Born of the Sea

Preparing for a phased retirement on the sea. Muirgen (Gaelic for 'born of the sea')

14 May 2024 | Union Island, SVG
10 May 2024 | Mayreau, Grenadines
09 May 2024 | Tobago Cays, Grenadines
07 May 2024 | Mayreau, Grenadines
05 May 2024 | Mustique, Grenadines
02 May 2024 | Baliceaux, Grenadines
01 May 2024 | Bequia, SVG
22 April 2024 | Saint Vincent
15 April 2024 | Marigot Bay, Saint Lucia
08 April 2024 | Saint Lucia National Parks
06 April 2024 | Rodney Bay / Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
31 March 2024 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
13 March 2024 | Iles des Saintes
10 March 2024 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
03 March 2024 | Monserrat to Guadeloupe
02 March 2024 | Monserrat

Saint Lucia - Rodney Bay / Gros Islet - Part 1

06 April 2024 | Rodney Bay / Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
Donna Cariss
The forecast for our passage to Saint Lucia, from Martinique, was north east, force 4, gusting 5 at times, with a 0.9 metre swell from the north east at 7 second intervals. After clearing the anchorage we put out the foresail, anticipating a downwind sail but knowing the wind might be distorted by the headland and southern tip of Martinique, initially. The conditions were dead on the forecast and we were enjoying the sail, with the autohelm steering the boat, once we were away from the land. The further we sailed, the bigger the swell though and we probably had waves up to 2 metres at times and the wind came round a bit, putting the bigger swells more on the beam, creating a bit of roll but it wasn't uncomfortable. I was sitting aft, on the starboard side and around 0930 hours, I noticed a large shape under the water, just before a pilot whale surfaced right beside me. It was around 3 metres long; what a sight. It was accompanied by a pod of large dolphins, some all black and some with white undersides. They didn't rise the bow wave, as we usually expect but they swam behind, to the sides and under the boat. It was almost as if they knew there was too much swell for us to go onto the foredeck to watch them play and they stayed aft to interact with us. They stayed with us for 15 minutes or so. Not long after they departed, another pod of smaller dolphins arrived and exhibited the same behaviour. It's always a magical experience having dolphins around the boat. 10 minutes later we saw another pod about 200 metres off to the startboard side but they didn't come to join us.
Now we were starting to see boats coming the other way, heading to Martinique. Why they would choose today to head north east, with a north east wind and swell, I don't know but there were quite a few, bucking uncomfortably in the swell, engines on. We were on port tack, so were the give way boat if anything coming towards us was under sail but everyone was motoring and power gives way to sail. At 1050 hours, we had a near miss with a yacht coming the other way. He had his mainsail up but was clearly motoring, as he was head to wind and his mainsail was flapping but he didn't look like he was going to give way. I took the helm, ready for a last minute change of direction. Eventually, when he was only 100 metres away, at most, he turned away but came by quite close, doing a slow clap with his hands as he passed us. Pete shouted at him that it was our right of way because he was under engine. The guy obviously understood the port and starboard tack rule but thought having a sail up was enough, even though he wasn't sailing. Although the swell was up and down, as well as the wind, it was largely on forecast and we managed to sail right into Rodney Bay, past Pigeon Island, before pulling in the foresail and starting the engine. Sandals resort is on the beach on the north side, with The Landings resort next door and to the east. It looks like you imagine the Caribbean, with sandy beaches and palm trees. We attempted to anchor off the hotels but weren't holding, so headed a bit further round the bay and anchored, at the second attempt, with 2.8 metres under the keel, at 1325 hours. The raised dinghy provided us with shade in the cockpit and the water was lovely for swimming, although you couldn't go far from the boat due to the jet skis, wake boarders, hobie cats and other motor boats swarming through the anchorage. It was interesting to watch the comings and goings and the number of attempts it took each boat to anchor. It was Easter Sunday and mid-afternoon the loud music started on the beach. It finished around 8pm, which was a blessing. I can stand the music, however crap it is but I really don't want to listen to a DJ shouting over it all the time. The music from Sandals and The Landings was also quite loud but much more pleasant.
There are lots of reports of boardings and thefts from boats around Saint Lucia and even more in Saint Vincent, so Pete slept on deck the first night, keeping a torch handy, just in case. We had all the hatches locked, so nobody could enter that way either. One report, 7th March this year, described 3 boardings in 1 night, on the same boat, over by Pigeon Island, which is dark and more isolated. We had no trouble overnight and didn't hear of anyone else having trouble either.
