This blog post mostly focuses on the beautiful places to visit on the different islands that we visit, the truth of the matter is that after more than a year here, the Caribbean has become more than an extended holiday destination to us. Until futher notice, the Caribbean is our home and our journeys up and down the islands are no longer dictated solely by curiosity about rain forests and lovely anchorages. Although Saint Lucia has these in abundance, this time our trip here was primarily for two reasons; picking up Roger (Simon’s brother) who has joined us for two weeks and the proximity to a dinghy dock of a very handy medical centre in Rodney Bay. Simon had some persistent tummy trouble after a night of much cheese and wine which prompted us to get a doctor’s opinion. The Rodney Bay Medical Centre offers all the services (same day GP consultation without a wait, blood tests, scans) in one location just five minutes’ walk from the dinghy dock. The good news is that all the test results came back negative and Simon is feeling better since consuming French cheese in moderation. Had we stayed in Martinique it would have meant a three week wait for an ultrasound scan and multiple visits to different locations around the island. Martinique has excellent health care but, like all European countries (Martinique is part of France and all Martiniquais are French citizens) struggles to cope with the demand of providing this excellent health care to all. We found ourselves paying a little more in Saint Lucia but for a vastly more convenient and comfortable experience. An afternoon sail was all that it took to come over here. We can report that the search for convenient doctors and dentists is important, but the search for good coffee shops is also a motivation. We highly recommend Rawr in the Rodney Bay Mall for its friendly customer service and delicious flat whites!
St Lucia was the first island that we stopped at after crossing the Atlantic in 2018. At that time, we had no experience of other islands to compare her to. We appreciated her more this time around. Although the island is significantly more commercial than Martinique to the north, the tourist industry being the biggest source of revenue for the island, we appreciated the relaxed set up for anchoring in Rodney Bay which seemed so quiet after Sainte Anne and Le Marin in Martinique. We were charmed by the beautiful, rolling hills around the bay and appreciated the convenience of Rodney Bay marina which, in stark contrast to Le Marin just across
the water, always had plenty of space. And the flat whites at the mall (Rawr coffee shop) didn’t go amiss either! Another recommendation of ours is the beautiful Jambe du Bois café and restaurant on Pigeon island. Although the restaurant is inside the park which charges $10US per person for a visit, if you go after 5pm the ticket office is closed. We highly recommend Sundays when a live jazz band plays for those who want a change from Socca and Bob Marley! However, a word of warning; dinghy theft in the bay is a problem. A boat which was anchored just behind us had their dinghy and outboard stolen during the night even though it was locked on. If you can winch your dinghy out of the water this is one of those places where it is better to do so before you settle down too comfortably with a rum punch!
Welcome to Paradise!
We made a third trip to Souffrière, the stunning marine park at the foot of the Pitons, the iconic peaks that stand on the coast and tower over the bays below. On arrival we were greeted by a humpback whale only a few hundred metres from our beam, surprisingly close to shore. Souffrière is a marine park in which it is forbidden to anchor but which offers mooring buoys for a small fee. My dream of diving here (I have heard so many good things) was sadly scuppered by an ear infection but luckily this location offers many options for exploring inland. We were surprised at how pretty we found the town of Souffriere, having remembered it as being far grittier. Obviously a year in the Caribbean has redefined what we think of as “gritty”. Although it is possible to spend a small fortune on guided tours, there is plenty within walking distance or along the bus route. The Diamond Botanical gardens are an easy walk from town and are very pretty (if a little expensive at the usual $10US entrance fee). For visiting on a cruiser’s budget, take the local bus in the direction of Vieux Fort to the Fonds Doux plantation and then a twenty minute walk uphill takes you to the Tet Paul Nature walk. This walk is great for panoramic views of the whole island and birds eye views of the Pitons. Again, you have to pay the usual $10US each, but for this you have a guide who will tell you about all the plants and trees that happen to grow along the route and their astonishing multiple medicinal properties. Gregory, our guide, also took us to see the local “Rasta man”, a guy called Africa who lives behind the ticket office and lives off the land. We were offered some local herbs also reputed to have medicinal properties and had a chat about the island and climate change. We got the lovely rasta greeting “One love” and fist bumps and at no point were asked for anything in exchange. In fact, having been given lifts by two local cars as we were waiting for the bus to get back into town, we heard this greeting “one love” several times in the day and began to appreciate the warm, generous side to Saint Lucians that we hadn’t experienced before. Souffrière can feel slightly “grabby” for cruisers as you can expect to get visits from boat boys, jewellery hawkers and kids on paddleboards all offering services for a fee. When the kids don’t get any business they ask for juice or cookies “to help us go to school”. I found that pens are acceptable substitutes.
Trouble in paradise
We have to finish on a chilling note. Our second day out in Souffrière ended up being the biggest drama of our cruising lives and we were not even aware of it until the following day! One of the boys who had come round to offer to take our “poubelle”; Nono; was quite chatty: He told us that our mooring buoy had broken free and that our boat had floated off while we had been on shore. He said that the park rangers had brought it back with their dinghies. As we had already had two visits from Pete Butcher, the head ranger, who had come to take our park fees and insisted on giving me a welcome kiss on both cheeks, we pooh poohed Nono’s version of events. Surely the rangers would have told us! We could see divers on the adjacent mooring buoy and assumed that Nono had mistaken a nearby boat for ours. It was only when we came to look at the chart plotter which tracks our boat’s position that we clearly saw a line where the boat had floated out into the bay and had returned to an adjacent buoy. We went up onto the bow and found the lines tied in a different way, not even fed through the fairleads. Our blood ran cold. If there had been the usual onshore wind, we would have been on the rocks or on the beach. And the wind was incredibly light during our stay! There but for the grace of God and all that…. We watched a boat nearby as he motored back hard against his mooring buoy. This is certainly something we will do routinely if ever we have to take a mooring buoy in the Caribbean again. We always prefer our anchor to a mooring buoy but believed that the SMMA (Souffriere Marine Management Association) were reliable. The upshot is, to quote one of the SMAA employees, “you have to expect mooring buoys to break eventually”. Now we know.