Monday, March 28, 2011

Sailing to Martinique

We had a fun, fast sail Saturday from Rodney Bay to Cul-de-Sac du Marin. Once we cleared the point at Pigeon Island, we killed the engine and sailed for the next three hours until we reached our turn into Le Marin, which was directly into the wind, of course. Somehow the squalls along the way passed in front of us or behind us, and we threaded our way through the maze of anchored boats into the mouth of the Baie des Cyclones in sunshine, set the anchor, got the sail cover on, and were comfortably settled before the first deluge hit. It's been a series of downpours ever since. We took advantage of one of the biggest to take freshwater showers. That was a treat after weeks of saltwater baths followed by freshwater rinses. Yes, we have a separate shower on board, but like many cruisers in tropical climes, we use it for storage.

We've made a veterinarian's appointment for Märzen for Tuesday morning. Her ears have been bothering her ever since Grenada. We've done what we could for her, but now that she can get off the boat legally (it's France, you know), we're going to get her checked out. The vet speaks English.

Free wireless Internet here in Le Marin is courtesy of Mango Bay Bistro. It wasn't working on Sunday, but today it's OK.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

Upon our arrival here we were pleasantly surprised to find free wireless Internet that reached us in the anchorage. The disadvantage is that we spend less time exploring. Still, we have a pleasant view from the boat, and the breeze is nice here. (I took the following pictures this morning between squalls.)

The closest shore with Sandals Resort in the background and Aquarelle in the foreground

The far shore with the mountains of the island in the background

The second surprise came the next morning at 8:30 when I suddenly heard a man's voice giving the weather on VHF Channel 68. Who knew? Rodney Bay now has a cruisers' net like Grenada. We monitor Channel 68 when we're in harbor anyway since Indigo told us it's the one people use here in the West Indies, so we just stumbled across the net.

One of the announcements after the weather was for the weekly cruising women's luncheon the next day (Wednesday). I've never attended anything like that before, but figured it couldn't hurt. We haven't caught up with the friends we crossed with yet, and we left our other friends further south, so it was time to make some new friends. While we were in the marina doing our check-in, we also saw John and Mo (Pauline) from Fiesta. We'd first met them on Grenada when we went to the Friday Fish Fry, and we saw them again in Bequia. We're obviously going the same direction, so we're starting to get acquainted.

The cruising women's luncheon was well worth attending. There were about 30 of us there, and the food was good. It was quite a mix of women. Many, if not most, come to Rodney Bay every year. Most, but not all, are on boats. Some have houses here. All are interesting and talented. The most amazing thing was that one of the women, Evelyn Drew, is an artist from Santa Cruz, CA. I'd met her and her husband, Terry, when I first moved to the Bay Area and went sailing with Mom on her friend Lou's boat, Red Hawk. It is indeed a small world. Their boat Aquarelle is anchored just toward shore from us, so we went over yesterday afternoon after we checked out to introduce John and catch up a bit.

My end of the table. Marcia from Crusader (in white) organizes this gathering.

The whole group

Yes, we've already checked out, and we're heading for Le Marin on Martinique in a little while. There we'll stock up on French wine and cheese before we move on.

(Posting delayed until next Internet connection due to rain that made us bring our antennas in.)

Well, we'll be here one more night, but we won't be going ashore. By the time the downpour stopped this morning and we got the dinghy on board so that we could go to the fuel dock to top up with duty-free fuel, it was 10:30. By the time we got everything taken care of at the fuel dock, it was past 11:30. There are reefs and lobster pots in the approach to our next anchorage, so we have to get there in daylight. We probably could have made it before sunset (about 6:15), but we didn't want to risk failure

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wallilabou Bay, St. Vincent

This bay is where some of the scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed, and it's one of the anchorages on the west of the island where you can stop over on the way to St. Lucia. We were met here, as warned, by a welcoming committee of boat boys (some men, but all call themselves boat boys) to help us tie to shore and sell us things. We'd heard of the Caribbean boat boys, who can be something of a nuisance, but this was our first experience with them.

On the way here, I discovered that it would take longer to get to St. Lucia than I had thought, so we decided to spend the day here at Wallilabou and go ashore with our boat boy in the morning to see the waterfall. Except our boat boy didn't show up. We didn't mind not going ashore because we were a little nervous about how close we were to the beach.

