Polynesia, 2000 St Lucia
September 17th – 30th (err.. 29th), 2000
Dean in Southern Delaware
This report covers my 16th & 17th week since we first began sailing in 1988. My wife, Karen, has one more week than me, since she and our daughter, Jenny, sailed on Poly last year. This was my 3rd & 4th week sailing on this fine ship.
This year, we decided to go two weeks, back-to-back, so we could have time to get fully relaxed, rather than the normal one week. We chose Poly this year, because of the itinerary, and the chance to sail from St. Lucia, which we had only had a brief glimpse of on two previous landings on the island.
Sunday, Sept 17th
We began our trip as usual from Lewes, Delaware. The closest airport for us is Baltimore, a 2-hour drive. As is usually the case, our flight from BWI was just after 7am. Rather than leaving home at 4 am, we decided to stay near the airport the night before. This made getting to the airport at 6am a LOT easier, and more rested for Stowaway night on Poly. You have to be at the airport real early in Baltimore, since Sunday mornings at American Airlines are always crowded, and the lines are slow.
Since tropical weather seems to have an attraction to me (as this trip would eventually prove) we watched the weather closely. As we flew south to San Juan, the pilot flew a route further than normal out to sea, to skirt Hurricane Gordon, which was then approaching Florida. Even then, the ride was very bumpy. The storm I was really worried about was south of Puerto Rico, tropical depression 12, but fortunately it didn’t get as strong as predicted. We arrived in San Juan in the rain (I don’t recall having ever been there on a sunny day), and switched to a twin-engine American Eagle to Castries, St. Lucia. The ride was again bumpy as we passed through the remains of TD 12.
We arrived in Castries and quickly made it through immigration. The terminal at SLU is much nicer than what we found our first time there in 1992, when it was an oven. After getting our passport stamped, we discovered that our two checked bags (we carry snorkel gear) were already on the conveyor belt. They had apparently arrived on the previous plane (am hour earlier) and sat there. One back was behind the wall, so I had to partially climb through the opening to get it, making my wife wonder if I would get a personal tour of the St. Lucia jail.
After breezing through Customs, we were met outside by Cherry, a WJ representative. He gathered up the other passengers, most of whom we hadn’t met, since they didn’t display the blue WJ tags, and put us on a bus for the short ride 5-minute ride to the Castries commercial dock and Polynesia.
Once the luggage was handed over to the Poly crew, we opted to stay on the dock for two hours, rather than pay the $8/pp round trip to go to a bar at Rodney Bay for a quick drink. None of the others chose to go to Rodney Bay either, so we sat on a dock by the bay, watching the tide come in, and visiting with our new shipmates. We also ran for cover under the banana shed when a brief tropical downpour came through.
Finally, it was time to board at 5pm. We stepped aboard, kicked off our shoes, were greeted Captain Max, First Mate Eduard, and grabbed the first rum swizzle. We proceeded into the dining saloon, and did the check-in routine. We were shown to our cabin for the next two weeks, #16, forward on the port side.
That night, there was a band aboard, and the buffet on the tip deck was a great beef stew over rice. Given that our day had begun later, we enjoyed the music and the evening tied up to the dock in Castries. I love listening to the tree frogs.
Monday, September 18
This morning we sailed to the north side of St. Lucia, to Rodney Bay. We had been there before on Polynesia, for a half-day, two years before, before the ship had to run south to avoid Hurricane Georges. The bay is wide, but well enclosed. In the northern side is Pigeon Island, a national park. There is also a new Hilton on an isthmus connecting Pigeon Island to the mainland. The isthmus was created when they dredged the marina, and MAY be stable through the next hurricane. 😉
The day was partly cloudy and breezy. There were a number of tours that left the ship that morning, including the popular jeep and ATV tours. There was also a little shopping ashore, and a lovely beach. Needing the salt water, we went to the beach and spent a lovely morning there. We had been to this beach before, and it is a very nice place to spend a day.
We were back aboard the ship at 12:30 for lunch and, we hoped, a 1:30 sailing. However, there was a problem. Two of the passengers were having problems getting to St. Lucia (they were supposed to arrive Sunday), and finally got to the ship about 2:20pm Monday, making the total of 108 passengers. We finally set sail about 3pm, to Amazing Grace. I was moved by this more than I had ever been.
