Date: 31 May, 2000
Port of Call: Admiralty Bay, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Subject: St. Lucia and Bequia
On Friday, May 12, we hauled up the anchor and moved Sovereign less than a mile to the anchorage off Pigeon Island. The finale of the St. Lucia Jazz Festival was scheduled for that weekend and we wanted to be close to the action. Saturday dawned bright with just a few puffy cumulus clouds--perfect weather for the festival. The music started at 1400 with Joe Sample, the one act we really wanted to hear that day. Unfortunately, the distance from the stage to our boat made the music sound muddy, all bass thuds and not much else. One of the local radio stations attempted to simulcast the performances, but they had so many technical difficulties that perhaps only a fourth of the music was actually broadcast. Oh well. We had a good time swimming in the aqua water to stay cool, and had cocktails with friends aboard Phantasie as George Duke and Gladys Knight rumbled away in the distance.
On Sunday the local radio station had finally worked out their technical difficulties and got the simulcast going. The music opened with a local group called Sisterhood, followed by Keith Sweat, Hiroshima, and the group we were really waiting for, Spyrogyra. Unfortunately, the radio producer must not have had a very high opinion of Spyrogyra, because most of the airtime during Spyrogyra's performance was spent doing interviews with Sisterhood members. Oh well (again). Still, we enjoyed the usual swim to stay cool, and cocktails aboard Wandering Star as Patti LaBelle belted out her songs.
The highpoint of the event for us was the fireworks, which burst above our heads just after the music ended. We had the best view possible, and they were so close that every explosion throbbed in our chests. The pyrotechnics arced above our heads and then bloomed into flowers of blazing white, gold, green, blue, and red. The tropical night flickered in the fantastic bursts of color as the boats in the anchorage, the palm trees, and hills on shore sent back eerie reflections of the blazingly pure lights. The show was perhaps the best fireworks we have ever experienced, and we will long remember it.
YET ANOTHER TOUR
The "naff" waterfall
On May 18th we shared a rental car with Glyn and Jenny from Wandering Star, and took another tour of St. Lucia. Unlike our last experience with a local bus packed with 14 sailors, this time it was just four of us armed with a map. We stopped at a waterfall which, we discovered upon arriving, had been built by man rather than nature for the purpose of snagging tourists like ourselves. Glyn declared it very "naff" which, roughly translated into American, means "tacky". Still, we had to admire the industry of the people who created a tourist attraction out of nothing more than a mountain stream.
The Pitons--view from our lunch table
We enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful view of the Pitons. The Pitons are perhaps the defining landmarks of St. Lucia. They are two mountains on the west coast of St. Lucia which look like two upside-down ice cream cones set side by side. They rise directly from the water to a height of 2600 feet, and are so steep that it seems impossible that they don't tumble into a heap. With this breathtaking backdrop, we lunched on pumpkin soup, salad, fish, rice, local vegetables, and dessert.
We went to the same botanical gardens as on our previous bus tour, but
this time we actually strolled through the gardens instead of running.
We enjoyed the fabulous array of tropical flowering plants in a beautifully
landscaped setting. We drove back up the more gently rolling hills
of the eastern coast and returned to the Rodney Bay at dusk.
Marigot Bay, St. Lucia
After stocking up on some necessary provisions, we sailed down to Marigot Bay on May 24th. Marigot is a little harbor that can easily be sailed past without even knowing it is there. In fact, this is precisely why a British admiral of old used the harbor to hide from French ships. Entering the harbor, a sandy beach studded with palm trees juts half way across the entrance, leaving only a narrow channel to reach the inner harbor. Inside it is ringed with mangroves and completely protected. As we arrived we were met by numerous boat boys trying to sell us fruit or locally made jewelry, or handing out advertisements for the local bars and restaurants.
Bequia's passport stamp has an outline of the island
The next morning we had the anchor up shortly after 0530 for the sixty mile sail to Bequia (pronounced BECK-way). We motorsailed out of the lee of St. Lucia and into the St. Vincent Channel. Despite the rumors you may have heard that trade winds are nice and steady, our experience has been otherwise. We had winds that varied from 5 to 35 knots and shifted between east and southeast. In the nearly eleven hours of sailing that day, we figured we made about a dozen sail changes: reefing the main, then shaking it out again; rolling out the yankee jib and then the stays'l; rolling up the stays'l first, then rolling away the yankee and pulling out the stays'l as the winds built, dropped, and built again. We were once again pleased about our decision to install roller furling on the jibs before we left on this cruise. We could just pull on the furling line in the cockpit and watch the forward sails roll and unroll like a window shade, rather than having to go onto the foredeck to raise and lower sails. Even so, with all the reefing and unreefing the mainsail, furling and unfurling the jibs, and constant trimming to urge the last iota of drive from the sails, we were exhausted at the end of the day. We dropped anchor in Admiralty Bay here in Bequia and had an early night.
Local racing boats, Bequia
Bequia is a beautiful little island. It is part of "St. Vincent and the Grenadines" (SVG), which became independent from the United Kingdom in 1979. It is about seven miles long and two miles wide at its widest. With only 6000 people, it manages to avoid the blatant "built for tourism" look of many of the other Caribbean islands. No high-rise hotels on the beaches. No JetSkis (they are outlawed here--way to go SVG!). It's hard to go on describing island after island without sounding like a broken record: all the islands of the eastern Caribbean are lush and mountainous, rimmed with white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Bequia is like that too, just smaller than most of the others we have visited. Recall your stock mental image of a Caribbean island, and you probably have a pretty good idea.
The first tropical wave of the 2000 hurricane season passed the Windward Islands over the last few days, bringing squally weather and gusty winds. The first bit of excitement occurred as the first gusts of the wave hit, causing an unattended boat in Admiralty Bay to drag anchor. We boarded the boat and found that it had two anchors over the side, each with only about 30 feet of anchor rode. Given the depth of this harbor, 120 feet of anchor line would have been about the minimum amount necessary, but since there was no more anchor line on the boat, we could not just re-anchor it. We lashed our dinghy to one side of the boat, and Wandering Star lashed their dinghy to the other. Steering by varying the throttles on our two outboard engines, we were able to maneuver the boat to an unused mooring nearby.
Last night we were awakened several times by horns, whistles and shouts as another series of gusts blew through the anchorage. At each event I climbed into the cockpit with the binoculars handy, and watched the activity as boats re-anchored throughout the night. Fortunately, our over-sized anchor and hefty chain held us securely in place, and we had no worries that we would join the other boats in their slide through the harbor.
Last week marked one year since we left the marina in Brunswick, Georgia on the start of our cruise. On the good days it is hard to believe that we have been away that long. On the bad days it feels like we have been away a very long time. Lately the good days have far outnumbered the bad, and we hope that will continue to be the case.
Jim and Cathy