Monday, July 1, 2013

St. Lucia

Friday, June 7 - Thursday, June 20, 2013
If you hear "Caribbean" and think of white sand beaches, crystal blue water, and fancy resorts with umbrella drinks, then St. Lucia definitely fits the bill. Our temporary home in Rodney Bay was within sight of the Sandals Grande and Landings complexes to the north, and the Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Royal St. Lucien to the south. Miles of soft golden sand ringed the bay, and beach chairs and sun umbrellas were everywhere. Throw in some jet skis, a few Hobie cats, and the para-sailors, and you had the carnival that was Rodney Bay. It was completely different from our last few islands, but the party atmosphere quickly sucked us in.

We arrived late Friday afternoon after a messy motor-sail from Martinique. We got pounded by 6-8' seas (the forecast said 4'...who are these guys?), and even had a couple of ten-footers. It was one of those days where we kept the motor on even though we could've sailed, simply because the winds were too light to give us any real speed. 3.5-4.0 knots without the motor vs. 5.5-6.0 knots with the motor...hmmm, let me think. Yep, we wanted to get out of those waves as quickly as possible! We anchored off the village of Gros Islet, just north of the entrance to Rodney Bay Marina. Talk about a boater's paradise! The marina and its lagoon are home to a dozen little bars and restaurants, laundromats, grocery stores, bakeries, souvenir shops, etc. If you dinghy a little farther into the lagoon, you reach the dock that opens out onto TWO malls. A lot of the shops were geared towards vacationers and second homeowners (think high-end clothing, jewelry, art, etc.), but we also found some great restaurants, a hardware store, and a beautifully-stocked supermarket. Yes, we cruisers really do get excited about a good meat and cheese section. :-)

We knew we'd be spending some quality time in Rodney Bay, thanks to a weather forecast that predicted high winds and 8-10' seas until sometime into the next century (or at least more than a week out). Hearing that a buoy 4 miles north had registered a 16' wave one morning really didn't give us a warm fuzzy feeling! What do cruisers do when they're stuck somewhere for weather? Plan get-togethers! Many of the boats around us had been to St. Lucia before, having done the St. Martin to Grenada shuffle a number of times.
Harry and Melinda on Sea Schell organized a gam (a.k.a. happy hour) at the marina one night, and John on Out of Africa spearheaded a BBQ/potluck another night. Friday was the big street party "jump-up" in Gros Islet, and Saturday was another BBQ/rum punch party at the yacht club. Calls soon went out announcing water aerobics, dominoes tournaments, and ladies' lunches, and we knew our cruiser family was beginning to get antsy.

Having so many creature comforts at our disposal made us a bit lazy, but we did manage to spend an afternoon hiking around Pigeon Island. Pigeon Island was once a separate island just off St. Lucia, but someone decided it would be a good idea to fill in the space between the two land masses.
It certainly generated some income for the island, as the new property became home to the Sandals Grande Resort. Pigeon Island is now a national park, complete with an old fort, military artifacts, and ruins. We hiked up to Signal Peak for some spectacular 360-degree views, followed by a hike to the old fort at the opposite end of the island. We all had jelly-legs by the end of the day, but the scenery made it all worthwhile.

We finally got a short weather window at the end of week #2. After a final Rodney Bay BBQ (thanks again to Out of Africa John and Joanne for organizing!), we made the 18-mile jump to the southern end of St. Lucia. We picked up a mooring between the twin peaks known as the Pitons, and enjoyed our first mostly-clear night in weeks. We were two days shy of the full moon, and had heard that seeing the moon come up between the Pitons was a sight not to be missed. Anne Bonny invited us over to enjoy a glass of wine for the moonrise, but the moon decided to rise in full daylight. We still managed to have a gorgeous night with great friends. That's what cruising is all about!

From here, we'll skip St. Vincent and go straight to Bequia. We're excited to re-visit the Grenadines, where we chartered with our Houston friends, John and Bonnie, a few years ago. The islands that make up the Grenadines are typically 5-20 miles apart, so we'll have some easy hops on our way down to Grenada. Cheers!

For more pictures of St. Lucia, please click here.
(Thanks to Jolanda on JoHo for the great shot of Pipe Muh Bligh!)

A few comments for our sailing friends headed to St. Lucia: First, if an official in Rodney Bay tells you that you can purchase a mooring permit for the Pitons in advance, do NOT do it! SMMA (the organization that manages the Soufriere and Pitons moorings) doesn't recognize Rodney Bay's permit and will ask you to pay AGAIN. Second, beware of petty thievery near Soufriere and the Pitons. Our friends had some items stolen off the back of their boat overnight. It might be time for us to replace our broken motion-sensor light...

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