compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Playland at the Beach
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

St. Lucia 10.25.07

Mermaid Repairs ready for Awlgrip
Mermaid Repairs ready for Awlgrip

Back on "Island Time"

Our first day back we wakened to the Creole shouts of the fruit vendors at the edge of the road and the crowing of roosters from all around. I stepped out of the air conditioned room in search of the coconut man for some coconut water. I'm sweating instantly. Coconut man's not there but there are people selling breadfruit, plantains and mangos. One vendor for each. The man minding the mangos greets me by name and I can not place his face at all. He enquires after the boat and runs off to get a business card offering yacht services. The mango lady arrives and offers up 4 mangos for $5.00ec. I have a ten. Another fellow arrives and all agree I should buy a second bag "for a friend". This means there is no change. I walk up to the "bakery" and join the throng shouting and laughing before the bakery. The bakery is a one room wooden shack roughly 15' x 15' and is packed with customers buying Caribbean rolls and spilling down the steps into the traffic. Mini vans packed with people are coming and going, beeping and spilling out even more customers.
This was the first half hour of the first day, but those mangos and warm rolls not only made a great breakfast but instantly put us back on "Island Time". Slow. Sometimes confusing but painted in colors a little more vivid and with possibilities for adventure and just the small edge given by the possibilities for disaster.

Back at the boatyard, everyone we met greeted us and many commented on how nice Eaux Vives looks with her new paint job. Some bustling and confusion and a long, rickety ladder is placed against the stern so we can climb up and look at the inside of the boat. Elvis, the painter, quickly shifts it to the side so as not to mar the paint. Eaux Vives is a little dirty, but dry. Elvis tells me about coming back to the boatyard when the wind shifted during Hurricane Dean and trying to force his way out to the end of the pier to retie his boat against the wind. Up to his calves in water which is now flowing over the dock he found he simply could not make progress against the wind. He mimes the attempt to lay nearly horizontal into the wind and drive himself forward but failing. He then mimes the return by simply jumping vertically into the air and blowing back ashore. It is a great story.

Eaux Vives at the marina


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De rats dem

Susie enjoys new logo
Susie enjoys new boat logo

He is interrupted by another, slightly hysterical skipper. I know him. Each year we have been here, his boat has been visited by a different plague. The first year, it flooded from the inside. His own water tanks leaked and flooded his boat. The fix involved jack hammering out the concrete encased ballast and days of welding, hammering and grinding. The second year, termites invaded. These are not polite, little northern critters who might weaken a structure over years if neglected. These termites had reduced bulkheads to a sham veneer covering dust in just one season. This year, we came back speculating what trials he might face. The answer: rats. They have eaten through a fuel line (among other things) and reduced his wife to threatening arson on the boat. Plus, the termites are back and have completely eaten the boat's wooden ceiling.

The elderly couple is still sailing their boat on dry land, living in the boatyard. The gentleman suffers from dementia but seems content to perform pointless boat projects while his wife reads. They've been there all summer and she has been saving some good books for us. We got the solar panels back on the boat and got the dinghy launched and the outboard engine started. It leaks again. Huge threatening clouds roll in and the wind swings completely around the compass. "The old man is rolling barrels around up there." says one of the older workers. The slightly hysterical skipper comes back, just a little more so this time.

Rooster in the boatyard
Rooster in the boatyard
Small groups of boatyard people are standing around looking annoyed. An Englishman in a jeep rushes in and one of the workers points. The jeep rushes out carrying a retching dog. "How stupid can these people be? They've poisoned all the dogs and it's all my fault. I complained about the rats and they hired an exterminator who just broadcast arsenic in bait all around and now all the boatyard dogs are throwing up".

boatyard dogs recovered from arsenic poisoning
Boatyard dogs recovered
This is a source of mild friction between locals and their Anglo neighbors. These dogs are not someone's pet. No one feeds them. No one spays them or takes them to the vet. They are regarded neutrally without particular fondness nor malice by the locals. The Anglo-Saxons, on the other hand, are quite likely to regard mistreatment of animals as a more grievous sin than mistreating your wife. Susie is worried about the boatyard flock of chickens. I'm thinking that they've been raised for generations on a diet of heavy metals and biocides banned in the US raining down from the boats above and may exceed the termites in resiliency. The boatyard cat is nowhere to be found. We'll see tomorrow.

As a very small boy, I was taken to an amusement park called "Playland at the Beach". My only ride was the "Fun House". You entered through a maze of mirrors (some distorting) into a huge room full of yelling, screaming, laughing kids. The hall was dominated by a huge polished wooden slide, streaked with kids sitting on burlap sacks, hurtling down and then racing back up the steps at the side. There was a huge, flat wooden plate on which you could attempt to sit while it spun faster and faster until tangled masses of kids slid off onto the padded floor. A rotating drum similarly sped up until the kids inside started tumbling head over heels. This was the 50's. None of it was safe. Slightly out of control. No adult supervision. Entering the Caribbean from the US is a grown up version of going to Playland. Located on the edge of the world, far away from the city, these islands create the same heightened sense of awareness. Slightly hysterical big fun and occasionally just a touch more adventure than is comfortable for a boy from the burbs. The hall of mirrors? (this is an allegory, people). Just let it be said that the TSA does not appreciate sailors with one way tickets.

Susie and Lance


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