Caribbean Season 1
Dec. 06, 2016
We had a wonderful time exploring new islands as well as some we had been to before on cruise ships.
We sailed from Barbados on December 6th to Bequia, as far south as Grenada, then island hopped north as far as Anguilla, and then back south to Grenada.
We logged 1,144 nautical miles before landing in Clarkes Court Marina for our winter haul out on May 13th.
The island of Bequia was our first check-in to the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Located just south of the main island of Saint Vincent. We had heard and read much about Saint Vincent itself being an island with a lot of crime and definitely one that is avoided by many pleasure boats. Bequia, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. The anchorage here is usually full of boats, even when it can be choppy during some strong south easterly winds. Bequia has a lot going for it, between the restaurants, hiking trails, and lobster fishermen. One such restaurant displayed a sign boasting “the best pizza in the Caribbean”. So we stopped in to give it a try. It was quite good, but the best part was the view of the anchorage from the restaurant patio. On one of our walk about days, we stumbled into a shop of a small scale ship builder, Mauvin, and watched as he sat on the floor of his shop and worked on one of his latest models. The finished products are very nice, but somewhat expensive, but I can only imagine the work involved in making them. Near the top part of the island, after a much longer hike, we found the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, where they are working hard to save the hawksbill turtle from extinction. They have very large tanks where they separate the babies from the older turtles and care for them until about the age of 3 years, then release them back into the ocean. You can read more about this interesting place at turtles.bequia.net. If you need to have work done on your boat, there is also some pretty good wood workers here as well as a North Sails loft.
We left Bequia and headed south to the Tobago Cays, the smallest group of islands within St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There are several places to anchor, and there are also mooring balls to tie up to, but they get picked up early in the day. We found that if you departed from one island and could make it to your next destination before lunch, there would be a good chance of getting a spot, because most other cruisers were doing the same thing. The Tobago Cays fast became a favorite spot to anchor for us. It’s a great spot to be in for settled weather. The snorkling here is great for turtle watching as well as exploring some of the coral beds for numerous other tropical fish. Directly across from our anchorage we could see the island of Petit Tabac which was used as “worlds end” in Pirates of the Caribbean. You can get there by dinghy, but it can be a little tricky with the various reefs, especially if the waves are choppy. We were approached by Pablo in his skiff who told us we could come to the other side of Petit Rameau island for a beach barbecue, lobster dinner for 2 for $100 Caribbean dollars (about $50 Cdn). Well, its our first year cruising the Caribbean, so why not? We brought our own wine and took the dinghy over and enjoyed a great meal.
After a couple of days, we continued south with our next stop at Tyrell Bay, Carriacou. Before our arrival at Carriacou island, we had to stop at Union Island to check out of the St. Vincent Grenadines and then we would check in to the Grenada islands (also called Grenadines) at Tyrell Bay. We stayed here at anchor for a couple of days and enjoyed walking around the nearby streets.
Our next stop was the island of Grenada. We arrived just before sunset, so we anchored for one night near Grand Anse Beach, then in the morning we brought the boat into the Grenada Yacht Club inside St. George’s Bay. We were looking for a place to park the boat for the following hurricane season (June 1 - Nov 30), and even though that was six months away, we typically like to have a plan rather than leave things to the last minute. After talking to quite a few other cruisers and doing some of our own research, we wanted to talk to the people at Clarkes Court Marina here in Grenada about their storage facility and rates.
Sure it’s almost a 6km walk, but we’re up for it! Did I mention that it was also 37ºC (98.6ºF). So we head out from the Grenada Yacht Club one bright and sunny day. I’m really not sure what I agreed to, but I was adamant that we would find some sort of transportation to get ourselves back! What would have taken only 13 minutes by car, took us almost two hours to walk in the heat (my fault, I have short legs and I’m out of shape). But alas, we made it. We spoke to marina management and toured the yard, and liked what we saw and heard, so we made a reservation to bring the boat back here for haul out in mid May. Now we can relax and enjoy the rest of our cruising season knowing where the finish line was for hurricane season.
We did more touring on foot in St. Georges proper and when we were about to pass by a chocolate store Robert knew there was no point in stopping me from going in, kicking or screaming. What an interesting place! Not to mention it smelled great. I felt it was only right that I practice some ethical consumerism.
