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by Dan and Jan Ahart

Chapter Forty-Nine

At 0615 on April 20th we departed Grand Fond Bay on Monos Island, which is just west of the main island of Trinidad and motored against a 20 knot northeast wind eastward along the north coast of Trinidad about 15 miles until we reached longitude sixty one degrees west. From that point, the angle on the wind enabled us to sail northwestward to Grenada. We arrived in Grenada at 2200 and using radar and GPS found a good anchorage just outside St. Georges, the capital of Grenada. From the time we began to sail, the 85 mile journey took us about 14 hours. Our average speed was about six knots, which is very good for us. Along the way, Jan caught a very large king fish, that measured nearly four and one half feet. We estimated the weight at over 25 pounds. Jan kept only the best filets, which filled two one-gallon freezer bags. The rest went over the side. We gave one bag away to friends and we still had fresh fish every day for the next week cooked every imaginable way.

Also during the trip I thought we had developed transmission trouble. Our sailing technique included leaving the transmissions of both engines in neutral so the props would spin and thereby reduce drag - or so the theory goes. While sailing I noticed a clicking sound coming from the port transmission. We stopped the boat and started the engine and I checked the operation of the transmission. Everything seemed in order, but as soon as we started sailing, I heard the clicking sound again. We stopped again and put both transmissions in gear so the propellers would not spin. The clicking sound stopped. When we arrived in Grenada, I contacted a Yanmar dealer and explained my concerns to him. He didn't think the problem was in the transmission even though the noise seemed to emanate from there. He suggested that I start at the prop and disconnect it and then the propeller shaft and then the transmission couplings until I reached the transmission. If the noise was still coming from the transmission, I should then remove it and bring it to him for repair. That sounded like good advice, so I put on my snorkeling gear and went over the side to see what tools I would need to remove the propeller. To my surprise I found that the sacrificial zinc that I had just installed a week earlier was gone and the cutlass-bearing strut was "polished," obviously from the zinc, which had been spinning against it. The clicking had evidently been the zinc, spinning around and hitting the cutlass-bearing strut. Much relieved, we tested the transmission under sail while the transmission was in neutral and there was no noise. I replaced the zinc and have had no further trouble. A sacrificial zinc by the way, is a zinc and lead alloy "collar" about the size of a lemon that comes in two halves and is bolted around the propeller shaft. The theory is that corrosive salt water will dissolve the zinc and not damage the stainless steel propeller shaft or any other part of the drive train. Obviously, I had not gotten the bolts on the zinc tight enough to hold it in place and it slipped rearward along the propeller shaft until it encountered the strut that houses the cutlass bearing, which supports the propeller. There, it apparently ground itself into oblivion, causing clicking noises that traveled to the transmission. There is always something new to learn on a boat. The Yanmar dealer and I also discussed the efficacy of leaving the transmissions in neutral when we sail. His advice was to leave them in gear and not let the propeller spin. This sounded like great advice as it certainly eliminates a lot of unnecessary wear on the cutlass bearings, the stuffing box and the transmission bearings.

The next day we left for Martinique, which was about 160 miles north. The wind had shifted from northeast to due east, which was good for our sail north, but the velocity had diminished to less than 15 knots and in some areas less than 10. Ideal winds for us are in the 20-knot range. But, if we were going to take advantage of the light, easterly air we would have to motor at least some of the time in order to get to Martinique before the winds shifted to northeast again. This we did. It took us almost exactly 36 hours of motor sailing to transit from the southern end of Grenada to the southern end of Martinique. We arrived around midnight and using radar and GPS easily found our way into the bay off St. Anne.

The bay off St. Anne is large and shallow with average depths in the anchorage area of less than 20 feet. The water is usually very clear and the trade winds are partially blocked by high hills. It is an ideal anchorage. We estimated that there were about 100 to 125 boats anchored. This was easily twice as many as last year, but there was probably room for 100 more. St. Anne is a small town that is increasingly becoming a cruisers' and tourist town. This year there were more souvenir shops and more restaurants and of course more tourists walking around. However, it is still quiet and quaint and the bakeries make fresh baguettes all day. Going ashore for breakfast is delightful in that the croissants and baguettes are fresh out of the oven and the coffee is strong and flavorful. Sitting at a small beachside bakery/delicatessen looking out at a beautiful tropical bay on a fine warm morning is always an enjoyable experience.

Not far from St. Anne is a huge marina in the Bay of Marin, where there are boating repair facilities, boating supply outlets, restaurants and three large grocery stores. The marina at Marin includes over 600 slips and all kinds of boats from all over the world. In addition to the slips there is ample anchorage for several hundred boats. For the convenience of cruisers, an immigration and customs office is located right on the quay. Checking in and out of Martinique is the easiest and cheapest in the Caribbean. There is only one short form to fill out, one official to talk to, and there are no fees. Checking in or out takes less than 10 minutes and visitors can remain for 18 months. In contrast to Martinique, some islands require visits to separate immigration and customs offices with multi-part forms to fill out at each, plus fees for the boat and fees for the crew and stays of only two to three months authorized.

The only inconvenience in Martinique was the Internet cafes. The keyboards at the computers use a different layout than the rest of the western hemisphere and Europe, so we were forced to "hunt and peck." Plus, all software was in French, so we had to ask for help repeatedly. After a few minutes of this frustration, we gave up and decided to access the Internet on and English-speaking island. Even so, we found the island charming and the vast majority of the residents worked with us as we constantly referred to our French/English dictionary to buy groceries and supplies. Stay tuned.

Dates: 2002-04-20,
Locations: Grenada

The Ahart Odyssey 1999-2004 Dan and Jan Ahart. All rights reserved.