Monday, 30 December 2013

St Lucia

Rodney Bay was a great relaxed place to hang out for a while. The bars and restaurants were full of crews swapping stories.  A boat labelled " Mr Sparkle" with a smiling owner took our washing . Local bananas , mangos and melons arrived in similar fashion at a reasonable price after protracted negotiations with the first mate.

For the first couple of days , we concentrated on repairs. I took off part of the water maker after a very helpful phone call with Jim Donaldson of Mactra who agreed with our diagnosis of a bust spool valve and offered to fix it over Christmas . So Joe took it back to the Uk .  Louise Colin and Nick took off the mainsail, taped up the chafed bits and put more protection on the rear spreaders. the Duogen appears to be a regulator problem again and none of us including a very helpful Peter at Eclectic Energy can work out why it keeps blowing

The evening of the 12 th December was the final farewell party before we were kicked off our berths to go to Marigot Bay .It was a fairly boozy affair , as the drink was free but the food ran out. Everyone danced to a steel band that was really revving up and the celebrations continued back in the bars of Rodney bay well into the night. A fleet with a few sore heads cruised the 10 miles down to Marigot Bay the next day. Suzanne from Germany came with us and enjoyed the sail. 
The A (Atlantic) Team in Marigot Bay

Suzanne with bubbles

Joe enjoying a final taste of life in the slow lane

We said goodbye to Joe who had managed to squeeze in a weeks skiing with the family before Christmas before going back to work for the Sheiks in the sandpit in Quatar- the rest of us can't keep up with life in the fast lane.

Marigot bay is a beautiful  inlet . There is an outer anchorage with a beach lined with palm trees and an inner bay surrounded by mangrove trees with laid moorings. Dr Doodditle was filmed here and listening to the sounds of the tropical forest surrounding us the animals are still talking about it.   The cove is lined with a variety of restaurants all of which can be visited by dinghy and the dockside cafe even has a fast Internet connection that works!
The bay is also a well known hurricane hole. With winds of 125 knots outside yachts are tied up to the mangrove trees with maximum wind speeds of 50knots in the bay.

Marigot Bay

We returned by local bus to Rodney bay to meet up with Mary Burrows our ex chief executive who was renting a house with two old friends, Katherine and Judith
They had timed their visit to coincide with Kikas and Sephinas arrival. After a welcome beer and a shower at Mary's place we proceeded to the infamous local " jump up" at Gros Islet just north of Rodney Bay.

A drink or two in the bar and soon we were...........

...........talking to the animals on the way to Jump Up
 A jump up is a huge street party at which you can buy rum punches and drinks of every colour, food from fish and meat barbecues and the centre is reserved for a stage with huge speakers blaring out reggae and hip hop to which everyone dances. The bass was turned up so loud you could feel it hitting your chest and not fail to feel the rhythm , surprisingly with relatively little treble it didn't appear to hurt the ears, Mary, friends and Kika's crew were soon in the groove, jumpin' around.  The atmosphere was good humoured , however lounging around the edge of the crowd there were a few ladies of the night plying for trade surrounded by a number of hard faced men who didn't look as though they had just come for the music. We got the cue and disappeared just after midnight when the mood music changes.

We stopped using taxis and got into using the local bus system which consists of frequent privately owned minibuses which are full of people and you just hold out your hand and stop. There are two advantages. Travelling at a fraction of the cost of a taxi and getting to know people.  St Lucia was colonised successively by the French and British with the British finally winning out and sending the French off to sulk in nearby Martinique. In order to try and fend off the Brits the French even freed a number of slaves and armed them on a pragmatic you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours principle. Unfortunately the strategy failed. British ships landed in the deep pools off the Piton mountains near Soufriere and re enslaved them in 1819 . It wasn't until emancipation in 1829 that they became free again. Around Souffriere the locals have long memories.  Local Creole is spoken all over the Caribbean. It is a mixture of African dialects ,French , and some English. It was a means off communicating that the colonial oppressor would not understand and with slight variations can be understood in both English and French speaking Islands.  The local economy used to be based on sugar cane which declined together with the plantations to be replaced by banana trees. Sadly South America has taken over as the cheapest exporter of cheap bananas and the island is now heavily dependant on tourism, although bananas remain the main crop. My Rastafarian pal on the bus who hawked stuff on the beach explained. "When America hurts man, I feel the pain. Folks just ain't got spare cash no more."

We returned to Rodney Bay via Castries for Clive's arrival. Castries is full of cruise ships and hustlers offering lightning tours of the island. Once you get beyond them and the posh cruise ship shops the local market sells most things including a great collection of spices, straight from the queen of the spice islands. We found a lady who gave us a good reduction on some presents who told us we had been sent from heaven as trade had been disastrous recently, and she was now looking forward to Christmas.

Sephina arrived at 7 pm on 17th December. Clive managed to blague a berth on the luxury yacht India pontoon by insisting the posh cats could not disembark on a stern to mooring. Mary lead the cheering in party (she used to be the top cheerleader for her school baseball team) and raced us onto the posh pontoon, where we all had an ARC rum punch together. Sephina had had a tough trip. 
All six crew members were given a noisy reception on arrival in Rodney Bay

The last few days had been rough with winds in excess of 30 knots and Clive had wondered at points why he was putting his wife and family through it. They were all delighted to have survived it and excited to arrive and it was great to see them. Dave Gozzard on Gozzwos arrived a couple of days later with a broken spinnaker pole and water maker but seemed very chilled out as did his wife Alicia who enjoyed herself.

Colin and I retuned to Marigot Bay getting a ride from Castries from a bus driver who lived in the bay. As it was his last drive he lit up a 'phat' spiff of the local "ganja" after offering us some.  He also offered to arrange for us to go and see some local girls, but was only dissuaded when we told him we had women back at the boat "Respect man." He had worked out that Marijuana made him do everything better including driving. We didn't entirely agree as his eyes widened and the roadside ditches appeared rather close . We were relieved to emerge safe and sound at Marigot Bay.

We went down to Souffriere and climbed Gros Piton the next day. It is a steep 960 metres of extinct volcano. It took around 4 hours to get up and down a very rocky track with the skipper trailing along at the back. We were charged 30 US dollars each to have a guide (compulsory) and the whole experience was an exercise in masochism with all our legs turned to jelly by the time we reached the bottom. The view at the top was limited due to the arrival of a squall. Rather like North Wales on a wet day. 

The Pitons
We reach the summit. On top of the world, but not feeling it.

Back in Marigot Bay the luxury yachts with huge crews have been loading up with supplies as the owners arrive for Christmas cruises. We said goodbye to Louise and Nick and as I write this Colin is remaining in Marigot Bay for Christmas with Sephina and its crew for company . He also volunteered to fit new batteries to Kika after Christmas while I go home for a week. I am currently sitting in an aircraft on 24 December that has spent two hours waiting on the Tarmac after arriving at Gatwick airport with no stand available as the airport is suffering from power cuts and complete disruption due to last nightsstorms and flooding. It's great to be back home!
During the skipper's absence the first mate organises refit of Kika!

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