Redwings Round the World

St. Lucia

8 December 2000 - 23 January 2001


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Colleen "Between the Pitons"

We've included all "segments" of our very different St. Lucia experiences here.  You can move to the stuff that interests you by clicking the following bookmarks:

New World at Last!  Recovering in St. Lucia after Atlantic Crossing.  8-19 December 2000.

Mini Re-fit at the Bistro.  New water system and engine electrics.    9-17 January 2001.

Cruising Again.  On the hook at Pigeon Island, moving South.  18-23 January 2001.

8 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Aaron - What a great sleep!  10 hours without any rocking, rolling, or teeth gritting during the KER WHAM! Of the genoa collapsing and then snapping full again as we ran down the back of a wave.

We spent the morning cleaning the outside of the boat, lines, harnesses, cockpit cushions, etc.  One of the free lance workers, Gibson, cleaned off the black tar explosion on the front of the bow.  Goal is to get the basics under control and then take the day off from boat work tomorrow.

In the late morning, Dad went off on the "Rhythm of Rum" tour of the island's distillery and various tourist traps.  Seems like he had a fun time and came back with some rum and rags (dresses).

Bit of an inside job on the boat and hey, we are back to civilization!  Fridge is running, laundry is cleaned... time to kick back... "plumbing problem reported from the forward head"!

Seems like the new hose alone was not enough to rescue Dad's head and there must be a seal blown somewhere.  Sure enough the main flapper valve was completely deformed and gummed up.  Amazing.  I replaced all the bits like this in that head in Barcelona.  Luckily, we had all the parts aboard and had it swooshing again by dinner which was a nice home cooked risotto number by Colleen.  We ate lunch and dinner off the boat yesterday, but so far, have found the food here is not cheap and below average in terms of yummieness.

Dick and Claire on Runaway finished this morning and we ran into them on the dock and had a good time catching up.  They sailed much further South than us to pick up the trade winds, but it seems that on a relative basis, they did not benefit that much.  They had a great sail though and we plan to go touring with them on the island tomorrow.

Eternity also made it in this morning - 13 hours after us.  So they should have beat us by about three hours on corrected time!  Oh well.  Interesting to see how the final results will come out.  We did pretty well coming in 76th over the line out of 215 considering we were rated slower than 70% of the boats.  Overall pretty fast also considering there was only three of us.

9 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Aaron - Hung out in the morning with Runaway, and then Christine from Far Niente (who we met in Lanzarote) dropped by.  Great to see her and RC (baby).  Far Niente and Rob (Christine's husband) are due to get in in a few days.

While we were cleaning up the boat in the afternoon, a guy from Blue Water Cruising or some such rag dropped by and interviewed us.  He claims to have singled us out for interview as the boat looked so ship shape and organized - really?  He was most interested in our Red Sea tales.  We'll have to keep a look out for the issue and see if our pic is in it.

We then hopped on the local (80 cents US per person) mini bus into town.  These busses (vans really) seem to just run up and down the main road constantly and appear to be owned and operated by the drivers.  Blasting music is always on tap inside.  In fact, this is one of the constants of St. Lucia - music, music, music everywhere all the time and loud, loud, loud.  We speculate that the whole population must have some sort of hearing problem.  In Castries, the main ville, we looked around the market, and bought some food and a few trinkets.  However, not much to really buy on the trinket front that is original: 90% of it I have seen in China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Egypt and everywhere in between.  One original product seems to be Banana Ketchup - no thanks.

News came in last night that we may not be going back to Thailand so lots of quick thinking about what our future holds and what to do going forward.  We may look for jobs in Boston when we get back, but hopefully can cruise for while first.  This is a bit stressful, but at the same time, a relief.  I think that our sojourn in Thailand will end up in hindsight to have been a perfect break from cruising mentally, physically, and financially!

10 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Aaron - The joint crews of Redwings and Runaway (owners Dick and Claire Kanter and crew for crossing Tim and Angie) chipped in together on a round the island tour.  We all piled into a van and headed off towards the main town of Castries and on to the southern part of the island with our intrepid guide "August" - great names here in St. Lucia.    On the development scale, St. Lucia reminds me of Thailand, but on the price scale, it feels like we are in the Maldives - not cheap.

The highlight of the trip was lunch which we had at the Dashine hotel between the Pitons, two very steep conical mini-mountains, overlooking a beautiful bay.  Good food and great views.  To the south, the mountain tops of St. Vincent were barely visible. The bay below is apparently a good yacht anchorage.  I'd be tempted to stop there when we get cruising.  

11 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Jim - Our evening dinner with the Curries (Christine and Rob on Far Niente) and their crew at a very nice restaurant was outstanding from my point of view.  The food and conversation was excellent.  The evening dinghy ride over, then back to their catamaran later added to the atmosphere.  I think that long-term exposure to "yachtie-talk" might drive me nuts, but this was an exception.

