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23rd January, 2017

Castries, St Lucia

Castries is always a delightful port to enter, navigating through the narrow entrance and past the local airfield runway, obviously timing our arrival to ensure we didn’t conflict with any air traffic, which seems to be on the increase as the years go on. Quite a number of the folks were up top to witness our arrival.

Mrs R and I took the option of joining one of the tours, leaving the ship shortly after arrival, in a tropical shower as it happens, and heading through the busy streets in a minivan. The road winds as it climbs so there were great views back down into the harbour. Our guide was chatty, informative and knew her stuff ‘off pat’, an enthusiastic patriot of her island. The first stop was at a lookout above Marigot Bay, a charming harbour for expensive yachts and even more expensive hillside homes. And then we continued on to the fishing village of Anse La Raye, where there certainly was no expression of wealth. Just friendly folk trying to make a living from the sea and the tourists who dropped by for twenty minutes or so on a tour going somewhere else. The local shop had the local bar at one end, the shelves indicating you could have any drink you liked as long as it contained rum.

We continued on towards Soufrière and the majestic Pitons for which the island is perhaps best known. From above, the small town looked like something from a ‘Pirates’ movie, and alongside the pier was a tourist ‘galleon’ looking very appropriate from a distance. The tour stopped at the Diamond Botanical Gardens which must have been any gardener’s delight and our guide seemed to have an endless knowledge of all the plant names. A Creole buffet lunch was provided before we went up to see the sulphur springs naturally occurring in the heart of an old volcano. Even that particular ‘whiff’ was apparently good for some ailments, perhaps not just after lunch though.

The tour finally ended by dropping us off at the pier in Soufrière so that we could board a catamaran for our return journey. There was a certain amount of ‘Caribbean Spirit’ for those willing Saganauts to sample, but not until after the swimming opportunity when we anchored close by what seemed to be idyllic, and no doubt expensive, hotel lodges set into the hillside above a small beach. The residents were probably not that enthusiastic with the visit of cruise ship passengers, but at least ours were of the less ‘enthusiastic’ type. Even so, most were attempting some Caribbean ‘moves’ by the time we sailed back into Castries Bay.

A harbour pilot I had known since he was an apprentice joined for the departure. Now he is the senior and has grey in his beard. One assumes it won’t be that many years before he will be joining me in the ranks of the retired. I was glad it was he who came so that we could say our goodbyes.

Captain Philip Rentell

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