Day 70, Year 1: ‘Twas the Day After Christmas
Date: Monday, December 26, 2005
Weather: Sunny and 83 degrees F
Location: Sailing from St. Vincent to Vieux Fort, St. Lucia
‘Twas the day after Christmas and all ’round the yacht
The water was warm and the sun was so hot.
The children lay tanning-Heather, Justin, and Jed
With memories of reef fish aswim in their heads.
A parrot was hung by the GPS with care
In hopes that a mooring in Vieux Fort would be there.
With Pa in his swim trunks and I in bare feet
We’d just settled in for a long windward beat.
When out on the deck, there arose such a clatter
I peaked out of the cockpit to see what was the matter.
Then what to our wondrous eyes did appear
But rainbows in our wake and flying fish oh so near.
As we sailed to the north and splashed through the waves
We remembered rain forests, reefs, and bat caves.
We’ve snorkeled and scuba’d, we’ve hiked and we’ve fished
This Christmas we all got more than we’d wished.
To family and friends we wish could be here
Merry Christmas to all and Happy New Year!
HO! HO! HO!
Days 67 through 69, Year 1: Caribbean Christmas
Date: Sunday, December 25, 2005
Weather: Perfect Tropical Christmas Day
Location: Wallilabou, St. Vincent
Arrrrrrr, Mateys. We are in the land of the pirates. Wallilabou is where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed and as we sit here in the anchorage, much of the set is still in place along the shore. Wallilabou is a sleepy little place. We are moored on one of the five mooring balls just off the Wallilabou Anchorage Hotel and Restaurant and other than that, there is nothing but the set from the movie. You have to adjust your idea of “hotel” and “restaurant”, but it works in this setting.
As soon as we arrived on Friday, we walked up the road about a mile to a little waterfall with a bit of a basin for sitting in the cool water. We saw cows, goats, and a donkey on the way, and stopped at Mona’s Craft Shop. There were a few handmade woven items, but no fresh produce as we had read in the sailing guide. October and November are the rainy months when nothing can survive the deluge, so the crops are just now beginning to grow. Everyone seems to grow sorrel and dasheen. Sorrel is a bush with beautiful red blossoms that are used to make a drink (that tastes a bit like cough syrup). Dasheen is a root crop and when the leaves are young and tender, they are used to make Callaloo soup. On the way back, Justin, Mark, and I ventured out to visit the Goldenspoon Restaurant that we had read about in the cruising guide. Twins, Ron and Ronnie, are the owners and are trying to get a start. We had a great conversation with Ron and tasted the St. Vincent brew, Hairoun. This was the original name of this island prior to the arrival of Columbus. The Hairoun natives were driven out and replaced with slaves from Africa.
On Saturday, Christmas Eve, we walked to the next little town and then took a bus to Kingstown. As in St. Lucia, the buses here are minivans, but most have the name of the van painted brightly on the front-Apache, Roach, Love, Ranger, Chance, Circumstance. And these minivans drive the narrow roads like maniacs. “Time is Money” is their byline and they pack 17-18 people into the vans. At one point we rounded a curve and there were two men herding their goats on the road. There is no “side” of the road as the road is on the edge of a cliff falling straight down into the ocean. Somehow, the goats were spared, but we were certainly glad to get back to the anchorage safely. We had taken the bus to Kingstown to find an ATM machine and visit the market. Jed was in search of the beautiful nutmeg seeds covered with red mace and found success in the Kingstown Market Place. We then found a cab driver that would take us up in the mountains to the Vermont Trails. There is a river trail and a parrot trail, so we chose to walk the parrot trail through a tropical rainforest. The St. Vincent parrot lives here and we were lucky enough to see three of the one hundred that live in this forest as they flew from one side of the mountain to the other. They were in the distance, but we felt lucky to have gotten a glimpse of this endangered species. When we returned, we decided to have dinner at the Anchorage Restaurant. We met Jake and Kathy from Virginia and celebrated Christmas Eve together. Jake and Kathy charter in the Caribbean once or twice a year and had some great tips for us. We also met the crew and visitors on Linda, a boat from Helsinke headed around the world. They are a young crew and we plan to meet them again in Bequia in the next week. They have a website that we have not been able to check out yet at Linda.fi.
Christmas Day began with the traditional opening of stockings and a few gifts, followed by breakfast and a very untraditional afternoon of snorkeling/snuba adventures. Snuba gives us a way to do shallow diving without tanks, and Heather wanted to help us feel a little more comfortable using the gear. We all tried it out and saw an amazing array of reef fish, including a couple or rare finds – spotted drums, a bridled burrfish, and a chained moray eel on the prowl. We have decided that Justin really is a fish. He swims and dives with and without equipment all day long, but I think we wore him out this day. Heather, Jed, and I went out for a sundown snorkel, but Mark and Justin decided that they had had enough. We ended our Christmas Day with another dinner at the restaurant, followed by homemade pumpkin pie and whipped cream back on the boat. We had a great time with our Christmas crackers (we’ve nicknamed them “poppers”) and fell into bed for a long winters (hot) sleep.
