It is now 23rd February and we will be leaving Grenada tomorrow after a wonderful month in this beautiful, friendly Island. The time has just flown past and we still haven’t greased those winches !!
We have had a great time. We have been to the Friday Gouyave Fish Fest twice (despite Vicki’s fish allergy), the first time with Peter & Syvlie (Tradewind) who are fellow OCC and RCYC members and who crossed the Atlantic 10 years ago in their Nic 32’. They spend every winter out here and fly back to the UK for the summer. We will keep in touch and look forward to seeing them again next year. The second time was with Kate and Dani. Both times it rained heavily just to prove that it’s not sunny here all the time …
We were also here when Grenada celebrated their Independence Day on 7th February which coincidentally was Trevor’s 50th Birthday so we shared some bubbly and some rum with Malarkey and Adonde who were both passing through on their way down to Trinidad for the carnival.
Kate & Dani flew out here on 10th Feb and we had a fabulous 10 days with them doing as much or as little as we all wanted each day. The water was certainly a lot warmer here for swimming than the last time we were all in the water in Chapman’s Pool (near Weymouth) last August. We cruised around the SE part of the Island visiting Hog Island, St.Davids, Petit Bacaye and Woburn as well as bussing it into St Georges and, of course, they were here for the Caribbean Hardway Rally (see below). We just hope they enjoyed their holiday as much as we enjoyed having them here.
Not that we would want to but we just can’t get away from Hardway…… first of all, we bumped into Mick Lee who was out here working on his Catamaran and then we were bombarded with Seagers!!
It was great to see Ad, Jim, Gill, Als and Kate and we enjoyed a Hardway Rally “Caribbean Style” by way of an Island Tour which included visiting a Chocolate Factory, seeing monkeys (perhaps a little too closely in Gill’s case) and swimming in the Annandale Waterfalls followed by a few Rum Punches in the Prickly Bay Bar. We are now looking forward to the next Hardway rally wherever it may be….
Kate & Dani flew home Tuesday (20th) and it seems very quiet without them. Unfortunately, Roger had a little incident on Tuesday evening and accidentally head butted a winch whilst lifting out the dinghy. After a quick visit to Dr Michael Radix (who advertises every morning on the Cruisers Net) he now has 4 very neat stitches by his right eye and is still not sure whether the resultant headache he had was due to the stitches or the 4 Rum Punches he had drunk the night before !
Nellie & PK on Tour
Having finally torn ourselves away from Grenada after nearly 4 weeks, we headed North for Carriacou en route to meeting PK (Paul Kibble) and Nellie (John Nelson) who were due to arrive 27th February. We didn’t want to be late so we left for Bequia in plenty of time to check in to “St. Vincent & The Grenadines” and give us 24 hours to travel the remaining 10 miles to Blue Lagoon harbour. It was quite strange being back in Blue Lagoon at the Barefoot Bar as the last time we had been here was in 2002 when we had chartered a Sigma 33 for 10 days and now we were back under our own steam with no time constraints. Luckily, nothing much had changed and the directions we had given the boys worked and we were there first !!
We left earlyish on Wednesday to head back down to Bequia and, having plastered ourselves with suncream, the Caribbean weather did it’s usual thing and the heavens opened and we all got drenched – now Nellie understood why we suggested that he brought with him a “pac-a-mac”……. We stayed in Bequia for a couple of days so that the boys could go to a “jump up” at the Franjipani – not to be missed (well, Nellie’s jumping up anyway!) – and then left for Mustique.
It was PK’s Birthday on Saturday so we decided to rest in Mustique rather than travelling on and enjoyed Champagne and Croissants for breakfast followed by an Island tour with a great taxi driver called John who suggested that we went to his village for their Saturday night BBQ with the locals rather than the usual tourist haunts such as Basils (where we had enjoyed a very nice but expensive meal the previous night). This was a great decision and we all had a lovely evening – we don’t think PK will forget his 68th birthday in a hurry. The next day it was off to Mayreau and then on to Canoun where we managed to catch the England / Bermuda World Cup Cricket warm up game on the TV in a local bar – much to PK’s delight.
