To BEQUIA, TWO PILLS and a CLOSE SHAVE
POSITION 13:00.53N 61:14.31W
Thursday, 10 May 2012 GOODBYE SOUFRIERE. HURRAY! Slipping our mooring, we left Soufriere this morning and headed back north up to Rodney Bay again. I have no great affection for Soufriere, due to the relentless badgering for your custom and money that all seaborne visitors suffer, and uncued Kyle said the same. I think it’s a big mistake on their part because people will just go there once and never return. Why should they? Their loss. I suppose they assume that there’ll always be more behind, but that can change very quickly, and the one thing cruisers do do is pass on info about places to go, and in particular where not to go.
The trip back was memorable, not for any great winds, it was light to start with, but the torrential rain that soon set in for the day. Visibility was down to 150m, and lookout was kept purely on radar and AIS whilst the chartplotter kept us in the right place. There was no point in being on deck at all as you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, so I positioned myself in the dry at the top of the companionway sheltered by the sprayhood. The radar was fantastic and the sprayhood did its job. Good job!
Luckily, by the time it came to having to do something like set the anchor, it had calmed down, and we dropped the trusty Rocna hook just off the delightful little restaurant Jambe de Bois. In fact everything was bois. Their rum punches are mean, so after spending some considerable time emptying the thousand gallons in the dinghy, we went in to sample.
Friday 18 May 2012
ST LUCIA TO BEQUIA
1100 Weigh Anchor and sail for Vieux Fort, singlehanded, positioning for an early departure tomorrow to Bequia. Wx RASH 6-7, occ 8!
Last night in Rodney Bay anchorage I had just hoisted Perky stbd side and was climbing back in the cockpit when I heard a whistling. Uh? I could see nothing. I heard it again and thought it must be a bird and looked up at the crosstrees. Nothing! Then I saw him. Paid Skipper of the smart 50’ ketch LADY ANGELE next to me, he was gesticulating to come over. I shouted back, rather lamely I thought later, that I’d just hoisted the (bloody) dinghy, but he said he’d pick me up and a minute later he did, in his powerful RIB.
‘Hi I’m BRAD’ American of course.
On board the sumptuous white leather lined cruiser I met Ed and Elizabeth, her cheerful sister, and was given a very strong slug of something,.
Brad - singlehanded like me until the owner arrives on Sunday, was a pro sailor doing deliveries down from the States to the Caribbean, but now working as paid Skipper on LADY ANGELE. It was great to get an invite on board. Then Elizabeth was hungry.‘Would you like to come with us for a pizza?’ Us singlehanders don’t get invites very often. I jumped at it.
However, it didn’t work out quite like that. Halfway across to SKYLARK - Ed and Elizabeth’s yacht - the rain really chucked it down. We were soaked by the time we had climbed on board to escape, and after waiting for ages the plan was changed to nachos right on board. Suits me. Inside it was all nicely done out, wood everywhere of course, but I missed the presence of portlights (windows) in the cabin . I really like PW’s.
The nachos looked very nice as far as I could see as I wasn’t wearing my glasses, heaped up in a baking tray with something on top. They were alright. A lot of the talk was about the trials and tribulations of having a dog - Lunar - with them. Every place has to be a researched on the internet, emails sent, a complete nightmare I’d say.
Ed was into construction, they’d sold up and going round the world, they said. Full on. Would they go back to work? They’d see if they needed the money They were also hoping to head down towards Trinidad, but had to research dogs first.
This morning I had to go back in to the marina to buy courtesy flags, which I’d forgotten, and bumped into Brad again, thanking him for his hospitality. He was buying paint or varnish, to impress the owner when he turns up.
Back on board I weighed anchor, set just the genoa and left the Bay. It was a hard sail in strong gusty conditions, and by the Pitons the wind was right on the nose so had to motor, arriving Vieux Fort at 1800. A quick meal, tidy up, bed by 2100
Saturday 19 May 2012
0300 sail. Overnight it had been really blustery, I didn’t look but must have been mid 30’s at least, so I was expecting a rough ride and took a couple of seasick pills. I had in mind the benign and proven Travel Calm (Hyoscine Hydrobromide) but for some reason took the similar sounding Traveleeze pastilles (Meclozine Hydrochloride), perhaps thinking they were the same. Boy was I to regret that! Well it was 0230.
