Monday, April 06, 2009

Cruising The Grenadines

Still December 2008 - THE LOVELY GRENADINES

St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a sovereign nation consisting of several smallish islands just above Grenada, with the much larger St Vincent as its Capitol in the north. Union Island, Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau, Canouan, and the Tobago Cays, are probably the most well known, but there are dozens of them. This was another new country for us, and an opportunity to visit places that clients from my past life as a travel agent and charter broker always really enjoyed. Time and weather were again a factor, I don’t think that will ever end-until, and if, we decide to just sit somewhere for several weeks with nothing on the calendar for the foreseeable future. Many of our fellow cruisers make this choice and look at us like we are on a race, but we are not, just trying to see a big world in our allotted time. We set a goal and go for it, and for the calendar year 2008, these islands just about wrap it up. 2009 will take us the rest of the way through the Eastern Caribbean and up the East coast of the USA to Maine. Perhaps winter 2009/10 will allow us time to just BE in one of these tropical paradises. That’s on the to-do list too. Right there, number 97, “just sit somewhere on a boat and veg-out.”

We stopped at Clifton, Union Island. Securing an anchoring spot is the challenge here, but it’s still a great place to visit. It’s a weird anchorage with the airport runway and a huge reef on the east side and a rather large shoal smack dab in the middle, so getting your bearings and scouting a spot is not easy. We all had issues getting settled, we were made to move from what looked like a perfect spot, and Les and Rose had set and reset their anchor a few times. They finally found a great spot and got a good set and Les dropped the big dinghy and went out to explore. We next heard Rose on the radio frantically calling “Voyager Mobile, Voyager Mobile”. Seems they were anchored in the direct path of the rapidly approaching high speed ferry and were advised to move NOW. Well, first she had to find her captain and get him back onboard… she is normally so calm and cool, we could hear stark terror in her voice - he made it back just in time and as the sun was setting, had to begin the search again. Arrive early and I’d suggest looking for a spot east of the middle shoal, just west of the reef, or find a good boat boy and have him get you a mooring…but dive it, as some are not much of a mooring at all. Onshore there is a lot to do. The Anchorage Yacht Club is great and there are several other restaurants that are good for a quick lunch or breakfast. Not much in the way of fine dining though. We found a great ramshackle shop/coffee bar/bar, sort of at the end of the road in the SW part of the bay, Castello’s. Everything is gaily painted here, EVERYTHING! It’s got about

10 foot road frontage and then goes straight back, hooks to the left, then another quick right where it opens up quite a bit to about 50+ feet, then narrows again and goes up a hill…it has clothing, pictures, knickknacks, fresh baked good, coffee, beer and whatever, their house, a chicken coop, and a killer view from the top. Castello, the wife, is an artist who we thought to be French, but is actually Israeli and sailed here with her husband who I think is Dutch, several years ago. She told me in colorfully accented English that they bought the property for a good price; no one else had the imagination to see the possibilities. They have inspired minds to have imagined this. He sits, shirtless, on the porch of their house which, as I said, is somehow in the middle of this maze, working on his writing or computers I think. You just have to see it to believe it. Ade got a great shirt there. I’ve washed it a few times and it holds up great and he gets compliments every time.

Too wordy today, so I will shorten this up to say, Tobago Cays - cool diving, but not as alive as we’d hoped, great giant Sea Turtles however, and worth the stop. Boat boys with colorfully painted boats come by all the time trying to sell you everything from T-shirts, to bread, fruit, lobster, jewelry and anything else you are willing to pay them for. Caution, they are not well bumpered and we have the deep scratches on our blue hull to prove it. Throw your bumpers out, they will visit, invited or not. They are very pleasant though, we used Mr. Fabulous and he is proud to be named in the cruising guides and introduces himself as a local celebrity. We bought T-shirts, but most are the ones you can find ashore but still at competitive prices, and there are some that feature the work of local artists.

We also stopped at Mayreau, and Canouan, and did a close cruise by Mustique, but because time was short, opted not to stop and pay the high fees just to be able to go ashore for a few hours. It’s pretty, but doesn’t seem to have that much to offer the cruiser; land tourism is probably great if you are willing to pay the prices to stay there.

The jewel for us is Bequia. It is a charming island, we found the people to be quite nice, not overly friendly, but never rude. Port Elizabeth is where we spent most of our time and think it best. There are many restaurants, shops, markets, etc. to enjoy. There are nice long roads for long walks, a huge bay in which to anchor, a HotHotHot internet connection, laundry and fresh water service from Daffodil, and ferry service to St. Vincent and other islands, including Mustique if you want to visit some of the Grenadine islands that way.

We did most of our Christmas shopping here. Bequians are great boat builders, from full size schooners and sloops, “two bow” fishing boats to collectable small replicas. Ade looked at all of the “model” boats, (but not models at all, each one is hand crafted) and settled on a traditional grey hulled gaff rigged fishing boat which he proudly has added to his assortment.

We took the ferry to St. Vincent as reports of violence against cruisers persist. It apparently is mainly in the otherwise perfect anchorages on the northwest coast where a few boaters have been brutally murdered over the past few years. Police say it is a deranged individual, but on a small island where everyone knows everyone else, and their business, we think if they wanted him (or them) caught, it would have happened. There are those in tourism who realize that cruisers represent money for the local economy. They say there is talk of a coast guard station strategically located in Chateaubelair or Cumberland which should help cruisers feel more comfortable. No way was I going to stop there on Wandering Star, big Chicken of the Sea that I am.

We had a great day though; we took the first ferry over and the last one back. We were met by a young driver from Hazeco Tours and he took us everywhere along the west coast. We were joined by his wife and her young brother that they are raising, and two Canadian Travel Agents that were great company. We even went by the Hazel’s home where Millie had prepared and packed lunches for us all. The island is quite mountainous and drops directly to the sea, so that the coastal road goes all the way up and all the way down into each little bay. The roads are mostly paved, but narrow and high, there is no shoulder or gradual segue from road to roadside, and it drops right off, as much as a foot in some places, so staying on the road is a must, not an option. Driving would be exhausting and we are so happy we chose a competent driver so we could just enjoy the sights. We stopped at the melodiously named, Wallilabou, where Pirates of the Caribbean II and III were filmed. The film used what was there and added a few building facades that still stand, there are cast and crew shots from the several months they were filming, but not much else. It would be still be a lovely spot to just sit on your boat and enjoy the beauty. This is just one of the stunning bays along this coast. We are truly sorry we did not feel safe enough to spend a week cruising this lovely coast.

Next it is onto the last of the Windward Islands, St Lucia, and Christmas with the kids.

The Log of the M/V Wandering Star -