Reading time: 26 minutes
We’d only spent three nights onboard Pelican Pete, and it was already turning out to be the ride of our lives.
We had settled in though. Sure there were niggles, but we’d actually sailed. Alone. We’d got the hang of anchoring and using mooring balls alone, and had the sails up and down a few times. We’d even figured out how to get a vaguely comfy sleep.
By day 4, we were in Canouan, and at a crossroads…
Day 4 – Canouan to Mayreau
We have the choice between staying put and waiting for an engineer, or moving on to Tobago Cays and seeing an engineer at Union Island in a couple of days.
We don’t want to stay in Chatham Bay. Based on what we’ve read about security and the vibe so far we decide we can survive using ice in the fridge. We opt to leave.
Chatham Bay to Saline Bay
We set off again later than planned, after 3 pm. Colin has sunburned his legs quite badly so resorts to wearing trousers.
This time we have to motor a while to get out of the lee of Canouan. Once clear, we get the sails up and it’s a comfortable if slow, broad reach. Thankfully the swell has eased somewhat. I take the helm for an hour, even though it’s not something I much enjoy. Being able to see Mayreau helps!
We sail around to Saline Bay. For the time being, we’re skipping Salt Whistle Bay – it can be rolly and have seaweed smell issues. We’ve decided for that reason we don’t want to overnight there. Anchoring is difficult, I try to drop the anchor (the first time I’ve done so) and accidentally put down the lot. The chain has become dislodged and fallen off the windlass.
Colin takes over, and I take the helm, but finding the sandy bottom we need is stressful. By the time we’re settled I’m pretty pissed off. It’s been a hard day with 6.5 hours of sailing and I’m still not that confident. Colin snorkels on the anchor to check it and I write, then shower, which is chilly as it’s close to sunset.
We rest awhile and catch up on the news with a couple of beers, then cook in tandem. While Colin BBQs tuna and sausages I make bacon, onion, mushroom and cream cheese pasta. It’s a tasty combo all round, and we have some white wine out of plastic wine cups to accompany it. We sit out until after 10 pm and even manage another beer.
Between using the food well and having both wine and beer we think we might make it through our copious provisions after all!
Day 5 – Mayreau to Tobago Cays
If 7 am was when we woke up in St Lucia, it’s 8 am while we’re sailing. It’s been a much better night without a swell to keep us awake. Apart from an annoying fly in the morning, we’ve slept well. Since we only have a short trip this morning we set off before breakfast. By 9 am we’re raising the anchor to motor around to Salt Whistle Bay.
Salt Whistle Bay
This is a return visit – my diaries tell me we were first here exactly 2 years ago to the day.
We have some trouble anchoring as the windlass is a bit shonky but we get settled eventually. Breakfast is toast, jam, avocado and egg. We decide that we don’t actually feel that comfortable where we’ve anchored. Salt Whistle Bay has notorious reefs to the north and south, so we raise the anchor and move further in. There’s a lot of weed and poor holding so it takes a while to be sure we’re not dragging.
A walk on Mayreau
Once we’re confident we aren’t moving, we go ashore. We’ve been finding it very difficult to get the oversized outboard in and out of the dinghy. So we can avoid using it, Colin rigs up some makeshift rope rowlocks and rows us in. A man immediately comes up to chat as he recognises the boat. It turns out that a couple of years ago he helped tow a poor charter customer round to Union when the engine failed. He lets us know he’s selling ice and bread, so we say we’ll buy from him when we’re heading back.
We visit the windward beach which is piled high with seaweed and pretty stinky. Next we head along the beach, and then up the hill to the Catholic Church. From here we can look down on Tobago Cays from a viewpoint. On our way back I stop to buy a dress, and we let the guy know we’re ready for our ice. I decide to swim back which means I can get the hatches open and be ready to tie on the dinghy.
We get everything put away then motor around to Tobago Cays. For familiarity’s sake, we use a mooring ball in a very similar spot to where we were last time. We’re tucked in between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau. I’m quite glad when some guys help with the ball – so far I’ve not had to do it on my own, but we’ve never been charged. They tell us to come ashore for a BBQ at 6 pm. We agree as it sounds like a good idea. We tidy up a little, mostly to locate my camera, then Colin cooks hash browns, sausage, bacon, pepper, onion, cheese and egg for lunch.
Exploring Tobago Cays
I read for a while then we decide to dinghy out to the beach at Baradel, which is in the turtle watching area. It’s a bouncy ride and when we get there we really struggle to pull the dinghy ashore with the weight of the outboard. There are a group of people having a beer and I’m miffed that they just watch and don’t offer to help.
We look around and Colin checks out the snorkelling, but I think it looks too rough for me and I want to keep an eye on the dinghy. There’s nothing to see, so we trundle back around to the yacht and try snorkelling there. The current is so strong that we don’t even try – I’m a poor swimmer and haven’t a hope!
Instead, I read more while Colin flies the drone. He interrupts me so I can hand catch it from the stern. We’ve practised a few times on land but this is the first time we’ve done in on board. Thankfully the manoeuvre is successful. We both shower, and have a beer before it’s time for dinner.
It’s 6pm when we motor ashore for dinner. I get a good bum soaking getting off the dinghy, so it’s a relief I didn’t dress up. I’m a bit disappointed to find the idyllic beach BBQ overrun by loud, excitable flotilla sailors. Dinner is with us within minutes. There’s been no discussion of a price, but it’s not unlike a big plate from a street vendor so we assume it won’t be much. We escape with our plates to a quiet bench up the beach where we can watch the sunset in peace. The food is good, and there’s lots of it – I don’t stand a chance of finishing it.
One of the waiters comes for a chat after we finish and we get round to payment. They want $100XCD (£27) each not counting the beers! If we’d known there’s no way we’d have come, we were expecting more like $60XCD. Our kitty is low and I’m unwilling to end up with less than $100XCD cash on us. We resort to haggling. I say I only have $160, which he thankfully settles for. That’s still £45 for two plates of BBQ food and two local beers, way over out budget.
We head back to the yacht in the last of the light and string up the hammock. We have been dreaming of sitting in it looking at the stars for months. Unfortunately, it’s just too breezy to be comfortable. We retreat to the cockpit to drink beer instead. We do get a little bit of stargazing in later on but it’s very chilly so we head to bed.
Day 6 – Tobago Cays to Petit St Vincent
We start lazily reading the cruising guide at 8 am, working out the best route to Petit St Vincent. This will be the furthest south we go on this trip. I thankfully find a strong enough warning about the southern passage out of Tobago Cays to get Colin to abandon the idea of using it. It’s been a wild night with lots of wind and rain so Colin has to bail out the dingy.
We set off not long after 10, first motoring around into the lee of Mayreau, then getting the sails up. We have some problems with the mainsail sticking and realise it’s the reefing lines – we’re just not that familiar with reefing. I see something fall as Colin is up there working on the sail, noting it lands on the deck. We’re both shocked and relieved a few minutes later when we realise it was Colin’s Watch which is thankfully unharmed. I make a mental note to make him remove it whilst sailing!
We finally get the sail free, doing quite a loop backwards in the process. At least we manage to get both sails out more than we have done so far, though the main is stuck on one reef. That reef is fine by us – we hit 7kts at one point and make great time. When we get close to Mopion we decide not to take the risk of trying to reach it, we don’t have the confidence yet. After getting through a dodgy channel I reel in the fishing line but it gets stuck on the dinghy. It’s secure at least so we take the sails down.
A surprise on the line
Just as I’m standing on the coach roof pulling down the last of the mainsail Colin makes an exclamation. I turn around to see the fishing line wasn’t just stuck on the dinghy, it had a fish on it! A sizeable one that’s still alive!
We’re dumbfounded for a minute, then bring it in.
It’s quite lively so I take the helm while Colin gets the one sharp knife we have and cuts its gills to end its life quickly. Neither of us has ever fished or filleted before. It’s pretty gross. There’s a good splattering of blood on the deck. Colin props it up in the sink for it to, er, finish. We very neatly and easily come into the anchorage. For a change, anchoring is a breeze, and we can easily see we’re secure to the sandy bottom.
We refer to the cruising guide and realise with glee that we have a black fin tuna for dinner. Colin brings it out to the tiny swim deck for filleting. Once I’ve taken an obligatory photo of him holding it, he guts it as best he can. Excited gulls circle above. He gets the head off and plonks it into the sea. Back inside he removes what bones he can, and the tail. We rest with a beer, and then enjoy the freshest tuna and avocado ceviche. We also try a little raw, as it’s probably the freshest sashimi we’ll ever eat! I then make tomato and mozzarella bruschetta while Colin checks the anchor just in case.
Waiting for Colin on the ocean floor is the fish head, staring up at him balefully.
Much like the day before, I read and Colin takes the drone up. It’s raining on and off, and at one point I catch the drone in my hand just as a shower sets in. There are big rays swimming around the boat, which we can see early in the clear water. We swim very briefly – as it was in Tobago Cays, the current is a bit much for me.
Sundowners on Petit St Vincent
After a shower, we quickly row ashore at 5:30. We enjoy cocktails at Goaties beach bar, part of the Petit St Vincent hotel which owns and runs the private island. The banana daiquiri and a painkiller are delicious.
