October 30th: Port Louis Marina – Sandy Island
Our three-boat flotilla left the day before Halloween, under sunny skies and calm seas. We were bound for Sandy Island, a small island off of Carriacou. A reef surrounds the island, which is not inhabited. There are a number of moorings available, so all three of our boats tied up without concern. After a sunny start, we got hit by a couple of squalls with horizontal rain, not unusual for that time of year.
Position at destination: 12°28.977’N, 61°28.964’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 64%, Water temp: 87
Nautical miles for this leg: 33.7 Total: 10,404
Departed at 8:30am, arrived at 1:45pm
October 30th – November 1st: Sandy Island
We went snorkeling on the reef on the south side of Sandy Island. The reef looked healthy, but there weren’t so may fish. In the afternoon, Rose and Noi took the kayaks over to the Carriacou shore to explore Hillsborough. For Halloween night, we decided to have a picnic on the beach. We all took dishes up, and started a bonfire. Noi brought noodles, of course, and she spilled the leftovers in the grass just past the sand. She said that hermit crabs would eat them – I thought this was another Noi wild tale. But after thirty minutes, there must have been a hundred or so hermit crabs munching away, including some really big ones. Sometimes you have to listen to Noi…
We went to the immigration office in Tyrell Bay to check out, and we ran in to Jo and Gregg on Serenade again. They were back in Carriacou, but they were planning to head to Trinidad shortly. We checked out, planning to leave for Union Island in the Grenadines the following morning.
November 1st: Sandy Island – Chatham Bay, Union Island, SVG
We left early in the morning for the short trip to Union Island to check in to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). Check in is at Clifton, the town located on the east side of the isalnd. It didn’t seem like a good place to stay, so we planned to cruise to the west side to Chatham Bay to spend the night. It was actually a little rough when we arrived, and we took some moorings. Going ashore, we found out that we had to walk over to the tiny airport to complete our check in. It was only about a five minute walk, and after about a half an hour, all three boats were checked in to SVG. After a stop at an ATM, we returned to the boats to cruise around the island. In the chart, not the straight track on the left side to Clifton, followed by the route on the bottom of the island.
We went around the south end of the island, and turned a little north, entering Chatham Bay. We looked a little while until we found a flat, sandy spot in about twelve feet of water. When we anchor the boat, I am almost always driving from the flying bridge, and Rosé controls the anchor with the foot switches on the bow. As she lowered the anchor, we both noticed that the speed was very slow. Normally it plays out at a rate of around two seconds per foot. The chain was crawling out from the locker. As the windlass continued to strain, I noticed an electrical burning smell all the way at the flying bridge – not good. We put out around fifty feet, and I told her to stop. I went down to the bow, opened up the anchor locker, and the unmistakable smell of a burning motor hit me square in the jaw. Oh, no! I tried to use the manual crank to bring up the chain, but the gypsy would not budge. I read through the manual a little bit, and I concluded that something in the gypsy had seized. Although the motor had burned, it was still operating, so I was hopeful that we could take apart the gypsy and save the windlass.
I took the dinghy over to John’s boat and explained what was happening. He was more familiar than I was about taking apart the gypsy, so he agreed to come over and help. We started taking it apart, and things were going well until we got to just about the last part. There was a steel ring inside a larger ring that was completely seized – we put lots of penetrating oil and PB on it, applied levers and lots of muscle, but it would not budge. After working on it for an hour or so, we had to surrender. We put it back together, and I was hopeful that we could pull the anchor the following morning.
Of course it was windy and rainy the following morning. John and Scott were standing by as we crossed our fingers and started to pull the anchor. The windlass was straining, but it was pulling in the chain – until the anchor started to lift. That’s when the motor gave out. Because the gypsy was seized, we could not manually crank it up. Our anchor is a 110 pound Bruce, with a 3/8” HT chain – really heavy. John came over with Scott, and we formulated a plan. Scott and I would manually pull the chain up over the roller, and Rose would tie off what we brought up with a steel hook. John would be on his dingy in front, guiding the chain. I didn’t think it would work, but we had no choice. Oh, and since it was windy, and we had no more scope, we were starting to drag towards the beach.
