Windward islands (1995)

Von Martinique durch die Grenadines nach Union Island und zurück (Chartertörn).

Yacht:

Stardust

Typ:

Sun Odyssee 36

Reisedatum:

Februar 1995

Hafen Beginn / Ende:

Le Marin, Martinique

Crew:

Birgit und Thomas Dorn

Nautischer Reiseführer:

Bernhard Bartholmes
Edition Maritim

"Segeln in der Karibik I"

Aus dem Logbuch

This file contains a summary of our trip through the windward islands from Martinique through St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I have tried to focus on some of the specific high- lights and not repeat all the writeups which can be found else- where.

Itinerary

Out Itinerary was quite the common, though we had to detour to Union Island instead of Palm Island and skip Mayreau because of engine problems (more later).

Our course (sailing distances in brackets)

Le Marin, Martinique - Rodney Bay, St. Lucia(31NM) - Soufrire, St. Lucia(20NM) -Bequia(55NM) - Mustique(14NM) - Union Island (29NM) - Tobago Cays(7NM) - Canouan(6NM) - Bequia(23NM) - Soufrire, St. Lucia(55NM) - Marigot Bay, St. Lucia(12NM) - Le Marin, Martinique(33NM).

Most of the runs are quite short and we usually hauled anchor early in the morning, so that we could spend a full afternoon on each island. The run from St. Lucia to Bequia takes about 9-10 hours, so one should get up quite early and should leave no later than 7:00 am.

All in all, including excursions we sailed about 300 nautical miles, which is really not a lot in two weeks and therefore leaves enough time to relax.

The Weather

We went in February 1995 and had great sailing weather. The winds were consistent from the East, perhaps a bit more southerly than usual at about 15-20 knots. It was apparently wetter than normal and we had at least one shower every day, but this just made it more comfortable.

In lee of the bigger Islands, such as St. Lucia and St. Vincent there are strong gusts coming from the mountains interchanging with windstill zones.

The Islands

Martinique

We concluded our trip with a 5-day vacation in the Club Mediteranee there, so we were able to see a lot more of this island's interior. The rain forest in the north is very impressive as are the beaches in the south.

St. Pierre on the west coast was destroyed by a volcano in 1902 when 30 thousand died. The town was rebuilt; the volcanic museum has an impressive collection of pictures and memoribilia from the disaster.

Being french, the island is the most european and certainly the wealthiest. It has a french flair, but also reflects a lot of the special caribean culture and folklore. The Club Med is as one would expect it - great cuisine, a lot of sports, but strictly in american hands. They apparently fly 300 people in and out from New York every week!

- Le Marin -

The main yacht harbor in the south is quite impressive, it was the start and end of our trip. All the big charter companies have their base here, be it Moorings, Sunsail, Stardust or Chimere.

However, we weren't able to find a decent restaurant. The Lagon Bleu is apparently the best in town, but did not impress us. It's a good place to cook on board here, or haul down to St. Anne (about 4 NM). We saw about 50 boats lying in St. Anne, so it seems to be very popular.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia is a very pretty island with an abundance of every- thing one expects of the caribean. The people are very friendly. We met our first boat boys here. As on all of the islands, poverty is a big problem and for many of the boys the dollars they earn from the yachts are all they have to support their family.

- Rodney Bay -

Rodney Bay in the north was the last real marina we visited. It is a large harbor and bay with many good restaurants and hotels along the beach. One can also anchor in the bay. We met one group at customs, who had just completed the trip over from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria in 19 days - boy what a sailing experience that must be!

- Marigot Bay -

(This paragraph is not for americans) If you liked Disneyland, you will love Marigot Bay; its very popular among the americans. Moorings has its base there and really runs the place. You can eat hamburgers at Doolitle's, and drink the thinest Pina Colada's. The Huricane Hole Hotel is a bit better, but it has the charm of a Holiday Inn.

By the way, the bay really is beautiful with its mangroves.

- Soufrire -

Soufrire was a definite highlight of our trip. Most of the popular sights are around Soufrire and the Pitons are most impressive.

We met Benny here, who is much more than a boat boy. Benny inherited some 12 acres of land from his father, including a stretch of beach right below Petit Piton. He picked us up as we were entering the bay and helped us anchor. Benny also in- vited us to a beach grill party and organized a sightseeing tour with 7 year old Benny junior as guide. We saw the Diamond Botanic Garden and Waterfall, the sulphur springs and took a hot shower under a waterfall. Benny also organized the repair of our engine in Soufrire, handling everything for us (I'm sure he made a good profit). We had a great time and he is quite intelectual and very professional. It seems like he has found paradise.

Benny also organizes events for bigger groups, such as the annual Soufrire visit of the Coconut Rum Race. When heading into Soufrire bay just ask any of the boat boys to take you to Benny's place, they all know him and respect him. You can also write him if you want to anounce your visit or make arrange- ments for a group. His address: Benny ADTODHA, 5 Lower Bay Street, Soufriire, St. Lucia WI, Tel 459-7142.