We sit and watch the sun as it drops down, but decide to get back to the yacht for sunset proper while we have light. It’s a good call, as the two cocktails cost close to £30, and it seems we’ve already seen the best of the sun going down. As we row out from the dinghy dock I see a small shoal of flying fish, oddly close to the shore.
The sun decides, in the end, to set rather beautifully, and after watching it disappear I cook pasta with tinned tomato and spinach and Colin BBQs the tuna. We eat it with red wine and persevere sitting out in the very gusty wind as long as we can, even sitting on the cockpit floor for shelter until it’s time to sleep.
Day 7 – Petit St Vincent to Union
An early awakening for a change, at 7:30. It’s rained on and off all night and been very windy. Colin hasn’t slept well worrying, but of course our anchor has held fine. We use an app with an anchor alarm but it’s going to take a few more nautical miles before we’re confident about our anchoring skills.
Crossing to Union
We set at 9:30, and it takes us around an hour and a half to get to Clifton, first motoring then using the foresail on its own. With better winds, this gives us a good 4-5kts. We make it to the harbour on one tack, and slowly work towards where we want to anchor. Having read the Doyle Guide faithfully, we ignore the assertions from a boat guy that it’s not good for anchoring and we should take a ball. We do end up settled a bit close to a ball, but we know we aren’t staying long.
Colin calls Barefoot as the plan had been for them to arrange for an engineer to come out at noon. It turns out they hadn’t booked a time and the guy is on another job so we have to wait until 3, which is frustrating. A guy comes by and we buy ice and some banana bread which is so good we take two loaves. We tidy up a little then dinghy into Clifton.
There are kite surfers enjoying the wind, something I remember from our last visit in 2016. The dinghy dock is a bizarre affair under an archway, it’s a struggle with our beast of an outboard. A man is waiting to help when we get in and takes our garbage, asking for $10XCD. We don’t have in change so we agree to meet him on the way back.
Clifton is a mixture of some attractive boutique cafes and shops, and a lot of dark shed-style supermarkets. We walk up and down the main road to see what there is. I’m not loving the comments I’m getting from men, or the stink from the fish market. We find the bank to get cash, and by visiting a few supermarkets we manage to buy postcards, bacon, and a scrubbing brush to clean the fish guts off the deck. We get bread from a bakery.
Each time we pass a certain shop I look at a dress that’s caught my eye. Colin thinks it works out at around £60 which is too much so I ignore it. As we’re having sandwiches made at The Loft I work out that it’s closer to £40. Of course, I run back to buy it. We get caught in a shower on the way back to the dinghy, and shelter with the man who took the garbage as we pay him. We then have a struggle to get the dinghy out of the little dock with our crappy outboard.
An engineer, at last
Back on board we eat our sandwiches (we split a crab one and a tuna one) and read until the engineer comes. He’s over half an hour later than expected. Island time. Apparently the alternator belt is loose so the battery isn’t charging. This is why the fridge and shower pump aren’t getting power. The engineer thankfully finishes the repair in under an hour and by 4:45 we’re raising the anchor again.
An hour later, with the foresail helping us along, and we’re firmly anchored beside Frigate Island. We’ve read that it looks like Bora Bora. We’ve never been to Bora Bora but have seen pictures, and can’t quite see it. We conclude that it’s like the notion that parts of Barbados look like Scotland. We’re very much looking forward to properly cold beers to eat with our banana bread.
Worryingly the engine seemed to briefly stop steering us effectively, and we’re worried it’s a rudder issue. We hope it’s just a niggle. We were hoping for a more sheltered night after a few nights of chilly breezes. No such luck. As we’re anchoring our neighbour lets us know it’s a very breezy spot and that letting a bit more chain out won’t hurt. Colin snorkels to check the anchor and rudder; both seem fine.
We watch a fairly lacklustre sunset and I excitedly shower indoors, only to find the shower pump is back to not working. The fridge may also have stopped working… We suspect the battery isn’t holding power. Colin makes bacon and cream cheese pasta for dinner and we spend another windy evening drinking red wine hunkered down in the cockpit. We would give anything for a sprayhood to block the wind…
Day 8 – Union to Canouan
The plan for the day is a relatively short sail, 1.5-2 hours to Glossy Bay Marina on Canouan. I’ve been looking forward to this for days as it’s supposed to be very nice, with a pool and good showers, which I’m desperate for.
After a breakfast of banana bread and fruit punch (not that cold, the fridge has definitely stopped working again), we raise the anchor at 9:30.
Are we moving?
At 10:15 Colin starts to suspect an issue with the navigation software as it’s not showing us as moving. I look around us and it’s right – we’ve been running the engine but just not making any progress. The issues with steering last night were clearly with the engine. Turning it to neutral then on again seems to fix things, but it’s very slow going even with the headsail out.
