Monday, March 28, 2016

Chikununga and the family visit in St. Lucia

 We finally left Marina du Marin and anchored at St. Anne’s for a few days in early March.  Felt like we were cruisers once again.  The last time we had been at St. Anne’s anchorage was April 2007 and our log book reflected that the anchorage was much too rolly so we stayed only one night.  Then weighed anchor and scurried on into the much more sheltered (and extremely crowded) anchorage on the far western side of the bay at Le Marin.  This time, St. Anne’s anchorage was lovely.  Calm and beautiful; no rolling motion whatsoever.  However, the weather prediction called for conditions to strengthen and we did not want any delays for the short passage down to St. Lucia to meet family members.  So we hurried down to Rodney Bay Marina based on a weather prediction which turned out to be much ado about nothing.  That ‘heavy weather’ never materialized.  Oh well, going early afforded us a few more days at St. Lucia before our family arrived.  This turned out to be beneficial because Bill came down with chikununga.
Bill had been unusually physically active on our final afternoon at St. Anne’s and his shoulders and legs began to hurt that evening.  We attributed the pain to the unusual activity and figured it would dissipate in three days like muscle soreness often does.  But by the third day the pain was worse rather than abating.  On the fourth day he awoke with a bright red rash covering his entire body and with slightly red eyes.  Extreme fatigue; extreme joint pain; mild fever; red rash; red eyes.   Hmmmm…all those signs posted around Martinique and St. Lucia list these symptoms as being common for Zika.  Time to visit a doctor.

We visited a medical clinic in Rodney Bay that morning.  The doctor felt that this was Chikununga rather than Zika; but it also could be dengue.  All three viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes and all three are common throughout the tropics and sub-tropics.  Martinique has been hit especially hard with Chikununga for the past three years.  Since we had been at Martinique since 29 January and had only arrived in St. Lucia three days earlier, this meant that Bill definitely had gotten bitten at Martinique.  The virus has a 10-day incubation period before symptoms manifest, so there was no doubt this came from Martinique.  Lab work was performed to determine which virus but all that does is make someone a statistic – the treatment is the same for all three viruses.  The doctor gave us scripts for pain meds, a super-strength antihistamine and Prednisone (steroid).  Bill opted to stick with the over-the-counter two 650mg Acetaminophen every 8 hours for pain rather than take the prescription pain med ordered by the doctor.  He saw no reason to take codeine based meds unless absolutely required.  By the fourth day on these three medications, Bill was feeling almost normal once again.  The fatigue lasted a couple of weeks.  Thank goodness he had such a mild case of this virus.  We later met up with Austrian friends Herbert and Teneta on Kali Mera and learned that she got dengue at Martinique, but she had a more severe reaction and was hospitalized for 5 days at Fort du France.  We counted Bill very lucky to have suffered such a mild case.  By the way, he does not remember a single mosquito bite; but obviously one did bite him.  And it takes only one.

Bill was feeling almost normal by the time Trey, Kristina and Zachary arrived.  It had been a full year since we last saw them, and that is way too long to go without seeing family.  Zachary is now 15 years old and much larger than his grandfather.  Zach now is 6-feet 1-inch tall and has shoulders about 5-inches wider than Bill.  Zach still has a long way to grow to catch up with his dad who is 6-feet 6-inches tall, but he towers over his short mom and his not-so-short grandmother.  They grow up so fast!

Kristina, Zachary and Trey swimming at Rodney Bay

We went out for a short sail the day after they arrived and anchored out in Rodney Bay so Zachary could swim; then back into the marina for the night.  Sleeping in air-conditioned comfort was nice for everyone.  (kept mosquitoes at bay)  

Monday was a day for shopping and a follow-up at the medical clinic for Bill.  Our HP printer/scanner which was purchased in Australia in mid-2009 finally chose this morning to completely die.  Lucky that it died on a day when we were at an island that sells 230v electronics.  Bill found a new HP printer/scanner – this is a requirement for cruising boats.

On our final night in the marina we met up with Stuart and Sheila on S/V Imagine.  What a surprise!  We had lost track of them several years ago, and it was really nice to see them again.  Last time we were together was in 2007 somewhere in the Caribbean.  They followed us through the South Pacific and then completed a circumnavigation going under South Africa.  They arrived back in the Caribbean in May 2015 – departed the Caribbean a year later than us and returned more than a half-year before us.  They plan to head back to North Carolina soon, finished with cruising.  Seems that most of the folks we met cruising 10 years ago are now calling it quits and moving back to be landlubbers.   

