It is surprising how close everything is – we slipped our lines from the buoy in Clifton Harbour, Union Island and crept out carefully. It is a little tricky around here when you don’t know your way around – there are strong currents and lots of reefs – a bit of a challenging combination. We are avid readers of Chris Doyle’s wonderful cruising guides and we were checking his notes on the passage. We made our way out of the harbour and across to the Tobago Cays. As we approached we noticed the water-changing colour from a dark blue to an almost outrageous turquoise – you could see right to the bottom and it was breath taking. If you look at photographs of the Tobago Cays you will see one or two boats – the reality is that there are hundreds of yachts in the area and as the weather was calm the Cays are at their best – so busy. We went up to a buoy and I stood on the foredeck ready to lassoed like a pro! I caught the buoy perfectly but then Mark reversed and the line slipped back over it – that’s when ‘Lovely’ arrived on his boat and said – “can I help?” I really wanted to do it again ourselves but I can’t resist the boat boys – I think they have all perfected their unique ways with persuasion – “Lovely” was – well, lovely. He looked at me with big brown, kind eyes and I couldn’t help but say, “yes please” – he took our lines and secured Magic to one of the safe Tobago Cays Park buoys. He left saying he would be back soon – he didn’t want a fee for his work, he wanted to sell us a fish…Well we have to eat!
Our friends Yvonne and Hans were due to arrive later on their beautiful Swan yacht – Thindra. It would be lovely to see them and also a little weird – when worlds collide it is strange – when you meet people who really belong somewhere else in a new place where they don’t belong – Hans belongs in Lagos and Yvonne belongs in Nun Monkton and yet they will be here with us in Tobago Cays and our yachts will be moored up beside each other – odd and wonderful.
The first instinct on arriving in Tobago Cays is to strip off and jump into the water – it is so warm and so crystal clear and so very, very outrageously blue. How is it so blue? If we took a jar of it would be clear – just the same as if we took a jar of the water from mid Atlantic where it looks dark..I still don’t understand and think I will leave it as just Magic! So swimming costume on – snorkel on – fins on
Splash! Oh yes this is incredible – the water is the same temperature as your skin and it feels like a hug. The visibility is astonishing you can see for meters and meters and then – as this wasn’t cheesy enough, a turtle – just in front of me taking its time and gracefully paddling through the water. I watch as ‘she’ (I have decided she is a she as she is so beautiful) slowly flies over the starfish and the white sand to a patch of juicy sea grass. She gently grazes for a while and I just float above her in wonder. Tobago Cays is a special place – a protected place and I hope it remains so. I swim on to the small spit of white sand and trip up getting out as a wave hits the back of my knees and knocks me over – I do wish I could perfect that, James Bond girl coming out of the sea, thing – but it never works for me. I do the clumsy, tripping, dripping mascara smudged look – it is so much more me. I flip my fins across the sand and just dive in the other side of the sand spit – wow this is different – lots of swell and coral and although there are some amazing fish to see – I remember what it feels like to be dashed on coral so I flipper fast back to the beach and then swim back to Magic.
Back on board I see – Mr. Quality coming up to us on his boat – he sells a lot of things including the T shirts by local artist – Felix – it is a fun graphic design and of course Mr. Quality is charming so I buy one. Next up are the guys collecting rubbish and next is “Lovely” again – he wants us to buy a Tuna but we ask if he will come back in the morning as we are going out for dinner. By going out for dinner what we really mean is going to the beach for a BBQ. Hans and Yvonne have phoned and asked us to ‘book’ dinner for 8 on the beach. So we take our dingy ashore to see ‘Willy’ his boat is “Free Willy’ – Willy explains that his ex-girlfriend is cooking and she is a good cook – what is for supper? – Plantain and Salad and BBQ Lobster with Baked Potatoes – Oh yes ! We book our table (very odd) and then walk up the beach to meet some of the locals – huge Iguanas who are hanging about waiting for Willy to thow them some lettuce. What a strange world – booking a table on a beach and then talking to Iguanas. We hopped back in our dingy and headed back to Magic. More swimming and then we rigged our hammock – we hopped in it and it worked brilliantly – how perfect – just as we were gently swaying on the foredeck we noticed Thindra sailing in with Hans and Yvonne. They were waving – it was lovely to see them. I went to the stern of Magic and jumped in the water (any excuse) and swam towards them – they dived off the side of Thindra – impressive! And we swam to meet each other – now it is not every day your guests swim up to meet you – we met with a watery hug and swam together back to Magic. Beers and welcomes all round and a good catch up on adventures on the high seas and in low bars.
We all then had some time out before meeting for dinner.
At about 8pm Willy turned up on Free Willy to give us a lift a shore – it was pitch black and we couldn’t see Thindra – they had been in front of us but they moved to our stern – Willy found them and we collected Hans, Yvonne and their guests.
