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  ST. LUCIA - Around the Island 

April 10
Our sail from Bequia to St. Vincent was pleasant enough but from the coast of St. Vincent, current, wind and waves made for a wet and very uncomfortable sail. We were happy to finally reach the sheltered shores of St. Lucia, the largest island of the Windwards. We approached the lush mountainous outline on the horizon which revealed sparkling white beaches below steep slopes as we got closer.
The Pitons were cloaked in clouds but it was hard to ignore their sheer physical beauty and the lure of stopping to anchor in Soufriere. But we did not have clearance papers yet, so continued on to Marigot Bay.
We had heard so much about the beauty of Marigot Bay that we decided to make it our landfall for checking into St. Lucia. After a tour around the inner bar it was evident that there was not room to anchor as mooring balls take up all the space. We attempted to anchor in the channel outside the bay which shallows very quickly and also crowded with boats. But the holding was bad, silt on rock, so we had to succumbed to the boat boys insistence to rent a mooring ball.

The officials were friendly and it was an easy check-in after we parted with about $50 in fees. St Lucia is English speaking (although I have yet to understand the lingo when the locals talk with one another!)
The protected bay was packed with charter boats in a truly gorgeous setting, a little sandy spit covered with towering palms, closing the bay almost completely off from the sea. There are waterfront restaurants and shops, all expensive.

April 13, 2010
We had a wonderful sail from Marigot Bay to Rodney Bay. We sailed right into the protected mile long inlet, past Pigeon Island where a few boats were anchored adjacent the Sandals resort.
We chose to anchor off Reduit Beach filled with tourists activities, hotels, restaurants and lounge chairs. The holding was excellent, the water was fairly flat and best of all, we had good free wifi!
Rodney Bay is an ideal place to hang out. Gregory, comes by daily in his colorful flagged boat, to offer fresh produce. Sparkle Laundry picks up and delivers your laundry. A nearby grocery store is a dinghy ride away accessed from inside the lagoon.

Touring the Island
Since St. Lucia is such a picturesque island, we hired a taxi-van and took a tour. Chris the local taxi driver organized a driver and guide for around $80 for 4 hours. We drove down the west coast  to the Pitons.
The island is only 14 miles wide and 27 miles long but the twisty roads through the canopy of green terrain  make for slow driving. As we passed villages tucked away in the hillsides, we came upon a soloist pan player who entertained us by the side of the road.
Castries was our first stop and the driver let us out in the center of town to walk around the busy run down streets, sticky hot and minus any asthetics. (pictured above right)  
Soufriere
We stopped at Soufriere to admire the towering Pitons rising like a tooth from the sea. The small sprawling town that lies beneath the pillars had charm and a spirit unmatched by the touristy Rodney Bay area.


   
 

We had lunch in an enduring local working class cafe, made memorable by our companions that knew the owners and revealed the character of the seaside community. 

Our driver and guide were fun loving and full of enthusiasm for their country. I took a photo of the "Orio cookie" (right).

   
    Sulphur Springs
T
he volcanic nature
 of St. Lucia is evident when seeing the drive-by stinky rotten egg aroma boiling mud. A scene straight from hell with barren, brightly colored earth, steam spewing from the rocks.
 

A few days later we found it necessary to go back to Canada and help my parents move. So we moved the boat into the marina and tied to well maintained and modern docks that offered huge slips, very sheltered from any impending storms.
We spent several months in Canada and enjoyed reunions with family and friends.
Canada photos...



Since our return to the marina, we have gotten complacent. We had planned to spend the hurricane season in Grenada or Trinidad, but this marina proved so convenient and as good a place as any to spend the summer. Wifi, services, beautiful surroundings.
It is unbearable hot though. Torrential downpours every couple of hours turns the boat into a sauna. It would be good to have air conditioning here. And it seems that the bugs use our boat to take shelter from the rain faster than we can get the hatches closed.
There are a few good restaurants in the marina complex, too expensive for us. But we have found that the local bakery offers wonderful Chicken Rotis for about $5 each, a huge meal that lasts us the day.
I have been enjoying my walks through the ramshackle fishing village of Gros Islet where the heart of the St Lucia's culture beats, brimming with character and an insight into the community life of the island; rastas, expats and loafers.



 

Hanging Out

August 8, 2010

We have been hidden away on the boat, pretty much addicted to the internet albeit slow and sketchy sometimes. We just haven't had the luxury of constant internet for so long! I am learning about code and analytics for my website, things I have always been interested in. The internet is a wonderful source and some days I feel like I should be back in school--there is so much to learn. Gord is writing some articles, and has sold a few to 'Cruising World' and 'Blue Water' magazines.....and playing the guitar.


