Monday, July 26, 2010

The Pitons and the hassle of Boat boys

I’ve made my way from Rodney Bay on the north end of St. Lucia to Vieux Fort on the Southern end over the course of 3 day-sails. Short sails are preferable for me while I’m still having to sail alone without any steering aid. This will change in Grenada, as the steering gear is being produced in Canada now and will meet me there.

Much of this coast is a National Park, The Pitons, which is supposed to be beautiful. Unfortunately they don’t allow anchoring along the coast, so I enjoyed the beauty of the mountains from the comfort of my yacht as I sailed past, which is just fine for me. They want you to pay for moorings instead of using your anchor, and being forced to hand over cash always rubs me the wrong way. Everyone on these islands wants to squeeze you for cash, it’s getting tiresome. Even at anchor, twice a day I have to come topside and say to some boat vendor “no, I don’t want to buy any bananas.” Imagine having door to door salesmen come to your house or office twice a day.

My guidebook listed an exception to the no-anchoring rule, there is a restaurant that you can anchor in front of from 1800 to 0600. That’s exactly what I did on Friday night. A mile offshore, a local boat came at me full speed, and the boy at the wheel insisted he would take me to a mooring. You have to tell these people “no thank you” 15 times before they start to get the hint. Even if I did want a mooring, I really don’t need help picking up a line out of the water and cleating it off on deck. I motored to the restaurant, with the boy motoring beside me, getting more and more angry at me as I insisted I didn’t need his help nor a mooring ball. “The rules changed, you can’t do that, I know the rules! I’m going to tell the police!” “If the rule’s really changed, I’ll find out from an authority and move, but you want my money, yes? So no offense, but I don’t trust what you have to say.” He didn’t like that so much. I let Lexi sleep up on deck to alert me of any trouble that night, but left without incident at 0700.

I must say I’m “over” the Caribbean. The locals; many are kind, but just as many are pushy and aggressive, begging, drugs, and theft are rampant. Some other boats told me the only reason I haven’t had any “night-time visits” yet is because I have the dog aboard. Now I’m really glad I brought her. By next week I’ll be in Grenada, I will have sailed the entire Caribe! In September I’ll venture out into the Atlantic and cut back west to Brazil. I’m pretty excited to get to South America, especially to Argentina and Chile.

I can’t deny though, these islands are beautiful. Vieux Fort has one of the coolest beaches I’ve seen and the it is an excellent spot for kitesurfing, which I’m taking advantage of.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Long range planning

Such beautiful sunsets here in St. Lucia; this photo’s colors are un-altered.

Ever since attending my brother’s Tokyo wedding last April, I’ve been consumed with the notion of finding a job in and moving to Japan. I’ve always been interested in working abroad, and I’d better do it now while I’m still clinging on to the last quarter of my 20’s. When I flew back into Puerto Rico, I immediately went to a Borders book store and bought a Japanese language book and audio set, as well as a phrasebook and a guide to living abroad in Japan. I figured if I was serious about the idea, then learning the language would be a good way to prove it to myself. Now I’ve learned over 300 words and phrases on flashcards. Obviously, being able to speak Japanese fluently would be an immense resume plus when looking for a job there. In addition, it gives me some peace of mind to know I’m doing something productive on this trip, something besides just being a sailing tourist.

I always shy away from publishing a trip “schedule” on here, because I change my long-range plans constantly, and don’t want to be held to any schedule. I’ve spent many hours this trip looking through my World Sailing Routes book, researching different possible routes. But, I’ve had it in my mind for a good while to transit the Straights of Magellan, in Patagonia (Bottom of South America) this December (their summer). There are several options after that, like sailing clear across the Pacific. The option I’m leaning towards now is arriving in California b/t April - June of 2011. From there I’d sell the boat, visit Charleston, and make the move to Japan all in short order. I’ve come to be very comfortable on the boat and could happily live aboard in Japan, but sailing the 10,000nm (Chile – Hawaii – Japan) there really doesn’t appeal to me. It would be over 90 days of solo sailing very long passages on a desolate, often angry ocean.

One thing is very clear to me; I need a good working steering gear. This is a mechanical device that will steer the boat using no electronics and allow me to leave the helm to tend sails, cook, sleep, etc. while single-handing. Up till now I’ve made do without one, but no one sails like this, hands on the wheel at all times, it’s ridiculous; exhausting. Unfortunately they are expensive, and the one I want, the “Cape Horn” has a 3 month wait. They custom build them upon request. For lack of a better option I think I’ll buy it and just wait for it to arrive at a mailing address in Grenada. Then I can install it and take off for Trinidad and S. America.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Down time in St Lucia

Here is a little movie of clips I compiled from time spent on the lovely island of Dominica. I am now spending some down time from sailing in St. Lucia (funny to suggest that I need “down time” on a vacation). I’ve offloaded both of my crewmembers here and am single-handing on the boat again. There is a nice bay here with a good beach, the down side being that the tourists rent jet skis and buzz around the boat during the day. It’s still good though. I’m taking some time to clean and re-organize the boat, as well as take care of small projects I wasn’t able to tackle while I had crew aboard. I’ve also managed to get some kitesurfing in.