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The Voyage of Spectacle Caribbean

The Voyage

Spectacles

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

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Bali, Indonesia

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The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Caribbean’ Category

St. Lucia

Posted by: melissa

One of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, St. Lucia is located midway down the Eastern Caribbean chain north of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, northwest of Barbados, and south of Martinique.  The island is 27 miles long and 14 miles wide and is generally shaped like an avocado.  Saint Lucia is named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse, patron saint of the blind, and one of only seven women commemorated by name in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

Volcanic in origin, St. Lucia is more mountainous than most other Caribbean islands.  The island’s highest point stands 3000 feet above sea level at Mount Gimie; however, St. Lucia’s number one claim to fame is definitely the Pitons, which are two volcanic plugs standing majestically on the southwestern coast overlooking the spectacular Soufriere Bay.  Also a World Heritage Site, the Pitons make every list of things to see before you die from Conde Nast to Oprah Winfrey.  Emerging from lush tropical rainforest complete with huge ferns and banana orchards on one side, and incredible sparkling blue ocean on the other, the Gros Piton soars to 2619 feet and is slightly south of the 2461-foot-tall Petit Piton.  It’s difficult to adequately communicate the beauty of this area.

Like most Caribbean islands, St. Lucia’s colorful character is largely derived from the struggles between ancient indigenous populations, the slave trade, and conquering European forces.  Settled by Arawak Indians, a culture later eclipsed by the Caribs, St. Lucia was called “Hewanorra,” meaning “Island of the Iguanas,” since 800 A.D.  Erroneously thought discovered by Columbus in 1502, St. Lucia was more likely discovered by lesser known explorer and former Columbus navigator, Juan de la Cosa, in either 1499 or 1504.  The island’s first official European presence was established by Peg-Leg le Clerc‘s enclave on Pigeon Island used to pillage treasure-laden Spanish galleons.

The first legitimate European settlement was founded by the Dutch around 1600 at Vieux Fort.  In 1605, an English ship bound for Guyana (ironically called the Olive Branch) blew off course and went aground off the coast of St. Lucia.  The sixty-seven passengers safely waded to shore and found coexistence with the Caribs to be impossible.  In less than five weeks, only 19 of the original party remained due to violence, disease, and exposure.  Another English colony was also wiped out by the Caribs in 1639.

During the 1700′s, St. Lucia played an interesting role in the political and economic processes of the eastern Caribbean.  With the French headquartered on Martinique and the British headquartered on Barbados, the centrally located St. Lucia looked quite attractive to both parties, and both frequently worked to exert influence on its future, particularly the extremely lucrative sugar cane industry established in 1765.  After many violent battles, the British won out.  France permanently ceded control in 1815, and slavery was abolished in 1834.  St. Lucia was incorporated to the central government of the British West Indies, eventually achieving full independence in 1979 following a Constitution in 1924 and universal suffrage in 1951.

St. Lucia’s population is overwhelmingly of African descent due to the huge slave trade; however, the French influence is palpable right down to the Creole language.  The capital city, Castries, was founded by the French in 1650.  Originally called Carenage (or Safe Anchorage), the city was renamed Castries in 1756 after the commander of a French expeditionary force to Corsica.

Local chefs frequently combine fish dishes with the island’s abundant tropical fruits including mangoes, papayas, pineapples, soursops, passionfruit, guavas, and coconuts.  Another typical dish is callaloo soup made from a leafy green vegetable similar to spinach which, if not cooked appropriately, can be poisonous.  Beyond cuisine, St. Lucia’s cultural influence includes two Nobel Prize Winners:  Sir W. Arthur Lewis (Economics in 1979), and poet Derek Walcott (Literature in 1992).

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — The 5 Part Series

Posted by: melissa

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part I

When it comes to money being lost by legitimate “stakeholders” (i.e. not including betting) based upon a game’s outcome, this likely made this particular preliminary-round cricket match The Most Expensive Sporting Event In The History Of The World.  As we headed off to the airport, we were quite happy to know that the stakes had been ramped up from merely big to Incredibly Massive.  We were expecting a good match and a good time.  Little did we know just how fantastic it would be.

As many of you might know, we are big fans of the Sri Lanka team playing in the Cricket World Cup this year in the West Indies.  This series, called “The Most Expensive Game Ever Played,” chronicles our journey to Trinidad to see history-making match between India and Sri Lanka.  I hope you enjoy the Background story of Part I.

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part II

The big game in Trinidad was India v. Sri Lanka.  Not only is this a huge game and historic rivalry, but India’s cultural influence in Trinidad is apparent in every part of life.  We briefly read about this alleged East Indian influence and thought:  Huh?  What?  How prevalent could it actually be?  Maybe some Tandoori chicken here and there?

Trinidad is a unique and culturally diverse place with a great vibe … and as it turns out, it is also the perfect place to watch India v. Sri Lanka play World Cup Cricket.  The second installment of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played is Melissa’s take on Trinidad.

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part III

“You have to understand that it’s an island mentality.  These Indian guys are all very hard-working, pious, anal-retentive, high-strung guys.  Not us.  We’re islanders, man.  Give a Sri Lankan five dollars and you’ve fed him for a day, but he’d probably rather spend it on beer.”

Part III of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played describes the pre-game antics and excitement.

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part IV

I stood up and started trying to lead the crowd in chants of “Vaas is boss.”  This proved fruitless, as 90% of the fans in our section were supporting India.  Shortly thereafter, the Indian team got to Vaas, hitting consecutive fours over the boundary.  “Vaas is fired!” came back the cheer.  This time, people joined in.

Click here for Part IV of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played called “The Match.”

The Most Expensive Game Ever Played — Part V

“The scene with you guys dancing around by the side of the road was spectacular,” said Moody.  “You should have seen the guys on the bus – they were going crazy – I’ve never seen them that pumped up.  Thank you for that.  Seriously … thank you.”

The final episode of The Most Expensive Game Ever Played describes the post-game euphoria.

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.


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