Blow the wind Southerly

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Wed 9 May 2012 17:45
Blow the wind Southerly....well that’s where we would like to go.

Our sail down to St. Lucia started at 6.30am and with good visibility and
a little bit of wind from the east and nice calm seas but once out of the
lee of Martinique we got caught by a tropical squall and had winds gusting
up to 28knots dead on the nose, coming from the south and so we ended up
motor sailing to maintain our course for a while. A big highlight though
was the pod of bigger dolphins we saw accompanied by several pilot
whales......yes we have at last seen some whales....not very big ones and
in the moderate seas we didn’t get any photos but at least we have seen
some now. We were reasonably close to St. Lucia, about 5 nautical miles
off Pigeon Island and Rodney bay when we saw them. Before long were in
calm waters again, although it started to rain as we arrived – (typical?)
and headed into the marina and berth E10. Off went Andrew to clear us in
and pay our dues and berthing fees leaving Susan to put Andromeda to
rights, sails tidied and covers zipped up, lines tidied, cockpit enclosure
erected, electricity cable attached and shower bags readied. It is really
nice going back to somewhere familiar, you instantly know where everything
is, and can relax straight away. Before long we were able to have a sit
and enjoy a nice cold drink.

The high season out here is now coming to an end and this is reflected in
the amount of empty berths and less crowded anchorages we are finding.
Having been in Rodney Bay when the ARC boats were arriving daily and being
squeezed in any available space it was nice to enjoy the luxury of a wide
berth and no neighbours, we could even get the dinghy off the deck without
too much hassle which made going down to the supermarkets for supplies a
whole lot easier. We charged everything up, got a load of washing done
and Andromeda’s decks were cleared of salt residue from the sea. We were
greeted by the friendly marina staff, they certainly seemed to remember
us, especially the “orangeness.” We were going to do a tour of St. Lucia
but the weather was very overcast and wet and so after a few days we
cleared out and left the marina, refuelled and anchored in the bay, just
as the sun came out and gave us a lovely afternoon, beautiful for swimming
off the boat.

Our next destination was Bequia where we wanted to arrive in the daylight
so an overnight sail was planned. Not being in any hurry we mosied down
the coast of St. Lucia enjoying the sights (it was night when we came up
this way before) and caught glimpses of Castries and Marigot Bay and then
Soufriere and the Pitons. The Pitons are two individual mountain peaks
very close to each other and give the island a very distinctive
appearance. They are reflected in the national flag of the island. As we
approached them we saw clouds gathering, going away and then some lovely
rays of sunshine lighting them up. This part of the island looks very
lush and green and next season we are looking forward to visiting the
southern anchorages and exploring a bit.

The passage between St. Lucia and St. Vincent was a lot nicer than our
last one and we made steady progress overnight though the winds were very
flukey at the southern end of St. Vincent. Our timing was good though and
at first light we headed into Admiralty Bay to anchor up. Now anchoring
is a funny business, sometimes you can go straight in and down the anchor
goes, you put the boat into reverse and it is caught and you can relax.
Unfortunately you also get the other experience where for one reason or
another it will just not set, and this was one of those days, so much so
that we then decided to go on to a mooring buoy instead.

After sorting ourselves out aboard we lowered the dinghy and putted into
the dock. First impressions were very favourable, Admiralty Bay is very
beautiful, and Port Elizabeth a delight to the eyes. Friendly folk on
shore volunteered the information we needed to find customs etc and before
long we were cleared into yet another country and were able to wander
around the town.

The formalities of clearing in and out are very important whenever you
leave or arrive at a different country. On arrival we have to put up a
yellow quarantine flag which stays up till we are cleared in. Regulations
also state that until you have cleared customs and immigration you are not
allowed to go anywhere else ashore, so those lovely little bars etc are
off limits until you have officially arrived and been recorded. Then it’s
back to the boat to take down the quarantine flag and put up the courtesy
flag of the nation you are in. As you can imagine we have been doing
rather a lot of this recently but the difference here in St. Vincent and
the Grenadines is that this country is made up of 32 islands. They are
not all inhabited and we plan to visit about 4 this time so will clear out
from another one, Union, later down the chain.

