Skyelarking in the Southern Caribbean: Nine days under sail St Lucia to Union Island return

25 Jan

Come with us to the deep blue heart of the Caribbean Sea for our ship’s log of January 14-23, 2016, as we fulfill a longheld ambition to island hop some of the 32 islands and cays of the Windward Isles.  



As with all NeverendingGapYear blog posts no discounts, freebies, inducements or perks were received from anyone mentioned or unmentionable. My blog has been and always will be non-commercial.


Crew: Joint skippers Dan and Em Bower (nee Pearson), frequent Syelark sailors Sam and Kim (USA), adventurous British sailors Emily and Alison, and us.


Ship: Skyelark

14/1/2015 Thursday: 10 am meet up and briefing on board. Exit Rodney Bay Marina 11am via refuel. Motor to Pigeon Island (a peninsula) and anchor off beach. Swim off boat before lunch. Easy sail averaging 6 knots boat speed two hours to Marigot Bay. Dan buzzes around Skyelark taking photos. Bow anchor and stern tie onto the jetty in front of Hurricane Hole Bar and Chateau Maygo Restaurant. Two for one happy hour piña colada. Chat with the chef, Marlon about vegan options. Marlon cooks me delish asian noodle stir fry. 

15/1/2016 Friday: 8am departure. Long haul to St Vincent, 6.5 hrs sailing 6.5-8 knots boat speed with one metre swells. Tet Rouge, our home the previous five nights, is easy to spot after we round Gros Piton. Dolphin show 10am. Small grey ones. Trawling fishing line runs at 11am. Small bonito is released. Line runs again an hour later. A one metre dorado is sacrificed for fish eaters. St Vincent looms jagged with green mountains. Even less populated than St Lucia. 2:45pm enter pretty Cumberland Bay. Assisted by boatman to stern tie to palm tree and bow anchor. Boatmen come to sell homegrown fruit and vegetables plus handmade jewelry. Quick swim, deck shower and dinghy ashore to walk twenty minutes to Spring Village. Quiet community of painted wooden houses, grocery store, two bars, one with pool table and a church. Sample local Hairoum beer at second bar in company with two locals. Breathing deeply gains us a bonus lungful of ganja. Walking back a car stops. Mobile bread sales from the boot. Two loaves for USD1.50. Mojitos at beach bar watching the great orange orb slide into the sea. Dinner is moroccan chick pea and pumpkin stew. Outstanding. 


16/1/2016 Saturday: Slow start, grey morning. Nip into the Pirates of the Caribbean film location around the point. The expected one and a half hour sail to Young Island Cut turns into two and a half mostly motor sail due to four knot current against us. Local boatman assists with picking up mooring and after quick swim and shower on deck we dinghy ashore to explore Kingstown markets. The minibus downtown packs in 18 people. The bus back has 20 adults and two kids. The sound system blares earsplitting reggae and we stop every kilometre to drop and pick up passengers and their shopping bags. Back on board we swim off the boat then quickly cast off for Becquia, another hour and a half sail. Elegant 1930s windjammer Sea Cloud is at anchor in Admiralty Bay. We moor near restaurants and dinghy ashore for dinner a deux at the Fig Tree. Fantastic vegan platter. 




17/1/2016 Sunday: Full day onshore with Alison and Emily in Becquia started with coffee at Fig Tree chatting with owner, Cheryl Johnson, who runs a childrens’ weekly reading group and daily morning radio program on ch68. Rain squalls come through all day but we take Ramzey’s open truck taxi to northeastern viewpoints and over to the walking track up to Ma Peggy’s Peak. Within minutes we reach a dead end. We see a man working in his vegie garden and call down for help. A teenage girl comes to the gate and offers to show us the way up. Larissa is barefoot but calls down to her cousin, Reece, to bring up her slippers and bring a pair for him too. They know the way to the peak as they graze their sheep and goats up there. Larissa is almost 16 and Reece eight. We get to know them quite well over the course of the hike up and down as Reece talks nonstop. Refuel at the Beach Hotel restaurant on Friendship Bay on lunch of salads, fries, catch of the day and a crisp French rose. Bliss. Ramzey collects and deposits us back at Admiralty Bay in time for the final set by the tin pan band playing at the Fig Tree. We all dance and Alison plays the oil drum. Next stop Princess Margaret Beach, a short walk along the beach boardwalk for a swim before rum punch at Jack’s Bar. More rain. Pasta dinner on board. (Interesting language note: hurricane, canoe and hammock are indigenous words loaned to English.)

