Anchored Tobago Cays National Park
St Vincent and the Grenadines
12 38'.11N 061 21'.71W
Hope this finds you all well as I'm posting this via my Iridium Sat
Phone. I left Bequia on Mother's Day around mid morning bound for
Myreau, 23 miles due south. I spent more than 3 weeks in Bequia. I
really am plush with time as my schedule is to haul Christa in July in
Grenada just 25 or 30 miles to my south, so no real rush. But as is my
habit I just waited for good weather to maximize enjoyment and limit
the amount of strain on Captain and Christa. I enjoyed my stay on
Bequia even though the entire island is without paper coffee filters.
It is the strangest thing, but I hit every store and hotel asking for
coffee filters. All hands were confused about this lack of what I
would consider essential gear. I've been using Bounty paper towels for
nearly a month now to brew my coffee and really have grown used to the
Bounty operation. So other than the fact I got nipped by a dog during
one of my runs, Bequia was just fine, somewhat mellow and unique. So
after hauling the anchor I set sail on a standard delightful trade
wind sail. Winds 15 to 20 from the east with a pretty gentle sea.
From here on down to Grenada, there are so many reefs and small
islands they serve to knock down the sea. Similar to but less than
running on the leeward side of the Exuma Island chain in the Bahamas.
Christa averaged 5.5 knots, passing by the Islands of Mustique and
Canuan before making landfall in Salt Whistle Bay on the north coast
of Myreau. I could swear I'm in the south pacific. The water is
crystal clear and the beaches are pure as sugar with Palms everywhere.
Although I continue to have issues with Charter boats. For
clarification most of the problems are with so called professional
captains that are running these 50 to 60 foot cats and not Mom and Pop
chartering a boat for the first time. Most newbies are exceedingly
cautious (not all though) and give folks space. But here is the deal.
The beach in Salt Whistle is so picturesque and beautiful the charter
companies want to give the best experience to their customers which
means the front row no matter what. In the morning I found myself the
only one in the whole bay! But between the hours of 2pm and well after
dark these bozos come piling in, plop their anchor down up wind of
Christa, pay out chain till they are 25 feet off my bow, shut down and
immediatly abandon ship to go ashore. It's like arriving to the movies
early to chose your seat only to have someone with an enormous head
roll on in late and sit right in front of you. Further more last night
they lit off the barby and nearly drove me out of my quarters with the
smoke and flames that were billowing down my hatch. As Tom Larson
would say, "dude your livin the dream." It is hard sometimes to
maintain my anger because the people are having such a good time. The
charter guests really have no concept and besides they are to busy
I did take a jaunt down the only road on the island. The island has
600 permanent residence and as usual is very poor. But I have found it
interesting that since I arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines I've
noticed the amount of goats running around is significant. In Puerto
Rico it was the chickens but not down here. As some of you may know I
am an animal lover. I like them all and even though I had that recent
altercation with the dog I still stop and see if I can pet the stray
animals. Most are scared but crave attention. Anyway on my trek around
Myreau I started to hear a substantial amount of goat noises coming
from somewhere in the bush. Upon investigation I came upon the island
cemetery and as with everything on the island it was in a state of
despair and disrepair. But there were a bunch of goats that had been
tethered to grave stones and little shrubs presumably to graze.
However they were all wound around trees and headstones right up to
their poor necks and couldn't move. Some were just babies. So I spent
an hour in the blazing sun unwinding these animal while they bleated
incessantly. I think they appreciated it though So onward I journeyed
and came upon a small Catholic Church situated on the highest point on
the island overlooking the Tobago Cays. The view was incredible. Just
as I was breathing in the view I hear another baby goat making a
ruckus. Upon investigation I found the little guy inside the church on
the Alter right next to the black Jesus. I shoed him away and told him
to have a little respect, it's an alter for christ sake.
So this morning I had to wait for the charter cat to roll as my anchor
was beneath the behemoth. I took the opportunity to change the
transmission fluid and inspect the engine room for any kind of
mischief. I had the anchor up prior to noon for the two mile trip to
the Tobago Cays National Park. Now this place is a true gem. When I
get to an internet connection in a few days I'll post the pictures and
just let them tell the story. Of note is the sand, here it is the best
I've seen since the Bahamas. I dropped the hook in 15 feet of
beautiful water. I did my usual dive on the hook. The sand is so deep
I was able to bury both arms up to my elbows. I can't even see the
anchor as it is totally buried. We could with stand quite a blow
without the anchor moving. So life is good, I'm really enjoying nature
and all that it offers. I plan on staying in the park for a couple of
days before I move onto Union Island which will be my last stop in St
Vincent and the Grenadines. Can't believe it is just over two weeks
before the official start of hurricane season!
Anchored Tony Gibbons Beach Admiralty Bay, Bequia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
13 00.6'N 061 14 4'
As per usual each day seems to blend into the next. The only real interruption to the daily cycle has been the changing weather pattern from the usual winter dry to the stormy squall laden saturated sky of summer. The squally weather is the excuse I use to keep me pinned in my lovely anchorage. I took the picture the other day around noon time. You can see the proximity to the beach and the beach bar tucked into the corner. The morning time is my time. I'm up early daily, sit in my folding chair in the cockpit and watch the sun rise above the hills and then baths the palms and beach in piercing sunlight. I quickly become heated and to quell the heat, I take a swim to the beach and then stride down to the other end of the beach. Beautiful. It is my routine.
