- Revisit your favourite places
Although it has been great fun to discover so many new places, it has been great to work our way back down the chain again. The disadvantage of moving up with any kind of schedule was that we felt we were rushing through so many beautiful places where we would have loved to stay longer and just enjoy them at our leisure. There are obvious advantages in cruising in familiar waters; knowing the best places to anchor, to eat, to hike and to swim. This time we knew that St Vincent and the Grenadines are best visited with a fridge and freezer fully stocked from the French Antilles, so we got it right the second time round! Revisiting Bequia was like seeing an old friend again and going back to Chatham bay with the luxury of taking all the time in the world was fantastic. This remains our favourite anchorage in the Caribbean, and it was great to have ample time to hang out there.
2. The weather…
We had hesitated about staying in the Caribbean during the summer months. Would it be hot and sweaty? Would we be sweltering in a hot boat cooped up with all the hatches closed in the rainy season? And most importantly, how would we deal with the threat of a hurricane? While we found the temperatures to be a little warmer in Guadeloupe and Martinique, we also found that the skies were overcast and that blue skies were a rarity. Once we reached the Grenadines, that changed. Light breezes keep the temperature gentle but make for blissfully peaceful days at anchor and the blues skies returned. Day after day we were treated to the kind of day that you get on the most perfect English summer’s day. As for rain, I think we had more during the high season (our European winter). As I’m writing this, the UK and France are experiencing a heatwave with temperatures of over 40 degrees in Paris. We are still at a gentle 28 degrees with a nice breeze at anchor. Sunsets at anchor were a treat almost every day. As for the hurricanes? We got savvy with weather apps and tracked every tropical wave as it advanced across the Atlantic. We wouldn’t have contemplated staying without having access to modern weather forecasting apps.
3. Nice sailing
This is linked to my last post about the weather. The Caribbean can always be relied on for a good sailing breeze. Having slightly lighter wind was another concern. Would we have enough wind to sail with? Would we have to sail during the night to get the right breezes? We needn’t have worried. With a good force 4 we have had some beautiful sailing conditions around St Vincent and the Grenadines and rarely had to use our engine for more than getting into harbours and onto pontoons. Even without being able to use our mainsail, we have been able to enjoy some stonking good sailing. And the Grenadines are a wonderful cruising ground, offering so many different islands to visit within a day sail or a half day sail’s distance. You never stop learning on a boat and we discovered the Caribbean currents which can turn like the tides and make the difference between 7 knots and 2 knots over the ground for the same speed through the water. No matter, we are cruisers, not racers, and enjoyed every sail thoroughly!
4. The diving and snorkeling
The marine life is seasonal and although there are wonderful fish and sea beasties to see all year round, having snorkeled extensively in some of the same spots in January and in July, I can report that the snorkeling is better in summer. It may be partly due to calmer conditions in the water which meant that I spent a couple of hours in the water every day (to the point that I rubbed the skin off my heels wearing fins) and partly due to the fact that I have become a bit of a fish geek and love to tick the different fish off my list every day. However, there is obviously a seasonal effect as well… the diversity and abundance of marine life in the Grenadines took me by surprise. It was truly fantastic. As for the Tobago Cays! In an hour of snorkeling around the Cays in January, I would come back to the boat excited to have seen a turtle or a ray. In July I saw several turtles, southern sting rays, spotted eagle rays, Caribbean reef sharks, schools of parrot fish and trunk fish galore, not to mention huge porcupine fish which were no strangers to the strange swimming monkeys in the water. To be honest, they seemed to like hanging out in front of the barbecue area where the odd fish head gets tossed, so this area was almost like a petting zoo! The dives that we did in Bequia and at Chatham bay were spectacular although I was sad not to spot any sea horses, a feature in Bequia. Oh well… I have to leave some diving highs for our trip to Bonaire!
5. The camaraderie
Last but not least, we have met some great people while liming (enjoying ourselves) in the Caribbean. You meet fearless and experienced sailors in the summer months down here, and cruisers who have been living on board for many years outnumber the charterers. The convoy down to Trinidad was a great opportunity to meet up with some great adventure loving folk and we were really lucky to have such great company for our trip down. Meeting people of all ages, from all walks of life and from all around the world is definitely one of the great things about the cruising life. Instead of being nerve wracking, our sail down to Trinidad turned out to be great fun thanks to the company and support of our fellow convoy sailors. We got to make friends from New Zealand, Texas US, Canada, Trinidad, Greece and Guinea Bissau thanks to this convoy. A small example of how international the cruising community can be, and how the support and sharing of skills, knowledge and experience that is involved in cruising is a way of life. Two very different mono hulls and a catamaran sailing over 80 NM side by side is as good a metaphor as I can think of for the camaraderie of the sea that makes this sailing life so special. Thanks guys!