St Lucia: The Pitons    
West Indies 2006 EUROPE 2005
Finding our feet
St Lucia / Martinique / St Lucia 31st December 2005 - 4th February 2006
St Vincent & The Grenadines 4th - 14th February 2006
St Lucia 14th - 26th February 2006

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1st January - 22nd February 2006: St Lucia, Martinique, Grenadines


We completed our transatlantic just after dawn on 31st Dec. Margaret and Rodger (Nat's parents) had arrived in St Lucia the day before and it was wonderful to have them there to share the moment with us. Over the next two weeks we sailed with them to Martinique, walked the beautiful paths along the south coast, learned to anchor and use the dinghy, and mixed our first rum punches.

During this time we decided against a passage through Panama and into the South Pacific this year. We wanted to slow down and spend some time relaxing and exploring the Caribbean. And so as Margaret and Rodger's plane climbed into the sky taking them home and Nick and Ellen (our great friends on Kika) sailed South towards Central America and beyond we found ourselves, with hangovers but without much direction, in the marina. Not sure what to do we threw ourselves into boat tasks, the only thing we knew other than sailing to deadlines. Free Spirit got cleaned and now sports bright blue washboards, we got hot and exhausted! One memorable break was a walk around Pidgeon Island in the rain with our Norwegian friends Sonja and Oystein from Apricus.

Finally, after two weeks, we extricated ourselves from the marina and while sailing South to meet John (Mark's father) in St Vincent, we finally started to relax. In fact the smiles started as soon as we backed out of the berth. At anchor under the magnificent Pitons we swam around the boat, watched the sunset and vowed not to get stuck in that marina again!

John arrived on the 6th February and the three of us cruised the North Grenadines. Instead of trying to see everything we left a few days between each passage to see the place, swim, snorkel and read. It was great. John left from St Lucia and afterwards we spent a few days in the marina getting the boat together and then moved out into the anchorage at Rodney Bay.

Pigeon Island, St Lucia: Oystein, Mark & Nat

Pigeon Island with Apricus


Near Blue Lagoon, St Vincent: another squall

Smiling through the squalls


Malgretout, St Lucia: casting off our line ashore

Casting off, Malgretout, St Lucia

1st - 15th January 2006: St Lucia & Martinique

With dawn on the 31st December Free Spirit enters Rodney Bay in time to be ready for the New Year celebrations.  We (Margaret and Rodger - Nat's parents) were excited at the thought of meeting our sailors after their epic crossing and found them looking tanned, fit and relatively relaxed.  The sailors joined us at Henry's, the perfect backdrop for our New Year celebrations with excellent Creole food and of course the famous Rum Punches to see in 2006.


We moved on to Free Spirit a few days into 2006 to find great hospitality from our two favourite mariners, precision organization in the galley and with meticulous planning on the bridge!  To spend two weeks in such lovely company, sailing between St Lucia and Martinique was a truly memorable experience.  Walking in the tropical rainforests and swimming off the boat (some more than others) was all good fun.


Rodger and I are now - almost - versed in ships plumbing (mandatory course for visitors should be held!), taking lines, anchoring, dinghying in to shore (never without a wet bottom), washing vegetables and galley duty!


After two weeks it was time to bid farewell and to leave the mariners and return home to blighty.  With us came memories of many splendid dinners aboard Free Spirit under the stars, dinners at Jambe de Bois on Pigeon Island with bats flying by, the Petrified forest walk, and walks along deserted beaches and of two very lovely people who we shared this with and who we miss and who we look forward to seeing later in the year.

A brisk sail to St Lucia: Rodger & Margaret

Our new crew Rodger & Margaret


Jambe de Bois, Pigeon Island, St Lucia

Nat, Jambe de Bois, St Lucia

6th - 20th February 2006: St Vincent, Bequia, Mustique, St Lucia

After many months of following Mark and Natalya's adventures through the pages of this site the time finally arrived for me to join that adventure at the beginning of February. Early booking of the flights to Barbados through BMI was pursued but, recognising the fluidity of all plans, I delayed booking the original proposal to fly on to Grenada. It was a wise decision, for a variety of reasons which will become plain, not least when it had become obvious that Mark and Nat seemed to rather like staying in Rodney Bay (pronounced ‘Raaaaaahdnee Baaaaayyyy’).


Finally St Vincent was chosen for the meeting place and I flew into Kingston on Monday 6th Feb on a small Liat twin-engine 40 seater plane landing on a flooded airport as a result of a local storm welcoming my arrival. While Barbados was a big and buzzing airport (major construction underway for the 2007 Cricket World Cup), St Vincent in contrast was very low key and intimate with Mark waving from the road 40 yards away as I exited the plane trying to avoid the floods! Mark had arrived by local minibus ($3EC) but the temptation of a taxi ride ($30EC) to the marina was unavoidable. So we all met up once more and the many, many months of distance was erased very quickly. They both looked really well. A 'sundowner' (alcohol at sunset), was followed by the first of many lovely meals produced by Nat otherwise known as 'Delia' (amongst many other names), and some updating of each other's worlds.


