St Lucia (March 8 - 15)
It was not in plan to stop at Rodney Bay on the NW coast of St. Lucia. The anchorage does not have a good reputation from a security point of view. During our stay an inflatable dinghy with outboard motor was securely tied but not locked to an anchored boat, and disappeared during the dark of night. Security is an issue throughout the Leeward Windward Island chain, and gets worse as one travels south. From Dominica southward we lifted our dinghy on davits every night and locked it with a chain to the pushpit. All hatches were closed and locked. It meant poor air circulation at night, but we were not boarded and nothing was stolen. Our plans were to stop at Williabou Bay on St. Vincent to check in to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but on March 8 we learned two German cruisers had been shot at Williabou Bay, one fatally. There were no details, so we decided to avoid St. Vincent on our trip south.
We left Dominica a few days earlier than planned since a cold front was predicted to leave the US east coast and penetrate further southeast than Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, where they usually peter out. The north wind from the front pushed into the Leeward Islands and caused the easterly trade winds in the Windward Islands to be northeast and brought in a large northerly ocean swell. The effects of this front lasted for five days. We had a haul out date in Granada and if we waited for this front to pass, it would leave less time to wait out bad weather further along the way.
Also, we bypassed Martinique for this year. The best harbour is St. Ann on the SE tip of the island and would be much easier to reach next year going north from St. Lucia’s Rodney Bay. We left Dominica in the early afternoon, passed Martinique during the night and arrived in Rodney Bay at first light.
Sunset on our overnight passage to St Lucia
Rodney Bay is quite large and has many large North American-style resorts fronting the bay with a large duty-free shopping mall close by. There is a protected lagoon with a large marina and moorings. We anchored just off Sandals which had multiple buildings and lots of water sport toys. The Landing was close by.
The Sandals complex has the orange roofs and supplies the irritating speed boats/jetskies
We anchored near three other Canadian boats, and two more arrived later: a small Canadian nation in a southern bay waiting for the bad weather to pass. Three more Canadian boats were anchored in the shadow of Pigeon Island on the north side of the bay, and there were a few in the marina. The further south we got, the higher the percentage of Canadian boats over US boats became and the more European boats we saw. Rodney Bay is the finish point of the ARC transatlantic rally from the Canary Islands each winter, so it is logical that there are more European boats in the Windward Islands.
We remained onboard for the strongest wind. There was some rolling from the northern swell, but nothing like what we experienced in St. Barths. The constant wind over 15 knots kept the wind generator pumping out amps and keeping our batteries charged without having to rely on the Honda (gasoline) generator.
sailing instructor having fun in 20 knot gusts
We spent one day on Pigeon Island, a National Park and site of the English Fort Rodney and Signal Peak. The peak gave the English a good lookout for the French on Martinique during the 18th century. In 1782 Admiral Rodney had a fleet of over 100 ships anchored south of Pigeon Island and when the French under de Grasse left Fort Royal with 150 ships and 10,000 soldiers to invade Jamaica and break the English hold on the Caribbean, Rodney was ready. He followed the French fleet north and won the Battle of the Saints.
cannon eye view of the anchorage
Fort Rodney has been partially restored and is on the shorter of the two peaks on the island. Even with a paved pathway and stairs with railings, the climb to the fort was energetic. It is hard to imagine how the building materials and artillery were carried up the steep incline. There is a bay between the two island peaks which is where the “gun slide” is reported to have been fashioned. The gun slide had a cable that ran from the top of the mizzen mast of a boat anchored in the small bay to a flat plain between the two island peaks. Cannons were somehow hoisted up the mizzen then pulled as if on a circular clothesline to the plain. Details of the operation were left vague. We started to climb Signal Peak, but gave up halfway from the plain to the top. Brian’s vertigo and Jane’s unsteady knee made the decision to abandon the climb an easy one.
Gunslide height that needed to be covered by a sling arrangement from the mizzen mast
The St. Lucia National Trust has done a very good job not only of restoration, but also identifying trees and other plants. Our one West Indian tree book has many gaps.
Lila/Glory cedar (leaves used to make herbal treatments and flowers attract hummingbirds) and Casuarine (wood makes good firewood and poles) an invasive species from Australia
The anchorages down the leeward coast of St. Lucia did not entice us. They were full of moorings with accompanying “boat boys” and were not all reliable. We wanted to pass the famous twin peaks of the Pitons during daylight hours, but our next port, Bequia, was 75 miles away, more than a daylight sail for us. Two Canadian boats were planning to anchor in Canaries, about 5 miles north of Soufrière, the location of the Pitons. We decided to travel with them. Well, the anchorage at Canaries was the second worst anchorage of this year’s trip. Gustavia on St. Barths was had more violent rolling and poorer holding, but Canaries did not give us a good night’s sleep and only took about 12 miles off the trip to Bequia. We hauled anchor at 5:30 in Canaries and passed the Pitons just as the sun was rising behind them. We motored until the wind filled in mid-morning and then motor-sailed along the leeward side of St. Vincent and anchored in Admiralty Bay on Bequia mid-afternoon.
Piton (the small) and a great sunset