Sailing Log: Tyrell Bay – Tobago Cays

The announced storm is here! Winds sweep across Tyrell Bay with up to 60 knots and make everything in and around the boat rattle and shake. So we batten down the hatches and retreat to the cabin. The morning after the first stormy night we are woken up by excited shouts.

Two catamarans to our starboard side are dangerously close together. The anchor of the one in front is dragging, so that it is now within a few meters of its neighbor. On the one behind, the skipper is standing and excitedly tries to wake up the skipper of the catamaran in front and to make him aware of the danger. Finally the skipper sticks his head out of the hatch, steps into the cockpit, stands at the railing and pees into the water. Only then does he lift his anchor and set off to find a new spot in the bay. Later we see him zipping wildly through the bay, nowhere his anchor seems to grip.

Storm sweeps across the bay for two days

Slowly the bay seems to wake up and we sit down in the cockpit with a cup of coffee to watch the surrounding boats. Soon we see that the gray boat on our port side is also starting to slip, heading straight for an anchored boat that lies behind it. But no one can be awakened on the gray sailboat, it lies unmanned in the bay and the sailors in its danger zone have no choice but to lift anchor and drop again it a few meters in front of the gray boat, whose anchor, after slipping dozens of meters through the bay, finally takes hold again.

All day long we watch the bay. All day, while the wind mercilessly blows and hisses and tugs at the boats, boats are anchored. We also have to lift anchor because we are suddenly dangerously close to our French neighbors. The anchors are holding, but our swing radii are different: we have a lot of chain out, they have little, and since their engine doesn’t seem to be working, we move Mabul further towards the bay exit to avoid a collision.

We better stay under deck…

When we have assured ourselves that we will neither endanger others nor be endangered by others, we retire to the cabin again. The atmosphere here is like that of a ski lodge. We light some lights, make ourselves comfortable, work on the website, read and prepare a new BoatCast. In episode 9 about the storm, you can listen to how wind and weather have tugged at our boat and our nerves.

During the night the wind freshens up again and the waves become rougher. We rock with all our might from starboard to port. Sleep is again out of the question, and I realize that I’m like a mother watching her baby, always with one ear open to the waves, the wind, and the sounds of the boat – always anxious to get up quickly to check our position and detect any dangers.

On the second day we start the generator for the first time, because our solar system does not produce enough power anymore. This also means that we have hot water for the first time. Over all the weeks we have always showered at the stern of the boat, cold, now, thanks to the generator, the water is heated and we treat ourselves to a warm shower in the bathroom – my second warm shower since I have been on board. What a luxury!

After two days, the storm – which has since been named Julia – has passed and moved on. The first rays of sunshine appear and we make a trip ashore. We eat fresh croissants, pain au chocolat and an almond croissant in the “Frog Restaurant” above the diving school and look from here at the ships, which are now again calmly rocking at anchor.

Patos and Julie, two sailing circus artists

The Frog Restaurant is run by a Canadian couple, two circus performers. They have lived on their sailboat for twenty years. They came to Carriacou at the beginning of the pandemic and stayed because this island felt like home, they told me. Here they have taken over the Frog Restaurant and now want to set up an evening circus show with performers from around the world. Already they organize a barbecue every Monday night, set up a slackline and provide unicycles. Learn more about their story and what sailing and circus have in common in BoatCast Episode 12.

On the road side we buy avocados, passion fruit and breadfruit from a greengrocer to fill our hammock that we stretched through the cabin to store fruits and vegetables. Then again did various boat projects: Washing, renewing silicone grout in the kitchen, scrubbing the deck and cockpit. In the late afternoon Horst and his dog Zoey – we hear them barking loudly from far away – arrive in Tyrell Bay. It’s the first longer trip Horst has taken since his wife Amy left – listen to BoatCast Episode 4. He has decided to make his dream come true – albeit without a wife and only with the dog. In the evening we meet Jay, Horst, Iain and Brioni, who all have their say in our BoatCast, for dinner. It felt like a small class reunion and over a hot curry we talk about the latest boat projects and most memorable mishaps. That’s probably what separates the cruisers from the racing sailors: the cruisers talk more about mishaps than victories.

