St Lucia 25th Jan-2nd Feb

Chris & Sally Longstaff
Sun 4 Mar 2007 14:36

St Lucia


On (and back) to St Lucia, with memories and people to possibly revisit.

First stop Rodney Bay, finishing post for the ARC yachts. A surprisingly narrow and hard-to-spot entrance in a sweeping bay. Could be exasperating after a long difficult voyage! We are delighted to see that St Lucia looks very prosperous, thriving and buzzing. Lots of big houses on the hills and apparently successful restaurants and shops around the marina. Do not know how much of this is attracted by the ARC Rally, but it looks to be a healthy situation.


Have a great few days hanging out in Rodney Bay. St Lucians are still “irie”.


Pink dinghy attracts the attention of Mike and Jos + daughters Pippa (7) and Justine (5); English and South African converts to Oz who are heading home from picking up their 25 year old (inherited) Trintella from France.  Theirs was an horrific crossing involving unravelling mast stays, and subsequent mid-Atlantic “help”.  There begins another very happy and welcome “buddy” cruising relationship………especially for Maddie!


After three chilled days we head south to Soufriere, where we stayed for three weeks some 19 years ago!! Some guide books have labelled Soufriere “Rasta town”, with a hint of menace.  There are certainly a few more Rastas around these days (all over the Caribbean!) but less evidence of “ganja” than there was 20 years ago, and no gangster threats, or hostility.


Anse Chastanet, scene of the best coral reef diving we have ever done, and where Sally learned to dive … overwhelmed with tourist diving. We went for an exploratory couple of dives, but I was not allowed to wear my knife (admittedly it is a bit of a diving antique and something of an anachronism; a machete by modern standards. ) ……..and gloves (so I could not / would not touch anything??). Now if I was to get on my soap-box I would say something about teaching people to dive properly (all those flailing arms and legs are too much) before denying people the traditional tools of safe diving……. Anyhow in summary the coral is depleted but surviving; however the fantastic profusion of fish-life has all but gone.


The bay in Soufriere is incredibly well organised with licensed boats organising moorings, transportation etc, and Marine Rangers keeping a concerned eye on all comings and goings (and collecting appropriate fees for the park! Good stuff) . There is now a Marine Industries Association of St. Lucia, and a local college delivering courses in boat management and tourism, legitimising and professonalising the traditional “boat-boys”; who have chosen as their title “Tourism Water-based Freelancers”. “Levi” takes good care of us including arranging trips to the volcano and botanical gardens.


One of the  best eating experiences in the Caribbean at Benny’s. Excellent food and a real “home” ambiance!


We discover that out host of 19 years ago, Peter (who at the time had just given up life in a rum-shack with all its associate benefits to court a local girl; involving the replacing of indiscriminate alcohol by regular church) is still to be found in town! By all and everyone’s account in the corner of his local bar! Peter, ex-diver extraordinaire, is now a happily married father of two grown sons and a professional photographer. A happy reunion all round, over a couple of beers.


We make  a nostalgic visit to Dashene, the hotel / restaurant set high between the famous Pitons. Sally’s “one of the best views in the world”. Now a very expensive hang-out. It breaks my heart to think the last time we were here it was semi-derelict and closed….if only we’d had the money!


Next day we anchor below the Pitons in the bay that was once inhabited by an elephant left behind after the filming on Dr Dolittle, which they obviously did to return the poor elephant home. As we settled down to a green flash sunset a massive cruise ship enters the bay, to completely obscure the horizon. After a little “dare you” prompting Sally radios a request that they move! They politely confirm their intentions to do so, and we celebrated a victory for the small cruiser ….then a second ship appears round the headland to replace the first! Paradise is full of tourists.


We are told that there have been 38 murders in Castries in one year; mainly gang and drug related. A bi-product of the demise of the healthy state of employment for all that existed when the St Lucian banana trade flourished; destroyed by the policies of the ironically termed “free trade”. We were relieved and delighted to find that the wonderful friendly, humorous, lively, warm and welcoming St. Lucians we remember were still in charge of life on the island that we visited.