Getting Off the Beaten Track in the Windward Islands

In Part II of this two-part series, this old West Indies hand suggests some out-of-the-way places to visit on St. Lucia and a good way to get south to the Grenadines. "Hands-On Sailor" from our August 2008 issue

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.

reproduced courtesy of imray, laurie, norie, and wilson ltd. (www.imray.com)| |****|

The next day, go around the corner to Anse de Sables (see Street's Guide, pages 64-65), another harbor where eyeball navigation is required. I've never visited this anchorage, but I've flown over it many times and visited it twice by car; it looks like a very worthwhile stop. Anchored in the lee of the Maria Islands, you'll find crystal-clear water, no bugs, and, to leeward, 3 miles of white-sand beach on St. Lucia. The only habitation here is a small restaurant and a windsurfing school.

From Anse de Sables, head south to windward of St. Vincent. The course, about 200 degrees magnetic, guarantees you a glorious 40-mile reach down the east coast to the south end of St. Vincent. Here you have to decide whether to bear off and run almost dead downwind the 8 miles to the entrance of Bequia's Admiralty Bay or continue reaching for 9 miles to the uninhabited island of Baliceaux.

Baliceaux is 1.5 miles long and seldom visited by yachts. Anchor near the northwest end or go south and anchor in Landing Bay; be careful to sail around the reefs to the west.

If you leave Baliceaux at the civilized hour of 1100 for the 5-mile sail to Mustique, you'll arrive at 1200, just when boats are departing, and you'll have your pick of moorings. After you tire of Mustique, it's a downhill slide to Bequia.
After decades of cruising and exploring, I continue to find that there are anchorages that still resemble the Caribbean as it was when I first arrived in the West Indies 50 years ago. You just have to be willing to get off the beaten track.

Don Street is available as a rock, tide, and wind guide in the Caribbean. For more information, visit his website (www.street-iolaire.com). Street will give presentations at the 2008 Newport Boat Show in Rhode Island and at the 2008 U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis.