Sea Cloud anchored in the deep waters of Soufriere Bay just to the north and east of the great Pitons. There was a deep trench in the bay, which made anchoring difficult and one could easily lose an anchor if not dropped precisely. The physical setting was very dramatic: Soufriere is situated at the west end of an ancient caldera that blew the western ridge of the mountain chain away about 39,000 years ago. It was picture-perfect.
We stepped ashore on the beautiful island a bit after 8:30 a.m. St. Lucia is approximately 200 square miles with a population of 180,000 and—remarkably, given the small size—is the birthplace of two Nobel Laureates: Arthur Lewis for economics and Derek Walcott for literature. The achievements stand as a real testament to the excellent quality of the educational system. They both attended the same island schools!
We boarded minivans for the short ride to the interior of the volcanic caldera where hot gasses, molten mud, and water and rock bubble violently. Here we were able to see and smell (hydrogen sulfide leaves a strong odor in the air!) for the very first time the seismic activity that created these Lesser Antilles. All of the islands we will visit—with the exception of Barbados—are the products of volcanic activity. We viewed a brief video on the geology of the caldera before we descended into its depths, where we were no more than 50 yards from the bubbling and sulfurous mud as it hissed and exploded in a dark grey pool.
Our next stop was the Diamond Botanical Gardens, one of the unsung gems of the Caribbean. Plants of every sort abound in profusion and our guide Noelle was able to point out all the most interesting varieties. I was especially taken by the bamboo, which is the national plant of St. Lucia–it can grow 8 inches a day and reach 50 feet in height and 6 inches in diameter. We were in these wonderful gardens for about an hour and after our visit we returned to our vans for the short drive to the center of Soufriere. Along the way we drove past the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Quite a few of us continued on to the idyllic Hummingbird Beach where we were able to enjoy snorkeling, swimming, and a variety of tropical drinks, including the famous St. Lucia rum punch, with the emphasis on the last word! The Captain hoisted sails about 1:45 p.m. and we sailed by the Pitons where, due to the moisture in the air, we saw the most vivid basaltic plugs I have ever seen. A number of our redoubtable fellow travelers participated in reefing the sails at 3 p.m.
Tonight, Captain Komakin hosted his farewell Captain’s cocktail party wishing us well and inviting us to return to sail again on Sea Cloud—the most historic square-rigger still plying the seven seas. And now on to the Barbados and a good night’s sleep.