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The Voyages of s/v Silverheels III
...a virtual ship's logbook, and some thoughtful (unabashed?) reflections on our sea-going experiences.
Herding Cats
05/24/2015, Grand Anse d'Arlet, Martinique

The French had it pretty good this May. Four long weekends this month, and in the French islands of Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Martin, this weekend is a four day long weekend, since May 22 is the celebration of the Abolition of Slavery. Great if you work here, not so convenient if you actually want to accomplish anything.
However, Ken and I are sitting in Grand Anse d'Arlet, a decidedly touristy area (the lack of any appreciable supermarket, or even hint of farmers' market, is very telling), so our need to get anything done is non-existent. This is certainly not the place to try to be in a hurry. If you want to get amazing rotisserie chicken on the weekend, or excellent baguettes everyday, than this is the place to be. You want to hang out in a little beachside bar, here is a suitable location for that. And this weekend, if you wanted some very decidedly nautical entertainment, it would also fit the bill.
Our cruising friends on "Pinnacle", Bob and Ginette, had to shift from where they were anchored because they were notified that a catamaran race was going to be occurring on Saturday. Simon and Paul on a small (under 8 meters, small Swedish sailboat, "Risa Risa" also had to do the same. We were fine, as we are on the farthest out mooring ball on the south side of the bay, in about 30m (100') of water, with little chance of neighbours and far enough from the finish line.
I had invited Simon and his father Paul to lunch on our boat, since we had taken some nice pictures of them sailing from Fort de France to the bay. It isn't often that you get pictures of your own boat under sail, so we snapped away, figuring that the odds of us seeing them would be high. We were right. And since Simon's boat is small (Paul is visiting) and doesn't have refrigeration, I also figured a meal aboard our boat might go over well for them. Hey, I was 2-for-2! We enjoyed the freshly procured "poulet roti" and baguettes (the chicken was reserved that morning as I was running), plus a cold beverage or two, and chatting. We realised that we had an ideal spot to watch the finish of the catamaran race. This is not a small race, with possibly up to 80 large catamarans competing.
Most of the catamarans were charter vessels, which automatically made us assume that the people operating the vessels may not be as experienced at racing them as many racers normally would be. it also means that these multihulls would not necessarily be rigged for the best racing performance. This had the potential to be very interesting.
The first couple of boats were fine, as was to be expected. Then it became interesting. Up to this point of the race, it had been reaches for the racers, but now they actually had to tack into the bay to cross the finish line. These catamarans were not capable of pointing very high, and they are not as maneuverable as many monohulls in the same conditions. With our platinum seats, we had the best viewpoint to observe the mayhem.
One boat tried too hard to come tight onto the wind, and almost rammed the committee boat. They ended up having to turn the diesels on and go into a hard reverse to avoid a collision. Crisis and damage to the boats avoided, but the skipper's pride had to have been damaged by having to do that.
We saw many cats trying to point too high, or pinch, and then trying to tack after losing way. This often occurred as another competitor was coming up on them, creating confusion and some evasive maneuvers. The worst case of this had Ken cry out "they are gonna hit", and they did, hard. We heard the crunch (I think we all cringed when we heard it, we certainly exclaimed), and observed the crews looking for damage. I think if it hadn't been so far forward on the t-boned boat, which is a strong area, they might have been holed.
We became concerned enough at the poor examples of boat handling that we kept the air horn and the loud hailer close at hand.
It was generally pretty ugly all around. And the committee boat blaring the "Olay" song, oft heard during the soccer World Cup, was comical. Equally comical to us was the fact that the French committee boat slowly dragged anchor over the duration of the race.
When I went for my run this morning, I saw some of the competitors proudly wearing their t-shirts from the Martiniquais rum distillery that is one of the sponsors (Mount Gay apparently is wise enough to avoid this one). If they had seen the race from our perspective, they might not have wanted to admit to being a part of that circus.
And then they were off in the mid-morning again, to enjoy more havoc in another race. If we are lucky, they will finish here again. It's a pretty quiet afternoon.

