The Caribbean -Windward Islands
Yes, I haven’t posted in a while and am sure some of you are wondering where we went. It’s not so much where I want but where did a collection of stories go from the last 6 weeks. They actually got deleted from my WordPress app. Not intentionally. They just disappeared and I can’t retrieve them. It’s all part of travelling and being irregularly connected to the internet.
Anyway, here is my replacement attempt at trying to replace hours of lost work. It won’t be as comprehensive as my original work but at least it will act as a catch up to where we’ve been for the last while.
We left Trinidad near to the end of February having waited in vain for an outboard motor part. We were anxious to leave and catch up with Dave and Marcia on Strider who had crossed over from Cape Town to Grenada a few weeks before us.
With stories of pirates and strong north-east winds off Trinidad we slipped out of Chaguaramas Bay and north out through the pass called the Dragon’s Mouth and out into the Caribbean headed to Tyrell Bay on the island of Carriacou.
Thoughts of pirates but with weather reports of light easterly winds we scooted north over a flat sea past oil rigs that appeared to be Transformers on the water waiting for unsuspecting yachts. We slipped through the oil rig grasp, up the windward side of Grenada through the night landing at Tyrell Bay by early morning. There we found Strider at anchor and had a great reunion with all telling tall tales of our crossings from South Africa and stops in St. Helena and Ascencion.
We had made it to Carriacou just in time as the wind began to blow strongly from the north east.
The beginning of the winter season winds blow strongly and as the season progresses the winds lighten. They vary from NE to SE and depending on whether you are going south or north one waits for the more favourable wind as it’s either going to be hard on the wind or just forward of the beam. But it’s always going to be rough between the islands.
Gaps between islands are anywhere from 15 to 35 miles and these gaps are where the full power of the Atlantic storms through along with the open ocean swell. At the ends of each of the islands on the lee sides the wind is always tricky twisted and turned by the wind’s passage over the mountain ranges of the islands. It’s tricky but at least on the lee side of the islands the water smooths out and one can anchor or meander slowly along keeping a very keen eye out for the squalls the landscape decides to throw at unsuspecting sailors.
From Tyrell Bay we head to Union Island where we have to clear customs and immigration for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
From Tyrell Bay to Union Island was a bash to windward with the entire boat covered in salt water, dishes crashing down below, us holding on in the cockpit trying to figure out if we can make it and to top it all off there was Strider motoring to windward keeping relatively flat and sipping their coffees. Oh, for an 85hp motor! We had fun though. Knowing that at the end of the day one is in an anchorage, the boat is relatively flat and a berth awaits makes the rough weather much easier to take.
Union Island proved to be a wind tunnel. The wind blew for all 4 days we were there. Getting ashore was where we got our shower. That is, the shower was salt water but thankfully there was a shower on shore at the yacht club – a godsend. But then we had to go back to the boat later which was a little more downwind so didn’t get quite so wet.
Our entertainment was watching the kite boarders. Right in front of the boat was a reef and flat water for the kite boarders. The wind was blowing a steady 20kn and the kite and foil boarders were having a ball.
Time to go once again and this time a place I have always wanted to see which is Bequia. Again the wind was strong and we said good-bye to Strider as they said they didn’t want to go out again in that kind of weather. So, off we went knowing it was another salt water day.
Union Island to Bequia
The wind we ENE which enable us to hold a tack putting us close to the harbour on Bequia. But you can see from the above map that the last few miles we had to tack in. Salt soaked and a little tired we set the anchor down, turned around and who was coming in but Strider. They had been very keen to see Bequia and decided it was worth motoring up so left about an hour after us and we came in at almost the same time. We were happy to be able to share another anchorage with them before they headed back south to put the boat up in Grenada while we continued northwards.
Next – oh my god this litany never stops! Well, don’t forget we have to keep moving as at this point it’s March 10th and we have until April 1st to get to Antigua. I know for landlubbers the distance isn’t great but not knowing what the wind is going to do we are always concerned about getting trapped by the wind somewhere and missing our schedule.
Bequia was definitely the last stop north for Strider. So with sadness in our hearts we said our goodbyes to Dave and Marcia and will sorely miss them. Dave and Marcia were going to put their boat up on the hard in Grenada and head back to the States. They plan to return to Grenada in December so may yet see them if we go south for the summer.
So where are we? Ah yes, next stop from Bequia is Rodney Bay on St. Lucia.
Yes, we’re rushing. Good weather lighter winds and a great 15 hour sail to Rodney Bay on St. Lucia. The only glitch was a suspected engine problem. So we couldn’t run the engine and sailed in to the bay at night and anchored and waited till morning to get towed into the marina. Engine problem was imagined and so instead of having to do engine work we played.
Just north of St. Lucia is Martinique. We could smell the croissants from Rodney Bay along with the magret de canard, the comte cheese and the pates. So, without much adieu we rushed on but didn’t stop. What? Yes, we figured we would rush to the north end of Martinique, anchor off of St. Pierre and scoot across the next day to Les Saints in Guadeloupe.
St. Pierre was magnificent. Verdant green slopes under the volcano promising wonderful produce and good food. We snuck ashore for an hour, bought some fresh baguettes and some ice for a late afternoon drink under the volcano. The volcano last blew at the turn of the 20th century burying the entire village. There were only two survivors one of which was a prisoner in a cell below ground.
Then on to Les Saints the next day.
At last a wonderful anchorage, well protected, and a beautiful landscape. Les Saints are a group of islands just south of the main part of Guadeloupe. The main town is a tourist spot but used mainly as an escape from the hotels on the main island with tourists coming on ferries just for the day.
There are quite a few sailboats on mooring buoys here and we lucked out with a mooring at the head of the pack a short row to the shoreline.
Finally some good food. A small Carrefour grocery store outshone any shopping in the other islands. Stocked with good produce, wonderful french wines, pates and fresh bread all at prices below what we would pay in Canada. No complaints.
It was great having a bit of a break and for a week we went for hikes, gorged ourselves on some good food, explored the old fortifications and generally relaxed doing a few odd chores around the boat. We loved it and had it not been for our committments in Antigue we would have stayed longer and taken the opportunity to explore the main part of Guadeloupe.
Time to move so we had a relaxing sail up the west side of Guadeloupe to an anchorage near Pigeon Island, now the jacques Cousteau Park so named as JC considered the diving off Pigeon Island as the best in the world. For us it was another quick stop with promises to return and take a look later at the underwater scenery. However, I am sceptikal of this being a great diving spot just from the number of tourist boats going out and the fact that we really haven’t seen and vibrant coral in snorkeling anywhere since we arrived in the Caribbean.
Next a short sail up to an anchorage used as a staging ground for the jump off to Antigua. The anchorage is called Des Haies. It was packed with boats, the swell kept everyone rolling for the night and by early light we were out the entrance and on our way to English Harbour.
More on Antigua later. Have a great Easter