February 9th-17th, 2014 (-4 on UTC)
We departed Chateaubelair, the northern most anchorage of St. Vincent for the VERY BLUSTERY 25 mile sail to St. Lucia. We actually had two reefs up for the first half of our very close reach. The Caribbean continues to be a bit of a boaters freeway as we counted well over twenty boats going either too or from between the islands.
St. Lucia is a very geologically dramatic island when approaching from the south. The two prominent peaks are the Petite and Grand Pitons.
Behind these are the \”soufriere\”,(yet another soufriere – and there will be more), where a bubbling mud vent from the dormant volcano resides.
We took a mooring just north of the Petite Piton and the view was spectacular. We checked in at Soufriere Bay, did a little wifi and had an afternoon
glass of wine. The waterfront buildings were a Creole style and we found a marker at the church grounds in town where the French has set up a Guillotine.
Colonization back in the day was not necessarily a pretty site.
Despite the beauty, we wanted to move on (but would include this spot as part of our hire car tour). We departed Soufriere and headed the short trip up the coast to Marigot Bay which is a lovely narrow cul-de-sac at the innermost side. We again picked up a mooring, did a bit of a beach tour and restaurant stop.
James Michener spoke of this bay as one of the most lovely in the Caribbean. We could see where he was coming from, but today, it\’s a bit \”touristy\”. Jacko came by in his small dinghy selling lovely fruits and vegetables. We also bought a lovely palm frond woven basket to keep them in. The entire bay was essentially a mangrove and mossies\’ were a bit of an issue. We again had a bit of a \”been there, done that feel\” after one night and moved on again to the major yachting center of Rodney Bay at the top end of the island. This would be our base for touring, etc. We took a dock here to get the batteries fully charged, the air conditioning on and to have good access to hire cars and the shopping. We could actually dinghy about 1/2 mile inside the harbor to the shopping area which was nice.
Our second day, we hired a car and drove back down to the Piton\’s. Their was a great deal of traffic, especially around Castries, the Capitol. Nikki and I had flown in here en route to Florida last August and we recognized the runway as we entered Castries. It\’s parallel and right along the shore in the Capitol city. Often, landing fields in the Caribbean are a bit of an odd puzzle as the constraints of getting a long enough, flat enough strip that is NOT mountain adjacent, can be challenging.
We did a bit of local marketeering in Castries and caught it on an \”off cruise ship day\”. This was nice as the crowds weren\’t bad, but the locals are indeed a bit jaded over haggling with tourists over their wares. We continued down the coast and the very windy road back to Soufriere passing Marigot Bay along the way. This time, we drove through town and up to the actually mud vents of the \”Soufriere\”. Soufriere means a place of sulfur in French. We did indeed get the smelly sulfur and were a bit surprised by how popular coming here just to see a smelly mud vent was!..:-) The \”tour\” (really a talk), takes 10 minutes. That\’s it…back to your cruise ship and next. We did enjoy the view…and the smell. On our way back to town, we decided to stop at the \”Sugar Beach Resort\”. This is located between the Grand and Petite Pitons off the town of Soufriere. The setting is spectacular and it\’s very up-market. We had lunch at the lovely beach restaurant and I found Nikki\’s Valentine\’s present in the gift shop. A lovely sheer chiffon blouse. We were taken around the resort from the guest parking by golf cart. It was the highlight of the day. We made the 2 hour drive back to Rodney Bay and did a grocery shop as we had the car.
The next day, we\’d made arrangements to be picked up at the marina to go on the rain forest tram and zip line tour. We drove up with a group, were suited up in our gear including helmets and instructed on \”how to\” by our guides. First, we took the 20 minute trip thorough the rainforest on the tram. The views were fabulous and we could see both the east and west sides of the island. Our guide told us much of the history of St. Lucia and much about the local plants and endemic animals. This was another of the Caribbean islands that had gone from French to British and back again before obtaining their independence. Nominally, the locals speak a Creole patois, but really they speak English.
Once we arrived at the top, we took a short hike to begin the 1 hours series of zip lines that essentially led in a big circle. I think there were 12 or so of them and it was quite fun. Nikki really enjoyed looking straight DOWN to observe the rain forest. We were also lucky that we weren\’t rained on in the rain forest! Our highest elevated platform was at least 150 feet high. We again did a short hike back to the tram and this time, the views were even better on the way down (no neck craning!). We returned to the boat to relax and cool off. The next day was a bit of fuel toping, boat chores and maintenance.
We took a taxi out to Pidgeon Island park, but we arrived to late to do a tour of the old fort. The French history here dates back to the 1500\’s where they used it as a base to attack the Spanish. British Admiral George Rodney, fortified Pidgeon island to monitor the French. This would be the staging area for the final decisive battle of \”Les Saintes\” (Guadeloupe) in 1782 which precipitated most of the final definitions of who owned what in the Caribbean between the European colonial empires; ending with the Treaty of Versailles.
On the 17th, we were off to Martinique, our first full fledged French Island in the Caribbean!
Stand by, more soon!
Scott and Nikki