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The Voyage of Spectacle 2007 April

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for April, 2007

Rodney Bay Marina and Other Observations

Posted by: melissa

Rodney Bay is turning out to be a really nice marina.  Its location in a protected lagoon keeps the boat very flat, with the exception of the wake from marina employees zipping around in small power boats (about which I complain to no end).  We heard a rumor that the marina will be receiving a major overhaul to include new washroom facilities and even fancy floating docks.  The latter would definitely be helpful since tide change can make boat entry and exit difficult during some parts of the day.  As a matter of fact, I nearly went for a swim while jumping off the boat on our way to the airport to go to Trinidad.  It was SO CLOSE!  The dock was much lower than the boat’s deck, and when I jumped, I fell down, flipped backwards ass over tea kettle, and very nearly rolled backwards into the nasty marina water.  I personally thank Pilates for stopping my backward momentum!

The marina also seems to be a hub for a lot of circumnavigators and seasonal yachters, so we’ve met many fun and interesting people.  Additionally, the World Cup tourists have provided an international flair as well.  I typically like sporting events since sports fans can be so lively and delightfully competitive and passionate.  If you don’t believe me, go hang out in Pasadena during the Rose Bowl game, or go to the city that’s hosting the Super Bowl, and you will see some fun (and slightly crazy) people!  St. Lucia was crawling with cricket super fans crazy enough to follow their team half way around the world.  Very fun!

Nevertheless, a marina closer to the “real action” of St. Lucia (i.e. the pitons, fancier parts of the island, more renowned beaches, etc.) might be an improvement.  On this point, we probably differ from most yacht people in that we want to go to The Plantation Room at Jalousie or Dasheene at Ladera to clean out the wine list and sample the island’s finest dining establishments, but the driving proves difficult both in time and effort.  I find driving through Castries to be particularly harrowing, especially when a cruise ship is in port, which is nearly always.  Combine confusing and one-way streets with T-shirt-shopping-crazed, cruise-ship tourists on a deadline with speeding and rude local drivers … panic is inevitable!

Thoughts on St. Lucia

Posted by: andy

Much like Martinique, St. Lucia is a place we were very excited to visit and very much predisposed to like.  With its famous Pitons and its abundance of high-end resorts (including the world’s #1 hotel in 2005 according to Conde Nast), we had high hopes.

We tied up at Rodney Bay Marina, which is the obvious choice.  Located on the northwest coast of the island, it’s well protected and reasonably organized.  It also has a decidedly better-than-adequate great (albeit quite pricey) marina bar, Scuttlebutt’s.

By now, you have probably surmised that we have become immersed in the Cricket World Cup.  Scuttlebutt’s had all the games on TV, as well as all the high-alcohol-low-flavor beer and fried seafood we’ve come to expect from the Caribbean.  This had a way of cutting into our sight-seeing.

Another thing that cut into the sight-seeing was the craziness involved in getting around the island.  The roads are very treacherous (think Positano) and the other drivers are the most reckless we have ever seen.  Indeed, throughout the Caribbean, the whole “island time” thing just doesn’t translate into the behavior of the drivers.  Everyone appears to be in quite a hurry to get somewhere and in absolutely no hurry to do anything once there.

St. Lucia’s Spectacular PitonsThe island is also deceptively large, which is to say that driving can be quite time-consuming.  Our only trip to the southern part of the island took fully an hour and was nerve-wreaking enough to deter us from a second attempt.  As a result, we never made it to the much-celebrated Ladera, although we did stop at Discovery at Marigot Bay, Ti Kaye, Anse Chastanet, Stonefield Estate, and, most importantly, Jalousie Plantation.

The Beautiful Sunset on the Beach Between the PitonsJalousie Plantation has what might be the most fantastic beach in the world, thanks to the setting — smack between the Pitons.  We managed to spend a sunset — with our mouths agape — standing on this one-of-a-kind beach.  The photos page has a few shots.

During our stay, we ran into Faye and Gary Hussion from Hullabaloo.