On Tuesday we departed the marina for the final time and again anchored in Rodney Bay for swimming.  Sleeping at anchor was comfortable enough – cool enough that Trey and Kristina actually had to close the hatch in their forward cabin during the night because they got cold because of the high NE wind.  Feeling cold does not happen often in the Caribbean.

Petite Piton ( the northernmost Piton)
Next we sailed down to the moorings between the Pitons for a couple of nights.  One of the boat boys met us north of Souferie and accompanied our boat all the way to a mooring between the Pitons and helped us attach to a mooring.  Honestly, we could do this without any assistance; but the local men make their living acting as boat boys so we felt kind of obligated to utilize their assistance when possible.  We had no interest in any of the land tours they tout (and make commission on) but we could at least pay him for assisting us onto a mooring.  Since this guy had come so far with us and wasted so much of his time with us, yet we would not do any of his tours, Bill paid him 50 EC$ for his time and assistance.  That is $18.60 USD.  Other cruisers might not agree, but we feel that he deserved that much for his time spent with us.

Grand Piton (the one just to the south of Petite)
Zachary tried out our new dinghy and outboard engine.  The old 15-hp Mercury was on its last leg and we had been afraid to let him go anywhere by himself because he might get stranded if the outboard conked out.  The new one is a 10-hp Honda 4-stroke.  The new dinghy is a 3.1 meter 3D brand, manufactured in France.  It is PVC instead of Hypalon, but it is German PVC and not Chinese PVC.  We hope it will last through our remaining years of cruising.  Bill did a lot of research before buying this one and learned that the US Navy and US Coast Guard no longer specify Hypalon when purchasing tenders.  He also read that AB apparently no longer manufactures Hypalon dinghies.  Fingers crossed that this 3D dinghy lasts 3 to 5 years; that likely is the maximum time we will continue cruising before selling BeBe.

Winds swirled pretty aggressively between the Pitons so Zachary only got to drive the dinghy for one short spin around the bay.  But I think he will enjoy it if he visits us again someday.

Narrow entrance to Marigot Bay, almost hidden from sea
After a couple of nights at the Pitons we sailed/motored back north to Marigot Bay and docked at the nice Capella Marina.  Trey and Kristina treated us to a delicious dinner at an Indian restaurant located there.  I have forgotten the name of this restaurant but it was rated as the #1 restaurant on St. Lucia by TripAdvisor.  I enjoyed this very much.  Sheila on Imagine had told me that we should try this restaurant if possible, and she was right.  It is worth a stop in Marigot just to eat there.

Looking out from our berth in Marigot Bay at Capella Marina.
This is a beautiful and very small bay worth visiting.
Trey and family had arranged a taxi to collect them at Marigot marina for the ride to the airport at the southern tip of St. Lucia.  They left around noon and I spent the rest of the day doing laundry.  All those sheets, mattress protectors and towels added up to 7 loads of laundry; so my day was filled with housekeeping chores.  Lucky that I did all that laundry on Sunday because rain started overnight and continued for days.  We were glad that weather had been good during their visit.  By the way, they were treated twice to the infamous Green Flash during their week with us at St. Lucia.

After St. Lucia we needed to visit Martinique once again to collect some minor Amel parts which we had ordered.  The Amel Service Center had emailed us that these parts had been received after we had left Le Marin.   It was a rollicking sail north back to Martinique.  Weather forecast called for high NE trades for minimum of a week, so we took advantage of the least windy day to get back north that short 24 miles.  Even on the least windy day, winds were solid 25 knots and gusting 35 knots; and the boat was heeled over at 25 degrees, sometimes 35.  Actually was nice by our warped sense of good sailing conditions.  Upon checking into Marina du Marin we learned that the weekly rate would be 475 euro and the monthly rate only 559 euro, electricity included.  That was an easy choice! I have a number of small housekeeping projects and sewing repair projects to keep me busy while docked for a few weeks.  Even though we planned to be here only 2 nights, we paid for a full month.  We can come and go at will from the marina, although probably will be berthed in a different spot each time we return.  As soon as winds die down again we will sail back south to St. Lucia for shopping (love those American brands sold there!) and return back to Martinique.  These islands are so close together that sailing between them takes no more than 4 hours.  What a big change from how we have been sailing for years.  Loving the short distances in the Caribbean. 

