1st - 7th June
How can a week have disappeared so quickly? We have been to 3 countries and 4 islands in that time, hired a car and driven all over the island of St Vincent – to the end of the road literally – and are now ready to head back to Bequia to organise our dinghy chaps. So, here in summary is what we have been doing:
After our restock in Martinique we had a classic sail to Rodney Bay and went in to the guest pontoon at the marina to drop off our gas bottle. The bottle couldn’t be filled on the spot so we stayed overnight out in the bay. We then returned in the morning, collected the bottle and set off for the south of the island where we had intended to overnight before sailing across to Bequia. However, the winds were wonderful and we continued our passage sailing into the night down the coast of St Vincent. The winds dropped off for 2 hours which was a nuisance so we motor sailed for an hour and then drifted for the second hour. It appeared that the hillsides of St Vincent were all aflame and the smoke that drifted across to us on the light breeze smelt awful (definitely not ganga!). The fires above Cumberland Bay were so profuse that anyone staying in the anchorage that night would have been smoked out! At this time of the year the scrub is cleared and prepared for planting ready for the rains. We sailed into Bequia in the early hours of Thursday and anchored at the back of Admiralty Bay. The next morning we moved nearer the town, launched Puddle and went ashore to meet up with Freebooter who had arrived a few days earlier to get their dinghy chaps made by Alexis. Honey Ryder had spotted us in the anchorage so Sabrina came across to arrange sundowners at Frangipani where we could listen to the steel band (sadly this didn’t materialise as it’s low season) but we enjoyed meeting Stan and Lan from Barefoot Light as well as introducing Freebooter to Honey Ryder. On Friday we sailed up to St Vincent and organised a hire car for the weekend.
It was lovely to be back in Blue Lagoon. The first great news is that there is an Immigration and a Customs office so you no longer have to go to Kingstown or stop off in Chateaubelair! The hotel and surrounding complex has really come on since December, there’s even a wonderful swimming pool which we were allowed to use. A couple of boutique clothes shops have opened and the restaurant and coffee shop are both in full swing. WiFi is excellent and we actually got it on board which is a first for this cruising season. Freebooter arrived in the early evening and once sorted out came on board for a sundowner before we headed off to the shore for an easy meal. The trip to the shore was like something out of Monty Python and it’s just a shame that we couldn’t film it … Swag (Freebooter’s dinghy) was without engine and under paddle power when they came to us for sundowners but the swell and current were such that we offered them a tow back to their boat and then a lift in Puddle to the shore. Well, Puddle almost couldn’t cope. Yamahaha strained and exerted all his 2.5hp power and all we did was go round in circles (not helped by the extra-long tiller extension!). We crash landed back at Ocean Rainbow and tried again – we were only trying to tow them a matter of 100 yds. On the second attempt we were successful but the swell did make getting on and off boats really tricky. Actually, the swell in this anchorage is a bit of a problem at the moment but we didn’t have the same conditions in December so hopefully it won’t put off too many yachties from visiting in the future.
Steve, ex-rally driver that he is, took the wheel and expertly negotiated some of the steepest and wiggliest roads we have ever seen. Brimstone Hill in St Kitts no longer looks so steep .. some of the roads were vertical but it didn’t seem to stop the locals who all walked up and down with smiles on their faces! We even saw someone running – total madness.
Our tour on the first day took us up the west coast heading for Dark View Falls. We left the Botanical Gardens and Fort Charlotte for another day as we really wanted to see as much of the island as possible. We drove past Buccament Bay (imported white sand for the white people we were told) to Layou where we missed the sign to the petrogliths but we did manage to find excellent chicken roti on the way back! Through Barrouaille to Keaton’s Bay where they have now painted the huge church on the point an amazing turquoise colour – easily spotted from the sea! (Last year it was just cement and under renovation.) On to Wallilabou where, on the return trip, we stopped for Freebooter to see the ‘film set’ for Pirates of the Caribbean and a very welcome ice cold drink. We drove round the top of Cumberland Bay and on the return trip dropped down into the bay where one lone catamaran was moored in blissfully peaceful surroundings. Further along the coast we dropped down into Chateaubelair – it’s a very run down and unappetising town. Not where you would really want to anchor and spend time despite the customs and immigration facilities.
