So everyone tells you that the Caribbean is crap for parts, but hey you have just crossed the Atlantic and everyone knows there will be dancing girls in grass skirts and motivated young men with spanners to look after your physical and mechanical needs.
In truth the reality is a bit of a let down. Yes you have just crossed the Atlantic, but no grass skirts and no spanners. Andrei we knew was leaving the day after we arrived, so all were happy to have lunch and dinner out. However post celebration hangover coffee morning, suggested that this was not to be a regular event. Boy is it expensive, 6 folks, lunch, dinner and breakfast, 800 euro, for sure a few Gin and tonics mixed in, but wow.
Then the spanners, its broken, take it off, we will export it to the states and re-import it, will only take 8 days, cost should not be more than 4500 dollars, eh, what?! I’ve got a dirty fuel pump not cancer. We spent the weekend screwing around with US suppliers who were, frankly uninterested in our issues and we were getting more frustrated, our steering problems were not big news on the Western seaboard.
I think one 5 o’clock session at the bar, Vicky made contact with Vetus UK, who said that they should be able to help which led me to be swimming in a manky marina, measuring the size of the rudder and placing an order in the UK.
Whilst waiting for parts or Caribbean engineers to turn up, we hired a car. In truth it was more a Japanese oblong box with 3 rows of bench seats, finished in shit brown livery. As I walked towards it, at 100 US dollars per day, I was not enthralled. Especially when I opened the drivers door and said to the rent a car girl”Problem?” she replied “What, its brand new.” “Yes very nice nice but its only got 2 pedals”. You see at 42 years of age, my only other experience of an automatic car was on Warrenpoint pier back home, when my dad’s Honda and I nearly went swimming together. ” But all our cars are automatic” she explained. Only then did the significance of the signs everywhere sink in. The company was called ‘Rentamatic’.
Being ex English, St Lucians drive on the right, but I’m now so expatish that for me, it takes a while to get used to. Never the less we loaded the crew into the box and head South. During this trip my views started to become more clear, St Lucia is one of those place with a perfect climate, stunning forests and plantations and a massive gap between rich and poor. Back from the posh villas and hotels along the coast, is real poverty. Not surprisingly as after a few days we started to feel the punch.
One night saw us take a taxi to a ‘Jump Up’ area for the locals street party. The main street of a small village becomes a dance floor, with loads of rum shacks and bars fueling the revelers. The authenticity of the Caribbean feel was marred a little with too much Mariah Carey.
Our little Suzuki hire box took us all over the island and it is truly an awesome place, we visited the Pitons in the South, filled up on Sulphur steam at the volcanic park and washed away sightseeing lethargy in a warm spring waterfall. Most memorable experience was when Vicky led us down a dirt track to a deserted beach, by the time we decided to turn back, Sammy the Suzuki had earned new respect for his off road capability. Vicky was sacked as excursion manager though. It was with a bit of regret that we put Sammy back into his stable, praying the hire car people wouldn’t look at the bangs and dings he had suffered underneath.
Back on the boat things started to happen. All 400 litres of diesel from the tanks was vacuumed out and dumped and Alvin the magician came and did something to make the engine work. Only 3 and 1/2 days after placing our order with Vetus, our complete new system arrived and all went together easily enough.
So after roughly 10 days in St Lucia, we were more than ready to go. Lady Sea Breeze had arrived broken and weary albeit with a crew in great spirits. She left St Lucia in tip top condition, with a crew who were hungry for more. More piracy reports around Trinidad and the Grenadines at the end of December, made our minds up for us. We were to avoid Venezuela altogether and head North for a few days of sight seeing and R & R, before heading due West on a non stop route of 1200 – 1400 NM direct to Bocas in Panama.