21 January, 2013

St Vincent Main Island

It is time to move north out of the security of Admiralty Bay Bequia St Vincent and on to the main island of St Vincent. We had been warned of the fierce current and confused seas between Bequia and St Vincent similar to those we encountered when we arrived at night from Barbados. However when we put our nose out from around the point and pulled up the main all we found was 15 to 18 knots of wind and a slight swell. It was ideal sailing weather for the 16 nm to a small bay we had chosen to stay the night. But first we stopped in at Petit Byahaut to see if we could anchor there but it was too small and the swell was rolling in.
We motored in the relative calm north along the coast to Wallilabou. When we were at the entrance to the bay a fellow - Alex approached and offered us advice and a mooring buoy. We declined the mooring and said we would Med moor with a line ashore. We dropped the anchor in about 18 m of water and went astern. The trusty floating polypropylene line came out again and we were soon secure in the anchorage. A few EC to Alex and we were all happy.

Next was to secure a lobster. Soon a boat appeared with a wide selection varying in size from small to huge. I chose one, negotiated a price and took it on board. The fellow did not have change for the note I gave him so we agreed that he would return with my change after making a few sales.
He returned twice to the bay but ignored my calls to give me my change so on the third time I took the RIB over and came alongside asking for my change. He said he did not have any showing me two 100 and a 50. Well after a small but kind encouragement he produced a note for my change but not the right amount. With further inducement he found the exact change and handed it over to me. The other boat boys saw the financial transaction and as I drove away I got cheers of encouragement. That boat was not from this bay's village and they did not like the interlopers.

The next day as I walked on the dock I was greeted with smiles and laughs about the financial transaction. They were pleased someone had at last highlighted the dodge practice which these fellows seem to pull almost every day! It gave the locals a bad name.

The bay is more famous than its lobsters because it was the Caribbean setting of Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp.  There is still some of the original material - scripts, venue sheets and buildings used in the making of the movie which is well worth a visit.
One can clear in and out of St Vincent at a small office on the dock at 4:30 pm.  There is no Immigration but that does not seem to matter.  We walked to the adjoining town to the Police station and they did not have a form nor a stamp for the passport so the net effect is we got nothing other than good exercise walking to the village.

07 January, 2013

Bats not Cats in the Cabin

Dedicated readers will remember the two incident where a stray cat has come aboard Malua during the night. The one in Greece the cat was unknowingly shut into the aft cabin for three days and it then escaped when I went shore on a completely different island. The other was in France when I caught the cat in the cabin one night.  http://malua.blogspot.com/2011/10/cats-in-cabin.html
Well last night I woke because something was wrong and moving in the cabin. Being anchored some distance from the shore I was sure it was not a cat. I got up and in the half light of the moon thought I saw something jump off the saloon table and move first towards the window then in a flash out the companionway. I immediately knew we had been invaded by a bat – birds cant see in the night.
While we were having drinks the previous evening I noticed a bat fly out of the trees along the edge of the high cliffs overlooking the anchorage and commented how large that particular one was much like the fruit bats of Australia.
The following morning it was obvious that the bat had come to eat the ripe guavas we had purchased while in St Vincent. It is much easier to wait for a yacht than fly the 28 nm to the next island.
Was it a magical moment on Malua

