1 January 2018 – a Grenadian New Year


January 15th, 2018


Caribbean – Windward Islands, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019

Written by

Richard Farrington

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By Richard. Posted on January 15th, 2018 in Caribbean – Windward Islands, North Atlantic 2017 – 2019.

12:02N  061:45W

Eventually, after 11 days away from Port Louis Marina, we started to run low on fresh water.  The watermaker has been acting all precious since we left Cape Verde and even though it was back in operation before Christmas, the instructions clearly state that it should be run when the vessel is offshore in 50m depth.  So running it in 10m of water surrounded by other boats at anchor was never something that I was keen on, but with three long-haired Admirals in the crew, some risks were necessary if we were to maintain a reasonable lifestyle in the salty, hot climate of a yacht at Tobago Cays.  We were able to maintain full services, but the tank was gradually emptying and the only guaranteed source of reliable drinking water (non-bottled) was back in Grenada.

Accordingly, we started to head south.  We spent a lovely day at Union Island where the girls went kitesurfing.  They had a lesson with a young Frenchman (not sure if he is one of the acrobats entertaining the groupies each evening) who spends six months of the year here at Union Island teaching kitesurfing and six months travelling the world on the proceeds.  Sounds pretty idyllic and I could see the cogs ticking in the Young Peoples’ minds.  


Kitseurfing sundowners under a stormy sky

Why are we so fixed on having a career, owning a house, bringing our families up in a conventional Western First World ‘bubble’?  Surely the French Kitesurfer model is pretty bomb-proof – after all, people will always come on holiday and want to do these things?  Why do we need the trappings of convention?  But suppose he hurt himself?  Or worse, drowned a client? How would you bring up children? Why rent and be at the mercy of a landlord because you never have quite enough money?  Perhaps it’s as simple as ‘live in a Commune and give up your worldly possessions’ or ‘try and make a go of it in the Modern World’.  I wonder?

Actually, this sailing life seems to combine the best of both worlds.  Julie and I aren’t exactly living in a commune, but living on the boat we do have massive discretion over what we do and when we do it – and that’s almost priceless.  The price?  The cost and responsibility of owning a boat of this size and complexity, the long careers doing something else first in order to build up a pension to live off and a pot of reserves to cushion any unexpected blows… none of it achievable without the support of our family and friends.  We are truly lucky!

After a night at Union Island, we set off early on 28 December for the 50 mile passage south to Phare Bleu Bay in Grenada.  It’s one of a series of beautiful inlets with protected anchorages on the south east coast of Grenada and home to a small marina where we had a berth booked.  The passage was fast: twenty knots of wind on the beam, but a big quartering sea which was more uncomfortable than we had experienced on the Transatlantic passage – probably because the long Atlantic swell was brought up short by the shallower waters around the Windward islands.  We threaded our way between the reefs at the southern end of the Grenadines, passed west of Petit Martinique and east of Carriacou.  The skies were alternately gloriously blue and dark grey and we received more than one ‘free fresh water washdown’ as we headed south.


The Phare Bleu Resort

Phare Bleu Resort and Marina looks pretty idyllic.  A boutique hotel in immaculately landscaped tropical gardens with a private beach and a small marina ‘out front’ capable of taking around 50 good sized boats.  There’s an old Swedish lightship which acts as the washrooms for the marina and houses a small restaurant/bar.  All very well presented, but the support facilities for yachts are limited and the emphasis (if there is one – this is the Caribbean after all) is probably on the hotel.  The entrance through the reefs is quite narrow and shallow, but we found that the Navionics chart combined with the Doyle Cruising Guide and a good lookout was plenty accurate enough.  Not so for a nice-looking Swan 65 that left as we were entering.  We had two reefs in the main and genoa and were still pushing over nine knots, but they went out under full sail.  I was a bit to busy to study them closely but twenty minutes later they were back off the entrance to the marina and ran hard aground on a reef marked with a buoy and visible on the chart.  The marina staff worked quite hard to pull them off and they appeared quite chastened in the bar later that afternoon.  Subsequently we learned that they had torn both sails shortly after leaving and that the boat belonged to the owner of the hotel who had lent it to a friend.  They are all Swiss – clearly they should have stuck to skiing…


The lightship at Phare Bleu – hints of Haslar?


