Regatta Time!!!

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Saturday morning and its partly cloudy, there is a breeze out of the East (those are trade winds or “trades” as they are referred to here. It is the consistent and sometimes spirited wind that continuously flows through this region of the Caribbean). We are having coffee anticipating the 9 o’clock start of the Bequia Easter Regatta! We awake to find that the racing staff have placed the first turn bouys nearly right off the port side of the boat. Little did we know upon anchoring the day before that we would have front row seats at the start of the Regatta racing weekend!

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We see boats of all classes out at 0730 testing the wind and warming up the crew with tacks in the outer bay. By 0855 they are lined up for the first class start. Horns blast and they jockey for the wind and best position on the tack toward the first turn.

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There are usually experienced boats and locals that come every year in the various classes. It was so much fun to watch each boat pass, some making good speed and others who lose the wind or need to change course to avoid collisions. We cheered them on as they passed (some a bit closer than others) and enjoyed watching the different tactics. There was (what appeared to be) a very close call at the first turn in the cruising class, where this enormous yacht and several other smaller sailboats were trying to make the same tack. Then as they made the turn from heading into the wind, East , to heading downwind Westerly, we watched as they deployed the spinnakers (some with better precision than others). Spinnakers are huge downwind sails that literally push the boat into forward propulsion. They are usually brightly decorated very lightweight sails, not unlike a parachute. They are sometimes called “cruising-chutes”. There were several classes of sailboats that had separate starts we were able to watch all following the same course.

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The race would take them a few hours offshore and to the other 2 turns before they would head back to the finish (essentially the start line). By 12 pm we started hearing the horns blast and watched as each one came across the finish line, trying to determine if our favorites had won.

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That evening we took the dinghy in to the race headquarters with the Northbound crew, Jacques and Sheila ,to see the race results. We were invited by a race official and chap who lives on the island to stay for free rum and beer during the awards presentation. And we did just that! Maybe someday we will have our act together enough to enter in the cruising class for fun.

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Bequia is a beautiful island and we found all of the people to be extremely nice and helpful during our short stay. We would continue to make tracks the following day, Easter Sunday to Canouan, just south of Bequia.

EASTER SUNDAY

No Easter Bunny or hidden eggs this morning. The sunrise across the glistening water gave us reason to bear silent thanks for sacrifices, beyond which we can fathom.

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We woke to bright skies which turn to partial clouds in that reliable blue water, and the perfect sailing breeze. We were off before the 9 AM start of that days regatta races. Canouan would be a short 2-hour sail , a place where we would hope for good snorkeling. Lost Loon had a perfect sail with an average 6 knots in 12-15 knots of wind on the beam. We arrived at Charlestown Bay at high noon, bright skies and sweltering heat, like we had not experienced. (we had been told weeks ago…”it just gets warmer, then hot…I think we found it!”. We had anchored easily in 15 ft of water a bit offshore, as we heard that there were likely crimes for those taking up residence closer. We had unfortunately, had put ourselves out of the natural trade-wind. Our friends on Northbound were the first to make a move. After brief contact on the VHF after they anchored, they reassured us there was a cooling breeze.

