Friday 17 December to Saturday 1 January 2000 - St Lucia to Grenadines
Friday 17 December – Monday 20 December
In Rodney Bay John and Em and family came down to the quayside in the late morning having arrived last night and checked into a local holiday cottage temporarily. It is great to see them again, and they are delighted to see the Duck in the lush unfamiliar setting of St. Lucia. We last said goodbye to them when we were moored right in the centre of the bustling metropolis of Palma.
Today (Friday) is Sarah's birthday. It started with Andy and Dan taking her for a Birthday breakfast on the quayside at the Bread Basket. The Cross family from Brandamajo, with their three boys surprised and delighted all of us when they turned up with their keyboard and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in front of the whole restaurant. Sarah went bright pink initially, but loved it and was very flattered! We have organised a trip round to a lovely local private beach with the Malachi, the Rasta ferryman. It has a restaurant set back amongst the palm trees, and the rum punch and pina colada flow freely. Fantastic body surfing on some big waves that are rolling in. The Trade winds are blowing strongly, much to the annoyance of all of us in the ARC fleet. In the evening there is an excursion to the Friday night ‘jump up’ in Gros Islet, which provides an injection of local colour.
The prizegiving for the Stokie awards happens on the dockside by the sponsoring yacht, ‘Alice Ambler’. We discover that we have won the award for our emergency Navigation entry. Well done to Dan, Sarah and Hannah, and everyone is well pleased at this result. We had spent most of the last three days of the crossing finalising this and perfecting the illustrations.
In the evening we find out that we have come 9th in our class out of 25 boats. We are also 78th overall out of 250 odd entries. Our decision not to motor has probably turned out to have a negative effect on the result, although it is impossible to say for certain what would have happened if we had. I’m still glad we did’nt though. We are reasonably satisfied with this given the lack of wind and our blown spinnaker. We are confident that it would have been a different story had the Trades been blowing….
The prizegiving is a lot of fun, with speeches from Chay Blyth and some of the local St. Lucians. We were delighted to discover that we have won the prize for the Wall painting in Las Palmas. Well done to Caroline, Sarah and Hannah.
On Sunday we say goodbye to the Transatlantic crew. It is really sad to see them all off. Andy and Dan, Charlie and Sal have all been a pleasure to have on board, each bringing something special to the crossing. I have particularly enjoyed spending some time working closely with Andy, something we have not had the opportunity to do together for over twenty years.
On Monday, we provision the yacht for a hassle-free cruise and set off in the afternoon for Marigot bay. I have been itching to get going, so when we slip and sail out of the port it is quite a relief. Jeroen and Carolyn and their twin daughters, Maxine and Bodine come out in their dinghy to wave us goodbye. We have made friends with quite a few other yachts, mainly with children, and we shall stay in touch with a morning radio net which the children will manage.
We poke our noses into Marigot bay, but it looks too crowded, so we head on further down the coast to Soufriere, and pick up a mooring there, with a stern line ashore tied round a palm tree. Hardly any one here, which is bliss.
Tuesday 21 December
We motor round to a mooring at the foot of the amazing Piton hills, South of Soufriere bay. We spend the day here, and John and Em take their family and Sarah and Hannah off inland to some sulphur springs and a smart lunch at Stonefields restaurant.
In the evening we set off South to Carriacou right at the bottom of the Grenadines. We have been pondering on how to avoid all the yachts that are gathering in the Caribbean to celebrate the millennium. We reckon that most of them are going to pick up boats moored in St. Vincent and St. Lucia and wend their way slowly down to the Tobago Cays via Bequia and Mustique, handing over their charter in Grenada. So our radical plan is to make the big loop South to Carriacou now, and work our way back up North slowly. This should mean that we find the South relatively quiet, until we start to meet the charter yachts in the middle.
It’s a full moon tonight and the sailing is fabulous. We have 20-25 knots on a broad reach, and the Duck is trucking at 8 – 10 knots all the way. We reef down steadily as the Trades build in the night.
