ST Lucia

1st March. As you head north from Grenada to Antigua, the island chain curves gently to the west. So whereas when you're sailing Grenada to Carriacou the course is nearly 40 degrees (ie. NE ), St Vincent to St Lucia is only 15 degrees (ie. NNE ) and by the time you're hopping from St Lucia to Martinique the course is around 345 degrees ( NNW ). And so with the trade winds blowing from the east, each passage becomes easier than the last, and when we reached St Lucia on, the equatorial current had only managed to push us a couple of miles off our course. No motor required, we just overshot Soufriere by a mile or so and put in a tack to bring us up into the anchorage off the town. Actually, although I say anchorage, anchoring is now forbidden........................... another marine reserve, so we were looking out for a convenient mooring. There were quite a few large white, official looking mooring buoys, but these were all a long row from the town and we ended up on a scruffier looking orange one which was much closer. After a few minutes we were visited by Norbert, the proud and avaricious owner of this mooring, and after a bit of haggling we agreed a price. $30 EC for one night. He had originally demanded an outrageous $54 for two! I later snorkelled on the mooring to discover that the chunky looking inch and a quarter bridle was connected to the mooring block by an old worn piece of half inch rope. This would be the last time we'd be taking a 'private mooring', but conditions were light and as one of us would always be aboard we decided to stay for the night.

We went ashore one at a time, me to check in, and Noley later to skype Charlie, and had a walk around the town which is full of charming old timber buildings with ornate balconies left over from the days of the French, but it's all a bit run down now. One night on Norberts mooring was all we were prepared to risk (and pay for !) but we had a couple more days to wait before Amy (my neice) was arriving at the airport in the south, so the following day we motored a couple of miles south to pick up an official mooring in the bay between the two Pitons. Vieux Port is a town with an anchorage right next to the airport, but after hearing of the murder of an English yachtsman there, in December, we decided to give it a miss.
The Pitons, between which we were moored, are two steep sided mountains, rising straight out of the sea to a height of around 2500 ft and are spectacular. The bay itself was peaceful and beautiful, and although a mile or so long only had half a dozen mooring buoys, but strangely the only available one when we arrived, appeared so close to another boat that at first we thought it unusable. We motored around slowly looking at it from all angles before eventually picking it up and discovered over the next couple of days, that gusty winds coming down from the mountains and eddies in the current caused us both to swing in all directions whilst overiding the mooring one minute, then pulling back on it quite unpredictably, in a kind of slow dance which had us sometimes 75 yds apart and at others a mere biscuits toss from our neighbours. Our dancing partners were a group of Norwegians who rowed by to say hello and invite us to climb Petit Piton with them the next day, but we declined, preferring instead (???) to scrub down the boat for Amy's arrival.

Whilst scrubbing down the boat and lifting sole boards to check the bilge, one of the boards fell on Noley's foot. Apart from "Ouch ! ", not much was said at the time, but as the day went by, the pain increased until by evening she was unable to put any weight on it. You can imagine the difficulty that caused in getting ashore for the anaesthetic relief of a couple of pina coladas at the luxury resort ! The worried looking bar manager opined that we should have it looked at in hospital, and as we sipped away doing our wifi chores, we speculated on whether our European Health Insurance Cards would work in Martinique as neither of us had any travel insurance. And how would I get on sailing Holly Mae alone, after Amy had gone, with an invalid down below ! We asked for a bag of ice to put on it, and decided to wait and see how it was in the morning.

4th March. Much improved, it was , and we were able to motor back to Soufriere, row ashore and take a bus to the airport. After seeing a lot of coastal scenery, it makes a welcome change to take an hours bus trip and get a feel for inland island life. It was lush and interesting. We drove over a steel road bridge, just having been finished, and saw it's predecessor on its side 100 yds downstream, having been washed away in the Christmas floods. We drove past Vieux Fort, the scene of the recent boat murder................ it was, unsurprisingly, completely empty of visiting yachts.

It was great to see Amy walk out of the arrivals door, and after hugs and smiles all round we made our way back to Soufriere on the bus catching up on family news on the way. Back in town we went to stock up on provisions so that we could set off in the morning without coming ashore. It was the usual stuff; bread, water, veg, fruit.......................... 'til on the shelf we spotted Banana Ketchup. We had to try some of that. It was pretty good too !

