Thursday, June 2, 2011

St. Lucia

May 30, Monday MEMORIAL DAY in the USA

Sunrise over Dominica
Watching the sun come up as we pulled out of the anchorage in Dominica at 5:00 am, heading to St.Lucia, a 12 hour trip -- which means we are cruising past the French island of Martinique without stopping.    Ah, so sad, another great one passed by.  I remembered belatedly that Martinique is the LAST French island before Grenada...we failed to stock up with French wine, French cheeses and pates and fresh bread....all of which we learned to love and appreciate when we cruised through Canada and the French providences two summers ago.  Our loss for certain! 

Martinique is huge compared to other islands.   I saw high rise buildings in the far distance, something we have not seen since leaving Miami!   We’ve enjoyed the flavor of the French islands even though we speak not a word of French - the lilting sound of the voice is wonderful.  Sign language has helped and many do speak English, so we manage.

Weather is coming - translate that to higher winds and higher seas...more than we want to be in, but not horrific.  Andy wants to hunker down in St. Lucia for 2-3 days, letting the system pass.  Okay by me, anywhere will do.  At least we can take St.Lucia off the TO DO list for the return trip: a been there done that kind of thing. 

Cruising along, I finally asked Andy if this was the WORST passage we’d had thus far.  Remember, we went through some scary places that turned out to be benign.  Mona Passage comes to mind and the coast of Dominica Republic - likewise a piece of cake.

Over the past few days, the weather forecasts had been calling for higher seas and winds but we didn’t find them.  Well, we did today!    Bouncing, rocking side to side, up down, back and forth, with six foot waves spaced too closely together, whitecaps blowing, we held on to our helm chairs and when having to go below (not even Andy would pee off the side today), we held on tight and did a jig & ballet slide across the deck and down the stairs each time.   Our stabilizers were put to the test and I finally had to admit they might just have been worth the money!    For cheapee me, that is a huge statement! 

In honor of Memorial Day, I was playing military marching band music BLARING because the wind took away most of the sound -- the speakers on the flybridge are behind us and the wind was so loud in our ears.   Suddenly, Andy pointed - he who doesn’t ever hear me - heard an airplane.  Turning, we watched, mouths agape, as this small plane buzzed us.  I could see clearly the grins on the faces of the two guys, both wearing red shirts as they flew just off our stern and flybridge, sideways.  I was so astounded I forgot to grab the camera until it was too late!   Huge missed opportunity for a great photo! 

Fruit & Vegetable vendor
Cruising into the Rodney Bay Marina, in St. Lucia shortly before 5:00 PM (our speed had ranged from 7 mph to 9.2 mph all day - current, wind and waves making the difference as the RPMs stayed the same), we slid into our assigned slip, glad for the day to be over.  With energy to spare after sitting like a coiled spring all day, AND (cheapee me speaking again) having to pay for a minimum of 100 gallons of water, I promptly washed the boat.  Sea salt was absolutely everywhere and thick but I got it all off, cooling myself down in the process.  A quick clean up, dinner ashore & lights out as soon as we got back to the boat.  Pooped.  The fruit man woke me up early the next morning, knocking on the hull of Finally Fun.  Fruit & vegs for sale - good price....maybe not such a good price, but I bought plenty, still in my nightshirt. 

May 31 - June 1, 2011  Tuesday - Thursday
Food Stores - Fast Food

Taxi Stand Phones - Colorful like the homes & stores!
Ah, bored here in Rodney Bay Marina & ready to go.   Never missing an opportunity, however, we walked a couple of miles to the local mall.  Along the way, sweating like pigs (do pigs sweat?  Where did that expression come from?), we were attracted by loud music & salesmanship coming from a building along the  side of the road - “Come in - unique opportunity - goods from Honduras, etc. on sale today - last day.”  Curious and loving local ‘flavor’, in we went - after having to pay $10 EC at the door. 

I didn't understand much of what I heard.  The locals speak a French based 'patois' called Kwe'yol.  I wonder if it is a mix of Spanish, African and French -- the origins of Creole. English is the official language, as it is everywhere, except the French islands... enough said.