We found Dark View Falls easily enough and were really pleased to find that the 45 minute walk was only 15 minutes!! We had a great dip (there are changing facilities and a restroom close to the Falls) and then walked up to the top of the Falls. The view of the canopy as we came back down was magnificent, so lush and green, and the heat that rose off the vegetation was quite something. After this we drove up to Richmond where the road ended – literally. The Richmond Vale Academy was the last stop – it was deserted and no evidence of any teams working towards sustainability and we didn’t recognise any Moringa trees, 10,000 of which were planted in 2013 as a plant recommended for health and the environment. We think the funds ran out along with enthusiasm – maybe we’re wrong, we hope so.
Our return drive then took us along some very dodgy roads with bends, holes, and gradients to tax even the most skilled of drivers! Steve managed everything with great ease and didn’t seem to suffer from vertigo even with sheer drops on both sides of the road. The lush green vegetation of the Mesopotamia Valley was stunning. The photos are a little dull as rain was on its way but we were so glad to have gone off the beaten track. We visited the mineral springs – really tasty water that is an alternative to soda and apparently tastes best (strongest) at the time of a full moon. We then wiggled our way back down via Evesham, Calder, Argyle (where they are constructing the new airport) through Brighton to Ratho Mill and Blue Lagoon. Quite a trip – we all had a snooze before meeting on Ocean Rainbow for sundowners, supper and an early night.
On Sunday we were up at 6am as we’d decided to attend the 7am service at St George’s Cathedral. There was a 6am service but we decided against that one!! We had a really warm welcome to the Cathedral which has a spectacular chandelier in the centre of the aisle, expertly negotiated by the mitre wearing Bishop whilst processing! We were given a lovely introduction by one of the congregation, ‘Brother John’ who had gathered our details during the ‘Peace’! Claire was introduced as the ‘real Claire Short’ which raised a laugh from everyone! We were then all given bookmarks as a keepsake and were really touched by the number of folk who welcomed us to their island – including the Bishop Friday’s wife. They are very proud of their stained glass window in the south chancel which was reputed to have been destined for St Paul’s Cathedral but the monarch of the day refused to have a red angel so the window was given to St Vincent’s St George's Cathedral.
The Catholic church was just behind St George's Cathedral and the Methodists were opposite - we were the first ones out - goodness only knows when the other churches finished by we set off back to the boat at 0930, had a quick breakfast and then met again for another day of challenging driving for Steve and great sightseeing for the rest of us. We headed up the East coast this time in search of the fabled Sandy Bay and Black Point beaches. What a disappointment, Sargasso weed has ruined them. Sandy Bay was metres deep in the stuff and stinking to high heaven – no chance of a dip let alone a picnic! Luckily Annemarie had spotted a suitable waterfall and picnic spot on the road to Sandy Bay so that is where we stopped off for a dip and a bite to eat. No cold drinks around though – it was Sunday and everywhere we drove there were services in progress. We drove all the way up to Fancy and saw the old water wheel from the arrowroot factory – long since redundant but kept for the memories we were told by a lovely elderly Rasta. We enquired about the ganga fields and he laughed and pointed up into the mountains saying that he didn’t cultivate the stuff, he only smoked it! In Owia there is a fisheries complex but the fishermen must be hard pressed to catch anything with all the Sargasso weed around. It is here that they also have the arrowroot factory now and it is also here that we were chased by a fairly wild looking elderly gentleman waving his hands and asking for money. We didn’t stop – machetes are carried like walking sticks so who knows what might have happened! Probably absolutely nothing but better to be safe than sorry, we thought.
We drove on through Orange Hill (not much to see at the Youroumel Heritage Village) but we did notice all the empty houses vacated by the Caribs when they were evacuated in 1979 and on to Georgetown which was really run down with lots of abandoned houses and even more that are really ramshackle. This is not the prosperous part of the island. In North Union we stopped to have a look at what we thought was an old sugar factory but actually must have been a rum distillery then it was on towards home but we had another attempt to find the Arawak petroglyphs (we’d tried on Saturday and failed miserably). We think we covered all the minor roads on the island in our search but nowhere could we see any sign of the carvings …. Small wonder, when we returned to Blue Lagoon and asked at Reception we were told they had been removed to make way for the airport and no one knew their new location! We finally made it home for a really refreshing swim in the pool before making it back on board for another early night in preparation for our move back to Bequia in search of the ever elusive dinghy chaps!
