CaribbeanSt Lucia

Drama at the Pitons in St Lucia caused by a customs guy

By May 29, 2020 2 Comments

Last weekend 7-9 boats that I have been hanging out with decided to sail down to the town of Soufriere, in St Lucia, in order to enjoy the Pitons (which are part of a World Heritage Site). We all had a lovely sail down from Rodney Bay and Marigot Bay (this is where I came from) and everyone tried fishing, but no one caught anything. Haha. That night we had a wonderful get together on one of the boats.

Looking at Gros Piton and Sugar Beach from Petite Piton. Whis was the anchorage we were kicked out of.

Well for as much as we all enjoyed the sail down and the get together the day before a customs agent came around on a non official boat and told each of us we had to leave the anchorage within the hour. He was extremely rude and would not answer anyone’s question as to why, since we were all legally checked into the country. The most we got out of him was that we did not have a permit to be there and the permit cost around $8 US. Everyone one of us was fine with paying the fee even though we already payed the Park Ranger for the moorings (why they don’t just let him take care of it I have no idea, haha). The customs guys rudely stated that he was not working and we would have to go into the office on Monday. Of course we were all wondering if he was not working then why was he there yelling at us? Haha

This is where I re-moored after the drama. Check out how quickly the bottom drops off near the boat.

Three of us simply went around to the other side of Petite Piton (about half a mile) and picked up a mooring, because he said those were ok. Interesting!?!?! Sadly the rest of the boats had enough and took off back north to other anchorages. Once all this needless drama was over one of the ladies found the below post on a cruising forum, which explains a lot except why the guy was SO rude to everyone.

Few regulations have bugged me quite as much as St. Lucia’s “Permit to Moor”. It means without a strict itinerary you cannot cruise away from ports of entry in St. Lucia, making it unattractive to cruisers who really want to explore. It causes endless confusion between the Pitons as those on yachts are asked to pay two fees for apparently the same thing. It should have been killed years ago, it is not needed, no other island has such a law, and, as far as I can see it no longer serves any real purpose. So what is this odd bit of legislation and why foes it exist?

Way back when (an advantage of being old is you know a few things most others have no idea about) The Rodney Bay causeway was built, and the lagoon dredged, and except along the beach, there was almost no development. Ian Cowen brought Steven’s Yachts up from St. Vincent and the St. Lucia charter trade was born. The geography of St. Lucia created a problem. The distance between St. Lucia and Bequia was a bit daunting to some charter guests, and we needed a method by which bareboaters could stop at Soufriere or Marigot (which were not ports of clearance in those days) on their way up or down. In other words they needed to be able clear out in Rodney Bay, overnight in Soufriere and continue the next day. When returning they needed to stop a night in one of these anchorages before coming into clear the next day. Obligingly, John Compton passed the “permit to Moor” legislation. This said that if you wanted to stop in a place that was not a port of clearance you could do so if you went to customs and got a “Permit to Moor” paid a fee and got a paper giving you permission to stop on that date. And although in the early years that is the way it was used, somehow the legislation did not include the words “before you clear in or after you clear out”. It was quite a few years after it was introduced that someone in customs noticed this law that said if you wanted to stop anywhere that was not a port of clearance you had to get a “permit to moor” and thus it came back to bite us. I think the government in its heart of hearts knows it is a bad bit of annoying legislation as they often tell customs not to apply it when the ARC is in. Cuthbert Didier when he came with yachting legislation did not get it removed, but he told me a government directive had gone out not to apply it. And for a time that seemed to be true, but like that bad penny that always turns up the customs tell me they are applying it again. It is after all law. It is high time this thing was put to rest. It is of no use anymore, both Soufriere and Marigot are ports of clearance so there is no problem. In the meantime, it makes for constant confusion especially between the Pitons. Because if a captain tells customs he plans to stop between the Pitons, they tell him he needs a permit to moor, issue him one and charge him for it. When he gets down there, the SMMA rangers come by and ask for the park fees. The captain tells the rangers they already have paid and have a permit to moor. You can imagine the ensuing discussion does nothing for St. Lucia yachting or the SMMA.

This is Petite Piton, which I hiked to the top of and will write about on Monday.


  • Shane says:


    I did. The short answer is it was a great hike, but tough. I will write more on Monday. 🙂


  • Conni O says:

    You did it! Can’t wait to hear about the hike.
    Too bad about the shitty day in Paradise (courtesy J Buffett.

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