Monday, December 21, 2015


Our first guests, Laura, whom I know from the gym at MCMASTER UNIVERSITY, and her mother Nina was to arrive in Vieux Fort, St Lucia on December 3rd. In order to get ready for them, we left St Anne, Martinique on the 1st, and made the passage in four hours to Rodney Bay. It was quite pleasent, with moderate winds and small swells. We spent more time trying to anchor in the bay; it was a record of three times that we pulled the anchor in a row to find a sandy patch to keep us in place. The bottom of the northern part of the bay is very uneven and full of weeds and rocks. From 30 ft of water, all of a sudden you hit a shelf of 8 ft, and if you are not careful, the anchor gets pulled out with a jerk. Although there seems to be a lot of space, all the good spots were taken by a number of yachts, hense our struggle. Anyway, the fourth time we went quite close to the sandy beach, and dropped the anchor into a turquoise pool among the weeds, which seemed to hold. Afterwards, Al dove and saw that the anchor was barely holding, half covered in a thin layer of sand over the rock bottom. Oh well, it was not very windy, and we were to tie in the marina on the morning of the guests' arrival.

What was important at the moment was to find transportation to and from Vieux Fort, which is at the diagonally opposite end of the island, about an hour of driving. We had done it last year, by taking two busses, first to Castries, then to the airport, at the outskirts of Vieux Fort, on the way. We had engaged Elvis, the taxi driver, who was the neighbour of our Canadian/St Lucian friends Ken and Diane, to take us back to Rodney Bay with the guests.

Of course, the first person to contact was Elvis, to see if he was available. However, Al did not think that he was very keen on taking us on, so we thought we could test the numerous taxi drivers stationed at the gate of the marina. I figured that it is always a two way ride for the drivers, whether they start from the airport or the marina. Elvis lived in the vicinity of the airport, which was the reason for us to get there on our own. If we engaged a driver from the north, we could tag along for free!

We went to the taxi stand, where most of the drivers were playing cards and having a good time, but one driver, Linus was loitering around the parking lot. We approached him, and haggled down to the price of one way (US$80.-), our ride included.

The guests were arriving at 3:30 pm, and we started at 2:00 pm. Linus gave us a story about his sister coming on the same flight, and we had space for more people anyway etc. I had anticipated that he might try to squeeze more people in the car, which had a third row at the back, so we did not argue.

We arrived in good time, and welcomed Laura and Nina into the car. Linus was agitated and constantly on the phone. He first  mentioned that  his sister had one friend who could still fit, along with the luggage. After five minutes of waiting, Linus appeared with a long face, and declared that the sister became a party of four people, so they engaged a local taxi.

On the way back, of course Al had to deal with Linus' complaints about being deprived of his extra cash, which had to be compensated by us. Al was kind of firm, but ended up giving US$100.- instead, but I was not  impressed. Compared to Elvis, who was a gentleman, Linus was too vulgar and greedy. Note to self, do not engage people off the street!

After arriving at home, the visit went on famously. As far as we were concerned, we had a very good time, constantly talked for five days, while doing some sailing around the island for short periods. Both mother and daughter were adventurists, but Nina was not a sailor, or even a good swimmer. So she had been a bit apprehensive about our sailing agenda. We put her at ease, and assured her that we had always been fair weather sailors, and we were to keep moving in the lee of the island anyway.

We spent two nights anchored in the bay after leaving the marina the first morning. Since we were close to the shore, she was able to swim around the boat  without getting scared. Laura was an athlete and trapeze artist, so she was at home in the water.

The third morning, we put up the main sail, and headed to Anse Al Raye, a small fishing village, situated at the south of Marigot Bay. We reached the bay in a bit more than an hour, and approached the anchorage, which was close to the dock. However, Al found the bay too small, without much swinging room from the reefs at the sides; and turned around. Our rule is, if one of us is not comfortable with any place or situation, we change our plans. So we ended up in Anse Cochon, which is a favorite snorkelling spot, with mooring balls. It was a small bay, half of which was shallow with reefs to the north, south side deeper, where a few white mooring balls were installed. We took the last one, and stayed the night. It was a bit rolly, since Coshon is not as protected as La Raye, being a small indentation on the shoreline which is jutting out. These pear-shaped islands transport the swells along the shore.

The cliff on the south edge of the bay was taken over by Ti Kaye Resort, with numerous bungalows and two restaurants. We had lunch at the lower restaurant, which was serving Sunday brunch buffet (the spread was not what one expects in North America) for US$25.-, which did not include any drinks (not even water) and VAT and service charge. The food and ambiance were not bad, but was not worth the price, especially with our weak dollar. However, it was an experience.

This was our first time in Anse Cochon, and I liked it. However, our encounters with the locals are losing their charm. Especially the boat boys, who seemed to be younger this year, and they appear to have no scruples or sense of fairness. In the past, getting their help to tie to a mooring ball was 15.- EC. This year, the first time Al had to argue with an insolent boy who wanted 30.-. Now, Al declares that he is not giving a cent more than 20.- EC up front, and they say OK, but demand other absurd things when they finish; such as gas for the boat, or beer or smokes etc. It seems that sailors spoil them by complying, and they get greedier.

We were low on bread, and asked one of the boat-boys to bring us two loaves. He demanded 50.- EC, arguing that a loaf was 15.- at the market. No sense of propriety! I would rather make pancakes everyday, than give $25.- Canadian for bread.
The next morning we motored to the Pitons, which is a must see in St Lucia. The weather was overcast, and the mountain of the Petit Piton generated its unusual winds and currents, so it was a different experience for our guests. Laura ventured into the water with me, and we had a life-line in hand, so that the current would not carry us into the ocean. Let alone swimming, staying put was a workout, so we had a good time.

The visit was short, five days passed quickly, and it was time for them to return to Canada. Early in the morning of the 8th, we started the last leg of our trip, from the shouth west corner (Pitons) to Laborie on the south shore of St Lucia, halfway to Vieux Fort. Our guests saw the open ocean the first time, and experienced the waves coming at us, while we were struggling towards east. It took us 2 hours to cover 8 miles.

Another first; we had heard about Laborie from Ken and Diane, but had never ventured to get there. Other than being a safe place close to the airport, it is not a yacht destination. It is a small fishing village, but the people are nice and friendly, unspoilt by the outsiders.

The west side of the small bay is covered with high reefs, almost visible, but the east is sandy bottomed and shallow. The entrance is marked by two buoys, so navigating in is not hard, however staying there is debatable, since it is quite rolly in easterly swells, and untenable in south easterly. Best time for it is northerly swells, but this year they had not started yet, probably due to El Ninjo.

The only other yacht in the bay was a catamaran tied to a private mooring ball. So we anchored next to it, and went to shore to find a taxi, to take our guest to the airport later. There was a high dock, with a lower portion for the dinghies, but it was not well maintained, and seemed flimsy at places, and exposed to a lot of surge.  Getting out of the dinghy was a bit tricky, but our guest had become pros by that time.

We walked on the main street, peeked into the church, which had a commanding view of the bay on an incline, and the door open to the east, taking in the constant breeze. Natural air conditioning.

On the main street, there was a line of minibuses awaiting customers for Vieux Fort. If we could not find a taxi, minibus could be an alternative; but a separate bus was to be had from there to the airport,  which is at the other end of the town.
While walking around, I stopped at a clean looking eatery/bar called Mama Rosa's. It was not yet lunch time, so deserted, and a nice looking young islander was in attendance. I told her that I needed some information, and asked for a taxi driver she could recommend. She told me to follow her, and found Wilson, probably a relative of her. He promised to pick our guests from the dock at 2:00 pm, to reach the airport two hours before departure.

Wilson turned out to be a nice guy, and punctual, who charged 50.- EC for the drive to the airport (40.- EC is the minimum). Wilson is our future driver if we get to Laborie.

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