Pictures/Journal - page 10

Back ] Home ] Up ] Next ]

*  * Click pictures to enlarge; close out of that window to return to this page * *

  Flamboyant tree

MOONHOLE :

  Original house (under arch) as seen from ARGO

Owner's house; notice stalagtites on ceiling

Another house

At the "bar" atop ridge

Original house under rock arch at top left

Scratching pet tortoise's back (goes into a trance). Worried: he likes anything red - hibiscus flowers, toenail polish . . .

-   -   -

Typical mom 'n pop store

 

 

 

THE GRENADINES - JUNE 23, 2004:  Under the same government as St. Vincent, The Grenadines include several smaller islands, namely Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union, Tobago Cays, and Petit St. Vincent (PSV).  They lie in relatively close proximity to each other, making for a nice cruising area and, since it's all the same country, we don't have to clear in/out of customs/immigration in between each.

We spend 2 weeks in BEQUIA, anchored at Princess Margaret Beach in Admiralty Bay.  It's a very quaint and secure feeling town, with picturesque walkways along the beach and through town.  Deborah celebrated her big 5-0 birthday here, with a promise of celebrating in a big way in Tobago Cays.  At this point we were without our laptop and used the internet cafe - here a bargain, buying 5-hour packages for US$15. 

Although having been to Bequia a couple of times before, we had never explored the island away from the main town of Port Elizabeth.  A highlight was visiting Moonhole, which occupies the hard-to-reach southern "peninsula" bordered on 3 sides by the Caribbean and Atlantic waters.  Moonhole is a series of 20 houses perched on the sheer cliffs made out of the existing natural rock, stone and wood.  The original house was built by an American architect but abandoned when a boulder fell down into his bedroom.  Now his son, and his wife, own Moonhole (strict interview procedures are used for becoming a home owner).  Rain water is caught, sanitation filtered through rocks, only solar power (no wind or diesel generators as too noisy).  Our tour ended with rum punch at the crest of the ridge with a breathtaking view of water on all 3 sides - truly a spectacular place to live, if you can do without the creature comforts.  Makes living on a sailboat look quite modern, but of course they have more room! 

We hiked south to Friendship Bay through muddy goat pastures to find the bar/restaurant closed; took a local bus to the south side and sampled "local" rum punch (whew!), saw small model boats used for racing and saw the whaling station at the nearby island (whaling is legal in Bequia); hiked up to Tantie Pearl's for a great local lunch (a short but aerobic hike straight-up with a dynamite view of Admiralty Bay). We hiked north to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, where Brother King takes turtle eggs and rears both hawksbill and green turtles till they are old enough to have a better chance of survival, about 2 years.  The turtles tend to nip at each other and a purple solution and isolation "pens" help each heal.  His rather large "pet" turtle (he supposedly takes it out for swims) he has had for about 8 years and plans on releasing next year (it had some problem which kept is confined longer than usual).   

A gastronomical highlight we always look forward to in Bequia is eating at Mac's Pizzeria, with excellent lasagna and pizza (it's famous for lobster and garlic pizza, but lobster is out-of-season now), up the hill overlooking the spotless beach.  The last night's ritual in Bequia is always at Mac's.  The New York Bar is THE hangout (cruisers and locals) boasting the cheapest AND coldest beer in town.  Sunday afternoons are spent at De Reef, a  bar on the beach where the Honky Tonics play (remember, they played for Dick's birthday party in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia).  Jo (s/v Remedy) and I, both after having no-hair-care in 10 months, went to Emma's for a trim - Emma, a former London-based stylist, here styles under a thatched canopy with a sand floor.  Great cut at the right price.   

We leave Bequia.  We bypass Mustique, although we would have liked to visit it again.  Mustique, a privately owned island with residents like Mick Jagger, Rachel Welsh and David Bowie,  essentially "closes down" for the month - it obviously doesn't need the cruisers!

Friendship Bay         (Group L-R: Jo, Tim, Dick, Steve)

 

 

"That's the ugliest damn house I've ever seen!"    "Blends so naturally into it's environment . . . NOT!"

