Monday, June 23, 2008

Barbados to Martinique part 2 Grenadines to St Lucia

Pettit St Vincent doesn’t have any water supply but they have built a desalination plant and sell water to us by the gallon. The plant has round pans with solid floors and stone walls around the perimeter. These walls are built of double brick with a space inbetween and a framework over the top with a plastic covering. They pump seawater into the pans, the water vaporizes up to the plastic in the heat, and then trickles down the sides into the cavity between the bricks and is then collected.

There was a nice little harbour to moor in and we picked up a rubber dinghy here which Encantada had promised us in Grenada. We had had no dinghy since ours was stolen in Las Palmas. This is a much bigger dinghy, intended to be used with an outboard motor and we are able to use the oars from our old dinghy with it although it was a lot harder to row than our old one.

From this retreat we went on past Tobago Cays and stopped the night at Canouan before going on to Bequaia. We didn’t feel very welcome in the township there and they didn’t have anything to sell us. (at this time there was a lot of poverty here, although it now boasts luxury resorts).

Bequaia is the island I had most wanted to visit, having read so much about it, at home.

I was not disappointed, except in the weather. Bad weather and contrary winds have dogged us all the way up and with our engine almost useless we had found it very tiring and determined to get our bearings done as soon as possible. Most of the boats out here motor sail 75% of the time when coming up the islands. At Bequaia we were welcomed by the man and wife crew of ‘Boofer’, a 20ft Felicity, they had packed in their jobs in Essex and shipped ‘Boofer’ out in a Geest boat (Banana boat), intending to cruise out here for 6 months.

They were in their late twenties and said they weren’t prepared to wait until they were too old to enjoy a trip like this. He worked for Plesseys and said that if they wouldn’t take him back, someone else would.

Another pal we made here was a chap with a 26ft Macwester, who had come here 7 years ago and liked it so much that he had stayed on, taking an occasional cruise up and down the islands. His name was Jack Lindsay, and we found out afterwards that he had written 3 books. He was about 50. He claimed that he could live comfortably, here, by making one pair of earrings a day, which the local handicraft shop sold to tourists for him. He had started this as a hobby, making them from shells and driftwood he found on the beaches. Some of them were really original. When we left, he gave Penny a pair.

Whilst at Bequaia, Susan and Eric Hiscock arrived. Not wishing to presume on our indirect contact through Harold Hayles, we did not venture to call on them. It gave our morale quite a boost however when Eric rowed over and invited us on board for tea. We were shown over Wanderer and had a long chat.

From Bequaia to St Vincent is about 20 miles. As we left the harbour the sun was shining and we were able to lay our course for the distance St Vincent hills. Within 20 minutes the sea was shrouded in mist and driving rain and neither St. Vincent nor Bequaia behind us was visible. The wind was Force 6 and gusting 7. We were both wet through and very worried. Contrary to all our previous island sailing, the wind was from the South West and the harbour we were making for was completely exposed from this direction. We could imagine ourselves sailing up the main street to the supermarket with a force 7 wind and 8 ft seas behind us: Looking at the chart, we decided to go east of the town behind the headland and hope that we could find shelter there.

When the headland loomed up out of the mist we eased off to the east, but nearer the coast and not liking the look of it we ran down parallel to it hoping to find shelter behind a small island (Young’s Island). Before we reached this, however, the storm abated as suddenly as it had started and by the time we had anchored the sun was shining as if it had never been obscured. There were several yachts here, lying off a small pier which belonged to the local aquatic club.

A Nicholson 32 (Jylder) we had met previously at Grenada, Carriacou and Bequaia, exchanged paperbacks with us. We both sailed for St Lucia, leaving in the early morning. With very light, fluky winds, late afternoon found us still in the lee of St Vincent. The Nicholson, with a sound engine in her had left us far behind and obviously intended to keep going. Coming out from the lee of the island into the open sea we found that the wind came strongly from the N.E with a reasonably heavy sea. Not wishing to spend the night battering into this we ran back into the lee of the island and anchored for the night. In the first light, off we went again.

The whole of this day we spent tacking against a N.E wind, but with no engine, our bottom foul, and the tidal stream pushing us west at about 2 knots we made no apparent impression on the distance to be covered. It took us 26 hours to get into the lee of the Pitons (hills on the south of the island) and another 9 to get to Castries. Here we checked in with the port authorities and then dashed ashore to get some bread and grapefruit, just as the shops were closing. We then both slept like logs for 12 hours.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barbados to Martinique - part 1 Grenada

Grenada to British Yacht Stella Mira
Martinique C/O H.B.M Consul
Society Islands
Pacific Ocean.

Dear Phyl,
The above address is the only one at which we are likely to be sure of getting mail from you.

We have had no mail since you wrote to Barbados. It seems unlikely that we shall have time to go up to Nicholson’s at Antigua, especially as there may not be anything for us, even if we did. Penny will write them and have anything sent to us at Balboa, which place we hope to be in about 14 days (God willing)

As you will have gathered from the postmark we are now at Martinique, where we have called to change our gas cylinders before leaving for Panama. This is the only place which does camping gas. For the last few weeks we have had to manage with paraffin for cooking and lighting. My last letter put you in the picture as far as Barbados, so I will go on from there.

We left Barbados a week before Christmas to go to Grenada. This is called the Nutmeg Island and is the principle source of this spice. It took us about 30 hours of downwind sailing and as we rounded the headland to approach the harbour we were hit by one of its famous white squalls. For a ¼ of an hour we were deluged, visibility through the really stinging rain (we had only our swim suits on) was only 25 yards and the wind heeling us to the cockpit combing, forced us to let fly our sheets every two or three minutes. It soon abated, and we were then able to pass through the entrance into the lagoon, where we dropped anchor alongside ‘She’ which had arrived there several days before. Sheila and Bob Fleming told us that they had arranged to go up on the slip on Christmas day to antifoul.

The harbour was full of charter boats, mostly 40 to 50 feet long, earning fabulous money, chartering to rich Americans, and in consequence, the fees for hauling out, etc were far beyond our humble pockets, so having heard that a yard called ‘Grants’ in Martinique was reasonable, we decided to wait till we got there. We met a lot of old friends and made a lot of new ones among the charter and other boats moored in Granada. The yacht club made us welcome, and although we could not afford meals there we were able to use the showers and read back numbers of yachting magazines we had missed whilst drinking iced cokes.

The charter boat crews had bought a live pig and proposed to kill and barbeque it for Christmas dinner at the Patio Club adjoining the mooring stages. We were invited to participate in this and to go to several parties. One party, on a boat called ‘Zelina’ was a continuous one, from Christmas Eve to New Year, guests knocking off to sleep at irregular intervals.

Whilst in Grenada, we went to the local cinema, which showed mostly Italian made westerns, and James Bond type films, real ham, but very funny. It was a bit scary walking at night there, there seems to be a fair bit of violence among the locals with a real risk of mugging so we only went in a large group.

‘Sugar Creek’, a boat I have previously mentioned had arrived, and although not much bigger than ‘Stella Mira’, had made an agreement with a local hotel, and was taking out four or five guests at a time on day charter, at 15 U.S dollars a head. They intended to do this for the entire season, and then with the proceeds buy a plot of land and build a bungalow, which they will furnish and let through an agent to American tourists. Then they will go on through into the Pacific, and continue cruising with an assured income.

As usual, we stayed longer that we had intended in Grenada. We make so many friends and then the longer we stay, the harder it is to part from them. Each day we say “We must go tomorrow” but something always seems to crop up to stop us. Then someone says “You must come and see this or that, you may never get a chance to see it again” and so time flies.