I spent longer in Grenada than originally planned. My spot in the Prickly Bay anchorage was well sheltered and an easy row to the dinghy dock. A rather longer row if I wanted to catch a bus to go shopping at the big Spiceland Mall, but still manageable. The minibuses were cheap and plentiful and the people friendly. All in all a more relaxed atmosphere than Trinidad. Clearing in and out is easy and convenient and the customs officer recognised me from previous visits. Maybe I’ve been in this neck of the woods for too long, definitely a sign that I should be moving on.
Spending a few weeks anchored in one place usually involves trying to make the boat as comfortable as possible with sun awning, washing lines, fenders and other paraphernalia moved on deck to give me more space for sleeping in the forepeak. These are the realities of living on a small boat. I like to make an early start on the day that I leave so try to get everything ready for sea the previous day. Dinghy on deck, oars below, kedge anchor and rode below, fenders stashed, water tanks filled, lee-cloths up, Navik properly set up, tiller back in place, the list goes on and on. At last all was ready and early one morning I set off, heading north. Quite prepared to make a few stops along the way.
At this time of the year the tradewind has a consistently slightly Northerly slant which means that one can expect a fair bit of sailing hard on the wind all the way to Martinique. Not ideal for junk rig.
The first mile or two were fast and exciting as we had the wind from astern heading west along the south coast of the island. After turning up to pass St Georges reality set in and I hardened sail and set the Navik to hold us as close to the wind as possible. The going was slow. I wasn’t in a hurry so in the early afternoon I decided to make an overnight stop in the pretty little anchorage called Halifax Harbour a few miles north of St Georges. One of the loveliest and best sheltered spots in Grenada. Only snag is that there is a dump nearby and a smoky bonfire smoulders away. Flies are plentiful, but they disappeared after sunset. I was the only boat there and it was a beautiful evening.
The next morning I set off again at sunrise. It was tempting to stay a little longer in such an attractive place but the flies were a bit daunting. So on we go – next stop Tyrell Bay, Carriacou. A strong current runs between the islands which slowed us down a bit and quite a few big boats with pointy sails passed us as the day wore on. I assured myself that they must be motor-sailing which helped to boost my morale.
We arrived in Tyrell Bay early in the afternoon and easily found a good place to anchor. There seemed to be fewer boats there than the last time I’d visited while on the way south. I was happy to see little Ambia still anchored in much the same place and Hutch and I had a few good games of chess during my stay. Many other familiar boats made it almost like a home-coming. But the end of the year was approaching and I wanted to be in Martinique for New Year. So all the usual preparations and another early morning start.
In defiance of the weather forecast, the wind stayed strongly and stubbornly NE so we battled along and as we were abeam of Chatham Bay, Union Island at about 2 in the afternoon, I decided to call it a day. Chatham is another one of my favourite anchorages and there were only two other boats there. I managed to snuggle close in to the shore where there is good snorkelling close to a rocky cliff. Strong williwaws rake the anchorage so plenty of chain was let out. I arrived on a Friday and it was too good a spot to leave immediately. Making myself comfortable of course involved all the adjustments mentioned earlier, but it seemed worth the effort and I set myself up for the weekend.
Beautifully clear water and lots of colourful little fish lured me overboard and I also took the opportunity to knock off the odd barnacle that had started to make itself at home on Speedwell’s newly painted hull. The water in Prickly Bay is notoriously nutrient rich. I was pleased to see that the zinc-epoxy spray I’d used on the prop seemed to be working rather well.
I left Union Island on Christmas Day and spent all day battling wind and current to cover the roughly 10 miles to the anchorage at Mayreau. The wind had turned really strong and the anchorage was rolly. Definitely not a place to linger. But the move had positioned us well for a slightly easier next leg to Bequia and we set off optimistically the next morning. And it did go rather well. The low aspect ratio Reddish rig takes on a useful twist with two reefs in and performs surprising well in a strong wind. We made good time to Bequia despite rough seas. After reaching the westernmost tip of the island it is still nearly 3 miles due East to the anchorage. A hard slog in that wind. As we rounded West Cay a small but powerful tug towing an enormous barge on a very long line blocked our way and we had to take avoiding action, just clear of that and a ferociously strong black rain squall hit us reducing visibility to zero. I rounded up into it and waited wearily for it to pass. The sun was just setting as we found a safe place to anchor for the night.
Next day the weather was much the same and I set off planning to sail non-stop to Rodney Bay in St Lucia, a distance of about 80nm. I held close to the coast of Bequia for as long as possible before heading out across the rough channel between Bequia and St Vincent. With no more protection from all the reefs and small islands of the Grenadines the swells were enormous. I watched in fascinated horror as a charter catamaran slammed directly to windward scorning the use of its sails. I had to hang on for dear life but Speedwell performed valiantly as usual, rising up the face of the gigantic swells with comparatively little water breaking over the deck. Once we reached the shelter of St Vincent I had expected to have to use the engine but to my surprise we were able to sail almost the entire length of the island keeping quite close inshore. It was a sunny day and things were looking up.
We spent most of the night crossing the next channel between St Vincent and St Lucia. Pretty much a repeat of the other one. The brilliant lights of giant cruise ships occasionally lit up the dark moonless night. They move quite slowly and the lights are confusing as its difficult to pick out a red or green light to indicate in which direction they might be moving. Here my AIS was a great help and it seems to be working very well now that I have a better connection to the antenna.
By sunrise we were about halfway up the coast of St Lucia but we had been forced a long way offshore by wind and current. I thought it was time to put in a tack and cheated a bit by helping things along with the engine. It took a few hours but eventually we reached the shelter of the island and once again it became easy and pleasant following the coastline until we reached the vast anchorage at Rodney Bay at the north west end of the island. We came in quite late in the afternoon and there were literally hundreds of boats anchored or moored. People on jet-skis were speeding about and someone was suspended aloft from a parasail which was being towed at speed across the bay. A flotilla of charter cats arrived just behind me. Caution was required.
A delicious chickpea curry and a good nights sleep set me up for the final run to St Annes on the south coast of Martinique the next morning. This would be my third attempt at reaching that particular anchorage as in previous years I had been forced to concede defeat to the strong wind and current and head for the easier anchorage at Fort de France. This time I motor-sailed as far up the coast of St Lucia as possible before striking out across the channel. It worked well and the wind helped a lot by veering a few degrees and becoming more easterly. I think the current must have been in our favour as well because we were maintaining an astonishing 4 knots hard on the wind with big seas. St Annes was easily reached and I found a very good spot to anchor close inshore and near to a small floating dinghy dock.