We had been in contact through FaceBook with one of our Barbados50 friends, Kim and Simon on SY Aura, who were also in the Grenada area. We agreed to meet up with them at True Blue Marina over Christmas, where they had planned to take a room at the resort there as a Christmas gift to one another. It may not have been the best choice of marinas, we discovered, when they use full rubber tires on our dock lines to control the agressive pull on them as a result of the significant surge. With Med mooring style of docking, you had to time your jump from the back of the boat to the dock. For a short legged person like me, it was often a challenge I could not accept without a helping hand. Thank goodness for the cross bar Robert had installed across our davits that ended up being used to swing from. There is a reason they call the restaurant here “The Dodgy Dock”! Even with the dodgy docking accommodations, the True Blue Resort is a very nice place to be from the restaurant to the pool to the colorful crabby shorline characters.
Our Christmas dinner was spent with Kim and Simon at the Dodgy Dock Restaurant, and then afterwards we went back to their room for a delicious treat of Pavlova made by Kim. On the 27th the resort had a rum tasting presentation for anyone staying onsite, so of course we participated! The next day, Kim and Simon had guests arrive to stay on board their boat and decided to leave the marina to head north to enjoy the anchorages of the Tobago Cays. I had received a message from the retirement home that my mother was living in, indicating that there was a need to move her into a nursing home with more applicable care. So I immediately booked a one way plane ticket home, not knowing how long this move would take. Surprisingly I was able to get a direct flight for only $372. Robert was confident that he could move the boat around on his own until I was able to return. His plan was to travel north at a very slow pace, and I would join him when I had completed the move for my mother and made sure she was settled comfortably.
When Cathy’s away...
The day after I flew back to Canada, Robert moved the boat from the marina at True Blue and set up anchor in Prickly Bay. This would be his new home base for the next week or so. This would give me time to assess the situation at home and give him some idea of when I might be returning to the boat. One of the weekly events that takes place in Grenada is called doing a HASH. It’s not what you might think. It’s a group of, admittedly enthusiastic drinkers with a running problem. They meet every Saturday afternoon at a different designated spot around Grenada for a walk or run through the bush. On one particular Saturday, the 8th day of January, Robert decided he would join them. As a virgin hasher, Robert would experience the ups and downs of a hash, like having to drink from your shoe before the start. What made this particular hash special was that during this weekend there would be a ceremony to pass on the bamboo to the new hash master. They call him/her De Big Bamboo, and they occupy this position for the next 2 years. If interested you can read more about this at grenadahash.com. Robert took some pictures of this event which can be found on our 2016-12 Photo pages.
By mid January, Robert had sailed on to Tyrell Bay, Cariacou where he would check out of Grenada, and then sail to Chatham Bay, Union Island to check-in to the Grenadines. By anchoring in Chatham Bay the swimming and the swell is much more pleasant. You just need to take a fairly long hike over to Clifton to do the check-in paperwork. As long as it’s not a scortching hot day, the walk can be quite pleasant, but not for the faint of heart. Take water.
From Union he went on to Bequia, and I think the draw here was the lobster. He only stayed a couple of days, but I think he ate lobster the whole time!
After leaving Bequia, Robert did a passage outlined in one of Chris Doyle’s books, which took him to the east side of St. Vincent and then crossed between St. Vincent and St. Lucia and eventually anchored at Sainte-Anne, Martinique. He said this passage was terrible and he would never do it again. Confused seas and higher than forecasted winds made the 120 nautical mile passage a sleepless one. Needless to say, he was very happy to lay anchor in Sainte-Anne. While in Martinique, Robert caught up with our friends Kim and Simon, SY Aura and Steve and Dee, Cat La Mischief and spent a couple of relaxing days socializing. Simon had mentioned a problem with his generator, and Robert as usual was happy to help.
This is where Cathy comes back into the picture! This is where Robert would end his solo sailing career, (for the moment anyway) he had his crew and first mate back. My mother was settled into a new nursing home where she would be well cared for and I was happy to leave winter behind. It really was a little scary driving in snow after so may years!
We sailed from Sainte-Anne to Saint-Pierre on the north end of Martinique on the last day of January. On our way we passed the infamous Diamond Rock (rocher du Diamant) which has a history dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. The rock itself was dubbed the HMS Diamond Rock (a stone frigate) for how it was used during that time.
