The anchorage at Tyrell Bay on the island of Carriacou is one of my favourites in the Carribbean and I had enjoyed my visit in early 2017. But this time round I was struggling a little, no longer crossing oceans and sailing to a timeframe, and with all of the Caribbean sailing season ahead of me, I almost had too much time on my hands. Friends Greg and Jenny on SV Nebula were closeby but otherwise the anchorage was filled with older cruisers that never moved and I didn’t have much in common with them. I tried to spend some time writing but wasn’t feeling inspired and for a few days felt a bit fed up. Should I sail slowly up the Caribbean island chain or be more adventurous and head to Cuba? Not bad options to be considering so I told myself to cheer up.
Luckily Max and Tania on SV Alalila, great friends from the Madagascar and South Africa days, were closeby having started work for a charter company just north in the Grenadines. On the 9th of December I day sailed up to Clifton on Union Island to clear in and on approach to the anchorage watched a large 60 foot catamaran smack straight into the reef at full speed. It took about 10 local boat boys in their tenders to pull the catamaran back into open water. After lunch and having checked in I sailed the 2 or so miles further north to Saline Bay on the island of Mayreau. It was fantastic to see Max and Tania again and soon Dustin on SV Tiama had arrived plus Jeff and Cheri on SV Grasshopper, a really fun gang and the drinks flowed. We had an early Christmas dinner on Alalila one evening and then the following day Dustin and I took our boats round to Saltwhistle Bay on the N.W of the island. This is a beautiful small bay but in true Caribbean style means it was jam packed with charter boats. That afternoon whilst having a couple of rums at the beach bar we got chatting with Sasha, a German charter skipper and her German crew. They were super interested in our voyages so invited us back to their boat for dinner. A really fun evening and nice to meet a younger crowd for a change. The next day I went back to Saline Bay to spend some more time with Max and Tania before it was time to part ways yet again.
Next stop was Bequia, about 35nm north of Mayreau, where I arrived on the afternoon of the 13th after another day sail. The weather was squally and quite unpleasant but I quite enjoyed the sensation of sailing to windward again after so much rolly downwind sailing over the last few years and Fathom galloped along at a good pace. I anchored alongside Tiama and Grasshopper and then spent the rest of the afternoon sampling the rum punches at the local bars with Dustin and Jeff. Cheri joined us for a great local dinner ashore that evening, a rare treat not to cook. I still didn’t feel very set on any one plan for the months ahead and continued to yo-yo between moving slowly north or being more adventurous. There was never a dull moment hanging around with Dustin and Jeff so I decided to go slow for the rest of the month and see what I felt like doing in the New Year.
Dustin and I set sail for Saint Vincent on the 15th December. I had not stopped at this island back in 2016 because at the time some cruisers had been boarded, robbed and sadly killed by some locals in the dark of the night. The island had gained a bad reputation back then but more recently cruisers were starting to visit again. The advantage of stopping was that it was a day sail away and split up the otherwise overnight passage to Saint Lucia. It was another windward bash into the N.E tradewinds but very manageable and I anchored Fathom next to Tiama in Chateabelair Bay. We were the only cruising boats in an otherwise empty bay and within half an hour two locals paddled out to us in their small wooden tender. I couldn’t help but feel on edge but they seemed friendly and sold me a couple of freshly caught red snapper fish. One of the two, a tough looking middle aged guy introduced himself as ‘George’ and offered, infact insisted, that he would be our protector when we stepped ashore later and no one would bother us. I wasn’t sure if that was a reassuring to hear or not.
After lunch Dustin picked me up in his dinghy and we looked for a place to land on the beach. Our main intention was to visit the customs and immigration office so we could clear out and then sail on to Saint Lucia early the following day. We knew roughly where the office was so beached the dinghy nearby in front of the house of a toothless local lady who must have been pushing 80. She told us she would look after the dinghy and ensure no one stole it. The customs office turned out to be closed but there was a note on the door with a phone number and the man that answered said he would be there in an hour. Now what to do. The decision was made for us by George who suddenly turned up, slightly aggrieved we hadn’t landed on the beach nearer his house, but all the same invited us to have a beer with him and some of his friends at a local bar while we waited for customs to open.
It turned out to be a good 20 minute walk to the bar and the sight of double amputee Dustin walking along on his peg leg certainly drew some attention. We were back at Customs an hour later and the formalities were quick and easy. George was still with us and insisted we joined him for a couple more beers before heading back to our boats. I gave the old lady a few coins as a thank you for her sterling work as dinghy guardian which she seemed pleased about. This time we took the dinghy closer to avoid the walk and George jumped in with us as we motored back along the bay. I jumped out a little early during the beach landing, the water quite a bit deeper than it looked, and was soaked up to my waist. My damp appearance plus Dustin on his peg certainly provided further intrigue for the locals but with George by our side we were pretty much left alone. The small shack we stood outside served cheap cold beers and we made sure to buy George a cold one every time we went to the bar inside. The locals turned out to be mostly friendly, those that were awake that is, probably half of those around us were sleeping on the bench seats. No surprise really as they all appeared to be addicted to drinking 80% rum and smoking weed which was sad to see. They were happy that we were making an effort to socialise with them as most cruisers stay well away and as a thank you brought out a plate of local food for us as a gift. George certainly seemed to have the respect of the locals who continued to come up to him and give him a fist pump. He later told us he had killed a guy who had cheated him at a card game and had been summoned to court next month..
As the sun began to set we made our excuses to leave as it wouldn’t have taken much for the atmosphere at the bar to take a turn for the worse. Dustin and I were back on our boats by sunset. I think we were both on edge after dark, we had seen a dodgy looking guy on a kayak a bit earlier very close to our boats so for the first time ever I locked myself in the cabin overnight. We also kept our VHF radios on and monitored channel 6 just in case any trouble arose. It wasn’t my best nights sleep but no one bothered us. The coffee certainly tasted good as the sun rose in the morning. It was time to continue with the island hopping, next up Saint Lucia.