VIEUX FORT, LABORIE, and two goodbyes.

Nigel North
Sat 21 Apr 2012 12:50

POSITION:  13:43.00N 60:57.27W

Sunday 15 April 2012 To VIEUX FORT, ST LUCIA, and goodbye to a Brother.

Letting go the visitors buoy mid morning we set course south for Vieux Fort - the most southerly point of Saint Lucia, where the International Airport of Hewanorra is situated. Built by the Americans in WW2, it is close to an anchorage off Vieux Fort and much more convenient to get Stu on a flight back to Canada than a taxi from the other end of the Island. We motored at first in nil wind, but once around the corner and heading SE we picked up 25 knots easterly and made good time - it is that variable here. This put us close on the wind, but PW held his own and we only had to motor the final half mile. The anchorage is just off the seawall of the small fishing port there, and we joined three other boats. I made a couple of circuits between the boats and wall to check out the depths, but on the second circuit got a bit close to the reef and had the pleasure of seeing 2metres on the depth guage. Gulp.. Pinball draws 1.7m.

The bloke in the catamaran next to us - a Brit - shouted across 'make sure you are we are well dug in as there's a reef there!' Yes, we know! This was Bill, with his wife Caroline, who we met later on in the week - a great couple. We were invited on board a couple of days later for the famous British cup of tea and a chat. Another Brit couple in an aluminium Ovni 39 were there too, and both the guys were kite surfers, and they weren’t sure either where they were going to go for the hurricane season but thought maybe the ABC Islands. This is something I had considered too - much nicer than Trinidad they say - but if I went there I wouldn’t be able to get back to the Windwards next season as it would be against wind and current.

Going ashore in the dinghy, we were met by Ricky the local Mr fixit who agreed to taxi Stu into the Airport at 0500 the next day for US$12. ‘Done.’ He also owned three boats for fishing trips he told us, and a smart van. Otherwise most of the locals looked quite poor, and accommodation off the beaten track was very basic and wooden.

We had a wander around the town which is completely non tourist, and full of stray dogs, thin horses and feral pigs nosing through the rubbish. Fish were being sold from a wooden cart in the high street, and there were plenty of small shops with hand painted signboards selling jewellery and nick nacks. Food shops were basic, with some tinned food, flour, and water, but up the road was the Mall, with a well stocked supermarket, which we visited later in the week. Stu wanted to check out the route to walk to the airport in case Ricky failed to turn up, so we walked the beginnings of the route, but I would have been very surprised indeed if Ricky had let us down - St Lucians are real entrepreneurs and never miss an opportunity to earn a dollar.

Monday 16th April

Ricky was there on the dot of 0500, whilst we arrived three minute before, and as soon as his feet touched the ground Stu announced that he was walking it - I’ll swear he wanted to all along just to prove he could - but Ricky’s smart van coming round the corner put the stoppers on that. Then he was gone.

It has been really good to spend time with Stu for once, we talked a lot. Eight years is a long time, and anyway we were burying our Mother back then so not much time for chat. His ability to speak Creole to the locals has had an amazing effect - instant friendliness, the guards come down, the smiles come out. Dayan is also fluent, with similar effect. Down here where tourist rarely come, it has proved a powerful tool, as it is the local tongue of preference and universal amongst the Islands. 95% speak it here.

I don’t unfortunately.

After a kip, breakfast and so on, we went ashore again with Dayan’s kite surfing kit to find the Reef kite surfing shack on the windward beach over the other side of the peninsular sheltering PW from the trades. No one was kite surfing. But Dayan

soon was, up the top end of the beach where the wind was on shore. This earned us a telling off from the thin Dutch lady that runs the kite surf business, as it was right in front of the runway. Well, we couldn’t see it! Dayan tactfully pointed out that no aircraft had taken off anyway..

