POSITION: 14:04.52N 060:56.9W
Friday 13th!! April2018 BEQUIA TO ST LUCIA
Reveille 0330. Up anchor 0400 and quietly depart Bequia heading North under engine, with no problems. The forecast on PassageWeather.com shows the wind veering back to Easterly for half the day, which should assist us initially as required course is around 030, so don’t want any North in the wind thankyou.
Quite a good crossing of the Bequia Straights over to the lee side of St Vincent, and enjoyed a pleasant run up the West coast in flattish water. Once in the St Lucia passage though, squeezed by the two large islands the wind increased to 30-35kts gusting 38, and stayed there! With a single reef in the main and double in front, we hurtled along at an average of 7.5kts, quite often up to 8.5kts - unheard of speeds for Pinball. At the north end of St Vincent there was quite a swell running too, at least 2m sometimes 3m. Along that lee coast we noticed there were quite a few spots we could have staged up to for the night, to continue today, but without my pilot book of the E Carribean, which I had cleverly left under the seat in my nice blue Carriacou scooter, I was without info.
So, not a comfortable run at all with a lot of heel on, too much for comfort, but Abes was loving it so stayed with it until finally reaching the relative shelter of St Lucia, but even there the usual messy winds around the Pitons were absent, instead the strong Easterly prevailed, and we sailed quite fast all the way up to the remarkable and historic Marigot Bay where, in view of the long day we had had, the decision was to stop for the night, and clear in with Customs at the marina. Marigot is a steep sided indentation with a small marina, hotel, pool, and restaurant, much favoured by the disgustingly rich, so there you’ll find ranks of big swanky boats parked up, professionally crewed, and owners hotelling. Or gone.
Called coming in on #16, the marina boat-boy responded straight away and did a good job whizzing about in his dinghy of getting us in to the fore-and-aft mooring there unscathed, bow in.
Customs done, the Immigration lady walked out as we arrived. Nothing personal I’m sure. Took Abes round to the restaurant around the corner and both had pasta. But I could only eat half for some reason. Most unusual!
Bed by 9pm.
Saturday, 14 April 2018 CAPELLA MARINA, MARIGOT BAY ST LUCIA
Not a great night but cheerful this morning. Abes, by contrast, is not feeling too good - stomach upset again. He had the shrimps… So planned departure of 1100 may be delayed, or even cancelled.
Immigration lady - large! - finally takes up residence in the office just a few feet away, at around 9am for her 8am start, and we clear in with her. Abes’s passport, one of two, is so well used you can’t tell the back from the front as all the gold writing has long gone, except by the morass of baggage stickers on the back. No problem with Abes leaving by air on Monday.
After a fruit only breakfast Abes eats nothing for the rest of the day, and spends the morning up at the outdoor pool.
1400: Abes ok to go, so depart Marigot Bay for Rodney Bay in bright sunshine.
1600: arrive Rodney Bay after another rip-roaring sail in 30+ winds, Abes happily steering much of it, with his tan, windswept hair, and boyish good looks looking uncannily like his recent employer Richard Branson on a PR day, whilst I did my single-handed bit with the sails, looking like me.
1630: all tied up on E18 dock in the expansive, well designed Rodney Bay Marina at the North end of St Lucia. No answer on #16 coming up the entrance channel, my calls interrupted by a real ‘man overboard’ distress message in French. Or it might have been in English with a French accent. Otherwise, how would I know it was a man overboard! Un homme dans la mer? Zut alors..
In for a shower, and soft drink, with the Office closed. Nice lady on Security gives us the shower door code.
Sunday, 15 April 2018
Abes feeling a bit better, and by 0800 is down there for his ‘ablutions’.
Abes: “I timed it just right; bloke comes out I go in, and moments later the door is being shaken”.
I am now fully acquainted with the workings of Abes’ alimentary canal.
Msg Sam with details of Pinball’s whereabouts and phone number as she is here briefly. Sam was the first to greet me after the Atlantic crossing with Alfie back in 2012, and is a complete St Lucia-phile.
No response from Sam.