A few days later we made our way over to the island of Marie Galante. This is a very quiet island, with not very much to see or do, but its a nice place if you just want to relax and enjoy the view.
By the 3rd of February we had sailed to Guadaloupe. As we walked the waterfront in Pointe-a-Pitre, we saw the fishermen selling their catch for the day. One guy used a stick with bottlecaps screwed to it and we watched as he used it to descale the fish. There was a fruit and vegetable market, and a spices and syrups market. Small, but still worth a look. As we walked through the main square, we passed a group of teenage boys all dressed up and playing a variation of drums. They’re known as Gwo Ka Players. The island seemed to have an aura of celebration. With the tourist shops and boutiques, this town definitely caters to the many cruise ships that stop here. The next day we expanded our tour with our dinghy and cruised around the harbour. It is from here that you get the best view of the Slavery Museum, built on the same ground as the old sugar factory that employed the slaves, with its shimering silver architecture to the steps that flow down to the water where mannequins in blue raincoats represent the slaves that were brought to the island by the French.
We sailed to Iles de Saints where we once again met our friends Simon and Kim, which resulted in game nights of Mexican Train Dominos. We also shared a golf cart rental to tour the island. We spent the better part of the day discovering three lovely beaches and one fort!
The island of Dominica hosts a “Yachty Appreciation Week” beginning on February 11th, in the Portsmouth harbour put on by the group from P.A.Y.S. (Portsmouth Association Yacht Services), and sponsored by Hank Schmidt from Offshore Passage Opportunities (SailOPO.com). There is a barbeque at the start and end of the week and several different tours around the island can be enjoyed, for a price. Many tours like the one through the Indian River are well worth the money, but we found that some of the guys were gouging the boaters with higher than normal prices for their tours. They would quote one price and then insist on more at the end of the tour. Regardless, we managed to enjoy our stay here for the week and the socializing with other yachties. We would definitely recommend a trip to the Emerald Pool for a refreshing swim and the water falls that massage your shoulders. This is a very interesting island with a lot of natural beauty.
From Dominica, we headed north towards Antigua and Barbuda. We spent a night at Pigeon Island back in Guadaloupe along the way to enjoy the beach. We arrived in Antigua in time for the Caribbean 600 Race. It was quite a site to see all the different race boats, both modern and classic getting ready for the big race event. We anchored in Falmouth Harbour and took the dinghy into land to do some site seeing before heading up to the fort wall to watch the races. I really like the classic yachts with their array of sails. The picture shown here shows the track for this 600 nautical mile race. Any visit to Antigua would not be complete without a dinner out at the Pillars Restaurant, Admirals Inn. Sure it’s expensive, but oh so worth it!
After our four fun filled days in Antigua, we decided to sail over to its little sister island of Barbuda, where the contrast is huge. Antigua can be described as the extravagant big sister with all the best stuff, and Barbuda is the unspoiled little sister with charm. After only one night here we pulled anchor and headed north towards Sint Maarten.
We passed mega yacht after mega yacht as we sailed past Saint Barthelemy (better known as St. Barts). We are in a 55 foot sailboat, but we felt very small in comparison. Just north of St. Barts is the small island of Ile Forchue where we planned to anchor for a night before continuing to St. Martin. The sunsets here are amazing!
The island of St.Martin is divided (roughly 60/40) into two very distinct countries; Saint-Martin, belonging to the French Republic, and Sint Maarten, belonging to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So when you write about this unique island you can get mixed up with the choice of three different ways to spell its name.
We arrived on the Dutch side and planned to anchor inside the Simpson Bay lagoon, but had to anchor temporarily just outside while we waited for the bridge to open. Here we were in company with the Steve Jobs Yacht, the Maltese Falcon, and several other multi-million dollar yachts. Inside we would be among boats more our size. Not that we’re self concious or anything!
It’s pretty rocky rolly outside the lagoon, so we were happy that we only spent one night there. It’s quite a process when all the boats line up to enter into Simpson Bay when the bridge goes up. They time it different for boats coming in and boats going out, so that way there is no traffic jam. Robert had already scoped out a spot for us to anchor when he went in by dinghy, so that way we were not driving in circles trying to find the perfect location to drop hook.
