Bequia and St Vincent
We left Barbados on13th April, sailing out into the sun-set, after a
farewell glass of champagne with Kenneth Crutchlow (director of Ocean Rowing Society), the boys from Kilcullen (the support boat), photographer Dixie and Matt Boreham (who had just rowed the Atlantic) with his family. Those not so pleased with us were the birds who were trying to make a nest in our radar reflector, they were whistling angrily above the cross trees as Stein cleared out their little branches for the fourth time – sorry, rainbirds! Port St Charles gradually disappeared astern, and our grateful thoughts went to director Thomas Herbert, who had been so kind to us for the past two months. A gentle, overnight sail in the trade-winds brought Bequia into view, an old favourite from past sailing trips. We anchored in the wonderfully sheltered Admiralty Bay on the West coast, right outside the Whaleboner restaurant run by old friends Albert and Angie Hinkson. Albert had been a patient of Stein’s in 1978 when we lived in Barbados, and it was good to see him at 78 still alive and well and working in the restaurant. He had got a new lease of life by becoming a grand-father! Our other friend in Bequia is Mariann Palmborg, she and ex-partner Peter have been living here since their yacht Fredag ran aground on a reef in the area almost 20 years ago. Apart from eating and chatting with old acquaintances, we took time for some walking on the island and were pleased to see that despite being a little busier, the place was not much changed. Admiralty Bay is still idyllic with colourful fishing and sailing boats on the beach (locally built, of course), and a rim of palm trees. Stein and I spent one day going to St. Vincent to do the wonderful walk over the now dormant volcano, La Soufriere. This I had done in 1996 on my own and I wanted to show Stein. We took the early morning ferry over to the rather chaotic capital Kingstown, found the right minibus up the east coast to where the trail begins, and off we went. The trail goes through banana plantations for abut an hour of brisk walking, then through luxurious rain-forests for anther hour, then over scrub-land above the tree line for abut half an hour. At the rim of the huge crater there is often rain and cloud, which was the case on this trip, and we were soaked with pelting rain as we peered down into the crater with its central mound. After walking around the crater edge, we had trouble finding the right path down, as there was no visibility, and when the path we chose ended up in shoulder high vegetation we had to grudgingly turn and tramp back up again. However, we were then rewarded with the clouds lifting and a fantastic view both into the crater and down to the west coast of the island. Once on the correct path, the descent went down through more luxurious vegetation to the beach on the west coast, a couple of miles north of the nearest road and even further to the nearest town and bus-stop. This last stretch was made easier by a wonderful cold beer at a roadside shack, and some friendly locals who let us sit on the back of their pick-up truck, which we gratefully accepted after the six-hour trek over the mountains. Then we took a minibus back to Kingstown and the ferry over to Bequia - a great day!
On Sunday, 18th April we moved on to Mayreau, another island we know well, this took about 4 hours in a nice easterly breeze. Anchored in Saline Bay, we took the steep walk up the hill to the little catholic church on top of the island. It must still be the church with the best view in the world! Here we met Father Mark, the priest and an enthusiastic protector of the environment. He gave us lots of information abut living conditions and danger to the ecology, and proudly showed us the new community centre which the islanders had built and named after his predecessor Father Robert Divonne, whom we had met on our first visits to the island in 1978 and 1979. This is a beautiful island, but the islanders are poor, with not much else to do than try to make a few dollars from the yachties and cruise-ships which visit.
To clear out of the St.Vincent Grenadines, we had to go to Union Island, previously not one of our favourite places, thanks to an open rubbish dump in town, and not too friendly locals. It is only an hour’s sail from Mayreau, which we did on the morning of 20th April. Checking out was simple, the place looked more colourful and tidy than on our previous visit, with the rubbish dump almost filled in, and nobody gave us any abuse. So our opinion of Union has improved!
