St. Lucia: February 14 - 22, 2010

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

Barb and I returned to the Caribbean on Valentine's Day.  What with things to stow, install, or clean, we didn't leave Clarke's Court Bay Marina until early on the morning of the 19th, when we departed for points north.  We stopped briefly at Hillsborough, Carriacou in order to check out of Grenada/Carriacou, and then continued on our way to surprisingly crowded Chatham Bay, Union Island, where we flew our yellow flag and left before dawn the next day.  We arrive at Harmony Beach, St. Lucia, where we found Receta and Arctic Tern rafted together on a single Park Service buoy.  Hunter and Steve were in a dinghy and prepared to help us maneuver into a Med mooring configuration, with our nose tied to a buoy and our stern secured with a long line to shore.  But the moorings were frightfully close together, and we would have been squeezed in awfully close to our neighbors.  At the last minute Benny Jr., of Benny's Harmony Beach Restaurant and Water Taxi Service, suggested that we instead drop an anchor outside of the mooring and then secure our stern to the mooring, since this would put us out beyond the other tightly-packed vessels.  And so that is what we did.

The Terns and Receta were all abuzz about their guided hike up to the top of Gros Piton (2619'), and were equally impressed with the young mother who had done the guiding.  They had asked about hiking Petit Piton (2460'), and were assured that it was quite doable by the members of that group.  Indeed, Sophia, the guide, suggested that although it was steeper, it was also shorter, and so it could be scaled in about an hour!  So we had barely gotten settled into our anchor/mooring spot when we were approached about joining an expedition the next morning to scale, with Sophia as the guide, Petit Piton.  During Barb's stay in Vegas I had been on a two-hour-plus hike virtually every morning, and had been on two long hikes of 10 and 8 hours, so I was keen to go.  But Barb had gotten no exercise during the seven weeks away from the boat, and so felt it prudent to decline.  Thus she was assigned the task of getting us properly checked into St. Lucia, while I bent the rules a bit and left the vessel "early" to join the Petit Piton expedition.

Feb. 21 -- Petit Piton

We had all read, in one place or another, that Petit Piton was not a recommended hike.  Sophia warned us to not bring walking sticks, since we would sometimes need to pull ourselves up "hand over hand".  Unlike Gros Piton, it has no man-built steps, but for about the first half, there are plenty of strong roots growing across the trail, and these can/should be used to offload some of the load from the legs to the arms.  There is a stretch up near the top where a fire a few years ago stripped the trail of roots and small trees to use for hand-holds.  But Benny has strung ropes in the steepest of those places, and so those folks fit enough to be able to plant their feet and use upper body strength to pull themselves up the dangling lines can safely make the ascent (and descent).  It ain't easy, but it is definitely possible.  But not in an hour.  Only the fittest Olympic decathlon athlete could make the ascent in an hour.  It took us over 2 hours, so it would appear that Sophia had indulged in a bit of hyperbole in an effort to secure another gig.  And we were glad she had done so, for we all think that Petit Piton is more fun and has better views than Gros Piton.

Petit Piton from our boat -- in lower right hand corner note Receta and Arctic Tern rafted together

Gros Piton in the background

Hunter and Devi

Sophia, Ann and Steve at lunch on the top

Hunter and Devi take lunch at the top

Our guide, Sophia

Panorama looking north to east

Harmony Beach mooring field seen from the top -- can you spot TT2?


Feb. 22 and 23 -- Diving with Peter

Peter is the Park Superintendent of St. Lucia's Marine Management Areas, better known as SMMA.  Harmony Beach is right in the middle of SMMA, and so the park rangers come by every morning and every evening to check on things and to collect the mooring fees.  The rate depends upon the length of the vessel.  The fee for our 48' trawler for two nights was $EC 54 -- about $US 21.  After greetings, the first thing Peter said was "will you be diving this visit?"  "Of course," we replied.  All diving on St. Lucia must be with an official guide.  I cannot think of anyone more competent, more friendly, more relaxed, and more economical, than Park Superintendent Peter.  We have our own tanks, and to add to our recommendation of him, I must mention that he even takes the tanks away with him after the dive, and returns with them filled the following morning.  And the price of the refills is considerably less than it would be at a commercial dive establishment on the island.  If you want to dive on the south end of St. Lucia, and the diving is pretty darn good in the vicinity of the Pitons, then you can do no better than to use Peter.  Just speak to the rangers when they come around for the mooring fee.

The Terns, Receta, and Tusen Takk II all dove "Superman's Flight" off of Petit Piton on Feb. 22.  Just before the dive ends, you pass by a gorgeous vertical wall.  Receta had to get up to Rodney Bay to prepare the boat for Ann's departure back to Canada, where she was slated to spend two weeks promoting her new book "The Spice Necklace".  So on Feb. 23 it was just the Terns and Barb and I (and Peter).  He took us across the bay to a new site (to us):  The Pinnacles.  Very nice scenery.  Another lovely dive.  Aware that we were leaving early the next morning, he even brought back the refilled tanks after nightfall that same night.  If you want to dive south St. Lucia, use Peter!

