Welcome to the blog of the sailing yacht Sea Bunny.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Superb service - Aqualung UK

The Aqualung distributor for St Lucia is SCUBA St Lucia situated in Anse Chastenet, about 3 miles away and our next planned destination. R took the faulty BCD  there the same afternoon. While they were very helpful, they are a dive operator, rather than a repair shop, and could not fix the problem, although they fully identified it and attempted to clean the offending corrosion with ultrasound- no charge..

Back on the boat an email was sent to Aqualung in the UK. A response was received by the time we got up on Monday morning (4 hour time difference) and the same day  a replacement valve unit was being sent, foc, to our daughter to bring out when she visits. Unbeatable service

St Lucia - Soufriere and The Pitons,

As planned we sailed from Cumberland Bay towards St Lucia. The wind was just north of east which meant that we expected roughish conditions off the north end of St Vincent. As Susan wasn't feeling too good it would have been better to wait a day, which technically would have meant we had to check back in to St Vincent.
As it happened the conditions were not as bad as expected and  the wind freed a bit as we cleared the island. This enabled us to sail in nearly the right direction, but to make things more comfortable we did not press the boat and point as high as we could have.
As we approached the south of St Lucia it became apparent that we have some 2 knots of current with us. This was not actually very helpful as we would have been carried well past our destination of Soufriere had we continued to sail. As it was we have to steer some 25 degrees up current of the direct course.
Arriving at Soufriere Bay we had a selection of boat boys offering to attach Sea Bunny to a mooring. It is mandatory to use one of the moorings provided by the Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA) to protect the coral. The first mooring proposed by a boat boy appeared to be too close to the beach so he helped us to pick one up close to town. This mooring was white, with a blue band, exactly the same colour scheme as the SMMA ones. We had little choice but to allow the boat boy to pass us the line, as his boat was beside the buoy and he had the line in his hand. For this unwanted service he wanted to charge XCD 30 (about GBP 9). In the end he settled for significantly less and left with the parting shot "I hate the British - you're all racist" - which left us thinking who's racist?  Welcome to St Lucia!

Malgretout Bay
Just before dusk a local boat arrived and told us we were on his private mooring (this proved to be correct). We had to move and find an SMMA mooring in the gathering darkness, which we succeeded in doing in Malgretout Bay, just to the south. This was a more pleasant location but the original one had enabled us to get cleared in to St Lucia before Customs start charging overtime at 1630.
The next morning we checked out the town, discovering a reasonable supermarket.
One of our priorities as we work our way up the coast of St Lucia is to check out activities for Catharine and her boys when they arrive shortly. To this end we went snorkelling in one of the recommended locations around the base of Petit Piton to view the basket sponges.
On leaving Malgretout Bay we got some good views of the Pitons but will visit with our guests.

The Pitons
On our return from snorkelling the base of Petit Piton Richard snorkelled beside Sea Bunny to check on the growth of fouling in the Coppercoat antifouling - not impressed.
While down he noticed that the wire strop that runs between the keel and the skeg to deflect ropes heading to foul the propeller had become detached from the skeg and was hanging down from the keel towards the seabed.
This needed to be fixed, so the next morning (Sunday) Richard donned SCUBA gear to reattach it, a job that would be challenging to say the least with breath-hold diving.
Having descended the 2 m or so necessary he seemed to be having difficulty with depth control, continually rising. The first time he thought he didn't have enough weighting but then realised that he had a problem with his BCD (buoyancy control device - a sort of jacket that can be inflated with air from the SCUBA tank to increase buoyancy and ascend or vented to reduce buoyancy and descend). The inflator valve was passing air into the BCD when air was not required causing the BCD slowly to  inflate. It was very lucky that this was discovered an a very shallow dive when the result is merely annoying. At  greater depths it could result in an uncontrolled ascent with serious consequences.
He managed to secure the strop then his thoughts urgently turned to having the BCD repaired.

