St. Vincent and Grenadines
We cleared out of customs and immigration and headed to Union Island. After 2 hours of motor sail we anchored in Ashton Bay. It is a quiet and well-protected bay with shallow water. Coloured kites were seen around the whole bay with kite enthusiasts enjoying the flat warm water and wind. Kite boarding is the fastest growing sport activity in the Grenadines. it is blessed with constant trade winds and a clear turquoise sea.
We secured our dingy to the dock and were offered a lift in the taxi to the airport. The taxi was an old rusted double cab. Arriving at the airport we paid the overtime charge for clearing in on a Sunday. An hour later we were legally in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We decided to lift anchor and motor around the island to the lee shore at Chatham. The bay is big and can house many yachts. A sailing passenger ship was also at anchor. The long sandy beach creates a white line where the sea and land meet. The steep mountains surrounding the bay also restricts general land access and anchorage.
That night we enjoyed curried Lobster and salad for supper. Our self-acclaimed highly regarded food critic gave his thumbs up. The crayfish curried meal rated right on par with the crab curry in Singapore. We have detoured thousands of miles to experience the crab curried meal again. I had to give double assurance that I will be able to repeat the recipe I used. The final revue published: "Could not have eaten better in any other restaurant." I was rewarded with a big thank you kiss and a hug. Could not help myself thinking of Afrikaans saying "'n man se hart is deur sy maag".
30th December 2013
On the leeward side of Union Island there is no cellphone reception. Upon trying both our satellite phones (with no airtime that is still valid) we had to lift anchor to talk to Budget Marine. We decided to sail to Clifton bay. Hopefully we will have Internet connection there.
Clifton is a small and narrow harbour flanked by two coral reefs. At least two charter companies operate from this harbour. The number of boats anchored and swinging on moorings was astonishing. We saw waving hands on the jetty as we dropped our anchor. Our captain ignored the objection and by the time we had our anchor chain out we were outside the busy channel.
a Hot hot spot was picked up with our bullet Wi-Fi antenna. Now it was downloading, updating and synchronising all the phones, ipads and laptops. That afternoon we managed to Skype with Zandia and Andre in Switzerland, catching up on all their moves and news from before Christmas.
We spend the afternoon exploring Clifton. It is a charming and colourful town. In the middle is a fresh vegetable and fruit market including several souvenir shops. The vendors have colourful stalls. There was one that Zack could not walk past, the fruit juice quinsy was just to big a temptation. Every time he walked past he will just indicate "one of your fruit specials" and the lady would know taking of with a smile. There are several small supermarkets with lots of basic items to buy. Zack bought a colorful island shirt. At the Beads and Art gallery our captain treated his first mate with a Larimar set of earrings and pendant. Larimar is the only semi-precious stone found in the Caribbean. Every item is handcrafted by the shop owner and his wife Annie-France's.
Being anchored in the middle of the busy small harbour was also a new experience with motor boats, yachts and dinghy’s passing close by. The odd big 200 ton commercial vessel making a stern docking swinging closely by a few anchored yachts and the music competing with each other from the well lit restaurants along the water front. Some of them made music till late in the morning hours.
31st December 2013
Early morning we motor sailed to Tobaco Cays. We sailed into a breathtaking blue lagoon. Dazzling beauty, crystal clear water, stunning beaches with dreamy white sand and coconut trees and spectacular coral gardens. Five deserted islands were situated behind a horseshoe reef in one of the most magnificent settings.
The five cays include the following islands: Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Petit Tabac, Jamesby and Baradal. Tobaco Cays is declared a wildlife reserve and marine Park. The water and reef colours are a kaleidoscope of blue, green and turquoise. Tobago Cays is a pristine marine park and one of the jewels of the Caribbean.
The Christmas winds were blowing at full force. It is weird to experience a 25 knot wind in the open ocean with a coral reef taming the sea. After we were safely anchored in 1,8 m of water on a 35 m length chain we went snorkeling. Our daily exercise of kayaking took on a new form of challenge against a strong wind. It drifted us to the far Northern part of the horse shoe reef. The ferns and coral was unspoilt and sea life in abundance. What amazing freedom to swim in the ocean and only hear your own breath and the click click of corals.
We appreciated the vast collection of sponges, soft corals and the reef fishes given by God for us to enjoy.
