Caribbean Christmas Sailing – Christmas 2011 & New Year 2012

Xmas Odyssey 2011-12
2 boats, 3 skippers, 9 guests (including two returning from last year), 200 miles, 11 harbours, 40+ knots of wind…Christmas 2012 was a memorable adventure of turtles, turkey and beating to windward!

Caribbean Sailing Christmas 2011 into New Year 2012

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]n excited group trickled into Grenada between the 20th and 21st December 2011 to join Ibis & co for 2 weeks over the festive season. Scheduled for a romp through the Windwards from Grenada to St Lucia, 9 guests had booked up for an alternative to “the Wizard of Oz” and the Queen’s speech! We had filled Ibis sometime in November with Adrian (from last year and from the UK), Val from Scotland, Cecilia from Norway, and Camilla and her mum, Gro, also from Norway. But people kept asking about spaces and when Steve (also from last year and from Washington) said he wanted to bring his new wife, Reenah, this year, we laid on a second boat that also included Cathy from Ontario, and Jill from Massachusetts. Molly Bloom, a catamaran, was skippered by Ron Zellmer from Florida….what would you know, we had a European and a North American boat and crew!

Our Christmas 2011 odyssey started disappointingly with a day in harbour following a forecast of 35 knot winds, but with lighter winds expected everyone took the day to tour Grenada, visiting the waterfalls and one of the many Rum factories. The evening was spent getting to know each other over a few beers, a particularly nasty box of wine, and a barbecue; and going through a full safety briefing with a look at the route.

Bash to Union

Next morning dawned bright and sunny and we headed out of the marina around 11am for the windward trip 40 miles to Carriacou where we planned to stop the night. But with more than 30 knots of wind still blowing and up to 15ft seas, it was tough going. Molly Bloom, in particular, was struggling into the waves and as it got late into the afternoon, we changed plans and headed into Isle Ronde for the night. Molly Bloom made a safe, if nailbiting, approach in the dark with Ibis’ crew lighting the way with torches.

The following morning we set off for Union Island to clear into St Vincent and the Grenadines and with similar winds, we found some shelter from the waves between the islands as we tacked up the Martinique Channel. Anchored safely behind the reef Ibis’ crew waited for Molly Bloom to arrive over a bite of lunch. Ron and I made the clearance and we headed out for Saline Bay on Mayreau as dusk was falling, ready to enjoy a Christmas Eve night under the stars.

Christmas in the Tobago Cays

Christmas morning again saw white horses on the sea, and the Tobago Cays was alive with charter and cruising boats bustling around. We had no choice but to sail past a crowded Saltwhistle Bay, and headed for the Cays and some much needed relaxation snorkelling with the turtles there.

We were in good company; there must have been over a hundred yachts anchored behind the reefs, including a few large superyachts just outside. We started the day with home-made mince pies and finished with a full turkey roast (albeit with salads rather than potatoes) and a Christmas pudding courtesy of Val!

Adrian amused everyone, particularly Gro, with his rendition of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer….in Norwegian!

Bash to Bequia

Boxing Day morning, after a quick swim, we set off again for Mustique, although it soon became apparent that we were again going to be beaten by the wind and wave direction, and changed plans for Bequia; disappointingly foregoing a Mojito in the famous Basil’s Bar.

With the extra distance to cover and Molly Bloom falling way behind, Ibis arrived just as dark was falling, and Molly Bloom limped in under a night sky again…this time with a failed engine! It turned out that there had been a blockage in the cooling water for the engine which had melted the plastic exhaust water trap and jetting hot salt water and exhaust fumes into the boat. Everyone was a bit dejected after such a long day, so we cheered ourselves up with some cocktails ashore and a nice meal!

Bequia is a wonderful, colourful stop, however, and despite a few rain showers everyone had some time exploring, including a visit to the Turtle Sanctuary there. The two skippers managed to swap the water trap from the second engine in a couple of hours and we were back in business.

Sailing St Vincent

With renewed vigour, we set off again in bright sunshine for the south coast of St Vincent itself and the rainforest covered mountains beyond; we had some wonderful fast sailing with just one reef in the sails. The sea was calm and it was a perfect sailing day which everyone enjoyed.

Enroute, Adrian took the time to show Gro how to tie a bowline….I think he should start his own knot school, what do you think?

We took a bouy in Young Island Cut and whilst some of the crew took a hike up the top of a rocky pinnacle there, others went exploring in town. We managed to score a nice big snapper in the fish market for a group dinner, and Francois flew in for the rest of the trip to St Lucia.

The following afternoon we had a lovely sail up the coast of St Vincent to Keerton’s Bay which is next to Walilabou, one of the film sets of the Pirates of the Caribbean and everyone took the next day to explore the surrounding villages and bars. We scored a very fresh tuna from one of the local boat boys and had a fab Tuna Teryaki on Molly Bloom that night.

New Year in St Lucia

It was a 3am start for our night sail from St Vincent to St Lucia to arrive in time for the New Year celebrations the next day, and we were again treated to blustery winds between 30 and 40 knots and big 3 metre seas. In the darkness Molly Bloom took a big wave on the bow which caved in the trampoline at the front of the boat and shredded the inflatable Kayak tied there. Ron ventured forward with his lifejacket on to strap the flailing boat parts down and took another huge wave which inflated his automatic vest! It’s a lot harder trying to do things on deck in a big sea with a lare orange inflatable neck brace…he did well!

Despite a tiring crew on both boats the next day, we made it safely to Rodney Bay on St Lucia and tied up alongside in the marina. Everyone was grateful for a long hot shower and we headed to the local Indian Restaurant for New Years’ dinner. Fireworks went off all around the bay at the stroke of midnight.

After a day of rest we headed down to Soufriere to see the Pitons National Park, and finally sailed back up to Marigot where our crews departed.

There was no doubt about it, it had been a long and tough sailing trip from Grenada to St Lucia which challenged some of the crew, and also the skippers at times! But there were also some perfect sailing days, great food, beautiful anchorages, lovely company and a lot of laughs.

Well it does say Adventure Sailing….!

To see when we’re next sailing where, click on our Caribbean Sailing Calendar, or the main menu links at the top of this page, or contact us if you’d like to find out about a private sailing charter on Yacht Ibis.

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