Grenada to Bequia

The night after the others had left, Noley and I left Port Louis Marina and went to anchor outside in the Grand Anse. Outside there was a cooling breeze and it was more peaceful.......................................... or so we thought, but we hadn't reckoned on the significance of it being their Independence day. Sometime in the afternoon a beach bar right opposite the anchorage kicked off with it's celebrations......................Hip Hop blaring out full blast. It was too much, so we weighed anchor and moved a mile or so further south but when we tried we couldn't get the anchor to bite in the fresh breeze and had to move back towards the noise, eventually anchoring just at sunset. We were thankful when the noise stopped at midnight.

The next day we motored up in the lee of Grenada keeping close inshore so as to be well up-wind when we headed over to Carriacou. As we left Grenada behind, the wind was fresh and we were close hauled with the No1 jib and 2 reefs in the main. There was a moderate swell and progress was OK but not great. As time went on we could see that the Equatorial current was sweeping us to the westward of our desired course. Something was not right. Holly Mae was lacking the power necessary to cope with these conditions. I suspected that we were pinching (sailing too close to the wind and therefore too slowly) but couldn't seem to get the feel of things and eventually resorted to starting the motor to help out. Even with the motor we struggled and it was an hour after sundown when we dropped anchor back in Tyrell Bay. There are some quite challenging passages out here and I had a feeling of disappointment in our performance.

The next day we set off for Union Island on a similar course but shorter, and again we were only just achieving 4 knots. It was Noley who found the solution. "Stop being lazy and put the staysail up", she suggested. After nearly a month with the grandchildren on board I had got into the habit of sailing under a reduced rig as a precaution and hadn't used the staysail at all. I was forgetting how to sail ! So up went the staysail and up went our speed. We added a knot and a half to our speed and the feeling of power could be felt through the tiller. Holly Mae was now able to overcome the weather going current and we put in a few tacks to reach Clifton, on Union Island. The transformation was dramatic, and the sailing was great again.

In Clifton harbour we were visited by Dan and Charlotte of the junk rigged Hester. I had seen Hester in Madeira back in September, but hadn't met her crew. Dan and Charlotte had spent last winter in Falmouth and inevitably met up with many of our friends, including Mark and Barnaby (co-builders of Holly Mae).

We were moving on quite quickly over places we'd visited before and the next day it was on to Mayreau, but a different anchorage this time. We dropped anchor in Saltwhistle Bay, a particularly picturesque little spot. Horseshoe bay, white sand, coconut trees, turquoise sea etc. etc. Not too crowded either when we arrived, but by evening we could no longer see the beach from the cockpit. Since we draw over 7 feet we cannot anchor in too close, and the space between us and the beach was entirely filled with white plastic with the exception of one well travelled steel ketch from Denmark. Most of the white plastic was charter boats, and most of these were catamarans, some up to 60 feet and they park within wading distance of the beach. Despite being outnumbered we stayed for 2 nights before another great sail to Canouan, our next stepping stone.

We'd heard very litle of Canouan and weren't expecting much, which is always a good way to arrive somewhere. We were able to sail through a gap in the reef into a large anchorage off a beautiful beach, with only one other boat to share it with. There were loads of mooring buoys, belonging to a luxury resort, but we declined to use one, preferring to anchor. This was the first anchorage we'd stopped at where there was shelter from the incessant blast from the east. It was a relief. Very relaxing and the swimming was superb. The next day a dozen other boats came in, but the anchorage was so large that it didn't feel crowded. A couple of paddlers came by on those sit on canoes and said that they thought Holly Mae was the most interesting boat in the anchorage. I replied that indeed they were right, she was the most interesting. These paddlers were apparently pilots of a private jet over from Dublin. Later conversations on the jetty with another sailor from Cornwall, suggested that the owner of the jet was Dermot something or other, an Irishman who also owns 2/3 of the island and is busy developing luxury resorts there. That was quite surprising as all other development we'd seen, seemed to have stopped, many unfinished, and quite a few which had been opened were now shut down again.

Two nights on Canouan and we were off to Bequia, a slightly longer passage this time. 20 to 25M, and the course had a bit more north in it allowing us to ease the sheets and sail a bit freer. The sun was out and the wind was the usual F4 to 5 . Ideal conditions and with only one reef in the main, No1 jib and staysail, we were romping along neck and neck with a 40ft catamaran the whole way. We were, in fact, slightly ahead of him as we approached the western end of Bequia until he took a short cut through the rocks which we didn't want to risk. There were two gaps through the rocks............... one which he took, and the other with a (fairly recent looking) wreck of a coaster high and dry. We went the long way and then had to tack about 3M upwind into Admiralty Bay. We tacked right up through the anchorage and moorings to the head of the bay where we could see the lugger Grayhound at anchor, and on this occasion we decided to support the local economy and take a mooring for the first couple of nights. We were met by a old local, who rejoices in the name of "Nappy", rowing his little punt backwards. It seems that many such boat boys have a few moorings which they manage, and they spend all day rowing around the bay trying to lure the likes of us to their buoys. Some of the better off have the ubiquitous local plywood speedboats with outboard motors.

The town of Port Elizabeth at the head of the bay is a delightful mixture of working port with half a dozen large old ferries at the dock, and around the southern side of the bay, a string of attractive colonial style buildings in exotic gardens housing bars and restaurants. After a couple of days on the mooring we motored further down the bay to anchor off an attractive beach where the swimming was better, but from our new position it was a hard old row against the wind to get to the shops. The valley setting was funneling the wind and accelerating it to a good F6 sometimes, and the crew were given to repeating the old moan about outboard motors and, "why can't we have one?" !
There was quite a bit of rain along with the stronger winds here. We met an Englishman who'd been living here for 15yrs who said that it was the wettest 'dry season' he'd known. But the sun came out between squalls and the news from back home was of storms and storm damage and so we couldn't complain, but the weather did keep us in Bequia longer than we'd planned.

One day when we'd considered leaving, the squalls were quite strong we'd watched a small Norwegian boat head off towards St Vincent. It wasn't much more than 20ft and we were impressed by the three young sailors who'd crossed the Atlantic in it. After an hour or two we saw them return ! We'd seen a few small boats in our travels....................... I particularly remember a small and rough looking British sloop anchored in the Grand Anse on Grenada. It can only have been 18 or 20 feet and had an outboard. It shows that it's still possible to cross the Atlantic on a shoestring, but that is all downwind sailing and I find it hard to imagine how they would have coped working their way north, beating into the wind and swell with an adverse current as well. Maybe it's just a matter of waiting until the wind goes south of east ?