Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Heading Straight to Dominica

It was great to see Martin and learn that his family was fine.
Unfortunately, we lost too much time in Rodney Bay that we had to skip Martinique this time. We were planning to go to St. Anne and Le Marin in the south end of the island. On our way down in 2013, we stopped at St. Pierre on the west coast for a couple of nights.

We toured the town and saw where the volcano eruption had wiped out the whole village, killing everyone except the one man in prison! Today the path of the lava flow is a lush green mountain-scape. The area offshore is filled with boats that were sunk by the hot lava.

Flowers from Martin

We stopped there for the night to sleep, but did not go ashore. Our goal is to do mostly day sails and not overnights. If we plan it right, we can sail from island to island with the only overnight sail being from St. Bart’s to Tortola, BVI. That one is always an overnight – even if you leave from St. Maarten. We will probably skip St. Maarten this time due to the hurricane damage. We have been there many times and would only stop if they have the part we need.

There was a lot of damage to Dominica.

Looking forward to one of our favorite islands, Dominica, we were concerned about the damage we would find. They were in the eye of the hurricane Maria and over 90% of the island homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Many stories have been coming out of Dominica about yachties safety and the lack of services available. We decided to see for ourselves. 
People are salvaging what they can and moving on slowly.

Martin answered our call and met us in the mooring field. It was great to reunite with him. He is very involved in creating a positive experience for visitors and was one of the founders of the PAYS system, Port Arthur Yacht Security. We had a ton of things to donate to the island and knew Martin would be trustworthy to make sure they went to those in real need.

We heard the story of the hurricane hits and that the islanders had less than 24 hours warning. They were not prepared for what came through there. There were downed wires every where. They were still without power in many areas and Internet was unavailable.

Their mobile phone service had been restored, but like big business tends to do, many people no longer have access. Apparently, Digicel restored service, but upgraded it to a level that most phones on the island can't access. People do not have the funds to buy new phones.

They have safe water again now that the river has cleansed itself of the debris and contaminants that came in with the surge. Other islands in the area and many yachties have been helping out.
We went to town to get some fresh produce and see what it was like there.

The vendors sell out of their vehicles, if they still have one, or on tables or the street. The prices seem to be fixed so we just went around and bought a little from many different vendors. Spread the wealth!

The whole waterfront was destroyed. The harbor is full of roofs, sunken boats and other debris. Power lines are laying in the streets, although the are probably not hot.

The Carib Indian village was nearly wiped out and there is a big movement to help restore it as it is one of only Carib Indian settlements left. We had a tour of that village in 2013 and met the wonderful medicine lady.

Like the rest of the island people devastated by Irma and Maria, they are working hard to restore their homes, schools and businesses. The high school was destroyed, as was the Medical School. The Medical School has moved back to the USA. This is unfortunate because it provided jobs for many Dominicans. It will take a while for them to bounce back. And there is not much governmental support.

The PAYS group of "boat boys" (who are really enterprising business fellows) maintain the moorings and offer a variety of services, tours, etc. Traditionally, they have held a Sunday night BBQ to raise money for their operation. In addition, it brings the yachties ashore for some fun and conversation with each other and the locals. This is one reason Dominica is one of the favored islands for yachts.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Longer Than Planned Stay

Our purpose for going to Rodney Bay was to order a couple of parts and have them installed. System maintenance never stops on a yacht. There is a particular mechanic Dennis wanted to use there. We had emailed several weeks prior to get on his schedule and get the parts ordered so they would be there when we arrived. Oh, I forgot, we are in the islands. That is not going to happen as planned!

And it didn’t. The parts had not been ordered. We struggled to get anyone to finish what they had started. They like to tear the boat apart and leave to go work on another one. Frankly, I get very tired of tools and parts sitting all over the place whenever we are in a “maintenance” mode. Everything is torn up and cluttered. We aren’t talking about a workshop here. This is our living space! Maybe it is a gender issue?!?

Fortunately, there are a lot of good restaurants at the Rodney Bay Marina Village: Italian, Seaford, Thai, Pizza, Indian, Japanese and local cuisine. So we ate out a lot! It was great to get out of the mess on the boat.
One of the highlights was going to the Friday night Jump Up in the Gros Islet district. Individuals, as well as a couple of restaurants in the area, set up their food stalls on the street. If you are lucky, you can find a table to sit at while eating. The scene is fun and friendly and the food is good!

Of course, we chose lobster, but there was fish, chicken and conch available. The side dishes include many local root, or as they say “ground,” vegetables along with breadfruit made into fritters and other dishes, macaroni and cheese, and salad. Some desserts were also available.

The second time we went to Gros Islet on a Friday night, we walked through the Jump Up to the end of the street where we found the beach. To our right, we found a highly recommended place called Dukes.