We headed south. We had the safety talk, and then spent the rest of the afternoon watching the ocean and St. Lucia slide by. Swizzle time came at 5, as usual, with a great selection of snacks. Sunset, just after 6pm, was remarkable. For only my 3rd time ever, there was a Green Flash. I managed a picture of it! For those of you that don’t know what a Green Flash is, it occurs when the top edge of the sun drops below the horizon. On a clear day, you may see a brief instance of an emerald green coloration of the edge of the sun. It can be dull, or very spectacular. National Geographic has a short story on it in the November 2000 issue.
Captain Max kept the ship in the lee of St. Lucia for the first and most of the second dinner seating, since the ship could rock a little once outside the protection of the island.
After dinner, we looked at the boards. They had posted the itinerary, including a “Mystery Island” for Wednesday, and the schedule for Bequia the next day. We went up on the top deck, and watched the stars, with the clouds skidding by. As we left the lee of St. Lucia, the swell picked up, but not uncomfortably so. Later, the swells rocked us to sleep, and the lack of them in the lee of St. Vincent woke us up.
Tuesday, September 19
Tuesday morning found us anchored in beautiful Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Bequia is a very pretty island, which we have visited before. One of my memories is hearing the roosters crowing in the morning, and a walk on deck shortly after sunrise repeated that memory. The island looked much the same, including that weird road straight up the side of the hill, which was built a few years ago.
After StoryTime, the island tours departed. The day was cloudy and breezy, and not too hot. It threatened to rain all day, looking much like a previous trip here (on Mandy), but the skies never opened up, just misted from time-to-time.
We decided to walk in town, and take the hike up that road. After a short walk through town, we started up. The road is cement, and impossibly steep, far steeper than it looks. . I would estimate it might be 40° in places, and is not one I can imagine driving up or descending. There are no side roads. We walked slowly up, one foot in front of the other, resting and occasionally looking back at the scenery. The view from the top and many places along the road is very pretty, and worth the trip. Descending is an adventure in itself, with gravel and slick spots in the shade, but this is a nice walking trip. Gives you a very laid back feeling!
After a stop in Delores’s Market, where there have wide selections of wines and beer, we were back on the ship for lunch. In the afternoon, we motored over to Princess Margaret’s Beach. There is some snorkeling there, and is a pretty beach, especially if it is sunny, which it wasn’t.
Poly also had some new additions, sea kayaks. They crew takes several over to the beach, and they are great to ride around on!
Last Launch was at 4:30. Rum swizzles and snacks as usual at 5pm. We were staying in Bequia for the night, so some went ashore for dinner. During snacks, a couple came aboard to play the keyboard and sax. We had heard the duo before…. and they have gotten much better!
Later, we had crab races. I have a very good winning record in this event, and was feeling pretty good when I had money on two of the three crabs in the final race.. But—you guessed it— the other crab—number 8— won. That I can live with, but the kicker was that NOBODY bet on #8!!!!!! In a rare case like this, all the money is donated to the school on Mayreu, not a bad conclusion.
For those that have been to Bequia, we also found out that the old harpooner had died in the spring. While there are others willing to take over the job, there seems to be a lot of talk about more eco-tourism, like whale-watching tours.
Wednesday Sept. 20
We set sail in the early morning for the “Mystery Island”, which as we suspected was Tobago Cays. The reason for the mystery was, I am sure, Captain Max wanted to check out the weather before going there. The channel in is narrow, and casually marked for a ship the size of Polynesia. Fortunately, there was some blue sky. And the winds were not strong, so we went in. Just after anchoring at 10:45, however, the skies opened up with heavy rain. IT poured!!! We waited for a while, and then had lunch and waited. Finally about 1:30, it let up enough to go ashore. We were in the first launch, and jumped into the warm water. Snorkeling was pretty good, considering it continued to mist the rest of the afternoon.
Before dark, Captain Max moved the ship to a better anchorage off of Canuon, the closest I have gotten to that island. That night after swizzles, there was a Sea Hunt Contest. Dinner was a buffet, and it was also PPP party night. I made the final 3 couples, and placed 3rd. The music continued late into the night, very loud, even in the forward cabins.
Very late that night, we set sail for out next destination.