At sunset we dropped the line to shore and sailed slowly overnight to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. When we arrived around noon, we discovered that the anchorage in the bay was filled with mooring buoys. After one attempt at anchoring across the channel, without getting the anchor to set, we decided to go on to Rodney Bay. That's where we are now.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Bequia is the little island just south of St. Vincent. Its charm is legendary among cruisers, and we certainly weren't disappointed. It was a bit of a slog against the wind to get to Port Elizabeth and Admiralty Bay on Bequia, so it was almost sunset when we arrived. We spotted Salt Dragon immediately and anchored nearby, but no one answered our hail on the radio, so we had a quiet evening and sent Moira an e-mail to let her know we were there. That was March 10th. I'm not sure where the days went after that, but we stayed until the 19th.

The next morning we had coffee with Moira and Shane aboard Salt Dragon and learned that Moira had quit her job as a constable in North Ireland in favor of cruising the Caribbean. Wow! She already has a delivery gig lined up for a bit later in the season, and I'm sure she'll be able to do as much of that kind of thing as she wants. Her kids are grown, so why not? Besides the big news, we also got the scoop on where to drop trash, where to provision, where to leave the dinghy, and so on.

The town of Port Elizabeth looks like a colorful Caribbean postcard with gingerbread trim. Many of the wooden buildings have fancy woodwork trim, and one small resort is even called the Gingerbread Inn. There are flowers everywhere, the buildings are generally well-maintained, and the streets are clean. You can get most provisions in town, and what isn't available in Port Elizabeth can be found in Kingstown on the island of St. Vincent, just a one-hour ferry ride away.

A view of Bequia

Moira found this fresh chicken place, but they weren't open.

We took the ferry one day with Moira and Shane to have a look around and visit the botanical gardens, the oldest in the Caribbean. Shane and Moira hadn't been to the gardens before, and we all thought it was worth the look. Our guide, Sinclair, was quite knowledgeable and entertaining. He even got us into the enclosure where they are breeding and raising St. Vincent parrots. The idea is that they will be able to repopulate the wild parrots in case their numbers drop too low. We also took the opportunity to shop for things we hadn't been able to find on Bequia.

Ferries at the dock in Bequia

Sinclair, our garden guide

Water lily

Shane with a parrot

Shopping expedition

Mostly our days were lazy, punctuated by trips ashore to drop off trash or buy provisions. We wouldn't even have needed to do that because the water taxi guys are eager to take care of the people on the boats. Daffodil delivers fuel (both diesel and gas), water, ice, and laundry, but we got our fuel, water and last ice at the big orange boat, Kingfisher, and used Miranda's Laundry once for our sheets and towels. You can also call on Channel 68 for the bread man to have baguettes, croissants and banana bread delivered.

I went snorkeling several times with Moira, and John joined us the last day there. We saw lots of fish, but I'll have to see if I can find them on the Internet because I don't know what most of them were. Moira knew lots of the names, but I forget most of them. I know we saw a snake eel several times, as well as a scorpion fish once, along with the prettier ones.

Returning from snorkeling

We also went out to eat relatively frequently. First, John was craving pizza, so we went to Mack's, which was really good. It's on the Belmont Walkway, a paved path along the beach. Tommy's Cantina has decent Mexican food and free Wi-Fi, which we used before we bought our month pass for HotHotHotSpot. (This service is available on several islands, including Guadeloupe, Dominica and Antigua, so it was worth getting a full month.) On Sunday we went with Shane and Moira to Coco's Place for the all-you-can-eat buffet, which was good but we probably wouldn't repeat it. Tuesday night was drinks at Jack's Bar for the live music. That was an easy trip for us because we were anchored not too far off shore from there. And Friday night we went with everyone to Sabrina's place near the airport for shark. Everyone is the usual quartet plus Al from Bombay Sapphire, who was just back from Scotland.

It was easy to tell that most of the same people would be there next year. The more often you return, the more you become part of the local scene. I think the same is true with Grenada. Both are easy places to be. Why hurry off?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tobago Cays

Despite my worries, we had no problem getting into a nice anchorage in the Tobago Cays via the southern pass. Kathy's waypoints and our Navionics electronic charts did the trick. The cays are a huge reef system and marine park east of Union and south of Mayreau islands in the Grenadines. Except for a few visible low islands, it looks like you're exposed to the whole Atlantic Ocean to the east, but the reefs break the swell, and it's really quite calm. We found a spot near the turtle area around Baradel Island and enjoyed two nights there.

