Saturday, September 30, 2017

Remember That Summer We Lived In St. Lucia...

Wake me up... I must be dreaming!
What DID we do all summer in St. Lucia?  I can hardly remember... We had big plans to sew and stuff, but with the lovely swimming pool(s) at our disposal and internet...  I have to say that we squandered our summer on frivolous pursuits...  But you know what?  That's OK.  Boat projects have a way of making themselves necessary at the right time... and nothing really popped up!

Unless you count the back-to-back storms that bowled through the Caribbean... That was something I guess.

After the other boats left things were quiet around Marigot... We settled into life in the Bay where everything moves slowly and nobody really gets in a snit...  Well, except maybe Fisherman John.  This man is in his 60s and has something amiss with his right eye... thus earning him the other nickname... One Eyed John.  But we don't like that one and it's not the name he gave us... And he is our resident Fisherman...

Fisherman John is quite a loveable curmudgeon... He comes to the boat and if he told you he would come and you weren't on the boat when he came... you're in for a bit of chastising... He is very no-nonsense about fish.  He gives advice about how to cook it, then proceeds to prepare it for cooking...  Very convenient actually... unless you already had something out for dinner...  He expects his fish to be eaten same day... If you want fish that weren't caught today, you can buy them in the grocery store!
They kind of look better before you cook them...

I just can't handle the EYES!
Right down the dock on the other side of the ferry landing there is a shack that is open most days for breakfast and lunch.  It's a total "locals" place and the food is cheap and ...local.

They have these breakfast sandwiches that are fresh cooked and cheap!  The ham, egg and cheese is about $2.25 US.  I tried the cocoa tea... a thick, milky cocoa drink that you have to add sugar to...  Let's just say it's an acquired taste and leave it there.  We DO love the sandwiches though and had them often throughout our time in Marigot.
Island grown oranges and grapefruits are green on the outside.  
Cassava Bread with peanut butter... mmm
Almost all of the boats in Capella Marigot Marina are docked stern (or bow) to the dock.  They have mooring balls in a line that hold the bowlines and then stern lines go to the cleats on the dock.

This is our fist "Med-Mooring" opportunity.  I was somewhat nervous about it but with the protection from wind and current here, and Ford's help, we docked the boat easily on the first try.

It is a deterrent from going out for a day-sail, which we totally would have done had we spent the summer on a mooring ball... But it's a trade-off.  The convenience of the dock and the marina washroom facilities was a strong pull... and of course the Resort amenities...

The electricity in St. Lucia is European so the Marina had to change the power pole for us so the our US electric boat could plug in.  They were super-responsive to problems with the power pole - which were frequent - but it wasn't the Marina's fault.  Some of the issues may have been caused by the construction on the Resort's Rum Cave dock... but some of it was just Island Life.

The 55¢ per kWh price for power was a concern.  The highest we've paid in the past was 35¢ back in Salinas, Puerto Rico.  We had a LOT more problems with the power that summer... Went for days sometimes without it... Here we most always had power but it wasn't cheap. We put up our sun covers on the boat to try to keep the interior as cool as possible.  There was very little wind down in this basin so really, opening the windows just wasn't happening...

The Lower Pool from behind the falls.
We didn't have to be alone for long... Sally and Jesse on Pyxis arrived the day after the other boats left!  They took the slip alongside the inside opposite the fuel dock because their double-ender wouldn't allow for stern-to docking.  We fell into a habit of happy hours at the pool, walks on the resort grounds and sometimes lunches and diners, both out, and on one or the other boat...

A hot tub in the sun...  No thanks!
Construction zone at Rum Cave
A little tree house!

Dinner aboard Pyxis comes with an after dinner show!

Such a fine talent... Jesse is very technical... with a surprisingly delightful artistic side!

The days seemed to flow into one another and we just did whatever we wanted to at the moment... until suddenly there was a threat to our peace on the horizon...

Yes, we're in a hurricane hole... but there is really no such thing as a completely safe place in the path of a storm... Our hope was that this one would turn north like the other two...

But it didn't.  For a couple of days it looked like it was coming right for us!

All activities ceased!  I was GLUED to the internet, watching every move, waiting for every new forecast, hoping that it would change for the better.

I went looking for information about previous hurricanes that hit St. Lucia and found this video.  Some would say that the video is too flippant about the threat... But I found solace in it.  I could literally watch the passage of a storm in the very hurricane hole we now occupied.  While the storm wasn't a Cat 4 or 5, it was a hurricane that did significant damage to St. Lucia... but literally none to Marigot Bay.