October, Hillsborough, Carriacou

Although the weather still promises little more than wind and rain, I join Horst and Zoey on Saturday for the Hash, a hike on trails that takes us from the Atlantic side of the island to the west side. Alex stays on board to finish touching up the grout in the kitchen. The Hash House Harriers, who organize the Hash, were founded in 1938 in Kuala Lumpur by British. The British followed the “Hare and Hounds” a British paper chase. Harriers and Harriettes chase after a Hare on a course of four to ten kilometers along small paths, forests and fields. It’s a combination of orienteering and hiking, and the main point is to have a good time, because food and beer await at the end. During the Second World War there were no Hashes, but around 1946, after the war, the Hashes started again. Then in 1962 a new chapter of Hashers was formed in Singapore. Chapters are called “Kennels” and follow the tradition of Hound and Hare clubs. The idea then spread to the Far East, the South Pacific, Europe and North America. Today there are 1500 Kennels, a particularly active one is in Grenada. They organize a hash every Saturday, this time it takes place on the neighboring island of Carriacou.

The Hash in Carriacou: a mixture of hiking and orienteering

Several dozen people have gathered for the hash. There is a path for runners and one for walkers. The hash goes right through the bush and the route is marked with small pieces of paper. First we walk along the beach, which is filthy with all kinds of plastic garbage, then over a muddy path through the jungle over the hill. It starts to rain and the already muddy path turns into swamp, so we keep getting stuck in the muck. But the lush green of the jungle, the tropical plants and the incredible view over the bay from the top of the hill, make the trip an experience. Also Labrador dog Zoey seems to be happy to have more or less solid ground under her feet and to discover again and again a lizard to hunt. I enjoy it once again to feel land and forest and mud. It feels good after the storm days.

On Sunday, the weather finally clears up, at least it stops raining, and Alex, already impatient to finally be able to set sail again, pushes for departure. So we leave Tyrell Bay and sail two bays further to Hillsborough, the capital of Carriacou. The propeller makes rattling noises again and one of the two autopilots doesn’t work either and steers the boat in serpentine lines through the water, boating life: when one problem is solved, another one pops up immediately. When we arrive in Hillsborough, I sew the tab that we tore off a few days ago when hoisting the sail back onto the stackbag – with strong, waxed cord and a thick needle.

October, Sandy Island

After a night off Hillsborough, we start under motor to cover the short distance to Sandy Island. The tiny island lies just before Hillsborough, is nothing more than a strip of sand – you can find photos of it in our photo gallery – bent like a banana, overgrown with a few palm trees. All around the island, gray pelicans sit in the water, beaks down, heads bowed like well-behaved court ladies. Others drift with the wind close to the surface or dive straight into the water from a great height to snatch a fish.

Sandy Island off the coast of Carriacou. A beach like out of a brochure.

After only a few minutes of driving, a loud beeping noise sounds and we notice that the engine revs are no longer displayed. Had we broken something, maybe ripped out a cable, while crawling around in the bowels of the boat looking for the reason for the broken autopilot? And then that beeping noise, an alarm, does it sound because the RPM is not detected? Just before we reach the island, we smell and see smoke creeping out of the engine room. Immediately engine off, merely, the island and its coral reef are close, the current drives us straight towards it…. In no time at all we hoist the sails, turn the boat and sail just past the island to the open sea. While I hold course, Alex climbs into the engine room and examines the motor.

The broken V-belt is replaced

The problem is quickly found: The V-belt had snapped, the engine had overheated. While I sail away from the island, Alex replaces the V-belt. Everything happens within twenty minutes, then we make a Q-tack and set course for Sandy Island again. On the second attempt, this time without incident, we drop anchor off the island. Shortly after, a small sailboat drops anchor in front of us. A sailboat without a mast, which looks so strangely crippled. Unmistakable by its flag, its crew is from Germany. Soon we meet them on the beach, Martin, who makes great passages as a single-handed sailor, and his partner Anke. If you want to know more about their story, how Martin became a YouTube star and how he lost his mast on the Atlantic, listen to episode 11 of our BoatCast.