The wind fair whistles round the southern end of St Lucia as I well knew, and this was no exception, so I motor sailed to keep tight on the wind but also to push through the strong currents that follow the coast round too. Double reefed main and semi reefed genoa were quite sufficient for that time in the morning and although progress was quite slow at 3kts heading south towards St Vincent - due to the current and limited sailplan - it was comfortable and safe and could deal with any massive gusts that might come through. Gradually, as we drew away from the dark rock of St Lucia, the currents eased back to their normal west setting direction and the wind strength eased, allowing a fuller genoa.
The plan, I thought, was a good one. I was not going to waste time stopping in St Vincent, where customs clearance is tediously slow according to Doyles guide to the Caribbean - the bible - but sail right past and into Bequia, where customs were much better but also because its looked a nice place and was very popular with cruisers. The usual way to sail past these islands is down the lee side where the seas are much calmer. But the penalty for that can be difficult and fluky winds especially in the lee of any high ground. St Vincent had plenty of that. So I was going to sail down the windward side, giving a good steady tradewind, but also because it avoided a difficult close hauled final tack from the lee side of St Vincent. Our arrival would be much easier, almost downwind!
0500: Suddenly I’m getting sleepy. I check the horizon, which is already brightening, go below and set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes and sleep. Up again, check the horizon, lighter now, but still so sleepy. Back down.
And this is how it was for the whole trip, right on into the afternoon, even though I had grabbled a pretty reasonable 5 hours the night before. It was the seasickness tablets. They were brain numbing. I felt like I’d been injected with a pre-med, and was helpless in its grip. All I could do was keep the watch system running, which was safe if not ideal, and keep going. This was not good! But being both blinking early, and sailing the less used windward side meant there was no traffic, and I had the excellent AIS system which showed up all commercial ships over 300’ on the chartplotter as well.
Bequia is quite a small island, as are most of the Grenadines, and just a little NW of Martinique. I just had to slip past its northern point and run a short way down the pleasant looking west coast to find Admiralty Bay, the anchorage. The book said that there were places to anchor, but that it was very busy and popular, and had some nasty reefs which are not visible. Many a yacht has sailed to join others anchored off the southern beaches and come to a dead stop! So this is the time when you really do need a crew, one to stand on the bow looking for reefs, and ideally one on the helm too so the Skipper can keep a close eye on his exact location. Ha!
By now I am feeling terrible. My brain has virtually ceased to function. Standing by the wheel I’m peering forwards trying to make out landmarks, get a steer, and not hit anything. Its dead slow now. The book says there are good anchorages off the northern dock so I set a slow course for there, weaving between anchored and moored boats. It is very popular. Last one in always has to sweat. This is where, for a singlehander, the chartplotter becomes an essential aid, even though they can be wrong sometimes. I realise that where the anchorage is I’m looking for, is completely full, so turn back slowly and run along the coast. Suddenly a local starts hollering at me from the shore, something that’s not uncommon in this part of the world. I ignore him. Then, in horror, I see the depth guage go from 5metres rapidly down to less than 2m. I slam PW into reverse and give it full throttle, and watch transfixed as the depth continues to reduce to 1.4m (PW draws 1.7m!) waiting for the graunch - it must come. But it didn’t. I don’t know how. We must have stopped with the keel inches from rock. This was NOT a good start, and I’m feeling dreadful by now.
