Monday, November 25, 2013
VIEUX FORT, ST LUCIA
The water was calm as a mirror, and we started motoring up against the current. Progress was slow with 2 knots of current, but steady. As we approached the tip of the island, some wind encouraged us to raise the main sail. We motor sailed for a while, riding the wind, which died down as we reached the channel. We had to turn into the wind in order to set the course to north east, to the south-east tip of St Lucia. Vieux Fort is tucked in a little bay at the very tip of the island, and protected from the south and east winds by a small peninsula lying to its south.
After half an hour, all the winds and waves died, except some sea-swells, which were gentle and infrequent, a real anomaly according to our experience in this part of the world. The ride was very pleasent but hot. We were able to explore the north and eastern side of St Vincent (having nothing better to do), and started to feel bored. We also looked at the other sail boats in the distance, trying to guess where they were headed. Nobody was going our way, since Vieux Fort is not a popular yacht destination, while approaching it is hard, against the wind and current. It is a fishing village with a commercial port and international airport.
We felt a little lonely, so entertained each other, ate sandwiches at the helm. He even took a shower while I was watching.
After a couple of hours, little dark clouds started to gather around us, which were so low that I had the urge to reach out to touch them. The fog enveloped St Lucia, but visibility was not too bad as we got closer. While we were debating if it was going to start raining, a sudden wind started to hit us on the nose, with almost square waves. We found ourselves in a major storm, with abut 8 miles to go to reach safety. I was a bit worried, but since we could see how close we were to the land, we gritted our teeth and held on. Al was saying that none of the forecast sites reported it, otherwise we would have stayed on. Oh well, we have to experience some excitement sometime. The storm was localized, and only lasted until we reached the port , and completely died down, letting the sun start baking us.
Doyle mentiones two small areas as amenable for anchoring, one just outside of the three sided break-water protecting the fishing boats, where dinghies were welcome, and the other at the southern side of the bay, opposite. We saw two sail-boats anchored on the north, and a big luxury motor boat at the south side. Of course we headed to the break-water, it being close to the village and the port, where we had to clear in at the customs office.
We anchored between the two boats, and were getting ready to get to the shore. Since it was Sunday (November 16th, 2013) we hoped to find a customs officer. Then we heard a dinghy coming our way, and the owner (Ken) hailed Al. He introduced himself as the owner of the Canadian catamaran anchored next to us, Lost Our Marbles; and cautined us about some theft having occured recently during the day, and promised to keep an eye on our boat while we would be away. That was a bit unwelcome news, but what can one do? Lock the doors and windows, and hope for the best.
As we started chatting, we learned that Ken was originally from St Lucia, but grew up in Gloucester (our neighborhood in Ottawa), almost next to our home, his sister having lived in our condo complex. Ken's wife Diane was from Cambridge (Ont), and they returned to St Lucia when Ken got an early retirement. Small world eh!
Ken also told us that the customs office would be closed on Sundays, but we could clear in at the airport, about 45 minutes away on foot. Completely doable, except the mid afternoon sun glaring made it a bit difficult. There would be no buses (minibuses really) running on Sundays. Ken told us the route to take.
On we went in our dinghy, to the fishermen's wharf. As we approached an islander (Christopher) on the dock tried to direct us to the side where some big boats were tied to some wooden cleats. Nowhere to secure our cable with the lock. Al did not listen to him, and headed to the northern side, where some chrome loops were installed. While securing the boat, Al shouted that our insurance company did not cover the boat when it was not locked. Christopher assured us that he wanted to keep an eye on our boat, which was the reason for his suggestion, but he could also see that part as well. He looked pathetic, so Al gave him a few bucks, and asked him to watch.
We went merrily on our way, which meandered through the town, and around the whole grounds of the airport. It was more than an hour and a half. Nothing for me, but Al is not very fond of walking. It was quite an interesting road, passing by the eastern shore of the island, with beautiful beaches and parks. Many minibuses were parked around the park, the drivers obviously having a picnic with their families.
We also passed by a restaurant called The Reef, facing the east shore on the beach. Doyle raves about the place, so I was curious, but we had no time. We were to be off the next morning!
We reached the airport at long last, and saw that 7-8 planes from Europe, Us and Canada had landed at the same time, customs was a beehive, officers frustrated. We went into the security zone, (I doubt that we could do it in Canada/US without being arrested) and mentioned our boat registration. One officer gave Al the forms and told us to get out. Al was looking around to find a table to fill the form, and I insisted on going to the small cafe located at the departure side. We had been on our feet close to two hours, and the officers were to be busy for a while, no need to hurry!
We sat down, and Al took his time filling the form and taking some refreshments. I quit drinking beer or coffee at such occasions. Now everwhere I ask for tea, much more soothing and refreshing. Of course Al can not understand not having a cold drink when it is hot. Well, I don't understand either, but it works. My mother used to say that drinking a hot beverage when it was hot, would make one sweat, hence cool the body. As far as I am concerned, it works.
Anyway, after a half hour we returned to the secure zone to give the form. The officer told us to wait at least an hour, before they could even look our way. We went out, and decided to go back to the boat and try the office at the port the next morning.
It was almost 4:00 pm, no time to linger around in unfamiliar environment!
We learned from somebody the price of a taxi to town was 20 EC, and found one on the spot. We were tired enough to get back in style. I realized that we were tired, and there was no rush to continue the next morning. I put my foot down to stay one more night, and Al did not object. Our next leg was about 4 hours, up to Marigot Bay on the west coast, almost in the middle of the island. Last time we passed by St Lucia, we had stayed at the Pitons, close to the south corner of the island for our staging. This time we wanted to explore all the good anchorages, to fall back on, in case we could not stay long in St Anne.