Leaving St Lucia

Our plan was to check out of St Lucia and head to Dominica. Our contact at Customs their told us that we needed a COVID test within 72 hours of arrival, which is pretty typical, but gives us a pretty small window to travel. So we went to the northern end of the country to get our pre-travel test and check out, hoping to make the next leg as short as possible. We were pretty excited to get out of there: as beautiful as the nature is, COVID was spiking and resentment along with it. And no wonder, as resort guests in their thin-walled bubble continued to visibly live by different rules than everyone else.

A party catamaran passing in front of us while the country is in nominal lockdown

When we got our results back and reached out to Dominica again, we reached a Coast Guard officer, who informed us that their borders were closed to yachts, full stop. Apparently the Customs agent had been unaware that air and sea travel were treated differently.

So we found ourselves with a brief window in which we could use our negative tests to get out of dodge, but few other options. The French islands were (and still are) closed to Americans, and their COVID numbers made them unappealing regardless. The smaller northern islands were closed to everyone. Antigua would take us back, but there wasn’t much more we we wanted to see there. So we decided we’d turn back to St Vincent; we hadn’t seen all the islands there, we liked the ones we had been to, and (at the time) their COVID numbers remained low.

The only problem was the timing: it’s roughly a 12 hour sail, and we got to the Customs office after the Immigration officer had left for the day. If we wanted to arrive in daylight, we would have to leave either at dawn or a little after sunset. (Any later, and we’d risk passing that 72 hour mark since our test.) The customs office opened at 9, and immigration likely wouldn’t arrive until after 10am, which put us in night sail territory. But no worries, there was a workaround: we could get up early and sail the first 3 hours down the coast, then check out in Soufriere. Rodney Bay Customs assured us that Soufriere Customs would be there tomorrow. Great, we’ll do that.

So we get up early and sail down the coast. We arrive in Soufriere, drop the dinghy, and I head in to check us out. I got into town and realized I’d forgotten shoes, so I put on Jazz’s emergency flip-flops; no time, we’re going to make SVG by sunset.

Of course, I get to the Customs office, and there’s nobody there. I call the number on the door. I call some other Customs offices. Nobody knows where this agent is. I walk down to Immigration, a block away. Nobody is there either, but there’s a cop outside who knows the Immigration guy, and gives him a call. He shows up some ten minutes later, and tells me that the Customs guy is in Vieux Fort today. He will not be coming back, but if we’d like to motor into the wind and current for another 9 miles, we can check out there.

I get back to the boat; that took about an hour and a half. We motor to Vieux Fort, along some admittedly quite pretty coast. It takes about three hours.

We drop anchor outside some fish farms, and I take our tiny dinghy into the big commercial port facility, scale the 7′ concrete dock, and hunt down the Customs office. I check out with minimal hassle, and am back on the boat by 4pm. Looks like it’ll be a night sail after all. We feel like this:

And it does turn out to be a nice, pleasant sail: all that motoring to Vieux Fort meant we passed on the windward side of St Vincent, so we avoided the wind shadow and could sail the whole time. We arrived in the morning with plenty of light to pick up a quarantine mooring ball. This is Captain’s favorite time to arrive, because he gets to help us put all the lines away.

He’s very helpful

2 comments

  1. Every time I get your new commentary I get so excited! You are an exceptional writer, the crafting of your story makes me feel like I was there! I am either laughing or exhausted! As a traveler myself, it brings back similar situations, especially the exhausted ones! For example, we had to catch a ferry at sunrise from a beach in Thailand we needed sleep so we tagged a note on ourselves to wake us up when the ferry arrived-it worked!

    1. Thanks Tauni! It’s easier to write about the good times, so I’m glad you enjoy the stressful posts too. đŸ™‚

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