Rodney Bay to Martinique

Sun 2 Apr 2023 01:36

We pulled out of Rodney Bay Marina this afternoon, Thursday 30 March, to anchor in the Bay after three comfortable, marina days which should have been relaxing but turned out to be a bit arduous for me.   There was the usual routine stuff to deal with: a bit of minor maintenance and food shopping but the big issue was finding a replacement for the electric outboard which had become unreliable.  The root cause was my fault: I left the dinghy with the engine attached, secured to a dinghy dock (in Tobago, actually) and a change of wind/current at some stage allowed it to get pushed under the dock and the plug/socket combo which attaches the removable battery to the engine got stressed and broke away from the plastic battery housing. The engine still worked at that stage but the socket was loose and the ‘internals’ were open to the elements.  I jury rigged a piece of plastic sheet to re-locate the socket and blank the hole into the battery box and it worked well for a while. Subsequently, with Dave Tremain’s help, I replaced the plastic with a laser-cut, stainless steel plate.   As we know from my previous instalment, we had a little episode in Bequia where the engine let us down. After that it worked intermittently and then stopped altogether. Email correspondence with an agent for the electric motor based in the Virgin Islands suggested that the battery management system had got wet at some stage and would probably have to be replaced.

In Rodney Bay I decided we needed an alternative engine otherwise it limited where we could visit and get ashore as we moved up the islands.  We phoned chandlers and boatyards, and they could order in with a 6-8 week delivery.   We put out feelers for a second-hand unit but none of these came up with anything although, we did find an engineer with a small second-hand Suzuki motor for sale; he bought it down to the marina and we tried it on the dinghy and it was almost perfect except that it seemed to flood when it was stopped after a run.  They offered to take it away and check the fuel system and return next morning but in the evening we got a message to say he had sold it to someone else!  The only other option seemed to be a new Mercury 3.5hp which Brian had located in a marine engineer’s shop, and we extended our marina stay for a day to pursue this option.   There were good arguments for buying a new unit: reliability, warranty, resale value, etc so I bit the bullet, and it was delivered (with no petrol) to the dock on Friday morning and started and ran well after it had been oiled and fuelled. I hate outboard motors; fingers crossed.

We then anchored for the night off a beach resort in the north of Rodney Bay. The music from the resort was quite loud during the evening.   We have a 25-mile, windward leg to Martinique planned for tomorrow.    Martinique is French so we are looking forward to croissants and café au lait in the next few days.

Thursday was a bit sad in that we have just used up all of Alison’s curry powder mix which she gave to us in Plymouth before we left. We have enjoyed this mild and tasty spice mix so many times on this voyage -and always think of you, Alison.

This is a bit nerdy but I thought I would share my ‘pacing’ graph which I use to keep tabs on progress while enjoying the islands but, at the same time, making sure we arrive in Antigua in time to link up with Keith Baker and for Cilla to get her flight back to the UK. My graph has days between leaving Grenada and needing to be in Antigua on the x-axis, and latitude (degrees) between Grenada and Antigua on the y-axis.  At each stopover the plot moves horizontally each day. On each passage the plot moves vertically with latitude. If the step-plot generated is above the straight line joining the latitude of Grenada on the day we left with the latitude of Antigua on the day we need to be there – I’m ahead of schedule; below the line and we need to catch up.

On Friday morning we were going to dinghy ashore before breakfast to walk up to the fort on the adjacent headland, but it was raining quite hard when we got up at 6:30 so we had breakfast and went ashore a bit later with the new engine – which behaved well – and walked up a precipitous slope to a gun platform with three large English cannons pointing out to sea. One can only guess at the back breaking work by British sailors to get those enormous cannons installed.  The view from the summit over the bay and surrounding sea could only be described as commanding.

Returning to the yacht we deflated and stowed the dinghy and got away towards Martinique. With 20-23 knots of north-easterly forecast and a close-hauled course pushing the apparent wind higher, we put two reefs in the main and three in the Genoa and made 6-7 knots most of the way into 2-3m waves in mid channel.

By 2pm on Friday we were anchored in the approach to Cul De Sac Du Marin on Martinique, a large inlet with an enormous charter yacht industry based there.  Moving landward in the afternoon we anchored about half a mile from the town, 14:28.00N 060:52.00W, and ate on board. I don’t think I have ever seen so many sailing boats, mostly charter catamarans, in one place.

In the morning we propose to take the dinghy ashore to clear customs and immigration and enjoy being in an outpost of France.

All best, Tony


Two reefs in the main seems to be the norm.
The battery box  repair.
Panorama of Cul de Sac Du Marin showing the vast number of yachts there