ST LUCIA, UNHINGED
Sunday, 27 January 2013
Position: N 14:04.56 W 60:57.46 Rodney Bay Anchorage, St LUCIA
Rodney Bay is an excellent anchorage, a good mile across, beach lined mainly, and lively. The marina and businesses that support it - chandlers, sailmaker, laundry, shops, cafes and restaurants - are a magnet to locals and cruisers alike, and Reduit beach near the marina has hotels and restaurants for tourists as well. Beach umbrellas speckle the white sands like poppies and all is well.
Until the jetskis arrive. Hawked from the beaches at stupid prices, the price does not deter shaven headed alpha male Brits on holiday from leaping astride and screaming around 100 yards off the beach where they can be best admired. Swimming alone becomes a dangerous sport. Blinded by their own spray and 'Waahooo'ing all the way, these brave jetskiers are highly unlikely to notice you desperately trying to get out of their way. So for my daily, delightful swim its round and round Pinball for me. Trying to climb the anchor chain or snubber is good fun. Diving in once, I realised I hadn't dropped the ladder down on the stern, and had to climb back up via the dinghy instead. Knowing what I'm like, I'd fitted an emergency ladder on the back end that can be pulled down from the water - like a rope ladder - and gave this a go too. It wasn't easy as your feet shoot away from you if you lean even a little backwards, so the trick is to keep all your weight right over the ladder. Not easy, but do-able. Without it, its near impossible to get back up unless you are a real monkey. Well, I used to be one..
Most evenings the sun sets into the sea, and its easy to see why the ancient mariners believed it actually entered the sea, boiling the water around it as it did so - it really does look like that. But we know better of course, the sea doesn't boil at all. No when the sun enters the sea it just looks like its boiling but it doesn't. Just warms it up a bit which is why this is the Tropics.
Quite often you get to see the 'Green Flash' if you're lucky. For those that haven't seen it, such as the good people of GB land who have never even seen the sun, its an effect that occurs just as the final edge of sun dips below the sea horizon, when the light turns pure green just for a second, then is gone. Seen through binoculars (now a monocular, since I got fed up with going cross-eyed trying to marry the two images) its a wonderful sight.
It took 3 days to get the replacement rudder for the windvane self steering to St Lucia from Germany, a week to get it past customs, and £65 to pay off the marina 'brokerage' for doing nothing. But its now fitted, and the gear readjusted to reduce the loading on the blade a bit to try and prevent another break under load. I will also fit a weak link.
Krisha the surfer was due to arrive from UK as crew a couple of weeks after my arrival here, so it was hurry up and wait, and how nice is that? Being out at anchor meant no fees to pay so there was some money for other things like food and food and something to eat.
Hewanorra International Airport was built by the Americans during the Second World War, and to be awkward they put it right at the bottom of the island where no one wanted it. Today the broad concrete taxiway makes the coast road, and notwithstanding being 70 year old concrete, its still the best bit of road in St Lucia. So all the tourists arrive here, but not one will stay in the area, which is the poorest part of St Lucia. They will all be mini-bused and taxi'd to the swanky hotels in the north where they can be pampered and sheltered from the realities of a Caribbean island. Vieux Fort down the road from the airport is a bustling near shanty town of brightly painted home-made wooden shacks around a simple high street, with a fishing harbour for small boats and fish preparation area, alongside the main commercial port serving the Island.
I could have sailed down there to await Krisha. But having done that trip several times before I felt like testing out the local transport sytem of mini-buses instead, just to see if I could really. They are very cheap. Its about 25 miles, but actually a lot further as its a twisty turny road that runs right across the high ground in the centre from northwest to the east coast and along down this windward side of the island almost to the southern tip. The minibuses are unmarked, but just about every one is 'for hire' and full of people. You have to look at the registration plate to tell, which is a bit different. But all you do is stick your hand up a bit anyway, and if he's not full up he'll pull in and pick you up. This got me to the capitol, Castries, where lumbering cruise ships with condominium decks disgorged ancient Americans for the day. The minibus stops in a back street, so to find the minibus for Vieux Fort it was shanks pony; I had to find the fire station I was told, then it was over the bridge. I asked a local. 'What bridge?' he said. I changed tack, with better results. The bridge turned out to be just one of many crossing a nasty looking static stream of brown water. And there were the minibuses, about thirty of them. Time for a coffee first, I thought. The small cafe I had visited before was jam-packed with Ipad jabbing clientele, but I got myself an expresso and small pastie thing that was really hot and took a chair. Flight Tracking told me Krisha's plane had left 6 minutes late, so no worries. With all the snow recently in Europe it could have been very different.
Arriving at the airport half an hour before needed, I hung around with the hordes of unsmiling taxi drivers waiting to pounce of their prey. I was intercepted half a dozen times. 'Hey man, how you doin? You want taxi? I'm THE BEST yeah!' Krisha wasn't difficult to spot - the only one carrying a surf board, huge grin on her face. We fought our way through the taxi drivers mobbing us and walked out of the airport to the bus stop outside. But all the minibuses came from Vieux Fort first, and were all full, so didn't even stop. After quite a wait, a large shiny one did stop to my gesticulation and by luck was going all the way to Rodney Bay. The other occupants were a bunch of young Germans on their way to join a boat they told me, but in fact were all dropped at a swanky hotel. This was not actually a public minibus but a taxi that we were sharing, however with Krishas surfboard and bag it would have been difficult to get enough space in a public bus. The trip down, taking 1.5 hours, cost £5. Back up was a fair bit more, but still a whole lot less than just hiring a dedicated taxi. I was pleased with that, and viewed it a success.
The hinge on the large hatch on the stern broke (lazarette) . I guess it was my own fault as I'd recently renewed the rubber sealing strip around the edge of the opening as it has to be watertight and this had proved too much for the old hinged aluminium strap when compressing the new foam rubber. The local chandlery had some slightly smaller hinges in stainless steel, and with the addition of a couple of teak blocks to raise it to the level of the hatch, would work. As with most jobs, it took longer than expected as once fitted, the clips at the front no longer lined up of course, and they too needed teak blocks. But done now. To do this work I needed the electric drill, which is powered by the inverter which is connected to the batteries, four of them, all fed from the solar panels and wind generator. So I have a solar/wind powered electric drill. I think thats pretty cool for some reason.