Arial view on Sandy Island

I have been on Mabul for two months now. I have become accustomed to the limited space on the ship, the rocking, the new life, and have grown fond of it. Being able to weigh anchor at any time and sail on means freedom. To have gained the sea as a living space without wanting or being able to own it seems to me to be a great wealth. Sandy Island is without a doubt the most beautiful place on our journey so far. I love waking up in the morning and watching the pelicans and other birds circle over the water in front of the island, then put on their wings and swoop down into the water like kamikaze planes to grab a fish. Usually, afterward, you see them stretching their heads, the fish hanging in their pouch under their beaks for a moment, and then they wash it down with water. Then, a few flaps of their wings and they take off for a new round, a new attack. The pelicans are of different colors, some gray, others white or dark, often flying in pairs. When they land on the water to rest for a moment, they stretch out their feet just before landing to let them into the water like a brake block.

Pelicans seem to be hungry all day long

The pelicans exert a great fascination on Alex and me. For hours I can watch the birds doing nothing but flying attacks, eating, resting, flying off again. All day long. Sometimes they drift away with the wind that blows steadily here. I wonder if they have fun doing it. They never seem to get upset when an attack was in vain, they didn’t catch a fish, they always just take off again, flying steady and constant and with an incredible calm. I wonder if this could be our life too and what we can learn from these birds. It is not greed or an excessive urge to work that determines their lives, but they get what they need at the moment and when they are full, they rest. With ease they let themselves be driven by the elements, and then act with lightning speed and purpose. Nothing seems strenuous or cramped. They use the time between attacks to rest. When I see the people here on Carriacou and in Grenada, I think: How much more do they live like the pelicans and how unhealthy do we live in our so-called advanced, sophisticated western world, always slightly stressed we rush from one place to the next, from one activity to the other, only to recover on vacation, only to struggle again right after. This has little to do with balance, a healthy, balanced life.

And of course I ask myself at the sight of the pelicans: Have I perhaps lived wrongly until now? Always driven, always eager to accomplish something, to do something – instead of pausing, playing, enjoying. And I still find it difficult to simply be, to do nothing, but to simply observe and learn from these observations or even just enjoy them.

And yet, the longer we are on the sailboat, the more we are in being. These moments of pausing and looking, always become a little longer, a little more conscious. Often we sit quietly on deck, watching the sun as it disappears on the horizon and then the sky turns into a sea of colors of violet, pink and turquoise blue. This violet, was it always there? Did I perhaps simply not see it? What have I been doing all these years at sunset? Working? And then there’s a little strip of blue that becomes a blue bar, slides into the purple and it looks like someone painted the colors on the sky with a brush, purple ground with a blue bar. Sitting, looking at the sky, the birds, fully perceiving the moment, fills me with great happiness and satisfaction and I think: how simple it can be to be happy.

October, Anse la Roche, Carriacou

After several days off Sandy Island, we set sail again and head for the bay of Anse la Roche. We recognize the bay already from the open sea, small and green shrouded. In this tiny, dreamlike bay we feel wrapped up, enveloped, protected by the lush green rainforest that surrounds the bay. From the beach we hear reggae music and shortly after dropping anchor in the late afternoon we cross over with the dinghy to watch the sunset from Tim’s bar.

Tim’s Bar and Restaurant in Anse la Roche is an insider tip among sailors

Behind the bar, which consists of a few wooden planks, stands Tim, his dreads hidden under a red cap, mixing a Painkiller, a drink made of rum, coconut cream, pineapple juice and nutmeg. Tim opened his beach bar and accompanying restaurant just before the pandemic, but is already a legend among sailors. His grilled lobster and fish are considered the best on all of Carriacou. He is actually from Union Island, but moved to Carriacou for the love of a woman. He now has ten children by different women and his beach bar. Cooking, he says, relaxes him, and looking out to sea means freedom for him. We stay for dinner and yes, Tim’s lobster is indeed excellent!

