Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

   May 1:   

   The peak of Montserrat puffed away behind us as we turned our bow toward Guadeloupe.  On passage, we all spent the day in the cockpit reading books.  The trade winds seemed to fade away throughout the day and our sails were soon hanging impotently as we bobbed in the middle of a glassy sea.  Despite my aversion to burning diesel, we ended up motoring the last two hours of the trip to get ourselves to shore.

   In the northwest corner of this island lies the picturesque little fishing town of Deshaies.  Imagine a waterfront town in New England, paint all the houses in bright Caribbean colors, and make it French and that is Deshaies.  A small but protected bay forms its front yard and we anchored there.  All is quiet at mid day but for the bell in the church tower which tolls the time each hour.  Small fishing skiffs seem to come and go at no particular time and they can be seen as tiny dots on the horizon where they ply the waters where the shelf drops off several thousand feet.

   If there are fish out there, they ignored our lines on the way over.  By the time we arrived in late afternoon, we were content to sit with our "Q" flag up until morning.  (By international convention, a ship arriving from a foreign port must fly a yellow quarantine flag until they have been cleared in by Customs & Immigration.)   With no fish to fry, we ended up eating ham and potatoes in the cockpit while watching the sun set behind us and the lights of this little village come out in front of us.

    A safe, successful landfall is a pleasure that never goes away when sailing.  There are no road signs on the ocean, so it is always just a bit of a relief to see our destination rise up from the horizon right where we expected it.  There is always a sense of pride to pilot your ship into a safe harbor; always a joy to have the hook down, the motor off, and that cold drink in your hand.  And as we sit back in the cockpit and admire our new surroundings, always the same thought in the back of my head: "Aahh...we made it!"



  May 2:    

      With a good night's sleep behind me, I went to shore in search of a customs agent to clear into the country.  The customs office proved to be easy to find, but the sign on the door suggested that the office was not open for the next two days.  (And then from 1 until 2 pm only the following day!)  Instructions were left that one could go instead to Basse Terre (20 miles away) to clear in.  But I doubted how good my French was so I tried the door handle anyway and found it to be open.  Inside the air conditioning was running, flashlights and forms were scattered on desks, but nobody was around.  I stepped outside to re-read the sign and finally a gentleman wandered down the hall.  Yes, the office was open and he'd be glad to clear me in.  And best of all...absolutely no charge was assessed.  That's the best welcome to a country we've had yet!

    I spent the next 15 minutes wandering the streets of Deshaies.  Yes, all the streets of Deshaies takes about 15 minutes to explore.  The ATM, in typical French fashion, was located at the post office and a wad of Euros quickly started burning a hole in my pocket.

   Now, where I come from, it is a generally accepted truth that any town must have at least 1 church and two bars.  Period.  Lots of "towns" in rural Wisconsin consist of nothing more than those three buildings at a crossroads.  Tiny French towns are somewhat similar in that they must contain one church and two bakeries.  Deshaies lived up to that truism and I was soon on my way back to the dinghy with a fresh baguette and three chocolate croissants--all still warm from the oven.

   One final impression of Deshaies came to mind as I wandered back to the dinghy:  One can quickly judge the degree of economic prosperity of a place by the number of able bodied men one can see drinking beer in the street before noon.  And following that guideline, this place looked pretty poor, indeed.  Yet, the little fishing skiffs come and go constantly in the harbor.  And large healthy fruit trees rain nourishment down on this town like manna from heaven.  Folks seem to be doing just fine here.  None of the other sights, sounds, or smells of destitution could be found.  So this little village could turn out to be the exception to the rule.  Maybe after a long night of fishing, a man just likes his brewski here.   Further research is clearly required.

   Back aboard Uliad, Emmett's school day led to a great big fit when the day's order of classes wasn't to Em's liking.  Not even chocolate croissants could restore joy to the classroom.  Finally after blowing his top for a while, Em got his work done and Kathleen retired to he cabin and spent the rest of the day wishing she were somewhere else.  The grass is always greener, I guess.



  May  4:   

   There's a little river that empties into Deshaies harbor, running cool water down from the steamy green forested hills of Guadeloupe.  We had heart that there was a little trail to hike up along side the river, so we set off this morning to explore it.  Hey, we gotta do something to burn off all those pastries!  The trail meandered along through the jungles until it stopped at the edge of the river.  Looking across the wet, slimy stones, we could see the trail continue on the other side.

   Now walking across a little brook like this was not a particularly big deal, save for the fact that my reading had warned me of a high incidence of a fresh water parasite called schistosomes on this island.  Schistosomes burrow through the perfectly normal skin of your feet, migrate their way into your blood stream, and then begin laying eggs in all sorts of places in the body like the liver, the brain, or God knows what else.  As you might imagine, the human body does not take kindly to this and an illness called Schistosomiasis results with high fevers, cough, blood in the urine, itchy rashes, neurologic problems, and a long list of issues depending upon what  organ the eggs start hatching in.

   We did not want to get schistosomiasis.  But we didn't make it this far by lacking adventurous spirits, so we decided to VERY carefully hop from rock to slippery rock across the river.   We each made it across without incident.  No doubt my lurid descriptions of worms burrowing up into your heart did much to assure that everyone was paying attention.

   The trail continued on up a hill and soon we were in less of a humid jungle and more of a dense woodland.  We sat to rest when some movement caught the corner of my eye and we soon noticed a long line of big ants moving down the trunk of a tree.  Each ant carried a piece of leaf about twice its size down the trunk.  We followed the ant trail back into the brush toward its nest and marveled at their single minded determination to bring those leaves home.  Meanwhile fresh troops of empty handed ants followed the same trail in the opposite direction up the tree.  Em was so taken by the spectacle that he decided it was time to start sharing discoveries like this with the world.  Hence, he vowed to create a "Creature of the Month" page on our website.  Click here to see the result, and be sure to check back for his new discoveries.  (And between you and me, he's really hoping that someone will send him some email to ask questions about these here's your chance to encourage a budding scientist!)

    After admiring the ants for a while, we set off back down hill.  Those of you with even modest phobias of internal parasites would have cringed at the sight.  When we returned to the river, there were two men there now.  One was buck naked taking a bath in the river water.  About 10 yards upstream the other guy was squatting down peeling mangoes, giving them a quick rinse in the river, and then devouring them.  And by how skinny they both looked, one might have suspected Schistosomiasis.  The nude guy scurried back to the rock where his shorts lay and covered himself.  The other guy was so engrossed in his mangoes that he could do little more than a brief grunt as we walked past.  Once again we managed the traverse without falling in.

    On our way back down the trail I was thinking about the guy with his pile of mangoes and sure enough, about a hundred yards further along there was a huge mango tree with its soaring limbs shading the riverbanks.  It was drooping with mangoes and we could have feasted if I were only about eighty feet taller.  There were a few rotten mangoes on the ground.  But it WAS a windy day and we didn't have to wait too long before THUMP! a mango fell nearby.

