Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tranopys, Ziplines, Ripped Sails and Birthdays

One of the delights of having guests stay with us is how they get us to step outside of our comfortable box and give us opportunities to see the islands from different perspectives. With the Christmas festivities over we took a day to relax with a walk and a swim at Pigeon Island in Rodney Bay where the once heavily fortified peaks are now a national park. We all climbed Fort Rodney for some wonderful views of the bay then left Martin and Claire to climb the steeper Sugar Hill while we sheltered from the rain down below.

The following day Claire had booked us all in a for a rain forest adventure in the north of the island in a place called Chassin. Not really sure what to expect we were kitted out in harnesses, blue hair nets and helmets. The first part of the adventure had us riding a tramway that took us up into the rainforest canopy, suspended high we could see all the way down to the rain forest floor past trees that were 180ft tall! At 1400ft we dismounted the tram and hiked for a short while until we reached the first of the zipline platforms. Now we knew what the helmets were for as we spun on our karabiners bashing our heads onto the sturdy wire of the ziplines. Before we knew it we had traversed 9 ziplines through the cool green rainforest. It was then a hike and a gondola ride back down the peak with some spectacular views of the north of the island before we reached the start point again. All in all a fun and exciting experience. Thank you Claire and Martin.

We left the comfort of the marina the following morning with Imagine and Meteor for a “Rosie’s Birthday Rally” across to St Anne’s on the south east coast of Martinique, for guess what? birthday! It was a blustery trip, hard on the wind all the way. After 7 ½ years of cruising we have our first sail casualty with a foot length rip on the leech of the headsail. But it is so windy at the moment that we have furled it away to deal with another day. We anchored in St Anne’s but after a little mix up where Imagine ended up anchoring in Marin 2 miles away we decided to join them as there were more restaurants for a slap up birthday meal for me the next day.

I have to say I had a fantastic, truly decedent day. Cappuccinos piled high with cream and pain aux chocolates in the morning. A leisurely lunch with Sim, Martin and Claire in a snack bar near the waterfront and a few drinks on Alianna before we went ashore for cocktails and moules et frites at the Mango Bay restaurant that evening. Fi made the most fantastic cheesecake with whole chunks of chocolate that we all scoffed for dessert. With good company, food and lots of lovely gifts – a girl couldn’t ask for more.

Christmas Day in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.

Sim’s friends Martin and Claire arrived from Greece on Christmas Eve to join us in St Lucia where we introduced them to our friends on SY’s “Imagine” and “Meteor” who were also joining us for Christmas. We woke to a bright, hot and sunny Christmas morning. With Alianna safely tucked up in the marina it was easy to jump off, speak with our friends who were also in the marina, have a shower and pick up last minute items from the cafes and bars that had decided to open up on the day. Bucks Fizz was dished out with a scrummy Christmas breakfast before Sim got started on “la piece de resistance” – a large turkey wrapped in bacon. Because we had 8 joining us for Christmas lunch and because everybody knows that boat kitchens are tiny; all the trimmings were delegated out to the other boats. Alianna was cooking the turkey, mashed potato, gravy and lashings of bread sauce (which we brits love), Imagine cooked the exorbitantly expensive but delicious, giant Brussels sprouts, the roast spuds and the carrots (cooked in milk), while Meteor, dealt with the pigs in blankets, the stuffing balls and the gooey chocolate brownie dessert with brandy butter. Claire and Martin supplied the cheese board and obligatory Christmas cake that Martin’s mum had made. It was a sumptuous feast of mammoth proportions, every item as the delectable as the next. We couldn’t have asked for more, celebrating the day in true English style including the Christmas Crackers with silly paper hats, all that was missing was some snow and a log fire.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

I love Christmas and everything that goes with it from gaudy Christmas decorations to a massive feast on the day itself. (Though some might say I am missing the point here). I love the celebrations, the preparations and the festive feelings it brings. I love giving little presents to my friends and family and I am not ashamed to say I like receiving a few too.

Over the past week the constant stream of parties has slowly abated. We enjoyed the manager's party at the marina with the free food and drinks and costumes and the impromptu get together on SV Meteor with too much ginger ale, beer and rum. On Saturday as usual we listen to the VHF net in the morning when a quiz is held and prizes given away. This week Sim got through with the correct qualifying question (how many chairs in the Bread Basket café?) and managed to answer correctly all the “scientifically speaking” questions to win us not just one but two cases of beer and a free night in the marina – Woo Hoo.

Saturday afternoon we watched in amazement as the traditional Yole boats over from Martinique raced around Rodney Bay using our very own “Alianna” as the marker. We couldn’t quite believe our eyes when the first boat tacked around us, the colourful rectangular sail touching us as it rounded our bowsprit, shortly followed by a second, third and forth boat. Sim and I watched in awe, silently praying that with each tack the Yole wouldn’t come colliding into our hull. But these guys were professionals with many men precariously balanced out on poles to keep the boat trim; they looked very cool indeed.

