and headed to the small restaurant beside the boatyard. Al knew where to find me when they finished.

I could see Al walking about the boat, and before half an hour, he came by, beaming. The problem was the hose, bringing water from both of the tanks to the hot water tank, being unhooked. Because the leak was before the lines reached the pump, it was not turning on automaatically to maintain the pressure; that would actually give us a clue of a problem with water systems while on the way. Why and  how the water line to the heater disconnected? Nobody knows. Fixing it was the easiest thing in the world, all he had to do was to put it in and clamp it. He asked for 100.- EC ($50.- Canadian) for his trouble, but Al was so happy, gave him a tip. Phew, that was close.

One more night at a marina, listening to the lines being jerked about, and giving out those awful periodic sounds as the boat rolls with the waves. Above all else, the creshendo of the crackling. Tyrrell Bay was the worst for the noise coming from the hulls. According to the Internet wisdom, the crustaceans were rampant in shallow and warm waters. The boatyard in Tyrrell Bay is at the shallowest end, which could explain the activity.

THE WAY BACK

As usual, Al checked all the weather sites, and thought that Saturday night would be calm enough, 10 to 15 knot winds, 3 to 5 ft seas, ideal weather to sail. At that angle (almost 90 degrees), 15 knots is enough to push us 7 - 8 miles per hour (our absolute limit is 9 miles). Coming down was a bit stressful, but we managed to lower our speed by playing with the sheets. Al thought going back was to be easier still,  looking at the forecast.

We hoistred the main and let the mooring ball go around 4:00 pm, and started motor sailing along the south west coast of Chaguaramas, toward the next small island on the west, and turned to the channel in between.



The wind was erratic due to the land effect, so we patiently passed through, and slowly started sailing into the open seas. Since the land mass was much bigger than all the other islands, the real strenght of the wind was not felt until after a few hours. By the time we got to the real open seas, it was pitch dark outside, and we started to fly on water. Letting out the sheets and the traveller, whatever we did was not enough to slow us down.

Al started the engines, turned into the wind, and ordered pulling down the sail to the first reef. Easier said than done; it was dark, we thought we pulled the first reef halyard to its mark while being beaten by wind and waves, and continued on. After ten minutes, Al saw that sail was not down enough, so we repeated the process. The waves might have been 3 ft, but the swells were much higher! Long story short, slowing the boat became a real ordeal. Both of us were out of breath and sweating buckets, until we came down to a steady manageable speed.

This time Al tried once to sleep a short while, but decided to keep going. I have to admit that my stamina did not last that long. I slept a few short periods during the dead of night.

We reached St George's around 6:00 am, in 14 hours as opposed to 15 on our way there. We had reserved a spot at the dock of the Yacht Club, but Keeron, the dock master would not show up before 7:00 am; so we motored into the bay, and turned the engines down, started drifting in the gentle breeze to wait. It was great, no sound, no waves, so peaceful. We had  our breakfast, tidied around the boat, time passed quickly. Then Al called Keeron on the phone, and asked if we could come in to be tied up. Kiran told us to wait until 8:00 am, since our spot was occupied for the time being, but the boat was leaving. One more hour of drifting, and we went in, got tied in and relaxed.

I was planning on scrubbing the boat from top to bottom, which was the reason of coming into the marina again. Marina life is the worst life imaginable for me; usually it is hot, noisy and full of bugs, and there is no swimming; not the boat life we love. However,  water is abundant and cheap at the club, and it is centrally located, close to the grocery stores we shop from. So we planned to endure three more nights to finish our chores, and get on our way.

The first night before we go to bed, I started hearing the old crackling sounds from the hulls. I almost fainted! After all the ordeal, were the damned termites still devouring our boat? However we listened carefully, and realized that they were coming from the hulls, and not from the bow or the inside of the boat. As a matter of fact, I could hear the noises from the open side hatch, which made me think that it was coming from the outside of the boat.

While we were lying in the bed, unable to sleep, Al searched the Internet, and found a lot of people writing about hearing noises in reference to pistol shrimps eating the nutrients stuck on the boat hulls, like barnicles and such. After reading some, Al opened the hull cover in our cabin, and looked all over. There was no sign of any activity inside, but the noise was more pronunced in the bilge area. We decided that it should be coming from the outside, and tried to get some sleep. It was torture, but we tried to beleive the other boaters' assessments. We even watched some videos, which depicted similar sounds as coming from the pistol crabs and other crustaceans feeding off the hulls. I was a bit relieved, but made a mental note to get the fumigators in Martinique to come and check our boat, if they could identify the source of the noise.

In the meantime, we did our scrubbing, shopping and laundry, filled our water tanks and got ready to start our trip north.

TRINIDAD IMPRESSIONS

Trinidad seems to be more affluent than all the Caribbean islands we had seen, even Porto Rico (except French islands). Since it is almost connected to Venezuela, they have oil/gas production, and a rich soil that is not  volcanic. They seem to be industrialized and sophisticated, offering any kind of marine service imaginable.



Power appears to be cheap, which translates into air-conditioning to the hilt in every enclosed area. One freezes one's butt staying indoors too long. Food prices are not too high, but not as cheap as Doyle suggests.

We visited the market in Port of Spain, by a maxi taxi driven by Jessie, who picked us up from Peake at 6:30 am on Saturday morning (!) It was about an hour away, but we were done fresh produce shopping before 8:00 am. They did not have a lot of vegetables; but our staple tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers were available, as well very good watermelons, so we were happy. However, I was expecting more I guess, compared to the market in St George's, it was not impressive. There were a small fish and meat market in the adjoining building as well. We thought of buying fish, which were plentiful,  but carrying it seemed too hard. We ended up buying some fresh cut meat, which turned out not too bad.

We stayed in Trinidad about nine days, and endured two week-ends. The people in Trinidad seem to work hard and play harder. Saturday nights the pleasure rides in big boats start at different hours, to the sunset, later in the evening, and at 2:00 am, and continue until sunrise. The clientele constantly drink and listen to the deafening music. With them, everybody else in the harbour. What I could not understand was the reason of their boats coming to Chaguaramas and slowly going around the harbour, passing by almost every boat that was moored. The land around the harbour is solely industrial. When we walked for hours along the way to Port of Spain, all we saw were marinas and stores. Maybe that is the reason, disturbing the people in the residential areas was not allowed, but  outsiders moored in the harbour do not count probably. Anyway, while we were trying to sleep in the never-ending kakaphony, we thought of Grenada, where people are so respectful towards each other, and strangers alike. Their pleasure rides (towards sunset) is a pleasure to watch and listen to from our own boats. I guess affluence brings self indulgence and egocentry!

All in all, this trip was different from any other that we had taken; we had not for a second contemplated about the long and ardous way; all we thought about was to get there as soon as possible, how did not matter. However, I would not attempt it again for just pleasure. I hope we would not be forced to do it again, for any reason.

THE BIG KILL

On Wednesday morning we piled up the mattresses on the cock-pit table, rest of the perishable stuff (like pills, dental items, packaged food, water filters etc) under it, and covered the whole thing by two tarps (it rains in Trinidad several times almost every day).  We started to work early in the morning, since Luke promised to come around 10:00 am. We got everything ready before long, took our suitcase and moved into the hotel facility at Peake Marina, which was the place to haul out the boat if need be.

