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On the Hard in St. Lucia

It’s our first morning in the boatyard and we wake up even before the roosters start crowing and chasing the hens.  Dogs in the yard begin barking.  Lionel starts the electric sander at daybreak; this man is not making friends with other cruisers nearby.  As a matter of fact, I’m kind of miffed too.

Here’s what happens ‘on the hard’.  Slings are positioned under Sea Whisper’s hull to lift her out of the water with a travel lift; she is then pressure washed, moved onto land and supported upright by wooden stilts.  We are now perched up here, overlooking the harbor, with power and internet access.  Although we can’t cook, use water or our toilets, nearby are showers and toilets.

Rick at Rodney Bay Marina arranges for Miguel and Joe from his yard to help Lionel scrape, sand, and clean Sea Whisper’s bottom in preparation for three coats of bottom paint.  We rush out to get sanding/painting materials, necessitating a trip to four different hardware stores.  Fortunately, our cabdriver, Jeff, who is engaged to an actress in a TV series (Danger Bay) in Vancouver near our home, is delighted to drive us around and tell us about his Canadian adventures.

I first see her at the Boatyard Bar and Bistro where I’m picking up lunch. She is wearing a bright green hat; her big, open smile and great belly laugh are infectious. I like her instantly.  Her name is Sunshine and she is one busy lady.  Not only does she wash laundry for the cruisers, she also makes jewelry and sells designer perfumes and sunglasses to tourists.  Sunshine offers to take care of our laundry for us.  Already I adore her.

I can tell Sunshine is used to visiting boats in the yard as she whips up the long wobbly ladder into Sea Whisper’s cockpit. Over coffee, we negotiate the trading of her glass beads for some of my essential oils.  Somehow, this transaction takes at least three hours of stories and lots of hooting and laughter, causing Lionel to keep checking up on us.  He can’t resist Sunshine’s charms either.

The other yachties in the yard are amazed to see Miguel and Joe are working so hard and so late.  They soon discover that if you set the pace, they’ll follow.  Especially if they stop working and Lionel hollers, “Hey!  What’s the hold up?  Why have you stopped working?”  I hear that often, along with chuckles and promises of beer at day’s end. The boys are great and finish the job in three days, a new record in the yard.

While in the boatyard, we eat most of our meals at the Boatyard Pub, owned by Michelle, a former model in the Caribbean.  She is another hard-working woman, keeping long hours at her business.  Michelle generously gives me her family’s recipe for Salted Pig Tail Soup; we just love this meal.  We also get hooked on her delicious rotis which are so big we can split one between us.

After lunch, Lionel & I cross over to Island Waterworld for more bits and pieces.  By now, we’re practically like family there. Kirby Evans, a helpful young man working there, delights me with a gift of one of the pretty shell necklaces he makes.  Lionel is still covered with blue dust from sanding the old bottom paint and a little boy in the store asks his Mom is Lionel is a Smurf!  The whole store rocks with laughter.

Along our way, we stop by Gregory’s fresh produce boat.  Gregory, a local man, has decorated his boat with a colourful canopy and flags from around the world.  He is a great salesman and always up-sells, sending us home with more than we can eat.  We tell him we are leaving in a day or so and he kind-heartedly provides us with a handmade fruit basket.

Sunshine drops by the next day with our clean laundry and we invite her out for lunch at a restaurant nearby that she frequents with her family and friends.  Lionel has the conch dinner and Sunshine and I have a spicy Creole dish.  We say our fond farewells after lunch and promise to keep in touch.  In the afternoon, Sea Whisper is back in the cradle with her new black bottom, in the water again.

All in all, we had a great time on the hard; working, meeting new friends, trying new foods, taking lots of photos, exchanging views and addresses as well as taking and leaving wonderful memories of good times.  Thank you St. Lucia!

Before leaving on a three year journey by sea aboard Sea Whisper, as a health practitioner, Laurie McDonald wrote a column for a western Canada health-related magazine. Her travel adventures are published in Canadian magazines and newspapers. 

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