Friday, October 6, 2017

The Long Goodbye to St. Lucia

Little post-rain waterfall!
It wasn’t difficult to slip back into Cruising Mode. I thought it would be after sitting still for the summer… The plans we made to return to Marigot Bay after the departure of our guests were radically changed by an insurance snafu.

Long story short… Our agent dropped the ball on our renewal and severed his relationship with the company we had planned on keeping until we were done cruising or five years - whichever came first. This left him scrambling to find us a new insurance company that wouldn’t require us quickly obtain and pay for a new boat survey… with hurricane Irma messing up the entire process. Companies will not bind coverage with an active storm looming. We were forced to take a policy that would only cover us up to Cat 3 storms… So, no longer feeling “safe” after the crazy storms this past month… we’re moving south.

I remember back when I prepared for our first departure. Four years ago. Wow! I forgot about our Cruiserversary!!! We left officially on September 30, 2013…. The day slipped by me just last week and I didn’t even think about it. Oh well… who needs holidays and anniversaries when ever day is spent doing what we would do on those special days???

And another!

Back to my story… I don’t know about Bruce, but a thin veil of melancholy has slipped over me. Yes, I’m glad to be going again… But there is some angst and more than the usual inertia we experience after staying a while in a place. I’m actually, REALLY going to MISS St. Lucia! It has been so good here. So familiar. So easy. I really feel like we’ve “lived” here. And now we’re saying goodbye to the places we’ve grown to love and yes, the people too. 

A few brief errands in Rodney Bay kept us busy for an extra day. But once those were done, there was no reason to stay… so we dropped our mooring and motored out of the protected basin one last time and headed south. The sun was shining and the sky was blue… We wished that our guests had THIS weather instead of the days of rain they got. This is the St Lucia that we wanted to show them! 

Motoring down this now-familiar coastline, we pieced it all together in our minds with scenes from our land exploration… I remembered when we visited Vigie Lighthouse and the Keeper told me that most boaters don’t think to hail him on approach to Castries Harbor. I hailed him just to tell him of our intentions to pass the entrance and to say hello again. I could hear the smile in his voice as he told us to safely proceed!

At the fuel dock in Marigot.
We covered the short distance to Marigot Bay in easy fashion… We could have continued on to Soufriere but after leaving with plans to return, we realized we had to return their dock line and the shower key still in our possession… 

Goodbye grocery store...
Our weather window gave us a few days to spare and this would be a chance to pick up fuel, cash from the ATM, and a few groceries from the little store. We said our goodbyes to Troy and his staff and motored back out to the anchorage alongside the entrance channel… outsiders now…. this was no longer home. 

Goodbye Fisherman John!
Fisherman John stopped by in his little boat. He stopped for a long chat at the end of which I was feeling the pressure of unshed tears. We’ve met so many kind and gentle people here… Why leave??? Danged insurance companies!!! But it’s OK… I really think that without this catalyst… we really might never leave St. Lucia. We needed this boost to get us moving again… slowly.

Relaxing on the aft deck with sundowners and a cigar… we mused about our time in St. Lucia and talked about our plans for the coming year. Cruiser plans are made in sand at low tide… but we have to have some kind of plan so we know which direction to point the bow! At present… weather, and the need for a bottom job and that pesky survey are the governing factors. Trinidad, here we come… and we’ve got three months to get there. After that, who knows? It feels normal now, this not-having-a plan. 

We rested well and continued on down the coast in the morning. Destination: Soufriere. 

Another day dripping with sunshine… Man we wish Robert and Kathy were here for THIS!!! 

We approached the Bay and of course, the boat boys came zooming out. Peanut helped us get tied to the mooring on the northern side of the basin near the Bat Cave area. We read that there was some trouble here in recent years, but nothing lately so we took a chance. 


Once moored, we looked around at our surroundings. The scene, inadequately described in the guide book, was stunning. Sheer cliffs and clear water littered with rocks and reef for us to snorkel, right off the stern!

Snorkelling right off the stern

I see you!

After exploring the rocks around us, the increasing swell rocked the boat, thus convincing us to move to the other side of the basin. 

We motored across and paid another boat-boy to “help” us tie to the ball. This side wasn’t as nice… the water was churned up and we were practically in the back yards of the residents of Soufriere! We don’t like being within swimming distance any more than they probably like us staring into their windows at night… Our plan to spend two nights here dwindled to one… we would dinghy to town in the morning and then move to the Pitons…


The plan was changed once again by two little yellow kayaks loaded with kids paddling our way with board paddles. They clung to our gunwales and asked for this and that… while their eyes scanned our decks. To say that we were nervous would be a laughable understatement! We convinced them to leave but watched as they paddled over to the next boat and proceeded to board. The boat was obviously empty - stored there - but the kids crawled up into the cockpit and played while we made the decision to get the hell outta dodge!

We hastily prepared to drop our mooring and leave as we saw them abandon the other boat and paddle furiously our way again! We barely escaped as they closed in on us… they probably got an unhealthy dose of diesel fume for their troubles! What they wanted with us we have no idea, but we didn’t feel comfortable dealing with someone else’s children in a foreign country. They should have been in school and it was obvious that their parents weren’t worried about their activities… Probably sent them out to scavenge… We wanted no part of it.

