Getting Off the Beaten Track in the Windward Islands
reproduced courtesy of imray, laurie, norie, and wilson ltd. (www.imray.com)
Way back in the 1960s, the most magnificent anchorage in the entire world, without a doubt, lay in the lee of the twin spires on St. Lucia called the Pitons. St. Lucia is still fabulous, but in those days, the area was a working coconut plantation, and everyone went home at 5 p.m. After the sun went down, there wasn't a light to be seen. When the full moon rose between Gros Piton and Petit Piton, it would light the entire anchorage, and the mountains seemed to lean in toward each other.
Once upon a time, a beautiful Irish girl named Trich sailed with me aboard Iolaire in the Caribbean. One evening, we watched the full moon rise as we sat at anchor off the Pitons. Trich and I recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary, and I still think she married me because she figured it was the only way that she'd ever get to see that sight again.
The normal routine when heading south from St. Lucia is to spend the night anchored off the Pitons, then sail to one of the anchorages on the west coast of St. Vincent, get hassled by the pushy boat boys, then move on to Bequia.
A much more satisfying route is to head southeast along the southwest coast of St. Lucia. (See Street's Cruising Guide to the Eastern Caribbean: Martinique to Trinidad, page 62.) First, sail a long port tack and a short starboard tack, 4 miles hard on the wind, to Laborie. Stay close to shore so you're out of the current. Off the harbor, pay attention to the ranges given in my guide, and make sure you're sufficiently adept at eyeball navigation so you can avoid the reef at the entrance.
Yachts seldom visit Laborie, but it's by far the most attractive village on St. Lucia. Devoid of problems with boat boys, it's home to successful fishermen who are far too busy catching fish to bother yachtsmen.
From Laborie, it's an easy 2.5-mile beat to Vieux Fort. It's not much of a town, but there are a few very picturesque buildings, and it boasts the cheapest lobsters in the eastern Caribbean. Vieux Fort is the only place where I've seen the locals buying barbecued lobster from the roadside.