Canouan, Bequia & St Vincent

The Tobago Cays are pleasant and it is a change to be anchored with only the reef between Sea Bunny and the Atlantic swells. However, we find them vastly over-rated and crowded compared with other reef anchorages we have visited.  The boat boys are now more disciplined and appear much older!
Sea Bunny left, through the gap in the northern reef. Dire warnings of cross currents setting onto the rocks were probably originally written before GPS and chart plotters that can warn you if you are only a couple of feet off your desired track. The number one eyeball navigation and the colour of the water still remain important in these areas.
Once through the reef the western tip of Canouan is all of 3.2 nM. It was, however, a fairly uncomfortable 3.2 nM as it was nearly head to 20 kn of wind and we had not put the mainsail up to steady the boat - it was, after all, only 3.2 nM!

Charlestown and anchorage
Charlestown Bay is the main anchorage. We were on a mission -dinghy power- having stocked up on petrol we forgot about the 2-stroke oil.  A very pleasant afternoon was spent on foot being directed around to find some. Up the steep hill out of the main village we went.
View south from the hilltop - towards Mayreau and Tobago Cays
At the top of the hill without finding the promised store we were directed down the even steeper hill to the south of the island where the hardware store would definately have it. It didn't but we were told to knock on the door of the house opposite.  The lady who answered opened the "Fisherman's Bar" next door where there was indeed some 2-stroke oil amongst the bottles of  rum. Mission accomplished!
Tamarind Hotel jetty
Access to shore from the anchorage is via the jetty at the Tamarind Hotel - where there is significant surge even on calm days.

Pigeon peas
Pigeon peas feature on many menus in the area. The tree is quite colourful as it flowers and fruits at the same time.
Friendship Bay
Canouan to Bequia is a bit further - 16 nM. This time we sailed it but the wind direction was such that we could not quite make the course - we were heading to Friendship Bay on the south coast - and ended up motoring. Adverse current through the passage between the offshore islands just to the west of the bay was around 2.5 kn. Friendship bay is quite scenic but very rolly. It was a very quiet bay as the "Yacht Club" and associated hotel appeared defunct.
Moving on to Admiralty Bay and Port Elizabeth we found that the current through the islands was again against us at nearly the same strength - so it must be tidal, despite a range of less than 0.5m.
Port Elizabeth anchorage
Port Elizabeth was another place that we had visited in 2002 and it was our favourite island then and it remains so.  Sea Bunny initially anchored on the edge of the shallower area in about 10 m and dug the anchor in well. However, a squall came in with about a 90 degrees wind shift and we were called up by the boat behind us saying that we were getting closer! This indeed proved to be the case - the only time we've dragged our anchor since New Year's Day 2007 in Australia and that was in 70 knot wind and foul ground with plastic sacks all over the bottom!

We re-anchored in shallower water fairly well out in picturesque Princess Margaret Bay which made for a damp dinghy ride into town.
The path to Princess Margaret Beach
On the Sunday we took a walk along a recently built coastal path from town to Princess Margaret Bay.  Parts of it have apparently been damaged in recent bad weather and is officially closed - but still usable.
Princess Margaret Beach
Over lunch in a beach restaurant,talking to the couples at the next table we discovered one of them was from Shaftesbury and are old friends of our solicitor!

It is about 50 nM from Admiralty Bay to Vieux Fort or Soufriere in St Lucia - the two southernmost ports of entry in St Lucia. We decided to break the journey in St Vincent to ensure arriving in St Lucia in daylight during the working hours of customs. After clearing out from St Vincent and the Grenadines the boat must leave within 24 hours. This allowed us to check out from Port Elizabeth, overnight in Cumberland Bay on St Vincent and continue on to St Lucia the next day.
Line to shore from anchor location
Cumberland Bay is extremely deep until very close to the beach.  The guide book warns that the locals look like the bad guys from a spagetti western but are very hospitable. Anchored in 25 m and a helpful boat boy took a warp ashore from the stern. We haven't used this technique since Great Barrier Island in New Zealand in 2003.
Mojito's restaurant
There are about 6 restaurants in Cumberland Bay. "Our" boat boy tried to convince us that, having used him to help moor, we had to eat in "his" associated restaurant. We preferred to try the restaurant nearest to where we we moored - Mojitos. We were the only diners. The meal took a long time to arrive but when it did it was very good - as was the mojito!
Cumberland Bay
In the morning another boat boy was available to release on shore line on time.

Result very low key bay plus delightful people.