Saturday, 11 February 2012

Tobago to Grenada and Grenadines

Wow, it's been a fair while you guys... well, I can give you all the excuses in the world and they will be always true but I really should just drop a few more phrases here and there for the blog followers... I guess the convenience of Facebook and the easy webalbum updates I have been giving makes me a bit lazy to write on the blog when I have the rare opportunity like this afternoon.

I will start by describing our present situation from Bonaire where the top speed was 17 knots. Moonwalker was loving it, and Russ had a lovely grin on his face. Brisa and I took the chance to read a book and catch up on sleep. We are good at that when we sail! At this very moment Bri is sleeping after falling asleep on the dinghy ride back from a local marina where we went to get water, and Russ is in the hospital with the son of the said marina as he had a bad accident with a piece of glass I am told. I not even noticed Russ was gone as Brisa was running around the courtyard after three very friendly dogs. Therefore I have the boat for myself for a wee while I hope. Can't not even remember the last time I had such peace even if the circumstances are odd!

So where did we last leave you all? Tobago! Yes, lovely Tobago. We had a blast there. Spent a month as we had two weeks by ourselves and another 2 with my uncle Tadeu and his family. It was a very nice place to cruise around. The anchorages are fairly good but some can be rolly with the northerly swell which we had when we arrived in Charloteville. We pretty much seen the entire island and were astounded to discover so few people visited it. Eventually we came to understand why: weather. We were at very end of season to visit it really. As when the infamous “ Christmas Winds” arrive from the Northeast predominately most of the anchorages become unattainable I believe.

To tell you all the truth Russ and I hadn't really done our homework and had no idea these winds were so severe. We discovered when we got to Trinidad to drop my uncle off and ended up being stuck in Trini for over a week – which is probably as much time as you need to be there if you got nothing to do on your boat. It was like, when the weather Gods hear a Christmas Bell they just turn on the fan into maximum! It was 20 to 30 knots daily from North to Northeast.

We managed to score a lighter easterly to just north of east winds on the 27th December which allowed us to go to Grenada without too much trouble (just a bit of pain in our pockets as we had to pay extra in order to check out of Trinidad on boxing day– super expensive if you ask me at almost US150 for a bit over a month there!) but still with a very unpleasant swell. The plan was to by pass Grenada and anchor in Carriacou and head to the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines as soon as possible but as we approached St Davis Harbour in Grenada the days was coming to an end and the wind was getting stronger and more northerly (in other words right on our nose!). So into St Davis Harbour we went. There we realized there was no way we were going north anytime soon. The weather forecast was very strong winds all the way to the 4th of January so we headed back down the island to more populated anchorages of Clarks Court and Hog Island. Eventually we settled to spend New Years in Prickly Bay and were very pleasantly surprised to meet many good friends, some from South African times.

Eventually we got a lighter wind forecasted – 15 to 20 – and thought we should give it a try. We decided to take the lee of the island even though it added 10 miles to the trip. The sail up the lee side was good, we had the company of another 10 boats which added to our confidence that we had made a good decision until we got to the end and had a glimpse of the channel to Carriacou... it was white foamy caps of 25 to 30 knots gusts Russ was fumming. He yelled at the winds and to whomever wanted to hear that he had thousands of miles to go so why the f?!@k should he sail up wind so come stupid Caribbean island? Oh well... I told him, as a good girl that I am, that I didn't mind we could just turn back to Grenada and carry on West, no harm done. However Russ kept checking all the other boats coming and everyone was doing it, even Filipe's Trimaram (a nice Italian sailor we had met in Prickly) was there bashing up wind... so Russ bit the bullet and off we went. Every time a wave crashed, the boat bashed or got slapped under Russ would growl... it wasn't a pretty sight. But we did it and anchored for the night in Carriacou. We watched as most of boats entered the same anchorage after us all weather beaten and salty. Russ with a cold beer in his hand exchanged pleasantries with them all from the salty deck.

Next day we moved up the chain into Union Island, still a bashing upwind but Russ seemed a bit more resigned into it and actually had some fun laying out plans wind angles and anchorages we could see while utilizing the wind to our advantage. Well, reality is we hadn't until then, to deal with contrary winds! Quite astounding I know. So I was a whole different game. We anchored on the lee side of Union, for the night and next morning we checked into the Grenadines by going into the crowded and tight harbour there. Winds were still hauling at 20 to 25 constantly. We moved after checking in, as Russ didn't want to stay there, to Petite Martinique, which was actually back tracking a bit but a good wind angle and not so bad with the high running swell. Next day the angle was good to sail into Tobago Cays.

The Cays is very pretty with picture perfect anchorages, beaches and turquoise waters but crowded. The wind was relentless and everyone was bashing in the main anchorage area of Horseshoe Reef so we decided to check our luck in between the two islands right behind it and managed to tuck ourselves off the main channel up against the shallow waters of the beach. It was paradise. Lovely beach just next door, off the strong wind and still. It was great. But the weather made snorkeling a pain with its constant chop and going out on the reef was pretty hard. So after 3 days we packed our stuff and moved on. Probably the coolest thing we saw was the biggest cruising catamaran in the world called Hemisphere. It is 120ft and looked enormous, but that is all it was, a very big cat. Not quite the statement we expected when we hear about a boat with that title. Russ made me visualize a down scaled hemisphere, and asked if I thought it was a nice boat. I had to agree with him it wasn't such an interesting boat after all. But man, it was big and flash...

We eventually returned to Grenada via the windward side in order to visit the Salina Islands off Carriacou. There we had an incredible time, with the anchorage just to ourselves, beautiful beach and water loaded with turtles. It was quite amazing to think that just a few miles north we had to share anchorages with dozens of boats. It was a great tip from an Irish sailor we met in Brazil.

In Grenada we did a good stock up bought a couple of guides for Venezuela and ABC islands – say whatever you want to say about cruisers net, but the Grenada net on VHF is absolute priceless and incredibly helpful in all matters so good on them (channel 68 at 730 am local time) – and off we went against everyones advice to the Venezuelan Off – Shore Islands!           

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