Adventures with Rhin

Re-attaching Rhin's anchor chain
Re-attaching the anchor chain

The Minima crew’s departure from Dream Yacht Charter‘s base at Port Louis, Grenada was delayed by some typical boatie issues with heads but by Wednesday afternoon they had checked into SVG at Union Island. The eight intrepid sailors had chartered a spacious 47 foot catamaran for two weeks to explore the Grenadines. Erica was their appointed skipper with Paul and Denis overseeing operations. Mary, Eileen, Sue, Pam and Steve made up the rest of the crew, all veterans of Caribbean cruising usually in the BVIs.

The following morning after a bit of shopping in Clifton both boats prepared to leave for Chatham Bay around the corner. As Rhin pulled up her anchor chain it parted. Fortunately the break was above the chain hook which remained in place holding the end of the chain with the anchor attached meaning no diving was needed to retrieve the whole lot from the seabed. Meanwhile Temptress was busy pulling her own anchor up and unable to pop down to answer Erica’s VHF calls straight away; we knew there was a good reason we should have charged our handheld radio. Once we could respond and heard what the problem was, we quickly put our own hook back down and Kevin jumped in dinghy to row across. Fortunately another Brit cruising boat in the anchorage had heard their VHF call to us for assistance and was dashing along in a tender to help out too because as Kevin rowed the 20 or so metres towards Rhin an oar broke leaving him drifting cross the harbour in the strong breeze but he was soon under tow. A shackle ensured a rapid repair and the big cat and her crew was soon underway as intended!

Pam demonstrating Union Island's bouganvillia matches her top
Pam demonstrating
Union Island’s bougainvillea matches her top

A delightful afternoon’s snorkelling was had by all, followed by a fish BBQ on board Rhin, The oar repaired in the afternoon with a piece of broom handle to hold the two lengths of aluminium tube together suffered another metal fatigue issue later in the day when one of the rowlock pins sheared. After almost nine years our faithful tender is starting to show its age. This is the third repair the oars have needed recently. The following day after a pleasant morning walk up the hill and along the road (the same route as Kevin & I had attempted last time we were here) and back down a broad but rocky track to the beach, some afternoon swimming and lazing around then 10 of us headed ashore for a BBQ at one of the beach bars. Tim and Kojak did us proud with plates piled high; two types of fish, ribs, chicken, salads and fried plantain.

On Saturday both boats departed without any angst on the short motor round the top of Mayreau and into  the Tobago Cays. Almost as soon as you enter the marine park you are in another world. We picked our way between the reefs heading down the leading line formed by two day marks one on the southwest corner of Petit Rameau, the other on the north east tip of Petit Bateau. In fact the sun was high enough to clearly see the brown areas of shallow reef we needed to avoid. Then through the 100m or so wide reef lined gap between the two tiny islands a right turn through the channel between Petit Rameau and Baradal to anchor just south of Baradal clear of the buoyed off turtle zone. Only Horseshoe reef now lay between Temptress and the Atlantic. 

Tobago Cays
Sunday morning in the Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays

Tobago Cays

The wind for our two day sojourn was breezy from the east kicking up a rough sea even in the short distance from the reef making for some wet dinghy trips ashore or between the two boats but it didn’t prevent both crews from enjoying snorkelling with the turtles and the amazing colours of the water. This is one of the most gorgeous places on earth with every shade of sea blue from palest aquamarine to dark navy ranged all around. The four islands within Horseshoe reef (the fourth and most southerly is the tiny Jamesby) are all uninhabited with white sand beaches and palm trees fringing steep rocky, tree clad hills. Petit Bateau is the highest at 150 feet. The reefs curve round at the southern end reaching all the way back to Mayreau and beyond Horseshoe is the low sandy island of Petit Tabac and further out again to the south east the smaller Worlds End reef which contains no islands at all.

The Tobago Cays despite being so remote have to be one of the most beautiful places we have ever anchored. Watching the turtles grazing the grass on the seabed whilst snorkelling was fascinating as was spotting large rays but the sand shore off Baradel was not a great fish habitat. However the windy weather meant attempting snorkelling on the Atlantic side of the reef was a bit too rough and several of us got a few scrapes on the rocky beach when waves caught us off balance trying to manoeuvre with flippers on in the shallows. The boat boys do reach here so on Sunday Rhin managed a bread delivery and purchased some snapper and a large tuna for a BBQ supper on board and between us we rustled up some coleslaw, potato salad and risotto as accompaniments. No one was going to starve on this holiday! The fish scraps attracted some quite large sharks and a couple of rays who swam around feeding between Rhin’s twin hulls long enough to be photographed by Rhin’s crew.