Thursday, Sept. 21
We arrived at 7:30 off Young Island, St. Vincent. This is a lovely anchorage. The weather was fairly nice, for once. After Storytime, several tours departed. BY far the most popular is the all day speedboat trip to Baline Falls. The tour company managed to get enough boats to take 68 passengers. Since we had done that trip just a couple of years before, we had hoped to take the tour inland to the central valley and the volcanic fields, but that didn’t meet the minimum. Instead, we took a morning tour into town, to the botanical gardens and up to Fort Charlotte, 636 feet above sea level. The gardens are very nicely laid out, and have a large collection of plants, including the descendant of the original breadfruit tree brought to the island by Captain Bly, of HMS Bounty fame. The stop at Ft. Charlotte was spectacular, although the drive up is not for the faint of heart. One curious observation. Contrary to what one might expect, it seemed as if most of the cannon ports pointed inland, not out to sea. It would seem the government was just as worried about internal rebellion, and foreign invasion.
In the afternoon, we took the launch over to the big rock just off of Young Island. There is a light on top, with a trail up to it, but that really doesn’t look like a fun hike. Instead we planned on going snorkeling.
As we landed on the little dock, we say that the dock was a 10-foot x 6-foot slab. A local fisherman was using the slab to dry his net, making it difficult to find a place to stand. In addition, entry into and out of the water was difficult. As we landed, we noticed another guy who had apparently set up housekeeping in the overhang under the cliff.
Once in the water, we found that the water around the island was very deep and dropping off from close inshore quickly. The visibility was good, although in some areas it was rater boring due to a recent? rock fall. The scenery while snorkeling in an area like this is very different that the shallow water that we are used to. We swam around ¾ of the island, but didn’t want to get too far out of sight, since we were the only ones in the water at the time. Before heading back to the ship, we swam the 100 yards across the channel, and checked out the Young Island side. We didn’t stay long, since it was relatively uninteresting. We struggled out of the water in time for the next launch.
Back on the ship that evening, the Captain ran launches until 11 pm. For evening entertainment, he brought aboard the Ping Pong Band. There were three old guys in the rhythm section, and a younger guy who played “Steel Drums” made out of gallon-size cans. It was amazing how good they sounded, although he tuned them with a hammer after almost every song.
We sailed at midnight toward the north. Watching the sails go up at night, with Amazing Grace playing, and the occasional flash of thunderstorms over St. Vincent is an amazing feeling.
Friday, Sept. 22
The 67-mile sail north overnight was very smooth. We approached St. Lucia from the south shortly after sunrise. The Pitons were very prominent, but in a slight haze from the clouds over the island. It was sunny and hot for once, and the air was still. Captain Max was planning a photo launch for us until the wind picked up and some of the rain clouds began moving in our direction.
As we coasted along, we spotted a small pod of pilot whales feeding inshore of us. Finally we dropped anchor off Marigot Bay. I was surprised how small the inlet was. I had heard it mentioned a number of times, and I had imagined a large bay with several resort-type hotels. What I saw was a fairly narrow inlet with just a couple of small places, with not a lot of beach.
One of Marigot Bay’s claims to fame, it that the original Dr. Dolittle (1967) had scenes filmed there. I checked out the film from the local library I volunteer at. After scanning it, I could find little that I could identify. L
We went ashore, landing at a dock by the open-air restaurant “Dolittles’ “, which is just what I like to do in the islands! J We walked over to the man-made beach, which was surrounded by a sea-wall on several sides. The beach area was fairly coarse sand with small pebbles in it, but well planted with palm trees. Renting a beach chair would be recommended here. We had a nice view of the bay, and the back-bay area with the mangrove swamps. There was a water taxi over to the other side of the bay, and a bar set back in the mangroves.
As we looked up the valley after settling in on the beach, we could see the rain clouds gathering. We decided not to tough it out, but head back to the ship. As we passed Dolittles’, the sky opened up, so we sat in the bar for a while, watching the rain, and doing little. 😉 It looked like a long storm, with thunder, so we caught the launch back to the ship.
I spent the afternoon dodging showers, and reading on deck. We set sail back to Castries and the commercial dock about Swizzle time. Amazingly, for the second time in a week, we saw a Green Flash at sunset!!!!