The hotel rates were reasonable (US$88,- per night), for a  clean, air-conditioned room with a mini fridge and electrical kettle. What else do you need.

Grenada Marine should learn from these guys how to operate a boat yard. Peake's grounds were as big, but the facilities much better, roads and buildings impeccable, and prices comparable. As well, Grenada Marine does not offer sleeping quarters for the sailors while working on their boats on hard. Although several years ago a crude complex of small cottages were available near by, their management was so bad and they were so overpriced that it did not survive and closed, rather than serve Grenada marine customers. The only place to stay around there is La Sagesse. Not very convenient and full of bugs! On the other hand,  Trinidad prices were not cheap enough to tempt us to take the 14 hour passage twice every year.

After settling into the hotel, Al returned to the boat with Luke and his two guys, to seal the boat from the outside by covering all the wholes, to get it ready for "bombing". After the prep work was done, Luke was so impressed by Al's help, that he asked Al, if he would consider working with him as a fumigator! Al watched the guys empty 10 canisters of the gas inside the cabins and the galley through one of the hatches; and two more in the lockers outside using a specially designed system of tubes and can piercing apparatus. We had to leave all hatches closed but unlocked, so the boat could be aerated after 24 hours without entering the salon and the cabins. Before the fumigation crew left, they placed "Danger, Toxic Gas" signs outside the door and on the hull, to keep two-legged pests away from the boat, while the hatches were unlocked.



When Al returned to the hotel, I asked if the crew were wearing gas masks while working, and he said no. Poor guys, who knows how much exposure they are getting every day, even though they stayed outside when they pierced the canisters. Earning a living should not be so hard.

Next morning, Al took the guys back to the boat to open the seals and got it aired for us to move back in. Apparently the toxic gas was lighter than air and left no residue after proper ventilation. The gas had no odour, although deadly for insects as well as humans. So, in order for it to be detectable, they were adding tear gas to it, which had a distinct smell.  It took Al two days to completely clean the air, by opening every window, door and hatch, while sitting at the cock-pit. Unfortunately leaving the boat unattended while airing  out was  not an option. It would have been easier if Ruyam II were on hard, in a secure atmosphere. Oh well, Al sat there for two half days, and got it done, while I languished at the hotel.

The whole operation cost us $1,000.- Canadian dollars. Tenting  would have been triple that, so we felt lucky. I hope this will be the last time I see those unwelcome visitors!

Luke  gave us a small sample of the bait for dust-mites, which we can use to spray the new larvae that might come out of the eggs if any, in about 6 weeks. We will check carefully, and apply the bait before the new year.

THE VERDICT

The best thing about Trinidad is Luke, the terminator! He was extremely professional, courteous and knowledgeable.  When we called him first thing after settling on our mooring, he promised to come in the afternoon. True to his word, he came on time,  and went around the boat, looked at all the storage areas, the woodwork inside etc., and declared that we had two types of pests onboard; the nest that we had demolished was the subterrenean type of termites, not the flying one, and the infestation was new and localized to the two lockers at the bow. The two places that we had seen some dust and small holes on the wood were done by dust-mites, which were not as dangerous, but harder to kill. He proposed to use gas on the inside of the boat and the bow lockers, as well a special bait for the dust-mites. He did not think that tenting or hauling the boat on hard were necessary, since we had gotten rid of 80% of the problem by throwing out the nest, as well as the wood partitions in the locker which they were eating.

Unfortunately, Tuesday was a new holiday (Hevali, apparently East Indian), so he would start on Wednesday morning, and open the boat after 24 hours. In order to get rid of the toxic fumes, we would have to air the boat for another day, before we could move back in. Luke thought that we could leave everything in the boat during fumigation, except high density foam (like our mattresses) and open food items.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

PASSAGE TO TRINIDAD

The next day at 4:30 pm, Al got Jerry, the master dock attendent, to give us diesel. He came to help with the lines, and directed us to the fuel dock, which was at the outer side of the docks close to the harbour mouth. We were ready to sail in ten minutes, and  started out through the narrow channel between the reefs. The treck was well marked, so no problem! After passing by Tara shoal further on at our port and Porpoises at starboard, we were ready to hoist the main.  Because of six months of idle standing, the reef lines were tangled stif and got stuck twice, but we were able to get them going by the help of the wind. That is to say, we made some zigzags while dealing with the main sail, but we managed in the end.

We got going on our route (190 degrees straight) around 5:30 pm. Winds were steady at 13 - 15 knots from between 60 - 45 degrees. Perfect, and pleasent, since the sea was at its tamest. No rain either, so we congratulated ourselves for avoiding the miserable conditions of the evening before.

This was our second long passage during the night; first being to St Martin in 2012. That had been such a pleasent trip, it cured us from all misgivings about night travel. However, this was our first night sail. As it turned out, nothing to it, as long as the wind keeps its promise of being steady and mild. Around mid-night however, we started to see steady 7 knots speed when wind picked up to 20+ knts, and I got a bit apprehensive, especially when we reached over 8 knot speed several times. Anyway, we played with the trim on the main sail  and genoa, and were able to manage without reefing the main sail. After a while, I could not stay up, and slept a bit. But I could not get Al to sleep at all. I hope it was not because of  any mistrust about my proficiency. Whatever he thinks, I feel much more confident now, as opposed to our first passage; and he had left the helm to me then for a couple of hours. That was scary, let me tell you!

Apparently while I was sleeping, the wind wound down and we slowed to 3-4 knots, and Al had to start the engines in order not to waste too much time. All in all, it was a 15 hour treck. We passed Hibiscus oil rig around 4:00 am, which is about four hours away from the north coast of Trinidad. It can be seen from a long distance, lit up like a christmas tree, and gives a lot of confidence.

When we got closer to Trinidad, it seemed that we were headed into a line of mountains. The island and several smaller ones to the west, along with the northern tip of Venezuela which appear to be connected, and the entrance to Chaquaramas is not visible until you almost hit the land. Thank god for GPS, otherwise second guessing oneself is very easy.

By the time we came to the channel, the sun had risen, so the short passage was easy. We saw that many boats were coming out, probably starting their long journey north, or east (to Tobaggo). So there was some competition in the narrow channel, but nothing scary.

Chaguaramas is the harbour, close to the northwest tip of the island, which is surrounded with a few island to the south and a peninsula to the east. It is not very long, but every inch is utilized by a string of marinas and docks, servicing pleasure and commercial vessels, since it is very well protected from trade winds.



 Customs and immigration is located at the end of the harbour, along with the biggest marina (CrewsInn). Its dock also serves a small ferry. We thought that the ferry should be going to Venezuela, a stone's throw away, looking at the size of the ferries (as well as the language of the passangers).

