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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Tobago Cays
Randy
07/26/2007, SVG

Hideko and I went ashore in our newly restored to action dink early this morning. We had breakfast at the Tamarind Hotel, which is a quaint little place right on the beach. Breakfast here was ok. I have yet to find a good omelet or pancake type spot in the islands.

After breakfast we hiked around the island a bit. There are some beautiful vistas up in the hills toward Friendship point. The south bay, oddly enough, named Friendship Bay seemed to have some fishing traffic at the dock. We also got a good view of the airport which was at the end of its expansion phase. The project involved dynamiting Glossy hill (which was "in the way") and filling in the bay (burying a good stretch of coral reef). Sad, but hey, now they can land jets here.

We bought a coke at a small shop on top of the hill for the walk back down. At many places in the Grenadines the coke comes in half liter glass bottles, giving me a flash back to childhood (except for the liter part).

Back at the boat we made quick preparations to set sail for the Tobago Cays. The Tobago Cays are the fist place in the eastern Caribbean that have been able to match the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos for pure sandy island beauty.

Part of the beauty is tied to the fact that there are reefs everywhere. You must navigate in and around the Cays carefully, especially on the south side. We tooled through the breath taking cut between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau and then made our way up to the edge of Horseshoe reef near the white sand beach of Baradel.

The water in the area of the Cays is crystal clear and easy to read in reasonable conditions. You can jump in the ocean just about anywhere and enjoy spectacular snorkeling. There are splendid beaches on all of the little islands in the area. We spent the day swimming, snorkeling and hanging out on the Jamesby island beach with Fred and Cindy (until a day charter catamaran expelled about 50 cruise ship clients into the water).

The area is a must see but you will not be lonely here. Three years ago Mayreau had no electricity, now there's power, lots of sub woofers and cruise ship facilities with ample excursions to the Cays. There are many merchants going boat to boat but they are far more friendly and happy to move on if asked to politely. The park rangers require a $20 fee to anchor here. I thought that they were another enterprising merchant and told them that I didn't want any. That didn't work too well.

Early morning or late afternoon would be the best time to visit the Cays to avoid the crowds. It was not too bad in the off season but I could imagine it being pretty crazy on season. The surrounding reefs knock down all of the seas here but you have no protection from the wind.

Hideko and I decided to anchor on the back side of Mayreau for the night, so we waved goodbye to Kelp Fiction, who were staying put, and set off to the north. We wanted to anchor in Salt Whistle Bay on the north end of the west coast, which is idyllic. As we rounded the point we found the place packed and with more charter boats coming in. That left Saline at the south end of the west side, or the large crescent Trios Anse bay between the two. Saline is the Cruise Ship shuttle harbor and the AIS system identified a cruise ship moored just outside so we decided to anchor in Trio Anse Bay.

We were the only boat in sight. It was a beautiful anchorage with a long stretch of palm lined beach. We could hear the loud music blaring from the main town near Saline Bay from time to time but it was a fair trade for the visual peace of the area. The bottom here is a little rocky but if you're careful you can hook up in one of the many sandy patches. It is better the closer to the beach that you anchor but a rocky shelf rises up right before the low tide line. It drops off to 25 feet and more fairly quickly.

Anchoring close to the beach is great and we often do. It is easy to swim to the beach and the depth around the boat is better for snorkeling. On the down side you have to keep an eye out for west winds on the back of the passing waves. Strong west winds are rare but even a light west wind with a little bit of beach bound swell and move you to the beach side of your anchor surprisingly quickly. An overnight stern anchor is not a bad idea if you're too close to swing east of your hook.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Mayreau Abort
Randy
07/25/2007, Canouan

We still had some disturbed weather rolling by associated with a tropical wave in the area this morning. The Kelp Fiction and the Swingin' on a Star crews were both eager to get over to the Tobago Cays so we made plans to head over to Mayreau around noon. Six miles to the southeast it was a short hop.