Amazingly, it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Scott and I could bring up about two feet at a time, and the roller really helped. Rosé would tie it off while we re-gripped and pulled again. It only took a few minutes, since there was only around twenty-feet left. We brought it up and tied it off – whew! I had said that we could go back to Grenada to get it fixed, but John suggested that we could keep going, either using moorings or rafting up to his boat. There is a very good reason that we like to buddy-boat.
Position at destination: 12°36.069’N, 61°26.963’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 67%, Water temp: 86
Nautical miles for this leg: 13.7 Total: 10,418
Departed at 9:00am, arrived at 2:00pm
November 2nd: Chatham Bay – Salt Whistle Bay
Looking at the cruising guide, we collectively decided to go to the Tobago Cays Marine Park, where we were pretty sure we could get a mooring. It wasn’t too far – we went north along the lee shore of Union Island, northeast to Mayreau Island, then south-southeast to the park. It was a blustery day, with lots of rain and swirling winds. When we turned east from Mayreau, the water got kind of ugly, and we made a change in plans, deciding to turn around to stay in Salt Whistle Bay in Mayreau. There were moorings in the bay, so we were hopeful. We arrived first, and we were able to get a mooring, as did Symbiosis. However, when Aftermath came in, there were no moorings. John did not want to anchor, but one of the boat boys assured him a mooring would be open soon, which it was.
The bay was well-protected, but there were lots of boat boys coming around to sell lobster and fruit. Noi tried negotiating with them, but she was not happy with the prizes. One of the attractions in the Grenadines are beach barbecues, organized by the boat boys. We decided to treat our fellow travelers to lunch, to thank them for helping us. We went ashore for a nice, but overpriced, fish and lobster barbecue. It continued to rain off and on, so there wasn’t much to do. The following morning, Scott, Noi and Rose decided to hike around Mayreau, but they were swarmed by mosquitos, so it was a short hike. Debbie and John decided that wanted to get to Bequia soon, as some weather was coming in. They left early in the morning, planning to stop for a snorkel in the marine park.
Position at destination: 12°38.845’N, 61°23.466’W
Air temp: 86, Humidity: 72%, Water temp: 85
Nautical miles for this leg: 8.19 Total: 10,426
Departed at 9:00am, arrived at 11:00am
November 3rd: Salt Whistle Bay – Tobago Cays National Park
We retraced our path from the previous day to the Tobago Cays Marine Park. We were on the radio with Aftermath, and they told us they were on a mooring close to Baradal, a small island that supposedly has a lot of turtles around it. Once we arrived, we decided to take a mooring in a more protected area, between Petit Rameau and Petit Batteau islands. There was a norther due in, and we could get protection in the lee of Petit Rameau.
Position at destination: 12°38.108’N, 61°21.667’W
Air temp: 87, Humidity: 72%, Water temp: 85
Nautical miles for this leg: 3.39 Total: 10,429
Departed at 9:30am, arrived at 10:20am
November 3rd – 6th: Tobago Cays Marine Park
After settling in, we took the dinghy over to Baradal to see if we could find turtles, but we did not see any of them. After Baradal, we visited the tiny cay of Jamesby. There was a small beach, and a lot of interesting rock formations. We also saw some really big hermit crabs. Noi, the Queen of hermit crabs, tooled one of the big boys over – in her lingo, she “upside-downed it”. Noisms are always fun to decider. We did a little snorkeling around the island, but there wasn’t much to see. It was a beautiful little cay.
The weather did get a little dodgy, with some rain and gusty winds up to twenty-five knots, but we were well-protected. One afternoon, the clouds gave way, and we decided to take the dinghy across to Horseshoe Reef, which the cruising guide said had some excellent snorkeling. Well, it did not disappoint – this reef had some of the best snorkeling we had seen in the Caribbean. The water was very clear, and the coral heads were massive and colorful. The reef provided some protection, so the surface water was pretty smooth. We did see a few nurse sharks, which freaked out Noi – in addition to snakes, she has a huge fear of sharks.
