Sunday, May 15, 2016

Down to Bequia

 12 May 2016

Finally winds switched to East rather than SE and we upped anchor in Rodney Bay to sail down to the mooring field between the Pitons.  The rule in St. Lucia is that one must depart within 24 hours of departure clearance formalities.  We never stop in St. Vincent because that island has a very long-term and on-going crime problem; several cruisers and charterers have been murdered over the past decade while anchored at St. Vincent.  We always clear into the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines at Bequia when southbound, skipping the main island of St. Vincent.  The distance from Rodney Bay to Bequia is a bit too long for a day passage, plus considering the adverse current for most of that distance which causes slower boat speed; and we try to avoid nighttime arrivals if possible.  Therefore, we usually sail down to the mooring field between the Pitons and overnight there.  It is only approximately 53 NM from there to Bequia, a distance that is easily sailed during daylight hours, even against that current.

Sailing down to the Pitons was absolutely perfect!  One of those rare sailing days that is pure joy.  Wind was 20 knots either on the beam or 10 degrees behind the beam; boat was heeled at only 5 degrees; seas in the lee of St. Lucia were calm; a thoroughly enjoyable sailing day.  Winds swirled strongly between the Pitons, as usual, making BeBe twirl on the mooring for half the night.  Then winds died to almost nothing from 02:00 until 06:00.  We motored out of the bay at 06:00 in calm.  But once out of that bay winds picked up rapidly to 20-24 knots, gusting to 30 knots; and we were off!  Seas in the channel between St. Lucia and St. Vincent are larger, unprotected as the whole of the Atlantic moves in.  It was a rollicking ride, as it always is here.

Once in the lee of St. Vincent the seas flattened out and wind dropped dramatically.  We ghosted along while running the watermaker for a couple of hours.  We wanted to have enough supply in the tank to last while we would be anchored in Bequia, if possible.  The tank held 650 liters by the time we reached two-thirds way down St. Vincent and turned course more SE, thus making wind angle impossible to sail any longer regardless of how slow we could tolerate.  Watermater off; generator off; sails furled; start that engine.

About half-way down St. Vincent BeBe sailed slowly through a large pod of dolphin.  These porpoises behaved differently than any pod we have seen before.  They did not play with our bow wave, probably because we were sailing only about 4 kts SOG and they were not inclined to play that slowly.  At first we thought there were only about 20 to 30 porpoises.  Then we realized just how far out this pod stretched!  There were at least 100 of them!  Maybe more. This was the largest pod of dolphin we have seen in the Caribbean.  And they were just very calmly swimming about in slow circles.  They were not feeding because they would have been thrashing about.  Bill theorized that maybe they had just fed and were acting so calmly because they had full tummies.  The ones nearest BeBe made the strangest sounds; never heard these sounds before.  They sounded like small barking dogs!  I think the ‘barking’ sounds were caused by the way they were explosively exhaling.  Not the usual blowing sound that we are familiar with as dolphin have swum alongside BeBe at night.  These were harder and sudden, stronger, exhalations.  It was a weird experience.

Of course, as we neared the southern tip of St. Vincent those easterly winds showed up once again.   As headwinds now because of the angle to Bequia.  Before we cleared the southern tip of the island, winds were again solid 25 knots.  And the rains began.  Because of the current, we had to point BeBe almost to the eastern side of Bequia in order to arrive at Admiralty Bay, which is about center on the northern side of the island.  The current was that strong on this particular day.  And those strong winds did not help the situation either.  Why is it always such a lively trip down here!

We motored into Admiralty Bay at 14:15.  And motored right past the Mandalay!  How fitting!  The first 2 times we visited Bequia were aboard the Mandalay in 1985 and 1986.  That old ship looks quite tired today.  She is older, as are we.  But we have fond memories of those passages aboard the Mandalay from Antigua to Grenada 30 years ago.  One night in particular stands out in our memories, the night that President Ronald Reagan gave his speech about the explosion of the Challenger.  Many of the Mandalay passengers on that particular trip were scientists and engineers who worked for NASA.  Bill and I had brought along a large boom-box which also included a short-wave radio.  Almost every passenger gathered on the top level (above our aft cabin) and listened to President Reagan’s speech on a night filled with stars.  It was a solemn moment that cannot be forgotten.  