Communicating with Freinds

We take so much for granted having the internet as a form of communication. Sometimes I have to stand back in wonder about how far technology as come. I know, I'm sounding like my Grampa talked to me about the telephone! One of our cruising friends from the South Pacific days posted a photo on Facebook. The photo was of a group of us on the beach in the Tuamotos. Within hours, everyone in the photo had responded and we were all communicating with each other, sending messages back and forth, reminiscing about the old days and how we missed each other.  Now understand that there were 14 people, many that have returned to the land life in various places all over the US, some still on their boat--one in Hawaii, a couple in Tonga, a couple in Africa, a couple in Israel, us here in the Caribbean, PRETTY UNBELIEVABLE that we could all get together for a reunion on Facebook like that!

It's still hot and muggy in St. Lucia, or pouring down torrential rain, so we seldom leave the boat. Tans are gone and I am getting FAT! The bottom of the boat is a barnacle-city living on a green carpet. But we are happy with our confinement for the time being.

 

August 21

Here come the Storms

Hurricane season is upon us and we are watching a developing tropical storm. Not much of a threat at present but we are keeping our fingers crossed. Very hot and muggy, the air is so still in the marina--not a breath of breeze. Gord was outside for an hour cleaning the bottom of the dinghy and got the worse sunburn he has ever had! Blisters and all. Hard to believe when we have spent so many years in the tropics.

 

Over the past several weeks, a few hurricane have skirted us and now Hurricane EARL will be near Guadelope on Tuesday. A little close for comfort but hopefully we will not be too affected. Another system is forming near Cape Verdes. It is that time of the year!
 

August 30

Hurricane Danielle passed us by and sucked all the air away. It's so hot.

Today the skies are black, rain and thunder all around. 200 miles away, St. Martin was hit and boats were sunk and destroyed. Another system is forming on the heals of the last hurricane with a 30% chance of it becoming a hurricane headed our way.

Race Around the Island for Beer

Last weekend there was a Round the Island Race. The boat docked next to us left for the startline and never returned. The 50 foot sailboat caught fire and sunk! The French owners onboard escaped with only the swim suits they were wearing. Lost everything.

The winners of the race were awarded 40 cases of beer so initiated a dock party to share the bounty. We finally met some people which was a nice change.

September 9

Norm falls from the Sky

A distraught message from brother Bruce. My oldest brother, Norm crashed his small plane and was in the hospital. He had surgery on his elbow and knee but the major concern is his heel.

The miracle of his survival made the headlines in numerous Toronto newspapers. Photos of a twisted pile of unrecognizable wreckage made us thank God he was able to crawl away from the horrendous crash. We watched an interview on YouTube from Norm's bedside.  Norm's heel is so badly crushed they are having a hard time finding a doctor who is willing to operate.

September 12

Kicked out of the Country

An innocent discussion revealed that we might have a huge problem with our visa. When we returned from Canada, we assumed that we had been given the same 6-month visa that we got when we sailed to St. Lucia originally. I had even checked with the customs officer in the marina and he assured me that, being on a boat, we were allowed to stay 6 months.

But unbeknown to us, the fact that we arrived by plane makes a difference. Our passport was only good for 42 days but no one told us that. We were now well over the 42 days and contemplated whether we should quietly check out and sail to Martinique and return to check back in to St. Lucia, or come clean and explain our situation in hope of leniency. Our honesty prevailed and we went to plea our case with the custom's officer in the marina. They were not sympathetic. Rules are rules. We had to immediately go to Castries and pay a fine and extend our Visas.

So we bussed it the hour to Castries that day, only to discover that the officer in Visa renewal only worked morning and "Come back tomorrow." Castries is not much of a destination so we were not impelled to spend time wandering around. It is busy and without charm. Many parts of the city are very dangerous. So back on the bus.

We repeated the trip the following day and this time were able to fill out all the paperwork and leave our passports for visa extension. We had overstayed our visas by 2 months and 4 days so we were charged a penalty of 3 months each, amounting to $ 800EC. To make matters worse, we still had to leave the country within 2 weeks!

 

September 15

Another trip to Castries to retrieve our passports held for a King's ransom. We needed to head out into the bay and spend a couple of days scrubbing forest of growth off the bottom of the boat so we could actually move through the water. But the weather was wicked. Too rolly in the anchorage to get in the water and scrub the boat. We procrastinated, hoping the weather would improve.

