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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Happy Hill
08/03/2007, Grenada

We had perfect conditions for a sail to Grenada today so up came the anchor. The cruisers in Cariacou were having their "Around Cariacou Race" today. It was fun to watch them have at it and I must admit a latent desire to join in. We exited the harbor just as the first heat was coming in to the finish. We carefully steered clear as they raced to the final mark.

Once on course we had 13 to 16 knots of wind. The trim I had set was working well and we were doing over 9 knots. It is a blast to sail fast but on these short trips it does tend to make them a little too short.

Most of the west coast harbors of Grenada have some sort of short coming. The northwest is too exposed, Gouyave has the famous fish fry but the fishing boats take up any usable spots and don't really welcome intruding yachts, Halifax has power lines running across the two bays too low for a sailing boat with a tall rig to clear and Grand Mal is a tanker port with various drawbacks. Dragon Bay did look nice however and there were some recommended five sights there.

Upon arrival at Dragon we noted that it was fairly tight with cliffs and reefs on the sides. Should you miscalculate your swinging range in a clocking wind it would be unpleasant. One anchorage back was Happy Hill which had looked nice and also offered good snorkeling and diving.

We anchored in Happy Hill and found it to be roomy enough for a few boats, fairly well protected for the time of year and rather peaceful. As the sun set we had the place to ourselves.

The Hurricane Bar
08/02/2007, Cariacou

When we see gray skies roll in it is easy for us to just stay on the boat and enjoy our lovely home, just like we would do at home in California. That is what we have been doing for the past few days. Our dingy has been on the swim platform since the last anchorage. Cindy and Fred came by today on the Red Baron to sweep us away for a lunch at a Pizza place.

On the way there, we saw a small catamaran that had an open deck and a bar in the middle with some tall chairs. It was a mobile Rum Hall. When the weather gets really bad, cruisers move into the mangrove lagoon that is on the North side of the anchorage, and apparently this boat bar follows. The neighborhood then proceeds to make merry while the storm goes by. Fortunately we didn't encounter a storm so we didn't see the boat bar in action.

Upon arriving at the Pizza Place, we encountered a somewhat not unusual situation. The hostess informed us that they didn't have any pizza. Odd, but not surprising. Disappointed, we asked her what she had available today. She said, "lasagna". Well, that certainly made ordering easy. Randy and I are no longer living with a Starbucks mentality. We have gone from "Triple, Venti, Two Pump, White Chocolate Mochas", to "whatever you have today". I kinda like that. Life is much simpler and it is hard to get in a rut.

Tyrrel Bay
08/01/2007, Cariacou

It was a rainy day but no storms in the forecast. Happiness spread through the anchorage. Many folks were carefully tracking things through the night and some had even moved into the mangroves just to ensure a good spot. There was a mega yacht in the anchorage by the name of Champagne Share who provided real time Internet updates over the VHF throughout the evening, which was very nice of the skipper. I stayed on top of the NOAA reports over the HF radio as well.

I felt bad for the tireless cruiser event coordinators. They did such a great job creating fun events for the cruisers and also raised money for the local school lunch program, but the weather kept raining on the parade. Even so, many a cruiser turned up at the various functions for regatta week.

Tyrrel Bay
07/31/2007, Cariacou

After listening to the morning weather it looked like we could have a tropical storm heading for Martinique. If it hit Martinique we would probably be fine here as long as we were well anchored and no one drug down on us. That said, storms don't always go where they're told. If a Storm or Hurricane headed for this neck of the woods we would need to get to a hurricane hole or leave town.

The only hurricane holes I have seen in the windwards are Marigot Bay and Rodney Bay Lagoon, both in Saint Lucia. Now I haven't looked everywhere but I've certainly noted the spots along the way. The problem with the best hurricane holes is that they get crowded and the primary damage done seems to be from the last minute arrivals and poorly tended boats flying around the anchorage. Finding a hurricane hole with an acceptable population is the trick.

Fred and Cindy were describing the mangrove lagoon off of Tyrrel Bay favorably so Hideko and I decided to head over and take a look before deciding if we would sail south to Grenada or not.

There were a lot of boats in Tyrrel for the regatta and the season, in some cases. Cariacou is fairly far south and often, not always, exempt from the storm tracks. We anchored near Kelp Fiction and ensured we were well set. Hideko and I have been sitting immobile in reverse at 2,000 RPM, both engines, for a minute or so these days. The anchorage has reef around the edges and a reef in the middle. It is also famous for being tough holding in spots.

After hooking up, Fred and I explored the mangrove estuary. Wow. This place has got to be the best hole I have ever seen. The outer lagoon is really good with lots of spots to tie into the mangroves and good water depth throughout. I could see it getting crowded but as long as everyone worked together you could ensure proper spacing for a lot of boats.

Next we crossed a 4 foot low water shoal to enter the inner lagoon. The inner lagoon is huge but still narrow enough to provide lots of parking spots and little fetch. You would have no seas in this place even in a direct hit. The trick would be getting in. It was a full moon so the tides were big (that's just under 2 feet in these parts). For us to get our 4'8" draft through the door we'd need to go near high tide, which was unpleasantly situated at two AM or there abouts.