That night was a great Captain’s Dinner. Captain Max brought his friend Rocky, and Popeye, who had come back aboard at St. Vincent, made his Caesars’ Salad.
The band was brought back aboard again, and they played loudly until 11:30. I felt sorry (a little 😉 ) for those who had to get up at 4:30 to catch the early plane.
Saturday Sept. 23
I awoke late and went up on deck. There were passengers leaving, and a general bustle as the crew began cleaning the ship for the next week. We walked down the dock, toward the gate where FOO-FOO ships can dump their passengers in town. Along the dock was a Star Clipper, basically a 350-foot’ish foo-foo with sails. It looked huge, and the decks open to the water were a LONG way up.
There was also a surprise, a US Coast Guard ship, white with the orange stripe, but fitted out as a buoy tender. One cute thing – the crew was gathered around under the aft awning, listening to THEIR Captains StoryTime!
AS I said in a previous trip report, it was out job to stay out of the way as the crew worked on the ship, and brought water and supplies aboard. Mealtimes were posted, but the bar was set to close from noon until 5 pm Sunday. Singh, the second bartender, did promise o be available for a while before dinner, to minister to his flock. There were 16 of us staying Saturday night, and 10 for the following week.
After lunch, we joined up with a group of Canadians from Vancouver, and caught a taxi to Rodney Bay. We were FINALLY able to spend an afternoon laying in the sun!!
About 4:30 we taxied back to the ship, since the meals were scheduled earlier on weekends. By that time the ship was much quieter, with the crew relaxing or working on some small jobs. Singh, true to his word, stopped by and provided drinks for the passengers. Dinner was a buffet in the saloon, and was a fairly complete Windjammer-type meal, including wine. We sat around talking, and swapping stories. The crew finally finished up and left, along with a few of the old salts. There were about a dozen of us left in the saloon, and we finished the 2 wine carafes at the table, and two refills. We found another stored in the refrigerator, and disposed of that. Finally, we were finally forced to put on out pirate eye-patches. We liberated a 5-gallon box of wine. By this time we didn’t care if it was red or white, and it was soaking through the cups. We finally made out way on deck, where we continued talking. After a peek at the engine room, we finally crashed. A good time and plenty of wine was had by all!
Sunday, September 24
I awoke at 6:30 ( as I often do in the tropics, but never at home) in time to see the Canadians off on their trip to Aruba. Breakfast was a buffet, and was ready at 7. We decided to take it easy, and laid out in the sun, and enjoyed the partly sunny day.
I read a lot, and finally finished the galley-proof of Jim Carriers book, The Ship And The Storm: The Loss Of The Fantome (I Highly recommend it!)
Lunch was late because of a crew meeting and full-dress fire drill. Also, there was growing concern about the hurricane situation. Captain Max was unsure of which direction he would take the next week, north or south. Hurricane Isaacs had not committed to a direction yet, and was 1660 miles east of the islands. At this point it was 5-7m days away from us, moving WNW. Heading south of a west-moving storm is a time-proven way to protect yourself, and would put us 150 miles further south of the normal hurricane track. Captain Max decided to make a final decision after the Monday morning forecasts were available.
Around 2:30, the passengers started arriving dockside. Some decided to walk into town, or take a taxi to Rodney Bay. A few decided to hang out on the dock as we had. Just after one group took off on foot, the first in a series of tropical downpours began. The group found shelter is a local neighborhood bar that they had thought was a house.
Finally, at 5 pm the new passengers could board. Among them was a professional photographer from Miami, who was shooting photos for possible use in future WJ catalogs.
After dinner, the local band was back aboard, and played until 11:30. This week’s group was a little different from the previous week, and was a little more typical of the groups we had sailed with on the past. There were 83 passengers this week, as opposed to the 103 the previous week.
Monday, September 25
Morning founds us again anchored in Rodney Bay. I was up early again, and while waiting for the breakfast bell, I saw that the diving board was down, so what the heck, I went over the side into the water. IMHO, this is a much better way to start the day than a morning shower!
At StoryTime, we learned that Hurricane Isaacs had begun a more NW track, and so we would continue with the “normal” northern route. There was a wave much further out that would be watched, but at the moment, the week looked good!
We went to the beach that morning, and stayed until last launch around 1:30.. Finally, I had gotten my quota for sun for a day.
