Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia.
From where we are anchored in Rodney Bay we have five beautiful stretches of beaches in front of us and to our sides and off to the north-west sits Pigeon Island. We have been looking at the island for a few days now so decided that it was time to check it out!
We motored our dinghy over to a little dock on the fort grounds, tied up and was greeted by a park official. She walked us over to the main gate entrance where we purchased our tickets and we were off on our way to explore. The buildings and ruins were similar to some of the forts we’ve visited before. We read that Fort Rodney dated to around 1750, including a fortress, barracks and now some rusting cannons.
The grounds are beautiful with lots of flowers and big shade trees. There are two peaks to hike up to on the island. The highest point for Fort Rodney is 225 ft and for Signal Peak it is 330 ft. (That is almost as tall as the highest point in FL which is 345 ft!) The path to the fort although uphill was easy to walk, nice and smooth for most of the way with a tall ladder for the final climb to reach the top.
The hike to the top of signal peak was a bit more challenging with large steep boulders that we had to scramble over and around sometimes using all fours (hands and feet) to make it to the next level. When we came across a patch of shade we relished it as it was a very hot and humid day!
At the tops, both the fort and signal peak have amazing views of the coast. On a clear day you can see Martinique and in the opposite direction you can get a glimpse of the tops of the famous Pitons. (It was a bit hazy when we visited but we could still see them)
The island’s history starts somewhere in the 1550’s when Saint Lucia’s first French settler, Jambe de Bois used Pigeon island as a base for raiding passing Spanish ships. During the 18th century the British admiral George Rodney fortified the island, using it to monitor the French fleet on Martinique. It must have been easy to see what they were up to with the views from up here!
Early in it’s history Pigeon Island was a key factor in the Battles between the British and the French. In 1909 a whaling station was established at Pigeon Island. A lime kiln was modified to process whale oil in the 1920s, and did so until 1926. Then legislation to control whaling in 1952 put an end to this operation.
After this, the fort was not in use anymore except as a small signal station by the US during WWII. Franklin Roosevelt visited the area aboard the USS Tuscaloosa in 1940. The US Navy built a Naval Air Station in 1941 and used the island as a communication station. A squadron of 18 PBY-5 Catalinas (amphibious aircraft) patrolled for German submarines. The station was deactivated in 1947.
In 1937 Pigeon Island was leased to Josset Agnes Hutchinson, an actress from England. When the US established a Naval Base at Rodney Bay in 1940 she left the island. When the navel station was deactivated in 1947 she returned to establish a thriving yachting industry, entertaining many guests and giving the island the reputation of being a paradise island. She relinquished the lease in 1970 to go back to England and retire. Remnants of her house still mostly stand on the property.
We had a great day exploring every nook and cranny that we could not wanting to miss out on anything. At the end of our hike we were rewarded with a beautiful beach to swim in, cool off and rinse all of the grime off from our explorations. What a fun day!