We also looked at the Jalousie Resort anchorage, but it is not half as beautiful, shady and very expensive.

Bequia

Bequia is very nice and the anchorage impressive. We walked up the hill and had a beautiful view with Admiralty Bay in the north and the Grenadines in the south. The bay is actually quite crowded; we pulled someone else's anchor with ours when we tried to leave. But we also saw some nice ships, including the Sea Cloud.

Frangipani's has the best Pina Coladas, we ate both there and at the Gingerbread Inn, which had the better curries.

Mustique

We motored from Bequia to Mustique, full up against the wind. It was our hardest ride, but worth it. After all the sailing, we spent two nights on Mustique, taking a day off at the beau- tiful, long beach.

Seeing the sun go down from Basil's Bar is a not to be forgoten sight. We ate there both nights. The lobster was greeat, but the waiters are much too snobby.

Union Island

We detoured to Union instead of Palm Island because Stardust Marine has a base there and our engine still wasn't working too well. They spent 3 hours working on it, but later forgot to replace the V-belt, which soon to become our third engine problem.

Clifton Harbor is actually quite nice, with the reef barrier a beautiful place to snorkel. The town isn't worth much, its more of a place to go through customs on the way to Grenada.

Both Mayreau and Palm Island would be my prefered stops if I had the choice.

Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays may be uninhabited, but certainly not lonely. We came through the channel and though it was early, there were more than 50 boats lying at anchor! We chose to anchor on the west side of Petit Bateau, were there were only 5 boats. It was a little scary when the current changed and the wind stopped, but much quieter.

Everything read about the Tobago Cays is true, they are the most memorable islands of our vacation, clear water, white beaches and an impressive reef to go diving or snorkeling.

The fishermen there sell fresh lobster (EC$15/lb.), which they catch in the cays. We cooked it ourself, but they also cook or grill it for you.

Canuoan

A new Hotel, the Tamarind Beach Hotel and Yacht Club, has opened at Canuoan, which also caters to yachties, so the island is now worth a visit. It has a nice beach and the bay is not as crowded.

Other Islands

We did not stop at St. Vincent, passing the island in one run. It seems there are a lot of problems with the boat boys there, so most yachts skip it. One can stop at Wallilabou to go through customs, but from there its only 15 NM more to Bequia. The Blue Lagoon may be worth a stop if you don't want to go through Bequia twice (but there is no customs there).

We also passed by Mayreau, but our schedule didn't allow us to stop there. Both the beach at Saline Bay and Salt Whistle Bay looked great. A couple of cruise ships, including the Club Med 1 were lying at anchor there.

Palm Island seemed to have one of the nicest beaches and the anchorage there is quite popular.

Navigation

Navigation in the Windward Islands was very easy, you can almost always go by sight. Beware those showers though, within minutes you won't see a thing. We had a pretty close encounter just south of Martinique, when a squall came through and we were suddenly up close to an island freighter.

You must, however, take the current between the islands into account, 2-3 knots amounting to a drift of about 12 degrees. The way south is mostly smooth sailing, but the ride north is pretty hard to the wind.

The Boat

We chartered a Sun Dance 36 from Stardust Marine. Since my wife and I were alone, we had more than ample space - I just wish some of the charter companies would have boats with an (owner) layout for small crews. With a roll main, it was not the fastest boat, but very easy to handle. The Bimini Top is a must.

Except for all the trouble with the engine the boat was fine. The engine trouble may have been a freak problem of this boat, but I would certainly do a more thorough check next time (for example, it turned out the spare V-belt didn't fit).

Stardust was very helpful and gave us the money back from the repair at Soufrire without hassle. In light of some of the other stories we heard, I think they are OK and a fair deal.

Music

Our boat had an AM/FM radio/cassette player. Take some cassettes along as radio reception is not always the best. Reggea or Steel Drum will do just fine, some boat boys also sell cassettes with local music.

Big RA (930 AM) seemed to have the most complete weather report and can be heard almost everywhere. Radio Barbados (900AM) is also pretty big.

We also had a shortwave radio along, so that we could keep up with the news at home. Imagine lying in the sun at 25 celsius and hearing the home weather at minus 5 with snow!

Other Reading

I found some other interesting aricles in this Forum, so first skim the database.

Being from Germany, we had a german guide, titled "Segeln in der Karibik I", written by Bernhard Bartholmes, which was very good and accurate.

Apparently Doyle's "Yachtsman's Guide to the Windward Islands" is the english language guide of choice.

Epilog

We had a great trip with may highlights and its certainly worth repeating. It would have been interesting to go a bit further south to Grenada as there are a few more interesting islands. I don't think it makes a big difference if you go one-way or do a round trip. Except for Bequia and Soufrire, which is cer- tainly worth 2 days we didn't visit any place twice. St. Lucia may be an alternative to start, with Moorings in Marigot Bay and some other big charter companies in Rodney Bay.

I'm sure I will go back someday - it would be a great place to retire early.