Just as in a normal neighborhood, folks need to get along and respect others style and proclivities. To control some communities form associations to exert more control over eccentricities. Now in the sailing world their are standards of behavior, unwritten rules and just general good seamanship habits. Things are a little more complicated in an anchorage full of folks with different nationalities. It pains me to say that generally the American charter crowd are loud and obnoxious. While this is irritating it is not risky. But the French bar none are the worst. They insist on anchoring squarely on top of you. It happens over and over again. To my mind, a cushion of space is needed in the event of an anchor dragging or any number of unknowables. It drives me crazy. The habit surely derives from MED cruising. Apparently the MED has little room anywhere so folks are much more comfortable banging into one another. Of course the MED is where most French begin sailing. But here in the Caribbean we have a little more room. It's like this. If a couple are the only ones in a movie theater, a French person would choose a seat right next to the couple. Yesterday, just as one French boat that was onto of me was pulling their anchor another French boat came in moments later and much to my dismay anchored even closer. They are 30 feet away most of the time, but gets closer when the wind starts its weird dance during squally weather. Now I could ask them to move, but this would become my daily routine. And then of course the French spend about half the day naked. What can you do? This is not to imply that they are not nice, as most are quick to smile and wave. These are simply cultural differences that I'm learning to roll with.
So the aforementioned squally weather is still around but I'd like to get moving. So I may pull up my anchor (that sits underneath the French boat) and sail 23 miles south to the island of Mayreau. This would be the gateway to the Tobago Cays National Park which look wonderful. I'll then steam 3 miles to Union Island where I will check out of St Vincent and the Grenadines and then head to Carriacou where I'll check into Grenada. Then I plan on sailing down the windward side of Grenada to St. Davids Harbor on the south coast.
Anchored Tony Gibbons Beach Admiralty Bay, Bequia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
13 00.6'N 061 14 4'
Still in Bequia. The seasonal weather pattern is starting to transition into a more summertime feel. The past week we've experienced rain and squalls which is not the winter time norm. Looks like I may stay for another week as a tropical wave/trough feature is going to enter the eastern Caribbean, bringing with it stronger squalls and rain. My anchor his good and buried in the sand just off Tony Gibbons beach and I'd rather visit the beautiful Tobago Cays National Park just to the south in clear and stable weather. Now the picture was taken by Team Adamo leaving Rum Cay in the Bahama out islands in January 2008. Seems like a lifetime ago. But to fully appreciate the photograph just double click on the image to expand it full on.
In terms of the upcoming hurricane season I batted around the idea of heading to Puerta La Cruz Venezuela and mooring in one of the beautiful high end marina's that encompass Puerta La Cruz. I crave marina side living and I really wanted to do some inland travel to visit the Northern Andes Mountains and Angel Falls. Plus PLC is totally safe from a hurricane strike. I've decided against going to Venezuela due to the chaotic nature of Huge Chavez and the lack of any kind of consistant information pertaining to safety in Venezuela. Many many people visit and stay in Venezuela without incident and then others say be careful and others say forget it. The U.S. State Department website said that the VZ Gov't has never solved a murder. I can't get accurate information on how much the marina will cost because it is the topic no one talks about, kind of like marine heads as money is exchanged on the black market. I'm advised to bring mucho American dollars as the black market exchange rate is so good I could stay in a high end resort marina for $200 USD. Ok so maybe this is why poor fisherman turned pirate hit cruising boats as they know "mucho" cash is onboard to feed the corrupt beast. I refuse to feed the corrupt beast and besides I haven't bought a drop of Citgo gas since 2004 because I can't stand Chavez and his politics. Even though the natural beauty of VZ is a serious turn on and I do like aspects of the latin culture, I'm not Dirk Pitt on one of Clive Cusslers NUMA capers. What a shame.
Trinidad is out. The murder rate is close to the highest in the world. So Grenada of Heartbreak Ridge fame is my choice. And it is an excellent one. Although hurricane wise it is pretty safe, but not totally. On average it gets hit once every 50 years or so. But it got slammed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan. Ivan devastated the island. But the law of averages is on my side. Plus this year I am going to haul Christa out of the water at Grenada Marine and put her in a hurricane cradle system. The mack daddy of protection. So not only will I have the law of averages on my side, in the event of a strike I have the highest of protection. But wait, Grenada Marine fared very well during Ivan due to geography and as of May 1st 2009 I will have insurance! Maybe I never wrote about that, but I have been cruising without insurance, but no more. So I plan to haul Christa sometime in mid July and then head back to the states.
I have all kinds of travel plans and activities planned for my time in the states. I generally will be gone from Christa from around my birthday (July 20) to the last week in October. I'll return and get Christa ready to splash. It will be good to get Christa's hull out of the water to dry out. I'll save my plans for summer travel for another day. I'll jump to post 2009 hurricane season plan.
