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A week aboard the catamaran 'Passion' cruising the Grenadines Island chain

Trade Winds
Port Elisabeth
St Vincent and the Grenadines
December 2010

"...under way bound for Mustique making six or seven knots comfortably."

We took the ferry from Kingstown, St Vincent on Saturday morning and were welcomed at the ferry dock by Trade Winds and driven to their marina pier where three large sailing catamarans were moored. At 5pm we embarked after a safety briefing from Captain Jack and 1st mate Jamie and cruised across Admiralty Bay to drop anchor for the night off Princess Margaret’s beach. There’s just the sound of the water slapping against the hulls and of quiet conversation in the cockpit. We are six plus our captain and 1st mate.

Breakfast at 8am interrupted my watercolour sketching. Everything around demands attention and its difficult to select a subject to paint. Execution has to be precise and speedy; we shall weigh anchor at 09:30am.  After motoring on engines to leave the Port  Elisabeth bay the mainsail is hoisted in a light breeze and as it fills the boat tucks its stern down as it responds to the helm. Engines are cut and the jib is run up the forward stay, the sheets tightened with their winches and we’re under way bound for Mustique making six or seven knots comfortably.

" are either inquisitive, shy or simply unconcerned about our presence."

After two hours we now have a crew of eight some more active than others! There are extra helmsmen, would be look outs and a couple of ladies up front claiming they are important for keeping the boat on an even keel!  Willing helpers are at the ready with a boat hook to pick-up a mooring buoy in Britannia bay and attach the anchor chain before running out slack so the boat swings round to settle with the bows up wind. St Vincent and Bequia lie distant on the horizon behind us and Jamie is busy in the galley fixing some lunch while the unofficial crew are relaxing in the clear water off the stern with drinks in their hands!  

Ashore, this millionaire’s Island can be visited only by official pickup truck. An uncomfortable ride but its worth it for the feel of fine silver sand under the feet and paddling in creamy white surf breaking on a deserted beach. Drinks in hand at Basil’s while the arrival of the evening ferry is watched with a yellow and crimson sunset behind it.

The smell of bacon frying is enticing at 7:45. It is difficult to concentrate of the morning artwork. We are headed south past Canouan Island with volcanic shapes in view to the south. After three hours under sail we reach Saltwhistle Bay with leaning coconut palms delineating a narrow isthmus of sand between two bays. A shore party is landed for afternoon exploration while two of us go underwater with snorkel, mask and fins to check out the marine life. Inshore by the rocks is the nursery for young fish. Juvenile barracuda are still barracuda but are shy and slide away.

The next day the sea is choppy and trade wind from the north east is up little. The sails bend to their task and the rush of water in the wake of the boat give an impression of serious southward progress being made, first by reaching out of the bay before turning to run before the wind. By mid-day we reach an anchorage in Chatham Bay to make our first dive. We have three divers plus Jamie the divemaster and carry all the gear in the Saltwhistle Bay forward starboard locker. Once beneath the surface there’s just the sound of inhaled air passing through the regulator and the flow of slowly exhaled bubbles rising towards the surface. We descend to 18 meters and level out adjusting buoyancy to neutral with the BCD vest then fin economically a meter above the vivid coloured corals, just brief visitors to this underwater world. There are lots of finds; fish are either inquisitive, shy or simply unconcerned about our presence. The dive lasts nearly an hour with some air to spare before breaking surface again fifty meters or so from the boat.   

"To say that this place is beautiful is a vast understatement."

In the late afternoon the mooring is shifted to be closer to the shore. Jack uses the dingy to get us ashore and stretch our legs, do some beach combing though some prefer to relax beneath a vast thatched roof shading a bar and sofas from the sunshine. The evening menu is agreeable as are the music and dancing afterwards. We find our ship in the dark just before the stroke of midnight.

Sailors must rise early in the morning. Today we must pass through the Mayreau Channel to reach the marine reserve of the Tobago Cays which are a collection of islands and atolls sheltered by a vast horseshoe reef. To say that this place is beautiful is a vast understatement. Perhaps it’s more akin to a brief visit to a corner of paradise on earth. We are not alone but nor is there a crowd of boats. After picking up a Chatham Bay mooring the water is ever so clear to stare down into and there are turtles swimming  beneath our twin keels. After lunch in the cockpit the sky darkens and a brisk squall blows up from the east causing an urgent response from us to shut the hatches before the downpour hits the boat. By five the weather has cleared and the deck has dried enticing us to emerge and take stock of the surroundings again before a herring bone sunset behind volcanic peaks brings the curtain down on the day.

Our visit to the Cays has one of several objectives. For some its beach exploration. For the divers it’s the chance to dive on a reef known as Mayreau Garden. This is a drift dive in the current following a coral covered wall of all colours which at deepest point of 25m there are streams of hot gas bubbles rising from the sea bed while fish peck at the new coral growth. There are whirling shoals of silver fish above us and a couple of very un-Juvenile barracuda prowling at a reasonable distance. They have a very ferocious scowl with mouths held slightly ajar just to show their row of teeth. Talking of teeth a few minutes later I’m at arms length from the left should of our dive master when he turn to me to point out a huge dark shape out front. There’s no mistaking that. Black tip reef shark, six or seven meters long. These beasts are shy I learn later! Well, it did swim away from us. This dive lasts fifty five minutes before the air gauge indicates the surface is the best.

Tobago Cays and Union Island

In the afternoon we set course for Bequia stopping overnight at Canouan where brown Boobys plane the bay in the evening light looking for a fish supper. As the light fades they disappear to their roosts in the trees along the far-shore across the bays. The following morning we pass them sharing vantage points as they perch in the sunshine with several cormorants. The sailing of the vessel is handed over to the guests, one sporting pirate head gear and a deep tanned face. Captain Jack is never far, keeping an eye on us and 1st mate Jamie joins two of the ladies for’ard doing what they consider to be important whilst our third lady is very capable at turning a winch quickly. The wind is on our starboard quarter and variable in direction. The ladies up front get wet but we claim it is just a rogue wave! The sailing is tricky and we get caught in irons with a rookie helmsman trying to sailing too close to the wind. Composure is finally regained after turning in a complete circle and embarrassment laughed off. Captain Jack is pleased with our efforts but so are we with theirs which have made the holiday an experience to treasure for always. I have a sketch book full of pictures plus a bundle of photos to aid and recreate memories a wonderful experience made possible only by the excellent company and friendship found during our voyage of adventure.     

Thanks to all at Trade Winds for making dreams really come true!

Chris and Sissie Thompson
Timeshare owners at Passage House.