Brad, Dan and Scott's Sailing Adventure

"There she is boys! The SS More Powerful than Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the Incredable Hulk combined." This space will be used to post updates of our odyssey.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sulfur Valley = Guiltless Farting

We found it nice to be back in the English speaking world. Ideas could be communicated and meals purchased without too much embarrassment. Once again we were in a customs grey area. Arriving late Thursday, we planned to clear customs the following day. This turned out to be Good Friday and a national holiday. The office is closed for the weekend and monday is also a national holiday, Easter Monday. So, Tuesday rolls around and finds us sheepishly trying to check in four days after arriving in the country. Luckily they didn't seem to care and we were legal once again.

Anika had arrived on Good Friday and her welcome visit was allowing us an enjoyable slackening of our usual pace. Knowing we would have to be back at this exact spot in eight days for her return flight moderated out ambition and we were able to relax and begin to get familiar with the little town of Portsmouth. Twice we went to the Saturday morning open air market. Prices were excellent and the variety of fruits and vegetables was incredible. On our second trip we picked up: four large mangos, one bag of carrots, ten eggs, four grapefruit, one bag of tomatoes, one bag of mixed bell peppers, one bag of sugarcane chew sticks, and one pound of fresh boneless blue marlin - all for under ten US dollars.

We spent half a day exploring an old fort that lay a short dinghy ride north of town. It was beautifully restored and was an interesting day trip. It was recommended to us by Mark, the owner of a neighboring boat. Mark is a solo sailor that left from Washington state seven years ago. He spends hurricane season in Trinidad and makes his home in Portsmouth harbor for the rest of the year. He told us the ins and outs of the town and set us up with a local that would rent us a car for a few days at a good price. He also agreed to come along to our hike to the boiling lake. He had been a week earlier, but said it was such a good hike that he would go every day if he had the chance. This worked out excellently for us because we would not have to hire a guide and it is a complicated hour and half drive to the trail head.

We invited Mark over to play cards and he was thrilled to learn that we knew how to play cribbage. He taught us a four person, team variation that was quite good. Mark was also planning on selling his boat so we had some common ground and exchanged our limited knowledge on the subject. Mark confessed that his reason for leaving the lifestyle was loneliness. He thought he would have a better chance of finding a woman with a stable land based life. His tragic stories of the women who responded to his internet ad for female crew made this look like a smart move on his part.

The scars of solitude were evident in Marks social demeanor. His stories were interesting and one could find no fault in the fluidity and exactness of their description. However, Mark's internal editor had grown dull and feeble from lack of use. His stories contained all manner of details, both those relevant and those inconsequential. The stories were so detailed that one could feel as if they were in the very scene itself. But, one quickly grows bored of these new surroundings when all you experience are new details sprouting up around you, and all the while the fruit of the story, its climax, is growing ever more distant and dim. Mark also lacked a good story teller's awareness of his audience. The words flowed, uninterrupted by the listeners, from start to finish. The same style would have been suitable if one wished to inform a rock or enlighten a tree.

However, Mark would redeem himself as our boiling lake guide. I drove the rental car on the long trip while mental chanting , 'drive on the left, drive on the left....' A steep trail ran through the rain forest. The foliage would break and ridge crests and give views of sharp valleys and encircling ranges, all blanketed in the thickest and brightest greens. After many ups and downs we descended into the valley of desolation. We go from lush rain forest to barren rock, with the smell of sulfur in the air and vents continuously blasting superheated steam into the sky. Streams of boiling water emerge and springs from the hillsides and flow into the center of the valley. The bed of each rivulet was a unique color, dictated by its distinct recipe of dissolved minerals. Yellows and green were especially well represented, in their myriad of tones and pastels.

We follow the hot stream out of the valley of desolation and presently come to a fine pool. The water at this point has cooled to a nice 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. This pool is formed few yards upstream from a junction with a cold water stream of equal size. Just before entering the hot stream, its cold counterpart cascades down a small waterfall into a perfect cold blue swimming hole. One can hop back and forth from the hot pool to the cold pool with only a few steps - awesome. Past the pool we soon come to the boiling lake. Imagine a pot of water 150 yards across and the entire thing kept at a rolling boil. The steam would build up to the point where we could see nothing and then a gust of wind would blow through and reveal the strange scene to us.

The next day was hectic as Dan and I prepared the boat for the overnight trip South to Saint Vincent. At midday I drove Anika to the airport and we said our sad goodbyes. I then returned the car, hopped back on board Kaleidoscope and we were quickly off again, with places to be and people to meet.