30th May 2022
Despite our best efforts we arrived into Rodney bay on the north-west coast of Saint Lucia just after dark. It was dusk as we approached the large sweeping bay with the famous towering "Piton" mountains visible off in the distance; but of course as we approached the wind died and by the time we had closed land it was dark and the shorelights of Saint Lucia were twinkling invitingly at us.
We had taken down the French Tricolor once more and raised the Saint Lucia courtesy flag that I had made along with the yellow "Q" flag as we approached. We now found ourselves a spot with plenty of space around us towards the southern end of the large bay and dropped our anchor.
The next day was our 8 year Wedding Anniversary and we celebrated by going ashore to check-in and complete our arrival health checks and paperwork; for which we were awarded a wristband much like you might receive on arrival at an all inclusive holiday resort. We then went off in search of a shop to purchase a local SIM card which we located at the large shopping mall a 20 minute walk from Rodney bay Marina and having successfully completed our arrival chores we decided to celebrate with our first cold "Piton" beer since we had holidayed here on the island some 10 or 12 years previous. This was something Jamie had been looking forward to immensely and we found a bar overlooking the shopping centre and paid the princely sum of $9ec each for them which was nearly twice as much as we'd paid for a bottled beer anywhere in the Caribbean so far. We enjoyed our drink but quickly removed the rather conspicuous wrist bands after that; deciding that if we were questioned on why we had removed them we could justify that it was dangerous to wear them on a boat (which is a good argument as we never wear jewellery around our wrists or fingers when sailing for safety reasons). Interestingly after removing the wristbands we never paid more than $5ec or $6ec for a beer anywhere in Saint Lucia.
We stopped at the "Boardwalk" bar in Rodney bay Marina just in front of the dinghy dock for happy hour on our way back to the boat and this became our Saint Lucia "local" for the duration of our stay. Here we met a few ex-pat locals and on one very memorable night we met the lovely little gang of work colleagues from the local Digicel offices who we ended up befriending and drinking with until the wee small hours of the following morning. We also fell in love with a feline family that lived under one of the small buildings opposite the boardwalk bar. This small family of ginger cats consisted of Mum whom we named Pumpkin and her two kittens; the bolder of which we named Munchkin and his much more reclusive brother. We also saw Dad strolling around occasionally although we suspected he had other families dotted around the vicinity. Of course these guys got a lot of fuss and attention from us - as well as a lot of treats - and it was not long before I could summon them with a quick "pssp psssp" from the dinghy as we approached the dock and they would be waiting to greet us on the boardwalk when we arrived.
A few days after we arrived it was the Queen's platinum jubilee and interestingly; or not depending on if you are a big supporter of the Royal Family or not, we saw no reference to it whatsoever on the island. This was to be the first of two significant moments in the history of the British monarchy (sadly by the time I wrote this you will already know the second) that we were in the British Caribbean islands for and despite the Queen still being the head of state in these islands and her face appearing on the Eastern Caribbean Dollar bills we saw no other references to the British monarchy and no acknowledgement of the platinum jubilee - or the subsequent death of Queen Elizabeth a few months later. Infact there had been a royal visit by the Earl and Countess of Wessex (Eddy & Soph) during our time in Antigua and if I hadn't happen to read about it online I would never have known despite being in English Harbour where they visited at the time. Not that we saw any hostility towards the British monarchy - just no interest in them in stark contrast to the overwhelming love and support for them that you see on the whole in the UK. It does make you wonder if the recent removal of the Queen as head of state in Barbados is something we might see across other British islands - especially with the Coronation of a new monarch on the horizon. Interesting times.
Anyway we chose to spend our "Platty Joobs" visiting Pigeon island at the north end of Rodney Bay and hiking around the old fortifications and up to the top of the hill where we could enjoy spectacular views across Rodney Bay and right across to the Pitons in the south of the island. It was a challenging hike up to the summit to get the best views but the reward was quite special. Afterwards we treated ourselves to lunch and a beer at the pretty little cafe still within the National Park and overlooking the bay. We each had Chicken Roti and a cold Piton to recharge our batteries.
We enjoyed exploring a little around the local area and took a walk out to the Daren Sammy cricket ground just to check it out. When we arrived there was a football event going on with two football pitches set up and from what we could gather it was local St Lucia teams playing teams from Trinidad. We had made ourselves a picnic lunch of sandwiches and fruit and were able to take a seat up in the lovely shade of the stands and watch as the teams played in rotation and the MC gave increasingly exuberant commentary. It was a lovely way to pass an hour or so. We walked back towards Rodney Bay taking a slightly different route to that which we'd taken on the way there and whilst winding our way back along the steep roads with huge gated houses we drew the attention of several stray dogs which didn't make for a particularly relaxing walk home. We are used to being followed about by dogs in the Caribbean but these were not very friendly looking ones and I couldn't help feeling uncomfortable with the rather menacing way they stalked behind us; especially in an area where all the local residents seemed to be closeted away behind security gates and high fences - often with rather menacing hounds of their own baring their teeth at us from behind their barbed-wire compounds. I was very happy to emerge back onto the main road back to Rodney Bay Marina and the safety of my little rowing boat!