8th – 18th June
10 days have now flown past. We left for Bequia as planned on Monday morning and had a great sail across the short distance between Blue Lagoon and Bequia arriving in good time for lunch and then the visit to Alexis to arrange for Puddle to be measured for new “Chaps”. This was done on Tuesday and by Thursday afternoon Puddle was properly dressed for the Caribbean climate. Hooray, we could move on to (Four Shorts, see earlier blog) Chatham Bay, Union Island and spend some time at anchor there surrounded by golden sands and beach bars. We stocked up with fresh fruit and veg from the Rasta market before heading out to allow us to stay as long as we wanted in the bay.
However, I rush on as we did have a little adventure in Bequia. We initially anchored near Freebooter just off L’Auberge Restaurant as they have a strong WiFi signal but found that the restaurant was shut so no free WiFi. We then decided to move across the bay to our Christmas spot which was good for snorkelling and there we met up with Honey Ryder and had lovely sundowners on board with them. However, before we did that James had his accident. He’d been drying out the bilges when Claire shouted from the dinghy to ask for help. He rushed up to give a hand by which time the problem was solved and she had disappeared off on her errand so he decided to put the visit to the cockpit to good use and took down all the ‘sun protection’ canvas to allow a view of the sunset. He then stepped back down the companionway to put the canvas away completely forgetting the open bilges! The rest is history, he fell down, banged his head, cut his leg and gave himself a real fright. By the time Claire came back in the dinghy he was back in the cockpit with his leg in the air, no trace of spilt blood and just waiting for some nurse-like administrations! Copious amounts of savlon solution to clean the wound, 6 butterfly stitches and a couple of Melolin plasters later the wounded warrior was mended as best we could. We kept an eye on the wound the next day to make sure there was no sign of infection as there was a good doctor on Bequia but all looked good. In fact the wound has healed beautifully and there shouldn’t be much of a scar to show for this little adventure but it has been really tough on James having to stay out of the water in the heat. He devised his own way to shower – black bin bag on leg tied with string, sit on bathing platform and tip water on head with the orange mixing bowl! Very effective if a little awkward.
So on to Chatham Bay. We had a great, if blustery, sail across the acceleration zone and anchored in beautiful sunshine near the beach; we then had a blissful time until early evening when the wind got up and the wind bullets off the surrounding hills reached screaming level. It literally sounds as if the hills are screaming at you, the boat vibrates as the bullets pass through and she ranges through 180 degrees. All very alarming when you are at anchor and not 100% positive that the anchor will hold. Claire had checked the anchor on a number of occasions in daylight to make sure we were firmly held but with the winds sheering the boat around, it can cause the anchor to shift – as happened to us in St George’s Bay, Grenada last year. So this night we only slept spasmodically. The two catamarans anchored near us dragged and moved to another location in the dark (we immediately let out another 10m of chain so we had 50m on the floor in 2m of water) as the bullets of wind continued to howl around us. Then there was a big bang and the dinghy (which we raise out of the water on the spinnaker halyard and tie alongside the guard rail to keep her bottom out of the water and reduce the amount of weed growth) had lifted in the wind and tipped up against the guard rail. We sorted that one out with more lines to secure her tight. Then it happened again with an even bigger crash and this time Yamahaha had a crack in the engine casing. Enough, it was time to put Puddle back in the water, weed or no weed. We dropped her down, moved her to the back of Ocean Rainbow and tied her securely. All successful. The next disturbance: the two hatches in the saloon blew open and crashed right back onto the deck. We went round the boat securing all the hatches but sadly the hatch in the heads had loose handles and the wind caught them and that hatch also flew open to crash on the deck but this time the hatch cover (blue canvas to protect the glass from the sun) blew away. The next morning Claire spent over 30 minutes searching for it to no avail. James is the one with the beady eyes but he couldn’t swim so it was left to Claire … and she failed! Another job to do, make a new hatch cover!! However, the major event happened a little later in the night when we heard another thud and rushed topsides to discover Puddle had flipped over in a wind gust and Yamahaha was upside down in the salty, churning sea trying his level best to swim. Outboard engines do not like being tipped up (oil goes everywhere) and they definitely don’t like being submersed in salty water. Plays havoc with everything and normally requires a very expensive visit to a marine engineer who will scratch his head and say he’ll do what he can for you but makes no promises about getting the engine working again!