We had actually seen them for the first time at the Caicos Marina and Shipyard at the conclusion of the infamous Tale of the Twin Fiascoes.  They live part time in St. Lucia and part time in Virginia.  We ended up having two very fun dinners with this uproariously fun couple, and enjoyed cocktails over at their beautiful Rodney Bay home.

We also had the second truly outstanding meal since our departure.  Although not easy to find, The Coal Pot is quite well known and, for good reason, highly touted.  We went twice — the first time we ordered from the menu.  It was merely good.  At the end of our meal, we had the chance to sit and chat with the chef, Xavier Ribot, who, sensing our serious interest in food, invited us to come back and said he would just “cook for us.”  The second visit was tremendous – easily one of the best meals we’ve yet had in the Caribbean — and on the house.  Of course, it’s cheating just a little bit that we got such customized (and free) fare, but we’re not complaining.  It was outstanding in every way.

OK, — so far, so good.  Fun friends, beautiful scenery, even a downright great meal.  It sounds like St. Lucia is pretty great.

Sadly, that’s only part of the story.  Much like Martinique, St. Lucia has a palpable menace to it.  The racial tension is barely disguised, and the amount of violent crime is completely out of control.  There’s absolutely no way an island of 160,000 people should average about 40 murders per year — that’s a murder rate approaching that of notoriously violent places like Jamaica or Venezuela, and about six times the U.S. murder rate (or, to put it another way, about 60 times the Japanese murder rate).  Indeed, this first came to our attention when our googling of ”The Coal Pot” article this article first.

St. Lucia is a significant drug trafficking center, and certain areas of the east coast that are considered “no go” zones for visitors.  To be honest, we didn’t feel altogether comfortable walking the streets at night, and we had multiple “sketchy” situations in which the quick use of street smarts was required.

So, should you visit St. Lucia?  That depends what you are after.  Do you expect to spend your visit locked up behind the walls of a luxurious resort, content to sip umbrella drinks while slowly baking in the sun?  If so, then go for it.  But if you want to “get out” and go exploring, I can definitely think of better places.

Final Thoughts on St. Lucia

Posted by: melissa

Despite some of the previously described challenges of St. Lucia, we had a nice stay there.  Perhaps unfortunately for the island itself, our memories of St. Lucia will forever revolve around the Cricket World Cup and the amazing flavor it added to our experience.

Unfortunately for S/V Spectacle, we were not able to work on the boat as much we wanted.  The daily afternoon rain preempted much of the outdoor chores and woodwork (sanding, treating, and oiling), and the rail looks pretty shabby.  I did finally locate the outboard “earmuffs” (these cover the water intake for the engine’s cooling system so you can attach a hose and test the outboard without placing it in the water) and performed a successful test of the outboard.  Additionally, I cleaned and treated the fenders, and replaced their lines … a task that drove home for me how disgusting marina water really can be.  Indoor chores were partly ignored due to cricket festivities (a huge time commitment by the way) but reliable power (translate as “reliable air conditioning”) helped immensely while I treated all of the metal, polished the brass lamps, and washed everything down with wood soap.

The Rodney Bay marina has several repair shops as well as a chandlery.  We hired a general mechanic to service the water maker, which appears to work, but one can never know until it is actually running while at sea.  (Obviously, we will test the water maker repeatedly prior to crossing the Pacific Ocean.  We’ll bring more than ample drinking water, but I’m so much happier if I get to bathe regularly.)  We hoped that the same general mechanic could service the generator (yet AGAIN), but this did not happen due to a complicated series of miscommunications and misunderstandings (all of which I squarely blame on the shop’s receptionist who does nothing but scowl and read Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets).

During one of our many afternoons watching cricket at Scuttlebutts, we met a fun Australian cricket fan named Will who was in the West Indies on a contract job installing seats in the recently refurbished stadiums.  Will’s professional responsibilities came to an end in St. Lucia, and we invited him to join us on the sail to Grenada after making sure that he was neither a crazy axe murderer nor mutinous opportunist in the market for a free boat.  No offense to Will, but he’s no Johnny Depp!

