15 August 2022: Rip The Bandaid
15 August 2022
Le Marin, Martinique
Marigot, St Lucia
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
10 to 15 knots on the beam or slightly forward of the beam
Not a cloud in sight!
Blue sky kind of day
Dry, thank goodness!
How has literally two months passed by since I arrived to Le Marin. I mean the lure of a cheap marina, shelter for the first and only concerning storm (so far) of hurricane season, good friends, nearby chandleries and marine professionals etc was just too much. It became so easy to stay put.
Do not even get me started on the ‘Cocktail Exotique’ freezies. YUM!
And though I shifted from anchorage to dock a couple times, fueled up etc. It felt like I had forgotten how to use my boat. Sailing felt foreign, weather and sea state became intimidating again (even though friends left ahead of me and had easy, trade wind kind of passages). I felt like I was reverting back to a newbie.
As each and every little break or new to do got added to my list (i.e. change transmission oil, fridge breaks, dinghy engine breaks, dinghy still not patched properly, etc) it felt more and more unreasonable to leave my safe little haven. To top it all off, I had been saying since Nassau that Martinique was the next place I was going to stop and work on my autopilot and I did not touch it once. You can see why it was so hard to leave, after all, it was the easiest place to get those jobs done and the other islands were a little unknown.
With reassurances from friends who had already arrived in Grenada that there were plenty of resources to get things done (with the added benefit of friends around to have a drink or morning coffee with and commiserate over said projects with), I decided it was time to leave.
Hurricane season would surely start rearing its head any day now and I did not want to find myself doing a 150 nautical mile overnighter if something cropped up on the weather reports at the last minute. I like to be prepared and mentally ready for the longer, overnight solo sails. Plus with all my friends heading south before me I actually found it hard to make friends. I think it was a lot of the local French boats and charter yachts remaining and so I was missing my fellow cruisers.
SO MANY REASONS TO GET GOING.
Yet I could feel this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach holding me back, I recognized the feeling as it was definitely present in the early days departing Connecticut and tackling the New Jersey coast. And with only a 30 nautical mile sail to start with a good forecast and no compelling reason to stay, I hauled anchor.
And I was rewarded with an easy, trade wind sailing kind of day. It was easily 5 knots of speed all day with very little effort trimming the sails. I was worried about gusts between Martinique and St Lucia and a crappy auto helm that I didn’t trust if I was surprised by the weather and had to reef. So I started out with one reef in. And I never wanted for more mainsail up so in the end it was the right choice.
She galloped along, we had no rain and though I put in a little bit of effort to balance the sails I still stayed by the helm just in case. Man I would be excited for my new autopilot to be functional. And then shortly before St Lucia my lack of trust in the autopilot was confirmed as I turned the wheel and the autopilot literally popped apart and the ball bearings fell to the ground. May she rest in peace.
Happy that my sail plan includes lots of island hopping now that I really did not have an autopilot and knowing I had already paid for its replacement and just had to install it (still a few costs in the installation process to come but the vast majority out of the way), this did not get me down. Especially in comparison to the fridge problems from the day before this was in comparison nearly meaningless. It was a slow breakup of the relationship with my autohelm where overtime it became more and more unreliable and I had time to process its demise. The fridge was sudden and we were at the best place we had ever been since the additional solar panel I installed less than a month earlier. I finally had enough amps to run it off the inverter and keep it cool (though I would only run it when I was onboard and good thing as the breakdown meant I went from drawing 25 amps to 150amps. If I was not onboard when that happened it could have cost me a new fridge PLUS a new house battery bank). With the breakdown I suddenly had that good feeling ripped out from under me (in the form of a broken fridge, or the ‘hot box of death’ as I fondly call it). This made the surprise breakdown of the fridge so much worse than the planned phase out of the autohelm for the new autopilot. Add on the cost that I had not factored into the budget yet as fridge was on the ‘one day’ wish list not the ‘now’ to do list and I am sure you all can imagine the frustration and emotion.
I was also having issues with my chartplotter (my Android tablet with OpenCPN maps) as it seemed to have no detail for St Lucia. Luckily I still have my 2018 Garmin charts from before downloaded as my backup so I followed my Garmin Active Captain for depths. However, since I prefer to navigate with OpenCPN I was using it while sailing and was just going to switch to Active Captain as I got close (I had already reviewed the approach in detail so that I would switch well ahead of where I had to be concerned about the depths). But when looking at OpenCPN, I actually navigated to the wrong port. So around 2pm, thinking I was making fabulous time, I switched to Active Captain and started thinking about when I would drop sails and start motoring – though I was skeptical about how industrial the port seemed which did not fit my expectations from the guide book – only to realise I was not there yet! Rookie mistake!
Luckily I had not yet dropped the sails and carried on a few miles further to Marigot. I anchored in 11 feet of clear blue water, a nice change from the murky 20 foot depths in Martinique, and dropped the dinghy and mounted the engine to check into the country. I popped my quarantine flag on the flag halyard and jumped in the tender, stopping by the neighboring boat – the only other boat in the anchorage – to check it was a safe area. St Lucia has mixed reviews on theft and boat safety and everyone I knew going through here paid for mooring balls. But with the recent breakdowns I was left to weigh if it was actually safe or if not paying 20 USD per night for a mooring ball would result in a $5,000 USD dinghy replacement. The neighbors had been there for one night and assured me they had zero concerns and my initial instincts at the dock I generally agreed with that assessment. Though I did not feel anything would be stolen while I was on the boat, I also was not sure it was the kind of place where I would want to leave my boat unattended for long stretches of time (i.e. to do a day trip exploring). It sure puts the damper on being in a new country to know that you probably should not go explore and highlights a con of solo sailing that if I was a sailing couple, though not ideal, technically one of you could go for a walk or explore town while the other stayed with the boat. An option I did not have!
I thought let’s see how I feel tomorrow and make a plan from there, as there was no point staying if I couldn’t see the place. And once checked in I proceeded to the local bar and bought a tropical smoothie – a bloody delicious one at that – because a lovely patron had ‘bought me a drink’ from the link on my website and it felt celebratory to be on the move again at last. Not to mention though I was unsure of my plans and freedom to explore at this point, I was still elated to arrive in such a stunning anchorage. A favorite so far with clear water, lush green hills and more. Cheers all!
“The fears we do not face become our limits.”
– Robin Sharma