Friday, July 31, 2015

Hang On To Your Seats!

July 28 we rounded the southern tip of Grenada and entered Mt. Hartman Bay (aka Secret Harbour) and this area will be our home for the next few months through hurricane season.  Henry was thrilled as he watched us cross just below 12 degrees north lattitude.

At this point we had to break out our calendar and start taking notes.  “Camp Grenada” is a whirlwind of activities with hundreds of boats taking their seasonal break here.  Some folks are staying for the entire time, others are hauling out and doing boat work, and many more are taking a break and flying back home where-ever that may be.  We’ve met people from all over the world already and are surrounded by Aussies, Kiwis, Americans, Swedes, Norwegians, South Africans, French, German, Belgium just to name a few, and of course a good sized contingent of fellow Canadians.

Our prime impetus for hurrying up a bit and getting down here was a party on Wednesday night for Dalynne & Glenn, whom we met on Montserrat.  We all gathered at the West Indies Brew Co. where they make excellent craft beer and enjoyed an evening of memories and fun stories as they have now sold their boat and are heading off for other land-based adventures.

Since we got here (and it’s only been three days) we have:
  • met up with a group of friends at Fort Louis Marina in St. George’s for a dip in the pool and dinner
  • spent the morning with Robert, Shena and Kinsley on Almost There before they fly home for the month
  • gone on a group hike (walk) to Carmel Falls and had a picnic lunch by the river
  • Henry went to a “fishing from the boat” talk at the marina - we still haven’t bought fishing gear
  • had an amazing evening with the kids in the Comancheroes Steel Pan Band as they practiced for their Carnival competition this coming weekend, and watched the ladies making parade costumes, all the while enjoying BBQ chicken dinner

And today while writing this post, we are just waiting to catch the shopping bus so we can get a SIM card in our phone and get back on a functional network, and of course buy some groceries - we’ve been so busy we have hardly any food left and lord knows we can’t show up to the dinghy drift tonight empty handed!  And in-between there is volleyball… no rest for the wicked ;-)

This is just a taste of what we’ve been up to - lots more fun to come…

In the meantime, here’s some pics starting back on Union Island in the Grenadines where we were treated to a bit of show-boating by the guys from the local kite-boarding school.

Apparently I have a problem getting action shots without bits of Mowzer jumping in the way - remember the days of film when you’d get your photos back from the shop with pictures like this?  Thank goodness for digital!

Flag and bimini strut - oh look, there's a kite-boarder!

Mainsheet - and some big-time air.

Ha! Man-overboard pole didn't completely obliterate this shot.
Here’s some better footage (although not great) of what we were enjoying, difficult to capture off the back of a rocking boat in low light.

Clifton, on Union Island was a colourful bustling little town, and then we moved onto Carriacou for the night.  These are definitely places we will spend more time in on our return next season.

Welcome to Union Island!

Grafitti or art-work?  One and the same.

We had the Best.Sail.Ever from Carriacou to Grenada, even going wing-and-wing around Kick’em Jenny and hitting 9.3 knots momentarily.  We averaged around 7 knots which is super fast for us on passage.

With the bus-ride to Mt. Carmel Falls and then again on the bus to the pan band practice we’re starting to get a glimpse of this magical island.  It is stunning!  Incredibly clean and well-kept, the people of Grenada obviously take great pride in their little piece of paradise.

The waterfall at Mt. Carmel through a thicket of bamboo.

Enjoying the fresh-water shower.

The power of the water off the waterfall was like hail hitting your head and shoulders.

Great training for the Grenadian luge team ;-)

Who's eyeing whom??

Looking southward down the coast as the sun starts to head for the horizon.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Checked Into Grenada

The island of Carriacou lies about 20 miles north of the main island of Grenada, but none the less is part of the nation.

We spent our last night at Clifton on Union Island in the St. Vincent part of The Grenadines and today we made the 10 mile beautiful down-wind sail to Carriacou and checked into Grenada!  We still plan to move south to the anchorages at the bottom of Grenada but this is the last country on our itinerary until the end of hurricane season.

For a little fun, can you name the countries represented by these flags.  Since February we have flown each of these flags as we have visited 17 different countries and my 24-page passport has only 7 unused pages remaining.  There's a trick here, a couple of these flags represent multiple countries or territories.

Scroll down for the answer...

keep scrolling...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Tobago Cays Deliver, and Discovering Mayreau

A while back I wrote a post about the colour blue when we were in Virgin Gorda in the BVI.

