Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Bequia Bash

Got an early start for the crossing from Bequia to St. Vincent and on to St. Lucia. We had been dreading this passage since we’d heard horror stories about the wind and waves off the northwest point of St. Vincent.  Hans, a very experienced Caribbean sailor on the yacht Geode, said our best bet was to stay as high to the wind leaving Bequia and then hug the coast of St. Vincent and hope for the best when hitting the open channel between St. Vincent and St. Lucia.

Han’s advice was spot on and as soon as we left the protection of Bequia we got hit by 20 - 25 knot winds while sailing on a close reach. The waves were the worse about ⅓ of the way across, with some big rollers breaking over the decks and even some hitting the top of our dodger, giving us an impromptu bath. Luckily the water is 80+ degrees here.

Many people query as to why we always seem to be fixing the boat. Imagine that every other day your house was in a 7.0 earthquake. That's what it's like for the boat coming off the top of a 10-ft. wave and crashing to the bottom. Then do that for 8 hours straight. Things break.

After a couple of hours of bashing about we closed on the St. Vincent shoreline and motor sailed along the lee of St. Vincent in relatively moderate seas. St. Vincent as a reputation as being a dangerous place for cruisers (high crime rate) and we didn’t want to have the spent the night, but we did marvel at the beautiful lush mountainsides that seemed painted in a brilliant green.  Saw many fishermen along the coast but none seemed interested in us, which was good.

As we approached the dreaded southwest tip of St. Vincent we girded ourselves for the onslaught and true to form the wind got stronger and stronger as we rounded the point.  Since the ocean current flows east to west through the St. Vincent Channel, our strategy again was to sail as high as possible to avoid being set any further to the west than possible.  We were now in consistent 6 to 8 ft. seas with the occasional 9 to 10 ft. wave slapping us silly.  The decks were awash most of the three hours it took us to cross the channel and we very much looked forward to the lee of St. Lucia.

The Pitons on St. Lucia
Ironically the wind seemed to wrap around the west side of St. Lucia so we were still hard on the wind and motor sailing on and off as necessary. We passed the famous twin peaks of The Pitons, but about three miles offshore. Han’s advice was not to try and anchor in Soufriere, but to gut it out and continue on up to Rodney Bay.

With the wind still howling and an occasional squall adding to the misery, we finally closed on Rodney Bay about 7:00 pm in the evening. Even though it was dark then, the anchoring area is huge so we just motored up until we saw the first anchor lights of boats and dropped the hook. We hoisted the yellow quarantine flag even though we were not going to clear into St. Lucia. After a very long 14-hour sail in arduous conditions we were very happen to batten down the hatches and collapse in our aft berth.

A bomb could have gone off that night and we wouldn’t have known.

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