Days 65 and 66, Year 1: It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This
Date: Thursday, December 22, 2005
Weather: Sunny and 83 degrees F
Location: Soufriere, St. Lucia
I wrote the last log on Tuesday morning, just before leaving Rodney Bay for Soufriere. I forgot to mention in that log that we were going to do a little sailing detour on the way to Soufriere to anchor by the Vigie airport and have Justin and Heather dinghy into the terminal which is right on the beach. Justin had brought artichokes with him as a Christmas surprise, but they had quarantined them on arrival and said that he could pick them up in 24 hours. Heather and Jed had left one of their dive bags at the airport, so we were hoping we could pick up both things. We decided to sail in instead of take the taxi, and in the end, it was actually quicker by water than by land. H & J were both successful and Tuesday evening after arriving in Soufriere, we had an artichoke feast followed by dessert that Justin had also brought with him-very large chocolate covered cherries. Since artichokes and chocolate covered cherries are two of my very favorite things, I truly enjoyed the Christmas surprise.
After the airport stop, we continued on down the coast to our next stop at Anse Cochon. We grabbed one of the mooring balls there and snorkeled for about an hour, saw some incredible fish, and then headed on into Soufriere. This coast of St. Lucia is all part of a management park and you have to use the park moorings instead of anchoring. The moorings we were hoping for on the north side of the harbor were already full, so we headed over to the south side. We were greeted by couple of kids in a pirogue offering to help us with the mooring line. This is standard practice here and you basically have to accept their offer and then pay them. Some cruisers find this practice offensive, but many of the people we met in Rodney Bay explained that for the most part, the people doing this are just trying to earn an honest dollar. The guys who came to help us were on a boat named “My Toy”. Their names were Steven and Jason and they told us they would take care of our every need, for a price, of course. They were very friendly and offered to bring us ice and fresh bread in the morning. We thought that sounded like a great idea, until they brought the things the next morning and then told us the price. We haggled a bit and settled on a price that seemed reasonable to us, but realized that we should always ask about the price first. As they were leaving we saw that a couple of the moorings on the other side of the harbor were now available, so we decided to move the boat. We told Steven and Jason that we could handle the lines on our own, but we did want them to come back at 1600 to watch the boat while we all went to dinner. The park ranger had suggested that this would be a good idea, so with those details in order, we set out for a day of diving. Justin and I took a resort course while Heather and Jed did their first dive of the day, and then in the afternoon, Heather, Jed, and Justin did a dive together. We were working with a dive guide named Chester from Action Adventure Divers and he has been phenomenal. Since Justin and I have never been diving, we had to do the resort course before they would let us dive. Mark and I had taken a course, but I needed more practice with a guide. Chester was the perfect choice. He was able to work me through my fear of clearing my mask underwater and I thought no one was going to be able to do that. While we were diving, Mark stayed on the boat repairing the head sail that was damaged in our passage. He was a little disappointed in the performance of the new Sail Rite sewing machine, but in the end was successful with his repairs.
We had decided to go to a resort near here for dinner to a restaurant called Dashene. The cruising guide said it has the most incredible view in the Caribbean, so we decided we had to try it. Since we have been very few places in the Caribbean, there’s no way to know if it truly does have the best view, but the view was just breath taking. It is high on the mountain and you look out to the ocean below and the Pitons rising straight out of the ocean and up to sky. Just before leaving the boat for the evening out, we had seen a full rainbow that seemed to start in Soufriere and end at our boat. The colors were so vivid it almost looked fake. None of us had ever really seen the violet in ROY-G-BIV, but it was quite evident in this rainbow. We actually thought the restaurant view couldn’t top the rainbow, but it did. Unfortunately, we once again had forgotten to question Steven and Jason about the cost for the evening of water taxi, land taxi, and boat watching, and when we returned from an incredible evening, we once again found ourselves haggling over the cost of their services. Hopefully, we will learn how to deal with this and ask all questions up front. Once we recovered from this little ordeal, Heather and Mark had another Christmas surprise. Mark had bought the DVD’s, White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. He knows both Heather and I love to watch these old movies, so we ended the evening watching White Christmas. Another fantastic day.
The diving and snorkeling here is wonderful, so we decided to stay here an extra day. Today has been filled with more dives and more snorkeling, and sometime just after mid-night, we will head to St. Vincent. We will leave during the night so we can arrive early and hope to get our choice of anchorage in Wallilibou, St. Vincent. So far, we have had a wonderful time here with our children and we are hoping for more of the same in St. Vincent.. It really doesn’t get much better than this.
