Phil's Logs


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The Crew


DATE: March 19, 2007
LOCATION: Grenadines

Dominica marks the end of the Leeward Islands. Those south of Dominica are called the Windwards. Named the Leewards by the Brits because from most of their possessions sailing to these islands was to the leeward. I have read that to the Dutch these same islands were to the windward. Of course, this is in reference to the more or less easterly trade winds. Looking at the charts I haven't quite been able to sort all this out. I suppose it's due to my incomplete knowledge of which island was owned by whom and at what time. The Dutch, French, English, Danes and the Spanish have been playing musical chairs with these islands for so long its hard for me to figure just who was leeward of who at any particular time. I can say certainly, headed down the chain until Dominica the wind and the current always conspired to make you close to the wind and if you weren't mindful of the forecasted wind direction, it could be a beat or worse. As we headed for Bequia from Dominica the wind and the current, stronger now, was still making it close to the wind, even though the course was now a bit west of south for the first time. You don't see many charter type catamarans headed down island, the rigs on those boats have been so shortened and the draft so diminished that these boats will barley sail 50 degrees to the apparent wind. If 50 degrees to the apparent wind is the best your boat can do you will find yourself waiting in the harbor a good part of the time waiting for a very considerable shift to the North or South of east, depending on which direction your sailing, otherwise your going to be motor sailing a lot. Parallax does not have dagger boards but does have keels that are 34 inches deep and will easily do 40 and can be pinched up to 35 or so, in a pinch. The performance cats with dagger boards can nearly point with the monohulls and any good sailing cruising mono ought to be able to make 30 degrees or maybe even a bit better. The trip from Dominica to Bequia would take me past the major Windward Islands of St Lucia, Martinique and St Vincent. I didn't mind so much missing Martinique. Although I had spent considerable time in French Island of Guadeloupe, my French vocabulary was still considerably less than a French sailor's Parrot. I hated missing Saint Lucia, the diving is reported to be even better than Dominica and the island one of the most beautiful. But my allotted time was passing so quickly, and a May (pre-hurricane season) departure to the states meant I couldn't mess about as much as I might otherwise want. Hopefully, I could catch Saint Lucia on the way back. I definitely wanted to spend some time in the jewel like string of islands and cays south of Saint Vincent, known collectively as the Grenadines. Among the most beautiful as well as colorful Caribbean destinations, I was willing to sacrifice some time at the larger islands in order to spend a few days poking around these little islands and Cays. Bequia, just south of St Vincent marked the beginning of the Grenadine string. At approximately 150 miles south of Dominica, a noon departure should put me there early the next morning. The sail turned out to be one of the most grueling island hops yet. The wind was strong and the west and north setting currents at times knocked 2 knots or more off my speed over the ground and worse, contrived to work up a nasty little sea as the current divided by the islands hooked around either end and converged again off the lee side. We could never quite get everything in sync and the boat would bounce off this wave and over the next sometimes at 9 knots over the ground and sometimes only 6. There was enough ship traffic to make the radar alarm useless and the noise and motion made little catnaps impossible anyway. An unmarked (on my electronic chart) structure several miles off the coast of St Lucia confused me with it bright white light as I approached and red light when I past . Whatever it was, it didn't return a radar echo on the approach and only a weak echo after I passed. If there is one thing a sailor loathes its discovering something where the chart says there is nothing. By this time it was 4 AM in the morning and I was truly beat. . Luckily, as we approached St. Vincent in the early morning the wind died some in the lee and the current abated. I catnapped a bit in the early light and the full light of morning saw us round into Admiralty Harbor in Bequia. Admiralty Harbor is a wide expanse of crystal clear water surrounding the town of Port Elizabeth. It was crowded, but I edged in close to town in hopes that maybe I could get a wifi signal at the boat. I dropped the anchor and noticed it was dragging a bit under half reverse. From the vibration of the chain and notes in my guidebook, I knew I was on a mixture of dead coral rubble with a thin layer of sand. I finally got the hook to grab and I immediately dove on the anchor to make sure it had set. It was buried in a patch of sand and although I would have liked it to bury deeper, it was probably as good as it was going to get on this bottom. I let out a little more scope for insurance and set out in my dingy to clear in and have a look around. The quaint little town was full of boaters and locals, and true to its billing you could see this town was somewhere a sailor might stay for a while. I cleared in had a little lunch, bought some tomatoes and grapefruits at the open market and after a little rain squall hopped in my dingy to return to my boat and Sleep. As I approached where I had left Parallax resting peacefully at anchor, I became very unpeacefull as there was no Parallax. Now I am one of those guys who will loose his car in the Wal-Mart parking lot 30% of the time but I have Never misplaced my boat. After about 10 seconds of panic, I saw Parallax now at the back of the anchorage. It had slipped its anchor in the little squall and was shaping a course for the Panama Canal. The extra chain I had let out was still offering resistance in the deeper water, so I easily overtook her, jumped aboard, pulled the anchor, and went to the very back of the anchorage this time and dropped two anchors. I didn't' particularly like the way either set, but they were both set and although I was edgy the whole stay in Bequia neither anchor dragged an inch. After all this commotion I was beyond tired and after watching for any signs of dragging for 30 minutes I set the anchor alarm on my GPS and slept from 5 pm until 6 the next morning. The exploration of Bequia could wait.

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