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15 February 2014

Guest blogger, week two (aka the Silver Linings post)

If week one was something of a Caribbean idyll, week two has been a much more typical "day in the life of a cruiser" - no less entertaining - better stories, says Susan, and she's right.  We returned briefly to the marina at Rodney on Sunday, and stuck around long enough on Monday morning to greet the guys who were to replace the instruments.  I wish I had taken a photo of the giant pile of boxes and cables that had arrived on Friday. Anyway, on Monday Susan gamely drove the mountain roads between Rodney and Soufriere for a third time, as we were staying at an island-style hotel called Hummingbird ResortWe had a two bedroom cottage up the hill from the actual resort; it is a bit of a faded glory but a lovely location and very good food (if seriously erratic service) in the restaurant.  I thought
 I would include some less glamorous photos - the first one is us working and writing postcards at the bar; the second our swimsuits hanging on the cottage porch, and the third JP finishing to pack our tiny little rental before Susan's FOURTH drive across the mountains, back to Rodney Bay and Raconteur.  One side note - there were two large cruise ships in port at Castries on Wednesday, the day of our drive, and we saw dozens of buses and taxis heading to Soufriere - probably five hundred people or

 more on there way for a couple of hours at the Pitons.  We know how much the economy of St Lucia and other ports of call depend on these visits, but it seems like such a peculiar way to "see" the Caribbean.
We got back to Raconteur around noon and found that the installation work was complete and the electrical work well underway - a very impressive performance by John White and his team at Regis Electronics.  When they left us on Wednesday late day, there were two relatively minor challenges to be addressed - the VHF mike in the cockpit was not working, and the large light over the saloon table had also quit.  They came back promptly on Thursday morning, fixed both problems, and we were underway (just out to the bay at Rodney Bay to drop the hook) before noon.  That's the good part of the for the rest.  JP and Susan expertly dropped the anchor on the Jambe de Bois side of the Bay, near Sandals.  JP thought we were a bit close to a boat off our stern, so they re-raised (twice) and then...the windlass quit.  To make a long story short, I took the helm while JP and Susan raised the anchor by hand and we called the marina.  They told us we could return to our slip, so we did.  After a call to John at Regis and then to our contact at Island Water World, we found someone (Phillip Brown) to come and have a look.  He arrived within a half hour, and he cleared his Friday for us.  As I write, on Saturday noon, he is re-installing the transmission and we have our fingers crossed.  This is something of an "engineered" windlass - a powerful Simpson Laurence that we had installed in Trinidad - they don't make those any more, so we are hoping it holds together as the alternative is rather daunting.  To be continued...
As for the silver linings, we decided to try a restaurant that we have read about and talked about and even passed by many time, The Edge, which is indeed at the edge of the lagoon on the inside of Rodney Bay marina.  It was really delightful, a lovely setting and very good and interesting cooking (chef Bobo Bergstrom calls it "Eurobbean"); a fitting end to another day in the life...

09 February 2014

Notes from a guest blogger

Leigh here. I arrived on Sunday the 2nd of February for a two week stay; I arrived at Hewanorra in the mid afternoon and caught a taxi for Marigot Bay, where Raconteur was on a mooring.  JP picked me up from the dock in Scheherazade, and after a welcome cocktail on board, we headed to the Rainforest Hideaway, a favorite spot, for dinner.  We stuck around Marigot on Monday, and dined aboard (delicious goat curry and rice) on Monday night before we headed south a bit, to try our luck in the surroundings of the Pitons.  We were hoping for one of the (supposedly seven) moorings at the Bat Cave on the north side of Soufriere, but the five that are actually present were occupied when we arrived at mid-day.  We tried one of the moorings between the Pitons, but the roll was pretty terrible, and the actual spot rather close to another boat and to the rocks.  We gave that up, and then the gods of the sea smiled on us as we headed back north (thinking we would go to Anse LaRaye or Anse Cochon) and - one of the Bat Cave moorings had become free.  Hooray.  Here's the sunset view from that night - sorry, couldn't resist. We dined on board; I made Ann VanderHoof's Bahamian Mac and Cheese and we had Baigan (Eggplant) Curry from the freezer.
The attraction of the Bat Cave moorings is that you can snorkel right off the boat (no climbing in and out of the dinghy from the water); after a bit of fumbling (me) we had a very nice snorkel indeed.  You can see quite a lot of coral and a reasonable number of fish, particularly considering how close to town it is and how many fishing boats, water taxis, cruising boats and even rather large yachts come in and out of there.  On Wednesday one of the charter cats came bay and disgorged thirty or so passengers into the snorkeling ground - I took some photos (see link to the web albums below) but they don't really do justice to the sight.  
On Thursday we headed to Rodney Bay and the marina, in preparation for our trip to Hotel Chocolat to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and for the upcoming project to replace the instrumentation on the boat, scheduled for this week.  We were back in time for a roti at BB's at the marina - another longtime favorite - and then went to dinner at Bosun's, also in the marina, which serves both "western" fare and Thai food.  We always go there for the Thai.
It will be nearly impossible to do justice to the stay at Hotel Chocolat; I took lots of pictures at the main building, from our room, and on a walk up above the property to view the Pitons and the sea.  Here are a couple of shots.
View from the pool, Hotel Chocolat

