We arrived back in Martinique from Tobago after a slow sail in light winds, approaching the island at about 3am we decided to hove-to and wait until daylight as there are not only lots of unlit fishing traps along the coast but also our anchorage is in amongst reef and not sensible to enter in the dark.
At first light we entered the channel at Le Marin and now in shallower water we noticed that the depth sounder was not reading. I reset it a few times, which worked for a few seconds then it flashed again losing its reading. Strange. So we edged our way in to the anchorage and were pleased to see Jim on ‘Somewhere’ coming out to greet us in his dinghy with his portable depth sounder. So with his help showing us where the shallow spots were we dropped the hook. Jez dived in to check out the surroundings and discovered that we still had one of our Remora sucker fish stuck to the hull – right over the depth transducer. It was a juvenile, so we felt rather guilty for splitting up the family and transporting our cling-on from Tobago to Martinique. He didn’t hang around for too much longer after his ordeal and I’m glad to say the depth sounder works again.
So we were back in Martinique to be measured for our new sails, with that task done we learned that our promised delivery date had been pushed back to mid Jan. So we decided to head off again to get some jobs done on other islands in the meantime as we need to get our life raft serviced among other things. A slow sail once again across to Rodney Bay St Lucia, here we got our staysail firling drum fixed to take the new bearing that we had bought in Martinique. The bearing had gone some time ago and destroyed the metal tube inside which meant that the new bearing had no grooves to sit in. We used a great workshop in St Lucia who are more accustomed to fixing lorries, were able to do it same day and for a fifth of the price quoted in Martinique. So with that job done we headed off to Grenada, sailing down the windward side of the islands we had an absolutely cracking sail at 8 knots and arrived in just 25 hours. Prickly Bay, on the south coast, is where Sea Safety Service is located, an authorised service centre for our Ocean Safety life raft. The bay is pleasant looking but open to the ocean swell that wraps around the south coast, despite the uncomfortable conditions the bay was packed with anchored boats. Only just bearable for us whilst we waited for the raft to be serviced. Donal and Sarah from Sea Safety provided an excellent service, and whilst the raft was inflated we got to have a sit in it and check out all its features with a great informative chat with Donal. We are pretty glad we chose an Ocean Safety raft, it appears to be very good quality and the only things that needed replacing were flares, batteries and our lithium battery powered SOS light which were out of date.
The raft was ready for collection in just a few days, and Donal sent it back on board with two of his staff to help lift it into it’s locker as it is rather heavy. That’s when things went a little wrong, as they lifted it from the dinghy and reached forward the dinghy departed from Joy in the swell, a big splash left the life raft in the water and one lad half in hanging on to it for dear life. It was quite a struggle getting it out of the water and back in the dinghy, attempt number two was more successful with the dinghy held firmly in place. Good job the raft case has drain holes and the raft is shrink wrapped inside. We gave both the soggy helpers a tip to soften the blow, and were pleased to hear that neither had their phones in their pockets.
So once again we were off, it was just a few days before Christmas and the forecast was for strong winds setting in for a week or so, so we took a last minute decision to head back to St Lucia for Christmas. We arrived off the west coast of St Lucia late the following afternoon, feeling the effects of the strong 2 knot current on a spring tide, and listened in to a mayday call on the VHF for two divers that had gone missing from Laborie, St Lucia. The search and rescue helicopter from Martinique joined in the search although they struggled to get definite co-ordinates of the last sighting of them from the radio operator and it all seemed a little unprofessional with daylight minutes ticking away. As darkness fell we tacked in towards the coast and heard the call that the helicopter was calling off its search. Then just after 8pm the cruise ship ‘Jewel of the Sea’ called to say that they had retrieved two persons from the water after deploying their rescue boats, we could see them on AIS right ahead of us. It was a relief to hear that they had no life threatening injuries and after receiving medical treatment onboard, the St Lucia coastguard collected them and the cruise ship continued it’s journey to Barbados. We later read that the two divers had got separated from the rest of the group on a dive at 7am, so had been in the water a very long time. The cruise ship had left Castries at 5pm heading south along the west coast, and about 7.30pm diners in the restaurant on level 12 heard calls from the water, so their emergency plan had been put into effect and their rescue boat launched. A truly amazing rescue.
The strong current continued to push us further away from our goal, as we were now in the wind shadow of St Lucia with light variable winds, so we reluctantly gave up and motored the remaining 20 miles to Rodney Bay (the chart plotter was predicting our arrival on the 15th January!!). We stayed here for a wonderfully quiet Christmas with very few boats anchored, and New Year’s eve we enjoyed the firework displays from all the hotels which line the bay. The weather here always seems to deteriorate around Christmas, we have had lots of rain as well as sunshine and have been battered by the ‘Christmas Winds’. We took the opportunity to hike up to the summit of Signal Hill on Pigeon Island to help burn off the effects of three Christmas dinners in a row (yes, we had cooked far too much!).
And now a game of spot the rainbow, with all that rain and sunshine we have had some beauties.
Despite the extra pounds carried onboard, we roared back across to Martinique last week overtaking FOUR other boats, I can’t remember the last time we overtook one let alone four. On a beam reach with 15-18 knots of wind from the east, we had no problem powering through the lumpy sea at 8 knots and arrived in just 3.5 hours.
Shortly after checking-in we had a call from the sail maker with some bad news, another delay on our sails means they won’t arrive until mid Feb so we will have to get them delivered to Trinidad instead. Very disappointing as we wanted to test them on the sail down there, but that’s life. After a bit more provisioning and stocking of parts for the Pacific, we are leaving today for Trinidad to get ready to be hauled out. Not my favourite part of living on a boat, but necessary for our maintenance.