Wednesday 22 December
By dawn we have two reefs in the main and a tiny jib. Still we arrive in Hillsborough to clear customs early so we anchor and wait. After a short dinghy ashore and back we are free to explore Grenada and Carriacou, so we set off for Sandy Island, just off the coast. It is a classic Caribbean anchorage with a long white sandy beach, palm trees, and pelicans diving for fish all around us. After a lovely day snorkelling we sail round to Tyrell bay and anchor there for the night.
Thursday 23 December
On Thursday we row in to the Carriacou Yacht club and meet Trevor. Trevor is from Carriacou. He started the club with his brother about three years ago, and offers some great facilities for yachties, including a restaurant and bar overlooking the bay, showers, laundry, therapeutic massage by Genevieve (a local French lady - Caroline went in first to check this one out!), and e-mail and Internet etc. He used to work as a consultant at Coopers and Lybrand in London, so we have a good banter about how different his lifestyle is now. We have lunch at ‘Scrapers’ his uncles place on the beach. Scraper used to be the local calypso singer, and has now turned entrepreneur. He and Trevor are between them building businesses that seem to dominate Tyrell Bay. A good lunch of spicy BBQ chicken, then a slow swim back to the boat at anchor. We stop to say hello to some an Italian couple on their 50 foot ketch. They have been cruising the Caribbean for two years, and keep meaning to head down to the Pacific, but find more to see here. Very blissed out people. JJ muses that he can see himself and Emma doing the same thing in a few years time…
Friday 24 December - In Tyrell Bay, Carriacou, Southern Grenadines Lat : 12 deg 27 N, Lon 61deg 29
It's Christmas eve, and we plan to explore an anchorage that Michael, our Swedish friend on ‘Scherzo’ in Las Palmas has told us about. It is at Saline island on the South of Carriacou. We nose in there by 10 am, tucked between a reef with plenty of coral heads and a beautiful sandy beach. Paradise, and we spend an outstanding morning snorkelling and exploring. This is the first time Sarah and Hannah have been snorkelling on crystal clear coral, and their eyes pop out at the amazing colours. It is literally teeming with fish of every size and type. Great place to spend Christmas eve.
We head back to Tyrell bay for an appointment with Trevor’s famous Conch roti for lunch. We plan to decorate the boat for Christmas this evening, and have a Christmas concert. Tomorrow morning we are headed for Petit Martinique for a Christmas lunch at a restaurant called Palm beach. It is reputed to be one of the best in the Grenadines, so should be ideal for our traditional Christmas lobster.
Merry Christmas everybody from us all on ‘Lazy Duck’
Saturday 25 December
Santa arrived in the middle of the night and deposited stockings at the end of beds. Good to know his reindeer can cope with the heat. It was definitely a worry that preoccupied Hannah yesterday.
Soon after this excitement however, we weighed anchor and set off for Petit Martinique, round the corner. On the way round, we get a call on the satellite phone from Nick and Sally in Zimbabwe (Caroline's parents) in Zimbabwe, and the Ripard and Calascione clan who are together in Malta.
Petit Martinique is not far away, so we are anchored up by 11 am, and there is time for a quick run along the beach before we open presents under the Christmas tree which we have created with a bit of coconut palm tree. We have booked lunch at a delightful family restaurant, the Palm Beach, which is slightly set back among the palm fringe. We are amazed to be the only people there, so we are treated like royalty, and served a lovely meal. A very mellow mood takes hold, and we drink a toast to absent friends.
After a quick explore, we head back to the boat, and hold the Christmas concert, reprising some of the songs from the Atlantic crossing and some new ones.
Sunday 26 December – Friday 31 December
The next week was a blissful blur of idyllic anchorages, beautiful white beaches, fringing coral reefs full of fish, and relatively few other yachts to share it with initially. Probably the best of these was the anchorage just to the West of Petit St. Vincent, where we spent Boxing Day.
