Under sunny skies and with moderate trade winds slightly aft of the beam, Friday’s journey from Sainte Anne, Martinique to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia is a picture perfect, Chamber of Commerce sailing day in the Eastern Caribbean. Shortly after 1 PM, the anchor is down in Rodney Bay with plenty of time to dinghy ashore and clear in before the Customs office closes at 4 PM. Because we are still uncertain about the quality of the public water supply in St. Lucia, Cutter Loose remains at anchor on Friday night and Saturday morning until her water tank is filled with potable RO water from the water maker.
At midday on Saturday, the anchor is up in Rodney Bay as Cutter Loose navigates the narrow entrance channel to the lagoon. In addition to providing access to the lagoon, this entrance channel is a distinct dividing line between the “haves” and “have nots” of Rodney Bay. On the south side of the lagoon are resorts, upscale private homes, Rodney Bay Marina, downtown shops and the casino. On the other hand, colorful fishing pirogues, a mound of empty conch shells and the local Gentlemen’s Club line the north shore of the channel. Beyond the fisherman’s wharf is the struggling village of Gros Islet. Tourists are cautioned to avoid the village, except on Friday nights when a rowdy “jump up” street party begins at 6 PM and ends around midnight. The economic environment surrounding this entrance channel to the lagoon is a microcosm of the Caribbean culture as a whole, where the indigenous population struggles to achieve the trickle down benefits of tourism.
Once through the entrance channel and into the dredged lagoon, our slip at Rodney Bay Marina awaits. Here, we will prepare for the arrival of Pittsburgh friends Nancy and Glen on Monday afternoon. We take a break from our chores to enjoy a mid-afternoon Super Bowl tailgating party on Celilo, complete with breadfruit potato salad. In the evening, it is on to Razmatazz for dinner with Caribbean 1500 friends Ian and Joy of Reberth. Football fans hover around the bars and restaurants in the marina late into the evening to witness the annihilation of the Denver Broncos by the Seahawks of Seattle in the not-so-super Superbowl XLVIII.
On Monday morning, Prudent the refrigeration technician returns to Cutter Loose to install the Merlin on the freezer controller. Since the Merlin has been performing admirably on the refrigerator controller, we now have confidence that it can control the temperature of the freezer. Prudent installs the Merlin on the freezer in the same manner in which he carried out the installation on the refrigerator. This time, however, the circuit board becomes hot to the touch. Prudent declares the Merlin defective and re-engages the Carel controller. We are hopeful that the Carel unit continues to function until we can obtain a replacement Merlin controller.
Nancy and Glen arrive on schedule late in the afternoon on Monday. We remain in Rodney Bay on Tuesday for a day of relaxation. Several free range horses join us for a stroll on the beach. As the saying goes, one can lead a horse to water. In this case, however, the horses needed no encouragement to drink.
Lunch today is at The Landings, a nearby local resort. From here it is on to historic Pigeon Island for a tour of Fort Rodney, a late afternoon swim on the beach, and a happy hour cocktail overlooking Rodney Bay on the deck at the waterfront restaurant, Jambe de Bois.
The Rodney Bay cruiser’s net on Wednesday morning brings startling news. Last night, a Canadian cruising boat on a mooring in the outer reaches of nearby Marigot Harbor was robbed while its owners were dining ashore. Since Marigot Harbor is our destination today, this news is particularly unsettling. The decision is reached to continue on with our original plan. However, instead of anchoring in the outer harbor, we opt instead to join the ubiquitous cluster of charter boats on moorings in the inner harbor. The Marina manager urges us not to worry about our safety, proudly informing us that there have been no criminal incidents in the inner harbor of Marigot since 2007.
With this reassuring knowledge, dinner this evening is at the Rainforest Hideaway, a popular waterfront restaurant located just a five minute dinghy ride from Cutter Loose. It becomes obvious why reservations at this restaurant are required at least three days in advance. Every table is occupied and the food is a tasty departure from the repetitious Creole menu at most restaurants in the Caribbean. Tonight’s entertainment is a female vocalist accompanied by a jazz pianist. The dramatic lighting and mellow atmosphere at the Hideaway tonight is warm and inviting. Back in the dinghy, the stars and the moon are obscured by a thick layer of clouds. Fortunately, the Marina Manager’s prognostication was correct. Everything is safe and secure upon our return to Cutter Loose.
A tropical wave approaching St. Lucia from the east spawns wind and rain showers overnight and into the morning. At 8 AM, Cutter Loose is underway in light showers, bound for the Pitons, about 12 miles to the south. We are fearful that the Pitons will remain ensconced by heavy cloud cover during our visit. However, the rain subsides and gaps in the clouds begin to appear as the unmistakable tips of the Pitons come into view.
Our goal today is to secure a National Park mooring between the Pitons. Since anchoring is prohibited and these moorings are in short supply, our mid-morning arrival is timed to coincide with the departure of yachts that overnighted here. As is often the case, a local pirogue intercepts Cutter Loose en route to an open mooring. The Rasta “boat boy” politely offers to be of assistance in leading us to a marine park mooring ball. When we reply with a polite “no thank you”, the boat boy launches an angry diatribe, denouncing us as insensitive and greedy. Unfortunately, boat boy badgering is part of the territory here in St. Lucia. Unwary sailors (primarily charterers) become lulled into the belief that the boat boy is collecting a rental fee for the mooring. However, the boat boy’s mission is to secure payment for the simple task of looping one’s bow line through the mooring pennant. Fortunately, our angry friend takes leave a few minutes later when an arriving charter boat engages his services to secure a nearby mooring.
At noon, it is a short dinghy ride to the dock at nearby Sugar Bay Resort. Earlier this year, Matt Damon rented this entire facility for a star-studded party to celebrate his eighth wedding anniversary. From the dock, it is a 15 minute uphill ride in the shuttle van to another resort by the name of Ladera, which is also today’s lunch destination. Ladera is located about 1800 feet above sea level. With Petit Piton to the north and Gros Piton to the south, the view from this resort is nothing short of breathtaking. From the balcony at Ladera, Cutter Loose is barely visible on her mooring in the Bay below. At this altitude, she appears not much more than a spec on the water. In addition to its restaurant Dasheen, Ladera features 37 open air bungalow-style dwellings, each with its own private swimming pool and loft bedroom.
After a relaxing morning in the cockpit, we return to Rodney Bay Marina on Friday 2/7. In light of the variety of dining experiences this week, Friday is declared pizza night at Elena’s in the marina. Over dinner, the events of the week are retold and embellished. We bid farewell to Glen and Nancy on Saturday 2/8 and remain at our slip to prepare Cutter Loose for the resumption of her Eastern Caribbean voyage. Since January 5th, we have accumulated 20 overnight stays at Rodney Bay Marina.
On Sunday afternoon, we depart the marina and set the hook in breezy Rodney Bay. Caribbean 1500 friends Neil and Shaun aboard s/v Escapade arrive in the harbor on Sunday afternoon. An impromptu 2012 Caribbean 1500 reunion is organized for Monday evening with Escapade as well as Ian and Joy aboard Reberth.
Monday is the final night of our stay at Rodney Bay. On Tuesday morning , 2/11, the winter tour of Cutter Loose resumes. We will be bound for an overnight stop in Saint Pierre, Martinique en route to Roseau, the capital of Dominica.