Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

We try to make every day an earth-aware, earth friendly day here in our little corner of the world. Today is the official international Earth Day. it's kind of like a birthday - one day set aside to do something we should be doing every day anyway.

That said, anything or day that brings awareness of the plight of Mother Earth and what we're doing to her is a good thing. Because of where we are and the things we do, the ocean is incredibly important to us. So while you're celebrating Earth Day and we hope doing something nice for your Mother, remember that two-thirds of the planet is covered with water. Treat the oceans and the lakes and the rivers with kindness. Treat them like your life depends on them - because it does.

By the way, Elaine is home! That's her with a turtle at Natural this morning.

Did I mention she's home? YA-A-A-A-A-A-A-Y!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

In my "cathedral," communing with my goddesses and gods my own way, scuba diving at Playa Crashboat.

BTW - Elaine comes home tomorrow!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Home again

Back home in PR.

One of the frustrating things for me in St Lucia was the limitation on photo opportunities. Not that there is a lack of things to photograph. Quite the contrary. Photos, from beautiful scenics to documentaries of local life, are everywhere, begging to be taken. Taking photos, or too many photos, or photos in the "wrong" places definitely marks one as a tourist. For some reason, many of the Lucians are very touchy about photos. When I was in St Lucia in October, I wanted to take pictures in the Castries market. It's really cool and has photo subjects everywhere you turn. Two women jumped up and wagged their fingers at me: "No picture! No picture!"

I really wanted a picture of the check-in counter at the airport. It's over there on the left, under that overhang, just past the white car. It's illegal in St Lucia to take photos at the airport so this is the best I could do without getting arrested.

That tourist image is something Elaine has fought for six months. So keep in line, I had self-imposed limits on photography. The upshot is I have a head full of some of the best photos I've never taken.

So now I'm home again. My beach loves having it's picture taken!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Cramming much goodness into a day

My last day in St Lucia. We crammed as much goodness into it as we possibly could.

We started the day snorkeling at a new (for me at least) part of Rodney Bay. Visibility could have been better but hey, we saw houndfish, balleyhoo, trumpetfish, an octopus. I mean, how bad can it be?

Then cool Piton beers with our friend (another) Elaine while we waited for Other Elaine's husband Tony. The Pitons were cool, not icy cold. But what do you expect? The sign says "Maria's Fish Shack and Cool Beer Bar." (BTW - Maria's is owned by Tony's sister.)

Then off to our favorite beach in St Lucia, Cas en Bas.

And lunch Tony and Other Elaine at Cas-En-Bas Beach Bar.

Finally, we were off to celebrate another friend's birthday at a posh resort called Landings. The celebration was low-key but fun, the drinks were good but not spectacular (ours at Ola Lola's are better) but the true star of the evening was the sunset behind Pigeon Island!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Diving St Lucia - again


One of the reasons for this "last" trip to St Lucia was to dive here again. The plan was for Elaine and me to dive together at sites I didn't dive before, including Jalousie.

The "dive together" part of the plan fell apart really before I got here. Elaine fell while rescuing a friend who was falling off the sidewalk in front of a bus. She had to have stitches over her eye. Snorkeling at Jalousie on Wednesday was a test run for diving on Thursday. Snorkeling went okay - not great but okay. But when a cold she'd been fighting flared up, that seemed to be a sign. So I went diving alone.

First, let me say there are some absolutely beautiful dive sites in St Lucia and I understand that visibility can reach 100'. I've had the misfortune of  being there when visibility was sketchy to just plain bad.

This trip we choose a different diver operator, Diver Fair Helen out of Marigot Bay. Honestly, I like Dive Fair Helen better than Scuba Steve, whom I dove with the last time.

Our first dive was a wall in Anse Couchon. The dive boat backed us into a corner of the bay almost to the steep cliff that forms the edge of the bay. We jumped off the boat into about 25' of water. Visibility was okay, not great but okay. We kicked over the narrow shelf that is the floor of the bay and then the bottom fell out. We only dove to about 65'; the dive master told me he's been to 130' on this wall and not seen the bottom.

I love wall dives. I love the initial sense of looking over the edge into the abyss. I love swimming along the wall and then looking up at fish, corals and other divers sillhouetted against the water above. This is a beautiful wall dive. Just wish the viz had been better.

Our second dive was along a shallow reef. Again, amazing in poor visibility so it must be absolutely stunning in good viz.

