Update and first leg back, to Bermuda

Wed 23 May 2007 23:31
Circumstance have made it difficult to keep the diary going. We are now preparing for the return trip across the Atlantic so it will be more settled for the next five weeks or so. I have spent the last four months exploring the islands on different boats, some of which I have written up some not. Most of the islands from Tobago Cays to Antigua have now been touched on, some explored more than others. Sue flew out to join me on 24th April and we enjoyed a very pleasant few days sailing prior to coming back to St Lucia for Jazz week. A very bouncy ride up to Martinique was very worthwhile, its only about 20 miles across the gap but it can sometimes be quite challenging in a small boat, not at all dangerous, but very wet due to the angle to the wind and Thisbe's low freeboard. The port of Le Marin has a modern marina complex which is very convenient but a bit 'temporary' looking. The busride to the main town of Fort de France is very interesting.   Canefields and coconut plantations line the road for miles, industries which are very run down on all the other islands, but which the French seem to be able to make a go of, probably has something to do with the EU but don't ask me how it works. All power to the French for taking a proper interest in their farflung colonies.  During our visits to the French islands we were introduced to Ti Punch, a lethal mixture of the local white rum (150%), sugar and limejuice. A relaxing sitdown with a cool tasty drink is swiftly followed by an urge to get up and dance. During one such soiree a shortage of partners was remedied by dancing with a chair, the spinoff being  that one doesn't get slapped when the punch prompts other urges.  Soufrierre is a little town nestling at the foot of Petit Piton, one of a pair of huge pointed mountains rising straight out of the sea, and for which  St Lucia is famous, they also appear on their flag as a national emblem. Approaching it we were met quite a long way offshore by a local boatboy who introduced himself as ' Bushman' offering the usual anchoring information and assistance. There was also a young boy in the boat who Bushman said was his Brudder, well almost, 'same Mudder different Fadder' were his exact words. He urged us not to miss the jumpup in the town square that night, quote ' white people will probably be there' which made us laugh. We noticed a smell of sulphur as we anchored, we mistook it for a drainage problem but later  discovered that is was wafting down from an active volcano, boiling mud and a very strong sulphur stench when up close. We spent a very entertaining two days there, the jumpup, (a kind of street party  attended by  hundreds, live music and even livelier dancing) was an eye opener which I couldn't begin to give you the feel of in words except to say that you wouldn't see the like in England if you lived to be a thousand. It was kind of sad as well as the poverty is palpable.  St Lucia Jazz is an internationally famous event and attended by people from all over the world. Giant catamarans loaded with revellers fill up the marinas and all available anchorages creating an unforgettable atmosphere. The venue for the music is the beautiful Pigeon Island, the lower slopes of a small mountain leading gently down to a futuristic stage inside a half dome with the sea surfing in as backdrop. All around are quaint and picturesque stalls selling food and drinks,  the smell of exotic spices from the cooking wafting around in the warm air makes for a delicious ambiance.
The supporting acts sent on to warm up an already boiling crowd, were stunningly talented, the young drummer in a jazz quintet called WES, brought the crowd to their feet, totally overawed by his almost Godgiven brilliance. One of a pair of twins, his brother was also a very gifted on the piano. How many times have you been praying for a bass solo not to end ?  We enjoyed two evenings and two almost full days of  music. John Legend brought the house down. Imagine about thirty people on the stage, spotlights hanging from the roof of the dome whirling and stabbing up into the velvet black sky.  Dancers in white, slim and writhing as the lights picked them out for attention, young, tireless, and totally enthusiastic. Rhythms which I have only ever heard in the Caribbean throbbing and pulsating, vibrating your bones in their sockets.  Musicians, infected by the roaring crowd, playing to the best of their seemingly limitless ability. I am a man advancing in years but I found myself on my feet waving my arms in unison with everyone and trying not to let people see the tears running down. All this fronted by a great performer and singer, needless to say we had a great night. I could go on describing the individual acts ad nauseum but will spare you that. George Benson raked up some great memories, Al Jarreau who has now teamed up with George, was a bit of a disappointment. I will end this little narrative for the moment as I am halfway through my T Punch, Richard and Joel, new crew for Atlantique, are exterts at punch manufecture. Bye for now.