 

Martinique  more......



Back in St. Lucia

September 27

After our unceremonious retreat from St. Lucia, we are back in the marina. Glad to have squeezed through two storms, our timing was perfect and we had a good sail and even caught a fish, a Wahoo, our favorite. We were finally able to phone Norm who had his surgery postponed once again. It has been a complete battle for Norm and Marianne dealing with the bureaucracy of the medical system.

Today the skies are black, rain and thunder all around. 200 miles away, St. Martin was hit and boats were sunk and destroyed. Another system is forming on the heals of the last hurricane with a 30% chance of it becoming a hurricane headed our way.


OctoberFest in St. Lucia

We hopped on a bus with our boat neighbors, Jim and Christine from the U.K. to attend OctoberFest in St. Lucia. It seemed so incongruous but there would be local entertainment and food stalls so we thought it might be fun. We only hoped the rain would let up by the time we got to Castries.

But no. The rain came down in buckets. Everyone at the concert was huddled under umbrellas...not exactly festive! The rain continued to pound down the entire time we were there. The boys had a few beers as we tried for conversation over the pounding rain and blaring music. Finally we retreated back tot the boat to dry out.


Thinking Outside the Box

We have been spending our days finally getting to all the maintenance and repair jobs we have been putting off for so long. There is a pretty well stocked chandlery in the marina but that doesn't always mean things are easy to get. Here is Gord's story.

"So I decided to break down and buy a new binnacle compass 301 US. Went to the Chandlery here and picked out a black one with a black card in it. The clerk took it off the display as it was the only one they had. When I went to pay, he couldn't sell it to me. I said "Why?" He responded, "He didn't have the box;" I said, "I don't want the box."

After 20 minutes of searching, we found an empty box from an identical unit buy with a white with a red card--everything else inside the box was identical. I said "Use that box who cares!" He says "No, the colour is wrong." I said, "Do you have a second white and red compass?" He said "No." I said, "Gee do you think that maybe somebody bought a red and white one and put it in the black box?" He said "Probably." So I said, "So the white and red guy has the black box that I need, and you have a spare red and white box. Looks to me like your f&^*%d. Maybe you should have your manager order some new empty cardboard boxes so you can do business!"  I left the store, sans compass!

Third World or (developing) countries are still developing for a good reason! Freakin' Stupid!


 

October 29

Storm a comin'! Don't think we will be lucky enough to miss this weather system coming our way with a vengeance. High winds are expected tomorrow, and the tropical depression is forming fast -- we are right on its path. The first time people are saying that we may get a hurricane! Everyone is on the docks scrambling with lines and fenders. We have all the ropes onboard strung around pilings. If it looks like we may be hit, we will take all the canvas off.  Its good that we are here to prepare.

 

Here's the official version:

AT 200 PM AST...1800 UTC...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE TOMAS WAS
LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 13.4 NORTH...LONGITUDE 61.0 WEST.(Our location) TOMAS IS
MOVING TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST NEAR 12 MPH...19 KM/HR...AND THIS
MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE WITH A GRADUAL DECREASE IN FORWARD
SPEED TONIGHT AND SUNDAY. ON THE FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF
TOMAS WILL PASS NEAR ST. LUCIA AND ST. VINCENT THIS AFTERNOON...
AND ENTER THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SEA BY TONIGHT.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 75 MPH...120 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS.  TOMAS IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON
SCALE. SOME STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 25 MILES...35 KM...FROM
THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO
175 MILES...280 KM.

 

October 30

Hurricane Tomas

With18 lines tied off the boat to secure us to docks that are fairly new and strong and well spaced, we felt fairly secure. In addition, we are surrounded by hills that cut down the effects of the wind. Around noon on October 30, the downpour started. The rain was so heavy, all visibility was lost. Over the next few hours the wind built as Hurricane Tomas approached St. Lucia. The conditions became fairly intense with the deafening howling winds and blinding driving rain that nearly drove us bonkers with the noise inside the cabin. By nightfall we were getting very strong gusts causing a few foresails to unroll on other boats....thunderous flapping and cracking of the sails as they were shredded and destroyed in minutes. It was a tenuous night, adjusting lines and being blown around, despite our spider web of lines to the dock.

