After Marigot Bay, we sailed to the North of Saint-Lucia to Rodney Bay, a larger bay with a marina in a hurricane-hole / protected inner bay. The town has many services to yachts because it is a charter center as well as the final destination of the ARC rally across the Atlantic - boats were constantly arriving during our time there.

Pigeon Island and Rodney Bay

So we sailed off, back at sea along the coast of Saint-Lucia. We poked our heads inside the bay of Castries, the capital, where Yalçın would have to come back for his visa interview in a few days. We had very little information about the anchoring situation there as none of the usual websites we use (Navionics, noforeignland...) had any reviews. A huge cruise ship was docked in the relatively small bay. No sailboats were anchored but a few, including charter catamarans, were anchored or moored in the side bay of Vigie. Precisely where the French consulate is located. It was good enough for us, we'd come back in a few days. And so we kept going North towards Rodney Bay.

Identical, copy-paste, cabins of the cruise ship.
This colorful pyramid is the French Institute of Saint-Lucia

The wind and waves increased as we approached the Northern tip of the island where the Atlantic Ocean funnels between Martinique and Saint Lucia into the Caribbean Sea. It helped us make good speeds beating up with jib only.

We took anchor in front of Pigeon Island, a scenic hill that had been linked to the mainland and was now the Northern tip of the bay. Reaching the town with the marina, the shops and restaurants was quite a long, but doable, dinghy ride and we were more protected from the swells over where we were. We used our time for grocery shopping, scouting the chandlery, which appeared very well stocked, and finally preparing Yalçın's application for the visa for the French islands. I say 'we' because it was a process. Many documents, letters and proofs were required. We pretty much spent a full day heating the printer, formatting PDFs, downloading statements... To French people who think that coming to France is an easy process, I reply you were probably lucky enough never to have to fill out a visa application process in your lives!!

We didn't do much in Rodney Bay, apart from a failed attempt to test a restaurant called Jambe de Bois (Wooden Leg in French). It is located inside Pigeon Island Park for which you need to pay 10 US dollars per person to visit (apparently a nice hike). Since we wanted mostly to check out the wifi at Jambe de Bois, we tried to go outside of the paid hours of the Pigeon Island park. Turned out the restaurant was also closed too. The Park guide escorted us out of the park, allowing us to leave the dinghy inside for a bit. He explained there were numerous shacks by the beach and that he would appreciate it if we brought him a little something back... We ignored the request, had a quick beer (Samuel Adams!!) at one of them, figured out it was extremely expensive and went back to the dinghy and Tirb at nightfall. We finished our beers in the dinghy, watching the sunset and the boats passing by.

Mighty Atlantic on the North side

Castries and the visa interview

We sailed to Castries the day before Yalçın's interview on a rainy day. We anchored in Vigie Bay and immediately scouted the way to the Consulate and options for leaving the dinghy. Official options were nonexistent, but the cat tour company let us use their dock and were overly busy but friendly. I dropped Yalçın off in the same place the next morning, and everything went according to plan. The interview was pretty much just a file drop-off and it seemed to Yalçın that the person had no authority for evaluating the application. He grabbed breakfast on the way back and even visited a hardware store called Home Depot, which, it turned out, had nothing to do with the American brand and wasn't as stocked up as he had hoped for - yet, an employee was kind enough to share her hot spot with him to request his dinghy pick up in half an hour!

Tirb in Castries
Marie on Bris Bouchon, after dropping Yalçın off

As soon as Yalçın came back, we hopped in the dinghy and, after dropping off all the important documents on Tirb, we headed toward the downtown part of Castries. Our target: the market where we'd read we could get cheap local food - what else to ask for? Again, the dinghy dock situation was unclear. Following information from our guidebook and updating them with what we were seeing, we decided there was only one place to tie up where we could lock the dink. In front of a market. There were signs telling more or less that small boats were not allowed, but since a panga had just docked there and the guard didn't seem to mind, we went for it. A young guy came to us though and offered to watch our dinghy... He didn't ask for much and we decided it was better to 'hire' him, rather than worry how he may 'watch the dinghy' if we didn't. We were the only dinghy. The only problem, we didn't have cash. So we said we'd come back and we were going to get some food first. He kindly decided to guide us to the restaurants. He even offered to be our tour guide, but we thought it was a little much. With his help, we arrived right away at the lane in the market with all the little restaurant booths. Perfect! After managing to politely tell 'our guide' that we were good on our own, we picked a place and sat for food. Meals were a full plate with the meat of your choice, rice, beans, lentils, spaghetti and local veggies on the side. A bit of everything and a full meal. It was quite cheap and brought us back to Colombia. Well-fed, and with some coins in our hands, we went back to the dinghy to pay our guy and see if it was all okay. The dude was watching the dinghy indeed, staring at it from the fence where we had tied it. Such consciousness made it seem worth the money. We paid him and five minutes later as we were going back to the market, we stumbled upon him who was going to "buy a smoothy" as he justified passing by. We never saw him again.