12 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Jim - Aaron and I, along with Tim and Angie from Runaway, did the "Jungle Tour."  It covered some of the same territory as the Rum Tour and the Redwings / Runaway tour, but was interesting nonetheless.  We went through a banana plantation, stopped in an intermittent rain to sample a variety of local fruits, and watched a local kid snake-charmer offer a boa constrictor photo op (snake around your neck only $1 local)!

Later, after some rough travel in the open back of our tour's Land Rover truck, we stopped at a defunct sugar mill for a brief museum-like lecture.  The grounds were nicely landscaped and pleasant.  Obviously many other tour groups stopped there.

After a less than spectacular waterfall stop, and a few other tourist entrapments, we arrived back to find Colleen doing scut work.  What a trooper!

St. Lucia itself has been a mixed experience.  Prices in St. Lucia are virtually at U.S. rates - for labor, food, souvenirs, etc.  Not a bargain basement!  Souvenirs are plentiful but limited in variety.

The Rodney Bay Marina is friendly and sheltered, but has some limitations: intermittent water supply to docked boats, OK showers but water supply problems, a bit of security laxity with a show of security officers but little real regulation.  It does have a great little bakery and some nice shops.

13 December - Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Aaron - Last chance to get some work out of the swabbie!  We took the genoa and main off, cleaned and folded them (no small feat - that main has never been clean - still a lot of Red Sea and Lanzarote sand imbedded it), and carted them to the sail maker's for repair.

Hung out with the Finns on Venla (Sheryl and Heikki) who were tied across from us in Las Palmas.  Drinks on Lazy Otter, the boat who bailed out Colleen when her credit card failed to cha-ching in Las Palmas at the marina.  I think we'll be seeing a lot of these and other friends we have made in the ARC as we cruise north.

Venla and Lazy Otter both just got in yesterday, or the day before.  Other boats are still finishing!  It seems impossible we have been here for almost a week already while they were out there slogging it out.  But I guess that's probably how the boats who arrived a week before we did felt about us!

14 December - "The Bistro", Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Aaron - Dad got up at the crack of dawn, whispered "goodbye" down the hatch, and left to meet his pre-booked (and pre-paid) cab that would take him to the airport and back to "civilization".  Apparently, the cab never showed and he had to fork out more dough to cop a ride.  Guess he made it however as confirmed by future e-mails.  It was great being able to spend a whole month with him - the longest time I have spent with him in 10 years or so. He was a great crew and quite honestly the three of us were the easiest combination I have ever managed on a passage.

As our paid one week in the marina ran out today, Colleen and I took the boat over to "The Bistro" where we will be tied up for the next month.  The Bistro is a restaurant run by a young British trio Tony, Andrew, and Abby, with some dock space out front.  They are offering one-month berths for ARC boats for US$4 per day.  We are there!  Free water to boot and electricity at cost.

We came in stern to Med-moor style and tied up right in front of the restaurant.  Apparently, management likes to have a few boats out in front for their guests to ogle at.    

15-19 December - "The Bistro", Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia

Aaron - Bistro Life. We spent these few days really cleaning out the boat.  Going through all of the lockers and throwing out or putting in a pile to take home stuff we had not used since loading it on the boat or had no use for going forward (e.g. South East Asian guide books, Maldivian shells, 100 already-read novels, five Irish sweaters, rusted spares for the spare spare, etc.)  Once we got into the rhythm of  the purge, it got easier and easier to off-load stuff.

Rob, Mandy, Peter and Rachel on Navara pulled in (Red Sea, Israel, and, most recently, Las Palmas) and Colleen unloaded buckets of clothes on 9 year old Rachel.  We spend a fun night socializing with them and their Aussie friends Ron and Heather on Flashdance II, which was tied up next to us.  It sounds like a bit of a cliché, but one of the great things about cruising is that your friends move with you!

While the price is right and the location convenient (and the security better than the marina) the downside of The Bistro is that, well, its a bistro.  The music blares right into our cockpit till midnight, the grease from the kitchen drains under the dock and behind the boat (smelly and flies), and you are on display for the diners.  All this would be bearable, except for the fact that they have been running the same Christmas tape over and over ever since we arrived!  ("Do they know its Christmas time at all....." sung by Live Aid or whatever over, and over, and over.....)

