Completion of our Atlantic Passage
23 December 2018 | Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
Barbara/Hot and humid
We made it! We are now in St. Lucia, catching our breaths after making the transition from an ocean-going environment to the hot, humid, friendly place that will be our home for Christmas.
I managed to post two blog updates during the passage, although it was never easy. Just using the computer, with the boat moving around so much, was a challenge. The mouse had a tendency to roll right down the nav station desk, into the tray behind, sometimes triggering unwanted effects in the computer. I didn’t want to write about things that went wrong (not wanting to alarm family members at home), and most of the time the most momentous thing happening was starting a new book on the Kindle.
We all managed to cope with the watch schedule, for which each of us had an assigned three hours during the night. My particular night watch was from 4 am to 7 am. Usually when I took over from Tom at 4 am, Venus (“the morning star”) had already risen in the sky, and after about an hour the light would start to fill in along the horizon, often with a lovely sunrise to follow. The first few days we had to bundle up a bit at night, but by the end of the voyage it was shorts and light shirt for everyone, 24 hours a day.
Our crew for this crossing was Tom Foor, a music friend of Barbara’s. Tom has made a number of crossings, so has good sailing experience, and he’s also easy to get along with. Tom is married to Yvonne, a violinist and close friend of Barbara’s from high school. After a number of years of no contact, Barbara and Yvonne reconnected at a chamber music workshop in Sacramento. We got to know Tom (also an excellent violinist), and the sailing connection was made. Sequoia is quite different from the previous ocean-going boats of Tom’s experience, so there were quite a lot of new procedures and methods to learn. Tom did great, and we were very glad to have him along.
During the last part of the voyage we had stronger winds, up to about 30 knots, ranging from dead astern to 30 degrees off the starboard quarter. Between sailing downwind, often in lighter airs, and some issues with slop in the gooseneck fitting we used the staysail and genoa jibs only. Each of those sails can be easily adjusted in size, so we were always able to have the right combination of sails for whatever wind was blowing. In 30 knots of wind we were seeing seas of about 3 meters (9 feet) so the boat’s motion got pretty exciting. Cooking in the galley became ever more difficult, and I was glad to have saved some of my frozen passage dinners for the end of the trip (defrost, heat, serve – no rolling vegetables to contend with!)
The last day of the passage we began to see squalls and a bit of rain. Apparently squalls in this area of the world are an island thing – the volcanic peaks of these Caribbean islands have a definite effect on the weather. St. Lucia appeared on the horizon, and we set to work re-inflating our fenders and getting ready to dock in Rodney Bay. Craig phoned to see if there was space and was told that “all space” was reserved for ARC boats. (The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, constituting about 200 boats was paralleling our course across the Atlantic in about the same time frame.) Fortunately it turns out that’s just what the person in the office is told to say to everyone, and in actual fact there were plenty of berths available.
We had a choice to tie to a 120V or 240V dock. First time we’ve ever been given that choice! We ended up on a 120 dock, which meant that the first job upon arrival was to change the wiring in the boat’s transformer, which had been set to 240V for European marinas. Before the passage Craig had decided to install a switch between the two settings, so that the changeover would no longer involve a long crawl into a remote compartment and physically, with a screwdriver, changing how the wires are connected. Craig found a marine electric supply store right across the street, acquired the necessary bits and pieces and embarked on a long difficult project. (It was supposed to take ½ hour). But we now have the switch, so this should never come up again!
Every day here we are visited by local “freelancers” who would like to sell us fruit, offer their washing and waxing services, or guide us to nearby sights. One particularly insistent fellow, named “Vision” was working on an adjacent boat. He sang at the top of his lungs as he worked and was always cheerful but insistent. We finally agreed that he would take us on Saturday morning to the farmers market in Castries (the Capitol of St. Lucia, about 20 miles down the road). We agreed to meet at 6:30 am, although it was actually about 7 am by the time we got started. Vision drives like a crazy man, but it appears so does everyone else. He found a place to park near the market, between a huge pile of filled garbage bags and a heap of coconut husks. We waded in to the mass of humanity and found most everything we needed. The people-watching was fascinating, and we found that they were watching us as well.
The people who live in St. Lucia are 80% African, descended from slaves. The tourists are 98% Caucasian. This makes us feel a little as though we have been transported into some kind of apartheid society, and we’re more than a little bit uncomfortable. There are guards at the entrance to the docks, and the entry code seems to be: if you’re white, you can come in without question; if you’re African you can’t come in unless we know you. We’re glad to see local folk in some of the restaurants we visit, but it doesn’t happen often. The free lancers and vendors are extraordinarily and genuinely friendly. I suppose their attitude may be due to their complete dependence on the tourist trade and a need to “make nice” but it seems more genuine than that.
It may be just the two of us celebrating Christmas together this year, but we have hopes of finding some other folks without visiting relatives who want to share a glass of cheer with us. The Outbound sailing community (Sequoia is an Outbound 44) is on alert that we’re here, and we do expect at least one other Outbound to be in the area starting tomorrow (Christmas Eve).
We think of friends and family often, particularly during this holiday season. We wish you all the happiness of the season, with extra fervent wishes for peace in this difficult time of strife in the world.
Craig & Barbara
Rodney Bay Marina, St. Lucia