Friday, July 15, 2016

St Lucia

With the passage from Iles de Saintes to St Lucia being the last night sail of this trip, I thought I'd make an ode to night sailing as this is something I haven't really talked much about.  What can I say about it  except that it's a bit of a love-hate relationship.   When I first started out on this journey, the very thought of a night sail initially always filled me with anxiety and fear.   Though this is one of the most magical aspects of sailing, I think most people can agree that there is something inherently frightening about sailing through the night.  I guess it is natural to fear the dark, as this is something that has primordially existed in us since we were little kids.  How many of you remember dreading the moment your parents shut the lights off at night, preparing to fight the ghosts lurking in the corner, and creating monsters out of shadows?  Being on the ocean is similar to that feeling, because as it is already it makes you feel small and insignificant.  Couple that with the being in the dark in the middle of nowhere, and that familiar childhood feeling of vulnerability is once again revisited, only now you can't alleviate it by crawling into your mom and dad's bed.  After over a year of passage-making (can you believe it's already been that long?), night sails still inspire a bit of fear, though I have grown used to them and have even learned to love them.  Depending on the conditions, night sails can either be completely meditative and transformative, or they can be terrifying and exhausting.  Since I'm sure it's obvious to you how it can be terrifying during shitty conditions, I'll talk about the good side of night sailing...

I find that it is often times during my night watches that I have had the most profound epiphanies about life.  Something about sitting in the cockpit, by yourself, with nothing but the sound of the wind and the waves and the company of the stars and moon, that sets your mind into this meditative state.  You feel very alone in these moments, and the feeling like you are bonding with some greater force, in this case the ocean, is truly remarkable.  I'm not religious in any way, but in these moments, I can understand how this spiritual feeling can be overwhelming for a lot of people, and why people tend to embrace this "higher power."  Especially when it's calm, and its so dark out that you can hardly tell the difference between the sky and the ocean, and all you can see in the distance are the stars in the sky and the green trail of phosphorescence, and the air is filled with that familiar sweet salty smell, these moments are transcendent.  You wonder how it's possible for everything to be so magnificent, and you feel grateful to be alive to be a part of this perfection.  

This feeling is with you throughout the night, and you feel high and giddy until stage 2 of the night watch sets in, which is sleep deprivation.  This, for me as a self-diagnosed narcoleptic, is the most challenging part of night sailing.  Frank and I have developed a watch schedule where we are on for 2 hours and then off for 2 hours.  Between the hours of 2am-6am, I find, is the most difficult part of the night.  You don't think it would be exhausting just sitting around pondering the meaning of life and scanning the horizon for other boats, but it really is...and the quietness of the night coupled with the rhythmic bouncing of Moitessier slicing through the waves makes staying awake that much harder.  I find it helps to have a podcast or a movie on at this time, just to keep your mind from wandering into dreamworld and nodding off.  Having snacks or hot chocolate really helps too, as for some reason, aside from being sleepy, night watches also make me voraciously hungry.  I'm often grateful when I wake up to my watch to have Frank hand me over a steaming mug of hot chocolate or peppermint tea  (yes, you wouldn't think that would be satisfying in the tropics, but night watches are breezy and can often chill you to the bones).  

With that being said, the passage to St Lucia started off as anxiety filled as the direction of the steep  6 ft waves and the 20 kt winds made for a pretty uncomfortable ride.  It thankfully calmed down for the second part of the night, so we were able to enjoy our final night sail of this journey.  We arrived early morning in Marigot bay and picked up a mooring ball at Capella Resort and Marina.  After spending a couple days living in luxury and enjoying world class facilities, such hot showers and lounging by the pool (note: you get to use the resort if you pick up a ball), we moved on to the Pitons, where we spent one night just taking in the grand view.  This was really a highlight of the trip, and it's a shame that we didn't feel comfortable leaving the boat and exploring the island more.  We keep reading about high crime in St Lucia, with boardings and dinghy thefts.  It's not surprising, as it seems it is a poverty stricken country with high rates of unemployment.  After having a long conversation with a really nice local at Soufriere Bay that approached Frank while I was at the Customs office clearing out, we discover that most of the money that is made through tourism is not reinvested into the country.  From what we gather, most of the big resorts are owned by the foreigners, so a lot of that money goes out of the country and the locals only receive a tiny trickle of what is made off of the beauty of their island.  Most of the citizens of the island can only make money off of what little they can sell to the tourists, be it fruit or handmade goods.  It seems to be dog eat dog, with people struggling to feed their families, so it's no wonder the amount of crime here. And though there is fresh tropical fruit growing everywhere, most of it falls on private property, and so there is a strong sense of ownership and divide between the haves and have-nots. You can clearly sense the desperation as the "boat boys" here are pretty aggressive about making money off of you from the moment you approach the mooring field.  We got a taste of it when we were hassled by these young boys on a dinghy that followed us from Soufriere bay to the pitons, offering fish, services, fruit, and insisting that they help with our mooring ball.  And even though we politely declined them a few times, they still continued to harass us until we tipped them for "helping" us with our mooring ball, which was essentially them handing us the line.  They then insisted that we pay for their fuel and which at that point, we stood our ground and refused out of principle as we were a bit exasperated by their aggressiveness and did not want to come off seeming like suckers, thereby targeting ourselves.  Anyhow, we spent one night moored between the pitons.  We even got to check out the little marine preserve off of the resort there, that offered really nice snorkeling with beautiful coral and large yellowtails that teased us knowing that we couldn't spear them.  All in all, definitely worth the stop as the pitons truly are a breathtaking sight...

Lovely Marigot Bay
Enjoying Capella Bay Resort…
Hanging out by the pool.
Exploring the reefs right outside Marigot Bay...
Beautiful coral here
Amazing sunsets too!
Approaching the grand pitons...
A rare shot of both me and Frank free diving 
Beautiful coral here too
Leaving the pitons on a rainy morning...

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful views of the reefs and islands.
    Really nice sunset picture. Reminded me of living in the Marshall Islands in high school.