Had it not been for the fact that we needed to clear out of St. Lucia in the town of Soufriere, we would have abandoned our visit and gone on to the Pitons… But we found another line of moorings right around the corner and just off the beach near an obviously more affluent part of the island. We hoped that this spot was far enough to discourage the little boys from visiting…

Except for seaweed...
It was certainly more beautiful and the water was cleaner. It was still close enough to Soufriere that we could still easily reach Soufriere’s dock and visit the town by dinghy… and this time, there were no boat boys to pay for the privilege of “helping” us tie to the mooring ball…


Petit Piton

A vendor named Cletus stopped by on his way home to see us some grapefruit and avocado and I asked him about the boys. He said that the boat they boarded was owned by a resident and that it was OK for the kids to board… doubtful, but OK… He seemed to think their behaviour wasn’t a concern, but advised that we report it to the Park Rangers when they came to collect the park fee. We felt a little better after that, and even more so after the Rangers, Pete and Jackie assured us that the boys wouldn’t bother us in this location… We relaxed. We laughed about our frenzied “escape” from the little boys! We enjoyed a gorgeous sundown and a peaceful night…

They really are kind of cute...
The next morning we were horrified to see those little boys paddling our way once again!!! They had made the corner and were closing in on us as we prepared to board the dinghy. We sped up our departure and passed them closely saying that we didn’t need anything! Their little faces projected such innocence… I wondered how their lives must truly be… Leaving them behind still heading toward our boat… now unprotected… our nervousness returned.

The dinghy dock

The little boys had passed us to visit the catamaran a bit further on...  

Little rain balls here and there cooling things off.

The decision for Bruce to leave me ashore and return to check on the boat was mutual… Of course there was another “helper” on the dock… there to make our visit more pleasant… Actually Daran was very helpful. The dock had been mostly destroyed by Hurricane Maria - guess it was worse than we realized tucked away in our safe hurricane hole in Marigot Bay. Daran and I had a discussion about the boys while Bruce went back to take a look.

Our fears were unrealised, the boys had continued on past us and were visiting the catamaran further down our beach. We left Daran in charge of our dinghy and proceeded to get our official business done.

The Customs office has moved to the SMMA building just to the left as you come off the dock. There is a guard house and a gate keeping people off the dock so we felt better about security than the Doyle’s guide left us… The Immigration office is no longer in the Police station… but further on past the SNL sign and just the other side of the Ice machine. Yeah, small town directions… feels just like TEXAS!

Cleared out for departure in the morning and wandered over to Skipper’s for some lunch. This is a “local’s” place… They had a lunch line with Creole favorites, but we were looking for a burger and fries. The food was good, the service was great… and it was fun listening to the music while the people went about their lives.

Lunch line on the right
The woman and man on the left got closer and closer... Love connection made!
Boat decor

Lots of coconuts here in the islands...

Somebody must be buying this stuff...
We took half the food along with us for our dinner and left in search of the grocery store. We found a bakery where we picked up some pastry for tomorrow’s breakfast… and a beggar.

We tried ignoring him but he followed us out and down the street. Just a silent menace jangling our already frayed nerves…

I dawdled outside this church... taking more photos to see if he would go away...

Nope... This is the guy... right behind us.
We ducked into the hardware store and chatted with the clerk… picked up some snips and went back outside. There he was.

The little grocery store was just next door so we popped in and found everything on our list, which is pretty good because these tiny stores are pretty much hit-and-miss… We paid and were relieved to find our stalker nowhere in sight. Ahhh… But we were done. No more exploring. We went straight back to the dinghy, paid Daran for all of his many kindnesses and split as fast as we could. Sometimes dipping our toes into the “real” island experience is a little too much for our American sensibilities!

Fishermen just offshore in hundreds of feet of water...

Dos Libras in front of Petit Piton
Just off of Petit Piton... These people at the base give an idea of the size of this thing.
The short distance to the mooring field between the Pitons was just enough time for the clouds to gather and begin dumping on us once again… So much for our sunny days! Maybe there’s something about the Pitons that it just RAINS there all the time! This time we motored slowly through the downpour to the opposite side of the basin from where we were during our last visit. We had no need to visit the beach and it would be that much closer to our southerly course in the morning.

Of course we had helpers… but really we didn’t mind. These intrepid boys came speeding out in the pouring rain to help us get the boat secured. They were very polite and drifted away once they learned that we would not require further assistance…

Then the sun came out and it was warm! A quick look around told us we were once again in a prime location to snorkel off the transom. There was a rocky reef just behind us close to shore and the water looked very clean and clear! We quickly donned our gear and jumped in! Ahhh the water was so nice!

The boat was moored in very deep water, but it was a short swim to the rocks where we spent more than an hour poking around. There weren’t a lot of coral down there, but there were fans and sponges and some fun schools of fish. We saw those strange white strands that I think are some sort of starfish… must remember to Google that when I get wifi again…

Peter and Jackie, your friendly Park Rangers.  Park fee and mooring for $20 US per night!

But the sunshine didn’t last long. The Pitons regained their hold on the weather and rain blocked out everything outside of this basin for some time. The rest of our afternoon was spent watching the changing curtains of rain as we gambled on whether or not we would have any sort of sunset tonight…

We got an eerie ball in the distance with a steady grey rain before the sun dropped below the horizon.

Even after that it continued to work magic on the clouds as they emptied their contents on hapless sailers late for their sundowners.

Tomorrow morning we leave St. Lucia. With the exception of these last moments with the young boys, we had never a moment’s fear. The people were unfailingly kind and helpful and willing to go to great lengths to make sure our stay here was all we wished it to be. I think that there is a distinct line between visitors and St. Lucians. They protect us and guard us like treasure. The few we met who made veiled reference to danger here were few but enough to hint that all is not what it seems here… at least not for everyone. But for us… the long goodbye was over and it was time to leave. We will return to St. Lucia.

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