Monday, June 25, 2012


On Tuesday morning we sailed along west coast of Bequia towards north. The coast was wild and rugged. 

On the north point there was a strong current, coming against the wind, and the waves were very steep and short, water looked as it was boiling.
 We sailed towards south east, to see the islands of Battowia and Baliceaux. They are uninhabited and none of the sailors we met were ever there. That alone would be the reason enough for us to go there :-)

This is Battowia with Black rock in front of it.
 This is the Landing bay on Baliceaux ...

 ... where Captain landed with dinghy. On the top of the slope he found some buildings, some goats and cows, couple of land tortoises and couple of fishermen. Fishermen use the island occasionally for resting between fishing in the area, which is supposed to be full of fish.

The bay was very rolly, not suitable for the night, so after lunch and bathing we sailed on to Canouan for the night. And guess what - it was rolly there to....

Shortly before arriving there we caught a beautiful dorado (or mahi mahi, as they call it here). The whole thing was not so dramatic as the story with marlin, but it was still hard enough to get the fish onto the boat and clean it with dinghy on our bathing platform. The fish was big enough to last us for the whole week and we were looking forward to fish soup, fish curry, filets with butter and lime.....

Next day we sailed on to Tobago Cays. It is a marine park and it looks really beautiful, especially the color of the water.

First we anchored north of a small island of Baradel, where there is a beach protected for turtles to lay their eggs. There were many many turtles swimming in the water, and it was a joy to see at least one place in the Windwards (southern part of Caribbean) where there were so many. We were used to seeing many turtles in Leewards (northern part), but south of Martinique we saw none. And then we learned in Bequia, that turtles are not protected here, they are trying to ban the catching of them in months from May to July, when turtles mate and lay their egg, to at least ensure reproduction. So I looked at the turtles in Tobago Cays with mixed feelings - on one hand happy that there were so many, and on another sad, that this is the only protected area in Windwards.

For the night we moved to south west side of Baradel, in hope to get a peaceful night. Well, somehow the roll stil got to the anchorage, over all those reefs....

The south west anchorage at Baradel

There were a lot of seagulls around, and they were fishing around our boat - big school of small fish tried to hide under our boat, but tunas were attacking from below and chased them out in the open, where the seagulls were already waiting....

This is the island of Jamesby, we went there by dinghy to snorkel.

But already on land there were a lot of birds......

.... and if you look closely - on top side of the photo there is an iguana.

Next day we sailed by Jamesby and through the reefs....

.... to Petit Saint Vincent.

This is the anchorage on the southern side, almost just as pretty as Tobago Cays....

We stayed there for the night. Island is a private resort, so we didn't go on sore. Next day we snorkeled and relaxed and in the evening moved to northern side of the island.

Around the coast there were many places for the guests to relax in the shade....

The northern side of the island is just as pretty as southern, and we had a great view of the sunset. The umbrella is not floating in the sea...

... it is placed on sandy patch on the way to Union Island.

Where we sailed next morning. Clifton is a village on the south side, it's pretty and colorful. I liked the fruit stalls the most...

We did some shopping, made good use of Internet and stayed the night. On Sunday it was time to sail towards north again.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


On Saturday morning we could see what we were avoiding the night before - the largest ship was only good 200m away.

Port Elisabeth is a pretty little town and after clearing in, we did some exploring. Some houses look like ones from fairy tales.

 This is the view over Admirality bay from Papa's bar.....
 ..... that also became our temporary office.
 We saw trees with strange fruit growing on them.
 This is the "main street"

 And there is also....  at least in Caribbean colors.
 The booby on the lower mast is real and alive.
 In chandlery we discovered the replica of "our" fish.

 This is Tommy's cantina, nicely painted and decorated...
 ... with unique Christmas tree, made of fan corals, that reminded me of one that we saw on Anegada in BVI's
 More houses from fairy tales.... I wouldn't mind owning any of the two

 There was some good snorkeling right around our boat and on the south coast in Lower bay.

 Looking at me? Looking at me?????

 This is the pretty promenade on the south side of the town
 This is Whaleboner bar and the white stuff are real wale bones - Bequians have a tradition as whale hunters or catchers and they still have the right to catch three or four whales every year, but they have to do it traditional way - in open boats with hand thrown harpoons. We heard that some years they catch some and some years they don't get any.....

On Monday evening we got together with our friends Heidi and Klaus for a beer and had a nice chat. Next morning we sailed off - direction Tobago Cays.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Passage to Bequia or "Captain and the sea"

Posted by Captain

We have another month till we fly to Europe and we want to use it the best we can.

