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Sailing to windward

2: Heading south

Eventually we snuck out around midday, and pointed south on a nice beam reach to Bequia. Pronounced ‘Beckway’, the island is widely touted as one of the highlights of the area and the shallow anchorage in Admiralty Bay was pretty busy with colourful fishing boats (the island is a whaling community and the small vessels are also raced as a matter of local pride) as well as charter yachts. However, the town had a slightly out of season, down at heel feel about it, so we simply grabbed some cold beers and retired to our yacht for the evening.

Our home for the week, an Oceanis 423, was fantastically well equipped — with three double cabins and no less than three heads it was much bigger than we needed, but gave us plenty of power to cover some miles when we wanted. We quickly realised that catering on board was often much easier than relying on going ashore, and that having good provisions on board made the whole experience much less stressful. Although supermarket shopping in Bequia was a little bizarre, we did find a market piled high with exotic fresh fruit and veg, samples pressed into our hands for tasting, and an early morning bakery for fresh bread and breakfast croissants.

Next day we made a sharp exit for a lovely 16- mile sail down to Canouan, enjoying a solid south-westerly, with the autopilot on for laziness whenever the view demanded our attention. Nipping around the south side of Canouan, we anchored in Glossy Bay for lunch, enjoying a swim in the shelter of a large hill which probably isn’t there any more — the entire island has been bought by the Trump family and is being developed as a Raffles complex, the hill limits the length of the runway, so they’re simply knocking it down.

We soon noticed a dark grey cloud filling the horizon, and hopped back on board to make for deep water before it reached us. Sure enough, within a few minutes the wind was gusting up to 20 knots from every which way, with sheet rain and poor visibility. We popped a reef in and furled the genoa without too much drama, the only difficulty being the gallons of warm water pouring down our faces, but as soon as it arrived, the squall passed, leaving us steaming slightly as we arrived in Mayreau.

Mayreau is a small island, only accessible by water, with one of the most perfect anchorages in the Caribbean. Saltwhistle Bay is sheltered on three sides, with locals playing cricket on a pure sandy beach, lined with lush vegetation and palm trees, and brilliant turquoise water. Getting more confident in our anchoring, we determinedly held our ground while busy charter catamarans manoevered around us, and popped out a stern anchor to hold us in line. As soon as you are settled, a couple of motor boats inevitably rush out, offering everything from ice to bread to jewellery, but the young lads who run them are unerringly friendly and cause no problem if you chat for a few minutes but decide not to buy.

As darkness fell we headed up to Mayreau’s only village, following the distant thump of a sound system through a pitch black night towards a famous local landmark: Righteous and De Youths, a Rastafarian-themed restaurant which pumps out Bob Marley and delicious rum punch. Although the town was still quite quiet, the staff provide their own atmosphere, pulling up a chair to heatedly discuss local politics with you, in between dishing up seafood and lime icecream, then switching off the stereo and digging out bongo drums and harmonicas for a jamming session late into the night. An experience not to be missed.

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Previous page:1 Introducing the risks

It is recommended for the more experienced sailor: the reefs and currents are more treacherous

Next page:3 Tobago Cays

The Cays without doubt surpassed all our expectations, and we spent two days running around like ‘Swallows and Amazons’ explorers

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