The Mandalay was owned by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises back then and regularly sailed 2 weeks south from Antigua to Grenada; then reversed and sailed 2 weeks back north to Antigua.  Each time we opted to sail from Antigua to Grenada because this was during winter months when winds usually are from the NE, meaning that going back north would be motoring the entire distance.  The Mandalay was the only tall ship in that fleet that was still capable of actually sailing.  All the other ships could only motor-sail.  We remember a few beautiful evenings of quietly sailing on the Mandalay in the lee of various islands.  And these 2 vacations introduced us to many of the islands in the eastern Caribbean chain.  We were very fortunate to enjoy these experiences.  Windjammer later declared bankruptcy in 2007. The Mandalay has been purchased by another company and now bases out of Grenada, although her hailing port is Zanzibar.

Sunny Caribe resort in Bequia, newly refurnished
It was a quick trip down from St. Lucia, even allowing for ghosting for 2 hours to make water.  Top boat speed was 9 knots, much to my discomfort.  I really do not like sailing fast.  But most of the trip was only about 7.5 knots and I was happier with that.  6.5 knots would have been perfect, in my opinion.  There was nowhere to anchor that would provide any protection from the north, so we radioed Daffodil to request a mooring.  There is no forecast of winds from the north at this time, but that could change.  Daffodil sent out Didi on Blessing and she assisted us to a mooring.  This mooring has thick new line on it and looks secure.  That is a big problem here in Bequia.  Many people have put down ‘illegal’ moorings throughout the bay.  Those might or, more likely, might not be good moorings.  These moorings break loose frequently.  Daffodil is the only one who has legal moorings and those are inspected and well maintained.

Driving either up or down that very steep drive/road
would make me very, very nervous.
And, oh-my-goodness, are these moorings all placed so close together!!!  There are many more moorings than were here 10 years ago.  And they are so close together it makes me slightly nervous.  If one breaks loose it could be on top of yours within seconds.  Many of these are so close together that there is not enough space for another boat to motor between moored boats.  I am happy with the mooring on which Didi placed us.  There is only one boat to our port side and we should be able to leave this mooring with no crowding issues. 

We paid for a week on this mooring.  Didi said she had never had anyone pay for a full week before.   After a bit of discussion, she charged us for only 6 nights for our 7 night stay.  Bet we do not get that deal again.  She is an interesting island lady.  She lived on a sailboat for 11 years and would like to sail around the world.  Probably will not happen.  But I bet she does know how to sail.

These huge lobster were such a treat!  Delicious!

Minutes after Didi left, a young man arrived with 2 enormous lobsters.  These were the last of his catch.  Lobster season here is finished and the lobstermen are allowed 2 weeks to sell their final trap catch to restaurants and individuals.  There will not be more lobster until the season reopens in September.  These were still active and crawling around the bottom of his little boat.  Together they weighed 6 pounds and we bought both.

The number of homes on Bequia has doubled in
the past decade.  "My" house would be that flat
roofed one on the top of this hill.  It has views
of both Caribbean and the Atlantic.  Looks
rather Frank Lloyd Wright style.

Recently someone gifted us a couple bottles of very nice wine because Bill had helped him with something.   We had already enjoyed that really good bottle of red wine back in Martinique with the last of the really good beef tenderloin that I had bought in the Canary Islands.  Now was time to enjoy that bottle of white.  Bill placed it in the freezer for a quick chill while I steamed both of those enormous lobsters.  I cut up some limes and made drawn butter.  Oh…was this ever a feast!  It has been a very long time since we enjoyed fresh lobsters.  Last time was in the San Blas Islands of Panama in late 2007.  This was a decadent treat that will not be soon forgotten.  And that white wine was superb!  Simply superb.  Went exceptionally well with that delicious lobster!

There are 2 shops in Bequia where model boats are
crafted and sold.  These not not inexpensive.  The
craftsmanship is superb.  This is Mauvin working on
his latest model.


  1. Hi Judy,
    Sorry about your experiences on WWS. I've not experienced that yet, but I've only belonged for 18 months.
    I'm going to enjoy your blog I'm sure. You have so much experience here in the Caribbean. I wish I'd found your blog before we headed here from Cartagena last fall.
    BTW, what does PWP stand for?
    Laura Fortune

  2. Hi Bill and Judy. We see that you are now in Bequia and probably headed to Grenada. Your post brings back so many memories. We sailed south in February then turned in north to be in St Martin for March. Now we're in Fort Lauderdale.

    Also had a similar experience with the dolphins off of St Vincent. But they played off our bow. And we had a partially moonless night so everyone got to enjoy seeing the bioluminescent wakes they created. But we really underestimated that current and our chubby bottomed boat crawled to 3.5knots with the wind and current working against our engines.




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