In the small bay there are three other sailboats beside us: one belongs to the Dutch couple, Aagje and Jeroen van den Heuvel, who are on a world tour with their Indian son Rajesh. Aagje is a dental hygienist. Eight years ago, she was traveling with a dentist in India to give free dental treatments at an orphanage, which is how she met the Indian orphan boy Rajesh. Aagje and her husband immediately felt a special connection with the boy and kept in touch. A year later, they returned to the orphanage and invited Rajesh to start a new life with them in Holland. They wanted to adopt Rajesh, but he was already 18 years old. Find out why the sailboat was the only option for the Dutch couple and Rajesh to stay together in our BoatCast Episode 13. On another boat live Americans Steve Chmura and Amy Bowler. The two worked in emergency at a hospital before living at sea in Alaska. They inspected our onboard pharmacy closely and gave us a tip or two, as well as explaining what to do if we lost a finger in the winch or broke a bone in a misstep that we needed to stabilize. Learn their story and more about the medical aspects of a sailboat life in episode 15 of our BoatCast. The third boat is home to two Swiss men who have been cruising for two and a half years and were attacked by orcas off the coast of Spain. They tell their story in episode 14 of our BoatCast.

Even snakes take naps

After a quiet night in the bay, we set off with Rajesh and Steve to climb to the highest point of the hill. A small path, marked with red plastic turtles nailed to the trees, leads up the hill. We come across small crabs dragging their little houses up the forest far from the beach, red ants carrying leaves larger than their bodies, magnificent turtles, and a schlage curled into a ball wrapped around a tree. Steve shows us the top of a glass bottle that came from the Dutch and is two, to three hundred years old. He had discovered the bottle on a previous walk, marching up the trail with another sailor who had been diving for years for old wrecks and treasure. The treasure hunter recognized the age because you can still see in the glass the grain of the wooden mold in which glass had been poured in the past.

View to the southwest to Hillsborough and Sandy Island

Once on the hilltop, we have a wonderful view of the Atlantic side and Petite Martinique, as well as Petit Saint Vincent, our next destination. Hungry, we return to the beach and our boat after three hours.

After a second night in this cozy bay, we want to lift anchor and sail on. We pull up the mainsail, moor the dinghy, start the engine. Only a long beep sounds, but the engine does not start. A loose contact, but where? Alex spends one, two, three hours looking for the source of the problem. All our neighbors come by and offer their help. The solidarity and generosity of this incredible community of sailors delights and amazes me every time. However, I have also learned that when it comes to repair work, it is best to leave Alex alone until he has found the solution himself.

The spiny sea urchins may be a culinary delicacy, but they don’t give much away

So I put on fins, goggles and snorkel and set out to collect sea urchins. I have fond memories of the sea urchin dishes I ate in Japanese restaurants in Thailand. The fat, yellow strips of meat have a soft texture, almost like butter, and a tangy flavor. Those sea urchins with the white spines, Tim said, are also a real delicacy here – except that only those who collect 20 or 30 will get their fill. I return with ten pieces, chop them up on the foredeck, but find only a few tiny yellow strips that taste like a mixture of cucumber and seaweed. The foredeck is covered with the brackish water that leaked from the urchins and their spines after the urchin action. Definitely not worth the effort and return.

October, Petit St. Vincent

We then lie a whole day and a night longer in Anse la Roche, until Alex has found and fixed the loose contact and we can clear the ship. In the morning we set sail, set course for Union Island, turn just before it, sail between Petite Martinique and a tiny, uninhabited island out into the Atlantic. Here the waves get bigger and longer, but Mabul sails flawlessly at six to eight knots and a calm disposition. We sail around Petite Martinique and around the small, private island of Petit St. Vincent, which is home to only one luxury resort. From the sea we see the large bungalows, the smallest of which costs over $1000 a night. The two islands are in close proximity to each other, but belong to different countries. Petite Martinique belongs to Grenada, Petit St. Vincent to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Umbrella Island, the name says it all

When we have also circled Petit St. Vincent, we see what is probably the smallest island with a parasol in the world: Umbrella Island or Morpion. Not much more than a pile of sand with a parasol on it, washed and swirled around by the sea. We pass the sandbanks and drop anchor next to Umbrella Island. After a short dinghy ride we reach the island, pull the dinghy onto the sand pile, which itself is not much bigger than our dinghy. Alex flies the drone – photos of it in our gallery – and we marvel at the turquoise sea, into which we dive shortly after. Never since we arrived in the Caribbean have we experienced the sea as clear and refreshing as here. But soon there will be nothing more to see of the island. The parasol is ready half in the water, which tirelessly washes away a little more sand with every wave.

