On the move again

Phil Pascoe
Fri 20 Mar 2009 12:05

14:28.1N 60:52.1W
Le Grande Escapade – Marin, South Martinique.  5 March
First an account of the last week in Rodney Bay Marina.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Let’s go back to the 25 Feb.  It rained virtually all day, we coped with inside chores on the boat but did feel sorry for Steve & Alison (friends of my brother) who were holidaying at the Rex Resort in Rodney Bay – this weather is pretty atypical for St. Lucia.  The next day we hired a car and took them on a mini-tour of the North of the island, including the golf club of course, a few exclusive developments (in case they wanted to buy a property here) and then an unsuccessful attempt to find a hiking trail.  On returning to Castries we hit a traffic jam and had to leave them to get the bus back to Rodney Bay and we headed South to the airport to pick up Ben and his girlfriend, Charlie.  This went fairly well (by St. Lucian standards) and we brought them back up the East coast (faster road) in time for free drinks at the marina.  Unfortunately that was cancelled, or postponed, so we ate onboard and retired early.  They had only managed about one hour’s sleep in the last 48h so were understandably knackered.  The joys of travelling!  This is the first leg of a five month adventure for them, as after 3 weeks with us, they fly to Chile and then make their way up through South and Central America to LA then fly to Toronto for a few weeks before heading home.
We had a couple of days with Ben & Charlie looking at the Rodney Bay area, Pigeon Island and the Soufriere area including a snorkel at the very expensive resort at Jalousie, before we had another jaunt to the airport to pick up Pete.  Paula and I had now seen the East and West coast roads about 4 times each and were almost on first-name terms with each pot-hole.  The following day we had to return the hire car – that should be easy.  St. Lucia struck again – none of the garages we tried had petrol.  For fear of being late I went to the airport hire car depot and explained – there were two options, I pay $25 US which would be well over twice the cost of the fuel, or we go with a driver to find some fuel.  So off we went taking back roads and short-cuts and eventually joined the queue in a petrol station not too far from Rodney Bay.  Eventual success, but we had lost another couple of hours.  I then went with Pete, Ben & Charlie to show them the delights of Castries.  Later in the day I went up the mast to check the riggers handiwork – it all looked OK thankfully.  Our final day was spent on a day sail into Rodney Bay to show Charlie the ropes and give the bottom a good scrub (the boat’s not Charlie’s).  I was surprised how much fouling had occurred in a month on a marina, mainly serpulid worm tubes and some barnacles, particularly around the rudder and prop.  A couple of hours working at it with plastic putty scrapers and stiff brushes got her back into cruising condition. 
Our final evening was marked with a Grand Opening Ceremony for the Marina with free drinks again.  The problem was we started the drinking onboard with our Canadian neighbours (Jim & Berni) and gave our stocks of Pastis and Rum (not mixed) a severe thrashing, with just some nibbles for food,  before going on to the free Rum punches at the Marina.  Bladdered again, retired early and I’m told Charlie performed in the galley with some eggs, but I don’t remember eating any.
Wed 4 March we departed for Martinique at last.  A lively sail, close hauled with 15 to 20 knots of wind and 3 metre swell, was not the ideal start to the cruise for Charlie and Ben, and I imagine they questioned the decision to start their travels in this way.  I won’t show you the picture of Charlie looking rather poorly, but I must say we all admired her stoicism and her powers of recovery, and after the first couple of days she handled the sailing very well.  Our arrival at Marin marina after a 5 hour passage was the start of a two day French farce and more trauma.  Shall I bore you with the details? Oh, alright then.