Strolled down with Abes to the pleasant marina-front restaurants for an evening meal - Pizza in Elenas, as decided by Abes’s stomach as being the safer option - when a crowd of happy Canadians took the next table. Well, she was rather attractive for her age, caught me in mid-appraisal, said hello and that was almost that. Only problem was, just as I reach across for the follow-up hand-shake, at that precise moment she turns away to reply to one of her crowd, and I’m left sitting there with an un-shaken arm fully extended in a ridiculous ‘she-went-that-a-way- pose, or perhaps a ‘go-straight on at the cross-roads’ gesture, and am now left with the painful decision of whether to withdraw the proffered hand in humiliation or bravely stick with it. Of course, withdraw and the moments gone; you can’t then say, heh sorry I’d just like to re-run all that and shake your hand properly. Its too late. Stick with it and she doesn’t look straight back - well, you’re a laughing stock, spurned and rejected before you even got started, forced by gravity into a humiliating withdrawal. This is where the French have got it right; it would be difficult to ignore someone who is about to give you a smacker on both cheeks.
But she looked back.
Clearly her husband is doing ok, as they come here from Novia Scotia every month for a week!
Tuesday 17 April 2018 END OF THE LINE
Abes departs by taxi for Castries airport, and thence the Barbados Hilton to recover and await his UK flight the following day.
I walk up the road to the marina boatyard to talk with JuliettA! in her air-con’d office, who agrees to take Pinball into storage for the summer. Just hope the pound doesn’t dive again as charges are in US$, and more expensive than Trinidad. There are pro’s and con’s to this decision involving money, time, position, piracy, security and hurricanes. But decision made.
Am just walking past the marina shower block intending to go in when I hear a voice calling out ‘JoJo!’ from the other side of the latticed fence. I have somehow been identified through the fence by Maggie - a cleaner I employed here in March 2012 after giving in to her pleas for work. Maggie, now grey, is a god-is-great-hallelujah kind of person, and true to form launched into a liturgy designed to crack the hardest nut, deftly side-stepping my reposts on His cruelties to children and similar. Her techniques for work-generation are impressive; Maggie bombards with a mix of love-of-god, I-have-no-money, I-can-do-this-and-that, I-am-so-lucky, praise-be-to-the-lord, that never ceases nor draws breath. I ended up last time allowing her to swindle me by changing currencies, paying her man to drive me to the airport whilst he rings his other girlfriend to take along too, and just giving her money for nothing. Yes she is good at all that. Quite a character is Maggie, if a little sly. She’d make a great preacher.
Book a flight home with BA, at not too bad a price. Having failed to find anything even vaguely affordable for many many weeks, suddenly there’s this one flight just a week away thats reasonable. I just dont ‘get it’ BA.
Wednesday, 18 April 2018 DOCK E18 RODNEY BAY MARINA
Windy again, but back to Easterly after days of SE’ly.
Up a few times, brain whizzing a bit now the flight home is booked. I have less than a week to get sorted, off next Tuesday evening from Hewanorra airport at the other end of St Lucia.
Visited JuliettA! in the boatyard office again and confirmed haul-out for 1000 Friday 20th April. decision is made, and actioned.
Then to Cafe Ole for croissants and coffee, and msg people. Then upstairs to the Office to pay for last night and tonight on the dock. Girl up there speed gabbles everything, annoying me. I quickly became fairly annoying back.. Already I am missing Powerboats, and Charlene, Simone and Camille in particular in the office there, who are superb.
Thursday, 19 April 2018 LAST DAY AT SEA
Sun finally back, if briefly, after days of absence. It has rarely shown its face since Abes left.
I have done nothing at all to wrap up Pinball. In truth, I dont want to, therefore am putting it off to the last minute. Today though I MUST get the sails off and load Barbara, whilst sitting into wind on the dock.
After wasting the morning, pleasantly, and doing everything else but what I should in the afternoon, including paperwork for Customs and another lovely panini in Cafe Ole, I finally get round to stripping off the main and genoa around dusk, leaving hoisting out Barbara to last, in the dark.
The lonely looking older guy next door in the big smart Catamaran ‘CHELSEA KRU - Ormond Beach’ - who keeps himself to himself, finally got company today, presumably his daughter. Clearly I am now invisible as I waved but was ignored.
Penultimate chow mein and tuna. Bed.
Friday, 20 April 2018 TO RODNEY BAY BOATYARD
Not a good night, attacked by mozzies as soon as I got up for a constitutional.
