Yacht Fathom - Setting off from England in May 2016 on a single-handed voyage somewhere a bit warmer

Archive for the “Caribbean” Category

Carriacou & Grenada

The sail from Union Island to Carriacou on the 5th January was a cracker with 15 knots of wind from astern and a low swell. Carriacou is a dependency of Grenada and the largest island in the Grenada group at 7 miles long and 3 miles wide. As I sailed into the anchorage at Tyrell Bay I was met by Erik from Harry Z with the instruction to meet him and Britt at the Lazy Turtle restaurant in one hour for beers and pizza. Perfect! Nice to have a proper catch up with them and in the evening they invited me aboard for home cooked pie, a rare treat.

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Tyrell Bay sunset

The following day Harry Z was booked to come out of the water at the local yard so I lent a hand. Once the boat was ashore I was given a boiler suit, face mask and a continual stream of beers in exchange for my help sanding the hull. Seemed like a reasonable deal to me. That evening it was good to see French friends Marjo and Clément from Passmoilcric. The only trouble is I continue to struggle to pronounce their boat name and it is highly embarrassing calling them up on the VHF when I know others are listening. We went and had dinner at a bar overlooking the bay and were treated to some local music, a band playing a mix of blues and reggae. A band of very active squall clouds then came over. I have never ever seen rain as heavy and in the 30 knot winds it was blowing horizontally into the bar soaking everyone. The dinghy ride back to the boat was refreshing to say the least.

The next few days were fairly relaxed. I picked up some fresh food from the little village on the edge of the anchorage and lent a hand with the antifouling on Harry Z.  For a change I was quite happy to stay around the boat and didn’t feel a need to explore the local area so much. One evening we were treated to an exceptional sunset, even by Caribbean standards, with a deep red glow engulfing the sky for several minutes.

By the 9th January I was ready for a change of scenery and looking forward to visiting the main island of Grenada. Fathom departed the anchorage at Tyrell Bay just after 8am and arrived at St Georges, the capital of Grenada, at 16.15 after another pleasant sail.  Fathom had been either at sea or at anchor since leaving Lanzarote at the beginning of November and I was keen to give her a fresh water scrub down and also needed to do quite a bit of food shopping. So decided to moor up on a pontoon at the Grenada Yacht Club for a few days. My neighbour on the pontoon was a German solo sailor who at the age of 21 had cycled from his family home in Frankfurt to the Med and bought a yacht after becoming disillusioned with city life. 45 years on he was still sailing on the same trip! One evening while sitting on the yacht club balcony we watched a large superyacht run aground by missing one of the channel buoys and cutting the corner. Rather embarrassing for the Captain as apparently the Owner was onboard.

St George’s is a pretty town with the brightly painted buildings around the harbour front sitting beneath the steep hillside of an old volcanic crater. I made the most of having an excellent chandlers close-by and found a few spares I needed. The local supermarkets were also very good but food in the Caribbean is expensive. For example one apple is typically more than one USD (80 pence). If only it was possible to live on Bananas and Rum the wallet wouldn’t take such a hit.

After a few days it was time to head to the south of the island where there are many bays and anchorages. As I was approaching the channel that threads through the reef on the way to Woburn I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw ‘Venture Lady, the larger sister of Fathom I had last seen mid Atlantic. They were heading the opposite way to me but after a quick chat on the VHF decided it was definitely time to have that cold beer we had been talking about for months so proceeded together and anchored off Woburn. Very nice to meet Andy and Alison at last.

The next week or so was incredibly social. There is an excellent cruising community on the south of Grenada with events happening every day. A very good radio net runs every morning with new arrivals made to feel welcome. Plenty of English about many are enjoying the lifestyle and have not moved for a while by the look of it. I enjoyed meeting the various characters and listening to the live music performed by Country Dave, Paul and Andy etc. Other highlights included the Full Moon Party which was located about 100m from where Fathom was anchored and the hash. The hash is an event the organiser describe as being for “drinkers with a running problem”. It involves running or walking along a route identified by shredded paper and every week is in a different area of Grenada. I went along on the Saturday and it was quite hard work after sitting on a boat and not using my legs for a while. Up and down steep hillsides in the jungle, across rivers and along beaches. On the way back to the anchorage the minibus I was on stopped at several rum shacks which is all part of the ‘event’.