   I pulled out my Leatherman and we all shared strips of the most delicious, sticky, sweet, still-warm-from-the-sun mango that you can imagine.  Just as I was lamenting how small it was, another THUMP.  Then another!  After reassuring Emmett that Mangoes cannot carry Schistosomes, we continued our feast a while longer before wandering back to town.



  May  5:   

   We were planning to sail on yesterday, but it rained off and on most of the morning and nobody felt like standing out in the rain to pull the anchor up.  So we stayed inside and did school and before we knew it was so late in the day that we'd just have to wait until tomorrow to sail.  And so instead Kathleen started the Ant War.

   We  had picked up these tiny ants onboard back in Georgetown or something.  They never really went away, but there also weren't very many around so I never thought much about it.  Not so my wife who has been watching them carefully.  An attempt to exterminate them with roach traps or a boric acid paste seemed to help for a while, but now they are on the uptick again.  And every time Kathleen sees one now she starts shrieking about how they are EVERYWHERE and probably crawl on her at night and throw parties in her underwear drawer and pee on her tea bags and so on.  It was time for EXTREME ACTION or she would be moving into a hotel. 

  "OK", I thought, "Guess we'll have to do something."  Back in the Dominican Republic I remembered seeing anti-vermin products on the shelves with frightening names like "Maxi-tox" or "ChemLethalex" or something and now I was regretting not buying a case.  We did have one small vial of Terro Ant Killer gel that I had bought in St Martin but never bothered to deploy until now.  We used this stuff growing up in Minnesota.  A few drops on a couple of pieces of wax paper in the corners of the kitchen and soon they were a distant memory.  My Dad had also recommended it to Kathleen last time he was down to visit, which probably held more credibility in Kathleen's eyes than my childhood memories.  Soon we were creating little ant rest stops of this deadly syrup in every likely spot we could think of.

   By supper time I poured Kathleen and I cocktails to reward our ambitiousness and hopefully soothe her ant anxieties.  About halfway through sunset an ant crawled over Kathleen's thigh as if to mock my efforts.  "There are still ants!!", Kathleen cried. 

   Needing to re-establish hope, I replied with conviction, "It will take two weeks for enough of the ants to drink of this deadly poison and bring it back to the nest to share with all their friends.  Then the ants will be gone."  But I think in retrospect it was a mistake to introduce the concept of a big nest of ants hiding somewhere on the boat.

   So Kathleen continues to worriedly point out each ant she sees while I reiterate the two week timeframe.  But if anyone out there has any other ideas, please send me an email.  Because in 13 days I'm going to have to come up with something!



   May  6:  

   The rain stopped and we finally got underway to a place called Pigeon Island.  Apparently some time ago Jacques Cousteau named this place on his list of the worlds top 10 dive sites.  Guadeloupe promptly made it an underwater park.  On our way down we saw a couple dolphins, but they looked like they were late for a meeting or something because they made no effort to come and play in our bow wave like dolphins usually do.  Em was down below at the time and was a bit upset that he missed them.  Little did we know that his best biology lesson of the day was yet to come.

    A short while later Kathleen was at the helm when she turned the boat to get a closer look at something big floating in the water.  I went up to the bow to see and as we approached, there appeared to be a flipper flailing about in the air.  Kathleen called Emmet up and I started thinking that it must be a sea turtle trapped in a net or something.  I knew that Kathleen would soon have me diving in with a knife between my teeth to try to rescue the turtle.

    But I would not have the opportunity to be a hero.  As we glided within about 10 yards of the flailing flipper, I noticed a second turtle underneath the floating one.  They were mating!  And, I'm sad to say, our arrival resulted in a startled coitus interruptus for this lusty couple.  I was, in the span of the next 60 seconds, amazed to have seen such a rare sight, sorry toward what must now be a rather frustrated turtle, and a bit relieved that Emmett did not want further details on exactly what mating is anyway.

    The diving around Pigeon Island was nice.  Whenever we see a new fish, we always come back to the boat and pull out our fish identification books to try to find out what it was.  This doesn't happen very often any more as we can now name most reef fish from memory.  But we found two new species here: the whitespotted filefish and the honeycomb trunkfish.  I can tell you that they are just as lusciously pretty as their names would suggest.      

    After snorkeling, we could see that the nearby anchorage was too rolly for comfort, so we sailed another 5 miles down the coast to Anse a la Barque.  Here we met Kristin and Hans from Whisper.  They're a couple in their 20s who have been out sailing the Caribbean for the past 18 months before they settle down to lead responsible lives.  Kristen mentioned that they saw cannons under their boat.  Em and I snorkeled over to investigate and not only were there four cannon, but also the decaying timbers of a whole shipwreck.  Nothing of it is listed in our guidebooks, so we'll have to do more research.  Nonetheless, it still amazes me that they still lie there in this shallow bay and not in a museum somewhere.  So many amazing things, all around us, just waiting to be discovered.  Sometimes I feel like I'm 7 years old again, too. 



  May 8:   

  About 10 miles south of Guadeloupe lies a little cluster of islands called "The Saints"; or in French, "Isles Les Saintes".  We set off first thing in the morning yesterday to check them out.  With all fishing lines deployed, we first motored out into deep water in hopes of catching some fish...or at least catching some of the trade winds that were shadowed by the tall peaks of Guadeloupe closer to shore.  I should be more careful what I ask for.  Soon the winds built to a steady 20 knots, and on the nose, too!  (Aren't they always blowing from the direction we want to go?)

  By pulling our sails in tight, we were able to set a course for pretty close to our destination.  And by the time we were about half way there, a thought struck me.  Kathleen was in the cockpit reading.  Which might not seem all that remarkable, except that for the first 6 months of our cruise, beating upwind into 20 knots was generally a recipe for Kathleen to be lying still and fighting the queasiness of seasickness.  I pointed this out to her and she agreed that, yes, she felt just fine and seemed to be finally developing a tolerance for rough seas. 

   The Saints are a group of about 5 islands that were colonized by French fishermen from Normandy two centuries ago, and many of their descendants are still here making a living the same way.  An even larger portion of these descendants have opened restaurants and gift shops for the hoards of French tourists who descend upon this otherwise sleepy settlement every morning on the 9:30am ferry from Guadeloupe.  Our first afternoon here we looked at the ferry pier packed with people and decided to take a swim, have dinner, and stay onboard Uliad.

   By the following morning however, our insatiable thirst for French baked goods required that we go to shore.  We found a nice table at a sidewalk cafe, ordered quiche & croissants, and then enjoyed a front row seat for the transformation of the town again as a wave of tourists poured up the street from that first morning ferry.  With backpacks, strollers, and wheeled suitcases these pale skinned French families stormed up the hill to get done all that needed doing before they had to board the ferry home again.  The island must double its population every morning at 9:30.

   The town itself is a delicious cluster of red-roofed, easter-egg walled, gingerbread trimmed homes scattered up the hillside.  When the hills become too steep for homes, there are goat pastures, and when it gets too steep for the goats, civilization finally gives way to the green scrub brush hills that look no different to us than they probably did to Columbus when he first looked through is spyglass upon them.  And these islands sit in a pool of blue and amazingly clear water filled with healthy colorful sponges & corals everywhere.   