0900: Customs. Desk Boy looks blank as I explain what’s what and hand him the temporary-importation-of-yacht papers, in triplicate. Turns to a slighter older boy behind, who is equally blank. The old Customs guy is called out, who takes the papers and the Customs entry papers from Marigot Bay, staples them together and writes a note on top: ‘PINBALL WIZARD 1000 23/04 BOATYARD. Apparently I have to come and collect a Customs man on Monday, who will then do some kind of inspection. So pleased.
0945: Now solo again, let go all lines from dock E18, in rather windy conditions, leaving the bow-line to last, then hurriedly climb back onboard as Pinball starts a rapid and quite alarming 90 degree turn all by himself in between the two docks, driven by the strong gusty wind. I could really do without all this excitement, and scramble to get at the throttle before the stern - now heading for the opposite dock - makes expensive contact. But the wind does it for me and we are clear.
Chugging slowly up the channel towards the boatyard just a quarter of a mile ahead, I am looking in vain for signs of life on the travel-lift. Well at least its in the right place there at the haul out ramp. Slowly people emerge as I hold Pinball off the entrance, nose to wind, but still no one has done anything useful. Minutes later and its blowing hard with a rain storm coming in so, unhappy to proceed in these conditions, not least because the ramp is 30 degrees off the wind, I take Pinball up to the fuel dock, as indicated by one of the yard workers, and tie up. He wants me to take Pinball round, but I’m not going anywhere until the rainstorm is through and the wind drops. He asks if I have crew. No. He comes with me then.
The wind drops and Pinball is coming in, when my new crew turns round and shouts out they want me in stern first.
‘This boat does not like going backwards,’ I shout back above the noise of the engine. A shrug, and we carry on as before whilst he chucks lines to his mates, one bow-line and two stern-lines for some reason, all from the Starboard side. Pinball sits happily on his lead. Engine stop. Its all over.
Its takes ages to get Pinball into his spot between a couple of smaller yachts and right next to the Security hut, as they have firstly to transfer Pinball from the travel-lift to a large diesel powered boat-trailer thing in order to get into the small spaces, and the boat-trailer still had a boat in it. Had a wander around, heads and showers are posh-Glasto style in a portacabin, cafe full of very shouty locals just outside with a bar, and roti-counter. Office, and thats it.
‘Heh Cap!’ Its Ricky the perky main man, looking at me. ‘You got your own straps?’
I did indeed have tie-down straps from the stay in Florida, but long buried in the depths of the for’d stowage compartment in the forecabin, and after heaving out all sorts I never knew I had, produced them. Lanky Vestus then climbed up to sort them out for me, and we talked. Seeing the rust on them, he asked when they were last used.
‘Oh, about 5 years ago’. Seeing his look of disgust, I added that they don’t use them in Trinidad, as hurricanes are very unusual there. This did not impress Vestus, an Arsenal fan, who became quite animated about how seriously they treat these things, how the chains are continually checked etc, all encouraging. For St Lucia does indeed get hurricanes.
‘I’d like to go to UK. Maybe for six months.’ He asked what I used to do, and when I told him he just said ‘Me too!’, with a grin.
Finally the straps are on and tight, and Vestus goes off carrying a bag of Stag for the boys.
Saturday, 21 April 2018 HEAVY RAIN.
Went to look for the water and elec..and its 200’ away - too far for my cable & hose to reach. Trying to fix the fridge which decided not to work anymore yesterday. Cleaned the contacts both ends, which usually does the trick, but still no go. Sometimes it starts up, sounding quite healthy, then gradually peters out - running but not doing anything. So the probability is that there’s a poor connection somewhere, which gives the volts but not the amps to drive the pump properly. But I can’t spend all my time fixing that, and can live without it I suppose, for a few more days. Annoying though, when added to the water/elec probs.
Already I’m getting that claustrophobic feeling that boatyards bring on. No easy exit. And the longer you stay the stronger the feeling. Boatyards suck you in, and dont let go. You have to break the grip.
When I come back in early October, I wont be staying here in the boatyard long. There is nothing to stay here for. I can do much more for the boat with it in the water.
Monday, April 23, 2018 LAST FULL DAY AT ST LUCIA
Up early again, pre-dawn. So used the time by getting on with dismantling Pinball, a job I hate, especially after having only just finished doing the opposite! Main job today was tying down Barbara properly on the foredeck under a cover, which took some time. But looks a good job.