November 6th: Tobago Cays Marine Park – Admiralty Bay, Bequia, SVG
Next on our trip back north was Bequia, but this time we took a mooring in the bay close to town, since our windlass was still out of commission. The bad weather had passed, so our voyage was very comfortable, and we arrived with very flat seas. Aftermath had already left for Marigot Bay in St. Lucia, but we decided to stay in Bequia for a couple of nights.
Position at destination: 13°00.415’N, 61°14.498’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 68%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 30.2 Total: 10,460
Departed at 7:00am, arrived at 11:45am
We had a short stay on the mooring at Admiralty Bay, as we were a little anxious to get up to St. Lucia to repair our windlass. We did have an “old cruisers” meeting one afternoon with Brian and Lauren from Nightingale, as well as some people that Scott and Noi had met in Prickly Bay, Grenada. We were all on our way north, but with slightly different agendas. We picked up some fresh produce and enjoyed some sunny weather.
November 8th: Admiralty Bay – Marigot Bay, St. Lucia
We left at 4:00am to ensure that we would be at Marigot Bay early in the afternoon. As we cruised past the north end of St. Vincent, both Scott and I observed the same magnetic anomaly we had encountered on the way down. We use our plotter to set the course. In navigation mode, there is a preset route programmed into the plotter with all of the required waypoints. When we reach a waypoint, the autopilot issues an alarm, and we press a button to confirm the course change. The track on the plotter correlates with the autopilot and GPS headings. However, there is something in this area that confuses the navigation system. The plotter showed that we were on course, but visually, there was no doubt that we were off of our course by ten to fifteen degrees, on a heading that would take us into the land of St. Lucia. For about a half an hour, I had to enter a new heading manually to avoid crashing into the island. Once we cleared the southern point, everything got back to normal, and the navigation mode was correct. We had no explanation for this anomaly, but it was consistent.
Position at destination: 13°57.956’N, 61°01.400’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 65%, Water temp: 85
Nautical miles for this leg: 62.06 Total: 10,522
Departed at 4:00am, arrived at 2:00pm
We arrived at Marigot Bay early in the afternoon, and we met up with Debbie and John from Aftermath. The bay was a little busier than it had been when we passed through the previous June. Aftermath was docked, but John said they had to wait a couple of days for space to open up. We were happy to take a mooring. We only stayed for two nights, as we had a date with a repair service at Rodney Bay for our windlass.
We arrived on Election Day, and like most people, we were expecting to be saying Madam President in the future. Scott and Noi were Clinton supporters, as were we, but Debbie and John had voted for Trump. Needless to say, we were very surprised at the result. Early the following morning, it started to rain, and rain, and rain – we felt the skies were crying in sorrow. Oh well, life goes on…
November 10th: Marigot Bay – Rodney Bay Marina
All three of our boats left for the marina at Rodney Bay. We planned to stay for a couple of days – long enough to get our windlass repaired. We had contact DSL Yachting, based on a recommendation in the cruising guide. They primarily run charter boats, but they do repairs as well. They are not a Maxwell (our brand) dealer, but they figured they could help us.
Once we entered Rodney Bay, we got pounded by a sudden squall with thirty-five knot gusts. We circled around the bay for about a half an hour until the squall passed. After that, it was easy getting into the slip. It was so nice to be on a floating dock again.
Position at destination: 14°04.506’N, 60°56.954’W
Air temp: 86, Humidity: 74%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 10.63 Total: 10,532
Departed at 8:15am, arrived at 10:45am
As soon as we checked in, I called DSL, and they sent one of their guys over to check it out. I explained to him that the gypsy was seized, and that the motor had most likely failed. They removed the gypsy and motor, taking them to their shop. They called me later that day, and they had gotten the gypsy apart, but they had to wait another day to test the motor. Eventually, the motor was diagnosed as burned out, and since it was sealed, it could not be rebuilt. They did not know where they could find a compatible motor on the island, so I started searching. Luckily, I found the exact replacement from Defender Marine, and they were able to confirm that it was indeed the right one. I was able to get it shipped immediately, arriving in two days. St. Lucia is a duty-free port, but you still have to have an agent to clear parts in, which cost around $50. Once the motor arrived, everything was installed, and we were back in business!
