Saturday, December 30, 2017

Seeing the Pitons from Land and More

Life is good in St. Lucia. Besides spending nearly two weeks hanging out at the pool, wining and dining and vegging on the boat, we did take an island tour with a driver. Even though there is only one main road, the driving can be challenging so we take the easy way and get an air-conditioned vehicle with a driver! This way Dennis can see more than the road and I don’t have to read the guide aloud as we whip past things.
Our driver stopped at the significant lookouts so we could see the Pitons from different locations. Of course, the locals are there selling their wares at the favorite stops. I bought a colorful wooden bead necklace at the first stop. The driver told me I didn’t need to buy from everyone. I told him that we like to leave a little money in the hands of the locals and not the stores. Besides, I knew if I wore the necklace, the rest of them won’t pressure me to by from them!

One of the highlights of the tour was seeing the Pitons from land. We had spent a night anchored below them, but it is difficult to take them in at that angle. They certainly are majestic from both land and sea! We continued south to see their new-ish airport. And we went to see the volcano.

At one point, since we had not taken tour time to eat lunch, the driver stopped along the road and bought himself an interesting snack. Of course, we bought one, too. It was very tasty and had cherries in it. But it was extremely dense and heavy. I have forgotten what the main ingredient was, but it was one of the many root starch sources common in the islands. It was a definite "stick to your ribs" treat!

As we drove through several small towns, we saw how people lived, visited a street market to buy produce. Actually, I would rather by produce on the street from the people trying to scratch out a living, rather than in the big markets. Not only do I like to see the money in the hands of the locals, I don't like the fact that the supermarkets refrigerate everything, even the tomatoes. That not only destroys the flavor, but it also means I have to keep it refrigerated - and I don't have enough space to do that!

Next stop: their active volcano. Having stood two feet from the cauldron of the volcano in Tanna, Vanuatu while it was spewing embers and seeing the red lava flowing into the sea in Hawaii, we weren’t too impressed. I think the driver was frustrated that we didn’t climb to the viewing point and listen to the guide’s presentation. The sulfur smell was very strong and unpleasant. I also think he was hoping for a 30-minute nap! We only spent ten minutes there and asked him to please continue the tour.

The final stop on our tour was the Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens at Soufriere Estate. It was a lovely botanical garden with mineral pools, which we did not use. After the mineral baths in New Zealand, nothing measures up! Yes, I guess I am spoiled by all of the wonderful experiences we have had the chance to enjoy. The flowers and various plants in the garden were interesting.

The garden is the creation on an estate of one family who continues to maintain it. The minerals in the water of the falls have stained the rocks with yellow, green and orange. It was a very serene setting and cool in the shade. Shade is always a welcome relief down here.

Our final stop was at a street market so we could buy some
fresh produce. The store at Marigot Bay does not offer much.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Back to Bequia!

This says it all!
Bequia is one of our favorite Windward Islands. It is known as the Island of Clouds and is the largest of the Grenadine Islands. The name “Becouya” was given to the island by the Caribs. It lies nine miles south of St. Vincent. The island’s history has been entwined with the sea for generations. The traditions of boat building, fishing and whaling are still evident.

The Church windows
There is evidence that Bequia was inhabited as early as 200 AD by highly skilled pottery-making Amerindians who originated from South America. The Caribs migrated from South America shortly before the arrival of Columbus in the Antilles in the late 15th century. The Caribs conquest over the indigenous “Saladoid” people, as named by archeologists, and ruled until the French seized Grenada and the northern islands in 1650.
The local church has a long history.

Admiralty Bay is good for anchoring and there are quaint and colorful shops and restaurants ashore. Port Elizabeth is the town and where Customs is located. This island offers many activities and encourages cruisers to participate in things like the children’s literacy program. They had suffered minor damage in the recent hurricanes and was back to normal. This is where Dennis worked with the swim team last April.

