Day 5 – To The Pitons, St. Lucia

Sheven on the trampoline - the Pitons in the background
Sheven on the trampoline – the Pitons in the background

A minor kerfuffle in paradise: we got Sheven at the airport last night. Kelley dingyed me to the Coal Pot dock, where I met Winston, our scalawag taxi driver. He had ripped us off earlier, but we came back for more. I rode with him to the airport (about 1 mile), grabbed Sheven, then he dropped us back at the dock. We had previously agreed to $20, and (of course) when he dropped us off he said he meant $20 per person. I gave him $40 because I didn’t feel like bickering. Then he said that a tip would be nice. I put on my most menacing face and got very close to his face and said “Look, Winston, you ripped us off earlier today, you just ripped us off again. Now you want a tip. Things will work out a lot better for you if you are honest and people will know you are an operator they can trust. Instead, I’m going to put this on the internet and warn anyone going to Castries – avoid a taxi driver named Winston.”

I wasn’t really that upset, but he clammed up and bolted. I think the psycho persona can come in handy sometimes.

We awoke to the loudspeakers from two big cruise ships that had pulled in near us in the early morning. The captain was giving everyone instructions for disembarking. This is the same place that Susan and I had visited on a cruise ship several years ago. I never thought I’d go on a cruise ship, but we had a blast.

Big cruise ship at Castries
Big cruise ship at Castries. Photo by Sheven

We sailed south along the coast. Perfect sailing conditions.

Mark at Helm, big blue sky. Photo by Sheven
Mark at Helm, big blue sky. Photo by Sheven

We tucked into a small bay called Anse Cochon. This is the same bay we had visited with our friends Daniel and June while on the cruise. I remember watching a Cat come anchor in the bay and telling Susan that I would really like to come back in a Cat. And here we are.

Back to A bay - where we had visited previously with Daniel and June
Back to Anse Cochon Bay – where we had visited on a previous trip with Daniel and June. Photo by Sheven

We got a mooring ball and did some snorkeling on the south side of the bay. Good exercise but the water was quite cloudy due to the surge that was rolling into the bay. We then sailed further south and into Soufriere Bay. Grabbed a mooring ball near the bat caves with an incredible view of the Pitons, two primeval looking peaks that rise 2400 and 2600 FT out of the water.

View of the Pitons from our mooring
View of the Pitons from our mooring. Photo by Sheven

All day, we’ve been harassed by boat boys, aka boat vendors. We first politely tell them that we don’t need anything, but thank you anyway. Sometimes we give them a beer for good measure.

 

Some of them are quite aggressive and keep following us and shouting things at us. I then put on my menacing psycho persona and tell them “Leave us, NOW.” That usually works. I know they are just trying to make a living, but the really aggressive ones are quite irritating.

Kelley, Loren, and Sheven go snorkeling near the boat and get stung by jellyfish. I’d like to find out why they are here, but we haven’t encountered them anywhere else.

Incredible sunset at our anchorage
Incredible sunset at our mooring near the Pitons. Photo by Sheven

I finally figure out how to set the anchor alarm on the chart plotter – an extra bit of comfort/security as we sleep.

This is such a pretty place, we might head over to another mooring ball that is between the two Pitons tomorrow. We don’t need to be in St. Vincent until Sunday to pick up dad, so there is no pressure to be burning the miles.

No access to internet again, so this is going up via Sat phone.

Day 4 – Castries, St. Lucia

Ginger patiently waits for us to return from a lunch on shore.
Ginger patiently waits for us to return from a lunch on shore.

Leisurely awakening. Got things ready for departure.

There is an awesome  cat (I think maybe an Atlantic) who anchored right next to us last night. The captain was out on deck wearing a tiny speedo. This morning, we just about spewed our coffee when the captain of that boat (about 60ish and a heavy build) appeared on deck totally nude with a hose and brush and proceeded to swab the decks in the buff with his various bits exposed to the sun, wind, and us. Kelley says at least his bits won’t get burnt because his belly provided shade.

We hauled anchor and headed out and the captain of the Atlantic stood in the cockpit, waving goodbye.

We have a nice broad reach and downwind run to Castries, then we hook around to the east to enter the harbor. For some reason, we find the sails of Ginger are difficult to drop. A large person has to go on deck and yank the main sail down. We think it’s because she’s so new, things haven’t quite loosened up yet.

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I was reading today that St. Lucia changed hands between the British and the French 14 times before becoming firmly British around 1812. It also said during the French revolution, French republicans in Castries rounded up French nobility on the island and guillotined them on a street downtown. There is a certain finality to guillotines. Unlike guns, knives, beatings, etc. where you might wonder if the recipient is still alive, when the head is in a different location than the body, there is little doubt.

Castries has a very narrow harbor, and there is a big cruise ship in the harbor. The end of the airport is right on the water/harbor and when cruise ships enter or depart, they have to stop air traffic or there would be a ship/aircraft mishap. In 1942, during WW II, amazingly, a German U-boat entered the harbor and torpedoed two British ships. It’s hard for me to imagine a submarine being able to get into this small harbor. Must be quite a story there.