Some weather was headed our way, so we decided to wait for a few days before leaving. The only problem we had was with the Internet service, which was non-existent at the boat. We had to go to the café at the marina to get a signal. We complained daily to the marina office, and they finally told us where to find the technician on-site. We talked with him about the problem, which he knew about. It seemed that the service for the marina customers came from a wireless transmitter near the marina, but that transmitter was offline. He did give us the access for the marina itself, so we finally had some service at the boat.
I’m not sure how we passed the eight days, as we did not do much in particular. One day we put down the dinghies, and John found out that his battery was dead, so we loaned him our charger. We toured around Rodney Bay, trying to find the dinghy dock for the grocery stores, but we never did find it. We went outside into Rodney Bay, and motored across to Pigeon Island. We didn’t stay on the island, as it is a national park, and they would not let Kirby in. We did do a little snorkeling off of the island.
November 18th: Rodney Bay – St. Anne, Martinique
We made the short hop up to Martinique, anchoring off of St. Anne. This time we were able to check in at Snack Boubou – you have to love the French West Indies!
Position at destination: 14°26.083’N, 60°53.331’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 67%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 23.42 Total: 10,556
Departed at 8:45am, arrived at 1:00pm
November 18th – 23rd: St. Anne
On Saturday, there are fish and produce markets in St. Anne. There wasn’t much in the fish market – a few enormous tunas, and some small reef fish. Unlike in Grenada, you buy the tuna prepared for eating – skinned with the bloodline removed. We bought a slab of it, and it was the best sashimi-grade tuna we had eaten in the Caribbean. We regretted not buying more. The produce and spice market was small, but we were able to get some fresh vegetables, and Scott tried one of the local spiced spirits. I’m not sure if it was rhum agricole with some flavoring, but I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
On Sunday, we went to the beach north of town, Grande Anse des Salines. Just beyond the beach are several restaurants, and they were quite popular on Sunday afternoon. We picked one out, and placed our orders. Rose ordered a steak, but this being France, it was way too rare for her (even though she ordered it well), so I swapped my chicken with her. This confirmed the “Frenchness” of Martinique.
Towards the end of our stay, we taking naps one afternoon. I was on the salon, and when I woke up, I saw what appeared to be blood on the floor. Quincy was eating, and I could see blood on his back legs. During our stay in Grenada, we had noticed a growth on Quincy’s abdomen. At first, we thought it might be just some matted hair, as he had stopped grooming himself, and we were having trouble keeping his fur clean. When I looked at his belly, I could see a lot of blood – the growth had ruptured. He did not seem to be in any pain, as he was eating away. I applied some pressure and cleaned up the wound, which was no longer bleeding. We called Debbie and John – her daughter is a veterinarian. She contacted her daughter, and we were told that at the least, we needed to get him some antibiotics to stave off infection. The cruising guide indicated there was a vet in LeMarin just around the corner. I called the vet’s office, but got the answering machine, which of course had the message on French. Scott had a smattering of French knowledge, but he couldn’t understand the message, either. I figured it was about the office hours. We decided to go ashore to ask Boubou to listen to it, bit on the way, we saw a boat with a Canadian flag. We talked with them, and it turned out they were from Quebec. They interpreted the message for us, and we found out that office would be open from two that afternoon.
I decided to rent a car to get over to LeMarin, but it turned out to be a longer walk than I expected. Scott came with me as a semi-interpreter. We picked up the car and returned to St. Anne, and then back to the boat. We loaded Quincy into his carrier – he hates it, as he associates it with the vet. Rosé, Scott and I went with him. This was the first time he had ever been in the dinghy, and we hoped it would not be his last time. We got to the vet and explained why we were there – the vet spoke enough English that we could communicate. She examined him, and confirmed that it was a cancerous tumor. But he was strong, and not in any pain, so he did not need to be euthanized. She didn’t know how much time he would have left, but she marveled that we had gotten him to the age of twenty-one. She gave him fluids, and an antibiotic shot that would last for a couple of weeks – it is impossible to get pills into him. She shaved his belly and cleaned up the wound. We picked up an antibiotic spray that had a foul taste to prevent him from licking the wound, and then we were finished. We were very relieved to be taking him home, as was he! On the dinghy ride back he insisted on poking his head out of the carrier, and he even recognized the boat.