Sometime in late November or early December 2009 I'll leave Grenada and head rapidly back to Florida. The reasons are many and complex. I'll do my best to explain where my head is. First off I have no plans to sell Christa nor have I given up the goal of sailing further around the planet. One thing I have given up on is doing it alone. From the companionship standpoint, cruising in a boat really is something that should be shared. Pretty simple. From the aspect of management of the boat, having a first mate clearly is an advantage. I'm not just talking about sailing, but more from shopping, getting supplies and all the issues that flow from leaving one port and headed for the next. Sailing a boat, contrary to popular opinion is a lot of work especially long term. Please don't get me wrong I do not hate what I am doing and I am not exceedingly lonely. But I do miss my family and friends terribly. Another point on the solo sailor aspect. Ask anyone who has spent sometime on the water in foreign ports who have met long term singlehanders and they will tell you they are a different breed at best and downright weird at worst. You see them all wrinkled and old, sitting cross legged smoking a pipe on a well worn boat with "anti social" stamped on their forehead. To each his own, but I don't want that. But their are others pressing reasons as to why I'd stop sailing for awhile next year. And here it is......
I am stagnating intellectually. To the folks who may be grinding it out in traffic daily or reading this in their cubicle instead of working I do apoligize. But it feels like I am on permanent vacation to a certain extent and each beautiful beach and anchorage is blending into the next. I'm now leaping to the next island not with the intense desire to see next port but simply because I need to get south for hurricane season. For example my next stop Salt Whiltle Bay is supposed to be one of the most beautiful bays on the planet, but if you woke up on Christa and checked my vista of Tony Gibbons Beach you'd think why leave here? And so it is on most places I stop. I have the routine wired and the challenge of sailing single handed is now becoming a choir. My learning curve has leveled off. I found in my Coast Guard carrer the same mental pattern I am experiencing now so what is rattaling around in my head is not new. In a 3 or 4 year tour, my first two years would be great as I learned the job and put my stamp on what I was doing. My last 12 to 18 months of a tour was a slogg. In other words I intelluatually stagnated. The sole expection of this was my tour on CGC Washington (WPB 1331) of which I spent four years. But the difference was the command never let me stagnate. I learned just about every job on that ship. So something else has come up. And here it is.
The Post 911 GI Bill. This is the new and much improved college education program passed by Congress last year and will take effect this coming August. The benefit is simply to good to pass up. Generally the bill provides for full tuition in the state your a resident of plus between $1500 and $2000 for housing. In my humble opinion the benefit is so good that at some point the government will start to chip away at it. I'd rather get in while the getting is good. I've submitted an application to Dominican University of California just north of San Francisco for the fall of 2010. I love it out in California and still own an investment house in Sonoma which needs some attention. So the plan would be to live aboard Christa, go to school and work on rebuilding my house. I likely would go for a Master's with a focus toward becoming a teacher. Due to complicated funding associated with the GI Bill I may not be able to attend in California. In this event I'll do the same thing but attend school in Florida. So you can see that I am in a win win situation.
So where does this leave me nautical wise? I really don't know. But someday I will likely do more long term sailing, my love for the ocean is clearly not diminshed. But please don't stop following the blog, I still have between now and July to cover down to Grenada and then a very full summer of adventure and even then a trip back to the states. So plenty of action, commentary, pictures and videos ahead. Maybe this blog will morph into something else. Who knows? Any questions please ask.
On a mooring Admiralty Bay Bequia
St Vincent and the Grenadines
13 00.6'N 061 14 4'
I took this picture (double click to enlarge) just moments ago while eating breakfast and slurping some coffee. It is easy to become lazy in a laid back place like Bequia. I haven't been doing anything substantial and I'm still on a mooring, which I haggled down to $70 a week. I paid $30 for a week's worth of Internet which struggles to beam out to the good anchorage near Tony Gibbons Beach. So I could save on the mooring fee by anchoring but then I lose the use of the wifi signal I already paid for. These are the rigors.
I have also identified my running circuit which kind of fell by the wayside during my stay in St Lucia. So I am very pleased to be back on the road running again. Of course the circuit is either up hill or down hill with few flat spots. These are the rigors.
I was also pleased to see some old faces, Jan and Paul from IRESE, and Endeavor 40. I sailed with Jan and Paul Through the Turks & Caicos and were one of the many boats that spent time in Luperon Dom Rep while I waited for weather many moons ago. Now Team Irese spent the hurricane season here in Bequia. But just recently they took a job with a charter boat company. They run a big ole 51 foot catamaran and take guests to the Tobago Cays National Park for a week or so. As Paul said "it's bloody lot of work." So Paul and Jan have the next week or two off so I hope to spend some time with them on that big Ole 51 foot cat.
So other than lazin around all day I have been doing alot of advance planning, which is in my nature about my future plans and intentions. I will write up a separate blog about what my and Christa's future holds. I have made a decision.
PS: Please don't forget to bookmark Christa's New Websiteas I won't maintain sailblogs much longer!
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!