Doyle warns sailors that arriving vessels were expected to come directly to Customs, without stopping anywhere. So we went all the way in, up to the red and white striped lighthouse, and tied to the dock, in front of the ferry, with the help of some people loitering about. When we entered the Immigration office (again warned about going there first before customs), we saw several people waiting to be dealt with. There was a sign on the wall, indicating that the office would open every morning at 6:00 am, but service starts at 8:00. I saw that it was 8:00 on the dot. The officer was busy with somebody, and the next person in line showed Al the forms to be filled in triplicate. Al got busy for half an hour. In the meantime, more people walked in, one asked the officer what to do. I noticed that the he did not mention triplicate forms, so I made a point of asking him about it, and he confirmed. Imagine, the poor man would have filled one form (who would think of multiple forms), and would be chastised for not doing it right. I think the man was grateful, and started talking to us. It was such a slow process, since the officer was taking the filled forms, and transfering all the detailed information into the computer (with his limited typing capacity). Why? We must have been spoiled by the lax attitude of French customs, where all one has to do is enter the information into the computer (no hard copies), and save! It is the most efficient system available. Most of the other Caribbean islands have started utilizing computer as well, with the Sail-Clear system, which is accessed by one's own laptop or mobile device. Trinidad is not a part of that system unfortunately.

I overheard the officer mentioning that he liked working on the week-ends, to avoid serving  the crowds of week days. Apparently the overtime charge applied on week-ends deter a lot of people. When we were there, the workday had just started in the Saturday morning, but there were at least five people already waiting. We got out of there in about two hours. We shall see the situation while clearing out on a week day.

SEASON FIVE STARTS WITH A NASTY SURPRISE

At the end of last season, we left Ruyam II in water, docked at Secret Harbour Marina, Grenada, after securing a promise from the dockmaster to start the engines for a short while every month. We also asked our driver Richard to take a look once in a while and make sure the engines were operational.

Al was in constant contact with the marina and Richard, and everything was in order until it was time to come back. Richard sent a message in October, complaining about the starboard engine. Oh well, we were going to take care of it. It sounded like the age old problem with the starboard battery draining when not in use, and reviving after the port engine generating enough juice.

We arrived in Secret Harbour around 10:00 am on Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, after flying red-eye to Trinidad. We were very happy to eliminate staying the first night at a hotel, which was not possible when flying during the day.

Everything was great, there was a bit of a moisture inside, but nothing major. I also saw some dust on all the doors, inside and out, which was odd. I had never witnessed dust when Ruyam II was left on hard at Grenada Marine, in the middle of a ton of dust and mud. I reasoned that the dust must have come from the marina, undergoing some renovations close to where we were tied.

During the night and next morning, I heard some noises coming from all over. At first I thought water was dripping, but soon realized that the sound was like the one coming from popping bubble wrap. It was strange, but we had a lot to do, no time to dwell on it!

I cleaned our side of the boat, emptied our three huge duffle-bags, and settled in. After all the work inside, I took the last bag to the outside locker, where we also store the water hoses, fenders, plastic stools and some other odds and ends. There were some old suitcases which we wanted to discard, so I took one out, and saw some white worms wriggling on it.

AAAALL!

Poor Al was busy with the dinghy engine alongside the handyman Devon. They both rushed to the bow, and after inspection Devon declared that we had termites. It was very interesting actually, the insects made tracs like highways from black, sand-like mud on the floor of the locker, as well as all around the top crevice. What's to be done?  Devon thought that the tracks were going under the water tanks, so we should dismantle the tanks to see where they were heading. That did not  seem like a good idea to me, and I thought we could find a bait or poison to get rid of the colony, like ants. So we took to the Internet, but what we found was quite disheartening, and outright scary. My spirits hit the floor, and I lost all interest in furhter clean-up.
Since we were hearing the clacking inside, which seem to be coming from the hulls, we started to think that they were eating away the wood of the hulls, sandwiched in the fibre-glass. As usual, we thought of the worst possible scenario, and almost got convinced that our boat was damaged irrecovarably, and we would have to leave it. That was such a heart-breaking moment! We literally could not think of any other thing that we would do, if Ruyam II was out of our hands.

However, we came to our senses and talked to some people and learned that there was a remedy, only in Trinidad mind you, which was guaranteed to deal with them. Stephan, the carpenter working at the marina, stongly urged us to make the trip to Trinidad. Stephan said that even if the procedure should cost US$10,000.- we should have it done, speaking from experience. But  he assured us that the insects would definitely be eliminated by the poisonous gas. Generally, the boat would be completely covered and sealed in a tent, and the gas would be applied to the inside under pressure.

We took to the Internet again, to find a company around Port of Spain, Trinidad. I dictated the telephone number of Trinidad and Tobaggo Pest Control (TTPC) to Al, and he immediately reached Luke to get an estimate. When Al explained what we had encountered, Luke  confirmed that he would make the tent on hard, and suggested we contact Peake Marina in Chaguaramas, Trinidad to make the arrangements to haul Ruyam II out. Luke's  ballpark estimate for the tent was US$2,000.-; hauling out, living off the boat at a hotel for at least 48 hours etc was to be extra. Who cares, as long as we could get there before it was too late.

In the meantime, Al was trying to find Mike, the mechanic to check the starboard engine. Al connected the portside starting battery, but was not able to start the engine. So he was convinced that the starter or something else was not functioning properly. We felt trapped, and were not sure about the integrity of the hulls to withstand the 14 hour journey to Trinidad.

The next day, we checked the other locker, where the anchor and some unused lines were stored. Despite being quite full of stuff, the presence of the insects there was more pronounced than the other locker. When I looked, the front of the locker was almost covered with mud. I refused to look at it, so Al went in, and started to pile the coils of lines on the trampoline. While I was inside, he discovered their main nest among one of the coils, and immediately threw it into the sea after tying the end of the line.

Later on I helped him to clean the mud from the locker, and dosed it with a lot of sea water, as well as break up the wooded partition between the anchor chain and the rest of the loker. When I threw the wood into the sea, I could see the insects floating away. Creepy!

However, the clacking sounds persisted, albeit somewhat subdued. We could not think of anything else, waiting for Mike to show up. He did come after two days (an eternity), and after tinkering with the engine a little, declared it to be perfectly operational. Starter was fine, nothing had to be changed, but he said that the engine choker was a bit stiff and hard to release. Al speculated that dockmaster and Richard must have tried to start the engine without fully releasing the choker, using up the battery (mistery solved).

Now that we were almost ready to sail, it was time to check the weather, and hoist the genoa etc. We got ready to sail overnight on Friday, November 5th., and sent out e mails to family and friends, got our clearance from Grenada, even prepared the sandwiches and tea, and sat to wait for the nasty rain to stop. It got worse instead. We had a window of an hour to get out of the harbour in daylight,  which is almost covered by reefes and we had passed through it six months previously the first time.

It is not advisable to attempt a blind passage as experience had taught us. Both of us decided to wait the night, and make the passage the next day. Al had to notify everybody, including Luke, and got a promise from him to check the boat on Saturday afternoon. I felt relieved that we would not be miserable trying to deal with the sails in the downpour. Sitting at the helm in the rain is also not very pleasent. As I have mentioned before, we are in this for enjoyment, and any preventable hardship is unwelcome. I guess we are getting old and not up to too much adventure (and proud of it).

Monday, March 30, 2015

DEVRIM COMES AND MORE RAIN

Devrim made us very happy by buying a ticket for St Lucia (the first time during our four years of the odyssey) for the 2nd of February. We wanted to be there a couple of days before, so we started our preparations at the end of January.  We wished to spend a few days in Le Marin, to give moral support to Guylaine, who was to shoulder the responsibility of serving hoards of kebab customers during her husband Levent' s absence.

