The Grenadines and Grenada

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St. Vincent (4-5 June)

From ‘the Pitons’ on St. Lucia to Wallilabou on St. Vincent is about 40 miles. It was a pleasant sail. Wallilabou is a very small town, maybe 20 houses or so, but still it was the official port of entry. When we approached Wallilabou, at a distance of about 2 miles, the first boat boys were already coming towards us. They were looking for a job tying our bow line to a mooring buoy, or taking our stern line to a coconut tree on the beach. St. Vincent is a very poor country, and these guys were fighting each other to make a few bucks. One guy was in a very small rowing boat, and wanted us to tow him back to Wallilabou. We were warned not to do this, because you can get in big trouble if the small rowing boat overturns (which is not unlikely). We made a deal with two guys in a small speedboat. They also gave me a lift to shore, just in time before closure of the customs office. As I approached the customs office, I met the Dutch captain of a charter boat, with 6 paying guests on board. He was very annoyed. Customs had charged him an arm and a leg, and he doubted very much if this was in line with regulations. I went to the customs office, trying to be friendly and polite. Luckily, the charges were as I expected. When I came back to the boat, Tania was talking to several boat vendors, who came alongside on surfboards, and other floating objects. Banana’s, papaya’s, mango’s, bread, guided tours to the rainforest, everything was on offer. The prices were quite high though, and we refused politely. The next morning, I got a chance to chat a bit with one of the boat vendors, Ron. He gave me an insight into some of the problems facing the country. He was complaining about the stupidity of some of his compatriots. The island had a volcano, which was still active, and one day it might erupt, like the one in Montserrat had done. The government had invited a group of foreign scientists to monitor the volcano. However, the seismic equipment they installed was stolen, and since then they were lacking an early warning system. Ron was quite an enterprising young man himself. He was a diesel mechanic, and from time to time he made some money fixing the engine on a passing yacht. He also wanted to start a new restaurant, but he needed a loan from the bank. The approval of the loan took more than three months, and by then the tourist season was almost over.

We had heard from several people that trips in the rainforest of St. Vincent could be very nice. However, Wallilabou had a bit of a reputation. Several cruising boats had been broken into in this bay. We decide to move on the next day.

Bequia, 5-8 June

Bequia is part of the same country (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), but the atmosphere is totally different. The island is much smaller than St. Vincent. It is not as tall, and therefore it doesn’t have a rainforest. Admiralty bay is a very large, well protected bay. The bay is quite breezy, but the water is flat, which makes it a very pleasant anchorage. There were close to a hundred cruising boats anchored here. Port Elizabeth at the beach had bars and restaurants, several internet café’s, one or two small supermarkets, a fruit and vegetable market, and even some small chandleries. From the boat we could swim to a nice golden sand beach. We stayed several days, and met up with our friends Nick and Gertrud on board Tartufo, Samo and Vojka on board Panta Rei, and John and Rija on board Queen of Harts.

We visited a workshop where they made model sailboats in sizes ranging from 25 cm to 1.5 m. The big models were very detailed. Beautiful workmanship. There were four guys working there at the time. They used only simple hand tools. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and they all seemed to enjoy what they were doing. They could make to order a model of any yacht, from photographs. They seemed to be doing good business. The larger models were selling for several thousands of dollars.

The hurricane season officially starts on the first of June, and Bequia is officially inside the hurricane belt. We made sure to listen to the weather forecast in the morning, but we weren’t worried at all. Very few hurricanes occur in June. If a hurricane is brewing out in the Atlantic, the meteorologists can usually provide 3-4 days advance warning. If necessary, we could be in Grenada in 12 hours. Grenada is officially outside the hurricane belt, although it has been hit on a few occasions. Or we could continue to Trinidad, which has never been hit.

My brother René was going to visit us together with his daughter Léa (8) and son Thibaut (5). They would arrive in Grenada on the 18th of June, so we had just over a week to get there. Reluctantly we decided to skip Mustique. We had seen Mustique on a previous holiday when we had charted a sailboat from Martinique. The island is very beautiful. Unfortunately, they recently started to charge high prices for moorings. Anchoring is not allowed. Besides Nick and Gertrud told us on the radio that the bay was pretty rolly and uncomfortable.

Canouan (9 June)

The sail from Bequia to Canouan was a pleasant three-hour beam reach. Nick and Gertrud arrived there the same day from Mustique. Canouan was a bit of a disappointment. On the beach we found an overpriced resort hotel, which had hardly any guests at the time (it was low season). We could walk the rest of the island in two hours. It was very dry, messy, and the people seemed very poor. From the top of the hill we had a nice view of the reef on the windward side. During the late afternoon, a swell came in from the north, and we had a very rolly night.