Ashore we all hopped out of Free Willy and onto the beautiful beach. It was like being in a film set – low lighting, friends laughing, Lobsters on the BBQ, Palms swaying gently and the ocean lapping at our feet…we were a world away from everything. The meal was delicious and we laughed and ate together. Then Willy gave us all a lift back – Hans and Yvonne came and stayed the night on Magic and we did an impressive job at trying to empty our stores of alcohol.
We all slept well – Tobago Cays is a beautiful, safe and welcoming place. Knowing you are on a safe mooring is bliss and sleep comes easily as you are gently rocked by the soft swell of the clear warm water under our hull.
The next morning we had breakfast together and over breakfast Mr. Lovely returned and Mark negotiated with him for a very fine fresh Tuna. Is that not an odd thing to do during breakfast? Then Hans and Yvonne had to leave Magic and return to their guests on Thindra. Mark gave them a lift back in our dingy. As we said good-bye and noticed that a lot of other boats were leaving – time to check the weather. We check the weather from several sources – Wind Guru and Passage weather and Weather 4D Pro for Grib files on our iPad. All the sources said the same thing. They were predicting winds of 15 to 20 and although that is perfect for sailing along the Lee coast it is very exposed on the Cays so we decided to leave and sail to Mustique – the first stop on our reverse journey back up to Rodney Bay in Saint Lucia.
We prepared the boat – again, we are getting faster at this. Mark does his set of jobs and I do mine – stowing and locking everything, engine checks – we had done our passage plan and knew that, as we would be sailing for about 4 hours. For this length for journey we would hoist the dingy onto the foredeck and keep the outboard on. We strapped the dingy down and the outboard was bolted to its transom. We then had to slip the lines – I was on the foredeck and Mark on the helm – engine and bow thruster on. There were still quite a few yachts parked around us and as we come off the buoy we want to be sure we are in control of Magic. I slipped the first line with no problem but the second one was jammed in the ring on the top of the buoy. Tricky – we couldn’t take the dingy round and there were no boat boys in sight– so I had to flick and twist and twiddle – Mark moved Magic forward and back and generally we messed around for about 20 minutes – it was all great fun for our neighbours to watch. At one point the line loosened and I moved my hand to shake it then suddenly Magic juddered back as a gust caught us – there is a lot of power when a 20 Ton boat pulls back with all her weight on one line – a rush of adrenaline ran though me as I realized how close my fingers had been to the Cleat. Sailing is a dangerous sport and you can’t be lulled by the weather and gentle sailing into thinking it is anything else.
Then we set off – very gingerly at first, as it was unfamiliar territory and ‘reefy’ as one sailor friend called it. Soon we had crept past the small islands and we were making our way North on the Lee side of Mayreau. The Southern Grenadines are so beautiful and all so close to each other – perfect for explorers.
The sun was shining and the wind had dropped to about 12knots – we were relaxed and happy. Mark was on the helm and I was on look out and also brushing May. There were quite a few yachts around and it looked set to be a wonderful sail to Mustique.
Then, very slowly we noticed the wind picking up and the sea state building. We thought it should rise from 12 to 20/25knots and that is fine. We hadn’t put the main up yet but we had full Genoa – we decided to leave the sails at that and review them in half an hour. The wind and sea state were steadily increasing. I stopped brushing May and made sure she had her tether on. I looked at Mark – my rock, he looked happy and content – so all is well then. Magic started to pitch and roll more and more so I suggested it might be a good idea to get our life jackets on. I went down below and got them. We both put them on. In another 10 minutes things had got worse – water was now coming over the deck and splashing us in the cockpit too. So we got our oilskin jackets, life jackets and finally our tethers. Magic was now slamming and pitching into the ever-increasing waves. Mark still looked calm and in control. We were in deep water and the auto helm was working and keeping us on our course accurately. May wasn’t happy and I wasn’t feeling so relaxed either. I know we can sail Magic and I know Magic is a safe and seaworthy boat and I know that 30 knots of wind and 4 m waves are not much – but it still makes me anxious. As I have got older I tolerate anxiety less well. I suggested we reef the Genoa and as we did we were getting slapped on our side and shoved to Starboard. The crests of the waves were being blown off and soaking us as we worked – not pleasant. We were glad we had reefed the Genoa as now the wind was up to 35 and gusting 40 knots and there was foam on the waves – Magic was rising up the crests and pitching down into the troughs of waves which were now around 10 meters high. It was uncomfortable and we had to be aware of moving about so we wouldn’t fall. I kept checking Navionics on my iPad – my quiet and adult equivalent of “are we nearly there?” This is not what was forecast. Magic was coping with it all and Mark was actually enjoying himself – May and I was not. I sat under the spray hood and looked out at the roaring ocean. Glad of the Spray hood as every few minutes a gallon or more of seawater crashed into it. Although we were on auto helm Mark was at the helm position – on look out. Then I noticed through the windows of the spray hood that the Dingy was actually levitating when Magic dived down into a wave. Two, three times I watched as one after another wave left the dingy behind in the air as Magic dove down hard. Then the strain on the dingy was too much – it wasn’t the straps that broke but the rubber on the dingy tore away and it was literally flying off the deck – one more violet pitch and twist and it was gone – completely flew over the guard rails and into the sea – at it went it twisted and landed in the sea upside down. Mark and I were shocked and thought for about 2 seconds about if we could retrieve it. We decided that it was not safe to do that and we had to let it go. We were gutted – our dingy and outboard had become much loved and treasured since arriving in the Caribbean. What a blow. There was nothing we could do now but concentrate on the conditions and get to Mustique safely. We sailed on keeping a watch for other yachts – and on the conditions and on the autopilot and our course. With the high waves on our side Magic was getting a slapping. There was blue water on the deck. I was holding on – braced with my feet on the cockpit table and I was comforting myself by cuddling May and chanting the little prayer I had made up when we were parking in the Med – I find it really comforting but I am sure I do look like some crazy woman rocking and muttering.
