May 18th Boats and their problems can cause a grumble and a day fixing what ails her. Considering that our home floats in sea water, gets us from point A to point B using fickle winds that we manipulate with our big white sheets and that we have a myriad of electrical devices to make us comfortable in addition to aiding us in navigation and keeping us safe, it’s any wonder we haven’t had more problems. Somewhere is a great boat, though. She’s well designed and built for the strain we put her under and she soars when we get her underway. But we discovered something wasn’t right after we arrived and checked into Bequia, our first island stop in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. After a few games of dominoes with our friends on Endorfin we had told them goodnight as they dinghied back to their boat. We turned on the lights in our master stateroom to discover that they were very dim. They also wouldn’t switch off. The same thing was happening in the galley and in Jim’s forward head. We were too tired to do anything about it after a long day’s sail from St. Lucia that had taken us past the island of St. Vincent into Admiralty Bay on Bequia. So, Jim disconnected the wires and we went to sleep.
This electrical mumbo jumbo is beyond my level of understanding, but I do know that salt water corrodes metal. I spend a lot of time with my gloves on, holding my tube of Flitz in one hand and my polishing cloth in the other. Most all of the Flitzing (Flitz removes corrosion and I’ve made up the word “Flitzing” for my duties as corrosion remover) takes place above deck where the salt water waves splash over and start their corrosion on the stanchions, cleats, cotter pins etc. You get the picture. Never did we imagine to find this corrosion taking place behind the electrical panel down below.
The most we can figure is that on the passage from Hampton, Virginia to the BVI’s where we took a great amount of beating in 20 foot waves that a small amount of salt water leaked through a stanchion on deck. There was a period in which the rail was in the water when we were over powered in high winds. Months later, the water evaporated, but left behind a small amount of salt that started eating away at the connections. The dimming lights were an indication of a more serious problem that could have resulted if we had not discovered the issue. Jim’s been cleaning the corrosion and rewiring the panel. It’s a tedious, one man job.
The past few days seem like a whirlwind. I had to look back at my last blog post to see where we were the last time I updated. I really liked Saint Lucia. We had been rather fearful of the place since there was a boat robbery that resulted in the death of a boater there a few months ago, but we didn’t go to the bay in the southern part of the island where that incident occurred. We stayed in Rodney Bay and then Marigot Bay. Both places were beautiful. The people were friendly and welcoming and even though some boaters find it annoying, we enjoyed the vendors that boated up to us to sell us fresh fruit, bread and handicrafts. I bought a pretty bowl made from palm fronds and we have more mangoes than we know what to do with. Everyone was very friendly and the bays were very beautiful.
We’re now sailing about the islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Grenadines are a series of small islands located south of St. Vincent and north of Grenada. The white sand beaches are stunning and despite Jim’s aversion to sand even he couldn’t resist diving off the boat and swimming to shore to take a stroll. The beaches are just THAT beautiful in Bequia, Canouan and Mayreau. We took a tour of Canouan with one of the local taxi drivers. We were disappointed that the turtle sanctuary was closed due to a funeral on the island, but we learned about the whaling that is still allowed on the island. Only two whales are allowed to be captured a year and the fishermen are required to use harpoons and open sailing vessels. They haven’t gotten one in a few years. I’m on the side of the whales-Go Whales! We attended the BBQ on the beach that Patrick, the head boat boy, hosts in Saline Bay on Mayreau. The food was out of this world and the ambience of having fantastic food and good company on the beach, under the stars, was beyond perfect.
The children on Mayreau attend school on the island until sixth grade. Then they are tested and the high scorers are eligible to attend school on St. Vincent, the others are ferried to nearby Union Island for high school. That’s a lot of pressure for a 12 year old, but there is great pride for the parents who are able to send their children to St. Vincent to board and finish high school there. There are no police or lawyers on the island of Mayreau and the main town doesn’t have a name. We’ve chatted with the locals and learned how climate change is affecting their islands as well as the influx of cruise ships. Neither being favorable for the outlook of these small islands. We promised to come back in the fall, but for now we have to continue sailing south. We will be moving a short distance to Union Island this morning where we will provision and eventually check out with St. Vincent and Grenadines Customs and Immigration. Then we’ll move onto Grenada.
