Moored off the Pitons

After you clear out with Customs and Immigration, most countries allow you 24 hours to depart their waters. St. Lucia is quite strict about these time limitations, and back in Rodney Bay, I had watched a hapless soul go through quite a bit of misery with the Immigration Officer after it became apparent that the sailor had run afoul of the immigration laws. He ended up paying a fairly stiff fine to be allowed clearance, not something you would choose if you could have done otherwise. 
I cleared out at Marigot on Sunday morning April 21st, and we sailed south a few miles planning to take a mooring somewhere close to the Pitons, then depart early Monday for Bequia. I called ahead on VHF radio to Benny at Harmony Beach Resort to arrange for one of his moorings. No problem – one was available directly in front of the resort. We soon tied to the substantial mooring and thought we were set for the night.

South to the Pitons
South to the Pitons

We were pretty certain we’d stayed on this very same mooring the year before as we recalled being directly in front of the resort, a nice spot close to shore with stunning views of the twin spires and the Caribbean Sea behind us. We relaxed and were just about ready to sit down with snacks and a drink when a parks ranger from the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA) pulled alongside the boat and told us we would have to move to a different mooring.

Moored Close to Gros Piton off Harmony Beach
Moored Close to Gros Piton off Harmony Beach

After a somewhat testy discussion, we realized we had no alternative and followed the ranger to another mooring a couple miles back towards Soufriere Town. The ranger told us all the moorings are now owned by the SMMA, and reservations and payment for the moorings should go through SMMA. The year before our reservation and payment had been handled by a local boat boy. 
Even though we weren’t charged a fee due to the inconvenience, and even though the ranger tied our line to the mooring pennant because it was too short for me to reach, we weren’t pleased as we were now moored close to town with all the noise and loud music bouncing over the water, but what could you do? Time for that sundowner.

Mooring #2 - Close to Soufriere Town
Mooring #2 – Close to Soufriere Town

Darkness soon settled over the bay, and after dinner I went forward to double check the mooring line and attachment. As I peered down to the water. all seemed OK as our loop of 3/4″ line appeared to go through an eye and back to the boat, the way it should. We soon snuggled into bed and were asleep by 2100 hours, cruiser’s bedtime.

Soufriere Town
Soufriere Town

Sometime later I awoke with an uneasy feeling nagging at the back of my mind. I told Joy I wanted to check the mooring pennant again, and donning safety gear and a miner’s lamp, I went forward. After lying to the mooring for a few hours, the pennant line had untwisted and laid out straight. I could now see that my tether was simply forming a Chinese choke hold on a knot in the pennant. After a few anxious moments discussing with Joy what to do, I went back to the bow and using all my strength, I tugged the pennant, mooring ball, and chain up out of the water to a point where I could run a second tether through the eye on the under side of the ball. The two inch pennant was useless – so much for an SMMA maintained mooring. Lesson to the wise – carefully check your mooring gear. We went back to sleep, but somewhat less peacefully.

Much of the St. Lucia waterfront was devastated by Hurricane Tomas in October 2010. Remnants of the destruction can be seen all along St Lucia’s western shores. The streets of Soufriere are littered with broken buildings. Some are still in use of necessity.

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