Whilst coming and going from the dock at the marina we regularly found a small covered dinghy so laden with fruit, vegetables and plants that it's produce nearly touched the waterline; boasting a comical little sign declaring it "available for charter" and nestled inside Gregory - a very friendly guy from whom we bought all manner of excellent fruit and vegetables. On posting some pictures of Gregory's little floating emporium on social media one of our friends who had sailed through the Caribbean some 15 years previous commented that she wondered if it was the same person who used to have a little boat covered in national flags from all over the world and selling vegetables all those years ago. I showed Gregory her photos and he confirmed that was indeed his boat. He gestured across the marina to where a pristine little dayboat sat adorned with little flags ready to take daytrippers out for tours of the bay and said wistfully; "he copied me so I took the flags down". I would like to think if we returned to St Lucia in 15 years time Gregory will still be plying his trade on the dinghy dock and touring the boats of the anchorage with his delicious mangoes; bananas, pinapples, sour sops, pamplemousses and vegetables!
During our stay in Rodney bay the boats around us changed about with the usual regularity.. It is an enormous bay with plenty of room at both ends to anchor in water of reasonable depths. There was one boat which arrived and seemed reticent to come into the bay; chosing instead to anchor right out on the very periphery. We both passed comment between us on why this might be as it seemed odd in such a large bay with so much space available to drop anchor so far out - especially as the dinghy ride into the marina up a channel is quite a distance from any part of the bay. Anyway we happened to meet the crew of this boat one night as we rowed back to Hamble Warrior from an evening at the boardwalk bar. As we rowed up the channel towards the bay we came across a couple in an inflatable RIB with a silent outboard on the back rowing their way painfully slowly up the channel with a single oar. We have frequently passed comment that a considerable shortcoming of the universally popular "RIB & outboard" combo that nearly all cruising sailors favour is that should the outboard ever fail they are really not craft designed to be easily rowed - particularly with any decent sized outboard on the transom... and particularly with just a single paddle to row with. We asked if we could assist as they really didn't look like they were making much progress at all and they readily accepted so we threw them a tow rope and Jamie proceeded to row our new convoy through the channel and out into the bay. While Jamie concentrated on rowing I asked the couple which boat they were on; and of course we soon established they were on the boat anchored right out of the bay!! As we passed Hamble Warrior they bravely offered to take it from there on their own but we didn't like the idea of them setting off to the outer reaches of the bay where there may be stronger currents with just their single paddle so we rowed them all the way back to their boat - ironically named "Magic Moments" where they scrambled aboard and waved us goodbye with a cheery thanks! It was quite rewarding to know that despite the frequent comments we get by fellow cruisers; "how DO you manage without an outboard" that not only can we manage just fine without an outboard but that we shouldn't ever find ourselves in the predicament that MM were in having suffered outboard failure... I mean it wasn't as rewarding as say a nice bottle of wine of buying us a round of drinks to say thank you when we saw them next but unfortunately that was the reward we had to settle for as there didn't seem to be anything else forthcoming!! Based on how little progress they were making in the channel where there was little wind or current one has to wonder if they would have made it back to their boat (another mile out) without some sort of tow; certainly it was at the very least an hour of paddling ahead of them if they were to make it - pretty sure that's worth a couple of beers in most people's book but obviously not! Oh well never mind... "I'll never forget the moment" as the song goes!!
A few days later we prepared to leave and took a wander along the main road back towards the big shopping precinct to check out the fabric shop we had spotted in the hope of buying some stocks of various coloured fabrics for my onward courtesy flags. Unfortunately it was here that we learned it was a bank holiday and so we ditched our plans to browse shops and went to the beach instead. We had a lovely afternoon swimming and playing ball on the beach in front of the once very grand hotel that was now closed down and unoccupied.
The day before we left we went to check out with immigration at the marina and then took our water cans to the fuel dock to top up our tanks. As we started to fill the cans a squall came through and we both got absolutely soaked to the skin. Whilst I sat in the dinghy poking the hose pipe into each of the big 25 litre cans in turn whilst rain battered down on me I reminded myself once again that we really needed to crack on and finish making the water catcher for Hamble Warrior. There is something utterly senseless about filling water cans at fuel docks in the tropics where so much rain falls out of the sky with such regularity.
That night we went to bed early ready for an early start the next day. We had enjoyed our stay in St Lucia and enjoyed seeing Rodney Bay - not a part of the island we had visited on our holiday here all those years ago. It probably won't ever be amongst our favourite of the British Caribbean islands. We didn't feel the warmth from the locals that we have felt in other parts of the Caribbean and once you step back away from the white sandy beaches there is a strong sense of two very different worlds living uncomfortably alongside each other. An island of the very wealthy and the very poor; the "haves" and the "have nots", large houses with gated compounds around them and huge Sandals resorts, marinas full of enormous catamarans and huge American-flagged powerboats, large cliques of European and American ex-pats sitting around in bars where one not only is expected to pay more for drinks than any other part of the Caribbean we have visited but also to grease the barmaid's palm with a sizeable tip each time or face an open display of distain. It is a shame to say that a few experiences marred our overall enjoyment of the island when we did meet some lovely people and make some happy memories, but I think there are some fundamental problems with an island comprised of so much disparity in wealth and as I write this there have been some unfortunate incidents in the southern part of the island where visiting boats have experienced open hostility; threatening behaviour and in some cases now violence. It is very sad when you consider what a warm welcome visiting yachts receive in other parts of the Caribbean.
At 6.30am on Wednesday the 8th June after 9 days in St Lucia we lifted our anchor and set sail out of Rodney Bay. We sailed along the cost passing the beautiful boutique hotel "Calabash Cove" where we had stayed all those years back and "Rat island" that we paddled all the way out to on a kayak during that stay. We carried on south and passed the majestic Pitons just as the first of several squalls passed through and as we finally left St Lucia behind us we pointed ourselves towards the Grenadines.