At thirteen degrees north, a long way from home.

We are now in Bequia, south of St Vincent and the furthest south we have ever been aboard Pandora.  The island is part of the Grenadines, a number of small islands between St Vincent and Grenada.  It’s a beautiful area and only a few hundred miles from Venezuela.   Many of the folks we have met along the way keep their boats in Grenada or Trinidad, a bit further south from here, but storage there will have to wait another year for Pandora.  As I have mentioned in past posts, leaving Pandora from May to December just doesn’t sit well with me.  That’s a really long time to leave her unattended.

One of the benefits of keeping boats in the Caribbean is that labor rates are low by US standards.   Fortunately, here are excellent crafts people in many of the islands, Bequia for one.   We had heard good things about one of the canvas shops here, in particular, and decided to have canvas chaps made for our dink.  Covers will keep the blazing tropical sun off of the dink and should greatly extend it’s life.

Yesterday the guy from the canvas shop spent three hours making templates for the dink and the finished work will be put on the dink later today.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  We are pretty excited to have matching chaps, seat and engine cover, all in medium grey.

We have also hired a guy to do some varnishing down below on Pandora, the companionway, galley fiddle, navigation station and woodwork in the forward head.  I checked the work that he did for a friend and it looked beautiful.  He says he will be done with the job in a few days so I’ll let you know how it goes.

We were thinking about a new sail cover too but after having the canvas guy look at things today, he thinks it would be OK to put it off until next winter.

We were later arriving in Bequia than expected because we have had so much trouble prying ourselves loose from just about everywhere we have visited, Marigot, our last port, included.   The last day we were in Marigot a beautiful ketch showed up.  She’s Elfje and is owned by a woman, unusual for a superyacht.  I say that it’s “unusual” as that’s how it was described in one of the  magazines that wrote about her and her yacht.  It seems that mega-yacht ownership is overwhelming a male.  So, the owner is Wendy Schmidt, wife, perhaps ex-wife of Eric Schmidt, co-founder of Google.  Ever wonder who owns these spectacular yachts?  Now you know.  She has spectacular lines, the boat that is. And, speaking of varnish, which I was, she has plenty along with a large enough crew to keep up with it.   I love the color of the boat, Columbia Grey, I am told.  Pandora’s dark green is very hot in the tropical sun and we are considering having her repainted in Antigua, perhaps a medium grey.  Changing her color is complicated and more expensive than just going with the same color again, so we’ll have to see what comes of that.   I have lined up someone to do it when I get to Antigua in mid April but it’s unclear if there will be time to get the job done before I leave to head to New England in early May.
She looks enormous on the dock compared with Pandora out in the harbor. Just about everywhere you go in the southeast Caribbean, “boat boys” approach you selling something.  This guy was selling bananas.  We bought some and paid too much.  He reminded us of the Grinch, in looks, not temperament.  Across the harbor was a trail that led up to the top of the hill.   I climbed up the impossibly steep trail, complete with installed ropes to hold as you pulled yourself up.   I didn’t think I’d make it.  Later I was told that many 20 somethings turn back because it’s so steep.   Go me!  Trust me, it was way, way steeper than it looks in this photo.
At the top, after many stops to catch my breath along the way, I was told to look for the “meditation platform”.   By the time I got there it looked more like a “recovery platform” to me, a place to lay down to listen to my pounding heart as it slowed to normal.   Most of the time really steep paths have many switchbacks to make the climb easier.  Not here.

However, once up top, the view was spectacular and worth it. There’s little Pandora way down below. And the view south toward the Pitons, the short run to where we were headed the next day. The Pitons, one of the most photographed sites in the Caribbean, are two 1,000′ tall cones from long extinct volcanoes.   They are impossibly steep and the ocean drops off quickly to more than a mile deep very close to the shore.   We took a mooring in 140′ because of the dropoff.  I have never taken a mooring in that much water.   The gusty winds swirled around us we swung one way or the other by 100′ or more because of the impossibly long scope on the mooring.  It was gusty there, so close to the rising mountains so we had to get help from one of the local “boat boys” to tie up.    As high as the “hill” looks, its actually a lot higher.  As they say, “you had to be there”.  We headed ashore to a very fancy resort on the beach and enjoyed the setting sun from our table under the palms.  It was a “million dollar view” and the bar tab was right in line.  How about $100 for two glasses of wine each and a single appetizer?  The next day we dropped the mooring first thing and headed south to Bequia.    As we rounded the southern tip of St Lucia the seas were very confused with a strong western setting current pushing against us.  That combined with the wind funneling around the headlands made for some pretty “sporty” conditions for the first hour.    In spite of my having carefully secured the dink I was concerned about how much it was moving around in the davits.   Fortunately, no damage.

Following a torrential downpour we were treated to a spectacular view of the Pitons receding in the distance.  It was a long day, nearly 60 miles, as we could not stop in St Vincent, a large island just north of here as it’s not safe.   Too bad that some bad actors have scared off all the cruisers.    All and all, a beautiful sail in moderate winds and all on a beam reach.  It was the best sail yet for the season. 
Bequia is truly an island of boaters and there is a very active junior sailing program with some really nice boats.    They sailed right by us through the turquoise waters. Heading back up wind, they looked like they were having a wonderful time.  To me, this picture just speaks to the exuberance of kids out sailing for an afternoon as they tacked through the anchored boats. The customs house is right near the dinghy dock.  Very Caribbean.  True to form, with it’s English heritage, clearing in was much more complicated than the French islands.
Main street in the village is tree lined and very quaint. I liked this scruffy building framed in flowers.  Everything here is very colorful, even the ferry boats lined up at the dock. Well, I guess that’s about it for today.  The WiFi is really slow and doing this post has taken me FOR EVER.

Yes, we are a long way from home but it’s so beautiful we will surely come back next season.  Perhaps we will even be further south than thirteen degrees.

Did someone say “crossing the equator?”  Not Brenda, that’s for sure.

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