Quincy immediately wanted to eat something, so he appeared to be himself. There was no more bleeding. We didn’t know how much more time he had, but we were hoping he would make it at least as far as Antigua, our future home.
November 23rd: St. Anne – Grande Anse d’Arlet
On the cruise up to Grande Anse, we hit a big squall that produced a heavy following sea. We were towing the dinghy, and apparently when it was surfing down one of the waves, the tow line suddenly went tight, and tore out both towing eyes. We had previously had one of them come loose in the BVI. Fortunately, we always added a safety line to the u-bolt, so we didn’t lose the tender. Once we arrived at the bay, we were surprised to see that almost all of the moorings were gone. During our previous visit, there were a large number of them, but they appeared to be taken by local boats. We had heard that the authorities had been removing them moorings, as they didn’t want to clog the bays with local boats on permanent moorings. We were able to anchor in virtually the same place we had back in June.
Position at destination: 14°26.083’N, 60°53.331’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 67%, Water temp: 84.5
Nautical miles for this leg: 23.42 Total: 10,556
Departed at 8:45am, arrived at 1:00pm
The day after we arrived was American Thanksgiving. We decided to make a traditional dinner, served on Aftermath, with turkey, mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce, etc. It was a delicious dinner, and Quincy was happy to get some of his favorite turkey.
We settled in to life at Grande Anse. The beach has a number of small restaurants on it, and we all ventured to one of them for lunch the day after Thanksgiving. John wasn’t too hungry, so he just ordered ice cream. We had to wait close to an hour for lunch to arrive, and of course there was no ice cream for John. He was aggravated enough to just cancel his order.
While we were having lunch, Scott mentioned that the sailboaters’ weather God, Chris Parker, forecasted a west wind coming up in a couple of days. Scott wanted to know if we should relocate to Fort de France Bay for better protection, since Grande Anse is open to the west. There are some issues with the Fort de France anchorage – it is a high crime area, and the bottom has a lot of snags. We asked about the force of the wind, which was only supposed to be fifteen knots. That would basically just turn us around, so we agreed to stay put.
The following day we went snorkeling in the bay. It is home to a lot of sea turtles, so we were hoping to get some good video. We tied up our dinghies to Symbiosis, which was anchored in the heart of turtle alley. We saw several turtles, along with some very odd fish that crawled along the bottom on fins that resembled wings. We also saw more of what we thought were sea snakes, but they turned out to be Sharptailed Eels, not sea snakes. I also saw a good-sized octopus working its way across the bottom – this bay is full of marine life. During my snorkel, I observed that one boat was chained to the bottom, using the old mooring anchor. The government took out the mooring buoys, but left the blocks in place. I didn’t think much about it, but this factoid would have a lot of meaning shortly.
Rosé, Scott and Noi ready for a snorkel Rosé is good to go
Small group of grunts The elusive Squirrel Fish
A lone Blue Striped Grunt A very orange coral formation
Another school of grunts A sea cucumber
The Sharptail Eel, not a sea snake after all Yellow tube sponges
Very strange fish used its fins to walk
This is a large Caribbean reef octopus
Trumpet fish Coral
These were some very strange fish. They walked across the bottom using their fins.
I followed this sea turtle for awhile – the bay was full of turtles feeding on the grass
This is how a sea turtle feeds on the grass
This was a pretty large octopus making its way along the bottom
You can see why we thought these were sea snakes
The last night we were in Grande Anse was when the wind change was forecast. We were just finishing dinner at 7:00PM when it hit like a ton of bricks. The wind shifted 180° within minutes and picked up to thirty knots just like that. We spun around and our anchor chain was stretched out. We were anchored in around twenty feet, and we had played out one-hundred twenty-five feet of chain. Our anchor was holding solidly, but we could see other boats dragging. One catamaran that had been anchored in front of us, now behind us, took off quickly. One of the very few moorings left in the bay was now behind us, and getting closer. Through pounding rain, we could see Aftermath getting closer and closer to a sailboat behind them, until we heard the telltale crack of boats hitting each other.