This was somewhat typical of the experience we had many times in Saint-Lucia, and specifically around Castries. Local people are very used to cruise ship passengers, who are probably less aware than we are about how much they pay for things - we almost got charged $5 a scoop of ice cream at the cruise ship terminal!! We declined when we learned the price, thinking that they were talking in East Caribbean dollars (EC) at first, which would have been one-third of the US dollar price. The bartender replied 'No, no, US' to which we couldn't hold a 'really? No thank you, it's too expensive'. She agreed with a powerless apologetic 'I know'. But that was already back near the boat anchorage, in Vigie. After losing track of our dinghy guard, we wandered a little longer in the market. Yalçın got some hot sauce to enlarge his collection and share with Ramin, his brother-in-law. We then went around downtown, I got to try to local 'pişi' that Yalçın had in the morning - they were quite convincing tbh - and our first 'accras' (local fried dough, usually with fish flavor). We walked in front of ministries and duty-free shops for the cruise ship passengers, got rained on and eventually went back to our boat. No sign of our dinghy guardian whatsoever.

We then decided to attempt to see the soccer game at the French Alliance: the World Cup final, France vs Argentina. The truth is Yalçın was into it, Marie didn't care (and preferred not to see the game) and since no one addressed us as we were visibly waiting for info inside the large Alliance pyramid, we gave up on the idea. To compensate for the failure, we tried to get ice cream - another fail (as you know) - before deciding to go back to Tirb for good and end our adventure in Castries here. We'd just kept rewatching the Pirates of the Caribbean saga and we could very well have popcorn to make up for the ice cream!

Waiting for the visa

The next day, we left Castries and sailed back to Rodney Bay. We anchored deeper in the bay this time and were immediately hailed by local boats. First, a dinghy started by offering to get us fruits and ended up offering weed, making the sign of a big bag (I guess it's legal in Saint Lucia). We declined by saying 'We're good' and they waved friendly welcomes and goodbyes (may have thought we were already loaded ahah). Each time, we would run into them in other parts of the anchorage or by the marina, they'd give us friendly hellos and 'I remember you'. It felt homey! A funky fruit boat (a dinghy with shades made of palms) also came our way after making business with a cat nearby. We knew him from the previous time as being a little persistent, but we had never bought anything from him - mostly by lack of local money (Eastern Caribbean dollar, bills with Queen Elizabeth on them btw) change. This time, we had coins and wanted some bananas, so we went for it. He seemed shocked we wanted to know the prices before buying and upset when we didn't have enough change to buy more stuff. The bananas were delicious and he never came by Tirb again, despite coming to our anchorage every day. I guess we were too cheap for him!

Time in Rodney Bay passed uneventfully. We moved back to the Pigeon Island anchorage for the second night as it was less rolly, after taking advantage of being closer to the marina to do some shopping onland. Yalçın had left his passport at the French consulate, hoping it would speed up the process and might grant him the visa in time for us to spend Christmas in Martinique - I tend to long for French food and family during the holidays, and family was out of reach but we could see a land of French food to the North!! It was a bold move, pinning us in Saint Lucia at best. So we were pretty much on standby and not in the mood to undertake any expedition inland or touristy activities. We didn't even come around to check out the Pigeon Island hike, half deterred by the $10 per person fee. It would be for another time. We started a few boat projects here and there but mostly waited and hoped for the visa to arrive.

Boat projects: Freddie, the outboard on the left and water pressure pump fixing on the right

Bam bam bam

Yalçın's appointment had been on a Wednesday. The next Tuesday, he contacted the Consulate to check if there was a chance for us to get the visa before the holidays; if not, our backup plan was to take off for the Grenadines for Christmas and New Year. In any case, we'd need to collect the passport. On Wednesday, Yalçın got an email stating that the visa was ready to be picked up! Yay! We were ecstatic!! It had worked! We arranged a trip to Castries by bus, coupled with a mission to find a propane regulator (that also led us to the capital), and checked out on the same day. By 2:30, we were ready, with our traditional victory ice cream (at a reasonable price this time)! After the long dinghy trip from the marina to the boat, we came back with Tirb to fill our water tanks. They were shocked with didn't need more fuel than a gallon of gas for Freedy, the dinghy outboard - we are a sailboat man, and there's plenty of wind for us around here!

We were ready to set off!

Goodbye Saint-Lucia

On Friday morning, we set off in the Caribbean wind towards the Martinique town of Le Marin. With our reefed sails full, it took us only 3 hours to arrive in one of the most frequented harbor we had ever seen. Our guidebook stated a minimum of 2500 boats at all times, which didn't seem overstated given the forest of masts!

The mast forest of Le Marin - we were not prepared!

Keep on reading...