2012 Bequia, Tobago Cays and Northern Grenadine

Malua has now checked out of Bridgetown Barbados and is on passage to Bequia at Port Elizabeth.
This is going to be a down wind passage of about 97 nm. We will leave Barbados at noon and arrive after a slow passage the following morning. The water tanks are full, the food store is full and the Rum store is over flowing with the rum purchased at the duty free store in the passenger terminal where we check out.
The check-out routine was the same except in reverse. We had to get port clearance from the Harbour Master and pay US50 Bar$100. The fellow who did the paperwork was a trainee so we helped him fill out the forms. He gave us the forms but found out later that he had given us too many so went in search of us. He found us sitting in the departure hall connected to the internet. A very lucky man.
The Customs fellow did not try the duty free trick on me but on our friends that went in next - this time he was not as experienced and did not give the right amount of money so our friend returned and asked for more. I think they got the right amount!
We did our last minute shopping. Potatoes at Jordans supermarket, tomatoes at the market and some other fresh fruit. I finally had 10c left of the Barbadan money.
This is Denny's first long trip this season yet she slotted in as crew like previous years.

Malua is at 13:04.36N 61:14.80W at 0400 on night of 21/12/2012

We left Barbados having checked out the previous day and packed the boat for the short crossing of only 97 nm.
The weather forecast was for 5 to 15 knot winds so it would take 19 hours at 5 knots. We left at 11:00 am after diving on the mooring block and retrieving my chain and mooring line. The anchor was under the block so I had to take it out while Denny retrieved the anchor. It came up easily and we set sail for Bequia.
The course was 280 and the wind behind but the rain clouds were everywhere. Not before long we were under one and Malua was getting a good fresh water wash. We were travelling at 7 knots with only the main up. The passage continued on a slight swell and we soon caught The Southern Cross - an Australian couple we had met in Barbados sailing a St Frances Cat made in South Africa. Their destination was the same as ours.
At sunset I put the first reef in the main to slow us down and I sheeted the staysail in to reduce the rock and roll. For dinner we had a pre-prepared French stew I had made with the meat from the Canaries and settled down for the night hoping to dodge the rain showers that seemed to be everywhere.
At midnight we were still travelling too fast and the autopilot decided that the rudder was not responding quick enough and it would send out an alarm message. I had enough of getting up and pushing the button so I took the small wheel off and installed the large wheel. I had not used that since the Mediterranean. I hand steered as we entered between the island of Bequia and St Vincent. We could see the loom of the islands 25 nm out at sea.
We had arrived far too early so we set a course down the Bequia coast but far enough off that I felt safe to hove-too until dawn when we could enter the large Admiralty Bay of Bequia.

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.

After a great traditional Christmas – ham turkey Christmas pudding and brandy butter along with a rain storm that had the boats close to us swing in all directions some coming as close as a fender, it was time to put some space between Malua’s topsides and other boats.  I checked the anchor which as I thought was round a rock because of the swinging so I dived down and released it.  We had breakfast and pulled up the anchor, motored down the bay and took the reefs out of the sail to hoist Malua's main.
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.
It was a good down wind run and then a broad reach around the south point of Bequia and then past Mustique – Mick Jagger had not invited us to his New Years eves party this years however Basils Bar did have a place for two.

We passed Canouan island with conical hill on the southern tip and sailed on towards Baleine rocks before turning SE to line up the day marks on Petit Rameau and the aft mark on Petit Bateau.

Tobago Cays

The depth came up to less than 20 m and the water colour turned to bright blue.  I knew we were back in the corral islands.  We passed Petit Bateau to the south (anti-clockwise) and anchored to the SW of Baradel Island and the turtle area. This time I was a long way out and a good distance from any other boat.  It will be only a few hours before a French boat anchors on top of me and I up anchor and move along.  This is living up to the reason I wanted to sail the northern passage to the west and not come to the crowds of the Caribbean.

The cays are formed by the large horse shoe reef on the windward side of the anchorage but there is an opening between the island that the swell seems to come in from and make the anchorage a bit jerky in a funny sort of way because the swell is channelled 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 get 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.
There are not many wide open bay in this part of the Windward Islands either because of the reefs or because they are on the windward side of the island however Charlestown Bay on Canouan Island is just one. It is of course guarded by a coral reef but the bay is big and the entrance has the correct port and starboard light - Red Right Returning. 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. Being Sunday everything was closed. The island is the base for the Moorings yacht charter business and they have a large complex on the edge of the bay along with a rather upmarket Tamarind Beach Hotel and club.
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. Employment must be high. Almost every house has a large black rainwater tank and many have sewage pump-out points at the road side. Every third house had an CCA 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.


We left the following day with a 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.
Follow Malua as we sail further north St Vincent & St Lucia