We had a quiet night ashore Sunday for another scrummy roti at Jambe de Bois and a discussion on how and what we are all doing for Christmas. Martin and Claire are due to join us on Christmas Eve and we had decided ages ago that Sam and Jon on Imagine would join us as well and now the party has grown with Steve and Fi on Meteor too. We are all cooking different dishes with Sim being in charge of the turkey and bread sauce as he is worried that there wouldn’t be enough if left to others!

The mild and settled conditions of the past few weeks have disappeared and the aptly named Christmas winds have arrived in full force. But the day is bright and sunny, the wind generator is spinning around and the portable generator has been put away as our batteries are topping up nicely. We wish everyone a very warm and wonderful Christmas and a super duper New Year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cas En Bas Beach, St Lucia

I have wanted to visit the beach at Cas En Bas on the northeast coast of St Lucia for several years now but for some reason we have never made it there before. This is probably due to laziness but now with the encouragement of friends to show us the way and a need to remedy the over indulgence of the past week I was looking forward to finally doing the walk.
The usual motley crew joined us with Sam and Jon from Imagine, Mark from Sea Life and Steve and Fi from Meteor. We met at the dinghy dock at the marina in Rodney Bay at the crazy hour of midday with the sun beating down on us. We turned left out of the marina on to the main road and then it’s right at any of the roads leading off it, walking in an easterly direction across the top part of the island. It’s a mile and a half walk as the crow flies but with all the twists and turns it probably turns into more like two miles each way. We walked on rocky, potholed roads, past little battered houses with washing hanging out and small yappy dogs guarding their owners properties. Every now and then we would pass a mango or grapefruit tree or the beautiful bougainvillea that added colour to the green roadside shrubbery.
We walked up the ever increasing incline until the views opened up on the other side of the island, where larger more prosperous properties and developments dotted the landscape. From there it was downhill until we reached the beach.

Being on the windward side of St Lucia, Cas En Bas is famous for its kite surfing but with the light winds and flat seas there were no surfers out today. It is however home to another interesting sight and that is part of a rocket booster that has either landed on the beach or been washed up on shore by the sea. Either way it is an interesting and unexpected landmark!

The crescent shaped beach is about a mile long with a bar and restaurant selling souvenirs right on the front. We joined a couple of tables together and sat down for a couple of ice cold Pitons, the local beer. Mark was the only one brave enough to swim in the sea, while the rest of us cooled down under the shade. We watched the locals ride bareback on ponies in the ocean until we were ready to head back. We walked along the seashore, beach combing as we went until we reached a VERY muddy path at the end. Although more shaded this was a little trickier but by far the funnier and more entertaining walk as we slipped and skidded our way back getting ever muddier as we went.

Tired, sweaty and hungry we sat down to a very tasty roti at the Bread Basket café back in the marina before we all went our separate ways later that afternoon. By the time we got back to the boat it seemed a party on the beach we were anchored off was in full swing with Soca music pumping out the decibels. Thank goodness it was a Sunday and therefore a work day the following day or the deafening music that I could feel vibrating through my body could have gone on all night!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mojomo Arriving

The ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) boats have been arriving in Rodney Bay in a steady stream over the last few days, with over half the 200 and something fleet having already arrived. Amongst them our friends Matt and Dee on Mojomo; a Privilege 495 catamaran. Despite the fact that they left a few days later than the rest of the fleet due to some rigging problems, they caught up with amazing speed and swiftness overtaking many boats that should have arrived before them (given the 3 day head start!) This is probably largely due to their fantastic crew and most importantly Mr Pink. Mr Pink is a large, pink (funnily enough) and billowy spinnaker that battled it out against the elements, never taking a break while the rest of the crew maintained their watches. Mr Pink never wavered from the task at hand leading them steadily on though squalls and storms and riding the crests of waves.

So we take our hats off and congratulate all the crew, the captain and Mr Pink who made extraordinary time in crossing the Atlantic. And we thank you for keeping us amused with your funny and very entertaining blog. As we were able to follow their progress online we arranged to meet up on Imagine of Falmouth, with Steve from Meteor and Mark from Sea Life for a pre party party so we could all zip out and meet them in our dinghies as they rounded the corner at Pigeon Island to the north of Rodney Bay and towards the finish line.

A happy smiley crew came into view with shouts and cheers (which may have been leers with Dee looking fab in a skimpy bikini) from our welcoming party. We followed them into the marina tooting our horns and generally making a nuisance of ourselves, where bottles of bubbly, wine, rum and beer got the party started. This was the beginning of a very long night. We hit the bar and then on to the Rex Hotel for the ARC EAP (early arrivals party) and that is probably all I shall say as we do have our families reading this blog. Needless to say we all woke up the next day feeling a little worse for wear with a few missing items, soggy and muddy clothes and the odd bruise to show for it. But I do think that we can safely say that we celebrated their arrival in style.