Carriacou and Petit Martinique (Grenada Grenadines)
We did our shopping and moved on right away to Petit Martinique in the Grenada Grenadines, another hour’s brisk sail to the south. This is not a port of entry, but we heard that the authorities do not worry if boats spend the night here before checking in. This is a charming island, friendly people, lovely beach, and a pleasant hour and a half walk round the island, partly on the concrete road, and partly on a rather hard to find path a bit overgrown with prickly plants. Obviously not many people walk around! Eli sat in the garden of the Palm Beach restaurant and bar, enjoying a cold rum-punch and chatting to the proprietor Augustina Clement while we went walking. Afterwards Eli and I bought some extremely cheap clothes, which Mrs Clement buys through her daughter in Florida. This is the place to get a bargain, and I bought a dress to wear on my birthday for 30 EC dollars (about £7)!
The next day we checked into the country in Carriacou, after another hour of fresh sailing with just the genoa, anchoring off the beach at the main town of Hillsborough. The checking-in was time-consuming, with four offices to visit, and like most countries there is now a fee for cruising, we paid abut 90 EC dollars (abut £21) for a month’s permit. Carriacou is famous for its boat-building and we took a trip to the east coast to the town of Windward, where we could admire the wooden cargo boats (called “schooners” although they only have one mast) being built on the beach. Now they also build more modern sailing boats and fast boats with powerful outboards that whiz around everywhere (“pirogues”).
There is a lovely little tropical islet called Sandy Island with a few palm trees just outside Hillsborough, where we took a three-hour stop for swimming, snorkelling and pottering about, before moving to Tyrrell Bay, the larger bay in the south of the island where most of the yachts lie. This is a big, well-sheltered bay with a relaxed yacht-club (great callalou soup!), and a large new marina under construction. So there will be even better yacht facilities in the future, but whether it will be so idyllic is questionable.
Turning 60 in Grenada.
Time rushes on, and we had to leave Carriacou on the 24th April, as Elisabeth was due to arrive in Grenada the next day. This was a longer sail of 36 miles, which took seven hours, partly in pouring rain. We anchored in True Blue Bay on the south of the island very close to the air-port. As I stood at the arrival gate at Port Salines air-port, peering to see when Elisabeth would be coming out, suddenly I saw Robert standing grinning in front of me. This was a surprise visit arranged by Stein for my birthday, so it was great to have two of our children to celebrate with. (Would have been nice to have all three, but Martin was in Barbados a month ago.)
The rain which started on our sail to the island unfortunately has continued, so we have had the wettest week since arriving in the Caribbean, with torrential down-pours; seems like the wet season has started early this year. That has not stopped us having a great time together. We hired a car for two days and have ”done” the island as best we can, walking in the rain-forest, visiting a nutmeg processing station (felt like going back to the time of the industrial revolution) and a charming little chocolate factory, feeding the Mona monkeys, and admiring one of the many beautiful water-falls. Here the local boys offer to entertain visitors by jumping from the cliff down into the small pool under the fall. They were impressed, and so were we (and a little nervous), when Robert went up and did the same! A strange visit was to a disused airport, where a couple of old dilapidated Cuban planes lie as a monument to the political trouble here 20 years ago. We had the unusual experience of driving at full speed down the runway!
We did of course also do some sailing, moving to different anchor places, one more on the south coast at Martin’s Marina, then round the south west headland to Morne Rouge Bay, a lovely shallow anchorage, only suitable for multi-hulls, then into the lagoon at the capital St George’s. At these spots, we have walked, trained, swum, and Stein and the younger generation have used the second-hand wind-surfer we picked up in the Canaries. Elisabeth raced off on it, showing us that she has some experience and wanting more wind, and Robert quickly learned the basics, too.
The occasion that Elisabeth and Robert had come for was my 60th birthday on the first of May. Not much one can say abut turning sixty, except that it is great to be alive and well and enjoying life! We had a champagne lunch on board, with cards and presents and songs, and in the evening we went to the Laluna restaurant, which we had been advised was the best on the island.
This a hideaway, luxury resort on a little beach, with the restaurant overlooking the gentle surf and an unbroken horizon. As the sun went down, a big moon was up, the candles and fairy-lights came on, and it felt like a magical place. The menu lived up to its reputation, and with tender filet mignon, good wine and a heavenly coconut cream pie, life seemed pretty good at 60!
Yesterday we waved goodbye to the younger generation at the air-port and walked the few miles back to the lagoon where we are now anchored. We have some minor jobs to do, before we leave in a few days on our last sail for this season, down to Trinidad.
03 May 2004 by Stein & Diana