“Neptune and Poseidon,
Gods’ of the Sea,
Look after Magic –
The waves are terrible and also so beautiful. You see them cresting above your head – fluffy white foam on top of a clear, cobalt blue, and crystal glass ridge with a solid green base. It is Magic and and then you think – “oh shit, that is about to either slap our side hard or fall on our heads?” Neither option is good. I have to admit I was afraid – because I was winding myself up with thoughts of being knocked down (the boat being slapped on the side so hard she turns right over) and I was thinking about the grab bag (the bag we sailors keep with all our survival things should we need to abandon ship) I knew we were not in peril really but I was stressing myself. So I turned to Mark and we talked about how amazing Magic is – we had to shout to be heard by each other. Sometimes the waves made really eerie noises – rumbling and roaring – there is so much power in the waves – respect.
Finally after 3 hours of horrible we turned towards Mustique – straight into the waves and wind. We still had 40 knots of wind but driving into the waves seemed less to offer less jeopardy. Rising and Falling – up and down and slamming and longing for the sanctuary of the little horseshoe bay that is Britannia harbor on the Lee side of Mustique. As we arrived in the difference was instant – the relief!! Calm…
We called the Harbor Master and Berris Little came out to see us. As he helped us onto one of Mustique Moorings’ safe mooring buoys, he told us they had had 60knots of wind come though just an hour before. “Yes”, we said, “We sailed through that!”
Perhaps he was using the fisherman and sailors allocated 10% exaggeration allowance but it was certainly blowy. On the Beaufort scale it was a F8 and we don’t like to sail in that – we like 4-5 that’s our sort of cruising. May was the most relived we had arrived and like us she was cold and soaked. I was next happiest and Mark exclaimed that it was exhilarating – what a weirdo! We were so happy to be tied up and in calm waters and we thanked Magic for looking after us. We reviewed what we had done in our preparations and in our sailing and we were pleased with what we had done. We have certainly learned a lot since we bought Magic 15 months ago. It had only been a very short journey but it reminded us that the sea is a fickle lady and must be respected. Mark had a cup of tea and I had large rum and coke and May had a cuddle. We were gutted at the loss of our dingy and outboard – but as our friend in Rodney Bay, Mike from Sea Symphony said – each year you have to pay your dues to Neptune – usually a fender or two – so you have paid and are in credit! Good, positive sailor thinking. Thanks Mike.
Peacefully resting in Martinique cleaning the steel and washing the salt from the deck we take time to notice the gentle order of things here. Only one gull allowed per empty mooring buoy and every empty mooring buoy has its gull – if another gull approaches there is quite a fuss made of this uncouth behavior.
Tomorrow is Monday 8th and we will be doing the one-hour sail to Bequai. We love it there and they have water taxis and we will use one of Daffodils safe mooring buoys. The plan is to stay a couple of nights and then head to Blue Lagoon Marina on the Southern tip of Saint Vincent – we need to get a ‘fit to travel’ permit from Dr Glasgow the vet in Kingston and we need to clear out of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines before our sail to Rodney Bay. The Sail from the South tip of Saint Vincent to the North of Saint Lucia will take around 9-10 hours and after our recent adventures we want light winds – those are due on Thursday. We will be watching and planning carefully.
We will get back to Rodney Bay Thursday night or Friday and we hope we will have a new dinghy and outboard sorted out by the weekend. We will stay a few days in Rodney Bay to clear in and clean the boat and then we will be heading north to Martinique and onwards towards our final destination of Antiqua.
But for now..
Picnic on Macaroni beach to sit on the white sand in the sun, swim and lose ourselves in a book for a few hours? – I think that is a good plan.