Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Pitons

Winding down for two days in the marina and visiting Castries, the capital, by bus it was time to see the southern part of St Lucia. We cleared the boat out in Rodney Bay, and told them that we might be staying two nights in the Pitons area. Customs lady gave our clearance, but Immigration refrained from stamping our passports. I don’t know what that means, but we cannot go to Soufriere Bay just for that. It is the Easter holidays anyway, everywhere would be closed.

On Friday, April the 6th, at 7:00 am we left the marina. The channel coming into the marina is rumored to be a bit tricky, so we followed the line shown in the GPS. According to the sailing guide, the usual route going south would pass from the inside of a small rock called Barrel of Beef, close to the southern tip of Rodney Bay. I never think it a good idea, since the rock was quite close to the land and the depth was around sixteen feet, with a fast current going around. I was a bit excited, but not hysterical, so Al did not change the route. Thankfully we passed the rock without an incident; but we kept a look out for the fish traps, and spotting a few, made some slaloms. After a while, I realized that in the excitement, I had not taken our fenders in, and lost one of the ball-shaped ones on the way. We both felt awful; Al blamed himself for not reminding me as the skipper, I blamed myself; but nothing can be done at this point. At least I saw it before we lost all of them.

Coming down the lee of St Lucia was a thrill, because tide was with us, and the accelerated wind came down from the valleys at many points. We got the sails up, and flew down the 18 miles in about three hours.

The sailing guide warns about some criminal activity close to the town of Soufriere, so we chose Malgretout, where Harmony Beach Hotel/Restaurant is advertised to have moorings, while offering many services to the visiting yachts. We had called earlier, and reserved a mooring.

When we spotted the Petit Piton Mountain, we thought that Harmony was located at its south side, so we headed towards the bay between it and the other mountain, Gros Piton, jutting out. While getting closer to shore Al called Harmony and asked where to come. They described their building as having a blue roof, along with some homes at the back. We looked, but could not see anything like that, except a luxurious looking resort at a grand beach at the north corner of the bay, and some other none-descript buildings. Then we saw a boat-boy, and asked if it was Harmony. It turned out to be Jalousie Beach, and the nice guy directed us towards the Soufriere Bay. Apparently Malgretout is another indentation along the big Soufriere Bay, very close to the south end, marked by Petit Piton.

When we came to the right bay, we found Edgar from Harmony waiting to help us to get the mooring ball. The shore looked very rugged and green; the town is not in visual distance, only the numerous yachts stationed along the northern coast of the bay, which is the Bat Cave, could be seen from our vantage point. I was a bit surprised to see all the yachts at that end, and none at the Harmony corner. We were the only ones for some time, then a party boat came along, with a lot of people and loud music. The boat came very close to the beach, anchored and took a line to a tree to secure it. The sea was swelling, and hitting the beach with a vengeance. It seems that going to shore for the night could be risky, since there was no dinghy dock, beaching the dinghy in the dark is out of the question. We asked Harmony, and learned that we would have to take a water taxi to town and a taxi on land back, to get to them. A bit complicated.

Al is a little weary of leaving the boat alone, since I offended a boat-boy by asking how much he would charge to take us to shore. He did not give a price, asking how much I was willing to give. After back and forth several times, I gave up. He then grunted that we had lied to him earlier while coming in, and told him that we were going south. Since we thought we were going to the other bay, we had waved him away when he had approached us earlier. Oh well, do we have to justify our movements to the boat-boys? It seems that we are obligated to use their services, whether we needed them or not.

I was thinking of staying here two nights, and visiting the volcano, Soufriere Mountain, where some hot springs were located. One of them is mentioned in the guide, as having been built by Louis the 16th. I wonder if he used it himself. However, it does not look likely that we will stay here more than one night. Maybe next time.

To tell the truth, I am not much impressed by this bay. First of all there is a constant smell of sewer in the general area, as well as some debris and foaming on the sea. Unfortunately the water was not at all inviting. Even its colour is an unlikely green, which made Al speculate that the raw sewers of the town is coming to the bay, but turning around and around, without going anywhere because of the strong currents forcing them back in. We followed the foams going in circles for hours and that was exactly what seemed to happen. I hope not, but we could not swim there.

Theory proven; we threw two aluminum cans and some fruit peels at night, and watched them go around in circles close to the boat. I was afraid that we would find them in the morning, but they must have sunk after a while.

St Lucia was a disappointment. We are off to St Vincent and the Grenadines tomorrow.

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