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  • Writer's pictureFatjax

Advancing, Technically

Chaguaramus, Trinidad to Bequia, Grenadines

Tuesday 12th - Thursday 14th December  2023


Our little double handed jaunt heading towards the start line of the World Arc 2024-25 in

St Lucia began.  First stop, Bequia.

We left Chaguaramus anchorage as dawn was breaking, motor sailing until we could hoist our sails and ventured towards Grenada, stopping for the night in St Georges Bay as there was no reason for an overnight sail. The night was unsettled making the 06:00am start the following morning an easy decision.

We motored ever northwards along the coast of Grenada.  The wind began to build to

20 knots and motor sailing with the mainsail was slow, rough and bouncy.  We unfurled the Jib and sailed to windward which was far more comfortable, however, the further out to sea we went the more rough the sea became.  I began to feel ill.  I retired with my trusty grab bucket containing sea sickness staples and went to bed.  Some time later, I was awoken by the sound of Iain stomping purposefully on the foredeck at great speed.  Instinctively I was up on deck to help.

Iain had decided to tack inland towards the island which requires us to furl the jib, unfurling it on the opposite tack.  When he pulled the jib furling line nothing happened and Iain realised the furling drum had come apart.  Again, our jib needed to be lowered to the deck.  This time, it was day light, the sea was less and we were confident we could recreate the system of controlling the sail using an halyard and winch.  This technique was well rehearsed on our Atlantic crossing. It did not take as long or copious amounts of energy as we performed the process of lifting and lowering the sail.  As Iain is always saying, “force is not the answer, just a system”. We strapped the sail to the guardrails while continuing to our destination.

Something has changed in my husband. The log book, which until now has been meticulously recorded every hour on every journey, has lapsed into a hap hazard affair with no real sense of order.  I marvelled at this lack of concern, but I suspected it was a momentary trial, with normal practice resuming at some point.

Arriving in time for Happy Hour, we anchored at the back of the bay. Next morning, Iain performed his usual Tango of the Anchorage, dropping the hook in three different locations before we finally decided on a very welcoming spot outside Jack’s Bar!

The first task was to take control of the jib on the deck.  The decision was made to remove the battens as most of our sailing from now on was going to be down wind, rendering the battens superfluous for the rest of our adventure. Iain assures me the sailing is going to be “plain” with gentle seas in which we will sport our new white spinnaker.  It took some time to remove the battens.  I marvelled at the engineering which has gone into making the sails so durable.  There are layers of fibres laid in a criss cross pattern for optimum strength, every patch of reinforcement placed with purpose and the sewing executed with precision. Once the battens were removed, we flaked, rolled and stored the jib under the canopy until she could be added to The List as the most recent casualty.

Another life lesson, The List will never be completed.  It really is true.  We visit exotic places and fix, never really experiencing more than the anchorage, marina and chandlery.  I think it is fair to say, I have been ground into submission.  When we are two handed sailing, I have to be involved and by doing so, through osmosis, I am beginning to understand the rhythm of the dance when our chariot is on the water.  Whether at anchor or sailing, Fatjax sings an aria, the groans which need attention and the humming she produces in glee when the sails are flying, the tension in the rig is correct and we are cutting through the waves to our destination. Perhaps I will be less scared crossing the Pacific? We have a few more miles to sail and a few more adventures before our next epic undertaking.

We had two weeks to spend with our friends, making memories before going our separate ways to be consumed by our own lives.  But for now, we would make the most of our time.

Christmas in Bequia is quite a gathering of all nationalities with diverse and interesting celebrations.  This was our third visit and second Christmas.

I volunteered my services at the local church to help with the flowers, which was such a breath of fresh air for me. So interesting to work with blooms which are considered exotics at home.  Many of the flowers just grow in the undergrowth or gardens.  I picked up a few tips from the very talented ladies who were so welcoming.

