Archive for June, 2010

Tobago Cays and Union Island

June 21, 2010

Tobago Cays
(posted from Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou)

June 12.  Bequia was fun, but it was finally time to leave.  It that past leaving meant that we would raise anchor alone or in company with one other boat.  The exit from Bequia was more like the fleet leaving England on D-Day.  Sereno 55, Nauti Nauti, and Don’t Look Back all headed out together.  They were joined by Salacious, who had anchored the day before in a cove south of the island.  We finally got our act together and left about an hour later.  Our destination was the Tobago Cays.  Reach left even later, but they were going to explore the cove Salacious left.

We had a very pleasant sail and took the opportunity to do a little fishing.  I took two of the squid that landed on deck and rigged them on hooks.  This was our first experiment using real bait.  We trolled for quite some time before we heard the telltale buzz of one of the lines spooling from a fish strike.  I got to the rod quickly, tightened the drag, and started to crank in the line.  I could feel a fish on the other end, then he was gone.  I pulled in the line and found that the fish had stolen the squid without getting hooked.  We finished the trip with no other strikes.  (Reach made the trip the next day with similar results – the fish went for the real squid rather than the lures).

Entering the Tobago Cays is interesting.  From Bequia you go west of Canouan and aim at Mayreau.  Turn left before you reach the island and go between it and Baleine Rocks heading for Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau, which look like one island from that angle.  Other than these islands all you see around you is open water.  Much of this water covers reefs, so you need to take care in your navigation.  We rounded the north side of Petit Rameau and could now see the anchorage.  There were quite a few boats anchored or moored between Baradal and Jamesby Islands.  A few hundred yards ahead we could see water breaking on the reef that protects the anchorage.  We found a mooring near Baradal Island and settled in.

The thing that tends to define an anchorage is having land to windward to block wind – and more importantly – waves.  It takes a little bit to get used to looking to windward and not seeing land, but the reef stopped most of the wave action and made for a pleasant anchorage.

Waves breaking on the barrier reef

Tobago Cays is a national park and all fish and wildlife are protected.  There is a park entrance fee and also a fee if you use their moorings.  Anchoring is free.  We weren’t there very long before the ranger boat arrived and we paid the park admission and mooring fees for one day.  They never came back.  We talked to friends on other boats and they had a similar experience.

The anchorage - Baradal beach in foreground

Boatboys - they're everywhere

The Reef

We spent our time in Tobago Cays snorkeling on the reef and exploring the islands.  The reef that protects the anchorage has quite a few mooring balls for dinghies.  We visited different areas of the reef and found an abundance of fish including butterfly fish and a large school of Blue Tang. 

There was a fair current from the reef back to the anchorage, so when we were done on the reef we would hang onto the dinghy line and drift back.  We saw a large Eagle Ray and later a different ray being followed by a box fish – a funny pair in that the ray is so sleek and the box fish looks so…. well so boxy.  We also saw a Searobin.  The SeaRobin almost looks like an insect.  It has a couple appendages that it uses like hands to look for food on the ocean floor.  It also has a pair of fins that fold up to look like wasp wings and open up to look like an oriental fan.

Baradal Island

The south side of Baradal Island is cordoned off with floats, but a gap is left so you can dinghy in to the beach.  We went in one day, looked around a little and spotted one of the iguanas that live on the island.  We came back the next day and explored the whole island.  It is filled with iguanas.  All you have to do is look in the tree branches and there they are.  We saw what appeared to be two, and maybe three different kinds of iguanas.

Iguana tracks - footprints and dragging tail

Iguanas in trees

Ain't he cute?

There are more than iguanas on Baradal Island

We also spent some time swimming in the area inside the floats.  This area is protected because there is grass and algae on the bottom that the turtles love to eat.  We left the dinghy on the beach and slowley snorkeled around.  We found three different turtles feeding and had great fun just floating a few feet over them and watching them eat.  They would feed for a little while, surface for air, and go back down to feed.  The whole area was like their giant all-you-can-eat buffet.

