Thursday, March 26th, 2009
The Picton Castle sailed into Hillsborough Bay, Carriacou – a part of Grenada in the Windward Islands – after a superb trade-wind passage from Brazil. We made landfall in the Caribbean at dawn with Petty Martinique, Carriacou and Union islands in sight ahead. Winds were strong, a steady force six and seas piling up as we roller coasted in steering due west. The Picton Castle sailed hard under upper topsails as we shot through the channel between Union and Carriacou. Braced up sharp, we made our way south in the lee of Carriacou, seas laying down naturally and delightfully. Around Jack A Dan Rock and braced up even sharper, the crew sailed their barque very close-hauled under lower top-sails and staysails right up to the anchor without engine assist. They had just sailed 2,030 miles under sail from anchorage in Fernando to anchorage in Carriacou in 13 days, 18 hours averaging a little over 6 knots. The only fuel used went for the generators and to feed the galley stove and I think to clean some paint brushes. This you can only do in a ship like this one when you have a “cracker-jack” crew like we do. This was a wonderful sailing ship passage.
Sunday – Hillsborough, Carriacou. I wasn’t sure we could clear in on a Sunday. Luckily, it turned out that we could as Donald, Cory and I went in to find out. The ship was out of fresh food so we were hoping some shops would be open and have something green to chew on. All around town we saw small booths being set up, sand-stands built, colourful flags on string snapping in the fresh breeze. Hillsborough was clearly getting ready for Carnival. Ferry boats arrived from Grenada packed with folks, all in a party mood, on this pretty Caribbean morning. We were just in time for a couple of days of Carnival there with plenty dancing in the streets and steel band into the wee hours of Jouve Morn, which requires getting up at 4 a.m. in your pajamas and more dancing in the streets. Not as crazy as the Trinidad or Rio carnival, but it was just right for us. After a month at sea from Senegal by way of the coast of Brazil, the legendary Grenadines were an enchanting archipelago to sail into. After our small Carnival we had a pleasant day sail down the 35 miles to St Georges, Grenada where we planned to stay awhile after all our many miles and months at sea.
In Grenada the gang stayed very busy. The duty watch looked after the ship: painting, sailmaking, small jobs in the engineering department. Our famous cook, Donald, has his home nearby and took all the crew there for a big barbeque, actually several times. For some of the gang their Picton Castle time was up and new folks showed up to take part in our West Indian island odyssey soon to come. Around-the-island tours, old sugar plantations, waterfalls, meeting my old shipwright friends, treks in the woods and plenty of roadside BBQ chicken any time you wanted. At this point a meal is not complete without chicken. The joke is “what’s for chicken tonight?”
From Grenada we sailed back north for Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Along the way the big and beautiful full-rigged ship, the Royal Clipper rounded up and sailed close to us and gave us a salute. As fun and appropriate as it is, two days of Carnival excludes much of what is interesting at this quiet island so there was much yet to see and learn and thus we returned. Boat building is a big thing here over in Windward and the crew wanted to check that out. Beautiful 50-foot gaff sloops are built for fishing and general inter-island transport. I got to see an old sloop that I had sailed in years before pulled up on the beach for possible rebuild. The Vaeta is her name. I would love to see her fixed up and sailing again. Maybe…
Bequia (part of St Vincent & Grenadines, the next nation to the north) came next with a fine overnight sail. Bequia is famous for whaling. They still have and maintain their first old whale boat called Iron Duke. I believe her to be an old New Bedford whale boat. She has been rebuilt many times, like George Washington’s ax – only four new handles and three new heads but there she is. The iconic “two bow” boat of Bequia and the other islands nearby were inspired by this one 28’ double-ended wooden boat – quite something. I think everyone pretty much fell in love with Bequia.
In these islands we are getting a good chance to get lots of small boat handling in for as many of the gang as possible. We have our Lunenburg Dory Shop-built 20-foot lap-strake skiff, as well as our 24′ fibreglass rescue boat. But now we also have an excellent 23’ dory all rigged up for sailing. Brightly painted with a mainsail made from colourful African fabric we got in Senegal, she is perfect for getting the feel of sailing small craft. So that’s what we are setting about to do, find a small anchorage and get everyone into the small boats. In the meantime we are sailing from anchorage to anchorage with the crew getting plenty of drill in close quarters ship handling under sail alone, followed by swim calls with a swing rope from the fore yard arm.