We consulted Troy and Ford about how the marina wanted us to prepare and they were professional and calm about the whole thing.  The day before we were to be affected, they were systematically working their way down the dock.

Each boat had to be moved away from the boats next to them and pulled out further from the dock.  Extra lines were added and chafe gear was applied... We were one of the last boats to be worked, being tucked far back into the marina basin.  We had a primo spot!

Boats began to trickle in... They came from near and far to seek the protection of our little basin...  Soon, every mooring was taken and boats were nestled into the mangroves surrounding the Bay.  One big luxury cruiser came in and took a slip way in the back.  I wasn't exactly excited to see that thing coming in.  If things got bad and it broke loose, it could take all of us out like a pinball machine!  Guess we'll have to depend on that not happening...

We were ready.  It started to rain.  Thankfully it happened during daylight hours... but really it wouldn't have been bad had it been dark.  We got intermittent rain as the bands started to hit us, then more steady rain... But the wind only came in gusts.  It was eerily calm down in our hole and only gusty fingers pushed us gently to the side now and then.  I couldn't believe our good fortune!

This is it!  We aren't even going to see the 40 knots they forecast for us.

The storm passed below us... just south of the neighbouring island of St. Vincent.  But it was far enough... close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades... Our first storm threat had come and gone and we were feeling really smug about our choice of summer home!

During all of this time, I was on Facebook and the internet - conversations flying - posting photos and our experience.  Someone said we deserved nomination for the Darwin award for putting ourselves and our home in harms way by remaining in the Caribbean for hurricane season.

Seriously!  With friends like that, who needs enemies.  Well I won't go into all the reasons why it's OK to be here during storm season... but I will say that I've spent my entire life living in the hurricane zone.  I was born in Corpus Christi, TX.  I lived there most of my life and endured my first hurricane at the age of 6, Celia back in 1970.  There are perils everywhere... nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from every kind of danger.  The very fact that I left my life... MY LIFE... and struck out with just my husband and my wits to keep me safe... guess that qualifies me for the Darwin award too...

I should stop there... It just irritated me... and evidently still does.

We had a few days of relieved fun... Like going on a Rainforest Adventure...

And the Solar Eclipse was entertainment for a day...

On August 23rd, I was up and out early to get this picture of the sunrise to send to a special friend to commemorate the birth of a grandchild.  It was a beautiful morning.

Somewhere in all this we had another boat join us for a few days... Will and Wendy on Kailani... Fun folks.  They and Pyxis joined us on my second walking tour of the resort:

Flowering Palm

Beautiful yellow Hibiscus

Murphy explaining things...

Shrimp Plant
This gorgeous thing fell from a tree!

Love apples!  

Checking out the herb garden with the hot tub in the back!
We had another scrumptious dinner out... our second time to eat at the Masala upstairs in the Marina Village.   This place is wonderful!  I never knew how much I loved Indian food until we had the Butter Chicken here... and the drinks, service and view combined make this place one of the best we've experienced in the Caribbean!

Watching the Weather Channel in the Workout Room
Then... whoa!  Wait a minute!  What do you MEAN Hurricane Harvey - last seen wandering aimlessly and ineffectively in the central Caribbean where he couldn't hurt anybody - is now increasing in intensity and has his sights set on none other than... Corpus Christi!

This sent us back to the internet - hours and hours of waiting and watching... Hanging on every new scrap of information and wishing... HOPING that it would turn away from our HOME!

The angst I felt, while incomparable to what those who later got hit experienced during this long summer of Armageddon... my angst was enough to knot my stomach and render me nearly incapacitated.  I had no interest in anything other than watching this all unfold.
Mom sent photos of the work crew boarding up windows and prepping the townhouses
Robert and his crew worked tirelessly to protect our homes

Boards going up on our place

I couldn't help but be a little bitter at that person who had questioned our decision to be in the Caribbean where it's not safe...  And a little voice in my head put the blame for this on that person's head!  Karma is a bitch and that one conversation could be the reason that Harvey had spared us here in the Caribbean... and decided to take our home back in the US!

No help that we had "Sympathy Rains"
I developed a sort of "survivor's guilt" about making it through this only to have my good fortune cause havoc for someone else.  Then the reports began to zero in on the little coastal town of Port Aransas... The town we lived in on the boat immediately prior to setting out to Cruise... The little Marina where many of our friends still keep their boats... it was just horrible.  And a Cat 5 no less!!!

As the storm closed in on our home town, I kept close contact with my Mom.  She lives in our Townhouse and decided early on to shelter in place.  I supported that decision at first... when it looked like Harvey would be maybe a Cat 3 storm... But the situation escalated in a heartbeat...  It was too late to leave by the time the storm increased to a Cat 5.