Limin' in the Caribbean
Mixed Blessings
05/06/2015, Fort de France, Martinique

Ken and I had plans to depart Portsmouth in the wee hours of the morning last Saturday. We figured if we got going early enough, we could make it to Fort de France, Martinique. We weren't fancying a stop in Roseau or St. Pierre, as we figured the swells would be untenable and roll us out of our bunks.
Well, midnight rolled around, and Ken had some very unhappy inner workings. Something he ate was not sitting well, and wanted out, one way or another (frankly, I wasn't 100% either, but much better than he was). There was NO way we were leaving for a 15 hour trip with him feeling so lousy. We slept on until daylight. When we awoke, Ken was feeling much improved, and we decided to go south. Either Roseau, or if our timing was good, maybe cross the channel and get to "our" little anchorage immediately south of St. Pierre. The wind was due to pick up Sunday afternoon, and I had ants in my pants to get moving.
We motored down to Roseau, with Ken napping down below much of the way. We didn't exactly make great speed, and Ken wasn't quite up to the channel crossing, so we grabbed a mooring south of Roseau and settled in for a quiet afternoon and night. I baked some of my spice bread, and we relaxed. We had a visit from Desmond, one of the service providers in the area, but aside from that it was quiet. So while it was unfortunate for Ken that he was under the weather, we had a relaxed trip down to Roseau, and far better conditions at the mooring, vis-à-vis the swells, than we had expected.
The next morning, Sunday, we were off with the sunrise. I was glad I had put the first reef in the main, as we were on our ear, toe rail in the water, for much of the channel crossing to Martinique. By the time we made it to the lee of Martinique, we were both ready for some calmer conditions. We were motoring in the dead air when I looked out to Starboard (towards the open water). I saw something that didn't look "right", it looked "different". Then I realised what it was, whales! Ken and I watched as a pair of whales crested, got some air, and we saw both of their flukes as they went deeper under the surface again. Very cool, indeed.
Shortly after that, I saw a large clump of Sargassum in front of us. I had been thinking of doing an article on Sargassum, so this was an excellent photo op for us. We plowed straight through the thick of it, snapping pictures of the yellowish-brownish seaweed matted on the surface. Not 5 minutes after we got out of it, the engine overheat alarm when off. Dammit. We turned off the diesel and double checked everything else, but it all checked out. We must have got a stringer on the saildrive at the water intake. We had enough wind to sail at this point, and decided to go for the much closer anchorage rather than press on to Fort de France. After a sufficient cooling off period, the diesel was happy again, so we could motor in to anchor. We've anchored under sail before, but we prefer not to as backing down is more difficult.
Since it was such a nice afternoon, and I hadn't run the day before, or that morning, I decided to swim ashore to the beach with my shoes in a waterproof bag and go for a run. I didn't want to row ashore and leave the dinghy on a busy beach (kids and adults love to sit on them), and Ken really didn't feel like going ashore. Anyway, it worked very well, so well I did it again the next morning before we departed.
Monday morning we had a leisurely breakfast of French toast with the spice bread when I returned from my impromptu aquathon. We knew we had a short trip of about 15 nautical miles to go, so there wasn't a need to haul anchor early. So while we had a minor heart attack with the overheat alarm going of the previous day, we had an absolutely lovely night on the hook in a quiet place.
We had an uneventful trip to Fort de France, anchored relatively close, and decided not to put the outboard on the dinghy. Kids have been messing with the dinghies on the seawall in Fort de france, so we figured we wouldn't make our outboard a target. We checked in at the Customs computer at the chandlery, which remarkably was NOT closed for lunch (a rarity on a French island), and even found some cleats we have been looking for, then had lunch and bought some groceries.
We have since been shopping. I found out where the big sports store is, close to the Galleria where one of the big supermarkets is, so we spent a happy time there, finding running shoes for me and other sundry things. Then on to the supermarket for a few other things.
We have pretty much whittled down the bulk of our shopping list for Martinique, and now are just starting to enjoy being here again. And rowing the dinghy ashore means that I can return with a baguette for breakfast after my morning runs!
So while the trip didn't go anything near as planned, it is safe to say that it was probably better than we could have hoped for, with the positives easily balancing the negatives.

Limin' in the Caribbean

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