A typical Bequia produce shop

All of the shops are so colorful in Bequia
We discovered a new market with great meats and fruits and vegetable in town, Doris Fresh Food. I stocked the freezer here. We try to spread our money around, so we also shopped at a couple of smaller markets.
For a little exploration, we hired a driver to take us on an island tour where we saw the whaling station and very expensive vacation homes, one is for sale for $11,000,000 USD. I think I need a Sugar Daddy for that one!

Our trip took us to the south end of the island and through the mountain roads to the other side of the island and back down and around so we saw all except the fort. We have seen enough forts for a lifetime.
A group of locals came by to sing Christmas carols to us.
Janice, Ken, Gunella, Dennis, Sherry & Tony
Since it was the Christmas season, plans for cruisers activities were discussed on the morning net. The owner of The Fig Tree restaurant generously offers her patio dining area and grill to the cruisers for their Christmas Day meal since she closes the restaurant to allow her staff to have Christmas off. We were not going to be there for the holidays, but the cruising community was making plans for a community meal. Bequia goes all out with fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
It was fun meeting up with Gunella and Tony from S/Y Katarina (AUS) and Janice and Ken from S/Y Resolute II (AUS) in the bay. We had dinner together at the Bequia Plantation Hotel one night. We are finding it somewhat lonely sailing without the World ARC family so it is wonderful when we meet up with some of them from time to time.

Looking out from Jack's Beach Bar
Of course, no visit to Bequia is complete without a lunch at Jack’s Beach Bar! We usually anchor out from there and dinghy in to use the good Internet. They have a wonderful burger and fries. It comes with a free beer, too. I have actually learned to drink beer on this big adventure! I don’t love it, but on a hot day, it is refreshing.

Bequia is known for the Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest in late January. Unfortunately, we will be in St. Lucia at that time. This little community has so much happening all cruising season that it would be easy to just hang out there for weeks at a time.

And before we could leave, we needed to have our favorite lobster salad at the Gingerbread Cafe. Of course, their Internet adds to the lingering under the huge trees after lunch. It seems like we are always seeking our favorite places to eat  - and good Internet - when we revisit an island! The shade of these trees make it very pleasant in the hot afternoons!

Since we had reservations at the wonderful Marigot Bay Capella Resort Marina in St. Lucia, it was time to weigh anchor and sail overnight to St. Lucia. We do not like the safety issues related to stopping in St. Vincent, so we just sail on by each time. Recently there was a serious incident at the Pitons anchorage in St. Lucia so we decided not to stop there this time. We planned our departure so we would arrive at the Marigot Bay entrance at 0800 when the marina office opens.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Off to See the Rich and Famous

A straightforward sail into the wind. Some tacking required.
Union Island, first island in the group of islands known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which comprises 32 islands and cays (or as we would say “keys”) extending over 45 miles. We stopped at Palm Island, The Tobago Cays Marine Park and Bequia in March on our way to the World ARC Finish Line in St. Lucia.

We did not have time to go to Mustique last spring on our way up to St. Lucia. We had heard about Mustique and its fancy resorts. This time our plan was to go there and pick up a mooring ball for three nights. Everyone laughed at us and said that Britannia Bay is too rolly and no one stays more than one night even though the Conservation Fee of $70 USD gives you three nights on a mooring. Game on! You haven’t lived rolly until you have anchored in Simpson Bay, St. Marteen!

Brittany Bay from the Firefly
We found the bay very comfortable and stayed all three nights! And Shean, the dockmaster, was very helpful coming out to help us tie up to what we call “French-style” mooring balls. There is no line coming off to pick up so you must somehow manage to thread your own lines though the loop on the top of the mooring ball. Of course, the deckhand (Dennis) is 4-5 feet above the ball on a bouncing boat while the helmsman (me) is trying to hold the boat in place without running over the buoy! Challenging! Thank you, Shean!

The homes of Mick Jagger and Brian Adams are on the 
beach just over Dennis' right shoulder.
Mustique is a private island owned by the home owners there. They formed the Mustique Company which runs most of the places and is the governing body. The homeowners include people like Tommy Hilfiger, Mick Jagger, Brian Adams, etc. so they can afford to own the island! The beaches are private for use of the owners and resort guests.

