We've been on this island for nearly three weeks now, the island called Helen of the Caribbean, due to the many conflicts between France and England over "her". St. Lucia changed flag 14 times during 150 years up to 1814! Even if it ended up as a British colony with English as the official language the remains of French is evident in geographical names and not least in the local language of patois. This is a special creole based on French, some African dialects and a little English. We have noticed that it is very much alive on the streets here, and we don't understand a word!!
Anyway, we sailed from Grenada on the 18th of February and arrived in St. Lucia on the 20th. It was a very slow sail, partly due to wind on the nose, currents, but also probably due to growth on the hull, again! We stopped for some hours a bit north of St. George (Grenada) to see what we could do by scraping off some barnacles. We didn't think it looked so bad before we lifted anchor in Prickly Bay, but I guess we were to lazy to really look for it...Butwhen we experienced how slow we were sailing it became urgent to do something! After an hour or so in the water we decided the hull was clean enough and called off further effort. Then, due to some misunderstandings and thoughtlessness on my part I managed to scare the rest of the family as I decided to swim around a little. Only while Ingeborg and Thorstein were getting out of the water, shampooing, rinsing and all that. We were close to the Underwater Sculpture Park, which we hadn't visited yet, and maybe I would be lucky and see some of the sculptures down there. Well, the others didn't realize I did that, and even though it seemed to be flat water, sunshine and nothing else between me and the boat I apparently became invisible very soon! The others actually were afraid I had drowned!! They called a Mayday on channel 16 on the VHF and alarmed the Coastguard. (You can't wait and see if you believe someone is drowning!) Well, luckily it could be called off very soon as they finally spotted me and my snorkel, and I guess the Coast Guard didn't have time to start out from where they are based. But we learned a lesson: Be very sure that the others know when you are going for a swim. You won't easily see a person that is close by in the water not even on flat waters! Another excitement during this trip was a small aircraft coming in from the east, barely above the waves of the sea.. It circled once and came back eqaully close. It appeared to be the French Coast Guard patroling the waters. They called us up on the VHF ("Norwegian flagged yacht sailing north.."), and asked us to identify ourselves. We were still only on the latitude of the Grenadines, so we were a bit surpriced that the French Coast Guard overlooked the area. But I guess they have some cooperation between the states here to deal with problems regarding drug trafficing, piracy etc. As I said initially, it was very slow sailing on this trip, (even after the cleaning session) but it was comfortable! Not much wind, not much sea. We must have been lucky, because later we learned that others have had very rough conditions in the same area the week before, and later it also became windy and with big seas. I prefer slow...
We didn't know too much about the different anchorages on St. Lucia and sailed all the way up to Rodney Bay on the north-western corner.
Rodney Bay is a big modern facility with a very fancy marina and all kinds of shops and restaurants. This is the finishing line for the ARC regatta in November - December, and we understand that it is really crowded at that time. A few months later it seems to be plenty room. Many of the boats were left there it seemed, while the owners/crew have gone somewhere else. So, we didn't think it was a very lively marina! But the communications were easy from there, and as Stein was going to fly out again to go to Moses Lake in a few days it was a good place to stay. We anchored outside the lagoon, where it was very nice waters for swimming.. Only disturbed by all the crazy tourists on the jet-skis all around the anchorage.
There is a cruisers net active on the VHF ch 68 in Rodney Bay as well as other places we have visited. The first night we were horrified by the medical mayday from one of the other boats. An elderly man had lost one or two fingers and were asking for someone to come and help! Luckily there was a doctor in one of the boats close by who knew what to do: "Put on your decklight so I can see where your boat is!" It didn't take very long before he was over there in his dinghy. It was a bit surpricing that the St. Lucian Coast Guard did not pick up the mayday, while the French Coast Guard did! (The French again!) We can look over to France here (Martinique) and even if it all happened outside their waters they did what they could to give medical advice, establish contact with the St.Lucian services, ambulance, hospital etc. The man was helped to shore by the doctor in the dinghy and the ambulance arrived. All this time the French Coast Guard stood by to make sure every thing went as good as it could. Even though it was a tragic accident it was a good to see how well the VHF functions as communication between us yachties in a situation like this! And the next day we were glad to hear that the patient was back in his boat, feeling pretty good and thanking all the helpers who had stood by on the VHF during the operation.
