The last two weeks provided a distinct shift of pace. The Grenadines are a chain of smaller, closely spaced islands between St Vincent and Grenada, so our daily lives rotated around shorter sails and shorter visits compared with the previous two months. Also, Blaire’s mother joined us for a week, so we eased up on the homeschooling to enjoy some family time.
After an overnight passage from Martinique to Bequia we anchored in Admiralty Bay. We took advantage of Strider’s 3′ draft to tuck inside the mooring field, setting the hook in 6-7 feet of water over sand and eel grass. Megan seized the opportunity to scour the bottom for sea life. She surfaced with excited reports of turtles and moray eels, and she held aloft urchins and starfish for all to see.
As much as we enjoy the French islands, and we are making some progress in our spoken French, communicating in a foreign language is hard work! It’s a simple pleasure to strike up a conversation in English with local folks, even if their Caribbean patois sometimes leaves us in the dust. In any case, it’s easy to find your way in Bequia. Sure, the island caters to the bareboat cruising set, with a dozen quaint bars and restaurants lining the waterfront, but if you walk one block inland it still feels like a small Caribbean community. We especially enjoyed our visit to the “Old Hegg,” a turtle sanctuary where they raise endangered Hawksbill turtles, releasing them on select Caribbean beaches when they reach the age of five and can fend for themselves.
On Sunday, February 8th,Sheila flew into St. Vincent, and Blaire took the ferry from Bequia to meet her at the airport. Soon after arriving on St. Vincent, Blaire emailed that the afternoon service had long been eliminated, such a widely know fact that no one bothered to change the published schedule. The return ferry would not run until 6:30 pm. Strider to the rescue! Owen, Megan and Colin hoisted anchor and sailed the ten miles to St. Vincent, Owen at the helm. We entered the bay at Calliaqua at noon, within minutes a local fisherman delivered Sheila and Blaire to Strider, and we tacked and set sail for Bequia, re-anchoring at 2pm.
The next day we sailed 30 miles south to the Tobago Cays, anchoring inside Horseshoe Reef, a large semi-circle of protection from the Atlantic surf that is completely exposed to the trade winds. The turquoise waters beg you to snorkel all day, and at night you lie in your bunk and listen to the wind in the rigging and the waves crashing on the reef. The cays are popular with charter boats, but again Strider’s shallow draft came in handy. We anchored to windward of all other boats, just behind the reef itself, so that looking over the bow we could pretend we were alone in this beautiful spot. We enjoyed snorkeling on the outside of the reef, near the “small boat channel,” where Owen and Megan could swim in 5-10 feet of water while Colin swam down to 20-30 feet to search the reef’s deeper crevices. We also delighted in swimming with Green Turtles at Baradal Island.
After two days we set sail for Union Island, a few miles to the southwest. Passing the southeast coast of Mayreau we saw a 45 foot ketch hard aground, the surf pounding it against the shore. It appeared a most capable, blue water boat, not a fancy yacht but a real, live-aboard cruiser. We don’t know what happened, but they may have come to grief during the night, when the tradewinds built from the southeast and the waves swept across the reef, turning what seemed like a pleasant anchorage into an untenable spot. We could see a small armada of local fishing boats circling the stricken yacht, their crews waving their arms, passing lines, and even climbing on deck to help. They had run a halyard to shore and careened the ketch on its side in an effort to float it free, but we did not see a kedge to windward, and none of the small craft appeared capable of dragging the sailboat against the surf. It was a heartbreaking sight, and we wish the very best outcome for these sailors and their boat, which no doubt represents their home, their dreams, and probably much of their life’s savings.
To be continued in part II…