Solstice at anchor

Catamarans anchored in shallower water

We hadn't been anchored long before Walter, a local fellow, found us and offered to deliver banana bread and baguette in the morning at 7 o'clock. It was a little early and a little expensive, but Walter's wife bakes the banana bread herself, and Walter says it's the best, so we went for it. The baguette didn't last long, but the banana bread was a tasty investment that we enjoyed for several days, ending with banana bread French toast in Bequia. Decadent!

The snorkeling wasn't great, but we didn't try all that hard. There were a few fish in the grass and sand, but the really cool part was swimming with the turtles. We had to dodge a couple in order to get to the beach and land the dinghy, and we followed a couple more around for awhile.

Later, closer to sunset, I took John ashore with his camera so that he could get some photos of what he found when he climbed the island. As always, he got some great shots.

Thursday morning we made our way back out and fought the wind and currents to get to Bequia and rendezvous with Salt Dragon.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Union Island, SVG

Nothing went the way we thought it would here. First, we were going to tie up at the water dock and top off the tanks while I did the check-in, which was going to be easy because I'd set everything up on eSeaClear. And we were only going to stay one night, just to clear in before going on to the Tobago Cays. But it was pretty windy and there were lots of boats around, so we decided against docking since we didn't really need water and followed another American boat (Aldebaran from Fort Collins, CO) around to the anchorage behind the outer reef. Along the way a boat boy (Angelo) picked us up, and I negotiated a ride to shore with him so that we wouldn't have to put the dinghy in the water in the wind. That was fine, and Angelo guided us to a good spot much closer to the reef than we would have normally dared venture. We were a little nervous about that, so John stayed on the boat while I went to clear in.

Local regatta course through the anchorage

Happy Island off our bow

Ashore at the Anchorage Yacht Club, Angelo told me how to find the airport to clear in. “A plane crashed this morning,” he said. “It's still there, so when you see it, go to the other side of the runway and turn right.” No problem. A little twin-engine plane had its nose in a ditch and tail in the air, but it didn't look like there was much other damage, so I felt sure the people were OK. At the airport I discovered that Union Island isn't on eSeaClear, so I filled out the paperwork and proceeded to wait for the Customs officer to finish with the guy ahead of me. When it was finally my turn, I learned that there were overtime charges and a cruising permit that was much more expensive than I'd expected. Fortunately, I'd brought a lot more cash than I thought I would need. (I'm going to have to find a better source of information about the island check-in fees and hours for future reference.)

Anchorage Yacht Club

On the way back to the boat, I was looking around at the other boats in the anchorage and noticed an American flag all rolled up. Taking a closer look, I saw that the boat's name was Indigo. Could it be our friends Greg and Kathy who we'd met in Key West in 2008? Last time we'd checked on them, they had gone north and didn't know what their plans were. After staring intently at the boat, I decided it was. Back at Solstice, we tried to hail Indigo on Channel 16 but got no answer, so we quickly put the dinghy in the water and headed over there. Boy, were they surprised! (And for future reference, everyone here monitors Channel 68 for local hailing purposes.)

Indigo is buddy boating with another couple, and they were planning to stay until today before heading south to Carriacou for Carnival, so we decided to stay too. It turns out that their buddies are on a boat that did the Baja Ha-Ha with us in 2007, Moody Blues. Although we didn't really know Gene and Susea, they know the boats from Portland that we got acquainted with, so it feels like a small world again.

We had a wonderful reunion with Greg and Kathy. They took us ashore on Sunday and showed us where things are. Amazing to us, some stores and shops are open on Sunday here. For sun-downers we went to Happy Island, which is right off our bow. Dinner last night was the six of us aboard Indigo for a yummy Basque fish stew prepared by Greg from John's recipe followed by some incredible brownies that Susea brought.

Choosing the best at the fruit stand (the woman running it was on the plane that crashed)

Sun-downers at Happy Island

Chef Greg stirring the pot

Today Indigo and Moody Blues are continuing on, but we're staying for one more night. Tomorrow we'll use the waypoints Kathy gave us for the south pass into the Tobago Cays. After a couple of nights there, we'll continue on up to Bequia, where we hope to meet up with Moira and Shane on Salt Dragon (or Moira and Al on Bombay Sapphire, we're not sure which boat Moira will be on).

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heading to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Sounds like a good name for a rock band to me, and it's a lot to type, so I'll be calling it SVG. I'm excited to be going to a new country, even though it's less than 12 miles from where we are now, even taking into account the reefs that we have to go around. Here's a map for those who haven't looked it up on Google yet. (I found it on World Map Now.)

