On leaving Marigot Bay [St Lucia] we planned to make our St. Vincent and Grenadines landfall at Wallilibou – after all, who could resist a place which is far easier to call “Wobbly Loo” than by its real name! Well, obviously we could resist because in the end we sailed right past it…. Intentionally I might add….It’s not as though we just missed it.
Having left at 5.50 am we had passed the Pitons at the southern end of St. Lucia in the early morning and had a fabulous sail, reaching all the way, across the channel and down the leeward side of St.Vincent which meant we were passing Wallilibou by lunchtime. It is described as a very picturesque bay, but the mooring instructions were a bit muddled and implied that anchoring is a bit of a problem. Had it been later in the day we would have gone in closer to take a look, but as it was we knew that we would be able to get to Bequia quite easily in daylight, so we just kept on going, anchoring in Admiralty Bay, Bequia at 4.40pm.
You might remember that we called at Bequia on our way north and, when anchoring, had a bit of a run in with a guy who rented out moorings. So we opted this time to try to anchor on the north side of the bay rather than the south and thus on the opposite side to the main mooring area. It’s also better in terms of shelter and, because we are now in the low season, we expected far fewer yachts to be taking up the limited anchoring space. It still wasn’t easy to find a spot, especially as there are two wrecks about 9 feet below the surface on the north side – the position of which you have to guess at as they are unmarked. Because of their depth they aren’t actually a hazard to the hull but the pilot warns that they have trapped many an anchor.
As well as the usual reasons to visit Bequia, which I will describe later, we wanted to speak with a chap about making us a bimini/tent and, as there are three canvas shops advertised in Bequia, this seemed like a good place to be. I won’t go into the detail of what we want in terms of a bimini/tent, partly because we are hoping to find someone who can help us finalise a design and partly because it is beyond the bounds of decency to bore you. Anyway, having sent out a few emails and spoken with someone in St.Lucia who was not offering the kind of service we wanted we were hopeful that Bequia would provide an answer….and it nearly did. Having found Avell [Grenadine Sails] who was very helpful and listened to what we wanted and offered some suggestions we were really quite hopeful of getting somewhere. Unfortunately for us, but much more unfortunately for him, his daughter who had been poorly for the previous week suddenly had to be airlifted to Trinidad for tests. We waited around for five or six days to see whether he would return to Bequia, getting regular updates from his brother-in-law, but time was passing and he contacted us to say that even if he returned he was exhausted and felt that we ought not to wait as he knew we were wanting to get to Grenada. So, that was that….
Except that the week spent in Bequia allowed us to take in the sights and experience the things that others go to Bequia for.
First of all, there is “Sunday at Lower Bay”. Lower Bay is on the south side of Admiralty Bay and is the site of three very nice beach bars/restaurants. There is the option of dingy across the bay and then beach the dingy in Lower Bay or dingy to a small dock on Princess Margaret beach and walk. We took this latter option and had a very pleasant stroll down the near deserted beach and over the small headland. We had been told that “De Reef” is a popular spot for yachties and that even in the summer months, which you have to remember is “off” season here, there are still people who congregate on Sundays for drinks and food – and so there were, including this group of local guys who opted for the “beach it” access. Maybe they were also getting in some early practice for the Bequia Easter Regatta.
We shared an extended lunch with three other boat crews and as part of the lunch had an excellent plantain and ginger “pie”. This is a pie like Macaroni Pie is pie i.e. it’s not really a pie in the sense of pastry or anything – it is just a baked dish. Whatever it was, it was superb and Mike is trying to recreate it [he hasn’t quite managed yet!].
We also spent a half day walking across to “Industry” which isn’t a very nice name for what is actually a lovely small settlement and bay. Either side of Industry are the settlements of “Spring” and “Park” and there is also “Hope” and “Friendship” which kind of sum up the island as a whole. We didn’t actually partake of the breakfast at Dawn’s Creole Bar in Industry, as it was about 2pm when we got there, but it is something to think about for a return visit.
What we did do though is visit the “Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary”. Not quite sure what the “Old Hegg” is as the sanctuary is run by “Brother King” who set it up about seven years ago since which time he has released nearly nine hundred turtles into the sea. He rescues the turtles as lost hatchlings and, since in the wild only one egg in about three thousand survive to the age of four [which is when he releases them], he has done a great deal to restore some of the turtle population. Although he has a few green turtles his main aim is to preserve the hornbill turtle which is more endangered.
Carnival also took place during the week we were there. In Bequia “Carnival” is a much lower key affair than the one we saw in Martinique, but everyone seemed really happy to be a part of it and they were very proud of the two vehicle sound system which headed the “parade”.
We followed the procession along its route and back and were encouraged to join in – particularly the rum drinking. However, what we didn’t realise is that everyone takes along sports water bottles which appear to be handed to various stations on the route and just get filled up. We didn’t have any bottles so had to make do with a couple of bars that we passed who were happy to oblige for the princely sum of approx £1.25 for the equivalent of a good double. In hindsight it was probably a good thing that we didn’t have water bottles as the couple of drinks we did have were more than adequate.
So, on leaving Bequia we were still on bimini search but decided to take some time to visit the other islands in the Grenadines. Well, some of the other islands anyway. We opted not to visit Mustique because other than the fact that we wouldn’t have been able to afford anything there, the cruising permit arrangement means that you pay for three days even if you only stay for one. Therefore we went straight to Canouan – a four hour journey of which three quarters was spent under sail. It’s great to be going south in the windwards at this time of year….. and to be the only yacht in a beautiful anchorage when you get there is also a not to be missed experience.
