Known for its peaks listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the country island of St. Lucia is more than just the Pitons and extravagant weddings at coastal resorts so popular with Europeans and North Americans looking to tie the knot. This island also offers sea and mountains, culture, radical sports and relaxing moments in idyllic settings to its visitors
The first inhabitants of St. Lucia, the Arawak Indians, date from AD200, called the island Iouanalao (Land of the Iguanas). These early residents were defeated by the Caribs, formidable warriors who were able to keep European settlers at bay for years until the arrival of French troops who forced them to sign an agreement giving Paris control of the island. This thwarted the Dutch who had been trying to do the same since 1600 but without success.
The Spanish were the first ones to arrive here but never tried to colonize the island. After the arrival of the French, St. Lucia changed hands with the English several times, with London finally taking hold in 1814, the island having changed sovereignty 14 times in 150 years.
The island gained independence from Britain on February 22nd 1979, and adopted English as the official language, although creole (patua) is widely spoken among the local people. The country is part of the British Commonwealth and Queen Elizabeth the Second is Head of State, being represented in the country by The Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy.
If St. Lucia is a wonderful sailing destination, with excellent infrastructures and services, it is also an excellent destination for people seeking nature with its waterfalls and unspoiled mountains and treks, and sulfuric baths in open-air lakes. Several companies specialize in this destination and offer all kinds of services for the visitors. Just grab a guidebook and choose one, and the company will find a way to fulfill your needs.
For boats and sailing, Rodney Bay Marina, in the north of the island, is the Caribbean home of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). This annual event sees hundreds of yachts arrive at the marina form the Canary Islands. Managed by IGY Marinas, Rodney Bay offers Five Star service with well-stocked chandleries, and numerous companies offering parts and equipment around the lagoon.
For the sailors who, like us, prefer to stay on the hook, Rodney Bay is ideal. This large bay, with calm waters, offers easy access via a canal to marina and lagoon-side facilities. We spend many months here and even left our boat for two weeks to travel to New York without any problem.
St. Lucia also offers other places for boats, among them Soufriere (very convenient to admire the Pitons) and Marigot Bay (very protected but too small and crowded in our opinion). Both are a good option for a few days away from Rodney Bay.
The island’s capital, Castries, is an attraction in itself. It seems locked in time but in a nice way. Everything runs on Caribbean time, relaxed, with a lot of music and a carefree attitude. Even the traffic is relaxed and we seldom saw a traffic jam!
In the capital everything is business and everything can be bought and sold. In every corner we found someone selling things. In the central area, near the Derek Walcott Square (Walcott won a Nobel Prize for Literature – one of several St. Lucians to do so), you can find instant passport photos and a Justice of the Peace who, at his plastic table in the shade of the official buildings, will stamp any document you may need.
For shopping we recommend a visit to La Place Carenage for duty free goods, and the local market for handcrafts and local food at very low prices from the hole in the wall style restaurants.
But if you take the bus from Rodney Bay to Castries, remember to visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This impressive building has withstood the rigors of the Caribbean weather for several centuries and borne witness to all the major changes that happened on this remarkable island. Although it’s in poor condition and in need of urgent work, the old cathedral is something to be admired from inside and outside.
Joao Gomes and his wife are a Portuguese/Thai sailing family with a two-year-old baby and five-year-old French bulldog, making their away around the world. For more information, visit: www.sailingdee.com