St Pierre, Martinique Jan 27, 2004

When I first got back to the boat in January, there was quite a bit of work to be done by “helpful men”, which is always a cause for concern as we are dealing with the boating industry.  But I shouldn’t have been too concerned – there are learned mechanics in the Caribbean that get the job done for a reasonable price.  Egbert, the mechanic in St Lucia who was to take apart the watermaker membranes and fit new end pieces and interconnection tubes, turned out to be a fabulous guy who not only completed his job quickly and well, but also helped out with a little issue I’ve had for a while with the generator.   Fabien the refrigeration mechanic in Le Marin in Martinique found some little issue with our refrigerator and freezer but led us to finally adjust the lid for the freezer so that it no longer produces unwanted frost on the plates.   Ludovic, the Volvo mechanic, completed the timing belt replacement on the engine in record time.  Even Bruno, the slow yet methodical mechanic at Pochon in Le Marin, completed the fix of the autopilot hydraulic pump although he managed to mis-program both autopilots in the process so that we had to return to Le Marin for another round!  And the diesel leak got fixed – but I’m getting ahead of myself.  

  The two Christophs and I met on the boat in St Lucia and after Egbert had completed the watermaker job, we filled (or overfilled?) the diesel tank and left the marina.  Our aim was the Pietons in St Lucia, a fabulous anchorage underneath the higher of the two Pietons near Souffriere on the Southwest coast of St Lucia.   The handbook recommended taking a mooring from the local boat boy association rather than anchor – not just for convenience but also for security.  There have been thefts and robberies in this area in the past ….  So the plan was to take a mooring from that local association and we made a reservation for a mooring by phone.  But five miles away a boat boy from another mooring area approached us, welcome us “to paradise” and obviously wanted us to rent a mooring from him.  We didn’t want to stop at his area so we ignored him and motored on to the Pietons.  

Approaching the Pietons

As we got to the mooring field, another boat boy approached, this time a member of the association.  But low and behold, the first guy also reappeared at full throttle again asking us to hire him (for what??).  A discussion ensued which we were not part of, and miraculously, the local guy (let’s call him Albert) prevailed and tied our bow lines to the mooring.   The only problem was that the distance between the moorings was really not adequate for boats of Kincsem’s length so we were in danger of hitting the catamaran on the next mooring.  But Albert took a  long stern line to the shore which avoided the problem.  

Spectacular mooring at the beach at the Pietons

Leaving the Pietons

Our next stop was Le Marin with a sporty crossing of the St Lucia channel in between.  During the crossing, we first noticed a smell of diesel, then we saw diesel flowing in the walkway under the cockpit – not a good sign!  Sails were furled and the flow of diesel stopped, with the boat no longer heeling to port.  Our diesel tank is on starboard underneath the bunk in the walkway.  It looked to me like we had an accumulation of diesel under the tank which poured out when the boat was heeling to port.  But how did it get there?  Another item for the to do list in Le Marin!  


Collecting diesel in the passage to the aft cabins

Le Marin is a very efficient place in a way.  If you own an Amel and have a problem, you have all the expertise right there and if you’re lucky, they will spring into action for you.  We were lucky.  While the autopilot and refrigerator repairs which I had scheduled were going on, Francois, the second in command at Amel spent an entire day trying to find the diesel leak on Kincsem!  After replacing the gaskets on the two inspection ports for the tank, he pressure tested the tank and found no leak.  So the verdict was:  leaking inspection ports must have been the cause of the leak, which are now fixed.  Christoph Huss and I now went to work to remove the diesel under the tank and the smell.  Not a small task as the tank is completely built into the furniture and almost unaccessible.  But with the help of a small electric pump usually used for oil changes and some small diameter hoses, we managed to extract the diesel, flush the space with H70, a degreaser Amel recommended, and afterwards flush with Ricard, a well known French aperitif.  Why Ricard?  A recommendation of Bruno Cotte, another Amel 55 owner whose boat was a few boats down from us at the Amel dock.  It worked great! 

In addition to Tertio owned by Bruno from France, we met another Amel 55 at the Amel dock, Be Love, which was owned by Bedo from Bulgaria.  Both Bruno and Bedo sail with their wives and crossed the Atlantic with them in December.  I have spoken with Bruno many times in the past by phone or email and met Bedo in Las Palmas before he took off for the ARC plus.  Three of only 65 Amel 55s built in one place is a cause for celebration, which in this case lasted for three dinners.  This is because Bedo insisted on paying for everyone on the first one.  So Bruno and team Kincsem had to reciprocate …..  Of course interesting conversations ensued but the conclusion was:  the Amel 55 is the best boat there is.  The new Amels, the 50 and 60, are clearly inferior but then, they are superior to all other boats out there, like the Oysters (no Amel has lost a keel), Hallberg Rassys (lots, etc, etc.  Everybody seemed to be happy with the conclusion and a good time was had by all!

After Le Marin, we continued sailing north along the West Coast of Martinique, which is quite dramatic. We stopped in a lovely bay called Anse Noir because of the black sand beach.  

Anse Noire

Our last stop in Martinique was St Pierre, which was a bit of a shock.  We had expected from the handbook to find a quaint little town but seen first at night, it looked unsafe and a dump, with emaciated old black men with long grey beards and dreadlock curls seemingly everywhere.   The restaurant we had planned to eat at based upon the guide book was closed, so was every other one mentioned in the handbook except for one Alsacian place which one of the Christophs did not fancy.  So off we were to the “supermarket” to get something to cook up on Kincsem.  Another shady establishment yet we managed to grab the last dead chicken on the many empty shelves ….  

The next morning I had to go back ashore to clear out of Martinique with customs which was efficient and quick.  I took the opportunity to buy some gas for our dinghy.  I wondered initially why our 10 l gas container could be filled with 12.7 liters but then I understood …..  The whole place looked a bit better in daylight but I still wouldn’t recommend it.   We would later confirm that our handbook, the well known Doyle guide, seems to have an overly rosy view of some of the localities one can visit …..

St Pierre by Day


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