We are leaning to the left! Ep. 48

It’s true. After a lot of consideration and discussion our family has made a firm commitment to stand strong “on the left”.

… you’re thinking, “great … here she goes with her political left vs. right, liberal argument against conservative views! Ha! Gotcha. No such luck.

You see, since our last web log, we have turned a corner, in the literal sense. Actually, a 180-degree corner — which is to say we have turned around and are now headed north/northwest where we have spent the previous five and a half months traveling in the south/southeastern direction! What does this have to do with the title, you ask? Everything!

We are a sailboat, and, as such when pushed by the wind and under sail, we lean or “heel” away from or “off” the wind. Since leaving Norfolk, Virginia, we have been predominently influenced by an east wind (a wind coming from the east). So, for the last 5.5 months, we have been — LITERALLY –leaning to the right! The whole right side of my body — leg, waist, back, arms and even hips are noticeably stronger than my left side. When I get off the boat and walk along the dock or sidewalk after a day’s sail, I list to the right — no joke! The stronger the day’s wind, the further I tilt to the right when first on hard land. A walk through the boat while underway is a mini obstacle course as doorways, benches and walls are all, essentially, “leaning” to the right which means you better lean as well or the top section of your body will run smack-dab into door-frames, etc. It completely controls your world! Your stuff (books, dishes, computers, cups of coffee), if not properly stowed does a bit more than lean to the right — it FLIES to the right and hits the right-leaning wall or cupboard, etc. Furthermore, if we move the boat on an overnight hop, we even sleep leaning to the right. For my berth, that means leaning against a lee-cloth, attempting to catch enough sleep while pondering the uncertainty of whether I made the cloths strong enough to hold me secure.

What an amazing relief to finally be leaning the OTHER WAY! It is nearly as rejuveniating as the feeling one must have when switching political views from the right to the left! Sorry, just had to slide my political jab into this topic — I couldn’t help myself, really. And those who know me well would be disappointed if I left it out! That’s all, though, promise.

Below is a photo of our 12-year old son, Zachary, on the foredeck of Thalia while under sail… notice the “left-ward” lean! Zachary is taking down our St. Vincent courtesy flag that we flew the entire time we were in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The background is “The Pitons” on St. Lucia as we are just approaching to anchor. Until we clear into customs, we will fly a solid yellow flag on the “courtesy” side of the mast which signifies our boat as “quarantined” — basically, no passengers with the exception of the vessel’s captain is cleared to go ashore until the customs and immigration process has been completed.

We made it as far south as the island of Carriacou off the northern coast of Grenada and as far east as the western coast of St. Lucia–the island in the photo above. Although we have another four months on the boat, the fact that we are now officially headed back toward home puts our days into a new light. We look with the freshness of a cool, fragrant spring breeze at our remaining time aboard “Thalia”. I feel we have a renewed motivation to make sure we enjoy ourselves every day, learn about people and cultures we encounter along our path and never take for granted our fortune at being able to make this journey happen.

Last week’s web entry left off on Friday evening, April 6th, with us anchored off the island of Bequia after having taken Tom’s brother, Todd, and his daughter, Julia, to the airport on the island of Canouan in the Grenadines.

Once we have reprovisioned, completed laundry ashore and cleaned the boat, we will leave the islands of the Grenadines and head north for the town of Kingstown on the southern coast of the island of St. Vincent. At this juncture, we will officially be “heading back home”. Our familiarity with Bequia allows us to quickly complete these tasks which are often both time and labor intensive! By early afternoon on Saturday, we decide to make the short hop to Kingstown on St. Vincent. We are snugly anchored just as the sun sets in an area called Young Island Cut, just south of Kingstown.

Bitter sweet ~ We have three boats which we must make a special effort to connect with prior to heading back. We have written of them often as their crews have become our “neighborhood” as we moved somewhat together from Hampton, VA to this point so far southeast! As these three boats will summer with their boats on the hard in Trinidad, they must continue south as we turn north. So, over the next two weeks, we will share a dinner or some wine (or both) and make wishes to see one another again when our paths hopefully cross one another’s sometime off in the future. The first boat will be Asseance, with her crew Don and Heather, who plan to meet us in Kingstown the next day–Sunday, April 8th. Later in this same web entry, we will say good-bye to Hunter on Arctic Tern and, finally, we have plans to meet the third boat, “Heaven Won’t Wait” next week for a last rendezvous! Friendship is bitter-sweet. Sweet while it and the laughter it brings lingers and bitter when the bite of a ‘good-bye’ nips at your heart. Yet, I believe most people would agree that the risk of hurt is far outweighed by the rewards of friendship!

We planned to make the climb up the piton pictured below with Don and Heather. Our youngest’s blond head is bobbing along in the dinghy as we make our way over to this great little island. Notice the stairs/path mid way up!

Once Heather sees the steepness of the climb, she decides to sit this one out. The stairs are old, VERY steep and somewhat irregular! I’m not much for steeps either, so Heather and I walk up a little ways to get a bit of a view and a breeze and then take the opportunity to catch up with one another while the men and boys make the climb. This next picture is taken by the guys on their way back down as they spot us sitting below!

Here we are on our little perch part way up the piton.

That evening, we enjoyed a community dinner aboard Thalia. We will miss you, Don and Heather, and will think of you often as you continue on with your sailing adventures!

Monday morning found us moving further north, with the boys deep into school-work while we are underway. Our intended destination is the town of Soufriere on the central western coast of St. Lucia. On our way south several weeks ago, we passed by St. Lucia and knew we would want to make a stop on our way north. This is an island we could definitely spend more time on. In the day and a half we were able to go ashore and explore St. Lucia, we swam and snorkeled between the pitons, hiked to a great botanical garden, took a mineral bath in a natural hot springs, had a terrific lunch of great local foods, walked all over the town and waterfront area and took a tour of an active volcano!

