Part of the Windward Island chain south of Martinique and north of St. Vincent, St. Lucia’s dense green volcanic terrain etches sharply against the Caribbean sky. Its posh five-star honeymoon resorts cling to lush hillsides draped in a canopy of rainforest sprinkled with an abundance of tropical flora. At water level, gold-sand beaches dot the coast, but it is the landscape and the vibrant West Indian life that beckon.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, 27-mile-long “Fair Helen of the West Indies” was considered the prize of the Windwards, and ping-ponged between the French and British 14 times before it was declared British by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Since 1979, St. Lucia has been an independent member of the British Commonwealth. But the French heritage remains, declaring its allegiance at every turn. The local patois is Creole-based, as is the local cuisine and charming, ginger-bready architecture populated by mostly Roman Catholics. Yet superstitions and a rich folkloric culture speak to African traditions that seem to override the European cultures.
Yachts making passages north or south through the Lesser Antilles or St. Lucia-based chartered vessels will often stop at the main harbors along the western coast. Mile-wide Rodney Bay on St. Lucia’s north end is the center of the island’s traditional tourism. A popular anchorage skirts the southern shore off pretty Reduit Beach and, just about dead center, a narrow channel leads to the Inner Lagoon and Rodney Bay Marina. An impressive Island Global Yachting facility, the marine offers quality dockage, moorings, and a boatyard supported by a plethora of independent yacht services that can manage most any yachting needs. The well-stocked branch of Island Water World chandlery, several waterfront restaurants, a handful of shops, and a weekly farmers’ market make up the marina village. Just outside the gates is a large hardware store, while at the southern end of the lagoon a dinghy dock provides easy access to two good-sized supermarkets, Super J Mall, and a few more upscale eateries, including highly rated Edge where you can tie your dinghy next to your table.
Just 50 miles east of Florida basking in the warm Gulfstream waters lies a tiny, unspoiled island with a rich and colorful history. Cat Cay is part of the Bimini-Bahama chain of islands and was once a pirate stronghold for the likes of Blackbeard and Henry Morgan. The island was used during the American Revolution by Loyalists passing through on their way to other British territories, and then during the American Civil War by Confederate soldiers. Years later, it served as a haven for World War II PT-boats searching for German U-Boats along the southern U.S. coast. In early February, however, it was bikini-clad models who roamed the beaches rather than buccaneers or soldiers.
Cat Cay’s beauty and tranquility initially enticed Southern Boating to choose the location for its Annual Swimsuit Issue’s photo shoot. But soon after arrival, the production crew of 12 also discovered easy access to a worldclass beach, a full-service marina with a transient cruiser program, a 1,995-foot airstrip adjacent to the marina, great food, interesting culture and history, privacy and security, and ease of clearing customs—Cat Cay is a Bahamian port of entry with a customs office located at the 108-slip marina. The approach by sea is through the cut at the south end of Gun Cay—managed by the Cat Cay Yacht Club—and past the historic Gun Cay lighthouse, which has been restored by the effort and financial support of the 152 Cat Cay members, a testament to their commitment to the preservation and appreciation of the environment and the greater Bahamian community.
Louis Wasey purchased Cat Cay in 1931 for $400,000 with a dream to turn the private island into the Cat Cay Yacht Club. Many of that era’s rich and famous found the island intriguing and some became members, while others simply visited year after year, including Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon as guests of club members. The term “private island” may seem a bit stuffy and restrictive, but Cat Cay is anything but; its warm and welcoming nature is courtesy of General Manager John McCranie and his professional staff.