 

Babies at Turtle Sanctuary

 

The New York Bar: L-R Steve, Tim (Merlin), Dick & Jo (Remedy)

 

Haircut by Emma

West coast: Charlestown anchorage

South coast: Tobago Cays, Mayreau, Union, Carriacou

 

 

From Bequia we check out CANOUAN (JULY 10) for the first time, anchoring in Charlestown Bay, where an attractive new Moorings base is now located.  The north half of the island has fairly recently been bought by Italian investors (Donald Trump supposedly now is part investor).  It was off-limits to visitors due to renovations, but after hiking the south and east coasts of the island, we unintentionally sneaked in the "back door" and got a good look around at the sprawling resort and casino grounds.

East coast:  Private resort additions

 

Enjoying "Salt Whistler's Dreams"

Next onto Salt Whistle Bay in MAYREAU (JULY 11), one of our favorite anchorages from charter/bareboat days, years ago.  Last year, our visit reminded us of a Puerto Rican July 4th.  Fortunately this time, it was much more sedate with only a few boats anchored.  Salt Whistle Bay is a half moon spit of land affording a protected view of Tobago Cays, a pristine white beach fringed in palm trees, and a restaurant with thatched-covered stone tables hidden in the trees - you really expect to see the Mad Hatter darting around!  We spend 2 enjoyable days/nights here and move on.

 

 

 

An anchorage at Clifton, Union Island, in between the many reefs; Tobago Cays in background

 

 

We make a day stop in Clifton, UNION ISLAND to pick up our newly repaired laptop and to top off on fresh provisions as we head to the "remote" Tobago Cays.

Ahhhhh,  TOBAGO CAYS (JULY 13-25) - at long last we are back!  It is such an awesomely beautiful place.  We previously visited here in August 2003, and return here again a few weeks later (see below).  This is one of the finest places in the Eastern Caribbean - 5 small, uninhabited islands, sparkling clear light turquoise water, best snorkeling on limitless reefs with lots of fish and coral right off the boat.  While here, Jo (s/v Remedy) and Deborah had a beach BBQ birthday party: Larston, the local rastafarian (he lives on the island under a tent) arranged a pit grill and participated in singing when the rest of us were at a lost for words, i.e., too much rum.  We also met a bunch of new cruisers at a bring-your-own-meat-to-grill-plus-side-dish-to-share beach party, and put together a 13-boat dinghy raft-up 'n float happy hour across the Cays - boy, did we get the eye from the charter boats.

BIRTHDAY PARTY
Birthday girls Part of group Larston Group

 

 

 

BIRTHDAY PARTY

Not a bad setting for a party

Tim (s/v Merlin) & Dick (s/v Remedy)

 

Happy Island

After 10 glorious days in Tobago Cays, we head  back to Clifton, UNION ISLAND (JULY 26) to clear out of customs/immigration, have lunch and spend the night.  With Dick & Jo, we have a 4-hour lunch on Happy Island, a teeny-tiny island owned and built by Janti.  Janti has built his island on top of a reef using conch shells and sand from the immediate area (and concrete) over the past 2 years.  He lives here, has a handful of tables (reservations are necessary for meals so he can do the shopping in advance) and drinks anytime, several hammocks strung up, he just put in a garden and is adding to his "sanitation" system - 3 pits that I mistook for empty but fragrant fish/lobster tanks.  Our meals were served family style (local cuisine) and included a huge amount of seasoned and grilled fish and chicken, local vegies au gratin (VERY good), rice, beans, salad and scrumptious local mangos, papaya, pineapples.  Rum punch was especially good made from all fresh local fruit . . . not too sweet, not too weak . . .  The meal and setting were soooo Caribbean!

 

 

 

Steve (squinting), Deb, Dick & Jo (s/v Remedy) at lunch on Happy Island

  Our group assisting on launching

JULY 26 - AUGUST 4, 2004: The next day,  we head to Tyrrel Bay, CARRIACOU, a part of Grenada, for their annual Carriacou Regatta week.  We attended last year (August 2003) and met a lot of cruisers, and since we're still in the vicinity wanted to attend again.  It was great meeting up with old friends and meeting a whole lot of new cruisers.  Although there are racing events for cruisers, it is primarily for the brightly painted local work/fishing boats and Carriacou sloops.  Several land-based activities for cruisers (kick-off pot luck dinner, treasures-of-the-bilge - a.k.a., "one man's junk is another man's treasure" - auction benefiting the children of Carriacou, dominoes tournament, book/DVD swap, wrap-up BBQ), along with the local events happening around the island (greasy pole contest, donkey race through the streets, wining (dancing) contest, etc.), helped the mingling process - with cruisers and locals! 

