Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Soufriere, St. Lucia

One of the most beautiful places we visit while cruising is the town of Soufriere on St. Lucia.  The town itself is very vibrant and busy, with lots of older, traditionally-built buildings.  The area around town is just gorgeous, with the two Piton mountains dominating the view.

For some years we have used the services of a young man named Jarvin when we come to Soufriere.  Jarvin helps us with moorings, arranges taxi tours and hikes, and is very dependable and personable.

This year, he offered us a treat:  tasting local foods as prepared by his mother, and meeting some of his extended family.  We were happy to agree!

The day started at 7:30am, when Jarvin brought us some of his mother’s soup for breakfast.  Based on fish and chicken, but with lots of vegetables and starches, it was delicious.  He brought us too much, so we put some in the freezer.

Later that morning, he took us to his mother’s house.  There is quite a group of small houses partway up the mountain, and a bunch of them are occupied by his extended family.  Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles.  It’s a large family.

Jarvin’s mother, who’s name is Lucilia, served us a wonderful lunch.  The main course was fish with a delicious creole sauce, accompanied by beans and other veggies, local starches (breadfruit and root crops like dasheen), and salad.  Each part was seasoned to perfection with local spices.  Truly delicious!  Our only complaint was there was way too much – though we did manage to eat nearly all of it.  The house was small, but very well kept with recent paint, lots of knick-knacks on display, artwork on the walls.

While we ate, we got to chat with some of Jarvin’s family, sisters (we think) and cousins.  Very fun.  After thanking Lucilia profusely, we paid a brief visit to Jarvin’s small house nearby.  He was working on carving a calabash for Gretchen.  Jarvin took a break from that effort to take us to his Grandmother. 

We never did learn her name, everyone just called her “Grannie.”  She is 92 years old, has lived on St. Lucia all of her life.  She told us that she wasn’t used to speaking English, since her family used the local Patois at home, but she spoke very well.  We asked her how many grandchildren she had.  She laughed, “Too many to count!”  While we were there, one of her granddaughters stopped by for a visit. It is clear that the whole family pitches in to make sure she has what she needs.  As we took our leave, Grannie asked us to be sure and visit again.  We will!

We walked down to the harbor with another of our Soufriere friends, Niall (also known as Ras Afrika).  It’s been a really rainy period in the southern Caribbean, and we had to duck into shelter twice on the way down to wait out a squall.  In the second shelter (under the roof overhang of a local bar) we encountered four little girls, sisters.  They were just coming out of a public shower building, all clean and dusted with talcum powder, and carrying small buckets containing toothbrushes and combs.  The oldest was maybe 10 or 11, and the youngest perhaps 5 or 6.

As we waited for the rain to stop, the girls had lots of questions for us.  Where were we from?  How did we get to St. Lucia? (Callisto was just a short distance away, so we could show them) Where would we go next, and when?  They were very interested in our answers, and clearly trying to imagine what our cruising life was like.

We returned to Callisto and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to digest our very large lunch.  All in all, a very interesting and rewarding day.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Cruising at Last

Our cruising schedule got changed this year, because Life interfered.  Last June, we decided to move back to the United States from Switzerland.  We had done some house-hunting in the area near Annapolis, Maryland, and found a house we liked and could afford there.  Annapolis is one of the major sailing destinations in the world, has a moderate climate, and happens to be only 45 minutes from where our daughter and her husband live.  It was hard to leave Switzerland after nearly 11 years, especially to leave behind good friends.  We are planning an extended visit back to Switzerland in the coming summer.

We chose to delay the actual move until October. That allowed us time to make all of the many arrangements, and to dispose of all the things (mainly electrical) that couldn’t make the journey with us.  It also allowed Gretchen to nearly finish the golf season at our club in K├╝ssnacht am Rigi.

Well, moving in, getting unpacked, finding doctors, etc. took us a while.  We also wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with our families for a change, so we postponed the start of our cruising season until January.  That let us experience some weather that we hadn’t dealt with in may years!

On arrival in Grenada, we started our usual chore list, getting Callisto ready for the season.  The second day, we had a bit of a crisis.  Our inverter/charger, basically the core of our boat’s electrical system, quit working suddenly.  We got very good troubleshooting help from Xantrex technical support, but the problem was with internal circuit boards.  There is neither expertise nor spare parts in the southern Caribbean for a repair, so after almost 10 years of good service, it was time for a replacement.  Luckily, one of the local chandleries had a suitable unit in stock.  It had been sitting on the shelf for over a year, and was therefore not the latest and greatest model, but workable.  Removing the old unit and installing the new one was tedious, but not difficult.  It did eat up more than two days of preparation time.

Over the summer we had engaged a local metal-working shop to build us a set of davits.  These are metal arms that can lift our dinghy and outboard motor out of the water along the back of the boat.  It should be a great convenience.  We took the opportunity to re-work the support for our solar panels and bimini.  The bimini is a piece of canvas that protects us from sun and rain on the back of the boat.

Our original support system had been built by two different shops, each while we were 4000 miles away, and can best be described as a “forest” of stainless.  Our new system is much cleaner, much sturdier, and permits a nearly uninterrupted view of the seas.  We like it.

However, we needed new canvas to fit the new frame, and that means waiting for the canvas shop.  In addition, a blade from our wind generator somehow got broken while we were away, and that also has meant waiting for a replacement part to arrive.  All in all, more time in Grenada than usual, despite our late start to the season.  If all goes well, we hope to finally head north on Friday, next stop Carriacou.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Baby, it's cold outside!

Fortunately for us, we'll soon be in sunny and warm Grenada.  Callisto will have a bit of a new look this sailing season.  We've added davits (lifting system) and as a consequence, the stainless steel around the cockpit has also changed.  

We have an ambitious itinerary planned, but of course, wind, weather and personal safety will determine our actual dates of departures and destinations.  We're looking forward to seeing friends on land and at sea, and are especially hoping to be of assistance to those on the island of Dominica.

HAPPY and HEALTHY 2018 to everyone.