Friday, December 20, 2013


View from Motivator

We really enjoy the French islands.  What’s not to enjoy?  The streets are clean.  There are few security concerns.  And the food is great!

La Poste

On Terre-de-Haut, in les Saintes, the weather is so nice, that everyone rides a scooter.  Even the mail is delivered by scooter.

Did I mention the food?  We were ecstatic about finding this place open because we had missed it on our other visits.

While we have been waiting out the Christmas Wind, we have dined here twice.  Pollie tried Colombo de Poulet and Daurade ȃla Coȇrmede, curried chicken and the maui maui.  While I tried the Cȃtelettes d’agneau auv herbes and Cassoulet Maisson, grilled lamb chops and a casserole with white beans, duck, chicken and sausage.

The other English speaker on the island

As you might have guessed, the only downside on French islands is that they speak French.  And, us?  Not so much.

Pollie does better than me, and she can even count to 15 which is sometimes useful.  Yes, we do have the common phrases down: 

                        Bonjour                                   Good morning!
                        Bonsoir                                    Good evening!
                        Merci (beaucoup)                    Thank you (very much)
                        Au revoir                                 Good bye!
                        Oὐ sont les toilettes                  Where is the bathroom?

Unfortunately the one I know best is l’addition s’il vous plaȋt , the bill, please?

The grocery store can be a challenge.  Luckily most products have pictures, but not all.  We were hoping this was sour cream, and this time we were not surprised.

Les Saintes Multi-Services (LSM) services the mooring balls in the harbor and is the place to go for customs check in.  They have a launch that patrols the harbor to collect mooring fees, delivers baguettes, etc.  On a previous visit to Terre-de-Haut, the launch came by Motivator, and the guy was yelling, “poubelle, poubelle.” 

So, I went and grabbed the ship’s papers to show him we had checked in and paid for the mooring.  But, he just kept saying “poubelle,” and then left when all I could do was give him the minimum wage stare.

 Later in Antigua, we learned what poubelle meant.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Graboid

French island mooring ball

Where mooring balls have been installed in the French islands they do not use pennants from the top of the balls like you see in most other mooring ball installations.  The absence of a pennant probably makes maintenance less expensive, but it can make attaching your boat to the mooring more of a challenge.

The idea for this blog posting originated from watching the couple on this boat attempt to snare their mooring.  It took two passes at the ball and two near misses with our boat.  There was a lot of yelling in French.  Mainly we heard the use of the French word “merde!”

The French couple on the aluminum boat has it easier than the crew of Motivator.  DeFever’s are noted for having a high bow shear that keeps the boat dry, but makes for grabbing a mooring ball a real challenge. 

Motivator’s crew had been struggling with the pennant-less mooring balls throughout the French islands.  The crew of the Izzy R, also on a DeFever 49 CPMY, said their solution was to grab the ball from the swim platform and walk it forward.  We tried that in St. Martin, but discovered with Motivator’s aft deck enclosure that method was also a struggle.

Marco & Rachel

In Grand Anse d’Arlet, our friends Marco and Rachel on Habibi deployed their dinghy and helped us secure a ball.  Latter, over cocktails, Marco presented Motivator’s crew with The Grabber.

The Grabber, renamed by Motivator’s crew the Graboid from the movie Tremors

The Graboid consists of a temporary mooring line attached to a stainless steel hook with a hinged capturing lock.  Originally, the Graboid was equipped with a stainless steel slide attachment that connected to the boat hook via a hose clamp.  Motivator’s line handler quickly lost that part during a fight with a mooring ball.  I fabricated a slide mechanism out of a piece of PVC tubing securely attached by screws to the boathook.

 The Captain’s view of Motivator’s line handler in action

In operation, Motivator’s line handler attaches one end of the temporary mooring line to a boat cleat and slides the Graboid into the PVC pipe.  As Motivator's captain skillfully maneuvers the boat alongside the mooring ball, the line handler clips the Graboid onto the mooring ball’s ring and then slides the boathook free.  This provides the crew with a temporary attachment as mooring lines are fished through the ring to form a bridle.  The Graboid can then be disengaged from the mooring ring via the small loop at the back of the hook.

Thank you Marco and Rachel, the Graboid has become an essential piece of Motivator’s gear.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

48 Million Americans

If your day is looking like this, it is time to head for the Caribbean!

The news reported that 48 million Americans are under a winter storm watch!  If you are one of them, Motivator suggest you visit a friend with a boat in the Caribbean.

Rebecca & Mike Sweeney on One Love

If you do not have a friend with a boat, consider a charter.  Our friends Mike and Rebecca provide one week crewed charters in the British Virgin Islands.  You can follow One Love's blog at: 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

“Oh Christmas Winds, Oh Christmas Winds…”

Route from Martinique to les Saintes

Motivator subscribes to weather guru Chris Parker’s email service for forecast information as do a lot of cruisers in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  Unfortunately, sometimes Chris has bad news for us:

Some folks may call them the "Christmas Winds". Whatever you may
choose to call them...strong Trades, driven by a persistently-tight
wind-gradient arrive in E Caribbean as FrontalTROF settles S-ward
along N Parts of E Caribbean about tomorow night...and gradually
shifting S to S Parts of E Caribbean by late Sun8-Mon9.

