March 23 - Onward to St. Lucia
We were underway out of St. Anne’s harbor by 9 a.m. St. Lucia was a little over twenty miles south. We put a double-reef in the main and unfurled the headsail only a tad. The winds were out of the east (nice direction for a beam reach) and were steady at twenty six knots. As we got into open waters the seas were 7-9 feet with an occasional higher one.
We soon decided that we didn’t even need the reefed main. A working jib was plenty to make 5-6 knots. Otherwise, it was a pretty comfortable sail being that the weather was all abeam. Had we needed to go straight into the wind and seas, it would have been a different matter. But as it was, four hours later we were anchored in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia
March 24-25 - Rodney Bay to Castries
On the northern end of Rodney Bay is Pigeon Island and the remains of an old fort. Inside the bay there is an inner harbor with a marina, shops and restaurants (with wi-fi). The area is non-descript, with a typical sort of marina look. The bay is wide with white sandy beaches and numerous resorts and hotels.
One afternoon we took the dinghy to Pigeon Island (really more of a point) to where the fort is located. It had a small museum with historical displays of battles that had taken place between the Brits and the French off the coast of St. Lucia. Apparently, the island changed hands eighteen times between them. Interestingly, it was not even they that discovered St. Lucia - it was the Spanish!
Originally, the island was settled by the Arawak Indians. But after 800 years of peaceful farming and fishing, the warring Carib Indians came in and wiped them out (actually, they executed the men and kept the women). Yeas later, the Europeans proceeded to wipe out the Caribs. It makes one reflect on land ownership - I suppose that the biggest guns end up as the owners. Aside from the “minor” issue of whether it is just, it makes sense even today. Take for example, Tibet.
Enough history and grand-standing. Today, St. Lucia is an independent nation but remains part of the British Commonwealth.
March 26 - An Exciting Bus Ride to Vieux Fort
We left Rodney Bay in the late morning and motored four miles south to Castries. As we entered the harbor we saw three large cruise ships docked and one anchored outside. Apparently, Castries is a little bigger than Rodney Bay.
The following morning we headed to the Castries bus station. Many of the buses are fifteen-passenger Toyota vans. They don’t run on a schedule. Instead, when the bus fills up, the driver takes off. Our destination was Vieux Fort, in the south of the island. The route the bus took was to go east across the island along the rain forest, then drive southward along the coast. Our main objective was to see the east side of the island, since we were only sailing on the western coast.
The bus driver appeared to be in a hurry, passing up slower vehicles on the windy and narrow mountain roads. It would have been nice to have blinders. Up in the mountains it was cooler and the terrain looked typical of a dense rain forest. The edges of towns we passed had banana farms and lots of mango and breadfruit trees. They also have an unusual looking fruit called a calabash, a perfectly round, green gourd-like fruit. I’m really not sure if the fruit is even eaten. I do know that they make bowls out of its hardened shell.
Vieux Fort was just another ram-shackle, dusty looking town. We did find an excellent little restaurant that we happened upon on our walking tour. We had a fresh salad, vegetables, pasta and roasted chicken with a Piton (the island’s beer), all for less than six dollars each.
While at lunch, I made an observation - here we were, a long ways away from home in a very different environment. Yet some cultural similarities were glaring. There were a few people standing in line, one was a local businessman in very typical business attire (a dressed shirt and pants, dark tie and a Blackberry strapped to his belt. Behind him was a young woman in tight jeans totally immersed in a conversation on her cell phone. But finally, someone stood out that looked culturally different- some real Caribbean color. He was a Rafta-looking brother, bright colorful shirt and pants, sandals, with hair piled under one of those hot, woven caps.
To complete the scene, a few steps outside of the restaurant at a very shabby corner store, some local fishermen were on the sidewalk selling freshly caught tunas (no ice in sight). A few feet away, a posted sign read “No peddling of fish”. I was reassured that we were in the Caribbean!
The ride back to Castries was as exciting as on the way over. The driver had two speeds - full bore and stopped. It must have been sheer luck, but we made it back safely. On our walk from the bus station to the boat, we stopped at the local fruit and vegetable market and bought our produce. We felt like locals.
One last observation. Where in Martinique we noticed very little obesity, particularly in Fort-de-France, St. Lucia seems be more like other Caribbean islands, in that a number of the locals have significant weight issues. This area is ripe for an in-depth nutritional research study.