Out of respect for the owners’ privacy, some areas are off limits, especially during high season and the holidays. We were fortunate to be able to tour the whole island as our guide in a mule vehicle pointed out the homes, beaches and many amenities available on the island. We could take photos, but not of people.

It was so nice to see some Christmas decorations that
were not sun-faded plastic Santa figures. Real tree here 
at the Firefly. Lovely resort to return to someday.

The classic sailors’ hangout, Basil’s Bar, was being rebuilt on the waterfront and was scheduled to reopen on December 22. There was Basil’s Pop Up Bar on the beach, but it wasn’t serving food. At least we could get WI-FI there. Since there was no dinner to be had at Basil’s, we walked, and walked and walked up, up, up the hill to The View for dinner. The guide book states a 15-minute walk. Sure, on the way down! But we took a taxi down since it was very dark.

There is another bay to the north where only owners can anchor their boats. This is Endeavour Bay where the Cotton House, the fanciest hotel in the Caribbean, is located. Its Beach Café is right on the waterfront and is a lovely setting for breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed a nice lunch with a stunning view and fresh breeze - except for the bird that kept swooping down to snatch breadstick out of the bread basket on the table. I am not a bird lover (nice to watch from a distance, but not up close and personal) so this annoyed me. No one seemed to care! At a place like this, I should not have to deal with birds in my plate!
I love this type of palm tree that fans out.

Our most enjoyable evening of Sundowners and dinner was up the hill at the Firefly. A couple from England own this restaurant and guest house with a large swimming pool and a beautiful sunset view. We met two other couples from England who had just arrived for the Christmas holidays. Apparently, they met each other at the Firefly a couple of years ago. They never see each other in London, only here even though they do not plan their trips to coincide. 
Time to raise anchor and move on. There isn’t much more to do on Mustique as a visitor except eat and drink and listen to music. And with the holiday crowd starting to arrive on the little airstrip, security would be tightening soon. So it is time to move on to another favorite island: Bequia.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Revisiting Our Favorite Places

With everything finally shipshape and in good working order, it was time to head north to Carriacou, which is part of Grenada in terms of customs and immigration. Grenada has been a good "home" but very hot so I am glad to leave. The Clark's Court Marina in Woburn Bay at the southern end of the island is a good hurricane location. Unfortunately, it is in the boondocks so it was not easy to get to places without "Shade Man" and his red van.

Interesting sign at the entrance to the Ladies' Shower and
Bathroom at the marina. No signs next door at the Men's!
Before we left, we celebrated Thanksgiving with a wonderful roasted chicken dinner at the Whisper Cove Marina. The owner/chef is from France and the food is outstanding. He also runs a little meat market with local meats and homemade sausages, etc. It was a great place to stock the freezer for the trip north.

Carriacou is only 25 miles north, but with the lack of wind or wind from the northeast, it took most of the day to sail and motor-sail there. We were both exhausted from the heat and humidity, not to mention all of the work we did and the climbing up and down that ladder many times a day!

By late afternoon, the dark sky was leaving and the sun was
trying to shine through. It was an interesting day of weather.
Just as we were raising anchor in Woburn Bay, Grenada, a huge rainstorm approached the entrance to the bay. Time to wait for it to pass! Once it passed, we headed out under a gray sky with a rainbow off to the west. While we never got rained on during the passage, we were “followed” by a black wall of rain. It stayed with us all day as if we were dragging it behind us. Eerie!

We have always enjoyed Tyrell Bay in Carriacou, so we hung on the hook for several days, just relaxing in a cool breeze to recover from the work and heat in the marina. In fact, I think we stayed on the boat for two days before ever going ashore for Internet access at Slipway Restaurant.

The Slipway has great food and I love their hamburgers. She is the only one I know who can cook two-inch thick burger well done and keep it juicy and not charred on the outside. Delicious! Worth a trip back there! And they offer a tasty local dark beer. I am not a beer drinker, but this one is good.
One of the local men came out to sell us limes. I didn't really
need any as I had a lot from Grenada, but I bought to help him.
Now  I have limes from Simon and the other guy and Grenada!
Simon came along side to sell limes, we ordered two two-pound lobsters for the next day. When he returned the next day, he had two four-pound lobsters! I guess you can‘t pick and choose when diving for them. Or maybe he is just really good at up-selling! We took both of them, but froze one and shared the other for dinner.

