Thursday, February 4, 2016

Gettin' Kicked Around by Jenny

Sailin’ past Kick ‘Em Jenny
The swells were as big as a small house, with winds gusting to 28 knots…..

I had downloaded Windfinder to my phone and it turned out to be perfectly accurate in its prediction of 25 knot winds (with gusts to 28) for Tues and Wed of our trip.  Yata and I being neophytes to this sort of sailing; we had only sailed on Lake Pepin and the Great Lakes a time or two; didn’t quite know what to expect.

We sailed Sunday to Sunday, Jan 24 to 31st on the Chinook, a 42” mono-hull Bavaria yacht with three berths with Kay Hamilton, Dwight Jelle, Jeri and Dave Erickson.  Dwight was the captain and he and Kay have had a lot of experience including racing as well as weeklong trips through the British Virgin Islands and the Grenadines.  Dave and Jeri purchased Kay and Dwight’s Tartan sailboat and have it at the Pepin Marina. So they too have years of sailing experience.  

We departed Sunday about 2pm after a couple hours of loading and instructions.  We were also told that it was unlikely we’d make to the north end of the Grenadines in the amount of time we had.  And we were leaving from the south end of Grenada which meant that we only made it to Dragon Bay, just north of the port city of St. George’s (Grenada’s Capital) and the bay closest to the
Underwater Sculpture Park.  We anchored here so we could snorkel the park the next morning.
This was one of my ‘top of the list’ things to do but I was disappointed with it.  I guess I’d rather snorkel a great reef instead.  The concept of the underwater sculpture was a good one and it had grown some coral which made the sculptures a part of the environment and a more interesting concept.  But some were damaged and neglected.  I think Grenada should grow the concept and make it much more. Maybe invite a competition for designs.  And then if they were mapped out or a map was provided...that would help as well.  We may have missed some of the sculptures that were there for lack of a map. (PS I just found a map online and realize that we did miss many of the sculptures on the first go...will have to try again.)

We got a late start Monday morning. We left for the sister island of Carriacou at about 10am.  We were bucking some strong winds already on Monday and realized about mid day that we risked not making it before dark to the island. As there were no good anchorages in between, we back tracked to what became a sleepless night in a bay that we named Toilet Bowl bay or Monkey Poacher Bay.  It was a very small bay at the base of a mountain valley that funneled the strong winds down and around the base of the bay.  When you anchor your boat, you set the anchor in sand and let out the line. The anchor hooks into the sand and you then put the engine in reverse to really set it hard.  Then you snorkel over the anchor to see if it moves at all.  I checked it with Dwight. I thought I saw it move a few feet. He didn’t think it did though.  We had an overhead power line above and we were in about 13 feet of water. The keel is six feet deep.  Dave set an alarm that would squawk if the boat moved much from it’s original placement.  At about 1am the alarm went off and it turns out that the boat had floated in towards shore, closer to the power line and was now swinging in a completely different direction in shallower water. Dwight sat up on board for hours keeping an eye out.  Dave didn’t get any sleep that night either as he listened to the alarm squawk.  Yata slept through the whole deal.  By morning all was fine, we were back in our original position in the toilet bowl.  By the way, the Monkey Poacher Bay name was due to us watching flashlights spotting up into the trees in the hillsides around our part of the bay for a while.  We don’t think they found any monkeys though.

We were determined to get to Carriacou the next day so we left plenty early.  This was a very high wind day with a crossing near the underwater volcano, Kick ‘Em Jenny. Dave’s wife Jeri’s monicker became Kick ‘Em Jeri, and inspired a new song from Yata and his guitar.  The seas were huge with swells up to 25 feet high at times. We rocked and rolled our way all day over this 19 mile crossing.  Only one meal of sandwiches was sacrificed to the floor of the galley. Not bad considering.  Everyone handled the waves without trouble but with the help of some Bonine and motion sickness wristbands.  

-Although two days after disembarking from the ship, I’m still wavy in the head. The sound of the sea invokes the sway of the boat as does sitting on the toilet! Makes me wonder if I should take some Bonine!-
The Sisters, just off of Kickem' Jenny

We arrived late afternoon in Tyrrel Bay on the south west corner of Carriacou. There were already about eighty boats anchored and we had a bit of a challenge finding a spot that wasn’t too close to another boat and yet not such a long dinghy ride to shore.  We found one spot in front of a Catamaran hailing from Germany.  
Tyrrel Bay

Klaus, as we named him, came over to inform us that our boat would move differently than his.  If our anchor wasn’t set well enough it would come loose and we’d bang into him. But it was set fine, and even so, we moved the next day to an new opening. Tyrrel Bay was a great spot. A marina for taking care of basics such as bathroom, shower (if you could sweet talk them), garbage disposal, ice, etc.  There were also a number of good little restaurants, a couple dive shops, small supermarkets and bars, of course.  We ate at the Lambie Queen (Lambie is Conch) and had a exquisite homestyle Key Lime Pie.  Although we got the last piece and even though they said there would be more tomorrow and we checked each of the two subsequent days, it never materialized.  We also ate at the Lazy Turtle (or is it Horny Turtle?) where we had the most fabulous pizza. The star was the Category Five: Smoked Fish, sun-dried tomatoes, horseradish cream, all on the basic margherita.   Another memorable meal was from the Gallery Cafe where they served sumptuous salads smothered in fresh vegetables and savory seafood.

