Thursday, February 24, 2011

Internet-challenged in Martinique

Just a short post as I stumble through a French keyboard in a comfortably air-conditioned cyber base in beautiful Diamant.

We have rented a minivan for today and tomorrow and plan to see La Pagerie, the birth place of Empress Josephine, and play on the zip lines at Mangofil.

We took a few wrong turns after we missed the exit to D7 at Riviere-Salee. A3 felt car sick, and we were forced to pull over near a beautiful beach and playground, with an internet base and info centre. So, we are all comfortable now and preparing to enjoy the rest of our day.

Internet is difficult to find, unreliable, slow, and often unavailable even in the places that advertise they offer it. So, we will be a bit incognito until the next stop that has reliable internet.

Bonne journee!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Good-Bye St. Lucia

Good-Bye St. Lucia. You've been a very generous host. We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and would definitely want to spend more time here again some day. Some of our highlights have been:
St. Lucia from Pigeon I to the Pitons
  • Getting to tour around the sulphur springs and hanging out close to volcanic activity
  • Swimming in volcanic mud
  • Touring around the old fort and lookouts on Pigeon Island
  • The clear, clear water at the snorkelling spots we stopped at
  • We met so many cool people here, Rodney Bay really is starting to become a mid-season cruiser's mecca
  • Having a pool-side bar right *at* the dinghy dock making happy-hours with our new friends and all the kids a no-brainer  (where happy-hour is less than $1 CDN for a bottle of beer and $3 CDN for cocktails ... yum!)
  • Another fantastic full moon in a pretty anchorage
  • Shopping was easy and affordable (can almost dinghy right to the shopping mall)
  • Getting to go along for a day-sail on a classic yacht
  • Taking a break at a large marina where we got to meet lots of people and have showers several times a day

But now it's time to move on. We tried to leave today but too many things came up and had to be dealt with to get away at a reasonable hour but now everything is done. All our bits and pieces are put away. Our tanks are full and we are cleared out of the country. All that's left is to weigh anchor and set sail. The weather is still looking OK for the crossing to Martinique so we'll be up with first light and will slip out of here before even the Rastas are up. And as a final farewell, St. Lucia gave us a clear sky and a spectacular sunset this evening (green flash and all).

Au revoir St. Lucia, bonjour Martinique.

Sunset in Rodney Bay

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Developing Conversation Skills

Aaron and I met a very nice woman named Lise, at the marina showers yesterday. While we were at the sink together, Lise engaged Aaron in a brief conversation, in English (Lise is French). Firstly, Aaron asked Lise, "What's your name?" Lise responded, then followed up with asking Aaron for his name, his age, where he lives ("on a boat"), and what is the name of his boat. With a "Singing" prompt from mom, Aaron proudly answered, "Singing Frog!" Lise remarked, "Oh, that's you! You're on Singing Frog."

Until recently, Aaron's response to every question directed at him, has been, "I'm Aaron." What's your name? "I'm Aaron." "How old are you?" "I'm Aaron." ...

Well, similarly to the way I've noticed he is putting it all together to figure out verb tenses (he corrected himself a couple weeks ago, to say, "I saw it," instead of "I see it."), he seems to be paying attention to the pleasantries of conversation with people we are meeting for the first time.

So this is how the conversation went at the poolside bar yesterday evening. Austin, Aaron and I were seated at the bar and Aaron began the conversation:

A3: "Austin, what's your name?"

A1 (looking a bit perplexed): "My name's Austin."

A3 (questioningly): "No. What's your name ... Three?"

C (aha!): "Oh, THAT question is (whispered into Aaron's ear) 'How old are you?'"

A3 (to Austin): "Are hold who you?" then, he immediately seemed embarrassed.

C (whispering in A3's ear, and more slowly this time): "How old are you?"

A3 (looking down with a scowl on his face): "I can't say that."

A1 (smiling): "I'm 11."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Swimming in volcanic mud

Quick post. Skies were cloudy and wet but we decided to take a tour. Along for the ride were our friends from s/v Oumâ and s/v Kamaloha. The first driver with whom we made arrangements couldn't stick to a firm price so we went with another guy. That worked out well. On the drive south we stopped to buy some amazing fresh bread and play with a boa constrictor. The island has made a lot of effort to clean up after Hurricane Tomas but we drove through several washouts and mud slides that made it very clear how devastating the rains were and how thoroughly cut off good portions of the South island were.

