The Windward Isles
|We stayed 6 days in Dominica and loved it but it was time to move on. The windward Islands sweep southwards like a string of stepping stones with the Atlantic pounding the shore on the windward side and the calmer Caribbean sea sparkling in the sun on the leeward side. The British named them the Windwards because to get there from many of their other islands you had to beat to windward.
Martinique was the next island we came to. It is part of France and we were back to using the Euro again.
We anchored in Fort de France, which is a big town with lots of shops and a big Carrefour supermarket so I was able to stock up. The anchorage was a bit rolly so we moved around to Trois Ilets, which was a pretty anchorage in a little bay. We went ashore and found a very French little town. The next morning we enjoyed French croissants and French bread for breakfast. As it was Sunday there wasn’t any thing open so we had a big washing session. We had quite a production line going. I was washing, Bill was rinsing and then we mangled together.
|The next morning we left early to sail to St Lucia. Once clear of Martinique we put the sails up and had a great sail south. St Lucia is an independent nation with a British tradition; it’s very mountainous and lush. We arrived at Rodney bay at lunchtime.
The first person to greet us was the fruit and veg man in his little boat covered in flags, I bought some oranges, grapefruit and mangos. Shortly afterwards more BWR boats arrived, Blue Magic, Jackamy, Enchantress, Fai Tira and Lucy Alice. We took the dinghy to the corner of the bay with some of the others and found a great snorkel site. Later that evening we all made our way over to Fai Tira for Pete’s birthday party.
John, his sailing partner, was trying out his new recipe for rum punch. All was going well until he ran out of ice, then he ran out of fruit juice so he added more rum … there were quite a few sore heads in the morning.
We all went ashore to register with immigration and find an internet café. Luckily, Bill had to go back to the boat for something because as the wind had increased to 35kts he found Blue Magic was dragging. He held onto her using the dinghy and called to a nearby boat to radio them. Fortunately they hadn’t gone far and were able to quickly return and re-anchor. Once he returned we continued our shopping and found a chandlery and hardware store so Bill was able to buy some supplies for his job list.
We had lunch in the internet café and in the afternoon we found our friends John and Joyce Easteal on their boat Fair Encounter in the marina, they had completed the ARC in November.
Wednesday morning found us motoring down the west side of St Lucia to Soufriere bay with Blue Magic, Jackamy and Lucy Alice. Soufriere is a small town dominated by the towering twin Pitons. The staggering beauty of Petit Piton 2500’ and Gros Piton 2600’ when approaching by sea is superb. We picked up a buoy at the base of petit Piton and a boat boy took a line to the beach to try us to a tree. Sounds a bit risky but we felt quite safe. ‘Excelsior Tours’ (Mark on Blue Magic) arranged with the boat boy to take us all on a tour to the Sulphur Springs area. All 8 of us got into his ‘dug out’ with an outboard and he took us ashore to meet the taxi.
Soufriere was a charming town with many old Creole buildings with balconies. We all got into the taxi and were driven to the Sulphur Springs, which looked like a scene straight from Hell with barren, brightly coloured earth and bubbling pools. The smell of bad eggs was awful. A very interesting guide walked around the site with us and told us about the history. More scenic and pleasant were the naturally hot Diamond baths built by Louis 16th.
The baths were set amid a beautiful tropical garden and were fed by piping hot water from the volcano coming down a waterfall into two huge baths. We spent about half an hour relaxing in the very soft water although we didn’t need the heat. The water disappeared over the edge at the other end into the garden. After we got changed the driver drove us back to the anchorage. We managed to get into the dugout from the beach, without tipping it over or falling in, and back onboard.
|We needed to keep going because we had less than a week left in the Caribbean, so the next day we left the buoys at 6.30 and spent the day sailing to the Grenadines.
We sailed around the East side of St Vincent to pick up a better wind. We put in a reef while sailing across the gap in a F6. It took most of the day to sail past the island. The wind gradually died in the afternoon and by 3.30pm we had to put the engine on. We arrived at the island of Bequia at 5pm where there were quite a lot of BWR yachts. The next morning we went ashore to check-in with the customs and immigration, which would cover us as far as Union Island. Port Elizabeth in Admiralty bay is Bequia’s only town. There were some colourful buildings along the waterfront that contained every thing one needed, restaurants, shops, supermarkets, several chandlers (which had to be inspected closely!) and a great indoor market.
We got chatting to a Rastafarian running his stall while another one was asleep under it. I bought some lovely fruit but I probably paid a lot more than I ought to have.
As we walked backed along the waterfront vendors were selling t-shirts hanging from lines in the trees. In the afternoon we took the dinghy across to the Devils Table and snorkelled over some rocks with beautiful fish amongst them. In the evening we went for a meal with Enchantress, Lucy Alice, Briet and Bionic to a restaurant called Coco’s place. There was a live band playing and we had a really good evening. Most of us went back to Enchantress, a Scottish boat, for ‘a wee dram’ after.
|We left Bequia with Jackamy, Fai Tira and Bionic. We all had a splendid sail to the Tobaco Cays.
Blue Magic left a little after us but they soon caught us up. We had a wonderful 4-hour sail to the cays waiting until the last minute to take the sails down. Tobago cays are a group of small deserted islands protected from the sea by a horseshoe shaped reef.
The water and reef colours are a kaleidoscope of gold, brown, blue, turquoise and green. We dropped our anchor in 5M of turquoise water. I watched it glide through the clear water to the bottom. We got the snorkel gear out and swam across to Baradel island, which has a protected turtle area in front of it where sea grass has been planted for the turtles to feed on. Within minutes I spotted several turtles grazing and as one of them came to the surface to take a breath I swam alongside it, it was wonderful. We spent an hour or so snorkelling and saw 7 turtles in total.
As the next day was Sunday we decided to take a picnic lunch onto one of the islands but first we all wanted to snorkel over the reef. The seas were quite rough outside the reef but on the lagoon side the water was very clear and calm. We tied the dinghies to well placed buoys and jumped in. The reef was a wonderful sight under the water. Beautiful coral heads of differing colours mingled with underwater plants where the many fish swam in the coral garden. Afterwards we took the dinghies onto petit Bateau island and had our picnic together. We lay in the sun for the rest of the afternoon and went back to Blue Magic for drinks in the evening. Maybe this bit is a holiday!
Monday morning we left the beautiful Tobago cays and motored across to Union Island, picking our way carefully through the gap between the reefs. I walked up to the airport to check out and get our clearance papers. Then I wandered around the market buying fresh fruit and veg for the sail to Bonaire.
Unfortunately for one of the BWR boats called Roundabout, there’s a reef in the middle of the harbour that happened to be called Roundabout Reef. David managed to run aground on it but as he was backing off boat boys suddenly surrounded him. They all put lines onto his boat and started pulling in all directions making the situation worse. I heard him calling for help and quickly ran to the café where I knew Blue Magic and Jackamy were sitting. Mark and Paul ran to their dinghies to go and help. Fortunately David was off by the time they got there but the salvage negotiations were just starting. After long talks the US$3000 came down to EC$800 about £200. David was very lucky.