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.