Saturday, November 28, 2015

St. Lucia - Here We Come!

Our number one goal since leaving Grenada has been to arrive in St. Lucia by December 1st.  "Why?" you may ask - well, we have a wedding to attend and visitors arriving next week so we don't want anything holding us back.  With rainy, squally weather forecast for the next few days we decided against sailor lore* that Friday would be the day to go.  The only fly in the ointment was that we needed to arrive in St. Lucia before 4pm so we wouldn't have to pay the $100EC overtime fee charged until Monday morning by customs & immigration.  $100EC is about $50CAD and can buy a lot of beer at happy hour!

An early night was in order and the alarm then had us up and on the deck by 2am, raising the anchor and sails ready to point north.  We had 62 nautical miles ahead of us and it looked like a good weather day before the rain was due to arrive.  Firstly, we had to navigate through the anchorage and around the Devil's Table reef but with a full moon lighting the way we settled into a beautiful sail across the channel from Bequia to St. Vincent.

Moonlit clouds and our navigation lights reflecting off the spreaders.

Approaching St. Vincent where Kingstown was lit up like jewels across the water.

The gentle glow of our navigation instruments - you can just make out the island of St. Vincent on our chart plotter.

The conditions were almost perfect and we held our breath, hoping for more of the same on the open passage between St. Vincent an St. Lucia.

Finally, the sun started to make its presence known to us, firstly lighting up the clouds that had formed over St. Vincent, and then with it's instant blazing heat as it crested over the mountain tops.

Looking back down the coast of St. Vincent as the sun started up a fiery glow in the clouds.

Galloping horse, ancient cave painting - what do you see?
Soon enough, after motor sailing up the lee coast of St. Vincent we were back in open waters once more.  Neptune II motors a little faster than us so they soon became our target out front.  Conditions proved once again to be just about perfect for Mowzer:  relatively flat seas without big waves to knock us sideways, winds in the 18-22 knot range at about 60 degrees which all added together to propel us smoothly along at about 8 knots.  We soon caught up to our buddies and joined a small procession of boats making the same hop north.

How does it feel to be alone on these waters? - Neptune II has come all the way from Australia!

Along the way we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife, always hopeful for a dolphin encounter. While we saw them jumping and frolicking around Neptune II we were not lucky enough for a visit.  However, Henry likes nothing better than to hear me cry out, "Brown boobies!" and he jumps up quickly on deck to see what he can see.

Boobies are fishing sea birds who often come far from land following shoals of fish.
We also spied hundreds of flying fish, but they are so quick and difficult to capture on cameral.  They skitter away from our bows like someone is throwing a handful of glittering diamonds across the water.  The ones we saw on this passage seemed small so perhaps we were seeing youngsters - the larger fish can 'fly' for hundreds of yards across the water until stopped in their tracks by a bigger wave.

Can you spot the little glittering fish?  It looks like it is jumping but its 'wings' are just so fast they don't show up.

And here's another just re-entering the water.  See the Sargassum weed floating in the background - large streamers of this stuff migrate in the ocean currents and we have to watch we don't clog our rudder or propellers with it.

Finally, what sailors of yesteryear watched for from crows nests high in the rigging appeared on the horizon; we called out, "land ho!"  In the haze we could just make out the shadowy form of land, the piled up clouds being the best indicator in a sky otherwise dotted with little powder puffs.

Look carefully and you can see the shadowy peaks of the pitons.

Closer and closer - there's a better view of these magnificent ancient volcano plugs.  Petit Piton on the left is actually just 92' taller than Gros Piton on the right.
We didn't want to jinx ourselves after such a perfect passage as we still had a few miles to go, so we remained relatively silent about the conditions.  We finally lost the wind in the lee of St. Lucia and the engines went back on to help us along the way.  Looking back we captured one last glimpse of the Pitons, the iconic twin mountains featured on all of St. Lucia's advertising materials.

Another boat heading south and into a perfect day.
 We now turned our attention to the shoreline since the last time we transited this area in the opposite direction was also in the dark of an early morning departure.