May something: Kind of lost track We didn’t get to the southern ports of Dominica, but sailed straight to Martinique. The original plan was to drop anchor in Saint Pierre, but the anchorage was crowded and the swells were huge. We wanted to tour the town that was devastated in 1902 by the looming Mt. Pelee volcano, but with limited space to anchor and having to anchor so closely to the beach we decided to go further to Fort de France. It was a squirrely day on the water. The winds went from 20 knots when we enjoyed a good two hour sail making excellent speed and time, then to nothing when we were in the lee of the island. Then there were confused seas, a gust of 37, then nothing. It was just one of those days.
We checked in with Customs and Immigration in the back of the chandlery in Fort de France on a computer housed there. It was an easy check in-pretty much like all the French islands. We wandered the crowded streets and were overwhelmed with traffic, stores, and people. When we spotted a McDonald’s we both laughed. We haven’t seen a McDonald’s in quite awhile. The city is vibrant, though, and there is plenty to eat from street food to excellent French/Creole cuisine. We stopped into the craft market and browsed in the shops.. It wasn’t long, though, that we were ready to get going again and visit the small town of Sainte Anne in the southern portion of Martinique. The spice market and general ambiance of the village is charming. We toyed with the idea of staying a second day, but our friends on Rocking B are headed north for the season to haul and travel the States. Our only chance to see them before they leave was to get to Rodney Bay in St. Lucia.
It’s now May 13. We had a rather exciting sail from Martinique to St. Lucia, but that’s to be expected this time of year. The weather patterns are getting strange now that we’re entering the summer months. We’ve had a great time so far in Rodney Bay saying farewell for now to Margaret and Ken. The plan is to stay here a couple of days. We’re back in the English speaking world now and shuffling our wallets back to Eastern Caribbean Currency from Euros. It gets all so confusing going from French Islands that use Euros to independent nations that were formally British that use the EC. We’re working it out, though. One thing that is difficult at times is food. Eating at local restaurants can be an adventure for the taste buds, but also hard on the stomach. I’m suffering from a gastrointestinal overload of curry and my body is revolting against trying new dishes. So, it’s been a low key day trying to recover. Tomorrow we will visit the IGA in Rodney Bay and stock up on foods to cook on the boat to avoid another bout of dining distress.
May 6 It would be neglectful of me to omit that security issues are of a concern for us as we move further south. We’re leaving the leeward islands for the windward where reports of crime against boaters are more frequent. Just yesterday we received a message from a fellow boater that yet another boarding had taken place in the harbor south of us. Nobody was hurt, but it gives us pause. Here in Portsmouth, Dominica a group was formed called PAYS. The boat boys organized to provide security for us with the mutual understanding that we in return help them out financially. They meet us as we sail in, lead us to a mooring ball and provide tours of the island. Our boat boy, nicknamed Uncle Sam, explained to us that they love us because we truly want to engage in their culture, eat their food, learn their history and share in the beauty of their island. Poverty on these islands is something that we cannot ignore, and something that most tourists would probably be shielded from seeing. The PAYS organization is helping to alleviate that by giving an opportunity for employment and also showing us ways that we can help in schools that need support or by simply taking a tour and giving back financially for the valuable service of security that they offer.
Dominica is absolutely beautiful. On our tour, Uncle Sam explained to us that Dominica is the bread basket of the Caribbean. The bananas, coffee beans, bread fruit, pineapple….the lushness and beauty of it all clearly explains why they are considered the agricultural hub. We visited the Saturday morning open market and were blessed with fresh coconut water and multitudes of fresh vegetables and fruit. We purchased eggs from one vendor and wished that we had bought more. The market was the largest we’ve seen and we were overwhelmed. We received a lesson on the nutritional value of plantains from a woman who was cooking them on a grill, slitting them open like a bun and told us that they could be filled with fish and vegetables and eaten like a sandwich. The medical school students on the island are her biggest customers.
Dominica is certainly unique. There are 11 active volcanoes on the island and landslides, earthquakes, and hurricanes have all tried to ruin the island. The people of Dominica seem very resilient, though. Dominica is a must see. The party on the beach that PAYS puts on for us was very fun and it was our adieu to the island.