Monday, 10 August 2015

St Lucia – Back where we started (again)

St Lucia – Back where we started (again)

July, stand by, as the rhyme says. So far this season we have had no tropical storms in the Caribbean but we should be moving south just to be safe. The Grenadines are always a good place to go for the summer and the further south we go the safer we are likely to be from any bad weather. We are also now cruising with a purpose, our bimini and sprayhood are in urgent need of repair as the zips holding the two together are falling apart. Our roller furling genoa is also in need of the sailmakers needle as the UV strip that protects the sail when it is furled has got several tears in it. A half decent blow will reduce it to tatters and then the repair could really be expensive.

St Lucia will be a good place to get some repairs done, we also want to get to Carriacou by the end of the month for the Carriacou regatta, so we really should get our skates on. It is only about 110 miles from Rodney bay St Lucia to Tyrrel bay Carriacou and Bequia in between, but at the rate we sometimes travel it could take us more than a month then we would miss the regatta. (For those wondering why it takes us so long to travel such short distances, it is not the speed that we make while moving that slows us down, but the distractions ashore that tend to keep us in one place for a while.) 

Thursday 2nd July. With a forecast of 15-20 knots and moderate seas (1.5m) we have an early start from Anse d’Arlet. We know the wind is always stronger than predicted and especially at the northern end of St Lucia. We have set the working jib on our inner forestay, partly in anticipation of the higher than forecast winds but also to save the genoa from any more damage.

Bonjour le flics

The first couple of hours are slow going as the wind is only 10-15 kts and we are punching a bit of tide along the south coast of Martinique. Ideally we should have more sail up, in the first two hours we are only making 4 kts, then the wind picks up and we are making 4.5, then 5.5kts. That’s much better. Our speed is increasing and so are the wind and waves, crashing towards the north of St Lucia in a F5 gusting 6 with the waves up to 3m. We are glad of the small headsail. (So much for the forecast!) Looking behind we can see a helicopter coming right towards us, we have already had a good show of sea birds, red billed tropic birds, brown noddys, boobies and frigate birds and now the French coastguard helicopter! 

We think they are looking for a missing boat as there has been a lot of radio traffic. The ‘chopper comes low and close making a complete circle around us all the time taking photo’s. We wave politely (not the Agincourt salute) and they are on their way back towards Martinique.

Sailing from Martinique to St Lucia the current sets you to the west but you always manage to make it back east around the north of St Lucia, the wind tends to follows you so you can point up high. Sailing right into Rodney bay we anchor south of the marina entrance off the yacht club in 5.5m of water. The log shows we sailed 34 miles in 7 hours, a moving average of 4.8Kts, not too bad in the end.

Flamboyants in bloom rounding Pidgeon point

Friday we are off to check in, arrange our canvas repairs, collect our new portable generator, sort out internet and telephone connections, refill our propane bottle, get fuel for the outboard, Gregory comes by with fruit and veg . St Lucia is as hectic as ever.

Gregory 'flamboyant ' as ever!

We are pleasantly surprised with the sail repair. While the sailmaker is busy, he can fit us in on Monday and we will get it back Tuesday afternoon. He will look at the bimini and sprayhood once we are in the marina as it is easier. Hopefully the wind will drop so we can get the genoa off easily.

On Tuesday we moved into the almost empty marina, now for the big jobs. Kenny the sailmaker inspected our bimini and sprayhood and declared that the canvass was still serviceable, all we needed was a couple of zips and some reinforcing at the pressure points. Re assuring in one way but looks like we will still have mis-matched canvas for a while longer. We cleaned up the canvas before giving it to him for repair -it will look much better when finished.


Onto the next job, replacing the galley tap, sounds simple really but without a basin spanner almost impossible. Fortunately the marina handyman was available and had the right tool. Between us we managed to do the job. At last we can fill the kettle under the tap and don’t have to worry about knocking plates and glasses against it when washing up!

And after

We engaged some local help to polish the hull and took the outboard for a service. A shiny hull, repaired and washed bimini, new tap in the galley, we won’t recognise the ‘old girl’. The outboard service was a bargain, ES$90, it would have cost EC$30 to buy a bottle of oil for the outboard leg, besides which I couldn’t undo the screw anyway!