We still had our dinghy off the stern on a long painter. We got a panicked radio hail from Aftermath – they said that after they hit the sailboat, their anchor chain had caught under the boat’s keel, and they asked if I could pick up Scott and come over to help. I didn’t know what we could do, but I agreed to come over. By now there was a considerable fetch coming into the bay. I estimated it at four feet, with our stern swim ladder slapping the water hard. I had to get into the dinghy using the side transom door, as the swim platform was very unstable. I went over to pick up Scott, and we headed over to Aftermath. By the time we got there, Debbie told us that they had gotten their anchor free, and they were going out into the mouth pf the bay to re-anchor. I dropped Scott off, and then returned to Tropical Blend. I could not get from the dinghy to the swim platform because of the violent pitching. I maneuvered over to the side, and Rose secured the dinghy tightly, and she told me when the waves calmed a bit so I could jump into the cockpit. It was pretty dangerous.
The wind shifted a little to the north, and then I saw that the tender painter was caught around the open mooring, and it was getting really tight. I tried to power the stern around so we could unwrap it, but with the line so tight, I could not get it far enough over. We were very concerned that the painter would break and the tender would drift back to the rocks. Finally I decided that I would swim out to it, using the painter as a lifeline. Rosé was against this idea as dangerous, but I was confident it would work. I jumped in, pulled my self along the line, and got it loose from the mooring. I crawled back to the boat and asked Rosé to alert me when there was a calm so I could climb the ladder off of the swim platform. This worked, and I was safely back on board. Since the painter was now free, our stern was almost touching the mooring. We decided to use it as a stern line to avoid getting tangled up. I checked the forecast, which showed the wind weakening at 10:00PM. Like clockwork, it did indeed drop down to around fifteen knots at 10PM, and by 1AM, it was down to virtually nothing, and back to the east. We had all survived a scary night.
In the morning, John called me on the radio, and asked if I could take him over to the boat he collided with. That boat turned out to be a local boat, and it had damage to the bow and the anchor roller. The damage on Aftermath was cosmetic. It turned out that the French boat was chained to a block almost directly beneath it with no scope on the line, so when Aftermath turned, the French boat did not play out. That’s a dangerous situation, as you have no idea which boats are anchored, and which ones are tied to blocks.
November 29th: Grande Anse d’Arlet – St. Pierre
After taking John back, our flotilla left for St. Pierre. We had decided to check out of Martinique from St. Pierre, as the check out from our current location required a hike over to Petit Anse next to us. We knew that the tourist center in St. Pierre, where the customs terminal is located, was closed on Wednesday, so we needed to be there in the afternoon. It’s a short seventeen mile cruise up the lee shore, so we arrived early in the afternoon. We had thought to anchor south of town like we had done back in June, but that bay had some surf running, with breakers on the beach. We decided to go to the main anchorage in town. It was very crowded, and we struggled to find a good position. There is a narrow shelf off of the town, with a big drop off, so there is limited space. Most of the available space was taken up by local boats on moorings, but we eventually found a spot. As we were anchoring, the skies opened up and the rain was pouring down. I picked up Scott and John, and we went to the town dock. We thought we remembered where the tourism office was located. After trudging through the rain for some time, we finally found the office, but it was closed. Apparently they had changed the hours, and now it closed at 2:00PM. Since we did not want to wait until Thursday to leave, we decided that Dominica would understand why we had not checked out. Just to be sure, we took a picture of the office, with a time stamp. We trudged back to the boats, and prepared to depart the following morning.
Position at destination: 14°44.464’N, 61°10.679’W
Air temp: 81, Humidity: 71%, Water temp: 84
Nautical miles for this leg: 17.1 Total: 10,588
Departed at 10:30am, arrived at 1:25pm