Although we may see an occasional 24-36 <with> interval of slight
moderation (down to ENE@20-25/8'...for instance about Wed11 as a
ColdFRONT presses S&E in W Atlantic)...except for such brief intervals
of slightly-less-bad conditions, I see no break to strong Trades in
the next few weeks.
                                                              Chris Parker @:                                                                                                                     

He went on to say if you need to get somewhere, go now!

Fort de France, Martinique

I pulled Pollie out of the Fort de France’s dress shops, and we headed north. It was our fourth time in Fort de France enjoying the shopping and the feel of a French island city.  The crossing between Martinique to Dominique was easy, even when we were not in the lee of the islands.

Approaching Dominique

At Portsmouth, Dominique we did a touch-‘n-go.  We put up the Q-flag and did not go ashore.  We had hoped to spend some time there, but given the option of being stuck in Portsmouth or Terre-de-Haut for two weeks, we picked Terre-de-Haute. 

 Indian River, Dominique

Dominique is a very scenic island and the government is promoting ecotourism, but it is a very poor country.  It is hard for us to overlook the rampant poverty and enjoy the scenery.  We did get to visit briefly with our friend Martin and give him a donation of T-shirts he can distribute. 


Just twenty-one nautical miles away in les Saintes, Terre-de-Haute the situation is just the opposite.  It is a very popular tourist destination with clean streets and restaurants serving great French food. 

 But damn, more dress shops.

Motivator’s route into les Saintes

We managed to tuck in close to Terre-de-Haut in the lee of the island and take a mooring ball.  As I type this posting, the wind is at about 20 knots with gusts much higher.  As long as there is some northerly component to the wind, swells will wrap around the island making for some uncomfortable roll action.  By Wednesday the Christmas winds should be out of the east.

Please sing to the tune of Oh Christmas Tree:

Oh Christmas winds, Oh Christmas winds!
How ever keen your presence
Oh Christmas winds, Oh Christmas winds,
How ever keen your presence

You blow and blow us to and fro,
The white caps froth, palm fronds fly off.
Oh Christmas winds, Oh Christmas winds
How ever keen your presence.

Oh Christmas winds, Oh Christmas winds
How ever keen your presence.
Sea water sprays. Are nerves are frayed.
The dinghies swing.  The halyards ring.

Oh Christmas winds, Oh Christmas winds
How ever keen your presence.
                                    By: Pollie Howland

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Med Moor Like a Pro

To see my article on med mooring in the latest issue of Caribbean Compass click here.
Page 24.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

St. Lucia to Martinique

In the last posting I was crowing about the smooth crossing.  Pay backs are hell!  The crossing from St. Lucia to Martinique was anything but smooth.  On the previous crossing the waves were predicted at .8 meters.  These were supposed to be 1.1 meters and a 1 meter long period swell.  That might have been the case if not for the line of squalls between St. Lucia and Martinique we had to pass through.  The good news was that it was only a 23 nm crossing.

Normally, I like to leave early and miss some of the waves associated with the trade winds filling in during the early afternoon.  In this case we might have done better with a later departure from St. Lucia – hindsight.  However, we arrived early enough that we were able to dinghy into Marin and complete the check in procedures.  That allowed us to go to Accras Alley that evening.

Accras Alley

During the day Accras Alley is just another narrow street in Ste. Anne.  In the evening, the proprietors (three ladies) place table in the street and start serving accras and drinks.


Their accras are reasonably priced.  The “Morue” accras are made from salt fish, while the “Crevettes” are made from shrimp – we think.  We opted for 12 of the Crevettes at 6€.

Pollie waiting for her accras.  I only take her to the finest establishments.

We arrived a little early for French dining habits, but soon all of the tables were full and they were doing a brisk takeout service.

Ah, fine dining, accras and a Lorraine on a plastic table by street light.

Accras are “fritters” cod (salt fish), shrimp or lobster.  Each chef has their own special spices for the dough.  They are deep fried and served hot.  This is Caribbean health food at its finest.

You can only watch so many sunsets in Ste. Anne before it is time to move on.

The 14 nm motor from Ste. Anne to Grande Anse d’Arlet is very pleasant because for the most part you are in the lee of the island.  Petite Anse d’Arlet and Grand Anse d’Arlet are both little beach towns with very low level development.  We prefer Grand Anse because it has not received as much “remuddling” and the air quality is better.  Petite seems to have something burning 24/7.  Both anchorages have installed mooring balls that to date there is no charge for usage.  I saluted the HMS Diamond Rock as we passed.

Lobster fisherman in Grand Anse d’Arlet

French baguettes have a life expectancy of about a day, and then they turn hard as a rock.  These lobster fishermen were recycling baguettes as bait. 

On a previous visit to Gran Anse d’Arlet we noticed the “in place” on Saturday afternoon was Chez Evelyn, a little beach restaurant on the south end of the beach.  Previously we were turned away, but this time we made reservations.  Lunch of salad, accras, lobster, a mysterious but delicious baked squash dish, and desert took 3 ½ hours.  What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  We felt very French – oui!

When we returned from lunch, we had a new neighbor.  A three-masted schooner had anchored in the bay.

We now recognize most of the tall ships plying the waters of the Caribbean, but not this one.  I had to jump in the dinghy for a closer look.

Our next stop in Martinique will be 7 nm north at Fort de France before we cross to Dominique.