Friday, February 24, 2017

Mustique – It’s not all fun in the sun!

Being Crew on the sail to Mustique
On Monday 20th we decided to head to Mustique. Andrew wasn’t that keen on the whole private island thing but many of our friends have raved about it. So with low swell and very light winds we decided to take a little trip up there. It costs EC$200 and you can stay for 3 days only on a mooring managed by the Mustique Company. It’s renowned for being a rolly spot but has sparkly clear water, lovely beaches, great walks and birds plus of course Basil’s Bar right on the beach in Britannia Bay.
Skipper on the helm
Sailing into Britannia Bay, Mustique
We had one of the best sails from Tobago Cays up to Mustique in a lovely easterly wind about 12-15 knots and tacked all the way into the bay. We arrived about 4pm and grabbed a mooring close in out of the swell. We were greeted by Shean, who relieved us of the payment and gave us a quick run down on the island. We took a swim to check out the surroundings if the wind changed direction and dived on the mooring, as usual. It looked fine so we settled in for an incredible BBQ cheeseburger (I made bread buns on the sail up – hero sailor chick!). Then we rushed off to check out Basil’s Bar for a rum punch at sunset. Basil’s was pretty cool, however we heard that on Wednesday they were holding the last of their famous ‘Jump Up’ nights as it was closing for renovation until December….. The staff were telling us this was going to be a really great night, so we booked a table for dinner on Wednesday and went back to Askari where the rum cocktails were a bit less than EC$30.
Our view in Mustique

Lunch on board in Mustique

Check out the slide on this super yacht?!

Basil's Bar

Rum Punch in Mustique

Tuesday morning Andrew woke feeling a bit unwell so took the morning out to chill, while I did some nice paddle boarding and then went ashore to attend to some admin. In the afternoon A was feeling much better so we took a hike up to the north of the island and along the beach around Britannia Bay. The island really is very beautiful, lovely trees, well kept garden areas and perfect beaches; the villa owners all drive around in moke’s or golf carts, often smoking a fat cigar in pressed pastel linen – like something out of a cheesy movie… We however really didn’t like all the signs and everyone was a bit too friendly making it feel kind of false. We did like the fact that no one comes to your boat and it is very quiet. We enjoyed another great BBQ on board Askari and were about to settle in for a movie when we noticed the wind had changed and picked up a bit to about 15 knots from the West…. hmmm strange….. it had been about 5 knots all day and the forecast was less than 10knots.

Bakery and Boutique in Mustique

Exploring Mustique

Britannia Bay

Sunset on Tuesday night in Mustique

About 8.30pm we turned on the instruments, put the TV away and monitored for a while; we were directly stern to the beach and a gentle chop was starting to build. We noticed all the people who were on board boats around us were starting to do the same, lights on, AIS on, etc, etc. The moorings were all occupied and there were two super yachts in the bay; we could see some boats fairly close together looking a bit concerned. On other boats the crews were obviously ashore for dinner as they were in complete darkness.

Some big clouds passed overhead and the wind picked up to 20knots and occasionally more – we continued to monitor and meanwhile I stowed the boat just in case this didn’t pass quickly. The dingy was already on the davits but we put the belly-bands on and secured the paddle board, put away ornaments (yes I know we are a sailing boat but it is our home), put covers on the tables and stowed the coffee machine, etc. We had our full deck lights on and breakers for the engine and bow thruster engaged just in case. We double checked our mooring lines for chafe and talked about the prospect of going to sea, as the waves built. We decided it was really just uncomfortable where we were and not dangerous as we had started to see the wind drop to under 15 knots for the first time in a while, meaning the sea should ease too before long…..

It was just after this at about 9pm I saw our bow fall off to one side, for a second I thought it was a wind shift, as Andrew noticed the depth beneath our keel had dropped from 2 metres to 1.5. He shouted ‘we’ve gone’, started and engaged the engine immediately. I ran to the bow, we were still attached to the mooring but we had definitely drifted backwards.  By the time I got to the lines we were aground and Andrew was using full throttle to try and drive us forward but it was no good we were stuck hard. The waves were pounding us - I dropped the anchor but with no scope it was not doing anything meaningful. Andrew was able to keep the boat straight into the wind/waves with engine and bow thruster whilst also calling a PAN PAN on the Radio. He asked me to organise lifejackets, our grab bag and valuables in a dry bag. This was in case the situation got worse and he couldn’t hold her, we might have had to abandon ship. No response came from the PAN PAN so Andrew called MAYDAY, then we screamed to the charter catamaran on the buoy next to us to PLEASE HELP US (never in my life have I said those words with such meaning). The Dreamyachtcharter skipper, Yannie, jumped in his tender and came directly to us along with Yan from another boat out of Martinique.

Andrew had finally raised Mustique Security Patrol, who relayed to get Mustique Moorings out on the water too. Meanwhile, the amazing Yannie and Yan took our bow anchor and 50/60 metres of chain into their tenders and drove off into the bay. It was a really hard job getting the anchor, which weighs 33kg, into a bucking dinghy with Yannie’s head underneath it. I let out more chain as they drove, meanwhile Andrew was trying to explain to the Mustique people where we were and they needed to come and help us. The noise was just terrible, a grinding noise that went straight through the boat, the rigging crashing on every wave that hit us, the sheer feeling of powerless came over me – our beautiful boat was being smashed and it was taking so long to get the anchor set (it probably wasn’t but it felt like it). We had been snorkelling this area and there was a fair amount of coral, I was so scared.

