Archive for March, 2013

Sometimes You Gotta Stop and Smell the Cheese

March 28, 2013

posted from Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

LE MARIN/ST. ANNE

On Thursday, March 7, we left Rodney Bay and headed north to Le Marin, Martinique. The sail was nice and easy with calm seas and wind on the beam. Our log shows it took five hours to cover the twenty six miles. In reality we probably spent half an hour motoring around the crowded anchorage looking for a spot. We finally found a spot behind The Dove – the same boat we were anchored behind in Rodney Bay.

We have stopped in Martinique several times, but this is our first visit to the St. Ann/Le Marin area. The towns are on a long inlet on the south side of Martinique. At the mouth of the inlet you pass the village of St. Anne. The anchorage looked a bit crowded, but nice. We continued on into Le Marin. The first impression of Le Marin is that there must be a thousand sailboats there. There are a few reefs and shallows to beware of, but they are easy to miss – just don’t go where there are no boats.

Chart of St. Ann/Le Marin (depth in meters)

Chart of St. Ann/Le Marin (depth in meters)

We settled in, commissioned the dinghy, and went to shore to check in. Clearing in was simple as it always is in the French islands.

SHOPPING

Le Marin is known for two things – the vast array of boat related stores and services, and the good provisioning at the three large grocery stores and many smaller shops. We discovered lots of $5 US bottles of wine and a bin of 50% off cheese that was all great.

CRUISER CENTRAL

We came to Le Marin because we heard it was nice. We stayed because there are no well protected anchorages on our next few jumps north and we needed somewhere to hide from the north swell that was coming in. It turned out a lot of people had the same idea. Everywhere we went in Le Marin we bumped into someone we knew.

The first day in we started walking by the shops around the bay and bumped into Don and Olga Casey (Richard Corey). They are quite familiar with the area and gave us a quick intro to what is where.

Every couple of days we bumped into John and Julia (Mary Ann II).

As mentioned earlier, we anchored behind The Dove (Larry) which led to being invited to a party with about six other boats on Never Bored (Chris and Sheila).

Again walking around town we bumped into – and had lunch with – Peter and Anne (Spice of Life) who introduced us to fellow cruisers Wade and Diane (Joana)

BIG NIGHT OUT

We are usually back on the boat by dark, but one night we went out to eat. The plan started a sundowners with Don and Olga, but turned into dinner at Ti Toques with two other couples. Also joining us were Ann and Steve (Receta) and Marilyn and Martin (Rocking Horse). Just to make things interesting we split up the couples and alternated boy/girl. It was a lot of fun and the food was quite good.

(left to right) Ann, Don,  Marilyn, Steve, Eric, Olga, Martin, Jackie

(left to right) Ann, Don, Marilyn, Steve, Eric, Olga, Martin, Jackie

Jackie demonstrates here knowledge of French chopsticks

Jackie demonstrates here knowledge of French chopsticks

French food

French food

Don tries to keep his desert out of Ann's reach

Don tries to keep his desert out of Ann’s reach – she of course claims she only wants the recipe

HIKING

We went for a few hikes in and around Le Marin and St. Anne. The first was a hike up a mountain on the far side of the bay. We didn’t really know it was going to be a mountain until we found the little fishing harbor and saw what was ahead. We made it most of the way up before we turned back. There were beautiful views of Le Marin and St. Anne.

Fishing village dock where we left the dink while we climbed the mountain

Fishing village dock where we left the dink while we climbed the mountain

Saint Anne

Saint Anne

Le Marin

Le Marin

Another day we rendezvoused with The Dove and Never Bored in St. Ann and walked around to Saline Bay on the south side of Martinique.

The big excursion was renting a car and driving up to the Caravelle Peninsula. We hiked around the park and spoted quite a few birds, but the coup de gras was a white-breasted thrasher – a bird that only can be found in Martinique and St. Lucia. There are believed to be only 150 pairs. We also visited the ruins of Chateau Dubuc, an old sugar plantation. On the way back to Le Marin we stopped at Habitacion Clement, and old rhum distillary.

No, in France it is rhum agricole – a somewhat nasty type of rum. It is best used for making ti punch. Three parts rum, one part cane syrup, and half a lime makes a really nice little cocktail.