The day before we left, we had to put our boat into "temporary importation" status as per customs regulations as we were leaving it.  Apparently, this requires a customs agent to come to the boat to confirm a list we had to make up of all major equipment and serial numbers!  Mega-pain.  But it got worse.  Even though we were only a five minute walk from the marina (where the customs guys were), they refused to walk to the boat and required us to get a taxi.  This was 15$.  Ok whatever, you've got us.  Fine.  Ok brought the guy over, he checked out the boat and stuff.  Fine.  Time to leave, to the taxi driver: here is your $15.  "No, $30.  $15 each way!"  Lotta that kind of rip-off attitude here in St. Lucia.  Same taxi outfit that duped Dad.  We and others had a similar experience on the laundry front where "they" charge by the "load" and then claim twice as many loads as the original estimate.

Fortunately, we had an afternoon departure and did not have to get up at the crack of dawn like dad.  We spent the morning of the 19th stuffing as much junk as we could into massive duffel bags, four huge blimps each weighing about 50 ponds, which eventually were loaded into a taxi van for the trip to the airport.  As we left and looked back at Redwings on the dock, we could see 2-3 inches of anti-fouling paint below the water line that had not been visible before.

So its "home" for the holidays and then back here I guess for a season in the Caribbean.  It looks as though we will not be returning to Thailand to work, so Colleen will head back there for a week in early January to pick up our remaining stuff and tie up a few loose ends, and I will come back to the boat to take on a mini water system and electrical re-fit with Rob of Navara.  

9 -18 January, "The Bistro", Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Warning: this section details a partial plumbing and electrical re-fit of the boat.  Those who are bored by boat-talk better skip down a bit.

Aaron - I arrived back on the boat with several hundred pounds of new stuff in hand: 100 ft of hose, new hot water heater, spools of wire, new genoa sheets, gizmos, gadgets, and an odd assortment of other bits and pieces. Colleen has been dispatched back to Bangkok to pick up our remaining things there and to tie up some loose business ends.   The idea was also that she would be off the boat while I ripped it apart over the next week.

The day after I arrived, I got Rob from Navara (friend and boat builder who is doing most of the work for us) on the radio and confirmed that he was ready to get to work and came in at 0900 and we started ripping out the old hot water heater. What a mess it was!  One whole end was completely corroded off and the bottom of the well in which it lay under the cockpit locker was just a mass of rust flakes.

Over the next few days, we continued to rip out all of the old copper fresh water plumbing and  replaced it with easier to maintain hose.  The new smaller (six vs. twelve gallon) hot water went in with a new box built for it.  We installed two new bladder water tanks under the port and starboard settees increasing our water capacity from a paltry 40 to 120 gallons.  New taps in the galley with an attached carbon water filter.  Pressured up the system and wow!  It all works!  With the new smaller water heater, we can get hot water in just 20 minutes after starting the engine.  No more leaks anywhere now with all new plumbing and it will be easy for me to fix if there are.  The four water tanks (two original plus two new ones) all feed to an easy access manifold with four separate valves so its easy to select tanks.  Very happy with this upgrade.  Not only will life be much easier with 3X water capacity and dependable hot water, it really increases the value of the boat as our limited fresh water supply, and the leaky existing stainless tanks, were a real Achilles heel.

While Rob and I attacked the plumbing, Jeff on Sifar took on a complete re-wire of the engine electrics and engine room.  This job dovetailed nicely with the plumbing work as we ripped out most of the plumbing in the engine room which gave Jeff more room to work and then allowed us to completely re-organize the mess that was in there in a more logical and streamlined way.  Over the years, wires and plumbing had just been run over and around other systems as systems were added.

Jeff pulled all of the various "engine room" circuits (water maker, oil pump, lights, #2 bilge pump) to a new panel in the engine room which then was powered from the main panel.  Now everything is easy to reach and is better protected and also leads through the negative shunt so all amperage is counted by the new battery monitor.  He also rewired all of the engine electrics with color-coded wire and ran all wires through one central conduit.  Our charging problems were solved by taking out an old noise reduction unit which seemed to be shot and never really did much anyway.

This system is really great now.  No more intermittent starting circuit to the engine, all gauges and alarms work perfectly, the alternator is charging properly, and I can again properly monitor the input and output to the battery banks with the new Link 20 battery bank monitor.

Colleen arrived back on the 15th, just as we were finishing up the electrical work.  We worked for a few days to clean and re-organize the boat and carted off loads of additional junk.  In the end, even though we lost four big storage areas to the new water tanks, we ended up with more overall storage space just by getting rid of stuff we have not used since it was stowed on the boat four years ago and by better stowing the remaining stuff we have.  The boat now is more user friendly than it has ever been since we started cruising.  All of the systems we have work properly for the first time and its easy to find and use the stuff we use every day while at the same time there is a minimum of junk lying around.  No more jerry cans on deck for instance - with the port fuel tank now fixed, and the old water tanks sealed and the addition of new tanks, we don't need to cart around extra water or fuel anymore.