The view in the other direction… forget Haslar, then!

We stayed at Phare Bleu for three days, getting the laundry done, refilling the fridge, the gas bottles and the water tank.  Anna’s boyfriend Matt joined us bringing the mainsheet traveller spares and some delayed Christmas pressies and we set about seeing the sights and having a family holiday.  The weather turned increasingly wet – usually a really heavy shower for no more than five minutes followed by an hour of hot sunshine – but the balance soon shifted towards 50:50.  On the Saturday before New Year it turned to 80:20 in favour of heavy rain, just as we set off to join the Grenada Hash House Harriers for the last ‘hash’ of 2017.  A bus collected us and a couple of committed liveaboard types from adjacent bays and drove us through the rain to a spot on the west coast of Grenada somewhere north of St Georges.  It was a good way to see the island – mountainous terrain, thickly covered in tropical vegetation with small, mostly timber, highly painted houses on stilts peeking through the canopy.  A glimpse of paradise through the steamed up windows punctuated by reggae rhythms and the odd sharp turn!


The lush green paradise of Grenada

There were about 100 people gathered for the hash – a genuine mix of Grenadians, expatriates and yachties.  The girls set off on the long run; Julie and Matt and I settled for the long walk.  It was loose jungle, with continuous heavy rain and the challenge of following in the footsteps of about fifty runners who left a trail that reminded me of days bringing the cows in at the farm and picking my way around the quagmire outside the gate to the milking shed.  Except here, there was no option but to plough through it!  Once you had your first bootful of warm wet mud, it was actually quite liberating…  The hash took us through some colourful tropical undergrowth and rainforest; every now and again there was a glimpse of what would, on any other day, have been stunning views of the coast.  The girls overtook us half a mile before the finish and we celebrated with a beer and some barbecued chicken with the other mud-caked and half-drowned participants.  Despite the weather, everyone was in a very good mood and we were pleased to have got off our backsides and done something energetic and enjoyable. 


Pushing uphill


Washing the mud off and the effort down with… a Carib, or course!

My boots have not quite recovered.  After the first wash we declared a two metre exclusion zone around them; now, after several baths in washing detergent the hazardous danger area is confined to the inside of the boot.  I’m contemplating using some heavy duty bilge cleaner to kill off the remaining bugs…


St Georges, with ‘Superyacht Row’ in the middle, just to the right of the Marina

For New Years Eve we sailed round to Port Louis Marina at St Georges.  It was nice to be back in this high quality facility – the only problem is that it is so well sheltered that not enough breeze blows through the boat.  The problem is exacerbated every time the heavens open, when we rush round shutting the hatches and portholes.  The New Year’s Eve Party is apparently the best in Grenada!  They went to a huge effort to transform the foreshore next to ‘superyacht row’ into a party venue, so we had a backdrop of mega bling with the town rising up behind.  There was a sophisticated sound system and a very professional line up of DJs – some of them even played music I had heard of.  The rum distillers were there in force and the drinks were free all night.  Nonetheless, you would have to drink your bodyweight in 65% proof white rum to get the entry fee back!  And the heavens opened from about 10pm and the rain did not stop until daybreak.  It didn’t upset the flow of things much at all  – after the hash, we were used to the idea of being absolutely saturated – this time it was a fine judgement on whether the external or internal levels of liquid peaked first.  The Grenadians turned up dressed for a formal Ball; the yachties were there in shorts and t-shirts.  Fortunately, the Farrington girls had something suitable to wear and looked wonderful, but on balance I wished that the ‘overseas -contingents’ had made a bit more of an effort in the sartorial department.


New Years Eve dinner – waiting for food and rain!

The rain had the last word, though.  As we gradually succumbed to levels of liquid and returned to the boat, we found that the hatch to Lizzie’s cabin was open.  Water in the People Tank… Op DRYOUT commenced!

Happy New Year to all our readers!