Jamesby Island

We made two trips to Jamesby Island, the smallest island in the cays.  The first was just to stop and look around, but there were some interesting birds, so we had to come back the next day with binoculars and a camera.  The bird that caught our eye was a Brown Noddy.  Pretty birds – dark and sleek.  We found them on the rocky cliffs next to the beach. 

Brown Noddy

Birds can be quite elusive

We then spotted a rather beautiful tern and then began to see many more.  We later identified them as Bridled Terns.  They were fun to watch as they hovered on the wind blowing up over the cliffs.  The noddys and terns are “life birds for us – we had never seen these particular species before.

Bridled Tern

Whoopee! Hovering in the wind over the cliffs

Farther down the beach we saw an iguana in a tree.  All of a sudden a Bridled Tern swooped down and began hovering over the iguana and darting back and forth.  The tern had a nest in the tree and it appeared that the iguana was trying to get to the eggs.  The iguana climbed down a branch and was trapped at the end until if finally dropped down onto the bushes below.

Dink on the beach - Jamesby Island

Union Island

June 15.  We left Tobago Cays and made the short trip to Union Island.  It was a little more relaxing leaving the Cays as the path out was shorter and we had scoped it out from the top of Petit Bateau.  Our destination was Clifton, one of the two settlements on Union Island and the location of the Customs and Immigration offices where we would clear out of St. Vincent/Grenadines.

Clifton harbor is also protected by a reef, so as you approach you see boat seemingly anchored out in the ocean.  It’s not until you get close that you see the reef.  Just to add some fun, there is a second reef that divides the harbor into two areas. 

Approaching Clifton, Union Island

Some of our friends had sailed there the previous day and it sounded to us like holding was poor, so we planned to take a mooring.  As we expected, we no sooner had our sails down than a boat boy approached us and led us all the way through the harbor to a mooring.

We were travelling between the reef and a lot of boats, so we really didn’t look at the mooring – just the boat boy’s yellow boat.  As we got close a catamaran raised anchor and started out between a couple boats that we had to go between.  They politely held back until we passed through and moments later we were on the mooring.  It wasn’t until I had the boat stopped and went forward to make sure Jackie could handle the mooring line (some are very heavy) that I saw the mooring float was just a plastic bottle.  Jackie didn’t see it until just before the boat boy passed her the mooring line so there was no time for her to let me know the mooring looked suspect.  The line itself looked OK, so we took the mooring.  I later dove on it to make sure it was good and it looked OK.  It held fine for the night we spent there.

Clifton is another of the Caribbean towns that relies a lot on tourist trade.  Lots of little restaurants, but we were a little late so  few were open.  We finally found one on the water next to a pier.  All they had were burgers, but we were hungry so we stayed and ate.  We were entertained by a couple local boys fishing off the pier with a net.  The nets are circular and there is a bit of technique required to cast one properly.  The boy would find the center and stretch it up with one hand.  Then he would smooth the rest of the net and spread – almost wrap – part of it around his legs.  Then with a twisting motion he would cast it out over the water.  It would spread to a full circle and spin like a slow frisbee as it dropped into the water.  He waited a few moments to let it drop over the fish and then coaxed it up with the center line that drew then net up around the fish.  It was quite a show.

Next: Carriacou

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Bequia

June 17, 2010

June 3. We said goodbye to the Pitons and left Soufriere just before 6 AM.

Goodbye Pitons (It's a cloud, not volcano smoke)

We planned to skip St. Vincent and sail to Bequia, a trip of a little over 50 miles. The big decision was whether to go on the windward (eastern) or leeward side. The theory was that We would have steady wind but bigger seas on the windward side; the leeward side would have smoother seas, but the wind could do anything as it flowed over and around St. Vincent’s mountains and coasts. As we cleared the south end of St. Lucia we found the wind to be just a little too forward on the beam to make good time working our way to the eastern side of the island, so we set a course towards the west side.

