Thursday, April 26, 2012

Among Friends

Tua Tua in Rodney Bay

One might think that cruising on a boat and island hopping could be lonesome! But I’m almost never alone! We always meet new and interesting people from cruisers to locals.
In the cruising community flags attracts flags, If you are flying a U.S flag, it’s more likely to reach out to other Americans. When I see Swedish flags, I get excited! Germans hang out with Germans, French with French and so on!
As an Earthling, you talk to everyone everywhere! Like our friends Pontus and Malee, who are true Earthlings. One day during the visit in Dominica, Nico and I went ashore and as we were tying up the dinghy, a guy on the dock noticed the 30yr old Chrysler outboard on Earthling 8.8 and admired it! One conversation led to another and Pontus turned out to be from Sweden! After our brief interaction in Dominica, he was planning to sail to Trinidad so we parted hoping to see each other next year. Last Friday at the “Jump Up” in the town of Gros Ilet; Nico, Mike, Rebecca, and I were dancing and mingling with the locals on the street as somebody suddenly appears and it’s Pontus! The wind wasn’t in their favor so they had to turn into Rodney Bay for an overnight! Pontus and Malee are on a Laurin 28ft named “Tua Tua” with an interesting history. The first Swedish single handler around the world sailed on “Tua Tua” in 1972 and the book is in many Swedish boats’ book shelves. Pontus’s family are cruisers and he has grown up on sailboats more or less all his life! I have realized that children that grow up on boats, turn out bright, social, mature faster, easy going, and they are more adaptable to change.    
The last few days, we have been hanging out with Pontus and Malee. The four of us sailed Earthling down to Marigot bay, anchored by “Zero to Cruising”. We all are going  to Anse La Raye for the Friday Jump up as another friend of mine is flying in from the U.S to join Earthling. 

The Italian Nico is making Risotto and Malee is opening a bottle of wine!

Mike and Rebecca swam over to say hello! Enjoying another beautiful day in St. Lucia! 

Pontus and I decided to have some fun swinging on the whisker pole! I never did this as a kid, it’s time to do it as an adult! It was lots of fun :-)

Bottom line we all are kids and why not enjoy life to the maximum! 

First night in Marigot bay, Pontus and Malee are making some of my favorite dishes. Pat Thai for main dish and Swedish Kokos Bollar for desert! 

Great company and great food!

Love from St. Lucia

View the complete photo album of St. Lucia on fb page, click here!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Beautiful Day

Check out the view from the fort on Pigeon Island over Rodney bay. It's time to leave this beautiful anchorage to the next place!  We are sailing to Marigot in a few minutes with our friends Pontus and Malee from S/Y "Tua Tua Sueca"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Resort Effect

Sandals Resort, Rodney Bay

St. Lucia is another idyllic Island of the Caribbean. The mountains and hills peak sharply and are very unique. The two tallest peaks are called the Pitons. Petite Piton is smaller and difficult to climb, while the Gross Piton is taller and actually easier! One of our goals is to climb one the pitons during the stay here. 
The sail from Martinique to St. Lucia was excellent. The trade winds blew 10-15 kts, and carried Earthling 25 miles in 4hrs 20 min with only the full Genoa! We caught a Mahi Mahi and didn’t want to be eaten yet and unfortunately it got away as I was bringing it in!  
The Islands in the Caribbean are all different. Some are dependent on Britain, Netherlands, or the U.S, a few are fully controlled by France, and some are independent, like St. Lucia. However, this Island is very dependent on tourism. There are 3 Sandals Resorts and many other hotels. Corporations in the hospitality sector have taken over the island and corrupted St. Lucians with monetarism. The few local people we met have been kind; however, the kindness seemed slightly artificial as the glisten in their eyes indicated the intentions of a reward.
Nico and I were walking on the beach and saw a local standing with a couple of horses! My love for horses pulled me towards them. A young boy ran over, greeted and offered us a horseback ride. “I would love to but  don’t have a budget for that!" I replied. “It’s not expensive, I will give you a local price,” he said. Still knowing that it would be out of the budget, curiosity tickled me to know the price. The local price was 120. The national currency in St. Lucia is Eastern Caribbean Dollars. I thought he said 120EC but no, he meant $120US Dollars ($1=2.7EC). I presented to the young gentleman, that in the past, a 1-2 hrs horseback ride costed anything between $20 to $100 in various places in the world. I wondered what was special about these horses? “They are from St. Lucia!” He replied. After a couple of minutes of conversation, we came to the conclusion that since the tourists have the money, the locals charge them as much as they wish! If a price is asked and somebody is willing to pay it, then that’s the customer’s choice! That’s how they justified it! 
When a place becomes commercialized and corporatism rules, everything becomes more or less artificial. The love you get is based on $$$. In addition, foolish rules and regulations emerge, such as not being able to walk the park after 5pm! Or having to pay an entrance fee to a fenced park close to the resorts that is nothing special.
When you work most of the 12 months and take a vacation for two weeks, you care a bit less about the cost of things as people put a budget aside for traveling. That doesn’t mean that resident of a certain country should take advantage and charge unfair prices. This is a common issue all over the world especially with taxis! Negotiating the price before hands is a must. I haggled the price in advance and still got ripped off while visiting Istanbul a couple of years ago! Furthermore, it is important not to compare other islands to the one being visited!  Locals don’t like to hear about how good, beautiful, or cheap other islands are! Compare it in your mind but don’t make it grounds for negotiation!!
Windward Side