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We were soon on our way as well. It wasn’t very far, around the coral headland about a quarter mile or so, and this time 20 ft of water, but a very little bit of breeze with the temp at 90 degrees made a huge difference. It wasn’t long before we had dinghies in the water and were headed out for snorkeling. Our ulterior motive was to find lobster, for this was one of a few of the locations in the Grenadines that we were allowed to hunt for them. We spent nearly 2 hours on our search. We found one fully inhabited lobster dwelling after another. Sometimes they were sitting 2 or 3 upon one another! The fishing rules do not allow for any breathing apparatus except snorkel, so we relied on our healthy lungs to take us 12-15 ft, with just a snare to first locate the perfect specimen, position the snare and then quickly tighten it around the carpace. We obtained only 3 or 4 that day. The water was a bit stirred up and murky (well at least that would be excuse we told ourselves). It wasn’t the prettiest reef we encountered on the trip, but with some good sailing friends we had a great time. Our afternoon took us to shore to investigate the island. We landed the dinghy at Tamarind Bay resort and made our way shore and found only a handful of staff about. It was very desolate this Easter Sunday. We decided to walk further toward the road and “into the town” but only found a few locals, some goats, and friendly stray dogs. It was mighty hot as well and since we didn’t find even a local bar open, we didn’t tarry long. However the Tamarind was a private resort (and quite exclusive from magazine advertisements we had seen), we were invited to stay and have a cocktail. We found some very comfy chairs under a palm-roofed hut, overlooking the water and watched the late afternoon sun begin to set.

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The discussion that evening was to leave the following morning for the Tobago Cays. A trip that would be less than 5 nautical miles, but a place touted as the “Bahama-waters of the West Indies”! As we were making our way back to the dinghies, we began to see resort inhabitants appear (likely from their luxurious and cool accommodations) for cocktails and dinner. We, however, retired to a cool breeze and gentle rock of the westerly swell that night.

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Tobago Cays and more of the Grenadines are next.

 

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Windlass worries, and the perfect night sail….

 

 

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After nearly 4 months at sea, we now take for granted the presence of blue peaceful waters that surround our winter home here in the Caribbean. We awaken to sounds of water lapping at the sides of the boat, dinghy motors transporting other sailors to shore for provisions or land activities, seagulls calling their cohorts in the morning fishing expeditions, or the distant cackle of a rooster. Most days we are quickly alert to the responsibilities of the day and set in motion the tasks at hand before the heat of the afternoon takes hold. Today is different as we are leaving Martinique for St Vincent and the Grenadines.

This is a cruising area that extends south from St Vincent, through the islands of Bequia, Mustique Canouan, Mayreau, Union, Palm, and Petite St Vincent (to name a few main ones).

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These are destinations we have seen in the sailing magazines touting empty sand beaches and exquisite private resorts. It is our intention to skip through to see as many as we can. When we first started our voyage in last November, this area seemed foreign to us, and so far away. Honestly we were not sure that we had enough time to arrive here this Winter. So, we are excited like Christmas morning, not only to have made it this far, but to be fortunate to see some parts of the remote Caribbean.

We have premeditated this trip over a few glasses of wine and relaxing afternoons on the beach with our new friends on the sailing vessel, Northbound, from Canada. They too, have not come this far in their previous travels and share the anticipation.

 

We are leaving Martinique at 3 pm sharp for the Grenadines. (it became quite a joke with our friends on Northbound, because Mike and I were usually ready and “chomping at the bit” 15-20 minutes before our intended departure). We have done our provisioning and unsuccessfully located propane parts. We have some difficulty with the anchor. As I am running the windlass she conks out. I try to communicate this with Mike at the helm. First, I use hand signals then speaking louder, but have to run back and reset the windlass switch below deck. This requires me to run the length of the boat, from the bow back to the cockpit and down the stairs to the nav station…and then return to the bow…(you know how it’s just faster to do it yourself?). She restarts and draws in the anchor, but stops again. This time Mike understands and resets the switch. This is frustrating and scary. The windlass is the powerhouse that releases and hauls up the anchor for us EVERYTIME we make a stop. It would be near impossible to retrieve this 25 kg Rocna anchor by hand. It is essentially a very sturdy electric winch that pays out the anchor chain. As I slowed it down, it seemed to behave better. I believe that we I had run it too continuously for the length of chain we had out. As soon as I started pausing to organize the chain in the bow locker, she worked fine. Finally, chain and anchor are secure and the bridle stowed, and we make our way on a southwest heading.   As we depart the Martinique anchorage in St Anne on this Good Friday, the sun is following its trajectory to the West and we begin our last night passage headed for Bequia. We are eager to arrive during the Easter holiday as we hope to see the Bequia Easter Regatta planned for the weekend. We have missed several Caribbean regattas (sailing races) on our travels sometimes by a day or 2.

