With beautiful scenery and gorgeous weather, Saint Lucia is a must-stop destination as you cruise the Eastern Caribbean.
A Great Pink Sea Snail gave Saint Lucia Marigot Bay one of its claims to fame. The make-believe critter was a prop Rex Harrison’s character Dr. Dolittle captured in the 1967 film of the same name. Fast-forward 31 years, actor Eddie Murphy starred in the 1998 remake and 2001’s Dr. Dolittle 2. While Murphy didn’t shoot scenes here, he did cruise into the Marigot Bay Yacht Haven Marina (MBM) in 2011 aboard his 229-foot luxury yacht, Sherakhan, for an incognito vacation.
Combine this with another acclaim—novelist James Michener describing Marigot as “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean” in his 1978-published book Chesapeake—and you have two tremendous reasons to visit. What’s even better is that Marigot is only one of several beautiful bays in St. Lucia ideal for a boating vacation, whether you cruise in on your own hull, charter a yacht, or take a half- or full-day sportfishing charter.
“St. Lucia is ideally located between Martinique, a touch of France, and the Grenadines, a touch of blue heaven, and is home to some of the Caribbean’s warmest people, picturesque backdrops, and best anchorages, including the Pitons. The island also boasts two world-class marina facilities, IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina (RBM) and MBM, with ease of accessibility through all major hubs from the UK, U.S., and Canada,” says Sean Devaux, general manager at IGY’s RBM, with 253 slips that accommodate yachts up to 285 feet in length with a 13-foot draft.
One of the Lesser Antilles’ Windward Islands, the 238-square-mile island of St. Lucia is the 19th largest in the Caribbean Sea. That means lots to see ashore and miles of coastline to explore. The French were the first to plant a European flag here in the late 1600s.
Today, the island is a member of the British Commonwealth but has its own elected prime minister. The official language is English, the currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC), and cellular communications provider, Digicel, supports U.S. frequencies on 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE, meaning it’s easy to call home.
U.S. residents only need a passport to enter. The island’s major airport, with direct flights from U.S. cities like Charlotte, North Carolina; Miami, and Atlanta, is Hewanorra International Airport located at St. Lucia’s southern tip in Vieux Fort Quarter. There is a new airport water shuttle service called FunToSee Island, which travels from Hewanorra to RBM. The one-way trip is approximately 90 minutes and offers amazing views of St. Lucia’s Caribbean Sea coast.
Cruise In and Around
There are three popular ports of entry for yacht visitors to St. Lucia. Two of these are at RBM to the north of the island in Gros Islet and MBM in Marigot. Both have on-site Customs and Immigration personnel and the clearance process down to a science. A good example is when Rodney Bay clears nearly 150 visiting yachts that arrive within a 10-day window on the UK-based World Sailing’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers each November.
November through March is the best time to visit when winds are up, temperatures are down, and the island’s restaurants, shops, water sports, attractions, and more are open and in full swing. For those who didn’t BYOB (bring your own boat), there are weeklong yacht charters available. Three companies—12 Knots, DSL Yachting, and The Moorings—have bases at RBM. Each charters fleets of monohulls and catamarans from 39-50 feet via bareboat or with captains and/or chefs. The Moorings also offers power catamarans.
“One unique offering available to guests chartering in Saint Lucia is the One-Way option, which allows guests to begin their charter in St. Lucia and drop off their yacht at our marina in St. George’s, Grenada,” says Ian Pedersen, senior marketing manager for The Moorings & Sunsail, based in Clearwater, Florida. “This allows guests much more time to experience the full breadth of the Windward Islands—from St. Lucia to St. Vincent, Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, and on through the Tobago Cays and Grenada—in a one-week charter, as opposed to having the standard round-trip itinerary and returning the yacht to Rodney Bay.”
For a seven-day cruise around St. Lucia, two don’t-miss anchorages to visit are Pigeon Island and the bay by the Pitons. Pigeon Island, across from RBM in Gros Islet, is perfect for a first-or last-night stop. The island (connected to the mainland by a causeway) is a National Park, with hiking and historic sites such as the 18th-century Fort Rodney. Pigeon is also the site of the annual St. Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival.
