The leap season doesn't only bring wind,
but rain as well. However that is not the reason that business in the
Caribbean is extremely slow at the moment. In the bays, pubs,
restaurants... taxidrivers complain bitterly... and all this during high
season. The “bad weather” (more rain and wind than average) can't be the
reason because charters are booked at least six months in advance, when
no one knows how the weather will develop. But the economy of the US
seems to be this low that charter yachts are mainly occupied by
Europeans and - just like us - they don't feel like visiting those
especially for day-charters erected huge establishments. And while those
poor islanders sit and wait for loads of tourists who will never arrive,
the boatboys also keep waiting for clients as they are too lazy to go
to drop by with merchandise against ridiculous prices. A bunch of
bananas had to cost 6x the price. By acting like this, they price
themselves out of the market, end up with empty hands and in doing so
Union Island will remain the same poor place as we found it last year,
and with bad outlooks.
Although winds of 10 to 15 knots were forecasted, we sailed all the time
with our #4 and reefed mainsail, so the weatherguys were slightly
mistaken. Pity that they say little about the direction of the swell, as
it was quite bothersome. In Salt Whistle Bay (Mayreau)
the boats were rolling so badly that we didn't even try to anchor and
fled to the westcoast. The diving postponed to beautiful Bequia where
we could dream away sooner than expected on our little bench at the
Frangipani. A wonderful spot.
In March the wind starts to shift eastward.
We now made good profit out of this, but we hope the trend won't go
through too quickly because we don't want problems again on our way home
to Surinam. But now we could sail the 26 miles to Bequia without
tacking. Even more pleasant was our meeting with a Twister, on her way
to Antigua to join the Classic Yacht Races. Amidst all those puffy
charter yachts a striking appearance, this classic
and even more with her crew: two very funny ladies. We made photo's of
and upon arrival on Bequia even Mark (who had arrived the same night
from Halifax where he was shuffling snow only the day before) knew about
Mark was for a couple of months our neighbour in Las Palmas, and who
could have thought that we would meet again three years later on the
other side of the ocean?!
He now sails with his daughter Anna on
“Kula”, a Tartan (S&S) 41 and he invited us to crew in the Bequia Easter Regatta.
The Bequia Easter Regatta is
one of the biggest yacht racing events in the Eastern Caribbean. The
most spectacular part are the traditional boat races. Bequia has a
history of whaling and fishing and the traditional boats are cherished
by mainly the elder generations as if they were their own daughters.
Neatly painted and polished daily, the race is on. The other classes are: racers
with spinnaker (a French party), measured cruisers without spinnaker and
unmeasured yachts. Plus a lot of J-24’s including Olympic champion Mike Green.
The boats in our class varied from 26 to 80 foot and ratings (a
multiplying factor similar to what we were used to in Holland) from 0.64 to 1.20,
and we were rather average with Kula's 0.81 .
The organisation was perfect and the generous sponsoring impressive.
Free drinks and snacks, there were T-shirts, bags etc. and every
participating boat received a goodies-bag filled with Mountain Top
water, a tray of Heineken cans, Mount Gay Barbados rum and caps from the
sponsor. Very classy caps, by the way.
We were very well prepared. Kula's hull was rather dirty so we were
happy to have our diving gear. Armed with scrapers it took the three of
us about two hours to remove the slimy bulbs, mountains of calcium,
waterplants and various crawling and itching species. In all a
Studying the courses we saw that there were some crucial parts where
local knowledge would distinguish winners from losers. Anna’s big friend boatboy African
told us all we needed to know about where to tack at which moment and of
which parts of the island we should stay clear. Sometimes he even called
us during the race to advise certain tactics when conditions had
The regatta started on Good Friday with a complex course and the
J-24’s caused quite a stirr when rounding a downwind landmark. We also
wondered if we had on starboard tack right of way over modelboats? In
our cruising class sailed the most beautiful yachts, especially the
various Hinckleys`of which 57-footer Bandera was stealing the show.
But to windward we lost more than we could compensate for on the broad
reaches. A couple of mistakes, old-fashioned deckgear (for instance no
selftailing winches) but mainly an old and too large furling
genoa. We ended in fourth place (of 13),
in our opinion absolutely not deserved but nice to celebrate during the
On Saturday we sailed around the island. Partly due to African's advise
we had a dream start! A different foresail (secondhand and perhaps even
older than the one we used the previous day, but less big and that was
most important) and we were passed after not less than half an hour (by
the 80-footer). We made only a few small mistakes so a third prize was
well-deserved this time. The photoboat had positioned itself
strategically in the area where we had the heaviest seas. The
photographer was too late for the first big wave into which we vanished
completely, according to spokesmen on Bandera (behind us), but in time
for the second wave over which we jumped with such force that you could
see the keel of the boat. Later when broad reaching we found time to
make photo's of the traditional classes; spectacular.,
On Sunday 23rd of March, JW's and Mark's birthdays were celebrated with
a big chocolate birthdaycake with the text “Happy birthday 109 years” (Mark 54
and JW 55).
It was also the day of the single-handed race for the die-hards. For
Mark it was a great opportunity to prove how fit he still is and he was
the first to sign up (and he won the third prize). For the rest of the
crowd it was “lay day”
Beach with many layday-activities such as a sandcastle competition, crazy craft race, BBQ’s, music...
In short: a great day for a birthday with a marvellous birthday lunch (a
present from Mark) together with Anna, African and his friend Vincent,
who we coincidentally already met last year in St. Lucia!
The regatta was concluded on Monday with two triangle courses and of
course the overall prize-giving.
As the numbers 1 and 2 in our class: Hot Chocolate and
Appleseeds where regarded as “untouchable”,
we were ready to give them a scare. So we only saw Hot Chocolate (too
far) behind us and of Appleseeds we made
applesauce. Thus we won the first prize and became third overall. The overall
prizes were quite something: 1st prize full model traditional
boats, 2nd prize halfmodels and 3rd prize a framed
photo of your yacht. In our case one of the spectacular photo's on which
you see the keel coming out of the water.
More photo's and info: