Arriving from our Atlantic Crossing with a broken boom, sleep deprived after a hard two weeks at sea, we took a moment to take in our arrival. Dressed in our foul weather gear, with the howling wind, driving stinging rain into our sore, heavy eyelids we struggled to even see the stunning view around us. Not exactly our dream Caribbean arrival and maybe the reason that we did not instantly fall in love with St Lucia, our first Caribbean Island.
Longing for a full nights sleep and to finally stop moving, we were grateful to drop the hook in Rodney Bay. The priorities were to try to recover and arrange getting a new boom into a shipping container before the Christmas break. As the weather improved, we could clearly make out the long golden sandy beach, lined with waving palm trees but it was still a struggle to see it’s beauty beyond the jet ski’s using us as target practice and constant stream of boats trying to sell us something.
Walking ashore after 2 weeks in a 37ft space, we were surprisingly soon keen to get back onboard as we were met with a constant stream of “what you got for me?” and “what you gonna give me?”.
Having spent the last week at sea, dreaming of the tropical fruits and culinary delights we would enjoy on arrival in the Caribbean, we headed to the local market and shops full of anticipation. A recent tropical storm had reduced the availability of a lot of local produce but the supermarkets were still stacked. We drooled at the fresh fruit, meat and cheese available before our eyes lowered to the price tags. £8 for a small bag of apples, £8 for 3 peppers, £3 for a bag of crisps! “Ah but this is the tourist area” we thought, the local market is supposed to be much cheaper. A trip to the local market soon made us realise it was a good job we liked bananas and grapefruit as there was little else we could afford on offer.
With our new boom on order, we headed further south resembling a floating banana tree for the quieter beaches and stunning jungle covered peaks we had read about. We were keen to escape Rodney Bay to enjoy a relaxed Christmas and collect our friends Ron and Ali from the airport to celebrate New Year.
Once we had managed to fend off and negotiate past the 4 speeding pirogues which met us about a mile before the anchorage, we entered the calm of Marigot bay on Christmas Eve. It is common in St Lucia as with many parts of the Caribbean to be surrounded by local boats when approaching a bay, all keen to be the first to sell you a mooring/t-shirt/fruit/ride ashore or just plain ask for money. Many are polite and trying to run a genuine business but unfortunately for us it was the few others who were most memorable. The Caribbean makes more money from yachts than the cruise ship industry as a whole, so it is understandable that everyone wants their share. Unfortunately for us it often spoilt the experience of sailing in what should be a relaxed tropical paradise.
Luckily, the holiday spirit the next day seemed to have put everyone in a good mood, including us. We started the day with a hike through the mangrove swamps and jungle to catch a view of the bay. Listening to the frogs, birds and other life in the forest whilst admiring the islands distant emerald green, jungle covered peaks and pinnacles. We started to relax and appreciate spending Christmas day outside in such a beautiful location. Having saved a bottle of the good stuff from our generous leaving presents we enjoyed a roast dinner on board, complete with some rather battered Christmas crackers and followed up with Christmas cake and pudding (made prior to us setting off by Matt’s lovely mum). Thanks to modern technology we managed to speak to our families back home and started to feel much better about life. There’s nothing like tales of a cold and rainy England to make you appreciate the tropics.
Caribbean life continued to improve for us when we picked our friends Ron and Ali up from the airport, despite the fact their luggage failed to arrive with them. Having offered up our rather tired looking spare clothes, we spent some time catching up swimming from the boat and just “limin” (Caribbean for chilling). Maybe it was the company but the further south we went, the more beautiful St Lucia seemed. Away from the city and main tourist area, the locals seemed much more content and were therefore happy to just chat. We met a great guy called Chad who taught us how to eat coco beans and told us stories of his childhood growing up in St Lucia, all whilst he walked his pet sheep with us back to his village. Further on another local told us the the cocoa beans were used as a laxative and suddenly we stopped eating them with thoughts of 4 people and one boat toilet.
We welcomed the New Year in great company, anchored between the majestic peaks of the Piton’s, with a fireworks display put on by the exclusive resort ashore and we would not have wanted to be anywhere else. For us an island can be beautiful but unless it is deserted, it is the people who make or break the experience.
We sailed away from St Lucia, having warmed to it’s charm but unable to shake off the first impression. We were very happy to have had the opportunity to visit but left without a burning desire to go back. Luckily, there are plenty of other Caribbean Islands out there for us to explore.