Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Caribbean contrasts

This is my first year cruising. In a couple months we’ll have spent a full 12 months living onboard our boat. To landlubbers it sounds like an eternity, but to seasoned cruisers, we are mere infants, barely initiated to the lifestyle.
I have to side with the sailors on this one. I can’t believe we’ve been living on the ocean for 300 days. And in this time, not including our flight back to Canada and some sailing trips up and down the same islands with visitors, we’ve only sailed the distance between Grenada and St Lucia, or in quantitative terms, about 150 miles.
150 miles. In 10 months. OMG! Good thing I was not expecting a fast paced lifestyle. It’s hard to imagine how we’ve managed to fill the time, for a good 7 months, waiting out the hurricane season in Grenada, and a bit of island hopping for the rest of the time. But it ‘sailed’ by really. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Having fun takes many forms. It’s the contrasts I love best.
Today, headed into the marina on Shiloh’s side kick, the I LOVE SHILOH dinghy, we were hailed by the gang of local fishermen at the entrance to the lagoon. Arms waving, conch shells piled high, the frantic group got our attention and we spun around to see what it was all about.
The old wooden boats, bashing together as the guys unraveled gunky nets, all rippling muscles, sharp knives and fish blood, provided the backdrop. They needed a favour.

A fishing boat - St Lucia

Minutes later we had a stocky, rough looking, local fisherman called Allison (no joke!) on board with his daily catch, dripping fishy juices out of the once white sack, between our toes, onto the dinghy floor. He lived in Gros Islet, the poor seaside town just on the other side. He needed a lift across the lagoon entrance with today’s bounty. 100ft later, we had him docked at his destination and we were on our way.
Minutes after that, dinghy ‘parked’ we’d walked across the boardwalk of the well manicured marina, stopped off among the 10 stylish patios, choosing the Italian pizzeria, and I was sipping the foam off my cappuccino, downloading programs on the free wifi.
From islands where goats rule the dusty roads, to others with cars spewing fumes down the highway strips.
From paint chipped, open gutter villages to the fanciest of marinas...

A local game of dominoes - Castries town, St Lucia

The fancy marina at Rodney Bay - St Lucia

A private residence on Rodney Bay Lagoon

We spent a month over the holiday season in Carriacou, where finding carrots or potatoes was hit and miss. Where the tiny local shops would wait with shelves emptying, for the promise of new stock brought over by the ferries. Christmas lunch was a hodgepodge of what we could find, five or six boats banding together to create a great day despite the lack of availability of much. Tomatoes were a scarce commodity, turkey brought in from Grenada – what a treat!, while tropical avocados were nowhere to be found.

Abundance in St Lucia after the droughts of supply in Carriacou

A few miles north, after a challenging sail, I am speeding through the aisles of a massive supermarket, where gluten-free has it’s own section and imported organic chocolates are prominently displayed. I can barely choose in this place. It’s sensory overload after months of living ‘island-style’ and making due.
Do I have enough room in my tiny impractical boat fridge for sour cream, yogurts, sliced hams, cheeses, corn on the cob, steaks, three types of apples, kiwis, chocolate milk (captain’s favourite) etc etc etc….
One thing is sure, I am going to gain weight over the next few months, judging by our (roughly) scheduled island stops. Martinique and Guadeloupe, still owned and well stocked by France promise great wine, cheeses, baguettes.
Maybe we should stop for longer in Dominica. There they’ve got more hills and forests to hike, and less restaurants and stores to indulge.
For now, I’ve got to get out of this café, walk off my lunch en route to buy ingredients for supper and maybe squeeze in a swim.
Oh, and some sailing might be scheduled for the near future as well!


  1. Looks amazing! I love the guy's fishing boat and all the sayings he's painted on it!

    I hear Dominica is absolutely gorgeous, with tons of hiking. Worth a longer stay I believe!

  2. Been away for awhile but I loved catching up, it's always lovely to read your posts and look at your beautiful pictures.