, Kelly's Eye
 
CARIBBEAN: JANUARY TO MARCH 2005
 

Addendum to the transatlantic report
We mentioned a serious crush injury to somebody's hand, on another yacht. Such injuries are not uncommon and are usually caused by getting a hand caught in a winch. We've since found out what reallly happened ...wait for it...a freezer lid fell on their hand! Must have been a big lid. Mike is being his normal unsympathetic self and making comments such as 'people like that should stay at home and live close by an A and E unit'.

Back to cruising
Well, we didn't get away from St Lucia on the planned date because it began to rain. And it rained and it rained and it rained, to the extent that even the locals were commenting how unusual the weather was. Obviously sailing in the rain is not a problem, just unpleasant, but we were intending to anchor off in Martinique and the thought of climbing in and out of the dinghy in the rain plus being unable to sit on deck meant we decided to stay tied to the pontoon. It was a good decision to sit tight because the marina soon filled up and boats coming down from Martinique reported the marina there was full, with hundreds anchored off.

We had a good social time because many of the ARC boats we knew came back in (having gone down-island for Christmas) and non-ARC boats that we met in mainland Spain and Lanzarote also arrived after their transatlantics - these included Bud and Cathy on Invictus IV, Adrian and Sue on Lalize and Chris and Fiona on Three Ships. The highlight of the stay was being invited to a wedding; Three Ships arrived from the Cape Verdes and forty eight hours later two of the crew (Marcus and Maria) were married on the foredeck!! You have to be in St Lucia for twenty four hours before you can get married and the wedding was pre-arranged, but because of a slow crossing they were sweating about making it in time. The wedding was brilliant with a minister who said just the right things, the only downside was it started to rain (what a surprise) but nobody took any notice and we subsequently retired to a bar.

There are always jobs to do on the boat and we used the sailing downtime to good effect: we made a lifting harness for the dinghy; changed one of the prop shaft greasers; checked where to service the life raft; cleaned the oven etc etc. As you can see, it's an exciting life we lead. In truth it's not dull, the work keeps us busy and an honourable social mention must go to Duncan and Inge from Anam Cara. They were staying in a flat while their boat's collision damage was repaired and we had a few unforgettable nights with them at various restaurants. Mike says the hangovers were proof we had a good time.

On Monday 17th January the weather cheered up and we cleared out (customs and immigration formalities) of St Lucia. We spent that night at anchor off Pigeon Point, so that we could swim and get under the boat to clean the prop which was heavily fouled with weed and tubeworm growth.

Martinique
On the 18th we sailed up to Martinique in ten to fifteen knots of wind. Although it is only 22 miles to Martinique the current and leeway push you down away from the island and we sailed over 30 miles before the wind died and and we had to motor the last few miles. We anchored off Baie Ste Anne just before nightfall and although not a long sail it was good to get moving again.

The following day we took the boat into Le Marin, where we anchored off, to clear customs and see if we could find somebody to look at our generator. We found a highly competent French guy (Patrice) who runs Mecanique Plaisance. We described the problem and he agreed the highest probability was a hole in the heat exchanger. At that point he really surprised us by offering to come out to the boat to have a look - he ended up taking off the heat exchanger for pressure testing. The heat exchanger passed the pressure test which meant it was probably something serious and we decided to remove the generator from the boat, so it could be properly inspected in their workshop. Removing it was a major job and not a decision we took lightly.

The same afternoon Patrice came back with the bad news, one of the cylinders was cracked and the engine block needed to be replaced, there were also a string of other smalller problems including a broken mounting and a bearing that needed replacement. Basically it needed a total rebuild which would cost much the same as a new generator. All this on an engine that had only run for 550 hours!!!

We suddenly got very interested in generators, how could the thing fall apart after such little running time? Also, almost every boat we know with a generator has had problems with it. Since we know there are people reading this who are thinking of going long term cruising I'll go into a little detail. Basically there are two types of generator, one runs at 1,500rpm, the other at 3,000rpm - our was the latter and it's fairly obvious that going from 0 to 3,000rpm with a cold engine is likely to damage it in short order.

