Nigel North
Thu 10 May 2012 02:12

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

We spent a week up in Rodney Bay and apart from the first night were in the excellent marina and enjoying the daily band as part of the May Jazz Festival. But then R and K wanted to enjoy the volcanic mud bath in Soufriere, and I was getting a bit twitchy as I do when staying in marinas too long - a form of institutionalisation. Weather was against us, with rain becoming the norm now. But yesterday we finally broke out and breathed again on the open sea, initially in just 5kts. A big rain storm came through behind us and that blew us most of the way down the coast to the Pitons and Soufriere, running out of wind when within a few miles.

Soufriere is a Marine Conservation Area, and most things are banned, including anchoring and fishing. Visitors moorings are available though, for a sum. On arrival we were met by an armada of small power vessels all vying for our custom - to help tie up on the mooring, sell fruit, take us on tours - well just about everything that I didn’t want. They’d come roaring up in their traditional high stemmed open boats at considerable speed - this being the St Lucian way - until collision seems inevitable, then throttle down and start the chat.

‘How you doin?’

‘What?’ The rattle of PW’s diesel is enough to drown out most conversations on the boat, let alone a boatboys’.

Then came a list of all the things he’s going to do for me.

‘No thanks’.

That’s ignored. He zooms off to prepare the mooring buoy. I choose a different one. I’m busy, we’re getting close to the buoy now…

Someone else arrives and starts shouting..

I think we had four boats hitting on us in the end, but the last one turned out to be the Park Ranger Rosie informed me, who received an apology from me for my initial terseness.

Today we were tourists, and dinghy’d in to the main dock, to be met by a tall lanky local who was ‘goin to look afta de boat real good’. Then a taxi driver who was gonna take us up to the volcano and look after us real good, which he did. The volcano wasn’t quite the peering over the edge into the boiling lava sort. More like an overgrown quarry, with dirty brown bubbling bits at the bottom. We listened to Thomas talk the talk about it - how Soufriere was the volcano, or whats left of it. The West side blew off back in the 1700’s. Everyone was selling necklaces. Then it was the mudbath, which was so hot so I was told that it was an act of great bravado to get in up to the ankles. The rest was smeared on by hand. Washing it off again was equally scalding, and I was glad I had resisted the temptation as I would still be there now.

Thomas was waiting, and wanted to take us on to a waterfall on the other side of the volcano, but we resisted. Back on the dock, I slipped Lanky his $10EC for looking after my chained up dinghy and tried to be philosophical. A quick motor across the Bay to the dinghy dock outside the Hummingbird restaurant, and we are met by….guess what…yes a small gang of youngsters who’re ‘gonna look afta da boat real good man’. My daughter said I was too soft.

Lunch was good, but there was a power cut and so chips were off. The local youngsters offered to impress us with their diving skills and jumped off the cliff into the sea, then swam up to collect their reward. This time there was none. By the time we finally left the shores of Soufriere I was just a little weary of being treated as a walking cash machine. What kind of a society is it going to be when the only source of income is badgered off ‘tourists’. When boys only do things if you pay them. When every greeting is a prelude for a demand for payment?

The Rainy Season is here. A full month early if not more - even late April we were getting a fair bit of rain - but its been near continuous the last few days now, with lightning too. And the Tradewinds have gone too, instead just light fluky winds which might suddenly increase to a force 5 for a while before dying away again. At night on the boat its very warm and humid now, the two fans are in constant use over the bunks, as with all the rain the forward hatch has had to remain shut, cutting off that vital flow of air through the boat. Good ol’ fans!

Tomorrow we will set course back up the Island to Rodney Bay, and prepare for a Birthday.