In the morning, we took the dinghy into the marina, through the dredged channel, into the lagoon and went to customs to clear in. There were a lot of people there, the office having been closed on Sunday. We were served quickly, by a friendly young man, as we had already completed SailClear and had our notification code. We were charged 100 EC dollars. We aren't sure whether this is usual or because it was out of normal hours, being Easter Monday. I logged onto the immigation form again and this time I managed to select the correct combination of answers to avoid having to input a local address and phone number, so we were able to pass through to Immigration. The lady there was also friendly and helpful. The port authority desk was closed but she left our form on the desk there and advised us to return tomorrow to see the port authority official. We had breakfast in 'The Corner', a Turkish owned cafe and browsed the shops in the marina complex. We bought a bottle of duty free gin, EC$19.99 (less than £6) and perused the wines. They had Whispering Angel, a lovely rose but it was around US$30 a bottle. Wine seems to be prohibitively expensive in Saint Lucia, while beer and spirits are not, probably due to import duties. We took the dinghy south down the lagoon and tied up to a small dock by a festival tent. The ladies there said they would watch over it for us, while they were dismantling the tents. We walked to Massey's, a large supermarket, which stocks Waitrose products and did some shopping. The Waitrose wines that we had been buying in Antigua for around £4.50 a bottle were almost £10 here though. On our way back to the dinghy we stopped at a bar, Dax and had a couple of Pitons; another island, another local beer!On our way back in the dinghy, we spotted another small dinghy dock, close to the multi-coloured hotel and saw that there was a passage through. It would be closer to the supermarket for next time.
In the afternoon, there were lots of kites, all homemade, being flown from the beach. They were getting higher and higher and further out to sea, with the afternoon offshore breeze and dangerously close to our mast, where they could cause damage to the wind instruments. Kites kept ditching into the sea and then sinking, leaving plastic and long lines all over the place. There was no attempt by the locals to recover them. One came down by the yacht next door and he retrieved it with his dinghy and then Pete had to do the same, before a turtle became entangled in the rubbish. Today, the music ended around 6pm, as it would be a work day tomorrow. Before bed, we lifted the dinghy alongside and locked up again. Finally, we put the anchor alarm on.
Next morning, although we hadn't dragged, Pete wanted to re-anchor a little further away from our neighbour and with more chain out. We moved about 25 metres south and the anchor, after jumping for a short time, suddenly held, almost putting me over the bo so I let out 40 metres of chain. Pete snorkelled out and confirmed that the anchor was in but as before, not well in, so it must have been caught on another rocky ledge, under the thin layer of sand. I sorted the laundry and then we went into the marina in the dinghy, dropped off the laundry and visited the marina office for prices. We sat down for a drink and worked out the nightly price as around £26, so we decided to come into the marina today. That would allow us to do some sightseeing, without worrying about the safety of the boat. We returned to the boat, lifted the dinghy, put on mooring lines and fenders and finally lifted the anchor. Our neighbours were also just leaving, so there had been no need for us to re-anchor to have more chain out. We navigated the narrow channel, which is dredged to 4 metres, into the lagoon, site of the marina. Pete called up on VHF channel 16 and was answered on the third attempt and redirected to channel 17. Pete provided our length, beam and draft but didn't provide any other requirements, expecting to be met by a boat, so that he could discuss his preferences. However, he was just called back on 17 and allocated berth D19. It was a starboard berth with the wind behind us, Pete's least preferred option, as we kick to port and like to berth into the wind so it slows us down. Pete circled while I lowered the fenders to pontoon height on the starboard side and moved the mooring lines over. Pete was feeling nervous as it was so long since he had been on a pontoon berth, the Med being stern to mooring. I prepared to jump off with the midships line but the 2 marineros told me not to get off; that's what they were there for. I passed the midships line to the young lad and directed him to slow the boat down on the second cleat and he did it very well. Pete threw the stern line to the older man. I climbed off and tied the foreline and then we all moved the boat forward a cleat. All had gone well. We were hooked up to the water supply and given a receipt with the current meter reading. We didn't require shore power. Having checked in at the marina office and paid in advance for 3 nights, initially, we headed to the restaurant next door (Bosun's) for a refreshing drink and ended up having a light lunch of chicken wings. A mist was covering the hills and soon the rain started, gentle at first but getting heavier. Pete had to abandon his lunch to run and shut the hatches. He made it before the rain became torrential but got caught in it on his way back. He looked like he'd been for a fully clothed swim. The rain lasted for a good while, so we had to stay and have another beer. We were joined by a lovely, friendly, little ginger cat, with amber eyes. On our way back to the boat we walked to the end of our pontoon and found Papillon 2 berths beyond us. We said hello, introduced ourselves (they were Rob and Sherry, from Montana) and chatted about the whale we had seen but they had missed when they had been sailing behind us, the week before. Rob and Sherry were leaving the boat here for the hurricane season and were flying home on Thursday. Back on board, we drank the rum punch that we had purchased from the mobile grocer. It was too sweet and laced with cinnamon; not the best, so I let Pete drink most of it. As it was our first night in the marina and we could leave the boat, we went for sundowners at Boardwalk and La Mesa, then returned for baked camembert and French bread on board.