Went up to ask JuliettA! if she knew of someone who fixes fridges, then set off for breakfast at Cafe Ole before the dreaded Customs visit at 1000. It was to be all I had feared, only worse if anything.
He was sitting there behind the boy, expressionless, blank stare, puffy faced, inert, in his uniform. As we walked out of the office he was carrying a clipboard, not a good sign, and it felt like I was about to take a driving test. Going down the steps I explained I had come on the bike, and would he like to meet me at the boatyard gates if he is driving up? No answer. Blank stare ahead. Finally, ‘mumble..mumble…something…taxi’.
I explain again that I came on a bike, its over there…walking beside him now trying to figure what’s bugging him. More mumbling, indecipherable…another ‘taxi’. I think I get it. He wants to go by taxi!? I had assumed he’d go in his own car, but guess he hasn’t got one. He hasn’t got a brain so a car is unlikely for him. ‘Well we could walk!’ I say brightly. ‘Its only a couple of minutes up the road!’ No answer. We go a little further towards the taxi rank, then he about turns and heads back towards the office without looking at me, repeating he will go by taxi…by taxi! Back up the steps me following like a naughty boy who’s upset teacher, into the office and he’s in to see the Boss, a tall 3 ringer Customs man. After the pained debrief the Boss comes out to sort me out. ‘You go by taxi!’ I am informed firmly. ‘There and back. In a taxi!’
This is not going well. We haven’t even left the office and already I’ve upset most of the occupants, and still some kind of Customs check to do. I switch to syrupy sweet mode, become the apologist, ‘first time I’ve done this’ I lie, ‘didn’t know your…er…routine! Ha!’ The Boss stands there, sizing me up. ‘Right! Taxi’ say I. ‘No problem..’ and off we go again. Cant beat a bit of tactical back-peddling. Groan..
‘$50EC, or $20US’ the diminutive taxi driver informs me, with all the assurance of having god on his side. ‘There and back.’ We climb in, me in the back; I know my place. 30 seconds and 300yds later and we’re there. £15 for that! I could have bought a really nice digger for Charlie with that. Two..
Plod climbs up Pinball like he’s never climbed a boat before, going the wrong way at the top so I have to intervene to stop him tangling with the shrouds. So…here we go.
Below, now at the cabin table I have left open for him, he stares at his clipboard. Obsequiously I offer him a drink, tea, coffee, a beer? ‘Something sweet’ he replies. I give him all I have; ginger ale. ‘Its not cold’, fridge broke yesterday!’ But he drinks the lot, then one by one plods through my list of half a dozen removable objects I had hurriedly and randomly compiled in the marina office, as demanded by Customs. He points to the first on the list, without any idea what they are: EPIRBS. X 2. I show him my two Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons.
Someone told me recently that St Lucia Customs had improved…
The fridge man, called Prudent apparently, yes really, turns up at midday thanks to JuliettA!, and quickly announces that the fan isn’t working. Removes the fan, shows me, and yes the red wire is not connected to anything. In the middle of all this he takes a phone call, and clearly its someone he owes money to, which he can’t or won’t pay. This is not what I want to hear from someone who is about to charge me for work done. Then he’s off with my fan, saying he has to go to Castries for a new one, and will be back after lunch.
1630: still not back. Not looking good this.. It did occur to me that he could have pulled the wire out himself, to generate income! I figure I could have fixed that wire myself..
Why am I so distrustful?
Fry up the last spuds, and onion.
2000: he didn’t come back.
Tomorrow I need to leave about mid pm, unfortunately a long and expensive taxi-ride. Will check the notices board in case someone, by pure good fortune, wants to share a taxi. Still to do - move the outboard inside and chain it up; move the folded sails inside; switch everything off; pack. Say goodbye to Pinball..!
SPRING 2018 SUMMARY - PINBALL WIZARD
Best sail: West coast of St Vincent
Hardest: Grenada passage
Most expensive: Marigot Bay marina
Dolphins spotted: Nil!
Best First Lieutenant: Abes
Best moments: Sundowners/solar showers in cockpit/scootering
BEST BITS: ABES coming along. Leak fixed!
Total sea miles: 256nm