Once we had rested until we were bored, it was time to go ashore again and clear out. Another lunch with Internet at Slipway was in order before we raised the anchor. Since most of the sails in the Caribbean are day sails, we left early the next morning Petit Martinique which is part of Grenada, too, and you can stop there after clearing out in Carriacou. 
I was hoping Simon would come by to sell lobsters again.
He did not disappoint me. He gets great ones.
The sail up the leeward side of the island was delightful. Once we reached to top of the island, a strong east-northeast wind meant that we would have to motor head on into stiff wind and high seas to make it around the top and down to Petit Martinique. We agreed to abandon that plan and so straight to Union Island.
Our thought was to go to Clifton to clear in and spend a night anchored in the harbor, so we could look around the town. However, the harbor is open to the northeast so the conditions were not going to be pleasant there. And there was rain in the forecast. Plan B evolved and we sailed directly to Chatham Bay on the leeward side of Union Island.

This decision led us to one of the most unique four-wheel rides of the past four years! We called Seakie on the phone and asked for a ride to Clifton to clear in. He offers this service and you can go by boat or by vehicle. Since we had just experienced the wind and rain on the water, we opted for the vehicle.

Sharing Carriacou's Chatham Bay with some tall ships.
Well! What we didn’t realize is that there really isn’t a road from the beach to the top of the hill where the paved road ended. What we traverse was a construction road that was put in to build a small hotel further down the beach. It has been left, but it is not maintained by anyone.

Vanessa and her son showing us our future dinner!
The ruts are nearly two feet deep in places, the trail hugs the edge of the cliff above the bay and there are huge boulders that toss the vehicle from one side to the other! And it takes about 30 minutes of bouncing along while dodging things that might harm the vehicle to get up to the main road. Needless to say, it was a white-knuckle ride for me! Thankfully, Seckie is a very good driver. He said on some days he makes the trip to town and back three or four times!

Since it was raining hard, we didn't look around town. Dennis was concerned about how well the anchor was holding. We usually stay on board several hours to make sure it is set before going ashore. This was a different situation as we needed to get to the immigration office before it closed or pay a hefty fine. Once we were on the main road, which was only wide enough for two cars to pass and not shoulders, Seckie took us along the windward side for the view.
It is easy to forget that all these islands erupted as volcanos long ago. This makes the terrain rugged and steep. It amazes me that the islands have as many paved roads as they do because it took a lot of manpower to clear the bush and cut into the rock. 
We left behind one of our World ARC flags to be hung.

The Chef and  Grill Master with the Captain!
It is a rugged existence outside of the villages. Most islanders depend on collecting and storing rainwater for their water supply. And solar panels now help light areas where electricity doesn’t reach.

A busy night at Sun, Beach and Eats. Good for all!
The best part of Chatham Bay is the peaceful anchorage. We hung out here for over a week just because we could! The walk on the beach is nice. There are several bars and restaurants and even a small new boutique hotel, The Chatham Bay Hotel. We enjoyed Sundowners and the Internet at the hotel and at Bollhead.

Delicious side dishes prepared by Vanessa.
And lobster with Seckie's special sauce. We will keep a secret!
But for dinners, it is Seckie and Vanessa’s Sun Beach & Eats for the best home cooking! Seakie is the grill master with his special sauce for the beautiful big lobsters. You can also have fish or chicken.

One boat had caught a huge tuna and brought it ashore for Seckie to cook for them while they enjoyed Vanessa’s side dishes of potatoes, plantains, rice and salad. Sometimes there is dessert, and she bakes and sell wonderful fresh bread. We had two lobster dinners while we were there this time. And Dennis negotiated a deal with Seckie: tools in trade for the special sauce recipe! It was a win/win.