After mounting our kayak and stowing away all our diving and underwater photography equipment we collected the paddles and paddled back to Vagabund. With the kayak we could cover greater distances and also spotted several turtles surfacing for air. Tired of using manpower we changed to horsepower. We mounted our 9,9 horse power dingy and explored the nearest island in style. I had one of my dresses on and Zack was formally dressed with a shirt and no sandals.
The anchorage area is open to the full force of the ocean winds, which gusted up to 33 knots. Our concern was being anchored in such shallow water. The waves are amplified 2 to 3 times in such shallow areas. We just hoped that the barrier reef will do its job.
1st January 2014
The Reef close to Vagabund looked very enticing for snorkeling. It was a rocky ride in the kayak with the wind blowing hard. As soon as my head was under the water the beauty of the underwater unfolded. Exquisite coral sway to the rhythm of the pristine sea floor. Frisky parrotfish darted around. Reef fish fed on the floor bed.
Back at Vagabund the weather changed. Clouds were gathering in what we would call back in SA in the old days an illegal gathering. The rain clouds were grey over the island tops. We lifted anchor and motor sailed South to Petit St Vincent.
Petit St. Vincent
1st January 2014
A squall engulfed us and the wind were blowing at 30 knots, gusting up to 33 knots forming big waves on the beam. The intense downpour of rain lowered the surface tension and caused the see state to calm down rapidly making our approach to the narrow sea gate more comfortable. As we slipped into the leeward side of Petit St Vincent the sea and wind calmed down.We dropped anchor and we were secured close to the dinghy doc and fancy restaurant on the beach.
Petit St Vincent is one of the rich and famous hideaway resorts in the Caribbean and mostly privately owned. The public are allowed to come ashore for drinks, light lunches and supper. You can walk on certain sections of the beach but the rest is forbidden ground and only accessible to hotel guests. We enjoyed walking on the course sea sand. A photo could only capture a fraction of the beauty of the sunsets.
That evening we spoiled ourselves acting as rich and famous (hiding away the water tight bag) greeting the yachties as they walk by and enjoying an exquisite gourmet dinner on the beach. A salad of melon, cucumber and feta cheese was our starter and snapper and salad the main course. Bare feet in the sand we enjoyed blasting away our hard earned money. A reality check came when we received our 1200.00 rand bill.
2nd January 2014
We refueled at Petit Martinique. B&C Fuels is one of the better and more convenient fuel docks in the Grenadines. I was disappointed, Zack`s birthday present was not delivered. It was not sent to Carriacou as requested. We decided to go and collect it ourselves the next day in Carriacou.
Which meant clearing out of Union Island. It took three tries at anchoring in the narrow harbour over populated with boats before any locals or neighboring yacht captains voiced their objection to our presence. The airport was a stones throw away where we cleared customs for the next day. We contacted Michael and Cathri on Scype. We got all the details of their trip to Singapore.
That evening was spent Skyping and updating our applications.
3rd January 2013
It is Michael's birthday today. Our firstborn is turning 28 and we are excited to see what the New Year hold in for him and his wife. Skype was not an option so we bit the bullet and made an international call to congratulate him on his birthday.
Just before seven the next morning we pulled the anchor and sailed SSE in a fresh to strong breeze pushing us along at a nice pace. Although the sea has build up, the downwind run was so much more comfortable than the beating we had to do sailing up North from Grenada. Two hours later we were safely anchored in Tyrrel Bay. A message on Zack's phone came through. It was Budget Marine hoping we have not left Union Island yet. Well we were already in Tyrrel Bay. Needless to say Zack was very disappointed. We lift anchor and returned to Union Island in time to clear in again. Customs first did not know what to do. They decided to void our clearance form and immigration voided the stamp in our passports. Fortunately we did not have to pay again.
We headed to the island Mayreau, it can only be reached by a sail boat or ferry. It is situated north of Union Island. The total population of the island is 250 permanent residents.
When we anchored in Saline Bay we broke the bridal whilst setting the anchor. Zack turned into a handyman and came up with a solution. He replaced the broken rope with a quadruple line. That evening we launched the dingy and motored to the doc and still managed to take a lazy stroll up the beach before sunset.