Hideko and I were going to go ashore in the morning to walk around Canouan a little bit until the weekly tragedy struck. As I lowered Little Star's Yamaha outboard into the water I heard a metallic "plink!" The bracket that braces the drive shaft to the drive leg just popped off. I saw an aluminum plate sinking into the 12 foot water as I scrambled over the rail with a futile sweep of my clutching fingers. The two rubber bushings and the other plate were still precariously attached to the drive leg by surface tension. I quickly collected these parts before they came loose and then cried in my pretzels for a few minutes.

Upon examination the clap assembly was held together with two 10mm bolts. Somehow, within the span of 9 months of what I would call normal use, the bolts backed completely out and fell away. I must admit that I don't go over the outboard with a fine tooth comb very often (ok, at all), but shouldn't structural members sort of stay attached to the engine? I am always amazed at the unending list of things marine product manufacturers expect you to do on a regular basis.

There was nothing for it. I got out the mask and fins and started to dive in the general vicinity looking for the bracket (a hand sized, dark grey part on white sand with dark grey rocks, not easy) and the bolts (pinky finger sized, dark grey on white sand with dark grey rocks, futile). I found the bracket, with some shock, and set about looking for suitable bolts in the spares bin. Nothin'.

Just when we thought we were outboard-less, Fred came by. Apparently, Kelp Fiction is a floating chandlery. Fred motored off with the bracket and came back shortly with the exact bolts we needed. I couldn't believe it. We would have had to wait until Grenada to find the same bolts at a store. We put the Yamaha bracket back on and got ready to follow Kelp Fiction over to Mayreau.

I heard thunder rolling off in the distance now and again as we prepped for the short sail. My instincts said no go. We went anyway. Half way across the channel a squall with a very unpleasant attitude swept in. I could sort of see it hustling onto the scene but thought to out maneuver it. Nope. Squalls 3, Captain 0.

It was blowing around 35 knots but the real problem was the lack of visibility. I refuse to drive by GPS and electronic charts alone. That would have been the only was to make it through the various rocks and reefs around Mayreau and the Tobago Cays in the conditions extant. Unfortunately the most current surveys in these parts were typically completed in the early nineteen hundreds. So back we went to Canuan. The 180 degree tack put the helm on the weather side of things. I quickly changed into a 3mm shorty wet suit. This keeps my cloths out of the weather and keeps me perfectly warm in the cool rain. In longer term weather or colder climes I would go for the foul weather gear, but it just never gets that cold around here and a cool shower is often welcome.

We picked up a mooring close to our previous anchoring spot. An opportunist local spear fisher swam to whichever mooring we steered for so I gave up trying to avoid him and let him help with the lines. I said thank you, and he said, "give me something". He was a nice guy and didn't ask for anything in particular, yet still his methods perturbed me a little bit. I gave him $5 US and told him to buy a dive flag so that no one runs him down in the future.

As it rained outside, part II of the Star Trek marathon got underway.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Charlestown Bay
Rany
07/24/2007, Canouan

We sailed for Canouan today, a short 12 nautical miles away. The wind was abaft the beam. I wasn't sure that my wind direction gauge could point back there. We had around 15 knots true wind, about Force 2 in the cockpit, as we rolled through the mild chop at 9-10 knots.

We anchored in Charlestown Bay after an enjoyable sail that ended too soon. It is a large bay but there are shoals all around and the moorings fleet occupies most of the best spots. Things were looking a little foul out and we had a spot of rain here and there so Hideko and I just swam around the boat a bit, checked the anchor and chatted with American Anthem and a couple of other cruising boats in the anchorage before retiring for a Star Trek marathon (that would be 4 episodes).

