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24 May 2012

Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent - the other Caribbean

This is a last view of the shore at Cumberland Bay on the west coast of Saint Vincent, just before we left on Tuesday morning.  
We anchored there for several days; it is a bit off the beaten path, though we were never alone.  Various other boats came and went every day; we gather that in full season (December to maybe March?) the bay is often quite full of boats. One of the restaurants there - we didn't try it - that is run by a French couple, so it seems that many of the French-speaking cruisers make a point of stopping at Cumberland and eating at the Black Baron.  We heard one boat ordering "deux poulets et quatre Tartares" on our second night.  We ate out once, with "Old" Joseph, a local who cooked bonito, rice and a warm potato and tomato salad for us.
I think of it as the "other Caribbean" in part because the west coast of St. Vincent developed a reputation some time ago - even at the time we chartered in SVG in 2003 - as being somewhat unsafe for visiting boats.  It's true that some of the inland parts of St. Vincent on the west coast are centers of a pretty active marijuana industry, and that some crime spilled over into the visiting cruiser community, but the problems were perhaps somewhat blown out of proportion (that happens often - one story multiplies itself into many, details are lost, and a place gets a reputation that is probably unwarranted), and now it appears that the local residents are trying quite hard to support their visitor trade.  It's also about as far from the much visited Caribbean ports that center on land-based tourism as it's possible to be - almost no one comes to Cumberland who isn't either a charterer or a cruiser.
JP had wanted to explore the area for some time, so when we left Marigot Bay on St. Lucia (see: land-based tourism at its finest) we decided to make a St. Vincent stop.  It's a different (for us) kind of anchoring experience, as the bay is very deep very close to shore, and it's necessary to anchor with the boat pointed out to the west (definitely away from the prevailing easterly winds) and then back up toward shore and tie the stern to a tree on shore.  Several of the locals make a little money (about 20EC or about $7US) by meeting incoming boats and helping them with this unfamiliar manoeuvre.  Our guy was called Rico, and he did his work very professionally.  He visited us a couple of times, helping us re-set when it seemed that we had a bit too much chain out, and brought us several gorgeous water nuts (young coconuts prized for the water inside) as a kind of parting gift.  All the locals we met were equally kind to us, and we look forward to a return trip on way north next time.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about these kinds of stops - nothing very original.  We came here to the Caribbean to see another way of life, not just to sun ourselves on the beach (or off the transom of the boat).  We try to engage in conversation and contact with local people whenever possible, and we generally find the experience interesting and often rewarding.  The hard part, for me anyway, and I think for all of us, is the economic disparity between "us" and "them".  Even between cruisers who travel on considerably tighter budgets than we do, and locals (specifically locals who offer their services to visiting boats) who are relatively prosperous, the differences can seem enormous.  And whenever we try to offer something (beyond paying for the services), we are nearly always offered something in return, from people who seem to have so much less to give. 
Anyway, I'm glad we stopped at Cumberland, and we will return.  Thank you Rico, Joseph, Old Joseph, and everyone for a great and memorable experience.

18 May 2012

Diving and Snorkeling Saint Lucia

Alas, I was not clever enough to catch both JP and Susan making their dive on the wreck Lesleen M in Anse Cochon, Saint Lucia; that is JP in the far right of the photo, with a couple of their fellow divers.  We all three went on the expedition, since they could dive and I could snorkel.  There were two dives and two snorkels, with lunch in between; we went with an outfit called Dive Helen out of Marigot Bay, where we are on a mooring ball for a few days.  It was really a great day; it rained off and on, but that makes the changing light on the reef more interesting.  We will be here until tomorrow, or at least that is the current plan, and then will make a long sail to the west coast of Saint Vincent.
On Sunday, we went to the last day of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival (now just called Saint Lucia Jazz - this was the 21st year).  The lineup included a young performer called Melanie Fiona - she is from Toronto, but her parents were born in Guyana - and a group called The WESPE POU AYITI Project, then the fabulous South African Hugh Masekela.  The final two acts were Toni Braxton - I don't think she was having her best day, but she had a LOT of fans in the mostly Caribbean audience - and Diana Ross, who really makes clear the difference between "Star"  and "Superstar" - or, as JP said, "legend".  She is 68, still has an amazing voice, incredible energy, and real joy in performing.  It was a privilege to see and hear her.  It was dark by the time she came on stage, but here is another photo from the concert; that's Hugh Masekela.

We have not done many boat projects since arriving in Saint Lucia, but JP and Susan did take apart the carburetor for the dinghy engine (which was not working) and after cleaning it, put it back together AND got the engine working again.  They used a YouTube video that described how to do it for the specific engine we have - how cool is that?  We have chosen the new upholstery for the boat interior and are in the process of ordering it and arranging for it to be shipped to Trinidad; we seem to need something like 60 yards of fabric for the project. 