Les Saintes harbor view

   One interesting observation was that EVERYONE here is French.  It seems like everywhere else in the known tourist world, you will come across quite a few other American (or at least Canadian or British) tourists there also.  Even downtown Paris cafes will often have English subtitles on the menu.  Not here.  The French have saved this little gem of an island all to themselves.  And with their legally guaranteed 6 weeks of annual vacation, it appears that they make good use of the place. 

   After breakfast, I went to pay with my 20 Euro bill and the lady didn't have enough small change.  "No probleme!" she said cheerily.  "Enjoy your day, and bring the money another time."  Nice.  I think the way we devoured her croissants, she suspected we'd be back soon.

   The rest of the town was charming and friendly.  The restaurants and shops were fun to explore for a while, but at this latitude, we're learning to respect the mid day heat!  By noon everyone was getting dizzy and cranky.  We retreated to the shade of our cockpit and soon Kristin & Hans from Whisper came by and invited me to go snorkeling.  I jumped at the opportunity to cool off.  On a nearby reef I made my first dive about 30 feet down to check my anchor and right next to it were two lobsters and a sleeping sea turtle.  The lobsters turned out to be too small to keep, but I took that as a good sign that more must be lurking around here.  But another hour of searching turned up plenty of baby lobsters, but no bigger ones.  There must have been plenty of other divers out here before me with similar intentions.  The corals and sponges here were great though.  All of Guadeloupe's waters have been great for coral and sponges, but pretty fished out with regards to anything edible.  I can see why so many of those sons & daughters of Norman fishermen have decided to turn to the restaurant business instead.



 May 10:  

   "Someday Came" anchored next to us the other day with 11 year old Caroline on board and she & Emmett have been nearly inseparable since then.  Last night we had everyone from Whisper and Someday Came over to our boat for dinner.  With no fish or lobster to be found on the reef, I served Chicken Piccata, which was well received.   We had a great time sitting around in the cockpit all night sharing stories.   By the end of the evening, we had decided that we'd all rent motorbikes tomorrow and explore the island.  I'm surprised Emmett slept at all, he was so excited! 

   Bright & early at 8:30, Someday Came was at our stern and ready to go.  (Have to beat that 9:30am rush, y'know!)  We found the first scooter rental shop right next to the dinghy dock and signed ourselves up.  As we were being fitted for helmets, I noticed more than a few villagers stopping to chat with their neighbors on the corner.  I was given gestured instructions as to how to operate my motorbike by the shopkeeper and he then indicated that I should drive down the street a distance, then turn around and come back. 

   When I looked up, a small crowd had clearly gathered, surreptitiously looking out the corners of their eyes at me.  "I come from the land of Harley Davidson!" I thought and gunned the throttle on my anemic motor.  I managed to do a reasonable turn on the narrow streets without tipping over and drove back to the shop where Kathleen was now being issued her scooter.  "Do many tourists drive into the wall their first time?, I asked in broken French. 

   "Oui", she replied in good humor.

   "Have all these people stopped to watch if we will crash our motorcycles?", I continued.

   "Oui. Every morning the same show.  Some days better than others."

   Kathleen, despite having a scooter that was a bit too tall for her to both sit on and touch the ground at the same time, also made a respectable test drive, as did Shannon and Kathy from Someday Came.  We loaded up the kids and took off down the road as a disappointed assembly of villagers continued about their day.

   The island, it turned out, is the perfect place to tour by motor-scooter.  We roared up to the top of the hill to visit its strategically placed fort--this would have been a painfully hot and long walk beneath the tropical sun.  Everyone enjoyed the stunning panoramas and an interesting museum (aside from a rather shocking display of a colonial French woman who appears to be gazing with perpetual resolution upon the crotch of a French soldier in uniform).

Diorama from Ft. Napoleon--What is she staring at?

 After getting our fill of history and scenery, we coasted back down the steep road to explore the rest of the island.  And we truly did travel every single road of the island, look at every beach, and stop at every roadside view.  Our travels were unhindered by traffic, save other two wheeled vehicles and the very rare taxi van.  This place was made for scooters!  When we got hot, we stopped to swim...or just drove faster...or stopped for ice cream.  And by the time we had seen it all, it was just about time to turn the machinery back in before the shop closed. 

   Experienced scooter drivers that we now were, no crowds awaited our arrival. 

Easy Riders, Les SaintesKath explores the back roads of Les Saintes



  May 12:


    We woke up bright and early this morning, planning to make the 20 mile sail to Dominica today.  But as I was getting ready to dinghy into town to clear out of the country, we heard from another boat that the Customs & Immigration offices were closed today due to a holiday.  Nobody seemed too disappointed to have to spend one more day in this lovely village. 

    By afternoon the men folk from Uliad, Someday Came, Whisper and Tanaia had made plans to go snorkeling for lobster.  I didn't hold out much hope for finding any, given the large numbers of fishermen that try to make a living here.  But the sun was hot, the water, cool, and we didn't have much else to do.

   I picked up Shannon from Someday Came in our dinghy and our little flotilla set off for a promising reef on the north side of the island.  Shannon is an ex-Navy Seal and therefore a capable guy to have as a dive buddy.  And like a few other SEALS I have met over the years, he is a genuinely friendly, laid back, gentle guy.  One would never know that he was once a highly trained underwater killer.

   Our first stop was pretty enough underwater, but quite devoid of edible marine life, so we moved on to another spot where one of our party claimed to have found a lobster a few days ago.  Shannon and I worked our way out toward a rocky point where the ocean swells were bashing against land.  We both agreed that, to find lobster, we were going to have to dive where other people didn't.  And sure enough, after 15 minutes or so, I noticed a little antenna sticking out from under a rock about 40 feet down.  I took a few deep breaths, knowing this would be a deep one and kicked down to investigate.  There were 4 or 5 lobster all crowding together under a big rock.  None of them looked very big, but I grabbed one with my snare and brought him to the surface for a closer look.  Shannon and I agreed that he was of legal size and Shannon took a dive down to get another.  He came up with a similar sized one.  Now I could see his killer instinct coming to life.  I volunteered to swim our first two bugs back to the dinghy that was anchored safely in the lee of this rocky outcrop.  But when I had returned, he had harvested no more.  The rest were too small.  Now my killer instinct apparently was growing, too, because I went down again, picked the largest of the three, and thought maybe he'd be OK.  But he really was pretty small.  I ended up bringing it back to Uliad where Kathleen promptly demanded that I bring it back and release the baby unharmed.  Which I guiltily agreed to do.

   But before we brought our catch back to Uliad, we could see one other reef about a hundred yards further offshore and decided to swim out there and have a look.  This turned out to be an offshore pinnacle covered with beautiful corals.  And in several spots, there were wide, low caves extending deeply into the rock.  At about 40 feet down (actually 38 feet we would measure later with a depth gauge on our SCUBA gear) we peered into one of these caves and as soon as my eyes adjusted to the dim light...Bingo!  I could see a whole gang of big lobsters lined up along the back wall of the cave.  I called over Shannon to take a look, and Hans came over and took a dive as well.  Everyone agreed they were there and looked big.  The trouble was, they were 40 feet down.  And then 10 feet back in a dark cave.  We took turns diving down to look, then coming up and saying "Damn, I don't know how anybody's going to get in there unless they had a SCUBA tank on!"

