Tuesday, January 17, 2012

St lucia II

January 16, 2012 St Lucia

Weather windows have kept us sitting in St. Lucia but we have not suffered from boredom. Since arriving we have fixed parts of the boat, read 7 books, worked on projects, organized a 16 boat dinghy raft up night, participated in happy hours, women luncheons, toured the island, and have entertained and been entertained on other boats.

One of our goals when visiting a new island is to find THE LOCAL HANGOUT! Here we accomplished that in the first week. Last week we found a great hole in the wall for lunch and local food. Right behind the coffee house named Rituals is a L shape lunch counter place. They serve your choice of 6-8 home cooked entrees, inspired by local cuisine, which come with 4 side dishes—for $5.00. Root vegetables and green bananas are quite versatile. Walking between tourists’ sites help us to work off the starches.

Saturday we hired a taxi for the island tour. Having seen the twin volcanic columns, known as the Pitons, from the ocean we wanted a back side view of these magnificent towers like giants. We left at 9, hit the local market in Castries, walked through all the vegetable/fruit stands and a few of the touristy t-shirt stalls. We drove by the central square and catholic church and then it was up the hill to the Government mansion and the college. What a clear view of the bay, the cruise ships, and the ocean. Down the hills we bobbed and weaved following the curvy roads and returned to sea level. Along the way we saw small towns clustered near the water and the French plantation influence in the waterfront housing designs in Soufries —homes there were designed to be taken down and carried to a new location as the occupants were often sold off to a new owner, the middle class homes were higher up the hillside, and some of the homes for the upper status group we saw along the vista viewpoints or tucked into the valleys. Yards are well maintained, cultural influences (French, Indian, British) are reflected in architectural details, and most of the homes have beautiful views. We followed the western road through a few more towns and settled on a local restaurant for lunch. Creole cooking is big on this island and fish is readily available. It still seems “sinful” to have a beer for lunch—but then I remember I am retired, and the guilt goes away with the first cold gulp.

After lunch we went to the Diamond Botanical Garden at the base of a waterfall. A local man “offered” to be our personal guide. He was very knowledgeable and gave us the deluxe tour with humor included for no extra charge. There were many gorgeous blooming plants and a few fruits were growing as well. Our favorites were a q-tip plant and a waxed rose. Having walked a bit we were ready to rest our feet. So off we went to La Soufriere Sulphur Springs for the mineral pool and mud bath, built by the French a few hundred years ago, located at the foot of an ash mound still steaming. The pool was 4 feet deep and oh so warm and soothing. The mud was black if you took it from the bottom or white if you bought it from the attendant—Dave went with the black mud.

From there we drove to a third waterfall and soaked our bodies once again.This time we had to walk a hand hewn path up and down and up again. It was tucked away from the public road and we were alone with the birds, and flowing water for about 15 minutes. Here the water was just air temp and not filled with minerals, just a touch of liquid healthiness being temporarily contained in concrete square blocks. Noticing the fading light from the sun, we pulled ourselves back into responsible thinking and returned to our cab driver. The ride home was quiet as we all collected our thoughts and experiences together in an attempt to command them to memory for retelling. When one gets so relaxed, the brain follows suit, and some days become more of a blur than a clear Kodak picture. This trip was one of those hazy, blurry days where the brain felt thoroughly massaged and relaxed. We returned home with no worries, and no energy.

Sunday night we went over to Pigeon Island and the fort. If you wait till 5 there is no park fee and the bar serves 2-4-1 drinks that knock your socks off—if we were wearing any. The seafood lasagna comes in a dish big enough for 1 ½ and they have octopus as an appetizer that we are going back for another night. We lucked out and it was a Jam session night. Local artist come together and play. The Caribbean jazz and blues combo was perfect accompaniment.

Tonight was the dinghy raft up which we started at 4, it rained at 4, so most everyone showed up at 4:30…but being the hosts we sat in the rain from 4 to 4:20 alone. Yet, down here it is no problem. We were dry 5 minutes after the rained stopped and having 15 other boats come out was a great show of cruiser support. It also helps that the weather has been so bad for over a week that most of us have spent way too many hours on our boat and needed the comradely of “new” others and the wealth of stories that get shared at such an event. P.S. Also a great way to off load finished books and exchange movies.

Day after tomorrow is another ladies luncheon. Last week I sat by a Brit named Amanda who had sailed from the Canaries or Azores for 1,500 miles with a broken off rudder. Five hundred miles out to sea and on her watch is when it broke. Being in radio contact with other boats she and her husband soon learned how to make a drogue from buoys, line, chain and a spare anchor. I also met a woman who makes jewelry, lives here for part of each year, and is a joy to converse with. Marsha is the organizer of the event and Fiona was the first participant. Eighteen ladies attended last week and more are sure to come this week. We get lunch, pool time, and the companionship of others who are figuratively speaking in the same boat that we are each day.

We are learning that this is another place that can suck you right into staying, but the winds are due to change by the end of the week and we feel the pull of the north on our sterns…so Thursday we will provision, and head north to ??? well, north is a good enough start J.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

St Lucia

Sunday, January 8, 2012 St. Lucia

It is high noon, 85 degrees, and the World Arc race has just blown the starting horn. Boats from all over the world have gather here to start their around the world sailing adventure. Next stop is the San Blas Islands, then through the canal and out to sea heading west to the Marquises and Australia. High winds and seas are predicted for the next 4 days so they should have a rough but fast time to their destination.

We were not on the starting line, nor tempted to head out with them. Our water maker is out of commission, our auto pilot has a small problem, our macerator needs an impeller, and we have not seen enough of the Caribbean yet. Our boat is at anchor in front of The Sandals resort, there are 4 other resorts nearby, and wind surfer, parasaliors, and kayaks dart between us and the shore. Our friends on Panchita, Ted and Joan, are in the marina, and we are waiting for parts to be delivered. Dave is nursing a cold, and I am limin’ with free internet.