Of course we have to make several trips to one of our favorite pizza places in the E. Caribbean, The Turtle Dove, run by 2 Italian women - the pizza is still as great as we remember.  Deborah broke a tooth while here (not from the pizza).  Since there are no dentists in Carriacou (only dental care are extractions - no thank you!), we take the high-speed ferry over to Grenada to visit a highly recommended dentist used by cruisers.  Deborah is seen promptly (no appointment but first one there) and leaves very satisfied with state-of-the-art composite work just like in the States - but for only US$60!

A day after the Carriacou Regatta concluded, we were all abruptly reminded why we are out here doing what we're doing now:  a fellow cruiser suffered a heart attack and died on his boat.  He was in his mid 50's.  His wife is considering single-handling now.  Again, do it while you can, because you don't know what lies ahead for you. 

 

 

 

 

Young artist painting mural of Tyrrel Bay

 

Not having gotten enough of the Tobago Cays, we head back, first having to clear in at UNION ISLAND.  We pop back over to Janti's Happy Island for drinks with Dalton (s/v Quietly) and his guest Jean. 

At Happy Island: owner Janti, Jean, Dalton (s/v Quietly)

AUGUST 5-17, 2004: We spend another 2 weeks in the TOBAGO CAYS.  We got a  big surprise when friends from Houston, Debra & Jim and son James, showed up on a charter boat in the Cays on vacation.  (They knew we were there, but we didn't know they were coming.)  We spent a couple of days showing them great snorkel sites and feeding the fish at "Barry's Reef", and exploring the islands with great panoramics.  During this stay, we also weathered out tropical storms Charley and Earl (below). 

Click here to see ENLARGED panoramic view Click here to see ENLARGED panoramic viewClick here to see ENLARGED panoramic view 

Click left (anywhere) to see ENLARGED panoramic view of Tobago Cays

We know some of you readers are cruiser wanna-bees so listen up.  Tobago Cays is a charter/bareboat's dream . . . and a cruiser's nightmare . . . as charter boats do not typically know how to properly anchor.  (Bareboats have no paid crew; charter boats have a paid captain - who doesn't always know how to do it either.  I use "charter boat" to mean both.)  The two most common, and sometimes costly, mistakes made are:  1) not putting out enough scope (anchor line or chain) - an anchor is designed to hold when pulled at a small angle to the bottom; a more straight-up angle "releases" the anchor; and  2) not backing down on the anchor, after it has had a chance to settle in, using reverse throttle, to make sure it is in fact holding.  A snorkel over the anchor also gives assurance.  Us cruisers have to protect our homes.  Particularly in the Cays, when a charter boat comes in, cruisers go topside and with a wary eye, observe and let them know where our anchor is and how much scope we have out.  We also pay some of them visits to ascertain their anchoring technique, and advise of incoming weather they usually are not aware of, as was the case with tropical storms Charley and Earl.  Prior to these tropical storms, however, a squall passed through at 3:00 in the morning, 35 knot winds, several charter boats dragged, one dragging into a cruiser and snagging/fouling his anchor and then the two of them dragging into a friend's boat damaging her bow pulpit.  Even in Tobago Cays where the holding is excellent in deep sand, good anchoring techniques are essential.

Tropical storm Charley sprang up fast with little notice (passed within 60 miles north of us), thus we had to contend with lots of charter boats dragging.  In conditions like this someone pretty much keeps a watch on things. After watching an Italian charter boat try to re-anchor for literally 6 hours straight in high winds, some of us cruisers went over, during a lull in the storm, and gave assistance - they lacked anchoring knowledge and also had equipment problems which were remedied after an hour.  During this storm, we saw maximum winds of 48 knots (55 mph) of wind.

We had a day's notice on tropical storm Earl, thus a lot of charter boats thankfully vacated the area.  Earl changed directions and passed just south of us, putting us on it's "dirty" side.  The north side is "dirty" because the storm is moving in a counterclockwise direction + moving northerly, thereby "doubling" it's affect (see diagram at left).  We saw 35-45 knot (40-52 mph) sustained winds for 8 solid hours, gusting to 55 knots (63 mph) - hurricanes as defined start at 64 knots / 75 mph.  We had 125 feet of anchor chain out in 11 feet of water!  We held. Our very substantial snubber claw spread apart and slipped the chain but we had a backup snubber on so it was OK. Thankfully Earl came through during daylight so we could keep tabs on the charter boats that were dragging and trying to re-anchor in 45 knot winds.  None of them could do it, and so they left and went somewhere - can't imagine it would be any better on the outside of the reef, sure seas would have been wicked.

