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15 April 2011

Greetings from St. Lucia (or, 6 more miles to go!)

Hard to believe, but the WARC is nearly over. The Fleet's gathered in
Marigot Bay, St. Lucia, just down the coast from the "finish line" up by
Rodney Bay. We'll be heading out tomorrow (Saturday) morning to parade
up the coast, picking up a spectator fleet along the way, and finish
where it all began 15 months ago.

The finish crew are Casey and Heidi, Sean and Sofia, joined by Bill (who
did the first legs) and Anne (delivery & some Indian ocean) and her
husband Jon (WT newbie, taking the weekend off from his last few weeks
at law school!).

The gang took in some of the St. Lucia sights today, with a water taxi
down the western coast to see the Pitons (huge, steep volcanic peaks)
lunch at a nifty resort, and snorkeling on the way home. (Great fish,
excellent coral; the only problems were the small schools of jellyfish
we had to dodge.)

The town names as we went by were great - a favorite seems to translate
as "Beach of Pigs" (apparently there were lots of wild boar in the area
years ago.)

We also got to see the enormous pipeline where twice yearly the ship
comes with molasses for the rum factory. Our guides said that sometimes
small leaks form, and kids often go to look for and collect the molasses

The terrain itself was also quite amazing. The island is volcanic
(areas still have bubbling hot springs and sulfur gas) and the coastline
is a mix of different types of rock in multiple layers and colors, all
with a bright green coating of tropical plants on top. One big vertical
crack in one of the cliffs is locally (and logically) called the "Bat
Cave". We pulled in as close as we could get the boat and could hear
and just see the bats flitting about in the shadows.

And the water taxi boat itself was of interest to such a flock of boat
geeks - small, incredibly sea-worthy, and handled very well even in
waves. Our guides, Carlos Wilson and Yatta St. Croix, said that they
sometimes load the things up with extra tanks of gas and take the boats
over to Martinique, some 30 miles away. Wow!

There's a dinner gathering tonight for the whole fleet, then tomorrow
we're up and out late morning, should be wrapping it up (with, one
expects, still more festivities) by mid-afternoon.

More, we hope, tomorrow (or maybe Sunday depending on the festivity
level experienced...) No matter what, we'll take lots of photos!

- Anne, for WT

13 57.904 N
61 01.394 W
6:41 PM (local, same as EDT) 15 April 2011

01 April 2011

Fertile turtles and other stories

Trinidad was a very nice surprise. Arrived in a beautifully maintained marina, Crews Inn at Chaguaramas Bay. We rented a beater car and headed off to see the leather back turtles of Grande Riviere, on the North coast.
Traffic and car proved a challenge, stuck for several hours in inching traffic, having no suspension, Heidi behind the left side wheel driving, while Dave navigated. Casey and Hollie sat in the back, keeping score on whose side the car would bottom out. 65 Casey, 47 Hollie, clearly Case needs to go on a diet.
Finally arrived around 10 pm at the guest house, Mt Plasir Estate, as the tutles were coming out of the sea. It was amazing viewing these ancient sea creatures come out of the sea onto the beach to lay their eggs, their shells glistening in the moon light.
Once we had a rest, drink and our turtle passes. Onto the moonlit beach we went. To say these mammals are big is an understatement. The span of the flippers had to be eight feet on some of them. They are six to seven feet long and can weigh up to a ton.
The turtles struggle up the sand during the night to lay 60 to 120 eggs, which hatch 60 days later. There are guides who roam the beach and since we were late to arrive, we had the whole nesting beach to ourselves with several guides shining red lights onto the turtles as they lay their eggs and answering all our questions. It was beyond words watching the hard struggle of these turtles every inch of their process. Seeing the flippers tunneling out a perfect cylinder shape into the sand and then go into a trance as they start dropping the eggs into the nest. Once they have laid their eggs, they cover them over and spend some time covering their tracks to hide the nest before returning to the sea. We stayed up late into the night watching aprox 50 turtles repeating this ancient behavior.
The next day we were off for a jungle trek to waterfalls. We had a guide which we named ganja Dave; you can use your imagination on that one. Casey like that he had a big machete. Turns out the ganja Dave wasn't a guide after all. Go figure. Even ganja Dave had concern about our rental car, "It's a looow car."
The third day we drove the four hours back and stopped off at Caroni Swamp to take the boat tour into the mangroves to see the scarlet ibis, Trinidad and Tobago national bird. Once again, nature was very kind to us. The beauty of these gorgeous red birds, flocking everywhere is beyond description. The ibis congregates at dusk on mangrove islands in this enormous swamp. On one island there were two thousand perched on mangrove trees, looking like Christmas ornaments, with flocks of them flying around us in the distance.
Our final night, we used the iron sail to approach beautiful Scotland Bay for our anchorage. Dolphins greeted us to say a final farewell to Trinidad.
It was a very wet approach to Grenada, Spice Island. Anchored in Prickly Bay that evening and had a fantastic dinner at the Calabash, where Casey had been over 30 years ago.
Due to back to back hurricanes in 2004, we are in a recently rebuilt marina, Port Louis, with all the bells and whistles. Some of these boat are over the top. Have done all the tourist stuff, coco processing, nutmeg processing, waterfalls, driving on the left side as quickly approaching Grenadines careening around narrow switchback roads at us. This brings the occasional screams from the passengers.
Dave has left us and Bob has joined the crew. It's coming to an end, 140 miles left to finish. Many stories to be told amongst the ARC boats. The one that stands out and shows the support of this fleet is the Basia. The catamaran that got hit by a freighter on the voyage out of Recife, Brazil. Several boats came to their rescue and support, which allowed Basia to continue to Grenada. Three boats stay by it's side the whole journey of nine days. The morning of their arrival into Port Louis, we all got into our dingys with horns and noise makers to greet the approaching boats. It was a sight to see! Dingys racing out, making loud commotion, celebrating these courageous heroes. Not a dry eye could be seen.