19-22 January, Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Aaron - With all of the major jobs finished, we were ready to be done with Bistro Life in a hurry, and on the 19th of January we cranked up the engine and started slowly burrowing out through the mud that we were apparently stuck in.  Luckily, Jeff on Sifar warned us that he had brought tons of mud on board when he hauled up the anchor so we doubled up our hose with the Bistro's and Colleen scrubbed off the chain with fresh water as we slowly brought the hook up.  It was caked with mud and it took us a good 1/2 hour to get out of there.  I had to go full steam ahead once we had the hook up to slowly crawl through the mud to the channel.  But we made it without much more grief than a lot of black smoke out the exhaust.

We anchored next to Navara right under pigeon island in about 7 meters.  Wow, what a difference one mile makes! This is a completely different world.  Clear water, cool breeze, and no mossies (mosquitoes that is).  Cruising again even though we are not moving!  Feels great.

The morning after we arrived, three people from a neighboring boat, Farr Ahead, swam over to Redwings for a chat.  Owners Mike and Kitti sailed the boat in the ARC, though we never met them before, and hope to cruise up to Maine this summer to wanted to meet some Mainers.

Soon after the Farr Ahead boarding, a dude in a dingy came alongside and claimed to be a fellow Mainer on Arbella.  Will, Maggie, and their two young daughters are from Woolrich (or Wollwrich or whatrich?) Its only about 45 minutes from Camden!  Had a lot of fun meeting them.

We spent a great few days there and a lot of time socializing with the gang.  Mandy on Navara gave me her Ginger Beer recipe (from Heather on Flashdance II) and I made up a 10 liter "test batch".  It came out great.  This will be a staple on Redwings going forward I think.  Mayer and Kathryn on Lady Kathryn came in and we had fun catching up with them - had not seen Mayer since Turkey and we had never actually met Kathryn in person, even though we had spoken with her on the radio.

Pigeon island is a good place to get a bit of exercise.  There are hiking trails to the old English fort on top of the island (which is a national park) and good running routes along the beach.  We either ran, hiked, and or swam every day we were there.

Apart from all of the fun, we spent 1/2 our time finishing the last few jobs, getting the boat rigged, and generally preparing for a brief trip south.

23 January, Pitons, St. Lucia

Aaron - Sailing again!  We left the Pigeon Island anchorage at 0930 and comfortably rode a 15-20 knot easterly breeze all the way down the lee side of the island with just the genoa unfurled to the anchorage between the Pitons we spied during our land tour with Runaway.

More than two miles out, local guys started whizzing out in their boats asking if we wanted help tying to a mooring, bread, ice - whatever.  No thanks!  Bit frustrating to get harassed even before you are in sight of the anchorage and have had time to figure out what you do and do not need.  As we approached one of the three remaining moorings (anchoring is not allowed between the Pitons which is part of a national marine park), a boat named "Welcome" whizzed out in front of us and the Rasta in it started yelling at us that it (the mooring), and the one near it, were reserved for boats coming in after us.  We said no way - its first come first served.  It got a bit ugly, words flew, he got between our bow and the buoy, and we eventually said screw it and headed off to the third and farthest away buoy. A young kid helped us tie up to it.

For whatever reason, Colleen and I were both spoiling for a fight with one of these guys and were really fed and POed with this one.  In general, we are sick of the "screw you" attitude that most St. Lucian's in the tourist / yachtie trade seem to have.

After we were tied up, "Welcome" came by and tried to further state his case that he was an "official guide" and had reserved moorings for other boats two days ago.  Whatever buddy.  We told him we'd just ask the park rangers what the score was when they came by later to collect the $40 EC (US$12) mooring fee.

Lady Kathryn was also in the anchorage and Mayer and his future son in law Joe came by and we filled a dive tank for them.  We had a good chin wag.  Hope to see them again down south before we part ways for good (us towards Maine and LK to the canal and then back home to Oz).

Colleen and I then took the dingy in to the luxury Hilton resort and tried to blend in at the pool using the resort towels and showers.  I think they knew we were imposters, but looked the other way.  A helicopter came in and out every 15 minutes or so transporting guests back and forth from the airport.  For such an up market hotel and fab location (really one of the most beautiful spots we have ever seen - perfect beach between two towering conical mountains ringed by bright aquamarine coral reefs), we found the hotel a bit beat up and average.

After crashing the Hilton, we headed to the bar and restaurant next door where we could afford something to drink (we heard breakfast at the Hilton was US$50!).  "Bang" is a shore side Creole restaurant owned by the English Lord Glenconner - who is reportedly quite an eccentric and lives up behind the restaurant.  We had some fried fish aps, a drink, and then headed back to the boat.

Later that evening, the park rangers came by.  We told them what had occurred with Welcome and they confirmed that only they can reserve moorings and seemed exasperated, but not surprised, to hear the story.  We felt vindicated for at least trying to stand our ground. 

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Copyright ©2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan