Trip on La Dolce Vita starting 2014-02-26 in BSAMar14

Tales and Heads – a non-BSA trip to St Vincent and The Grenadines - Feb/March 2014 -

report by Sue Fowle

Bernard Smyth and I joined 3 others for a repeat trip to The Grenadines, skippered by Dave Price from CSSA, formerly of BSA.

I wondered if any exotic sailing trip would turn up this year but on Friday Dec13th flights and boat were finally booked. I headed off for a week travelling in Dominica before meeting up with the others at Barbados airport. Despite misgivings LIAT, the local company, were on time and we arrived in St. VincentMap via St Lucia. Having booked again through Barefoot - whose email address is still barebum - we were somehow not surprised to find no taxi and the third bed - mine - not made up. Refusing the offer to share with Dave or Bernard I was found a pleasant room of my own.

After a long victualling excursion in the supermarket and a comprehensive briefing we were introduced to La Dolce Vita, sadly being 10 years old, a little past her prime. She was a Jeanneau DS43 with 3 double cabins, one bunk cabin and 2 heads. In a generous gesture Ann and I allowed the boys to have the one with electric heads and shower cubicle. Had our female intuition sensed that for the first week the engine would need to be running to flush the loo? All we needed were strong arms!

Below, though reasonably well equipped in the galley, the saloon was quite shabby and there were the usual problems with electronics, the plotter having a large black blob on the screen and showing the boat, along with the fluxgate compass 180 degrees out. There were Imray charts on board and luckily Dave and First Mate Paul, had nav aids on their tablets/phones. The inter-island passages were possible with line of sight but close in there were always rocks and overfalls to be aware of. The variation was 14° west – so True Virgins were regular Dull Companions. Barefoot rates reflect the quality of the boats on charter - but the quote from Sunsail suggested we were going to buy the boat not charter it for 12 days.

The main hassle was with the domestic batteries - they would not hold a charge unless the engine ran for 4 hours - not much fun whilst having drinks and supper on board. They had apparently been renewed in January so should have been fine but it took a week before the company finally accepted responsibility and replaced them. In recognition of this nuisance they waived all our fuel costs.

Despite all this, La Dolce Vita sailed us safely covering about 130nm in 3m swells and steady NE trade winds of F6/7 occasionally gusting up to F8. Invigorating sailing but a little too demanding for the vertically challenged crew member who had not packed her beer crate! The weather was more demanding than last year and we had several nights of very strong winds which roared over the hillsides like an approaching express train - and this was in sheltered harbours. Heads kept popping up out of hatches during these nights but all was well.

Apart from missing out Tobago Cays, we visited the same islands but chose different anchorages and ate more meals onboard. On a second visit victualling was easier - we knew where to buy beer and tonic which was administered at regular intervals by Bernard, our sommelier, who made mean G&Ts. We were also more confident about negotiating with the boat boys who swarm like bees around approaching yachts offering to collect ice, baguettes and delicious banana bread.

This year was quieter as regards numbers of boats and local people commented more than previous years on the difficulty of making a living. They are now allowed to cull a number of turtles and whales for food because of this. Obviously to them we are very wealthy so this may colour some of the comments. However most people were very welcoming and cheerful. So many of them are very enterprising too – even taking a leaf out of Bekens of Cowes book and photographing yachts as they approach Bequia.

The Caribbean offers the opportunity for some spectacular boat watching – this year the Stad Amsterdam fulfilled expectations, She is a beautiful 3 masted boat with working sails used as a cruise ship as well as for training purposes – Omani Navy at the moment . Sadly we were preparing to moor when the crew were furling the sails so no photos.

Our 'last night' was less spectacular than last year, spending it in Wallilabou - Pirates of the Caribbean - Bay and eating at the restaurant, a rather sad and ghoulish place. The previous night however we thought we may have been attacked by real pirates. We anchored in a – recommended - solitary bay where a little fishing boat was moored as well. After some spectacular snorkeling we were disturbed whilst having our drinks by 8 young men approaching in a high powered fishing boat. They messed around in the moored boat before proceeding to snorkel and swim around the edges of the bay as it went dark, then sped off at high speed. We wondered if they were looking for drugs and if under the sparkling stars they would return, knives between their teeth, ready to cut our throats or at least our anchor chain and kedgeline. Needless to say we awoke safely next morning.

The main irritation was the number of skippered catamarans, usually flying the Tricolour who come out from Martinique and Guadaloupe .They moor as close to the shore as possible, thus spoiling the views from the other boats who are using the laid and paid for mooring buoys. In Wallilabou, we were bow onto a mooring buoy with a line ashore, fixed by the local boys. In the totally empty bay 2 catamarans rafted up on their one ’usual’ buoy which, when they swung on the swell, meant they ended up inches off our bow. Our skipper saw the $1000 cash deposit disappearing on the swell…. With Gallic shrugs they lunched for 3 hours before departing, having completely obliterated our view of the bay. As the clients remained on the party poop all the while they could have been moored anywhere.

Our $1000 deposit safely returned to us, we left La Dolce Vita for the delights of the flight home via the LIAT terminal in St Vincent. Having always travelled with only 1 piece of hand luggage and now using a wheelie bag! I left my small backpack in the taxi. This caused the terminal to go on ‘red alert’ as the checkin clerk, the security man and various others came to my rescue. Everybody knew Charles, the driver, and where he could be found, so despite my fears and tears, he arrived, bag on the front seat and normal service was resumed! Would that have happened at Gatwick…?

Altogether another safe and very satisfactory trip to the Caribbean.

St. Vincent  13.1521,-61.2251