The Northern Grenadines

Bequia is about 16 nm north of the island of Canouan and only a few more miles on to the nature reserve of the Tobago Cays.
Having pulled up our anchor from the crowds of Admiralty Bay it was great to pull up the main again and head down wind for the wide open spaces of the open ocean. It was not to be not only were yachts leaving our anchorage but other were heading in our direction. Never the less after about 4 hour of great down wind sailing we rounded the way point along side Baleine Rocks and started to motor amongst the coral cays and shallows of the turtle reserve. It was great to be back in cruising mode in a tropical environment.
We approached Petits Ramea and Petit Bateau and the depth sounder was started to come up from the 20 meters to shallower water. We went round the south of the latter island into the anchoring area only to find little space in the shallow water and weed in the 20 meter depth. What can a person do? Just drop the anchor and hope to get a good hold. Not the first time but the second time the rochla took and Malua was attached to the ground.
The anchorage is a bit rolly in a funny sort of way because the swell is channeled through an opening in the reef and then enters the anchorage and bounces around causing a sort of chop – enough to upset a full glass of wine. There were about 60 boats in the anchorage with about a quarter on mooring balls. Most people has anchored well away from their neighbour. We had a peaceful night.
The following day we took the RIB to the outer Horseshoe reef and went snorkeling. The fish life was prolific in about 3 meters of water. On the reef I really had to control myself because under almost every rock in the crevices was at least one good size lobster. _ Once a crayfish diver always a crayfish diver. Being in a reserve Denny said I could not take any – how times have changes as I have git older. That did not stop me when I was young – did it Richard?
On our return from snorkeling we stopped at the turtle island and walked over the hill. We did not see one turtle in the bay but saw a few swimming by that evening.
Tobago Cays is a lovely anchorage but not one you would stay for more than a day or two because of the rock and roll.
The next day we upped anchor and took the southern exit out towards Union Island passing west of Palm Island.
We stopped at Clifton on Union Island anchoring in the north east corner of the bay just upwind of the reef in the middle of the bay. Here again there are moorings scattered throughout the anchorage severely restricting where a cruising yacht can anchor. A cause Chris Doyle is pushing to have the moorings registered and controlled. The town has a few good vegetable shops/stalls but not much more. The Anchorage Yacht Club and the Bougainvilla restaurant look like the only good places to eat however we skipped both and started on the pork chops from the Canaries. Just great.
We had decided to spend new years eve in Bequia so it was time to start to move north again. The next stop was Canouan Island in Charlestown Bay home of one of the charter companies. The bay was almost empty so we dropped our anchor in the NE corner of the bay. We were soon approached by a fisherman selling lobsters. The negotiations started and we finally settled on a price of EC15 plus a pack of cigarettes. That evening we took the Rib ashore and walked all over the southern part of the island followed by a dog who attached himself to us. Only when a larger group of yotties passed did he leave and follow them.
The island appears to be quite prosperous due to the establishment of a very upmarket resort on the northern part of the island and the major extension of the airport and landing strip. Almost every third house had an OCC vehicle outside presumably used by one of their workers. The charter base and the Tamarind Hotel Resort must also require workers and development. The bay is unfortunately open to the northern swell that seems to sweep round the eastern part of the island.
Now the long beat into the wind back to Bequia. We left early in the morning and set a course north of the Grand Cai and tried to make the 060 course to Mustique but with the wind coming from 080 to 090 we did not have a hope so had to make a few tacks before we arrived at Britannia Bay – Mustique. 
We were now amongst the rich and famous not only on the land but in their mega yachts – sailing style. The harbour master approached and asked if we wanted to anchor at US$75 per night – more for a mooring buoy. We asked to stop just to eat our lunch of lobster so he said yes with pleasure. After a good lunch it was off again on a broad reach to pass between Quatre and Petit Nevis where the tide is reputed to run very fast. When we arrived it was relative calm so we passed with ease on our way to the southern most point of Bequia at west cay. Once we rounded it the wind was back on the nose and increased to more than 20 knots so on came the engine and we motored at 3 knots into the chop and wind the last 3 nm into Admiralty Bay just in time to celebrate New Years Eve.

06 January, 2013

Bequia Anchorage

I always thought that the Greek Islands where the charter sailing capital of the world until I arrived in Admiralty Bay in Bequia and tried to anchor. There are charter boats everywhere and mostly they are catamarans. The bay has a number of mooring buoys that the majority of the charter fleet attach to. The balance try to anchor near to their friends which almost by definition means on top of the cruising yachts who have spaced themselves well apart amongst the moorings.

When we arrived in Bequia I chose a spot that was away from the other yachts but well into the bay. Some distance ahead was a submerged plastic buoy. Not for one moment did I suspect that it was in fact a mooring. I dived to check my anchor with its 45 meters of scope and found it well into the course sand and ahead of the blocks of this so called mooring which had about 40 meters of heavy chain and an equally long line from the chain to the surface. The swing distance would have been about 60 meters and within reach of a mooring up wind and my vessel.
One evening a boat boy came by and said I was on top of his mooring and would I let out more chain so he could put a vessel on the mooring. “OK bring a boat and I will ease back and see how it worked.”

The following evening, Christmas eve a boat – 50 foot arrived so I let out more chain so that my port bow was at least 10 meters from their stern. Alls well and good if the wind continued to blow from the NE. An Australian boat then appeared and dropped his anchor just off my starboard quarter and let out about 35 meters of chain. Alls well and good if the wind stayed in the same direction. They then went off in their dingy leaving their boat unattended.

The wind changed ahead of a violent rain squall and I was left with two unattended yachts well within the swing radius of Malua. The OZ boat started to ride at its anchor back and forth. At one point I had to push it off with the short boat hook just to stop it from taking a piece out of my topsides. The British boat on the mooring was now pulling back on their chain and swing back and forth which left Malua had nowhere to go. Unfortunately neither boat did anything to change the situation and I became the meat in the sandwich. The wind then dropped and later swung back to the NE and we all settled down to a good Christmas eves party.

I had long ago given up on crowded anchorages in the Med so the day after Christmas we upped the anchor and sailed south out of the crowded anchorage BUT wait there is more. Read all about it in the new years eves edition.