Shakedown Passage Northwards

Champagne sailing off Grenada's south coast
Champagne sailing off Grenada’s south coast

Sunday morning at anchor, enjoying a cooling breeze as the trades swoosh across the low hills of Carriacou and tumble into Tyrrel Bay. As per our new found habit the crew were all up at dawn (6am in these parts) but after more beer than was perhaps healthy whilst listening to a jazz guitarist in The Lazy Turtle last night, and followed by spiced rum night caps back on board unsurprisingly we all feel a bit jaded. Our routine early cuppa is not followed by getting any of the boat jobs done but rather by a lethargic breakfast and more coffee. Finally we make a start; Kevin to complete the laundry put on to soak last night, Erica to the washing up and Susie to blending the callaloo previously boiled for the requisite 30 minutes and then on to bread making as supper tonight will be callaloo soup with fresh bread.

Later Erica and I leave Kevin surrounded by cables and electronics as he starts the task of configuring the latest gadget. We acquired a specialist wireless router ( MailaSail’s Red Box) whilst in the UK that primarily should make the task of connecting to the Internet via a satellite phone mid-ocean simpler but also enables us to share instrument data (wind, speed, depth, course, AIS etc) with a tablet or iPad as a supplement to our navigation laptop. You can never have enough means of telling you where in the planet you might be!

Erica - crew for the next six or so weeks
Erica – crew for the next six or so weeks

Us girls walked the mile or so over the hill to Paradise Beach. This is one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems; a long curving stretch of white sand fringed with trees and mangroves, totally undeveloped. The protected water is crystal clear and warm in the shallows but quickly shelves several metres deep within feet of the shore. Few waves, just a great spot to loll around and chat or spot starfish. Near by a couple of rough and ready bars serve cold beers soft drinks, rotis and fried chicken as well as shady seats to relax in with a book whilst drying off from our swim.

Monday the crew were at immigration and customs soon after the office opened at eight as with Erica joining the crew and our lengthy period on the hard we thought it would take some time to clear out. However Grenadian efficiency ruled; adding a crew member was no problem and it was easier to simply prorata a cruising permit for the ten days Temptress had been back in the water than consider the two weeks we’d spent afloat in Grenada prior to the lift out. Departure tax and permit settled and we were good to go so after a few chores like fixing a leak in an awkward stern corner of the dinghy (sealant is wonderful stuff) Temptress sailed northwards.

The trade winds blow mostly from the east but weather systems elsewhere in the Caribbean have some impact so the wind for our passage promised to be South-East or East 15-20 knots. Our course was overall slightly east of north but with the promised southerly element we didn’t expect a beat into high seas but that is mostly what we got, the hills of each successive island bending the wind against us.

There was some moderation in the sea in the lee of each island which provided relief for the crew but mostly it was a hard wet passage to windward in confused seas. Do you remember that physics experiment with a tray of water into which you place two objects then examine the effect they have on ripples passing between them? Well imagine that on a bigger scale with Atlantic swells from Africa reaching two islands in the Caribbean – some swells make it through intact but others reflect off each of the islands at angles either adding together or cancelling each other out; a big swell may be followed by a flat patch or a big hollow that the boat seems to slide into stern first or a big heap of water slaps the bow and rolls down the side deck bringing the boat to a shuddering halt. In addition an overlying  short steep chop caused by the wind acceleration off the mountains caused Temptresses bow to frequently slam down with a bang. All in all not comfortable champagne sailing despite the warm air, though shorts and shirts plus a thin waterproof jacket were all that was needed under our life jackets.

Approaching Rodney Bay at dawn
Approaching Rodney Bay at dawn

The mountains of both St Vincent and St Lucia provided so much lee that we found ourselves having to motorsail at times in F1-2! Elsewhere the gusting wind and crashing seas made sleep difficult in the warm, necessarily closed up cabin; the skipper opted to stay on deck whilst Erica and I tried to doze below from time to time but none of us really slept. However the up side was a fast passage (104 nautical miles in 16 hours) and dawn found us needing to slowing the boat so as to arrive in Rodney Bay with sufficient light to be able to find our way into the anchorage and sort the boat out.

It certainly was a shakedown passage; we’d had a great supper despite trying circumstances in the galley (one pot pasta cooked with the contents of two tins of tomatoes plus wholemeal pasta, frozen peas and tinned sweet corn), we’d not stuck very well to our planned watch system, nothing major broke though some of the rigging could do with tightening up and we did find that every hatch forward of the mast leaks, resulting in a damp mattress in the master cabin and some wet sails further forward. A few more tasks for the boat job list but nothing that can’t be sorted in a few days here in grey, rainy St Lucia. As this is as far north as Temptress has so far made it in the Caribbean we are all looking forward to exploring this new island once the weather permits.

Pigeon Point
Pigeon Point, Rodney Bay, St Lucia
Rodney Bay, St Lucia
View towards town, Rodney Bay, St Lucia

One comment

  1. Great post! I was on the helm with you all the way! And I’m always thrilled to discover another place in the world with the same name as me – Tyrrel Bay (although I’m Tyrrell). Ah, when I think of my forebears out there, exploring the world to their heart’s content! Happy sailing. Martina


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