Only a handful of colourful little villages dot the coastline of what is pretty much undisturbed wilderness.

One final glimpse back across the lush greenery to the tips of the Pitons.

How lucky an anchorage - we must mark this one on the charts.  A private beach view all to yourself!
All along the coast we spotted pinnacles and rock formations that the waves crashed upon.  This one, complete with multiple blow-holes was putting on a great show (just south of Marigot Bay).

Finally, after 10.5 hours on what we planned as as 12-13 hour passage, we furled the genoa, dropped the mainsail and prepared to arrive at Marigot Bay.  

The red buoy is the only navigation mark on the narrow inlet leading to the bay.  One last puff of wind as we rounded the corner and we were 'home' for the night.
The marina in the bay offers up mooring balls that come with the enticement of wifi and access to the resort, but since we will be returning in a week with Caitlin & Jamie to enjoy all that Marigot Bay has on offer, we decided to anchor out and enjoy the parade of tourist tour boats making their way in to see the haunts of the rich and famous that litter the hillsides.

Palm-tree lined beach, lots of little restaurants and the entertainment of charter and tour boats passing through.
Neptune II arrived just behind us and with plenty of time, Henry and Gary headed into customs & immigration to make us all legal in St. Lucia.

The perfection of the day was not complete however, as we joined Gary & Venessa with their kids Marina & Elliott for a meal of delicious lobster pasta - kudos to the chef Venessa! Soon enough though, with heads nodding in tiredness from the long day, we took ourselves back to Mowzer for a calm restful night before the rain arrives.

*Sailor lore says that it is inauspicious and may bring ill luck if you start a passage on a Friday.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Hop, Skip & A Jump

Leaving the big island of Grenada and heading north, our first stop was Carriacou.  Such a favourite stopping off place to check out of Grenada with customs & immigration, it was almost like stepping back into Camp Grenada with all the boats we knew there.  The anchorage was crowded but the water clean and clear - oh so good to be on the move again!

We met up with Neptune II who had spent the season in Mt. Hartman with us so we hatched a plan to head north together.

Raising sails and looking forward to a quick sail up to Union Island.
Union Island is the southernmost outpost of The Grenadines, the island chain that stretches out below St. Vincent like a string of little jewels.

Our stop for the night was on the west coast of Union in Chatham Bay - so good to see the azure tones of the water all around us.

Anchored in a sandy patch in about 10' of water, we were dazzled by the colours around us once again.

With no power and no running water, the little shacks along the beach offer the traditional selection of BBQ and deep-fried meals with stunning sunset views.

Sundowner rum punch right on queue.
As we sipped our cold beer and rum punches and met up with other cruisers making their way north from Grenada, we celebrated my birthday in picture-perfect surroundings.

The next morning we decided it was time to get out and stretch our legs a bit with a hike over to the little town of Ashton.  Up the trail behind the BBQ shack, along the road and over the ridge brought us down into the bowl where the town is built between the dizzying heights of The Pinnacle and Mount Parnassus.

Thankfully we didn't have to climb over the Pinnacle to get into town.

The picturesque town of Ashton with Petit St. Vincent (St. Vincent) and Petite Martinique (Grenada) in the distance.

There were originally five wells dug in the town to provide people and livestock with water.  This one was described as "the least salty" so was once used for drinking water.  Now only used for domestic use, rainwater is captured in cisterns for drinking.

The doctor comes to Ashton, but hopefully you can fit into their schedule.
We scored some cold drinks and ice cream in Ashton, along with arranging our dinner for the evening back in Chatham Bay and then commenced to find our way back to the west side.  Flowers are still in bloom along the way making for a pretty wander and we are back in islands that are so much drier than Grenada.  Lots of waving grass in the breeze emulating the waves we see on the sea.

Pretty paths lead the way.

And down we go back to the boats in Chatham Bay.

Looking at the weather report for the next few days over the weekend it looked like we were in for a rainy spell that wouldn't make the Tobago Cays particularly enjoyable.  We decided to take a bigger jump right up to Bequia with the plan to enjoy the rest of The Grenadines on our return south later in the season.