The EC or Eastern Caribbean dollar is used in islands that don’t follow their ‘native’ country’s monetary system.  The EC is fixed at $2.67 US dollars per one EC.  I’ve started carrying a calculator.  I now have baggies of money in a drawer that we have not spent in the various islands:  the Euro; the Dutch guilder; Bahamian; & Dominican Republic.  All these islands will take the US dollar, but it is easier to pull native cash from an ATM machine as you need funds.   Having the native cash on hand also ensures that Andy will stop on the return trip -- can’t spend it anywhere else.  grin.

Ha, bunch of junk inside this building.  Ah well, live and learn.  Off we went to the mall, which was very modern, wandering about for a couple of hours, enjoying the air conditioning, picking through the native goods and designer wear, buying nothing.   Hitting the grocery store on the way home, we were surprised to see nearly all the foods were imported from the USA and pricey beyond  belief.  One apple, small fist sized was $3 US.  A bottle of that margarita mix found everywhere - so common - nothing special & no liquor in it - was $20 US!  Sliced ham from the deli was almost $20 a pound.  I love yogurt, not milk, on my cereal, but at $1.65 per tiny container (50 cents in the US), I’ll just skip my cereal.  And so on it went.    Oh, yeah, that cheap Wonder Bread soft bread is $6 a loaf here!    We could be lost at sea for 6 months at least - I still have enough food on board, including frozen meat, to keep us from starving.  That $1,000 I spent stocking up in February in Jacksonville before we left was money well spent. 

Engaging the locals in conversation is fun - “What is this?” I asked two women picking over produce.  “PawPaw” - a small yellow something.  Seems the item was papaya - a different variety and half the size of what we are used to.  In the basket it went.  Sometimes I have no clue what the local person is trying to tell me - I’ll buy the item anyway hoping to figure how to cook it and eat it.   Last week, I served what I thought were potatoes - root things in a black, thick skin...sorta tasted like a potatoe.   I just learned it is a root vegetable, according to a native... isn’t a potatoe a veggie?  Hummm.   There are a number of fruits and vegetables we have absolutely NO idea how to fix or how to eat it.  We dig in anyway.  So far, so good, unusual flavors abounding.  What goes soft too quickly gets put in the blender along with juice for a great smoothy.  Adding rum in the evening makes it even better! 

We learned that St. Lucia has 'jump ups' -- meaning street parties.  We considered attending one, but too many folks warned us against going as it is (a) rough crowd (b) pickpocks or (c) worse.  We'll just 'lime' instead as folks do on all the islands.  (Lime remember is to just 'hang out'.

Catching the local bus Friday, we headed for Castries, the next town over & the only 'official city in St. Lucia' & noted for having the ‘largest market in the Caribbean’.  Local transportation is great - mini vans, with blue tags with M’s on them, pull over & pick up anyone waving them down.  Fares are very very cheap (especially compared to a taxi ($4 US for two vs $40 US one way to Castries for the taxi).  The driver waits until his van is FULL before heading off for any distance, such as to the next town.  I love this - no bus schedules.   We’ve never waited more than half a minute for a ride anywhere! 
Castries marketplace

Lots of the same 'stuff' sold by every vendor

LOVE the sign - Read carefully!

Wandering thru the market, with 100s of vendors selling t-shirts, homemade soaps made from the volcano sulfur & minerals; lots of little baggies of spices, some straw baskets, and the typical junky jewelry, we were approached by every vendor to come ‘look at very best’.   Hungry, and walking past so many tiny stalls each with one table in front, the smells of food were overwhelming.  Easy going Andy promptly informed me, “No way I am eating here”.  Ha, finally found a little restaurant overlooking the bay where we ate the same type of food the other vendors were selling..a roti:  curried chicken in a wrap.    After taking lots of pictures, purchasing lots of strange looking fruit and sweating like those pigs again, we finally hopped a bus back to the boat where we cranked down the air conditioner & flayed out on the couch.  Pooped from the heat.