We dingy over to the Coal Pot, a somewhat famous restaurant in Vigne Creek, where we are anchored. Excellent fresh fish with exotic sauces at a waterfront table overlooking our boat.

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The picture on top of this page is from our table, looking at Ginger.

Coal Pot restaurant. Photo by Sheven
Coal Pot restaurant. Photo by Sheven

Susan, Loren, and Kelly take a taxi to get provisions. It went pretty well except the when they return to the Coal Pot dock the driver wants $80 US for the trip. A rip-off, but our lesson is to pre-negotiate the rates.

Sheven arrives tonight at around 11:30pm. I think I’ll dingy over to the Coal Pot, then take a taxi to the airport to retrieve her. Or maybe Loren and I will do paper/scissor/stones to see who goes. Tomorrow I think we’ll head for Marigot Bay or The Pitons.

Life is good.

Day 3 – Hanging at Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Susan pointing to our boat.  Ginger is just off the tip of her finger.
Susan pointing to our boat. Ginger is just off the tip of her finger.

I rose with the sun and dingyed solo into the marina at Rodney Bay to clear Customs. After a little searching I found the tiny customs office on the second floor of a retail building.

It felt like I was beamed back to a 1950s office setting. I suppose it’s arrogant & rude of me to find it funny, but a couple of times I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing. There were three desks crammed into the small office space, and one person sitting at each desk. I had to fill out the Customs form and there were 5 carbon copies of the document. I hadn’t seen carbon copies for years. The man at desk #1 meticulously checked, then signed and stamped each carbon copy. Then I moved to desk #2, where the lady took the green copy, checked passports, stamped them, and pointed me to desk #3. The man there took the yellow copy of the document, charged me 50 eastern caribbean dollars (about $20), then he produced another receipt form with several carbon copies. He did a bunch of stamping, tearing, stapling, etc. then I was done.  At least I didn’t need to go to separate offices for all three of these steps.  And to their credit, it was overall quite efficient.

Panoramic view from the fort
Panoramic view from the fort, Rodney Bay

We have such a nice anchorage here that we decided to stay another day. Tomorrow we’ll sail south to Castries to pick up our Sheven.

We dingyed over to the north end of Rodney Bay where there is a national park with a very old fort (1700s) on top of a hill. Hiking to the top, there was an awesome view.

Below the fort we also found a nice cafe that had Wifi, so I was able to straighten out my Satellite phone email account. There was a technical glitch, but it’s fixed now. We’re no longer dependent on finding internet to do postings and email – it’s done via the Satellite phone. It actually uses a modem and sends data at 2400 baud, which brings back memories of doing data transfers back in the 1980s. For example, to upload the photo of Susan takes about 8 minutes (!). Super slow, but to me it’s amazing that it works anywhere in the world with no dependence on phone, internet, etc.

Sat phone sending emails/blog posts. Amazing that it works anywhere in the world.  Not the speediest thing, but we are not complaining.
Sat phone sending emails/blog posts. Amazing that it works anywhere in the world. Not the speediest thing, but we are not complaining.

We checked the weather forcast, and the next 5 days are the same as usual – an excellent 15-20 knots from the east. Perfect for sailing south.

Awesome sunset, and some more jumping off the top of the boat for swims. We are running low on water and rum, two critical substances for sailing. We’ll probably do some provisioning when we get Sheven tomorrow in Castries.

Got an email from our friend Linda saying that it was -10 degrees F in Anchorage, and that Portland was expecting a storm with 6-20 inches of snow. That’s a big deal for Portland. We are all very happy to be here in the land of perfect weather.

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Day 2 – Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Kelley & Loren at the Helm, heading for St. Lucia
Kelley & Loren at the Helm, heading for St. Lucia

Awoke with the sun, and motored back to Le Marin. The salon door was stuck open, so we docked and asked Pierre to fix it while I went to customs to clear out.

Overall, we are happy with our boat Ginger. I had wanted to rent a Leopard 46 because I’ve never sailed on one, however the only place around here that had a newer model Leopard 46 is The Moorings. The Moorings cat cost almost three times more than the boat we got from Regis Guillemot. We just couldn’t rationalize paying that much more.

Ginger is a nice boat – just a few configuration things seem strange. There is no chartplotter by the helm, it’s inside at the nav desk and thus unusable while sailing. We ended up using my iPad at the helm with the Navionics app for navigation.

I cleared out at Customs, then went back to the charter company office for another embarrassing round of credit card declines. Amazingly, they let us leave with the boat again, with me promising to call the bank with our Sat phone and call the charter company on Tuesday.

Susan testing the trampoline
Susan testing the trampoline

We aimed for St. Lucia, Rodney Bay. Totally perfect sailing conditions. Wind was 15-20 knots straight from the east. This is typical of the trade winds here and as I’ve watched the weather over the last months, pretty much every day has the same conditions. Ginger averages about 8 knots with one reef in the main.

When we get between Martinique and St. Lucia we get some big rolling Atlantic swells – 10+ FT high. The repetitive rolling on the swells causes an unnamed crew member to lose their breakfast over the transom. They were good sports about it, though.