 Cheryl Johnson










18/1/2016 Monday: Emily has a major milestone birthday today! Away immediately after quick breakfast. Quiet at first but once clear of the island we encounter strongest easterly wind to date and spend most of two and a half hour crossing heeled over. Two metre waves on the port side bow so plenty of splashy fun. Mustique appears as small low profile green island with some white houses. Moor overnight in Britannia Bay south of ferry dock and Basil’s Bar. Ashore we follow Em and Dan on a walking tour of the south end of the island. Tortoises loiter on the edge of the road, pulling their yellow heads in if we get too close. First stop Obsidian Beach, shingle and yellow sand with turquoise water. Swim and picnic lunch. Continue around headland to windward side with its cacti and shrubs shaped by a constant onshore wind. Second stop Macaroni Beach, a long yellow sand surfing beach with picnic tables every 50 metres. Villa owners get first dibs but few are about today so we have a table with Emily and Alison. After swim we head past airfield and equestrian centre to 5star Cotton House Hotel. Rain squall sends us running to the beach restaurant for hot tea. Meander back to Basil’s Bar on Britannia Bay for a beer awaiting dinghy pickup. Quick shower and dress for sunset rum cocktails with shipmates up the hill at Firefly, the other 5star hotel and restaurant. Perched high above Britannia we have crystal clear view of Skyelark and rows of islands southwards. Sunset is a slow, perfect red descent culminating in the famous green flash (which I miss as I am diving for my camera). Back on board we toast Emily’s birthday with cava and tuck into Dan’s fajitas and birthday carrot cake.  






 19/1/2016 Tuesday: Sunny start. Breakfast taken under sail from Mustique to Tobago Cays Marine Park. Good sailing and moderate seas. Dan hooks a 60cm yellowfin tuna on trawl line. Fish eaters have sashimi and later seared tuna with their salad. Happy with my avocado and walnut version. Dan prepares remainder for ceviche as pre-dinner appetiser. Arrive at narrow passage to anchorage at 1:30pm. Lots of boats already anchored and people snorkelling in clear aqua waters. Two green turtles swim near the boat. Dan dinghies us to coral cay for a swim (no turtles sadly) and stroll around rocky, shrubby knoll. Iguanas scuttle away at our approach or climb trees. Rain squalls roll through so the transfers to the beach for Mr Fabulous’ lobster feast (with vegie dishes for Alison) are a little delayed. I opt to stay on board to dine contentedly on toasted peanut butter and banana sandwiches and read. 


20/1/2016 Wednesday: Sunshine is back. Quick breakfast then super-fast dinghy past startled turtle out to Horseshoe Reef off closest island to snorkel with Emily (Em loaned me her mask and snorkel). Dan drifts in dinghy to keep an eye on us. Lots of colourful small fish but coral is disappointing (in comparison to Great Barrier Reef). Stu swims off boat. Up anchor 10am to motor sail to Union Island. Pick up mooring off Clifton Village. Dinghy ashore 11:30am for pizza and salad lunch at Marie’s in the village then walk across the waist of the island past grazing animals and the diesel powered electricity plant to Sparrow’s Bar-Restaurant on Richmond Bay. Nicest beach bar yet and lovely staff. Beers, swim, massage for Stu, boules, afternoon tea and an outdoor freshwater shower. Heaven. Curry dinner by Dan and Em and almost full moon. 


21/1/2016 Thursday: 41 miles sailing back up north today to Cumberland Bay, St Vincent so we are underway at 7am. Sunny wth big seas and strongest winds to date keep us moving between 8-9 knots on jib and mainsail with two reefs on same tack all the way. Lunch and swim stop at Petit Byhaut but driven out of water by translucent jelly fish with black spots (local name is Seatre). Julian from Mojito’s Bar in Cumberland comes to take dinner order. Some confusion over what vegans do and don’t eat (coconuts are briefly considered to be animal in origin) but eventually we agree on what constitutes a plant. Boat vendors are back with handcrafts, fish and fruit. I buy a carved dolphin-boat from rasta Charlie. Dinner is beautifully presented and tasty and the reggae music is mellow. 