We cleared out from St. Lucia heading South, Destination Bequia. We had no intention to stop in St. Vincent - crime rate is too high there, so they deserve a pass. We intended to start early having a chance to arrive during daylight. Early morning started with a terrible rain and heavy winds. It was perhaps arround 5 a cock when I went out to open a dinghy drain. I was tottaly wet in a second. Wind instrument was showing 33 knots and in such wind sprayhood or bimini offers little protection. I did not feel like raising the anchor and sails in such a squall, so we waited. And waited.

It was well past 8 when the rain slowed down. Should we postpone our trip? A well known rule says one should never attempt to enter unknown port at nigth. Specially not here in Caribbean, where most charting was done shortly after Columbus and corrections were made in 18th and 19th century. Large areas of charts are marked "insufficiently surveyed". Navigation marks are rare and often not lit at night. But Admirality bay looks easy to negotiate at night. Appart from Devil's table shoal the entrance is clear of dangers. Inside there are some unlit heavy metal buoys, several shoals on the SE side and one can expect a good number of boats without any anchor light. But if we wanted to be 100% safe we would not cross the ocean in the first place, so off we went.

First part of the passage was under lee of St Lucia. The wind got tired afer blowing 30+ knots for hours, so it almost died. We motor-sailed easily. Having plenty of energy we were making water, cooling the fridge and charging all our appliances. Water in our newly repaired boiler was also getting hot.  Runing an engine does have some benefits.
This is how much we got to see of famous Pitons.


 Approaching the South tip of St. Lucia we got fresh undisturbed wind, so we killed the engine and we were making good progress averaging 6 to 7 knots, going to 8 at times. Cleaning the bottom did pay off. There were few squalls passing left and right, and of course soon we got a direct hit.
It was a typical tropic squall:
1) Dark cloud with visible rain approaches you. At this time you try to guess if it will hit you or miss, you can usually see the rain on the radar - in that case you know if it's going to hit you.
2) Wind increases and changes direction.  You reef and adjust sails, trying to make it fast,  so you would not get wet from the coming rain - only to get wet from sweat.
3) Rain and some more wind increases. You can never guess how much the wind will increase. Sometimes it goes to 25, sometime to more then 30 knots, so basically you either reef too much and you go slow, or reef to little and have to reef again during rain. In this case we reefed again in heavy rain.
4) Rain continues while wind changes direction, just to make sure you really get wet while you tend the sails.
 5) At the end you get rainbow, sunshine and wind almost dies. At this time you shake out a reef or two, wipe whatever water find a way inside. After a couple of more minutes the wind starts to blow normally - that is around 15 to 20 knots here, so life is good again.

We were facing a dilemma: To pass St. Vincent on a windward side or on the leeward side. Windward means fresh undisturbed wind, but it also means we would need to beat hard to get to windward side of the island and we would sail in the open ocean with large waves - lots of salt and water over the boat. Leeward side means easy passage between St.Lucia and St.Vincent (reaching), but it also means less wind behind St.Vincent, plus a possible beat from Vincent to Bequia.
We decided for leeward option.

The Fish

I usually troll (catch fish) on a passage. We had a great success with our previous lure, but it is long gone. The new lure is not such a succes. I did catch two Big-eye tunas with it, but more often then not we end up eating what we buy, not what we catch.
On this passage we also got nothing for 50 miles.
Then Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...
I juped to the rod and increased the brake tension. This usualy stops or slows the fish. Oh, oh. Not this one. I set befind the rod. Heron has a good place to fish - looks almost like a fighting chair on professional fishing boats. I shouted to Lili (Yes I know. I get all the fun, she does all the work): "Quick, slowdown the boat, this is a big one!".  Lili promptly changed course 20deg to wind and rolled the foresail. This slowed us from 7 knots to 2 knots.
But the line was still going out like crazy. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz - I pushed the limmiter and placed the brake from strike zone over to hard. Still zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
"She is too big, we are going to loose it and the gear"
There was almost no line left od the wheel, the rod was bent to the point I was sure it was going to brake. The line was all streached and the brake got hot.  What to do...
"Wow, she is a beauty" shouted Lili when a marlin jumped out of the water faaaar away from the boat.  
"What to do now" was going in my head. The fish turned and the line stopped unwinding. I quickly started to reel in. I managed to get back about 100m of line when zzzzzzzzzzzzzz again. This fish was so strong. The beatle went on and on for a while, my arms hurt, my back hurt, my hands hardly hold the rod but I got more and more line in.  Soon we saw a beautifill marlin close to the boat. She wanted to hide under the boat. Old trick, but I was prepared. I franticaly reeled-in the line and here she was. Two meters from me.
Beautiful fish. Big fish. Oh, why did she bite this lure. I felt sorry for the fish, but there was no way back. Cutting the lure is a bad option. Beside loosing an expensive lure you leave the hook in the fish. She can not hunt and may suffer infection. Who knows if she can recover from that. So my only chance was to get the fish out. If she is not going to survive anyway at least she will provide several good meals for us.
I looked her in the eye - visibly exausted from a battle resting on the surface for a second.
I shouted "Lili, the hook".
Lili already stood there with a hook, a bottle of strong rum and a big diving knive.  How she manages to safely sail the boat while tending all my crazy needs during a catch is beyond my understanding, but she is a seasoned sailor now and can read my mind.
I did not know she even took a few pictures during the battle.

