Heading north: Carriacou, Union Island, Tobago Cays and Bequia.

Thu 23 Mar 2023 12:10

Arriving in Bequia - well reefed
At anchor in the Tobago Cays
Tobago Cays scene
Turtle -GoPro picture by Cilla

We have been in holiday mode since we came back from Tobago – Brian’s partner, Sascha, stayed for a fortnight and Diana came out for 10 days.   We were mostly based in Port Louis but now we are underway again and normal service will be resumed. 

Cilla Course joined the crew on March 16th and we spent some of the day stocking the boat with consumables and dealing with immigration using the impressive Sail Clear software which many of the islands (notably not Tobago) use.  Sail Clear allows you to populate an online record with the vessel details and the crew passport information and then prepare a clearing-out document which gets sent electronically to the appropriate immigration office.  Likewise, at the same time the clearing-in document can be prepared for the next port of call. 

On the 17th we set off for the island of Carriacou about 30 miles north of Grenada and the last of the Grenadian territories where we would have to formally clear out through immigration.  The passage was to windward but we only had to put in a five mile tack at the end.   We anchored overnight in Tyrrel Bay and swam before taking the dinghy ashore to eat in the Slipway restaurant which we had also visited when Steve Oliver was with us back in February. Our plan was to visit the Tobago Cays for turtle watching so at 0845 we were outside the customs and immigration office waiting for it to open.  The customs officer took the ‘closed’ sign down at 0910 and replaced it with one saying ‘back in 10 minutes’ while she bought a coffee from the adjacent bar and swept out the office.   Around 0930 I was allowed in and the process then went quite smoothly as she downloaded my pre-prepped Sail Clear form and printed three copies for me to sign.  The immigration officer arrived 10 minutes later and I moved across to that desk where he duly stamped passports and then I took the forms that he had stamped back to the adjacent customs desk for more signatures.

Back on the boat, we got away as soon as possible to try to catch the St Vincent and Grenadines immigration office at Clifton Harbour on Union Island before they closed at 4pm as we were not sure if they would be open on Sunday.  It was only about 10 miles but we ended up motoring dead to windward in the Martinique Channel with a strong current against us. We got in early pm and completed the immigration/customs business.  After that we relaxed with a beer and dealt with WhatsApp ‘comms’ and caught up with the football results using wifi. 

On the way back to the dinghy we were thinking about fish for dinner but the fish market was closed. However, a local offered to bring us either blue marlin or tuna (from somewhere?) so we asked for tuna and he though we said marlin and shot off on a scooter to return 10 minutes later saying, apologies there was only tuna available.  We said tuna would be fine and he scootered off again in a cloud of two-stroke fumes and was gone for probably half an hour. In the meantime, waiting around on the waterfront we met Jasmin in life jacket and sou’wester; she looked like a sailing instructor but turned out to be the park ranger for the Tobago Cays and had just arrived by small boat from the island of Mayreau – which is the main island at the Cays.  We were able to ask about entering the marine park, the fees involved, anchoring versus mooring and best places to be. 

We spent that night at anchor in Clifton Harbour, which is exposed to the prevailing weather and only sheltered by an extensive coral reef further offshore, and enjoyed the tuna steaks with ratatouille, kale and mashed yam which (the yam) was an experiment. Being a tuber, the yam was not much different to potato but having peeled it, the pieces were very ‘slimy’ to handle and not very appetizing before they were cooked.  Sleep that night was fitful due to the motion of the boat in the exposed harbour with strong gusts of wind and heavy rain at times and I got up to set the anchor alarm in case we dragged.

Sunday morning, 19th March, was fine and bright and after breakfast we motored out of Clifton for the last five miles north to the Cays.   This was seriously dead to windward in some lumpy seas with a tight entrance through coral reefs to get into the park. But by mid-morning the sun was high and the reefs clearly visible under the water and, unlike our previous visit where we had left the yacht anchored at Mayreau, this time we felt more confident about the situation and anchored in a perfect spot within the park to access the snorkelling area where the turtles graze on the sea grass.   Taking the dinghy to a sand spit off Baradal Island we snorkelled around turtles who seemed oblivious to our presence.  Solar showers back on the boat and a late lunch followed by a lazy pm as we were all rather shattered by now.  Our anchorage was exposed to the Atlantic in 15-20 knots of wind and a bit lumpy as we were only sheltered by reef, so in the late pm we re-anchored in the lee of Petit Rameau for a quieter night and had barbequed lobster (the only choice) in the (only) beach bar/restaurant for dinner.

On Monday morning we set off for the island of Bequia, 13:00.00N 61:14.50W. That turned out to be a fast and wet, 30--mile sail to windward with two reefs in the main sail, but we arrived in good shape and found a mooring in Port Elizabeth.  We got photographed by a marine photographer in a RIB as we entered the Bay and he called around the next morning with a sample print and I bought several of his pictures.  Bequia report in the next edition.

All best, Tony, Brian and Cilla.