Anchor deployed and tight on the windlass, Yannie and Yan came back to help drive Askari off the beach. She still wouldn’t budge and the grinding noise continued, so next Andrew had the boys tried to heel her over with a halyard from the top of the mast, again full throttle and full windlass to no effect. Then finally about 10pm Mustique Patrol arrived and took the halyard in their big rib. On the first attempt the angle wasn’t right and they were pulling up forward with the mast. Then they were able to drive directly at a right angle to us and Askari leaned far over with her toe rail in the water, the two charter captains in their tenders on each side, Andrew on the engine and me on the windlass, slowly she eased forward about half a metre and then gained momentum, oh my goodness what an amazing feeling we were free, free oh thank you whoever is out there. The two captains cheered, I wound the anchor in and we were able to drive out of the mooring field into deep water and anchor – 80 metres of chain there was no way we were going anywhere!

Safely anchored we had a big drink of water while Andrew checked the bilges and rudder post for any water ingress – none thankfully. Then he took a dive torch and his fins/mask and jumped in to see what damage had been done. The swell was still rolling into the bay so I was quite nervous of him being down there in the dark at about 11pm, but we were still lit up like a xmas tree. He came up a reported it didn’t look as bad as we thought but needed to check in better light in the morning. Then Shean from Mustique Moorings came out to see if we were okay and get our details, whilst Jan the skipper on Yacht Mojeka, came over with a huge pump; this was a petrol driven pump we could use if we got a leak beyond that which our bilge pumps could handle.

We barely slept a wink that night and Andrew was up at 6am back in the water taking photos. Shean came over too with his scuba tank and took a look. It was amazing, the only visible damage is to the trailing edge of the rudder and scaring of the rudder and keel. The rudder was still working fine with no play in it and is secured by a huge bronze ‘shoe’, which was just polished by the beach action. Everyone we have spoken to since has said that their boats would have lost the rudder in this situation – thankfully we have a really strong boat.

Shean then went and got the mooring and brought it over to us, a link in the chain had cleanly opened at a weld, it was under the mooring in an area we could never have seen when we dived on it. Shean did say that they have never had an issue with a mooring coming free in Mustique and all the other 29 boats sat firm throughout the night as the weather passed through – I guess we were just very unlucky?! Andrew went to thank everyone that had helped and have a conversation with with the Mustique Harbour Master, while I prepared Askari to leave. We were both very shaken the next day and I needed a lot of hugs.
Broken Chain Link

Shean shows us the faulty mooring

Brad off the charter boat next to us came over to see if we were okay while Andrew was ashore. They had been at the fire fly restaurant and returned to the dinghy dock to find surf pounding it; they managed to get into the dinghy and then couldn’t get onto their boat circling it for a hour before they managed to get on at mid-ships. They had come to see if they could help just as we were getting off and he relayed the scene to me – I nearly burst into tears. We have since heard of two yachts that were lost in Martinque, horror stories of trying to up anchor after breaking the snubber line in St Lucia and a pretty awful night for nearly everyone we have spoken to from this terrible weather event that was not forecast.
Thank you Yannie!
On Wednesday we motored the short distance back to Bequia to clear out of St Vincent and the Grenadines, then decided we would stay overnight and leave for St Lucia after some sleep. We had a calm night anchored on the West side of Admiralty Bay, out of the swell that was still rolling in, and then had a beautiful motor sail up to St Lucia on Thursday; monitoring Askari every half an hour. We arrived in Rodney Bay about 5pm to be helped onto the dock by our good friends Katharina and Friedl – big hugs, a bottle of rose and dinner on board their boat – just what we needed.

Now the work starts to assess, plan and fix our beautiful girl. Andrew immediately sent pictures to Oyster for their view and spoke with Y- Yacht, our insurance broker. Both were so sorry to hear what had happened to us and assured us of their support – it’s so great to have such a wonderful team behind us and I know we’ll bounce back.

We have reflected on things we would have done differently – I think the main one is we should have left when the wind picked up, before the sea state changed. We certainly think if we were not so prepared things could have been a lot worse and we will sail on with our adventures.


  1. Oh wow Carolyn what an experience! You had me on the edge of my chair! Glad to hear you are ok!

  2. Thank you for sharing that Carolyn - pleased all ok and enjoy the rest of what sounds like a great adventure !! Michelle

  3. Hi Andrew and Carolyn, Thanks for sharing. I'll be picking up a mooring over the weekend and this has been a timely reminder to always assume/prepare for the worst. Stay safe. David

  4. Glad to hear you are both OK, you were lucky to have the quality of assistance that you did and that you weren't on your own. Good luck with the rest of the trip.
    Mike and Terry ReVision II

  5. Wow Revs! That really brought back memories of Kika in the Tuamotos & our scrape with the coral on a windy night. It sounded so awful I was convinced we were holed. So glad all was ok. You sounded very well prepared as per. Sail safe, Elster x

  6. thx for all the comments - love to you all x x