Mayreau (10-11 June)

Salt Whistle Bay in the north of Mayreau island is small and beautiful. During the short sail from Canouan, Nick video-ed Alegría under sail, and we did the same for their boat Tartufo. Salt Whistle Bay was very crowded, although we were told it could be much worse. We took a half hour walk to the top of the island, from where we had a beautiful view of the Tobago Cays and Union Island. Mayreau is also very dry and rather poor. There are a few simple restaurants that all seemed to offer the same menu at relatively high prices. We preferred to cook on board.

Tobago Cays (12-13 June)

The Tobago Cays are the highlight of the Grenadines. It is a group of small coral atolls, protected by a horseshoe shaped coral reef. The crystal clear water over white sand makes incredibly beautiful turquoise colours. Whilst anchored in flat water you get a totally unobstructed view of the waves breaking on the reef, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. There is nothing to stop the wind, so the anchorage is quite windy. Snorkelling on the reef is excellent. We found very diverse coral formations and lots of colourful fish.

The second day in the Tobago Cays was overcast. If you have to do some work on the boat, then why not do it in some paradise anchorage? Stainless steel does actually corrode a little in a salt-water environment. I have a special compound which dissolves the rust, so you can wash it off with water. After a few hours of work all stainless steel on deck was looking like new.

Union Island, Carriacou (14-15 June)

The 14th of June was a day of customs clearance. Union Island is the most southerly island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Carriacou is part of Grenada. We sailed from Tobago Cays to Union Island to clear out. Then we sailed to Hillsborough, the capitol of Carriacou to check in. Then we continued to Sandy island, a tiny sand island not far from Hillsborough. This is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. We were invited for dinner on board Queen of Harts, who had arrived here a day earlier.

Grenada (16-21 June)

The 16th of June was my Birthday, and what a beautiful day it was! We sailed 44 miles from Sandy Island to Mt. Hartman Bay on the south coast of Grenada. Three boats sailed together. Panta Rei left about 20 minutes before us from Tyrrel Bay, and Queen of Harts left 10 minutes after us. We quickly overtook Panta Rei, a Najad 39. They were only using the genoa. Queen of Harts took much longer to overtake us, but eventually they did. Queen of Harts is a twenty-year-old Swan 47 in beautiful condition. They are still very successful in races.

In the evening Tania had invited John and Rija, Samo and Vojka for drinks and snacks on board Alegría to celebrate my birthday. We had a very good time together.

The next two days we were very busy preparing Alegría for the arrival of my brother and his two kids. The forward head (toilet) had broken down. I had a good set of spares on board, but of course the part that had broken was not in the set. I found out that a chandlery on the other side of the island had the part I needed in stock. Public transport on Grenada is cheap, but it does take a long time. In the end I got the part I wanted and fixed the toilet.

René, Léa and Thibaut arrived on the 18th in the late afternoon. Léa and Thibaut had grown so much! It had been two years since Tania and I last saw them. They were all very tired. They had travelled from Bangla Desh, where they live to London, stayed overnight in a hotel, and then on from London to Grenada via Antigua.

Grenadines again (22 June – 4 July)

Together with René and the kids we went back up to the Grenadines. The kids were doing great on board. The first big trip was 30 miles from Happy Hill, Grenada to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. We had both the wind (20-25 knots) and the current against us. The kids were a little bit seasick, but no complaints. Next time we sailed, they said they wanted more wind and bigger waves! They enjoyed snorkelling, and especially Thibaut was like a fish in the water. Tania and Léa enjoyed painting and drawing together. On a rainy day we played tile rummy together. We had a great time together.

Tyrrel bay on Carriacou is a large well-protected bay. Thibaut caught his first fish here. The mangrove lagoon on the north side of the bay was worth a visit by dinghy. The pizza restaurant on the beach was another highlight.

We went back north as far as Bequia, and visited much the same places. Additionally, we saw Petit Martinique and Petit St. Vincent, two small islands northeast of Carriacou. This was another paradise anchorage in beautiful turquoise waters. On the east coast of Carriacou we visited a boat yard where wooden ships were built in the old traditional way without any electrical tools. The builders were descendents of Scottish settlers. I could see the Scottish features in their dark faces.

On the 4th of July we arrived back in Grenada. Together with some other cruisers we took a taxi tour of the island. We saw waterfalls (Concord falls), a Nutmeg and Cacao plantation, a Nutmeg processing plant, a rum distillery and a chocolate factory (the kids’ favourite!).

We were going to leave the boat in the marina of ‘The Moorings’ charter company in Mt. Hartman bay. We spent three days cleaning the boat, taking down the genoa, deflating the dinghy and many other tasks. We hired a local taxi driver, who used to be a captain on a charter boat, to look after Alegría whilst we were gone.

On the 9th of July the five of us flew to Holland to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents. We would stay a month so we could also visit many of our friends and family.