Of course we always wondered how it might be to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the hot climate of the Caribbean Islands. Candles melting in the sun, decorated palm trees with colorful lights and instead of Glühwein you hold a glass of ice-cold rum punch in your hand. And what was reality? Well, all of it. But much more.
After our arrival at St. Lucia after the Atlantic crossing we stayed in Rodney Bay Marina for some days. Relaxing, cleaning the boat, doing laundry, repairing the main sail, provisioning. But the most important part of our time in Rodney Bay was the community of all the other ARC sailors. We cheered at everyone who arrived, we met all the people again from Las Palmas, we had drinks together and celebrated safe arrivals, we shared our experience and also learned from others who had damages or other sorts of problems. Apart from all the social activities around Rodney Bay we did some excursions all over the island, took part in a tree planting event, visited the famous “Two Pitons”, did a hike in the rain forest and tried local creole food in the streets. The two most difficult things we faced on the island, both completely unimportant on the Atlantic: cash and wifi. Both hardly available. All ATMs in Rodney Bay seemed to be out of cash. Guess why. And wifi was only working at 3am next to the wifi repeater on the dock. Guess why again. Around 1000 people, hungry for cash and wifi after three weeks at sea. We finally got lucky to find an ATM having cash, but which kindly reminded us “Dear Customer, please type in a lower amount, other customers also want to get cash, thank you.” Better than nothing and enough for fried fish and some Caribbean beers (called “Piton” by the way :-)) on a street food festival round the corner. Internet took us some more days to fix. Still not sorted out completely. That’s why it a bit more tricky with posting and blogging and uploading videos.
Managed to find some more cash and the boat freshly stocked with local foods (and a little bit of rum……) we said goodbye to many lovely people and St. Lucia, setting sails towards St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The plan was to stop on Bequia for Christmas, the most northern island of the Grenadines, where we arrived on time on the 24th of December.
As we left St. Lucia and arrived at a new country, it is important to do some paperwork at customs, so that was the very first thing we did on Bequia. After going through the procedure in St. Lucia for clearing in and out, we now know all boat details and liters of stored rum by heart. The latter is more difficult to indicate since the amount of rum is a highly time-variant variable and it seems to be a common thing here in the Caribbean – even the tiniest mini-market has a decent variety of Caribbean rum and all sorts of juices for making rum punch. Water is ridiculously expensive by the way.
Now let’s come back to how we spent Christmas Eve. As we are used to celebrate the highlight of Christmas on the 24th at night, we prepared a nice dinner (salmon lasagna) and opened a bottle of special sparkling wine for special occasions only (the last bottle we opened was the “half-way-done-evening on the Atlantic) and enjoyed our dinner on anchor in Admiralty Bay next to the little town of Port Elizabeth. After dinner, we hopped into the dinghi and went into town to attend a Christmas celebration in a little local church. The Church building is a very pure and simple one, with white caulked walls and blue painted window frames and blinds. The holy mass was hold with open windows, allowing the Caribbean sea breeze bringing in some natural ventilation. While the priest was praying, you could hear the treefrogs’ characteristic “Coquí” sound from outside, and could even see some stars blinking in the sky. This is where the Christmas spirits fully hit us! There was a choir singing, we all sang together, we didn’t know anybody but everybody hugged us wishing us peace and a Merry Christmas. What a feeling when we think back singing “Go tell it on a mountain” all together in this little church. 100% Christmas vibes! All in all we can sum up that we realized it again and again: there were no presents underneath a tree, but we felt the spirit of the Holy Night, being thankful for what we have in life.
The days passed and we enjoyed every single day. We got to know other people, had coffees, sundowners and dinners together, not to forget the BBQ on the beach drinking fresh coconut water, and we were finally over and over excited to see another boat from the ARC coming round the corner, two friends we already made in Las Palmas. The joy was enormous, and so the Gin Tonics that followed shortly after they dropped their anchor next to us.
Actually our plan was to hop to the next island for New Year’s Eve, but we stayed. Too many great people, our anchor right next to a floating bar, the vegetable lady of the local market already giving us some pieces of local fruits for free, the anchor perfectly digged into the sand – sometimes you realize that you simply CANNOT leave.
Part of learning about a new country is not also getting to know and talking to the people, but also learning how to cook local food. We started to prepare coconut-fried bananas, tried out plantain fritters (a recipe we got from a local), found out that the best drink in the world is the inside of a passion fruit mixed with rum, and last but not least we bought a lobster for New Year’s Eve. One of the sailors who is cruising the Caribbean for a couple of years showed us how to kill it fast and how to prepare it afterwards. The outcome was two delicious dinners – grilled lobster tail with lime and garlic, and the following night lobster spaghetti with the rest of the meat which was actually hard work to get out of the hard shell. Lobster will always be a dish for special days only.
The absolute highlight of our stay was on the day when we actually already wanted to have left the bay to move on to the next destination. Berni got asked to play piano at the FIG TREE, a local beach restaurant! Of course that was another reason to stay again. After a very challenging dinghy ride with two people and piano, Berni was performing for about 2 hours, playing a range of jazz standards, bossa nova grooves, Pirates of the Caribbean, and some own compositions. With the inspiring beauty Bequia has to offer she wrote a new piece and called in BequiaVibes. You can find the live recording here (the sound also includes a smashing plate from the restaurant behind, to make it more authentic…):
“The beautiful island of Bequia inspired me to compose a new piece. Sitting on the boat on anchor and playing piano I found some new nice tunes to work with. This video has been recorded yesterday at the Fig Tree Restaurant in Bequia directly on the sea front with a stunning view of the sunset, performing for their happy hour. It is a great place to be!”
To sum it up…. after two wonderful weeks on wonderful Bequia we left our safe anchorage, said goodbye to our new friends and moved on south, ready for the next adventures waiting for us!