Without our bimini and sprayhood we have rigged up the boom tent awning, it will give us some shade and a bit of protection from the showers. Roll on Saturday when we get our canvas back. 

So with our canvas back eventually, (there was a delay due to a power failure so we had to wait until mid afternoon) we are back at anchor in almost the same spot in Rodney bay. Four nights in the marina for a bit of a rest and we did nothing but work our socks off on the boat although we had long hot showers and did take time off one afternoon for a swim in the pool. At least now we can relax a bit at anchor. 

An empty bay - but which century are we in?

Relax, ha! With the bay almost empty why do charter boats have to anchor within a few feet of us? One morning we watched a large catamaran pick up his anchor from just ahead of us while we finished our breakfast. We went down below when suddenly we realised we were 20 yards back from where we should have been. Our anchor was dug in but somehow we had moved backwards, very strange. All I can assume was he had picked up our hook along with his but didn’t bother to tell us, then just dropped the whole lot just in front of the boat. Within a few minutes we were re anchored back where we were before - never a dull moment.

The weather looks good for voyaging south at the weekend, so we will have to check out of St Lucia on Friday (I hate paying overtime charges for a Saturday checkout). Between now and then we would like to fit in our walk on Pigeon Island. 

The Musket Redoubt with flamboyants in bloom

Pigeon Island is the site of the historic fort Rodney which was built in the 1780’s. Abandoned as a military base in the mid 1800’s it is mostly ruins apart from the rebuilt officers mess which are now the offices of the St Lucia National Trust.

The ingenuity of British military engineering and the Royal Navy never ceases to amaze. To fortify the hilltop the plan was to use the cannons from a decommissioned warship. How to get these 24lb cannons to the top of the hill? The answer was to anchor the warship close to shore at the bay below the fort, take a line from the warship’s mast to a tripod at the top of the hill, then all that had to be done was hoist the guns up the mast and then across the gap to the hilltop. Pretty simple when you think about it really. All you need is lots of rope and unlimited manpower. They called it the ‘gun slide’.

Below us is where the warship would have anchored

Military history aside, Pigeon Island is covered in Flamboyant trees and at the moment they are all in full flower. We walked under beautiful canopies of the red blossoms while watching birds in amongst the branches. We saw at least 10 different species including a new one for us, a Bare Eyed Robin. Not bad for a morning. Bruce of Wild Matilda was with us and got a great shot of a hovering American Falcon . I need a longer lens!

A Grey Kingbird - a commonly seen  flycatcher in the islands

A walk right along the shore line took us to the Carib’s Cave at the tip of the island. Various artefacts have been found here which indicate that the Caribs lived here for quite a long time. Not really caves, more like tumbled rocks at the base of rocky cliffs, but I suppose they may have collapsed over time. It is a very pretty place with a tiny bay giving easy access to the sea for fishing.

Tiny orchids on the cliff above the Caribs cave

We check out on Friday and have a lovely sail south towards Anse Chastanet with a pod of Atlantic Spotted dolphins briefly crossing our path. Anse Chastanet is in the marine reserve so we will have to pick up a mooring. On arrival we cannot see any moorings, just a couple of ‘grockle’ boats moored up so we carry on to the Pitons where we are met by an enthusiastic teenage ‘boat boy’ whose first question to us is “What time are we going to take an island tour tomorrow?” Really? We decline his offer and carry on sailing to be met by another youth who wants to help us onto a mooring. Not having been here for a couple of years we remember that the moorings are difficult to pick up so we engage his services. We needn’t have bothered as the moorings all now have floating pick-up lines so it would have been easy. We have the usual visitors of fruit sellers and trinket merchants. 

Gros Piton

After a lovely swim in Bombay Sapphire blue water against the magnificent backdrop of the Pitons, we watch the comings and goings of fishermen beaching their boats and off loading the catch. The attractive Jalousie Plantation resort on the beach with cottages all along the little bay does not intrude on our peaceful evening. As their lights begin to twinkle the sounds of birds and cattle ashore is replaced by a chorus of tree frogs.

The park ranger comes at dusk to collect the mooring fees and we ask him about Anse Chastanet. He said there are two moorings in place so these must be the ones the ‘grockle’ boats were on. Ah well maybe next time. We will just make sure we arrive really early to get a mooring.

Now it is time for an early night as we plan to leave for Bequia at first light.

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