Monday, May 25, 2015

Grenadines - Ultimate Caribbean!

That's It! We're Here!! - we can finally call ourselves Cruisers with a capital "C"!

Anchorage Tabago Cays

That was the feeling upon finally dropping anchor in Bequia (Beckway). Not that Bequia was so far from Wallilabou, St. Vincent, our last stop. We departed the morning of May 17 and just 5 hours and a15NM broad reach brought us to Bequia, the Northern and largest island of the Grenadines. But this was it, what we'd been aiming for all along.

The Grenadines are a group of nearly 100 small islands, islets and reefs in the Southern part of the Windwards. Most belong to St Vincent but a few, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, in the South belong to Grenada. Considered one of the greatest sailing areas in the world. It's where you find all you were dreaming of when you planned to come to the Caribbean. White sand beaches, coral reefs, coconut palm trees, beach bars and restaurants that are not much more than a hut and a BBQ grill. A variety of small islands not co-opted by mega hotel chains and huge cruise ships. So if the coral isn't as pristine as it once was, the fish not as plentiful and most of the islands have limited services...who cares. The colour of the waters vary from cobalt to pale turquoise to everything in-between. Wonderful anchorages are everywhere; some look out beyond a sheltering reef directly into the Atlantic with Africa your next landfall. You know that every second you can stay is magical!

Wooden boats under the trees in Bequia
All the islands are small. Those that are inhabited mostly have a subsistence economy eking out a living by fishing, farming and the money that visiting yachts bring in. The people are friendly. We're no longer locking our dingy or the companionway hatch! A few islands have become home to small luxurious hotels where guests are not interested in being seen. One, Mustique, is private with yachts allowed there only for their picturesque quality to the owners, I guess. 

Bequia & Carriacou were famous for boat building. Prior to the 1970s trading schooners built in those islands plied the waters from Trinidad Northward up the island chain. There is still a boat building tradition. Locally built wooden boats still fish the waters and try to best each other in local regattas.

Bequia has a history of whaling and is still allowed to take 4 humpback whales a year, but they must be fished in small open sailboats with hand thrown harpoons. Needless to say they often don't get any.
Tanisha showed us the whale museum. Her grandfather is head harpooner.


Path along the cliffs to the bars & beaches of Bequia
Admiralty Bay the main anchorage was considered home to England's fleet prior to the discovery of English Harbor, in Antigua. So sailing ships have been at home here a long, long time. The inner harbor nearest the main town of Port Elizabeth has been taken over by moorings but there is still plenty of good holding near Princess Margaret Beach. 

This good holding is important for while we were here the trade winds were seriously blowing and due to the hills surrounding the anchorage they'd get held up for awhile then come gusting down into the bay. We'd see winds go from 13kts up to 40kts within minutes then back down to do it all over again. Wild! Luckily most days the winds would go down during  the evenings and night before picking up again with daytime heating.

In Bequia water & diesel come to us!
Bequia understands boating. So there's no wonder that several ship chandleries are here plus sail makers and mechanics. In Bequia service comes to your boat. Daffodil's Marine Service delivers water and fuel plus takes care of your laundry. Wonderful small bars and restaurants hug the waterside. The island has worked to make it convenient to visit them all. They've built an amazing set of steps and walkways on the face of the cliffs overlooking the bay to get you from town to Princess Margaret beach and on to Lower Beach. We fell in love with Papa's, run by Gert, who is Swedish and his Bequian wife. The restaurant sits high on a hill, open to the breeze and with a great view of Admiralty Bay. In the month we lingered we found ourselves there for lunch, dinner, cocktails and soursop ice cream more often than we want to admit. 

Baby turtles at the Turtle Hatchery
Teen Age Turtle
There's a turtle hatchery where over 900 hawksbill turtles have been reared and released in the past 20 years. This has greatly improved their normal 1 in 3000 odds of survival. The hatchery has all been the work of one man, Brother King, who once fished turtles and now saves them. As it takes over 20 years for a turtle to return to her beach and lay her first clutch of eggs, Mr King is hoping to start seeing his first turtles return soon to lay there eggs on the Bequia beaches he watches over. 

