"Not only is the universe stranger than what we imagine,
it is stranger than what we can imagine."
Sir Arthur Eddington

The Emeral Pool and Beyond

We sailed from The Saints to Dominica with the strong easterly trades. Of course, around the ends of the islands the winds "compress" and seeing winds near 30 kts is not unusual. As Chris Parker would report, it was "salty sailing". But we had no problems and we took a PAYS mooring in Portsmouth and planned a short visit before sailing further south to Martinique.

Of course, the trades continued blowing pretty good so an extended stay in Dominica was warranted. We did want to get to Martinique soon to see a dermatologist as Maureen's cyst, on her shoulder, was not improving. The Seven Seas Cruising Association was also having a GAM in Dominica in a few days and we decided to attend for a few days as this was their first GAM.

And so, we stayed in Dominica for a week with a number of other boats that we knew. We had a musical jam on board one night with Aria, Iolair, Star Shot and Hippocampus. It is always a lot of fun when I can pretend to be a musician. Although George on Star Shot has that role down to a science. The best part of our stay in Dominica, however, was meeting Toni and Jeff Smith.

Tonni , Jeff, Victoria and Elizabeth

They own and operate Smith's, a local store/restaurant/rooms to rent operation in Portsmouth. They were the hosts for the SSCA GAM and organized a week of activities for the cruisers. We were there for only the first 2 days but that included good presentations by a local historian and government officials. On the second day Toni and Jeff took us and three other couples on a tour to the Emerald Pool. It is located high in the mountains where a waterfall and plunge pool are nestled in an emerald green canyon. The water is "refreshing" as it is a bit cooler than the warm Caribbean Sea but thoroughly enjoyable. Most of the island has regrown its vegetation since hurricane Maria stripped it two years ago. Not as lush as it was but that will take time. The Smith's brought along a homemade lunch which was delicious and then we toured more of the island in the afternoon. They and their two children are wonderful, friendly people and it was great that they gave time and effort to making the SSCA GAM a success.

Emerald Pool

Dominica is an island that you need to explore by foot. It is the least developed East Caribbean island and has many unspoiled and natural areas that really put you in touch with what a tropical island is like. Our days of long hikes are over but never-the-less we did enjoy our time there.
We were off to Martinique, again is strong trade winds, but made the long day sail to St. Pierre without incident. The next day we sailed the few hours down to Fort du France, the large city that has a very large hospital complex serving the Caribbean. On the way down we sailed by a small cove and said hello to our friends from Brooklyn who chartered a sailboat and were anchored there. We hoped to see them the following week when they return the boat to le Marin.

The first order of business was to find a dermatologist for Maureen. The best way was to go to the new large hospital's emergency room. Off we went, after checking into customs. As in all emergency rooms, triage is practiced and having a cyst, on your shoulder, places you last on the list to see a doctor. Well, 5 hours later a doctor did examine Maureen and in fact called in a dermatologist. He wanted to see her the next day for further evaluation. The next day we returned, not to the ER but directly to the doctor, and he took a biopsy to be analyzed. Each visit cost less than $50. It would, however, take 3 weeks to get those results. In addition, a few stitches would have to be removed in a week.

"Fix'n boats in exotic places" is one aspect of cruising. Well, besides Maureen's medical issue, that seemed to hit us as soon as we anchored in Fort du France. The first thing that happened was that our battery/inverter died. It has been giving us some trouble for two years and so I did have a new one which we carried waiting for the first one to die. Ok, great! Installing the new charger/inverter was not that difficult. It didn't fit in the old place but a new location was found and connecting it was not that difficult. I needed to drill some holes and ran the generator to plug in the drill. All was ok and the installation was a success. After the installation, I turned on the generator and there was no output from the generator.

The generator is used to charge the batteries while at anchor but mostly to run our refrigeration. That needs 120 volts and would quickly run the batteries down if we used the inverter. Our one solar panel and main engine alternator would not be sufficient to fully recharge the batteries. I did all the diagnostics I could but could not get any output, time to call an expert. The freezer and refrigeration can last a few days without being run but plans had to be made for repair.

Of course, it was a Saturday where everything on the French islands closes and Monday and Tuesday (fat Tuesday) starts Carnival, where many places close. The main yacht repair center is in Le Marin, a four-hour sail around the other end of the island. The difficulty is in not speaking the native language which complicates communicating technical problems. In addition, no "authorized" Northern Lights generator vendor is there.
The closest vendor that I would prefer was in St Lucia, a seven-hour sail from Martinique. Should we sail down and hope for the best? Bob on Oasis was with us and suggested that I give that vendor a call. On Saturday? Well, I did and there was no answer. There was a cell number which I called and got Egbert Charles, the owner of MarinTek. I explained our situation and he was sympathetic. He asked where we were and I was shocked to learn that he happened to be in Fort du France attending his son's sailing regatta! He volunteered to come out to our boat on Sunday to take a look at the generator. He did and after a few tests we both agreed that it probably needed some simple parts but unfortunately needed to be taken apart in St Lucia. He would be back there in a few days and so we plan to sail there and hope it can be repaired. In the meantime, bags of ice will serve our refrigeration needs. Fellow cruisers Lee and Sheryl on Hippocampus are holding our frozen food in their reefer and will sail with us to St. Lucia. Lee is also a doctor and can remove Maureen's stiches in a few days!

We hope the generator is fixed in St. Lucia and then sail back to Martinique as our daughter and son-in-law arrive in a month and a half. Maureen also needs the results of the biopsy and most likely the removal of the growth on her shoulder. It is amazing that boat life can become fairly complicated quickly. Cruiser friends, however, can be counted on to help out and lend support when needed. We have our fingers crossed!