Wednesday 18 April

We decide to set sail for Laborie, a few miles back up the coast. A pleasant sail downwind-ish, we arrived mid pm and slowed down. The guide book says ‘entrance is easy in good light’ so I wasn’t too bothered about getting in to this anchorage, until that is I read what the chart said: ‘Laborie anchorage is very exposed in southern winds and entry is difficult and dangerous for inexperienced yachtsmen’. Now, did that mean dangerous in southern winds, or dangerous full stop? The chart gave a couple of lead in bearings which we followed, dead slow, 010degrees to the west end of the village until intercepting the church on 054degrees. Followed meticulously, this put us nicely on top of a reef with a depth of less than 2 metres. I have control, reverse, and back out to drop anchor in a safer bay called Petit Trou half a mile from the village. Phew.

But the swell was coming round the corner and doing a fine job of rolling us around, and as Dayan had already found cause to curse the rolly anchorage back in Vieux Fort, we cut our losses and sailed back - but this time to anchor close inshore in Anse Benson - a bit further out from the fishing port but nice flat water and just one other yacht at anchor. We slept well.

Next day Bill from the catamaran stopped by in his dinghy, and said they would be moving over here too as it was a bit rolly off the harbour wall. By Friday morning, all the boats had moved across.


Thursday 19 April

The weather has changed. Sunshine has been replaced by clouds and rain in the afternoon, and last night we were hit with strong blasts of air up to gale force. This had quite an effect on the dinghy, which for security reasons we had been hoisting up to deck level at night on the genoa halyard, and locking it. This makes it particularly difficult to steal without making a fair bit of noise so would need a pretty determined fellah. But six inches of rain plus the wind and the dinghy was facing skywards so we dropped it back in the water for the night. But today the wind had died away mostly, and it was still cloudy which is bad news if your power source is a wind generator and solar panels.

Being Dayan’s last day, we set off anyway to the kite surfing place again, this time going by minibus. In a road just down from the Mall a long line of minibuses sit waiting for custom. Not one has a destination on it, so local knowledge is required to figure out which one of the dozen or so vans to get in. Dayan asked a young lady in the first one and as luck would have it, it was going our way. Only one thing, they don’t leave until full. We squeezed in the back seats and wedged the kite and board in somehow. Slowly it filled with a subdued clientele. Finally, just one seat remained, the one between Dayan and myself. The driver, a huge brute of a man who spoke in a torrent, insisted on waiting for the the last passenger. Dayan offered to pay for the empty seat. He said something unintelligible. We waited. Dayan paid him. And finally the last passenger is in.

‘You have to tell the drivah where you goin’ said the old lady in front of us. Well we had done that hadn‘t we. But it didn’t seem to affect the driver’s plan much as the van whistled past our stop at great speed. Dayan shouted out, and we crash stopped.

The wind was benign. We sat at a table in front of the pleasant open café and chatted. A youngish guy came up, clearly American and asked how long we’d been here. ‘Well, about three, or maybe four minutes’ I replied cleverly, congratulating myself on such a splendid repost. ‘He means how long in St Lucia’ corrected Dayan.

It turned out that our new friend, Josh, was a New Yorker, a kite surfer, and had just arrived on his own. He was clearly a bit lonely..

‘You don’t sound like a New Yorker’, I said.  Well you can always tell a real New Yowakk'r can't you.

‘Why would you come kite surfing alone?.mused Dayan later. ‘Hidden agenda there’.

But Josh didn’t get his kite out. Luckily, he found another New Yorker to talk to, although with a girlfriend and so not looking overly delighted. Josh kept just popping up when we weren’t quite expecting it, like halfway through a meal we had later.

The wind was about 8 knots - not enough. But on the horizon were rain storms and for a short while the wind would pick up as they came through. Unfortunately Dayan was halfway through a Creole Calamari dish when the next one came through, but finally he was ready to go when the wind picked up later on. But it was no good, the kite just dropped back into the sea.

Back on the boat after a walk through town in twilight, it was pack up time as Ricky would be on the quay at 0500 tomorrow to take Dayan back to the airport. And I would be singlehanded again. It is never easy to adjust to one’s own company after a visit, and especially so when the visitor is as interesting, lively and competent as Dayan proved to be.