Provisioning is great here there's a Rasta market for fruits and vegetables that can get rowdy but the produce makes braving the ribbing worthwhile. Doris's Fresh Food market, in an entirely hand varnished Bequia house, has such things as anchovy stuffed olives for Roy's martinis and leg of lamb for a special dinner onboard. You can see why we stayed so long!


Looking for Mick at Basil's Bar 
No Mick but tortoises are everywhere!
14 NM Southeast brought us to this private island with its picture postcard "Yachting Center". Corporate CEO's and rock stars like Mick Jagger and David Bowie have homes here. No wonder cameras are frowned on. But Mustique is home to world famous Basil's Bar which hosts a Wednesday night Jump Up and every year near the end of January they have "Basil's Blues Festival", voted one of the Caribbean's 10 Best Music Festivals. Two hotels are open to the general public and, we heard, have great chefs. The anchorage was rolly and our finances are still stressed from the tours in Dominica and Martinique so maybe next year. 

Breakfast at Sweetie Pie Bakery and still no Mick Jagger!

Tobago Cays
Preparing to snorkel. Look at that water!
A 14NM Southwest, nearly downwind, run brought us to the Cays. A few small islands sit behind a large horseshoe reef and if you anchor here it's just you, the reef and the Atlantic Ocean. It was all we had hoped for. It's one of the few places in the East Caribbean where you anchor on the Eastern (windward) side of an island. I got up to watch the sun rise and saw a shark while snorkelling   Also here at last we saw the Southern Cross rising low on the horizon. It was visible in the night sky now that we could see South without obstructions. 

Local vendors came up and offered freshly caught red snapper which we cooked immediately. We snorkeled out on the reef plus around one of the small islets and then in the turtle sanctuary. It was great!!

Pinch yourself, life is too perfect!!

So of course something had to give - our phones quit! What!! We're trying to re-rent 7th St plus help arrange Lindy's visit, she's flying to meet us - Yey!! 
Is it the cell towers? We ARE at the edge of the world! 
Other cruisers are using their phones - something's wrong!!
So after only two days we motored the 5 miles over to Union Island to get wifi and the ability to call AT&T using Viber (VoiP service). 

Union Island
Home to a world class Kite Boarding school, a tiny island with a tiny bar called Happy Island and another East facing anchorage behind a reef. Plus a front street that Crayola must have painted. 
Colourful Front Street Market

Phone problem - Roy's phone number had been hacked and AT&T had shut down our account to stop International calls from being made. A morning and afternoon of frustration finally resulted in my phone being turned back on and a new sim being sent to 7th St for Roy. How can this happen? The phone and sim are here on the boat!!!! Grrrrrr!

We're enjoying Union. Did a little hiking, bought some conch, love the market LOVE Happy Bar and sundowners while watching the kite boarders perform for the boats in the anchorage. We even took the shuttle and spent a day at Sparrow Beach. Been here a week, how time does fly.

Happy Bar at Happy Hour

Happy Island built of shells, home of Happy Bar

Our aim is to clear out of SVG soon. Customs is here in Union. We'll then head 5 miles South to Petit St Vincent(PSV) and Petit Martinique(PM) before moving on to Carriacou and clearing in to Grenada. Petit Martinique and Cariacou belong to Grenada but the two Petit islands are so small no one expects clearance in either one. 

View from Fort Hill overlooking the reef of Union Island and looking towards Petit St Vincent and Petit Martinque

It's all set. Lindy will fly into Grenada June 11 then take the ferry to meet us in Carriacou. Plus John Edward and Laura have booked their trip to meet us in Grenada on July 6th.
July 7th is John Edward's 40th birthday (my baby boy!!!).

Roy slaughtering the coconuts!

My New Favorite Sundowner
Fresh coconut water
Fresh lime

Any amount, any order ...
"You put di rum in di coconut you drink it all up!"