Sweet spot in Windwards
18 May 2015 | Chatham Bay, Union Island
Leaving Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. On to SVG (St. Vincent & the Grenadines)
We left at 0400 from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, which is on the NW corner of St. Lucia for a long 70 nM sail to Bequia. In past years we would have enjoyed staying in Marigot Bay and the Piton of St. Lucia like we have done so many years before on charter trips. But, crime against cruisers has been on the uptick in recent years here so we decided to pass St. Lucia up hoping the island can get a handle on the crime issues so we can visit again in the spring when we come back up this way. The next island down the Windward chain is St. Vincent. Wallilabou is where they filmed much of the Pirates of the Caribbean. We have stayed in this port in previous years. As matter of fact, when we stayed there in 2006, we got hit by a French Canadian boat that put quite a gouge in the side of our charter boat. Then they had the nerve to deny they hit us with many witnesses to support us. We spent hours at the police station and the St. Vincent Coast Guard even came to deal with these folks. Not a fond memory when on vacation. Like St. Lucia, crime against cruiser has been a problem in St. Vincent for years, so we just kept on sailing south until Bequia. Also, it is important to note that St. Lucia and St. Vincent are very deep anchorages so this make it difficult for boats to anchor. You often have to take a second line to land just to avoid the surge that turn boats in these ports. Bequia is a spit of an island in the country known as St. Vincent & the Grenadines with the emphasis for us on â€śthe Grenadines.â€ť The Grenadines is a series of wonderful islands. They include Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, Union Island, Palm Island, and Petit St. Vincent. This is what I call â€śThe Sweet Spot in the Windward Islands, or for that matter, the â€śsweetestâ€ť spot in all of the Eastern Caribbean. Why? Because we get away from all of the larger port cities full of industrial ports, lots of people, and the winds allow us to sail all of the time and the water is even prettier than the Bahamas. When you think of a Caribbean post card, youâ€™ve conjured up the Grenadines. So, sweet.
We arrived in Bequia. Its main anchorage is Admiralty Bay and it is a nice wide bay with sandy beaches, enough of a town to get the basic provisions and a few Carib style restaurants, even a Mexican food restaurant (man, do we crave TexMex). We have always loved this place. The first time we can through here on a charter we sailed right by it not knowing what we missed. Never again. However, this time the winds were very strong. We knew the Caribbean trade winds were going to be building but we didnâ€™t expect winds in excess of 40kts for 5 nights! Our anchor snubber nearly wore in half with all of the pounding. [For those that are wondering what the heck a snubber is, itâ€™s a line with hook on it that you attach from your bow to the chain that is design to give some dampening that a rigged, steel chain will not provide.] We felt like would get seasick just sitting at anchor. Ok, we are in the Caribbean in a beautiful anchorage so we shouldnâ€™t be complaining. Right? Right. So, when life deals you lemons (and limes), you make the best of it (or make margaritas). So, we got off the boat (and the swells) and went to climb the highest mountain around, Peggyâ€™s Rock. Great climb and what wonderful views. (See our picture album.) On our walk down from the rock, we saw some locals taking pictures of the water. After we inquired as to what they were looking at, we soon saw a mama whale with her baby. Yes we saw them go breach to the sea. Spectacular sight!
Back at the boat that night were awakened by strong winds again. They tend to be diurnal and come up every night. Hard to sleep with 40+ kts of wind. We had been worried about the French boat beside us as he had trouble setting his Bruce anchor. Sure enough, at 0200 his anchor had dragged and the boat was too near us. The fire drill starts. We put out fenders just in case and it takes us a lot of work to wake the skipper up. Finally blowing our navigational safety air horn did the trick (how can anyone sleep through this blow!) He and his crew sprang into action and weighed anchor and headed out to sea to re-anchor. Glad we were awake to help this one come to a happy ending. Ed recalled in 2003 when he skippered a SLV (our Houston Sailing Club) charter that took a mooring here in Bequia. The mooring broke away from the seabed at 9:30 PM while he just happened to be sitting in the cockpit. As the boat starting drifting through the anchorage, it was an all-hands-on-deck event to avert a collision with other boats. That kind of event makes you think hard about using mooring balls at all unless you dive them and can see how they are maintained or not.
While in Bequia we met new friends on Wahoo (from New Orleans) and Serenity (from New England) and we got to spend more time with our Colorado friends on Aspenglow. We had several get togethers at each otherâ€™s boats and local eateries for sundowner and meals. Itâ€™s good to socialize with new cruising friends. Itâ€™s not the same as old friends and family, who we miss dearly, but ALL cruisers miss old friends and family, so we rely on new friendships to fill the void until we can see old friends again and renew our friendships. We also got a chance to see Chris Doyle, who writes all the cruising guides that we have used for so many charters and all of our cruising. He rocks! Good to see the source of all these great guides.