We righted Puddle, tied her up close to the bathing platform and returned to bed to worry about the engine. James was up at 5am with the instruction manual at the ready and at 6am we started to strip the engine and dry it out. What a performance in the wind with the boat swinging from side to side. Eventually we’d done what we could and decided to leave the engine until we got round to Ashton Bay where we hoped there would be less wind – or at least a calmer anchorage.
Ashton Bay was equally windy but the wind was much steadier and we didn’t swing as much which was great as, although Yamahaha started we didn’t have any forward gearing. So, once again James stripped the engine down, drained the oil, sprayed the electrics and generally removed all evidence of salt water. We also found two split pipes which we repaired. This time the engine fired and we had forward momentum – great success. Since then we have had to make a few more adjustments but by and large Yamahaha is working well. To keep us amused when we weren’t busy we watched Andrea and Kai, from s/y Silence, kite surfing. We last saw them in Ashton Bay last year when they were just learning to jibe, now they are really proficient and practising their jumps! Their English is also amazing and we hardly spoke any German at all with them. We swapped sundowners on each other’s boats and caught up on all the news. We also met Peter from s/y Mandalay – he runs his catamaran as a Club charter boat and takes members of the Danish Sailing Club all over the Caribbean. It sounded fun, but a lot of hard work sailing long distances to keep the ‘club’ crew happy but if it finances his sailing then great for him.
We made it to church in Ashton on Sunday and were greeted like long lost friends which was lovely. We then went into Clifton for lunch to find everything shut as it was low season so we hopped back on the bus and returned to Ashton Bay! Thwarted in our quest for lunch we decided to have a joint Sunday supper on Freebooter – we provided bread and butter pudding (boys’ favourite) and Freebie produced a delicious Ragu with pasta. The predicted high winds came through the anchorage on Monday bringing lots of rain so everyone sat on board their boats just in case anything should happen. Our biggest worry was Silent Wind’s blades which screamed in protest despite having the brake on – really worrying and we have written to the manufacturers to find out if this is normal. Our anchor held firm but Galaxy – a local trawler anchored behind us – dragged her anchor. James managed to raise help on the radio in the form of Sekie – local restauranteur from Chatham Bay – who alerted the owner and a crew came to rescue the trawler. We hosted sundowners on OR that night. On Tuesday night Silence hosted Sundowners and on Wednesday morning we headed off for Carriacou.
We had a lovely sail and are now anchored in Tyrrel Bay for a few days as we intend to service Victor Volvo while we have the skilled hands of Manny available shoreside if anything should go wrong! It’s lovely to be back here and Trevor, as always, greeted James like a long lost brother. Freebooter is also at anchor here as is Honey Ryder together with a few more folk we have met along the way recently so it could be a very sociable time.
19th – 24th June
Yamahaha still isn’t feeling 100% after his swim so James has been forced to strip the carburettor a couple of times. We have also consulted with Manny, our favourite Caribbean engineer, who has made a few more adjustments and shown James how to remove even more bits from the engine, clean them and put them back together again! Buoyed by his improving engineer skill sets James also tackled Victor Volve’s annual engine service. Steve (Freebooter) came across to supervise the fuel filter change as the last time Victor was serviced the fuel filter could not be removed. Small wonder, it was held in by a bolt that hadn’t been spotted!! Removal of the bolt meant that the fuel filter came off easily and the new one was fitted with great rapidity. The same could not be said for the oil change …. we can now tell you that three hands are needed for the operation and unfortunately Claire was ashore when James undid the fateful nut that alerted him to the fact that he was one hand short for a smooth operation. It has to be said that a fair amount of oil was not collected in the receptacle James had provided! Heyho, we’ll be better prepared next time but no harm done and everything is clean, tidy, sweet smelling and Victor is set for another year.
