Sunday, 25 Mar: Very early rise this morning at 5:45am. It’s not even light yet! Told you we “work” 7 days a week, and even more intensely so during weekends it seems! Selwin, the fridge technician, will be coming for last inspection at 6am, so we only have few minutes to drink a coffee, then it’s full on morning.
Selwin does actually arrive at 6am, to check which of the 2 fridges has stopped working. He checks temperature and gas pressure, all seems miraculously in order. Hm… should we believe that? Just how can it be possible we had a big gas leak for 3 days and now no leak? Was it one of the quick connects that had been the issue? Let’s see how long it will last. He also does a quick check of air conditioner gas, that’s good too. So, we bid farewell to Selwin and also farewell to US$250 cash. 5 hours labor to find no conclusive answer to the issue. But what the hell, all 3 fridges seem to be working now.
Second task of the morning is to fuel up, so Glen goes in the dinghy to check where we can moor up for the diesel. It will be going stern to, but alongside the jetty (basically in a corner, jammed between a charter catamaran and the jetty). We let go of the mooring buoy to go into the marina and Glen starts reversing straight away. Normally, going in reverse with the wheel locked central, he can steer very well using the bow thruster. But something is wrong, we are turning and heading for a moored boat. Oana shouts and Glen puts CB into full forward with a very narrow escape on collision. What had happened was the wheel was locked one full turn to port, rather than central. Lesson learned. We have a deja vue from when we once tried to leave a marina while still tied amidships. But those were our early days with CB, we have no excuse for such silly mistakes these days.
As we come into the marina, there is the usual audience watching our every movement. But then we do just the same when a boat is coming in close to where we are moored or anchored. As we gently drift with the wind, perfectly into place in the tight corner, all interest on us is lost.
We top up with 200 liters (44 imperial gallons) of diesel, not bad for almost 2 months of usage. We last refilled in Barbados, after the Atlantic crossing. And at US$0.8 per liter, this is our cheapest refueling after Gibraltar. Great job wind, keep it up, we really don’t like motoring.
Third task of the morning is the customs & immigration check out. There is an office right here in Blue Lagoon Marina, with official opening time 9am-6pm, but locals told us that actual working hours are very random. We were hoping they will open office on time today; but not our lucky day, officials are not in yet.
Once back to the boat, we are told we must leave immediately as another boat is coming in for fuel. So, after a bit of moaning, we gracefully (we would like to think) slip the lines and return to our previous mooring buoy. Where dinghy is back in the water and we go ashore to wait for customs officials. While we wait, we keep ourselves entertained with the WiFi from The Loft Restaurant, which seems to work much faster now we are near than it did through our WiFi booster antenna.
A local shy man approaches us, he is trying to sell some fruits to make a living. Few days ago, in Kingstown fruit market, we looked high and low for mangoes and there were none. But this man had a bag full of them, “from my own tree, just picked them this morning” he says. We buy 10 mangoes for 10EC, and then Glen goes to some of the charter catamarans in the marina to encourage tourists to come and buy the fruits from the local man. Which some of them do.
Customs officials arrive one hour later, and as we fill in the paperwork to check out of St. Vincent, we are informed there is a fee of 50EC for each official, for doing the clearance on a Sunday (their overtime apparently). Their ways of charging cruising people for all sorts of things never cease to amaze us. Guess we should just be grateful they do work on a Sunday. 100EC lighter on our wallet, we return to the boat and get ready to leave.
There are 50nm to St. Lucia, meaning it will take us 8 hours to get there. As it is 10.30 by now, we will arrive in the dark. We debate a bit whether we should stop in a bay on the west coast and have an early start tomorrow morning (custom clearance paperwork is valid for 24h) or whether we leave as planned and take the east coast hoping to get better wind. We decide to just go for it.
Outboard comes off the dinghy, dinghy on davits, one last look inside the boat to secure anything that might slide, then slip the line off the mooring buoy and off we go.
The exit from Blue Lagoon is a very narrow channel, just a couple of meters wide, and 3 meters deep. Not enough room to make any mistakes. When we came in, we had a pilot boat, Mike, but today he is sick, and we are on our own. Fingers crossed. Glen drives very careful and Oana goes on the bow to look out just as a precaution. Bums twitching, we cross the narrow channel in just 2.9 meters, and we draw 2.8 meters. That was lucky!
As we leave the lagoon, the wind direction is not as forecast; instead it is right on our nose as it bends around the island, so we keep the motor on for 30 min.
As we are rounding the SE tip of the island, there is very choppy sea, with 1-2kts of current under us, slowing us to 5kts. And when confused seas breaks over the deck, it almost stops us … we clearly need to keep motoring a bit longer if we want to make any headway.
30 tons are great when sails are full and we ploughing through the waves, there’s no thrill better than that. But the same 30 tons in only 9 knots of head wind, choppy confused sea and big swell, are stopping us dead once the momentum is lost. So, this first part of the passage is very uncomfortable and Oana struggled a bit with seasickness despite taking the usual cinnarizine.
We motor with sails up hugging the east coast, and the scenery is very pretty. Colourful villages along the coast and dramatic volcanoes covered in jungle in the background. We can see La Soufriere top covered in clouds, where we hiked up to 2 days ago.
20nm into our journey, once between the islands, the sea calms down. The nasty choppy sea has gone, replaced by the big rolling Atlantic swells which gently lifts us up and down. And the wind picks up to 15knts just the way Cloudy Bay likes it, the movement becomes much more comfortable and our speed gets to the usual 7kts. We are flying along.
As we spot St.Lucia’s outline on the horizon, we discuss on the options for anchorage. And yes, this is how we generally make the plans: we do not plan ahead, but decide on the day instead.
The wind lifts us more than we hoped for, so we agree to aim for Vieux Fort, the first anchorage on SE tip of the island. Quick read in the pilot to remind ourselves of the notes on this anchorage, and now we do have a plan!
One hour later we are nicely anchored, only one more boat in the bay. There are few houses scattered up on the hill, but along water’s edge is just a tiny beach with a hut shaded by trees, and greenery covering the hill side. 200m away from us is another story: fuel terminal, cargo ships dock and airstrip; quite a collection.
After sunset (which we didn’t see much of, as the sun did the usual trick, setting behind thick clouds) we can even hear crickets from the nearby wilderness ashore. Feels very peaceful here. We might even sleep without earplugs.