CONFUSED

There are always maintenance issues on the boat. We had a scare when we found that the refrigerator wasn’t very cold. It turns out it wouldn’t run. The investigation begins.  I had a long explanation, but it will put most of you to sleep.  Suffice it to say that the the reefer wouldn’t run because the batteries were too low despite the charge controller showing them as charged.

After checking all kinds of things I noticed the fuse holder for the input from the charge controller to the house batteries was – how else can I say it – fused! This fuse is to protect the wiring from too much current but only the fuse is supposed to melt. All I can figure is that there was corrosion in the fuse holder and a short occured between the fuse connections, thus bypassing the fuse.  No fuse, no charge going into the batteries.

Fused holder

Fused holder

I replaced the fuse holder and fuse and the charging system was back up. Running the engine for a couple hours brought the batteries back up to a reasonable level. But why did the charge controller think the batteries were charged? I can only guess that in the absence of a connection to the house bank, the controller was picking up the voltage from the starting battery which was topped up and assumed it represented the whole system.

RIVER TRIP

We read in a guide book that there was a canal that ran through the mangroves and ended up at a shopping area.  We spotted such a canal and checked it out.  At the beginning of the canal was an egret roost with a couple of different species and lots of juveniles.

Egret roost

Egret roost

We worked out way up the canal, which was quite scenic, but was blocked at the far end by overgrown mangroves.  Just as we started bach we encountered a group of kids kayaking.  We let them pass and started back watching for birds.  They overtook us again on the way out.

Mangrove canal

Mangrove canal

Kayakers cool off after leaving the canal

Kayakers cool off after leaving the canal

TALL COLD ONE LESSON

So what’s the best beer value in the islands?  That is a survey I’m still conducting, but there are little tricks you need to look for.  Size can be deceiving.  For example, in the picture the Corona is 12 oz., the Carib is 330 ml., and the Piton is 255 ml.  Taller does not equal more.

Tallest cold one is not always the best deal

Tallest cold one is not always the best deal

START ‘EM YOUNG

French juicebox

French juicebox

Birds

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds

Mangrove Cuckoo

Mangrove Cuckoo

Sing it out!

Sing it out!

Next: Fins

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Northbound

March 17, 2013

posted from Le Marin, Martinique

SWEET GRENADINES

Carriacou was a lot of fun, but it was time to move on. We had been watching the weather and trying to decide how far north to go in our first jump. The last two times we went north we stopped in the Tobago Keys for a few days, but this time we decided to skip them. With the natural progression of Carriacou – Union Island (just long enough to check in) – Tobago Keys – Bequia out of sync, we had to get creative. The forecast was slowly changing – we woke up to intermittant rain showers. We set sail for Clifton, Union Island to check into St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The wind angle and current between the islands kept pushing us off course, so we finally opted for the small anchorage behind Frigate Island.

We settled in, got the dink in the water, and headed into Ashton where we could catch a bus to Clifton. We then caught a bus and received a warm greeting from one of the passengers. We got to Clifton just before noon and not wanting to pay overtime we looked for a spot for lunch. We went into a likely place and found that they were serving only one item – goat soup. We weren’t sure about it – we actually left and came back in. The people were very congenial and the soup was good.

We stopped at the customs office in town, but the officer was eating lunch and suggested we go to the airport. It’s not a bad walk, so off we went. I went into customs and checked in, but when I paid the fees they charged me $35 EC overtime because it was still during the lunch hour. The really silly part is we then had to wait for the immigration officer to come back from lunch to complete our paperwork. We walked back to Ashton just for the exercise.
We checked the weather and decided to head out the next day to Mayreau. We had trash to get rid of, so we took a quick ride in to the dock.

We never stay long in Union Island.  The first time we stopped there we were turned off by an aggressive guy on the dock and the general lack of anything happening in the town.  Since then we just stay long enough to check in or out.  This time was different.  The towns were lively and the people were nice and friendly.  Maybe next time we will stay a little longer.

