Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)
Gary and I decided in mid-November that our Christmas present to each other would be a Caribbean cruise. The series of four snowstorms–so far–began after that.
The trip was definitely worth it: plenty of sun and exercise as well as delicious food and comfortable accommodations.
Featured as a ‘last minute booking’ with a big reduction in price–our trip package offered one of three choices as a no extra charge add-on. We chose the three shore excursion option and we agree that these shore excursions are the most exciting ones we’ve done.
Of course, with seven ports of call, we did our usual walking about, on our own, in four of them. I regret that nursing an almost-healed broken tow and persevering in my intent to finish my current writing project by New Year’s kept me aboard, rather than joining Gary in an entertaining walk through the section of Nassau we did not explore when we were there in September: beachfront, government buildings & a 300-year-old rum distillery.
We had an unscheduled, late-night stop at Grand Turks during the next two sea days, to send ashore an ailing passenger. Strangely enough, when we docked at Antigua, there was also an ambulance waiting for another ailing passenger and her accompanying husband.
We went ashore in the morning and wandered about in the tourist center for a while. The shipboard port guide recommended Dickenson Bay Beach. When we asked for directions, they said, “Check at the police station, over there.” A pleasant young woman hand-drew a map for us.
Indeed, we found the beach at Anna’s Restaurant, down the block from the beginning of Sandal’s Resort. We ended up walking a half-mile or more down the beach, past all the Sandals facilities, before we could loop back around and go to Anna’s for lunch. The beach itself is open to the public, but all restaurants and bars along the way are for resort guests only.
According to my handy-dandy smart-phone pedometer, we clocked just over seven miles that day. We took a cab back to town after lunch at Anna’s. Upon learning that our driver’s name was Hillary, we apologized for recent election results.
Hillary is very knowledgeable and likes to interact with her passengers. We opted for a detour over to English Harbor, where we’d been for my first sailing lessons in January 1999.
We also explored the port on our own in Fort de France, Martinique–which is a French province. The cars have EU license plates, bearing, of course, a big letter F.
The 19th cen. bibliothèque
and cathèdrale are magnificent.
Our first formal excursion was in Bridgetown, Barbados. We’ve been to Barbados before and we’ve gone on catamaran snorkeling excursions before.
The great feature of this excursion was the dive guide–because we were hoping to see green turtles. Our catamaran anchored very close to the swimming beach. We’d brought our own masks & snorkels. And, at this site, we were not issued swim fins. After the initial chill, the water was warm. I managed to keep up with our dive guide and, although the water was cloudy, I saw the three turtles he found and pointed out. I also got a fierce sunburn on my back–a combination of enjoying the ride and paddling around for about an hour, face down in the water.
On our own again in St. George’s, Grenada, we took a water taxi and lolled about on the beach until mid-afternoon. Back aboard ship, we checked out the spa deck facilities, where I spotted a live grass-hopper that quite resembled the palm-frond grasshopper Gary’d gotten from a gregarious beach-craftsman on his walk near the hotel in Miami.
Our other two shore excursions were at the last two stops: Castries, St. Lucia and Phillipsburg, St. Maarten. Both were so much fun that we can’t say which we enjoyed more.
Snuba came first, in St. Lucia. As you can see from the drawing, once you’re geared up with mask, fins, weight belt and respirator, you can swim underwater, up to 20 ft. deep, without having to come back close to the surface to breathe. The air tank follows above you on an inflated raft, attached by, of course, the air hoses. I felt like a mermaid. Again we had a guide, who pointed out octopus, lobsters and a female sea urchin as we swam through clouds of small colorful fish. I definitely want to do that again.
We’d signed up for the “12 metre America’s Cup yacht regatta” at St. Maarten, where they have three of the old deep-hull America’s Cup sailing yachts: two Canadian boats and the old Stars and Stripes.
The wind was blowing 30-35 knots that morning: so hard that Gary thought they might have to cancel the outing. But they put 16 of us on each of the two boats, assigning just about everybody a specific position, which means ‘job to do during the race’. I was one of two women assigned as ‘back-stay winch wenches’. The captain explained carefully how we were to loosen and uncoil, then re-coil and tighten the back-stay lines when he directed us. Gary was my ‘back-stay grinder.’
The chase-boat photographer got this shot, showing all of us ‘new recruits’, plus the three professionals–as we headed toward the finish line, True North well ahead of Stars & Stripes.
The two boats maneuvered carefully, as though it was a real race. Our captain was very observant and excellent at giving directions to his inexperienced crew. We managed to cross the starting line at the appointed time, catch the wind and follow the up- and down-wind course well enough to win. It was fun to be part of the team. I can easily see why people enjoy being in sailboat racing crews.
No, I didn’t finish the first draft of my manuscript, but I wallowed deeply in some fascinating research material and wrote another chapter and a half. Tenacity is still my middle name.