St. Lucia ~ 7th – 16th March
This island was the first true Windward Island of our trip and so I was very much looking forward to seeing it!
The flag of St. Lucia depicting the Pitons!
After our rest and recuperation in Barbados our next destination was St. Lucia! We booked a marina place at the Marigot Bay Marina and Resort Hotel which is towards the south of St. Lucia and set off for an overnight passage!
The evening sky leaving Barbados and the first sighting of the famous Pitons!
The passage was faster than we thought it would be thanks to some very kind winds so we had to wait for a while before going in!
Marigot Bay Marina and Resort
We received a very warm welcome as we arrived into the ‘dock’ and lots of help from the marina staff! It was a ‘stern-to’ mooring which is a little daunting but I’m mastering the technique as a matter of necessity!
With a largish boat and no bow-thruster and a narrow gap to go into, it does test the nerves somewhat!? However, all was well and we were soon attached to the dock!!
This was the first time in a month that we had been attached to the shore and so our first day was spent catching with domestic chores!! There was no laundrette as such but instead a welcome laundry service from the hotel! It was a great joy to take advantage of this and it was worth every cent!!
The marina is part of a resort complex and included in our mooring charge was full use of the facilities including the two swimming pools!! We definitely took advantage of this, it was a real bonus!
The Pool and a view of the resort from above the Bay!
We organised a hire car for the next day so that we could explore the island and in the course of our travels the following day this is what I discovered……
St Lucia is the penultimate island in the Windward chain, bound by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean Sea to the west and whose capital is Castries. It is also the only country in the world named after an historical woman, Saint Lucy of Syracuse! Ireland however, is named after the Celtic Goddess of fertility!
The French were the first European settlers on the island from the 1600’s, after which ‘ownership’ of the island changed seven times between the French and the British until 1814 when the British took control!
Finally on 22nd February 1979 Saint Lucia became an independent state and member of the Commonwealth of Nations. We just happened to be visiting St. Lucia a few days after the 40th Anniversary of this momentous event for all the people of St. Lucia!
St Lucia in common with many of the other islands is volcanic in origin and is more mountainous than most! The highest peak is Mount Gimie at 3,120 feet above sea level. Two other mountains, The Pitons, have given rise to the island’s famous image!
The island isn’t large by any means but we soon discovered that there was little chance of us driving all the way around it in one day, mainly due to the very poor state of the roads!! However, the scenery was lovely and we decided to visit one or two places on the western side as this promised to be the best part.
Our road trip brought us to Soufrière the former capital of Saint Lucia during the times it was under French rule! It is now a small fishing port and tourist area where you can take a boat trip to the Pitons. We stopped to take a look around before going on to the Sulphur Springs, another famous destination in St. Lucia! Soufrière in French means where sulphur is produced.
The dock in Soufrière where day trips to the Pitons depart from!
We then came to the Sulphur Springs, the worlds only drive-in volcano! It was created from a weak spot in the crust of the enormous collapsed crater formed after a volcanic eruption! We drove to the edge of the Springs and were treated to the disgusting smell of the sulphur but the awesome sight of the crater ‘smoking’ and the bubbling of the liquid sulphur. We learned that as long as the smell is as acrid as it was then it is safe to visit the crater, if there is no smell it’s time to run, an eruption is imminent!!
The Soufrière crater, smoking and bubbling!
Up until the middle of the 1990s, tourists were able to walk right up to the edge of one of the pits in the crater but after an accident when a tour guide named Gabriel fell through the crust and received 2nd degree burns up to his waist – he did recover – viewing takes place, as we did, from a platform several hundred feet away. That hole is now known as Gabriel’s Hole!
The hot spring pools!
The temperatures with these volcanic mountains are such that the water cascading in the waterfalls is hot! The water is piped and falls into pools where you can go and bathe! St. Lucia’s version of an open air jacuzzi! All fascinating stuff! We drove back to Musetta having enjoyed our day out and satisfied that we had learned a little about St. Lucia!
