Thursday, April 12, 2012

St Vincent, Unfulfilled Fears

We had sailed in this area four years earlier, and saw many of the Grenadine islands, so Both Al and I had not read the guide until we were about to undertake the passage. When I read the part about St Vincent, I was surprised about the description of unexpected wind acceleration around the north shore, which might reach 30-40 knots. The guide warns about the sudden hit of the wind especially while sailing north, in about five miles off the north shore. We thought same should apply coming south, so when we came close to the island after a long and arduous passage, Al started the engines to be prepared, and furled the genoa in, however we saw no sign of any increase in the wind strength.

When we had started from St. Lucia on April 7th, before 7:00 am, the sea was dead calm, with some choppy patches between the Pitons. So we pulled the sails up to take advantage of the wind, and motor-sailed until we were out of the lee of St Lucia. In the wide open, the wind picked up along with high swells, however we could not make much progress due to the strong current against us. We realized that we have a current gauge; the speed-o-meter of the boat usually shows one knot less than the GPS. We usually disregard the speed-o-meter; however when there is a current against, both start to show the same speed, since Speed-o-meter measures the speed of water running against it, while GPS measures the actual change in our position. Eureka!

Although we made real slow progress for about two hours (4.5 knots average motor sailing), our speed increased afterwards, and measurements went back to normal. Good, the current against diminished.

Both the chart and sail guide warn about strong westerly current, so the advice is to point toward east, and let the current take one to the actual destination. We did, but we must have overestimated the current, since Al was complaining about getting farther away from the rhumb-line shown on the extension of his hand (his smart phone); however our angle was more favorable against the swells, so we made small adjustments as we approached St Vincent.

Although the total distance to Wallilabou, St Vincent is about 34 miles, the northern tip of the island was only 24 miles away. The sailing guide warns about the two northern bays as hotbed of crime, and suggests Wallilabou for an overnight stop, although it is almost at the middle. It’s one advantage is the availability of a customs officer to clear the boat in, who works there only for an hour, between 5:00 and 6:00 pm, and cannot stamp the passports. One has to go to the near-by Keartons Bay or we can have passports stamped at Admiralty Bay, Bequia for Immigration.

Along the sailing guide and the chart, we also read the blog of Dylan and Sally, whom we had met in Dominica during our land tour. They had started their journey in Grenada a few weeks ago, coming north, and like us, were writing about their impressions and experiences. Sally really complained about the boat-boys in Wallilabou in her episode of St Vincent, confirming the negative implications of the sailing guide. I was apprehensive of reaching the island and our destination, and could not enjoy the trip, to tell the truth. I think I felt the impact of the swells more, while the moderate winds started to fly us after the current turned in the right direction, and became more worked up getting closer, first expecting vicious winds, then vicious people. How wrong can one be!

After we reached the lee of the island, the seas subsided as well as the wind, so we calmly motored the hour and a half. Wallilabou is a small bay well tucked in, so the only land-mark showing its southern tip is the Bottle and Glass Islands. They are interesting two little islands looking from north; one stump with some trees close to shore, one thin and long extending towards west in the sea. The first sailors who gave names to the islands around here were easily reminded of women or booze it seems.

When we came to the mouth of the bay, quite close to the shore, we saw one man in a row-boat approaching us. There was nobody around, so I learned his name as Eli (Elay/Elai), and asked him to help getting one of the three mooring balls in front of the Anchorage Hotel/Restaurant. He did that and more, since we needed to tie a stern line to the remnants of the jetty close-by. We did not have small change, so I gave him 50.00 EC dollars (about US$18.00 dollars), and he became our major helper, without asking for more.

I was so tired that I told Al to go to the Customs office alone, so he got a ride from Eli, and left. I stayed on Ruyam II to unwind a bit, but as the time passed, I started to get a bit worried. Al came back after a very long time, just before sun-set, and complained about an old geezer in front of him, who had been stalling the clearance process by hitting on the young female officer. Al was at the end of his patience, and after the guy left, congratulated the officer for her’s. Apparently she just laughed and said that she was exposed to all kinds of people, but she had to be professional. My hat to her! I am glad that I was not with Al there; I might have said something to the geezer.

Anyway, Al was tired, so we decided to eat at the Anchorage, which had been one of the back-drops of the film called “The Pirates of The Caribbean”, featuring Johnny Depp. They still had the props and costumes left behind, so it was kind of interesting, but almost deserted, save the people from three boats moored in the front, and a few anchored at the side. There is not much of a village there, all the islanders come from Keartons to work, in their row-boats; and leave at night.

We have been so worked up about crime in this area that we locked all our hatches and doors, and opened the small port-holes for air. In the morning, I saw some black drop marks on the foot of the bed and the port-hole, and alerted Al. He saw same kind of drops on the floor and the facing wall, as if somebody had filled a balloon with black water and threw it at the port-hole. When we looked at the side of the boat, we saw a big black mark oozing towards the water line form the port-hole. When Al tried to wash the side of the boat with de-greaser, it did not work, showing that it was not a spurt of diesel from a passing boat. We wracked our brains but could not solve the mystery of it substance and origin.

No comments:

Post a Comment