Nigel North
Fri 2 Mar 2012 03:17
Position:  14:04.45N 60:56.97W   Rodney Bay, St Lucia

24 Feb - 29 Feb 2012 BARBADOS to St LUCIA

24 -25 Feb: Another hot sunny day at anchor but this was all change day. Alfie was getting off, and I was going on to St Lucia.

We said our goodbyes in the lush surroundings of the marina yacht club beach bar after a coffee and idle chat about this and that, but as soon as he was gone I jumped in Pinky and made my way back to Pinball - there was much to do. It was not until later I realised I’d not said any of the things I’d meant to say, in the heat of the moment.

It took a couple of hours to stow everything that could move, check all the running rigging, engine, set up the nav aids, and a host of other things. Better to do them now, than at sea when you are singlehanded. But by 1500 the powerful electric windlass on the bow was hauling the anchor chain on board until the Rocna appeared, pleasantly clean for once. And it was as if Pinball knew what I wanted for we were sailing away on the right course at a gentle 3 knots whilst I was still on the bow stowing the Rocna, for I had set the mainsail, triple reefed, whilst still at anchor as it’s easiest when into wind.

At first the wind was fairly light, from the NE. But we were still in the lee of the Island, so I kept PW reefed, expecting gusts. None came. As we headed NW bound for the northern tip of St Lucia and started leaving Barbados behind, I relaxed a bit and shook out one reef - all seemed well. But by 2200 the wind had strengthened considerably and that reef was back in place and the genoa half rolled away too. It was quite dark too with no moon to help tonight, and with the wind and sea on the beam, PW was starting to roll around. By midnight it was Force 7-8 with building seas and by now I was heavily reefed. By 0300 I was concerned about broaching into wind and decided to turn and run downwind with the sea and make instead for the southern tip of St Lucia - a much longer run but the last part would be safely in the lee of St Lucia up the west coast, the prevailing winds being NE’ly.

As soon as we turned, the situation improved with a reduced relative wind and a much kinder motion. Normally I would set the genoa and douse the mainsail for downwind work, but to do that would have meant  turning across the sea and into wind to drop the main -  risky. But Archie the self steering seemed to be managing nicely to hold us on course with just the main out to port on a preventer, so I left it at that. And it took us nicely all the way without a single broach or even veering off course in what were now seas of at least 3m. And then I had a visitor, in the dead of night.  After flying around a bit, he landed on the lifeline and stayed there for sometime, having a break and a free ride at the same time.  I believe it may have been a white faced storm petrel.   See pic. Dawn came soon after the lights of St Lucia showed on the Stbd bow, and I was glad to see it.

Rounding the southerly bluff of Moule a Chique promontory, the seas moderated but the wind backed more northerly - now on the nose. Never mind, I was grateful for the calmer waters and motored the last part - still in strong force 6-7 gusting 8 winds - and passed one large commercial catamaran with a shredded genoa on the way. It was a busy stretch of water with dozens of yachts and cats making their way south, and quite a few disappearing to the west too bound for Central America. Commercial booze cruisers - large catamarans full of people and rum - were common. One did wonder what safety equipment they carried?...

Entering Rodney Bay up in the NW corner of the Island I soon found the entrance to the lagoon that is now Rodney Bay Marina - the final destination for all ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) boats, and me! All around the bay were yachts at anchor as this is one of the top cruiser destinations in the Caribbean. Motoring up the canal leading to the marina, I passed gaily coloured local boats with massive outboards. On VHF I’d been given the berth D13, so the trick was to find out where that was, so passing one bloke in the marina itself I shouted to him. ‘Ummm….’ as he thought about it. ‘Well, this ones F, so must be two down from here’. Logical, but wrong. Never mind, I did a 3 point turn in front of the marina and there was another bloke, bearded and very English, taking a great deal of interest in me, so much so I wondered if it was Paul with a new beard (a stupid idea, but on two hours sleep…) So I asked him and he not only got it right but arrived there first to help.   

The St Lucians have made a tremendous effort to welcome yachties to their Island and the marina is excellent with big spacious pontoons, and every on site facility. Even clearing in with Customs wasn’t too bad - its on site, the 3 people to see are all in the same room, and they speak English! (This last a joy to those of us who have come via the Canaries - where they don’t if they can help it.)

As I’m walking away from this, I’m hailed by good friends Paul and Sam who then proceeded to spoil me rotten all night, finishing up at Jo’s birthday party from midnight. I think I lasted a couple of hours before walking back to the marina, in need of my bunk. Next day I was lambasted for doing such a thing by Jo’s Ian who’ve lived here for 12 years. He was attacked once and hospitalised.

26 -29 Feb

And since then, Paul and Sam having returned UK, I’ve done a bit of sightseeing, some shopping, and a great deal of sleeping. Come 9pm its as if someone has injected me with morphine as I pass out, to wake groggily later. I guess this is the body’s response to 24 nights of watchkeeping, with rarely more than 2 ½ hours asleep in one go. So yesterday afternoon I decided it was time I did something useful and burrowed into the fo’castle to find the bimini (sunshade) that fits over the cockpit. Well the beautiful, perfect in every respect 50’ Finnish ketch next door which has everything, had his beautful perfect bimini out in minutes. I think it took me about six hours to finally fit the fiddly plastic fittings on the right bits of rigging - well it was well dark certainly - prompting an offer of help from the bronzed Finnish Adonis as the unattached yellow canvas threatened to fly away in the suddenly strong winds as soon as I got it out. But being stubborn I declined, and continued, when the opposite would have been better. And do you know, just to teach me a lesson, its done nothing but rain ever since - 24 hours non stop so far.