We had a great ‘jam session’ with Honey Ryder and Freebooter on Saturday night. Our early supper on Ocean Rainbow was fun but when we decided to go ashore for the ‘jam session’ we couldn’t hear any music at all. Sabrina and Tom had mentioned the ‘jam session’ to the folk on Buzzbee so they were also ready to go ashore and join us but that wasn’t the way things panned out! Instead we mounted a raid on them complete with instruments, nibbles and refreshments and proceeded to have our own ‘jam session’. It was a truly great evening. Our hosts (Skipper Brett and his wife, Heather, Jane sister to Dan and married to Mike and Dan’s wife, Cate) produced a great rum punch which helped to oil the vocal chords! Claire’s guitar was put to good use – she played some of the numbers and Mike played others which allowed the three guys to team up and play together for the first time on the trip as they only had one ukele and a guitar between them! We did stop at 10pm – a little later than the Cruisers bedtime of 9pm but the gossip the next morning in the anchorage said we had ‘entertained’ rather than annoyed everyone!
Sunday morning dawned bright and early as we went to church – we called past Freebooter to collect them and gave them a real fright as they thought the service started at 7.30am not 7am. As it turned out, Claire got the time wrong so we were 30 minutes early, but it was a lovely morning and the service was a very lively one for Father’s Day so worth the wait and it didn’t seem to delay Freebooter’s departure after the service so no harm done. Freebooter and Buzby are now in Grenada and Honey Ryder in Trinidad but we have stayed so that we can get our WiFi booster aerial sorted out.
Peter on Mandalay is an electronics expert and he had a look and our ‘bullet’ on Friday and took it away with him to work on in the comfort of his own ‘huge’ catamaran. No wonder we were finding it a trifle frustrating, he took 4 hours to set everything up. He came on Sunday afternoon and set things up on the Ocean Rainbow and then left us to enjoy WiFi from the comfort of our own ‘home’. We had invited him to join us for a BBQ that night but the weather was bad so we ended up with BBQ chicken casserole instead – not quite the same thing but it was a lovely evening.
We continue with boat chores – stainless steel all de-rusted and shiny, cockpit cushion covers washed, dried and put back with no shrinkage, canvas repairs, soldering 12v socket plug …. and so the list goes on! We’re meeting with a French family today to find out more about Guyana and Suriname and then this evening we’re invited on Mandalay for sundowners with Peter … and a guided tour of his home. We hope to set sail on Thursday when we should get good wind and no rain. No point being in the Caribbean and sailing in rain, we could do that in UK!
25th – 30th June
We did set sail on Thursday after a lovely evening with Peter enjoying his Mandalay rum punch and some excellent rye bread nibbles. The crossing to Grenada was wonderful, a little bumpy and windy to start but nothing a heavily reefed Ocean Rainbow couldn’t manage. Peter and Bjorn (on Tarounga) also left Tyrrel Bay but we sneaked out an hour earlier than them …. No point racing a 48ft Catamaran and 61ft monohull if you don’t give yourself a bit of an advantage!! We had a great hour and a half when we had Mandalay in our sights, we felt we were in ‘Moonraker’ as she got closer with the voracious jaws of the catamaran about to swallow us up! We had some great photos but, as usual, we were very heavily reefed so still no ‘action’ shots with full sail!
We sailed straight into True Blue Bay having sailed down the eastern side of Grenada. Really great to avoid the awkward last two miles tacking trying to get around the south western tip of the island which was what we did last year. Annemarie and Steve had booked a room at the hotel so we had arranged to meet them for our last sundowners together on Friday.