5th March. The next morning we set of up the leeward coast of St Lucia to Marigot Bay, a well protected and picturesque anchorage conveniently half way up the island. The wind is very variable on the lee side of these high islands. One minute we were becalmed and the next we were heeled well over and and speeding along. We reached Marigot by lunchtime but were disappointed to find the anchorage in the inner lagoon was now taken up with moorings, and the southern shore was overdeveloped with a very flash marina development with apartments. Nevertheless it was still beautiful where we dropped anchor in the outer part of the inlet, coincidentally next to the Norwegian boat from the Pitons. That night we had the Norwegians over for a drop of rum, Noley got out her accordion and I my banjo. We played a few tunes and after a glass or two of punch we were entertained to some Norwegian songs and one of them, Roar by name, showed himself a dab hand on the accordion too. It was a late night and the crew of Holly Mae slept like the dead.
In the morning we discovered that a banana in the fruit bowl had been scooped out and eaten from one side, peel and all. Looking around we soon found guano in the fruit bowl, on the port settee berth and on the companionway steps about a foot from Amy's head. After scratching our heads and trying to find an explanation we concluded it could only have been a fruit bat, but nobody heard a thing !!! In the afternoon Amy and I did a bit of splicing and made a few sail ties to replace those which always seem to disappear.

7th March. After Marigot we had a great sail up to Rodney Bay, the most northerly anchorage in St Lucia. There's also a marina there, and we decided to take a berth in the marina and do some stocking up and also the immigration office for checking out was there. As it happened our Norwegian friends were also there on their last night of a charter. They insisted on returning our hospitality and it was another late night, although no fruit bats this time. Amy was with us for 7 nights, we'd spent 4 in St Lucia and we decided it would be more interesting to move on and spend her last 3 nights in Martinique. We reckoned there'd be a ferry or an inter-island flight back......... it wasn't very far.

8th March. Trade winds and sunshine gave us perfect conditions for a fast and easy passage and we arrived at the Grande Anse d'Arlet in mid afternoon. The big attraction here, we soon discovered, were the turtles swimming around the between the boats in the anchorage. It would only take about five minutes with a mask and snorkel to find one of these beautiful creatures grazing on the sea grass. We could then follow them around diving down for a closer look from time to time. We spent a long time in the water enjoying and filming them.

The next day we decided to move around the corner to the capital, Fort de France. We had in our minds, coffee and croissants for breakfast, and the sophistication of Paris in the Caribbean. Also our only cash was in Caribbean Dollars and we now needed Euros which we couldn't get in our anchorage so we weighed anchor and had a short sail of a couple of hours to reach Fort de France. The anchorage was good.................... plenty of space, good holding, no swell, near the town, but when we went ashore it was all quiet. Of course, it was Sunday. But we hadn't reckoned on it being this quiet. We couldn't find a croissant, we couldn't even find a cafe with Wifi, so we couldn't get any information about Amy's passage back to St Lucia. Never mind, tomorrow was Monday and the Tourist Information was just opposite the anchorage.

10th March. We discovered that the Tourist Office was closed on a permanent basis, presumably a victim of the economic situation (just like Penzance). Eventually we found a travel agent who told us that the ferries back to St Lucia ran three days a week and one of those days was not Tuesday ! The inter island flight to St Lucia took all day and visited several islands on the way, so the only thing for us to do was to go back there ourselves. In the afternoon we went back to the Grande Anse d'Arlet for more swimming with the turtles, and because it was an hour and a half nearer to St Lucia.

11th March. With lighter winds than we'd yet experienced since arriving in the Caribbean we broke out the tops'l and had a leisurely broad reach. It took about 5 hours and when we arrived in the early afternoon we went into the marina to check in with immigration and say goodbye to Amy. Since we weren't overly impressed with what we'd seen of Martinique, Noley and I decided to anchor out in the bay and see a bit more of Rodney Bay. We found a great little spot in the NW corner................ out of the swell, away from the noise and close to a nice little bar. We spent a couple of days walking and exploring and ended up staying put for 3 nights.