19 March 2007

My Cistern Floweth Over

Islanders and visitors don't quite see things the same way when it comes to weather. Pinks and I welcome a day off from the sun, the sometimes overwhelming brightness of the sky, and the reflective silvery shine on the sea that overcomes the darkest Polaroid lenses. And then there is the 4 PM wave of heat in our house when the sun lowers in the western sky and floods our deck and kitchen, -- the signal that it's time to lower the hurricane shutters half way and mix up the first of the day's gin and tonics.

The cistern, of course, loves the rain. It is literally its raison d'etre. In March and April, every liter in the roof gutters is one I don't have to buy from Regie des Eaux. Not only is this the dry season, it is also the children and grandchildren visiting season, all of whom, like the good Americaines they are, are constantly washing, rinsing, and spritzing. And while one can train the adults to take "navy showers", one cannot effectively monitor the little ones, especially since at least some of the showers here are outdoors, unique, and qualify as recreational activities. Add to that the additional clothes and dishes that must be washed, and I have to be content with the knowledge that while we are putting a lot of water down the house waste drains, it all goes to a series of tanks that ultimately feed the garden.

But this past week we have joined forces with our pale guests. Enough is enough. It has been raining here for five straight days. Not the rains of Camelot, but the driving daytime squalls as well. We grow restless, visit the hardware store too often and then don't use the stuff I bought to fix things because I do not want to repair doorknobs, change outdoor light fixtures, and do other stuff in the rain. We are all ausgeshopped.

And while it's nice to know the boat is getting cleaned with fresh water, who needs it that clean? I kind of liked the salt-encrusted look as she rode on her mooring line in the bay.

We check the forecast hourly. Depressing. It tells it like it is, and Windguru, my weather website of choice, is eerily accurate, down to the hour.

Yesterday, the weather brokeā€”a bit. We saw some blue sky around 4PM and Mark, Steph, and I went fishing. On the way out, we saw people coming up out the cabins of their sailboats (we think we had it bad? Can you imagine four people being cooped up in the cabin of a 36 foot sailboat for days on end?) and hanging out their mildewing towels to dry on the lifelines.

We dropped our lines off Pain de Sucre rock at 4:45, planning to fish until 6:00. At 5:05 we saw that grey smudge on the horizon coming our way, and by 5:10 we were getting soaked. With COLD rain, yet. I may be getting old, but fishing in the rain is not my thing, and we headed in. Of course, the rain stopped before I could tie up the boat, but we hadn't caught anything and I was sure we weren't going to either, so we called it quits. The rain has sapped my optimism. I am desperate for sunshine.

The rain, naturally enough, is the topic of the day at the hardware store and on the quay. The shopkeepers are desperate because the tourists mope in their hotel rooms or on board ship. The moms are berserk because the kids can't go the beach after school (yup, that's what they do here), and because virtually all the restaurants here are more or less open on all sides, they lower heavy plastic curtains when it rains hard, and even the nicest places are somewhat claustrophobic. Business suffers.

Scramble up some eggs for dinner? Hey, the price is right.

Yesterday, we watched from the deck as a large cruise ship anchored in Corossol Bay in the rain, and nevertheless loaded its tenders for the ship's passengers to come ashore. Two of the tenders actually motored away from the ship, stopped about 1000 yards off, loitered there for a good ten minutes, and then returned to the ship. One can only imagine the conversation (arguments?) in those tenders, with the tourists realizing that as much as they wanted to see St. Barths, they would see nothing but each other huddling under awnings and in doorways, and the jury ultimately voting to go back to the ship where they could sit in their small but dry cabins. Yuch. And what if the coxswain had said, "No, my orders are to take you ashore and that's where we are going." Mutiny? Well, maybe something close. My bet is that during the loitering, there was a lot of communication with the mother ship, and the Captain had to make a hard call. Probably some lawyers aboard the tenders threatened to sue. Ah, les Americaines arrive a le Caraibes.

The sun came out at noon today. So did all the islanders, residents and tourists, young and old. The beach was never so crowded with desperate sunseekers. Many pale tourists will suffer from sunburn tonight. No sleep for these heretofore sun-deprived visitors.

And the forecast for tomorrow is great. But for the five days to follow? Don't ask. My cistern floweth over.

A bientot.

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