I also helped with the reading initiative run by Mrs Johnson at the Fig Tree Restaurant.  Some years ago, Mrs Johnson ran a bookshop on the island. Mrs Johnson noticed the Island children did not frequent her shop or the local library.  She took it upon herself to set up a volunteer group to help the children with their reading.  Every Saturday at 2pm children and volunteers converge for two hours of reading, drawing and story telling followed by drinks and snacks.  A truly remarkable lady.  Should anyone be planning to holiday in Bequia, please spare a thought to help this group.  Books and stationery are always welcomed. More details can be found on the Pack for a Purpose website

Bequia is where we spent the remainder of the month with our sailing friends. Lel and Tony on Gamesmaker II, Jacqui and Iain (yes, same Christian names), on Hummingbird and Lynn and Mark on Roxy.  All of whom are selling their Chariots after the season, making this Christmas extra special.

The List continued by day, and by sunset we enjoyed the company of our friends.  Tony and Lel organised a meal at the Plantation Hotel on a themed Asian night which turned into quite an evening.

We planned to join the Salty Dawg hike to the summit of Mount Peggy the following morning with Mark.  Not all of us made morning roll call on the dock.  But Lel and I made a sterling effort lagging behind Mark, Tony and Iain as they strode purposefully upwards and we panted and huffed while putting our world to right, ever upwards in their wake.  As always, the view was worth it when we got to the top.

One morning it was agreed us ladies needed to take more control of our destiny.  We were going to master driving our dinghies thus giving us the ability to escape unaided. Lynn and Jacqui both have dinghies with tillers, while Lel and I are in command of a steering wheel.  We doubled up.  Lynn is absolutely proficient in her dinghy having spent most of her adult life on the water.  Lynn was the ideal lady to help Jacqui.   Lel and I muddled through sharing our various techniques.

We practised coming alongside and tying up, without losing the gelcoat from our yachts.  We tried a little reversing, making sure all anchored boats were out of range.  This manoeuvre could be tricky, but we got the hang of it without incident which we were thankful for.  The whole experience was uplifting and filled the three of us with renewed vigour.  If we tackle one task at a time, we will conquer living aboard. Sadly, we were so engrossed, we neglected to capture the moment on camera, however, feeling sufficiently confident later that evening, I drove Iain on a sunset cruise around the bay armed with my camera and a stiff rum punch to calm his nerves.

Without warning or fanfare, Christmas was upon us. Iain and I went to “Midnight Mass” at 20:00.  The time had been agreed between the Priest and congregation the previous Sunday.  Mass would be celebrated early so festivities could commence! The Priest remarked, should the service be conducted at midnight, some of his congregation may not be capable of climbing the hill. This Shepherd knew his flock!

To say Fr Mark holds no punches would be an understatement.  He knows his people and he remembered us visiting in previous years.  Fr Mark, is wise, direct, yet compassionate, honest, funny and totally in tune with his flock.  We felt welcomed.  We prayed and sang with the congregation, helping the pain I was feeling earlier vanish as Fr Mark, shared his life and led the choir on his ukulele, giving traditional Christmas carols a new lease of life.  Sorry about the video, but you get the idea!

Back on the boat, we FaceTimed home while opening our presents from Sophia and Dugald. All was well.

The next morning, drinks and a vintage Christmas pudding were on board Fatjax before heading off to our respective Christmas lunches. We exchanged Secret Santa gifts and sang (very badly) to Tony and Hummingbird Iain’s rendition of Feliz Navidad.  We were happy to be together and the Christmas pudding added an extra reminder of Christmases past.

I feel, a special note of thanks must be given to my sister in law, Christine who gave us the pudding possibly ten years previously.  It has been on the boat, travelling with us since 2019 slowly maturing and to our surprise, still tasting rich and fruity, aided by regular feedings of very fine Antiguan rum. Lynn also brought some exceptional homemade eggnog which complimented the pudding perfectly.

Just as Christmas arrived, so too, was it over. After adventures and memories, it was time to leave our friends and head to St Lucia for the New Year and a New Adventure.

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