We are sailing again! We departed Grenada on a Leopard 43 catamaran last week and made our way through the Grenadines and up to St. Vincent. Grenada has been good to us, but boy did it feel good to put the island in our rear view mirror and start our long, slow trip northward.
Our stops thus far have included Carriacou, Union Island, the Tobago Keys and Bequia
The British Virgin Islands This is Not
Sarah and I have done several “bareboat” sailing trips in the Virgin Islands previously. The waters are relatively protected in the BVI, the seas generally calm, and the hops between islands can be made in an hour or two. I feel like we have taken the training wheels off on this trip in the Windwards. The passages here are much longer (4 to 6 hours is common), and you are much more exposed to wind and current here, which makes for a sometimes wet and wild ride. We’ve encountered some really large and confused seas, especially as you enter or leave the wind shadow of an island. The tide, equatorial current and wind effects can stir up and confuse the seas big time. And to make things more interesting, we have had consistently strong winds, day and night during the trip (25 to 30 knot gusts are the norm). One gust ripped our mainsail in half on the passage to Bequia, even with two reefs in it (for non-sailors this means we shortened the sail), although I think that episode had to do more with the age of the sail than with the squall winds we hit. It’s hard to capture this experience, but Sarah tried to in this short video.
I’m really proud of Sarah, as she gets seasick. She found that the best thing to do was either to take the helm or to stand behind the wind/water screen looking forward. It’s always harder to take rough conditions in an unfamiliar boat. Once you start to trust the boat, you can relax and enjoy the ride. Overall, we loved the Grenadines and wouldn’t hesitate to sail here again, although the trip the other way from St Vincent to Grenada would have been at a much more favorable point of sail and wave angle.
Dad, Can I Fish Now?
We stayed in Chatham Bay on Union Island, and loved it. We even convinced one of the local beach bar owners (Seckie) to drive us across to the other side of the Island to take in the full moon party and midnight kite board show our first night. It was a classic trip for us. Seckie and his wife were wonderful people, but we had to drive on a goat path in the dark with 6 people in a four seater Suzuki. The road was so bad that we told Seckie on the return trip to drop us off at the top of the mountain road and we walked back down the goat path in the moonlight. A nice man that lived in Chatham stayed by our dingy while we were gone to make sure it was safe (there was no place to lock it). A night to remember.
View of Chatham Bay from my “Library”
Kiteboarder Show (In a Light Suit Jumping a Bonfire)
We read terrible things about the crime and so called “bad element” on Union Island before this trip. Our experience couldn’t have been more positive. Friendly people, amazing views, public transport and great hiking trails everywhere. The island was fantastic.
Not a Bad School Yard View
Hiking is Always Better with Friends
The Tobago Keys
I’m not sure how to articulate how beautiful the water is in the Tobago Keys. Every shade of blue is a good start. The wind was howling again as we arrived here, so we grabbed one of the Park Service mooring balls (Jimmy still dove the mooring to ensure it was secure). The small islands of the keys are sheltered by a huge reef that protects them from the open Atlantic. It is a pretty cool feeling to sit out on the front of your boat and realize that there is nothing between you and Africa as you look out eastward at the rising moon. The outer reef is called Worlds End, and it does feel like the edge (one of the keys is the island where Johnny Depp was stranded in the first Pirates movie). The Ocean is clearly in charge in this place. I told Sarah that I felt like a visitor here, only able to stay for a short time with the tacit approval of Calypso.
Overlook to Worlds End. Our Boat is Just in Front of the Big Black Sail
Snorkeling from the Dingy
Amazingly, this place was owned by a U.S. corporation until quite recently. Major kudos to the St Vincent government for buying it back and protecting it as the national treasure that it is.
In my next post, Bequia and beyond . . . .
Dad, Can I Fish Now?