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Join Date: Sep 2005
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Another great Caribbean cruise
We just got back from 2 weeks sailing in the Caribbean and, man it’s hard to get back into the grind again!
This was our second such trip, the first in 2004 when we flew into Guadaloupe and sailed to St Maarten via Antigua, St Kitts, Nevis, and Saba.
This time we took our son and his new wife along as our wedding gift to them. As it happened, they celebrated their first anniversary along the way having gotten married a year ago near Tulum, Mexico.
Our target this time out was the Grenadines and we flew into Martinique to rendezvous with our hosts and their Beneteau 36.7 at the La Marin Marina. The next day was a short hop to anchor off St Annes for a swim and a walkabout in this quaint village. The next morning saw us off to St Lucia. We didn’t linger here long, taking a buoy in a bay below the Pitons – very scenic – and the following morning carried on to St Vincent. Clearing customs at Chateaubelair we carried on to a small cove called Petit Bayhaut which had some nice snorkeling. On the way we passed some of the surviving sets used in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.
We wanted to spend time in the Grenadines, specifically Bequia and the Tobago Cays so again moved on the next day, ending up anchoring in Port Elizabeth in Bequia. We found Bequia to be charming, with mostly friendly people and plenty of eateries along the beach. After provisioning and dealing with the fairly aggressive Rastafarian vegetable sellers, we undertook some long walks over island to the windward side taking in a pottery/art gallery in a former sugar mill, a turtle farm and husking coconuts with only a paring knife for tools (A big job – if you had to survive on wild coconuts alone, you’d work non stop! – tough little buggers they are!) We enjoyed Bequia enough to stay 3 nights there.
Leaving Bequia in a good breeze we reached fast down past Canouan (which we passed on due to its heavy, pricey resort base) our daughter-in-law put a line in the water and soon landed a nice sized tuna, a little more than six of us could eat. We sailed on to Saltwhistle Bay at the top of Mayreau. It is a small but picturesque bay which was quite full with about 10 - 12 boats. A local birthday party ashore blasted throbbing basslines and incomprehensible “music” from the beach – which detracted considerably from the location – but they thankfully shut down fairly early. We again hiked the beaches and stopped in at the small resort and their stone-tabled thatched shelters and waited out a rain squall with a round of drinks. Returning to the boat we prepared our catch for dinner before settling in for the night. We rolled a bit overnight, being at the outer end of the bay, but were not uncomfortable.
The next morning was a short beat to weather (we actually tacked 3 or 4 times!!!) into the Tobago Cays. On the way we sailed close by the Maltese Falcon, Tom Perkins’ impressive though unconventional clipper ship with its freestanding rotating 3 masted rig. Different enough to provoke the purists’ wrath, it is none the less and amazing boat and quite a feat of engineering.
Past them and around the corner we anchored in the Cays. This was impressive – sitting virtually in mid-ocean with no swell behind the reef – but plenty of breeze. A $10 EC per day fee has been instituted here and the Cays appear better for it. Fewer boats spending less time there should help the health of the reef’s ecosystem. The holding appeared excellent (in the carefully selected sand patches) and we spent several hours snorkeling the reef and swimming with turtles over the grass before moving to the lee of a small nearby island for the night.
The next day saw us anchoring off Petit St Vincent (PSV) near a resort after having stopped to snorkel another reef on its northwestern corner. This was a pretty anchorage too, with a really nice stretch of beach. Across the bay in the morning to Petit Martinique for fuel (very little) and water (all we could get) we then jumped over to Union island to clear customs from St Vincent and the Grenadines. Here we chose to utilize one of the boatmen to run us into town for our two hour stop, including a stroll to the airport to get custom clearances. (here, something new – the skipper was unable to clear us off – we had to all go to customs and fill out individual clearance forms)
Then it was off to Carriacou, home base for our boat during the summers. Once again our fisherperson dropped the line in the water for the hour long sail to Hillsborough, and in no time hooked another fish. This time it was a 4 foot long Dorado. It came in quite docilely, with virtually no fight until we flipped it into the cockpit. Then the poor thing went beserk. We were finally able to subdue it and admire our catch. Though we’d read about it, to see the colour changes take place was very dramatic. From electric blue, through green to mostly white once it was dead. Now our problem was a 30-40 pound fish and only six people to eat it. In the end, we took it to a local Carriacou beachfront restaurant and they prepared it, cooked enough for us all and then we gave them the rest of the fish so it wouldn’t go to waste.
Carriacou is a very laid back, rustic island with no real tourist attractions excepting some small B&Bs and the odd restaurant or bar. We again went for some long hikes finding deserted beaches, wrecks and huge piles of Conch shells, some of which found their way home with us later on. The Carriacou bus experience is worth the stop. On one trip, the bus stopped at a house, a babysitter jumped out, handed a baby in through the front window. The baby ended up being passed through the bus to the mother near the back row. This must be a regular occurrence because the child seemed perfectly at ease with it all.
After a few days in Carriacou we sailed on to Grenada to catch a plane home. After Carriacou’s laid back atmosphere the hustle and bustle of St Georges was a drastic change. Hurricane damage is still visible in the ragged vegetation on the hilltops and the evidence of many new roofs and some remaining missing ones on churches and other structures. Moored at the Grenada YC was uncomfortably warm out of the wind. After some sightseeing and shopping we all enjoyed a final meal together at the yacht club before getting up at 4 am to catch our flights home.
Some observations comparing this trip to the last (3 years ago)
The proliferation of charter catamarans is huge – 3-4 fold at least.
The US dollar does not seem as welcome (over ECs) as it was the last time. They will take them, of course, but last time it seemed fine, this time there was an undercurrent that we didn’t feel when we paid in ECs.
Amongst the non charter boats, Europeans seemed to outnumber even US yachts. There was always a smattering of Canadian yachts in each port so we were not the only ones.
The snorkeling was better in the southern waters, with more shallow reef areas to choose from and more fish to see.
Not one dolphin, porpoise or whale sighting this time around. However some of us had the good fortune to see a fair sized Ray of some type.
We are looking forward to our next trip!!