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!