We had arrived at the island in time for the Carnival celebrations, on the French side, so we got in the dinghy and set out under the bridge that seperates the Dutch side from the French side and made our way to the dinghy dock near the sailing school that Robert had attended a few years back for his captains licence. He was also able to update his STCW-10 at that same sailing school while we remained at anchor. We really enjoy watching the different Carnival celebrations on the islands, as they stagger the dates to different times on various islands. It’s especially fun to watch the small children that take part, all dressed up and dancing along the streets.
On the Dutch side, a few days later, the Heineken Regatta was the event to watch. Most of the bars would have parties, but the yacht club next to the basquile bridge was the Heineken headquarters, and the place most people went to watch the boats as they came back in through the bridge after the race. I think we must have snapped hundreds of pictures, but you’ll be happy to know we only posted a few on our picture page to give you a sense of the fun. When the racing is over, the partying starts! There is musical entertainment, and of course, lots of beer! As part of their sponsorship, Heineken offered $2 beers during the regatta.
When all the partying was over and many of the racing yachts were off to other islands for more racing events, Robert and I made our way over to Oyster Pond by rental car and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Captain Olivers. They put on an amazing buffet with everything from roast beef to lobster, sushi, and a full carving station. The night we were there they had a singer to entertain and he was terrific.
By the middle of March we departed the lagoon at Simpson Bay and headed over to the French side where we would anchor in Marigot bay and take advantage of being able to swim and do a clean up on the hull of BnG. After sitting at anchor in the not so clean waters of the lagoon for two weeks, we were certain that the boat needed a hair cut. Much to our surprise and disappointment, we found that there was quite a bit of damage on the bottom of our keel, as it had been scrapping across something while in the lagoon. Before leaving the lagoon, Robert had gone up the mast to change a light bulb for our anchor light, and with his birds eye view he noticed that there was a large dark shape below our boat and he could see our swing from side to side. It must have been just deep enough that we didn’t bump it, just rubbed it as we drifted at anchor. Under normal circumstances I probably would have seen the object when I dove on the anchor to check it, but in the Simpson Bay lagoon you don’t really want to swim. This would be something that would have to be addressed when we hauled the boat out of the water in May.
From Marigot Bay, we sailed further north to the island of Anguilla. This would be the farthest north we would travel before starting our treck back south to Grenada. There are not a lot of free anchorages in Anguilla, but Road Bay is one, and not surprisingly, where we ended up. The beach here is very nice, and while Robert was doing our check-in at the customs office, I noticed some familiar faces over at Dad”s Beach Bar, the family from SY Jiyu who we had met during the Barbados 50 Rally. We enjoyed catching up with them and finding out how their first year cruising the Caribbean was going.
We only spent one night at anchor in Road Bay, then we were off again to see another Caribbean racing event, The St. Barts Bucket. Here we would be anchored among the biggest and fastest racing sailboats in the world. We took the dinghy in to the main port of Gustavia, where we had a chance to see some of these amazing yachts up close, but not too close. No boarding unless you were on some special list, no matter how we tried. We walked through the party tent and came across the top prize for this weekends racing events, and much to our surprise, it was an actual bucket! Robert held it up while he fantisized about being the race winner. It’s always nice to dream!
Saint Barthelemy attracts some very high class tourists. I would say it is likely one of the more expensive islands in the Caribbean. Here we were, among the rich and famous (I think I saw Steven Spielberg among the racing enthusiasts), dreaming again!
We left St. Barts on the last race day, just ahead of the start, and soon found ourselves in amongst the competitors. We had front row seats, but made sure we stayed well off the race track because there was no way we could out run these yachts. The J-Boats were very impressive to watch them blast by us. We had reviewed our time plan and decided that we had enough time to head back up to St. Martin and enjoy more of the island. We noticed SY Laridae, a Canadian family we had met in the Barbados 50 Rally, also anchored in Marigot Bay. We spent some time with them, showing the kids the famous Carousel ice cream parlour and talked about anchoring together up at Grande Casse to enjoy their rib barbeque.
