Arrival in St. Lucia

The pilot book said that the entrance to the Rodney Bay Marina was extremely narrow. I would have much preferred to arrive in daylight, however in reality it was 2200hrs and pitch black. Sharon and Blair were the spotters on the bow with a hand held spotlight while I focused on the helm, the Chart Plotter and the Radar. We felt our way into the entrance and the marina and as there was nobody to assist with docking we found a vacant pontoon and berthed Port side to. By now the crew were very adept at lassoing mooring cleats without stepping ashore. On went the fore and aft springers and after shutting down the motor and instruments we could relax. We would deal with formalities in the morning. We had departed Martinique at 1230 hrs and arrived at 2200hrs after an excellent sail of around 55Nm(105km)

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In the Customs office I read – “Life should not be measured in the number of breathes we take but rather in the number of moments that take our breath away”.

Many of the Caribbean islands have an online clear in/clear out system whereby one can go online and input all crew data including passport and yacht details prior to arrival. This makes it easy for both crew and the authorities to complete the procedure on arrival. Blair Larkin had been delegated the task.

St. Lucia was to be an important port of call for us. Because we had scheduled a 16 day layover it was an excellent opportunity to complete some essential maintenance on ‘Roaring Meg’.
The Sail Cover,Spray Dodger and Bimini were past their ‘use by date’ and it was time to replace them. I had contacted Kenny, the sailmaker at Rodney Bay Sails, in advance sending photos of ‘Meg’ and her canvas finery. He said better to complete a measure up on arrival for a more accurate job. He had budgeted 35 hours of labour and USD 2,200 worth of materials to complete the work. It was not cheap but with his 30 years experience he made an excellent job and Meg looks great in her new suit of clothes!

 

I can definitely recommend Kenny and Rodney Bay Sails.

The other issue was power generation for the house batteries(4 x 110 Amp AGM batteries). We have four ways of charging them; a 40 Amp battery charger that uses either 230V or 110V, the 120Amp Bosch engine alternator when running the motor, two x 90 Watt solar panels and a 400Watt three phase SilentWind generator which both feed the batteries via a hybrid controller. Note we have a completely separate 30Amp alternator which feeds the 90Amp engine battery only. The wind generator was not charging. The old enemy salt water had destroyed one of the connections and the battery monitor had been wired incorrectly. Vincent soon put us back on track!

A short time after arriving in Rodney Bay Marina we met Vincent who promised to make ‘Meg’ shine like a diamond in a goat’s arse for a mere 1200 ECD(East Caribbean Dollars). So we disappeared for the day in the rental car and when we returned Meg was looking like she had been to the beauty parlour with white decks and gleaming stainless steel fittings.

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Vincent – “I’m gonna make your Yacht shine like a diamond in a goat’s arse!”

One of the characters around the Rodney Bay Marina is the fruit and vegetable seller who would arrive every morning and shout out to Sharon, “Hey Miss you want fruit and vegetables today?”

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George the fruit and vegetable seller – Archimedes would have been fascinated with a craft that broke all the stability rules!

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The perfect pineapple for a fruit and vegetable seller like George! What Baldrick wouldn’t give for the perfect turnip!!!

Blair had been aboard ‘Meg’ since 17 April when he and I did the hard yards preparing ‘Meg’ for Ocean. He had been on boats before but had never sailed Blue Water and certainly not the Atlantic Ocean. His first two days at sea were memorable but for all the wrong reasons as he was seriously sea sick.

I related my experience aboard a Crayfish Boat in Western Australia.
First there was the interview which was short and went like this;
Q. Do you get sea sick?         A. Well no I don’t think so.
Q. Have you ever been on a boat before?         A. Yes I have.
Well then you probably don’t get sea sick.
Q. How far can you swim?      A. A half mile or whatever we were required to do at school.
Good because I am not going to sea with someone who cannot save themselves.
By the way if it is rough out there and no other boat leaves the harbour we will be going out. Are you alright with that?       A. Yes
Good then you are hired. I will pick you up at 5am – alright? Yes.