First job next day was to collect the laundry. It was US$44, which wasn't bad considering we hadn't done any washing since we were in Saint Martin, about 7 weeks ago. I put it all away and changed the bedding, while Pete cleaned the dinghy. While doing so, he slipped the lines for the British yacht opposite and also met a couple from Amsterdam, Herri and Dorit. They had crossed the Atlantic, via Cape Verde, with a company called 'Viking' and had taken 22 days in total, in their 45 footer. They were leaving tomorrow and also planned to be in Guatemala for the 2025 hurricane season. This year they would stay in the ABCs. Pete worried them by speaking about our anchor drag issues, as they also have a 16kg CQR and are a heavier yacht. After lunch, I bought a wide-brimmed sunhat from Lifes a Beach, in the marina complex, before we walked down to Rodney Bay (the marina is between Gros Islet and Rodney Bay), along the main road, passing a larger Massey's supermarket on the way. We headed to Dax again for a beer and watched some crazy sports on the TV - Open road luge, where they use large skateboards and timber championships, where they do a team relay of sawing and chopping wood. We visited one fo the shopping malls and then provisioned in the Massey's that we had passed. We were hot and sweaty after carrying our provisions, so headed to the marina's pool for a swim. It was great to have a proper shower and wash my hair too. We had sundowners in the cockpit and went to La Mesa for dinner. The fish taco starter was amazing and the pinot noir, slightly chilled, was delicious. The meal was great value at £95 for 2 courses each and a bottle of French wine.
Being in the marina was great; secure so the hatches could be open overnight, no rolling in the swell, no worries about the anchor dragging, meaning a good night's sleep and being able to relax. On top of that, there's the facilities and ease of provisioning.
Next morning, we said goodbye to our Canadian neighbours, to Sherry and Rob, from Papillon and finally to Herri and Dorit on Zephyros. We went to Island Water World and bought a new engine mount for the outboard and a sturdy bucket. It's duty free if you have cleared customs. They also had a Dometic fridge freezer, of the type we had been looking at but much larger and fer too big for Muirgen. They told us they could aslo supply a smaller one but it would not be there until early June. We did have the option to order and have it delivered to the store in Grenada. We would need to consider that, as an alternative to buying one in the UK and bringing out with us next year. Today we decided to walk north from the marina and explore Gros Islet. We passed KPMG, PWC and Dentons (lawyers) and turned left to walk behind the boatyard, passing the Digicel head office. Then we turned right and were asked whether we were lost by a passing yacht services van. We walked on a bit further before Pete decided we were somewhere we perhaps shouldn't be, so we retraced our steps. An old rasta man asked us if we were lost and advised us to use the main road and turn left 2 streets further north if we were going to the town or wanted to go to the Friday Night Street Party next day. The guy was very poor, so Pete gave him his spare change. We called into a bar by the fuel pontoon and boatyard and met Patrick, his wife Chenelle and friend Phil, from Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Lucia respectively. They were interesting and friendly. Chenelle was helping with the food on the barbecue, as she was a friend of the owner and it smelled delicious. Back at the marina, I went for a swim and met Marie, who we had spoken to briefly the previous day and Barbara, one of the cruiser net hosts. When I returned to the boat, the yacht that had been moored opposite had returned. Pete was talking with them and it turned out they were from Holmfirth. They had set off yesterday to go south but had engine trouble so had returned to have it fixed. They would leave again next day but it was lovely to meet Davine and Antony for S/Y Divante. They gave us some tips for mooring in the south of the island and a name and phone number for Jahleel, who has morring buoys in Anse des Pitons. We spent our evening in the cockpit, listening to some terrible music from the Harbor Hotel opposite. Luckily it finished at 8.30 pm.
Friday morning, we said goodbye to Davina and Antony and went to extend our marina stay for a further 3 nights. We had decided that we wanted to climb the Pitons, Saint Lucia's most famous landmark, on which its flag is based and the name of the local beer. There was a taxi waiting by the market place, so Pete enquired about a price and took Nigel's number. It would be US$220 for the day, the journey being up to 2 hours each way, with waiting time while we were hiking. Some chilled refreshments would be included. Nigel was available any day except Saturday. We booked the taxi for Sunday, to collect us at 8am. We returned to the bar by the boatyard for lunch. Pete was brave and had the fried lambi (conch) and I went with the jerk chicken, which nearly blew my head off. At 3pm our time, we listened to the Rhinos v Warrington match, Leeds losing heavily in the end, after losing 2 players to injury early in the first half. We went ot Boardwalk for happy hour and then had good music, mostly Reggae, from the hotel opposite. Tomorrow, our sightseeing would begin.
Comments
Vessel Name: Muirgen
Vessel Make/Model: Westerly Typhoon
Hailing Port: Hull
Crew: Donna and Peter Cariss
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