There long grills made from oil barrels were covered with chicken and fish. I don’t know how many people they served while we were there, but the grillers kept the food moving. We did not see any lobsters so I had the fish and Dennis tried the lambi (conch). Salad, which is usually coleslaw with a little shredded lettuce and some tomato are the usual side dishes. And rum punch to wash it down.

I wanted this pot!
Our first trip to the grocery store was an experience. We were going to ride the bus, but my Captain thought the store was just “down there around the curve.” NOT! We walked, and walked, and walked some more before finally seeing the store ahead. I bought enough to ensure it would be necessary to get a cab ride back to the marina. Later I noted that the bus stop was across the street from the store!
For our second attempt at provisioning, we took the dinghy to the far end of the bay and walked between two building to find the mall. There we found Massy’s Gourmet, which had a lot of what I wanted, but I should have gone to the one in the mall on the other side of the road where the locals shop. Oh, well, it is just food. I don’t even look at the total of the bill anymore as it is what it is and then you must convert it to USD. Then you feel bad!
Heading across Rodney Bay to provision
Once nice thing about the Rodney Bay Marina is that they have a fresh market every Saturday morning. The local ladies, who appear to work in coalition, set up tables and put our all kinds of local produce. There is no price on anything so they just total it in their minds and give you a number. It always seems high compared to other islands, but … At least, I didn’t have to walk a long distance or take a bus or cab.
I have seen some of the strangest things people eat!
We ended up in the marina for three weeks! The parts finally came in. They weren’t right. Work did not get done. We left hoping to complete the project in Antigua or Tortola. Fortunately, it is not critical. We were disappointed in the mechanic’s failure to complete things. Dennis had that discussion with him and told him that his reputation on the dock is hurting his business; he needs to finish a job before starting another one as cruisers want to get going. It’s too bad because he was so good four years ago.

Will we ever leave here?

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Holidays in Marigot Bay

This was one of our neighbors. I took three photos to 
capture the full boat! And they kept a million lights on all
night. That was annoying when one likes it dark for sleep.
If we can’t be with family for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, then we might as well be in one of our favorite places: Capella Resort Marina in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. This is the place with two wonderful swimming pools, swim up in- pool bar, daily cocktail specials, great restaurants and a relatively calm berth on the quay. What more could we want?

The sail up from Bequia was uneventful - Yeah! We haven't done many overnight sails this season so it was nice to be under the starlit sky again. I was on watch from 8 PM - midnight and Dennis from midnight to 5 AM. When I came up at  5 AM, it was still dark, but within a couple of hours I had the pleasure of watching the sun rise over the Pitons of St. Lucia. The sky was cloudy over the land which made for an interesting view. These are the moments that create lasting memories - and we have had so many of them!

Here is the progression from first light just peaking over the horizon on the other side of St. Lucia. Then the sun lights up the clouds as it is rising off the water. And the third photo shows the Pitons once the sun is above the peaks, but in the clouds as we sail further north.

This is called a "fig" and not a banana. It is
 from Bequia and is delicious. The nasty bird
in the mangrove kept coming into the galley
for a little bite to eat when we weren't looking.
Marigot Bay's Capella Marina is filled with superyachts that consume most of the dock space – and block the flow of air! We arrived at 0800 after an overnight sail and had to wait for them to make room for us on the dock. I had made a reservation back in September and been in touch with Troy, the dock master, regularly to assure we could get on the dock and not a mooring ball.
After drifting for over an hour outside the bay entrance, I finally told Troy that we were almost to Columbia so we needed to get in soon! Of course, we would just drift out a couple of miles and then motor back in only to drift out again. By the time Ford came out to meet us to guide us in, it was pouring rain. In fact, it was raining so hard I couldn’t see him through the windshield. Dennis had to stand on  the foredeck in the rain and point in the direction Ford was going so I could follow.

Our only Christmas decoration.
When we finally got well into the marina and past many huge superyachts, I saw the space where I needed to back in stern-to! Yikes! It was between a huge superyacht and a sailing yacht about our size. No problem – except it wasn’t a straight ride in. I had to maneuver around two mooring balls and wiggle into the tight space. It is still raining. Not fun!
Mission accomplished. Heart still pounding. Ford awarded me Skipper of the Year title! I must say I felt pretty good after my heart stopped racing. It is always a heart-thumper going into any dock space, but going in stern-to adds a few extra nerves. On top of that, add the risk of hitting one of those big expensive yachts!

Merry Christmas, Santa! Yes, I have been good!
For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we
had dinner in the hotel - lobster for me, of course! Both the food and its presentation were exquisite. The best part was there was no rush to turn the table so we could linger over each of the four courses and enjoy the view and wine. As we arrived, we were greeted by Santa Claus on Christmas Eve just before he left on his rounds. Although, he wasn't dressed for cold weather. You can't see it in the photo, but he was wearing shorts below his coat.

The view from the dining room of our neighbors!