As Rhin’s owners promised to deliver a replacement anchor chain to Bequia for Tuesday that is where we headed north to on Monday morning. The wind was blowing a good 15 to 20 knot from the east as per the forecast and Sunday’s rain clouds mostly replaced by the typical fair weather trade wind fluffy white blobs. The 25 nm passage promised to be a good off wind sail and for Temptress with the second reef tucked in her mainsail so it proved but for the catamaran it was a bit of a marathon into the big seas too close to the wind to be a comfortable ride. The combined crews explored Port Elisabeth and the Turtle Sanctuary, dining out at the Devils Table and The Gingerbread – it was all very out of season with few other visitors around but good to catch up with our Bequian friends again. With the new anchor chain loaded, a swap to dinghy less likely to deflate together with an outboard minus gearbox problems and a problematic heads fixed by Dream Yachts Rhin was good for an early start on Wednesday to Mustique. Again Temptress with a tad more local experience had the better sailing as our destination was to windward of Bequia. We began by motoring due east the few miles to the top of Isle Quatre, then struggled against a 2 or 3 knot current and into Atlantic waves through the narrow channel between there and Palm Island hence earning a fast reaching sail as a reward for our efforts  over the last few miles south east to Mustique. Rhin took the easier and more direct route heading south east and had to motor most of it against the wind in some biggish seas.

Mustique is expensive – $200EC to enter the bay, no anchoring permitted but up to 3 nights on a mooring included in the entry fee. The island is a private resort, a playground for the rich and famous, trimmed and pruned to perfection but somehow not seeming real and you had a feeling that the local people like yachties were tolerated but not welcome. A taxi tour of the island became a litany of rock stars and others names; we were not hugely interested in celebrities and their lives but the beaches were pretty. We did however visit Basils Bar so at least we can say we have been to this world famous watering hole though it is priced like the rest of the island and you can eat just as well if not better for much less on other islands. Not somewhere Temptress will be rushing back to even though the snorkelling on the reef right by the moorings was excellent.

Rhin’s crew on Mustique

Mustique is famous for its wild tortoises…

Mustique moorings
Temptress and Rhin moored in Mustique

From there a glorious sail for both boats delivered us the 30 miles or so down to Carriacou just in time to see the upturned barge in Tyrrel Bay hauled over the right way up by the tug Troll who had another ship holding her in place. Apparently the work had been going on for several weeks with various previous attempts thwarted by the weight of water remaining in the barge hull. After a night in Carriacou, just enough time for Kevin & I to catch up with a few friends from our previous visit we headed south again to Grenada. This time we parted company from Rhin. Temptress’ destination being Prickly Bay on the south of the island and not wanting a beat against the trade winds and Atlantic swell to get there we took the windward route through the small islands that lie between Carriacou and Grenada, threading our way between the flat Bird Island and the mainland then down the coast and slowly bearing away until we reached the Porpoises and could turn north into Prickly Bay. The latter part of the voyage covering the same coastal waters we sailed in the first few days we were in the Caribbean.

Grand Etang
Kevin & Denis at Grand Etang a crater lake, Grenada

A twenty minute walk to a waterfall

Getting the full waterfall experience
L-R: Denis, Mary, Erica & Kevin

Meanwhile Rhin sailed the leeward side stopping overnight at Happy Bay which they declared had the best snorkelling of their holiday, so a potential stopover for Temptress on her way north next season perhaps. Then Rhin headed on south to her home marina Port Louis and after an evening meal together at Aquarium it was time for both crews to have one last swim on Monday morning at Grand Anse Beach, say good bye and for the Minima contingent to head for the UK. A brilliant holiday enjoyed by all, Temptress crew have chores to do including a bit of boat fettling (a new dinghy oar and replacement anchor light being top of the list) whilst settling down to life at anchor in Prickly Bay for a few weeks.

Kevin taking a dive!