It seemed that, at least for the early part, our tactics of looping fast down South to leapfrog all the charter crowds was paying dividends handsomely.
After a day and night in PSV, we headed to Saltwhistle bay on Mayreau for a night. Then we went out to the Tobago Cays. These are a cluster of deserted islands surrounded by a huge fringing coral reef. Navigation is a little tricky as there are lots of hazards, but once you are snugly tucked in it is fine. The Cays are undoubtedly very beautiful. Somewhat inevitably, however, it is here that we started to meet up with quite a few other yachts, and it felt a bit crowded. Luckily the area is substantial, so we tucked ourselves away in the Southern corner. JJ and I went diving with Glenroy, the local guide. We just called him up on the VHF, and he came whizzing out to pick us up in his speed boat and took us to the dive site. We did a drift dive on the outer edge of the reef, floating down along the coral, and saw stingrays, grouper and some eerie looking barracuda which eyed us suspiciously, motionless. No sharks though, much to the disappointment of the crew when we got back!
It's been a relatively relaxing time, with the Duck working perfectly apart from routine maintenance, and time to catch up on reading all those books we had planned to get through at last. I have started reading the Patrick O’Brien series of historical novels, set in 18th century Men of War, starring Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. It's grown-up Hornblower, with quite superb storytelling, and is brilliantly evocative of life on board the warships of the time. Strongly recommended, and I am going to have to lay my hands on the next few books in the series ASAP.
By New Year's Eve we had worked our way up North to Bequia. We had intended to spend it in Mustique, but took one look at the number of boats in Britannia Bay, and kept going up North to Friendship Bay, on the Southern side of Bequia. We are practically all alone here, and we decided it would be a fine place to celebrate the millennium. There is a long sandy beach, and a great restaurant on the beach called ‘Spicy and Herby’ where we have been practically been living for the last three days.
Friendship Bay is also one of the last active traditional whaling stations in the Western hemisphere. We took the children to the small museum at the house of living legend Athneile Olivierre. He is 78 now, but still energetic, and had the children's attention for over an hour with his stories and pictures of whaling humpback from open boats. In the early part of this century, whaling was the only way the islanders could make a living, as the land was unsuitable for the sugar and banana plantations that supported most of the other Caribbean islands. They are still active, and have a quota of two whale a year.
For New Year's Eve we had a lovely dinner on board, and spent the evening playing games and listening to some of our favourite music from down the years. JJ produced a bottle of 1989 Krug which had been chilling for the occasion, and we celebrated the millennium in our own ‘Lazy Duck’ way. A lovely atmosphere on board, made somewhat more dramatic by the strong gusty winds that are coming down off the surrounding hills.
Saturday 1 January 2000 - Friendship bay, Bequia, (the Grenadines) Lat 12deg 59 N, Long 61deg 14
On New Year's day morning we discovered that our stern anchor line had chafed through on some unknown obstacle on the seabed. Probably an old mooring bollard. The result is that our £600 Fortress anchor is somewhere on the seabed in zero visibility - the surge has really churned up the bottom in this bay. Luckily we have an aqualung on board for just such an eventuality. We have a successful hunt, with JJ diving attached by a line to me in the dinghy doing a zig zag search pattern. Thankfully we find the anchor just before the air runs out, so soon we are safely reattached and stop rolling again. We head into the bay for lunch with the Cross family from Brandamajo. A great day ashore, with lunch at ‘Spicy and Herby’ which goes on for most of the afternoon.
Tomorrow we will head round to join ‘Brandamajo’ in Admiralty bay. Then we plan a relatively fast cruise up to Anguilla, weather permitting, before cruising slowly down to Antigua for a rendezvous with Gail, John, and Thomas Egan in mid January.
Happy New Year to you all, from all of us on'Lazy Duck'