S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Joyeux Noel

December 23, 2006
Anse Mitan, Martinique

Our friend Greg arrives today for two weeks of fun in the sun. We have been trying to figure out how to get him from the airport to the boat. It's not that far, but it is apparently wickedly expensive to take a taxi, especially if they suss that you aren't a local (the not speaking French part is usually a dead giveaway). Unlike most other Caribbean islands, traffic is a nightmare and public transportation isn't particularly reliable or even in existence. No good ole maxi taxis here!

Any road, we were asking Gilda (more on her later) for her advice, and she offered to pick Greg up at the airport! This was about 10 minutes after we had first met her. Now that's hospitality! We'll see how it all works out.

Gilda is the sister of Cheryl, our bookstore-managing friend on Bequia. Cheryl is looking for a cappucino maker for her cafe behind the bookstore, and she found a good one available in Martinique. We offered to deliver a handful of cash to Gilda, who would then buy the cappucino maker and ship it to Cheryl. So yes, Cheryl trusted us enough to let us sail away with hundreds of her dollars in U.S. currency. Clear?

Gilda has also, very slowly and patiently, been speaking French to me. I've been flattering myself that my comprehension is pretty good. However, earlier this week, when Dean and I were buying a print from a local artist, she explained in detail (and in French) the process of her printmaking. I turned to Dean proudly, saying, "I understood all that!" "So did I," said Dean, who took about an hour of French in high school. Oh. Never mind.

One very funny story from yesterday: we were walking by the little beach next to where we tie up our dinghy, and a woman dipped into the water next to us, and came up whooping and rubbing her shoulders. I know this gesture; it's the kind of gesture you make when you plunge into the 58 degree surf in Ogunquit in July (or in Katrina's case, May) and instantly begin to show signs of hypothermia. The water off Martinique is certainly more chilly than it was in the summer off Grenada (only 80 degrees now, brrr!), but come on.

Still, I think Dean and I are in for a very big shock the next time we hit the beach in New England.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good Fenders Make Good Neighbors

Sunday, December 17
Anse Mitan, Martinique
N 33 minutes, 33.588 seconds
W 061 minutes, 03.292 seconds

We've had a quiet couple of days following the departure of Crossroads, Dragonfly, and Dreamweaver for points north, and in anticipation of Greg's arrival on Saturday. We will probably stay here in Anse Mitan for the week, enjoying the nearby beaches and shopping, and taking the ferry over to Fort de France once or twice for more serious provisioning.

Anse Mitan is a much smaller anchorage than St. Anne, but it is located in a large and active bay, and it faces the city of Fort de France. We've enjoyed watching the commercial and private boats that make their way past us--and into us, as happened yesterday.

Dean was sitting in the companionway watching a whole slew of boats sailing into the area as a family on a French, steel-hulled sailboat was attempting to thread its way through the anchorage. The wind, which was light all day yesterday, died to a whisper, and the French sailboat, now in front of our bow, lost momentum and started drifting down onto us.

The good thing about most sailboats is that they don't go very fast. We, being anchored, weren't moving at all, and this boat was just ghosting along at a knot or two. I was belowdecks, and I heard Dean get up and walk forward along the deck, but I didn't know anything was going on until I heard voices speaking French just over my shoulder.

Sure enough, there they were, looking like they were preparing to raft up with us. Their engine, they explained, was broken, their mainsail, inexplicably, was down, and their jib, though in good working order, hung limply from the forestay. I stood there stupidly for a moment, assessing the situation, until Dean reminded me to get a fender.

Fortunately, we had just pulled up to a marina dock the day before to top up our water tanks, and we had been too lazy since then to put all the fenders away. In fact, one was still tied onto the port side, the same side as the boat that was approaching. All I had to do was flip it over. Our mid-section, at least, was safe.

I figure it's good karma to grin and act reassuring and not glance anxiously at the BRAND NEW varnish job on the bowsprit, which I spent weeks and weeks sanding and repainting not one month ago. It doesn't take much effort for the pointy end of a metal boat to put an unsightly divot into wood. But these people were clearly embarrassed and very apologetic, and the female half of the couple on board was obviously pissed enough at her male counterpart for all of us. I've been there many times, and it actually felt pretty good to be the person with the luxury of acting magnanimous for a change. "Pas de probleme" I repeated smilingly as Dean, with a firm hold on their bow pulpit, led their boat behind us.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Les Amis

Wednesday, December 13
Trois Ilets, Martinique

N 14 degrees, 32.730 minutes
W 061 degrees, 02.427 minutes

After a few weeks on our own, we've had a very social weekend in St. Anne, and a busy calendar. Highlights include an early Christmas brunch on Dreamweaver (I made a key lime pie from scratch), afternoons on the Club Med beach, viciously competitive card games on Dragonfly, southern cooking on Crossroads, dress shopping in St. Anne, a couple of long hikes along the coast, and bodysurfing at one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. We also went to a cocktail party on Rainbowrider, new friends who took us in for Thanksgiving. Rainbowrider is a spacious Lagoon catamaran. Gary and Linda invited about 16 people for drinks. Everybody came, and everybody fit comfortably in the cockpit, with room to spare.

Yesterday we tore ourselves away from St. Anne to try a few days in Trois Ilets, where the Empress Josephine was born and lived until she was 16. We started out so far east that most of yesterday's sail was downwind. We flew along with just the genoa out, snapping pictures of Crossroads and of Diamond Rock. Diamond Rock's claim to fame is that in 1804 the British managed to get a few cannon to the top of it and commissioned it as a ship. Looking at that barren, steep-sided lump of rock jutting out of the sea and surrounded, we are told, by hammerhead sharks, I feel for the crew of marines that were left to live on it for 18 months.

