Sailing Grenada's Windward Coast
We were happy in Tyrell Bay, in Carriacou, Grenada’s contribution to the Grenadines. The water was turquoise in the bay where we anchored, the fish were putting on an acrobatic show, flying out from the water in long hunting arcs, and the turtles stopped by several times a day to check on us. It was mellow, man.
Plus, provisioning. By that I mean that I was finally able to restock the beer fridge with properly-sized (33cl) 1664s, a French beer (don’t laugh, it’s good) brewed by Kronenbourg in Alsace. And we were able to lay our hands on our beloved Grenada dark rum. We also were able to visit Rufus for his vegetables. When Chantal asked for lettuce, he took her out back to his little garden and told her to point at the one she wanted, and he pulled it out of the ground. Why leave such a lovely place?
We had only been anchored a couple of days when I said, “Hmmm, we might want to think about leaving on Sunday.” Weather models were converging. After Sunday, the winds would begin to collapse, and squalls from the southeast would be moving into the Windward Islands, rendering the upcoming week in uncertainty. We would be flying out of Grenada on May 10, and we wanted to give ourselves at least a couple of weeks in Woburn Bay to ready the boat for summer holiday, which meant a mid-week departure. But the prospect of motorsailing for six hours held no appeal.
We had discussed the idea of sailing down Grenada’s windward side as part of our plan, and now seemed like the right time to do it: winds would be light (12-16 knots, mostly on a broad reach), seas were forecast to be 3-6 feet, following, and the weather would be clear. Though winter sailing in the Caribbean wizened us to the fungibility of weather forecasts, there was enough in our favor to make plans for a Sunday sail.
Some may be wondering what the big deal is about sailing down Grenada’s windward side. True, many do it regularly. But sailing down a lee shore always has its risks, and we would have no protection from the island: it would be us and the Atlantic. So we did our pre-sail planning and research, and decided to follow the route laid out on one of our charts, which would keep us about 3 nautical miles offshore.
Sunday morning came and we sailed out of Tyrell Bay. As soon as we cleared the southern tip of the island, the winds came up on our port beam. Under full sail with a balanced helm we touched 8 knots for almost three hours. We also touched seas significantly bigger than the 3 to 6 forecast, but they were mostly behind the beam, so not uncomfortable, though one time I looked up and a wave the size of an apartment building loomed over Chantal before Camino slipped up and over it and down the other side.
We passed between Bird Island and the main island of Grenada and the winds and seas settled, giving us 5.5 to 6 knots for another couple of hours.
“We will be there by lunch!” I was tempted to exclaim, except I know better than to vex the sailing gods. But the sail was shaping up to be one of our favorites. The views of Grenada’s windward side were glorious, with halos of clouds ringing the peaks, and sunshine deepening the lush greens of the steep slopes. We could see waves hurling themselves against the rocks like frustrated lovers, and it kept us sharp, constantly checking our heading and our course, the two twins who have a clever way of diverging if not attended.
As we passed Grenville and then Bracolet Point, the good times became more challenging. We were now into downwind sailing, which meant more sail trimming. While downwind sailing sounds like fun (“Let out all the canvas! Weeee!”), it’s actually a lot of work, because once the wind gets on the stern, it can squirrel around, especially if there was a countering swell—and there was. We experimented with wing-on-wing for a while and kept up the speed, but soon we just had the main out, and that was good for 4.5 to 5 knots.
Any gnarly weather from the morning cleared, and we had full sunshine as we approached Woburn Bay. I think both Chantal and I were feeling pretty emotional because we were about to close the circle on our first year of sailing. It felt good, but it felt like soon we would be missing it. Fortunately, the act of sailing has a way of kicking your dreams in the pants, and we were soon struggling to haul in the mainsail, which required us to turn into the wind in sporty seas that rocked Camino while we furiously ground the winches.
Sufficiently sweaty and under diesel power, we motored into the bay, seeing familiar sights: Calivigny Cut, Le Phare Bleu Marina, Benji Bay, Saga Bay, Whisper Cove Marina, and Hog Island. Our eyes sharpened as we looked for familiar boats, but we needed to focus on anchoring. We found a nice spot near the entrance to the Hog Island channel, directly across the main channel from Whisper Cove Marina, and dropped the hook.
We looked at each other.
“That was a nice sail,” I said.
“Why do people even worry about coming down the windward side?” Chantal said.
“Where’s me rum! Arrrggh!”
It felt good to be back, and it felt good to tackle a new sailing route. And as we looked around Woburn Bay that afternoon, it felt different. Something changed, and we knew it was us, but we didn’t want to admit it. We had done this thing for almost a year, figuring out how to live on a sailboat, then take it out onto the oceans and into different ports of call, and return to the beginning. But the lines had moved, and we felt ready for the change, the change that is always part of our camino.