Friday, April 2, 2010

March meandering....

The month of March is a blur... but luckily I brought my camera and my sketchbook along when we flew out of Portland on March first, headed for Florida and then the Caribbean. I absolutely love experiencing new environments... it's a sensory overload. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could rotate people around the world to experience someone else's life? I'm sure it would help with world peace and understanding. I'm convinced that broadening your horizon is the best education you can get. Nowadays, the 'getting to' and the 'getting back' aren't necessarily enjoyable, but this time flying over 4,000 miles East went relatively smoothly ( aside from spending a long 8 hours in the San Juan airport when a storm delayed outgoing flights) Since our arrival back home late on the 17th, our 'catch up' activities have kept me from posting until now.

First of all.... we froze in Florida! My sister lives in Venice, on the Gulf Coast, where it's supposed to be balmy and warm for all of those Northerners who come down for a Winter break. NOT! Everyone was wearing fleece and had their heat turned on. Temperatures were in the 50's (F) and went down into the 30's some nights. It was too cold for my sister's parrot, Bud, to be outside. Forget the bathing suit or even trying to turn our sickly pale Oregon bodies into even a healthy beige! We did manage a brisk walk on the beach and bought our favorite coffee, 'Jamaican-Me-Crazy' , to take along on our upcoming sail. The good news : it appears that temperatures have warmed up a bit since we got home.

From Florida, our next stop was the Caribbean island of St. Lucia in the West Indies. Friends of ours from college spend half of the year on their 42 ' sailboat, and for the past decade we have been joining them for a week to 10 days of sailing adventures. ( only very good friends should attempt this! ) Getting to the Caribbean from Oregon is always the hard part!

Once on the boat we look foward to spending days without shoes, a watch, or much contact with the outside world. Temperatures this year were warmer than normal, never getting below 85 degrees F. day or night. Steady breezes, wearing as little as possible, and jumping in the water 3-4 times a day kept us cool. After exploring an old fort at the edge of Rodney Bay, we sailed North from St. Lucia to the French island of Martinique, and from there sailed from town to town along the West coast of the island.
Seeing the coastal towns from the water gives you an entirely new perspective... quite different from arriving by car. One of our first stops was the capital of Fort de France so we could check in with customs . I loved the bright colors that dominated the landscape of the area... both the painted buildings and the bright clothes of the beautiful people created a warm and happy atmosphere. Their food and craft markets were also wonderful places to explore and feel the pulse of daily life.

Anchored in the harbor with boats from Canada, Germany, France, and Finland surroundiing us, we could see the local residents bustling about in the intense heat of the mid-day. After a short dinghy ride to the dock, walking a few blocks to the local boat outfitter was like walking through an oven.... it takes awhile to acclimate to the heat of these islands. You also understand how the climate dictates a way of life that is more relaxed and slowed down!

One of my favorite towns was Saint Pierre, located further up the coast and sitting at the base of the volcano, Mt. Pelee. In 1902 the mountain exploded in a violent eruption of ash and gas that killed the entire population of the town of 30,000 people! ( actually only one person is said to have survived...a prisoner who was housed in a well protected cell!) The town was rebuilt using some of the few remaining stone walls that survived. We anchored in the harbor close to the main dock and beaches where we could see the local fisherman tending their nets.

We took a cab a few miles up onto the slopes of Pelee to visit the DePaz Rum Distillery, one of many in the area. Surrounded by acres of sugar cane fields, we could look across the landscape and see our sailboat as a tiny speck in the harbor below. Visiters are invited through a fascinating walking tour of the facility as trucks of sugar cane arrive to be crushed and processed.

Back on our boat, we could see the colorful houses lining the beaches encircling the harbor, some containing remnants of the old stone walls that remained standing in 1902. It appeared that fishing, rum, and tourism were the main economic building blocks in the area.

Mt. Pelee on a clear day overlooks the town and was the premier view from our boat, achored in 20 feet of clear blue water. The top of the mountain shows evidence of the violent ash and lava flows that descended upon the town in 1902. There is a road and then a trail up the mountain, but the hot temperatures kept us from attempting such a climb! Many of the remains of the old stone walls were scattered about the town, making it a magical place where the past and present co-existed with nature.

Upon leaving Saint Pierre we sailed South along the coast down to the town of Saint Anne. The following day we had a great 2-3 hour sail across open seas back to the island of St. Lucia, where we anchored for a day in the tiny harbor of Maribot Bay. Large yachts and an exclusive resort were hidden behind mangroves and palms. We had our only meal at a restaurant .....reached by dinghy, and called , appropriately, The Rainforest. Dining on a dock surrounded by mangroves , with the water lapping at your feet, is an experience not to be missed. Our final sail on our final day was down the coast to the famous 'Petons'...twin peaks that guard the entrance to a small harbor. The landscape is particularly dramatic, especially when seen from the water.

Our home for 10 days was Kewaydin, seen here at anchorage with sunshades keeping us as cool as possible when we're not sailing..

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