On the morning of weighing anchor at St Anne, the starboard battery started acting up. Rather did not start when tried; however after the port engine ran about an hour, it collected enough juice to work sputteringly. I could not understand how that was possible! That battery was fine at the other side for the last two years, and as soon as we changed its place, it lost all its power. Anyway, we did not have time to deal with it, it was obvious  that the engine was fine, but the electrical system needed some adjustment. We decided to get looked at at Rodney Bay, where the mechanics are reputed to be cheap.

Al started running the starboard engine every night to get the battery filled, so that it was reluctantly started to work when we needed it.

The weather had been quite pleasent for a couple of days, and the forecast was favorable, so we set sail for Rodney Bay on 30th of January. We did not know how to get to the airport in Vieux Fort, which is dead south of St Lucia, but decided to ask around when there.

The sail was great (only three hours to Rodney Bay, st Lucia from St Anne, Martinique), winds, although mild, was from east, so perfect on our south westerly route. We made good time, and anchored in front of Landings resort.
Al changed his telephone SIM card, and decided to give a call to our friends Ken and Diane. He had sent an e mail previously, but had not heard back from them. Ken answered, and indicated that they also were anchored at the bay. On our way to the marina to get cleared in, we dropped at their boat, Lost our Marbles, and had a chat about our options of transportation.

It was so good to see them again after a year! Since they live in St Lucia, they had great connections. They suggested taking a taxi from Vieux Fort after collecting Devrim, and gave us the number for Elvis, who was Ken's neighbour, so somebody trustworthy. The price was to be US$85.- , apparently less than the going rate. All and dandy, but how are we going to get there. Ken suggested taking the minibus from Castries, which was very cheap, but a bit scary with the driving practices of St Lucians. We were used to it, so no problem (as Ken is Canadian, he is not comfortable in fast cars.) But at least we had a plan. Since we did not want to leave the boat unattended all day, we thought of tying at the marina the day before Devrim was coming, so that transfer of luggage etc would be easier.

On 1st of February we tied at a slip around noon for two nights, and got Internet access etc. The first message we got was from Devrim; there was a major snow storm in US, and his plane was postponed to 5th of February. Nothing to be done but wait at the bay on anchor. Marina life is both expensive and dull.  We went back to the bay, and decided to get our electrical system to be checked in the meantime. Ken was instrumental also in getting a mechanic, who spent several hours tinkering with the batteries, but could not determine the source of the problem. He was adamant that the battery was at fault, and should be changed. After some further consultation with Ken, who came to visit, no other cause of the drain could be found. Oh well, we could buy a battery, but was it going to solve the problem?

When we asked Ken and Diane about the crime incidents in St Lucia, they downplayed them. Of course one had to be cautious, but recent reports did not show an extraordinary increase in the problems. They suggested we anchor close to their boat, so that they could keep an eye during our absence to pick Devrim. Aren't they great?

We found the bus stop for the bus to Vieux Fort airport in Castries (after several inquiries), and got into a minibus, which was comfortable (as opposed to Grenadian buses filled to the rim with additional half seats). The trip took about one hour. To tell the truth, the driver was much tamer than our dear Grenadians, and the road was decent, so we were not scared one bit!

It was great seeing Devrim. We had a good visit; after the first day, we set sail to St Anne.  The weather was calm, so the three hour sail was smooth. As a matter of fact, weather cooperated during Devrim's stay, hopefully he was not scared from repeating the exercise in the future.



As suggested by the mechanic, we bought another gel battery from Mechanique Pleasence. It turned out that a much inferior battery in St Lucia was almost US$300.-, so European prices do not look too high anymore. Especially after the recent hike in US dollars, and dive of Euro, Martinique gets better and better for Canadians. Lets hope Greeks et al will keep up the good work of bringing down Europe.

After a couple of days in St Anne, we returned to Rodney Bay to send Devrim off. This time we decided to sail south to the Pitons for the last day, and call Elvis to pick Devrim up at the Jalousie Plantation resort located at the southern foot of the Petit Piton.

Three hours of motor-sail south was unevenful, we got there about noon, and grabbed one of the few mooring balls with the help of an islander. It was a nice enough day, so we all jumped into the water; however both Devrim and I were quite scared of drifting out into the ocean by the force of the current and wind. We stopped at this place 6-7 times in the past, but had never seen a wind coming almost from the foot of the huge conical mountain. I could swear that it was not coming from around or the top, but from the bottom, as if from a huge fan installed there. The experince of swimming in it became fun, after Devrim tied a line around his waist, and I held on to the rope, while the waves pushed us back and around the boat.




Next morning,  Al called the resort to ask if we could use their dock to get Devrim to the shore, and they said no problem. However, I wanted to be on the safe side, and have our last breakfast there. Good decision! When we got to the dock (completely drenched from the five minute ride in the dingy towards the wind), the guy in charge reluctantly let us tie, despite our intention of spending money there.

The resort is five or more stars, but its employees have the attitute and pride of owning the place, looking down on the sailor riff-raff, who can't afford to stay there. Boo-hoo for them. The meager breakfast cost a pretty penny too, but it was worth it; we spent a couple of hours in the cool breakfast lounge on the verandah, while our clothing dried off. Then the driver came, and Devrim was off! A week is so short for a visit, we missed him terribly just after he left.

As soon as he was gone, we returned to Rodney Bay for the night and next day we were back in St Anne. We thank our lucky stars for the only window of good weather. The wind at St Anne started and kept on howling for a month and a half, with maybe a couple of days of respite here and there. Hopefully the week of March 31st is going to be calmer, when we will be on our treck back to Grenada. It is hard to beleive that this season is coming to its end!

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 AND THE DOWNPOUR CONTINUES

It appears that this season is plagued by mechanical failures; one after the other, we had to deal with some repairs, most of them in Martinique.

On the very last leg of our Christmas trip, we had encountered some trouble at the starboard engine, and Al had shut it down while anchoring in St Anne. However, after the anchor was set, he started that engine, which came on without hesitation, and he even put it into gear for a second, and saw that it was operational. This relieved us considerably, but the next morning he was anxious to see if the propeller was entwined with the sea grass we came across earlier. He dived to check, and gave a clean bill of health to the propeller in the morning, and that was the end of that hick.

In the meantime, we had heard that Devrim was able to find a discount fare to fly to St Lucia in the beginning of February, and we started to plan for his visit. Needless to say that we were very excited, and was planning on our trip to receive him, and how to entertain him during his week. We had contemplated staying in St Lucia, in case of bad weather; however, the latest reports about the crime rates in Rodney Bay (at the north), and Vieux Fort (in the south, where the international airport is located) rendered us indecisive. We were afraid of  leaving Ruyam II alone at either of the the ports while going to the airport, and staying overnight at Vieux Fort at the deserted anchorage. What to do?

At last we decided, that we would venture to St Lucia a couple of days before his arrival, and consult our friends Ken and Diane, fellow Canadians, who live in St Lucia (Ken being from a St Lucian family). Then we would ask Devrim his preference, whether he would like to make two passages to Martinique and back, or wish to idle around St Lucia.