Salt Whistle Bay & Tobago Cays
We had our fun and winds in Bequia but now it is time to move on since the winds have finally laid down enough to allow us to leave. So, we left Bequia sailing past Canoun for Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau. Salt Whistle Bay, is a small, but beautiful place that only has room for about 10 boats or so. But, this isthmus is unique in that one can experience sunset and sunrise from the same bay. Very peaceful and unique place. One of the boat boys brought us fresh (still flipping) snapper which we cooked on the grill. This place has a restaurant with booth like seats made of stone. Even the table top is made of stone. Something you expect to find Fred and Barney of the Flintstones sitting at. Boy, were those seats hard too. In the complaint column we have to add that they put moorings in all of the good places so we had to anchor out a bit further out than we would have liked to. This made for a rolly couple of nights. We could always take a mooring ball but, well, we are cheap. We invested in a darn good anchor (proven by how she held so well in the 40+ winds for so many nights) so we wouldnâ€™t have to pay for moorings so we prefer to anchor. Besides, how do you know that the mooring is well-maintained (Ed has had 2 break on him, always at night). Weâ€™ve learned to trust our 60 lb Ultra anchor. Weâ€™ve gone in 360 degree turns during the night and our anchor has always kept digging in and always held for us. Salt Whistle Bay always brings back fond memories from chartering here with our good friends from SLV and having so many good times here. Nice to be back again to these and other great Grenadine anchorages and not be on such a fast track as we were in the chartering days.
After two nights at Salt Whistle, we headed for Tobago Cays. Tobago Cays is always the highlight of our trips to the Grenadines. If youâ€™ve never heard of it, please stop reading and go to Google Images right now and look up Tobago Cays. It is breathtaking. It is the prettiest place we have ever been and weâ€™ve seen some incredibly beautiful places! Check out the pictures we posted in our blog album. As we understand it, Tobago Cays is considered an atoll which means once there was volcanic island here surrounded by a coral reef. Then the volcanic island literally â€śsunkâ€ť leaving nothing but the volcanic reef surrounding water. So, we are essential in the middle of the Caribbean Sea while looking at the Atlantic Ocean. The surrounding, large, protective reef blocks all of the waves but not the wind. The water is mostly less than 15 feet deep so itâ€™s that incredible aqua blue that camera photos never seem to be able to capture. That blue that is always better live and in person. We still have more wind that we want (not complaining) that prevents us from swimming as easily as we would like to. However, we managed to snorkel in the designated turtle sanctuary area and saw great views. We also took our dinghy out to the reef for some spectacular views (and pics). I could stay here for weeks. They have â€śboat boysâ€ť (actually men) that come here from Union Island everyday into this National Park and provide all kinds of support. They bring fresh bread, banana nut bread, ice, fresh fish (you cannot fish in this National Park), T-shirts, support as you need it. We are actually impressed by how professional these guys are. They are only here to help. Our one favorite boat boy on a yellow boat named Surprise was so versed in US politics and the world news. He was great to talk to as well. He has been motoring here every day to serve cruisers for 26 years! We were also saddened to hear our favorite boat boy â€śWalterâ€ť had passed away last year at age 72. Thatâ€™s right. Every day he brought T-shirts here to sell for 30+ years. He was a piece of work and we miss his presentation and good humor. RIP Walter. Watching sunset and having a sundowner as I write this. Wow, so beautiful.
Palm Island & PSV (Petite St. Vincent)
After spending too much money on lunch at Palm Island (yummy daiquiris) and dinner at PSV we went to Union Island to clear out of customs and prepare to head to Grenada. Palm Island is a favorite drink spot of ours and we have enjoyed many fabulous strawberry daiquiris there. No strawberry this time so we enjoyed mango and banana. I prefer the strawberry. Both islands are private and have resorts on them so you can imagine the cost. We splurged and enjoyed food and alcohol at both places. After clearing customs in Clifton, we headed over to Chatham Bay on the leeward side of Union where we had the calmest anchorage we have experienced in quite a while. We took advantage of the great anchorage and got our snorkel gear on and scrubbed the bottom of the boat. Now thatâ€™s a good cardio workout. Neither of us had ever been to this anchorage before and we really enjoyed its peacefulness and it helped that the winds were low.