We arrived in St Vincent after an uneventful 2 day sail from St Martin, missing out Guadeloupe, Monserrat, Dominica and Martinique on the way. All islands we would have loved to have visited but they are closed to us due to COVID, so we will spend a couple of months in St Vincent and the Grenadines instead. We have to do 12 days quarantine, as they take days at sea into the equation (Take note Australia) so we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and sat back and waited for instructions. A guy came round in a dinghy and sold us a SIM card and we were advised that on day 7 we must go into town for a second PCR test. 12 days sitting in a gorgeous anchorage with plenty to eat, drink and occupy us. Not too shabby – we can swim off the boat and finish all those niggling little jobs that have been building up.
First on the list, make a new flag for The Grenadines- out came my new sewing machine and once I had made the flag I set about fixing the chaps (the canvas dinghy protectors) and the clears around the cockpit. Day 7 and we went in for our test which came back negative but we still have to remain in quarantine until the 14 days from departure from the last port are up. Our friends Kia and John from Atea are with us and we all get out at the same time. Our eventual release date came and we headed straight to The Blue Lagoon marina for lunch. It was stunning and empty. There are no charterers this year and they usually dominate the landscape so we are seeing the Caribbean like it was about 40 years ago.
The next morning we headed off for Bequia. Another very different island from the ones we had already explored – Bequia is small and colourful. All the bars and restaurants were open – albeit empty. We spent a fabulous few days here before heading down to a beach party with the Atlantic crossing gang in Union.
We went to Union for the weekend to catch up with Trifecta , Proud Cat and Adventure to have a beach bonfire and bbq. Union island is about 25nm south so we arrived mid afternoon and had a great catch up. The local restaurant on the beach put on a great meal and we had a fabulous night sitting in the sand mesmerized by the bonfire flames – there’s nothing quite like a bonfire on a tropical beach surrounded by friends drinking rum…
We had breakfast on Proud Cat the next day and then all four of us headed back to Bequia. We wanted to spend more time there and the other three were heading north to USVI before heading back to the USA. The next couple of weeks were spent snorkelling, dining out, bar hopping and enjoying Bequia.
One night we arranged for a lobster dinner on board. Our friend Alex duly arrived with a whopper and showed us how to cook lobster Bequia style. He cut the lobster on half lengthways not quite cutting it in half. Then he scored the flesh and rubbed gartic butter all over it and just popped it flesh side down straight onto the bbq. It was delicious and we will probably always cook our lobster that way again.
On the last night we were together we all went out to dinner – and discussed the impending eruption of La Soufriere – a volcano on St Vincent that was spewing ash and threatening to erupt. We were 20nm miles away so we knew we were safe. During dinner we were called outside to see the eruption in all its glory. We were all astounded at its power and heard later it went over 6km into the sky!.
We had a lovely meal but it was sad to know that we would not see Proud Cat again having travelled with them since Dar Es Salaam. We had shared so many adventures including East Africa, The Red Sea, Greece, lockdown together in Turkey, Crossing the Med via Malta and Spain, The Canary Islands, crossing the Atlantic and finally the West Indies. But that’s the cruising lifestyle … continous change.
We woke up the next morning, looking forward to going round the island on the bus and visiting the Bequia Boat museum but our plans were stopped when we looked outside. Our boat was covered in a thick layer of black volcanic ash. The air was thick with it which made it very hard to breathe and it stung our eyes. We had to leave immediately to get away – we knew that the ash had got into all our fittings and furlers and would take months to clear. There was a mass exodus from the anchorage as about 40 boats made their way south to get away from the volcano which was still spewing ash. We had been in St Vincent only a couple of weeks before in quarantine- we felt for those still there but far more so for the people on the island as their electricity was out, no water, all their crops destroyed and an appalling quality of air to breathe. We found out later up to 4 inches of ash landed on the island – all this during COVID meaning that they could only evacuate people who had had the vaccine so many stock supplies were rushed to the island from all over the Caribbean. The people have been put on the empty cruise ships and are being taken to Bequia, Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada. Apart from Bequia the others are all different countries with strict COVID entry requirements. A logistical nightmare for the authorities with people literally left with only the clothes on their backs.
We decided to head back to Chatham Bay in Union where we had had the beach party. 2 reasons for our choice 1. We knew the bay and it was as far away as we could go without leaving the country and 2. It was more protected from the ash cloud as it had high land to the north if the bay which would give us a break in the wind. We arrived at lunch time and proceeded to clean Indian Summer. Luckily we have both a water maker and a high pressure hose which made things a lot easier – some poor yachts spent days bucketing salt water over their decks to try and get rid of the ash. We did our first wash in salt and then 3 fresh water washes. Our lines are black and will need to be soaked and it just keeps coming out of the blocks, cleats and rigging. It’s much worse than the Red Sea dust and that took months to stop appearing so we are ready this time. But we are in paradise so we don’t mind. Trifecta came down later, deferring their USVI journey until they got a better weather window, so we enjoyed their company for a few more days and patronized the bars on the beach in Chatham Bay.
We climbed to the top of the island to see the canon that had been placed there many years ago by the British. It was a hot but easy climb and we were rewarded with a stunning view of the bay and even found a tortoise.
We spent about a week in Chatham Bay waiting for the wind to change so that the Boat didn’t get covered again in ash. We had a final meal with Trifecta at the Sunset Cove bar and waved them off to the USVI the next day. Plans are that we will atch up with them again to cross the Pacific next year but things are changing daily so…. hopefully.