St Lucia is a mountainous island with many activities and a limited bus system. We are hoping to take a taxi tour with Ted and Joan on Wednesday to see the island and get a glimpse of what it offers. The anchor will stay down here for 3 weeks or so to allow us time to solve our problems, work on projects, and mingle with the locals and feel what life on St. Lucia is like. Life is neither dull nor boring these days.


January 3, 2012 Bequia
We have been in Bequia for almost a week and keep finding reasons to stay. This is by far one of the friendliest places we have been. The people in town greet you, and you them, as you walk their streets. The shop keepers acknowledge you with big open smiles and ask how they can help you find what you need. No one rushes you, and no one hassles you to buy things. One does not feel new or like an intruder here. The streets are paved and the architecture is a blend of Europe, Scandinavia, and the Caribbean. Buildings are painted every color available and tall graceful palm trees shade each well kept property. There are many hotels and restaurants all along one strip of land, and two gorgeous beaches to walk upon and enjoy water sports. Many people come for a month at a time and rent houses on the slopes above Lower Beach and enjoy the 4-5 beaches the island offers. The favorite mode of transport is a thing called the Moke, made by Mini Cooper--Dave has to inspect each one. Restaurant food is reasonable to expensive, your choice, and we finally found some free internet sources. A tour of the whole island can be done in two+ hours. Every evening there is a breeze that carries the island smells out to the boat, and gently sways us through happy hours.

Night life does exist; there are bands on Friday and Saturday that play till 3 AM. American boats are outnumbered 10 to 1. We are surrounded by boats brought here from mostly Scandinavian countries, and some chartered by the French, we just melt together into a close fitting rotating mass of swirling objects as the wind moves us at her will. Tied to a mooring buoy, there is only 20 feet of individual space between boats. You could almost hop over dinghy by dinghy to each other. So friendly is a good way to be in harmony with the situation. Polite boat vendors vie for your business and daily there are loud arguments amongst them as to who is servicing which boat. But as fast as it starts, it stops and one wins the business with no involvement from others.

For Christmas the area next to the ferry landing was fully decorated, lit, and a stage was erected for the caroling contest. We missed that but heard it was loads of fun and entertaining watching the professional groups, followed by the impromptu groups, which were then followed by individuals who were either talented or just brave. We arrived a few days later but they were all still talking about that night.

New Year's Eve started with 6 large lobsters ($7.00 per pound) and dinner on our boat with Miclo III, (Ellen, Rob, and Lizzy). After dinner, champagne, and dessert we walked around town and found a local bar. There they were BBQing chicken, and selling cold beer. We sat with a local fisherman and learned much about local conditions, politics, government, wives, and life on the island. Time flew and before long it was 11:40. We headed back to our boat for a front row view of the firework display. It was spectacular! The rockets shot up, the explosive colors spread far and wide, rapid multitudes of irruptions ignited one after another or on top of each other. There was no pause, no empty unlit space in the midnight sky for fifteen minutes. Not being night owls we found ourselves waking up on New Year's Day around 11:30 A.M. and reading the day away. Dave and I both started and finished our own books that day. Since then it has been rough weather. A tropical wave from Africa is whipping over us; seas are 9-11 feet, winds 20-27, rain comes 7-8 times at night and 4-5 times during the day. Our plans to leave here have been delayed, more books have been pulled out, and projects are being considered.

Speaking of projects we learned a new one called CRAFT (Can't remember a f------ thing). CRAFT gets in the way of projects (like when you can't find the tools you need). WAWCOOOS is another new word. Coming up from Carriacou we coined it to fit the ‘waves and wind coming on over our sides’ that carried gallons of water into our salon and spare bedroom. Sneaker waves do exist. Well, our lives are simple and fairly boring for now as we sit with another set of books, our morning coffee, and contemplate what we will thaw for dinner tonight. Hope all is well, and, that you are all doing well as this year moves ahead.


December 27th Carriacou
We left Grenada, which people will tell you is a hard thing to do. Our first stop was an island named Carriacou. We dropped anchor in Tyrrel Bay, a workingman's port--it was rolly and so we didn't put the dinghy down--we could only appreciate what was in our view. So the next morning we moved to Hillsborough which proved to be a much rollier anchorage. While I guided the motor down, Dave did the death defying feat of lowering the dinghy in 25 knots of wind and then his encore was using one hand to drop the motor on the dinghy's stern (timing it to the right rise and fall of the waves) and holding the dinghy with his other hand to the boat which was being propelled forward by current and 3 foot seas. Why would he risk life and limb? We needed to go to shore and check out of the country.

Once on shore we were told to come back in 75 minutes as the officials were headed to lunch. So, off we went walking the length of the town and finding a booming lunch business called Jerked. For $12.00 US we had 3 drinks and two complete meals of jerked pork and curried beef. Next stop was Patty's Deli for bread and sandwich meats. She sold her last baguette as we stood there so we bought bagels and great Italian ham sliced paper thin. Now it was time to check out. The office area held 3 people comfortably and there were 7 of us and 6 backpacks already in there and more trying to squeeze in. Patience paid off and all were taken in the order of arrival. By the time our turn came, they were very appreciative that we knew what we were doing, that we had 3 copies of the paperwork ready, and that we were not rude or confused. They stamped the papers and waved us on to the next check out point. The people and town itself was a delight and we felt very comfortable there. But, our plan was to go to Bequia for New Year's and so off we went at 5 AM with the rising sun and the setting stars as our companions.