Windsurfing & Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Michigan
St. Lucian Report
Jeannie and I washed-up in St. Lucia one week ago today - 'today' being Independence Day in St. Lucia. We have just two and a half more days to go before heading back to the frozen tundra. We're staying in a large apartment in a private neighborhood, that's about a 25 minute walk from The Reef, windsurfing and kitesurfing center. The apartment is large, but we're sharing it with so many six-legged 'friends', that it often doesn't feel all that large. We have no car, so we haven't seen other parts of the island, other than the Vieux Fort area. The Reef serves pretty good food and drinks, and the staff are very nice, so we pretty much just hang out here all day. Also, Jolien, the owner, is very helpful with everything. In general, the St. Lucian's are very nice. Life is relaxed, but not pampered-relaxed, as we deal with the bugs and the fact that we can't drink the water. We carry bottled water back to the apartment every night to drink and brush our teeth. We boil water in the morning to do any dishes.
The bay is completely protected by reefs and by the Maria Islands nature preserves, which you can see in the photo above. The winds are side-on, and there is no coral or other obstructions inside the bay, making it a fairly safe place to sail. The windy season goes from November through February, so we're just at the end of that season. This week the winds have ranged from about 13 - 20 knots. I would say that the windsurfing here is pretty challenging (when it's windy). The islands disturb the wind and also cause wrap-around waves which interfere with each other on the lee side of the island. You can get waves coming at you from two directions. Jeannie characterized the waves as 'a washing machine on the gentle cycle' - and she likes that. But with the dirty wind and the rough water, you need a lot more sail for the wind speed than you might think. On a windy day, I sailed into one rogue wave on the lee side that was pushing mast-high (trough to peak). It wasn't breaking, so getting over it was fun, but still a stretch for me. Also, that's not characteristic - most of the waves inside the reef are more like waist high. The winds don't seem to match the Wind Guru predictions, and never stay steady for a long period of time. It seems like we're always rigged too big or too small, but if you try to change gear, the winds will have changed by the time you're back on the water. Jeannie has been on sails ranging from 4.2- 5.4m2, and I've been on 5.8 - 7.5 m2. You need a bigger board than you'd like to get through the lulls. Jeannie's been on an 85L and I've been on a 115L.
While The Reef started as a windsurfing center, it's now much more of a kiting center. The lighter winds and protected bay make it ideal for kiting. Also, I think the air is cleaner up high - it's very 'squirrely' down at sea level. Most of the kiters here have never windsurfed and don't know anything about windsurfing, so we try to give them a wide berth on the water. However, crowding is never a problem. There might only be 3-6 kites on the water at any given time.
There are lots of very cheap, but basic accommodations, available for kiters and windsurfers. Many of the Canadians and Europeans (not many Americans here) here stay for several months. You can rent a room in a bed and breakfast for $25/day, for example, or stay in a beach cottage for $35-$50/day.
I'll try to report on the other activities later.
I used to go down to Barbados every year in the mid to late 80's when I was part of a windsurfing shop in January before it turned into a huge tourist trap.
Any one been down there lately?