The Starter was a beet puree served in an egg shell.

The next course was "raw" salmon in lemon and oil. I usually
don't eat my protein raw, but I did eat this one. Evolution!

I had lobster, of course.

Dennis had lamb shank

This chocolate dessert was divine!
To our pleasant surprise, the sailing yacht next to us was S/V Capella and we had met the skipper/owner last April in the pool. Tracy arrived a few days later and we reignited a friendship that involved several dinners and a few Sundowners.

Tracy joined us at Chateau Mygo on New Year’s Eve. This is a favorite spot for cruisers any day or night of the week with live music and good food. We had dinner there, but moved to a quieter venue for an after dinner drink and ta oast.

Ringing in 2018
Unfortunately, Rainforest Hideaway across the bay had gone out of business. We had a nice there in April and were disappointed to see it closed. We did a repeat dinner at Masala Bay where the Indian food is outstanding. I was impressed with how concerned they were about any food allergies. They even brought me a different started because all of them had cilantro, which I don’t tolerate well.

We don't usually do much to celebrate Christmas with gifts for each other. In fact, we usually declare NO GIFTS, but one of us seems to forget. Last year, it was me. This year Dennis got even with me! Back in Chatham Bay, I spotted a bleached conch shell on the beach. I wanted to pick it up, but it was dark when we passed it again and I couldn't find it. I looked for it the next day, but it was gone! Either some other beach-walker or the tide took it. So I missed out.

For my surprise Christmas gift, he had a guy go out and find one in St. Lucia and clean it up. The guy wanted him to buy one of the pretty pink and tan ones, but he knew I wanted a white one. I was happily surprised when I opened my gift. (Note: I didn't have a gift for him this year!) I wanted the bleached conch shell to use when photographing the jewelry I design and make. He also gave me the necklace on the shell as he had notice that I wear a lot of turquoise here in the islands. What a sweetheart!

Since we had a reservation at the Rodney Bay Marina just 12 miles up the island, it was time to say good -bye to Tracy and Imbert, who repaired our dinghy. We had a lovely sail up to the dock. I think we are becoming “marina rats!”

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Seeing the Pitons from Land and More

Life is good in St. Lucia. Besides spending nearly two weeks hanging out at the pool, wining and dining and vegging on the boat, we did take an island tour with a driver. Even though there is only one main road, the driving can be challenging so we take the easy way and get an air-conditioned vehicle with a driver! This way Dennis can see more than the road and I don’t have to read the guide aloud as we whip past things.
Our driver stopped at the significant lookouts so we could see the Pitons from different locations. Of course, the locals are there selling their wares at the favorite stops. I bought a colorful wooden bead necklace at the first stop. The driver told me I didn’t need to buy from everyone. I told him that we like to leave a little money in the hands of the locals and not the stores. Besides, I knew if I wore the necklace, the rest of them won’t pressure me to by from them!

One of the highlights of the tour was seeing the Pitons from land. We had spent a night anchored below them, but it is difficult to take them in at that angle. They certainly are majestic from both land and sea! We continued south to see their new-ish airport. And we went to see the volcano.

At one point, since we had not taken tour time to eat lunch, the driver stopped along the road and bought himself an interesting snack. Of course, we bought one, too. It was very tasty and had cherries in it. But it was extremely dense and heavy. I have forgotten what the main ingredient was, but it was one of the many root starch sources common in the islands. It was a definite "stick to your ribs" treat!

As we drove through several small towns, we saw how people lived, visited a street market to buy produce. Actually, I would rather by produce on the street from the people trying to scratch out a living, rather than in the big markets. Not only do I like to see the money in the hands of the locals, I don't like the fact that the supermarkets refrigerate everything, even the tomatoes. That not only destroys the flavor, but it also means I have to keep it refrigerated - and I don't have enough space to do that!

Next stop: their active volcano. Having stood two feet from the cauldron of the volcano in Tanna, Vanuatu while it was spewing embers and seeing the red lava flowing into the sea in Hawaii, we weren’t too impressed. I think the driver was frustrated that we didn’t climb to the viewing point and listen to the guide’s presentation. The sulfur smell was very strong and unpleasant. I also think he was hoping for a 30-minute nap! We only spent ten minutes there and asked him to please continue the tour.

The final stop on our tour was the Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens at Soufriere Estate. It was a lovely botanical garden with mineral pools, which we did not use. After the mineral baths in New Zealand, nothing measures up! Yes, I guess I am spoiled by all of the wonderful experiences we have had the chance to enjoy. The flowers and various plants in the garden were interesting.

The garden is the creation on an estate of one family who continues to maintain it. The minerals in the water of the falls have stained the rocks with yellow, green and orange. It was a very serene setting and cool in the shade. Shade is always a welcome relief down here.

Our final stop was at a street market so we could buy some
fresh produce. The store at Marigot Bay does not offer much.