Flowers abound

June 2, Thursday  Soufriere and the Pitons
Finally outta here - been pretty boring by my book.  Certainly a very nice marina, with lots of amenities, but I am ready for the anchor and back to nature.

Petit Piton and Gros Piton

We are off to Soufriere and the Pitons, still part of the island of St. Lucia and cited as being ‘a scenic wonderland dominated by the towering twin Pitons.

Looking from Deshane's Restaurant to the anchorage between Pitons

Anchorage between the Pitons
   Ah, the cruising guide is absolutely right for a change.  Breathtakingly beautiful tall green spires loom over the coves, and the Caribbean Sea, with the village of Soufrieres at the base of Petit Piton - as opposed to the other, Gros Piton.
Brittany & Scott Myers aboard RASMUS
Suddenly, via VHF we heard Brittany & Scott Meyers, on RASMUS, our young - very young (could be our children) sailing friends we have been tag teaming thru these islands with since we first meeting in the Turks & Cacios some months ago, telling us that the anchorage we were headed for by Bat Cave was absolutely unacceptable with severe rolling.  We altered course to the other side of the cove where they had relocated that morning after spending a sleepless night trying to stay in the bed with the waves tossing them about. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I see local boat boys, Mr. Feelgood (True - that is what the kid said)  and his compadre’, Abdul, or something to that effect, racing our way in their little boat.  Given our size, we were leery of grabbing a mooring too close to shore and were checking out the cove.  The boat boys directed us to a white one with red ball attached.....’Why the red ball?’ I asked.   ‘No problem, man’.  Little shits.  Hooked us right up to a RESERVED mooring (we had no idea one can reserve ahead here).  It is tight in here, and a stern line is required.  Taking the three 75’ lines I tied together to shore, the boat boys got us settled in.  Getting a $20 EC tip and asking for beer or cokes, and getting them, they chatted, trying to get us to commit to a tour or whatever with them.  We begged off all that, saying we had no plans just yet.  All I wanted was my bathing suit on and to be in the water snorkeling in this fabulous place, with reefs right at the edge of shore and around the mountains.  Ha, not to be.  Here comes the Ranger - “YO!  You gotta move, this is a RESERVED mooring, big boat coming in this afternoon”.  I hit Times Ten on the Rage Scale, hot & totally irritated, knowing we had deliberately been ripped off by the boat boys.  Suggesting to the ranger he should police the boat boys, explaining how we ended up here, he said, “They be kids and new at this’.  Yeah, right.

Boat boys helping a sailboat coming in

Would you believe, we got stuck having to use the same little shits to help us again.  I kept telling Andy - 'NO tip to the turkeys, they already got their tip'.  Andy wisely ignored me, giving them a small tip.  Insurance he calls the payment  to them so they won’t get mad, coming back to retaliate while we are off the boat.  He is right.  I am just mad & irrational.

Boat boy taking our aft line to shore to tie us to a tree

Finally Fun & Rasmus @ Pitons
 Ah, a wonderful two days here -  a high spot in our entire trip, a Must See Must Do place and one we will return to, staying longer.  Snorkeling abounds, all around the peaks and coves, with mooring balls to tie the dingy to while you play in the water.  I almost got my fill of snorkeling and Andy even enjoyed himself, spending more time in the water than he has in a long time.  Scott & Brittany joined us most times.

Returning from snorkeling between the Pitons
A turtle, a moray ell, lots of colorful fish, corals - including the largest barrel coral I’ve ever seen and the ever swaying soft corals abound.  Still, not the color I love to see, still too drab for me, but still great.

  Popping out of the water to check my position, I am awe struck by the sheer magnitude of the Peak above me - slabs of sheer faced rock, with trees and green plants growing.  Beautiful!

Sheer beauty

Steep rock walls above us

Hopping into our dink Thursday evening, the four of us crossed the little bay to Hummingbird Resort, where we again got ‘hit’ by the locals, helping us tie up.  We really do not NEED help - but afraid that if we don’t play the game, tipping them, that harm might come to the dink in retaliation. So, the circle never ends!

One guy then attempted to get us to go with him to a different restaurant further down the road.  He probably gets something in return from the other restaurant if he brings in patrons.  Two little kids, about age 10, bugged us to watch them do flips in the sand - for “just a little EC”..  I hate all this, feeling ripped off and not liking the lessons taught to the kids.  Ah well, chalk it off to local color - can’t change the world here.    Prices were far higher than we thought they should be and not so hungry as to justify the expense, we ordered just a couple of rounds of frozen daiquiris made from the different local fruits.     We tasted & shared every kind they had, along with local fish cakes. The ambiance of this place makes this a worthwhile stop.  Local artists sell colorful batiks in a very soft fabric. depicting fish, birds, turtle, etc. using the greens, blues, & coral colors of the sea.  At $250 US for a small one and $500 for a large one, they are true works of art and very beautiful.  I passed, however, not certain at all I could hang it somewhere someday in a yet to be purchased home.

We wandered into the town of Soufriere looking for an inexpensive truly local place to grab a small bite to eat.  This little town was hopping with people milling about, enjoying themselves...must be that 'limin' we hear so much about.  Especially from up high in the Pitons, this little town is just beautiful, spreading around the bay.

This area is full of steaming sulphur holes, lots of rivers full of minerals and lots of cascading waterfalls.  The TO DO list now contains a list of these things for our return trip -- soaking in the mineral baths along the rivers; climbing up the mountains to see the watefalls, the cocoa  plantations and coffee plantations.

Speaking of the sulphur, I blamed a boat for releasing black waste water (translate that to dumping one's holding tank of poop/pee).  I would, from time to time, smell this stench....ugh a blight upon the beauty of the area.  Nope, Brittany told me that it is sulphur being released from the Pitons and surrounding mountains -- catch the wind the right way and Phew. 

Just when we thought we’d had a great experience in a local restaurant, we topped ourselves.  Catching a taxi from town on Friday afternoon, Brittany sans Scott, Andy & I headed to a restaurant called Dasheen, at the Ladera Resort.   Boaters raved about this location, perched between the two peaks, high above the water, saying it is a Must Do.  Ah, spectacular might be an understatement.

Sharon & Brittany @ Dasheen's

Pool overlooking the bay between the Pitons below

Beautiful bar - all carvings in mahogany

Beauty everywhere  

The view will take your breath away, hanging of the side of the mountain, looking right down into the anchorage below.  The seating is all outdoor, well shaded, different levels, with lots of wood and lush greenery.  Little pools of water tumble into a swimming pool overlooking all this.

 We sat for over two hours, sipping a wine and eating a light sandwich - good for the soul for sure.

 We hated to leave, but our taxi driver was patiently waiting for us and we felt a little guilty.  ($30 US for round trip + all waiting).  A Magnificent Moment.

Sharon & Andy overlooking Soufriere

Walking back to the dingy dock, we spied a wedding party coming out of the local church in Soufriere holding white umbrellas keeping the sun off the guests reallycrowding the street.  Hopping out of the taxi, we mingled.  The group was enroute to another resort just below Ladera, (where we had just been) walking from the church to the dingy dock, where about 10 or more boats awaited the group.
Bride & Groom

 We eased our way through the crowd, trying not to bump or be bumped off the tiny dock till we got to our dingy.  Shortly thereafter,  back on our boat, here comes this very long line of tiny boats full of wedding guests, headed across the cove.

The festive group of wedding guests w the Bride & Groom
All of us boaters strung out along the shoreline on mooring balls, began honking our loud horns and cheering.  A very puzzled French group, moored next to us, finally got it as I kept shouting WEDDING and pointing to my wedding band.  AH, WEDDING they said, and promptly hit their horn!    Fun.

Water is wonderful

Back to reality, hot and sweaty again, and with a surge of energy, Andy & I scrubbed the long green whiskers off the waterline as best we could, mostly just enjoying the cool water and the sunset that followed.  Brittany & Scott came aboard for snacks and a movie night - a lazy conclusion to a wonderful day.
Scraping the green yuck off the waterline & below
Last fisherman heading home at sunset

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