Mike went up to the workshop to see our generator and have a look at what else was there. The place was littered with broken 3,000rpm generators, one with only a few hours on it. Patrice told him that the most hours he has EVER seen on a 3,000rpm generator is around one thousand and that they are lifed to run between 400 and 600 hours - then they fall apart! The 1,500rpm generators are lifed to around 8,000 hours but cost at least twice the price.

Since we expect to be at anchor at least six months a year, running the generator two hours per day, our annual useage is not less than 365 hours per annum. Put another way, long term cruising boats with 3,000rpm generators should expect to replace the generator roughly every eighteen months, with the added hassle of repairs before total breakdown. We chose to install a Westerbeke 1,500rpm model and as a final thought there is one big brand that seems to break down more often than others. We'd rather not put the name here but do drop us an email if you want to know who it is.

Anyway, back to Martinique. Because of the need to replace the generator we moved onto a pontoon in the marina which was rather windless and therefore very hot. The good news was French bread, French food and the natives were friendly! The downside was the cost of gin, UK prices (compared to about 66% cheaper than UK in St Lucia). The other downside was that my schoolgirl French was just as bad if not worse than when I was a schoolgirl. Add to that the realisation that my brain will only handle my own language and a bit of another and you will understand that there were a few puzzled French faces when I found myself using Spanish as my all purpose 'foreign language'. Hey it worked in Portugal... Thankfully I did get a tad better, so at least we ate!

We pottered around Le Marin for about a week while the engineer fitted the new generator, one highlight being a visit to the church which was built in the 1700's. It seems to have been built by shipwrights because the roof sections (in the shape of a cross) look like upturned boats, with the most amazing woodwork where the sections meet. Another highlight was meeting up with David and Deborah on Water Music, including drinks on board. I also had a hair cut, the shortest yet. So far I've had two in Portugal, one in Spain and one here and they get shorter each time. Mike thinks this is a GOOD THING as it means I need less water for a shower!

We finally got away from the marina on January 28th, although we had a small incident on departure. What happened was something that you might read in a yachting magazine as a "question of seamanship", so here's the question.

"You have just left a pontoon and are too far away to get a line back when the engine fails. You are towing a dinghy with outboard from the bows. You don't have much time to consider the options and act because the wind is blowing off the pontoon at 20 knots and less than 200 yards away, directly downwind, is a reef. What will you do?" The options we saw were: drop the anchor (rejected, bottom might be foul with marina moorings); use the dinghy to tow the boat (rejected, too windy to do it successfully); sail out of the marina, which we did.

We sailed out to Baie Ste Anne and anchored, to try to find the problem. What we discovered was diesel leaks (that let in air) at each end of a short piece of S-shaped copper tubing that connects the water separator to the primary fuel filter. We are certain this was caused by somebody accidentally hitting the tubing when fitting the generator. Mike tried to fix it by tightening the compression joints at each end - it worked at one end only. That meant we had to replace the tubing and the olives in the compression joints and Mike made a new S-shaped piece the next morning, fortunately we carry spare copper tube etc. All was then OK, but it did reinforce how self-reliant we need to be.

We stayed in Baie St Anne for nearly five days mainly relaxing although there was a spot of babysitting to do. Jason and Kirsty on Ciao were in the bay and they have a magical baby called Rosie (Rosie's first birthday was on the day we all left the Canaries!). Jason and Kirsty are both dive instructors but rarely have the opportunity to dive together because of Rosie, so we offered to babysit for them. Suffice to say that Rosie is brilliant company so it wasn't a chore, in fact I'm not sure who had more fun.