 

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Sunset Good Friday

This overnight sail was by far the most awesome. I use that term definitively this time. In all the great twilight sails, we both agree this was the best. It was heralded by a beautiful sunset, relaxed seas, and nearly consistent winds (well at least until the early part of the next morning). By midnight we had settled into our watch schedule and had the good fortune to witness a truly “Starry, Starry Night.” The Southern Cross is a constellation that is usually only visible as one approaches the latitude of the equator. It has been made semi-famous by Jimmy Buffet and others in song. We had a longing to get a glimpse as we eased Lost Loon into these lower latitudes. I as arose from a brief subconscious state between sleep and wakefulness to take over the night-watch, Mike was excited to inform me he had found the Southern Cross (with the use of our iPad app Skyview). We spent the next few minutes waiting for the light clouds to part to see the four stars making the crucifix. It sat at a 45 degree angle along a line just above the horizon. You can be sure that we kept a watchful eye on this through the night, somewhat amazed. Our amazement was augmented by the fact that it was Good Friday.

As I took over the night watch, we had begun our sail past the island of St Lucia. (We have decided to pass by the islands of St Lucia and St Vincent at this time, leaving it for exploration on future excursions.) We were nearly 7 miles offshore, allowing enough leeway to avoid any local night traffic, I could decipher the lights of Rodney Bay, them Marigot, and finally Soufreire Bay. As we eased by Soufreire, both Petite and Grand Piton (“pee-tawn”) were evident to port with the moon casting its intermittent appearance against these well-known and quite impressive shore-side volcanic formations. We had slowed to a near 4 knots and I resisted putting the engine to work lest I break the magic of the night. With heightened awareness as one experiences during a night-time passage, I began to sense movement off to starboard (ocean side). It was out of my averted vision I could see something (or things) breaking the water. We have flying fish continually making their appearance alongside the boat and onto the deck at night so I initially thought that was what I was seeing. But as my vision sharpened, it was much larger fish…they were porpoises breaking the water in a dramatic display of frivolity. There were nearly 8 or 9 of them cresting and jumping while trying to match the speed of the boat under sail. For several minutes of shear bliss I had towering Pitons to port and flying mammals to starboard, under a perfectly moonlit night. And for a minute, I could have sworn I was hearing the theme song from the movie Chariot’s of Fire !!!  A moment I won’t soon forget.

As the porpoises returned to the open ocean, wherever they congregate, and we approached the southern tip of St Lucia headed more westerly to St Vincent the wind picked up and sails were adjusted. Within another 30 minutes, as we set our rhumb line along St Vincent the wind withered again, but this time varying between 3 and 4 knots. Adjusting the sails for the next half hour, to no avail our speed eventually dropped to 2.5 knots…essentially a standstill. I initiated the Yanmar. We would motorsail for another hour or so before the wind would pick up again and we could turn off the engine. I was retired to my bunk by then and remember feeling the gentle heel of the boat to leeward as I fell asleep again under Mike’s watch.

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By mornings light and as the coffee brewed, we had made nearly 65 miles and had the sights of the island of Bequia in the distance. We were headed to Admiralty Bay, which is a huge bay on the west and south side of the island. As the night had progressed we had kept in touch with our friends on Northbound slightly ahead of us. We lowered sails by 0830 am as we approached the bay and contacted Northbound upon our arrival and found a nice anchorage spot close to them just off Princess Margaret Bay.

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Bequia!
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Exploring ashore
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Customs House
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Local “Wildlife”

With Customs and Immigration check-in completed we relaxed with lunch and rewarding swim at the beach. Next UP REGATTA TIME!!!!

(PS Thanks for your patience….I continue to write and post…)

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