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Mustique
Randy
07/23/2007, Britannia Bay

We took a short sail over to Mustique this morning. The skies were threatening but it was a nice trip all the same. Mustique is a private island and the planed maximum residency of 100 mansions is almost in place (I think there were 98 up with the last two being built when we were there). Shania Twain and Tommy Hilfiger both have nice shacks here and about half of the houses may be rented. It is a quiet place and vessels with more than 25 passengers are not welcome.

The waters around Mustique are a conservation area so moorings are the order of the day. All of the yacht moorings are in Britannia Bay on the west side of the island. We picked up a ball near the beach a couple spots over from Kelp Fiction. Moorings are 75 EC for three nights (a little over $9 US per night, which is pretty cheap).

There's only one hotel on the island, The Cotton House, which is beautiful. The island has a small village where island employees live and there are a few places to shop and eat near the harbor. We had lunch at Basil's bar right on the water which was fun.

In the afternoon we took a little island tour. The entire island is picturesque. We had a nice dip at a beautiful beach on the Atlantic side and witnessed many spectacular vistas out over the perfect blue waters surrounding the island.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Friendship Bay
Randy
07/22/2007, Bequia

Today we motored around to the south side of the island to try out Friendship Bay. Along the route we passed by Moon Hole. This little settlement is the embodiment of a vision had by late architect Tom Johnson. The development is a no-power, all natural, sprawling set of stone structures built into the bones of the rocky cliffs. It spreads out along the western tip of Bequia with the original structure located inside a stone arch, known as the Moon Hole. A boulder fell from the top of the Moon Hole a while back and made that unit a bit less desirable. The project has since spread over a considerable area and consists of organic lines and stone construction with no right angles to speak of. This is one of the places that we really wanted to visit but didn't get a chance to. We did get a 360 degree view as we motored all around the point and the trip was worth it just for this.

Friendship Bay was a great surprise. It is just a short walk from Lower Bay in the Admiralty Bay area but a world away. There were literally no cruising boats here other than Kelp Fiction II and Swingin' on a Star, compared with close to one hundred in the greater Admiralty Bay area. The only other boats in Friendship Bay were three small fishing boats on moorings, and only one of those moved the whole time we were there. Friendship Bay can be rolly for mono hulls so a stern anchor is a nice idea. This is not a problem because there's plenty of room, at least in the off season.

After securing the big boats we all went ashore to visit the Friendship Bay resort and Mosquito Beach Bar. The resort is picturesque and out of the way. It has lovely grounds with well cared for gardens. Mosquito was just as you would imagine an idyllic isolated Caribbean beach bar to be.

We were the only clients in the Bar the entire time we were there, and we were there for about six hours! We had a relaxed lunch just feet from the beach. We were also very happy with the cuisine especially the fish. After cooking our lunch we saw the chef walk out to the beach and take a swim. I want his job.

After lunch we retired to the bar which has swinging chairs hung from the ceiling all about. We enjoyed each other's company and had some interesting discussions with the chef and the Bequia folks as the afternoon waned. Mosquito also provided free Internet access so we all spent a bit of time browsing and catching up with friends in other places.

As the sun began to set the place got crowded, two folks from the resort came to the bar. What?! Now there would only be a ratio of one staff per client. Intolerable. We left before it got too dark and dinghied back to the big boats for a contented nights sleep.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Princess Margaret Beach
Randy
07/21/2007, Bequia

It was a busy day yesterday so we slept in a bit today. Or tried. At 8AM I heard a knocking on the hull. There's no one on deck and no one in the saloon. I'm sure who ever it is will go away. More knocking. Persistent bugger, pull sheet over head. More knocking. Argh, perhaps it is really important.

I got up got dressed and went out to see what the emergency was. Lo and behold a glorified boat boy. This one was Bequia style, not wearing a loin cloth and paddling out on a surf board, but wearing a polo shirt and standing up in a 17 foot skiff with an outboard. He began to explain his services to me and I thanked him and told him we were not interested. After a few more attempts to sway me met with clear no thank yous he departed pleasantly. I wonder what he would have said to me if I had come to his house at 8 in the morning and knocked on the door for ten minutes until someone answered just to try to sell him some aluminum siding?

