It certainly seemed like that, as we stayed there for a whole fortnight, rather than the week we expected! The first delay was while we waited for an electronics supplier to get a price (and delivery time) for a replacement inverter. This is the machine that allows us to run mains powered equipment off our domestic battery bank. Then in the last few days, inclement weather (especially big waves) meant it was sensible to wait for normality to return before putting to sea!
Anyway, we got an electrician to test our batteries and the aforementioned inverter, and an engine man to look into our oil leak and ongoing issues with stopping the engine. We were based at Rodney Bay Marina, in the northwest of the island. This is quite a smart place, with useful shops and very good restaurants (we sampled them all!). Here are a two pictures of the marina.
The tall framework in the first picture, to the left of the taller coconut palm, is a ‘fish weigh station’ where people can weigh their tuna, barracuda and other sport fish. I was surprised to learn that the people in this part of the world are still allowed to catch a small number of whales. To assess these, of course, requires a whale-weigh station…. (Only one of the last two sentences is true!).
We got out and about around St Lucia, naturally. Our first organised excursion was to visit the rainforest (there’s plenty of rain in St Lucia…). We didn’t see the endangered St Lucia parrot, but we saw quite a lot of other flora and fauna. In the bit of forest we visited, a series of zip lines allows a close look at the forest canopy from 50 feet up! An open-air gondola lift gives access to the start of the course.
In colonial times, St Lucia changed hands between Britain and France no less than 14 times! Some French names remain – for example, Castries (the island capital) is named after a French minister. Like most Caribbean capitals, Castries gets a lot of trade from cruise ships. There’s a fine public square, formerly known as Columbus Square but renamed in honour of St Lucian Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. The Roman Catholic Cathedral is noted for its wall and ceiling paintings, in which all the biblical figures are black. The exterior needs a bit of work when funds can be raised.
A week into our visit we were hailed by a familiar figure, Julian, with whom we did our long-range radio course and exam in Southampton. We had also met him, and his wife Patricia, at the Cruising Association headquarters at Limehouse, where we all attended a seminar. Their new boat, A Capella of Belfast, was only completed in October and they had to be in Tenerife for the start of the Odyssey transatlantic rally to Barbados in November! They made it, though, and we went over to their boat for drinks; it was nice to catch up with them. It turned out they were anchored at the other end of Carlisle Bay, Barbados, when we arrived there on Christmas Eve! They joined us on Mañana for more drinks the following evening; the picture is of this event.
Another day we visited some of the tourist sites further south, mostly around Soufriere, St Lucia’s second town. On the way we stopped at Marigot Bay, where Dr Dolittle was filmed. We also admired (but didn’t climb) the twin peaks of the famous Pitons.
In the Soufriere region, Morne Cabaril purported to show what a plantation had been like (with donkey powered sugar cane mills!) while the Diamond Estate had a waterfall and nice botanic gardens.
Nearby is the so-called ‘drive-in volcano’, a partly collapsed caldera with boiling pools of sulphurous mud. It’s quite dramatic, but not nearly as impressive as Rotorua in New Zealand – I suppose we were spoilt by going there first! This is the St Lucia one.
Back in Rodney Bay, we took the tender across to Pigeon Island, a national park, where we spent a pleasant day. On one peak is the remains of Fort Rodney, from which Admiral Rodney battered the French coming over from Martinique! There are fine views and a nice restaurant, La Jambe de Bois, where we had coffee and lunch.
Finally, a picture of the fruit and vegetable boat that sold us some local grapefruit (also pictured) – although irregular and dubious looking they were excellent inside! OK, I admit, one of the fruit in the picture is a lemon! Anyway, you wouldn’t see items like that in Waitrose… and as a tailpiece, a photo of the marina cat, Bella.
Today we sailed to Martinique; although only 25 nautical miles from Rodney Bay to Le Marin it took us 7 hours, as it was ‘hard on the wind’ and we had to tack! More on this in due course.