Rodney Bay, St Lucia
Fri 26 Apr 2013 11:12
Our sails have been rather more exciting than predicted recently, with an easy pootle down the coast turning into a 40 knot gale, with gusts falling off the headlands and the winds boxing the compass. However, the sail from Martinique to St Lucia was perfect. A lovely broad reach, blue seas and clear skies until we reached St Lucia, and even then the rain held off. It was perfect Caribbean sailing, with Boobies and Terns keeping us entertained, as well as the inevitable flying fish. We have got a little choosy about when we sail now. In England a bit of rain didn't stop us taking advantage of the opportunity to be out on the water, we needed oilskins against the cold mostly anyway, it just meant we put the hoods up! Now if it's raining we decide to wait for a while, get a few jobs done, curl up and watch a movie, go another day. There was a convenient break in the weather so we were off to find another Island to explore and find the 'flavour' of.
The North of St Lucia certainly presents an impressive picture, lots of steep low hills, arranged higgledy piggledy so that they are every shade of green imaginable. The bay we were heading for is just beyond the two peaks on the right of this photo, they're the peaks of Pigeon Island, which was the British stronghold for the area when the French and the British were battling it out for the rights to the Islands.
Here we're just rounding Pigeon Island (actually it has a man made causeway joining it to the mainland now). After this point the photos stop a while. This is because as we enter the bay there are three sails to take down, the anchor to prepare and lots of referencing the charts and pilot books to try to make sense of the layout of the bay, matching reality to the diagrams and pictures, and figuring out where best to anchor. We tried anchoring to the south of the entrance to the inner lagoon but our anchor dragged both times: a rocky sea bed, so we headed back to Pigeon Island and anchored just inside it's shelter, letting our CQR anchor dig into nice clear sand. Sail covers on, beer out and then it wasn't long before the first vendor arrived. We couldn't help but smile and we had to buy something from the most colourful floating fruit and veg shop on the Caribbean Sea!
The bay is ringed by wonderful sandy beaches. However, perhaps as a consequence, it is also ringed by massive hotels with jet skis and paragliding and water skiing and strange 'underwater experiences' which consist of groups of holiday makers being linked to floating tanks by tubes, wearing weights and then walking along the bottom of the sea bed. One sees clusters of the floating tanks all moving along ponderously in a line.
View from Pigeon Island. Lochmarin is in the middle of this picture, against the hill.
We journeyed across the bay in the dinghy to go and check in at customs, which is next to the Marina inside the inner lagoon. The lagoon is ringed by expensive properties with their own jetties, there's a big chandlery and lots of boat services, bars and restaurants abound and altogether it has a very upmarket feel. As we arrived Phil had said "I wonder who we'll see here" and sure enough when we were checking in there was a familiar face in the queue ahead of us: the wife of a Swiss couple we'd met in Guadeloupe and seen again when we were checking into Portsmouth customs. We offered her a dinghy ride back to her boat as her husband was aboard with a mechanic working on an autopilot problem they'd had, and as we got to the dinghy dock Cain and April turned up, folks we'd met in Grand Tarajal in the Canaries, and came across again in Martinique. We invited them over for dinner and had a relaxing evening chatting and comparing plans.
One of the more restrained houses alongside the lagoon, complete with private jetty, and one of the larger occupants of the Marina.
Pigeon Island is a delightful contrast to the huge hotels with beach umbrellas all around. It's a National Trust park so is undeveloped, just containing the ruins of the forts and one cafe, the enchanting Jambe de Bois, which has great rotis and perfect rum punches, complete with grated nutmeg on top, just as it should have. It also has an extensive bookshop and lots of local art for sale. The only fly in the ointment was the fact that as soon as you dock your dinghy you are pounced on by a lady wanting EC $16 each to pay for coming in the park, even if you just want to visit the cafe. The solution is to wait until out of office hours before you come ashore.
There were a lot of people snorkelling around the reef so we thought we'd give it a try but although it was nice to see plenty of the now familiar reef dwellers the visibility wasn't great so we were a bit disappointed. However we had fun playing with our new diving weights. The idea is that it gives you neutral buoyancy, making it much easier to duck dive down to investigate things when snorkelling. I was suspicious that if I put mine on I would instantly sink to the bottom and be unable to return. In actual fact I found if I did nothing I floated with just the tip of my snorkel peeping out, and when I duck dived I was able to drop much faster and I was able to return to the surface fine, although I suspect I was over compensating a little as Phil pointed out that I didn't need to come up so fast that I exploded several feet up into the air!
The cafe at Jambe de Bois.
Another Island, surprising me by being different again from any other we've visited, a different feel, a different flavour. Even the customs had a different feel; this was the sign painted on the wall there:
I can go with that...