We drove north to Yanchep beach and rowed out through the surf to the 31.5 ft cray boat which was on a swing mooring.
After just two hours on board I was feeding the fishes and feeling terrible. The Owner/Skipper basically told me to harden up! He stopped the boat and said,” I don’t give a F**k who you are even the Admiral of the Fleet will be seasick sooner or later so don’t worry about it! If you put your head between your legs and start feeling sorry for yourself you are finished! Keep working and between cray pots get your head up the side of the boat and get a good guts full of fresh air whenever you can and you’ll be right!”
Well he was right because by midday I could hold down a cup of coffee and I have never been seasick since and that was in 1970. I have now logged more than 35,000Nm.

Blair took my advice and worked through the problem. You know when someone has completely “cracked it” when they are able to go below and prepare a complete meal in the small galley with little ventilation while going to Windward in rough seas and Blair did that on several occasions. Well done Blair!

Together we worked through the Royal Yacht Association Competent Crew Checklist of 20 skills to be learned and I can honestly say that Blair passed with honours.
It involves everything from the Collision Regulations to tying knots and splicing rope.
We made a sailor of him!

On Friday 25 May Sharon, Blair and myself went out for as celebration meal as we had completed an important leg of the voyage and Blair was flying to New York the following day. After the meal we thought that we should sample the Friday night Street party at Gros Islet about one Kilometre from the marina. This has been a fixture for many years. There was loud Reggae music, dancing and liquor but NOT everyone was there for social reasons! I said to Sharon and Blair that this is like watching foxes circling a chicken coop – let’s get out of here!
As we had come direct from the restaurant Sharon had a travel bag around her neck and under her arm. We walked uphill towards the main road which lead to the marina and with only 200 metres to go the villain struck. Sharon was pushed to the ground and the bag strap cut with a knife. The thief took off across the road running into a rough area and Blair and I gave chase. About 100 metres uphill the thief slipped on loose gravel and fell. Blair being 34 yrs and more fleet of foot than El Capitano caught up with him and landed two kicks to the head which made him groggy but he still had not released the bag. Then I arrived and dived on him applying the headlock which with hindsight should have been “The Sleeper” – Rory’s favourite move!

I said to Blair, “grab the bag”! In the meantime the thief was shouting ,” give me the bag or I will stab you”. Once Blair had the bag I told him to run for it. It was dark and the villain was darker! When I finally released him I got up and followed Blair. He picked up a rock and threw it at my head but I saw the arm movement and ducked and it passed over my head. This had all taken place in front of the heavy doors of a joinery shop.
Blair and I were both bleeding. He from a stab wound to the arm and me from lacerations to legs and arms from a fall and the fight on rough ground.

 

There was a filling station 200 metres away that we had passed on the way to the street party. The attendants told us to go to the Fire Station across the street as they are the paramedics in St. Lucia. Blair had his arm cleaned and bandaged and we were directed to the Police Station another 200 metres up the street.

We lodged a formal complaint with a plain clothes policeman (Edward)who scribbled notes and gave us an incident number #1804853. We were not exactly inspired with confidence about the outcome of the complaint as the police station appeared to be totally under resourced. Edward suggested that we return to the scene of the crime and show him where it took place. He remarked that there was a surveillance camera above the door of the joinery shop and that he knew it to be working – the proof and perhaps the identity of the thief would be recorded – YES! The event took place on the Friday and he would go to the joinery shop on the Monday and view/record the film.
He drove us back to the marina and promised to keep us informed of progress. He had my mobile number, email address and he knew the berth number of the yacht on Charlie #10.

He did not contact us in any shape or form. We returned to the Police Station at Gros Islet on the night of Tuesday 29 May to check on progress. The police woman on the front desk looked at the complaint number and asked us what it meant! I said what had happened and that “Edward” had interviewed us and assigned the complaint number and was he available to discuss the matter. Answer, NO but he was expected back in on the Thursday which just happened to be the feast of Corpus Christi and a public holiday!