I'd considered bailing on the dives because Elaine couldn't go but I am so glad I went for a lot of reasons. It was beautiful, despite the visibility. I got to dive, period. And I learned some things about different kinds of diving and about me as a diver.

The biggest thing  I learned is I don't like resort "cattle call" diving, i.e., get as many people on the boat and into the water. When we dive here in PR, it's personal. It's almost always with friends. When we go a boat dive to Desecheo or the Wall, at least half the boat or more is "our" group. Even when we do a discover dive with tourists, it's personal. When I go on a discover dive, it's usually with people I've told about it, someone I've "recruited" if you will.

For example, if we did a dive here in conditions like our second dive, we would concentrate on looking up close for small things. No point in looking too long for the big stuff: even if it's there you probably won't see it. So look up close; find the little treasures. But with 10 or 12 divers that's difficult. One of our dive masters on the second dive found a seahorse. I was actually the first diver in the group to get to it. I only got one not-so-great picture because there were nine other divers zoomingin behind me. Many of them had cameras also. I got out of the way but I'm sure by the time the last diver got there the sand was all churned up and the seahorse was totally freaked out.

In places like St Lucia, where tourists and cruise ship passengers make up the bulk of the divers, the timing of the dives can be dependent on the cruise ship schedules. If there are divers from the ship(s), what time can they be picked up? What time do we have to get out of the water to get them back to the boat on time (cruise ships don't wait!)?

We ran into this on our second dive. Just under 30 minutes into a planned 45 minute dive (and with nearly a third of my air remaining) the dive master signaled our whole group to surface. Sure enough, there was the boat waiting for us. We all clambered aboard and off we went at speed back to the harbor. Good thing too: the cruise passenger divers made it back to their ships with less than 15 minutes to spare.

So what does all this mean? Mostly that I can/will rule out resort locations - Cozamel, Cancun, etc - as dive vacation locations. I'm much more likely to choose a place like Bonaire where the diving is fabulous and is pretty much shore diving at your own speed/convenience. Or maybe just stay here.

Despite all that, I loved the diving and came away with a few great pictures. You can see the best of them on our Flickr page. Hope you like them.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Sunset cruise

The last couple of days have been great fun, splitting time between being tourists and "locals." We went on a sunset catamaran cruise, something I've never done before. Okay, it's touristy but it was fun!

One part of the cruise was a stop at Jalousie, one of the small bays along the Caribbean coast. We'd heard this was a great snorkel/dive site. Elaine got to snorkel there a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it. I admit I was a bit jealous of her going to Jalousie so I jumped at the chance to go. It was every bit as good as promised!

Jalousie Bay nestles between the two Pitons, the iconic volcanic plugs on the southwest coast of St Lucia. The Marine Reserve and snorkeling area is right at the base of Petit Piton, the smaller of the two plugs. The peak of Petit Piton is 743 meters (2,452 feet) above the sea. There is a narrow ledge along the edge of the bay then it plunges a hundred feet or more into the bay. Off the headland the plug drops who-knows-how-far into the depths of the Caribbean.

But along that edge there is so much to see!

Like so many of the bays along the coast of St Lucia, Jalousie is most easily reached by boat. Although all the beaches in St Lucia - including Jalousie - are public, a resort called Sugar Beach controls the land-side access to the beach. So not only do you have to navigate the roads to find it, you have to navigate/negotiate with the resort to get to it.

Much better to take the sunset cruise. You get to snorkel Jalousie and then drink rum punch and Piton beer while you watch the sun set and party your way back to Vigie!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Back again

Have I really been away from this blog for a month? Sadly, yes. And I was doing so well posting nearly every day!

The absence is certainly not due to a lack of things to write about. There is so much going on, so much to write about, and so little time time to do it justice.

So, where to start. Even though there is a whole back log of stuff (the whole month of March and the official start of Spring), most of it is old news by now. And for everyone for whom winter still lingers, there is no point in revisiting that.

So where to start? How about the present?

I'm writing this on a beautiful warm sunny morning in St. Lucia. Since we made the decision we are not going to move here, we figured I should come back one more time before Elaine leaves. Yes, the door is always open to return and there are some good reasons to come back. But honestly? We probably won't, at least not soon. Elaine might come back as a consultant at some point, but I probably won't.

We both agree there is a kind of "been there, done that" feeling about it. The island certainly is beautiful and we've met some wonderful people here. St Lucia just doesn't feel like "home." And there are so many other places to explore, other islands, other countries, other worlds. This likely will be my farewell to St Lucia. So we are going to make the most of it!