The day after Earl, we snorkeled the reefs right off the boat.  Saw lots of displaced fish away from their schools and habitats, more cleaning and feeding than usual, some big damsels kept biting a cruiser friend on the ear apparently trying to stake out new territory, a lobster just standing out in the open not knowing where to go, and the highlight was a sea hare - a foot long slug, at first I thought it was something rotting, then saw it move. The "rotting flesh" was actually skin flaps on it's top side that it uses as a sail when making it's way across the sand/current.

In spite of having to endure a wicked squall and 2 tropical storms, Deborah says this is one of her favorite places.     

TOBAGO CAYS

Tabac: rum scene from Pirates of the Caribbean filmed here

Debra & Jim, & James, friends from Houston

Local fisherman cleaning our dinner

 Constant winds help kite-boarders enjoy sunset jaunt

 

19-guest crewed catamaran swung onto reef/sand bar during squall;  after other measures failed, a ferry finally was called in to pull them free a day later

T/S Charley: white-out (rain) coming our way

Time to move on.  We go back to UNION ISLAND, again, to clear out of St. Vincent and The Grenadines.  We head to PSV (Petit St. Vincent, belongs to St. Vincent), another one of those private resort islands, and anchor for the evening.  We buy our exorbitantly priced obligatory drink and enjoy the resort atmosphere.  Next day we go next door (big 1 mile) to PETITE MARTINIQUE (belongs to Grenada) to top up on diesel, gasoline (for outboard), and then the essentials - rum, beer and wine.  These things are quite cheap here, as these products are brought in from Venezuela - whatever their "import method", nobody cares.  Win-win for everybody.  Not a particularly attractive island, we move back to PSV for the evening.  We delayed our departure by a day due to unfavorable winds - winds out of the southeast.  Mid-morning the next day, with winds out of the east and ARGO on a southeasterly course, we head to Tobago . . .

 

At PSV;   Petite Martinique in background

"SIDE BAR" REGARDING COMMUNICATION / SHIPPING SERVICES:  A downside to our type of traveling lifestyle, and one of the largest frustrations we have experienced, is the problem of communications, and receiving stuff.  Sure, we have email on board, but there are times you need to talk to someone - perhaps you want to call a 1-800 number.  Well, first of all, in many islands 1-800 doesn't work at all, and if it does, they are never toll free - you are stuck paying the regular international phone rate which can be very expensive, especially when going through all the annoying auto-prompts and then usually getting cut off.  Another irritating problem is even using a phone:  islands are different, but frequently there are different phones for local calls and for international calls.  Sometimes phone cards are needed, sometimes coins.  Some places are not set up for credit card calls.  In Tobago recently, Steve needed to call a service company in Trinidad (same country, local call).  He needed a phone card or quarters:  No phone cards were available that day and nobody had any quarters for making change, so it was impossible to make a local call!   In Bequia we found 1 out of the 8 public phones worked - sometimes.  Some cruisers have sat phones, but these are expensive, and with limited area coverage.  Cell phones work,  but are specific to each island's own phone system, so when on the move like us this is not practical, plus the expense and hassle of buying the cell phone cards adds up. 

Another problem to consider with this way of life, is how to ship and receive things, such as our forwarded mail and boat parts.  Customs/duty in many islands can be very expensive, e.g., duty is 35% of the value of the item being shipped into Venezuela - this makes for very expensive boat parts!  In other islands, it may take weeks to get your shipment once it is on that island (5 weeks in St. Lucia once it enters the island), or you may never see it in such countries as Venezuela as it goes through Caracas first, then frequently disappears.  All very important considerations.  In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we were able to easily and quickly ship via FedEx our laptop to the U.S., and we took delivery of it in Union Island (part of The Grenadines).  As is typical in some of the Caribbean islands, "rules" and "procedures" frequently seem to be made up as they go along.  So you never really know . . . 

 

Thanks to Dick & Jo (s/v Remedy) for their contribution of some of the above pictures! 

On to page 11 for our adventures in Tobago and with hurricane Ivan . . .

Back ] Home ] Up ] Next ]           [ Top of page ]

                                                                          Last updated 03/15/2009                                             

 

 

                                                          Copyright 2003-2009 s/v ARGO.     All rights reserved.