My brother took his family north to San Antonio.  News of the long lines at gas stations and shortages and hours spent crawling at a snail's pace to leave the city did nothing to keep me from wishing my Mom had gone... But she was committed.  A friend would come stay with her and they had all of their supplied laid in.

Nothing left to do but watch and wait.  I was so thankful for the internet that allowed me to keep in touch until late afternoon when my Mom went silent.  I had to assume that her power went out...

I kept in touch for a while longer with a friend from home, Michele... who is a selfless angel.  She volunteered to go out and check on my Mom as soon as roads were passable in the morning.  She was so sweet, even though she had her own problems to worry about, she helped to make mine a little better.  In the end, I was able to reach my Mom with no need for Michele to do a thing.  But Michele... THANKS!

Looking to the left out the front door
Life continued on here in St. Lucia while our town assessed the damage.  Our home got boarded up and eventually my Mom got her internet back... She was without power for four days.  When it came back on, she collected thawed food from neighbours and friends who lost power and had extra food thawed in their freezers.  She cooked up huge pots of comfort food and took it to the homeless people in town who normally got meals from Timmons Ministries, who was out out commission a little longer.

My alley and garage

No damage!
Other news of our home filtered out... The Polly Anna had actually broken loose and careened about the basin...Video here!

Von Castor/News 6 has a video showing our old marina here!

And there are a bunch of photos of Port Aransas posted on Facebook Here!

Meanwhile... Back in St. Lucia... We breathed a huge sigh of relief and hoped that person who said those uncharitable things about us doesn't ever find his/her own boat in peril from a storm... safe back on the US East Coast (insert ominous sound of doom and fastforward to Hurricane Irma)


Life went on... We celebrated Jesse's birthday with a lovely dinner out at Doolittle's.  There is no road to this unique bar/restaurant, or the boutique resort that surrounds it.  All visitors and guests must arrive by ferry from the dock at the end of the road in Marigot.  A little boat ride just adds to the fun... as long as they don't burn too much of your happy hour time!

Walking to our primo seats on the water

This duo provided us with awesome entertainment!

A night ride back home

We had a couple of days to breath again, still hearing news of the aftermath of Harvey pouring in from our home town... when another storm appeared on the horizon.  I could have sworn that I heard our weatherman say that things were going to calm down for a bit... Must have dreamed that!

The weather here was idyllic.  Light winds and wall-to-wall sunshine.  Well, maybe that's a stretch.  Here in the Caribbean we have rain showers popping up almost daily... But with sunshine in-between!  We had been so long at the computer and stuck indoors, we took the opportunity of a sunny day to take the dinghy out to the entrance of our channel to see if the snorkelling was any good...

Finishing up our time in the water, we decided to take a spin outside of our cove to see what was over there... A beach would be awesome!

Coming around the point there was a small beach tucked way back into the land... I think we could reach that one on foot from the marina!

We continued on and heard a strange sound.  What a delight to find that the oncoming swell was creating a rush through a blow hole!


All the sand is churned up from the west wind
Continuing on, we saw a lovely beach come into view right around the corner from the holes...  Unfortunately the swell that delighted us coming through the rocks... did not delight us when it rushed up onto the steep sandy shore.  I'm sure we COULD have made a landing of sorts, but a darkening sky convinced us to come back on a more calm day.
I'm sure this beach is stunning under normal conditions

Better get moving!
A funny thing happened on our way back to the marina... no really!  On our way out, remember I mentioned a beach we could reach from the marina?  Well there was a man climbing on the rocks off that beach when we passed before.

On our return trip, that man pulled himself up onto a rock away from the cliff and waived his arms for us to come over.  We dinghied closer and he asked for a ride back to the marina.  We dinghied closer still but with the churning water, couldn't get to his rock.  I told him to swim over as we got about 10 ft away.  He jumped in and swam right over.

He handed up a lumpy sack... and a machete.  I took both and watched as he hoisted his thin body easily over the side and into the bow of our dinghy.  He took a crocheted cap out of his pocket and wiped his face with it, then placed it over his short dreads.

He said his name was Tony.  I asked him what was in the bag.  He answered "crabs and snails" and then he pulled a shell from his other pocket and held it out for me to see.  It was a welk shell about the size of my fist and it had an animal inside that would be dinner tonight for Tony's family.

We chatted about his life here and how much we were enjoying life in St. Lucia all the way back to the ferry dock where we let him off.  Only once did the tiny voice in my head make itself heard and I had to agree that maybe picking up a dude with a machete was not our wisest move... But it worked out and added spice to our day!

