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I am writing this story while we sail from Martinique. Martinique, where we have been for 12 days. Wait 12 days, arrange, find out. 12 days in the humid heat, mostly windless without being able to swim or do other fun things, 12 days in a busy harbor. 12 days of deliberation. Spending a lot of money for 12 days.
In the end, it will take about a month before this story is online, mainly because we find it an uninteresting nagging story that reminds us of a less pleasant period. You might as well skip this story, the sequel is much more fun!
If you follow our blog you'll know that just before Bequia we got unlucky with the fall of the main sail, it got stuck in the middle of the ocean and the sail couldn't go down so I had to go up the mast on the high seas and check the days after people French weird because my arms and legs looked like he was abusing me. Then our beloved red dinghy Opweg heads for Panama and takes our trusty old outboard motor with us. They casually leave us at home on Omweg. I believe that Opweg would rather be on the road than keep taking detours, but unfortunately we have to make a much bigger detour because a dinghy and engine are not easy to find, and a dinghy like our Opweg (a very good sailing Tinker Traveler) is impossible to find.
We decide to go to Martinique because here is the best chance to buy a suitable new dinghy + engine. Because it is too great a distance to cover in a daylight period, we stop in St. Lucia and because there is also a lot of equipment for sale here, with the Doyle guide in hand, we set off to all the companies that are suitable. appear. We find them all but the wonderful descriptions in the guide do not quite match reality. All companies that sell dinghies according to our guide react very lax and claim not to have them (until we show the catalog) or put a catalog in front of us "just pick one" instead of advising us or giving us a model. show. The mentality in St. Lucia, at least at Rodney Bay, is strikingly different from that on other islands. The people here seem much more indifferent, less friendly, less affectionate, less helpful. The Caribbean charm is also hard to find here. No colored houses, no cozy colorful rubbish, but boring buildings and straight strips of asphalt with many cars. It seems much less poor here, but that people are happier, we don't get that idea. Later we hear from many other cruisers that they also didn't like St. Lucia so it doesn't seem to be due to our less positive mood ;-)
We only stay for a very short time and only see Rodney Bay and its immediate surroundings, so it may be completely different on the rest of the island, but this place is in any case much less pleasant Caribbean than the other places we have been. On Rodney Bay we have a very nice evening on the ship of Nejat and Melike, a dinner on board their sailing yacht North results in an evening of laughter, fun music and the four of us dancing on the gangways until about four o'clock. at night.
The day after (um, four hours after) the fun night at North, a rigger arrives, someone who understands the "rigging", which is the whole combination of mast, rigging and sailing. We asked him to see if he could fix the disks at the top of the mast and what his hourly wages are. He wanted to have a look, but after repeated questions about what the costs for viewing would be, the only answer came that he just wanted to look first and then tell us what the repair would cost. After looking, he says he can't fix it (while he previously claimed to have those discs in stock). And oh yes, these 45 minutes watching, he must have 200 American Dollars for it. 200 USD is ridiculous! The wages here are low and the only reason they dare to charge those absurd amounts is because the ARC rally is coming here and most of the owners of these boats have too much money anyway and pay any amount effortlessly. Well we don't. Dutch as I am I object. I say it is absolutely unfair to say the day before that you have to look first to say how much it costs and also not give a guideline so we could have known that just climbing the mast to look costs so much money and that moreover, he must have known all along that he couldn't solve it. That's a scam and I say he can write that on his stomach. I give 200 EC (= 1/3 of the invoiced amount) and no more and I add that that is already way too much - the people in Bequia charge about 60 EC per hour (!) - and that he is happy to be. It is accepted, grimly with a lot of grumbling, and when a little later we get into a conversation with our American neighbor and tell us what happened, he is very happy that we have refused the amount. This 'rigger' is known here for his tinkering and absurd amounts. It was time to counteract instead of just throwing money around, he says.
Thursday the 31st we leave Rodney Bay early in the morning in the dark so that we arrive early in Le Marin on Martinique and on this day can make an appointment with the riggers there. Friday is New Year's Day and they don't work on weekends. Monday morning it is our turn. We spend the rest of the day walking around a lot of shops. It is a long walk in the sweltering sun without wind. Look at the signs! Watch the cars! Watch the people! We are in France! Martinique is really no longer a Caribbean. It's France. How boring it seems to us when you arrive here after an ocean crossing, while so many people do. It is nice that there are a lot of dinghies and staff who think along. Unfortunately, most of them are very heavy and very expensive. We like light because we are not people who just go to places where there is a dinghy dock. We have to be able to get onto the beach frequently and that means that we have to be able to lift it to tow it onto the beach. A dinghy of 50 kg (still quite light) and motor of 45 kg is really too heavy if you are only with two people. We receive brochures and price lists so that we can find out what we want in the coming weekend.