We didn’t see much boat traffic between the two islands. When we get off of St. Lucia, a couple of rain squalls dump rain on us for a few minutes. The iPad, our chartplotter, goes into a big ziplock bag to stay dry.

We anchor in Rodney Bay – we arrived too late to clear in a customs, so we stay on the boat, dining, swimming, and watching the sun set. We marvel at how fast the sun sets here – and bam! It’s dark.

We had our first visits from “Boat Boys”. I’d read about this previously – men/boys in skiffs come out to sell things. I guy came out loaded with fruit and vegetables. We bought a dozen fresh limes and half dozen tomatos, for about $6. We gave him a beer for a tip. These guys make a living servicing the yachts anchored in the bays. I’ve heard that the fresh baked bread in the morning is not to be missed.

Our first 'Boat Boy' experience was good.
Our first ‘Boat Boy’ experience was good.

We fly our yellow flag to indicate that we haven’t cleared in through Customs yet. We are not supposed to leave the boat until we are cleared, so we are boat bound. There are worse places to be trapped. More card games. Late dinner of chicken & beans, then I jump off the bimini top into the awesome warm water for a night swim. When I did this in Greece in April, the water was shockingly cold – here it is truly a perfect temperature.

Sunset at our anchorage
Sunset at our anchorage

Day 1 – Martinique

 

Ginger's Main Sail. Photo by Sheven
Ginger’s Main Sail. Photo by Sheven

We slept in a little too late, but we needed the sleep. Regis Guillemot himself came by to give a boat briefing, but he spoke no English, and we only know about 10 words of French. Very nice guy, though, and he sent another nice fellow (Pierre) by to do the briefing. I went to the office to pay the remaining balance, and (blushing) my credit card was declined. I have plenty of room on the card, so I know it was because it was coming from a foreign country. I had a feeling there would be a problem with this, so I had called the bank several days before we left and gave them a list of countries we would be visiting. I should have known there would be problems when the bank lady asked me what country St. Lucia was in. I explained that it was a country, but they were all part of the Caribbean. She then asked what country the Caribbean was in.

Anyway, I called the bank today, and they were closed because it’s Sunday and tomorrow they are closed for Martin Luther King day. Great. I got ahold of a person at the bank’s Emergency number. Explained we were on a holiday and needed to pay for the boat before we could leave. He said he would do everything he could and to try again in an hour. We did, and it still didn’t work.

As a testament to Regis Guillemot, they let us go ahead and leave, which was quite amazing to me. Letting us leave with their $1/2 million boat and a declined credit card.

Susan getting aclimated
Susan getting acclimated

We needed to clear out of customs, but with all the credit card hassles, we didn’t get there before their noon closing on Sundays. We decided to sail a short distance out, anchor overnight and return to clear out of customs in the morning.

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We sailed out of the culdesac of Le Marin and around to St. Anne Bay. On the way out, a kite boarder whizzed right off our stern. He waved and shouted “hi” – it was Pierre, our boat helper.

Dropped anchor then jumped off for a swim. The water and the weather were perfect. We could see our anchor nicely set in sand about 25 FT deep. The boat has a fresh water wash-off on the transom steps. Awesome. Played cards out on the deck (Susan creamed us all), then passed out.

Our anchorage
Our anchorage

Day 0: Le Marin, Martinique

This is the  start of our two week charter catamaran trip around the windward islands of the Caribbean.  We plan on visiting Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Tobago Cays, Bequia, Mayreau, Mustique, and maybe Grenada.

Everyone is a little jet lagged
Everyone is a little jet lagged

Well, we made it to Martinique. Kelley, Loren, Susan and I converged at the airport in San Juan, then did the small prop-airplane jump from Puerto Rico to Martinique. Regis Guillemot(our charter company) had a taxi pick us up in Fort De France, drive us to Le Marin (about 40 minutes), and drop us right at our boat. The boat seems very nice, a Lagoon 400 catamaran named ‘Ginger’, only 1 month old.

We are kind of wacked out due to time zones – we are off by 5 hours to Anchorage, K&L are 4 hours off to Portland. I type this now and feeling quite awake – it’s 1AM here, 9PM in Anchorage. We’ve hardly eaten in 24 hrs, and we devour a trip care package our friend Scott Wheaton has made. Homemade bread, cheese, pickles, homemade cookies, and lots of other good stuff. Most appreciated.

The plan is to divide and conquor tomorrow. We need to check the boat out via customs, and do our provisioning for two weeks. The stores and customs are all closed by noon tomorrow (Sunday). So, I think Loren and Susan (the chefs) will go to the stores, and Kelley and I (sailors?) will hit customs and get the formalities of the boat checkout processed.

Its quite warm and a little humid here. If the wind wasn’t blowing, I’d call it “hot”.

This is a very nice concept for Susan and I. We left Anchorage and it was about 80 deg F cooler. We’ve also gotten 90 inches of snow so far this year, which is a record in Anchorage. We are very pleased to be at Martinique.

All of our people and baggage made it through the four different hops, which is great.

So far, so good!