Sunday, 1 February 2015

St Lucia

28 December to 10 January 2015
St Lucia 

After 17 days at sea we arrived at St Lucia on Sunday 28 December at 9:00 in the morning. After berthing the boat and a beer on board, we went to immigration and customs to check in. We had already pre-registered our arrival when we were in Gran Canaria using the Caribbean website which amazingly allows you to complete all the boat and crew details on line. This greatly speeds up immigration on entry (according to the website). It was the normal scrum as we went into immigration, queued up at the counter that was for crew who had registered on the website. However, while they may have a sophisticated website for preregistration, they do not have any ink for the printer so you have to join the other queue and complete all the details by hand.  But only two hours later we were through the process, having visited 4 different people, completed forms in triplicate and we finally had our papers and passport stamp.

After lunch of hamburgers and beer (funny what you crave for after nearly three weeks at sea), we walked into the nearest town in the afternoon heat. Last time we did that because it is very hot at that time, there is an excellent and very cheap bus service or better still you can take your dinghy for a 5 minute ride directly into the town. But there again we did want to have a walk and it was only a couple of miles on hot dusty roads. 

The day we arrived, we were approached by “John” who offered boat cleaning services. He showed us some of his work on other boats and we negotiated on prices to to clean the decks, topsides and hull. So for $200 he and his father spent the next day and a half making the boat look like new again and  took such pride in his doing so. He was also really cheerful and just a nice guy to have around. I wish I could muster the energy, patience and attention to detail when I clean the boat – but that is never going to happen! 

It took us a good 5 days before we felt we had any energy again although as Sarah was leaving on the 1st January, we did pack a few things in. We took the bus to Castries (the capital) one day - always fun travelling on local transport – and spent the day with 5000 passengers off the three cruise ships anchored there walking around the streets. In a bid to get away from the invading hordes, we walked further into the back streets of Castries only to be advised by a doctor, who came out of his clinic especially, to turn back as we were in an unsafe district. Advice gratefully received!

Sarah departing for South America

On New Year’s Eve we decided to move out of the Marina and anchor outside to get some peace and quiet while watching the fireworks along the beach. A relaxing night of eating, drinking and playing games. Sarah also had to pack her bags for her 6 week tour of South America which she was starting the next day. 

Trip to the rain forest.
After Sarah left we started the planning for the next leg to Santa Marta on the Columbian coast which started on the 10th January. All the guide books and advice from the World ARC team was that this was the second most difficult passage of the entire circumnavigation, second only to round the cape off South Africa. This came as a little bit of a shock after having spent three weeks crossing the Atlantic but we decided that just two of us undertaking this 900 mile journey was not a good idea so we had to find another crew member. 

The World Arc Starts
The World Arc team arrived on the 3 January and we discussed the problem with them. Fortunately one of the team knew of someone who had sailed with who wanted to sail to Australia – a 25 year old Frenchman called Victor who had some ocean sailing experience. We were due to meet him in a few days but at least it was a potential solution to our problem. We met him a few days later to find out that not only is he a very good sailor, he loves to cook and is very good at it. Could not have worked out better. It was also a great relief to have a third person on board for this “challenging” sail as it was referred to.

The World Arc put on a series of drinks in the evening and other social events during the day for the World Arc participants to get to know each other.  There are 14 other boats in the fleet with the smallest at 40 feet and the largest at 62 feet. There is also a good range of nationalities: British, French, Icelandic, American, Australian, Irish, Swedish all with a common interest of sailing around the world.  A few drinks parties, a few dinners and some social events helped to get to know people (as did the crib sheet the World Arc gave out showing who was on which boat).

The saga with the generator played out for the entire 8 days before we left, with engineers coming, taking things apart, trying different solutions but to the same effect. The day we left, the engineer turned up at 9am in the morning to put back the generator after having found that the brushes on the alternator had broken. I was pleased that they had found the fault, not pleased that the generator was in bits two hours before we were due to start the first leg to Santa Marta or that we did not have a replacement part. However he did manage to put it back together just in time so we did get to the start line on time but it was not the most relaxed of starts.  

The last night before the start was the farewell party at a local hotel. Rum cocktails, some nibbles and a steel band together with speeches from the government minister for Tourism and various other people. The drinks ended at a respectable 9pm so a few of us set off to go to the Friday night “Jump Up” at Gros Islet. This is a street party over about 4 streets where all the locals go on a Friday night to have street food, loud music and dance. It was one great big party and even the rain showers did not dampen the atmosphere. Never a good idea to go out the night before the start of a 5 day sail and especially not going out until 2am (or maybe it was the beer that was not the good idea – I forget which). We all slept well that night and felt surprisingly alert the next morning, no doubt in anticipation of the next 5 days.

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