Cruising in St. Lucia and Martinique - Page 1 of 5

[Sailing up to the Pitons in St. Lucia]  
Sailing up to the Pitons in St. Lucia. The students got to make this trip without the instructor, as a "graduation present" at the end of the course. Petit Piton is to the left and Gros Piton to the right.  

I had taken a sailing course in Annapolis, but I didn't find it very useful (poor equipment and not enough time on the water). To get more experience, and to see if I could handle a bigger boat, I decided to take a liveaboard cruising course at Offshore Sailing School. The course was held on a Beneteau 45 and took about a week, in late April 1996. As an extra plus, it was held in an exotic Caribbean location: the former British colony of St. Lucia, with a side trip to French Martinique. Click here to see an overall map of St. Lucia and Martinique (12KB).

The Caribbean cruising season is mainly in the winter, and the course I took was one of the last courses they gave that season. There can be up to four students on the boat, plus one instructor. They require at least two students with confirmed reservations before they will hold a particular course session, and for a while, it didn't look like it would be held (I was the only student). Finally, another student signed up and the class was a "go". It was an extra bonus that there were only two students for this session, since we were able to have private cabins on the boat and get more individual time sailing the boat.

To get to St. Lucia, I flew from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico, which seems to be a major airline hub for the Caribbean. Then I flew on a smaller airplane to St. Lucia, and cleared customs at Hewanorra International Airport at the south end of the island. The cruising course was held at the Moorings charter base at Marigot Bay, about half way up the west coast. A taxi ride was included in the fee, so I got to see some of the local scenery. There were many banana plantations, as bananas are a major export.

[St. Lucia seacoast]   [St. Lucia seacoast]
St. Lucia seacoast - I took these pictures during the taxi ride from the airport to Marigot Bay.

[Approaching Marigot Bay from land]  
Approaching Marigot Bay from land, during the taxi ride.  

As Marigot Bay came into view, the taxi descended a steep hill and arrived at the Moorings charter base on the bay. The bay seemed to be a perfect hurricane hole, surrounded mostly by steep hills with only a narrow opening towards the ocean. The anchorage was fairly crowded, all the way up to the mangrove swamp on the inland side. Along one side of the bay, there were a number of slips for the big Beneteau charter boats. Between the slips and the hill, there was a set of cottages with rooms for guests. The rooms were a little worn and shabby and there was very meager running water, but the exotic location more than made up for the slight deficiencies. They also had a small but pleasant pool, a decent restaurant, and a surprisingly well-stocked store for provisioning.

[Looking towards docks at Moorings charter base]   [Docks and boats at charter base]
View from the Moorings charter base looking towards the docks, with Marigot Bay in the background.   Closer view of the docks and the Beneteau charter fleet, with Marigot Bay in the background.

[View from docks looking towards ocean]   [Closer view, looking towards ocean]
View from the end of one of the finger piers, looking towards the ocean. The anchorage was crowded, and you had to maneuver with care to avoid boats and their anchor rodes.   This is a closer view looking towards the ocean, showing the sandy spit that provided such good protection from the ocean.

[View from docks looking towards guest cottages]   [View from sand spit looking across mouth of bay]
View from the docks looking back towards the guest cottages at the charter base. The grassy area had numerous small burrows inhabited by reddish land crabs. As you approached, they would all scurry down their holes.   I took this picture from the sandy spit at the mouth of Marigot Bay, looking towards the other side of the mouth of the bay. There was a small outboard-powered passenger ferry that took people from one side of the bay to the other. Students at the sailing school got a free pass to use the ferry, others paid a small fee.

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