SALINE BAY, MAYREAU

The trip to Mayreau was easy. It was only five and a half miles. We motored the first couple miles into the wind until we could get a clear shot. We were lazy, so we unfurled the jib and hoisted the mizzen instead of the main. We had a smooth sail across to Saline Bay and anchored about 100 yards off the beach taking care to stay away from the ferry dock. This was another new anchorage for us. It has a very nice beach that is pretty deserted unless a cruise ship comes in.

Saline Bay, Mayreau

Saline Bay, Mayreau

Eventually the ferry came in from the north, visited the dock, and then headed out to the south. It was all pretty uneventful other than a small wake. Then later in the day the ferry returned from the south and came in right behind us. This time they passed close by and were leaving a pretty big wake – big enough to toss Little Rosie around quite a bit.

This day charter boat anchored shortly after we got up

This day charter boat anchored shortly after we got up

A small cruise ship anchored off the bay.  We left before they swarmed ashore

A small cruise ship anchored off the bay. We left before they swarmed ashore

ADMIRALTY BAY, BEQUIA

We were up early the next morning and headed north for Bequia. Again, the wind was in a favorable direction and not too strong. We made the 28.5 mile trip in almost exactly five hours.

The sail to Bequia was spirited, but smooth

The sail to Bequia was spirited, but smooth

We settled in off Princess Margaret Beach within swimming distance of a rocky area where we usually see interesting things. We weren’t disappointed this time. We saw number of cool fish, but the best of all was when Jackie spotted an octopus. I had recently found an octopus in Carriacou, but it was pretty shy. This one put on quite a show for us.

Cute little coral

Cute little coral

Juvinile Queen Angelfish (blue)

Juvenile Queen Angelfish (blue)

Banded Butterflyfish

Banded Butterflyfish

Whitespotted Filefish

Whitespotted Filefish

Octopus enclosing sea urchin

Octopus enclosing sea urchin

RODNEY BAY, ST LUCIA

We weren’t sure how long we would stay in Bequia but a few days later the weather looked like it might get uncooperative, so on March 4 we got up early and headed for St. Lucia. This is a long trip because we bypass the island of St. Vincent. We left at about the same time as a bunch of other boats and had great wind and small waves.

Sailing with other boats at the south end of St. Vincent

Sailing with other boats at the south end of St. Vincent

Smooth sailing

Smooth sailing

Happy Crew

Happy Crew

We had orginally talked about cutting the trip a little short and stopping at Marigot Bay, but we had made good time and were getting nice wind on the lee side of St. Lucia, so we continued to Rodney Bay. The 71 mile trip took about 11 hours – most of which was sailing.

Sunset in St. Lucia - sort of a red flash instead of green

Sunset in St. Lucia – sort of a red flash instead of green

NEXT: MARTINIQUE (think cheap wine and good cheese)

It’s About Sailing

March 3, 2013

posted from Admiralty Bay, Bequia

FAST TIMES (SORT OF)

We are through the holiday season and life has settled down a little, but we still manage to stay busy.  In addition to the typical music and cruiser events there have been a few races in Grenada.  The first was match races on small Hobie Cats hosted by the Le Phare Bleu Yacht Club.  This was a well attended fun event.  Unfortunately the wind didn’t cooperate – especially in the starting area.  Often one of each pair of competitors would find a small wind hole and get stuck at the start and the other would get an insurmountable lead.  I was in the first pair to race and had the dubious honor of being the first to get stuck in the wind hole.  I did manage make up most of the time and make a respectable showing, but I was the first to be eliminated.  Of course I was the first to the beer concession so it wasn’t all bad.

Searching for wind

Searching for wind

MORE FAST TIMES

The match races were followed by the Grenada Sailing Week (keelboats) and the Grenada Sailing Festival (traditional island workboats).  These two races used to be part of the same event, but they split last year.  The work boat final races fall on the lay day in the middle of the sailing week event.

We went to the work boat races last time we were here and they are a must see.  The boats are not very hi-tech, but they are very colorful.

Some boats are more hi-tech than others

Some boats are more hi-tech than others

The boats are very colorful

The boats are very colorful

The boats start just off the beach – barely beyond the surf line.  One or two guys hold the boat and jump in when the start signal is given.  This gets pretty interesting – especially when repairs and adjustments are in progress.