Our cruising guide showed two visitors pontoons, more horrible stern-to moorings to negotiate.  We saw a space and reversed in, someone who we thought worked there help us tie up astern and I dinghied out to attach a line to the mooring buoy.  Success.  Despite the recent strikes and riots, Marin seemed to be ‘open’ and functional although the restaurants were either closed or showing apologetic notices that they couldn’t offer the normal menu, and there was a long queue of people with jerry cans at the fuel dock.  A small bottle of beer was 2.2 Euros – how much?!  Eventually we found the Capitainerie (spelling?) and explained where we were.  They weren’t sure we could stay there and later we received a severe ticking off by Philippe, the head honcho of the Marina, saying there is no space, we should have radioed in, there are many boats anchored that are waiting for a berth to come available, the marina is always full, Chris Doyle (the guide book) doesn’t know what he’s talking about, you naughty, naughty English people!  We stayed the night and promised to clear off by 08.00h.  So in the morning we went out to anchor in the Bay.  Although we were outside some other boats, we were soon told off for anchoring in a restricted zone, and had to move further out to make room for crazy French youths to charge about in Hobie Cats – wise move.  We should take more notice of the guide book rather than other yachts.  The next few hours were spent running to and from the marina office trying to pay, getting our electronic key to the wash rooms activated again, as it expired at 08.00h, and buying some expensive vegetables and salad items.  Pete had to queue at the Bank to withdraw money and noticed that all the residents seemed to be only withdrawing about 20 euros each.  We didn’t think staying around here was going to be easy or pleasant so returned to the boat and prepared to head North.  
We started the engine, but couldn’t get the windlass to work (sometimes the contact is bad due to corrosion in the socket), so I fiddled about for five minutes trying different things when the cockpit team all shouted that there was smoke coming from the engine.  I dashed back to investigate, asked Paula to switch off but the solenoid didn’t work (it sometimes plays up like that), so I stopped the engine manually and opened all the hatches – the stench of electrical burning didn’t bode well.  The starter motor and solenoid were very hot and my suspicions proved correct.  The starting key had stuck in the on position and the starter motor had been running continually for five minutes or more, I was not optimistic that it would work again.  After cooling it with ice for half an hour or more we tried again - click, but no start.  The skipper’s language and mood were both pretty bad!  Remove starter motor, which thankfully I managed without too much trouble, then take it to be tested.  We eventually found the guy to do it and after a French sniff, a shrug and some head shaking, he guessed the cause and was also not optimistic.  After a little persuasion he agreed to look at it immediately and we were asked to come back in half an hour.  So Paula, Pete and I went to get a beer.  On arrival at a local café I thought the beers were going to be too expensive so opted for an ice-cream, the others followed suit, unfortunately we must have opened them before we found out the price – Cornettos at 3 euros each, I’m not having a good day!  When Paula reached the cone on hers and found it to be soft, she grabbed ours also and marched back to change them (hopefully for a beer we thought) and came back with 3 Magnums.  Cornish mutterings about Euros and exchange rates followed.
Back to the starter motor – malheureusement, il est mort.  Merde!  Et plus merde!  10 euros for his time, and he directed us to a marina shop, Mecanique Plaisance which should still be open.  I presented the dead motor and my engine model and number to a very helpful lady, who checked her computer for which model I needed and within 3 or 4 minutes produced two virtually identical motors.  One was marked Hitachi and cost around 600 euros (gulp) and the other was a clone at a mere 300 euros – the choice was mine.  I’m not going to tell which one I chose.  Back to the boat, by this time hot, sweaty and broke, and after a slight modification to one of the terminals, it was fitted, it worked, and we had an engine again.  Another expensive lesson learnt.  By that time there was too little time to go anywhere so we stayed at anchor overnight – drat, another day lost.  The following day we headed up the west coast of Martinique for St. Pierre which is a well placed anchorage for the passage to the next island, Dominica.  
More to follow in the next installment – Martinique hadn’t finished with us yet!

Pics:  Red Cross parcel, caffeine overload.  Me at the top of the mast checking the rigging, you can almost see the knees shaking.

Ben & Charlie in St. Lucia.  Charlie at the helm (smiling, I think).  Scrubbing the bottom.

Ben in scrubbing mode.  Moving from St. Lucia into French territory.