We spent a few more days in Chatham Bay. The weather was really gusty and we didn't feel like going out anywhere as we knew other anchorages were more rolly. But after a few days of waiting for the weather to calm down without much success, it felt like we were wasting precious time in the paradise that is the Grenadines: we had to move on!

Bye bye Chatham Bay

On February, 6th, after a little more than a week in Chatham Bay, we picked up the anchor and left for Clifton, the little town of the island in the North. Said like that, it sounds so straightforward, but remember, we had no windlass! Marie tried to retrieve the anchor on her own, with the memory of Bequia in mind, where it had been quite easy. She did it, but the effort took the best out of her. Indeed, with the gusts, the chain wasn't laid out straight on the seafloor and gusts were sometimes tensioning the chain. Anyway, the coordination between the bow person and the engine person proved difficult and way more crucial than with our dear windlass, and that was only a taste of things to come!

The sail towards Clifton was a straight beat-up, but we stood up to the challenge despite seeing boats pass us motoring dead into the wind! Cheaters!! We tacked our way up between Union and Cariacou, another island that's part of Grenada, a whole other country. When we went a little too much in the channel in between, swell started to build up, considerably slowing us down. So we tried to stay close to the Grenadine side as much as possible.

Hello Clifton

The anchorage out of Clifton is complicated, because of reefs. It looks open to the sea but is actually protected from it by unwater reefs. They do break the swell but offer no protection from the wind and make navigation more challenging as you can’t see them other than when on the chart or when you are close. There are two entrances: one between the reef in the North and the one in the middle, and the other between the middle and the pier / Southern part of the bay. As there's another reef further South, that last entrance is well marked. So naturally, that's where we entered first. Unfortunately, the water was too deep (or too shallow with the reef) and the only appropriate spot got taken by a cat right as we arrived. At that time, we were determined not to take a mooring ball despite our broken windlass, so we tried the second entrance, insisting to the buoy boys (who came offering help to pick up a mooring buoy, a paid service obviously) that we were going to anchor. The space was crowded with moorings but Yalçın found a tight but suitable spot in the middle of the mooring field. That's when we started to understand that this broken windlass was going to be a pain in the neck!

We tried to drop the first time, Marie at the bow Yalçın at the engine. It took us too long to drop as the chain (twisted in a weird way from the hand retrieval) jammed in the gypsy. We ended up a little too close to one of the boats and the reefs. To add to our challenge, the boat buoy brought a large ketch on the mooring next to us... After setting it took us a little while to accept the fact we'd have to lift up and drop again, a little more upwind. The maneuver was difficult with the wind blowing off the bow at each gust, a problem in such a tight space with the ketch, but it eventually worked out. We stayed on the boat for the rest of the afternoon and enjoyed that special location, amazed to be anchored so close to the breakers on the other side of the reef and with the howling winds. We'd go to town the next day!

The town of Clifton proved to be quite cute, with a lovely downtown populated with restaurants and a market, a nice trail that led to a stereotypical tropical beach (turquoise water and white sand) along a lake and little sheeps along the way. The solar farm financed by 'Abu Dhabi Energy Future Company' puzzled us, but sounded like a smart way to have power in this place blazed by the sun. We were able to provision some produce from a little lady. To be honest, the food wasn't what you'd call cheap but given that it had to travel from the main island of Saint-Vincent through Bequia, we couldn't complain. We visited a so-called supermarket but that was very limited. We picked a restaurant where we had the food of the day which was a bowl of delicious fried rice that reminded us of Colombia and another one for an ice cream desert. This was our expensive day, after not spending a dime for a week in Chatham, and there's more to come...

We had lunch early to have time to sail to Tobago Cays in the afternoon. We said our goodbyes to Clifton and its very special dinghy dock (which we had recently seen in a Sailing Uma video but were excited to see despite the spoiler!), and off we went - laboriously picking up the anchor in gusting winds.

The mighty Tobago Cays

After a short beat up to the nearby Tobago cays, we arrived in the shallow waters making the entrance channel. It's always a touchy passage... but in this case, the water was crystal clear and it felt like we were seeing the shallow bottom quite well. It also seemed to match our charts, which is always reassuring. Kite surfers were tacking back and forth in the narrowest part (wtf!!?) and at this point, you just need to trust that they'll avoid you if necessary: they are way too fast and maneuverable, they have to be the ones who avoid you! Given our windlass situation and since anchoring in the marine park costs the same as grabbing a mooring ball, we were determined to go for the latter. We had read so many times on Navionics and our guidebook about the boat boys everywhere from Saint Lucia to the Grenadines, that we were surprised no one had showed up yet... Come on guys, for once we've planned not to go cheap! A guy in a white and blue panga eventually came our way, we greeted him with our smiles and agreed readily when he offered help: 'Yes, we want a mooring ball!' He offered one on the windward side of one of the small islands that are part of the Tobago Cays, but we wanted to be closer to the reef and showed the other side of the mooring field. After searching with an inquisitive look, he found a free ball and took off rapidly with his powerful engine. We followed him at our slower pace, and then very slowly as the depth reached 10 feet halfway to the mooring ball (we draw 7 feet to give you an idea) and also because it was only catamarans in that part of the mooring field. We signaled him that it may be too shallow, but he insisted signaling us to come with big gestures. On one hand, of course, you don't want to wreck your boat following somebody else's advice; on the other hand, we remembered the flat bottom of Barbecue Island anchorage in the San Blas which was also a shallow shelf. We went for it and succeeded the difficult maneuver given that the underwater was, once again, not really sheltering any of the Atlantic Ocean wind that consistently beat the marine park. It went smoothly but our help seemed a little resentful that we didn't trust him with the depth - maybe because it was Marie at the helm!? Yet, he accidentally scratched the paint of our dinghy engine while too focused on explaining to us that he knew what he was doing, which I'm sure he does but was a poor demonstration! For once as I said, we were mentally prepared to tip generously for the help (in addition to the fees for the boat and the people onboard), so we asked for the price, quite clumsily I must admit. Luckily, our friend was chill and explained they were running a barbecue on the other side of the island and we could go there for dinner, they were grilling fish and lobster. He could also deliver. We asked for the price: 130 EC per person (Eastern Caribbean Dollars), which was totally out of our budget (more than 40USD per person!). Since our host was insisting we should try his food and lowered the price to 100EC a meal including delivery at the boat, we went for one portion: You Only Live Once!

At 6 PM, we already swam with 4 turtles that just seemed to graze under the boat and were enjoying the raw view of the ocean breaking on the reef (we were the first-row boat after the cat in front of us left) when the delivery came. Such a privilege to get lobster and the lovely garlicky veggies that came with it delivered to your boat with a gorgeous view...

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