On a Mooring
Admiralty Bay Bequia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
13 00.6'N 061 14 4'
I left Soufriere St Lucia 3am yesterday morning for the 60 nm sail to Bequia. The sailing life is so full of contractions, just like regular life, but it's just each experience seems to be much more intense. Be it the upside or downside. I always have a level of anxiety prior to a trip, I mentally fight it tooth and nail but I still can't shake it. It can be a bit frightening slipping the mooring line on a pitch black night and simply launching out to sea, especially alone. In a place like Soufriere your pretty much on your own if things go wrong. I think my prior life in the Coast Guard has made me slightly paranoid. Over the 20 year span I had heard/witnessed so many maritime emergencies that sometimes, just as I depart on a trip an old SAR (search and Rescue) case will pop into my head. I'll think, "remember when that guy picked up a net in his prop, was becalmed and then pounded on the reef." It is not rational thought as intellectually I am aware that the ratio to successful trips to ones that end up in true grief is heavily weighted toward success. So this was the state when I slipped the mooring line and started to motor south. Because Soufriere sits under the mountains of southern St Lucia it pretty much blocks any easterly trade wind. But then a 3 quarter moon came into view between the massive Pitons, sweeping away any anxiety. It was breath takingly beautiful. Really amazing, but I could see the clouds streaming over the peaks by the light of the moon and knew I was about to get slammed. I reefed down early and never did shake out the reef. The dirty little secret of cruising, it seems, is a good sailing day is but a rarity. Anybody who says that sailing in the Caribbean is the best in the world, likely are folks who spent two weeks on a charter boat bee bopping between Martinique and Dominica. I have not met one cruiser who have not acknowledged the fact that you spend the majority of your time close reaching or hard on the wind. That is the way it is. Every now and again you get a lovely sailing day such as the 3 day passage Sandpiper just had.
Here is what I mean. It can be tough to look at a chart, see the alignment of the Windward Island Chain and not think I'm going to be beam reaching the whole way down the island chain. So here is what I experienced on my trip to Bequia. The wind has been 19 to 22 knots for several days and I knew the seas were going to be large. I don't know the scientific term for wind that wraps or follows the curvature of an island or point of land, but it happens everywhere on the planet. It happens as wind wraps itself around a house in suburbia and the south coast St Lucia. So as I motored passed the Pitons and neared the south coast of St Lucia, the easterly trade wind wraps itself around the south coast to where the wind is square on the nose. I shut down the engine and was hard on the wind under double reefed main and staysail only. Winds SSE 25 knots and gusting higher. So of course I ease off in the hopes that once I clear the south coast and the wind comes back around to the east I can point toward St Vincent, the next island 30 miles to the south. This is what I did, however, because the trades are constant from the easterly quadrant and the seas get compressed between the island, this sets up a westerly setting current compounding the hard on the wind issue. So by the time I cleared the south coast the wind was cranking and seas were pretty large, maybe 8 to 10 feet on the beam. The good news is that Christa is a very sea worthy blue water boat and takes these condition in stride. The sailing really is no fun under these conditions and all I did was tweak the boat and hang on. There is no laying down or reading a book, it is just to rough for that. I can tell it was a rough passage as I am really sore today. My whole body aches. Although just because the sailing was no fun, I do enjoy watching the advancing sea and seeing the boat manage as designed. That contradiction thing again.
As I approached the north coast of St Vincent the bending of the wind developed, but this time in my favor. Now I was beam reaching while on a heading of SE as I was working to make up for the westerly set of the current. Christa hit the highest speed I have ever seen. I averaged 6.2 knots, which is just about hull speed for a Westsail and I hit 7.8 knots twice while running in front of a large swell. I am always amazed at "Big Daddy's" performance. A technical note here. I replaced the blocks in the Monitor Windvane set up while in Rodney Bay. The new blocks cut way down on the friction within the system and improved the functionality. The gizmo is really really cool once you learn how it works. Anyway, once I got behind St Vincent the wind shadow exerted and the wind shut off like on a switch. I motored for the next 15 miles and then a repeat of what I experienced on the south coast of St Lucia happened on the south coast of St Vincent but worse. Bequia was only about 10 miles away though by this time, but is situated slightly to windward. This time I was hard on the wind the whole time, rail down with sea water gushing over the boat. I was met at the entrance to Admiralty Bay by one of the locals who offered a mooring. I took it. I was very tired and simply didn't feel like motoring around the harbor in 25 knots searching for a good spot to anchor.
I was asleep by 7pm and slepted soundly all night. I was able to get an internet connection while on the boat. So this morning, I pump up the dingy, one of my least favorite things to do and check in with Customs and Immigration. Everyone I know who comes to Bequia just love it. It is supposed be a really cool friendly isle. Looking forward to giving you all a full report!
On a mooring Soufree St Lucia
Current situated in the shadow of the famous Pitons. Another beautiful anchorage but surrounded by third world poverty and the bananna mafia. If you double click on the image you can just make out Christa on a mooring ball.