Mud BathPlaying with a Boa

Our first destination was to the active volcano where we walked around the steaming sulphur pools then went for a dip in some of the cooler pools lower down. The kids got to rub volcanic mud all over themselves ... we adults couldn't let them have all the fun so we all joined in too! Next stop, after a good rinse, was to the thermal water falls. Very nice! Sitting under the spray getting your tired muscles pounded on by warm to hot water from 100 feet up. We finished up by catching the end of happy hour at the marina pool.

Happy Hour

You can view the complete photo set here:

Happy Valentines Day everyone!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Price of Ice

I've allowed ice to become a luxury I simply can't live without. But it comes at a price ... and boy has it varied across locales. Here's a table of ice prices in the places we've visited so far, from most to least expensive.

Conversion: $2.50 EC = $1 CAD or $2.67 EC = $1 USD

$EC Location
$35 Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau, SVG ("Fake Friends" was the name of his boat)
$30 Tobago Cays, SVG (Well, there must be a delivery price built in)
$25 Admiralty Bay, Bequia, SVG (Daffodil)
$15 Basil's Bar, Mustique, SVG
$15 Clifton, Union Island, SVG
$7 Mini Market, Prickly Bay, Grenada
$5 Directly from the Ice Truck as they delivered to De Big Fish in Prickly Bay, Grenada and only because he didn't have change for a $10 EC
$3.75 Mini Mart, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

So, as you can imagine, I'm keeping myself in ice while we're here in St. Lucia! All beverages taste better, chilled :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

St. Lucia in the Distance

St. Lucia in the Distance
Originally uploaded by skyec
This was our first view of St. Lucia as we arrived from the South passing by St. Vincent earlier in the day. The crossing between the islands was a bit rough (video to come) but was about as predicted. It turns out we picked our weather window well as those we spoke to who arrived before and after us had a much rougher trip.

By this point in the passage we decided to stop using our genoa as we could no longer furl it. It's lashed to the deck on the bow where it stayed until Austin and I went up the mast to tighten the screws holding the seconds of the furling foil together.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Enjoying Great Service in the Caribbean

Thanks to our friends on Kamaloha I was able to take Carla out for a special dinner tonight. We had several recommendations to try out the new Indian restaurant in town and since we love a good curry we had to give it a try. And it was fantastic!

The place is quite new so the owner is very keen to ensure that every guest experiences amazing service. And they did a pretty good job. Actually, they did an amazing job considering that they are new and are trying to cater to NA customers with a mix of Indian and local staff. But I probably need to explain this a bit lest it sound condescending. We've come to expect, and enjoy, a different kind of service here in the Caribbean. Servers down here tend to mumble a bit (English, as it's spoken in NA, is not usually their first language), they seem to avoid eye contact or have a stern air about them and seem to get distracted but we've learned that in pretty much every case they want their guests to have a great time. The reason, I think, that many North Americans, especially those here only for a short time (including us until we started to "get it"), get confused and come away thinking, "what strange/poor service," is that the body language, service protocols and expectations are all quite different than what we're used to in NA. It's not all business and fake smiles and overly keen eye contact. It's actually a very respectful approach. You are given a lot of personal space (thus the reduced eye contact) and lots of time to do your thing, whatever that might be. They are most certainly not hurrying you out the door so that they can fill that table once, twice or three more times that evening. And if they weren't serving us then they'd be serving their friends and you don't need to put on fake smiles and hurry your friends along or tell them all the details about your offerings that night because friends would already know what they were. So if you want really good, pleasant service in the Caribbean, relax. Find some way to interact with people on a personal level (talk about family usually works quite well) and they'll treat you like you were their friend, which is what we really want anyway.

But I digress. This new Indian place is trying hard to serve their customers as most North Americans would come to expect. The result is ... nice, but awkward in a different kind of way. We certainly enjoyed ourselves, don't get me wrong, but it was interesting to see them try so hard. Too hard probably. Oh well. We'd certainly go back given the chance as the food was terrific and the service, despite my ramblings above, really was quite pleasant.

