On Tuesday, December 23rd, the anchor is up in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou for the journey to Port Elizabeth on the island of Bequia. Based on previous experience, this is a passage that requires patience, endurance and perseverance.
It is not the distance of 45 miles that makes this passage challenging. Rather, it is the fact that our course will take us to the northeast, directly into today’s 20 to 25 knot winds that are north of east. Sailing on a close reach in six to seven foot seas creates the sensation of being trapped in a washing machine for eight hours on the high-agitation setting. Under these conditions, every square inch of the boat and her crew is covered in salt spray. To add major insult to injury, there is a nasty 3 knot current setting Cutter Loose to the west.
Our course today skirts the lee shore of Union Island. A few miles further to the east are the island of Mayreau and the remote and wonderful Tobago Cays. Further off in the distance is the faint outline of Mustique. These landmarks conjure up a flood of fond memories having visited these places in prior seasons.
Cutter Loose beats her way to within a few miles southwest of the entrance to the harbor. From here, the engine takes over the heavy lifting, ever so slowly powering through adverse wind, wave and current toward our destination.
Finally within the relative calm of Port Elizabeth, the harbor is a flurry of activity. Fortunately, Port Elizabeth is a harbor where there is always room for one more boat.
There are hundreds of anchored cruising sailboats flying flags from the U.S., Canada and virtually every country in Europe. A dozen or more sailboats are proudly flying their ARC pennants, having recently completed their transatlantic crossing from the Canaries. Crewed and bareboat charter boats are anchored everywhere. Two boutique cruise ships are anchored here for the night, as are several large private motor yachts. Dive boats are returning their payload of afternoon customers to the dock. The ferries to and from Kingston, SVG are filled with holiday passengers. All manner of boat boys are working the harbor in their skiffs, offering everything from moorings, lobster, fish, ice and water taxi services. At dusk on Christmas Eve, boats continue to pour into the harbor. It appears that Bequia is THE destination of choice for Christmas.
Exhausted and anxious to conclude this passage, the yellow Q flag is hoisted to the spreader and the hook is set in the Lower Beach area of the harbor, well away from the crowd. After a quick deck and cockpit wash, hot showers and a delicious plate of pasta with vegetables for dinner, it is lights out early aboard Cutter Loose.
The following morning, our first duty is a visit to the local Customs and Immigration office. A long line of skippers has already formed in the Customs office, reflecting the sheer volume of boats anchored in the harbor. After queuing up and clearing Customs, it becomes apparent that Immigration officials are visiting a cruise ship in the harbor. Officials permit us to walk around town, but ask that we return later in the morning to complete the Immigration paperwork. The sidewalk food vendors are busy this morning, catering to the last minute shopping needs of folks preparing Christmas dinner.
Christmas Eve is a time reserved for quiet relaxation aboard Cutter Loose, listening to holiday music, reconciling another Christmas in the tropics, thinking of family and friends and remembering Christmases past.
Christmas Day dawns sunny and breezy…a perfect setting for today’s Christmas brunch served by Miss Daffodil. She’s the smiling lady holding the water bottle. Daffodil’s primary job involves the provision of mobile laundry services to visiting boats in her colorful fleet of yellow catamarans. It appears that she may now be preparing to expand into the restaurant trade.
Today, Daffodil and her colleagues have prepared an delicious feast of pumpkin soup, lamb, turkey, pork and ham with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, vegetables and salad. We are in good company today as we break bread with cruising friends Scott and Paula of s/v Scherzo, Chris and Fran of s/v Changes and a group of 30 other cruisers from around the world.
Saturday, December 27th is our final day in Bequia. In the village, shops are re-opening after the Boxing Day holiday. This includes Doris’s amazingly well-stocked grocery store. Doris’ husband bakes fresh bread, croissants and cookies every day. This little gem is one of the better places in the Eastern Caribbean to provision the ship’s galley.
Sunday’s weather forecast appears conducive for northbound travel. All systems are GO for an early morning departure to Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.