St. Lucia

There is a saying that whenever two boats are going to the same place, they are racing.

The rugged coast of St. Lucia. The sharp peak of one of the Pitons.

The rugged coast of St. Lucia. The two peaks on the right are the Pitons.

Remember back in Guadeloupe, we had met a family with two kids trying to catch a cat? Well, we ran into them in Fort de France, and it turned out they were also headed south, so we raced our new friends from Martinique to St. Lucia. Since their vessel was much smaller and sleeker, we figured we didn’t have a chance in our heavy gaff-rigged vessel, but we passed each other several times. At one point, they came right up alongside Koukla, such that the teenage kids could have swung over and boarded us pirate style. We had a great time waving and shouting to each other each time we passed, but eventually they pulled ahead and beat us in to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. But it made what would have been a long boring sail pass quickly and enjoyably.

We almost skipped out on St. Lucia due to a recent event on the island. A cruising couple had been boarded and robbed in the middle of the night, leaving the man dead and the woman severely injured. But it would be a long way to skip the island, and supposedly the perpetrators had been apprehended, and we’d be going nowhere near that area.

Despite the recent unfortunate events elsewhere on the island, we were surprised to find one of the most active and rewarding cruising communities in the Caribbean in Rodney Bay, and we had a full social calendar for our entire stay.

The top-heavy flag / produce / miscellany selling boat that puttered around the bay

The top-heavy flag / produce / miscellany selling boat that puttered around the bay

On our way in to shore the next day, we swung by our racing buddies to see if they would like a lift ashore. Subsequently, their son was sent in along with us to refill their propane tank. Meanwhile, Mom and Dad went to get a small puncture in our inflatable repaired. They found out that it could be repaired that day, but this meant that we were all stuck on shore for the day, including our young friend, who now with no way to get word back to his family, we’d practically kidnapped. Basically that meant Scott, Molly, Isaac, and I were charged with accompanying a rambunctious 13-year-old boy for the whole day who liked to roll around on the ground, touch everything in the stores we went to, catch rides on passing custodian golf carts, and asked everyone we met where to get kittens.

He and his sister were obsessed with finding a boat cat. Everywhere we went that day, he asked, “where are the kittens, do you have any kittens?” He was obsessed. At lunch, when he was ordering, he said, “I’ll have a burger with no onions, a milkshake, and where are your kittens?” The waitress didn’t know how to respond.

Anyway, eventually the rest of his family made it to shore, and that evening all ten of us went out to dinner at what was basically a Caribbean Chucky Cheese, but better. There was good pizza and an excellent playground where all the kids got to run around and play, including a free-spinning metal platform, of a type likely banned in the U.S. by this point. My mom called it a kiddie killer. But it was great fun for the kids, including some local boys who made fun of us and said their grandmas could spin them faster. And there were also slides, swing sets, a jungle gym, a trampoline, and even a bouncy castle. And as the other families left, we 20-something kids could play on the equipment without getting many dirty looks.

The whole time the kids had been going on about catching a cat, going all the way back to Guadeloupe, we really didn’t take them seriously. Then their family showed up to dinner with cat food and a litter box. They asked a local where the best place was to catch kittens, and sure it enough, it was right next to a rather upscale restaurant. So after our pizza, while people dined a few feet away, the father opened up a can of cat food and not five minutes later a kitten came out from under the porch and started eating. Then another, and another, and another… He snatched up the first one out, because clearly that was the smartest and boldest and would therefore make the best boat cat. The father had it cuddled up in his shirt while they dinghied back to their boat. And sure enough, within just a few days, the kitten was adjusted to its new home, climbing all over the boat and running along the boom.

The Unicorn

The Unicorn

The next evening we went to a cruiser’s potluck aboard the Unicorn. The Unicorn was a well-known boat, built in 1948 and had appeared in the Pirates of the Caribbean Movies. It had recently sold, and was being refitted as a floating bar/restaurant for tourists. It was a bit sad to see it being retired as a true sailing vessel, but at least it was being well kept and maintained.

The potluck itself was great fun. There was tons of good food and fellow cruisers from around the world. Isaac and I found another couple close to our age. They were from Sweden, and we talked with them for quite a while. They both worked online, in web and graphic design, thus enabling them to sail around the world while still earning a living.

Getting around the extensive marina / dock complex at Rodney Bay involves a floating dock with a rope

Getting around the extensive marina / dock complex at Rodney Bay involves a floating dock with a rope

But the most interesting people we met were a family from Seattle. I got talking to the mother and a friend of hers from France about nutrition while waiting in the (very long) line at the buffet. It was wonderful to be able to talk with like-minded people about food and nutrition, as I’m constantly surrounded by engineers. In between our food discussion, I learned their amazing sailing story.

Most live aboard cruisers have some sort of tie to sailing. In my family, there have been lots of seafaring Cowans going back many generations. Not so with this family. Apparently, it all started when the husband was at home watching TV, recovering from minor surgery. And he saw a report about the 16 yr old girl who’d sailed around the world, and thought, well, if a sixteen year old can do it, then I can do it. He had never been on a boat before. A few months later, he and his wife sold their house and most of their belongings and flew to France to buy a boat, taking along their two children. They spent a year cruising the Mediterranean, learning how to sail in the relatively safer waters of an enclosed sea (though that gives no protection against freak accidents like having their mast struck by lightning… but that’s a different story). They must have figured it out, and now with their sealegs, they crossed the Atlantic without major mishap, and from St. Lucia are headed to Panama, through the Canal, and then on to the South Pacific.

After making so many new friends in St. Lucia, we were a bit sad to leave, but it was time to be moving on. Especially since we were so close to our final destination—Grenada.


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