We visited Le Marin again on February 1st to clear out and left Baie Ste Anne on the 2nd beginning our journey north (to Antigua to meet friends). We headed up to St Pierre on Martinique (30 miles) in light north westerly winds. This was the beginning of a very strange weather period which made all the normal anchorages a rolly lee shore (potentially dangerous if the wind came up). We stayed one uncomfortable night in St Pierre, without going ashore, then headed north again to ...

Dominica
We motorsailed the 36 miles to Roseau in light variable winds, mainly from the west. Again the anchorage was rolly and we didn't go ashore that night. The following morning I did go ashore (on my own because we didn't want to leave the boat unattended) to clear in. One of the boat boys came to collect me and give me a lift to customs, but he managed to T-bone Kelly's Eye when he couldn't get his engine out of gear. He knocked a big lump of paint off the side and we were glad we have a steel boat, the damage would have been much worse to a fibreglass boat.

We left that same morning and headed up to Portsmouth near the northern tip of Dominica. While we were in Dominica we were hoping to meet up with Steve Hart, one of Mike's old skydiving team. Steve is the Dominica location manager for the shooting of the sequels of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately he was really busy but we hoped to meet up when we headed south again.

Portsmouth is a great place with a well protected bay and we stayed a couple of days but intended to stay longer on the way back. Dominica is probably the least spoiled of all the large Caribbean islands, with few tourists and huge areas of unspoilt tropical rainforest abundant with wildlife. While we were there we walked up to the British built Fort Shirley (that name must have struck fear in French hearts). We saw one of the local snakes and a tree with dozens of humming birds feeding on the flowers.

Isles des Saintes
These islands are a small archipeligo 20 miles north of Dominica, owned by France. Again we had light and variable winds from the NW and SE. By now we were getting fed up with motorsailing and decided to stay a few days to wait for wind.

The islands are very pretty but the main village is ruined by the noise and exhaust fumes of small scooters. The funniest incident while we were there was when Mike spotted what looked like water falling falling from a clear sky into the centre of the main village street. We went to investigate and the next thing to fall wasn't water (you can guess). Sitting on an electricity cable above us was a giant green iguana! We watched it for a while as it crawled slowly along the cable and eventually launched itself into a nearby tree.

The weather during most of our time there was fairly dire. A major low pressure system to the North had spun off a trough that sat over the Leeward Islands, giving solid cloud cover, showers and, eventually, nearly continuous rain. However there was the odd weather break and we decided to make a dash north to meet friends in Antigua, leaving the Isles on February 10th.

Before we move on though, it was while we were in Isles de Saintes that we heard, on an HF radio net, about Ellen MacArthur's new single-handed round the world record. Mike thinks she is now the greatest sportsperson Britain has ever produced - she competes in the world's toughest, mental and physical, events and has beaten all the male competitors. If you want to know what is involved in single-handed ocean racing try to see the news footage of Ellen just before she left on the Vendee. Look into her eyes and the eyes of the other competitors, it will send a shiver down your spine. It isn't fear you are seeing, that looks different, it's something much deeper.

We also heard that some commentators in Britain were saying that it's all down to her back-up team, with better weather and routeing information. That's nonsense because all the top sailors receive the highest level of support. Also, anybody saying such things only has to look at her racing record to see it isn't true. Some years ago she entered the Route du Rhum, the premier single-handed race from France to the Caribbean, in a Class 2 50 foot boat with little sponsorship. Nobody gave her a chance and to everybody's astonishment she won her Class. The jaw dropping thing was that she also beat a number of the faster Class 1 60 footers. Out of interest, that got the sponsors interested and she returned to the race with a fully sponsored Class 1 60 footer. This time everybody said she would be out of her depth racing against the world's best sailors, all men of course. She won.

We understand that she has been made a Dame. France has been treating her as a national hero for years, she deserves to be a national hero in Britain too.