I left Marigot Bay around 10:30am for the short hop south along the St Lucian coast. The winds are NE at 15 to 20 knots, but the size of the island pretty much makes sailing in the wind shadow difficult. It took just over two hours to get all situated on the mooring. I am extremely close to shore with a little village of tin homes, naked kids running through the street, even pigs are foraging along the shore.
So I am ashore now, found an internet cafe to dash off a post to you all and check my email. I've now identified where the Customs and Immigration station is and plan on checking out tomorrow. Next move will be to Bequia, which is about 60 miles south. I'll need to pass between the islands of St Lucia and St Vincent and then St Vincent to Bequia. Generally it is an open ocean tradewind passage with the exception of the wind shadow of St Vincent. For curious folks, I am skipping St Vincent due to its crime rate. So Bequia is supposed to be an awesome little island located in the Grenadines. I look forward to another atmosphere as I have been in St Lucia for awhile now. I've got the itch.
04/12/2009, Marigot Bay St Lucia
On a mooring Marigot Bay St Lucia
Check out my new spot on the planet. Remember you can double click on the photo to expand it out. One of the nice things about this portion of my journey is the distances are easy. Take today for instance. I had the anchor up and stowed by 0 9am and just two hours or so later on was on the mooring in Marigot. Same island but a completely different vibe due to the large Moorings Charter boat fleet based here.
Upon arrival I had the usual interaction with what Tom Larson calls the "banana mafia." The boat boys come racing out to the bay entrance as soon as they see you. They offer all kinds of services and attitude. With the charter fleet based here everything is just about twice as expensive. Charter folks generally pay top dollar for everything. So the boat boy who approached me started to badger me about getting a mooring, telling me it may not be safe to anchor yadda yadda. I am in the mood for a couple days on a mooring so I asked how much. $40 US. I say no way buddy, do I look like a charter boat? On we go and settle on $15 US per night. Then he tries to pull a fast one with the conversion to Eastern Caribbean dollars which is the currency. I tell him, ya know what maybe I will anchor he quickly backs down and says "I not trying to rip you off." And I quickly remind him the original price for the mooring was $40 US. I've just about reached my limit with the boat boys.
So not that I'm taking a turn to negative town. The beauty of the bay is magnificient. Later on today I'll take the dink to the head of the harbor for a snokeling expedition and then wrap things up with the Sunday New York Times I downloaded to my Kindle.
Have a good Easter!
PS: Don't forget to skulk on over to Christa's new website. I'll be shutting down sailblogs soon.
04/10/2009, Rodney Bay St Lucia
Anyway, the picture was taken likely in 1993 timeframe aboard CGC Washington (WPB 1331) homeported in Honolulu. I spent four years aboard that ship. I still have the sword from that fish. Hence the term "marlin spike." Rope work, slicing and such is an art that originated in the old days of sail. A spike is an essential tool, even today aboard ship today that has so many applications. Today we use metal spikes, but back in the day the spike was cut off the Marlin. After we sawed the spike off the pictured fish, I spent many hours with 400 grit sandpaper and honing oil sanding it to a smooth finish. Anyway the picture was sent to me by Pat Hood, the big gorilla looking dude on the left. It was a great time in my life and likely the best tour I ever did in the Coast Guard. Things just seemed to get more complicated after my time in Hawaii Coast Guard wise.
So Marlin Spike Seamanship should create an avalanche of comments!
PS: Don't forget to bookmark or even better, subscribe to Christa's New Website. Pretty soon I will stop posting to sailblogs. Thanks!
Sadly this morning I awoke, peered out the hatch to see an empty patch off my port bow. Tom & Amy aboard Sandpiper departed yesterday just afternoon noontime bound for St Croix and eventually Charleston SC.
These are the tough times, not just for singlehanders, but for anyone who have to say adios to dear friends. Tom and Amy made the bid for me to come with them back to Charleston with them. We could have buddy boated back through the Virgins and Bahamas. Very very temping, that herding instinct kicking right in. I wrote a bit about the herding instinct in my article in "Windblown" magazine. You can get to that article by click here.
It is tough to say goodbye always. I have known Tom and Amy for a longtime and as many of you know Tom and I were stationed together on the Morgenthau where we shared a stateroom. This was after we had lived in the same marina, The Presidio Yacht Club for a number of years. Pure happenstance that we ended up on the same ship together. Now fast forward another set of years and we end up spending a delightful two weeks here in El Carib together. If the USCG would have let me retire early, I surely would have buddy boated around the planet with Sandpiper. Wasn't in the cards.
So that is that. Back on my own. I really like it here in Rodney Bay St Lucia. As is my habit, I could sink into this place for quite sometime. But I plan on moving further south sometime this week. I have been asked to post what my future plans and intentions are. As soon as I figure it out myself I'll write about it. Or maybe I'll just write about my options and in that cathardic way, the correct path will emerge. How Zen is that?
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