Ten days into January (a Friday), we had to get water from Le Marin, so got ready to motor the short way. Al started the port engine, which came on immediately, but the starboard was not responding. It was grinding to start, but very slowly, and could not catch up. I proposed staying put, but it was not an option. Now it became imperative that we went to Le Marin, to employ the services of an engine mechanic. Al was adamant that the engine must have been gone, and the repairs would be astronomical. He is such a pessimist, and would jump to the worst conclusion whenever confronted with a malfunction.

Anyway, we went our way with one engine (thankfully port engine was fine, without which pulling or releasing the anchor is not possible). As soon as we turned into the channel, the winds hit us on the nose. Poor Ruyam II inched towards Le Marin, but since taking water was out of the question with one engine, we headed to the anchorage to the left of the channel, our usual place to anchor. Being a Friday, there was not one place left for us to stay. We tried a few spots, but keeping the boat steady against the wind turned to be too hard. We made one last ditch effort to find a place to the right of the channel, to no avail. I asked on VHF to the marina for a mooring ball, but the response was "No madame, no mooring balls." We turned  around (with some difficulty I may add) and retraced our way back to St Anne. That was a first!

What a heavy heart we had, while anchoring there again. After four years, our son was to visit us the first time, and we did not know whether greeting him at St Lucia would be possible. I thought that surely something could be done in two weeks time. At least we were at the best place to get good mechanics and parts! Cheering Al up is not easy, but I try.

Early Saturday morning we hopped on a bus and went to the Volvo agent in Le Marin (Mechanique Plaisance), to ask about a mechanic. The attendant lady was very helpful (she speaks English, thank God), and took to the phone to ask if their mechanic was available. Then she pointed out that the boat had to be in Le Marin to be looked after, otherwise nobody would spare the time, being very busy. She also confided that if the mechanic should drive to St Anne, it would be very expensive for us.  We tried to explain that it was also impossible to stay in Le Marin during the week end; but left the shop, somewhat down, but at least knowing that help is at hand.

Next stop Elite Kebap of course, to consult our friend Levent. He immediately offered to drive Al to the repair shop of Mechanique Plaisance at Carenage (near the boat yard), to speak face to face with the mechanic. I stayed back to chat with Guylaine, and check with the marina office if a mooring ball would  get free on Monday. The lady at the office indicated that most of the balls were rented for the year, and the few available were to be asked from the capitannerie on the spot. Capitan (Gustave) is constantly on the move in his motor boat, and only accessible through VHF, which means that we had to be in Le Marin to inquire. Forget it!

When Al returned, things were looking up. Apparently he was able to speak with the mechanic Jean Paul, a very nice elderly man (who also spoke English), and accepted to come to St Anne to check the engine. After listening to Al, he thought that it could be the starter or the battery which was malfunctioning,  and probably not the engine. That was a temporary relief, but Monday was the day to be the end of our worries.
Levent drove us back to St Anne. Al started writing about his misfortune to his friends, many of whom suggested different sources for the trouble, but the main one was battery. So Al thought it prudent to check the starboard starter battery. It was almost totally drained (9 something volts, as opposed to 12-13V), so that boosted his morale a bit. He then called Jean Paul to bring a battery with him on Monday, since it seemed that the one at hand had to charged. It was the original (almost 10 years old), and it was about time to get a new one.

On Sunday we changed our place, and anchored almost next to the municipal dock, so that picking up Jean Paul would be easy. We were ready.

Jean Paul came at the appointed time, carrying a battery and a starter, just in case. He checked the engine, and found nothing faulty. It was time to try the battery; however the one he brought was top of the line (300.- Euros), a gel one; and Al was opposed to pay 130.- more (about $200.- Canadian) for it. So, he decided to use the port starter battery for the trial, instead of the new one. As soon as the port battery was connected, the engine started purring. Oh, what a relief. The culprit was the battery, afer all! We were so elated that no other expense would be involved, I urged Al to keep the expensive battery that was already brought up to the boat, rather than sending it back and trying to bring a cheaper (and not as good) one from Le Marin. Not worth the effort!

Jean  Paul connected the new battery to the port engine, and gave his invoice. His visit cost us 80.- Euros, which included the delivery of a heavy item. Not at all expensive, and a life saver. Long live Jean Paul!

Next step was to take water. On Tuesday, we motored to the fuel dock to fill our tanks. After the hose was connected, Al turned on the tap, but there was nothing coming. Al asked the attendant, and he shrugged his shoulders "Pas d'eau!".

Apparently there was some problem with the city water system. Is this a nightmare or what? We were really low on water, although we had been careful in our consumption. I urged the attendant to check again after a moment, but nothing. Then I saw Gustave passing by in his motor, and it occurred to me to ask if there was a mooring ball available. He promised to look for one, and come back. We asked the attendant if we could stay put until Gustave came back, and he shrugged again. There was nobody else trying to tie to the fuel dock. While sitting there waiting, I urged Al to check the water again, and to our surprise it started to flow. We filled one tank, and it got cut again. In the meantime, Gustave sent his chronies to lead us to a ball nearby. I gave them our lines, but instead of making a slip line and giving the end back to me to tie to the boat, they tied the lines to the ball. Hey, how am I going to untie them to leave? The guy, who spoke good English, assured me that he would come to untie us as soon as asked. Really?

We went to the marina office to pay for the ball, and learned that for two days, we were to pay 40.- Euros. Oh my God, it was only 8.- Euros per day last year, are they out of their minds? Mooring balls are in short supply, so became expensive. Not again would we seek one in Le Marin in the future!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

SAILING TO DES SAINTS - CHRISTMAS EVE TO NEW YEAR'S EVE

We had seen our friends Sid and Peg of Liming Time, in St Anne a couple of days earlier. Sid and Peg are from BC, Canada, and store their mono-hull in Grenada Marine. They  come and go to Grenada at the same time as we do (being snow birds like us) and stay at La Sagesse while dealing with the boat at the marina. We had mentioned the anchorage of St Anne earlier, so they decided to take a look. Not being French speakers like us, they stayed away from Martinique before. Sid and Peg showed interest in travelling north with us, and promised to meet up at St Pierre on Christmas eve.

We started from Le Marin around 7:00 hours, and made good time up to the Diamond Rock at the south western corner of Martinique, having the wind on our backs. After turning the rock, we were in the lee of the mountains a bit, so helped the sails by engine for a short while, and picked up speed a little later while passing the large bay of Fort De France. Long story short, we reached St Pierre around 2:00 pm and anchored at the south shore of its bay, across a small beach, a little away from the harbour. We jumped into water first, and then called Liming Time on VHF. They responded, and came over from the harbour,  to anchor by our side.

We spent Christmas Eve together at Ruyam II. I cooked, they brought wine and beer, and we had a really merry time.

Sid complained, that they missed the customs guy at St Pierre by ten minutes to clear out, and would have to wait there two more days for the office to open. Al felt awful, for not having mentioned the possibility of doing it at St Anne (like we have done). He forgot that it was Syd and Peg's first time in St Anne, and we had showed them around the area when they came. Damage was done, and they stayed on, while we started our passage to Dominica in the morning.

It was a choppy passage, but we almost flew, having brisk winds. Especially near Scott's Head (south west corner of Domonica), the meeting current and wrap around winds were a bit frightening, but short-lived. We made to Rousseau, and called for Pancho on VHF. He was not answering his telephone. His wife responded, and promised to send him to us. I was a bit apprehensive, that day being Christmas, and him being prone to party a little too much.

