Sunday, 15 May 2016

South from St Lucia

South from St Lucia

Wednesday 2nd March 2016.
The plan is to leave Marigot Bay at first light. This is an early start but we are up and away just as dawn breaks over the palm trees.
No wind to start with so we are motoring towards the south of the island. By the time we are off Soufriere we have the beginning of a breeze. The sails are all up and we are off! This is a good sailing day so we are in the company of a few boats heading south and meet a few heading north. As we are on port tack, we even had to give way to two yachts coming in the opposite direction. Rowena likened it to a day in the Solent – I don’t think so! The sun is shining, the sea is slight to moderate the breeze is 12-14 Kts on the beam and we are sailing at over 6kts, perfek!
Can today get any better? I think it just did! On our starboard side we spot a pod of dolphins, they come towards us and spend 10-15 minutes swimming alongside, diving under and around us. These curious creatures we can hear squeaking to each other are Atlantic spotted dolphins but unfortunately it is a language that neither of us understands or speaks! We can see all ages around us, mothers with young calves, adult males and adolescents. Eventually they tire of our company and disappear off into the ocean but not before a few dozen pictures are taken. We felt honoured that they had spent so much time with us. This has happened to other boats we know but never to us for a long period. We wondered whether it was because we were sailing slightly faster than usual so we were a bit more fun for them.
As usual we have to reef down at the top of St Vincent but are rewarded with another dolphin sighting. This time it is two adults and a baby bottlenose, unlike the Atlantic spotted we saw earlier, these three just crossed our path and carried on their way. We have made such good time on our passage we decide to continue on to Bequia. Just as well as we later heard of a German sailor shot dead and two of the crew wounded at Walliabou Bay on this day. Our decision earned us yet more Cetacean sightings, this time it was pilot whales just north of Chateaubelair Bay! A bit further away, so no photos. We could just see their blows and black backs and fins as they porpoised along .
 We are now headed by the tide and with light winds will have to motor for a couple of hours until we are clear of the south of St Vincent. With the sun sinking towards the horizon, we sail the last miles between St Vincent and Bequia, only dropping the sails as we round the ‘Devils table’ beacon. We motor across the bay and anchor off ‘Jacks bar’ in 8.5m of water. We are a bit further off than we would normally be but it is now 1800hrs and we have had a long but rewarding day sailing. (67 miles in 11.5 hours = 5.8Kts not bad for us).
Our plan is to spend a couple of days in Bequia then move on south.

Saturday morning we are off to Canouan to meet our friends on Secouden.  We haven’t seen Bill and Krista for over a year and the plan is to meet for a BBQ supper and a few drinks! Somehow we must be charmed at the moment, as between Bequia and Canouan we spot a whales blow! Off on our starboard side, heading north, we can see big black bodies, fins and blows! Finally we see three tails and then they are gone into the deep! Consulting our whale book we determine we have seen Sperm whales! Thank goodness Bequia have stopped whaling!
It is a short four hour run to Canouan and we are anchored close to Secouden in plenty of time for a swim before supper. A lovely calm anchorage, ideal for a braai! Pork chops, chicken legs, salad and all washed down with a few beers and a glass of wine, with good company an ideal end to an excellent day. Tomorrow Secouden are heading north to St Lucia, we are heading south to the Tobago Cays and then to Carriacou to see our engineer and have the last of our new injector nozzles fitted.

Just like the brochure

The Tobago Cays at last. It has only taken us three years to get to the place that inspired our Caribbean adventure!  Yes it is every bit as pretty as the brochures but we have seen some equally nice places along the way.

Anchored in front of Baradal
Anchored just south of the turtle sanctuary off Baradal with the Horseshoe reef in front of us we really are in the ‘lee of Africa’, nothing in front of us but ocean. The anchorage is calm. Around us clear turquoise blue water and yes, turtles popping up to breathe all around. We do notice they just seem to take one breath and quickly drop down again, probably put off by the many boats. We have been places where they seem to warm themselves in the sun for a while, taking many breaths before slowly swimming back down to the grass.

It's a hard life!
The snorkelling is good even if there are no turtles to be seen inside the turtle watching reserve!  Not what we expected – it is quite rubbly and not very colourful, but many hard corals. A lot of fish, all the usual reef fish and some big ones too:

French Grunts and Palmetto

Tarpon, 1m horse eye jacks, mature parrotfish, southern sting rays and palometos. Some lovely sea fans and a lot of algae, mostly green which I understood as meaning not a healthy reef.