I must say that my Guardian Angel is getting a workout this summer... that's all...

Back at the boat, reality set in once more, and with it, the clenching in my stomach.  It might sound like we're having a wonderful time here... but honestly we are wrecked about all of this destruction.

Days before the news about Irma started, we made plans to rent a car with Pyxis.  We made Dr.s appointments in Rodney Bay for the first day, and would tour the island again on the second...  We considered canceling the appointments and the rental car... but decided we should carry on.

The Marina staff was confident that our boat was safe for this storm with a few modifications to the lines, just like with Harvey.

We did our business and enjoyed the next day, trying to push impending doom from our minds.  It looked like it would go north of us by this time and that our involvement would be minimal... When we returned to the boat that evening carrying loads of groceries, Ford was hovering... He had made a couple of modifications to our dock/mooring lines but wanted to see if we were happy.

The storm would come overnight and we put out one more line going forward to the mooring ball to keep us from being pushed when the west winds came. We felt really badly about our late arrival and gave Ford a nice tip for staying late.  He tried to refuse but we would not take no for an answer...

The night was nothing like we expected... we slept soundly through it all... Our slip tucked way back into the basin around a curve in the shore kept all of the west winds and any minimal wave that came in from reaching us.  We had chosen well indeed...  But Irma wasn't over.  The turn that kept us safe was detrimental for so many of our cruising friends... And if we made it through the devastation that would befall the Leewards, well, we had Florida - where my daughter lives - to look forward to!

We hung out in the workout room, yes to get some exercise... lying on the bed staring at the computer was beginning to make my back hurt... But our ulterior motive was so that we could watch the weather news.

We even clung to the computer while sitting by the pool!  It was like watching a train wreck, we couldn't look away!

Random - A lionfish in our marina!
On a Thursday, Bruce and I took a taxi to Rodney Bay for a dental visit.  Bruce experienced some pain in a tooth and unfortunately, when he feels the pain, it's probably already too late for the tooth.  He got x-rays, an exam, and the verdict was to extract the tooth... the Dentist did it right then and there and we walked out of there for a fraction of what it would have cost in the US.  We picked up some groceries and rode the bus back to Marigot... arriving just in time to get ready for a night out with Pyxis and Ford.

Being the great guy that he is, Ford invited the four of us (Kailani had already gone) to go with him to a weekly BBQ that his wife's family puts on at the little bar next door to her parent's house.  It's called the "Like It" bar.  I can't get over the obvious and simple names they give things here!

The food was interesting.  Bruce got BBQ chicken and I got stewed pork.  As usual it was all full of bones, but we're used to it by now, and the darkness helped... I think.  There was a DJ and we sat right next to him so could watch him work, which is fascinating.

We met Ford's wife, Marie but due to the loud music we couldn't really hold a conversation... We enjoyed the music and the people-watching until one of us... I think it was Jesse, finally called it a night and Ford brought us all back to the marina.

Back to our posts just watching as Irma loomed larger than she should. How can this be?  Storms aren't supposed to get this big this far east...

When it got rainy, we stayed inside and watched movies... The 1967 version of Dr. Doolittle was on my rainy day list.

Part of it was actually filmed right here in our little cove.  The scenes were shot from a beach where Chateau Mygo, the Marina, and ferry dock are now... This scene looks toward the northern point of the entrance and shows our picturesque spit of sand with palms.  How cool is that?

September 15th .  Irma turned north
We were in the cone to begin with but watched, thankful yet horrified, as Irma turned north and wiped out several islands that we love so much.  Unspeakable!  Impossible!  There's that survivor[s guilt again.  Friends from inside the storm's path posted on social media until they lost cell service.  I don't know if that was better or worse, hearing how it was going - real time...  Those of us down south remained quiet.  A pall upon us all.

Like the gods were playing some horrible game sending these giant storms bowling through our islands...  Irma had just missed my daughter... Actually it wasn't a miss.  By the time Irma hit Key West and traveled to the Tampa Bay area, she had lost strength and was down to a weak Cat 3.  My daughter had some damage to trees, she lost her lanai and the fence behind her home when a neighbour's tree fell into her yard.  One of her own trees kept that from reaching her house by mere inches.  Power was out for a couple of days but she fared very well, all things considered.

Then came Maria!

Now here we go again!  On September 18th, we had our brush with Maria.  

The rains began but our boat was secure.  The little birds that come to eat our cat food were hiding out in the calm of our enclosure.  They didn't seem to care if we came out...

So calm in our basin

We got the boat ready and took a walk down the docks to see what conditions were like at the entrance to the Bay.