So I find a hole that looked big enough to my brain dead bonce and dropped the anchor in relief. But when I looked at our position I was far too close to a boat behind. One of the greatest bits of kit on board is the electric windlass, which now had to wind all that chain back in again, and pull the anchor out. But it wouldn’t budge, for love nor money. Normally, in this situation, you reverse with the chain very short and pull it out with the engine - couldn’t do that, too near the boat behind. I had drive out forwards, dragging the anchor and its chain plus the attached anchor buoy with all its rope, turn for a safe patch of water, engage autopilot, run up the bow, wind in the remaining chain before it all snagged on something else and then recover the anchor buoy. Did I need this hassle? What a mess I’d made of it all. But at least we hadn’t run aground, no thanks to me.
Clearly anchoring here is a dodgy business until you know the ground well, so I took up a pay as you go mooring buoy instead, a manoeuvre that requires you to stop with the bow right next to the buoy (which you can’t see by then) nip up the bow and with the boathook grab the slimy bit of rope attached to the top and secure it to a mooring line on board. I overshot the first time but successful on the next, with the help of a clever piece of kit - a boathook which also holds a detachable hook on a rope which you can snap over the target and tie the boat to it whilst you sort out a proper attachment.
I’m feeling like death now. But its not sleepiness now, its fever. 102F.
You are required to‘clear in’ with Customs and Immigration at any new country immediately on arrival. I looked at the Ships clock which said 1445. That this was hours ahead of my ETA didn’t occur to my dead brain. Plenty of time then to get to Customs before they shut I thought, and started rigging the dinghy - upside down on the bow - ready to be winched up and over the side, a procedure I have now done many times. Once in the water, the outboard has to go on. To do this, I hang the outboard over the stern on a rope, get in the dinghy and bring it underneath for the transfer. Then it was collect all the ships papers, passport etc and go. Customs was easy to find and no one in the queue. They have a new system for a growing number of islands called Eseaclear where you can send a prenote of your arrival by internet so that you don’t have to spend ages writing out the endless details in quadruplicate, and I had sent one off for this trip so was hopeful this would be quick and I could get back and die.
But when I told him the young guy just said‘You’ll still have to fill in the forms’.
Great. Things are going so well…
So I fill in the forms and give them to him, with all the papers, and whilst he’s looking at them I realise in horror I’ve not brought any money with me. (With the sole exception of French islands, where you clear in and out yourself on a computer, everywhere you pay)
He is not impressed by this‘Captain’ telling him he’s not got the money.
Strangely, his clock says 1740, and they close at 1800, and mine is always an hour ahead. I am offered the choice: race back and get it, if I can be back before six, or tomorrow. I go for tomorrow, but wonder if I’ve done a stupid thing as he has kept all my papers and passport. What if he denies all knowledge tomorrow?
But I could not risk another trip there and back as I think I would have messed up something else, being in the state I was in.
Next day there was a queue of customers. A handsome, suave Frenchman was accompanying a clearly deeply unhappy younger Frenchman - much darker so from the French islands - whose body language you could read from miles away. Rolling eyes, dropped gazes, little direct eye contact, he was in serious dispute with the prim bespectacled woman holding his papers, whilst his companion tried to sooth things. The conversation was in French, but my reading of it was that he was being charged extra for being a charter boat and he didn’t agree that he was. Finally she gave him the numbers with one of those looks that only a woman can give, and in silence he paid. Next was a young Brit guy with a scratchy beard who’d lost his credit card, he informed me. Then there was a Skipper asking to extend his stay so that someone could see a doctor. Then me!
No sign whatsoever of he who had all my papers of course. The other, cuddly lady, under training by the look of it, gave me the eye. I explained. She looked lost and confused, and I was handed over to the Prim One. But the papers were quickly found, and I could return once again to die on PW.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Finally starting to feel a bit better, after a couple of days on antibiotics, so went to Doris’s Fresh Food Shop - an old fashioned, well stocked ramshackle supermarket run by an Indian lady who knows exactly whats she’s doing - and got some supplies in. Mainly yoghurt to counter the horrific effects of the antibiotics, which I‘m sure were meant for horses. I made it just before the next torrential downpour arrived, perfect!
Doris said, its been a funny year all year, with rain and strong winds in the dry season, in fact all year. Funny years make me nervous..