Caribbean Sailing – A Typical Passage Between Islands

Our trip south from St Lucia to Bequia was an interesting mix as usual, typical of sailing in the Caribbean.

Drifting Past The Pitons At Dawn

For those of you who are not sailors, the trip went like this:

Wednesday Afternoon – dinghy ashore to check the weather for the last time. All was well with light winds not gusting more than 15 knots forecast, so I visited customs and immigration to clear out, taking the ship’s papers and our passports. I know them well in the St Lucia office now!

Later Wednesday – started preparing the boat for sea. This means putting everything away securely, such as the fruit bowl, free standing mirror, any glass and china. The main sail is unpacked and the rope attached, ready for use. The side panels in the cockpit are rolled up and fastened so we can see out clearly. The TV is put into ‘sea’ position and the cooker hob on gimbals, so it swings and stays flat no matter what the boat is doing.

We then had a big meal to make us sleep and an early night with the alarm set for 0130 Thursday.

Calm Sailing Day

Thursday – as usual, woke up before the alarm went off. How does this always happen!! So, got up 15 minutes early and finished putting everything away, made a flask of coffee and got our lifejackets and harnesses on. We never sail in the dark without them in case we go overboard. All the instruments are switched on and the navigation lights checked.

By 0145 we were motoring to get the anchor up, the full and bright moon giving excellent light. Our neighbouring boats all had lights on, so we could easily see them but it isn’t always the case. We turned back into the wind a little way out of the bay and got most of the mainsail up. During the night we tend to have less sail up in case of bad weather. All of this can be done from the cockpit, a very safe feature of the 473.

Once out of the bay the front sail (genoa) was unfurled and we stopped the engine. It was a lovely calm night and we gently drifted south to arrive at the Pitons for dawn. The wind then died and we had to motor again so the genoa was put away. It then picked up but we had a big current against us and were only doing 2 knots over the ground but 6 knots through the water! Very slow progress for a while. We then put all the sails out to help us along and wondered if we would make Bequia before dark. Not a huge problem as it is an easy harbour to enter.

Speeding Between Islands

Once we were clear of St Lucia the wind increased to a lovely force 4 on the side of the boat and we were doing 7 knots and roaring along very comfortably. No engine required and we would make Bequia before dark! Passing the tip of St Vincent, the wind died again and turned from ESE to SW, as it often does there close to the land. We were motoring again, genoa furled away, giving us a nice flat boat to have lunch!

Again the wind increased then died and the final stretch, the sea between St Vincent and Bequia, which is usually rough, was like a millpond with a few spots of rain to disturb the surface. We had to motor into Port Elizabeth, arriving just before 5pm, so it was a 15 hour trip, about the same as last time when going north.

Rare Total Calm Approaching Bequia

It was an active 15 hours, for the most part, pulling sails in and out, checking for other shipping, looking at the charts and getting meals prepared. Winching keeps you fit and your muscles are constantly moving to keep you upright as the boat moves. We are just so used to it now we don’t notice but it must make us tired.

On arrival we went to the south of the bay where we normally anchor and just as we got the anchor down the heavens opened. I still snorkelled over the anchor and although it wasn’t well dug in, the chain was lying over rocks and the anchor could only drag into 1 and stick tight! There was a slight swell making the boat roll a little, so I was up before 0600 to see the local fishermen just behind us and the moon still in the sky above them. Nice scene.

Moon Setting Over Admiralty Bay, Bequia

We have now moved to the north of the bay where the swell doesn’t affect us and we are happily anchored in sand and quite close to the dinghy dock in town. We will stay here a week probably, before going to the Tobago Cays for 3 nights as we have only stopped very briefly there in the past and it is stunning.

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