I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Monday, October 21, 2013


I wake at 7:30 but doze in and out for an hour. Today I leave the boat as the 'by sea' part of the trip is over, and I am trying to sort out in my head what to do about tipping Alessandra. I have $600 set aside for it but there's no way I am leaving that much so I decide to message a friend who used to do charters and is well versed in this business. He messages me back and says to leave $50 - $100 or nothing at all. He also suggests to talk to Rick, which I do.

Come to find out, this was not a 'crewed' charter, just captain only. I was expected to pitch in and fend for myself and no tip at all is expected. I am rather stunned and Rick says that it was stated as such in the initial contest post. This is news to me. The prize was described as a 'share the sail' charter and to me, that means I am not the only guest, there will be others that I won't know aboard who are also guests. This was to be the case but the only other guests, a couple, backed out a couple of weeks before the sail. Other than that, that this was not a proper crewed charter was never explained to me. And although it is good to know, it is rather too late and I am somewhat embarrassed as I must have seemed like a lazy, entitled idiot the entire time.

I decide to leave Alessandra $100 US because she did all of the dishes the entire trip and, I now realize, cooked more than her fair share of the dinners. It doesn't help me feel less embarrassed about the whole thing though and I really wish it had been made clear what the expectations were right from the start.

I get all packed up and the eat some of the coconut bread for breakfast. Alessandra is still in bed as she is not feeling well today. Rick is at his computer editing the footage we shot of the girl who sang the other night.

I have, overall, enjoyed this part of my trip. I loved the sailing but not how the boat heeled over - it makes for an uncomfortable time of it; I loved that Rick took me on so many dingy explorations - I really enjoyed them and saw a lot that way; I absolutely fell in love with Union Island, the Tobago Cays, Petit Tabac, and especially Mayreau - truly, truly paradise on earth and I would go back in a heartbeat and, if I could take my family with me, never, ever leave. I am forever grateful to Rick for making those places part of the itinerary. I didn't see any dolphins, which was a big disappointment - but saw loads of flying fish and they were fun to spot! I really liked Alessandra and just wished she had been more social - the one time we sat on the side of the boat and talked for an hour or two was so great and I think we could have had many more chats if she'd shown interest. I was also very grateful for both Rick and Alessandra's gracious acceptance of my instability getting in and out of the dinghy and helping me greatly so that what had been a very big concern to me was almost a non-issue. I was very leery of Lucky the parrot as he bit Alessandra a couple of times, but was shocked when he said - in my voice - 'Where's Rick?' one afternoon after I had said it to him about a dozen times in an hour while Rick was on shore (he said it many many times after that) - I loved how many things Lucky could say and, as long as he was in his cage, found him very amusing.  I was very comfortable in my little cabin and the bed was a lot more comfy than I expected - but I hated the bathroom. The cabinet on the wall had hinges that had broken so it fell down every time I opened it and I was constantly in fear of plugging the toilet - which never happened, thank the Lord. And showering in there was a challenge as you soaked the whole room and there wasn't much space to maneuver - if I lived aboard there would definitely have to be a proper shower.

I am really looking forward to the second half of this trip and I hope the hotel is clean and in good repair. I tried to see where it might be from the water each time we sailed between Grand Anse and Mourne Rouge Beach but I'm not sure if I saw it or not. I'm just trying to recognize buildings I am seeing from pictures on the website but nothing is quite the same. I am thinking that it is not as close to the beach as they make it out to be on the website. We shall see.

Not having my iPhone is horrible!

Just before noon, Rick dinghys me and my bags to Clarke's Court Marina where we wait just a few minutes for Cat Eye, the taxi driver, to show. Rick and I make arrangements to get in touch to go to half price pizza in a couple of days at Prickly Bay and maybe to Gouyave fish fry Friday together later in the week.

Cat Eye arrives and we say our goodbyes for now.  As we drive the 20 minutes from the south end of the island up to Grand Anse - Cat Eye pointing out places of interest along the way, and it strikes me again how different this island is from the BVI.  There are no multi-million dollar villas on the hills here, just a lot of brightly painted shacks and cabins with a few stucco or clapboard houses here and there. There are people walking on the side of the road everywhere, and there are no killer hills.  This really does feel like a third world country. We pass a 'squatters village' that is pretty awful - loads of ramshackle shacks on a steep hillside, crammed together with palm trees and bits of wild jungle growth between - super tiny structures smaller than most people's living rooms back home, the majority are of faded raw plywood but some are painted bright colours.

We pull in to the Siesta Hotel and I check in at the open reception area. I realize at once that I never saw this place from the water as it is not where I thought it was - I thought it was between Grand Anse and Morne Rouge but it isn't - and it is much farther off of the beach than I supposed. Cat Eye drives me up the steep driveway to my building and leaves my bags at the door to my room, which is standing open. I walk inside and the young maid is still in the room, hanging curtains. It is stifling hot inside and ask her about turning on the air-conditioning - something the hotel clerk asked her to do when she radioed up that I had arrived. She apologizes and turns it on and I take a look around. As the entire establishment is almost empty of guests, I have been upgraded from a room to a 'suite'. It is rather sparsely furnished, no decor at all - it is very bare bones. It's not super clean either but the whole place passable and I remind myself that I got it at a very good price.  Then I find a spider in one of the kitchen cupboards! I call the maid to come and remove it, hoping dearly that is the only one I will see in here. I am happy to see that there is a small safe in the bedroom closet for valuables.  The air conditioning unit is in the bedroom and it quickly cools off that room but the rest of the place stays too hot for comfort.