He came and helped all right. Then he started to giggle, and declared that he kind of remembered Al and I. Then Levent called to him, announcing himself as the Kebab-man from Martinique. Pancho immediately expressed recognition and delight. Apparently Levent had sent a number of Turkish sailors to Pancho, during the year.
Al invited Pancho aboard, and fed him some more booze. It was a good thing that there were no more incoming boats in view. After a short visit, we sent Pancho to his family.

Next morning we took off quite early, as we were to reach De Bourg, Terre de Haut in Les Saints from Rousseau, about 40  miles. Most of the trip was in the lee of Dominica, the crossing being only 18 miles. We motored up, and hoisted sails around Porstmouth, Dominica, which is almost at the northeast edge.

The crossing was over in about three hours, but it was quite bumpy. When we reached the narrow crossing between two smaller islands of Les Saints, we were welcomed by the fishermen's nets, everywhere. It was like a maze, so all of us were on the lookout. We could hardly find some space to go, in order to pull down the sails before proceeding further.

We had to go around the south shore of the Terre De Haut, the main island of Les Saints, to reach Bourg Des Saints, the small fishing village, where we had to clear in. We passed by two anchorages, which seemed to be full of boats. When we reached Bourg, we saw that its harbour (if it could be called that) was also almost full, only a few mooring balls left in view. Bourg was situated at the west shore of the middle of Terre en Haut, where the island was quite narrow. It was overlooking the small island called Ilet Cabrit,  and the channel between them was open to the north. The east wind was coming from north, wrapping around the island and beating the harbour. Waves also. After we took a mooring ball and secured ourselves, we went into the village. The dingy dock was nice, but the first thing one noticed was the stench coming from the open sewer beside the walkway onto the street. All over Martinique, we saw water treatment plants, no open sewers.  In the other islands of the Caribbean, they do not seem to have the means or feel the necessity oftreating the sewage. We were surprised that Les Saints were quite behind the times. On the other hand, the village was very quaint, very European. It even reminded me of Marmaris, before it was discovered by tourists.

When we returned to Ruyam II, Al was adamant that we should leave immediately, to find a place in the anchorages in Ilet Cabrit and the south west corner of Terre en Haut, which seemed to be much calmer. However, we needed water, which was only available in Bourg. It was getting late, so I made  an executive decision to stay the night. Nobody was happy in the morning, however. All night we rolled like crazy. East waves were turning around the north point and hitting us from the side, all night long, with no letting on.

In the morning, we tried to contact the water man mentioned in Doyle, but got no answer. Guylaine and I also wanted to take the ferry to Guadeloupe, to do some shopping.  So, before 9:00 am, we were at the ferry dock, inquiring about the Pointe-a-Pitre ferry. To our dismay, we learned that the ferry that was terrorizing us every three hours starting from the dock of Bourg during the day was only making a round trip to Riviere Sens (south west Guadeloupe), and also going to Mary Gallant and the other three small islands around. The only ferry to Pointe-a-Pitre was the main one coming from Martinique in the evening. If we wanted to go to Point-a-Pitre, we wound have to spend the night there. Forget Guadeloupe. I had been to Riviere Sens before, not impressive.

We decided to ask about the water at the place we registered our boat. Apparently it was the right place, they gave us a key to turn on the hose at the end of  the main ferry dock. The nice lady at the office gave us instructions to tie the boat to the lower deck attached to the end of the dock, and bring the water key back after done. She asked us about our estimate for the volume of water needed, and charged us in advance. It was obvious from the operation, that there would be nobody to help us tie the boat to the dock when we came. So, Levent and Guylaine stayed behind, and we rushed to Ruyam II to bring it to the dock.

Taking water turned out to be one of the easiest, thanks to Levent giving us a hand at the dock. If they had not been there, I guess, I had to stay behind, or leap onto the dock from Ruyam II with the lines. None of the prospects seem easy for us.

After we finished, we thought of trying our luck at the anchorages around the area. We went to the south west corner, which was quite calm, but so full of boats that, we could not risk squeezing in. We checked the Ilet Cabrit, but all the mooring balls were occupied. It was the week-end during holidays, all Guadeloupe and who-knows-what-else sailors were there. No hope to have a quiet night, and a decent swim!

We went back to our previous mooring at the harbour, but went further north, which seemed a bit more protected from the waves. Another sleepless night waiting. After a couple of hours, we saw that some people who came to the harbour late were hard-pressed to find a mooring. Imagine, being left high and dry (or wet) in the middle of the ocean, because anchoring in the harbour is not possible.

In the meantime, Al was checking the weather forecast, and was concerned that strong winds were being mentioned for the new year's day and beyond. Our initial plan was to spend four days in Les Saints, and return to Martinique on the 2nd of January, 2015. Levent is interested in spear-fishing, and has the gear for it. After seeing the anchorages, which seemed to be full of all kinds of fish, Levent was really disappointed when we could not stay.  However, the forecast dictated that we should return to the safety of St Anne, Martinique on New Year's Eve. No dilly-dallying in Les Saints, we had to march back.

After the second night, we started mid-morning for our trip back, but only up to Portsmouth, Dominica. The passage was only three hours, but wind was on the nose and hefty, waves similar. However, everybody agreed that, the waves on the way were not much harder than the rolls of the previous two nights. When we reached Portsmouth, we could not believe the calm waters of the harbour. (It could be rolly there too, in northerly swells). We were on the look-out for our friends, Liming Time and Balikcil. We spotted the former, and got a ball close by, but Balikcil was not there.

After we got settled, we saw Sid and Peg whizzing by in their dinghy. Apparently they were having a great time, taking part in a dinghy poker run organized by PAYS, Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security. There were a few other boats, and ther were several check points at different places around the bay,  US$40.- per hand. Sid raved about the prizes to be won, which made the fee worth while. We are not "gamblers" so we let them go, while we swam in the somewhat murky waters. I wanted to eat out, so we got ready and rode to the small dinghy-dock of Purple Turtle for dinner, which was the only restaurant open on a Sunday during holiday season.

Sid and Peg promised to join us there for drinks later on. However, when we got there, we learned that they did not have any fish or meat. Chicken did not seem attractive (after eating Levent's chicken donair, nothing compares). Guys had a round of beer, we purchased a bag of ice, and we returned to Ruyam II. We cooked what we had, which turned into an excellent meal with the help of raki. Moreover, Levent expressed his relief, for not being forced to eat there "Have you seen that kitchen?" He was saying. I had never eaten at that restaurant, but had been to some others at the area. It had not been bad experiences in the past, but it seems that everywhere is going down in the Caribbean lately. Sid was mentioning earlier that all the anchorages on the way to Martinique being empty, even Admiralty Bay,  Bequia. (We had not observed any change there, when we passed a month earlier than them.) St Lucia was deserted. For good reason! The crime updates mention St Lucia everyday, criminals getting more daring, probably more desperate every day. Armed robberies, assaults on sailors. They must be out of their minds, people will pass by them in the future, if they do not shape up.

