EAST Caribbean Cruise

13/02/2012
Ken Knowles, who has been a regular skipper with EAST since 2001, retired last year, and celebrated this by taking part in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), which leaves Las Palmas in the Canary Islands in late November each year, and ends at Rodney Bay on St Lucia some three weeks later. Ken and his crew had hoped to complete the voyage without using the engine, but they got becalmed for two days four hundred miles from the finish, so decided to motor for a day. They completed the trip in just under 23 days – but the story of that leg will have to await his return.

Ken, who is completely blind, decided to do the trip properly, and take a whole year over it, leaving Titchmarsh Marina at Walton-on-the-Naze in mid July last year, aiming to return next July, coming back via the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Azores. His boat, Indaba, is a Starlight 35, and he spent two years preparing her for the trip, fitting lots of blue-water gear, including a duo-gen generator, vane self steering, short-wave radio,etc.

His crew usually comprised three friends, at least two of whom knew how to sail to Yachtmaster standard. I joined him in Rodney Bay, with David, for four weeks from New Years Eve. Also on board were William for the first two weeks to St Georges in Grenada, approximately 130 miles to the South West, and Peter for the return trip.

The weather in the West Indian winter is relatively dry (we had only one wet day), with midday temperatures around 29 degrees, and winds a steady 20-25 knots from the East. This meant that the outward trip was an easy broad reach, usually under just the jib, but the return was a good beat with two reefs.

The Grenadines were undoubtedly the highlight of the trip They are a series of small islands to the South of St Vincent itself, and are exactly what you expect tropical islands to be like – particularly the smaller ones like Mayreau and Petit St Vincent.

We didn’t stop at Mustique, since we were asked for a mooring fee of US$ 120 for a lunch stop – this was extreme, since it was free to anchor in most places, or a nominal fee for a boat-boy to take a stern-line ashore. All sorts of mooring were encountered – from a conventional marina berth at Rodney Bay and St George, stern–to with a buoy on the bow at Blue Lagoon, stern-to with anchor at Clifton, anchored with a stern line ashore at Cumberland Bay

One of the highlights of the trip was the wildlife. We regularly saw brown pelicans turtles and flying fish, although none came on board, as well as a school of dolphins.