With the flood tide of the ARC over and participants settling into Caribbean island life, the atmosphere in St Lucia has calmed down. Only five boats remain out of the 192 that started in Las Palmas three weeks ago, and if the last few arrivals have been any indication the last (but certainly not least) boats are in for an epic welcome. The humid tropical air sings with the sound of a steel drum and for many the mornings pass by in a steady slumber as sailors work hard to get over the side effects of rum punch.
A morning tradition - fresh fruit delivered by boat
Between the parties and events, a few jobs are done here and there. Leaky hatches are tightened, salty cushions scrubbed and teak polished back to its pre-transat shine.
Small jobs aside, attractions like the local beaches and the famous Pitons are just a few good reasons to venture out of the marina although for those who stay close by there are plenty of ARC events to check out.
Today Chris Doyle – prolific cruiser, yacht guru and author of the most popular Caribbean cruising guide – hosted his second of two Caribbean cruising seminars. Doyle, whose guides are fixtures of yacht navigation tables in every part of the Windward and Leeward islands, has been a long-time friend of the ARC and as always attracted a crowd. With the ARC drawing to a close many are looking onward to free cruising over the winter season, and what better way to find out the best spots.
Monday night brought around a classic ARC event, the beach barbeque at Spinnakers. The venue was packed as music played on and rum punch flowed. Barefoot diners chose from fresh local fish and lobster barbequed right on the beach, and afterwards well spirited party goes made use of the cleared dancefloor inside. It was no surprise it was a slow morning for many today.
Despite the festivities for some the time had come to get beyond the marina and over the past few days quite a few boats have begun to tickle out to explore the surrounding islands and head elsewhere for the holidays. With friends on the dock to help cast off and shouts of ‘until next time’ a spaces have opened up where only days ago yachts were rafter three deep. None the less, the friends made in the ARC are never as far away as they seem and many planned to meet up at home or in other sunny spots all over the Caribbean and beyond – the cruising world is a small one after all.
In other news, a surprisingly different story from the ARC this year - the story of its oldest (and tastiest) ‘living’ participant from Yacht Alisara. Going by the name ‘Empress’, at 129 years old (first fermented around 1890) this living sour dough yeast culture was by far the oldest living (and tastiest) thing on the ARC – something many participants can attest to.
Originally handed down from generation to generation, the batch was shared amongst ARC participants in Las Palmas, each time a small amount sectioned off and fed with flour and water. Across the Atlantic on SSB radio nets best recipes were shared and results compared, although it was clear some came out better than others.
For those that got the baking down the yeast became a critical member of the crew, whilst for others the failures of self-proclaimed expert bakers (Boat ovens are tricky, we’ll give them that) left some in despair.
Now as we approach the final prize giving there is little to do but relax and take it all in, after more than two weeks at sea and all the effort in getting here everyone certainly deserves it.