4th January 2013
Saline Bay is well protected from the wind and it was the first bay in several days with flatter water where we could do some kayaking. We took the snorkels and fins with us on the kayak. We paddled past the Northern Outcrop to the next bay enjoying the clean water and beauty of the island. On our way back we stopped and snorkeled at the northern end of the bay. The heavy wave action brought the visibility down but we still managed to see a lot of coral fish, sponges and ferns and even two lobsters under a crevasse.
After mounting the kayak again we explored the Southern edge. The water was much clearer and deeper with cave formations. Fish life were in abundance. Hunger pains and low blood sugar gave us a notice to return back to the boat to refuel. A huge brunch was prepared and enjoyed with eggs, steak, hash browns and salad.
That afternoon we decided to explore the island on foot. Walking up the steep hills we noticed quite a few goats all fastened on ropes. The goats keep the grass short and supply milk. The locals did not need much more to survive. It seems like time is standing still.
A strenuous hike up Station Hill brought us to the stone Catholic Church from the 1930's. Inside we sat for a while and enjoyed being engulfed in quiet and peace.
The view from the back of the church overlooking the Tobago Cays was stunning. You could see turquoise water for miles and miles..
We walked down the hill to Salt Whistle Bay. It has a beautiful tree-lined beach with white powdered sand and exceptionally calm water. The yachts were packed together and we counted sixteen yachts in a crowded small anchorage area.
Walking over to the beach on the windward side we watched a young woman preparing to kite surf. It was fascinating to watch how she mastered the skill and with her kite flying high got onto the board and skiing over the water from one side to the other side of the beach. Wow!!! I was looking in awe.
Now we had to walk back up the hill and down on the other side before we returned to Vagabund. Concentrating on taking smaller steps up the hill but smiling about the downhill that awaited us. In our world everything ends down on sea level again.
5th January 2014.
Zack's birthday. I had to improvise for a present. He received our wedding anniversary present instead. Hopefully I would be able to give his present shortly. Again we walked up the hill to attend the church service at Mayreau Christian Revival Centre. We worshipped and praised island style for two hours.
The last of the Christmas cake (send by my mother in law) was eaten with coffee and cappuccino on the front deck.
A beautiful passenger ship with sails was anchored in the bay. The passengers were on the island for the day. They enjoyed the beach, snorkeled and partook in water sports items . At sunset everybody went back on board,the boat lifted anchor and set of into the sunset. These mega yachts brings prosperity to these islands. Local businesses cater for these clients.
6th January 2014 to 8th January 2014
Early morning we motor-sailed towards Mustique Island, passing Canouan Island. As soon as we entered the open water between the islands the apparent wind pick up to above 25 knots, we were glad that we had 2 reefs in the mainsail. Vagabund pointed well against the wind on the bow. We kept the angle at 30 deg apparent till we were in the calmer water of Mustique and motored the 5 nm dead upwind across to Britannia Bay in Mystique.
On the 1000 m mark Zack got two strikes. He suspected that it was some bill fish specie as the leader lines were both chaved. As we entered into Britannia Bay we were welcomed by the calmness of the bay and the clear beauty of the water of Mystique. We selected a mooring close to the beach.The visibility was amazing and we could see the rocks on the bottom at a depth of 5m.
Our first exploration of the bay was with the kayak. Earlier I requested our captain to drain the kayak. In the process the drain plug was taken out and not replaced again. As we were exploring the beauty around us Zack complained that he was sitting deeper and deeper in the water. The kayak quickly became unstable. The tone of voice changed “We need to turn around quickly, we are taking in water” It was an adventure all by itself to paddle back with the kayak filling up with water. The more water we took on the more unstable the kayak became. One small wave toppled us into the ocean. It was then that our captain discovered he never put the drain plug back in. The plug was now missing and we had to get the tail as much out of the water as we could. We both sat on the front end of the canoe. By this time the canoe was as unstable as trying to get on top of a 45 gal drum in the water. Both of us sat in the front section, this way we managed to get the open drain plug just above water level. The two of us where so closely seated that if we were not paddling in perfect harmony our paddles would get tangled. I could not help but to start laughing about our effort. Our captain did not think it was funny. He focused on balancing us to stay on top as we paddled the odd 200m back to Vagabund.
Mustique - elegant grandeur and privately owned. Mustique is an island of glitz and glamour with fabulous villas, European Royalty and glamorous pop-stars occupying the island. It is a playground for the rich and famous. It was originally purchased and developed by Colin Tennant in 1959. The building of private homes has been limited to 140. You have to pay a conservation fee of $ EC 200 or R 800 (to a depth of up to 70 feet) that entitles you to a three night stay. Thirty moorings are available.