Of course, as we arrived after a particularly frustrating sail fighting wind and current all the way, we were greeted by a few little spritzes and a changed forecast with no rain.  Dang it - we could have made water as we motor sailed north rather than waiting to fill our tanks with rainwater.  Not complaining about the sunshine though we settled into Admiralty Bay amid the beautiful colours of Bequia, known as the Island of Clouds.

Just enough rain to produce a beautiful rainbow over the anchored boats in the bay.

I'd like to meet the character that painted his fishing boat pink - not many men down here have the gumption to do that!

Such pretty colours scattered up the hillside above us.

There's a busy little industry providing cruisers with clean laundry, water and fuel.  Gotta take a call wherever you are.

The busy little port at Bequia often sports three or four of the local ferries lined up beside each other.  These ply the waters back and forth to the main island bringing back everything needed on the little outpost island.

Bequia is even a stop on the itineraries of the smaller cruise ships, although they still dwarf us in the anchorage.
Someone once told us (it was Alex on Banyan I think) that once you have spent a season in Grenada you will never be alone in an anchorage again.  I remember when we came down this way in July we knew no-one and the place was so strange to us; now we look out and see a half-dozen friends anchored around us and the place feels like another version of home.  The smiling faces of the Bequians, not known personally, are familiar and our ears are more tuned to the Caribbean sing-song creole accent.

While enjoying the companionship and sunset bocce ball on the beach, we still have a few projects to work on aboard.  Henry has been upgrading some of our wiring and finally figured out an issue with our chart-plotter that has been temperamental for quite a while, and I have added to our new bikinis with rain and sun protection.

The aft shade cover is crucial to comfort in the afternoon when the sun bakes down on the back of the boat.

Now when it rains, the water runs from the helm bimini down to the main roof without soaking the seat below.  Little things like a dry cockpit are a MAJOR improvement to comfort.
Traveling with Neptune II afforded us one last chance to enjoy the soothing sax tones as Gary joined Gavin from Secret Smile for an evening of jazz at The Fig Tree. We ended up with a table of 10 as various folks came and went, enjoying another evening of entertainment.

Gavin and Gary at The Fig Tree for one more appearance.

Travelling with kid boats always reminds us of those years when the kids were in school with homework, tests and exams. Boy did we have it easy just sending them off to school.  Kids on boats have to get their education through home schooling, the internet and sheer force of will to get the work done.  We love these folks though since they have taken such a commitment to get out here and show their kids a different view of the world.

So, as Elliott on Neptune II had to knuckle down to complete some assignments and write some exams, we joined up with Three Little Birds (John, Maria, Fin, Oliver, Annabelle and Tashi the dog) for a hike up to Peggy's Rock.

Friendship and Moon Hole - what better names to have on your address?

More beautiful windswept views to the south of Bequia and Friendship.
Around we went and up and up, up to 900' above Admiralty Bay where we spied our boats in the anchorage below.

John ponders the view below and the main island of St. Vincent in the background.

Next stop on our passage north?  We will linger a few more days enjoying the sights of Bequia, and then make our way north with a plan to stop in Wallilabou on the main island of St. Vincent for a night.  Most boats avoid St. Vincent but we are willing to give it a chance, especially as it will knock a couple of hours off the longer transit straight up to St. Lucia.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kicking Off Season Two

It's official, just like a TV show, the pilot passed in the ratings, the first season went well with lots of character and plot development and we now have crew and location all lined up for the second season. Lights! Camera! Action!!

But, before we begin, here's a word from our sponsors. You betcha, this is a self funded effort so I get to say a few words ... I asked Henry the other day what his reflections were from our first year and he said, "It's all been about the people we met and the new places we explored." I then asked him about hopes for the second year and he replied, "Meeting people (old friends and new) and exploring new places." So given that I'm in agreement, I guess that's what we're in for this year. Notice that neither of us said it was about the sailing and although we sail to get places and we enjoy the good sails, I don't think either of us is out here just for the joy of sailing. We sail to fulfil our goals.

