St.Lucia and back to Suriname     Click for the chartlet of our first Caribbean trip
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You can't miss St.Lucia if appoaching from the south; the two Pitons are the island's national trademark and even the beer is named after them. We anchored in Marigot Bay and suffered from a complete culture shock. This is the first spot we met in the eastern Caribbean where the white “civilisaton” has established itself. Marigot Bay is a kind of watersport-swimparadise-beautyfarm-amusement park-resort and stopping-place for charterboats. Around the picturesque bay several fancy restaurants have drawn up, expensive residences and even an (according to the sign) gourmet-supermarket where they sell typical Caribbean products such as smoked salmon,  marinated herring and Chassagne-Montrachet. The English southcoast, though magnificent, seems suddenly terrifying close.

According to our information Marigot Bay is one of the easiest spots to clear customs, and this appeared to be true. But we didn't feel very much at home so we left already the following day for Castries, the capital of St.Lucia 3,5 miles further north. We take back earlier praising words that sailing in the lee of the islands is ALWAYS a pleasure, because sailing along St.Lucia's coast is totally hopeless. The wind seems to come from every possible direction, with speeds varying between 15 and 30 knots and there is a considerable chop.

The port of Castries is actually meant for commercial shipping and not specifically for yachts. This suited us perfectly as we were quite fed up with overcrowded bays and nagging boatboys. Next to the cruiseships terminal is a small harbour for locals (fishing boats and some cruiser catamarans) and we anchored in the middle of the fairway. It was tight, but it fitted and upond asking around nobody had a problem with us being there. Least of all the captains of the ferries, as we bought them a couple of beers when we went with by ferry to the town's centre.
Castries is a bustling town with a beautiful park/square next to the church, which was recently declared a cathedral when the Pope came to visit. Narrow streets and many, many people. Friday is market day thus even busier. Along the streets and focused on where the pubs are (they are everywhere) stand market stalls, or the vendors just sit on the street.

For the tourists there is a large market hall which is even open on Sundays if a cruiseship is in; crammed with souvenirs and all the vendors sell more or less the same: woodcarved animals, braidwork made from palm leaves, T-shirts, necklaces and bracelets made from shells or coconuts and nicknacks like refrigerator magnets and keyrings.

By the way, the Lucians are not very happy with the “overtaking” by the whites, as in those pockets the large profits disappear, leaving only a few crumbs for the local people, while ruining the authentical character of the island. They consider Marigot Bay the ultimate disaster. For that matter the real loss of this place seems to be dating from only September 2006, so we were only just to late to enjoy the beauty.

Making a tour around the island by bus was a huge success on St.Vincent so we repeated the trick on St.Lucia. With the same type of bus drivers: road hogs. St.Lucia is much less rugged than St.Vincent and the roads are much better, so they can drive (if possible) even faster. The island is for a large part cultivated and bananas are the second product for export. Tourism is obviously number one.
The bus took us across the island through the rainforest, where the ferns grow like trees: on trunks. Funny and beautiful. From there we went along the eastcoast to the south, passing Hewanorra International Airport. We asked ourselves where the name came from and it appears that Hewanorra is the old Carib-Indian name for the island, “there where the iguana is found”. We continued to Vieux Fort, the second town after Castries. Completely not worth to stop there! So as soon as we could we climbed into an other bus to Soufrières, which is a really nice town, nested under the two Pitons. We had seen those already but it was good strolling around in this picturesque village. Many homes are painted in cheerful colours and sometimes decorated with jigsawed rims or painted advertising signs; or a combination of both. We finished the tour by returning to Castries along the westcoast.
Generally speaking, we didn't find St.Lucia very special. Where St.Vincent has impressive mountainst, deep valleys and beautiful bays one after the other, St.Lucia was a bit disappointing. Soufrière is pretty with those two large looming pustules, we already talked about Marigot and furthermore...
So we headed north. Rodney Bay. This is where the ARC has its finish, with a huge marina and accompanying shops. JW was here in 2002 (with the ARC on Innovision with Henk) but he didn't recognise ANYTHING! The beaches are crammed with brand-new luxurious looking buildings surrounded by young coconut palmtrees and beach beds, so it is clear what's going on and that these are not new fish market-halls. Saturday evening was like in Los Cristianos (Tenerife) with live bands covering only trivial white music instead of playing swinging reggae. Though on Sunday afternoon there were quite good bands playing on the beach, probably inspired by the little jazz festival that was going on in Soufrière on Friday and Saturday (Al Jarreau and George Benson, ca they make it more humourless?). But all in all the masstourism was enough reason to distance quickly from St.Lucia; literally.

The return passage to Suriname. Distance 600 nm, easterly winds 15-20 kts (mostly 20), current 1 or 2 knots NW and the bearing: 155-160°. We definitely didn't want to point higher to windward than 60 degrees, because we wanted to sail as comfortably as possible and also have enough speed, because otherwise the current would set us too far west. According to Visual Passage Planner (computer software) the optimal route from St.Lucia to Surinam leads via Tobago, but if we would have started in Barbados we should have sailed a direct course.
It started great as we started the engine and it said just: “Click.” JW said something completely else and this came from out of his toes. Electrical problem in the circuit of the starter engine. The electrician came, saw and conquered the problem within two seconds so in the end things turned out better than anticipated.
The wind was more against us, continuously E-SE 20 kts, quite the wrong direction and also a bit much with 8 feet high seas. So we first sailed 70 nm south back to Bequia, because that is a much nicer place than St.Lucia to wait for better winds.
The wind shifted only slightly, so next stop was Tobago. Normally in that area the wind is slightly north of east, and should be good enough to take us home. We left twice from Bequia to Tobago; the first time we returned after 5 miles because the wind wasn't favourable enough. The second time we were more lucky and covered the 110 miles plus 60 miles of current in 28 hours.

We stayed for a couple of days on Tobago to get some rest and wait for a new weatherwindow. Immigrations in Charlotteville was temporarily out of order so we had to travel to Scarborough. No problem, this renewed acquaintance with this beautiful island that climbed the charts in our top 3. We wanted to check out the same day to save us another busride the following day (getting on a bus is quite a bother) but this was bureaucratically speaking impossible. So the next day an Immigrations-officer came to Charlotteville, especially to see us out. This is really red tape!

The second part. The rastaboys gave us banana's, mango’s and a papaya and JW prepared two meals to avoid a bit of the heat in the galley during the trip.
The passage was heavy because of ever changing winds from the wrong direction with the sail changes that go with it (we now know that May is not the best month to undertake the return passage), and all the current against us so the trip lasts much longer. In short: we sailed 6 days on the traject of 450 nm which we covered on the way to the Caribbean 2.7 days. With an average current of 2 knots (and this is not exaggerated, on the contrary) we have sailed another 300 nm. One doesn't get merry about that.
Check the movie for full details (8.58 Mb)

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