This guy gets dragged trying to fix the boat at the start

This guy gets dragged trying to fix the boat at the start

The races stayed pretty close to the beach, so they were easy to watch.  The races are among teams from all over Grenada and its outer islands, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.  The big winners were the guys from Woburn, the area in the bay next to us.  They won two classes, finished second in another class, and took the overall win.

Lots of serious racing

Lots of serious racing

Grenada Sailing Week, the big boat regatta had four days of fleet racing in four different classes.  I was able to trim mainsheet on Jaguar, the boat I raced on in Antigua last spring.  The boat is a Frers 43 owned by Peter Morris and based in Trinidad. Our friend, Bob Starboard, flew to Trinidad from Washington, DC, to help deliver the boat to Grenada and stayed on Compass Rose during the races.  Fellow cruiser Ray McTear of C Drifter  also did the delivery, and another cruiser, Steve from Summer Love, crewed with us, too.  We entered the Cruising I class, which allowed double headsails, but no spinnakers.  We had a great time.

Most of the racing was in the protected bay off Grand Anse Beach, but one day we went to the south coast where it was windy and lumpy.  Jackie and Steve’s wife, Donna, walked out to Prickley Point to watch and take pictures.

Jaguar downwind with double headsails

Jaguar downwind with double headsails

Jaguar clawing her way to windward

Jaguar clawing her way to windward

Eric, Peter, and Bob

Eric, Peter, and Bob

By the end of the twelve race regatta, Jaguar had two seconds and ten firsts.  She won her class three of four days and overall for the regatta.

IT FINALLY HAPPENED!

It seemed like we had been in Grenada forever, but finally on February 9th we dropped the mooring, topped up the fuel tanks and sailed out of Mt. Hartman Bay.  We had a scary moment when we tried to top up the starboard fuel tank – it only took a gallon.  We collect water on that side of the deck and I feared that some – actually a lot –  had seeped past the O-ring in the diesel deck filler.  I checked the vlave positions and our fuel records and found to our great relief that we had used almost no fuel out of that tank since we filled it up almost a year ago in St. Maarten.  I had switched to that tank recently and used a little fuel to charge the batteries on a cloudy day, so we knew we weren’t sucking any water off the bottom of the tank.

We had a pleasant sail around the SW corner of Greneda and up past St. Georges to Flamingo Bay.  This is a delightful little bay that I had stayed in when my brother-in-law and I sailed down from Carriacou, but it was a first for Jackie.  The next day we sailed north to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou.  The seas were relatively small, but the wind angle could have been better, but after a couple tacks we arrived in Tyrrel Bay.

CARRIACOU CARNIVAL!

The next morning Jackie spotted a Facebook entry from Debby on Chimayo posted at 3 AM saying they were off to J’ouvert, a traditional Carnival event.  We had completely forgotton that we had arrived in time for Carnival.  They weren’t in Tyrrel Bay (which had been uncharacteristically rolly) so we headed around to their favorite haunt at Sandy Island.  Sure enough, there was Chimayo. We grabbed a mooring and dinghied across the channel to Off The Hook on Paradise Beach.  Sure enough, there were Debbie and Bob.  They were tired and somewhat painted, but having a great time.

We all caught a ride into Hillsboro that afternoon to see the Carnival festivities.   We got back late, but successfully launched the dinchy in the surf and negotiated the ride back across the channel into the wind and the waves.  The next morning we got up fairly early and made our way to Brunswick, a little crossroads on the way to town, to see part of the Shakespeare competition.  A contestants in “Shakespearean” costumes pair off and recite speeches from the Shakespeare play selected for that year.  When one person makes an error the other calls him on it and takes over.  Sometimes “violence” breaks out and the pair beat each other on their reinforced capes with flexible rods.  It is quite a spectacle.

Shakespeare contestands face off

Shakespeare contestands face off

There was even a competition for youngsters and some really got into it

There was even a competition for youngsters and some really got into it

We then made our way to town to see the Shakespeare final and the last parade of Carnival.  Carriacou is a small island, so the parade is much smaller than in Grenada, but the participants put a lot of effort into it and sport some very nice costumes.  And to make up for the shortness of the parade some of the groups do as many as three laps around town.