Well, we have just discovered another level of intensity to the colour blue in the Tobago Cays.  This little group of islands surrounded by a horseshoe reef is situated just below the mid-point of the Grenadine Islands and about a five hour sail south of Bequia.  The little islands however are not the star attraction - it is all about entering the lagoon that is protected by the reef and anchoring in 10’ of gin-clear water over a beautiful bed of white sand, the winds blowing over the reef with a palm-fringed island in the distance.  This is where all those screen-saver photos come from!

Thankfully Friday was a sunny day and we carefully manoeuvred into the lagoon using the changing colours of the water as a double-check against our chart plotter.  It would certainly be very easy to hit a reef here if not paying attention, but with a slow and steady approach we made our way up to the reef and found a lovely spot to anchor right behind Kind of Magic and Migrateur.  Diving into the water to check the anchor was like snorkelling in an aquarium, even out on the sand bank there were many little fish and turtles and none of them have much fear of humans in this protected marine area.  Now, just immerse yourself in the colour that surrounded us…

Anchored right behind the other Canadian boats.

Palm tree lined island just off to port.

Laughing gulls were all around us and would take food from outstretched hands if offered.

Various shades of teal / blue indicate the depth or whether the sea bed is sand, grass or coral reef.

We didn't really need to snorkel over the anchor, we could see it clearly in the 15' water below.  That's our anchor line just off the bow of the boat.
We whiled away the day with snorkelling, watching turtles and enjoying the view with the fresh breeze blowing in directly from the Atlantic Ocean, and then as evening came on we headed over to join Rej & Shanique and Edie & Blair on Migratuer for a lesson in Grenadian train dominos.  Along with the dominos we dished up another good potluck dinner and very much surpassed all our bedtimes.  As an aside, there are tons of activities available to cruising folks spending the hurricane season in Grenada and we figure it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Saturday dawned wet and blustery and after a good-sized squall rolled through we waited for a break and then made a run for the other side of Mayreau and the anchorage in Saline Bay.  We sat through one more wet squall and then as the day started to dry up a bit we went ashore to explore this smallest inhabited island in The Grenadines.

We headed off up the hill into the little village where we walked past a number of restaurants and bars, and then continued north all the way up to the end of the island at Salt Whistle Bay.  From there we continued east and then south around the rim of the island, ending up back at Saline Bay and our anchorage for the night.

Blustery skies still above the anchorage in Mayreau.
Up in the village is this quaint little stone church built in 1929.

Standing in the door of the church - as Shanique said, "They would know if you came to church!"

The village homes and the church nestled into the hillside.

Union Island on the horizon (and yes, I know it's crooked - maybe we were standing on a hill?)

The village, the anchorage and Union Island in the distance.

Salt Whistle Bay at the north end of the island has a spectacular fine white sand beach - one of the best we've seen since Culebra!

Looking north on the windward side towards Canouin.  If you look carefully, you will see that we spotted Rej & Shenique motoring past.

The northern, wind-blown coast.  I love the twisted skeletons of the trees.

Back at the village we arrived at the "Mayreau Recreation Grounds" - I'm not sure I'd want to play here (especially in bare feet) since for the most part it seems to be used as a common goat grazing ground, and we all know what goats produce!

The next day was much brighter and Rej & Shanique joined us for Sunday breakfast on the boat, and then we set off to repeat the hike, this time in the opposite direction and accompanied by one of the town dogs.  Returning through the village was perfect at lunchtime with a stop for a cold drink at Righteous and The Youths, and then on to lunch at Dennis's Hideaway.

We revisited the church where we found a map of The Grenadines painted on the back wall.

The lookout behind the church offers up this magnificent view of the Tobago Cays.

Arriving in Salt Whistle Bay.

A pay phone that actually works, powered by solar panel and batteries and connected via wifi.  A completely portable outfit, but a challenge to fit in your pocket.

Happy hikers checking out the cliffs and the view.

Henry checks out Righteous and The Youths bar.  This place reminded us so much of Foxy's from the BVI but with a much stronger Rasta flair.
Intense discussion underway with Robert at the bar.

Finally, we picked up the anchor in the late afternoon and crossed down to Union Island where we are spending the night in the anchorage at Clifton.  More exploration awaits tomorrow now that we have arrived at the southern end of The Grenadines.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beautiful Bequia

We've finally arrived in The Grenadines and while I have thoroughly enjoyed the islands we have recently visited, there is something different about this little corner of the Caribbean.  The water is breathtakingly clear (we can see urchins on the seabed 15' below the boat), the islands are small and just a pleasant sailing distance apart, the people are friendly and completely understand the cruising lifestyle.  In fact, many people on these islands, like the Virgin Islands, depend on the yachting industry (cruising, chartering, entertainment, repairs, supplies) to make their living.  When we arrived in the anchorage we were left to our own devices to drop anchor where we chose as opposed to 'needing' to use the services of a boat boy to hook us up to a suspect mooring or tell us exactly where to drop the hook, and once settled there is really only one guy on a battered paddle board who tries to sell us bread or mangos every morning.  There are loads of boats in the anchorage, the place is safe and the vibe is all about being here on a boat.