The following morning (Tue) after rapid showers ashore and more food we set off south from St Vincent for the island of Bequia (pronounced ‘Bekway’). A nice downwind sail with, for me, a decent sized sea in the gap between the islands. After a trip of around 4 hours we reached Admiralty Bay where we anchored some distance from the beach and the town (20 min's dinghy ride) but still a good private location. This bay is a big anchorage (minimal rolling) with lots of room for all sizes of boat and we observed helicopters landing on decks and cruise ships pulling in for days out. On land I was struck by, and continued to be so until we reached St Lucia some 10 days later, the lack of commercialisation aimed purely at the tourist. This was where real people lived, children went to school and locals shopped - no Sandals resorts or big hotels around here at all. Initially a shock but much appreciated as we spent the next 2 days in the local environment. Battling the competition in the fruit market, locating the best local supermarket, and finding our way across the island to Hope Bay for an afternoon, together with sundowners on the beach and general relaxation made this a lovely spell. It also resulted in a decision to not travel further south than Mustique (the next island) because of the sailing distances involved to get to Tobago Quays (around 35miles) - another good decision. We met up with friends on 'Wild Alliance' and spent a lovely evening aboard their spacious, pirate-looking yacht.


Overall Bequia - Admiralty Bay - was a lovely place, great anchorage, beautiful scenery, nice beaches, busy but essentially unspoiled - in my view.


Having truly relaxed it was time (Fri) to move on South to Mustique - the famed island of the multi multimillionaires. A few hours later we are anchored once again on the side of a luxuriant but almost manicured island with large mansions peeping out from the sides of the hills in all directions. Alongside the anchorage major supply ships were regularly arriving, shuffling location, and being unloaded at a substantial pier. Alongside the pier was "Basil's Bar" another famed institution in all the guide books, apparently. Once more it was clear that commercialisation was minimal - no hotels in sight - but clearly apart from locals providing services the majority of the island is developed for beautiful homes with wonderful aspects. Golf carts (!!!) are the main source for transport of the tourists. Beaches near the anchorage were lovely but difficult to access via dinghy because of coral and rocky areas protecting them. Mark and I went for a walk to lagoon bay and found an inland lagoon and walking area full of manchineal trees (bark, leaves, fruit, sap all poisonous to humans - they often paint them red) as well as some lovely beaches. Another day we passed the local church in full song before finding a local library and beautiful play areas and the regularly used airport and indications of a golf club (my clubs were at home).


By now the clear water was irresistible to Nat who was happy to jump in on her own and swim backwards and forwards to the beach for exercise - there was also some nice snorkelling areas nearby but I was incapable of managing the combination of mask and breathing tube without more practice in a shallower water.


Mustique as an anchorage was a bit 'rocking' (first night was awful) but did settle down, water was lovely as was the island and the beaches. Super place if not a bit incongruous with all the riches and minimal apparent commercialisation - maybe a bit unreal but I liked it and very different from Bequia.


After a couple of days here it was time to turn north and make our way up to St Lucia allowing time for some stops on the way and maintaining some flexibility for weather issue if any. So, on Monday 13th we headed off, back past Bequia and to the top half of St Vincent - a 5 hour sail. It soon became clear that we would be fighting the wind all the way and the sea conditions were reasonably 'interesting' - overall a tough sail. We were very happy to arrive at Wallilabou - meeting a boat boy well out to sea (Godfrey) who we agreed would take our stern line when we had moored. Wallilabou is the location of the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' film and many parts of the set remain solidly built - also more importantly a bar and restaurant are available. Mark and I went for a shower which was viewable from the road, had cold water, and chickens wandering around - but we still thoroughly enjoyed the flood of fresh water to wash away the salt covering we had acquired. When one moves from island to island it is sometimes country to country and customs and immigration issues have to be dealt with on arrival and then departure. Here, in Wallilabou we were about to leave 'St Vincent and the Grenadines' for St Lucia and the nearest emigration facility was the Police Station in Barrouallie a town about 1.5 miles away. The town was 100% locals and we were the only 'white people' throughout the whole trip to Barrouallie. These are not rich towns in any way but it is fascinating to see the taxis racing around carrying people to work, while other men congregate in the bars early morning as the children go off to school in full uniforms. It is also fascinating to see all the shops selling digicell phone cards and regular use of mobiles - or maybe I am just naive. Everyone was very pleasant and buying eggs from a local house caused major amusement to the women stood around - good eggs too ( for Mark's quality omelettes).