For our foodie friends. I didn't get a picture of our spread, but here is a breakdown of what we ordered.

- Samosa Chat
- Chicken Tikka
Shared Mains:
- Fish Rasila with fresh local Mahi-mahi (very, very good!!)
- Mutter Alu
- Butter Chicken
- Garlic Naan
- Basmati Rice
- Veggie Pilau Rice
- Masala Chai
- Sweet Lassi

And they served us a nice little fudge cake and sang Carla Happy Birthday for fun. And now we're more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lifeguard in Training

Yesterday, we spent most of the day at the marina pool. There were three families, totalling 7 kids. Aidan hung out with his friend, Brendan (8), Austin was mostly practicing diving to the bottom of the deep end, and trying to swim underwater for as long as possible, and Aaron was in and out of the pool, playing with balls. As you can imagine, it was a busy pool.

The other children were aged 6 and 2. The 2-year-old boy (Miles) spent most of his time playing at the edge of the pool with a Playmobil boat on a string. He's not keen to swim without his mum for now. He wears water wings to keep him safe, poolside.

Miles doesn't like to wear the water wings all the time, and at some point, he wasn't wearing them anymore.

There were three mothers by the pool, all of them trying to get a better internet connection than we've been able to get with the marina.

None of us saw him go in.

I remember hearing Austin's voice, "Whoa! Miles." I was standing at the shallow end, looked up and saw Miles floating on his back and appearing to be gasping for air. It was an awful sight, but Austin was going to Miles and speaking to him calmly. When I got to the deep end, I couldn't reach Miles (he was about 1.5 meters from the edge), Austin was supporting his head and swimming him to me. I picked Miles up under his arms as I was saying, "What a good boy!" (it was all I could think of at the time) and passed him directly to his mum.

Due to Austin's quick and calm response, there was no panic and I didn't see fear in Miles' eyes.

I think we all learned something from this event.

For me, being the mother of a boy who is only 4 months older than Miles, I was really struck by the seriousness of what happened, and how bad it could have been. I'm even more vigilant about watching Aaron near water, and we keep him in his lifejacket most of the time.

Since Aaron wears his lifejacket so much, I've once seen him boldly follow Austin into the sea from the shore, he was submerged, his blonde hair floated up, then he surfaced, sputtering and crying. Fortunately for us, we all saw what happened and Austin was right there. Aaron is so accustomed to being buoyant in the water, that he is less fearful now, and he's not always aware that he's not in his lifejacket. I think Miles may have thought he still was wearing his water wings when he went into the pool to fetch his boat (he told his mum he was trying to get his boat when he went into the pool).

I noticed that Miles was found floating on his back. All my kids were afraid to swim on their backs when they first learned to swim, and Aaron is still terrified of this position. Miles was practicing leaning back into the water earlier in the day, with his mum. His big sister is a very strong swimmer and he's seen her swim on her back a lot. We don't know how long Miles was in the water, but I think he was better off on his back and able to get some air. I want to start helping Aaron to get more comfortable lying back in the water.

Austin's calm response and the absence of fear and panic in his rescuers has left Miles with a positive memory of the event. He told his mummy that he went "swimming under the water." He doesn't think he had an accident and he isn't more fearful of water. I remember a swimming instructor telling me that it can be difficult for parents to teach their children to swim, because the parents are too nervous about letting their little ones put their heads under water. Sometimes the parents, themselves, are nervous about being submerged. I remember that teacher being able to get Austin, at the age of 1, to hold his breath as she glided him underwater for a couple seconds. The technique was to blow air into his nostrils, then immediately bring his whole body, head first, under water. I have to admit that I was always hesitant to do this move. I'd blow into his nostrils, see the look of bewilderment in his face, then take him underwater too late, or I couldn't bring myself to take his face into the water at all. Anyway, I was reminded how much it helps people to learn to swim with teachers who are confident swimmers.

My final observation is that, when there are several adults supervising together, it's easy for us to have a false sense of security and to let down our guard. After this experience, I hope to be even more careful about keeping our kids safe around water.