ST. LUCIA

T-2 days until we were departing.  We had just gotten a reminder email about our week long sailing trip.  I was particularly excited about this trip.  We were going to be visiting six different countries in the Southern Caribbean on a sailboat!  Julie, Tony, and me…on a 45 foot yacht, all to ourselves!  It was months in the planning, this particular trip.  Julie had a conference in Puerto Rico the week before, so we decided long ago to do a sailing trip.  After all, sailing was on my bucket list, and I’m on a mission to visit all of the countries.  It couldn’t have worked out better.  There was just one thing.  I hadn’t told our hosts that I used a wheelchair.  It was two fold, I suppose.  I partially forgot and I was also deathly afraid of the rejection.  So when Julie called me 36 hours before our flight and I told her I was anxious about just showing up ‘in a wheelchair,’ I knew I had to tell our hosts so they wouldn’t be taken off guard.

As I typed the words on my computer screen, tears started rolling down my face.  I don’t know why it was so hard for me to send this email giving our hosts a heads up about something that shouldn’t matter.  I was not worried about it impacting my trip at all.  I knew I would be perfectly fine crawling around the boat.  I had also devised a small, 3-legged stool with tennis balls on the feet, so I could maneuver around without scratching their beautiful yacht.  None the less, it felt like I was typing a plea to a higher power giving them my justification for deserving this trip.  I was writing to complete strangers the thing that has been the most painful in my life, and pleaing with them to let me on their boat.  So I hit send, cried a few more tears, and went outside to workout.  I was so incredibly angry that I had to deal with these things in my life.  It seems so unfair to me.  And at the same time, it seemed so unfair to not let our hosts know.  Who should’ve taken the shock here?  The uncomfortable moments of them meeting me?  Should I take that brunt?  Should they?  I guess at the end of the day, I decided that I was better equipped – more experienced – at dealing with this message, so I took it.

Thirty minutes later, I received an email back stating that it was no problem at all and they would find a nice storage space for my wheelchair.  My faith in humanity, which can fade quickly for me, was restored.  I was officially excited about this trip!

Tony and I arrived in St. Lucia around 1 pm on Saturday.  There are two airports on the island of St. Lucia, an island that is only about 27 miles long.  We landed on the wrong side of the island; it was the bigger airport that took incoming flights from the States.  We knew this going in, and quickly cleared immigration and negotiated a $80 taxi to the other side of the island where we would meet Nim and Fabiola, our Captain and Chef.  The drive itself took about an hour and a half, with lots of winding around the mountainous islands and stopping and going on a small two-lane road.  Our driver did a great job though, and I even caught a few zzz’s.

We found Nim and Fab waiting at the restaurant we had agreed upon and they took us to their boat.  There was certainly some uncertainty from them about how I would get on the boat, but as soon as I crawled out of my chair and onto the dock, and then onto the ledge next to the boat, I felt their sense of relief.  I shimmied right up onto the boat and crawled around from the living area, to the kitchen, even down a flight of stairs to our sleeping quarters.  The boat had four private suites, each with its own bathroom.  Our group was smaller than they would normally take, with only three of us, so one of the suites was left empty (Nim and Fab occupied the fourth).

We had a few hours until Julie would arrive into St. Lucia from Puerto Rico, so Tony and I ventured into the marina area where we found a delicious little pizza place and had some local St. Lucian beers and pizza handmade from an Italian immigrant.  It was peaceful, quiet, warm, everything we could want to start our trip.

It should be noted that this was an ‘out of the ordinary’ trip for me.  I’m used to being on the go, always having a full agenda of touristy activities planned each day.  I’m also used to staying in hostels or guest houses to save costs.  This trip was exactly opposite that.  I had no agenda and the quarters were top notch.  I wasn’t sure how I would respond to having ‘nothing’ to do, but I packed a few books and a computer to write, making no promises to myself that I would do either.  I literally went into this trip with no agenda.  I NEVER have no agenda.

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Our ‘collecting stamps’ journey!

Tony and I watched the sun set in St. Lucia, our bellies full and our daily stresses setting below the horizon with the sun.  Tony could hardly keep his eyes open and made his way back to our yacht.  I sat in front of the gelato shop where we agreed to meet Julie.  I watched people coming and going, most of them carefree and happy.  The feel of ‘island life’ was all around, and I felt myself melting into it quickly.  About 15 minutes later, Julie arrived in a large airport shuttle van.  We exchanged giddy hugs and excited laughter as we walked through the marina to the slip where our boat for the week was, slip E4, boat LUNA.

Nim and Fab were resting and reading on the outside patio area, where we would spend most of the next week.  Tony was sprawled out in the sleeping quarters below.  We got everyone back on board and luggage in place.  Fab started cooking dinner and Nim poured us glasses of champagne.  We exchanged a welcome cheers full of anticipation for the next morning when we would make our first sail.

As Fab finished up our dinner, Nim went over a safety briefing with us.  What we do if the boat starts to sink, if there’s a fire, if pirates come onboard (we specifically asked about this, mostly out of curiosity), if the boat capsizes.  We went over the places on the boat where we could be during sail and what do to if we needed the life boat or life jackets.  As Nim went over all of this in great detail, I could feel the weight of the world on his shoulders.  He was responsible for all of our lives that week.  He made all decisions and had a huge duty to both himself and us to be sure we had a safe trip.  I made a vow to be respectful and listen to him when he asked, knowing that he would be looking out for us each day to be sure we were safe.

After the safety briefing was complete, Julie, Tony, and I gathered around the table on the outside deck as Fabiola served some of the most flavorful risotto I’ve ever had in my life.  How she was able to make such a delicious plate of food in a kitchen smaller than my bathroom will forever amaze me.  Nim and Fab retreated into the living area to dine, leaving the three of us outside enjoying a noiseless marina.  The risotto was followed by mini lemon tarts, equally as good and the perfect ending to the night.  We retreated to our quarters about 8:30 pm.  We would be departing St. Lucia around 8 am, after Nim cleared all of us through immigration, and we had time for breakfast.

I slept straight through the night, waking only when the sun first started to peak through the tiny windows by our bed.  It was 6 am, and I couldn’t wait to see the ocean!

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