The Caribbean is mainly an English-speaking area. Most of the islands are former English colonies, most of the ships that sail there are American tourists and the sailors who come from Europe usually all speak English as well. English is therefore the main language throughout the Caribbean. But in the Caribbean? No, a small island courageously continues to resist the English language and does not make the life of the passing boats any easier ... It is like the intro of Asterix and Obelix and the similar stubbornness is offensive. To save costs/make it easy, they have made up on this French-speaking island that you do not clear through an official behind a counter, but that you enter your details on a computer. Useful! Would you think? Of course it comes with an AZERTY keyboard and the language used is only French and not adjustable. Country of registration? The Netherlands? No, error message. Netherlands? No, not good either. La Hollande then? No. Oh yes, Pays Bas, of course, we knew that. Others are less fortunate and still have to go to the counter to ask what the hell their country is called in French. Previous port. Well, that was Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. No, that's different in French, find out. It's a farce, people grumbling everywhere who don't understand a word: "What the heck does" dominicile "mean?" Do you hear from others that they have been to the "Office de Tourisme", but even there they only speak French. Do they really expect that traveling Americans, Turks, Israelis, etc. will all learn French especially for this island, or that French will still become the world language in this way?
The messages for shipping that are broadcast over the VHF - quite important every now and then! - are broadcast by all countries in English and sometimes in the local language, but always followed by the English language. Even in Spanish-speaking countries and they are not that proficient in English either. But not here. Instead of the announcement "All ships, all ships, all ships" you will hear "Appeletoet, appeletoet, appeletoet". How many percent of Americans hear that they say "Appel a tous" and understand what it means? The announcement and substantive message completely ignore the target group! Sailing French are not popular among non-French either; they speak unabashedly to everyone in French, regardless of the country where they are guests. For example, you walk on Union Island and you meet a stranger who greets you with "Bonjour". Pffff, if it is still too much effort to at least learn how to say hello in the country where you are a guest. We don't walk all over the world, regardless of language area or interlocutor, saying "good afternoon" everywhere in Dutch? It has also happened that French enthusiasts approached our boat, approached us, then discovered that not every red, white and blue flag is a French flag, after which they quickly retired. They remain strange guys those French!
Now first celebrate New Year's Eve! We are looking forward to it and are very curious how it will be here. Unfortunately, in Le Marin in Martinique, the old and new turn out to consist of eating, eating and eating again (excusez les mots). The French eat from eight in the evening to two in the morning, that's offered in all restaurants! ALL restaurants are fully booked and EVERYWHERE they are eating. There is a restaurant with the terrace outside where they have at least live music but it is boring, western and not very danceable music. Moreover, the audience sitting there is not quite our thing. We sit and watch it amused on our bar stool (we were lucky that two of them were free) and come to the conclusion that these people fit very well with the luxury poop catamarans that Martinique is full of. Unfortunately, we don't get into a conversation with anyone because everyone is eating at the table all the time, so when those women with their hair neatly in a bun, a pearl necklace, a formal dress and wearing high heels, sitting next to their husbands wearing bow ties, actually being fun and spontaneous and interesting, unfortunately we missed that. At midnight there are a few boats blowing their horns and we see two flares. The French raise their glasses and continue eating. The Netherlands is a bit exaggerated with all the fireworks, but here it is very bleak! We decide to continue the party on our own boat :-)
On every tiny, laid back real Caribbean island so far, we could buy a local prepaid SIM card so that we had internet. To our surprise, this does not work on the large and French Martinique. No, you can only get a subscription here for half a year or you pay a squeeze on a few mere MBs. Everywhere they react supposedly surprised when we explain that we just want a prepaid ticket while on the way (even in the phone shops themselves!) We keep encountering cruisers who also do their utmost to get a SIM card with a reasonable amount of data, everyone is just so amazed that it suddenly doesn't work out here.
