This week might not have been a week filled with open water challenges, but it was an important week for us nonetheless. In order to understand what we were doing, a little geography is helpful.
We are anchored in the bay off the charming village of Ste. Anne. It’s a place that has all the charms of French-village-meets-Caribbean-islands: bakeries, a big Catholic church dominating the town square, a variety of restaurants, and a genuine market where we can buy tuna hacked to death a la place, bolts of madress fabric, local honey, and pig products.
As wonderful as Ste. Anne is, there are no services (except garbage collection and clearing in at Snack BouBou) for sailors there. For that, we must motor around to the Marina du Marin—also known as Le Marin. This is a vast bay filled with mooring balls, anchorages of varying holding, shipwrecks, and everything a sailor could wish for…times n to the tenth power. If that’s your thing.
It was our thing for a couple of days because we needed to replace our anchor chain. Devotees of this space know the travails we slogged through with an anchor chain that refused to be hauled up under the power of the windlass, requiring a strong man—or at least me—to go out on deck and haul the anchor by hand. After exhaustive research, much of it spent in local marina bars, quizzing inebriated sailors, we decided that the anchor chain and gypsy (the spinning gear that actually hauls the chain) were mismatched, and because the chain was showing signs of age, we decided to replace it.
Since it is difficult to replace an anchor chain while you are anchored (it can be done with a second anchor), we decided to book a mooring ball in Le Marin for three nights, and replace the chain, plus address a few other things on the boat.
The day before we were to go into Le Marin, Chantal slipped while climbing the swim ladder on the transom of our boat and bruised a couple of ribs. Fortunately, good friend Tim from S/V APOTA was available to help us move over to Le Marin and fetch the chain and load it aboard Camino. The morning we were heading over, Tim joined us aboard and we set out for the channel.
Motoring a couple of miles down a well-marked channel sounds like an easy task, and it mostly was. Camino’s 55-horsepower Yanmar diesel auxiliary engine fired up smoothly and began pushing us out of Ste. Anne, but as soon as we made the turn into the channel, Murphy and His Law made an appearance. A nasty squall bore down on us, and there is nothing more unnerving than entering a busy shipping channel with zero visibility. Add to that dinghy traffic, and—incredibly—a rowing team in an open boat who cut in front of us, and there was suddenly a surfeit of angst available.
I called for my foulies and immediately took a compass bearing on the next red lateral buoy, locking Rob, the autopilot, on it. The squall hit and we were indeed blinded in a curtain of rain, though the wind was only moderate. I was grateful for the several dinghy trips I had already made in and out of this channel, for it is guarded by phalanxes of reefs, the evidence of their tribute on gaudy display as sailors motor in to Le Marin.
Finally the rain abated and we were able to see the marina. It is vast. To our starboard was the mooring field: hundreds of mooring balls, nose-to-butt, a massive field of bobbing boats. Beyond that lay the docks of the marina. There are two parts to Le Marin: the old marina, to port as you arrive, and the new marina, to starboard. The vast majority of the berths at the new marina are taken by catamaran charter companies: Dream Yacht Charters, Skipper Antilles, and the ubiquitous Catlante boats.
Since we were going on a mooring ball, we needed to call in to the marina and be directed where to go. And since Chantal is not only a native French speaker but a radio-trained dispatcher, she was assigned commo duties.
“Le Marin, Le Marin, Le Marin, ici Camino, ici Camino. Nous avons reserve une bouee, et on a besoin de direction.”
Perfect, right? Not so the response.
“Blabbedy, blah, blah, hiss, squelch, fuckity fuck, die.”
Chantal looked back at me dejected. I shrugged. She tried again. Same reply…but: this time she heard a vital piece of information: MA11. This was a red lateral buoy—the final one leading in to Le Marin, directly opposite the fuel dock—and we were able to aim Camino there, where we circled until one of the marina employees appeared in a dinghy and began leading us to our mooring.
Soon we were on our ball, and it was a good spot, because we were at the front of the mooring field, and we looked forward toward the docks. There were a couple of boats behind us, but they looked unoccupied. We threaded the buoy, and then Chantal, Tim, and I headed out to the chandlery where we purchased our chain.