The most famous national landmark in St. Lucia is their two pitons which stand regally on this beautiful section of St. Lucia’s coast. These are just south of the town of Soufriere, where we had to check in to customs/immigration. Unless you are at quite a distance, it is difficult to capture both pitons in one photo. The “Petite Piton” was my favorite — it is skinnier than the “Gros Piton” to the south, but very tall and picturesque. Although it is difficult to appreciate the size, here is a shot of it with several normal sized sailboats and one huge sailboat with four very tall masts anchored just to the right of the bottom of the piton. Look how these boats are dwarfed by this giant! Their altitudes are 2460′ and 2619′, respectively.

Here is another shot of the same piton from the opposite angle… Zachary on the waterfront of the town of Soufriere.

Below, Diamond Waterfall within the Diamond Botanical Garden. Notice the color of the rock which has been created from the high concentration of iron and other minerals in the water. This stream is fed partially by underground mineral springs which warm the water some. These same underground springs are the source of the warm mineral bath water we relaxed in in the following photo!

Baths similar to the three outdoor ones shown in the following photo have been in existence at this site since originally built in 1784 by the French. These were obviously rebuilt over the years. It may appear that this is a simple jacuzzi with “normal” water. However, when we sank into this comfortably warm bath the feel of the water was soft and slippery from the amount of minerals present. It was hard to pull all of us away from this attraction … how relaxing!

While exploring these wonderful Caribbean Islands, we have seen how many spices, fruits and vegetables are grown, harvested and processed for modern use. This next picture shows the vanilla bean and flower hanging from a vanilla bean tree. This was a new one for us! St. Lucia still produces a substantial amount of vanilla and we nearly paid $10 US at the botanical garden’s gift shop for a bottle of it. When we priced this same bottle in the grocery store in town it was under $5 EC (Eastern Caribbean currency), which comes out to less than $2 in US dollars! We bought three bottles!

As evidence of the present day volcanic activity on the island of St. Lucia, look at the hot steam and sulphuric gases rising from this site aptly named “Sulphur Springs” and using the marketing slogan, “The Caribbean’s only Drive In Volcano!” Although there is no evidence that anyone has literally driven IN, it is easy to visit by a short taxi ride!

… my three guys under our new bimini as we sail away, further north, from St. Lucia’s beautiful pitons …

Our next stop is Rodney Bay in the northwest corner of St. Lucia. Our friends on Arctic Tern have their boat in the marina here while the wife (Devi) made a last minute trip to the states to care for an aging parent. We were thankful to have gotten to at least see Hunter one last time on our trip but were sad to have missed Devi.

Rodney Bay reminded us of “Simpson Bay” on St. Martin. Marine stores, large grocery stores, big marinas … we MUST be headed north! We had a great snorkel with Hunter and had him over for dinner. We will fondly recall Devi and Hunter whenever we find ourselves enjoying an outdoor adventure. Happy sailing, Arctic Tern!

After our one day in Rodney Bay, we moved on to St. Pierre, Martinique. It turns out that this is the week of volcano exploration. Not only did Zachary study volcanoes in science this week right after our trip to the sulphur springs on St. Lucia, but we visited this town of St. Pierre which was completely devastated in 1902 by the eruption of Mt. Pelee.

Here is Mt. Pelee looming over St. Pierre …

Notice, in the foreground, the ruins of stone walls which were charred on the morning of May 8th, 1902, after Mt. Pelee’s warnings to the residents of St. Pierre. Rumblings had been reported as early as February of that year and became more regular in early April. A major eruption occurred on the 2nd of May which covered the city with so much ash that some birds and animals perished. Still, the nearly 30,000 residents were encouraged to remain in the city by the business leaders, planters and the local paper who claimed that there was little danger. Only 1000 residents chose to leave prior to May 8th. According to many eyewitnesses to this disaster who were approaching St. Pierre from far away hillsides, the side of Mt. Pelee facing St. Pierre glowed red and burst open, releasing more energy than an atomic bomb. Only one man survived, though severely burned. It would be nearly four days before he was discovered in his thick-walled stone cell in the city’s prison. It is estimated that the temperatures in St. Pierre reached 1000-degrees celsius as the giant fireball of superheated gas flowed down over the city. An estimated 29,933 people instantly burned to death. Porcelain dishes were found fused together. Thick glass jars melted as did containers of nails, bolts and iron fencing. Below is Zachary sitting on a stone wall in what was once a grand 800 seat theater.

From what we were able to decipher, Zachary is overlooking the vast stage (to the right in the photo) with entry points for cast members built into the walls at the side of the stage. Not pictured off to the left is the theater’s grand entrance floor and columns. The seating which was above the entry way was all burned, as was the roof. This next picture shows the grand stairs leading from the street to what had been the front doors of the three story building which was the theater. The location that Zachary was sitting in the previous photo is about 100 yards in toward the hill side from the railing at the top of the stairs shown below. Notice the center fountain and two side stair cases, then view the next photo of the theater in its prime.

The same fountain can be seen in the very center of this next photo (which is of poor quality, sorry).

This was a solemn day for us all. The distruction was so complete and immediate. Though the town was not buried in lava or ash, it was completely destroyed. This city, which was once known as the Paris of the Caribbean and which served as Martinique’s center of commerce, culture and society, was alive one minute then extinguished at 8:02 am, May 8, 1902.

With this, I will leave you until next week.

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