On Monday we go to the company that according to our guide is the best in the Caribbean to solve the problem of our mast. Yes, it can be solved within a day, everything is in stock and they can also install a roller-furling jib installation ( see below ). We agree on a price and are invited to lie on their repair dock. From that moment on, customer-friendliness ceases. The next morning no one comes, and if someone eventually comes it is because they want us to lie somewhere else because there is a thick catamaran that has right of way and has to be in the repair dock. Suddenly no more help, we just have to figure out how to solve it. At the front we are attached to the dock, at the back of a mooring. Nobody wants to untie the 20 meter long line tied to the mooring; their boat is not there for a while, but can't wait ... Shouting and cursing on the catamaran that has to go in. Eventually they untie our line ... and simply drop it into the water while we had already untied our end. We just have to double-park somewhere, but also no one to help us with that. It is nice that the many maneuvers in the harbor of necessity show that we have the boat under control! :-) After that, the same ritual always follows: every day we promise that someone will come, we get up early, but no one comes and we always have to follow up to make a new appointment, and if someone is there, they leave. always prematurely because suddenly another charter catamaran arrives with which a contract has apparently been concluded. The whole ritual eventually lasts a week, where we have to be constantly alert ourselves because they want to install the wrong stuff, leave their power tools in the rain, etc. In the end, the bill is more than a factor of two higher than agreed. The big boss Philippe Lacombte of Caraibe Greement is brought in, a man who at first appeared very sympathetic but now seems to be the devil in person. As a good customer, we are abused, that we interfered with everything, that we have been here for a whole week at HIS costs (while we did not want to be here at all and continuously begged that they would not finally finish the work so that we could leave) and now do not even want to pay double the agreed price. This man is crazy or overworked. We are completely baffled. "Pay what you want to pay and leave" he shouts at us, and with the quote in hand with the exact amount on it, we pay exactly that amount. The employees, who know that all those noted working hours have not come a long way because they were always busy on our boat "part-time" are ashamed to shut up and try to be nice to us.
Bas and Agnes from SY Tisento have been so nice that we were allowed to keep using their little rowing dinghy from Bequia to Martinique because they would be there later anyway. In the meantime they have arrived and we have a few nice evenings with them and we are very grateful that we could just keep using their dinghy!
In the meantime, we have also searched for a new Dinghy, but all sizes suitable for us are sold out. In any case, we would like to buy an outboard motor, but guess what, in Martinique you are no longer allowed to buy 2-stroke engines, but only 4-stroke models, but they weigh a lot more with the same engine power. Has something to do with pollution, although we do not notice the problem of a small outboard motor while we see speedboats everywhere with 3 300 HP engines hanging behind, which is a bit exaggerated and undoubtedly causes much more pollution. We learn that the 10 HP 2-stroke engine we want is for sale on ... St. Lucia, where we just came from. Grrrr. We are considering sailing back and will reserve a copy in advance. The next morning we hear that they just sold the last one. We are fed up with this hassle now. Soooo terribly tired!
We have now heard that all these maritime companies have their headquarters in Sint Maarten. That is not without reason, because Sint Maarten is a tax haven. You can order online and they give more than 20% discount. Sint Maarten is a long way away and is not really on our route, but we decide to just order and pay online and collect the entire trade there. It is also best to order the new sail that comes with our roller-furling jib installation on Sint Maarten. So ... on to Sint Maarten, but with a small detour. On the way we pass Dominica and that seems to be too beautiful to pass unthinkingly ...
About the roller-furling jib
Detour is one of the few boats that does not have a roller-furling jib but a tree jib. This has certain major advantages, but we also discovered a practical disadvantage: If you go with a tailwind and you want to reef, you can only do that by turning 180 degrees and sailing into the wind. During our crossing it happened a few times that the wind increased during the night (or a squall was approaching) and then it is not exactly practical to have to wake the other person, to turn the boat over (where you have a period transverse to the waves come to lie that are invisible without the moon, to reef the sail in wind that has suddenly increased because you are sailing against it, and then to reverse again. How easy is it if you can just keep your course and without the cockpit go out pulling a line that rolls in just as much of the sail as you want?
We ask for advice here and there. Opinions are divided. Some find our tree breeding superior and think we can just let it stand up to 55 knots of wind. Others advise us to take a roller-furling jib. In both camps there are people who have already sailed all the way around the world. Difficult, difficult. We eventually decide to mount a furling system on the empty forestay, because it has no real disadvantages.