Feeling very good about the hole and the caliber of seamanship in the harbor we decided to stay put to see how things developed (or hopefully didn't develop). Job one each day is selecting your anchorage, check. Job two is planning dinner. To that end we invited Fred and Cindy over for some Steak Frites. Hideko made wonderful French Fries and veggies and I cooked up a Béarnaise sauce and some steaks on the barbeque. I think that this is my favorite meal on the planet. Probably due to the gratuitous amounts of butter in the sauce.

The Big Shave
07/30/2007, Cariacou

We had a lazy day today. Fred and Cindy had sailed all the way down to Tyrrel Bay yesterday so we were left to our own devices. We stopped in at Hillsborough to clear in, which required an immigration, customs and port captain visit. After that we walked around town a little and stopped by a pizza place for lunch. The pizza was ok but it was hot like Africa in there.

The Cariacou Regatta was taking place next weekend and a fair amount of preparations were underway in town. We checked the regatta headquarters out but apparently it serves as a bar unless a scheduled event is taking place.

Roq has been panting a bit more than normal these days. It is August in the Caribbean. After some discussion we decided that it was finally time for a shave. We wanted to take as much of Roq's coat off as possible without exposing him to sun burn. Roq was not at all pleased with the prospect.

We used a #3 clipper. It took a long time because the clippers would bind up every once in a while and we would have to clean them out. It also takes a while to get the fur directions figured out so that you can get the clippers to bite rather than just laying the hair down. Every time we paused, Roq would make a B line for the cabin. I marveled at the new skills I am developing. Self sufficiency can be odd at times.

Once we finished Roq looked pretty different. The black long hair no longer dominated his coloring; it was more the grey undercoat. The clean cut look made him seem a bit younger while at the same time the grey made him look a little older. After getting over the indignation of it all he seemed to enjoy the low R value of the new insulation, and became notably friskier.

That evening there was much ado on the weather nets about a possible nasty low pressure system coming off of one of the waves in the Atlantic. This was scare #2 of the season. It had not developed as of yet but several models predicted tropical storm development. We enjoyed one more night in Hillsborough Bay as we planned our escape route should things on the weather front get nasty. We noted that we were less than one good days run from Trinidad or Venezuela.

Hillsborough Bay
07/29/2007, Cariacou

No one swings into anyone else in strong steady winds, but clocking winds or light & variable, look out. This morning the Catana anchored near by had its port quarter bouncing off of the Lagoon's starboard bow in 4 knots of breeze. Folks were running around on deck with croissants in one hand and fenders in the other. The Lagoon let out a bunch of chain and motored back to allow everyone to get back to breakfast.

Hideko and I went ashore for lunch at Palm Island. We were going to swim but we decided to go for a slightly more presentable approach and took the dinghy. The resort is full of natural beauty and they keep the man made stuff simple, which works wonderfully. The food is not bad and the prices are high but not stratospheric.

When we returned to Swingin' on a Star I realized I had left my camera. After we had the dinghy stowed. So much for presentable. It was a nice swim to the beach anyway.

We sailed down to Cariacou with a perfect 15 knot breeze covering the 8 miles in about an hour. We anchored in Hillsborough Bay near customs. The Bay is beautiful with one rocky and one sandy island and lots of beautiful beach. The water is exquisite and the hills are covered in lush greenery.

It was getting late in the day so we used a halyard to swing into the ocean for a cooling swim in the clear water. Hideko checked the anchor and we retired to the boat for dinner and some Star Trek.

Palm Island
07/28/2007, SVG

I love to sleep in when the morning is cool and the anchorage is flat. I also love to get up early and watch the sun come up on clear, crisp mornings. Somewhere in the middle is obnoxious though. I haven't quite put my finger on it but I think it is right around 7 AM. This is when the weather net comes on. Every morning. Except Sunday. I usually get up at 7 on Sunday anyway and listen to static on the radio for about 5 minutes, just long enough to thoroughly wake up, at which point I place palm to forehead and mutter appropriately for a few moments.

Today was different. There is a kind of music that is popular in the Caribbean, especially the southern Caribbean, called Dance Hall. The tempo is like that of a machine gun and it is about as soothing (I'm sure people say the same about me when I play old Rush, Kings X, Megadeth and Seven Dust). The lyrics of Dance Hall are shouted over a rapid fire beat by an MC with gang vocals shouting a unifying phrase or word over and over, content thereof often being hostile to certain groups of individuals.

The little island that was so happy last night had turned into a Dance Hall nightmare wake up call at 6:30 AM. Ug. We were of course the closest boat to Happy Island, but I'm sure the other boats were enjoying things almost as much as we were. I put on my headphones and plugged into the SSB for the weather, fortunately it was not Sunday.