Again we were delayed in our original sailing time waiting for 3 passengers delayed in route. We finally sailed north about 2:30 and quickly had the safety drill. We then lounged on deck for the afternoon. The dinner seatings were while we were in the lee of Martinique.
After dinner, the stars from the top deck were wonderful. Everyone seemed settled down by 11:30.
Tuesday, Sept 26
We arrived at Basse Terre, Iles Des Saintes, south of Guadeloupe and 111 nautical miles north of St. Lucia, in the early morning after breakfast. There was a weird haze/fog about the islands as we approached, but it soon burned off.
We anchored in the bay, and it looked form the ship that little had changed since we were last there, which would prove fairly true when we got ashore.
At Storytime, Captain Max gave his talk. He also told us about Tropical Storm Joyce, and that he would post a map showing the position of the storms.
That morning, needing some exercise, we decided to walk up to Fort Napoleon (1867), overlooking the north side of the harbor. The view from the fort is fantastic, and worth the long walk up the hill. If you plan on visiting this interesting Fort / museum / botanical garden, make sure you get there before 11:50, when admissions are stopped. It closes, like almost all the shops, at 12:30 pm.
We walked back down the hill, letting shipmates know they were too late to get into the fort. On the way we ran into a group, including the photographer, Ron. He asked for volunteers to pose for a few shots with the Poly in the background.. I got in a a few pictures, had to sign the model release, and apparently didn’t break the camera.
In the afternoon, we walked across the island, to Pom Pierre Beach, a park on a lovely protected bay on the east side of the island. The beach is lovely, and the water very warm. The bottom of much of the bay has eelgrass, which would be very attractive to turtles. There is another beach near the narrower entranced, which we made our way to. There you can wade across the narrow gap, to the island that protects the bay. Snorkeling in this area is a challenge, and the diversity of fish isn’t high. It is what we call in marine biology a ”High Energy” area. My net trip there, I plan to more thoroughly explore the underwater part of this bay.
We were back at the ship for Swizzles. Some of the passengers went ashore for dinner, but about 30 went ashore for a “Pub Crawl”. The activities mate had arranged for two of the local bars to stay open, and a good time was had by all. Last launch was at 11 pm, and the last one was full of partiers.
We set sail about midnight, under a starry night. We were a little concerned, since the area we had to pass through was crowded with fish traps, which could tangle the propeller. W made it out all right, and headed south to Dominica.
Wednesday, September 27
This smooth mornings sail included a whale sighting just before breakfast time. I made it up just a little too late to see it. L
The water was calm as we anchored at Roseau, Dominica. Hurricane Isaac was not a problem, but TS Joyce was of growing concern.
There were lots of tours offered, including a snorkeling trip I took last time. This time we took the all day tour to Trafalgar Falls and the Titou Gorge.
We had visited Trafalgar Falls 12 years ago. At that time it was a hike through the rain forest to the base of the falls. Now, it is a park, with a visitor’s center. There has been a major change, however. In 1995 there was a rock fall, which left about 150 meters of large boulders between the end of the trail and the base of the falls.
There is an interesting local story about the rock fall. The government was building a pipeline to take some water from above the falls for hydroelectric power. The work was proceeding a neighboring rock face, when part of another rock face collapsed and created the boulder field, and also buried a hot spring, which had been a famous part of the falls. The government claims that the rocks fell because of a hurricane. The locals say it happened the day before the hurricane.
Once you scramble over the rocks, following the guide, there is a lovely, cool pool to take a dip in. it is nice way to recover the climb. After scampering back down the boulders, we made it back to the van. The trip had taken about 1.5 hours. After a box lunch, we boarded the bus and were on our way.
Our bus driver wouldn’t tell us about where were going, other than it was a great place called Titou Gorge. This is what is called in the US southwest, a slot canyon. The canyon is about 8-10 feet wide, and only about 3-5 feet wide 30 feet above your head. There is a stream flowing out the canyon, and the idea is to swim into the slot. The current is gentle, and you can make your way about 100 yards into the canyon. It gets very dark, but your eyes adjust to the light filtering down from above. Then, the water turns swift, and there is a small waterfall. A helping had can get you across the current, and to a small ledge. The guide told us there were 2 other small waterfalls further in, but that would require some rock climbing, that wasn’t included in the tour. After a look and rest, you jump back in the water, and the water carries you back out of the canyon. Once out of the slot canyon, there is a small hot waterfall that you can warm up in. lower down in the valley, there is a pool of spring fed hot water you can sit in also.
