St. Lucia

St. Lucia

Home to the majestic Pitons, this sovereign island country offers spectacular cruising in the Lesser Antilles. Photo: Saint Lucia Tourist Board

Fair Helen of the West Indies offers spectacular cruising in the Lesser Antilles.

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.

North of the Inner Lagoon channel, the bay’s shore curves around to Pigeon Island connected to the mainland by a manmade causeway. The former home of notorious pirate Jambe de Bois, the 40-acre island is now the Pigeon Island National Park, which sports a botanical trail, the ruins of Fort Rodney, an interpretive center housed in a restored 1824 officers’ quarters, and a major venue for the 23rd Annual St. Lucia Jazz Festival in May. Another of the bay’s several anchorages lies just off Pigeon Island, and a convenient dinghy dock provides access to the park and the festival. The 12-day event kicks off on April 30th, but the main-stage events begin on May 9th at Pigeon Island.