Kiwi Friends in St Lucia

Castries was a different place on a bustling Monday, but the poverty was still not far away. A cruise liner was in the harbour and all the markets open so after provisioning we had a wander while waiting for our friends to make it up from the airport. Eye opening to see someone just outside the market pants down taking a dump on the harbour rocks next to the footpath! It was quite sad to see so many stalls trying to sell duplicates of the same shirts and tourist nicknacks, but not many people browsing let alone buying. Many of the stall holders had a downbeaten look. Some had a patter smacking of quiet desperation. A few had bubbly personalities it was hard to say no to and a few stalls stood out with island made crafts rather than made in china cheapness. Where can I fit a neat turtle carving onboard…? I wanted a cool holiday island shirt which turned out to be hard to find and the nice guy next to where we landed our dinghy got our business. The guys who “looked after our dinghy” got a bit pushy as we waited in the little café until the proprietor chased them away. One returned a bit later with an apology and wishing us a good visit reminding us of the contrasts of the island.

Our kids have grown up with Katie and Neo so it was awesome that Ange and Norm were able to come and visit us. Finally the date we had been looking forward to had arrived and they were on board! Not enticed to linger in the Castries harbour when the lovely Rodney Bay was just around the corner we headed off that evening. Behind the water police station we had anchored off was a small airport with occasional local flights. Headed out of the harbour from behind the headland I am not sure who got more of a fright as a twin prop plane came in to land and I swear he jinked to clear our mast. Health and safety? What health and safety?

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Norm quickly caught the sunset photo bug. Not hard when you have such a beautiful view. The sunset looks good too.

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A little wine with breakfast? Why not, we are in the Caribbean mon and I am sure it’s after 4pm somewhere…

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St Lucia is the first place we have found boat boys. This happy guy slowly cruises the anchorage with local produce fresh from his grandmother’s garden. Or somewhere like that most likely. The flag on the other side of his underpowered raft is a New Zealand one.

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We never did learn why he has a Kiwi flag, but we did get a selection of his excellent produce and some raw sugar cane. Here the boys are trying it. From their expressions you can tell it was not a huge hit as it tastes a like a slightly sweet but very fibrous stick to our Western sweet tooth.

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Heading into Rodney Bay village we came across a little jewel of a hummingbird flitting around the roadside flowers. We didn’t know they got down to the size of your thumb! This one would hardly fill my palm.

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Dinner ashore at Coconutz we enjoyed their 2 for 1 cocktails…

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The kid’s were the non alcoholic versions (we hope). Very enjoyable evening with great food and amazing service from our very kid friendly waitress. We rolled slowly home quite replete from dinner.

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Heading south down the coast we stopped at Marigot Bay. Here is anchoring attempt #2 of 6 with the girls controlling the anchor windlass, under my strict instructions. Aiming for the bright sandy patches in the narrow band of shallows outside the channel we just could not get the anchor to dig in when pulling back on it. Determined to anchor I chased away the boat boy, no I do not want to pay for a mooring ball. Barely restraining my temper I resorted to swimming the bay to scout out the bottom to see why our trusty spade anchor was not holding. Turns out the sandy looking patches are flat old coral shelves and the darker coral looking patches we had been avoiding are light weed on mud while the deeper channel was bare rock. Following the example of a French boat we got our anchor finally to hold in the thin weed with lots of chain and could relax and enjoy the entertainment.

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Here you can see how narrow the bay is. A constant stream of day trip boats trundled through and the family saying “u-hooo” was called for many a time. The charter cat leaving the bay gave up after putting their anchor in the rocky shallows amongst the boats in a position I would not have chosen, dragging it back out the bay collecting the red boats anchor chain, then hitting them as they pulled in their chain. Oops… The cat to the right had the biggest personal zone I have seen in the while. Whenever someone anchored remotely close he was on the foredeck gesturing and carrying on. I was amused to note that on my recon of the bay his anchor was just lying on the bottom behind a few small rocks and not dug in at all. A few more knots of breeze and he would be off out the bay.

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Coffee group has been very quiet recently with the some of the hardcore members overseas. I know, lets wind them up with a photo…

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The photo that tickled some action back into coffee group WhatsApp chat.

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“I wonder what the other (or insert chosen adjective here) people are doing at the moment?”

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Boat boys were also in this anchorage touting moorings and services. This guy offered us some hash! No thanks mate.

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Some foredeck chillin in the afternoon.

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Interrupted by the rampaging herd of 4 energetic kids… I admired the beautiful classic yawl that anchored in front of us. Keen people cruising such a lovely boat with a baby. The modern plastics do not have near the soul of the stunning classics, but not near the upkeep either.

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Time to burn some energy off the kids. Climbing up past the hotel tramway to the track into the hills above the bay.

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View into the head of the bay and marina developments. We motored through in Drakkar when we arrived to check it out and it’s a bit of a squeeze threading a 46’ cat through. Norm didn’t think we were going to make it. No worries mate. But I did start the second engine just in case.

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Group photo time. Guess who doesn’t want their photo taken… It was far too hot to linger in the sun so we trundled back to the bay to cool off.

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You are a brave man Norm trusting the kids pinpoint diving!

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A little further down the coast and a deserted beach called us. Good fun exploring a remote place where ours were the only footprints and the warm misty rain added to the atmosphere.