I wonder how long this little spot will exist?

After our little excursion to Umbrella Island, we motor to Petite St. Vincent and drop anchor in front of the luxury resort. The sea is amazingly calm here and the current keeps the ship in line.

Not far from us anchor also Amy and Steve, our new friends from Alaska, whom we had met in Anse la Roche. The next day we make an excursion together to the neighboring island Petit St. Martinique. From the small fishing port we climb the hill, reach the radio tower, but then get lost in the jungle. In the undergrowth we come across turtles as big as my forearm, which nimbly climb over branches and finally make off.

Another culinary adventure: sea snails.

Another culinary experiment is scheduled for the afternoon. Steve, who has led hunting expeditions to remote regions in Alaska, shows me how to get sea snails out of their shells. The dish, called “lambi” everywhere here, is on the menu at many of the local restaurants. But getting the sea snails out of their shells turns out to be far more difficult than expected. The snails suck themselves to the inner wall of their shells and even when we punch a hole in the shell and try to get the snails out with wire and pliers, they remain stubbornly stuck in their home for a long time. It took a long time until we can pull out the snail and when they finally lie in front of us, they look at us with long style eyes, so we quickly disassemble them. Inside the snail bodies we come across transparent tubes, which are eaten by the locals as aphrodisiacs and help the snails digest. The tubes taste of nothing and their special effect probably belongs to the realm of myths and legends….The curry that Steve prepares from the four snails, however, tastes excellent. Alex, who as a vegetarian avoids such culinary adventures, has a chickpea curry.

October Tobago Cays – Salt Whistle Bay

After Petite St. Vincent we sail the short two nautical mile leg to the Tobago Cays, a collection of a few small islands and a popular tourist destination. Many of the buoys are occupied by charter boats, mostly catamarans. The hurricane season is slowly coming to an end and with it the tourist season begins….

Tabago Cays, the paradise of sea turtles

We moor at a buoy, pay the 45 EC per night plus National Park fees and jump into the water. The Tobago Cays are known for their large number of sea turtles and indeed no five minutes pass and the first one is already swimming by below us. More follow, small and large, and all unimpressed by the two snorkelers watching them. The turtles are leisurely eating their seaweed or swimming to the surface for a quick breath. Even a stingray comes our way and then disappears again in the deep blue of the sea.

No sooner are we back on board than a dinghy heads straight for us. It’s Martin and Riki from southern Germany with their baby and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Kira, whom Alex already knows from his time in Benji Bay. The two have been sailing for four years with their sailboat, or rather with their sailboats – over the years and with the increasing number of children, they have sold their boats to buy bigger ones. The two of them radiate so much peace and serenity, as I only know from people who live simply and in direct contact with nature. Martin and Riki will also have their say soon in Episode 16 of our BoatCast. You can find their blog at

On the second day we snorkel over a reef in front of the tiny neighboring island, see a big lobster under a rock, two huge trigger fish, which we quickly avoid, looking at us with their bug-eyes and a whole number of smaller and bigger sea creatures. Despite the large number of tourists, the ecosystem here still seems to be in balance.

Our bar for the rainy days ahead?

As the weather forecast predicts more wind and rain, we sail on after two nights in the Tobago Cays. Looking for shelter from wind and storms, we drop anchor in Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau Island. On the beach of the bay, local women vendors offer colorful cloths for sale, a fisherman cruising the bay in his motorboat hawks a lobster, another asks for a sip of rum and shows us his collection of sperm whale teeth and carved coconuts. The bay is wonderfully sheltered and quiet, and the beach is lined only by a row of tiny bars with a rasta look and inscriptions like “Thank you for pot smoking” inviting idleness. The animals on the beach – a small kid, several young dogs and cats – also seem high and are so trusting that the kid doesn’t back away even when I put the cat on its back. Here we will now stay a few days, braving storm and rain and swimming through the clear waters of the bay.

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