The winds were coming in from the west and corresponding waves as well.  Not much made it through the gap between the spit and the ferry dock, but there was a fair amount of wave action hitting the reef outside... and the shores of Chateau Mygo.

You can see that water has splashed up between the boards
This fish is having a very bad day

The wind was gusting and the boats anchored or on moorings out there were rocking and bouncing.  We heard later that one boat came loose and beached just to the left of this shot.. but we didn't see it.  They evidently got it off the beach and back onto a mooring pretty quickly.

Troy helping us get our line off of the neighbour's outboard prop

Later in the afternoon, Troy came by to make sure that everything was OK on our boat.  We had moved away from the dock and put out extra lines on the west side since that's where our wind would come from.

He helped us get one of our lines secured where it had been rubbing against the neighbour's outboard prop.  Troy was moving like lightning... making his way down the docks to ensure every boat was secured.  Ford was on vacation!

The storm, or what we got of it... came overnight. We barely noticed.  Once in a while we would feel a push on the boat but our waters were calm.  It is gut wrenching to think of how our friends must feel knowing that they were in for the second of two major storms that would kick salt into already gaping wounds.

We don't know how these islands will rebound or how long it will take.  Even Puerto Rico, which is a part of the US... will have it's challenges.

These are my experiences here in Marigot Bay.  Surely things could have been far worse for us and we understand that we are extremely fortunate that our choices did not cost us dearly.  The realization that our hurricane hole last summer, Salinas, PR. is likely destroyed... and had we chosen to go there, instead of south this year... this story would be different.  I don't wish to offend anyone who had a much more important tale to tell than mine... but I do want to keep my memories here for myself and others who wish to share them.

Hurricane Hole Bartender
Our friends on Pyxis decided to cut their stay short and would leave the next day.  We had one more happy hour at - The Hurricane Hole - and then dinner at Chateau Mygo.  There were new boards on the dock... all of the boards had been blasted off the foundations by the storm sometime in the night.

So long friends!  Until we meet again!

Tuna - I'm going to stick with the pizza next time
Two little lion fish.  I knew that one I saw was missing!

During all of this hurricane stuff... I found out that our boat insurance - due to renew on September 30, 2017 - was not going to be renewed.  I began the renewal process back in July... sending information about our newly purchased items back in St. Martin.  Then in Rodney Bay I prompted our agent to get to work on renewal since we now had the new generator and since our hurricane plans had changed with our plans to remain in Marigot.

He sent us an email that our payer, Falvey, had approved the plan and the invoices for new equipment had been forwarded... all things looked fine.

Just before Irma hit Florida, I got the news of the non-renewal.  My agent said that it was because he no longer writes policies for Falvey, but that I could renew directly with the company... We waited... further prompting... Then came a new email from Falvey saying that they couldn't renew, but would have to write a new policy... Then they came back and said that no new policy would be written and that I should contact my broker...

My broker who was now closed due to hurricane Irma pounding his Ft. Lauderdale offices...  Several days went by, emails bounced, voice mailbox was full... silence.

Proof of condition for the new insurance company
Finally he came back with a policy through Yachtline.  I read the policy and it was abysmal.  It would cover us without a new survey but only for storms Cat 3 or less.  After we watched small tropical storms blow up into monsters all summer long... that seemed like a harsh exclusion to me.

Meanwhile, our guests from home were arriving and all of this insurance stuff was slowly turning over... I'm sure my insurance agent is a little bit busy right now...


Having worked closely with the insurance industry most of my adult life... I felt sure that there must be some requirement for an agent to disclose this to all clients it might affect... prior to it becoming effective.

Now here we are, officially without insurance... we can no longer take shelter in a marina... and we have no idea where our wifi will come from so that we can resolve this.  Just prior to leaving the marina, our agent told shot me a cryptic email which I believe confirmed that he sent notice to bind the policy without having heard from us to that effect..

So much progress.  We would have loved to see it finished!
Part of me was relieved about that but part was not... The price wasn't certain and the coverage was crappy.  We would now be forced to flee south as soon as our guests left St. Lucia.

Anyhow...   What all of this means is that our plans to return to Marigot Bay and spend the remainder of October here in this place that we have grown to love... have changed.  We will enjoy our company and then move on... Yes, we're sad.  But we can always come back.  After the islands up north have been do badly damaged, we have no desire to go back up there and add our needs to their burden...  Yes, I understand that they will need tourists... But we're going to give it a while...

A new neighbour moved in just before we left

In spite of the storms, we have felt safe, welcome and happy here.  We have grown to love this island and were comfortable enough to fondly look back on this time... and remember that Summer we lived in St. Lucia.

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