We arrived at Salt Whistle Bay in the evening, hoping our booking would work. The AirBnB email system had a delay, and I hadn’t heard confirmation before we had to break wifi contact. It had been two days prior, but I knew I had one room booked, and hoped for three more. Fortunately they weren’t busy. We were in fact their first customers… ever. They had set up two rooms with two tents alongside, as not all the cabins were finished. In fact only Sam’s room was finished, I had to go back to the boat for a spanner to be able to have a shower in ours. Other than that, the place was delightful. Justin the manager was very helpful, and apparently a Michelin trained sous-chef in his youth, and made rice, chicken and slaw interesting three nights in a row.
The other advantage was that the bay was probably the best one to ride out the tropical low that was looming. The forecast had been getting more refined and less re-assurring: It would hit St Vincent as a Tropical Storm – winds up to 40 knots (80kmh). Hopefully we would be in the quiet quadrant 30 miles below St Vincent. That evening I started preparations just in case, and to the amusement of some hardened French catamaran captains, I stripped off the genoa, the bimini, all extraneous external attachments, dived the mooring, and started laying out extra anchors.
Laying out the 33 kg Mantus anchor was hard work, i tried pulling chain over with the dinghy but that was impossible for 9.9 HP engine. Next Sam and I loaded all the chain and anchor into the dinghy, nearly sinking it, and dropped it where I thought the wind and swell would come from. I then tried to drag the chain over by rope. I had to do a quick rope to chain splice in the dinghy, so it could slip through the anchor winch, which I thought was very Nautical of me.
The French sailors came over and told me not to worry. Their App told them that there would only be 15-20 knots of wind and no swell. They weren’t going to put out a second anchor. I decided to reinforce the mooring, and lay out my second chain and anchor on the deck in case.
It hit at 0500 hrs in the morning with rain and wind of 25-30 knots. Not too bad. At about lunchtime the swell started to come into the bay directly, and the mooring guys came over and said that the moorings were ‘going to pop’ and all the boats end up on shore. We had seen them wrestling with an old Wharram Cat that had washed up on the beach. I dinghied over with Sam to lay out the second anchor, re-lay the first and abandon the mooring block. The French cats had been up in the middle of that night’s rain laying out anchors, and later gave up and left in the midday lull. We got some sun during the ‘eye’ and wind dropped nicely. The second half was not very wet, and I felt relieved to be separated from the moorings.
We heard later that Bequia, 18 miles north, had the worst rain and floods in years, and the low later strengthened over the Gulf to hit Texas as a force 3 hurricane, I think. Hopefully that it our only storm. I learnt a few things: don’t use moorings, watch for the swell rather than the wind, put pipe on my lines, don’t listen to others, and putting it all up again is quicker than taking it down.