The Scene in the Grenadines

After escaping the baguette-induced haze of the French islands, it was back to speaking good old English in the Grenadines. While the Grenadine Islands are composed of around 600 islands and islets between St. Vincent and Grenada, we only visited three: Bequia, Petit St. Vincent, and Carriacou.

The trip from Sainte-Anne, Martinique to Bequia is about 90 miles down the western lee shores of St. Lucia and St. Vincent.

It is just a bit too long for a daylight run. So to avoid arriving in a new anchorage at night, you either need to depart late afternoon, sail overnight, and arrive early morning – or break up an all-daylight trip over two days with a quick overnight at St. Lucia. We chose the latter, stopping in Rodney Bay for around 12 hours to eat dinner and sleep before moving on, never checking in to customs since we did not go ashore.

McGyver to the Rescue

We rolled into Rodney Bay just before sunset and selected a spot on the outer edge of the anchorage that would make for a safe first-light departure the following morning. Plus, there have been quite a few dinghies stolen from Rodney Bay and we wanted to stay away from shore.

Once I had the boat in position, I gave Kristin the “ok” to start putting down the anchor using our electric windlass on the foredeck. The windlass is operated by two footswitches on deck – one for up, and one for down. Well this time Kristin stepped on the down – and nothing happened! Kristin and I switched places, and as she drove Boundless around, I did a bit of diagnosis – while bouncing around in the waves and under the pressure of the approaching darkness. I determined that the up switch still worked, so I surmised that the down switch was the problem. Electrical switches that have seawater splashed over them frequently only last so long.

I did not want to take apart the switch while underway in the dark, so I quickly assembled a jumper by attaching two alligator clips on the ends of a wire. When clamped on to each of the switch terminals, the windlass started going down (never mind the sparking). I convinced Kristin that she would not be electrocuted while she dropped the anchor. So we proceeded to get safely settled for the night.

I eventually disassembled and cleaned the switch a couple days later. So it is now working fine. I am keeping my alligator clip handy for the next similar situation!

Lock It or Lose It

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia has become infamous this year for a huge number of dinghy thefts. So we were a bit nervous about anchoring there. The most common scenario is that a thief rows or swims out to the boat while the crew is asleep, unties the unlocked dinghy floating behind, and escapes quietly with it into the night. On Boundless, we lift our dinghy out of the water with our stern davits every night and lock it to the boat with a cable. And we always close and lock our companionway hatches that lead into the cabin when we are sleeping or away from the boat. There is really no way someone could steal our dinghy when we were aboard without waking us. Nonetheless, we worry about the scenario – so there was not a lot of sleep going on while in Rodney Bay. We left at first light and headed south toward Bequia.

Beautiful Bequia

Bequia is part of the country St. Vincent and the Grenadines – but it is a world apart from the big island of St. Vincent, which like St. Lucia has a bad reputation for crimes against yachts. Bequia (pronounced beck-way) is beautiful and exhibits a very friendly culture towards visiting boats. While it is only seven square miles, Bequia is packed with restaurants, shops, and marine service providers – including service boats that roam the harbor offering fresh bread, lobsters, laundry service, fuel/water, etc.

Along the water in front of “restaurant row” is the Belmont Walkway, a lovely path sprinkled with dinghy docks where you can tie up for dinner or exploring the island. Among the restaurants is the Fig Tree which is run by Cheryl, a super nice woman, well-known in the cruiser community since she runs the daily VHF radio net and hosts many cruiser activities at her restaurant, including yoga a few mornings a week that Kristin and Erin enjoyed. We spent a fun evening chatting with her after watching a band play at the Fig Tree.

Our buddies Jeff and Sandy aboard Magic Inspiration joined us for a hike across the island to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, essentially the only “tourist attraction” on this tiny island. The sanctuary is run by Orton King, who upon retirement as a fisherman, refocused his life on improving the prospects for Hawksbill sea turtles. He nurtures them for the first three years of life, feeding them canned tuna, and then releases them into the wild. Over 2,000 so far!

Those Hylas People

Anchored right next to us in Bequia was Sparrowhawk, another Hylas 56 owned by Larry & Colleen. We initially met Larry at Jabin’s marina in Annapolis just before we started our voyage, so it was cool to end up right next to them after so many miles. They invited us over for dinner along with two other Hylas couples, Mike & Ronna aboard the Hylas 49 Exodus and Steve & Angela from the Hylas 56 Stellina. We knew Mike & Ronna from Martinique. And we realized that we had met Steve & Angela many years ago when we toured their boat at the Miami boat show (memorable because they have a custom bathtub!).