After Sri Lanka’s last -second finish over England (see Sri Lanka Superfans Episode 1), we rushed back to the boat (engine still idling) to exit the channel before sunset.  Excited for a good sail (it’s been awhile since we were at sea) and full of cricket adrenaline, we headed out to sea, dodging the humongous cruise ships departing Castries harbor.

The Sail to Grenada Via Bequia

Posted by: melissa

When planning a sail, we look at the distance and route between the two points, plan for an early daytime arrival, and work backwards to a departure time and sailing strategy.  We get very frustrated when we arrive at our destination with not enough daylight left to make the approach and land the boat safely.  In that case, we are forced to heave-to and wait until dawn which can be a very long night monitoring traffic and maintaining an acceptable position.  The sailing time from St. Lucia to Grenada is fairly short, but while passing by the Grenadines island chain, we had to plan for the nighttime lee effect and some other idiosyncrasies.  As such, we started to consider the possibility of a stop along the way.

St. Vincent is by far the largest of the Grenadines, but we dropped it from our itinerary after hearing some less than flattering reviews mostly involving gangs of impoverished, disenfranchised, and armed young men.  We knew about other super fancy islands of the Grenadines – most notably, Mustique, where Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous spends a lot of time with the likes of Mick Jagger and Paul Newman, but I’d rather visit Mustique during the extremely impressive Blues Festival.  However, we heard many good things about Bequia and decided to stop there.

Meaning “island of the clouds” in Arawak, Bequia (pronounced beck-way) is the second largest island of the Grenadines.  Our cruising guides indicated that the bay in Port Elizabeth is a charming anchorage, and though our upcoming cricket commitments prevented us from staying for the annual Easter Regatta, we decided to pull in and check it out.  Distance-wise, Bequia was the perfect intermediate stop since we left St. Lucia in late afternoon and dropped anchor at Port Elizabeth around 9:00 a.m. the next morning.  The night’s sail was really nice and uneventful — Will shared impressions (examples here and here) of Billy Birmingham imitating famous Australian cricket announcer Richie Benaud, which had us in fits.

The anchorage turned out to be insanely crowded, but Andy and I put on a pretty impressive display of anchoring.  We then woke Will up and put him on anchor watch (since he hadn’t taken a night watch), and Andy and I slept for several hours.  With a power nap behind us, we prepared to go to shore, which, from a distance, looked fantastically charming and quirky.  Andy and Will started pumping up the dinghy.  After further investigation of the Jost van Dyke incident, Andy and I have a sneaking suspicion that our previous episode with the dinghy might very well be attributed to a combination of user error and Dread Fox (for Melissa) and Sly Fox (for Andy) cocktails.

As such, we inflated the heck out of the dinghy, jumped on it, double checked all the valves, listened for leaks, and made sure the hand-pump would come to shore with us.  We lowered it into the water and all systems seemed a go.  Unfortunately, the stupid outboard wouldn’t start this time.  I had just tested it in St. Lucia, where it was fine.

After trying the string about a thousand times, we began the disappointing chore of deflating the dinghy and putting everything back together.  Stuck on the boat with plenty of daylight left, we decided to make a quick meal on the boat, pull up anchor, and head to Grenada knowing that we had enough time for an early daylight arrival.  Will got to experience a sadly typical passage … so much of the trip is low on glamour and high on frustration.  In any event, the little we saw of Bequia looked spectacular!

The sail to Grenada was pleasant and uneventful with good wind in the headsail.  I went to bed early and got up around 4:00 a.m. for watch.  As such, I watched the sun come up and the island come into view as we passed by it to get to the preferred bays to the south.  It was an absolutely spectacular morning — mist on 2756-foot Mount St. Catherine provided breathtaking rainbows, lush tropical rainforest, blue sky and bluer ocean, and dolphins welcoming me with my morning coffee.


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