Arriving in Les Canaries during the mid afternoon, I did not know what to expect from the somewhat isolated coastal town of just over 1,000 inhabitants, three miles north of Soufriere, St. Lucia. After a morning spent snorkeling among the sea lice and small fish in Anse Cochon, I motored my Island Spirit 37 catamaran Sanctuary south into a wonderful sea-green bay lined by 40-meter cliffs. The four-and-a-half meter depth was dotted with numerous submerged coral stacks teeming with fish. It was a calm, light wind day and as the only yacht in sight, the anchorage was breathtaking.
There are two water falls within an hour's walk from the town and I was determined to find them. As I approached the ferry dock, several young boys were jumping from the end into the water and waved me over to ask for a ride. Instead, I took their pictures from the dinghy while they jumped. I attached the beached dinghy to the wooden posts of the dock and passed out a few $EC to the boys.
"No one in this town will raise a finger to you or threaten you in anyway," one of them told me with no uncertainty and with perfect diction. "Everyone here is peaceful and full of love. Until recently, St. Lucia was a dangerous place with 29 murders last year. That's when police from other countries came and put a stop to it."
With the reassurance of a nine-year-old boy, I began my trek through town.
As I walked through the colorful, tightly bunched buildings and narrow streets, with their typically exposed drainage gutters, I met a plethora of children who were playing, school being over for the day. Many adults also chatted amongst themselves and sought shade in the 90 plus degree heat. All greeted me warmly and with some curiosity.
Les Canaries' buildings are occasionally charming and generally well maintained; though many were without paint and all were quite small and placed together haphazardly like a broken mosaic. Walking over the bridge that leads to Soufriere, I met a man called Mike in a wheel chair. He was with his buddy, also called Mike. We chatted for awhile and watched the many women washing their clothes in the river. A light rain began to fall. "A blessed shower," Mike called it.
Two weeks prior it had rained heavily, causing the river to overflow, forcing evacuation of all of the riverside shacks and forming a new beachhead out to sea where a small, brackish pond now appeared. The town's water supply is still delivered by trucks and a riverside pumping station; a result of Hurricane Thomas in October 2010.
It was getting late, so I abandoned my search for the falls and headed back to town where I spoke with about ten youngsters and gave them each a lollipop I bought from a street vendor.
Next was the Discipline Bar where I ordered a Piton Lager and a coconut cake baked by bartender Darren's father (and owner of the bar), Jahbazz. Several locals dropped by and bought cake, too!
"So, if you don't mind my asking," 24-year-old Darren blurted out when I was ready to leave, "what is it that drives you, alone on a boat?"
I replied: "For the adventure, to meet new people and experience faraway places and to spread joy – and for the sailing, as long as I am sailing, all is right with the world."
Next, I ascended the 100 or so concrete steps that led through the tightly packed hillside homes and arrived at Del's Rainforest Bar and Restaurant. There I met 31-year-old Chris, one of the town's football stars and the son of the owner. He fixed a Dark and Stormy (alcohol first, ice second) and showed me around.
The upstairs deck provided a phenomenal vista of the town and the bay with Sanctuary at anchor. Chris explained that very few boats stopped to visit Canaries, passing it by for Anse Chastanet and the Pitons. Just as he was speaking, two speedboats zoomed along the cliffs, stopped at the river mouth to take pictures, and then continued south, punctuating his observation.
I watched a gorgeous sunset alone then worked my way down to the bottom of the community steps where I stumbled upon the only open restaurant. Here, I purchased three delicious rotis for $7 EC each. Turns out Jahbazz owns this place too. I met his warm and gracious family who thanked me for giving their other son a lollipop earlier.
Later that night, the full moon rose over the cliffs while I enjoyed a chicken roti on Sanctuary – a fitting end to a wonderful afternoon. Next time you are cruising down the west coast of St. Lucia, give Canaries a look and send me some pictures of the water falls â€¦ I haven't made it there yet.
For information about Captain Mark's charters, visit: www.oceanbreezetours.com