Feb. 22 -- Container Ship Capsizes

After a long hiatus, on a whim on the morning of Feb. 22 I tuned our Single Side Band (SSB) radio to the 8 AM net called the "Coconut Telegraph", affectionately known as the "Nut Net" to its fans.  The purpose of the network is simply to give each cruiser a chance to check in and give their location.  Since SSB signals can travel enormous distances, the Nut Net provides a way of keeping up with the locations of fellow cruisers.  I heard check-ins that morning ranging from Bonaire to the Virgin Islands.  But the broadcast of especial interest here is the news I heard of a container ship capsizing somewhere between St. Lucia and St. Vincent.  The result was that there were between 15 and 20 containers floating around in the sea.  A dangerous situation, because they tend to float almost entirely submerged, and are thus difficult to see.  Furthermore, they are are large enough so that vessels the size of our boat and those of our friends would almost certainly be sunk by a collision with one of the containers.

We heard on our morning dive that the ship had been bound for Haiti.  Later that afternoon, we saw a commotion on the horizon.  There were a large number of pirogues milling about and slowly coming from the south around the Pitons.  Binoculars revealed that the boats were milling about a mostly-submerged container.  As they approached closer to Harmony Beach, they swept very near to Arctic Tern.  More and more small boats arrived to buzz around the container.  People gathered on land to watch the spectacle.  The air was filled with a constant chatter punctuated by excited shouts.  Occasionally -- not very often -- we could see objects being thrown from the container to nearby boats.  The entourage briefly stalled near shore, and then moved back out to deeper water, heading this time directly toward Arctic Tern, and in fact driving them briefly off their mooring.  They went out a considerable distance, and then, perhaps under tow by different boats, moved without delay and further looting back to Harmony Beach.  When the container had grounded, the excitement began again.  Just when it appeared to be slacking off somewhat, and just as the light was failing for my telephoto lens, a backhoe appeared on the beach.  A cable was sent from the backhoe to the container, and the container was slowly, laboriously, pulled out of the sea.  When the container was about half out, or a little more, something opened and a huge roar went up.  Contents spilled out into the water, and the crowd surged out around the container, oblivious to the dangers of a snapped cable.  Later, when the container was fully ashore, additional contents were spilled out onto the sand, and the crowd "collected" in earnest.  Several of the pirogues, now so loaded that they scarcely had any freeboard left, circulated among the moored vessels, either offering for sale or giving away some of their booty.  One such pirogue came our way, and we asked what they had gotten.  "Peanuts!"  Cases and cases of Fisher Honey Roasted Peanuts and Fisher Unsalted Peanuts.  We were gifted with a case of each, accompanied with grand proclamations of "Merry Christmas" and "Happy New Year"!  Oh, and would we by any chance have a bit of rum that they could have?  We hurried to our larder and presented them with a bottle that was at least half full.  The surprised looks on their faces were priceless.  Friends for life!  The next day one of the guys on the pirogue spoke of having earlier that day "rescued" flat screen TVs and toasters and microwaves and refrigerators and hammers and tools and irons.  Apparently some of the containers even contained automobiles, but those were not salvaged.  We got much the same story from Peter's assistant on our dive on the 23rd.  He couldn't stop smiling about his good fortune.  Apparently the container ship had been unwisely loaded with heavy containers atop lighter ones.  The ship had listed so badly that it had sunk, and was reportedly off the coast of southern St. Lucia, near Vieux Fort,  in about 100 feet of water, with just one end protruding above the surface.  The alleged destination of Haiti, in the light of what we subsequently learned about the cargo, no longer seemed credible, but we know nothing about the actual destination(s).

Our first view of the container coming around the Pitons

The group grew as it approached Harmony Beach

On its first visit to Harmony Beach, the assemblage just missed Arctic Tern

Things got pretty loud and frantic as the container approached shore

Spectators on shore

The Terns watched from their boat ...

... as did others

When the assemblage headed out again, they forced the Terns off their mooring

Note the carton being thrown high into the air

The second (and final) trip to the beach was faster and more deliberate

The pictures below show the backhoe pulling the container up onto the shore.  Note the bystanders swarming around the container when some of the contents spill into the water.

The boat pictured below is offering jars of peanuts for sale to Arctic Tern.  Devi pointed out that now that they were the "rich" ones, they maybe should be giving the peanuts away to the "poor" cruisers without any peanuts.  They laughed and gave Arctic Tern two jars of Unsalted Peanuts.

The pictures below show the heavily-loaded pirogue that eventually made its way to our boat.  They gave us two cases of peanuts, and we gave them some rum.

