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Saturday, April 14, 2018

The End of the Season...Already?

While our Minnesota friends have had their hopes for spring dashed time and again. we on Northern Star are working our way south in order to put our boat up on the hard for the next few months, May through at least August 1st.
Dinghy dock on Iles des Saintes

If the boat is north of 10 1/2 N latitude when a named storm hits, she will not be covered by our insurance. That will put us south of Grenada.  South of Grenada lie the islands of Trinidad and Tobago as well as the country of Venezuela.  Trinidad is our destination. We have been looking for another cruising boat to traverse the waters approaching Venezuela with us without success as of this date. Venezuela was once a safe country for cruisers but reports of piracy now come out of that area. We will be avoiding pirates by sailing at night and staying well away from oil rigs and the Venezuelan coast.
Harbor on Beqia

Kite-surfing north of Mayreau
We have just left Bequia (BEK-way), the northernmost of the Grenadine Islands that are part of the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines; SVG for short. What was once a British colony now has its’ own flag and its’ own economy.  If you were to tell me that you had never before heard of the Grenadines, or St. Vincent or Bequia, I would not judge you harshly.  Prior to leaving with the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, Virginia last fall, I could not have told you what or where they were.  This I admit only to emphasize that the Caribbean is a very large area with hundreds of islands; the largest of course, being Cuba and then the Dominican Republic (not to be confused with Dominica (dom-in-EE-ka).
Bequia. Locals call it "Paradise." Nobody disagrees.
Bequia just may be the jewel of all the Grenadines.  When our friends on S/V Lulu cleared into Customs on Bequia, the Customs agent stamped their passports, looked them squarely in the eyes and said, “Welcome to paradise. You have arrived.” 
View of Bequia harbor from the Tantie (Auntie) Pearl restaurant

Every morning at 8:00, Lafayette, a woman who happens to own the popular restaurant, The Fig Tree on the waterfront, comes over VHF radio Channel 68 to draw us together under the spell of her calm, joyful voice.  She loves the cruisers and she is not afraid to tell us so.  She greets new arrivals warmly and gives a sad but understanding farewell to those who must leave. She inquires about things lost, stolen or found overnight.  She allows time for cruisers to offer their “treasures of the bilge” over the air. She invites other businesses to advertise their cruiser services, such as water, ice, gas, and laundry services.  
One of the double-enders on Bequia

Each morning Lafayette talks a bit about how she loves her very special island, and hopes that we (cruisers) will too.  She encourages us to be thankful for each day in paradise, and to be the best that we can be.  She ends each broadcast with, ‘As my mother always says, “One Love.”’ You might think that this broadcast is cheesy or self-serving (as a restaurant owner) but you would be wrong if you question whether her words are genuine. 

After some lovely snorkeling, we said farewell to our friends in Bequia and then made the short hop to the Tobago Cays (not to be confused with the island of Tobago). If you ARE confused by now, I understand completely.
The island of Canouan, looking north.  At anchor in Tobago Cays.

The Tobago Cays is a national park and an area ringed by reefs on the northeast through the southeast sides.  The reefs contribute to a diminished swell from the ocean, but certainly do not remove it altogether.  Behind the reefs are a few very small islands and lots and lots of turtles. We anchored in what was a rolling wave area between two islands and went to explore the Horseshoe Reef due east by dinghy. The Cays are picturesque beyond my well-oiled imagination.  Beautiful aquamarine water punctuated by darker water indicating turtle grass below. We could see islands nearly all around us, several of them many miles away.  
Just dropped anchor between two islands, Tobago Cays

This morning we snorkeled with the turtles.  In my case, it was only one turtle really, but he was very accommodating and allowed me to shadow him for a long time as he munched, came up for air, and returned to his repast.  Carl actually spent time with several turtles closer to our dinghy and out of the cordoned-off “turtle” area.  I was sad to have strayed so far from the dinghy.
Tobago Cay turtle

Alas, the anchorage continued to be uncomfortable with choppy waves and since we did not plan to snorkel there again, we made the short 3 mile jump to the island of Mayreau ((MAY-roo) where we again connected up with a familiar group of cruisers. 
Mexican train dominoes

Now in a much calmer anchorage, we discovered that our cruising friends, in our absence, had taken up Mexican Train dominoes on the beach in late afternoon.

We are now only three days from our 24 hour passage to Trinidad.  We check out of the Grenadines on Union Island, then sail on to Carriacou (KARE-EE-a-coo) which is part of the country of Grenada.  We check in and out of Grenada and then sail to our final destination for this season, Trinidad.  

Whether buddy boating or not, we shall be sailing the most dangerous waters during the night as we approach Trinidad.  Pirates coming out from Venezuela tend to have small boats (without navigation aids) and thus are more likely to be out on the ocean during daylight hours. We have every intention of avoiding them altogether. I feel a little like we are going to be starring in a James Bond movie. 

With background music that is somber and building in intensity, the trailer goes something like this…”There she goes, under full sail, the sailing vessel Northern Star quietly slicing through the waters on the high seas, thwarting the region’s piracy by slipping past under cover of darkness while they sleep. 
Captain Carl.....Carl Richards

The boat captain’s name you ask? It’s Bond…NO, no, it’s  Richards…Carl Richards.”
Did you say "Carl?"
I thought I heard his name....Carl.  Carl Richards.

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