Next morning, not very early, we motored to Rousseau. When we got close to Pancho's moorings, we saw Balikcil, and got tied next to them. We went into town for some essentials, and got back to get ready for another party. I am amazed by our ability to accommodate seven people at Ruyam II's cock-pit. If we had a chair, maybe eight could squeeze around the table, but that would be pushing it. Goes without saying that it was another very merry night, with lively conversation, fuelled by raki, and some goodies from Turkey (like pastirma (spicy pastrami) they brought, and pumpkin dessert that Elif cooked. Hmm, excellent.)

 We were anxious to get back as soon as possible, but poor Levent wanted to do some fishing before the end of their only holiday. He proposed to sail as far as Anse D'Arlet, after making the passage from Dominica, and skip St Pierre in Martinique. It was a 50 mile trip, most of it under wind. Lee of Matinique is almost non-existent, thanks to the large gap of Fort de France.

We started around 7:00 am, and reached Anse D'Arlet around 3:00 pm. It was a rough and long passage, and we were grateful to be able to relax at last. Levent jumped into the water, in pursuit of fish. I was counting on him for the New Year's Eve meal. Our supplies were shrinking, most of all bread completely gone. But I knew an excellent bakery at the village of Arlet (not Grand Anse D'Arlet mind you, that is a bigger anchorage, next door to Arlet, but most of the strip of small buildings at the shore are occupied by restaurants, no grocers. However it is possible to clear in and out there.)
We were looking at a restaurant at the shore from the place where we moored. I recognized it from the other time we had been at Arlet, and suggested having dinner there. Guylaine had been craving for lambi (conch) for some time, which is my favorite too; and I had eaten it at that restaurant. We called the telephone number advertised on the face of the building. Can you believe it, they were closed on account of exceptional circumstances for that night (Tuesday). Damnation!

Early in the next morning, we went to the dinghy dock, and headed to the bakery. I was thinking of buying fish as well, and have breakfast at the shore, while we were at it. What was I thinking? The French restaurant owners were not prepared to wait on customers so early in the morning. Fish market would only open around noon time - who would want to shop at that ungodly hour as 8:00 am?

We bought some amazing bread, and returned to Ruyam II. Al was anxious to get underway. Around 9:30 am, we started motoring. Sailing was out of the question, waves huge, wind 20-28 knots on the nose, as soon as we peeped out of the corner. Al and I debated about passing through the channel between the Diamond Rock or not. I remember from our last  attempt, that there was such a strong current at the narrow channel, it took us as long as going around the rock. However, this time the waves were so high, Al did not want to go around. I was secretly hoping for some other boat to show the way. While we were struggling the wind and the waves at 3.5 miles an hour, we saw more than one sail boat hugging the main coast and passing the channel. Despite being close to the rock, Al turned towards the channel, and we made our passage. Thankfully, the current was in the right direction, and helped us pass the rock, which seemed to me as long as an hour.  I could not understand how people were hugging the coast, since the water was like a mine field with the fishermen's nets. The mono-hulls do not seem to mind them, which we are quite frantic to avoid. Who knows?

It took us four hours to reach Le Marin, bobbing in the waves at a snail speed. But like everything else, that too passed, and we got tied to the fuel dock at last, to fill our water. Levent and Guylaine left Ruyam II on foot, promising to come back for the New Year's Eve celebration. All of us were exhausted from the week long excursion, the last leg of which was the hardest.

When we left the fuel dock, to motor to St Anne, Al heard some noise from the starboard engine, and turned it off. He mentioned having seen a plastic bag, bobbing in the water near the boat. Thankfully, the wind was pushing us west most of the way. After turning towards St Anne, Al refrained from going all the way to the beach with one engine, and decided to anchor somewhat in the middle of the anchorage. Although it is a wast area, the number of boats already anchored was incredible. It seemed that everybody was following the same weather news, and seeked refuge at St Anne.

We anchored in the middle of two Canadian sail boats, and had a sigh of relief at last. Now it was time to get ready for the celebration, with whatever was left in the pantry and the fridge. It turned out sufficient for the night. Raki supply was gone, but we had some Lebanese arak from last year, Selcuk's gift. As well, a bottle of champange, also from last year, since we had drunk Selcuk's Don Perignon for celebrating the beginning of 2014.

We ate and drunk (mostly the latter), watched several shows of fireworks, in St Anne, Club Med and some distant small village. We were so tired, we hardly stayed longer than half an hour past midnight. Levent and Guylaine spent their last night at Ruyam II, and left the next morning, anxious to be back at their home at last, to rest before the grind.

BALIKCIL IN LE MARIN

About a week before Christmas, we learned that Levent was thinking of closing the restaurant for about ten days during the holidays, since his major clientele (high school students) would be staying home. We immediately suggested a sailing trip to Les Saints, the group of small islands between Dominica and Guadaloupe. Everybody raves about them, but we had passed them by during our initial  travel down. They agreed. Guylaine was pleased that she would be able to explore a new place in the Caribbean. She was born in Le Marin, Martinique, but was raised in Paris, France. During the last eight years of their stay in Le Marin, after their return to Martinique, she had several sailing trips with friends, to St Vincent and Grenadines in the south, and to Dominica with us, last year, but not to  Guadeloupe.

All of us were excited, and planned on starting our trip early in the morning of December 24th. The only concern was the notorious Christmas winds, although the weather had been unseasonably calm for more than ten days. The forecast for the holidays was brisk winds (mostly dark blue in the color Passage Weather charts) and low seas. No problem, we needed some wind to sail.

We did our provisioning together,  and almost demolished Levent's old car in the process. On our way back from the discount stores, the engine started to billow smoke. Levent immediately stopped in the middle of the highway, and sprinkled some water on the burning exhaust insulator. We waited for Guylaine's sister-in-law to give us a ride home, leaving Levent with the car. I felt awful, and wondered if it was a bad omen for the up coming trip. We learned afterwards that Levent was able to start the car and reached home.

We planned to motor to Le Marin on the 23rd and anchor, so that Levent and Guylaine could come aboard that night, for an early take off in the morning. Poor guys, they were to  work all day, close shop in the evening and come aboard in the dark.

Befor every trip, we fill our water tanks, period. Around noon on the 23rd, I was sitting at the front of Ruyam II, filling the starboard tank from the fuel dock, which is literally in the middle of the Le Marin marinas, and about the end of the channel leading there. The sea around is quite lively at all times, with the boats and dinghys whizzing by. While I was looking around, I saw one big mono-hull almost stationary beside Ruyam II, idling. I first thought that they wished to come to the fuel doc─Ě, but realized later that they were waiting for the dockmaster Gustav for assistance. Then the name of the boat attracted my attention; Balikcil. Sounds like Turkish, but without the cedille. Lo and behold, they had the Turkish flag, as well as the insignia of ARC (ATLANTIC RALLY FOR CRUISERS between Grand Canary and St. Lucia). Wow, they obviously had crossed the Atlantic. So I hollered "hosgeldiniz - welcome" and they looked, but were too busy with their lines to pay attention. A little later Gustav came and led them to a berth around the corner from the fuel dock. So that Al was able to walk over and greet them.

That night, after Guylaine and Levent came aboard, we went to visit the trio; the owners Elif and Mustafa, and Meric, who did not make the crossing, but joined them in St Lucia before they made the passage to Le Marin. We learned that they were also thinking of travelling north, and decided to keep in touch. We gave them the name of Pancho in Rousseau, Dominica, to get help; and made our farewells, hoping to see them again.

WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS

As soon as we anchored in St Anne, we had realized that the UV protector on our genoa had some rips again, and the whole thing should be replaced. Le Marin has a two marinas and a boat yard, and as many chandleries while half its population is somehow employed in the support industries; but the myth is they work for European remuneration standards. We had never before been in a position to get work done  there. The parts an materials for the boats are the same price as American, but in Euroes, that is at least 30% more expensive for us Canadians.

Long story short, we decided to ask around for the work to be done, and also check with Martin at Grenada Marine to decide. The only price we knew was the patchwork we had got done in Rodney Bay marina in St Lucia last year. We had paid about $60.- Canadian for less than 2 meters long of a patch. On the other hand, we needed our genoa for sailing, even to St Lucia; so bite the bullet and see what they had! We checked our French For Sailors guide to learn the terminology in French, and armed ourselves for the ardous task of communication.

First we went to a sailmaker accross the street from the main marina and the chandlery (Caraibe Marine) in Le Marin. The owner/operator speculated that the two edges of our genoa to be covered would be around 18 meters, and he would charge 37.- Euros per meter. A rough calculation was $1,000.- Canadian. Hmm.

Next step, we discussed the issue with our friend Levent (who is also the main advisor - muhtar of Martinique). He mentioned a big sailmaker outfit close to the boatyard in Carenage, and the other big chandleries, further down in the town. Levent indicated that our friend from last year, Selcuk had used that outfit, and was impressed. Levent  gave us directions to get there.

We started according to the directions, but got as far as the boatyard, and a little beyond, where there were several strip malls gathered together, but not the big building he had talked about. So we returned to the boatyard, and asked about the sailmaker. The attendant showed us the one operating there. We talked to the nice guy (Michel) working at Voile Assistance (who spoke some English), and gave the price as 30.- Euros per meter, and he was going to use blue Sunbrella (better than dacron according to the blogs on the web). Wow, right off the bat, more than $10.- Canadian less per meter. Al decided on the spot to bring the genoa there.

We went back to Ruyam II and brought the genoa down. Before we packaged it, we roughly measured and saw that the total length was 15 meters. Since the sail package is quite heavy, we arranged with Levent to give us a ride to the boatyard from St Anne.

After we dropped off the sail, Levent showed us the other place that he meant. Apparently down the road from the shopping centre (called Artimer), there was a dinghy access and a bigger chandlery (called Clippers Ship Sarl), where the sailmaker was occupying a hangar. When we looked from outside, Al decided that they would not charge less than ours, since all of the outfits there looked new and more prosperous than our boatyard. We consoled ourselves that we had made a mistake, but found the best place to fit our budget. Michel promised to finish the job in five days, but called us a day early, so we motored Ruyam II to Le Marin, and went to take the genoa by dingy, since access by sea to the boatyard is easier. In the end we paid 450.- Euros cash, everybody was happy. Oh, I forgot to mention that Martin would charge for the same work, US$800.- (more than $1,000.- Canadian now.) Grenada come to your senses!

We have a saying in Turkish, if God wants to make you happy, he first makes you lose your mule, and lets you find it. We were happy, that we saved about $400.- Canadian, and did not worry about the amount that we paid. We have yet to try our genoa.

Almost right after we put the genoa up, Al found out that there was a bit of water in the starboard bilge (first time we ever saw it, probably from the waves that came in from the hatches on the way), but the pump was not working. Nothing to be done, but replace it. It must have been corroded from no usage. The only time it was used during the four years, had been when the other pump for discharging the water from the shower malfunctioned. Al had used the bilge pump to clear the shower, and replaced the shower pump.

What could we do, but go to the Carenage boatyard chandlery to ask for a new bilge pump. Carenage did not have the one we were looking for, they have an immense inventory of second had boat parts, but not much new. So we walked further up to the Clippers. They had only one in stock, for 300.- Euros. She gave us 15.- Euros discount after we cried about the outrageous price, and we bought the damned thing.
While Al was working away in cramped conditions in the head, under the sink, our refrigerator decided to stop working. When we saw that all our meat in the freezer was thawed, I cooked them all.

Al could not understand the reason for the erratic performance of the fridge, since it was not completely gone, but working and stopping for no reason it seemed. Al thought that the reason could be related to low amperage of the batteries, since it had been gloomy for the last couple of days - worst part of solar chargers. He started the engines, and the refrigerator started working; however, it was not regular, either working constantly for a long time, or not at all. Al checked the Budget Marine catalogs, and on line for some French suppliers; $1,000.- bucks to change the compressor system. Not good!

The compressor is located in the storage under our dining room seat, next to the fridge. Al was first spending time listening to the hum of the compressor, then decided to check the line running from the compressor to the fridge. Apparently if it gets cold, the compressor is working fine.

One evening, both of the engines were running (quite a lot of noise), Al was kneeling down in front of the seat holding the fridge line, and I was at the far end, reading. All of a sudden I heard a loud "PSST", and Al looked at me with some confusion, and let out "the line broke!". All the gas in the fridge was gone in a couple of seconds. Now we were really without a fridge, which contained the food that I had cooked a day before, several plastic containers worth. I begged Al to leave the fridge alone, and turn the engines off immediately. Peace at last! Early in the morning we will get ice from shore  and fill the ice chest with the food from the fridge!

Now, we were in need of a mechanic, and fast. What to do, but ask Levent of course. A smart decision again. When we asked him, Levent told us a story about the refrigeration specialist in Le Marin. Some time back, there was a Turkish sailor at the Le Marin marina, who needed the same service. He got the company located at the marina (Tilikum) to check his fridge, and learned that he would have to dish out 800.- Euros, to replace his compressor. The sailor could not believe it, and asked somebody else, who estimated half the expense. With the conflicting estimates, he turned to Pascal, the owner operator of Nautic Froid. Pascal asked if the mechanic at Tilikum had seen the fridge. When the guy confirmed, Pascal started laughing, indicating that Tilikum had asked to buy a compressor from him the day before. Pascal thought that he was going to charge double for the new compressor, and sell the old one, since it was working fine. In the end, Pascal charged the guy 50.- Euros for some minor adjustment. Pascal became Levent's mechanic for the restaurant fridges after that time.

We arranged  with Pascal to see the fridge around 3:00 o'clock on a Friday at Le Marin. So, we motored all the way, replenished our water and anchored. I was not very optimistic about our prospects, what could a mechanic do in a couple of hours, other than diagnostics? The next day being the week-end, I despaired that we would have to wait until Monday for complete repairs.

Well, I was wrong. He met us at Elite Kebab, and asked me to accomapny him in his dingy, to show our boat, while Al went alone in our dinghy. He checked the broken line, went back to bring his soldering and gas filling equipment and finished the work in about an hour and a half. He declared that the fridge was working fine, but our energy storage capacity was at the lower end, which created the problem. When Al mentioned his intention of buying two extra solar panels, he suggested adding two more batteries instead, indicating that the fridge was designed to shut itself off as a safety precaution, as soon as the voltage provided by the batteries dipped lower that 11.8V. The solution was to increase the amperage. Long live Pascal! The whole thing cost us 80,- Euros, and we learned something besides.