Back to another "British" island

Darrell Jackson and Sarah Barnes
Wed 30 Apr 2014 19:00
14:05.47N 60:57.85W

Tuesday 22nd April
To clear out of Martinique required a 20 min walk over into the next town where "Cyberspace" was cunningly hidden in a portacabin off the Main Street with a tiny sign, visible only when you had come through the gate off the street. However once found we soon cleared out and had the benefit of picking up breakfast from the local, boulangerie on the way back to Stream. The 28nm sail to St Lucia passed uneventfully with no near misses and a hazy horizon that meant we only saw our destination in the distance after Martinique had disappeared astern. We anchored in Rodney Bay next to Pigeon Island and had a relaxing evening on board before clearing in the following morning.
I hate to say this, but the French Islands seemed to have cracked the formalities of customs and immigration with a single form and minimal costs associated, much better than the British Islands. We were back to a long form to be filled in by hand, declaring where we might want to anchor over the next 2 weeks before moving on to immigration and then the "port" authority who concoct a reason to charge us for using their waters. However the long wait due to "customers" in front of me was lightened by listening to the argument between the two custom officers about the smell that the cleaning lady made when she was cleaning around one of the officers that upset him. The "discussion" finished when the offended officer declared that he would take "a two hour comfort break" when cleaning was in progress and his colleague replied "Well that's on your conscience"
The rest of the day was spent exploring Pigeon Island which was another of our naval bases in the Caribbean and of strategic importance, as from the dual summits you can clearly see Martinique and those pesky French naval ships almost as soon as they depart on their raiding missions back in the 18th century. The weather was very hot and the shade provided by the small restaurant/bar on the beach provided a welcome break from where we could watch the guests from the nearby Sandals Hotel on their snorkelling trips all resplendent in obligatory hi viz waistcoats and corporate masks and fins as they were shepherded around the reef. After an enjoyable snorkel ourselves when the crowds had gone, we motored the short distance across the bay into the marina where we would remain for the next few days for our crew changes.
Time for another adventure on the local buses. Adam required a "dry run" for the trip to the airport and we had to collect our new crew in the afternoon. St Lucia has two airports, Vigie in the north, a few miles from our base in Rodney Bay, and Hewanorra in the extreme south. Unfortunately international flights land at Hewanorra, over 40km away at Vieux Fort. We first caught the bus from the marina into Castries the capital where we found we had a short walk across the city to pick up the bus for the airport. Fortunately a young local man saw us looking around and offered to show us the way, which he did, combining it with a mini tour of the city during which he gave a very informative narrative. This also included introducing us to his uncle who was sitting in a 4x4 and who had studied in the NE. He claimed to be a "Geordie" but it turned out he had been studying in Sunderland. So we had met our first Rastafarian Macam! Our tour guide sorted out which bus we needed to catch and also established the fare before we boarded, all in all a very helpful young man who wanted no recompense.
We had to wait a short while for the bus to fill and the driver had collected the fares. The journey south was on well made roads and crossed the central mountains where the ravages of the Christmas Eve floods on St Lucia were only too evident in the amount of road works to repair areas that had been washed away in gullies or had simply slipped away down the steep hillsides. The steepness and bends in the roads made it an interesting journey, especially as we passed a crash where a bus had spun and hit the side of the hill backwards. We climbed through rain forest that was very different to Dominica in that it was more populous and everywhere we looked there were signs of cultivation, particularly of bananas. Bananas provide the islands main income from exports (mainly to Britain) and are seen growing in their protective blue bags all over the island. The bags apparently help prevent damage by insects. Even high in the hills we passed through quite big settlements. As the road weaved it's way across the island we were treated to dramatic views of the Atlantic coast, quite different to that of the west coast. After an hours journey, we were dropped at the end of the road down to the airport, leaving us with a five minute walk and all for £2.50 each.
Strangely no Virgin flights were listed on the Arrivals board, but a quick check with the staff informed us that not only was the flight on time, but our new crew should be through with us within fifteen minutes of landing, not something that we had encountered in the Caribbean before. This gave us time for a quick lunch of very large chicken Rotis (for the carnivores amongst us) As promised our crew walked out of the terminal twelve minutes after they had landed, with all of their luggage! We all piled into a taxi (quite a lot more expensive: £12 each!) back to Rodney Bay. All was well, apart from Sarah leaving her phone in the taxi and having to wait until the next morning for it to be returned to her. (She bore the lack of What'sApp communications stoically, but was very relieved to regain her phone in the morning!)
We spent the day settling in our new crew and saying goodbye to Adam. We had a gentle day and evening, which was somewhat spoilt by the off key karaoke in a nearby bar throughout much of the evening.
We caught the local bus into Castries and gave our new crew a guided tour based on what we had learned from the helpful local earlier in the week. We wandered through the markets and parks. There was a rally to celebrate the youth of St Lucia, manned by teenagers who were doing the Gold Duke of Edinburgh award and army cadets. Once back into the marina we launched the dinghy and went across the lagoon to the large American supermarket to stock up on essentials ready for our journey south the following day. We then spent a pleasant happy hour on the waterfront, before a very good meal at the local Indonesian restaurant in the marina followed by an early night.