Sailing to St Vincent

We were all set to head to Grenada and spend two weeks in quarantine, when we got word that St Vincent and the Grenadines would allow boaters to enter if they took a COVID test and quarantined until the results came in. Since SVG is further north, it’s a shorter trip, but still far enough south to be safe this time of year, and so we jumped at the chance to see another island. We got ourselves pre-approved, found a wind window, and set sail for points South.

We also got approval from Guadeloupe to anchor overnight, so the first leg was the kind of nice day-sail we’d imagined having through the whole Caribbean. We still got up early, because the further we made it down the coast, the shorter the next leg would be. So we headed out, and had a nice calm sail between the islands, which we could only kind of see with all the Saharan dust in the air. The waves were small enough that we felt comfortable catching up on these posts under way, laptops in the cockpit. No splashes, just the occasional dense patch of that same seaweed.

Guadeloupe asked us to fly India and Romeo flags to signal our transient status, instead of the usual yellow quarantine flag. And since we don’t have a set of signal flags on board (“kids these days!”), Jazz whipped up a stopgap out of construction and contact papers.

Guadeloupe was clearly in its dry season, but still much greener than St Kitts or Antigua. We started motoring along the coast at sunrise, the morning calm combining with the island’s wind shadow to give us nice flat water, marred only by the omnipresent seaweed clusters and the occasional floating balloon (balloons don’t just disappear into the sky, they become sea garbage and kill critters). Captain came out to watch the birds, which seemed to be flying close to the stern just to taunt him.

Wind shadows would end up defining the trip: though we passed fifteen miles off of Martinique, we still found the trade winds blocked, sometimes disappearing outright, and sometimes blowing from the exact opposite direction. At the edges of the wind shadow, all that blocked wind comes up at once, so we alternated between sections of calm motoring, nice pleasant 12-15 knot beam reaches, and sportier 18-25 knot transitions. It was bittersweet passing these islands we’d been so excited to visit, knowing that this was likely as close as this trip would take us.

It was a passage, so of course, something had to go wrong at some point. It seems the hydraulic ram for our steering system has developed a leak, and we spun in circles for a little while off of Martinique while we topped up the liquid – a stopgap until we can get new seals. Amusingly, when we arrived, the SVG clearance team mentioned seeing us spinning on AIS. Seems with modern technology we can’t get away with anything. As always, Captain was very interested and helpful with the fix.

Unfortunately not all of the trip was as smooth as the wind and wave shadows, and Captain does not much care for rough seas. The sea state combined with his slightly-snug litterbox seems to be enough of a deterrent that he didn’t make it all the way inside to pee. Here he is, just front paws in and missing the target, even after asking me to open the door for him. Come on, Cappers!

Most of the time he was cuter than that, though.

We also got some extemporaneous company from this bird, which spent about an hour flying alongside us and diving into the waves after fish.

As we came out of the wind shadow of St Lucia, we heard a ripping sound from above the cockpit, and discovered that the tack of our mainsail had given up the ghost. This meant that we would be sailing with a reef in for the rest of the trip, losing just a little more speed during the calmer sections.

So despite sailing at over six knots for a lot of the trip, between the steering system, the wind shadows, current, and the blown-out main, we were a good bit slower than our 5 knot estimate. So instead of our planned afternoon arrival, we got to St Vincent a little after a hazy sunset. The island did put out a welcome rainbow, but it came with a welcome rainshower, so we dropped anchor by the shore of Chateaubelair Bay in rainy moonlight.

We got up early the next morning, and motored down the absolutely gorgeous coast of St Vincent, past one stunning bay after another, until we reached the designated customs/testing/quarantine anchorage at Young Island Cut.

“Jimmy” met us in a small boat and guided us to a mooring that we would never have seen on our own, marked as it was with a small plastic water bottle. It was way closer to the cliff side than we would ever have felt safe anchoring, but that made for a beautiful view, as well as entertainment from the congregation of egrets that live in the tree above.

The check-in process was smooth, though we still aren’t super comfortable with our documents leaving our sight. We got our first of probably many PCR tests, aka “the brain swab”, and settled in to wait for the results, and to clean off some of the Saharan dust. Ick.

And, holy crap, we’re still in St Vincent as I write this, which means that for the first time in two years, we’re actually all the way caught up! Let’s see how long that lasts.

One comment

  1. I’m fascinated by your ability to fix a steering hydraulic problem.
    And the blown out main, needing to reef for the rest of the trip. Amazing.
    I’m a close-to-shore boater, so this is all amazing to me.

    We trailered our 17 ft boat to Salem MA on July 4th and motored out to a tiny island in Marblehead harbor with our grandkids. People were setting up beach chairs to view the fireworks 11 hrs in advance. And none of them were looking at cell phones. That’s rare.
    — Doug Swain

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