I wanted to hook the fish as soon as possible and pour rum in her gills.
But this marlin was not done yet. She started to jump, so I could not hook her.
At the heat of a fight between our swimming platform and the ocean Marlin's spear came too close to my body for my comfort. I wished my fish hook was longer, I wish the fish was smaller, I wish she was more tired.
At one final jump the fish managed to get very high from the water, shook off the fishing tackle from her mouth and off she went.
Lili and me stood for a moment in silence with mixed emotions.
Reliefed that a beautiful fish got free (and I even got the lure back), a little sad as we know how delicious this fish would be. She would provide us with enough meat for a week. We were more sad as in the heat of a battle the fish suffered some injuries - we just hoped she would fully recover. I almost cried when I was whiping blood drops from the swim platform.   

What a day.
The rest of a passage was great. Bequia channel is known for strong currents, erratic large waves and strong winds, but we got none of that. The passage was fast, waves one to two meters ony and towards the end we even got another rain shower to rinse the salt from the boat (fast sailing in two meter waves does bring water over the boat).
It got dark, so we turned on navigation lights.  All that time we were making water.
 All three of  our tanks were now full, so I rinsed the watermaker.
Approaching Admirality bay we were pleasantly surprised to find W cardinal mark at Devil's table in place end working. Fl(9) 15s. Wow. We allowed plenty of room and turned into a bay.
Lili was at the helm. She rolled the headsail and started the engine. I prepared the lines for lowering main sail. I have done it so many times that darkness was not an issue at all. Lili routinely asked "Ready?". "Ready!" I replied. She turned the bow into wind and "Whusk", down went the big main sail.
I went forward and when we were at the anchorage the main was in the bag with boom preventer fixed.
Lili was a bit worried - I was forward and had no clue. There were several big ships in the bay and none had any anchor light or any other light. I was not at all worried as I had no idea we were maneuvering among them. Thanks for radar and a good helmsman. Lili really knows how to handle the boat.
She said "6m, you can drop it now".
I dropped the anchor, let out enough scope and Lili set the anchor by reversing. First gently, then strong. I fixed the anchor snubber and went back.
We are so happy to have this big good anchor. It was expensive, but it holds like nothing I have seen so far.
We were tired, but happy. I poured each of us a generous portion of good old Antiguan rum, we sipped it slowly and watched the night.  Life is good. This is why we went cruising.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Leaving St Lucia

 Last couple of days we've been hanging around Rodney bay. After all arrangements for the summer made, we felt like a weight fell off our shoulders and were not energetic enough to do much else.

Every morning Gregory sails his boat through Rodney bay. You can't miss him, with the boat decorated with many flags, given to him by boats anchored here. He sells fruit and vegetables, local and fresh, and sometimes even bread. He is the nicest guy, willing to make an extra effort for his customers - I asked him about avocados one day, which are not yet in season, but he managed to get two for me and delivered them the next day. And on the roof of his boat there is a real garden with herbs growing in pots. So one can also get thyme, basil etc from him - as fresh as it gets. What a good idea to cater for boats like this! And I need to get a flag for him - I strongly feel that Slovenia has to be represented here (if you've noticed a flag on the left - it's Slovakian)!

Every day we still  do some work on the boat, some small projects like exchanging the breathing hose for our second fuel tank, and then there are choirs that feel similar as mowing the lawn around the house - you have to do it regularly if you want to or not. It's scraping the bottom of the boat. After a while it looks like a lawn :-) If we leave it for longer, it looks like a coral reef - with shells, algae, small crabs ...!

Captain does most of the work, especially on keel, although I help as much as i can. For this work our boat seems really big - like a car seems big only when you are washing it.

There is a big school of fish living under the boat and they eat frantically what we scrape off. Unfortunately they don't want to learn to eat the stuff straight off the boat - it would save us some very hard work ....

 And this is "before and after" picture - needless to say which half is which ....

Tomorrow we are leaving St Lucia and are sailing straight to Bequia. It is a long stretch, about 68 miles, so we need to start early to get there before dark. We heard Grenadines are very beautiful and we hope the weather will be nice to us. Toward end of the month we are coming back here to prepare the boat for the summer.