Back to Bequia, having completed formalities we headed back to Andromeda
for a bit of a rest and an early night. The following day we were able to
go in and get our bearings and really enjoy the ambience of this small
island, only 7 square miles big and with a population of about 5000. It’s
a very compact town and before long we had found all the important places,
bank, supermarket, market, post office and tourist information centre and,
before we returned to Andromeda, we arranged to go on an island tour.
Bequia was one of the places that everyone we met recommended to us and we
were a bit concerned that it would be disappointing but if anything it is
completely the opposite. Even though we had a fairly short area to cover
on our tour, it felt much bigger as for once our driver was not in a
tearing hurry to get round everywhere. We had climbed into the back of
the open taxi truck, fully air conditioned – well when we were moving
anyway- and he set off at a sedate pace that made looking around and
enjoying the sights so easy. As with all the drivers we have encountered
‘Champ’ was a mine of information and facts as we meandered up and down
the few roads on the island. We hope you enjoy the photos of this lovely
place, we certainly enjoyed the stunning scenery and different feel Bequia
has, especially on the eastern coast with the views of Mustique and some
of the other Grenadine Islands. A big highlight though was the visit to
the turtle sanctuary where a local guy has been rescuing both Green and
Hawksbill turtles for many years, raising them from tiny babies until they
are big enough to go back into the wild. So far through his efforts, over
800 turtles have been released.

Back on board Andromeda we spent a very pleasant afternoon watching local
youngsters sailing in the bay. There were about 4 or 5 oppies being used
by a variety of children and they seem to be using Andromeda as a mark so
we had a grand stand view of their fun. There were also a couple of the
local double ended boats – about 15ft long, with a crew of 5 or 6, 3 of
whom wear trapeze harnesses and so are continually hiking in and out to
maintain the balance in these tippy boats, their design based on that of
the local traditional whaling boats. We were convinced that they were
going to capsize on several occasions but their skill made sure that they
didn’t, even when they had to avoid all the anchored and buoyed boats as
well as the constant traffic of dinghies and ferries. And all this from
the comfort and shade of Andromeda with a pleasant breeze blowing and the
gorgeous water at hand for a dip if we did get too hot........We can
certainly see why Bequia is such a favourite with everyone.

The Bequia whaling boats are still used as, through the IWC, the island is
allowed to catch 4 whales per year. Once a whale is sighted the whalers
sail as fast as possible – often with 7 or 8 on board and try to catch the
whale. Once close they stow the sail and row towards the whale to throw
the harpoon. Assuming all this works, and more often it doesn’t, boats
with motors then follow the whale until it dies and it can be towed to
shore. This season they have caught one whale. Skills are also declining
as fewer and fewer young folks are taking on the challenge of hunting
these denizens of the deep – it’s usually the Humpback whales that they
chase. Despite your view on the whole whaling issue, the skill in sailing
these double-enders in Atlantic swells is considerable, which makes the
Bequia sailing regatta such a draw to the island and seeing the youngsters
thoroughly enjoying themselves is great. Maybe next year.

Our next port of call was for an overnight stop at Canouan, 3.2 square
miles of island, over half of which is an exclusive resort, and having
left Bequia we had a great 25 mile sail to Grand Bay where we managed to
anchor on our third attempt in some of the clearest water we have
encountered. After making sure we were not dragging Susan leapt into the
water to have a snorkel and look at the anchor on the bottom and it was so
easy to see alongside some really big cushion starfish. This was also an
opportunity to try out our new camera underwater, we are looking forward
to finding some good reefs to photo as well.

When we arrived there was a fairly stiff breeze blowing away from the
shore but by the time we were settled it had calmed down and we were
laying in the opposite direction, a bit worrying if the wind blew up. It
looked like we were going to be laying in whatever direction the current
in the bay was pushing us, so, as a precaution we planned to anchor watch
through the night, just in case. As it happened, nothing happened and we
had the calmest night at anchor we have known and didn’t appear to move
very much at all and it was still calm when we pulled the anchor up and
headed on South.