Thanks to Tim we were able to get the chain loaded aboard Camino, and he dinghied back to Ste. Anne. We were excited to explore Le Marin more intimately—we had only dinghied over here briefly before—so we set out for shore. But there was something else we were after: showers. Paying for a mooring ball or a slip entitles you to use the showers at the Capitainerie, and we intended to cash in. I hadn’t had a proper shower since we arrived in Grenada in November and were placed in quarantine. That only means that I was using our transom shower to wash each night. But the prospects of a real shower were intoxicating.
The shower at the Capitainerie turned out to be less than awesome (no high-pressure butt-blasting), but it did the job, and we soon were parked behind a couple of boat drinks at one of the many bars to be found there, feasting on bar snacks and good wifi.
The next day the weather did not cooperate, and we found ourselves fighting the constant rain showers that blew through Le Marin. After lots of dodging raindrops, we were able to get the new anchor chain installed and working. We were happy. But we were not finished.
One of our other tasks was to replace the water fill deck plate on the starboard rail. The original had failed, and we needed a new one. That meant opening the forward head cabinet and revealing all. When we did, that, we discovered that the forward head was leaking…and that’s all I’ll say about that. Any time shit leaks, the less said the better.
Now we had a new mission. And fortunately, we were in the second largest marina in the Caribbean. We could figure this out. There were at least four chandleries (depending on how you count them) in Le Marin, and we should be able find what we needed. And we did…mostly. I was able to fix the leaking connection, but we were unable to find replacement fittings, which is always preferrable. So that job was moved to the “In Progress” box.
On our second night at the mooring, an upsetting thing happened. A couple came on board the boat moored behind us. As I said, in the mooring field you are nose-to-stern with your neighbor, so there’s not a lot of privacy. After a short time, we were shocked by screaming coming from the other boat. This wasn’t “Help me, I’m dying!” screaming; this was the kind of screaming only an emotionally disturbed person could make, full of accusations and meanness. We had experienced this before when we lived in France, and the couple who lived upstairs screamed at each other nightly—until we finally called the police and the monsieur was hauled away.
But this screaming was the argumentative variety, and it was only coming from madame. It was wrapped in a lot of ranting, and it went on for some time. When we were off the boat, we saw the couple from the boat behind us at one of the chandleries. I didn’t recognize him at first, but Chantal did. They were in the same aisle as her, and after we exited the store, she told me she saw them—and heard them. “She’s not a nice person,” Chantal reported, after hearing her abuse monsieur in the store.
The other thing we wanted to accomplish while in Le Marin with Camino was to belly up to the fuel & water dock and fill the water tanks. Water is inexpensive here, and though the aft tank is mostly full of rainwater that we catch, the forward tank needed replenishing. We also wanted to practice our docking skills, which are nil. To that end, we had been watching the jockeying at the dock from Camino while we were there, and it looked like mornings were a busy time, which some boaters showing up a couple of hours before the dock opened just to secure a spot. This usually resulted in many big catamarans hovering in the channel, with dinghies buzzing in and out.
We decided to call the dock and see if there was any protocol. Chantal explained that we were on a mooring ball and we wanted to come over for water…was there an appointment needed? She was told, “No water for you! Come back—one year!” The dock attendant said that Fridays and Saturdays were too busy with the arrivals and departures of the charter fleets. We took a look at the scrum already building and decided that we would skip the water, and instead dinghy back over in a week or so and fill our water jugs during the mid-week, when things were calmer.
We were thankful for an easy motor back to Ste. Anne, and we were able to find a good spot to drop and set the anchor in about ten feet of water. (Camino has a 1.62 meter/5.3 foot draft.) The chain seems to play nice now with the windlass, so we will schedule some sails around the area in the upcoming weeks.
While the experience of the marina was overall a good one, for me it represented something bigger, something deeper. Having grown up in Green Harbor and worked in Scituate Harbor, nostalgia filled me as I experienced Le Marin. I won’t say I saw a lot of ghosts, but I felt their presence on the docks between rows of boats. I saw them having drinks at sundown, and I saw them working on their vessels. Sometimes I had to stop and breathe, and blink away the lobster boats and gillnetters and draggers and replace them with the sleek catamarans before me. I was able to finally allow this feeling permission to exist, and to make it a part of our current camino. In that way, the journey to Le Marin gave us momentum to keep moving forward.