Weekend Manuevers and Guests

Square-rigged cruiseship sails awayWe had a brief visit to Rodney Bay. We had intended to stay there for several days to await our daughter’s arrivals (two different days) and enjoy the ample facilities of modern shopping, dining, etc. However, on Friday evening while checking the flight arrival information we realized the girls would be arriving at the larger airport on the southern tip of the island at Vieux Fort, not the airport we had seen before in the capital city of Castries about 20 minutes away. After reading further, it turns out a taxi trip from the Vieux Fort airport to Rodney Bay can take 1.5 hours or more and cost $100 US each way! After a short discussion, we concluded getting Tahina down to Vieux Fort made more sense.

Another factor in the decision to leave was that we couldn’t get a slip at the marina on the weekend. There were two events at Rodney Bay – the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and just arrived a few days earlier, after crossing the Atlantic from the Canairies. They had about 150 boats filling most of the marina, and a race involving a bunch of boats from Martinique was also going on. We had wanted to go to a slip for a night to wash Tahina with shore water.

We finally set up some Christmas decorations. We had bought a mini-Christmas tree last year for Tahina. We quickly had it set up. Then I put some lights in the back cockpit. We have some more lights I’ll set up later.

On Saturday morning, I went ashore to check when the fuel dock opened. We took Tahina in at 8 AM to fuel up and fill our port tank with water we could use to wash down the boat. After getting the fuel and water I went to pay with our American Express, but they declined it. Had to call them on Skype and ask what was up. After waiting 10 minutes (it’s Christmas time), they explained they flagged it because I don’t normally use the American Express for large purchases in the Caribbean. Grrr…I had already called them before we left to explain how I would be using it! Anyway, we completed the purchase and then I ran the dinghy over to customs to get permission to go to Vieux Fort.

By 9:15 we were headed out, raised the dinghy, then the sails and started sailing down the coast. It was a perfect Caribbean day with lots of sunshine and moderate winds and seas. We enjoyed sailing along the coastline – especially when we got to the Pitons – the majestic giant ancient volcano cones which are one of the main sightseeing attractions of St. Lucia.

We started trying to go tight to the wind at the Pitons because we needed to turn eastward to get to Vieux Fort. Naturally, the wind would be on our nose for the last 10 miles or so. Interestingly, our track almost mirrored the shape of the shore line as we crossed the pitons. Then suddenly we were sent southwest away from the island. This was due to the bending of the winds along the southern shore. I knew the wind would bend back and, since the weather was so nice, we continued taking out hoping to tack closer towards Vieux Fort eventually. Our track did have us arcing more and more east.

We were almost a third of the way to St. Vincent before I decided we needed to go ahead and tack us back towards Vieux Fort. We tacked as close to the wind as possible, but we were still 3 miles short of Vieux Fort. Once we sailed as close to shore as practical, we dropped the sails and motored the rest of the way. We got there just in time as 3 other sailboats all arrived at the same time. We got a nice spot and anchored.

Here’s a map showing our track down from Martinique, and our track from Rodney Bay to Vieux Fort (load in Google Earth here ):

View St Lucia – First batch in a larger map

As soon as we got settled (about 3:30) Karen and I got started cleaning the boat. We wanted the boat to be clean when our daughters got here. I washed the dirtiest part – our cockpit area and the back transom. Before sunset, I took a swim and snorkeled to make sure the anchor was set and free of obstructions. We then finally had some dinner and took a break before heading to bed.

Here are some pictures from St. Lucia – Rodney Bay, our trip to Vieux Fort, and the Christmas tree:

View full-size with descriptions

On Sunday, we finished cleaning up in the morning. After lunch, Karen and I took showers and took the dinghy ashore. As we arrived at the fishing port, a local directed us to a corner to tie up our dinghy. He insisted on helping tie up the boat and getting our bags (backpacks and trash) out. Then he gave us helpful tips on where to go and offered to take the trash away. Of course, he was looking out for a handout. So, I paid him a few bucks.

Vieux Fort is not really a tourist town – even though it is the 2nd largest city in St. Lucia. It was mostly a fishing port and commercial port, and still is. But, they do have some shopping malls, a few hotels, and a beach on the east side of town. We got hit up for more money from a few beggars along the way – one was particularly insistent. We got some ice cream near the bus stop to cool off from our walk. Then we caught a bus for the beach. The beach is a great location for wind and kite surfing. There’s a great little restaurant and surf shop there. They reportedly had WIFI. We had about 2 hours before our daughter was to arrive, so we got some drinks and got on the Internet. What a delightful beach! We made a few Skype calls.

Eventually it was time to go to the airport, so we had the restaurant call us a taxi. Our daughter’s flight was about 45 minutes late (fortunately we had her connecting flight to Atlanta – flights out of the northeast and even Miami were all messed up with the Northeaster snow storm). She finally cleared customs and we greeted her enthusiastically! We got a taxi all the way back to the dinghy dock. And soon were back to Tahina. Our daughter had actually spotted Tahina from the airplane when they did a high-altitude pass over the area before circling to land. She even had video she took from the plane showing she had spotted us.

We soon had our daughter take a dip to cool off and even did some kayaking. Karen had just about finished with dinner after sunset when we heard “Ahoy Tahina” from behind the boat. I couldn’t believe it, but it was our friends from Northfork (the US boat we had last seen in St. Pierre, Martinique). We invited them aboard and gave them a full tour of Tahina and caught up on travels. Turns out they had chosen to come here to clear out of customs before heading south again. They eventually plan to go through the Panama canal, and do a circumnavigation. So, we may cross paths again.

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