After a nutritious bowl of Coco Krispies (I'd like to say that this was left over from the MacKenzie kids visit, but Emily would not allow Hideko to buy this cereal for them, so Hideko went back to the store after our guests flew home and bought a box anyway) we dropped the dinghy in the water and headed ashore. Union island reminds me of a family island in the Bahamas. No real tourism, at least at this time of the year, just a nice little Vincy town. They do have the southern most substantial airport in SVG, a few small hotels and regular boats to the Tobago Cays. There are some boat boys in the harbor but they are genuinely friendly and don't give you the Calcutta look when you don't buy anything.

I don't think that you see the abject poverty and desperation present on the main islands when out in the smaller, family type, islands. Mayraeu just received power in 2003. These people know how to live and enjoy life without outside help. You also have very little crime on islands where everyone knows everyone, for obvious reasons. I fear that our primary US exports, music promoting gangsters and materialism side by side with cruise ship tourism, help matters little.

Fred was waiting for us at the dinghy dock and helped us find a good spot to tie up. I was going to clear us out through Erika's Services but Cindy informed me that they wanted $75 for the service. I just walked to the airport building a half mile down the road instead. Customs was easy and friendly. It was Saturday so I had to pay $46 EC for overtime.

Fred and Cindy had headed back to Kelp Fiction II by the time I got back to Bougainville. Bougainville is a nice little hotel and restaurant right on the harbor. They have a great gift shop with lots of local arts and crafts and really nice carved wood items. Hideko and I had a wonderful pizza for lunch and then we sat around for a while taking advantage of the free Internet access.

We got back to Swingin' on a Star in the late afternoon and decided to head over to Palm Island for the rest of the day. It was 16:00 which is a little late to get underway but Palm Island is a 15 minute motor from Clifton Harbor. The timing was perfect. We arrived at the anchorage just as the day charter cats were beaching to haul their guests back to their hotels.

Palm Island has a small proper anchorage south of their main dock but it is filled with moorings and right next to the island's generator, a little far from the soothing and spectacular beauty of the beach on the northwest point. The beach however drops off rapidly to 30 feet and then 80. There is one area where the sand shelf at 15 feet comes out comfortably far from the shore to get a hook on. We stood off and waited for the big 70 foot cat to pull off of the beach. When the day charter cat left we had the entire anchorage to ourselves. Hideko guided us onto the sand shelf and we plunked the Rocna down in 13 feet of water with a white sand bottom.

We have about 5 feet of freeboard so this created a vertical distance to the bottom of about 18 feet. The weather indicated calm conditions overnight into tomorrow so we put out 6:1 (a little over 100 feet). Call me paranoid but you never get a forecast saying, "a squall will hit your position". Squalls are just too micro of an event for the weather man to care about or be able to predict. You're lucky if they tell you squalls will be in the area. Unless I'm in a totally protected anchorage I'm 6:1 or 7:1 in settled conditions and 10:1 (perhaps the whole box) with a storm coming. Why not? It doesn't do me any good sitting in the boat. Using our 88 pound Rocna and proper all chain scope, we've never drug anchor once set without some extraneous problem (garbage on the bottom fouling us in the Saint Martin Lagoon comes to mind).

As the chain settled to the bottom a good bit of it ended up in the 30 foot water. This caused us to ride a lot closer to the anchor than normal. This was great for beach access, but on the downside, if we drag into the deeper water, we'd be lying 3:1 or less and resetting might be a challenge. I dove on the anchor and it was well set and had a reasonable bit of shelf between it and the drop off so we signed off on the ground tackle solution.

Palm Island is private but, like all countries we've been to, the beach up to a cable beyond the high tide mark is public. Palm Island allows yachties to visit their bar near the dock and join them for lunch or dinner. Dinner requires reservations by 3PM and decent attire. A beer is about $4 US which is not cheap but not too bad for a place this nice.

The Kelp Fiction crew dinghied over from Union and we all enjoyed a beer and a walk along the amazing beach. Some of the guides rank this beach as one of the 5 best in the Caribbean. Now that is saying something.

We had a nice talk with a couple from Philly who were on Palm Island for their 10th anniversary. We congratulated them on bringing up the national average (7 years last I checked).

Two bareboat charter cats came in and anchored off to our port side late in the day. They were French families, and the French tend to be pretty good sailors but they seem to have less of a personal space concern when anchoring. The party was on the Lagoon 440 but the sailors on the Catana 47 arrived first. They were pretty close to each other but they gave us plenty of room, which was appreciated. So often when you get the best spot in an anchorage every charter boat within 10 miles comes in and anchors on top of you to try to get close to the "good spot". I checked their anchors just for fun and they were both set but anchored in the 30 foot zone and only lying to about 3 or 4 to one scope. No problem holding in these conditions but it is always interesting to consider the scatter patterns that might occur when things go light and variable.

Hideko and I swam back to the boat and watched the sun set. We had begun the very long road of total Star Trek immersion a few nights back. We watched "The Menagerie" tonight, one of my favorites. We have the rest of The Original Series (TOS to the Trekies), seven seasons of The Next Generation (TNG), seven seasons of Deep Space Nine (DSN), seven seasons of Star Trek Voyager, and three seasons of Enterprise to go. Perhaps we'll be done by Bora Bora.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

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