We also got the chance to go for a hike on the northern windward side of St. Lucia with our cruising friends Mike and Rebecca! The windward sides of the Islands are different than the Leeward. They get hit by the trade winds all the time, they are less populated, and the nature is different. It is less lush and green and trees don’t get that tall! One of the highlights of the hike were the 3 dogs that led us and followed us for hours. Moreover, when we were sitting on top of this hill, I got to spot a family of whales jumping out of water! Right now is the mating season for whales and they are spotted in various places close to shore in the Caribbean.  
Love from St. Lucia

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Church in Anse d'arlet
Since arriving in Martinique, we have anchored in 5 different bays. The port of clearance was St. Pierre, which is a small town on the northern part of Martinique. The tourist office has computers for checking in and it was free! We love free! The anchorage in St. Pierre is deep and you have to go a few hundred yards from shore to anchor in 15-20 ft of water. There were northerly swells the night we were there which made it a bit uncomfortable!
The second anchorage was in Fort De France. It’s a relatively small place to anchor and it’s busy with ferry traffic. One night when we came back to take the dinghy back to the boat, we saw the crew of a Danish boat stranded without their dinghy. It was stolen from the dock, so we rowed them to their boat and showed empathy. Fortunately, I don’t really have to worry about Earthling 8.8, since most of the time there is no outboard on it and if somebody took it, they wouldn’t get far! Based on experience, there is more crime in big cities than small towns! I made a rule after our experience in Ponce, that anytime we anchor in an urban area, we have to lock up everything!  
Our friend on “Margaret” recommended a visit to Anse d’Arlet. There is a Grande and Petite Anse d’Arlet and we anchored in the small one since the Grande was too busy! However, there was a reason that one was busier than the other! Petite Anse d’Arlet is not as protected and can become very rolly. We could not wait to wake up in the morning and sail to the next place! There is a trail from petite to grande over the hill, but you might get lost and end up on the cliffs and rocks on the other side, which almost happen to us! Easier route is to take the major road and walk 20 minutes on the flat surface. 
The easter weekend, we were anchored in Ste. Anne, which is a small touristy town, with many small restaurants, bars, and a beautiful long beach. Ste. Anne was packed during that weekend with families camping, barbecuing, and partying on the beach. This anchorage was calm and comfortable. 
Our last stop was in Marin and it is crazy how many boat are anchored here! Marin is definitely the yachting center of Martinique and the windwards! There are boat yards and chandeliers, but the prices are based on the European standards! I was looking for a small o-ring for the sink and it cost €2.50, forget about it! Furthermore, Marin is a hurricane hole and no matter how windy it is, you don’t move much. We checked out here a few minutes ago without being charged. The French Islands are great to check in and out of! You put all your info in a computer and nobody asks to look at any paperwork, passports or boat documents! With the exception of St. Barts, the French islands have the cheapest custom and immigration fees! It’s expensive to stay in St. Barts, the charge is based on the size of the boat per day, it cost us €8.5 per day!   

The highlight of the visit in Martinique was the Easter weekend and Des Accras (Crab festival) traditional ceremony. The street stands serving fried crabs and other fried sea food have valuable deals; I bought 6 pieces of fried crabs in dough for 2 Euros outside the church in Fort de France and in Ste. Anne. Unfortunately Nico can not have any fried food because of his stomach issues (hernia)! On the other side, Nico is a great cook and since he joined Earthling, it’s been easier for me to give up the cooking responsibilities to him. I have to admit that the food served aboard is more healthy now! Some of the beautiful architectures in Martinique are the Catholic churches. During the Easter weekend, the bells were heard more often than ever, it is after all a peak season for the churches! 
“Zero to Cruising” posted a great update about the Easter crab festivities in Martinique, check it out here!