Fancy costume includes cell phone holder

Fancy costume includes cell phone holder

CarnSpeakers

Like any other carnival, there was plenty of loud music

Carn0481

Cruisers watch the parade go by

Carn0498

There were youngsters accompanying some groups

Carn0516

Everyone was taking pictures

CarnKIM

Kim from Da Big Fish in Grenada shows off one of the fabulous costumes

CarnOpener

Bob uses a piece of metal in his shoe to open a beer

ANOTHER TYPE OF CARNIVAL

The dust had barely settled when another type of carnival took place – elections.  They seem to take their politics pretty seriously in Carriacou.  Lots of people wore green shirts in support of the opposition party.  Very few wore the red shirts of the incumbent party.  When all was said and done, the greens took the prime minister position and ALL the representative seats.

Fuzzy Flheary or Nimrod?  You decide

Fuzzy Fleary or Nimrod? You decide

L’ESTERRE JUNIOR SAILING

Bob and Debbie have spent most of the time since the beginning of hurricane season in Carriacou.  They have become very involved with the L’esterre Junior Sailing Club.  They conduct most of the saturday sailing activities including having the kids police the beach, rig the boats and put them away at the end of the day.  They also make certain the kids get a lunch, as many of the families are poor.

View across L'esterre Bay to Sandy Island from Off The Hook

View across L’esterre Bay to Sandy Island from Off The Hook

Rigging a boat. Old sails, wooden spars, but the boats sail

Rigging a boat. Old sails, wooden spars, but the boats sail

Rigging the boats and launching off the beach

Rigging the boats and launching off the beach

The club has eight boats at their disposal and this is the first time they have all been in working in order at the same time thanks to Bob’s repair skills and help from members of the community.

Bob and Debbie take a short break after the boats are launched

Bob and Debbie take a short break after the boats are launched

TYRREL BAY

We spent about two weeks anchored in Tyrrel Bay.  We did some snorkeling around the boat and along the edge of the mangroves.  Here are some of the things we saw around town and in the water.

Brain coral

Brain coral

WhiteSpotFile-Orange

White spotted file fish in orange phase

SeaCucumber

Sea cucumber

Octopus

Octopus

Lobster

Curious lobster peek out of their lair

Fluke

Fluke from one of the many mooring anchors around our boat. Our anchor chain would hook on this one once in a while

Fish

unidentified fish

WestIndSeaEgg

West Indian sea egg

Head0541

A common item in an uncommon place

Black Beach on the east side of the island

Black Beach on the east side of the island

Cow mooring

Cow mooring

Test 1: Find the lizard

Test 1: Find the lizard

Test 2: Find the frog.

Test 2: Find the frog.

Test 3: find the "s"

Test 3: find the “s”

Test 2: find the sheep

Test 4: find the hidden sheep

Beach in Tyrrel Bay

Beach in Tyrrel Bay

Part of the town of Harvey Vale, Tyrrel Bay

Part of the town of Harvey Vale, Tyrrel Bay

Flower

Flower seen on our hike

Another flower seen on our hike

Another flower seen on our hike

Tods? And just how new is that vendor's market?

Tods? And just how new is that vendor’s market?

Isn't that the kind of thing you really want to say?

Isn’t that the kind of thing you really want to say?

OTHER BLOGS

My brother, Dave, retired just over a year ago.  He is a bit of an adventurous type, so no sitting at home hooking rugs for him.  For example, he and I sailed Compass Rose from St. Thomas, USVI to Moorehead City, NC., and he has crossed (and crossed back) all the Great Lakes except Superior on Hobie Cats – often solo.

He has set off to ride a unicycle from California to Florida.  He is doing this just to do it, but he is looking for donations to research on ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He has started a blog: http://unicyclingsailor.com . I suggested that we compare distance traveled by the time we put Compas Rose up for hurricane season.  Why not follow along.

Our friend, Joan, is driving the support vehicle.  She also has a blog at: http://wanderthirstjoan.com/  so you can get two perspectives of the same trip and find out what a support driver does while waiting for the rider.

NEXT: SWEET GRENADINES