Karl has come and gone and already we miss him. As we lay about reading our respective books while anchored out waiting for the New Years fireworks, Karl remarked that life here was much like Berkeley Family camp. It is. Swimming, fishing, eating, hiking and hanging out reading just like at camp, but without the dirt. His flight came in to the "large" airport, Hewanorra, at the southern end of the island and his plans called for a return flight out of the "small" airport, Vigie, at the northern end. This itinerary organized our planned tour since he was only here for a week. We decided to sail down to Vieux Fort where the airport is hoping we could anchor there despite the guidebook's lukewarm recommendation. The sailing trip goes down the western side of the island, then around the Pitons turning more or less east for the guidebook's "two hour beat to windward", which for us was a dead calm sea in the lee of Gros Piton. At one point, the speed over water was 0 knots and the speed over ground, 2. The bay is enormous and we anchored in a nearly deserted spot east of the commercial port. Clean water and deserted beaches just off the main container port for St. Lucia. The town of Vieux Fort is charitably described as sketchy but the security guard at the fishing port offered to watch our dinghy and we could walk to the airport. I suspect we are getting a little acclimatized. The locals start to wear sweaters when the temperature drops below 80 and we really enjoyed the midday long walk through Vieux Fort, around the runway and up to the terminal along some of the most beautiful beaches I have seen. The southern end is much less populated and the long beach along the windward side was deserted. In view of the fact Karl had just come from winter (and that he was loaded down with Peet's coffee, Berkeley Bowl's own peanut butter, a hand operated blender and a heavy clothes wringer), we took a taxi back to the fishing port. We dinghied out to the boat and had him in the Caribbean water within a couple of hours of landing - always ship's policy.
Our first family sail was back up to the Pitons. These two volcanic peaks are not only dramatic, they were worshiped by the amerind inhabitants of the Island. They are so important to the current citizens, that their name was given to the Island's favorite beer. We anchored directly between the peaks with the aid of Gaston who found us a mooring right off the Hilton's dock. He pointed out the local sights including the location of his village high up a steep road in the saddle between the Piton's. Forget Lombard street. Never mind Telegraph hill. This road is steep. It doesn't curve to lessen the grade but just to pick a way up the cliff. It is corrugated like a washboard to provide traction and walking up was like ascending a long staircase. One foot above the other and we were seriously concerned that a misstep would see us rolling all the way to the bottom. This road was built by an eccentric British lord by the name of Lord Glenconner who helped sell the island of Mustique to the upper crust . He is now happily selling million dollar lots to the wealthy who then have to build their own homes on the hillside as well as running a restaurant by the name of "Bang". Although Gaston's village has clearly benefitted from the building boom on the mountains, they are somewhat concerned at the Lord's plans to close the road to his less affluent neighbors. Rastas, goats and millionaires still share the same fine views but one wonders how stable this relationship can be. We had a fine lunch at Bang interrupted only by an old guy dressed all in white wandering somewhat aimlessly through the outdoor restaurant. He looked like either a beggar or an owner and I chose to assume the latter and seized the opportunity to shake the hand of a true British lord. Something in the air down here breeds characters.
click for next column>>
| The "big" town in the area is Soufriere which was the French capital of the island. Very picturesque but every bit as sketchy as Vieux Fort. The beautiful views and old buildings are a little less charming when you add in the smell of open sewage and the sight of small children hauling water from the corner tap. It was a holiday and we hope that everyone is busy doing other than bending their elbow and holding up ancient walls during the work week.
From the Pitons to Marigot Bay is not far but it is to windward and against the current so it is slow going. We tried several times to anchor "outside" the inner mangrove swamp but were unsuccessful in poor holding. We were probably fortunate that we had to move inside because this Christmas week is absolutely packed with yachts trying to get in and covering every inch of the entrance in even worse holding than we had. The high point of the drama was the entrance of a _very_ large yacht, Georgia, which required the boat boys to herd great numbers of pleasure boats out of the way. As each captain considers himself a little king, this took some doing. Finally the behemoth was stern tied before us with damage only to the egos of the affected yachtsman and no actual harm to fiberglass.
From Marigot, we then came up to Castries, the current capital and main port of St. Lucia. We tucked in as per recommendation up Vigie creek right near the "small" airport and hung around checking that we weren't in anyone's way. This little bight is the center of a great deal of small boat activity and is not very big. When finally we were sure we weren't going to drag (more poor holding), we dinghied around the big cruise ship into the extremely commodious harbor going to the market. Next time, I'd anchor in the big bay. There was little or no traffic and only one boat there. The market was very big. We got a great deal on Marlin steaks and Karl found some gifts to take home with him. Much of the market is the same island crap sold on every island - all clearly made in china with nothing changed but the island's name. There was a great vegetable market, a fine fish shop and a crowded, narrow alley lined with local restaurants not much bigger than your average bedroom. We got some take out to eat back on the boat and, thus fortified, sailed around the corner to Rodney Bay. Karl got to meet some of our friends here, experienced a trawler and a catamaran, and delivered a Google shirt to Elvis, the fiberglass man. The stay in Rodney bay was highlighted by the major fireworks show for the New Year. Each resort seems to compete with the next for most fabulous display and the one we are anchored off, Sandals, was firing theirs right over head into the bay. Eaux Vives was close enough to feel the whomp when they went off and watch the sparks fall down wind. A few moments of concern over the people firing flares which drifted down, still burning, among the boats only added to the excitement of the moment. The captain and crew of Eaux Vives managed the feat of staying up until midnight by diligent watching of DVD's provided by number one son. This too harkens back to many a New Years Eve spent watching movies at the Brosgart-Gross household, and put us all in a sentimental mood. The next day we had to put Karl in a taxi for the airport. Since we had been up so late, we didn't make it much past 7:30pm before collapsing in bed.
Next, on to the Grenadines to connect with an expedition of the sailing club.