   I floated on the surface, pondering how much my free-diving has improved over the past year.  I could get down maybe 20 or 30 feet max when we started this trip, but just a couple days ago I had dove to the bottom beneath our boat without much trouble and then turned on the depth sounder to find that I had just gone 50 feet down.  So it occurred to me that 40 feet down and 10 feet sideways was really the same thing as long as I don't panic or anything. 

   Free diving has a lot to do with mind games.  As long as you can stay relaxed, your body somehow needs less oxygen.  But start flailing hard, or worrying that you won't do it and suddenly your throat is burning, your eyes bug out, and all you can think about is getting AIR. But all at once, this feeling of confidence came over me that I knew I could do this dive. 

   As Hans and Shannon chatted on the surface, I took a few deep, calm breaths and started pushing downward.  As I reached the cave opening, I briefly thought that I might not be relaxed enough...I kicked to hard on the way down...I was starting to need to breathe.  But I relaxed again and eased forward into the dark hole.  Once inside I saw the lobsters again and all my focus was there.  I swam right up, got a snare around one and pulled it shut.  I had him, easy as that.

   But as soon as the task was done, I again remembered that I am, in fact, an air breathing mammal and really should get the hell out of this cave 40 feet underwater.  For their part, my snorkeling companions were on the surface watching me disappear into the cave, and were waiting just long enough to contemplate murmuring "Oh Shit." under their breaths when they saw me reappear and start kicking hard for the surface.   About half way up I started flailing my arms too and I thought seriously about letting go of the snare holding my hard won lobster to get to the surface!  "No," I thought, "I deserve this lobster!" 

   After an eternity, I broke the surface, spitting out my snorkel and noisily sucking in two lungs full. of sweet, cool air.  Then two more.  And as Shannon and Hans started stammering something congratulatory to me I proudly lifted my snare up out of the water to display the most anemic little baby lobster you ever saw.  We all roared with laughter.  It was funny they way things can only seem giddy and mirthful immediately after having narrowly cheated death.

   So I never got my trophy lobster from that experience.  The lack of oxygen to the brain must have made them look bigger down there.  But I did get one thing.  As we slowly swam back to our dinghy, Shannon thought it all over and suddenly said, "Steve, that was a damn nice free-dive."  Which is I figure, when coming from a Navy SEAL, something to be proud of.



  May 13:  

   Customs was open this morning so we cleared out, ate a few last croissants and pointed our bow toward Dominica.  We were immediately met with 20 knots of wind on the nose, and steep waves to match.  Why does the wind always seem to be blowing from the direction we want to go?  Kathleen assumed her supine "Don't bother me or I'll barf" position.  Emmett started wailing, "Daadeeee!  I want to go back."  When I optimistically suggested that conditions would improve as soon as we got into deeper water it changed to "DAADEEE!  I want to go farther offshore!!"

  And sure enough, the wind did finally back around and the seas smoothed out and the last hour was a fabulous reach at 8 knots until we rounded a point of land and headed for the town of Portsmouth.  We were met way off shore by a bright yellow and red boat with "Lawrence of Arabia  Ch 16" written on the side.  We had heard about "boat boys" on Dominica who make their living by offering their services to yachts: taxiing people to shore, organizing tours, delivering food, whatever.  I guess years ago they could be rather rude and obnoxious with several boys fighting over you, but Lawrence was a complete gentleman--offering to be available if we needed anything, but quickly moving on if we didn't.  The other boat boys seemed to know that we were Lawrence's boat and did not bother us.  We anchored near some other yachts, enjoyed a sunset and a cold drink before supper, and were soon forgetting all about that passage that started off so rough.



 May 14:  

   Our sailing guidebook for this island suggested several reliable boat boys but Lawrence was not on the list.  So when it came time to organize a trip up the Indian river, we weren't sure what to do.  "Cobra", our guidebook suggested, "is very knowledgeable and has been lobbying the Dominican government to not allow outboard motors on the Indian river".  "Providence" received a similar endorsement. 

  After rounding up Someday Came and Whisper to come along, Kathleen called up "Lawrence of Arabia" to see how he measured up.  Yes, he was a member of the Indian River Guide Association and could tell us all about the native fauna and flora of the river. He grew up here and knew everything about the place (and was therefore clearly NOT from Arabia)  So we signed up for our tour at 7am although Kathleen was still nervous that perhaps this guy wasn't quite the naturalist that one of the others might be.

   Lawrence pulled alongside Uliad at exactly 6:58 and our fears of choosing the wrong guy vanished pretty quickly.  As we started up river, Lawrence turned off his motor and started rowing.  The laws had passed to protect this river from the noise and pollution of outboard motors.  We silently drifted up into the lush jungle surrounding the river when who should come around the first corner but "Cobra" running his 40 horse Yamaha down river like he had never heard of the law that our guidebook said he was lobbying hard for. 

   But Cobra soon faded behind us and we took in the sights:  amazing, gnarled bloodwood trees, beautiful flowers and rich, dense jungle foliage that seemed to completely envelop us in a sort of living tunnel as we drifted upstream.  Lawrence pointed out a site where a scene from "Pirates of the Caribbean II" was filmed although now it just looks like a muddy spot in the jungle.

   At the upper end of the boat trip sits a little bar looking like a deserted version of a scene from Apocalypse Now.  On cruise ship days, they offload folks here to drink awhile before carting them back downstream, but at this early hour it was more of a place to stretch our legs a while before the return trip.

   The return was just as pretty and everyone was in a good mood by the end of the tour.  So if you're ever in Portsmouth, Dominica, by all means let "Lawrence of Arabia" take you on a tour of the Indian River, not matter who else the guide books recommend!  Back on Uliad, it didn't take us long to start planning our next inland adventure on Dominica.  Tomorrow we're having Lawrence arrange us a driver to see the rest of the island.  Stay tuned!

Lawrence--our tour guideEmmett & Caroline explore the Indian River


 May 16:  

   Lawrence of Arabia arrived right on schedule again to escort us to shore.  There he introduced us to Winston, our driver for the day.  Winston was a quiet middle aged gentleman who came equipped with a shiny Toyota van with "DR. LOVE" written across the top of the windshield.  Despite our proddings, he insisted that he was not actually "Dr. Love"...Lawrence owned the van, and was responsible for the decal.

   Winston took us up a dizzying back road into the mountains and through plantation after plantation of tropical fruits.  Dominica's leading export is bananas, which are shipped year round to Europe.  We got an in depth look into banana farming, including a stop at a little shack where the bananas were being washed, weighed and boxed for shipping.  They pick them about three weeks before ripeness so they'll be ready to eat soon after crossing the Atlantic.  Bananas in the grocery stores back in the US follow a similar schedule and we can now say with authority that a fresh, tree-ripened banana is FAR better than any that I remember from back home.  And I really LIKED bananas!