Unfortunately, because Trois Ilets is tucked into a protected part of the Fort de France area, the water is a bit stagnant and made murky by mangroves. We don't dare swim off the boat, so I'm not sure how long we'll last here, no matter how lovely it is on shore.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Friday, December 8
St. Anne, Martinique
N 14 degrees, 26.345 minutes
W 060 degrees 53.088 minutes

We'll start with What's good:
We caught a fish! A beautiful mahi mahi, our first edible fish since the Bahamas in February. We have caught up with Crossroads, Dragonfly, and Dreamweaver, and they had two loaves of French bread and two chocolate croissants waiting for us when we anchored. We made 7 knots under greatly reduced sail between Bequia and St. Vincent, flying along at a close reach. We'll look back on it as a "lively" sail with plenty of wind.

What's bad:
Nausea, which caused us to lose a lure by acting too slowly when we hooked our first fish, which got away. And in hindsight, it doesn't seem so bad, but boy were those waves big and steep at the northern end of St. Vincent.

What's Ugly:
The teeth marks on our mahi mahi when we brought him aboard. He went for the lure on our yo yo, which is silent, so we didn't know we had caught a fish until he'd exhausted himself by struggling back there. And he attracted a predator. Dean saw a fin as he was hauling the fish in. Luckily, all the predator got was a bit of skin. Our boat hasn't fared much better. We took a few waves over the bow, over the coach roof, over the dodger, and right in the face. We give new meaning to being salty coves--inside and out, as there were three inches of water above the floorboards in the galley about mid-passage. Fortunately, it was confined to the galley, and the bilge itself was dry, which meant we weren't sinking. Unfortunately, it means we have a leak along the port side rail, which spent much of the passage buried beneath the waves. Also, we broke our dining table when it fell down during the passage.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In which we see Dean doing dishes in saltwater to conserve freshwater, Jill catching rainwater, and a dinghy on the beach.


Last of the Grenadines

Tuesday, December 5
Admiralty Bay, Bequia, Grenadines
N 13 degrees, 00.28 minutes
W 061 degrees, 14.54 minutes

We have spent the last week enjoying Bequia, a small but lively island in the northern area of the Grenadines. The bay here is enormous, with plenty of room for the constant boat traffic, and lots of places onshore to eat and shop and look around.

We have been stuffing ourselves with roti and other West Indian curries, as I seem to recall that the little, cheap curry places were not as frequent north of the Grenadines. On Sunday we went to a great curry buffet in Coco's Place, a restaurant perched on the hillside overlooking Lower Beach and the Bay. The beach itself is a popular place on Sundays, with people playing football (that's soccer to you Yanks) and cricket, and music pouring out of the beachside bars.

As we got closer to the beach, we noticed that no other dinghies were beached there, and there was a bit of a roll picking up as we got into shallower water. I remembered reading something in our guidebook about how it was tricky and therefore inadviseable to land a dinghy there. The book recommended that we take a cab from the town--yeah, right! Pay? Real money? When we can walk or sail or dinghy or crawl? We are EXPERIENCED cruisers, right? With thousands of miles under our keel, right? So in we went through the surf, doing okay until the last few feet, when the shore shelved suddenly from four feet deep to ankle deep, and a wave broke over the back of the dinghy, soaking us both. I was glad we keep our little camera sealed in plastic, for just such occasions.

A Rastafarian had seen us and was there on shore, ready to grab our bow and help us heave the boat out of the surf. Clearly, he had done this a few times. After, he gave us a handshake and went back to dancing at one of the bars.

Yesterday I dragged Dean to the other side of the island to see an alleged turtle sanctuary. Once again, we walked. It was only two miles, but they were steep, sweaty miles, and we were glad to take a break at Spring Bay, halfway to the turtle sanctuary, and look into an old sugar plantation, part of which has been restored and turned into a potter's studio and gallery. We met the artist, who hails from Britain originally, and who had just returned from six months at his studio in the south of France (nice work if you can get it). Unfortunately, as he had been gone for six months, he didn't have any more of the fabulous plates I had seen and wanted to purchase. I consoled myself with a whimsical bowl with a toucan's head, inspired by some ancient Arawak pottery. I also became enchanted by an oil painting--a big splurge, but Dean and I agree that it's worth the money to pick up some original artwork along the way. The only problem would be getting this thing home. We are waiting to hear from the artist regarding shipping costs.

We weren't sure what to think of the turtle sancturary along the beach. Ostensibly, it's a good idea to help these rare hawksbill and green turtles, which generally have survival rate of one in a thousand in the wild. For the past twelve years, Mr. King, who started this project, has picked hundreds of newly-hatched turtles from certain beaches in the windwards, keeping them in pens until they are about ten years old, and then releasing them. Since the turtles don't begin to lay eggs themselves until they are about 25 years old, we have to wait another decade to see if raising these turtles in captivity will have an effect on the dwindling population.

We think that we are leaving tomorrow, overnighting in St. Lucia, and getting to Martinique on Thursday. We don't know what the email situation will be there...

Monday, December 04, 2006


4 December, 2006.

Well, we might leave tomorrow or we might not. If we do, we'll likely sail to St. Lucia, overnight there, and then sail on up to Martinique. If not, we'll probably be here for 4-7 more days, waiting for a good weather window.


There's a guy down here in Bequia that races out in a dinghy to photograph incoming boats. When he showed us a sample picture of Delilah, we were hooked and had to have it. I'm posting a much-reduced size here. Click on the picture to see a bigger version.