While we wait for winds to lie down, we are enjoying restaurant dinners and visiting with new friends.  We are berthed on the ‘Amel service’ dock and have met several fellow Amel owners, a couple of whom are very new to cruising.  We each will be heading in different directions in the next few weeks; us heading south, one boat crossing the Atlantic, one boat going to Curacao for hurricane season, and one boat going north.  The four boats are not likely to meet up again any time soon, so it is nice to have this opportunity to enjoy new friends.

Friday, March 4, 2016

6 Weeks in Martinique

 4 March 2016

Marin Marina in Martinique is quite the bargain.  Jimmy Cornell had advised rally members that this is the least expensive marina in the Caribbean, and we believe he is correct.  Rally participants received 1 week free berthing upon arrival, including free electricity and water.  We inquired by email while still at sea and were informed that the rate for one month for our 16-meter boat would be 595 Euro, including electricity, plus metered water at 9 Euro per ton (1,000 liters).  What a deal!  Sign us up for a month, please.

Thus, we spent 5 weeks berthed in the marina, thoroughly enjoying sleeping in cold air-conditioning at night.  There are numerous restaurants within short walking distance and a supermarket right across the street from the marina, plus many well-stocked chandleries. This is a nice place to hang out and relax.  I was mentally ‘tired’ and needed to reset internal batteries for Caribbean vibes and put the Med countries and Atlantic crossing into memory.

The only disappointment in this marina is the Wi-Fi.  It is agonizingly slow!  We paid for Wi-Fi on the boat and were berthed fairly close to the access point for this dock, but service was painfully slow.  I attempted to log into Facebook once and it took a full 15 minutes for the home page to load.  There are several restaurants with free Wi-Fi for customers, but I quickly tired of paying $20 to $35 for us to split a lunch just to be able to access internet.  Everything else about this marina and small town is quite nice except for the inadequate Wi-Fi.  We checked with Digicel about purchasing a sim and prepaid data service, but they sell data only in 1 GB quantities and that would not last any time at all.  Plus, they informed us that there are several different Digicel companies servicing the Eastern Caribbean islands, and this particular Digicel would work ONLY in the French islands.  With that knowledge, we opted not to buy Digicel 3G service for this season because we plan to head south from Martinique this time.

Cornell Sailing arranged several activities for the Atlantic Odyssey participants upon arrival in Martinique.  There was a full week of what seemed like whirlwind social activities; then most of the rally boats departed the marina to begin their Caribbean island explorations.  About a half-dozen of us opted to remain in the marina for several weeks or a month.  Almost everyone was gone by 1 March.  We will depart the marina on 5 March and finally move to an anchorage, probably St. Anne’s.  Our elder son, daughter-in-law and 15-yr-old grandson are flying to St. Lucia and we will meet them in Rodney Bay Marina on 12 March for Spring Break.  Who knows, maybe we will sail back up to Martinique with them.  We like Martinique much better than St. Lucia.

Rather elaborate rum tasting at Clement Distillery

Rally participants were treated to a couple of welcome cocktail parties hosted by the Le Marin Martinique Office of Tourism.  We also enjoyed a day outing on a large bus to the Clement Estate and rum distillery.  The grounds of this estate are impressive.  There are many sculptures and art displays on the grounds.  The home is restored and well maintained.  And the rum distilled here far surpasses any of the rum we have tasted at other distilleries throughout the Caribbean.  And it is priced accordingly!  

The better rums are always the dark ones.

The Clement top-of-the-line is a rum aged 15 years and it costs 90 Euro per liter at the distillery, 115 at other locations around the island.  We purchased a liter bottle of the 10-year-old rum for 37 Euro, priced 42 at locations other than the distillery.  Andrew (crew member for Atlantic crossing) also purchased a bottle of the 10-year-old rum for BeBe.  It was tasty and did not last long.

A typical slave home.  Our guide lady is wearing a typical slave
straw hat of those days.