While some will say Wallilabou is false (because of the film sets) I say - no-one made that anchorage or the beautiful surroundings and there was nothing false about the people on the roads or in that town - tourism is no part of their environment. St Vincent is not favoured by the tourist books but it is a beautiful island and a real place. As we sailed away we observed that the mountainous side of the North of the island was being cultivated!! and that small motor boats were racing up and down and pulling into little ravines - yes you have guessed it marijuana plantations in an ideal climate - another world! Overall St Vincent seemed a beautiful, fascinating and very real island. On the leeward side it clearly gets plenty of rain as well as sun (hence the plantation!) but well worth visiting and each of the islands visited so far was essentially very different.


The crossing from St Vincent to Soufriere on the south of St Lucia is 35 miles and proved to be very close to the wind and pretty rough so it was a hard trip north and took around 8 hours. Lifejackets in use throughout and minimal use of the galley are an indication of the difficulty of the trip. However we finally arrived at Soufriere to anchor on the north side of the Petit Piton - causing a brief dispute between boat boys. The water was very clear and the fish numerous around the boat and Nat was now swimming down into the depths to observe them in action. Local Marine Police charge here for the anchorage and are in action late at night and early in morning to catch the snappy arrivals/departures. We relaxed on the boat and had another of Nat's (sorry Delia's) creations. A smell pervades this area which turns out to be the sulphur from a local volcano!


The next day after a relaxed start we headed off to the renowned (for me) Rodney Bay - a simple 4 hour trip. As per usual we soon discovered that the passage North would be virtually dead into wind and that the sea conditions were still lively. Motoring direct would only achieve around 2.5 knots and be very rough so we motorsailed and tacked very close to wind for once beating other yachts trying to actually sail!! -- all resorted to motor before long except a particularly fancy large British yacht 'playing the game'. It was once more a very tough sail and two breakages actually occurred - firstly the reefed Genoa unreefed itself when the furling line snapped and then had to be taken down because the furling was jammed, then the clip on the staysail sheet broke free. Both events proved to be easily reparable once we had time to fully examine them but there was a period of concern (36hours) at a possible £1000+ repair bill. So I finally met Rodney Bay - back to the real world with its marina, 2 Sandals beach hotels, restaurants galore, cars, lorries, tourists, hot showers, toilets, shops, true supermarkets etc etc -- back to another but very different real world. A chance for Nat to buy a full range of fresh produce  to replenish stocks.


This is what I had naively expected from all the Caribbean islands but I had been very happy with the non-tourist nature of those other islands. Soon however the simple access to Internet, Banks, shops, food, drinks etc etc becomes the 'norm' once more. A long walk to Pigeon Island to climb the 2 hills and then drink and eat at Jambe de Bois on the 'island' involved a walk through the area where the locals lived and it was really odd once more for a simple beach to suddenly turn into a Sandals hotel Beach resort - a new experience for me.  


Jambe de Bois is a bar and restaurant on the island well worth a visit, the location is excellent and the food is good and not expensive. From the outside it looks a bit rough but inside the restaurant everything is fascinating. We visited this on my last night (Sunday) when a jazz group was performing - another very good night. However it was essential that we did the beach thing before I finished so two afternoons were spent on the South side of the bay on the beach -- Saturday nice and quiet , Sunday jam packed with tourists!! ( shouldn't be allowed) . The sun is so hot it is difficult to stay out in it although Nat seemed quite successful at it. Finally after those last days on the beach and a jazz evening at Jambe de Bois it was time to pack those bags and head off East to sunny old England and its 3 deg C.


I had a wonderful time seeing beautiful places in a hot sunny but comfortable climate. Thanks to Mark and Nat for allowing me to experience through their adventures some little adventures of my own. Best wishes to you both, lots of love and take care of each other. PS the flight home was another adventure !! - 19 hours between saying goodbye and arriving at my house.



23rd - 26th February 2006: St Lucia

We've been in the anchorage here in Rodney Bay, St Lucia for a couple of days now. We love it out here swimming around the boat and watching the sunsets. Also we have had plenty of time - and opportunity - to indulge in our new hobby; the art of anchoring. We often dive down to inspect both our anchor and those of the boats around us - we see some pretty insecure anchors (and not always ours!). But why do they sometimes work and sometimes not and how can you predict this? We tried to anchor (twice) on the south side of the bay initially but the anchor dragged badly. I dived on it to watch it skate along the top of a layer of grapefruit size boulders. Then we moved over to the north. Here I swam and watched the anchor dig its nose into the sand beautifully but as the wind changed direction the chain found a rock to grind on, which it did noisily all night.


As we sat non-plussed a catamaran motored past and dropped anchor much closer to the beach in the shallow water. They always do this as they are quite small under the water and it's really annoying. So probably having the smallest and shallowest boat in the Caribbean we decided to follow. After initially scouting with snorkels we tentatively motored past the other yachts towards the beach. As the water gets shallower and more sheltered we can easily spot the rocks and weed from the patches of soft sand. With about one metre under the boat we can drop the anchor just where we want to rather than casting it blindly into the murky depths with fingers crossed. So here we are, after six weeks in the Caribbean, relaxing and enjoying those sunsets while we swing with the cats just off the beach.


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