22/1/2016 Friday: plan today is 36 miles sailing on starboard tack from Cumberland Bay to St Lucia today (we make it on jib and three reefs in mainsail). We had considered the long western hike to Soufriere Volcano but we were the only ones keen to do it. The cost and time (USD140 and six hours) weighed too heavily against it. Instead we joined Emily and Alison on their excursion to Dark Falls, a three hour round trip. Our driver and guide was the erudite, enthusiastic Mr Colin Mackenzie, a wonderful ambassador for St Vincent. Road even more bendy and vertiginous than coastal St Lucia. Cal, as he is affectionately called, gave us the history of each township and village we passed, explained about local agriculture (including commercially grown cannabis) and greeted almost every person we passed. 

Remnants of original 19th century viaduct for sugar plantation and mill.

Dark Falls’ upper and lower waterfalls are created by the river that flash flooded on Xmas Eve 2013. Feca who works at the park entrance ticket booth showed me the extent of the flooding. Scary. No one was killed there as it is not inhabited, but further down the coast five people died at Rosebank when houses were washed away. 

    Can you see the face?


Cal demonstrates one of the many uses for the Calilou plant, water carrying.


Upper Dark Falls.   




Cumberland Bay


Back on board we are under way at 11:30am and motor sail along coast until just before northern end of island where we head northwest for St Lucia. Immediately hit big, sloppy seas and a strong northeasterly. This is definitely ‘spirited sailing’ with boat speed between 7-8 knots and lots of cold water showers for those on deck. Stay on starboard tack entire way. Two frigate birds entertain us diving for fish near the boat. An isolated rain squall with strong wind is spotted by Em approaching fast so the jib is furled and we virtually stop dead in the water to let it pass in front. We make our mooring at Soufriere at sunset, just in time to duck ashore for long cold beer at Petit Peak before dinner. Dan’s chilli and Em’s rice are a big hit. Stu and I stay aboard with Dan and Em while the others go bar hopping. 



23/1/2016 Saturday: Final day for all. Rainy start but we head into Soufriere just after 8am where Dan is to clear customs and immigration since we arrived after hours yesterday. Slight contretemps over the fact that we all went ashore last night prior to doing this. Dan is given a verbal warning and after acting suitably contrite we’re allowed to wander around town. A quick bakery stop for a cinnamon and fruit scroll and an update on the cricket for us. A recommendation for local coffee leads us to Deja Vu in The Plaza then a stop at Lifestyle store to buy St Lucia natural soap and it’s time to go back to the boat for brunch – ‘the full English’. Rain sticks around. 11:30am departure. Wind picks up and we make good time to anchor off Rodney Bay beach at 1:30pm for a last swim off the boat and lunch. Tied up in Rodney Bay Marina at 2:45pm. Dan pronounces that we have been the crew that’s done ‘the least faffing around’ of all the Caribbean charters, which means we haven’t dawdled or delayed when going and coming from the boat. We’ll take that as a compliment! 



In our assessment the trip with Em and Dan and shipmates aboard Skyelark was one of our best holidays ever. A safe, comfortable yacht, a highly competent and companionable crew and an exciting itinerary island hopping along the sunny windward islands from St Lucia to Union Island was everything we hoped for. The bonus in the package was the island people themselves. Kind, friendly, well-educated, poised and polite, the islanders were a pleasure to interact with.


We would confidently sail anywhere with Em and Dan in Skyelark A tight team they make the difficult things look simple and are super easy going which made us relax. They’re considerate of all their clients’ needs and wishes and ensured we all had a great time. Just be sure not to drink Em’s orange squash or call Dan’s breakfast pancakes crepes! 



Wonderful Taxi Guide in Cumberland Bay: Colin McKenzie aka Cal, phone 784 530 9625


Great place to stay before or after cruise – Harmony Marina Suites, Rodney Bay Village: We overnighted here when we disembarked Skyelark. Our AUD120 standard suite was upgraded to luxury with massive spa bath, four poster bed (awesome for drying handwashing on a travel line) and its own deck on waterfront, the best suite in the complex. Why? Because the receptionist’s name was also Sharon! 


Tapas on the Bay is a lovely spot for sunset cocktails.
  Lunch at Spinnakers is a must.  

   East Coast views on the way back to the airport. 


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