After warming up, we walked back to the bus, where we had a very good, and VERY strong rum punch. Fortunately, out guide and driver didn’t drink any. One cup would put you over the legal limit! I would not want to drive any of the roads there, given the number of switchbacks you need to negotiate anywhere you go on Dominica.
That night was island night, and we needed to wear out our brightest island style shirts. After dinner the music was loud from the bar, and there was dancing until about midnight. On the top deck, the stars were once again out, and beautiful. We set sail about 9 pm for Martinique.
Thursday, September 28
The next morning, we found ourselves anchored off Fort-de-France, Martinique. The weather was partly cloudy.
At Storytime, we got the bad news. Hurricane Joyce had strengthened to a category 2 storm, and was continuing due west, at our latitude. In fact, it was about 250 miles south of the normal track storms in that area normally moved. At its current rate of advance, it would be in the area Saturday night or Sunday. This was not a good situation for the ship. Windjammer made the decision to terminate the cruise a day early. This would allow Captain Max 36-48 hours to get south to Grenada or Trinidad, and just as importantly, allow the passengers time to get off the island in advance of the storm.
I don’t know what is about St. Lucia, hurricanes, and me, but this was a similar situation to the last time I was on Ploy, two years before. That time, we were on the last plane out of St. Lucia, as Hurricane Georges threatened from over the horizon.
Windjammer had out flight information, and for us, at least, had booked us on the same flight, but a day early. But that was Friday, and we had one more day left.
Fort-de-France is a large town, about 100,000. There are no beaches close by, except by a ferry ride a couple of miles across the bay. You can also walk and shop in town, and there is also a fort you can tour. However, we decided to spend the day in the sun, and work on the tan we had not gotten yet because of the weather. So we stayed aboard and lay in the sun on the top deck for the afternoon. It was a relaxing way to spend out last day in paradise.
Because of the lost day, all the other normal Friday activities had to be moved up a day. We had to clear up the paperwork and such. That night was the PPP party. Unfortunately, we did not have a chance for Captains Dinner, but there was a party going on until late.
We sailed the 20 miles or so back to Castries, St Lucia, and were at the dock in the early of hours of Friday.
Friday, September 29
We were asked to be off the ship by 9, which was later changed to 10, although we were put in taxis at 9:30. We later heard that the crew had to unload a shipping container full of supplies, since the Grace was not available.. The ship began its trip south around 10:30.
Our plane was scheduled at 1:30, and we had the option to take a taxi to the Bayview on Rodney bay, and use the facilities there. However, we were not sure what the situation at the airport would be, so we decided to wait there. It was a wise decision.
The outside waiting area is open., and it was hot, but there is a small café, that is air-conditioned, and is a good place to wait. As it happened, the ticket desk would not open until noon. So we waited, read, and visited with the other WJ’ers there.
At noon, we were second in line. The line was already getting long, when the group from the Bayview arrived. It was taking FOREVER to get through the line, and some people were irritable. It took at least 20 minutes to process each couple through the ticket change process. In addition, there would be a $75 per person ticket change cost. We would have to pay this, but it would be re-imbursed by the trip insurance company, as would any other costs we incurred because of leaving early.
We paid out $20 departure tax, and went inside the departure lounge. We waited for the longest time alone in the waiting room. I was beginning to think we might be the only ones on the plane. Finally, some of the other ‘Jammers made it through the line, and the plane was full on departure.
The trip back was uneventful, and fairly smooth. On the way back, we began talking about our next Windjammer trip. We arrived home, to find that we had missed rainstorms caused by the remains of two tropical systems. I can’t seem to avoid them.!!
This trip was longer that most of our trips, but we wanted a longer time to relax. Also, this was an area we had been in only briefly in the past. The weather wasn’t as good as we had expected from experience, but we never really got completely weathered out of any island. We did lose a day, but WJ refunded the pro-rated cost of the day, to be applied to a trip next year. And we will be back!!!
Please send any questions to
Dean in Southern Delaware