Its Friday 7th of January and its finally time to leave Barbados. Our transit takes us from Speightstown, Barbados to Vieux Fort anchorage in, St Lucia, a total of 84nm. At this stage we still have no autopilot, but we have a plan to meet Keith’s niece and her husband in St Lucia with an all-important critical component that will hopefully solve our problems.
So today’s challenge: Get up at 4am, hand steer 84nm to St Lucia. Keep speeds above 7kts VMG so we arrive in daylight, do 2 loads of washing and fill the water tanks. Well apart from the 7kts VMG we managed all of the objectives, arriving just on sunset at the anchorage. We upped anchor in Barbados just after 4am, motoring for a short while until the breeze was settled. Took a punt on the trusty 2 headsail goosewing but it proved difficult to steer in the dark and not quite the right angles. Furled the genoa and then continued with the gennaker alone until daylight, and then put the main up (1 reef) and reached with that before goose-winging. Seas were very confused again with 3 different wave patterns and the breeze was shifting through 75-110 degrees and at times we saw a northbound set of 3kts. It felt like we were going sideways to St Lucia. At one stage on the chartplotter ITIKI was pointing at St Vincent. We thought it was because of the issues with the heading sensor, but actually it was probably correct as we were fighting the current.
A cruise ship appeared on the horizon and on the charplotter, Celebrity Reflection. We started monitoring them as we were under sail, hand steering in shifty wind, and they were just on the edge of our 1nm separation tolerance. They called us on the radio and said they were altering course by 5degrees to avoid us and asked us to hold our course. We thanked them as this gave us a 1.5nm separation when we finally did cross them. The breeze was up and down, dropping to as little as 10kts at stages, although fortunately not for long as we completely forgot we had 1 reef in. Finally about 25nm out, we could see land but it was very hazy. As we got closer to St Lucia the breeze started to fill in again and wrap around the bottom of the island. We could gybe the headsail and reach in to our destination, arriving about 2 minutes before sunset. What a relief. Friday night cocktails were in order!
St Lucia is a small island nation said to be first “discovered” by Columbus in 1502. The local Caribs accepted a treaty with the French in 1660, after having massacred an English colony in 1639. The ongoing conflict between the French and English around this era led it to “change hands” between the 2 countries 14 times! The Treaty of Amiens in 1802 saw St Lucia become French for the last time and in 1814. After the Napoleonic Wars, back it went to British again. In 1967 St Lucia became an associated state of the Commonwealth following a slow and steady decline in its agriculture, due in part to the abolition of slavery and declining demand for cane sugar. It finally gained its independence from Britain in 1979.
Our arrival anchorage was a good, safe landing spot however despite its view of the industrial port and proximity to the airport its nothing special, so we upped anchor around 8am and pulled out the genoa to reach up the coast all of 10nm to Soufriere Bay. The Gros and Petit Pitons (pointy mountains) which dominate the horizon here, and also appear on the flag of St Lucia, soon come into view. On the way in we were offered a substantial looking lobster by some likely looking local lads, but didn’t have any local currency so had to pass. As we enter the bay “boat boys” come out in their craft to entice you on to their mooring buoys and charge you for “helping” you pick up the buoy (it’s too deep to anchor). Our boy managed to bang into the port hull in his wooden boat and make a dog’s breakfast of putting our second line on. We didn’t have any local currency so told him to come back later.
We took the dinghy ashore and went to clear in with the Port Authority & Customs. Forgetting that it was a Saturday we got stung with an extra EC$100/A$50 to check in on the weekend - overtime fees! Its not like we got them out of bed or anything, the office was open and fully staffed… We also have to pay another EC$50 for port tax and EC$54 for our mooring buoy) We go in search of the immigration officer, who seems to be on a break. We have a wander around town and check out the supermarket.
An older guy in a wooden boat comes around the moorings later in the day selling fruit and veg, we buy some bananas, mangos, limes and the most amazingly tasty and creamy avocado ever. It was huge and ugly and the pip was the size of a small apple, it would never make the cut at Coles. Just delicious.
The town of Soufriere apparently it gets its name from the sulphur springs that occur nearby. We walked south along the coastal track to Piton falls, which is between the Gros and Petit Pitons. This is a small waterfall with some concrete pools and warm springs. I had a shower under the waterfall and a swim in the hot baths - beautiful. We are surrounded by very lush and dense rainforest which is a feature of the interior of St Lucia. On the way back we pass the entrance to the Petit Piton hiking track which must be undertaken with a guide. We pass on that and head to the Botanical Gardens. These are really beautiful, lush gardens with an incredible array of tropical flowers and small birds. The waterfall was an interesting colour, clearly rich with minerals and I took a swim in the mineral pools which were beautiful and warm, I could have stayed in for hours. Walked back to town and back to the boat for lunch and then left. Our boat boy hadn’t come back for his money but we got chased by one of his mates wanting to collect. He wanted 4 x the going rate, and was behaving a little aggressively. Sorted him out and motored up the coast with some head on gusts of up to 20kts, passed Anse Cochon (crowded and with just a resort ashore) before heading into Anse la Raye, all of 6.6nm for the day! Its only 3m deep so very limited room to anchor. According to the brochure it is a colourful, traditional fishing village. We are the only boat here.