Back in Rodney Bay we met up with a bunch of fellow Canadians and a lovely Antiguan, and we have been making the same path south to arrive in Bequia and meet up together again.  Rej & Shaniqua on Migrateur (Montreal), Pierre & Marie on Soukha (Levy), and Blaire & Edie on Kind of Magic (Midland).  What fun we have had the last couple of days exploring and sharing tales into the evening with potluck dinners on the various boats.

With Rej & Shaniqua we set out for Peggy's Rock, high atop the western arm of the island. We were following instructions from Chris Doyle's guide as we headed down the airport road to the south side of the island.  There's really only one road, so this part was fairly easy.

Come on ... Let's Go!!
The little town of Friendship lies on the south shore, replete with colourful homes and little guest houses.  Each year the Bequians are permitted to try to hunt up to four whales (by hand-thrown harpoon) and if successful this is the bay where they land their prize catch.  This year they had their first successful catch in three years and the number of men with the skills required to land such a large whale as a humpback is quickly declining.  Of course there is also much controversy over whether Bequia should be allowed the dispensation to still hunt whales but for the moment the tradition continues.

Friendship Bay with Mustique in the background.  Love Island, just beyond the reef in the bay, is where the whales are brought for processing.
We found the path up the hill as our guide book suggested but were quickly turned around by the landowner who had a beef with cruisers trekking up past his gate.  We were instructed to go further down the road where we would find the way up.  Off we went and found the road as described.

Head up the big road, past the Pepsi shed!
However, once we found what we thought was the correct path leading up through the bush we were once again halted in our progress by a group of four young boys.  The youngest at four years old with just his hand-sewn underwear was proudly displaying a turtle for us.

The turtle stoically hid in its shell as his captor proudly showed it to us.


We asked the young lads the way to Ma Peggy's Rock and they quickly jumped into the role of guide to lead us up the hill to the wonderful lookout.  The two youngest were turned back by the cutlass-weilding 13-year-old but the 8-year-old, like an apprentice was permitted to carry on with us.  These barefoot boys were well-versed in the ways of the bush pointing out all sorts of things to see along the way and even pulled some 'silly-mint' leaves off a tree for us to take home and brew up into a delicious tea.

Gaga, our guide.  Just look at those beautiful eyes.

And Jetman, the apprentice.  Such a serious young fellow.
Our first challenge was to get up the 6' wall of rubble to the actual trail.

Leading us up the hill through a grassy opening in the bush.

Somehow Gaga spotted this fellow on the tree - can you see it?
And then, after winding our way over boulders and through yuccas where Gaga used his cutlas to chop off the pointy scratchy tips, we arrived at the rock where we were spell-bound by the wonderful 360-degree views.

Admiralty Bay where we are anchored down below.  Easy to spot the reef on the point and the sandy bits where we tried to anchor.

Henry, Rej & Shaniqua enjoying the view.

The Bequia airport, built along side the island.  Now that's a lot of backfill!

Looking south to The Pillories, Mustique, and on the far right to
Petit Mustique.
The heat was rising and lunch-time beckoned on our return trip down the hill.  We headed back to Friendship where we passed a number of locally licensed but unfortunately closed establishments, until we arrived at Michael's place with a promise of hot dogs and ice cream.  The exceedingly chatty proprietor from Czech Republic regaled us with his stories as we downed a couple of cold refreshments and munched away happily on his 'double-stuffed' hotdogs and fried fish.

Most places offered 'intoxicating' liquors - here they were already in the state!
 And finally, once back in the little town of Port Elizabeth we perused some of the local establishments.

This colourful fellow kept a keen eye on the comings and goings at the dive shop.

The name had us curious...

Sure enough, there it is!

Papa's, where we enjoyed our arrival beer the other night.  The signs had us curious as to why Mama and Papa would advertise separately...

Look closely and you can see the road leading straight up the hill.  As a Canadian, the first thing that came to mind was, "What a fantastic toboggan run!"

Bequia is well-known for its artisans and model boats are one of the specialties.  These ones were true works of art.

Bequia is in bloom with colourful abundance at every turn.  Yellow Cassia drooping under the weight of it's flowers.

Hmmmm, artist's rendition and reality ... it's no bull, you can play tennis here!
And there we are, with our first overview of Bequia.  We are in love and will return for more!