   But Dominica grows more than bananas.  We also saw papaya, star fruit, passion fruit, coconuts, mammi fruit, coffee, cocoa, soursop, sweetsop, breadfruit, guava, bay seemed like a garden of eden with food everywhere.  We meandered upward until the air turned cool and looked out across breathtaking vistas of the sea below. 

   After a while we had reached the Eastern side of the island where the last remaining Carib Indians live on a reservation.  The border was obvious, if only by the sudden disappearance of African facial features and skin color of the residents.  The Caribs have reddish brown skin, almond eyes and straight black hair.  The fierce Carib Indians fought off Spanish, French, and English attempts at colonization all throughout the Caribbean before gradually being exterminated in the 1700s.  In the end, it was only here on Dominica up in these steep, lush hills that they could not be routed out and they live here to this day.  There is a little traditional Carib village which they charge tourists to look at.  We could see the village pretty well from the gate and decided against the tour.  But we ended up supporting the economy anyway by buying some really nice woven baskets in the gift shop.

   Emmett and his friends Violet and Caroline were getting a bit cranky from all the driving by now so we stopped at a little Creole restaurant looking over a cliff and sat down for lunch.  "No menus," said the waitress after taking drink orders, "we have stew chicken or fish".  Stew chicken or fish.  If we were new to the Caribbean dining scene we might have turned up our nose, but here, the food is good but the names are terrible.  Some of the most delicious dishes we have eaten have humble, if not downright unappetizing names like "meat patty", "fish water", "conch salad", or today's "stew chicken".  Caribbean cuisine really needs a marketing agent.

   As it turned out, both dishes were amazingly good.  The fish was mahi-mahi, fresh and grilled just right.  The stew chicken was tender and succulent in a lightly curried Creole sauce.  Both were served on a huge platter with a shredded green papaya salad, breadfruit, rice, dasheen (kind of like a potato), and ripe plantains.  We were stuffed, but not so stuffed to refuse the dessert of a platter of fresh tropical fruits.  Yum!  It was the kind of meal that was incredibly good not because of exotic spices or clever kitchen tricks, but because they used only good, fresh, locally grown ingredients in everything.  I would have loved to stay all day and start sampling the dozens of home-made flavored rums behind the bar, but Winston still had more to show us.

Goat head on a platter...yum!Lots of flavors of rum

   Our next stop was the Emerald Pool. A 10 minute stroll down a lush jungle path led us to a waterfall which sprayed down through a green canopy into a cool green pool of water--hence the name.  Everyone took a swim and enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the place for about 10 minutes.  Then a group of 20 teen-agers on a field trip showed up and the spell was quickly broken.

Emmett at the Emerald Pool

   By now it was late afternoon...a full day.  We asked Winston if there was a bakery in town for one last stop.  He pulled into a gas station and shouted, "Got bread?" to the attendant.  Kathy (from Someday Came) bought a few loaves of sad white bread, but after being spoiled in the French islands, I decided to bake a loaf myself tomorrow.   Or maybe we'll just live on fruit for a while.



  May 17:


   Today was a rather frustrating day.  We woke up at 4am to a sudden downpour which managed to soak a few things before we could run around and close all the hatches.  After that excitement, I was pretty awake so I ended up raising anchor and starting our trip down to the capital city of Roseau just as the sun was coming up.  For once we didn't have strong winds on our nose.  We had no wind at all.  So after three hours of motoring, we arrived just as Em and Kathleen were waking up.

   We had not arrived early enough to avoid being seen by another boat boy who roared out and offered to help tie us on to a mooring ball here.  After 8 months of sailing we feel pretty confident about being able to anchor without needing help so I let him know that we'd try to manage by our selves.  He then muttered something about how hard it was to anchor here with all the reefs before finally giving up.  We ended up finding a nice spot just south of the mooring field in 40 feet of water to anchor.  A quick snorkel revealed no reefs and a well set anchor, both of which I suspected. 

   After finishing homeschool I took a nice siesta before Emmett and I went off in search of a snorkeling site called "Champagne".  Dominica is another volcanically active island and there is apparently a place just offshore where volcanic gasses bubble up through the sand to make it feel like you're swimming in a effervescent liquid.  But after a bus ride and a quarter mile hike, we ended up disagreeing with the guide book that suggested you could dive this site from shore.  A steep wall of boulders made up the shoreline here, and the boulders were getting pounded with each swell coming in from the ocean.  I don't know about volcanic gasses, but there were plenty of bubbles from the heavy surf!  So we had another bus ride home and no swimming in the champagne.  So we'll try again to find something else cool to do tomorrow.



  May 18:  

   First let me report that Uliad's ant infestation has now been resolved.  The Terro ant killer seemed to do the trick.  Thanks to my Dad for that suggestion because Kathleen was seriously threatening to move to a hotel if we didn't get rid of them. 

   Giddy by our newly ant-free status, we went to the nearby Anchorage Hotel for breakfast.   Fresh squeezed passion fruit juice is our newest addiction and they served bottomless glasses of it here.  After loading up with pancakes, we decided that a walk was in order to burn it off so we started heading towards town.  Roseau is run down and poor looking, with folks living in tin roofed shacks like we hadn't seen since the Dominican Republic.  People were friendly, however.  We made our way to the botanical gardens.  Now for an island that seems like one big botanical garden to have its own botanical garden seemed ironic.  We wandered through and put names to a number of trees before stopping by a giant Baobab tree whose shade provides a comfortable taxi stand.

Emmett explores a baobab tree

   Trafalgar falls is Dominica's highest waterfall and our goal for the day; and it didn't take long for a taxi to stop and agree to take us there.  Soon we were up in the cool mountainside and winding our way around hairpin turns through the jungles.  Dominica is another volcanically active island and at one point along our trip we could smell the distinct, rotten-egg smell of sulfur gas.  The driver pointed ten yards up a ravine and we could see steam spraying out from under a rock.  It was a volcanic gas vent; and while fascinating, we were glad to leave for fresher air.  We passed a few establishments advertising their natural sulfur bath spas and I imagined this to be a sort of Shangri-la for psoriasis sufferers.

   The air soon cleared, we passed a couple rain forest eco-lodges, and entered a steep canyon.  Or driver dropped us off in a parking lot after coordinating a pick-up time and we set off down the trail.  This is a national park, which required us to pay a small "site fee" at the ranger station on our way past.  Concrete steps soon turned to dirt and rocks as the forest canopy closed in around us.  The trail was walled in exotic flowers, thick vines, and huge leafed plants.  Birds sang in the canopy, and the distant roar of the waterfall began in the distance.

   We were walking up a canyon walled on all sides by sheer cliffs.  These cliffs were amazing for the fact that the were absolutely vertical, yet completely green.  It seemed incredible to me that so much plant life could cling to the cliff walls.  A fifteen minute hike brought us to the head of the canyon and the twin waterfalls.  The falls spray down about a hundred feet into a deep pool of clear, cool water.  Huge boulders funnel the water down another hundred feet to another pool where the trail ended.  With the green cliffs thrusting upwards on three sides, and the incredibly beautiful waterfall at the center, it was like nature's cathedral.