Post Script

After the above account had been written, we received through Devi this copy of a note that had been sent to Sally Erdle, editor of Caribbean Compass, a monthly magazine/newspaper.   The note was sent by another cruiser.


This 400ft ship apparently loaded some 60 odd containers over its normal limit of 657 TEU  and rolled over about two miles off Vieux Fort., I hear that containers have been floating around and are being  towed in to some towns on the south coast...but that's about all I have heard, I also hear she is still floating, upside down! If I hear more I will let you know, but don't print any of this yet,  it may be all wrong!

PS  It happened on 21/2/10 at 22pm

Post Post Script

And then we found these, on, published in Barbados, the ship's destination, which fill in some of the blanks:




The cargo ship AngelN, which sunk heading from St. Lucia to Barbados. (FP)


Published on: 2/23/2010.

IN EXCESS of 15 000 tonnes of cargo, valued in the millions of dollars and bound for Barbados, are now at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea after a large container vessel sank last Sunday night.

No lives were lost or crew injured when the six-year-old vessel ANGELN, part of the Miami, Florida-based Bernuth Line, sank just after midnight about two miles off Vieux Fort, St Lucia.

Maritime authorities from Barbados and St Lucia launched an immediate investigation, but the cause of the incident may take some time to uncover.

"The ship listed to the starboard side, capsized and then sank," sales and marketing manager for DaCosta Mannings Shipping, Shone Gibbs, told the DAILY NATION yesterday. "Unfortunately, all cargo was lost, and remains irretrievable. Insurance is in place for something like this."

According to Gibbs, it was the first time in the more than the 100-year history of DaCosta's, shipping agents for the Bernuth Line, that one of their ships sank during a transport.


WATERY GRAVE: The DAILY NATION was able to obtain this daytime photograph of the scene, taken on Monday, hours after the MV ANGELN went down just off St Lucia’s Vieux Fort coast. (GP)


Published on: 2/24/2010.


MORE THAN 25 BARBADIAN COMPANIES will have to wait at least a month before the millions of dollars in cargo lost due to the sinking of the Angeln can be replaced.

But, some companies will see the much needed foodstuff and department store merchandise start arriving here within the next two weeks.

Shipping agents DaCosta Mannings have identified a replacement vessel to travel the same Eastern Caribbean route in the wake of Angeln's sinking last Sunday night two miles off St Lucia's Vieux Fort coast.

"The country won't be left in a wanting situation as some people seem to think," DaCosta's sales and marketing manager Shone Gibbs told the DAILY NATION yesterday.

He said the company was still fine-tuning a list of claims from the more than 20 businesses which were customers involved in the situation.

"There are contingencies for situations like this, and they have been put in place," he added. "Persons have been reordering their cargo, and we are putting a system in place to fast-track the loss-recovery process."

Gibbs said some special orders would form part of the loss-recovery effort, but that the first replacement trip would be made to Barbados within the next 14 days.

Most of the companies that had produce on the six-year-old vessel have been tight-lipped about their losses, and the monetary value.

"Most companies affected by this unfortunate incident wish to remain unidentified," Gibbs said. "Most persons involved in this business are fiercely competitive and any publicity can impact on their business negatively. If they would reveal the amount of money lost, it would be equal to giving their [competitors] an advantage."

Norman Rice, of Premier World, a shipping agency for small and medium-sized businesses, which had four 40-foot containers on the Angeln, told the DAILY NATION its customers had been extremely understanding of the situation, and had started coming forward to fill out special claims forms which stated their order and the money value.

"We have already started loading other containers, and the customers realise their produce will take some time before it gets back to Barbados, but they have been very understanding," Rice added.

Officials from both Bernuth Lines, the Miami, Florida-based shipping company that operated the Angeln, and St Lucian authorities are on the scene of the sinking.

"The investigation of the sinking has definitely started. Officials are there trying to assess the situation," Gibbs said.

He said the company had no intention of trying to recover the vessel or the produce, adding they were comprehensively insured.


And then, contrary to the last sentence, above, we found this at

The American salvage company Titan Salvage has been hired to secure the sinking site of the Antigua-Barbuda-flagged cargo m/v "Angeln", 6704 gt (IMO: 9298600) 2 miles off Vieux Fort, St. Vieux, and assess the possibility of salvaging the vessel and its cargo. Actually it is unknown whether the ship will have an impact on trade routes in the area. According to ship's owner Brise Bereederung Hamburg the vessel's hull underwriters and P&I club are involved in the ongoing investigation. The ship was chartered to Miami-based Bernuth Agencies for a Caribbean liner service when it sank. The cargo of the "Angeln" included more than $40,000 worth of printer ink. The vessel has P&I cover from Skuld and is classed by Germanischer Lloyd. In the night of Feb 21, 2010, it suddenly listed to starboard and foundered after having been abandoned by the East European crew of 15.