Room number 13, Hotel Chocolat

Here is one of those timed shots, a rare photo of all three Stooges at once (Susan may have a better one, so I'll replace it if so).  I complained and whined on the climb, but the view was amazing. It looks like a fake background, doesn't it?
Stooges + Petit Piton, Rabot Estates, St. Lucia

After the hike, we swam, then headed to the "Cocoa Juvenate" spa (yes, seriously spoiled) where Susan and I discovered a full body exfoliation and moisturizing treatment that was a total treat.  JP had to settle for a nice long massage - he wasn't  complaining.  Then it was back to the room to relax and change before heading back to Boucan (the hotel's restaurant, where most menu items use cocoa in some form or the other) for our celebratory dinner.  Today we headed back to Rodney and Raconteur for the night; we will decamp to another (nice but much less sybaritic) hotel once the work begins.

Here is the link to my photos from the first of my two weeks here.

2014-02 Leigh visit to St Lucia

02 February 2014

Small anchorages of St Lucia

Fri Jan 31 Anse La Raye
We left the big anchorage of Rodney Bay with its 100+ sailboats and leisurely sailed downwind to Anse La Raye, a small fishing village that organizes a street seafood festival / block party every Friday. We were quite alone in the small bay with a few local fishing pirogues. Behind the rocks protecting the entrance of the bay, we saw the sailing cruise ship Star Clipper set sail from its midday stop at Marigot. In the afternoon, we were joined by 4 other sailboats.
The village, despite some concrete buildings on the seafront is still mostly wooden cases, tiny traditional Lucian houses. The atmosphere of the fish fest is nice and laid back with a mix of honeymooners from local top resorts, vacationers, yachties and locals. We tried boxfish for the first time, had some snapper and crabbacks, and were too full to go back for fried jacks. We listened for a while to the two young DJ's who where expertly remixing current top 40 with music of the 70s 80s and 90s as well as a variety of synthesizer sounds. They were still working hard long after we were back on the boat!

Sat 1 Feb Anse Cochons
Less than half an hour south of La Raye is Anse Cochons, a well known diving and snorkeling site. We had visited with a dive operator in 2013, and wanted to see a bit more of the land side. After anchoring (one one other sailboat there), we floated a kayak and paddled to shore with our snorkeling equipment. We swam the north side of the bay, and saw a nice variety of fishes and sponges, although the water was not quite crystal clear due to the swells. We swam back to the beach and enjoyed a golden apple juice at Ti Mange, the beach bar of the Ti Kaye resort. As we resumed our paddle around the bay, a horde of large tour catamarans appeared in rapid succession (Tango, Tango Too, Tango Mango, Just Tango, Endless Summer and Carnival Sailing) all disgorging hundreds of swimmers on the public part of the beach. All was calm for sunset however, except that the swells started making their way in the bay. We canceled our idea to dock the dinghy at the iffy dock of Ti Kaye and cooked onboard, rather acrobatically with the boat rolling hard.

And, the Vikings are back! In every harbor, creek and marina we have seen an incredible number of Norwegian and Swedish flags (as well as the regular sprinkling of Swiss ones). There must be something in the water for the yachts of these two comparatively small nations to outnumber the US flags...