Having had yesterday to recover we are back to feeling sprightly again this morning. The sun is shining (first time in ages) and the bay is busy with sail boats and jet skies, Hobie cats and parasails, all out having fun. Sim has helped some local guys who had flooded their engine and he showed them a little trick that will help fix it if it happens again. The winds, though still light have returned to normal and we are no longer rolling wildly at anchor. I hope it stays this way.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sitting in Rodney Bay

In Rodney Bay today boats lie limply at anchor, there is no wind and no sunshine. The sea is a dirty green from all the rain and land run off. Our batteries are low and we have to run the generator. On the plus side our water tanks are full and Sim is currently finishing the laundry that I started earlier.

We have had a quiet couple of days getting over the shenanigans of Sim’s birthday. Our friend Steve on Meteor arrived on Friday and we all met up at the Ocean Club last night for a few beers. You can buy a bucket of 5 beers any time of the day for $20EC which is about £5. A truly great but dangerous deal.

There has been a slow but steady stream of boats arriving from across the Atlantic with the ARC rally. We listen in on the VHF as their times are taken and they are welcomed to the island. Sim has a pair of binoculars at the ready (his new birthday bins!) so he can spot them as they come around the corner from Pigeon Island.

Our friends on Mojomo with Matt and Denise arrive some time next week. We have all been routing for them and reading about their amusing antics on their blog. . As Sam from Imagine says, we have an ever growing welcoming committee for them when they clear the finish line here in Rodney Bay with our rock star friend Steve, our actor buddy Mark and of course our good selves that no name tag can be applied (though I think Sam wants to be the Gin Queen, though I think Wino would be more appropriate :-) - only joking Sam – we shall just call you Queenie).

It seems December is going to be a busy month of party and socializing, especially when friends Martin and Claire arrive on Christmas Eve. We will have to keep January clear for recovery.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Birthday Boy Sim the Rain Dance Kid

The weather gods were not holding out for Sim’s Birthday. Two days before the big day, the cool breeze of the easterly trade winds decided to do a flip and turn 180˚ from the west. The nice protected anchorage of Rodney Bay turned into a jerky rollercoaster ride with wind driven, choppy seas coming all the way across the Caribbean Sea. Alianna was bouncing wildly on her anchor and that night, it was impossible to sleep. Tired and cranky the follow morning from spending the night being tossed around in our bunk, we were not holding out much hope for the party the following day. We checked the weather and checked it again, each time trying to find a forecast we liked. In an effort to make the boat more comfortable we laid out a stern anchor to keep us riding over the top of the waves rather then being swung violently from side to side when they hit us beam on. With a more stable boat came a more stable mind (for me anyway, whose unstable mind often goes wandering!) Happier with the way things felt we carried on planning for Sim’s birthday. That night we went out for a lovely lamb Roti (courtesy of mum and dad – thank you!) at Jaime du Bois for a pre birthday meal with Imagine of Falmouth and Sea Life before heading back to the boat at cruisers midnight (8.30!) and a full nights rest in preparation for the following day. By the time we woke the weather gods had smiled down on us and the winds were back to normal. Alianna lay peacefully at anchor, the crew happy that they had had a good night sleep. AND it was HAPPY BURRTHDAY Birthday Boy!!

We spent the morning prepping the boat for the party in the afternoon but the weather gods were frowning down on us again as now it was pouring with rain. Sim did a little wiggle to bring out the sunshine but we think he got his dances confused and did the rain dance instead as it just poured some more. But try and let a little rain stop a Brit party – I don’t think so. We wrapped the cockpit in bits of sunbrella and stuck up umbrellas to protect it from the rain which had by now eased to a drizzle. At 3pm Sam and Jon arrived from Imagine with a Giant sausage roll for Sims B’day present. Then the Aussie contingency arrived with Mark from Sea Life and Matt and Karen from Where II. We had too much food, plenty of alcohol, naughty balloons and even rescued a dog that had fallen off a neighbouring boat while it’s owners where out. (I would have gone over today to tell the owners off for leaving the dog like that only they left early this morning).

As the night drew on there were only the hardcore partiers left, ourselves and of course Imagine. We stayed up to watch the first 2 boats of the ARC arrive. (Boats who sail fairly competitively in a rally across the Atlantic). We laid bets on arrival times (Sam winning) and even spoke to the winning boat a super sleek 92 ft called Med Spirit whose calls to the arrival boat where going unanswered. Such a shame for the ARC to be so poorly organised after a boat has traveled nearly 3000 miles at sea. But it only added to our excitement in our inebriated state. We finally called it a night some time after midnight when we flopped into bed, another birthday over for another year! Just another couple of weeks and we will be doing it all over again.