I was having a great time in Grenada with fun people and plenty going on. I must have been having a good time because I only took five photos during my whole time on the island! I knew I had to make a decision on what to do next. There were three realistic choices to consider. I could stay in Grenada and have a good time waiting out the hurricane season there, head north up the island chain and back to Europe in the summer or chase the sun westwards. After considering all the options I knew what I wanted to do..

Posted on 31 Jan in: Caribbean

The Grenadines

Fathom and Sturmschwalbe departed St Lucia on the afternoon of the 29th, bound for the island of Bequia, an overnight sail to the south. St Vincent is not so safe with many crimes reported against visiting yachts, so we had decided to sail on past. As the sun set we were close to the Pitons on the south of St Lucia which looked dramatic in the fading light. Conditions became quite lively later as the wind was accelerated between St Lucia and St Vincent and the sea became rough and uncomfortable. I took 10-15 minute naps and Jan and Jule kept an eye out. The next day Jan told me that during the night off St Vincent they had heard voices in the dark and a torchlight shining towards them so had turned off their navigation lights and AIS just in case. I was half a mile away and saw nothing.

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Tobago Keys – Jan up the mast of Sturmschwalbe also

We arrived in the anchorage at Admiral Bay, Bequia just before 10 am. A pretty but crowded bay with several small waterside bars and restaurants. Refreshing to go ashore and not worry about walking around with a camera visible. A very nice little village with friendly locals and a feeling that we had arrived in paradise at last. On New Years Eve we decided to head south to Union Island where there were friends on a couple of Norwegian boats, Harry Z and Careka. An almost perfect sail in 15 to 17 knots of wind on the beam. Fathom in her element flying along at 6 knots. We anchored in Chatham Bay and were surprised to see only about 10 other boats in the anchorage. The celebrations started with a nice bbq aboard Sturmschwalbe with Jan & Jule, progressed to drinks ashore at the beach bar with the Norwegians and ended around 5am (I can’t remember exactly!) after rum punches onboard Fathom. A very memorable NYE.  2016 had been quite a year. Fathom and I clocked up 5,632 nautical miles since leaving Yarmouth in May.

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Fathom at anchor, Tobago Keys

On New Years day Jan and I hiked up to the hill overlooking the anchorage and then halfway across Union Island to the small village of Ashton. A good way to cure a fuzzy head. The next day Sturmschwalbe and Fathom sailed back north for a few miles to a collection of several small islands and reefs known as Tobago Keys. It was the first real upwind sailing in months and felt strange after thousands of miles sailing downhill. On arrival we chose an anchorage just inside the reef and alongside an island known for its turtles. Tobabgo Keys is a stunning location and probably the highlight of my Caribbean experience so far, despite being rather crowded with charter boats. We spent the next couple of days relaxing, swimming with Turtles and exploring the reef. I took the opportunity to climb the mast for a check and to take some photos overlooking the anchorage. Sadly, after many weeks and thousands of sea miles, it was then time to say goodbye to Jan and Jule. Sturmschwalbe is headed north up the island chain and then west to Cuba before heading back across the Atlantic in May. I will miss them but look forward to a reunion in the not too distant future.

I headed back to Union Island on the 4th, but this time to the small village of Clifton on the east side so I could check out of the Grenadines. Time to head on south to Carriacou and Grenada.

Posted on 07 Jan in: Caribbean

St Lucia

A really great time was spent at anchor in Rodney Bay, St Lucia, with the crews of Hent-Eon, Ribouldingue and Sturmschwalbe over the Christmas period. We celebrated with dinner on the 24th onboard Ribouldingue, 25th on Hent-Eon, 26th on Sturmschwalbe and on the 27th I cooked dinner and delivered it to Ribouldingue for everyone to eat as Fathom is rather too small to fit everyone comfortably. A unique Christmas indeed in the company of French and German friends in 30 degree temperatures, blazing sun and even an attempt to learn windsurfing on Christmas morning. Thank you everyone for speaking English it made life so much easier!