Trafalgar Falls, DominicaThe warm mineral spring river at Trafalgar Falls

   We spent an hour scrambling up the boulders, swimming in the pool, and snapping pictures.  The cool waters were the perfect antidote to a warm hike.  And we soon realized that we should have told our taxi driver to meet us in 3 hours instead of two!  On our way back down we looked for and found another amazing feature:  Just downstream a short distance from the trailhead was another small stream.  It looked different--the rocks and pools having a slight orange hue.  The water of this river was perfect bath-water warm in temperature.  The orange was due to iron and sulfur from it's volcanic source.

   We found a pool big enough for the whole family to enjoy a soak.  Our muscles, tired from the climbing, were quickly soothed in the mineral bath.  When it started to get too warm, Emmett and I wandered down to where the hot and cold merged and took one more plunge there.

   Hot and cold running perfect!  Combined with the natural cathedral, the stunning waterfall, the abundance of exotic fruits and vegetables everywhere...surely if there still remained a Garden of Eden on planet Earth, we had found it here in Dominica.  And when we passed that sulfur vent on the way back home, I made a concerted effort to keep an eye out for snakes offering apples. 



 May 20:



   After all our volcano-based exploration, I was really looking forward to visiting the town of St. Pierre, Martinique.  We arrived there after a nice sail and anchored in a broad bay off the town.  The green hills above St. Pierre are squared off into cultivated fields until a certain point where the terrain becomes too steep.  Mount Pelee continues to jut upwards into the clouds where its peak remains hidden most of the time.  It is a placid, fertile scene which we have grown accustomed to around here.

   This was not always the case.  Nearly 105 years ago to the day, Mt. Pelee erupted in an explosion stronger than the first atomic bomb.  Superheated gases rushed down this very mountainside and instantly incinerated nearly every single one of the 30,000 people who lived here at that time.  There were two survivors:  a cobbler who was in a deep basement at the moment of the explosion, and Cyparus, who was imprisoned for murder in the town's dungeon and was rescued 4 days later.  The wrecks of twenty or so wooden ships anchored in this harbor on that day still lay beneath us now. 

   A small museum on the hill above town bears witness to this legendary disaster.  Their relics include an enormous church bell melted flat from the heat, photos of the town before and after, various household relics, and even a few skulls and photos of charred bodies.  Cyparus, the prisoner who miraculously survived, went on to display his burns on a Barnum & Bailey Circus sideshow so there were plenty of photos of him, too.

   We braved the heat of the day to trek up to the hill and look at the museum.  The air conditioning in the museum led us to linger longer than necessary to see it all.  The rest of the town, while quaint, was small and unremarkable.  A few old stone walls and ruins have been preserved.  Only about 5,000 people live here now.  Yet the land around here appears to have benefitted from a fresh coat of fertile volcanic soil.  Sugar cane fields decorate the hillsides now.   Everything is green and fertile again.  Perhaps this place gives hope for Montserrat...a generation from now, it could be green and beautiful again.

Mt. Pelee and town of St. Pierre from deck of Uliad


 May 21:  

   Today is my 40th birthday.  It began to the sound of rain on the decks and I jumped up to close the hatches.  Looking out the companionway into the cockpit, I could see in the early morning sun the full arch of a rainbow to the west.  Most auspicious, I thought.

   Then I turned around and was confronted with the reality of my day.  We arrived yesterday afternoon in the city of Fort de France and went straight to the boat store here for a few spare parts.  The engine room blower fan had stopped working, the bathroom light had been fading for weeks now, and Emmett's toilet was leaking.  The new parts lay in a heap, next to the disassembled access panel where I had removed the old blower fan.  If I had any problems with the new parts, there'd be no returns or exchanges after leaving this I set to work.

   As is common on boats, the blower fan was tucked into a nearly inaccessible space beneath the nav station and behind the air conditioner.  By curling up under the desk and reaching blindly around the AC, I could just reach it.  But I quickly discovered now that while the old fan could be removed mostly one handed, installing a new one required two hands in that far away place.  After an hour of cursing, grunting, and sweating, I finally managed to get it hooked up.  I think the sweat lubricated my arms enough that I could squeeze them over the air conditioner.  I'll have to remember that trick.

   The bathroom light went slightly easier, and the toilet job never went at all.  They didn't have the part we needed so now we'll have to suffer with this one until at least St. Lucia.  After a quick swim and shower, I went off on my next job; finding Emmett a present for his birthday next week.  Fort de France is the largest city in the Windward Islands, and therefore our best chance to find him a knee board that I can tow him around on with the dinghy.  A long bike ride through city traffic brought me to a couple sporting goods stores that seemed to have what we needed and as long as I was there, I stopped at a grocery store and filled my backpack with more French cheeses and a bottle of Martinique's best rum.

   I must have looked ridiculous on the way back.  I was riding our folding Dahon bicycle with little 16 inch wheels.  I'm lugging a big backpack, and strapped to the back of the bike is a three foot long foam board.  And yes, I'm sweating and puffing like only a 40 year old man can.

   By the time I got back to Uliad by mid afternoon, Kathleen and Emmett had written "Happy Birthday, Dad" on the side of the hull in masking tape.  Anyone walking along the city's boardwalk could read it.  I was serenaded with the birthday song by Emmett on kazoo when I arrived home.  I sent him down to get me a cold drink, which gave me just enough time to take the knee board from the dinghy and hide it in a locker.  I then opened a few birthday gifts and found that Kathleen had bought me two more bottles of Martinique rum, so we should be pretty well supplied for a while in that department.

   By mid afternoon, we'd had enough of the big city and sailed across the bay to a pretty little anchorage called Trois Rivieres.  Here we met up with the crew of Someday Came and all went out for a fabulous French dinner at a little restaurant in an old stone cottage.  And by the time the garçon brought the dessert, I had completely forgotten about my fight with the blower fan.  Enjoying a fine French meal, my yacht anchored of the island of Martinique, chatting with family and friends, a moonlight stroll along the waterfront...yes, it was a good birthday!

Dad's Birthday sign



 May 23:  

   Our original plan was to sail south to St. Lucia yesterday.  But like cruisers often say, our plans are firmly set in jello.  A fellow cruiser was having some medical problems and contacted us by we ended up diverting to the town of St. Anne on the south coast of Martinique.  All ended up being fine and all I had to do was give a healthy dose of reassurance.  But it was one of those embarrassing medical things that I felt terrible that this poor gal had to describe on the radio where every boat in 30 miles could listen in.  So anyhow, to avoid any further embarrassment to this individual, I will neither name them, nor describe their problem further.

  The biggest crisis of the day ended up not being the medical issue, but Someday Came's embarrassing meeting with a reef when we anchored at St. Anne.  No harm was done to Someday Came or the reef, and they got off under their own power before making too much of a scene.  I guess it was a good reminder to all of us to pay attention.  As I've said before, I always love having the opportunity to learn from somebody else's mistakes instead of my own!