The next morning we went ashore to explore and felt rather conspicuous. A couple of locals approached us trying to offer their services as guides, play us some music etc. there are some colourful houses, a mural and a tiny bakery with a limited selection. Back on the boat we did a little cleaning as we will have VIP guests on board this afternoon. The anchor bridle came off the anchor chain in a very small gust – it had already come off in Mindelo (at midnight in 40kts!) so the shackle is really rather bent now. We upped anchor but it was very difficult to lift and after a bit of back and forth a large piece of old tree truck was lifted by the chain up right next to the port bow which was a bit of a shock for me! I thought I had seen something from the foredeck when we first set the anchor yesterday, although I didn’t spot it when I swam over it. We must have wrapped around it when we turned in the night. After a little more house-keeping we headed into Marigot bay, which is all of 2nm north of Anse La Raye. We were expecting to have to run the gauntlet of boat boys again but there was no one around. We decided to pick up a mooring buoy from the Marina Resort for a couple of nights so we could enjoy the luxurious facilities. Debs and Martin were waiting on the dock and we went ashore for drinks followed by a late and mostly liquid lunch on board ITIKI. The marina end of the bay is quite enclosed and incredibly calm. It is surrounded by mangroves and is the first time we have encountered a designated hurricane hole. There are a couple of sunken and abandoned boats here, a reminder that it’s not perfect protection, although who knows what the story is.
There is not much on offer around the bay itself. We went for a morning walk in search of a supermarket with some fresh produce but no luck. Could not even find a ATM. Found a bakery on the way back but limited selection of food. Spent the rest of the morning chilling by the pool in the Marina Resort, had lunch on the boat and spent the afternoon by the pool. Logged into my very first Zoom wedding - Andy and Julie from SY Cushla were married on the beach in Barbados. A lovely ceremony with lots of friends and family from all over the world joining remotely as well.
The next day we did a round trip to Pigeon Island and back to Marigot via Castries (the Capital of St Lucia). It was an early start to pick up Debs and Martin and call in to Castries markets. On the way we tried to do some calibration of the autopilot but we are still failing the zig zag test. More work to be done there. We anchored in Castries and Keith dropped us ashore to go to the colourful Castries Markets to get some fresh produce and fish. Motored up to Pigeon Island and anchored off the lovely beach, which is overlooked by Fort Rodney. There are quite a few resorts and beach clubs along here as well, no doubt catering to European and American tourists. Its great to see people coming back to the islands, as they have really suffered these last 18 months. We had a few drinks on the cocktail deck before a late lunch of BBQ Mahi Mahi followed by a short walk ashore. Finally we had a quick peek into Rodney Bay marina before heading back to Marigot bay under gennaker. This time we anchored in the outer part of the bay rather than taking a mooring ball again.
The next day we spent the morning on the phone to Garmin (they have been fantastic!) before heading out with some different settings to try and re-calibrate the auto-pilot. Sadly we have still not been successful so there are still other issues at play here.
Debs booked us on a Rum tour at St Lucia Distilleries at 1pm which was not far from the Marina but in a dodgy part village whose streets were lined with seedy looking bars, that somehow must get some of the “leakage” from the factory. The tour was interesting although there was no fermentation going on at the time. The island used to grow a lot of sugar cane, and that is how the rum industry started, but when the British switched to using sugar beets the cane was no longer wanted and so now they grow bananas and import molasses to make rum. The rum tasting was extensive and some of the rums were excellent so we bought a couple of bottles. An afternoon nap was in order after all the excitement, before a farewell dinner ashore in the evening.
We had morning tea aboard with Debs and Martin to say our final farewells before heading back to their pad to spend another couple of hours on the phone to Garmin again. We are all out of ideas so it looks like we will have to go to Martinique to make more progress with our autopilot. Debs and Martin checked out and are heading to another resort at Anse Cochon, just south of Anse La Raye, which we passed along the way from Soufriere. We headed north, dropped into Castries markets again and checked out a bit more of the town. There is a very colourful church here – with a funeral going on at the time. From here we returned to the lovely beach at Pigeon Island where we will stay for the weekend.
After a lazy day yesterday we took the RIB ashore, saying hi to a couple of other boats along the way. One Australian couple have been living at anchor in this bay for 2 years straight! Hmmm! We did the walk up to Fort Rodney and around to the signal peak and ruins before heading back to the boat for lunch. Lovely walk and grounds with great views of the area.
As we are now getting ready to head to Martinique we go ashore for pre-arrival PCR test (US$150 each - ouch!). Moving around here is going to get expensive if this is a requirement every time we change countries. We dropped into the supermarket and visited the marina, which looks quite nice, had a coffee and used the internet, then back to the boat for lunch. Some lads came around in a dinghy selling overpriced tat, and I got sucked into buying a couple of bracelets which they claim were locally made, but I suspect that this was in China... We have a little rain in our anchorage that brings an amazing double rainbow and dramatic skies, as well as a full moon to say farewell to St Lucia.
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.