Guadeloupe
To break the trip to Antigua we stopped briefly in Deshaies, Guadeloupe, about 32 miles north of Isles des Saintes. We didn't bother to go ashore but had an unwanted visitor during the evening. We were just about to go to bed when Mike noticed something fly in through the main hatch. It was a huge cockroach about three inches long. Cockroaches are not uncommon on boats and it's difficult to keep them out - for example we remove all packaging, before bringing goods aboard, because it can harbour eggs. We also know that cockroaches crawl along dock lines and can fly from boat to boat. But boat cockroaches are small, about half an inch to an inch long, so this one was a land monster that must have flown some two hundred yards to reach us. Mike cornered it and squashed it, then he carefully cleaned up the mess in case it was carrying eggs.

Antigua
We sailed the 42 miles to Antigua on February 11th. Having been to Antigua many times before arriving in English Harbour was a bit like coming home and something we've always wanted to do in our own boat. We particularly came to Antigua at this time to meet up with Paul and Sarah Brown and we had an entertaining lunch with them at the Admirals Inn. We felt a bit sorry for them because the the weather was still dreadful with days of rain. I was quite proud of myself, restricting questions about the radio industry to a 5 minute stint!

In fact I think the weather got to us because we got wet and cold a few times and the temperature was dropping to 72F at night, which feels really cold to us now - we both went down with a flu-type bug, sore throats, aching all over etc.

We had arranged to hire a car for a day, so with temperatures raging we had a look round the island, including going to the capital St John. We did the obligatory visit the cathedral but there were much more exciting things in store for us. Firstly, we went into a shopping complex in St John and there was an escalator! Unfortunately it was 'up' only. On reflection that was probably a good thing otherwise Mike would have spent ten minutes going up and down. Then we went to the biggest supermarket on the island to restock the boat and we found Branston Pickle and Heinz tomato soup, which really made our day. I guess it shows how much our lives have changed when we get excited about escalators, pickle and soup. Mind you, we seemed to live on the tomato soup for the next few days while the bug ran its course !

Once recovered we set off for Green Island, about nine miles from English Harbour. This is a wonderful spot that we'd been to previously when here for Antigua Sailing Week. A large area of bays protected by a reef and Green Island itself. We arrived in strong winds and rain, which continued for 48 hours and then enjoyed another 8 days of 'chilling out'. (Apart from cleaning out the fridge, cleaning the bottom of the boat, the water filters, changing the outboard engine gear box oil!) There are no shops or restaurants, apart from Harmony Hall on the mainland, so it was very peaceful, only a few other boats coming and going each day. A small tourist boat runs visitors to Green Island for a few hours to swim and snorkel, but apart from that, nothing. We soon found our favourite spot under the one palm tree on the beach, where we found that the resident lizards would come very close, walking over hands and feet and even trying to bite toes. We went snorkelling regularly and also saw a flock of beautiful West Indian Whistling Ducks - tawny brown with black and white patterned wings and long necks. They are an endangered species and on the basis they allowed us to swim slowly up towards the rock they were perched on we began to see why. Mike reckons that since he couldn't hear them whistling 'No woman, no cry' that we've discovered a new species. Our best sighting was a pair of Ospreys that seem to live on the island.

Whilst there we had drinks with Richard and Jan on Robyn, whom we'd met in Le Marin. They were there (in Le Marin) having repairs done to their mast after the boat was damaged in the hurricane in Grenada. Richard had had to motor from Grenada with another Najad owner, to Martinique for Najad to come and carry out the work. Also, while at Green Island we had a very enjoyable day on the beach with Lucy and Andy on Nimrod together with Lucy's parents. They arrived just before we left Green Island as Lucy's parents were staying in a hotel nearby. Talk about small world, Briant, Lucy's father was at school, university and in the army with a friend from my working life, Peter Meneer. Briant had also worked at the BBC for many years.

Reluctantly as the generator hours were clocking up we returned to English Harbour, to reprovision collect emails and ordinary mail, do washing and top up fuel and water. It was good to meet up with David and Deborah on Water Music for drinks, also to see Three Ships again. We were just bemoaning the fact that we hadn't seen Brian and Sandy from Moonshadow Star, and were unlikely to as we were going back south they were returning across the Atlantic, when on the day before leaving Antigua, walking along the road we saw two very familiar people. It was so good to see them again over lunch. Unfortunately we didn't manage to see Adrian and Sue from Lalize but hope to see them next season.