When we returned once more to the Police Station at Gros Islet and asked to speak to Edward we were told he was out and would be back soon. We said can you not call him on mobile and let him know that we were waiting for him. The answer was NO we do not give out mobile numbers. We are not asking for his number but just that YOU call him. Hard work.
Eventually Edward showed up and we asked him what had he seen on camera but he admitted that he had not yet looked at the film between 25 May and 7 June and the camera was just 300 metres from the police station!! He offered to take us there and look together -we accepted. On the weekend of the event the owner of the joinery shop had been in Barbuda as his father had passed. He had found the footage of the fight on Wednesday 30 May and informed the police however nobody  bothered to visit him and take a copy. By the time we arrived with Edward the hard drive had been over recorded and there was NO EVIDENCE!!  Apart from attempted robbery it was assault with a deadly weapon which in New Zealand would carry a sentence of 3 years imprisonment.

I wondered just what qualifications and training were required to enter the Royal Police Force of St. Lucia. None??

I have since written a letter to the Commissioner of Police and to the General Manager of the Rodney Bay Marina expressing my disappointment in the process and to see what can be done to make this area safe. After three visits to the Gros Islet Police Station I decided that collectively they were incapable of running a ‘Lost and Found’ stall! Sean, GM from the Rodney Bay Marina sent my letter on to the Gros Islet Council and the Tourism Bureau. Light enough fires and it will result in a change for the better. Please note that this incident is in no way connected to Rodney Bay Marina but affects their business environment.

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It was time to say goodbye to Blair. He was flying to New York for a few days before returning to Melbourne. We would miss his company and his recently acquired seamanship but all things and voyages come to an end.

Gavin and Hamimah Abbott from Christchurch had friends Morgan and Cheryl who were holed up in St. Anne’s Bay in Martinique on their 58 ft steel Yacht Nomadica. Morgan and Cheryl are professional sailors and had spent 12 years in the industry taking care of other people’s boats.
They have been at least 7 times around the world by sea.

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Morgan and Cheryl and their 3 month old son Gaël
Morgan had grown up on a yacht and has never known another life. Cheryl was born on the island of St. Helena where Napoleon was held captive for many years. Gavin met the couple when he crewed aboard his friend(Max’s) brand new Gunboat, a 62 ft catamaran which was built in Capetown, South Africa.  Originally the Cat was bound for Antigua and the Caribbean however there was a major fault with the hydraulic steering and so the Yacht was diverted to Marseille for modification. This was a 8,000 Nm voyage up the coast of Africa and into the Mediterranean.

Morgan and Cheryl sailed to St. Lucia to pick up some supplies and called into Charlie #10 to visit Sharon and I. They now have 3 month old son, Gaël who was born on Martinique and now has his own little nursery aboard ‘Nomadica’ -like father like son! We visited them on their Yacht which was anchored out in Rodney Bay for drinks and canapés. A very nice couple.

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Morgan and Cheryl’s 58 ft Yacht ‘Nomadica’.

We did some exploring with a rental car in St. Lucia but mostly we stayed in the ‘bubble’ that is the marina which has good security and restaurants and facilities.

Top left –  Birdman is a local character in the Soufriere. He made these two love birds in 2 minutes from coconut husks. Top right – Conch shells from the floating fruit and vegetable market at Rodney Bay. Middle right – a view across the marina at ,Rodney Bay. Bottom left – The Pitons – a dramatic volcanic feature on St. Lucia. Middle bottom – a pub selling Guinness in Soufriere. Bottom right – trying out the beach buggy!

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John and Sharon enjoying a drink at the local watering hole. John had sailed his 54 ft Jeanneau from Langkawi Island to the Caribbean via the Panama Canal and was planning to return to Australia.

It was Saturday 9 June and we had an important run to the airport. Casey(my daughter) and Andrew(son in law) were to arrive for their 8 day voyage from St. Lucia to Grenada via St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We scooped them up from at Vieux Fort 40 miles south of Castries and hurried back to clear customs as we intended to leave early the next morning. Had it not been for the liberal doses of Rum Punch we may well have left by 0500 hrs however due to circumstances we slipped the lines at around 0700 hrs on Sunday morning en route for Blue Lagoon, Marina on the island of St. Vincent.

El Capitano

Sent from my iPad

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