The Pitons are iconic picture-postcard peaks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, eight miles south of Marigot Bay as the seabird flies. “The majestic Pitons are located in the beautiful scenic community of Soufriere,” says Troy Blanchard, marina manager at MBM, which was purchased in 2021 by JMA Ventures and Southern California-based LLJ Ventures, new owners who have since upgraded both the marina and adjacent resort. “They are the perfect backdrop to any Caribbean yacht charter. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get up close and personal on a private hike through the rain forest or gaze upon them from above on a private helicopter tour.”
If yacht racing rather than cruising is more your speed, visit the St. Lucia Yacht Club in Rodney Bay. “The club is located on a lovely beach spot very close to the marina entrance to IGY’s Rodney Bay,” says Commodore Peter William Lang. “The original name of the beach was Reduit Beach when the club was started in 1964, and there was nothing else other than a concrete ramp built by the Americans in 1941 for securing their seaplanes.”
The club’s two-story clubhouse hosts an active learn-to-sail program with Optimists and Lasers, local regattas such as the Diamond Dash from Rodney Bay to Diamond Rock in neighboring Martinique and back and the two-day Round the Islands Race, and annual international events like the Mango Bowl Regatta held each November. It’s noteworthy that the St. Lucia Yacht Club has produced four Olympic sailors, two who competed in Lasers in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Visitors are welcome, members or non-members. There are no docking facilities, but the club has showers, changing rooms, a restaurant, and a full bar.
Go Sportfishing in Saint Lucia
The big game fishery off Saint Lucia is among the best in the Southern Caribbean, says Captain Chris Hackshaw, manager of Hackshaw Boat Charters Ltd., located at the Vigie Marina in Castries. “Blue marlin are the most common billfish caught, with the biggest ones seen between September and November,” he adds. “The beauty of fishing here is that we are surrounded by two major drop-offs, which follow the contour of St. Lucia. The first is the three-thousand-foot drop and the second is a six-thousand-foot drop. These produce some of the biggest billfish and tuna.”
The more popular ledges are Grand Sec, Lef Didier, and Fond Blanc. Working these spots, says Hackshaw, usually ends in a productive outing, with catches being anything from a large blue marlin to a boatload of mackerel. There are also several FADS (Fish Aggregating Devices) located along the northwest to the southeast coast, with the most successful off the west coast fishing villages. One of these is off Anse La Raye, located south of Marigot and north of Soufriere. It’s famous for its Friday Night Fish Fry, a good indication of the productiveness of the fishery offshore.
“We also have amazing dorado (mahi) and wahoo fishing, which peaks from February to May, usually around weed lines or drifting debris,” says Hackshaw. “The inshore fishing and reef fishing is also one not to miss, with many groupers, snappers, Jacks, etc., caught on the reefs and shallow banks near the shoreline.”
Hackshaw’s Boat Charters offers two main vessels, its 31-foot Bertram Bahia Mar, Blue Boy, and its 47-foot Buddy Davis, Limited Edition. Also, at Vigie Marina, Captain Mike’s fleet includes the 46-foot Bertram, Lucky Strike; 43-foot Bertram, Rocky Bluff; and two 38-foot Bertrams, Sea Hunter and Hack Attack. Both Hackshaw’s and Captain Mike’s offer half- and full-day sportfishing charters that are fully equipped with rods, reels, tackle, bait, and beverages like beer, soda, and water.
The St. Lucia Game Fishing Association has hosted its annual International Billfish Tournament out of IGY’s Rodney Bay Marina, although it have yet to resume post-pandemic. Traditionally, this event welcomes more than 100 anglers and boats from surrounding islands as well as the U.S. and UK. In the past, the Best Boat winner of this event earned entry into the Offshore World Championship, held in Quepos, Costa Rica, each April.
Cruising or sportfishing, or simply for a beachside swim, snorkel, or cocktail sip, St. Lucia is a destination to mark on your must-do marine travel map. StLucia.org
-by Carol Bareuther