   This morning we finally made the 30 mile crossing to St. Lucia and it was a fabulous sail.  Uliad was racing along over calm seas at 8 1/2 knots.  We were visited underway by two groups of spinner dolphins and some pilot whales.  It is so amazing to have dolphins playing in your bow waves that it is hard to describe.  Dolphins are about the only wild animal that I've ever known to actively seek out people without wanting to eat them.  You can see them surfacing at a distance and suddenly they say to each other, "Hey! A boat!  Come on, guys, let's go check it out".  And the pod of dolphins suddenly changes direction and comes swimming over, matching our speed.  They swim along side.  They roll on their sides to get a look at us just as we squeal like little girls and run to the side to get a look at them.  Their favorite game seems to be to swim just a few inches from our bow, where the pressure from the moving boat gives them a bit of a free ride.  They trade places with their friends and peel off, maybe taking a jump out of the water to get a better look at us waving like goons on the bow.  As their name suggests, spinner dolphins are natural born acrobats and seem to love to jump and spin and twist in the air just for the hell of it.  It is no wonder that for as long as men have sailed the seas, sailors have felt a special love for these friendly creatures.  And no aquarium dolphin show in the world can compare to the grace and beauty of these wild dolphins surging along side you, sharing their joy.

Two pilot whales swimming with Uliad



  May  26:

     We remain anchored in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.  Rodney Bay is a long, graceful curve of sand, backed by resorts and framed by tall rocky pillars on either side.  A narrow channel in the center of the bay takes you to a protected lagoon where there is a marina, a mall, and a whole array of yacht related services.  It is a smaller, more scenic version of St. Martin where yachts come to rest, make repairs, and spend money.  First on my agenda here was to find a replacement part for Emmett's leaky toilet.  It had to be ordered, and that meant we'd be staying here a while.  There could be worse places to sit around.

    The tropical heat has us going through cold beverages at a startling rate, so the next item on our to-do list was a trip to the grocery store.  To have a full, modern supermarket within a block of the dinghy dock is golden for cruisers.  My only complaint was that, for inexplicable reasons, they play old-time country & western music over the PA at the supermarket.  Bizarre.  We also managed to find a few gifts for Emmett's upcoming birthday at the mall and I've completed a few maintenance chores about the boat:  changing engine zincs, checking the hydraulic fluid, unplugging a drain hose...etc.

   And then there are the social engagements.  Nearly every night since we got here we have been getting together with friends.  We went out for pizza two nights ago, last night we had everyone over for a potluck, another boat is talking about a beach bonfire in a couple days,etc.  It's all great fun...we were up until the wee hours last night with Someday Came and Whisper in our cockpit sipping on rum drinks, playing guitars and singing silly songs, telling stories, and so on.  It is all great, but by now we're feeling worn out from all the fun.  All that late night partying has us tired and irritable by day.  Is this part of turning 40?  Who knew that a life of leisure was so much work?



 May 27:  

   We had really decided that we needed a quiet night onboard Uliad to rest.  That is until Whisper came by and asked if we wanted to go turtle watching.  St. Lucia's Grand Anse beach on the eastern shore is a place where every year in May and June, giant Leatherback turtles come to nest.  Tired as we were from too many late nights of socializing, this was a once in a lifetime event we just couldn't miss.

    We climbed into a rental car and navigated our way along the steep winding roads of this island's mountainous interior.  The final mile was down a steep, heavily rutted dirt path that rental cars were clearly not meant to travel on, but we somehow made it to the beach just as dusk approached.  Here we met Isaiah, who works for an organization called TurtleWatch.  They run tours for the tourists, but more importantly, they guard this beach every night during nesting season from poachers.  Even in this day and age where everyone knows that sea turtles are critically endangered it seems that the lure of easy turtle meat and eggs is enough that islanders still try sometimes...

   The mile long beach faces the open Atlantic.  The general process of turtle watching is to hike the length of the beach every hour or so from dusk until dawn.  We marched south to the end of the beach and stopped for a rest.  The hiking is done in the starlight only...lights on the beach can confuse the turtles and prevent nesting.  It was a beautiful night, but I couldn't help thinking that this would be a lot of work if no turtles came.  By the time we patrolled northward again, Em and his friend Caroline were getting tired and irritable.  We started planning how we'd let the kids sleep in the car and take shifts on the beach march.

   And then, there it was.  A five foot wide path of turtle tracks running from the surf right up onto the sand.  We followed them about 20 yards to find a huge black leatherback turtle hard at work digging a hole with it's back flippers.  Approaching quietly from behind, this ancient creature came into focus in the dim light. 

    Leatherback turtles are incredible.  In the 4-7 years since she last came here to nest, this sea turtle may literally have swam round the whole earth.  Isa tagged here a few years ago that was later found dead in Australia.  They travel from the arctic to the tropics, dive to 4000 feet, and stay submerged for 45 minutes at a time.  They are the world's fastest reptile (22 mph when startled) and also one of the largest.  They are maneuverable enough in the water to swim circles around pursuing sharks.  Yet alone in the night on this beach, she is so obviously and utterly helpless.

    With her hole finally dug, The eggs begin plopping, two or three at a time, into the nest.  At the other end her head is smeared with sand from her struggle up the beach.  She strains, pushes out eggs, then rests and takes in a few deep, grumbling breaths.  Suddenly, I'm reminded of all those late night human births I've attended over the years.  Women follow the same rhythms to bring forth life ...breathing, pushing, resting, continuing.  Surrounded by those who care for her, yet also very alone in her labors.  We stand by patiently and speak in hushed tones, waiting for the process to unfold.  No Discovery Channel documentary can compare to sitting by this giant, watching her work and hearing her breathe.

leatherback turtle on St. LuciaThe eggs

   And then, after 83 eggs, she begins flopping those enormous, powerful flippers.  Sand flies everywhere as she buries her nest.  Still she stops to rest, and breathe, and then continue.  She is meticulous.  So many birds, dogs, rats, people, etc. would love the free meal her basket of eggs will provide. Their only protection for the next few weeks will be her diligence in hiding them. 

   45 minutes later, she is finally satisfied.  She turns back toward the sea and begins moving, awkwardly pushing herself down the sand and into the surf.  Her energy picks up now.  Is that a sigh of relief as the first wave hits her?

   We stand and watch until she is gone, back to the sea.  If she survives fishing nets and propellers, sharks and poachers, pollution and garbage, she'll be back in a few years to do it all again.  About half of her eggs will hatch in two months and the babies will race down this beach too, lest they be snatched by a bird.

   Walking back to the car in the starlight, we can't help but feel humbled by these gentle giants.  To share their secret midnight nesting ritual on this remote beach was truly an experience of a lifetime.  And impressive enough to Emmett for him to name the leatherback sea turtle as the new Creature of the Month.

