Westward Bound

Caribbean Landfall

By Kate “Bob” Addison

Sailing into Carriacou after over a month at sea

On Saturday the 28th March 2015 Picton Castle and her crew made landfall at the beautiful island of Carriacou, part of Grenada in the Windward Isles of the Caribbean. The first sight of land was at dawn: a pale grey triangular smudge through the binoculars that gradually grew bigger and more distinct throughout the morning until we could make out the pretty green hills of Carriacou, Union and Petite Martinique. All the while, we sailed fast, throwing out spray in fresh breezes over bright blue seas and under gorgeous cobalt blue skies.

Five weeks and 3,800 miles earlier, on the 21st of February, we had sailed from the sweet roadstead anchorage at the tiny South Atlantic Island of St Helena: letting the ship drift off from the land in the offshore breeze as half the crew worked the windlass to heave up the last few fathoms of chain, and the rest whirled around the decks setting sail and trimming yards to get underway. We set our course northwest across the Atlantic Ocean and then, some 35 days and many squalls later, sailed back onto the hook, but this time in the northern hemisphere, west of Greenwich and in the Caribbean Sea.

We braced the yards as we followed the east winds around the top of Carriacou and made our approach to the sandy, sheltered anchorage at Hillsborough, the tiny but funky main town on the west and lee side of the island. Brace up sharp from square, make ready the port anchor, take in sail ’til we’re going dead slow and the Captain on the bridge calls out ‘sounding!’. Bosun Erin is ready, standing up on the starboard rail with the lead line already swinging in her right hand, the coil of line in her left: she casts it out far forward and lets the line run so it’s vertical in a couple of seconds when the forward momentum of the ship catches up with the line – wait til the lead weight just kisses the bottom and read off the depth: ‘mark five!’ is the white cotton mark just above the three leather strips and the order comes ‘let go port anchor!’ The chain clatters across the foc’slehead rushing out as the ton or so of ground gear splashes down down into the water and takes its hold on the bottom, five fathoms or thirty feet below the surface. That anchor fetching up in the sand was the first time any part of Picton Castle had touched land in more than a month.

We launched the skiff just as soon as the anchor was properly set, and Captain, Tammy and I went straight ashore with the passports and ship’s papers to clear in with customs and immigration. It was a bit late in the afternoon and we thought we might be too late to clear in that day – but luckily the lady at the immigration office at Hillsborough saw us coming and kindly held the office open for us, though it should have been past closing time on a Saturday night. We were very grateful! Cleared in and the yellow ‘Q’ flag lowered we could finally send the off watch ashore and begin our Caribbean adventures.

When we sailed away from Nova Scotia in November 2012, bound for the South Pacific and beyond, Carriacou was one of our very first island calls, and I remember having so much fun in this laid-back, beautiful place: rowing the long boat around, dropping the anchor to go snorkelling when we felt like it, and revelling in our first blissful taste of sunshine, warm turquoise water, white sand beaches and funky island culture. So it’s wonderful to be back here again after sailing our way all the way around the world. It would seem like a good time to reflect on the last few years and try to digest some of the amazing things we’ve seen and done. But the reminiscing will have to wait – you can’t be all ruminative in the Caribbean – this place is all about
living in the now!

So much to see and soak in; beautiful Paradise Beach and Mama Joy’s Hardwood Café; a big wooden sloop a building by way of Alwyn and his son over at Windward; a delightful afternoon at Baialeau Caribbean Cottages with Dave Goldhill; excellent tours of the island by Dunsten Bristol in his fine van “MY APPOLOGY” to see old sugar plantations and windmills, Carib and Arawak archaeology sights, beautiful reefs and again and again stunning views of islands and the sea. And, of course, just hanging around ‘limin’ in Carriacou.

In Carriacou we launched Sydney to sail her about with the rig we made underway across the Atlantic, we bought heaps of fresh fruit and veggies and eggs from the colourful little wooden shops in the market and fresh tuna and snapper from a passing boat – fresh produce is heaven after eating tinned and frozen food on a long passage. We ate grilled lobster at sunset on Paradise Beach, and drank cool grapefruit Ting at funky little ‘rum shops’ by the side of the road. Rum shops are so called as they also sell rum but they sell other nice cool drinks, snacks and often BBQ chicken (to die for).

We were in town for Palm Sunday, and it seemed like half the island turned out with their palm fronds to walk in procession through the streets singing familiar hymns in joyful call and response. And looking good – Carriacouans (aka; Kayacks) know how to dress!

Picton Castle at anchor in Carriacou, photo by Molly Bolster

Sailing Sydney in Carriacou, photo by Molly Bolster