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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
Morne Rouge
08/06/2007, Grenada

I started cleaning the bottom today. I did some underwater work on the boat in Leverick Bay, BVI, but have not touched it since. There is a coral reef on the bottom of our lovely boat.

Things got going in the Maya Cove lagoon in Tortola. We were there for a few weeks and it was not a source of pure spring water. Next we sat in the Saint Martin lagoon for a few weeks getting some work done. I wasn't getting in that water either and I was scared of what was happening down there. After that we were underway with a purpose. Now that we're in Grenada and in a fairly safe zone, hurricane-wise, we have finally started to slow down.

Some say that cruising is working on you boat in exotic places. That is certainly part of it. I spent about 4 hours scrubbing today and I have barely made a dent. I'm guessing that I'll need two or three more such days before she will be respectable again.

We are really enjoying the beautiful Morne Rouge setting. There are a fair amount of pleasure boats and folks on the beach during the day but the early morning and evenings are very peaceful.

Morne Rouge
08/05/2007, Grenada

It was flat calm this morning. I know I've been saying that but today it was crazy flat. We decided to head down toward Saint Georges but there was really no wind so we up anchored and motored down the coast.

Saint Georges is a pretty town. The Carenage bay is basically a flooded volcano with a charming town climbing up the hill sides from the harbor. There's a cruise ship dock on the Caribbean Sea side and a shipping quay at the southeast side of the harbor. Just past the shipping dock is a channel that leads to the Lagoon.

There is a marina in the lagoon and many boats anchor in the lagoon itself. There was a second yacht club on the west side of the lagoon which has been leveled and the new Port Louis Marina is on the way. The Port Louis Marina will ultimately take up the entire lagoon but presently there's just a construction dock and a nice restaurant. Good burgers here.

As we cruised by we noticed that the lagoon was fairly crowded. They don't like cruising yachts anchoring in the Carenage, but there is an anchorage right outside the harbor on the south side by Ross Point that is pretty good and close to the town. The anchorage doesn't have a nice beach of its own but it is close to Grand Anse which is lovely.

We ended up passing the Saint Georges area by, and on Hideko's guidance, we headed for a little harbor called Morne Rouge. You are not allowed to anchor Grand Anse but Morne Rouge is just to the south and said to be just as beautiful. They don't list Morne Rouge as an anchorage in the guide because inside the actual bay the depth is in the 5-6 feet range.

Not a problem for us. We crept into the bay slowly looking for a good spot to drop the hook. There are not many sand patches here and the bottom is more generally littered with live rock and coral rock. There are lots of creatures living in environments like this and big swinging chains aren't very conservation minded.

After some looking we finally found a good patch of sand in about seven feet of water. We were still pretty far out but if the wind shifted west we would swing into some sand on the shallow side of the anchor. Things were settled for the foreseeable future though so we decided to stay. We took a swim to look the anchor over and enjoy the clear refreshing water.

Many of the locals were enjoying the sun on the beach. The carnival in Grenada was starting to heat up. I don't exactly understand how the carnivals schedule out but at least a weeks worth of festivities are involved and things get more and more crazy toward the end. All of the islands do their carnivals at different times also. I'm fairly certain that you could start with Trinidad in February (supposedly the mother of all carnivals) and keep carnivaling all the way to August in Grenada.

Hideko, Roq and I relaxed in the cockpit to enjoy the cooling evening and the amazingly flat Caribbean Sea. Once the sun is down it doesn't take long before we're down for the count as well. We turned in and just as I was getting to sleep I heard a ruckus to the south. I looked out of the boat and fireworks were going off. We rousted ourselves to enjoy a nice fireworks display (I think launched from the airport). There's no better place to watch fireworks from than a boat in the bay! The unexpected things are some of the best experiences in cruising.

Happy Hill
08/04/2007, Grenada

We had a relaxing eggs béarnaise breakfast (with the béarnaise from a few nights ago) as we watched the sun climb up over the island. Happy Hill is a quiet place for the most part. Every once in a while someone blares some music in the evening but it is generally peaceful. Often kids come down to the beach in the afternoon to play cricket and swim or just float around in the water to stay cool.

We noticed a dive mooring at the south end of the anchorage where dive boats tie up once or twice a day. The cruising guide says the area around the point makes a nice dive or snorkel so we decided to give it a try. The bay is small enough that the dive marker was only a short surface swim away. We did the proverbial giant stride right off of Swingin' on a Star and snorkeled to the buoy.

Switching to SCUBA we dropped down to the reef at about 35 feet. Following the reef around to the south takes you down to a little over 50 feet. We came back up along the side of the reef which puts you in about 15 to 20 feet at the end of the dive giving you an integrated safety stop. A dive boat pulled up while we were under putting several snorkelers and some divers in the water.

It was a nice dive but I think the reef is getting pressured by the nutrient rich water. There's a lot of algae out competing the coral. I recently read that 90% of the waste water in the Caribbean is released into the Ocean untreated. Eutrophication is a serious problem.

We had kind of planned to leave today but it was getting a little late. Happy Hill is a good anchorage and although the beach is nothing special the cliffs around the outside are pretty and we had the place to ourselves.

Roq started barking as Hideko and I were putting gear away. I came out to see what the big deal was and I saw two kids from Happy Hill floating by on inner tubs. Then I saw the real issue, one of the guys had his dog with him. It was almost enough to get Roq in for a swim, but not quite.

Later a Nautitech 47 catamaran came in. They were on charter with a big crew but they gave us lots of room so it was still almost like a private anchorage. I think the Nautitechs are some of the most beautiful catamarans around. I haven't given them a good structural looking over but they seem to have nice interiors. I don't think I could ever learn to love steering from the quarter on passage or in bad weather however.

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.


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