It ends up taking us 1.5 hours just to get around the edge of Clifton, and it’s not until 2 pm that we reach Glossy Bay marina (now the Sandy Lane Yacht Club). It’s the first time we’ve entered a marina and tied up on our own. We struggle to get clear reception on the VHF but get enough to hear where to attach lines and fenders. Thankfully we’re also guided in by a boat and helped with lines so it’s not too stressful.
The Marina is stunning, and pristine. There are some fascinating Italian style buildings on the way in, and the loos/showers are wonderful. We sign in at the office, with a charge of $67US a night, then grab pool things. We chat to the crew of Jono, the other charter out of Barefoot that week. They arrive at the same time as us. It turns out they’ve had a similar experience with things going wrong on the yacht.
A taste of luxury
We’ve started the walk around the marina when a staff member in a golf cart catches up and tells us to jump in. We hadn’t realised that it’s a good mile around the edge of the marina to the restaurant and pool! The place is very much set up for superyachts and looks a little ridiculous given there are maybe half a dozen yachts including us.
We eventually reach the restaurant which makes us feel instantly too scruffy. It’s lovely to be greeted by two little cats who make us feel very welcome. We know there’s supposed to be a $50US each minimum spend at the restaurant BEFORE using the pool, but when we explain we’ll be having dinner that night we’re allowed to use it. I’m starving, so we share an incredibly good diavola pizza for lunch. This comes to nowhere near the minimum spend so it’s a good job they’re okay with the dinner thing.
After lunch, I settle by the pool. The sunbeds are huge and comfy, with continental style head shades. Both the pool and restaurant are right on the beautiful Glossy Bay beach. It’s all picture-perfect, and I’d happily stay two nights.
Colin gets a lift back to the boat to collect our kindles and ask about doing laundry. He comes back and we sit and read, with me taking a swim, until just after 5. We have a quick dip in the sea and then ask for a golf cart ride back to our yacht. Such luxury.
Showers, laundry, ice – you’re spoiling us!
Once we get back to Pelican Pete a staff member checks in on whether we need ice. We end up buying a bag from him for less than we would at the marina office, and giving him a bag of laundry to be done.
We gather our things and head for a shower. The shower is amazing. I enjoy properly washing for the first time in 8 days. It’s so lovely to have a long, careful shower, with time to paint my toenails and pluck my eyebrows. I have the place to myself so I even move from my steamed up cubicle to the cool dry one midway. Dressing for dinner seems appropriate, so I put on the nice dress I got in Union. For the first time in days, I feel pretty and clean.
We have a beer on deck then, as we’re waiting for our ride to dinner, we chat to the crew of Jono. We get an update on the problems with their yacht. Like ours, it’s been poorly maintained, and so they too have lost time waiting for an engineer.
With rain splashing around us we ride around in a golf cart to dinner at Shenanigans. We’re pleasantly surprised to find the same affordable menu as earlier instead of the expensive evening menu we’d expected. We shamelessly order the same pizza we had for lunch, along with a cheese and meat board. We treat ourselves to cocktails and a glass of wine.
One of the cats from earlier is back, but unfortunately its the bitey one. It definitely has some confusion going on – it wants to be both petted, and to bite. We can’t help but gaslight it a little about not knowing what it wants. The friendlier cat appears as we’re having dessert, so I get a brief fuss before we head to the bar.
Over the evening we chat to a group of four couples from Georgia sharing a motor cat on a one way trip between St Lucia and Grenada. I find it a little amusing when they say they’ve had boat problems too – their AC is a bit unreliable! Poor lambs.
It’s a social evening, and once the group from Georgia leave we chat to the barman. Quite unexpectedly, we then end up talking to Mr Desmond’s accountant and the architect for the marina, from Dublin and Italy respectively. They tell us a little about Mr Desmond, the owner of the marina. He owns Sandy Lane in Barbados, once owned London City Airport, and he’s the major shareholder for Celtic FC! His yacht, Celtic Bhoy, is in the marina, and we saw him having dinner with them. They explain some of the plans for the marina, which are grand, to say the least. We casually joke about the fact that we’re looking for work in the Caribbean…
We end up getting a car ride back to Pelican Pete with our new friends, which is definitely drier than a golf cart. We eat the leftover pizza we’d taken to go on deck with a beer, and it’s after 1 am when we finally go to bed. This is the latest night we’ve had all holiday – the excitement of the marina and other people to talk to has kept me lively all night.
Day 9 – Canouan to Bequia
Annoyingly, when we could have a lie-in and we’re comfortably side-on moored, we’re awake before 8 am.
We spend the morning pottering, putting away clean laundry, filling the water tanks, and tidying up. We can’t resist having nice proper showers again to make the most of having access.
We’re feeling relaxed, pampered and prepared, and ready for the longest passage of the trip ahead of us and our last couple of nights on board.