Two different phases of the Queen Parrot fish

But there are many urchins and damsel fish which eat algae so maybe this is what it is meant to look like. We did not see any turtles while snorkeliing, I suppose we should have swum off the boat when we saw them, but I did not want to harass them.

Southern Stingray
We walk to the top of Jamesby island to admire the view across to Union Island as far as Carriacou and many small islands in between. We can see our passage out, threading between the reefs. We had better not get it wrong!  It is very arid, most plants wilted or dying, really only the cacti looked happy.

Spotted Trunkfish being cleaned

Walking along the beach we spot a small Blacktip shark swimming in the shallows, if there are small sharks then Mummy and Daddy must be around somewhere close! Rowena is glad we saw the Shark after we had our swim!

A Little Blacktip reef shark
We have been here for three days and strong north easterly winds and northerly swells are predicted. We decide to spend a few days anchored off Frigate Island which is completely sheltered from the north and the east while the worst of the weather blows through. Then we will move to Chatham bay for a few days. We will have to come back to Frigate again so we can get the bus to Clifton  to check out of St. Vincent before we go to Carriacou.

Anchored off Frigate Island
The southern route out through the reefs is a bit nerve wracking but pretty straightforward. The 9 mile sail to Frigate Island takes 3 hours! Probably the slowest journey yet!

Another beautiful evening in Ashton Harbour

We only have a very gentle breeze and not enough wind to overcome the current at the southern end of Union island. We had been sailing at about a knot and a half when the current stopped us dead!

The wind blows but we are not moving!
The next day it is very windy and we are joined by lots of boats seeking shelter. We count 22 not including us. Our early arrival has ensured we have got a good spot. Perfectly sheltered we decide to dinghy ashore. It is quite a distance and not without incident as we manage to touch the bottom on some of the old Marina workings left in Ashton harbour. Fortunately we are motoring slowly as the water is very shallow in places.

How we moored in Ashton

On arrival at the town dock it is so shallow we have to paddle the last few yards. There appear to be no cleats on the dock (we subsequently discovered that they have been stolen!)

Ashton from the dinghy dock

 We had been warned about this so we had taken a length of chain to wrap around a concrete bollard with two old bits of rusty iron sticking out. At least the dinghy will be secure while we are ashore.

Frigate Island from the bus
We walk up the road from the dock to catch the bus to Clifton and watch the Six Nations rugby in a bar. It being Saturday, we ask an elderly Rasta man if the busses are running. He thinks they are but if we are “limin’ for a bus, then we are limin’ in the wrong place!”(Brilliant!) He directs us up the street towards a road junction as the best place to wait. We needn’t have worried as a couple of minutes later along comes the bus. “You goin’ up” says the driver. “Yea I’m goin’ up” the skipper says.  (Anyone need a translation?)

The smallest screen!

The buses are crowded as always but everyone is good humoured while the driver waits for the last passengers. The short bus ride is uneventful , but very bumpy on the bad roads and quite hair raising as it goes at speed very close to deep culverts and rough edges avoiding other vehicles, people and goats.

We find the bar advertising the rugby on the TV, unfortunately it appeared that the sports channel are only showing the second half of the match. Fortunately the barman had an app on his phone which enables us to watch the first half. It takes real rugby fans to crowd around a tiny screen watching a game!

Clifton Veg market
We had a couple of trips to Clifton, and our impression from the last time we were here is that apart from the fruit and veg stalls the provisioning has deteriorated. Maybe the locals all do their grocery shopping online from St Vincent. We did see an advert to that effect in the local paper. The grocery store delivers to the ferry and you collect it at the other end. A pretty good service offered on a remote island.

Lady JJ off to Carriacou
Time to leave SVG, our engineer is now available to fit the injector nozzle so we must go south to Carriacou. As we are leaving a squall comes through so we waited until it had passed. Like busses it is always the second one you catch! And we did! Fortunately we did not get wet for long. The run down to Tyrell bay took 2 hours. 

Bye Bye Union Island

 Motoring into the bay we anchored in what we considered a good spot .It must be as we found ourselves just behind ‘Badgers Sett’. We were there by lunchtime so were able to check in before heading off to Pizza night at the Iguana cafĂ© in the boatyard. Seven boats including us and all OCC members except one! Looks like we are in for a sociable time again!

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