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Anse Cochon was marked as good snorkelling and at the north end of the park area before you have to take mooring balls. Pulling into the bay a boat boy paddling an old canoe was aggressively trying to get us to take a dive charter boat mooring ball when we wanted to anchor. Soon another boat boy arrived with a completely different style, very relaxed and information instead of pressure for another study of the contrasts of the island. I was concerned with Mr Pushy standing up holding the side of our boat and unloading his trinkets before we had even set the anchor! Mate you are right above my prop and I am about to go hard astern. We spent a couple of days relaxing and snorkelling here. Norm and I swam out to the wreck which loomed eerily out of the depths at the limit of my free diving with a spooky black interior.

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Hard work this cruising lifestyle. Thank goodness for beanbags and shade covers!

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Amelia uncovered a conch shell horn and entertained the bay learning to blow it.

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Big Daddy outboard was bolted on for some biscuit fun.

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Action Camera Norm on duty as we head further south.

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The Iconic Pitons.

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Ashore in Soufriere for exploring and provisioning. A bustling tourist town of rustic timber houses and rustic locals. Some of both were so rustic they were barely standing.

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We had a great brunch at this art shop café. The engaging owner and staff had very successfully created a happy place for him and us white richish tourists, even down to growing his own coffee beans in the hills and a cute dog.

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Returning from a mediocrely successful snorkelling mission across the bay. I was super keen to try the marked snorkelling site but we had to work hard to generate much enthusiasm from the kids. Finally completing the mission of getting prepared and off the boat. Phew. Kids still not really into it and jaded by the amazing sites we have already swum so it was a short one before we pulled the plug and headed home to avoid the all going horribly wrong point of no return…

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Still hunting the perfect sunset photo and elusive green flash. Pretty sure this one yielded a modest green flash but that may be the rum speaking.

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Tucking around the corner to be between the two Pitons we were getting used to boat boys charging us to pass us a line off the mooring ball that we could easily get ourselves. Come on guys, don’t sulkily demand money for a dubious service. A bit of patter and welcome and information would go a long way to sweetening the experience. I guess they don’t have to work too hard here as you must take a mooring ball to visit the stunning Pitons.

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Have to have a couple of Pitons (local beers) between a couple of Pitons.

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On an early morning paddle up the coast I found the boat Elojoha. Months ago as we approached the Canaries we had a VHF conversation with them thinking they were the boat we passed next to. Exchanging emails later we found we had both been speaking to a different boat than what we thought and were actually now close to each other in the middle of the Atlantic. So it was great to meet them face to face. Shannon was not so pleased to find I had invited them on board with 30 minutes notice, Arg! Tidy the boat, we have visitors imminent! What a lovely family.

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We were both headed the same way down towards Vieux Fort the following day. I thought we would be monstered by the 65’ Catana but while they motored faster once we were sailing we held our ground and even sailed higher. Not that I am competitive or anything. Elojoha and family are on a 2 year round the world trip. If you are doing a whirlwind trip around the globe a 65’ Catana is a pretty comfortable vessel to do it on. Afternoonises on board had the kids wide eyed saying “there are TV’s in Every cabin!” Stunning boat. You realise how large it is when you watch them walk and walk and walk to get from the cockpit to the foredeck and have a full size kitchen not a galley onboard. Fair winds guys.

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It was great to see the boys writing stories on the phone. Crazy creative stories.

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Also great to see them being boys and jumping around.

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The familiar refrain continued as all too soon it was our friends last day with us. Vieux Fort is well off the tourist trail with only Elojoha and Drakkar anchored off it. Elojoha headed south and us there for the main airport. The fishing harbour was well made, but run down and filled with unsavoury looking characters. Hmmm, this may be an interesting trip ashore again. By the time I returned with the second load of people and luggage the scary looking but friendly locals had organized a taxi van for us and deputised this guy to watch our dinghy and helped us secure it. Note the curious bystanders behind gathered to watch the whities come ashore. Hoping our dinghy would be fine we headed off.

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This chaotic town was another bustle of activity but not a tourist to be seen. Our driver was friendly with many of the locals and could hardly pass a car or sidewalk without a greeting.

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Norm’s pick for the lunch stop earned top marks with delicious local food piled high on the table. I wish we could have lingered longer there but the flight time was drawing near.

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Next stop was the airport for a sad goodbye and a few tears shed. Miss you guys. Glad you survived the nightmare trip home across delays and multiple flights.

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Our taxi driver for the day was awesome going well beyond the original brief as we chased down the customs and immigration from the commercial docks and back to the airport and back again rushing so he could collect his daughter from school. Interesting listening to his stories. He loves living out of the city a little and is very proud of the island. But he is trained in karate and says you need to be careful as there are some bad men around. I get the impression that tourists are mostly left alone or crimes against them punished, but locals can get a hard time.

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As the sun set on our time in St Lucia we reflected on the island of contrasts and were reminded yet again of just how lucky we are to be New Zealanders. We met mostly lovely locals with a few unhelpfuls. Saw some of their stunning scenery and boggled at the contrasts from the luxury yachts and shopping mall enclaves to the grinding poverty and cringed at how conspicuous we were. Anyone who whinges how hard they have it should be left to walk the back streets of the big towns here and given a slap to wake up.

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