By morning Hurricane Tomas had finished its assault, passing 10 miles north of St. Lucia, leaving in its wake roofs torn off buildings, a century old church toppled, roads blocked with fallen trees and the island completely shut down with no power. Many small open power boats in the marina sunk, but generally not much damage here....and none to us. We were lucky as Hurricane Tomas was still a child when it reached us. Now it continues to grow in velocity and veracity and is expected to reach category 3 or 4 in a few days.

Castries / Gros Islet Highway is impassable!
October 31

We are listening today about all the damage that the 100 mph winds did to St. Lucia. Churches, schools, hospitals and over 500 homes destroyed. 14 dead and many still missing. Electricity and communication is totally out on the south end of the island. Trees are down everywhere, roads are washed out, bridges are now just gaping holes in the road. The airports are closed, you can't drive to them anyway. Stores will remain closed for some time. Worst part is that the entire island will be without water because the reservoir was polluted and the pumping station is buried under a mudslide.
 

This is the news story for October 31:

Damage to St. Lucia After Tomas

"The highway bridges mash up; by Choc, San Soucis, the little bridges by Union Gap, Bois D'Orange just before Sunbilt collapsed.  So they are asking people to stay off the roads so Lucelec (electricity services) can work.  Gros Islet is cool from Bois D'Orange up. Just no electricity and water. Night time the place black out."

"The Prime Minister is back on the island, returning from Barbados.  He says tomorrow is a holiday. Since it will be a public holiday, banks will be closed.  Since there is no electricity, ATMs are not working, with banks being closed.  Banks, at least have generators. St.Lucians are unable to get cash for another day.  With no cash in hand, people cannot buy gas, food, water.  There has been no sign of road repair crews.  Cable & Wireless is down and not working.  Digicel is working. Helen FM is back on the air. Landlines are working but cell phones are now going dead and can't be charged due to no electricity.  Other radio stations are down, including Radio Saint Lucia which was the only station on air during most part of the hurricane yesterday. The government prior to this hurricane did not warn St.Lucians about the severity of Tomas, or to prepare by getting food, cash, gas. Generally people were told there would be a lot of rain."


November 1

Here in the marina, everything is relatively back to normal, except no water. Locals were busy retrieving sunk boats from the bottom off the bay and the docks were crammed with looky-loos. We have power although the surrounding communities do not. The rain is more sporadic now. The huge bill fishing tournament was postponed and the mega sport fishing yachts in the marina are trying to make the best of it by partying on the docks. More activity than we have seen all year!

November 2

Still no phones, power or communication services to the northern parts of the island. The Red Cross is making a plea for help to get drinking water to the communities that are shut off by washed out roads. Rooms in many hotels are waste deep in mud so they are evacuating the tourists. We have no water at the dock and there is none to be had in any of the stores. The water in the bay is a slimy cesspool as a result of the heavy rain (8 inches in one hour!) so there will be no using the watermaker.

We are out of food on the boat and the supermarkets are cut off from supplies so they remain closed. Its canned goods for us these days, nothing fresh and no meat. We certainly can't complain as many have lost their homes. It seems that there is always someone worse off.

November 25

I am keeping busy writing and being lethargic in the heat. The temperatures are finally getting cooer at night. The buzz around the marina is in anticipation for the ARC boats that are headed to St. Lucia. Over 200 boats are expected to arrive over the next few weeks.

As a result, we are preparing to haul out, get the bottom paint on the boat, splash back into the water and be GONE. With any luck, we will be heading north soon. Back to the cruising life...finally!

 

December 1

We headed over to the boatyard to haul Ascension out of the water. Our scheduled time was 9 am but some setbacks ( they had to refuel the travel lift, then no driver, then coffee break, then....) We spend several hours just fending off from the wall, waiting for our turn. Finally the straps were in place and the travel lift was moving Ascension to her work area. The deal was suppose to include a pressure wash, but we were informed that due to the water shortage,  a couple of guys were sent over with buckets and a scrub brush to wash down the hull! Needless to say, with all the barnacles and growth we had accumulated, the hull didn't look much different when they finished. We knew we would have a huge job ahead of us!

The boat yard was very hot and a venture into the cabin would result in hundreds of bug bites in a matter of seconds. We were covered with blue from scraping the hull so we opted to rent a room across the street. It was pure luxury to be able to shower after a hard day's work.

It took us over a week to scrape, sand, paint the bottom and buff the hull. After disputing some creative billing, Ascension, shiny and bright, was splashed back into the water.

We headed for the anchorage to clean up and prepare for our sail to Martinique.

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