Day Trip to the Pitons!
Our cruising friends, Lizzie and Den, who we had met in the beautiful anchorage at Ilas Ciès in the Galicia National Park, off the coast of Spain, arrived from Rodney Bay to meet us in Marigot! It was great to see them again and we decided to go to to the Pitons the next day!
It was just a short sail back down the coast! The weather was perfect and the wind too and so off we went! We had a lovely day and it was a nice change to be sailing with other people on Musetta. They loved it too and Lizzie managed not to be sick which was a real bonus for her (probably us too?!)!
We found a buoy to pick up in the bay in front of the exclusive Sugar Beach Resort! We had some boat boys come and insist that they help us with us, help we didn’t need but hey ho they were trying to earn a cent or two!? Yes they don’t do it for nothing!!
We donned our snorkels and disappeared to see what the shore line would turn up? Not too much as it turned out although Lizzie did see a turtle! We then had some lunch and all too soon it was time to set off back to Marigot after a most enjoyable day with our friends! We both decided to anchor outside the resort that night and so we had dinner together and in the morning we headed north to Rodney Bay while Lizzie and Den stayed another day or two in lovely Marigot Bay!
14th March ~ Rodney Bay!
A visit to St. Lucia would not be complete without going to Rodney Bay!
For us sailors in particular it was good to see where fellow yachtsmen finish their Atlantic crossing when taking part in the now famous ARC – The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers who set sail from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to cross the Atlantic to St. Lucia, arriving to a great welcome and Christmas celebrations in the sunshine!! Yachts from all over the world set off each November and have done so now since 1986!
We had a cooling drink in “Spinnakers” a bar on the beach front where the ARC flag is hanging from the ceiling and a notice displayed to offer a very warm welcome to all participants in the ARC!!
We decided to explore the bay with our bikes and so cycled to Pigeon Island National Park to discover why the Bay is called Rodney Bay! Pigeon Island was once a real island but in 1972 it was joined to the mainland by a causeway built from mud and sand dredged during the construction of the Rodney Bay Marina!
Pigeon Island and the causeway joining it to the ‘mainland’!
Admiral Rodney ~ And Pigeon Island!
Admiral Rodney was a British naval officer who was best known for his commands in the American War of Independence and in particular his defeat of the French in the Battle of the Saintes, in 1782!
Interestingly for me at least was to discover that Admiral Rodney was born in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey very close to where I lived at one time as a child! Although he died in London, he is buried in Old Alresford, Hampshire! Again very familiar as it is the nearest town to where my parents lived!
Admiral George Brydges Rodney; 1st Baron Rodney KB
In the 1780s Admiral Rodney took over the island and built Fort Rodney on the lower of the two peaks so that he could establish clear view points and spy on the French fleet!
He also ordered all the trees to be cut down to give him an even clearer view?!
The “Redoubt” where Rodney hid his soldiers
We enjoyed our walk to the top of the island’s peaks and it was good to note that the peaks are now covered with trees again! From the “Redoubt” you can see the route up to the top of Signal Hill!
Looking East over Rodney Bay and West over the Caribbean Sea!
From the higher peak, Signal Hill he was able to observe the French naval base on the neighbouring island of Martinique and as already stated in 1782 he sailed from Pigeon Island to confront the French fleet whom he defeated in the Battle of Saintes.
An amazingly well preserved canon from the 1780’s
This is the fortification where the canons were brought ashore from the ships at anchor in the deep water below! The ships were in a very sheltered cove and so the whole operation was both ingenious and covert too! It is possible to just see the outline of the southern tip of Martinique in the top right hand side of the photo!
It was all incredibly interesting and we now see why there is such an affinity between the people of St. Lucia and the British! I’m so pleased that we were able to visit this lovely island!
A window on the world of Pigeon Island from Fort Rodney looking down towards the “Redoubt” and up to Signal Hill!
After our pleasant afternoon of exploration on Pigeon Island it was time to cycle back to Musetta and prepare her and ourselves to leave the next day for…..