Later in the morning we took Little Star to the dinghy dock just north of the government pier and, after a one block walk, had another no hassle clearance at Bequea customs. Hideko and I walked around town afterward and found a really interesting bookstore. The shop was filled with Caribbean literature. They had Caribbean fiction, lots of history, books on politics and anything else you could think of.

Just behind the book shop is a juice bar. We stopped to talk to the proprietor who was a friendly lady from Saint Vincent. She gave us a sample of some fresh squeezed juices and we were sold. We had a guava and a sour sop juice. Sour Sop is kind of a funky mushy sort of fruit. I can't quite get used to eating it straight. As a juice it was awesome. The owner of the juice bar told us that you could get Sour Sop ice cream too but we have yet to find it.

We joined Fred and Cindy for lunch at a new beach bar and restaurant at the east end of Princess Margaret beach. We spent the rest of the day snorkeling on the reef right by our boats. It was good to be back in the islands. I'm getting to the point where the big islands feel like the mainland. The grenadines are more Bahamas/BVI in character. If I can't hike to the other side it is too continental. Humm.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Willilabo and Bequia
Randy
07/20/2007, The Grenadines

We motored out of the early morning calm inside Marigot Bay and turned a button hook to raise the main. The wind was in the high teens and we had the full main and jib up. We reached down the coast of Saint Lucia taking a last look at the graceful Pitons enshrouded in low clouds. Our destination was Willilabo in Saint Vincent.

We sailed across the channel at nine knots and quickly had Saint Vincent in sight. As an island it reminded me much of Dominica. Unfortunately, Saint Vincent is an island with a drug problem. Don't get me wrong, Dominica and Saint Vincent grow their fair share of marijuana for internal use. It's seems that it is more of a cash crop in Saint Vincent. Walk into the wrong field of crops and you may not walk out.

We arrived in Wallilabo and were immediately mobbed by boat boys. The cruising guide author Chris Doyle describes the glare you get when you deny their services as a "Calcutta Look". Very accurate.

It is a fun looking little harbor. The bay stared as Port Royal in the Pirates of the Caribbean and enjoys a nice new, but old looking, dock for the trouble. There are lots of caves in the cliff walls and the town looks wild and intriguing. Unfortunately the anchorage is poor. You pretty much have to pick up a mooring and tie back to a palm tree or an old quay. The whole bay is fairly deep with the exception of the small shelf running in front of the beach.

The mooring hassle and the mob of boat boys eliminated this anchorage as an option for us. On the way out I suggested that a guy rowing a skiff should not cut off a 15 ton cruising yacht. I could still hear him cussing me out as we turned south in deep water. These boat boys seem to think that they are entitled to get in the way, provide help that you don't desire, and then charge you what they like for it. Other notable adjectives would include rude, intrusive, and nasty bordering on threatening. As we left we watched seven boats pass Saint Vincent by on the way to the Grenadines from Saint Lucia. I wonder why...

There are spots on the south side of Saint Vincent you could anchor. Kingstown, Young Island or the Blue Lagoon for instance. Kingstown is the capital and a big shipping port. The Blue Lagoon is a Sunsail base. Nix. So off we sailed for Bequia.

Bequia is a wonderful little island which acts as the northern gateway to the Genadines. The large and well protected Admiralty bay is littered with yachts and commercial craft of all types. Bequia has a yacht friendly customs facility and many restaurants and beach bars. We entered the anchorage around 16:00 and cruised around a bit to scope things out. We ended up selecting Princess Margaret beach for its picturesque white sand beach and its distance from the main town. Close but not too close.

Kelp Fiction joined us after a bit and everyone took a swim in the blue water. It was nice to be in a new country. Customs was closed for the day so we climbed back aboard and shut down for the night, after dinner with a Star Trek episode, of course.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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