We looked forward to our next destination with even more anticipation,
especially as Josh from Barbados said that it was his second home. We said
goodbye to Canouan and hello to Mayreau, an even tinier island of 1 sq
mile and only a 6 mile sail to reach. In little over an hour we were once
again tying on to a buoy in a very beautiful little bay called Saltwhistle
Bay, and before long were snorkelling in the pristine waters. We spotted
many West Indian Sea eggs (sea urchin) as well as the longer spine version
and a variety of small fish. We had heard that this bay is very, very
popular and some people were unable to get in but on this occasion there
were only 3 other yachts around, though a few more arrived throughout the
day. We did however have a few hours with it nearly to ourselves. The
following day we dinghied in and walked to the village over the quite
steep hill with great views of the surrounding seas, Union, Carriacou,
etc. and tried to imagine what it was like on those days when a cruise
liner arrived........That evening we went ashore for a barbeque dinner, we
were disappointed that there were no lobster available (typical as we had
decided to try one here) but the fish, rice and potato salad were
delicious. However we soon beat a hasty retreat to Andromeda as the
“no-see-ems” made their presence felt on our legs......one of the good
things about being out in the bay is that we normally don’t get bitten.
The “no-see-ums” are tiny flies that hide in the sand and wait for
unsuspecting ankles to appear – very sharp bites are the result!

The next morning we were intending to head for the Tobago Cays, some very
small islands only a couple of miles away but on trying to start the
engine, first we had silence and then a very slow and reluctant
start......more battery problems. So plans abandoned we headed down to
Union island, saying good bye to this lovely place of white sand,
turquoise and blue waters, swaying palm trees and with its lovely
peaceful ambience.
Union island was only a 5 mile sail from Mayreau and having navigated
around the reefs etc we were soon moored on a buoy in even clearer waters.
It was a bit off putting at first as the bottom seemed so close but after
checking the depth gauge several times we soon relaxed. The friendly boat
boy who took our lines took Andrew into the town for a just a few dollars
and after locating an engineer bought him back again, so quickly I had
only just finished by jobs and 10 minutes later it was confirmed that we
had one dead engine start battery (we need two) ....hey ho.. and no they
didn’t have any on the island or any near by so Grenada was going to be
our next stop.

This was a bit of a disappointment as we had been looking forward to the
Cays, Petit St. Vincent, Petit Martinique and Carriacou but we will be
back this way again next season. In the meantime we enjoyed our day on
Union Island, going ashore to clear out from St. Vincent and the
Grenadines. Having heard conflicting reports about the town of Clifton, we
were delighted with what we saw and the very friendly folk we met and we
are going to enjoy spending more time here next year. Another dawn
departure in rain and a very unhappy battery set – the engine did
reluctantly start, thankfully – saw us heading for St. Georges in Grenada
and The Granada Yacht Club, where we could get a berth close to the Island
Water World chandlers who do usually stock the sort of batteries we
needed. We did not want to stop and re-start the engine – assuming it
would, too many more times!

A quick note about mooring bouys – they are beginning to appear everywhere
now and many cruisers are reluctant to use them. Partly this is because
many are unregulated and there is no guarantee they will hold your boat
when you need it to, in high winds and a chop. The other reason is often
down to cost, which varies wildly. We will often take up a mooring bouy,
and we snorkel it to make sure we are happy with it, as this does tend to
reduce damage to the seabed as anchors and chains are not being dragged
all over the place, and it does put something into the local economy. The
moorings in Saltwhistle, Bequia and Union were all pretty solid, but
perhaps we have been fortunate. Others will have alternative and probably
very divergent views.
More on our stay in Grenada in due course.......

Happy Birthday to our lovely Alice who was 7 on the 5th and Happy
Birthday to Ruth who celebrates at the weekend. We are thinking of you
and hoping you have a lovely time.

Photos are from St. Lucia

Susan and Andrew
S/V Andromeda of Plymouth

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