From the living room to the kitchen area

From the kitchen to the living room


Bedroom (note the lovely curtains)

Bathroom which was very clean except for the light fixture

Looking out of the window, the view is great but it's looking like it will definitely be a bit of a walk to the beach as what I thought was a lawn between here and there (when looking at pictures on the web site before booking it) is actually a plot of jungle. The mall is five minutes to the right, the way to the beach about the same to the left, apparently.  The pool looks nice and the restaurant right beside it looks like it will be a good place for some lunch.

View from my little balcony

I head down to the restaurant for a bite of lunch and order the callaloo quiche. Certainly not cheap at $25 EC. I haven't ever had callaloo - I don't even know what it looks like so this will be interesting. When it arrives, it is just a slice of quiche - no salad or garnish - and it appears to be full of spinach but this is the callaloo I guess. It tastes pretty good!  As I sit there and eat, it starts to rain - hard. I wait it out and then set out to walk to the beach. The receptionist confirms that I need to head left, take the first road on the right, and there will be a path to the beach at the end.

Callaloo Quiche

And...... the rain

As I walk down the narrow road which has no sidewalks, I start to notice that there are huge holes in the dirt at the side of the road, everywhere - about 50 every 10 feet. I stop and look at one, warily. If these are made by some earth burrowing spider, it is going to make for terrifying walks to the beach every day and if I actually ever see one of what ever big ass arachnid makes these holes, I might never go to the beach as I won't dare step foot off of the hotel property! As I continue to walk, heart somewhat in throat, looking down at my feet, which now look very exposed in flimsy flip flops, to make sure no spiders are ready to attack me - I start to look ahead a little and notice that there are orange things outside each hole and as I get within 10 feet or so, they disappear into the hole and I realize - with huge relief - that the holes belong to land crabs.  The crabs are various sizes from the size of a small cookie to the size of my hand. There are ditches that run along each side of the side of the road, and on the far side of the ditches, the crabs that are lucky enough to live there don't run into their holes when I walk by. It's almost as if they are standing there, their one big claw in the air, saying 'HA! You can't get me... I am way over here and there is a ditch between us that you'll NEVER cross.' I imagine that these are the smug aristocracy of the crab community here.

WHAT lives in there?!?!?

Oh, whew! It's just some crabs.

I turn off this road down the first road on the right (more crabs) and see the local police. I cannot find the path that is supposed to be at the end of the road so I turn right along a road that runs alongside the beach (and more crabs) but has big resorts in between and I finally decide to just walk through one of the resorts, Spice Island, to the beach. I walk as if I belong there and no one stops me as I go through the marble clad open air reception, past a gorgeous bar and restaurant, and then a private outdoor seating area around a pretty fountain. I step onto the sand of Grand Anse and am immediately accosted by a young man with dreadlocks and a diamond stud in his nose. He is carrying a backpack and flashes a big white smile. He holds up a necklace made of cinnamon sticks, nutmeg with the mace lace still on, and various other leaves and spices and tells me I need one. It is a beach vendor and he is unrelenting when I tell him I'm not interested at the moment, thank you anyway, and he walks by my side as I start to walk down the beach. I tell him I have just arrived, that I am here for 10 days, and that IF I want one, I wouldn't buy it until the day before I leave. He realizes I am unmoved by his pleas and the smile disappears. He says everyone says that and then he never sees them again. I tell him that if I decide to buy one, I will look for him on my last day here and then I go on my way, leaving him behind. I have read that the beach is full of these guys but they accept it when you say no and move on. This guy sure didn't do that and I wonder if I am going to be fighting them off all week long.

Ahhh! The beach!!

I find a small dive shop on the beach with several local guys sitting out front. I walk up and ask them where the path is from the road to the beach and they point it out to me, not far away, and I find it on my way back, after a nice long stroll along this new-to-me end of the beach. No wonder I didn't see it, it is clearly a path from the beach side, but then it cuts through a small dirt road that doglegs and leads to a parking lot for a Yoga gym, which I saw from the other side but had no idea that was it.

I walk to the mall for a new iPhone 4 cord with no luck but buy some snacks and drinks to put in my fridge back at the hotel. As I head to the doors to leave I see that it is absolutely pissing it down out. There is a small group of shoppers waiting at the doors for the rain to pass and I join them. It slows down but doesn't stop so I head out into the drizzle and make my way back to the hotel. I haven't gotten my bearings yet - I do know how to get back - but I am sure there has to be a quicker way. As I walk the long way around from the front of the mall to the road that takes me home, I realize that the peach stuccoed, long, low building with the red tin roof that I passed on my way to the mall IS the mall - the back side - and that there is a small glass door into the mall at the end of a long path from the road, over the ditch, and through a bit of lawn that I could have taken. Great to know for future visits!

Waiting out the rain

As I get dressed to go out for dinner, I realize that I forgot to empty the drawer under my bunk on the boat. My tank tops and my bras are in there! I am gong to need those items!! I private message Rick on FaceBook and send him an email - I now have wifi in my room so can use my iPad. An hour later he hasn't replied to either. This is not good.

I have arranged to meet Bruce and Regina at Port Louis Marina tonight. Cat Eye comes for me and drives me about 10 minutes to the port. Bruce seems a bit distant at first but he soon comes around and we chat about his life on the farm and what prompted him to sell and come here, and about his life since.  Regina also shares a bit about her life in Switzerland. I have a really nice evening with the two of them and Regina and I agree to meet up on the beach tomorrow.

The ride back with Cat Eye is strange, he is either high or drunk. Either way, I do not feel safe with him at the wheel. I won't be using him again. (I was sure I took a pic of Bruce and Regina but a search of both my iPhone and camera turns up nothing.)

Mike from Zero to Cruising has messaged me asking if I would proof read an article he has written for a sailing magazine so I do that and then head to bed, leaving lights on in the living room because I don't want cockroaches running about. I haven't seen any. And I don't want to.

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