A small island, Canuoan could be quite easily toured in a day, on foot. We managed to take a wrong road somewhere – which is a bit difficult when there are only two – and so we did half a tour but enjoyed it all the same, and it did provide some exercise.
Later that afternoon it was all of one hour and forty minutes [again by sail] to Tobago Cays. You will probably be getting some idea now why the Grenadines is a very popular sailing ground during the winter. Lovely small islands, pleasant people, blue seas, nice winds and then ….the Cays.
We picked up a mooring buoy just off Baradal. We could have anchored at the other side of the island but from where we were it was a 20 metre swim into the turtle area. This is not a turtle area like the one at Carlisle Bay in Barbados where day trip catamarans come to feed the turtles and ensure sightings it is an area of Marine Park with lots of turtle grass where no-one is allowed to anchor, or to feed or in any way upset turtles.
And, joy of joys, the following morning I swam with about a dozen turtles of varying size and it was wonderful.
We also saw “normal” Rays which are a uniform brown/grey colour and some very beautiful spotted rays which were magnificent. Unfortunately it is at this time I have to report that our underwater camera is no more. The special casing which we bought to cover it and which has served us well for several years developed a leak and lots of water got in and…. demise of small camera.
So, please upload this photo from the internet which shows exactly what I saw:
But, we haven’t finished with the Cays yet. You will remember various photos of lizards and I have been longing to see Iguanas. Well, here they are….fabulous.
Onwards again, this time to Mayreau which is even smaller than Canuoan and which, during high season is probably a lovely place to visit but which, in low season almost ceases to exist. I am sure that the people living there don’t think of it like that but as there are only about 500 of them there was very little activity when we dropped by.
Another day, another short hop of 55 minutes – this time to Union Island at the bottom of the Grenadine chain. Well almost….. You might recall in a much earlier blog that I told you about the holiday resort of Petit St Vincent which is exclusive and right at the bottom eastern corner.
Anyway, just off the small town of Clifton lies the main anchorage on Union which is bounded on two sides by a reef and bisected by another and so you can choose the slightly larger “town” anchorage or the trickier but more picturesque reef anchorage. Again, we were surprised that even with only a few boats the smaller anchoring spot was almost full. What it is like trying to find a sensible space in January heaven only knows – maybe we will have to go back and try. We certainly enjoyed a “sundowner” visit to Happy Island which is a small bar on an “island” made from conch shells. An enterprising young chap decided to use the piles of these shells which had been just lying around the town left by the fishermen to build his own small plot just inside the reef to create a bar. Good idea and nice place to chill.
Back to the bimini hunt and onwards to Carriacou where a friend of ours had commissioned a boat cover to be made and which he was really pleased with. But, no joy there for us either because what we really need is a fabricator as well as someone who works with canvas. Still, as we liked Carriacou the first time we visited it seemed churlish to leave too soon and so we stayed a few days. Also, the weather forecast was telling us that there was going to be some increased wind for a couple of days so that’s always a good excuse for staying put…
And increase it did to the extent of 38 knot squalls – whilst we were safely tucked in behind Sandy Island which is a beautiful spot. It was amazing to watch the rain approaching whilst there was still sunlight on the beach in front of us. Sandy Island has apparently changed quite rapidly in recent times. It had become quite degraded and the trees were dying but then a tropical storm threw up a coral capping leaving tide pools and offering some protection.
We managed to find enough to do to spend a pleasant hour strolling along the strip of sand, mainly watching the bird life and enjoying the freshness after the rain. I’m afraid that I have to admit to another breakage now, this time of “luggage” the boat hook. Luggage has been with us since we bought it in Greece and has travelled far and wide – but a mooring buoy at Sandy Island took the hook bit away. The bit of good news was that we had a spare one to catch a different buoy – this time one with a trailing rope to catch.
From Sandy Island it is just 15 minutes around the corner to Tyrell Bay – the main anchorage. We had done a couple of small walks around Tyrell Bay on our last visit and therefore decided to see a bit more of the island by walking from Hillsborough [a short bus ride away], via Belvedere with more reminders of plantation life, to Windward. We took instructions from the Lonely Planet for what was described as an approximate 2 – 3 mile walk but think that when the writer described arriving in Windward s/he had only actually got as far as Mount Pleasant – because after the hour plus to get there we had to do at least the same distance again to reach Windward along a rutted track which certainly hadn’t been mentioned in the description of the walk. Maybe the author wasn’t lucky enough to come across this road sign which showed us exactly where we were, though it has to be said that it failed to mention Windward at all!
Windward is the home of traditional boat building on Carriacou. We are taking it as a positive sign that the annual Carriacou regatta takes place in August – in the heart of the hurricane season. We will be hauled out in Grenada by then so won’t see it but it was nice to see one of the participating boats….
And so, it was back to Tyrell Bay. We had left the dingy tied to the small dock at the “Lonely Turtle” and we think it’s a good thing to show our appreciation of cafe’s etc providing dingy docks so we had a late afternoon beer.
A much needed dip called us back to the boat where we also tried out the patent “fender bar”. It probably won’t catch on – but it was good fun trying the idea.
Having reached the end of June with only two and a half weeks to haul out and still things to do beforehand we left Carriacou for the 7 hour trip back to Prickly Bay where we started 5 months ago after our crossing from Barbados. We don’t really know what living on a boat for four months out of the water is going to be like – especially as it seems to be getting hotter and stickier by the day – and that’s on the water! But no doubt we will be telling you soon…..
In the meantime, to make up to Big Steve for having to report two breakages, we now leave you with a photograph of what a Flamboyant Tree looks like – if his seeds ever grow!