St. Lucia:  March 18-April 5, 2008

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period


Rodney Bay -- Between Guests and Gusts

The weather turned nasty after Audrey left.  Well, that is kind of misleading.  It has been unusually windy for an extended time, to be sure.  We've moved back and forth from Reduit Beach to Pigeon Island as the strong winds have shifted direction.  But the really nasty weather was WAY up north, somewhere off the coast of USA.  Some big storm stalled out to sea, and because of its relatively static location, and because of its size, it managed to generate huge waves that subsequently came charging down through the Caribbean.  By the time they reached here, they were nice and round and widely spaced, with a period of about 12 to 15 seconds, but they were huge indeed.  Maybe 20 feet up by Puerto Rico, and maybe 12 feet here at St. Lucia.  They were described as the worst waves since those created by the infamous Perfect Storm.  When huge rollers reach shallow waters, they stack up and become vicious.  Bays all along the Caribbean with exposure to the north were either officially evacuated or unofficially abandoned by weather-wise cruisers.  We asked the folks at Rodney Bay Marina if they were suspending their ban on anchoring in the (outer) lagoon where they are busy dredging, and they said "no".  So we took our portable depth sounder on a reconnaissance run with the dinghy, and discovered that -- popular "wisdom" notwithstanding -- the inner lagoon has depths mostly in the 7-8 foot range.  Plenty good.  (We heard later that Doyle's guide books claim that the inner lagoon is too shallow for anchoring, and that the claim was made as a favor to a local owner who wants to be certain that there is plenty of room there for his own boat.  But we can find no such claim in our edition of Doyle.)  So we moved to the inner lagoon to escape the predicted large swells.  No big deal!  It got kind of crowded in there, as more and more vessels heard about the predicted swells.  Eventually the Rodney Bay Marina folks themselves heard about the swells and the damage done on islands further north, and they put out the word via VHF that they were opening up the outer lagoon for vessels to anchor.  A few vessels in Rodney Bay stayed closely tucked in near Pigeon Point, but all the rest of the large anchorage was eventually deserted.  We heard that the main road in "downtown" Anse La Raye was awash with sand and rock, caused by waves sweeping over the breakwater.  That would have damaged the buildings between the road and the breakwater, including the building that was the backdrop for the band whose pictures I included in the previous edition of this humble blog.  We heard that Marigot Bay permitted multiple vessels to share buoys and that many had up to four.  Someone said that if you wanted to get to shore to buy a drink, you could just walk in!  Meanwhile, tucked into cozy but polluted inner lagoon, I used the opportunity to do my quarterly varnish work, which was a good thing.  What was not a good thing was what happened after six days in the lagoon.  Took me two consecutive days and two scuba tanks to clean the bottom after we got back outside.

Two of our neighbors in the inner lagoon were Tito and Roberta (Halleluhia) who we had met at Cruise Inn in Trinidad.  They told us about the St. Lucia Yacht Club, which has membership opportunities tailored to transient cruisers, but that also welcomes non-members.  We attended several times, including a nice pot luck.  On Easter we impulsively popped in to a restaurant whose billboard trumpeted an English meal with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  On a scale from one to ten, Phyllis (Cocoon) still gets ten, and the restaurant gets two.  After the rollers had passed and we were back outside in the bay, our friends Steve and Ann (Receta) arrived and we have shared a number of delicious meals (one home-cooked by Ann, one at the Indian restaurant Razzmatazz, one at the Pork Palace in Babonneau, one at the Thai restaurant Ku De Ta, and one at the Coal Pot in Vigie) and a number of competitive games of Progressive Rummy.  We have gotten to know the folks on Never Never Land and Dorothy Ellen, and have run into many folks we have met along the way.  Some anchorages sometimes feel crowded, but it really is a small community of cruisers out here.

We have been trying to walk or run every day.  We found a nice path/road up the mountain to the south -- Mt. Pimard.  The path that is shown in the guidebooks has been extended.  It still only gets about half-way up the 639', but it now constitutes a "circle" that goes up one way and down another, and there is a nice overlook of Rodney Bay. 

And we have been working on our Spanish.  We have discovered that our PC does not have enough memory (only 512M RAM) to run Rosetta Stone for very long without getting errors, so we have ordered 2 G RAM which should arrive with our daughter Lara when she comes on April 6th.  Barb is making more progress on her Spanish with Rosetta Stone than she ever dreamed she could.  She is a very happy customer.