Back to the sea after a job well done



 May  30: 



    After having a birthday pizza party in town for Emmett, we finally moved on from Rodney Bay today.  By nightfall, we reached the town of Soufriere.  As commonly happens in this part of the Caribbean, a small boat quickly intercepted us and offered to guide us to a mooring ball for $8.  By now we could see the mooring balls pretty clearly on our own so I declined the offer. We started pulling up to one of our own selection, all the time trying to ignore the chorus of, "No mon, not dat one!  You will hit a rock!  De fishermen get up very early dere to cast de nets.  Follow me and I show you a good mooring!" 

   As it turned out, we were perilously close to some rocks, and another mooring ball nearby wasn't going to work either.  The harbor here is just too deep to lay an anchor, so with great humility, we ended up taking the mooring our little entrepreneur was recommending.  I offered him $4 for his services and he took it and quickly disappeared.

   About 15 minutes later another boat came up.  This guy explained that we were on his mooring.  The last guy we paid only for helping us get to the mooring and now that we were here, we should pay $20 per night to use this mooring.  By now it was dark, Kathleen was annoyed, Emmett was hungry, and I was in no mood to keep wandering the harbor.  Once again I offered half price and sent another villager back to shore with a grin on his face. 

   Daylight came as scheduled, allowing us a better opportunity to see what we had purchased.  On the plus side, it was a good, strong mooring conveniently close to town.  We were in 60 feet of water even though we were maybe 20 yards from shore.  The water was clear enough to see all the way down to the bottom.  Little purple jellyfish swam vigorously around the boat and Emmett soon had a juice glass in hand to try to catch one.  To the south lay "The Pitons"--two gigantic pillars of rock rising dramatically out of the sea.  To the north was a sheer cliff with one large crack in it that housed a large colony of bats with two-foot wingspans.  It was pretty here.

One of The Pitons, St. Lucia

   There was, however, a negative side.  To the east, like a big hairy wart upon the nose of this lovely valley, lay the town of Soufriere...a dingy conglomeration of tin-roofed shacks, dirty children wandering in their underpants, mangy dogs, and noisy poultry.  Lurking around every corner was a Rastafarian looking to sell bead necklaces to the hapless white guy.  And worst of all, it appeared to be the custom of Soufrerians to come down to the town waterfront each time they feel the call of nature.  20 yards off shore, we had a front row view of the whole town shitting and pissing in front of us.  Now we've seen plenty of poverty in our travels, but you don't have to be wealthy to construct a latrine.  And it gets annoying to feel like everyone you meet is trying to hustle you.  Another cruiser told us a story of how he saw a couple guys with a soccer ball here and asked if they wanted to play.  "OK", they said, but he'd have to pay them.

   So we took advantage of our convenient location to get some gas for the dinghy and clear out with customs.  Kathleen found a nice hair salon up the hill and got her hair done.  While Kathleen got a haircut, Emmett and I took a cab to see the botanical gardens and the sulfur springs near town.  The botanical gardens were beautiful, topped by a waterfall where one of the Superman movies was filmed.  I can't remember the scene, but apparently Superman whisked Lois Lane here for a little romantic interlude by the tropical paradise. 

Superman's Waterfall

   Here's the economics of the trip:  A guy offers us a package tour. We agree to a price and go.  Once we get to the Botanical Garden we discover that there is another entrance fee that was not included in the tour package.  A guide comes us up and starts leading us around.  He does a nice job and clearly knows his plants, but he talks and walks really fast.  When we stop to admire a flower, he does his best to keep us moving.  It's clear that he wants to finish our tour and collect the tip ASAP so he can give another tour and collect another tip after us.  He makes it clear that he is not paid by the Botanical Gardens and our tip is his only source of income so we should be generous even though we never asked for a guide.  We reach the waterfall.  There are natural hot springs here that feed into large concrete bathtubs and for an extra fee we can go swimming.  We politely decline, thinking that with our lifestyle, we definitely don't have to pay to swim.  The sulfur vent was the same story--pay to get in, get led around by a rushed and grumpy guide.  Take a look from a viewing platform at a couple puddles of boiling mud that smells like rotten eggs, and then be sure to stop at the gift shop where ladies all display the same table of local hot sauce, coconut carvings, and T-shirts.  Maybe I've seen too many volcanoes by now to go on any more tours.

   Back on Uliad, we went bat-watching at dusk.  And by then we were really ready to go. 



 May 31:  

   Today we left at first light to sail south to the island of St. Vincent.  Someday Came continues to travel with us and we have both been commiserating at the lack of fish around here.  As we started offshore, Shannon got on the radio to tell me that he was going to take in his teaser and rig his lines deeper in the water to see if that worked.  The irony was, I had just put out a teaser and re-rigged my lures for surface trolling.  I really think there simply are no fish here. 

   The wind was light, which gave us a chance to dig out our ancient "code zero" sail.  Which is sailor talk for a big sail that you use when the wind is light and coming from the side to behind the boat.  Hardly ever happens it seems, so this was our big chance.  Well the old thing was great.  We were making 6 knots in only 10 knots of wind.  Then Kathleen looked up and noticed chunks of mylar floating down like a snow flurry.  I ran forward just in time to see the sail completely delaminate into shreds.  We pulled down a spider web of freely tangled spectra yarns and that was the end of that sail.  One more thing for the "to do" list in Trinidad.  Get a new sail made.   

   By lunch time we were anchored near Wallilabu Bay--the place used by Hollywood to create "Port Royal" for the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  Much of the set was left behind and the hotel/restaurant here is doing its best to exploit its tourism potential.  Emmett and his friend Caroline had a great time running around snapping pictures.  Close inspection reveals that many of the flimsy facades are deteriorating rapidly.  So if you dream of wandering the waterfront where Captain Jack Sparrow stole the British frigate, you'd better come soon.

Emmett exploring set from Pirates of the Caribbean

   Wallilabu is one of a number of places along the rugged coast of St. Vincent that has a reputation for petty theft of yachts.  So we locked everything up before going ashore and left Shannon and Violet aboard Someday Came to keep watch over both yachts.  Sure enough, it didn't take long before boys were swimming out from shore to get a better look at Uliad.  Each time, Shannon came up on deck and stared with his hands on his hips and that was enough to send them scurrying back to shore with guilty looks on their faces.  We're glad he didn't have to let loose with the cannon.

   Anyway, with the security situation being what it was there, we opted to move 5 miles further down the coast to a little bay called Petit Bayhout where there is a quiet eco-lodge on shore.  Unfortunately, when we got there the bay was getting sloshed around by an ocean swell and the moorings didn't look very we ended up sailing another 10 miles to the island of Bequia.

   Coming into Bequia, we were swarmed by a huge pod of spinner dolphins who gave us a great show of jumps, spins and close formation swimming.  What a welcome.  Someday Came had been a mile in front of us, but now Shannon was madly trolling back and forth to try to hook into a school of tuna he had seen with the dolphins.  Sure enough, he was rewarded with a small blackfin while Uliad remains fish-less.  Our anchor dropped synchronously with the sun and I cooked dinner.  To console myself for having no fresh tuna, I prepared a meal of shrimp scampi, pesto tortellini, and green beans sautéed in truffle oil.   We collapsed into our bunks with full bellies soon after.  It has been a long day of travelling.  Bequia will have to wait until tomorrow.



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