We left Antigua on March 9th for Deshaies on Guadeloupe. We had a good sail and Mike had caught a tuna by 8.30 am, which swiftly went in the fridge. On arrival we asked a nearby boat, Chimere if they'd like some of the tuna as we had far too much. The skipper, Robert came on board with some beers and then my next 'small world' experience happened. It turns out that Robert did the Clipper Round the World race at the same time as Ian Dickens, another friend from the radio industry. There's no escape! Mike says he's read that you are only three people away from someone you know, and I'm beginning to think its true.

Then we set off south again, intending on a night back in Isles de Saintes. After motoring down the coast of Guadeloupe we found good wind and made such good time across the channel to the Saintes that we decided to keep going to Dominica. We arrived back in Prince Rupert Bay just before 6pm, anchored off Portsmouth and were then approached by a speeding dinghy which turned out to be Duncan from Anam Cara. We'd hoped to cross paths as we headed south and they, now back in the water after the accident to their boat, headed north. The next few days we saw Duncan and Inge for dinner ashore or drinks, and we had a great barbecue with them on Anam Cara.

Dominica
The previous visit to Dominica had been short but we had arranged with one of the boat boys, Martin, to contact him on our return so we could go up Indian River with him, amongst other things. First though he took us across the bay to clear in with Customs. As it was Saturday the office was closed but as seems quite normal, he took us to a customs officer's flat to do the paperwork. The officer, in bare feet, shorts and a tee shirt was cooking something, watching TV and generally enjoying Saturday morning. In we walk and standing in his kitchen we filled out the paperwork, paid our dues and off we went to the police station in town to get our passports stamped! The next day Martin agreed to take us up Indian River and on a half day trip to some other places. What a day it turned out to be.

Martin collected us just after 8.15 am, having told us to bring hats, water and sandwiches (the latter as it was a Sunday and few restaurants would be open). Accompanying us were Duncan and Inge and also 4 Americans, Glenn and Ann from Stardust and Bill and Cathy from Sogne di Mare who we'd met before in Graciosa in the Canaries. First Martin rowed us up Indian River. This is now a national park and consists of a smallish river with various tributaries meandering its way to the coast. You aren't allowed to use an outboard there, hence the use of oars. The river is overhung with Bloodwood trees which form a canopy overhead and have amazing shaped root systems. Just moving slowly up the river we saw crabs and three types of heron. When we got as far as most people are taken before turning round again, Martin moored his boat and we all accompanied him on a walk for about an hour which turned out to be an education in itself. Some of the time he tested us to see if we knew what the trees and plants were, we didn't do particularly well I'm ashamed to say. Along the way we saw several types of banana, pineapple, ginger, bay, cocoa, guava, breadnut and tangerine. He used a machete to open a coconut for us to drink out of and then we ate the fruit, we also ate guava from the tree. We glimpsed and heard a number of the Sisserou parrots, Dominica's national symbol and an endangered species.

Then it was back downstream and into a minibus with Martin's partner, Winston. We were taken on a drive past the Catholic church, or what remained of it as it collapsed during an earth tremor in October, then on across the island to to east coast. Winston kept stopping the bus to pick things to show us, a flower called White Heather which was like a lupin and smelled wonderful. More coconuts, but this time still young so he showed us how to make a scraper from the top so we could eat the inside jelly, lemon grass from the roadside and a type of fern which when pressed on the skin left a yellow pattern of the fern. Soon the inside of the bus was festooned in things.