While still in the inner lagoon, we were invited to go on a tour with two other couples, but I was still in the middle of my varnish project and couldn't go.  So let's hear the story from Barbara:

The cruiser who organized the tour (who shall remain nameless) was able to book it for $100US (total cost to be divided by however many riders) rather than the customary $160.  I decided to go to learn more about the island in advance of future guests.  I arrived at the 10:00 am meeting place at the Rodney Bay Marina along with the other two couples.  After 15 minutes and no tour guide, the organizer finally called the guide to see what was happening.  There seemed to be a quite a bit of confusion about the trip.  (The locals may speak English here but they also speak a form of Creole as their first language and it can be hard to understand some folks.)  The guide said he'd be there in a couple of minutes.  Another 10 minutes went by and we called him again.  He said he was waiting for us on the road in front of the marina.  We went out to the road and saw no van, and so called him yet again.  Only after we saw a fellow -- not the guide the organizer had booked with -- across the road answer his phone did we realize he was in fact there but with no vehicle.  After crossing the road, laughing about the situation and introducing ourselves, our organizer verified that the fellow was indeed there to take us on a tour, and that the deal was for a six hour island tour for $100.  When the guide agreed, our organizer asked where the vehicle was.  The tour guide was surprised and said he hadn't understood that a vehicle was to be included.  Everyone was quite dismayed, but the tour guide said he would find a vehicle.  A short phone call, and within two minutes a taxi van showed up to take us on the tour.  It soon developed that they wouldn't do the tour for $100 with both a taxi driver and a tour guide included.  We were ready to cancel when the tour guide suggested that we just go with the taxi driver since he was familiar with the island and could show us around.  We all reluctantly agreed to the plan,  jumped into the van and away we went.  As we started down the road, the driver asked where we wanted to go.  No one was really sure.  We all knew we didn't want to go back to the Pitons, or to Marigot Bay, or to the Sulfur Springs or to other places on the west side of the island that we had already visited via our boats.  It was decided that we should go to the rain forest.  The driver was pleased with that decision and took us on a 30 minute drive to the rain forest near Babonneau.  When we arrived we realized that it was a tourist attraction site with a cost of either $72US or $84US per person to ride the ziplines and other features into the rainforest.  It appeared our budget tour was going to be a budget breaker.  The members of the group decided they didn't want to spend their island tour time there and asked the driver to take them to some other place.  The driver asked where specifically they wanted to go.  It was becoming ever more apparent that he was not that familiar with the attractions of the island and just wanted to drive us to a destination of our choosing.  We asked the nice tour guides at the rain forest for recommendations and they had several.  Unfortunately, the driver was not willing to take us to some of them since they were too far and the roads too rough.  By then everyone had realized we were not going to be getting any tourist info from our driver and that the tour was becoming a real boondoggle.  Someone suggested that they abort the tour, have the driver take everyone back to Rodney Bay, and pay for the percentage of the time we had used.  Everyone agreed and it ended up costing only $5US per person for the 1 1/2 hour outing.  The two couples then decided to take a bus into Castries for the day and I returned to tell Chuck about our "tour".  Some of the others were fairly irritated, but I thought it was pretty funny.  Later that week I ran into the tour organizer again.  He said that while in Castries he had run into the local with whom he had set up the tour.  He confronted the guy and asked what kind of a scam he was running.  The local seemed genuinely shocked and asked what he meant.  He said he had been waiting for a phone call of confirmation but that one had never come.  Our organizer told him he had indeed called.  "What number did you call?", the local asked.  Turned out he had called the wrong number!  Whoever answered obviously decided to make a few bucks and to not admit to the error, which was why he arrived without a van, etc.  What an experience!  The only bad thing about the day, as far as I was concerned, was that I left my favorite crushable straw hat in the van and have not been able to get it back, despite several phone calls to the "pseudo tour guide" who promised to talk to the van driver.  Live and learn!

The Fruit Man cometh ...

... and goeth (in the inner lagoon)

Locals from two motor boats depart after stashing their boats in the safe inner lagoon

More fun in the sun of Rodney Bay

Rodney Bay as seen from Mt. Pimard (entrance to lagoon behind Tusen Takk II)

Another sight from Mr. Pimard