January 4, 2020

A Return Trip to St Lucia

After a couple of days in Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines to provision and dry out after our squally sail, we set sail very early on Tuesday, November 12 for the 52-nm sail north to St Lucia.

We were incredibly excited to arrive to mountainous and lush St Lucia, as it's where we were married almost 15 years ago! Back then, we could never have imagined that we'd someday sail our own boat all the way to the island.

Squally Sailing Continued

Since we were in the lee of mountainous St Vincent, we motorsailed the first few hours on a reefed main sail. While we typically sail a few miles offshore, it's an upwind sail from St Vincent to St Lucia, so we sailed as close to the island as possible to improve our wind angle for the rest of the 30 nm trip. As is common, as we approached the northern tip of the island we were blasted with strong compression winds gusting to almost 35 knots - thank goodness for that reefed sail!

After we cleared the tip of St Vincent and some choppy seas, we settled in to 15-20 knot winds and 3-5 foot seas. A short while later we saw dark clouds on the horizon and reefed the sails for a small squall; darker clouds behind it made us reef the sails in even more, and thank goodness! Nick's feet were still outside the cockpit from reefing the mainsail, when we were hit with 25-30 knot winds; despite only having small patches of sail out, we sailed along at 6 knots through two more squalls.

After one final squall, and 10 hours of sailing, the skies cleared and we were rewarded with a glorious view of the towering twin Piton mountains overlooking Piton Bay.

Boat Boys

In many of the southern windward Caribbean islands, you are often greeted by men in small skiff boats - usually referred to as 'boat boys' - selling homemade bread, fruits and vegetables, or laundry and other services. We always treat these men with friendly respect, by buying a few small things or politely declining, but in St Lucia, the boat boys can be relentless, which many cruisers find so frustrating that they pass the island right by.

We were greeted about a mile offshore by a boat boy asking if we wanted a mooring - his fee for helping us tie up was $20EC (or about $7 USD). The area is very deep and a marine park, so no anchoring is allowed. The nightly fee for the mooring, paid to the marine park rangers, is $54 EC ( or $20 USD).

Rodney Bay boat boy, Gregory, selling fresh fruits and vegetables to the boats

Piton Bay

The following day, we paddle boarded and then snorkeled the reefs on the north and south shores of Piton Bay, which was flooded with jellyfish, which were thankfully non-stinging!

We had two great nights in the bay, reliving memories from our last trip, and enjoying the breathtaking view looking up between the Pitons toward the ridge line and resort where we were married (what a different view from our wedding and time spent looking down at the bay)!

Marigot Bay

On November 14, we released our mooring lines and motored in very light winds 10 nm towards Marigot Bay. Marigot Bay Resort has a small marina and mooring field in its inner harbor, and for the nightly $30 USD mooring fee you are granted full access to the resort's restaurants, pools, fitness center and more!

It wasn’t all relaxing though, as we stretched out legs on the Marigot Ridge hike to the highest point overlooking the bay for some great views of the boats and resort below.

Caribbean umbrellas, aka a large leaf, offer great protection during a passing shower

Bat Burglar

While we only planned to stay a few days, it was such a relaxing and lovely spot that we ended up there almost a week relaxing by the pools and spending time exploring with other cruiser friends.

The only hiccup came from a late night visitor, likely a bat, who stealthy boarded us after dark to snack on our bananas and make a small mess on the boat, and who kept us on edge the next 24 hours in fear that it would pop out from its hiding place. Thankfully, we never saw the culprit again!

A half eaten banana (and a mess on the floor) was evidence we’d been boarded overnight
On Saturday morning, we joined several other cruisers on the bus to nearby Castries for the island’s weekly big market, with fresh fish and meats, fruits and vegetables, and handicrafts.

Unlike other islands, fresh fruits and vegetables abound in St. Lucia and at incredibly affordable prices (almost as inexpensive as the Dominican Republic).

Memory Lane

A few days later, we rented a car for the day to drive St Lucia's steep and twisting roads the hour back south to Soufriere to hike above the Pitons and visit Ladera Resort, where we were married in 2005.

The last time we visited St Lucia we toured the volcano sulfur springs, waterfall hikes and hot springs, so we passed on those adventures this trip and instead opted for the Tet Paul hike, which has a spectacular view of the Pitons and bay where we'd moored days earlier. We would have liked to hike the Pitons, but Nick had tweaked his knee days earlier, and fear of doing further damage kept us on more moderate trails.

After our hike we arrived to Ladera Resort. We got a special tour of the hotel (which has changed dramatically in 15 years), met the woman who made Sara's bouquet, and enjoyed a delicious lunch overlooking the Pitons. What a fun walk down memory lane!

Our wedding at Ladera Resort in St. Lucia in 2005
Standing on the patio where we were married in 2005
Looking down from Ladera Resort at the bay where we moored Borealis 
On the way north we stopped at Anse Chastanet (driving down the worst road we've ever driven on - it took us 30 minutes to travel less than 5 miles) to snorkel the bay and reef, which many say is the best in the island.

Pigeon Island

On November 20, we motored in very light winds again 10 nm north toward Rodney Bay to drop our anchor off scenic Pigeon Island, a park and the former main island base of the British navy. The island has a shady park, fort and barracks ruins, and hiking trails to the peaks of two scenic overlooks.

What a drag

The following day, November 21, we raised anchor and moved the boat across the large bay to anchor closer to the marina and stores for provisioning. The navigation guides said the bay had "mainly good holding" but our oversized Mantus anchor, which is usually quick to bite, only scraped along the grassy, rocky bottom. After 6 attempts and nearly two hours, we finally found a patch of sand and good holding to sleep soundly!

Out zigzagging path across the bay to find a good anchoring spot

Rodney Bay has large malls and some of the best shopping in the southern Windward islands. With only a few days until Thanksgiving, we visited several of the islands large Massy stores, including one that catered to expats, where we were able to find a frozen turkey breast, canned cranberry and pumpkin, and dried bread cubes for stuffing!

It wasn't all fun though, after joining friends ashore at an evening jam session, our outboard dinghy engine (which we just purchased new in Grenada this summer) kept conking out and wouldn't go faster than idle speed (which is troublesome at night when you can't wave for help or when you are anchored a mile from the marina dinghy dock). Nick took apart and cleaned the carburetor, drained and polished the fuel, and finally blew out the fuel filter, which temporarily did the trick until we could get to Martinique and buy a replacement filter.

Undaunted by our dinghy troubles, we joined several cruising friends ashore at the popular weekly Gros Ilet Friday street party, where they close the village to traffic and offer music, drinks and amazing local street food.

Only one blurry picture from the Friday night street party - we were having too much fun for pictures!
On November 24, after two weeks of exploring St Lucia, we raised the sails and headed toward Martinique - our 10th country on this adventure!

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