12 May 2012

Strange sight: Sunshine

Normally this would be a boring photo, but it's thrilling today, because - the sun is shining!  We have had overcast, rain, squalls (rinse and repeat) for about two weeks - I don't actually remember the last really sunny day.  
We came down to Rodney Bay, where I took this photo this morning, on Wednesday the 9th.  We had a great motor sail; we could certainly have sailed but we have been missing our solar power and so the battery charge needed a serious boost.  Au revoir to Martinique, after a final stop at the Leader Price (grocery store) for rum and red wine.  In the end, I think we all enjoyed the Martinique stay quite a lot, and will happily go back next season.  
We have several of our cruising friends (and a number of folks we know by their presence on the Grenada Cruiser's Net) here with us in Saint Lucia - Msichana is over in the Lagoon behind the marina (Sam is taking the last of her pre-college admission tests here); we wound up anchored right next to Mr. Mac.  And yesterday morning I was on line, and got an email from Terry on Nino, asking where we were and saying she hoped it was raining less than in Rodney Bay...of course I got on the radio immediately, and it turns out they are behind a dark blue hulled boat that is not far from us.  We had both boats on board Raconteur for a "heavy hors d'oeuvres" cocktail party - I made my mom's (and now sister's) recipe for deviled eggs, and we had tapenade on melba toasts, three-pepper RondelĂ© on melba toasts, a great tuna salad with walnuts and pineapples that Terry brought, and fish tacos.  It was a lot of fun - and seven on board including us is just right.
We have tickets for the last day of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival (on Pigeon Island, just a dinghy ride from here) tomorrow, Sunday - Diana Ross and Toni Braxton, among others - and on Monday we will probably start meandering down the Saint Lucia coast, with a first stop at Marigot Bay.  For the moment, there is too much sea to take a mooring between the Pitons, but perhaps it will be possible before we head further south after the 20th.
We are starting to make plans for leaving her in Trinidad; we have a reservation at Crews Inn starting the 20th of June, and have let Rico at Power Boats know that we will be hauling out with them again.  We are planning to have the upholstery re-done while we are away, and have some fabric samples on the way from the US, so we will entertain ourselves with choosing the new scheme over the next couple of weeks.  We have a few other projects on the maybe list - lifelines, standing rigging - that we will finalize once in Trinidad.

05 May 2012

Marooned in Martinique

Rainbow, West Coast Martinique, 29 April 2012
Yes, that's a joke.  We are still here; we sailed down from Dominica on Sunday and Monday last - such a good sail on Sunday that we made 65 nautical miles, all the way to an anchorage at Case Pilote, northwest of Fort de France, before sunset on Sunday.  Monday was nice at the beginning, but then the cotter pin on the starboard side of the davits gave way (not the first time), causing the dinghy to swing wildly, which in turn caused all four screws on the catbird seat to come out, and knocked the strobe light from its perch on one of the bimini supports (we didn't discover that until about an hour later - and more on that in a moment).  JP and Susan got the dinghy lowered into the water, so there was no weight on the davits, and we then started the eastward slog into the anchorage at the Marin.  
We anchored this time on the northwest side of the Cul de Sac du Marin, and arrived just in time for our friends on Nino to have cleared out, so we bid them farewell by radio and they headed on to St. Lucia.  We will probably catch up again in the Grenadines.  Ann and Chris on Mr. Mac heard us calling Nino, so they let us know that they were over at Ste. Anne, and we made plans to get together later in the week.
The generator part finally turned up late Wednesday, so Didier came Thursday morning; he completed part one of the project, and returned Friday for part two.  HOWEVER (isn't there always one?) now the gen, though working, is putting out copious quantities of white smoke, not generally a good thing, and JP and Susan are trying to diagnose it this morning.  
Yesterday morning we rented a car again, and Susan and I went with Ann and Chris, who had moved over to the Marin anchorage on Thursday, to the big Carrefour in Genipa that we had finally found a couple of weeks ago.  They invited us for a shared dinner on board Mr. Mac last night; Chris grilled a delicious pork tenderloin, and Ann and I contributed the veggies (carrots and a christophine gratin, respectively).  At one point, when I pointed out the Douane (customs) boat going out, Chris remarked that one night when they were at anchor in Ste. Anne, he noticed a strongly blinking white light at water level, and, concerned that someone was in the water, called the Martinique Coast Guard.  He said they were very responsive, but didn't find anyone, and after about 11 pm he stopped watching and went to bed.
Hmmm....what do you suppose are the changes that OUR lost strobe light made its way to the anchorage at Ste. Anne?  Actually, probably pretty good.  Now, the odds that people we KNOW would spot it...too funny.  Of course, we will never know.
We are waiting for a package that my sister sent with some valves for the dinghy pontoons; it arrived and cleared Customs on Thursday, but they decided against delivering it on Friday, for some reason.  The wind has died, anyway, and what wind there is comes from the southwest, which is of course the direction of our next stop in St. Lucia. And there is a strong possibility that Didier's services will be needed again for the gen, so...Martinique it is, for the moment.  Luckily, I like it much better than I did after our first stop here on the way south last year, the anchor is well hooked, the boat is well provisioned, and various services are close at hand.  All in all, not REALLY a marooned experience.