Embarking on our sailing adventure to see the world very, very slowly, Glenn and I were looking forward to lingering and getting to experience each island’s people, culture, and food. Little did we know that we would come to know St. Lucia very, very well!
St. Lucia is a beautiful island where we had planned to spend two weeks – one week with Mom and one week getting some boat work done on Mira. We would end up spending 22 days (Jan 23- Feb 16) on this lovely island. While we anxiously awaited the arrival of boat parts from Argentina, the volatile Eastern Caribbean weather took a turn for the worse. Our good weather window was slamming shut. Glenn spends part of every day analyzing the weather. Since we live on the water, direction and strength of the wind and waves is really important to us. We use a variety of weather reports. Mira receives a daily email report from the Marine Weather Center. We also usually listen to the MWC’s morning broadcast on the SSB radio. Glenn also favors both the PredictWind and Windy apps – both provide amazing amounts of weather detail by the hour. On St. Lucia, by the time the boat parts arrived and were installed – every weather source Glenn could find declared only emergency boat travel between islands for the foreseeable future. Winds were gusting over 40 knots and waves were 10-13 feet with short duration. Even worse, we were planning to head north – straight into the gusts!
So… we stayed and stayed and stayed ……. snorkeled, dove, hiked, swam, picked up trash, ate lots, and finished many boat projects. St. Lucia is a tropical paradise, and we made the most of our time there!
Sailboats move – whether sailing or at anchor or in a marina – they still move – sometimes a lot! So when my 82 year old mother, Margie, (Meemaw to her 9 grandchildren) announced that she wanted to visit us on Mira, I was nervous. Glenn was more than nervous. Granted, Mom is very active – walking miles every day, taking exercise classes, driving all over Atlanta, etc, etc – but, still ……… a sailboat?!?!
So, a plan was hatched. We would dock Mira at the Rodney Bay Marina on St. Lucia, and mom would come and visit. But, she would spend the night in the Harbour Club Hotel adjacent to the Marina – not on the sailboat. It was a perfect plan! We explored the beautiful island of St. Lucia both by day sails and by car. She ate many meals on Mira – as well as at some delicious restaurants. Mom climbed in and out of the dinghy (our only car) onto the dock next to Mira and also, on to the dock at the Harbour Club. By the way, climbing in and out of a “bucking bronco” dinghy in winds and waves is not an easy feat! I myself have been known to take a dip or two due to a misstep out of the dinghy!
Bequia has long been a favorite Caribbean island of ours – from our brief first visit on a day sail during our honeymoon on Young Island, St. Vincent in 1985, to a longer visit during a week-long sailing charter with the kids in 2009. We have always vowed to visit Bequia again. Luckily, we were able to stay 6 days this trip, and it was all that we expected. From gorgeous sunsets from Mira in Admiralty Bay (our anchorage for the week) to hiking the island to swimming gorgeous Princess Margaret Beach to dancing under the stars during the Bequia Jazz Fest ( thanks for the tip – Mark & Sara!) – Bequia was delightful!
St. Vincent, the master of the Grenadines, has gotten a bad reputation in recent years – sadly, most of it deserved. Glenn and I honeymooned on Young Island, just off the coast of St. Vincent, more than 32 years ago. We have returned to visit Young Island by sailboat once before – introducing the kids to our favorite memories. But, since our last visit – St. Vincent has had increasing trouble protecting its visitors from island crime. Therefore, on our way north from Bequia to St. Lucia, we decided to stop for only one night along the west coast of St. Vincent – mostly to break up the long sail. We were surprised and delighted at all that Cumberland Bay had to offer!
We left our anchorage on St. Vincent at 5:00 am the next morning – pitch black and blinding fog – another first for Pam and Glenn on Mira. The trickiest step was not – leaving the anchorage without scraping the steep cliffs but rather – untying our stern line from the palm tree while raising the anchor – all without bumping our very close boat neighbor – in the pitch dark!! Luckily, we had almost no wind, and Glenn was able to pull himself along the line in the dinghy, untie and then we were able to slink out slowly and carefully.
We were a little nervous about this next sail – which could take us anywhere from 8-12 hours. The channel of open ocean between St. Vincent and St. Lucia is notorious for crazy gusty winds and seas like a washing machine. It did not disappoint! Winds were predicted to be up to 15 knots, and we had gusts of 25 knots with off/on wind shifts and rain squalls and therefore, sail changes. We were so happy to spot the Pitons looming in the south of St. Lucia!
Mira waited patiently for us at Port Louis Marina while Glenn and I celebrated Christmas and New Year’s in Atlanta. January 12 was the official launch day of Mira! Our plan for the next six weeks or so is to sail from island to island north up through the Eastern Caribbean Windward Islands.
So many questions ??? Do we anchor in the middle of the ocean? Do we ever stop? How long do we sail? Do you sail at night? Do you ever have happy hour? The last question is a resounding “yes”! but not usually while we are sailing 🙂
Answer — a typical day for us goes like this — up early with the sunrise (sadly no blackout shades on Mira), breakfast, attempt at exercise, raise the anchor or release the mooring ball (a floating ball attached to a large concrete block that acts like an anchor for Mira) and we head off. We sail anywhere from 2 hours to 7-8 hours to our next destination stop for the night. At this point in our duo sailing adventure, we don’t plan to sail at night :). Before leaving Grenada, Glenn and I outlined a general sailing plan for the next couple of months. But, this plan is very flexible – — we are slaves to the wind and weather.