One of the best things about Grenada is the public transport and even on Carriacou, there were the mini-van buses.  We took an island tour to the port city of Hillsborough. The route took us over to and along the east coast where is was sunny, dry and picturesque.  Goats grazed in the long grasses with the Atlantic as a backdrop.  Local woman climbed aboard to greet ‘good afternoon everyone’. Passengers answered our musings.  We had seen men picking from a tall shrub and when I said, ‘that’s the plant’...a gentleman informed us that those were pidgeon peas.  Kay asked how they were prepared and he said, cooked or raw.  Later we bought some and made a fried snack with them and later added them to an egg and potato breakfast.  We also found the well regarded Patty's Deli where we purchased top shelf sliced cold cuts for sandwiches.

Hillsbourough port
Hillsborough, was a small but bustling town.  Later the boys took a bus to town while we women stayed on board, and found a great sunset bar, the Eclipse.  Upon returning we heard about the craziest driver EVER.  The bus was full and when Dave said something about there being 25 people on board (including babies and children) the driver said no, ‘it’s 25 people but only 19 people units’.

On the third day we hired Lumba Dive shop to show us the snorkeling reefs.  Again, it was still extremely windy and they took us to Sunset View Reef outside the bay.  But the visibility and waves made it a struggle.  Dave and Jeri are new to snorkeling but they were intrepid and although their gear was rented (from the sailing charter, not the dive shop) and was not making it easy for them, they hung in there.  Dave even said, ‘ I think I’ve found my new favorite sport’.  We did see, though, a lionfish which they hunt to extirpate because they are non-native and destructive of the local fish population, a couple stingrays and other assorted coral and fish.  We took a break and then went to another reef inside the bay where conditions were much better.  Visibility was good and we saw some very intriguing filefish and eels. The next day we left for Petit Martinique, the third sister of the Grenada islands and along the way stopped on Sandy Island, a marine park to snorkel as well.  

We arrived along the shore of Petit St. Vincent (PSV) and anchored.  It is about 3 miles from Petit Martinique (PM).  PSV is not part of Grenada and thus is technically part of the nation of St Vincent.  Since PM and PSV are small and fairly far from the customs office on Union Island, they don’t really enforce the customs rules.  But PSV is mostly a resort for the rich and famous so we weren’t able to swim ashore as most of it is private. Dwight went to snorkel the anchor setting and check the reef nearby. He reminded us that this may be our last chance to snorkel so Jeri, Dave, Yata and I decided to go in.  We observed a lobster diver trying to find lobster on the reef we were on. He had one long fin, and one boot on and a full wet suit.  We didn’t see him have any success though.  I thought I’d try to drive them toward him in hopes of of being rewarded with a lobster but to no avail. As I was returning to the boat I spotted some eyeglasses on the bottom, about ten feet down, about my max free dive. I managed to retrieve them from the bottom and thought, “great these are better than the ones I just lost overboard, if not a bit masculine for me”.  As I climbed aboard I said, “ look what I found “ and Dave said, “those are mine!”  Turns out he didn’t even realize he lost them, must have dove in with them tucked in the front of his shirt.  What are the chances I’d find them?  Yeah!  

We were hungry and reading in the guide book that the restaurant Palm Beach on PM was good and had a boat that would pick us up and return us. So we called and they said that their boat wasn’t that dependable for evenings but that we could use their mooring ball for the night.  We lifted anchor and went to PM to use the mooring ball. We had a lovely dinner under a palapa pavilion near the shore, under the starlight.  Seafood including lobster since this is a fishing island. The next morning most of us went ashore to hike the island. We climbed to near the top and could see to the east north east and to the island of Cananoan and Tobago Cays.  Again more goats, wind and panoramas.  The local man who encouraged us to climb up this way had a new enterprise; making flour from bananas.  

We reboarded about 9am and departed for a heavenly sail back to Grenada.  The Jimmy Buffet tunes and sun and wind were all a perfect combination for making it a perfect sailing day covering 40 miles.

We arrived back in the area just offshore from our Grenada digs by about 5:30, a dinghy ride to Grand Anse beach and dinner at Umbrellas.  Our king size bed was only yards from our boat where our cramped berth was.  I felt like a deserter but when I asked, ‘ would it be cheating for us to sleep on shore tonight’, our captain said, “if I had a good bed that close, I would”.  So we slept in our apartment and Dwight picked us up the next morning by dinghy at the beach below our place.
Our apartment, lower center

We needed to be back to the True Blue Marina by noon so we set sail after another great breakfast by Kay.  I think we went through a pound of coffee this week.  We were all drinking and making it stronger each day.  The final sail into the True Blue was a sunny day with just the right amount of wind.  Yata and I learned so much...the vocabulary of sailing, first of all (it’s line not rope).  We also began to ‘get’ some of the concepts.  I’d say that there is a real art to sailing as well as the physics of sailing.  You have combinations of two sails, a head sail or jib and then the main sail.  You can use one or both, you can have them working in tandem or in point where they are going in opposite directions.    There are lines and pulleys, winches, masts and sails. Port and starboard, fore and aft.
Jean at the helm with Yata

We ate a lot of delicious meals on board with Kay as our chief chef, but everyone pitched in during the week.  At night, Yata brought out his guitar and we sang under the stars.  Everyone took photos and I made some paintings in my watercolor sketchbook.  

This is one thing to take off my bucket list but in some ways it’s adding a couple more. It’d be great to come back again and visit St. Vincent and its Grenadine Islands.

Our mates were great to spend seven cramped days at sea with.  They were so relaxed and competent...and fun!

1 comment:

  1. Contrary to what one reader thought, I wasn't trying to suggest that the sleepless night in Toilet Bowl Bay was a result of the captain not heeding my comment that 'the anchor moved'. Instead the anchor held fast all night, what really happened was that the toilet bowl effect of the winds caused the boat to release it's tension on the anchor and then float around, keeping the captain and 2nd mate awake....worrying!