Now, back to season two. What can you expect from this season? Well, firstly we have a wonderful family event to celebrate in St. Lucia in December. Caitlin and Jamie are getting married on the island and of course we will be there to celebrate with them. We are now making our tracks north to arrive in St. Lucia by the beginning of December.

After that we will try to get to Martinique for Christmas where there is a chance of meeting up with some other boats at St. Anne on the south shore. Following the festivities we are really open just to explore the islands and travel when we like the weather. Our goal is to make it to Antigua & Barbuda but how we get there is really subject to development as we go along. Once there we will turn around and make our way back down the islands for a return to Grenada for another hurricane season of fun and hi-jinx.

To get us started, on Thursday last we finally unhooked the shore power cord (and the Velcro) that had been holding us to the dock at Secret Harbour, said many sad good byes, and with friends Cathy & Marie sailed around to St. Georges for our first shakedown after two and a half months in Mt. Hartman Bay. We swam in the ocean and enjoyed the fresh breeze on the trampoline, sharing a beautiful sunny afternoon of what we all imagine cruising life should be. Too soon it was over and we bid adieu to our friends. Friday was a final shopping day and yesterday we lifted the anchor once again for a day sail north. So, here we sit, having made our way to Carriacou and are now ready to jump off to the St. Vincent side of the Grenadines tomorrow.

Cathy & Marie catching some sun and breeze where the view is the best.

Henry enjoying the new helm shade - always gotta tweak those sails!

A last view of the south shore of Grenada.

Relaxing in the cockpit with arrival beers at St. George's.

Nice little 2-hour cruise around Point Salines.

End of a perfect day.

A sliver of moon preparing to set too.

Experienced cruisers have told us that now that we have a Grenada season under our belts, we will never be in an anchorage in the Eastern Caribbean again where we don't know or recognize another boat. We'll see how this plays out but so far, on day three, we are batting 100. We've been in two bays and known others in both places. It will be quite a different time compared to last year if this is the case.

Along with getting Mowzer prepped and underway, I feel that I have been prepping myself to get back to blogging. Why didn't I write so much in Grenada? Would you believe it was mostly lack of time? Hard to believe but even before we launched into the boat work over the last month, the round of activity that can consume your time at "Camp Grenada" is never ending. We happily partook of what was on offer be it fitness classes in the morning, cards, excursions or hiking during the day and concerts, pub outings and restaurant visits in the evening. But now it is time to regroup, perhaps even detox a bit and reconnect with the simpler life. Sitting here at anchor as the wind rushes past (it's a breezy morning), watching the birds dive for fish, and the early morning activity on the other boats inspires me to get creative again.

Let's see what this next season unfolds. Here we go!


Here's a few selected photos from our time in Grenada - new and old friends, hellos and good byes, lots to look forward to next time.

Best jerk chicken ever!  Enjoyed with Shannon & Ramy, Henry, Guillaume & Gwen.

Shannon & Ramy embraced life in Grenada, including feeding stray dogs the last of her lunch.

Another hash heading out onto the roads and trails, and sometimes unmarked trails of Grenada.

Hot and sweaty, but still time to enjoy the beauty of a bamboo thicket.

Nimrods makes amazing rum punch - if you can't get up the ladder to order another, you've obviously had too much.

Alex, Sue & Mal enjoying those rum punch.

A farewell lunch / birthday lunch for cruisers we won't be seeing again next season.  These folks welcomed us in and showed us the ropes.

Jeff & Izzy (Izzy R), Doug & Wendy (Nahani River), Gwen & Guillaume (Slow Waltz), Alex & Dave (Banyon), Sue & Mal (Kool Kat) and Henry & I (Mowzer).  What a great bunch of people!

Craft day with Gwen.
Best memory of the season - Halloween and Alex had a plan for our group costume.  I think we pulled it off beautifully.  The only one missing from this photo was our witch doctor Gwen who kept putting a voodoo hex on Gilligan.