Christmas Day sunset

I found St Lucia itself quite a disappointment. At Rodney Bay the marina and associated developments felt artificial and there was a fairly strong feeling going around the cruising yachts that the area and the island itself were not particularly safe. In fact one crew member from a boat on the ARC, was beaten up and robbed when he found himself alone in an area close to the marina. The daily radio net run by a British yacht warned every boat at anchor to ensure all dinghies were hauled out the water and chained at night and during periods of a new moon to lock yourself in the cabin as boarding’s on dark nights were a possibility.

We did explore ashore and before Christmas went along to a street party that happens every Friday evening in a small village close to the marina called Gros Islet. Several streets are filled with food and rum stalls and there is loud music and dancing at pretty much every street corner. We were advised to stay in groups and not take cameras so unfortunately no photos. The jerk chicken was fantastic especially when washed down with a rum punch. A few days later we went back to the same area in daylight to take photos but nearly had some trouble with some locals who saw us taking photos and began to get mad that they were in one of our shots. After assuring them we had deleted the photo we walked off briskly.

Another day we took a bus to a nearby town called Castries. On the bus a friendly local recommended we stick to the market and central square only and not to walk off down any side streets. We enjoyed an excellent lunch in the market with local homecooked food but again no photos due to risk of losing our cameras. Later in the day we explored Pigeon Island National Park at the northern end of Rodney Bay and Fort Rodney which was built by the British so they could keep an eye on the French at the neighbouring island of Martinique. Our legs were clearly used to sitting on a boat and the short hike to the summit of the hill wiped us out as you can see in the photo. The evening of the 28th was our last evening all together. The next day Hent-Eon and Ribouldingue headed north and Fathom and Sturmschwalbe south to the Grenadines. I will remember these days very fondly with lots of laughs, one or two glasses of rum and excellent company.

Posted on 03 Jan in: Caribbean

Barbados

Once Sturmschwalbe had arrived in the anchorage at Carlisle Bay the Cape Verde gang were reunited after the Atlantic crossing. Five boats anchored together just as we had been in Mindelo over two thousand miles across the pond. Great to catch up and talk about our experiences of the trip. I was awarded the prize for best beard (remember the rule that no one could shave)!

We were a little disappointed with Barbados though. Most nights the music from the beach bars blared across the anchorage until 5 or 6 in the morning and one night it was so loud we could hardly hear each other speak when sitting on deck. In the daytime jet skis and pleasure boats blasted past a few feet away. Despite this the people of Barbados were incredibly friendly and the area is safe. The ‘city’ of Bridgetown was interesting to walk through and there are plenty of reminders of its previous life as a British colony. Unfortunately the only photo I took the whole time we were in Barbados was all of us having drinks on Fathom. 14 people (including two babies), a new record for people in the cockpit and the lowest ever waterline!

We made a decision to spend Christmas elsewhere and thought St Lucia would be a better option. Arwen and other French friends on Passmatic headed to Grenada. Fathom and Sturmschwalbe departed Barbados on 22nd December just before noon for an overnight sail to Rodney Bay, St Lucia. Ribouldingue and Hent-Eon left later in the day. Before sunset I was excited to catch a decent sized fish before identifying it as a Barracuda which is not safe to eat due to the risk of Ciguatera disease. Only Tuna and Dorado are 100 % safe in these waters. Emeline from Ribouldingue called up on the VHF before sunset to say they had caught a 1.2m Dorado and we should all refer to it as our Christmas turkey. The sail to St Lucia was quite uneventful and I slept in 30m chunks. Sturmschwalbe were less than 1 mile away the whole time so kept an eye out for me. The highlights of the trip were an unusual double rainbow before sunset (see photo) and a 27 knot squall which hit when I was fast asleep. Anchor went down in Rodney Bay just after sunrise on the 23rd.

Posted on 03 Jan in: Caribbean

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