On the 29th of March, we started our treck south, with our first stop at Iles Forchue by 6pm, just because we love the sunsets here. We left by midnight for an overnight passage to Antigua, enabling us to arrive in daylight and withing customs clearing hours. We stopped at Jolly Harbour where we spent 3 days before heading to Deshaise, Guadaloupe for 2 days and then Pigeon Island, Guadaloupe for 2 more days to enjoy the Jacques Cousteau underwater park. We stopped for a day at Iles de Saints because Robert really wanted to hike the trail there up to the Fort at the peak. I assured him that I would keep a good eye on our boat while he did this two hour hike in the extreem heat. He brought back pictures of some new feathered friends he had shared an apple with. After the Saints, we stopped for a night at Martinique where we took in the beautiful scenery on a nice long walk about at Sainte-Anne. On the 13th of April we sailed to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, where we remained at anchor for 4 days while Robert worked away on our teak decks. Also at anchor here were two Canadian flagged Catamarans, Element and Maple, friends we had met while in Turkey. Here we were, half way around the world from our first meeting, back together again! You just never know when you will meet up again, but it’s always special. Our teak deck project started way back in the Mediterranean where Robert first started simply trimming the proud caulking between the decking, starting at the bow and slowly, very slowly working his way back to the stern. Now he was at the point where he could sand the deck to smooth out the rough spots. It was a messy job, and I’m glad he was the one to do it! By day 4 of doing this, we decided to move from the anchorage and into the Rodney Bay Marina for a one week stay to top up our batteries and give the boat a good wash down. I always like to post our locations on FaceBook when I can, and when I did this in St. Lucia, my cousin Dennis Sauvé wrote to me to let me know that he and his family would be stopping there while on a cruise ship and would love to see us. It’s always great whenever family or friends can meet us wherever we may be, so we planned to have them meet us at the marina and had a very nice visit for an afternoon. Following their visit, Robert was back at deck duty again.
We left the marina at Rodney Bay on the 24th of April (my birthday), because Robert had a nice surprise that he knew I would enjoy. Just a few nautical miles up the coastline is Marigot Bay, where we pulled in and tied to a mooring ball. When we took the dinghy in, we tied up at the dock of the Marigot Bay Resort. Little did I know, that because we paid to be on the mooring ball there, we were allowed access to the resort pool, lounging chairs, and restaurant. We spent the rest of the day lounging in the pool, drinking fancy drinks, and enjoying the resort. Happy Birthday to me! It was wonderful. We stayed in Marigot Bay for three wonderful days of rest and relaxation. I hated to leave, but we were on a schedule now to get the boat back to Grenada. This is easily a favorite stop in the Caribbean, and we will return.
Our next stop was Bequia for a couple of days and then back to the Tobago Cays for more fun swimming with the turtles. May was fast approaching and the end to our first season in the Caribbean. We left the Tobago Cays on April 30, and headed for Union Island where we would do our check-out of the Grenadines. We anchored in Chatham Bay, and just as we had done before to check-in, we hiked across the island to get to the airport at Clifton where we did our check-out paperwork just four days after our arrival there. Next stop Tyrell Bay, Carriacou for a one night stay and to check in to Grenada. We had made a reservation at the Camper & Nicholsons Port Louis Marina in St. Georges for a one week stay to do our preliminary preparations for putting the boat away for hurricane season. While here we could take our sails off and pack them away in one of the forward cabins. We have a check list of things to do whenever we leave the boat for an extended period of time, some of it we divide and conquer, and others are better handled with all available hands. We would do our best to get as much of the list completed before leaving the marina and heading to our haul out location at Clarkes Court. Our haul out date was booked for May 15. We wouldn’t spend any time anchored out in Clarkes Court Bay, since the boat bottom would go from pretty clean to very hairy in no time. So the plan was to leave the marina in Port Louis and motor our way right into the lift bay at Clarkes Court.
We were pulled out of the water on schedule on May 15th, and were happy to see that our Copper Coat bottom paint had held up well. Although we had very little growth, the marina insisted on power spraying before parking her for the summer. Robert had asked the marina to leave the boat in the travel lift over the weekend so that he would be able to address the damage on the bottom of our keel before she was lowered onto blocks and strapped down. It doesn’t seem to bother him, but I found it a little unnerving seeing him laying on the ground underneath our 35 ton sailboat, relying on the straps of the travel lift to stay secure.
With only six days left before our flight home to Canada, we worked steady to knock off the rest of our put-away list. Our final task was to put up our full cover that would protect the decks as much as possible over the summer from rain and sun. Teak decks like salt water, not fresh water, so this would help to keep the deck looking as good as it did when we left.
See you next season B’n’G!