We knew the National Day was coming up (here too!) and we decided to spend that day in the capital, Castries, which is only a 15 min busride away from Rodney Bay. However, we never found out about the schedule of the festivities, and missed the military parade (8 o'clock in the morning!!) No-one we met seemed to know what was gonna happen during the day! We (Ingeborg and I) had started the day with a swim from the boat to the beach and Ingeborg had had her coconut palm hat made there by a local junkie. (Well, that's what he replied to my silly question.."What do you do? .. I do drugs..!").. Then we wanted some breakfast before heading off.. Well, we ended up watching the traditional send-off of the local MC club on their National Day tour around the island! I think it was at 11 that they started out with a loud VROOM.. from a particular corner, burning tyres up the first avenue as they headed out of town. Lots of people came to see! A lady who was running her drink-selling-business at the same corner told us that these 20-30 bikes were only the top of the iceberg as another couple of hundreds would follow from somewhere outside the city. OK, so that was what we experienced of the St.Lucian National Day. We must say that the people of Grenada was much more eager to dress up in their colours, but there were quite a few St.Lucians who had found their blue/yellow/white/black costumes, too! Then we wandered around downtown, saw Derek Walcott Square where they celebrate the islands two! Nobel laureates, Derek Walcott (literature 92) and Sir Arthur Lewis (economics 79). Not bad for a country with 160.000 inhabitants! Then we saw the central market and the cruise ship shopping center.. Tourism is more or less the only industry here, in addition to banana and coconut plantations. The Carribean bananas used to have a preferential access to the European market and bananas used to be the predominant export from St.Lucia for many years. But after WTO ruled against this arrangement in 1997 it has been hard for the producers here to compete with the big US corporations according to Rough Guide.
Anyway, after a few days looking around Rodney Bay it was time for Stein to fly out. When we had left Stein at the airport Ingeborg and I took a busride down to Marigot Bay to meet up with Sølvi and Ole-Petter (Fortia). We had learned that they were still here and not yet underway to Venezuela as we had expected. The three of us remaining on Sirius decided to move to Marigot Bay, too! It is the first time we have taken out to sea without Stein, but it went very well! Actually, it only took an hour and a half and the weather was really nice. We rolled out the genoa and motorsailed down here. After a couple of nights on a mooring we are now staying at the dock of Chateau Mygo. Here Doreen is running a bar/restaurant/house rental while other family members run a spa and a boat rental company on the same premises. Her Norwegian friend, Truls, is also living here over the winter, and at this time this dock seems to be a magnet for Norwegian boats! We have met Fortia again, then Bogenvilla and Johanna. One Friday night we were all going to visit the "jump-up-party" or "Fish Fryday" in Anse La Raye just south of here. Lots of locals selling various fish dishes, rumpunch, and other drinks from their road side stands, and lots of music from huge loudspeakers and then karaoke around the corner. We didn't know much of the repertoire of this karaoke session, but the locals did! Reggae, reggae.. and not only Bob Marley. The tourists joined in on "YMCA" and "Englishman in New York" and not much more.. People were dancing happily even if they had neither shoes, money or teeth in their mouth..
To be honest we haven't been so much around on St. Lucia, but we have met a lot of nice people here in Marigot Bay! I've gone with Doreen to the central market early in the morning a couple of times, to watch the activities but also to buy vegetables at "local prices". Interesting! Now and then we walk up the steep roads from Marigot Bay to get the perfect view of the scenery,..and some excercise.. We were invited for breakfast to Doreens cousin, Beverly, one morning. She has built a fantastic house just up the hill, and let us have a look around. A fantastic view, nice garden, huge kitchen, huge rooms, jacuzzi on the terrasse, it was a dream!! Doreen is building a new palace up the hill, too, like a lot of others so the area is really becoming more and more developed. From before here is a marina, a Moorings charter boat facility, a luxury hotel and some restaurants. Let's hope the bay keeps it charm through all the development!
Truls invited us to go with him on a dinghy ride to some of the beaches around the corner the other day. A bit swelly, but still perfect!! So we have had really good days here! I must add that the kids have been doing a lot of school work, too, while I have tried to fix little things on the boat. I started cleaning the hull from the dinghy yesterday, and immediately was surrounded by guys wanting to do the job. I hired one of them to dive down and do a proper job under the waterline, so now I hope we don't need to lift out before the end of the season!
That's all for now!