Wednesday, April 4, 2012

St Lucia

As usual we checked the charts and the guide and the multiple GPS devices to find any hazards on the way. Found no hazards, but an advice in one, for motoring around the island towards St Anne at the south east corner of Martinique; and then turning south to have the wind advantage. We thought to give it a try, so we made a way point a little south of the Diamond Point (Pointe Diamante), somewhere between the lines given in the chart for starting from the west of the island, or St Anne.

There was only one catamaran going the same direction in front of us at that early hour. While we motor-sailed to the first way point, the accelerated winds around the island faced us; but no matter, our friend the trade winds were to come in about an hour. Since we had our sail up while anchored, we unfurled the genoa, and got underway towards St Lucia, which was visible in the mist.

Al saw the other catamaran, which had headed towards St Anne stopping, while both its sails were up. Al turned on the VHF, to see if they needed any help. He even thought of turning to get close to them ask, but I did not see the point. What could we do? If they needed help they would ask the coast-guard. As well, I thought that keeping the boat in one place while the sails were up required special skills, like heave-to, and would be on purpose. Who knows?

We kept on going, but our progress was slow, we could not do more than 4.5 knots on average, even motor-sailing. Around 9:00 am we cut the engines, and sailed for an hour, with an average 4 knot speed, even though the wind was around 10-13 knots. We thought there must be a strong current/tide against us, which did not let up until we came close to Rodney Bay, St Lucia. However, it was a very easy ride, since the waves were mild. Slowly but surely, we made it towards the twin peaks mentioned in the sailing guide.

Al was looking at his smart-phone (the main GPS that he trusts), and trying to keep the rumb-line by constantly pointing up, since the wind/current/tide were pushing us west. When I spotted the peak of the Pigeon Island, which was different than the others, Al could not believe me, since the red-roofed buildings were seen to its east. Pigeon Island was supposed to be at the northern tip of the Rodney Bay, so seemed unlikely from our vantage point.

When we got to Pigeon Island, which looked like a sitting lion to me, the entrance to the bay opened up. Al had read on the Imray chart that Sandals Resort which was built at the cause-way to Pigeon Island had blue roof-tops, so I was looking for it to no avail. There were red roofs everywhere, including the cause-way, bluish gray ones at the middle of the bay. When we got close enough, I saw that Sandals actually had red roofs (they must have changed lately). OK, we were in the right place!

There were many boats anchored close to the mile-long sandy beach, so we picked a spot and I let the anchor go; however our yellow ball did not come up to the surface. I was worried that it would become a hazard for the passing traffic (quite a lot of it, with para-sailing speed-boats, fruit vendors, sail-boats, fishermen, you name it). Al dived to check the anchor and saw that it was set in a kind of well in the sand, which was much deeper than its vicinity, which was the reason for the anchor ball not showing.

After a short break, we got into the dinghy and went to the Rodney Marina to clear in. According to the guide, only the skipper of the incoming boats was allowed to touch land for that purpose, so I waited in the dinghy while Al dealt with it. It was quite hot at 2:00 pm, and the dinghy dock did not provide any shade, but I put my head to the dock, and closed my eyes for a while.

When he came back, we checked the marina office for their prices, and found them reasonable. We will be staying here for a few nights. It is a newly renovated facility it seems, very clean and modern, and well used, but having some spots for transients (like us). It seems that the slips with electricity were harder to find, since their first question was related to that. When we made it known that we did not need any, it was easy to get an end slip facing another catamaran. I asked the guy if they could help us to tie, and he said no problem, just call on VHF.

When we approached the marina, I had a conversation with the marina office, mentioning the slip number that we were coming; and the attendant said proceed. We proceeded, but could not see anyone on the docks, not even other boat owners, who could help out. It was up to me to jump down to the low dock, and tie the back line. The dock was so low that most of our fenders were dangling high up, especially the balls. I had to reach up to lengthen the front ones, while pushing the boat away from the dock. It was a good thing that the water was dead calm, even though there was some wind helping me.

I think I am shaking the fear of coming along and tying on to the docks without any outside help. When you have to do it, you have to do it. As soon as the first line was tied up, Al came down to do the rest, while I brought down extras for tying the spring lines. After the whole ordeal was over at 5:00 pm, we realized how tired we became. We were ready to check out the multiple restaurants/bars lining the marina office!

We slept like babies on our first night in the marina. It feels good to be able to touch ground without using the dinghy once in a while. Especially at night, getting in and out of the dinghy, walking precariously on the poorly made dinghy docks, unlocking the combination pad-lock, tying/untying the “painter” (dinghy line for people who didn’t know, like me), and finding Ruyam II in the dark sometimes get to me.


  1. Backwards in time:
    From Nel's notes about her first visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines four years ago:

    The way to Bequia was quite long, but the wind was more favourable, which let us go in one tack for quite a while. At least for the crew, the activity was not very frantic, and for the passengers, we could sit tight in one spot for a while, without having to change places every minute. The lone winch remained under our custody, and we reached the Admiralty Bay in Bequia in good time.

  2. Now forward in time:
    To appreciate the significance of the last posting, follow Ruyam's voyage on April 7 and 8!