Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas in St. Lucia

Our overnight sail from Grenada to St. Lucia a week ago took us past the Grenadine Islands of Bequia, Mustique, Union Island, and Palm Island, home of Desperate Voyage author John Caldwell. Early in our sailing research a few years ago we had read Caldwell’s harrowing account of his post WWII sail from Panama to Sidney, Australia. He had never sailed before and his story is full of drama we trust we will never face. I highly recommend it. The Grenadine chain is a popular sailing destination and we galloped past it on our quest to get as far north as possible with the short weather window Chris Parker had told us about. He warned those of us needing to reach destinations for Christmas to leave by Tuesday to avoid being caught in the middle of a disturbance later in the week. Tuesday afternoon, we passed St. Lucia’s famous Pitons, volcanic peaks that are designated a World Heritage site, and tucked into the Rodney Bay marina in the northwest part of the island. Chris was right and the wind howled for four days, gusting up to 40 knots and bringing rare whitecaps into an otherwise calm lagoon. Other than closing and opening our hatches a dozen times a day as we followed downpour schedules, we were comfortable and safe.

We visited the busy metropolis of Castries and found a market that rivalled Trinidad’s. Our guide was Susan from Andromeda and she and her husband, Andrew, had arrived a couple of weeks before us. They were just around the corner from us in the Trinidad boat yard and had sailed the Atlantic last year as part of the ARC, the Atlantic Rally Crossing. This group of over 200 boats arrives each year from Europe and fills the Rodney Bay marina for a couple of weeks before scattering around the Caribbean for the winter. Susan and Andrew joined us for Christmas turkey dinner across the dock at Ptarmigan. In usual cruising fashion her owners, Cheryl and Jim, had asked us to share Christmas dinner before we had our dock lines tied. They have been sailing for thirty years and we enjoyed an evening of around-the-world stories.

The closest we got to anything else Christmas was our virtual Christmas tree and a few unorthodox gifts (nylons and elastic bands for Craig’s MacGyver projects; rubber gloves for my next maintenance job). We are heeding Chris Parker’s advice to take advantage of another weather window beginning tomorrow, with our next destination the French Island of Guadeloupe. I hear that bakeries will deliver the croissants right to your boat, first thing in the morning. My French for Cruisers book is ready to go and I can already taste the cappuccino I’m going to have with my pastries.

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