10-8-16 St Lucia, Marigot Bay
After watching the beginning of the next amazing Yoles’ race in Martinique – madder than ever – we left the island and made a pretty quick & easy four hour crossing to Rodney Bay, St Lucia. Highlights were Amelie’s first bout of seasickness – spreading her love all over the cockpit, and my feet – and adopting a bird en route who ate his way through the flying fish jumping ahead of our bow!
Arriving in Rodney Bay, it was markedly different from our previous stops. A huge crescent sandy beach is littered with large hotels, including one of the three Sandals resorts on the island. With this more mediterranean-style vista comes the typical beachside tourist activities. The peace is consistently broken by jet skis, parascenders, and the ‘Big Mabel’ chair ride, all available for those who don’t just want to lie in the sun. There is also a kid’s dream of inflatable goodies to clamber upon, renamed ‘splat-a-lot’ by mine, and enjoyed by them on no less than 3 occasions! This is in vast contrast to the sleepy bays on the French islands we had anchored in, and took some getting used to. August however is definitely the ‘off season’, with the beach fairly empty making it easy to find your own spot.
Stopping in the bay overnight was fairly comfortable; we enjoyed the snorkelling off the beach whilst Chris did a pretty easy customs check in. The actual process of anchoring was straightforward, during our month in St Lucia we anchored in this bay quite a lot, most of the time heading over to the Southern side, as close to shore as we could get, in about 3m of water. We heard others had had problems getting a hold, but we only had an issue when we opted to go further north and anchor between Sandals & The Landings. There it gets very shallow quickly and is rocky; it took us a few attempts to dig in.
Rodney Bay Marina was a welcome sight. Nestled in the centre of the bay it is reached by a small channel and sits inside a large lagoon. Our budget does not stretch to many marina visits, and at $56 US for one night this is not a cheap option, but it gives us a night of not worrying about the anchor slipping; a higher level of security for our personal possessions aboard; time alongside to sort out overdue admin, as well as the added bonus of not having a dinghy ride back from the bar! It also gave us access to the holy grail of wifi, plus use of the pool and an opportunity to get the laundry done. $80 US later we were wondering about the capacity of our boat to fit a washing machine!
The luxury of being alongside meant we could give the boat a good clean up & get some jobs done. We hauled out the anchor chain & marked it for depths and continue to empty the bilges from our water spill. A trip to the chandlery and hardware stores furnished warp to secure the dinghy and other similar exciting essentials.
After doing the obligatory Facebook check-in in Rodney Bay, I discovered that the marina manager Paul Ash is an ex-RLC Colonel with lots of mutual friends asking me to say “Hi’ -as ever this is a small world. We bumped into him few times and it was great to get his local perspective on a few of the myths about St Lucia as well as get advice from him & his team on places to visit & tradesmen to use.
On many of the cruisers forums a thread about St Lucia is often accompanied by the true but negative stories of yachtsmen being attacked; vessels broken into and discussion of fairly aggressive locals selling wares and trying to ‘help’ you anchor or moor to a buoy. Hence on arrival we were much more cautious and worried about leaving the boat than the previous locations we visited. The general opinion seemed to be that yes, there is crime, but no more than most of the other islands; and by locking up possessions, sticking to populated areas with other boats to anchor and generally being sensible, the risk is small. There is corruption, drugs and some gang violence here, but St Lucia’s main income is from tourism, so staying within the tourist areas and taking normal precautions keeps you relatively safe. It did feel that the islanders saw you as easy money, which wasn’t as true in the other islands, but I soon got my bartering head on, and within a week was paying what I thought was a reasonable price from the boat sellers for goods I wanted, and not tat I didn’t.
It was lovely to meet & get to know 3 other boat families in Rodney Bay. S/v Timechaser were alongside and although we exchanged pleasantries we didn’t really get to chat except to Michael who was 10. They weren’t yet sailors but we’re going to learn as they went along. They made it out of the marina by the time we left Rodney Bay so hopefully have a bit of experience under their belts now and we may get to meet further into our adventure.
Rodney Bay Marina has a small pool, which the kids loved, and an all day happy hour pool bar, which we loved. This is where we met the family from s/v Avanti, with Bobby, Cheryl and kids Robbie and Lauren. They had been living in Spain & sold their house in Majorca to travel and live aboard in style. The kids got on really well, and for a couple of days we anchored alongside them in the bay, and even ventured to the famous Gros Islet’s ‘Jump Up’ with them on Friday. Once we’d been on their amazing Privilege catamaran, our 44ft monohull home looked comparatively a bit on the small side. The kids are now asking if we can get a cat like that next time – ummm… not unless we win the lottery? s/v Avanti left fairly quickly to sensibly head down to Grenada, so we’ll catch them down there later in September, and meanwhile we are in comms with them on the best cruiser net there is – Facebook.
The kids were sad to see them go, but as they headed South we stayed to catch up with some St Lucians whose parents live opposite us in Winchester. The lovely Katie, Zander, Daisy & Amelia might even do a house swap in a few years so the girls can go to Westgate School – small world!
S/v Abby Singer, and her crew, we missed meeting properly in Rodney Bay despite both our attempts. A bit of Facebooking later & we managed to hook up in Marigot Bay. Andrew & Summer with their kids Paige & Sky, from Florida, have been living aboard for 7 months and are well in the groove. It was great to chat about our different experiences / despite our limited time on board!
Now Chris & I are relaxing by the infinity pool on a Turkish bed at the truly luxurious Capella resort hotel in Marigot, and, as you can imagine, this was a real find. By taking a marina buoy in the lagoon, for a nightly rate of $20 US we get access to the usual marina facilities but also entry to the Capella. After our brief trip along the coast to recce for the Bridges arrival on Friday; taking in Anse Cochon, Soufriere Marine Park & the Pitons’ anchorages this is really cheeky chill out! The staff offer various free tempting delights every hour – iced water, coconuts, fruit sticks, sushi, and a lime cocktail so far today. This is definitely a life to which we could become accustomed – and worth the odd horrific night sail… Actually night sail, feeling sick, soaking wet… no that must have been a bad dream!!!