Martinique Position 14:44.517N 61:10.657W

Bill and Judy Stellin
Tue 4 Mar 2008 02:53
It has been some time since a wrote a journal so it's high time I begin.
After Carnival in Trinidad we sailed back to Grenada in what turned out to be almost a sail from hell.
We had seas of 9-13 feet with winds that gusted to 38 knots right on the nose for 83 miles.  It took us 13 hours at an average speed of just over 6 knots.  We sailed with a double reef in the main and our genoa rolled up about half way.  About in the middle of the passage, our furling line chafed through and broke.  This opened the genoa to its full size which seriously overpowered us. There was no way we could sail with a 130 percent genoa fully out and there was no way we could roll it back up.  Our only choice was to take it down. Now that should not be an impossible job under normal conditions, but we had waves breaking over the bow which was constantly under water.
I donned my life vest and harness and went forward to pull it down while Judy helped to pull it down from the clew end.  We got it down and on deck but not without a great deal of effort.  When a sail is full, drawing and in big winds, dropping it is all but impossible.  One has to physically pull it down which took every bit of strength we had. If we had eased the sheets, the sail would have flogged itself to death.
After getting it on deck we lashed it to the rail and sailed on with just the main, albeit somewhat slower.  In order to make headway in those monster seas, we turned on the engine to help.
After a while, Judy noticed the sail had come unlashed and about half of it was dragging in the sea.  We had to get it back on deck and this little task took us the better part of an hour.
Judy went up to the bow and at one point, a wave picked her up and deposited her spitting out sea water, back near me at the mast.  In the process, she lost one of her Teva sandals and got really banged up hitting everything on her seaborne journey down about twelve feet of deck.
The sail had gotten tangled in the life lines, stanchions and spinnaker pole and basically was knotted there without a clear way to understand how to untangle it.  Plus, it was still lashed in several places and all the lashings had slid aft in an underwater pile of sailcloth.  Everytime we thought we knew where to start, a big wave would wash over us and tear our hands from the lashings and sail.  I suppose we could have turned around and gone downwind which would have lessened the waves over us, but that would have meant making up the hard won distance we already had traveled.
At one point we considered cutting the sail ties rather than trying to untie them but we persisted and eventually got all of them off and the sail back on deck.
Our next task was to get it to the other side of the boat where it would be on the high side and not pounded by water cascading down the deck all the time.
A day or so later we looked at ourselves and saw the terrible beating we had taken.  Judy was black and blue everywhere.  Big ugly bluish, yellow and black splotches on her arms, legs, buns, chest.  Almost any where there was skin, it was bruised.
One of our friends, Frank and Tari on Vision precede us two days earlier in much less wind and seas in their 56 foot catamaran and had both brand new  trampolines torn out of the deck.  I guess we were lucky only having to replace 80 feet of line.  I have tried to duplicate the position of the furling line to see where chafe occurs and for the life of me I can't see how it broke, unless it was just from the pressure on it.
Now when we partially furl the sail in strong winds, I inspect every foot of the line to make sure it can survive.
After a few days on Grenada we had another nasty sail north to St Vincent. 
Every day, for months now,  the wind has been out of the ENE and since the windward island chain are north/south curving to the NE, it has meant sailing hard on the wind going north.  Also every day, the winds have been 20-30 knots with rain.  It rains sometimes 5-6 times a day and equal number at night.
The boat is turning into a big moldy mess inside.  Who ever said the Caribbean is a paradise is crazy.  The only good thing is that after a hard sail with everything salt covered, it rains hard and washes it clean.  Also the water and rain are warm so I just put on my bathing suit and get wet.
We are now on the French Island, Martinique.  What a pleasure to be back in civilization, with law and order and a decent economy.  You can keep the southern islands in the Windward chain and in private I will tell you what they are really like.  I think most of our Caribbean cruising, will be in the French and Dutch islands.  it's one thing to be here on a charter, cruise ship or hotel, and another to spend months visiting all the islands and having to actually live in these parts.  In a contest, with the winner getting to spend time in the Caribbean, second prize should be two weeks, and first prize,  one week.
On our way up the chain, in St Vincent, we stopped in a bay that was the principal setting for the Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Mans Chest.
A good bit of the set is still there, slowly rotting away in the jungle.  It probably looks more authentic now than when the movie was made about 5 years ago.  The jungle creeps in very quickly here and considering no one is really taking advantage of the site by making any kind of tourist attraction, it will soon disappear.
This set was made to look old, and now it finally looks authentic, except for the young lass standing in front of the coffin.
As an added attraction, if the set weren't enough, the owner has a big collection of old phones which he lovingly displays, (for free) in his telecommunication museum.  This is really just a small sample. 
Our boat is dead center, first one.  These are what is left of the docks built for the movie.  Hurricanes, no imagination, and laziness have let a gold mine slip away from the owner.
If you look closely, you can see some little boats to the left and in front of out boat.  These are the scourge of many of the islands.  They are peopled by boat boys who harass you to no end wanting to take a line to shore, sell you junk, rent you an outrageously expensive mooring ball or what ever else they can con you into using them for.  They sometimes will row out three miles to intercept you and then demand to be towed back in.  If you don't use them, they threaten to do harm to you and the boat.  At one point, we had eight of these boats around us, interfering with our mooring procedure.  We didn't use them and they called us all kinds of names because of it.  They want $5 USD to take a line to the posts behind where we are moored and another $5 USD to attach a bow line to the mooring ball. They exist mainly because the charterers can't or won't moor themselves and are willing to pay.  What's a few bucks divided among the hordes on each boat and they are only here for a week or two.  People like us on the other hand are here for months and paying something  for nothing adds up over time. 
There is a flurry of activity when the boats come in late afternoon but before that and during much of the day, these guys are all sleeping on the beach, drunk on rum.
The sad fact of most of these islands is that while tourism is the economic mainstay, it is a kind of free for all, where the locals try to out do each other in conning money out of the yacht people.  Large hotels that have come here are insulated from the locals and they aim to keep it that way.  Even the cruise ships only set their passengers on shore for a few hours and then only in a port with a motley market of junk.  Many I talk to think it is charming, I think it is disgusting.  Children are taught to ask for money even if they don't do anything of real value for it.  When we dock with the dinghy, there usually is a kid wanting to take our line and offering to watch the boat.  If we say "no thank you" the response is something like, "well, you better hope your boat is still ok when you get back".  To me it is a kind of resentfulness and anything they do is ok, cause
" I'm just trying to make a living".  Today, I asked a small group of teenage school girls ( in neat uniforms) if there was an internet cafe nearby.  They only spoke French and couldn't understand the word "internet" so couldn't help me, but one of the girls held out her hand and asked for "one euro", I guess for just saying nothing to me. 
I am told it gets better as we go north.  I hope so because I need an attitude adjustment.