Cruising England to Australia: The Caribbean to Panama [Part 3]

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MULTIHULLS Magazine • July/August 2003

I t was Christmas Eve, the palms of Rodney Bay, St. Lucia swayed gently in the morning breeze. It felt nothing like Christmas. There was no Christmas tree… well, that is if you don’t count the small seven-inch fiber-optic one – it had no snow, no decorations. Apart from some local St. Lucians who went crazy decorating their front yards with a million lights… and the Christmas lunch on the beach. I was totally confused. There were six boats in the harbor with kids aboard. They were referred to as the “kid boats.” All the kids’ mums got together and planned a Christmas scheme. Christmas Eve was to be on the beach, at sunset, to sing carols. Christmas morning was to be spent with family only – no VHF, and the afternoon BBQ on the beach with games for kids. Christmas Eve drew to a close and everyone gathered on the beach and sang. Followed by two locals with steel drums who cameand played “Jingle Bells” on their drums for us. Finally, six sandy and sore-throated, but very cheerful families returned to their boats and waited for Christmas to come. Christmas was weird – but fun. The BBQ was delicious and with the combined burned and sandy taste… it was very crunchy! Spending time with all the kids was an added bonus to a fantastic day. After everyone had eaten and cooled off in the Caribbean waters, we decided that enough sand and salt water had been absorbed. So, the Christmas party dispersed to their boats after a large number of “Merry Christmases” and ”sleep wells” had been shouted. My family still followed the good-old English tradition of Christmas pudding and custard – given to us by our grandparents in Las Palmas. It was a few hours later when I fell into a happy and contented sleep.

All the ‘kid boats’ drifted off in different directions for New Year. We stayed with two monohulls called Canina and Amati for New Year and had an excellent time. Then Canina, a Van De Stadt 29, left and it was the last time we ever saw them on this trip. I had a sad feeling as I watched their white mainsail set and they disappeared around the corner – ensign bobbing in the wind. There was no time to feel empty because the next day our Italian friends Fabio and Giovanna came to stay. We decided to take them to Martinique, but as we sailed out of Marigot Bay, we took a look at the weather and pulled back into Rodney Bay. Our friends stayed for a week and we got a chance to sample some excellent home-made Italian food. But when they left, we really were on our own.

Without further ado we set off for the Caribbean cruising life and this is where we went: St. Lucia – where we saw our first cinema movie in six months: Harry Potter II, Chamber of Secrets. Martinique– where we visited St. Pierre and the cell of the prisoner who was the only survivor of the volcanic eruption of 1902. We also looked at some local sailing boats. Isles de Saintes – a beautiful place with great snorkeling. Deshaies, Guadeloupe – which was home to a lovely restaurant decked out like something from Peter Pan, where I was served a kabob on a sword. Jolly Harbour, Antigua – was where our grandparents came to visit for two weeks. It was wonderful to see them again and we had loads of fun. Mum also celebrated her birthday. She still thinks she’s 21 – ha! Our next stop was Nevis, and with that place comes a story… We were trying to anchor, and after three fruitless attempts we noticed some people signalling on the shore from their restaurant, The Galley Pot, for us to pick up a mooring buoy. This seemed to be the best option, so we did. Later, we went ashore expecting to pay a high mooring fee. We planned to see some of the island and come back for an early dinner. We returned to the boat seven hours later and discovered there was no fee. After having dinner and the exciting experience of meeting what seemed like the entire community of Nevis, my brother and I watched TV with two other kids in a local house. After visiting Nevis, we went to Basse Terre, St. Kitts, where we saw the Brimstone Fort and Picadilly Circus… which looks nothing like the one in London! Time seemed to be ticking past so quickly and we soon found ourselves in St. Maarten. When we arrived there, we had to anchor outside the lagoon and wait for the bridge to open. We dropped the anchor and Dad went ashore to clear customs. A few minutes later, the anchor dragged in a strong gust. Mum, who was on deck reading, was alerted to this when she looked up and saw the bow of a SunSail boat a hair’s breadth away. Instantly, Mum turned on the engine, yelled for Lorin and me, and started steering clear of the boat. We had to make sure that the anchor rode did not get caught in the engine prop. This was difficult while trying to avoid boats. Then a man from another yacht, seeing our dilemma, racedover in his dinghy to help. The next thing we knew, the very nice guy had pulled up our anchor and offered us a free mooring for a short time. We had a very shocked-looking skipper when he came back in the dinghy to where Zazen used to be. After we had re-anchored, a man came up in a dinghy and said, “Nice Shuttleworth.” His name was Mel, and he had owned a 63-foot Shuttleworth himself. After hearing that we had dragged and knowing there were strong winds forecast, he offered us his hurricane mooring in the lagoon.

After coming back to Zazen across the lagoon, absolutely drenched for the twentieth time, we decided it was time to get rid of our floppy 25-year-old, third-hand Avon and get a new dinghy! It was in an awful state and no matter where we went in it we suffered from S.B.S (Soggy Bottom Syndrome). We were relieved to sell the thing and replace it with a new hard-bottomed boat. We were amazed at what we had done. While in the lagoon we met up with a Beneteau First 38 named Onskan. We had lots of fun with them and I had a great time playing with the girls on board. We had a bunch of sleepovers. I really enjoyed the Caribbean. It did have its downside, but it was nearly time to say good-bye. First there were a few more things to do. We went to Trellis Bayand the British Virgin Islandsand, much to our excitement, Lorin and I took a PADIscuba course. It was fantastic. Our instructor named Greg from Sail Caribbean was brilliant. We got to dive down to an airplane wreck, go into underwater caverns, and diveto a shipwreck called “The Wreck of the Rhone.” To top it all we are now PADI certified divers. Now there was only one thing left to do, meet our new crew member.

Yes, it was time to welcome a new person aboard Zazen:Roy. He is 23 years old, so it is like having an older kid to hang out with. He will be with us as far as the Marquesas (as long as he does not get too sick of us!). What has he let himself in for? Anyway, ‘good-bye’ to the Caribbean and off to Colon, Panama. The Caribbean was an interesting experience. It was a mixture of extremes. There were some extremely poor people and some very unkind people. Then, in contrast, you had some wealthy people, and some very hospitable people. The weather was great, though the tropical rains can last for some time. Some people had their boats boarded and were held at knife point. Then again… there were people who were very helpful and would never dream of boarding your boat. Some places were ugly, but most of them beautiful. Overall we had more of the nice experiences than the bad ones and our time in the Caribbean will never be forgotten.

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