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Learning to dance in the rain

We used to have this great saying hanging up in our home, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." Martinique was our opportunity to learn to dance in the rain, both literally and figuratively. It rained a lot, every time we hung up wash to dry, at night when we opened the hatch over our heads and most times when we stepped into the dinghy to go ashore. The storms were not just inclement weather but also boat problems that kept us tethered to a mooring, but in between these storms we were fortunate to have friends and family visit. We had to alter plans for those visits due to weather and boat malfunctions, but one night in particular we did enjoy dancing in the rain to a young brass band that was playing at a nearby bar to kick off the Mardi Gras season (déjà vu).

It's always exciting to arrive at a new island and set anchor in an unexplored port. Our first stop in Martinique was at Saint Pierre, a small fishing village where you may be asked to move at 6am when the fishing boats come motoring out to set their nets. Two days was enough time to hike up to the museum on the hill to learn more about the volcano that buried the town a century ago, stop in at a nearby distillery to sample the rum and visit the local market. Then on to Fort de France to pick up friends that were visiting, and a short sail with them across to Anse Mitan, a small beach community where we were forced to wait out the high winds and seas. We did have a great time exploring the island by car though before we put our friends on a pretty sketchy looking ferry for the rough trip across to St. Lucia for their return flight home. We had to be in Marin to replace the batteries and then planned to sail down to St. Lucia ourselves for a few days before family came to visit the end of the month. On our way to Marin we stopped to anchor out at Saint Anne for the night, but our windlass (the indispensable electric winch that brings the anchor up and down) had other plans. While setting the anchor in a crowded bay and 25 knots of wind it decided not to work, letting go of all the anchor chain. Scary as hell when it comes barreling out and too heavy to pull it all back in. After struggling for awhile we were left no alternative but to cut the chain loose and pick up a mooring at the nearby marina in Marin. Now our plans to visit St. Lucia were replaced with trying to retrieve our anchor off the bottom of the bay and fixing the windlass while everyone on the island was more interested in celebrating Mardi Gras. It's hard to get a sense of the island while moored at a marina, but we tried our best to experience as much as we could between projects on the boat. Visiting the local markets, practicing our French at the ship chandlery where we made countless trips for miscellaneous parts, and honing my dinghy skills on the many trips between the mooring and town. One day we decided to break away from fix it jobs and rent bikes to get out and visit the nearby coast. We gained a new lease on life pedaling past stretches of white sand beaches where locals enjoyed picnics on a Sunday afternoon, sold fresh fruit smoothies, homemade ice cream and local crafts. We blended in as best we could.

Visiting family arrived while we were at the marina, and with the new batteries in place and the reassembled windlass we were on our way. The weather was still stormy so we made the short sail back to Saint Anne to anchor for a few days. It was with trepidation and fingers crossed that we went to set the anchor again in the crowded, windy bay. Standing on the bow of the boat I once again let down the anchor, all was good at first then suddenly the chain started to slip and it began to let go, the problem we thought we had fixed was still a problem. Bright side, this time we had help to pull the anchor back on deck. So while Tony and his brother-in-law struggled up front to pull up the chain I white knuckled the steering wheel trying to keep the boat in place in the howling wind. When you have people on board you pretend everything is fine, even when it isn't. With much effort we got the anchor back on board and left the cove to figure out what to do next, still pretending this was normal. The moorings and marina next door were now totally booked with the arrival of the Transatlantic Race so our only option was to anchor out somewhere. We sailed back up the coast to Anse Mitan which gave us a couple hours to come up with a plan. By the time we arrived Tony had figured out how we could jury-rig the anchor with another line that we could use to raise and lower it on an electric winch. With a smile plastered to my face to hide the butterflies in my stomach, we once again dropped the anchor, and miraculously it worked! We were safely at anchor and happy to stay put for a couple days. Living on a boat we have realized the importance of being self sufficient though, so by the next morning Tony was busy taking apart the windlass once again, determining that with a couple of new discs cut from a plastic cutting board stored in the galley he could fix the problem. Of course we had to see if it actually worked, so with that same smile and nervous stomach we once again pulled up the anchor, this time the windlass did the job it was supposed to and the anchor easily went up and down. We set sail back to Saint Anne to explore the small town that had been so elusive, third time's a charm. Tony now thinks that he can fix anything, and he may be right. We are ordering the real replacement parts to make a permanent fix, but in the meantime his McGyver skills are doing the job.

There's another great saying, "without the rain there would be no rainbows". The wind has now finally calmed down, the sun is shining, boats are sailing on the horizon again, and we have learned that we can enjoy the rain and appreciate the rainbows.

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