Blue Lagoon, St Vincent
Position: 13:07.658N 61:11.435W
Date: Saturday 9th March 2013
We left Mustique desperately short of fresh water. The nearest place where we could refill by going alongside seemed to be the Sunsail base on the southern end of St Vincent. We arrived there late morning. The base is inside a small circular lagoon, completely surrounded by reefs. The sailing guide book stresses the need to enter at the correct height of tide and to avoid at all costs the southern entrance. It advises to call ahead by VHF radio to confirm the state of tide. This we did and almost immediately we saw a small rib approaching. It was someone from Sunsail who told us that he would need to come on board to guide us through the entrance. As he climbed on to the boat he introduced himself as Mike and asked me to tie up his dinghy and whilst I was doing this he took the helm from Eileen and started to steer us towards the reef. I was a little taken aback, but he seemed to know what he was doing so keeping very close to him I let him proceed. He took us straight through the feared southern entrance which turned out to be a bit of a pussy cat. It was a short, straight through approach and our track matched exactly the point on the electronic chart that showed maximum depth. At all times we had at least 1.5 metres below the keel.
Mike then took us to the pontoon at the head of the bay and started to moor us alongside the pontoons. Again I watched him very closely and he seemed to be doing much what I would have done in the circumstances. He chose a very tight spot and decided to enter stern too; something I would probably have avoided but he did it all without any major mishaps. Considering we had a boat that he had never handled before it was all quite impressive and hats off to him. However the sting in the tail, as it often is in these parts, is that the marina charged an extra $EC50 for this unrequested service.
We decided to stay an extra day and maybe visit some of the sights inland. However being Sunday the buses weren’t running and Sunsail had done some sort of deal with the taxi drivers allowed to come into their grounds with the result that the cost of spending half a day or so seeing something of the interior just wasn’t worth it. I do wonder how much business is lost on a regular basis by this attitude that tourists will pay whatever is asked for. This one certainly won’t.
The pattern seems to be repeated wherever we go: being at sea is wonderful; going ashore means heat, hassle and being treated as a profit centre by some grubby little enterprise.
On Sunday my thoughts turned to leaving, something that was planned for Monday. To cross the reef I needed to know tidal times and heights. The Sunsail staff seemed to be gloriously unconcerned and never could quite lay their hands on the information I had requested. “Don’t worry, our guy will take you out”. If he did not expect another fee for this service then I would be very surprised. When I asked what time we should leave they didn’t seem to know. After I had spent quite some time looking at information on the internet it started to become clear that they just don’t use tidal data as the tidal ranges are so small. If you have a shallow draft you leave by the western exit, otherwise you leave by the south, regardless of state of tide. Everything else is just a ruse to earn extra income. And it was not for the first time that I started to suspect that the writer of the sailing guide, a certain Chris Doyle, is part and parcel of the various schemes that local businesses use to crank extra revenue from those that sail these waters.
Mike, our pilot, seems to always be around. He took us through the reef entrance on Saturday morning. All Saturday afternoon he was working fixing various things on the charter fleet. On Saturday night we met him as we returned from dinner and he told us he was covering for security all night, and he was still around doing various jobs today. I asked him how he managed it. His reply was that the answer lay in certain little pills he takes. And this was the guy I had let take the helm of my boat!
As I write this it is late Sunday evening, we shall have to wait to see what the morrow brings.