Next trip for rally participants was a visit to the slave plantation near Trois Ilets.  Bill and I had anchored off Trois Ilets in 2007 but had not visited this re-creation of a slave plantation.  One thing I liked was that our tour guide at the site always referred to the slaves of yesteryear as “the people.”  If this were in the USA, she probably would have used the nouns “we” and “us” rather than “the people.”  

Our guide explaining how an old manual sugar cane
press operated.  She was very pretty.

By the way, Martinique has a very long history of mixed race peoples and the results are that the natives of this island are very, very attractive – both males and females.  I think the most beautiful women of the entire Caribbean live on Martinique.  And mostly they are gracious and friendly, even with those of us who do not speak French. 

Bill listening attentively to our guide explain the various
punishments for slaves who repeatedly escaped and
were re-captured.

Our guide was informative and we finally learned why some people consider the fleur-de-lis to be a symbol of slavery.  Apparently in the French islands this symbol commonly was used to brand slaves who had attempted to escape.  

The first time a slave escaped and was captured, his ears were cut off and his back shoulders were branded with the fleur-de-lis. The second time he escaped and was re-captured, his leg was cut off just below the knee. The third time he escaped and was re-captured, his head was cut off.  And then placed on a post within the slave camp to deter future escapes by others. There was a small museum on the grounds of the slave camp with several statues and carvings which depicted slaves suffering these various punishments for having escaped.

Rally members at farewell dinner at The Mango.  In dark
blue shirt center, is our crew member, Andrew Blum.
At the farewell dinner party for rally participants each boat was awarded a small plaque and presented with a bottle of rum from the Maison La Mauny rum distillery here on Martinique.  Some folks got white rum and some received dark rum.  Thankfully, our gift bag contained a bottle of the dark rum.  It is not as good as the 10-year-old Clement rum, but it is pretty good.  We do not care for white rums so were thankful that our gift bag just happened to contain the dark one.

Bill, Andrew and Judy receiving a gift of rum
from Pascal, one of the rally organizers.
Bill and I were surprised when one of the rally organizers announced to the group that the arrival of S/V BeBe in Martinique completed our 10-year circumnavigation.  We did not expect any special recognition by the rally for this 'accomplishment.'  By the way, I had mentioned to Jimmy Cornell that some folks think Bill and I should not use the term 'circumnavigation' because we shipped BeBe through the Red Sea because of the bad piracy situation the year we were in that area.  His response to my comment -- "Psshww! Nonsense!"

BeBe dressed in the courtesy flags of all the countries
visited as we went around.  It is a tradition to dress
the boat in this manner when circle is complete.
Once again I would like to state that we thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Atlantic Odyssey.  This was our first rally and we were a bit apprehensive about participating in a group activity such as this because we usually do not like being committed to group activities and schedules.  But we think Jimmy Cornell has organized these rallies well and the price certainly cannot be beat.  You receive much more than should be expected for the minimal participation fees.  The fees for these Odyssey rallies are only about one-fourth of the fees for the ARC.  And, Jimmy is keeping these rallies limited to 40 boats per event.  It was fun participating with only 18 boats, and 40 boats would have been fine; but 280 to 300 boats like in the ARC is pure crazy in our opinions.

Andrew (our crew member for the Atlantic crossing) left BeBe on 16 February and joined another American rally boat named Wings which was sailing to St. Lucia.  We received an email from Andrew a few days ago and they were already in Bequia and planned to continue southward to Grenada.   Andrew was great as crew.  He chipped in and helped with both interior and exterior cleaning of the boat after arrival here.  He even kitted up and dived here in the nasty marina water and cleaned the water-line of the boat and scraped off all the goose-neck barnacles that accumulated under the sloped stern.  Those goose-neck barnacles always grow on the bottom of the stern on ocean passages.  They are easily scraped off if done immediately after arrival; but wait for just a couple of days and those things become hard as rocks and are very difficult to remove.  Many thanks to Andrew for doing this work for us.

Le Marin is the location of the Amel Authorized Service Center for the Caribbean.  This means that a lot of Amels visit this marina.  Bill has been very active in the Amel Owners’ Group online for 10 years and has developed somewhat of a reputation among fellow Amel owners.  Owners of a half-dozen Super Maramu yachts have arrived and dropped by to say hello.  It has been lots of fun sipping wine and sharing dinners with some of these folks.   Looking forward to meeting up with each of them again somewhere, sometime.