The sail was good and uneventful and took about 10 hours. The wind stayed fairly steady for most of the trip, although we did have to motor for about an hour in a calm behind St. Vincent. We trolled the whole way, but never got a nibble.

Our friends on Reach left Marigot Bay about the same time we left Sourfriere. They made a little better speed going between the islands and motored a little more in the calms, so the arrived about the same time we did.

We arrived in Admiralty Bay, Bequia, and anchored off one of the beaches on the south side. Bequia is one of the landmark spots on our trip. Typically yacht insurance will not cover you for damaged from a named storm unless you are outside of the hurricane zone. This zone varies by insurance company, but for many of us the southern line is right through the Admiralty Bay. For insurance purposes, we have reached our goal.

It was an easy dinghy ride into Port Elizabeth where we cleared customs. Port Elizabeth is a typical small Caribbean town although it seemed brighter and livelier than most. There is a small area in the center of the waterfront for commercial shipping, but the rest is lined with small beaches or walkways. There are quite a few restaurants in town and along the waterfront. There are also a couple tackle shops and marine supply stores. Wallace and Co. helped us out getting some charts that were missing from a chart kit we bought back in the states.

Downtown Port Elizabeth

There are quite a few dinghy docks available around the waterfront. Two more popular ones are the one with a security guard near the taxi area and another behind the vegetable market and dumpsters.

Looking out into the harbor

A number of boats arrived within the next day or two and many of them knew each other already. The socializing began. We (and many others) were invited for cocktails on Peking (Jerie & John), a steel trawler, where we met a lot of people including Ann Vanderhoof, author of the popular cruising book, “An Embarrassment of Mangos.” Another night found us on the catamaran Nauti Nauti (Alllen & Patricia) to watch Captain Ron. Yet another night was pizza at a local restaurant to celebrate Jane’s birthday (Roger, Sereno 55) and then back to Don’t Look Back (John & Bobby Jo) for cake and ice cream.

How many people can watch a movie on a catamaran?

Our anchorage was right off a beach near a boulder and coral reef area. We could swim there from the boat. We saw a lot of fish and many other interesting creatures. Rays, crabs, lots of eels, and some good sized squid.

One of the squid that landed on the deck. He will soon be bait

The squid also came to visit us. One morning we got up and found a couple squid on the deck. Evidently something chased them and they jumped out of the water. That night when we came back from the movie we found a couple squid on the deck. The next morning there were six more. We put three of the freshest squid into a ziplock bag and saved them in the reefer so we could use them for bait later.

There are always squid marks at the accident site.

The downside to this free bait is that they squirted their ink on the side of the boat and on the deck and it’s difficult to get off.   I also found a squid on the bottom of the anchorage. It was a fishing lure that someone lost, so at least I’m a little less in the hole regarding lost fishing gear.

Found this lure on the bottom - is this what a fish thinks a squid looks like?

Daytime activities included Jackie starting to collect sea glass and other odds and ends for jewelry making.

Jackie, Jerie, and John collecting hard, red seeds for jewelry making

We took a couple hikes around the island, which is quite beautiful. One was to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary where Orton “Brother” King is trying to bring back the hawksbill turtle.

A little turtle at the sanctuary

To quote from his website, “I keep the turtles in my sea-water ponds, feeding them on canned tuna for six months. Then they are fed small fish (sardines, etc.) until they are 3 years old (14 inches long) at which time they are released into the ocean. This gives them a better chance to survive, and instead of one from one thousand reaching maturity, this project will help repopulate the ocean sooner with about fifty from one hundred.” His little sancturay is very impressive.

A turtle - up close and personal

One of the cats leaves for the Tobago Cays

Next: Tobago Cays

St. Lucia

June 8, 2010

St Lucia (posted from Bequia)

May 19. We enjoyed out stay in Martinique, but it was finally time to go. We got a pretty good weather forecast: The wind would be mid-teens and a bit forward. The seas would be a bit lumpy, but on the beam more or less.

Going,

We got an early start and motored down the island and curved around the southern coast until the wind filled in, then we started sailing. We had a reef in the main and the small jib up and that was about right. The southern-most point of Martinique was a few miles to our east, so the transition to open ocean was gradual. We set a course as high into the wind as we could without losing the drive we needed to keep us moving in the seas.

Going,

We have found that things change a bit as we come out from behind an island, so waited to see what would happen. Everything seemed to settle and we found that our course was right on the rhumbline. We also noticed that although we were doing about seven knots or more through the water, an adverse current was taking almost two knots off our speed over the ground. With less than 30 miles to go, the speed was fine. We decided it was settled enough to put out a fishing line.

Hard to read, but the knot meter shows 8.5

The speck in the middle of the picture is a small, open fishing boat. Picture was taken halfway between the islands. And we thought we were having a fun ride.

 Gone

We rolled along for a while and sometimes saw the knotmeter climb up over eight knots – pretty good for Little Rosie. We were moving pretty well when we got a hit on the fishing line. I scooted to the back of the boat and tightened up the drag on the reel to stop the line from spooling out. It didn’t stop. Whatever was on the line was big enough to overcome the reel. I tried to crank some line in, but my effort loosened the pole in the rod holder and the pull on the line snatched it out and over the back of the boat.

This was the big rod I bought at the cruisers flea market and although well used, it was a nice piece of equipment. Luckily it came with a line attached that I always tied to the back rail on the boat to ensure that I would never loose the rig. The rod accelerated aft and never slowed down when it broke the line. It was irretrievably gone.

Somewhere between Martinique and St. Lucia there is a big fish dragging my fishing equipment around the Caribbean Sea. I’m not certain which one of us is less happy about the situation – me or the fish. Our only consolation is that now the fish and I both have interesting stories about the one that got away.

Rodney Bay

Our course brought us to the mouth of Rodney Bay on the north end of St. Lucia. Other than the fishing casualty and the bumpy-ish seas it went well. As is so common in the Caribbean, Rodney Bay is a large half circle open to the west. There is a channel near the middle of the bay that gives access to a large two-part lagoon area. One part is home to Rodney Bay Marina and the other has moorings for local boats and a dinghy dock for a nearby mall.

Approaching Rodney Bay

We stayed out in the bay and motored around a little to get a feel for the anchorage. There was a large shallow area just north of the channel between some boats and the public beach/local town. We eased in and dropped the hook. We never did find out for certain why no one anchored closer, but we heard that there have been problems in the past with people swimming out to boats and stealing items, but we never saw anyone swim any distance off the beach. South of the channel near the resorty beaches boats were anchored in much closer, but the shallow water didn’t extend out as far in that area.

Maginificent frigatebird soaring over Rodney Bay

John and Ann on Moonlight arrived about two hours later. They anchored near the top of the bay where it was quieter, but a much longer ride to town. We wanted to be close because we were tired from the sail and wanted an easy trip in to Customs. We found Customs and Immigration in an office in the marina complex. Check-in was pretty easy, although we had to stop at three desks in the little office to get our forms scrutinized, stamped, and signed, and pay our fees.

Rodney Bay – and Rodney Bay Marina – have more of the yacht club high-style feel than they typical places we stop. The marina complex has little restaurants, a tiki bar, a boutique, a small grocery store, and some yacht supply/service establishments. From there it’s a short dinghy ride to shopping complex that is being expanded. Quite yachty – especially compared to the stores outside the gate and the actual town just across the lagoon entrance.  The harbour is also home to Unicorn – the ship that played Henrietta in one (or more) of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

Henrietta from Pirates of the Caribbean

Rodney Bay also had its share of boat boys.  The fruit boat may take the prize for the most interestingly decorated boat.

The Fruitboat of Rodney Bay

We took a tour of much of the east side of the island. We rode in the back of a truck that was outfitted with seats and overhead bars so we could stand and look around. A guide accompanied us. Jackie and I were the first aboard. We stopped at two resorts to pick up the rest of the tourists.