It was great to spend some time with other Hylas owners to compare notes on the boats we love. I learned that a number of the issues we have on Boundless are the same as other owners, such as our failed electric oil change pump. All in all, they reconfirmed that we picked a fantastic world cruising boat.

There was some discussion about the reputation of being “those Hylas people”, a.k.a. the ones with the fancy yachts at which people in the anchorage like to poke fun. All of these particular Hylas people were pretty down to earth – and decidedly less fancy than “those Oyster people”. 🙂

You Get Snow, We Get Swells

While in Bequia, a weird weather pattern developed in the eastern Caribbean due to huge winter storms in the North Atlantic. In addition to wind directions from the northerly quadrant, there were northerly swells (long period waves that travel great distances, often with different directionality than the local waves). Most of the popular anchorages in the Caribbean are open to the West since the wind and waves are almost always from the East. When they come from North or West of North, that’s trouble. Our anchorage in Bequia was pretty rolly anyway, but once those north swells arrived, we knew it would be ugly there.

So we decided to relocate to somewhere with north swell protection: between the small islands of Petit St. Vincent (PSV) and Petite Martinique (PM). PSV is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), while PM is part of Grenada. It is a bit of a fluid area there from a customs perspective, so we checked out in Bequia but still flew our SVG courtesy flag off of PSV. Luckily SVG’s customs process is accomplished on 6-part carbon paper handwritten forms, so tracking you down is not exactly in their wheelhouse.

The anchorage off PSV was smooth and beautiful. We felt fortunate to be there as we saw on Facebook that Bequia’s harbor got slammed by huge rollers that among other things destroyed the wooden part of the Belmont walkway along Princess Margaret beach that had just been repaired after last summer’s hurricane.

Invading the Private Island

Petit St. Vincent is a private island with secluded villas spread around, along with a nice restaurant, a beach restaurant, and a beach bar. The villas start at $1,500 per night and they pride themselves on guest privacy. So us grubby cruisers are restricted from the beach or exploring the island – but, we are allowed to eat at the restaurants. And eat we did, including some 2.5+ pound lobsters that were the best of the trip so far.

Part of the reason PSV is such a good anchorage is that it is surrounded by reefs. So we joined up with our pals Jeff & Sandy for a dinghy circumnavigation of the island inside the reefs. Jeff, being an experienced former charter captain, was able to identify a spot in the reef with nice live coral and therefore lots of fish. We anchored our dinghies there in a sand patch and had one of our best snorkeling experiences of the trip.

The ‘Cou

Once the north swell event subsided, we decided to head to nearby Carriacou (carry-a-coo), one of the three islands that make up the country of Grenada (along with Grenada and Petite Martinique). We anchored in Tyrell Bay and checked in to customs there. The woman at this customs office has the reputation for being the surliest in the Eastern Caribbean. I found her a little odd – and Erin got a kick out of the steamy romance novel on her desk – but far from the nasty image that had been painted of her.

We ate dinner ashore at the Lazy Turtle with Sandy & Jeff – and then returned the next night since they were featuring music from Stan & Cora, liveaboard sailors who play jazzy blues on keyboard and sax. Not only are they great musicians, but they have circumnavigated and lived aboard for 40 years!

Sandy and Kristin went off on a difficult, but fun hike up Chapeau Caree, the second tallest peak in Carriacou with beautiful views of the island and harbor.  They got slightly lost on the way back – but met a friendly resident who sent them in the right direction back to the harbor.

Carriacou was nice, but we were anxious to get to the main action on the south side of Grenada. So after a few days, we made the half-day sail down there, passing by the Kick ’em Jenny underwater volcano.

The volcano is active, with its last eruption being in 2001. Even though the volcano is 600 feet under water, we complied with the 1.5km exclusion zone around the volcano (bubbles of volcanic gases can lower water density, creating a sinking hazard – and an eruption could throw rock out of the water). A week after we reached Grenada, Kick ’em Jenny’s status was changed from Yellow to the more dangerous Orange level, meaning that it could erupt with less than 24 hours notice. When it is Orange the exclusion zone increases to 5km. Good to know that researchers at University of the West Indies are keeping an eye on it!

8 Replies to “The Scene in the Grenadines”

  1. Amazing experiences! And great memories being made. Those 2 1/2 pound lobsters made us envious!

    We love your stories, and you are super story-tellers!

    Much love to all, C and J

  2. Great fun reading your report from the Windwards, Doug.

    Funny about those owners of “fancy” Hylas’s and how they seek out others of the Hylas clan, all of whom seem to share certain personality profile.

    Hello to Kristin, Erin & Andy. See you around.

    Larry & Colleen

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