For an example of a typical day — Mira rests quite happily 20 yards from a tiny deserted island and reef in the Tobago Cays – while we swim, hike, explore and snorkel. The next morning we drop the mooring ball around 9 am and sail 4 hours to the island of Bequia. We enter the harbor at Admiralty Bay, pick up a mooring ball and plan to explore Bequia for the next days. We use our 11 ft dinghy (Franklin) as our “car” to go back and forth to the island. Franklin (named by Patrick – don’t ask) is essential to our sailing life. He carries us, groceries, trash, laundry, boat papers to customs – all the essentials!
Just before taking off with Mira, Glenn and I climbed to the top of Fort George, Grenada, late one afternoon and were treated by the most amazing views of the town of St. George and the lagoon at Port Louis.
Mira set sail on January 12 and spent her first night in Tyrell Bay on the island of Carriacou. The smaller islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique are all part of Grenada. . Carriacou is a Carib word meaning “island surrounded by reefs”. We found the island of Carriacou and its people to be enchanting. Carriacou is one of the last unspoiled islands in the Caribbean.
Sandy Island is a tiny strip of sand off the coast of Carriacou surrounded by a perfect snorkeling and diving reefs. Mooring balls are provided by the Marine Park – no anchoring is allowed because boat anchors damage the delicate reefs. We spent two nights at Sandy Island – doing some boat work, snorkeling and swimming.
Mira had a quick motor sail up to Union Island. We cleared customs in Clifton – as Union is part of St. Vincent and Grenadines. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is one country comprised of the main island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which are a chain of smaller islands stretching south from St. Vincent island to Grenada. The islands and the people of the Grenadines are friendly and welcoming – and their islands spectacular. Mira plans to visit as many of the Grenadines as possible. We spent only one night on Union, but managed to collect some fresh tuna, delicious fresh fruits and vegetables and have a wonderfully romantic dinner on the beach.
Quick motor sail from Union Island to one of our favorite places on Earth – the Tobago Cays. The Tobago Cays are a group of small uninhabited islands protected from the Atlantic by a horseshoe reef. The Cays are also famous for being one of the locations for the Pirates of the Caribbean. We last visited here on a bareboat charter 9 years ago. The islands and reef haven’t changed very much, but sadly – the rest of the yachting world has discovered it! Still, we spent 2 delightful nights here on a mooring ball tucked away from the crowds near Jamesby Island. Days were spent snorkeling the marvelous reefs, swimming and sunning – oh! and of course, the requisite grilled lobster beach BBQ one evening.
PAM: We arrived from 4 different cities on 4 flights and 1 boat. It took a massive amount of coordination and some speedy sailing (and, a little bit of luck) but …… somehow, all 6 of us made it to Grenada for a very special Thanksgiving week on Mira! Especially sweet on Saturday night – to celebrate Kelly’s 23rd birthday!
Grenada, a southern Caribbean island just out of our reach during previous sailboat charters, was a spectacular surprise for all of us. A day long island tour showed us the lush green mountains, crystal waterfalls, precocious monkeys, misty rainforests, golden beaches, spice, fruit and vegetable trees. Truly, a paradise. But, the most surprising discovery were the Grenadian people – warm and hospitable and excited to share and show off their island.
PAM: After Mira was in the water and ready to go – what would be the best way to get her from Argentina to the Caribbean? Since she would be heading north during the end of Caribbean hurricane season (officially ends November 1), we needed to arrive at an island south of the hurricane zone. Grenada, at the southern tip of the chain, fit the bill. Grenada is also a beautiful island and a cruising haven with lots of marinas and boatyards.
Antares yachts have been delivered by both professional captains and/or their new owners to the Caribbean for years. We just needed to decide what was the best way for us. The sail to Grenada takes about 40 days total. Many of these days are spent miles offshore – out of sight of land – and without anchoring every night. This meant that we needed 3-4 people on board that could take shifts at the helm and sail her at night and in rough offshore seas. To further complicate matters, the sail north from Argentina up the coast of Brazil is traditionally filled with challenges. Strong winds on the nose of the boat, strong adverse currents, unpredictable weather conditions, and local unmarked fishing boats with nets to snag propellors. All things that neither Glenn nor I really wanted to experience on Mira’s maiden voyage!
But, as the boat would continue north and round the top corner of Brazil, the winds should shift and become more predictable and more friendly to sailboats. Pikin, a seasoned Antares delivery captain, described the sail as “a magic carpet ride”! The wind is usually from behind the boat and blows very consistently – making the last 10-12 days of the trip very enjoyable.
As soon as we heard that, the decision was easy! We hired Pikin and his crew to take Mira all the way up the coast of Brazil – through the challenging parts. Then, Glenn and I would join them in Fortaleza (very northeast corner of Brazil) for the last 10-12 days of sailing offshore for “the magic carpet ride”! What better way to learn Mira than from a professional skipper while enjoying such a delightful sail!