Friday morning we decided to catch a bus into St George’s to do some shopping. We didn’t have to walk far before a bus picked us up and on route we decided to stop at the IGA store instead of going into town. It was great to browse the aisles and see what goodies could be purchased after the relative simplicity of the islands since leaving Martinique and St Lucia. We didn’t go mad with purchases but we did have a ‘full’ load when we made our way back to the main road to catch a bus back to True Blue. Then began our little adventure – we caught a bus but found that we were only going to be taken one stop as buses don’t go to True Blue unless you pay extra. The extra started at US$20 per head. We said we would catch another bus but the other passenger in the bus said that we wouldn’t be able to get one and the driver and his pals were most insistent that we wouldn’t be able to get one. We still thought we would get out and try our luck with a more reasonably priced ride. As it turned out, the driver then started to reduce his fare and said he would take us to the boat for EC$15 (£4 rather than £15 – a big difference!). As he drove along the route his co-pilot was touting for new business to make the trip worthwhile so the bus gradually filled up with folk wanting to go into St George’s (i.e. the other way). The driver then stopped the bus and said we were at our stop – we had no idea where we were. Apparently in the negotiations the driver had understood that we wanted to go to Prickly Bay Marina (we had mentioned Prickly Bay as it is near True Blue but we had no idea that what we were calling Prickly Bay Marina was in fact Spice Island Marina and Prickly Bay Marina is nowhere near True Blue). A shrug of the shoulders, a slight grumble and the driver set off again having picked up another couple. We were then taken to Spice Island Marina. We didn’t have the nerve to say it wasn’t the right place so we got out and said thank you, paid our money and said that we would walk the rest of the way. At this point the driver just burst out laughing and said why were we walking so we explained that we actually wanted True Blue. The whole bus laughed, he told us to get back on board and he drove us around to the bay where we were dropped at the entrance to the marina. We apologised to everyone for the delay and wished them all a good weekend. With smiles and waves all round the bus continued on its journey and we made our way back to Ocean Rainbow.
That Friday night we did think about going to Fish Friday in Guyave but decided to have Fish Friday on Ocean Rainbow instead. A great little fish pie, a few rum punches and another lovely evening was spent in the company of Annemarie and Steve. On Saturday night we went out to Bananas for a ‘final’ meal – just like last year! This time we weren’t treated to a host of lovely ladies arriving for their ‘Prom’ but we did have live music from an excellent group. No idea of their name and the numbers kept growing as the evening progressed so it was a bit like a ‘jam’ session. We danced and generally made the most of our last evening together. It’s been so lovely to have Freebooter turning up all along our route for the last 18 months it hardly seems possible that we may not be meeting up next sailing season.
On Sunday morning we weighed anchor and moved around to Prickly Bay where we anchored just behind Mandalay. Peter sorted out our Bullet and WiFi for us in Tyrrel Bay but we’d had a few problems in True Blue so thought he said he’d come and have a look when we moved location. Unfortunately it turns out that we have been really unlucky and our Bullet has failed! WiFi and Ocean Rainbow do not seem to go together very easily!! We are now in the process of ordering a new Bullet but who knows when that will arrive. In the meantime, Peter has leant us his spare which is super. We did attend a Boat Jumble in Secret Harbour which was exactly as described - a real jumble and nothing worth buying! However Secret Harbour is a lovely place tucked away behind a reef and very protected. A good place for anyone wanting to hide away in strong winds.
On Monday we went ashore to see about buying a new outboard engine. We were thwarted as the engineer who did the pre-checks had a day off. YamaHaHa is now behaving very well – although we can’t idle so our parking is a little hit and miss – but we still feel we need to change him as the throttle needs replacing, the electrics are definitely affected by the salt water and we are continually having to unblock the carburettor. We are going to donate YamaHaHa to Carriacou Children’s Fund so he will go to a good cause.
Before returning to the boat we said our goodbyes to Annemarie and Steve. Freebooter is now on the hard and prepared for the hurricane season as AM&S return to UK.
Tuesday dawned bright and early, the first day of our third year afloat! Can’t believe we have been liveaboards for 2 years (well actually 18 months if you deduct the time spent in UK). We have purchased Tommy Tohatsu and we are now the proud owners of a 3.5hp 2 stroke engine. It’s much simpler than 4 stroke, much lighter and hopefully will prove reliable. However, it will take a little getting used to as the throttle is no longer controlled by the handle but that’s a minor point. We did purchase a host of things from Budget Marine at the same time as the engine and managed to get a discount on the whole bill so we were chuffed. The rest of the day was spent sheltering from the atrocious weather. The winds howled through the anchorage (40 knots), boats swung in alarming arcs, the rain was so dense visibility was reduced to only a few metres, one catamaran dragged without its owner on board and we were soggy! We even had to eat supper down below … not good! The worst of the weather is now through so July should start with sunshine.