Monday, April 4th, 2016
Dominica to Petite Martinique
Written by Purser Kate (B0b) Addison
We got underway from Dominica on Monday 3rd March, bound for Bequia less than a hundred miles to the south. Funny how short an overnight sail seems when you’re used to crossing oceans. Not long ago I would have thought it quite the adventure to sail overnight and end up in a whole different country, these days it seems so easy. We cleared out the night before and set off first thing in the morning into a grey, greasy calm; pushing with the main engine for a few hours got us far enough offshore to catch the wind. By 1030 there was enough breeze to sail, so we set the squares to the royals and had a nice relaxing day of it, taking ship’s work easy to focus on handling sails and enjoying the view. It was good sailing overnight too, the night was balmy and full of stars, though the morning came in overcast. We dropped our hook just before 1500 on Tuesday afternoon, and the Captain, Tammy and I went straight ashore in the skiff to clear in so we could let the off watches ashore that evening.
Just to the south of the big island of St. Vincent, Bequia is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, famous for its wooden boat building and sailing traditions, and especially the ‘double ender’ whaleboats. New Bedford-style sloops of about 28 feet, they were built for whaling but now used mainly for sailing and racing. Some of the boats are very old:
I am told that one, IRON DUKE actually came here in a wooden whaling ship.
The schooner FRIENDSHIP ROSE was built here, over on the beach at Friendship Bay on the windward side of Bequia. She was originally a cargo and passenger ship running back and forth to St Vincent and she still makes a living carrying passengers, but now taking day-trippers out to Tobago Cays or Mustique for a sunny day of sailing, snorkelling and rum punch. It seems that the wooden boat tradition here has evolved to keep with the times but is very much still alive.
We launched and SEA NEVER DRY again in Bequia, her red, white and blue Norwegian mainsail distinctive amongst the white sails of the whaleboats and dinghies beating across the bay in and out of the anchored yachts.
MONOMOY went in the water here too, so everyone got to sail in one or both boats. Sailing small boats is so useful for teaching seamanship, and so much fun especially in such a lovely spot, where the water is warm and crystal clear.
The small boat theme was to continue in Mayreau, our next island call in the Grenadines, and chosen specifically because there’s nothing much there except a nice beach, and really not too much to do except sail the small boats and snorkel. We heaved up the big port anchor on Wednesday morning, set everything, and sailed out of the bay without using the engine bound on the short daysail from Bequia to Mayreau.
We’d been warned by the locals of some weather coming in, but nothing was showing on our forecasts so we carried on with plan A – it turned out the local knowledge beat our fancy weather models this time – it was blowing much too hard for playing with small boats by the time we got to Mayreau that evening. The nice white sand beach where we wanted to practice landing the skiff was engulfed with white surf, and the wind was enough to take clothes from the line. Small boat sailing would have been hairy enough with an experienced crew, but it was definitely too much wind for teaching.
So we waited overnight to see if it would settle down, and then first thing in the morning the Captain made the decision we would be better off getting underway towards Union Island. Petit St Vincent and Petite Martinique are tiny but high islands lying between Union and Carriacou, and we thought we would be able to tuck in and anchor there in more sheltered waters to launch our boats. The two little islands are a stone’s throw apart, but since they belong to different countries we had to call at Union first to clear out of St Vincent and the Grenadines (including Petit St. Vincent), and then go to Carriacou to clear into the country of Grenada (and the island of Petite Martinique). Who said that political boundaries have to make practical sense?
From Union Island it was less than ten miles across to our new anchorage off Petite Martinique, and the breeze had laid down to an agreeable force 4 so the Captain agreed that MONOMOY, our 18 foot surf-boat should lead her own expedition, and make the passage in company with the PICTON CASTLE.
It was a gorgeous sail over in MONOMOY with our crew of Sam, Anne-Laure, Darren, Hayley B, Jack and Ty. We saw a sweet Carriacou sloop out sailing, a charter yacht or two, and then the magnificent sight of our barque emerging from the bay at Ashton with square sails set to the t’gallants. It was breath-taking seeing that great cloud of sail making its way so quietly and with so much purpose through the water. Strange to think that this majestic creature is also our familiar little barque home.
We tacked about around the ship taking photos of her, and watched our shipmates running about on deck taking in sail and responding to orders, eventually letting go the port anchor. Once settled and the gang were mostly aloft stowing we came alongside to help clear up the decks – just in time for an all hands swim call and the end of another wonderful day.