Having witnessed Grayhound take shape from trees arriving by lorry at our boatyard, it was with excited anticipation that Sue and I flew to Grenada to join her for a Caribbean cruise through the Grenadines to St Lucia.Marcus and Freya run the boat with 2 year old Malachi adding entertainment. After a relaxed but thorough briefing we are straight into hauling ropes and winding up the anchor.On day one I am seriously worried as to whether I will cope. After a spell on the windlass my lungs are aching and a pain in my left chest makes me wonder if I am suffering a heart attack. Freya is unsympathetic telling me cardiac exercise will do me good. However, less than two weeks later I work so hard on the windlass that Marcus opposite laughs that he’s not doing anything. Then we run aft to the tackles and the mighty main yard seemingly flies into the air. The feeling of fitness and achievement is immense.We have a short sail to start with to learn the ropes and then an anchorage where friends of the vessel immediately appear and there is diving and swimming before pizza’s ashore.The next morning we are off on an overnight romp to We have good sailing through the day and gradually beat up towards the island. The lugger rig does not point high but we regularly make 8 knots.As the night closes in we start watches and Sue and I enjoy a spectacular scene, powering along through the darkness, the seas surging out to leeward, dry decks, steering with the tiller lines, gradually picking up the lights of Carriacou.
The following day we motor to Sandy Island and have our first taste of snorkelling in the warm clear water. Then after clearing customs out of Hillsborough we have a perfect beat across the channel to Union Island.Half way across it transpires that Sue and Freya have both bought new dresses in Hillsborough so naturally a fashion show is called for as we sail along.We creep around the edge of the reefs into Clifton, Union Island as the sun sets to leeward and are soon anchored within a crowd of cruising and charter boats. Grayhound is so distinctive that as soon as the anchor is down friends will appear in dinghies and be welcomed aboard. An impromptu party soon began, including guitars and singing and Malachi dancing.
Life on board was taking on a relaxed routine. At 7 Malachi would wake with good natured chirruping from his cabin, the squeak of the galley foot pump would be followed by the low purr of the generator starting up. When the generator stopped you knew the kettle had boiled and if you pretended to be asleep somebody would bring tea to the forepeak. Breakfast would start with muesli and fruit but would then be followed with toast and occasionally eggs too. A planned early start would regularly turn into a relaxed late start because we were too busy eating and chatting.Freya’s cooking never ceased to amaze us. While the tiller was being repaired she produced a delicious quiche. In the middle of a long sail she would produce a freshly baked cake. Going to windward in a metre swell we would get a hot lunch. The galley was spacious by small boat standards but it still pitched and rolled as anybody who has tried cooking at sea will know.We motored up into the Tobago Cays through eye watering colours to anchor before diving in to swim with turtles and rays.The next morning we set off to locate the treasure on Malachi’s treasure map which had mysteriously been found in the chart draw. He was rather bemused by us all being in pirate fancy dress but he could see that we were enjoying ourselves so he played along.Once the treasure had been dug up (Lego!) we swam, made a sand car for Malachi and turned Ruth into a mermaid.
After a day in the Cays we navigated out through the northern reefs and headed for Bequai. Another classic Tradewind sail brought us to the beautiful Admiralty Bay in early afternoon. We all go out for a splendid meal in the evening followed by rum punches and dancing to a steel band. Malachi takes his parents home early and the rest of us follow at intervals
Once clear of the island the wind hit us hard as it accelerates around the high volcano, what surprised us however was a heavy tidal overfall that reminded us of Portland Bill. For a while the bowsprit was digging into the steep seas and we had wet decks for a change. However, we were soon through this and sailing across much calmer water as the current set us fast to the west.
We arrived about 5 miles to leeward of the Pitons in late afternoon so decided to motor up to the anchorage before dark.A boat boy came out in a tiny dinghy and said we could not anchor between the Pitons where we were heading and all the moorings were taken.He directed us to the shore north of Petit Piton where we were meant to drop the anchor close to the shore and he would take a line ashore to a palm tree.However, it was so deep close to the steep shore that with the manual windlass we could not anchor far enough out to be safe. We had to call for the shore line to be released as it was by then too dark to safely experiment so close to the shore.We headed up the coast to Marigot Bay where we felt our way in and found a mooring buoy.After a rest day spent on the beach, on board making wind scoops and doing the books, and for Marcus repairing another boat, an expedition set out to climb Gros Piton. At over 2700 feet in the tropical heat this was a daunting prospect but it turned out that just getting there and back was the biggest challenge.
At dawn Marcus, Ruth, Sarah and myself set out, leaving Freya, Sue and Malachi to a more leisurely day. The taxi seemed too extravagant so we started hiking out of Marigot Bay up a steep climb. Then a bus caught us up so off we went with high hopes, only to notice that the next bit of coast that we saw was north of Marigot and therefore the wrong direction. Once in Castries we quickly found a bus back to Soufriere, passing a sign saying 1km to Marigot Bay, so at least we thought we knew where to get off on the way back.
Then after some bartering, a taxi took us to the village at the base of the mountain where a friendly guide led us off into the thick jungle.
The path was steep but well made with useful branches as hand rails and while sweating profusely we found it reasonably easy to make it to the top. Marcus of course insisted on doing the climb in bare feet to the amazement of guides and walkers coming down.
On top the view was spectacular and a platoon of French soldiers arrived complete with two St Lucian soldiers with automatic weapons and side arms which was a surprise.
Going back down was worse on the knees than going up and the mosquitoes were appearing en mass. However, soon we were back in Soufriere and seeking juices at a tiny bar. When I returned with a second round the entire crew had fallen asleep on the table with exhaustion.We then found that to get back we had to get a bus to the very southern tip of the island, then one to Castries in the north then after an hour’s search around the dark dubious streets a bus back to Marigot Bay where a relieved Sue and Freya picked us up in the gig.And so ended a very memorable holiday with great people on a great vessel. Before we knew it we were saying a sad farewell. We flew back the following day after an air conditioned taxi ride to the airport, I couldn’t take another day on the buses! Strange to be back in long trousers ready for the chill at Gatwick.
Written by Joe & Sue Graham