We were taken to a seaside village called Calibishe, stunning location, then an abandoned sugar mill near a river along which a road was being buil for Pirates of the Caribbean, more on that later. Before we went to lunch we went to a place where smooth red rocks uncovered by a volcanic explosion ran down to the sea, the colours were amazing. Lunch turned out to be at Winston's home and bar! So much for bringing sandwiches. Winston's house is perched on the side of a steep hill overlooking more steep hills and valleys. Basically nothing on Dominica is flat. All the hills are covered with trees mainly shades of green interspersed with the bright orangey red of African Tulip trees.

Winston's girlfriend had cooked us lunch, fried tuna, more fish in sauce, rice, beans and a selection of root vegetables. It was delicious. Then off to a pool we wanted to see and by this time were pretty keen to swim in. More driving, then about a half hour's walk along a track where our education continued, being shown mango trees, mahogany, cinnamon, a hard nut-like object called smelly toes which when broken into smells just as it was named being yeastlike. Also He scraped a white substance off a tree which is where incense comes from and it smelt like it. Basically our pockets were filled with sorrel seeds, cinnamon, and a smelly toe each (!).

The final trek to the pool was down an extremely steep slope which luckily steps had been cut into. It was still extremely hard work to get down them without falling and by the bottom my legs were just jelly. Irregular amounts of walking and few steps for the past year certainly made themselves felt. At last we got to a beautiful pool beneath a waterfall. The pool is called Chaudiere pool and it was complete and utter bliss to get into for a swim. We had the place to ourselves. The return trip up was luckily only partly by the way we'd come although it was still hard work. Then it was back to the bus to Winston's again for some extremely welcome cold beers. He gave us bags of grapefruit, herbs and papaya to share between us as we left. We returned to Portsmouth at about 6pm as the sun set and Martin met us to return us to our boats. Each boat was given a bunch of exotic flowers that his wife had picked, Red Ginger and Helicona, the sort you see in very expensive flower shops in England. We had had an amazing day (so much for the half day tour!), our heads were absolutely bursting with all we had been told (I haven't mentioned all the details about what medicinal properties the plants had!) and shown and I have to say we were absolutely shattered.

The next day I was somewhat stiff above the knees! We eventually managed to meet up with Steve for a few drinks the next evening. He was working from 7am each day, travelling to all the locations being prepared for the filming of the sequels of Pirates of the Caribbean. He told us some of difficulties of organising the building of several roads, finding trailers of the quality the stars would expect, enough accomodation, that he's hired the deputy chief of police just to ensure they can get the trucks and equipment to where its got to get to. Basically scenery-wise Dominica is perfect for filming but logistically a nightmare. All the locals are really excited about the films, and we hope they gain from the process. Unfortunately we left before the stars arrived so no sightings of Johnny Depp et al. Anam Cara left the next day to head north and as they have not finalised what they are going to do we don't know when or if we'll see them again which is a shame.

All in all we loved Dominica. Stunning scenery, very friendly people - most people want to chat and some will approach you in the street just to say hello, and lots to see. We asked Martin the boat boy if he would ask his wife to take us market shopping next time we're there and then show us what to do with all the vegetables you can buy, and he said he would. We gave him some sunglasses we didn't need as he'd broken his and he gave us a bag of delicious grapefruit. We'll come back next season I hope, but by next year I shall ensure my leg muscles are more fit for some of the walks!

Martinique
We sailed overnight on the 16th/17th of March to the southern tip of Martinique, anchoring first in Ste Anne and then clearing in at Le Marin. We are now back in Baie Ste Anne for a few days until the generator service just before Easter. Our next destination will be St Lucia once more.

In our travels we occasionally stumble across names that amuse us, so here is the latest list of odd names (no doubt fully illustrating the childish sense of humour!). Often we hear of boat names that we try and imagine on a radio call, for example there is a catamaran out here called Meow. Our best pairing was imagining a call between a Swedish boat we know called Night and another we've seen named Kiss (Night, Night Kiss, Kiss). Then there was the French loo roll with the brand name 'Dou Dou' and the muffins we bought branded 'Otis Spunkmeyer'. Yes, definitely time to end this update now....next update from further down the island chain.