Days 62 through 64, Year 1: The Kids Arrive Safely in St. Lucia
Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Weather: Sunny and 83 degrees F
Location: Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Yesterday, our daughter Heather, her husband, Jed, and our son, Justin arrived here in St. Lucia. They had a bit of a delay in San Juan, but still arrived before sundown. We are so excited to have them here for a week and to be able to share some of our adventure with them. But here it is, another beautiful day in paradise, and the parents are up and the children are sleeping in. Of course, it is not yet 0800 Eastern Standard Time, but it is an hour later here, and it is probably time to get them up. Some things never change!
A topic of conversation last night was the weather. The temperature varies only a few degrees here from morning through the night. It is just in the mid-80’s all the time. Clouds float by and sometimes drop a quick rain, but then the sun is always back out shining full tilt. Justin said to me last night, “Mom, I don’t think you understand. You weren’t just transported here in a few hours from Boston. It’s really cold back there.” I know. And that’s one reason we are here. There’s not much you can be sure of, but I think I can safely say that we will not have snow here on Christmas day.
I need to go back a couple of days and catch up on things. On Sundays, everything but the restaurants are closed here, so we spent the day here on the boat getting ready for the arrival of the kids. I baked bread, made salmon cakes to store in the freezer for quick meals, made spinach balls, and cleaned the boat. Just like home. Well, it is home. Anyway, after a busy day we treated ourselves to dinner out on Sunday night. There is one restaurant out here where we anchored. It is located in the national park on Pigeon Island and is a little more than a stone’s throw from where we are anchored. We dinghied over and enjoyed a fantastic evening. Cafï¿½ Jambe de Bois is owned by Barbara . The restaurant is an internet hot spot (check your e-mail via wi-fi while having your favorite drink and watching the sun go down), a bit of an art gallery, and on Sunday nights, it becomes a live jazz music center. Tables are scattered out on the lawn, on the deck, as well as inside. We sat on the deck overlooking the water, enjoying fantastic food, and listening to great music. Monday was spent grocery shopping, replacing the starter battery (the cell was cracked), and getting the boat ready to house three more adults for a week.
The kids arrived in Vigie, a few miles south of here around 1700. We kept in communication during the day via sat phone. Heather’s cell phone works here, so she was able to call us with flight delay information and the new arrival time. They took a taxi from the airport to the Rodney Bay Marina where we met them at Scuttlebutt’s, the marina bar and grill. After a round of rum punches and local beers, we hailed a water taxi to take the massive luggage to the boat. Heather and Jed brought all of their dive gear, so the bags were many and large. We got everything tucked away on Windbird and just enjoyed the evening together.
Today we sail down the coast of St. Lucia to Soufrierre. I’ll check in tomorrow evening to let you know how the sail goes today and to recount tomorrow’s day of diving and snorkeling.
Days 60 and 61, Year 1: Loving Rodney Bay
Date: Saturday, December 17, 2005
Location: Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, West Indies
What a great place! We are still anchored out by Pigeon Island in Rodney Bay. Pigeon Island used to be an island and was a British fort. A causeway now connects the mountainous island to the mainland and we sit here beneath the two towering volcanic hillsides. We have met some of the live-aboards in this anchorage, have watched many sailboats come in and out of here, and have had two Windjammer cruise ships come in and out as well. When they come in, the area changes quickly, and thankfully, temporarily. The beautiful little beach in front of us is instantly transformed when these ships come in. They bring in lawn chairs and fill the beach with horizontal rows of perfectly spaced chairs. The tourists are delivered to shore and sit in the chairs for a couple of hours and are then whisked away. The chairs disappear and ships sail away. Things once again return to normal. Today we caught a bus down to the Castries to go the open market. Most sailors take the taxi which costs about $15 US, but we chose the bus as it costs only $1 US. There were no other white people, but we are getting used to being in the minority. In the Rodney Bay Marina, white and black mix in equal numbers. When we arrived in the market area in Castries, however, we were the only white people in sight. We walked to the market area, but even there we were the lone white folks. During the afternoon, we did see two other white couples. The unemployment rate here is 40 per cent and I think the locals just wait and hope that some tourists will come to visit in order to make a sale. It is going to take me awhile to get used to the bargaining techniques required for successful market shopping, but I know I will get the hang of it soon. The buses here are minivans with extra seats installed. They cram about 14 people in them and then off you go. The terrain here is hilly and the roads are narrow and windy. There is a fair amount of traffic and traveling is “interesting”. There are skinny cows on leashes in small pastures that look more like front yards, renegade chickens running here and there, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Domino’s Pizza, and Texaco stations everywhere, and JQ’s IGA grocery stores everywhere. JQ has a corner on the market and owns all the food stores. Tonight we visited with Pete and Patti who live on their catamaran in this anchorage. They have two children, Danny, aged 3, and Tommy, aged 2. While we were there visiting, a local man from St. Lucia came to visit with two of his four adopted children. Another woman rowed over to visit. Her name is Di and she lives on her 27 foot boat with her husband, Phil. Interesting people are everywhere. We feel very much at home here. It is comfortable and the people are friendly. And we are learning so much – about the people, the landscape, the total environment. And we are loving it.