I finally found time to finish installing the AIS unit purchased a few months ago. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and it works like a digital radar! It’s required by law for all large commercial vessels. It simply identifies and communicates with other vessels by name, speed, heading, GPS location, destination, classification, call sign, etc. There are receivers and transceivers. The unit installed on Earthling is a West Marine AIS 1000 transceiver and it’s connected to the Garmin Chart plotter. It has only one button, which is the silent mode, where you can receive and not transmit! In some waters in the world it’s necessarily to utilize that button to avoid piracy!
A common collision scenario is between commercial and pleasure craft at night or in bad weather conditions. AIS definitely minimizes that risk!
It’s important that large vessels see a small sailboat like Earthling, and if I’m single handing and asleep, it will beep till I wake up! The alarm can be set based on time or distance. Pleasure craft are not required by law to have this unit but I would recommend it to cruising boats that make long and overnight passages. In addition, it is fun to use it in busy ports or anchorages. This little project was accomplished with the help of Mike Sweeny! 

The Island of St. Lucia is awaiting our arrival tomorrow. 

Love from Martinique

View the photo album of Martinique here!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Another French Island

Fort de France

Sometimes we forget where we come from! A few days ago, we sailed to Martinique from Dominica and the difference bewildered us. The slight culture shock was unavoidable. During the stay in Dominica, the world changed its concept in our minds. It was a place without banks or expressways. It had roads that you could walk or bike on, and people were not in a hurry! Martinique is a reality check and a reminder of the urban social structure.

The second day in Martinique we found Wifi and worked on the blog while people passing by looked at us suspiciously for sitting on the ground! At the grocery store in St. Pierre, I was asked by the security guard to open the back pack so he could inspect it as he showed me a sign in French that apparently said “No back packs in the store”! You automatically feel insulted when accused of something you haven’t done! Furthermore, the ambulance and police sirens are unnecessarily loud and you get the fear factor from them right away! It makes one wonder if there is more crime here or in Dominica?

When we started walking around the small streets in Fort de France, the banks more than anything else captured our attention. They are everywhere! Why do we have so many and what is their actual purpose? There are two sides of the coin! One major role is to keep the citizens of the planet in control. Banks are tyranny and work as an autocracy, all managed by the same individuals. In the modern society we all are slaves to the banking world as our lives and the incentives we procure are controlled by them. Almost all the citizens of the world are connected to the banking structure with a credit/ATM/Visa card and it would be impossible to live without it. We are so attached and programmed by this that it’s unfeasible to imagine it any other way. It’s time for a change and to improve the current monetary system. On the flip side, the banking infrastructure today could be the base for a better needed system in the future! This topic is broad and can not be discussed in one paragraph!    
Waterfall in Didier
All that aside, I like the French Islands! They are European and more developed than the other West Indies. The roads are more solid and you don’t see many potholes in the middle of major streets. Cars are newer and public transportation vehicles are air-conditioned and have timetables! Foremost, I like the French Islands for their great food; cheese, sausage, wine, baguettes, and pastries. The French culture is close to the Persian and Swedish. The Persians were under the influence of the French for a period of time, therefore there are French words in the Farsi vocabulary such as “Merci” which is commonly carried. Contrary, the language barrier challenges me and I wish I could speak French.

Fort de France is the biggest city in the windward Islands. Petite storefronts are all over downtown and we are only 3 minutes rowing distance to shore. The view of homes build on the hill side is eye catching. In the last couple of days, we got the chance to hike in the nature of Martinique to the waterfalls in Didier. The hike was different as we had to walk through a couple of tunnels. The second one was tricky, dark, and needed a flashlight. We walked on a large pipe to the other side. It was wet and slippery in places and the hand rail was missing, if you fell down, you would be in deep mud! We have been to many water falls along the Earthling journey. All waterfalls are different and unique. They are breathtaking and a perfect place for soothing the spirit. The Cascade in Didier is one of the tallest and definitely worth the visit. 
Houses on the Hill, Fort de France

In a few minutes, we will be sailing to Anse D’ Arlet, which is famous for its turtles.

Love from Martinique
View the Martinique photo Album here!