The three days were spend snorkeling, kayaking and exploring the village.
Britannia Bay is a yacht harbour with a small fishing village and a couple of stores. At Sweetie Pie Bakery we ate delicious croutons. Our Captain spend some Caribbean dollars on his First Mate at the purple heart boutique. We stocked up on small items at Corea`s supermarket. The supermarket was well stocked with interesting products but what was funny nothing was marked with a price.
Basil's Bar is built on stilts on a rock overlooking the bay. This is claimed to be one of the Caribbean's most famous bars. At Basils Bar we had a late lunch. The food was excellent but pricey.
Back at Vagabund we moved over to a mooring closer to Basils Bar and with our WiFi bullet we were able to have Internet on board. The water was very clear and we could snorkel arround Vagabund.
From the beach the white colour of the sand seems to enhance the blue of the water. It is like a post card picture just more beautiful. Only God could use such an abundance of blue when creating this place.
9th January to 14th January 2014
We had a lovely sailing trip from Mustique to Bequia. One of the reels came alive with a high pitching noise after about an hour’s sailing. Our home was once again not just a sailing boat but a fishing vessel also. The wind strength was 20 knots; with the sails up it’s a struggle to get them down and to fight the fish. It took us 20 minutes to take down the sails and retrieve the other four fishing rods. About 15 minutes later Zack grabbed the sailfish by its bill. After a few photos the fish were put back into the water and we tried to revive it. After 20 minutes we gave up and had to keep the fish. The fillets where vacuum sealed and the carcass donated to some of the local people in Bequia.
A large red cargo ship recently went aground on the rocks at West Cay. We wondered what happened and this served as a warning to sharpen our awareness of navigating these waters.
While sailing from West Cay to Admiralty Bay a strange architectural form welcomed us as we passed Moonhole. The houses resembled a moonscape. It seemed like the houses grew out of the rocks without straight lines or angles. They have huge arches, fantastic views and big patios. There is no glass in the windows, no electricity and it is not readily accessible by land or sea.
We anchored in front of Princess Margaret Beach. The following day our dear Brazilian friends joined us on Cascalho in the bay and anchored about 50 m from Vagabund.
Facts of Wikipedia:
“Bequia, the name derived from a Caribean Indian word meaning "Island of the Clouds". Bequia is home to just under 5000 people. The island is steeped in sea-faring traditions such as boat building, fishing and whaling. The main harbour is at Admiralty Bay. The picturesque capital of Port Elizabeth has a sleepy, old-world ambience and you can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes.
The island has an active whaling station in a low-key and traditional way. By IWC agreement, local whalers can take four whales a year. The whaling season is from February to April. At this time of the year humpback whales leave the northern feeding grounds and head south to mate and bear young. The whalers are in an open sailing boat, using hand-thrown harpoons. On the rare occasion that they make a kill, the hunters tow the whale to Semplers Cay for butchering.”
The weather forecast indicated that a cold front was wedging in from the North. This would lead to higher wind speeds in the Caribbean Sea. We decided to sit the weather change out. We could catch up on all the latest news from our friends Luiz and Mariaane. We had a wonderful time together with lots of laughter.
Luiz taught Zack to throw a net and also showed him how to repair it. Luiz was descended from a family of fisherman. He learnt to craft from his father. We enjoyed his passion.
Sunday we attended church at the St Mary Anglican Church. We were welcomed as visitors and were invited to share communion with them.
Mariaane and Luiz went together on our dingy to snorkel at Devil’s Table. We anchored onto a dive-mooring boy from where we could explore the reef. We saw big schools of minnows. They darted around us chased by kingfish. The NW reef had some beautiful coral and fish.
Teenage entertainment: Waterslide between two boats.
The evening prior to our departure we had a gathering on Vagabund. Another South African boat Katlyn with Doug and Valerie anchored close by. We previously met them in French Guinia.
Ocean Maiden is a South African boat previously owned by Chris and Tjarda and now owned by Silke a solo sailor. She was sailing up North from Union Island. Her boat had windlass problems and she asked us to assist her with the anchoring. On her arrival just after sunset we had three skippers to assist her.