(Click the map to open it in a size you can read.)

Last night we decided to go out for a nice dinner. We'd heard good things about the Slipway Restaurant. The people on the boat/bar Hallelujah, which is anchored here, were very enthusiastic about it, and it certainly lived up to the recommendations. Funny that it already has a reputation since it's only been open five weeks.

We started with a beet, blue cheese and walnut salad that John ordered on account of the blue cheese. It made us rethink beets; they were one vegetable that we didn't eat, at least not at home. Then John had the pasta with duck and cabbage, and I had the fish, which was supposed to be king fish, but they were out, so it was mahi-mahi. Ordinarily I hesitate to eat something that John makes at home because I'm often disappointed, and I did hesitate, but I wasn't disappointed at all. (The third entree option was pork tenderloin, but we'd had that very nicely done at Le Phare Bleu when we met Peter and Nelly from Alua for dinner, so we wanted something different. They also had lobster, but it was sold out just ahead of us.) We did have dessert—a chocolate pot de crème and an orange olive oil cake—but neither were as good as the previous courses. Bottom line is that we think this new little restaurant is something to rave about, so we are. I apologize for the lack of photos, but we were too busy eating.

The Slipway Restaurant isn't in any of the free guides that you pick up around the islands because it's so new, so here's the pertinent information. First, it's located at Tyrrel Bay on the beach next to the haul-out and boatyard. You can leave your dinghy at the boatyard, but watch your step as you cross the derelict dock between the main dock and the restaurant. The boards are loose. It's open for lunch from 11:30-2:00 and for dinner from 6:00-9:00 Tuesday through Saturday. They do a Sunday brunch from 11:30-3:30. The bar is open all day. Reservations are recommended, and the phone is 443 6500. (I couldn't find the phone number anywhere, so I called the boatyard to get it.) They also monitor VHF Channel 16.

Last night was a very special way to end our stay in Grenada and Carriacou, and now we're off to SVG. We don't know when or if we'll have Internet there, but we'll keep our position report current.

Friday, March 4, 2011

On to Carriacou

It rained almost continuously the first four days after my return to Grenada. Then the forecasts called for northeasterly wind of 15-20 knots and 8 to 11-foot waves. Since Carriacou, our next destination, lies northeast of Grenada and our prepaid 30 days at the Grenada Yacht Club (GYC) hadn't expired, we decided to stay put and wait for a little less wind against us. Finally, Wednesday looked good, and we left the dock.

Veranda of the GYC. Nothing fancy, but electricity for laptops using the free Wi-Fi.

Lagoon entrance at St. George. Masts at GYC visible behind the blue industrial building. Big yachts are at Port Louis.

Brownie troop on their way to Lagoon Park after school

We weren't alone. As we left the harbor at St. George and turned right to motor up the western coast of Grenada, we saw that a couple of boats were ahead of us and a couple more behind us. We're slow when we motor, so more and more boats caught up with us. It looked like lots of people had been waiting for the weather break, but we knew there would be room for everyone at Tyrrel Bay, our destination.

As we neared the north end of the island, the wind picked up a bit and, as forecast, it was from east of northeast, so we pulled out the jib and got a little boost. We had been warned to hug the shore to avoid a westerly current that can be quite strong between the islands. There's an active underwater volcano on the way, and although we went right along the edge of its cautionary exclusion zone, we didn't see any indication that it was doing anything. We made good time and were comfortably anchored by 2:30 p.m. That gave us time to do a little socializing with a neighbor from GYC, Ron on Erasmos from Victoria, B.C., and also to say hello to Michael on Transcendence.

First sunset at Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou

Carriacou is a nice little island. Around Tyrrel Bay, at least, there are no high-rise resorts, just a few little cottages for rent and maybe some low-key inns. The people seem friendly and helpful, and although we had only planned to stay two nights, after our exploration yesterday, we decided to linger and explore further.

John exploring. The beach is the coolest road.

View from the pizza place with dinghy dock

The whole view

We'll take the bus into the main town of Hillsborough today, have a look around, and do our check-out for tomorrow. The governments of many of the islands in the West Indies have gone together on an Internet-based customs and immigration system called eSeaClear. Neither Barbados nor Grenada are on the system yet, but Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, our next island nation, is. I've filled out and submitted the forms, originally for our arrival today but edited for tomorrow. We're looking forward to seeing if it reduces the number of times we have to fill in forms with the same information.