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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

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

Soufriere, St.Lucia 1.08.09

Maltese Falcon in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Maltese Falcon and Brigantine Unicorn

Saint Lucia is going upscale! The beach along which horses used to be run is now chopped for waterfront condos. The little, funky marina is now fully revamped for megayachts. New hotels are a'building all over and pretty much everything is for sale. Some of the construction has been halted by the global recession but there are still a great number of boats in Rodney Bay and the Atlantic Ralley for Cruisers was still fully subscribed. There do seem to be fewer Americans. We were told that the Europeans typically book 6 months in advance and the Americans do many more spur-of-the-moment trips. Everyone is complaining that there isn't enough money around. There certainly are fewer small boats. On the plus side: the fireworks put on by the big hotel chains were spectacular and we were graced with a visit from Maltese Falcon.

Construction on the Beach
Exhibition hall on Reduit Beach
Money talks but the Lucians aren't seeing much of it. If you are not a security guard or working for the big hotels, you don't have that much reason to live in the global economy. The only thing of global interest is the sun and sand. The money the tourists spend never even shows up on the island. "All Inclusive" means no need to hire local taxis, eat in restaurants or even leave the (foreign owned) hotel grounds. The security guards will let the local craft vendors land on the beach but they immediately get a security guard assigned. The current government blames the last one. Politics is politics.

Tropical Flowers
Flowers in the tropical garden
We sailed down to Soufriere, the old French capitol of St. Lucia, to enjoy the spectacular anchorage between the towering Pitons. We decided that engaging a land tour would leave a little money in the less prosperous southern end of the island and had (as usual) a great time. Captain Bob gave us a ride into town and arranged an excellent driver, Dickson. Dickson held forth with obvious pride on all the passing sights. That is the lumberyard. This is the bank. That is where the French erected their guillotine. This is where the retired African nuns live. That is a chocolate tree, we make hot chocolate tea from it. That is coconut tree, we make soap of it. That is a coffee tree. He took us to an excellent garden. Then he took us to the "drive-in volcano". You can walk around in a huge caldera with boiling black mud ponds in a multi-colored chalk moonscape, smell the sulpher and contemplate the explosion that blew the mountain away. We met "Junior" who walked us around and showed us the sights. None of us like earthquakes but we all dislike hurricanes more. Junior allowed as how perhaps St. Lucians are just too nice and that politicians are the same everywhere.



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White Yachties having fun
White yachties having fun

Dickson next took us to the hot springs bath. There we were "guided" by a charming pair of Rastas who insisted that the baths would make us twenty years younger. Much typical West Indian joshing ensued, ribaldry which should not perhaps be posted in public. They liked singing reggae songs with Susie, we all like Obama and we argued about 2pac's gangster status. Each place we stopped, there was an entrance fee. Each place we stopped there was a new "guide". We were living large and enjoyed passing out tips to one and all. Four dollars US puts a big smile on the face of anyone for whom it is a good hourly wage. We were kind of enjoying being the last of the big-time American spenders and meeting all these interesting characters. A fine West Indian lunch at New Ventures set us back less than $16US and our hotel is free so why not? We don't absurdly overpay. When we are bargaining with vendors, we stress we are not on vacation. The boat is our home and there is no room for more stuff. We can't drop bucks like tourists who are here for a week. We are not so rich as the charter boat groups. We are not so rich as the superyacht guests. We are rich by Lucian standards and its fun to play the part. As Captain Bob agrees: no one thinks they have more than enough money and we are rich to be living in such a magnificant spot.

Pitons, St. Lucia
Pitons at St. Lucia
Flowers in Soufriere, St. Lucia
Tropical flowers in Soufriere, St. Lucia
We are not so rich as the guests that helicopter in to the Jalousie, two of whom we found sitting with us in the hot springs. They were happy to enjoy the banter, the fresh brown coconut Marvin fetched, the naturally heated mineral water guaranteed to make you 20years younger and the spectacular scenery. Bargaining with the taxi drivers, it became clear that they were truly outraged that no one wanted to give them a ride back up the mountain to one of the most expensive hotels in the world for the princely sum of $5EC, about $2US. It was clear that these rich people really didn't like proximity to those poor ones. The global economy has no real need for so many Lucians. Taxi drivers are standing around everywhere. Patois has no value on the market. The language is country, old-fashioned, backwards. Tasty, organic bananas cannot be sold for the cost of bringing them to market. The megayachts have no need for island-style fix-anything skills. There is no price on a warm Lucian smile or a little gentle Lucian attitude adjustment. The warm water, sun and sand can only be sold once. What will the next generation do?


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