We drove through or briefly visited many of the towns and got to see some anchorages from land, two of which where we would later stay.

The town of Soufriere and its bay are part of an active volcano. We visited a more inland portion of it where hot springs bubbled and permeated the air with the smell of sulpher. The guide told us the volcano could erupt at any time, but she didn’t seem too concerned.

We then walked to a place where the hot springs flow down into a few pools and then into a stream. The mud is supposed to be good for your skin, so we were encouraged to rub it all over ourselves and let it dry. Funny thing, when I was a kid if I covered myself in mud I was liable to end up in “hot water” at home. Here it was encouraged and you used the hot water to clean it off.

The mud's supposed to be good for the skin but I think it's biggest benefit is to tourism

After we were more or less clean, we climbed back into the truck and went to a waterfall. It was great. Cool, clear, FRESH water pouring over you. We have spent so much time swimming in salt water that this was are real novelty. Once clean, we drove to a restaurant that overlooked Marigot Bay. They had a wonderful buffet set up for us. From there it was back to Rodney Bay.

A couple days later we traveled with our friends Mark and Michelle to Castries, the capitol city. We travelled by bus. There is a bus stop just outside the marina. The busses are actually small vans that carry 10-12 people. There is not set schedule. A bus leaves when it has enough passengers to make the trip worthwhile. There are actual bus stops along the way, but it seems like you can get on and off almost anywhere. To get off, just call out, “Bus Stop” and the driver pulls over at the next stop. Even more interesting is when the driver sees someone walking along the road or towards the road he toots his horn and the pedestrian signals whether they want a ride or to pass them by. At 2.50 EC each, the ride was good transportation and cheap entertainment.

Castries was fun to walk around. There are vegetable and craft markets just off the waterfront and a small shopping district nearby. It is a pretty good size town for the Caribbean, but that doesn’t make it very big by US standards.

Marigot Bay

We spent nine days in Rodney Bay and finally decided it was time to move on. We motored/sailed nine miles down the coast to Marigot Bay. Moonlight had sailed there quite a few days before us and Mark and Michelle were about a half hour ahead of us on Reach.

Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay is very narrow. There is an outer area, a very narrow spot, and then the inner bay, which has a marina and is home to a couple charter fleets. We anchored in the outer area, but the bottom is hard and rocky with just a little sand over it. It took a couple tries for us to get it to stick.

Marigot Bay is very rather pretty. The marina has a small shopping/service complex and a fuel dock. They also offer free showers. There are a number of restaurants and ferries that make frequent runs from one side of the bay to the other. In addition to the many charter boats going in and out there are also a lot of day cruises that come in to show off the bay and sometimes anchor to let the guests swim.

Soufriere

It’s hard to belive we spent five days there, but between snorkeling and happy hour at Hemingways we enjoyed our stay. Our plans were to bypass St. Vincent and go straight to Bequia. That looked like a twelve hour trip, so we decided to get a head start by moving about nine miles down the coast to Sourfriere. We topped off the fuel tanks and sailed most of the way.

Soufriere and the Pitons

The bay at Soufriere is just north of the Pitons – the twin peaks on the St. Lucia flag. There is little shallow water for anchoring, so boat boys meet you, lead you to a mooring, and help you tie up. You then give them a tip for helping you and they try to sell you other goods and services. They offered to sell us a fresh tuna and we made a deal, so they motored into town to get one. While they were gone the park ranger came by to collect the mooring fee. They gave us a discount because we were leaving early the next morning. The boat boys came back a little later and told us they couldn’t find a four pound tuna, but would we like a six pounder? We renegoatiated the deal and they went back for the fish. They finally got back to the boat and commenced to clean it for us – using a knife they borrowed from us. The whole process was entertaining. The fish was tasty, too.

Boat boys cleaning our tuna

Next: Bequia