Only too quickly, the boys’ week was almost over and we headed back to Bequia for our last day. The boys treated us to an Island tour which included the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary (where they help baby turtles reach maturity before letting them back in the wild) and then to dinner where we ended up being filmed for the St.Vincent Tourist Board’s holiday brochure and tourist campaign !!
We had wondered what we would do for our future holidays but now realise that we just need Nellie and PK to visit to keep us entertained with their various tales especially those inspired by Nellie’s Uncle Edmund !!!!
Back to Grenada
They left us on 7th March and we spent a couple of days de-toxing and recovering from the previous week’s excesses before leaving Bequia and heading back for Grenada via Mayreau and Union Island. We had to get back to Prickly Bay as we had ordered some new canvas work to be made including a new Bimini. We couldn’t cope with our old one any longer. After 25 years, it was ripping every time it was put up despite our best efforts to sew on patches. If anybody reading this has any intention of cruising around the Caribbean Islands, please note that one of the most crucial things you need is a decent sized Bimini. The sun is so strong and the heat can be relentless during the early afternoon. If we had known how important it would be, we would have bought ourselves a new one in the UK. That having been said, the chap, Martin, who made our new one lives on a boat in Prickly Bay and was extremely reasonable with his prices and we now have a lovely new canopy that doubles up as a water catcher which provides us with ample rainwater for washing, showering etc.
Whilst back in Grenada, we met up again with Adonde who had been to the Trinidad Carnival which we hope to go to in the future as it sounds really good fun albeit a tad tiring. We also started to follow the World Cup Cricket (quite by accident really) as we met an Aussie couple – Paul & Di (Flame) who were following it closely and got us watching a few games. As we knew we were going to be in Antigua for the OCC rally on 13 April, we decided to get tickets for the England / Australia match on Easter Sunday. This gave us a good incentive to get off our backsides and go sailing again. So, having collected our tickets from St. Georges, we set sail from Grenada on 26th March heading North. We stopped en route in St Lucia to meet Brian & Sue (Darramy) in Rodney Bay as we hadn’t seen them since Gran Canaria last December and it was great to hear that they also had a good Atlantic crossing having left La Gomera in January and headed straight for Martinique. We will be seeing them hopefully again in May when we head South for the hurricane season.
Onwards, we continued towards Antigua via Martinique, Dominica and Guadelope arriving at English Harbour on 4th April. English Harbour is very similar to Portsmouth (UK) with lots of Naval history and even a Nelson Museum and an old Fort. The day after we arrived, we saw 2 smiling faces rowing towards us – it was Adam & Kate (Siskin from Hardway) who were just returning from dropping off Carly at the Airport. It was a real shame we missed her as we would have had a hat trick of Caribbean Seagers. We went out with Ad & Kate to a place called Shirley Heights which is a look out high above the harbour where you can see out as far as Montserrat on a good day. On a Thursday they have a local Steel band playing and it was a good way to settle in especially the 20 minute walk up the hill !!
The following day our old ‘triangle’ friend Martin Thomas arrived with his wife Vivian on their yacht “Charm of Rhu” together with Dick Dickinson. They had been cruising for a couple of weeks but, sadly, Dick and his family were going home the next day. There was time for Sundowners before they left during which Martin & Vivian asked us if we would crew for them on Charm in Antigua Classics Week. Would we ? Of course – there was now no question of us going anywhere else until Classics Week was over !!
The England / Australia Cricket match was very exciting and it was fantastic to actually be there in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium soaking up the atmosphere. It is unlikely that we will ever be in the right place at the right time to see another World Cup game but, who knows - maybe Australia….. At least we got our money’s worth and England put up a good fight although it was always quite obvious (even to us Cricket heathens) that Australia would win. We sat next to a very nice chap called Brian who was also from Chislehurst and was anchored right next to us in English Harbour on Seraphina – Spooky… He explained some of the rules and we can now follow a match, we think !
We also went Horse Racing whilst in Antigua. The racetrack is in the North of the Island at Cassada Gardens. Antiguan horseracing is not quite as well organised as in the UK. When we arrived – about 20 minutes before the first race – there was virtually nobody there. A couple of locals were setting up food stalls but that was it. There was one covered stand of rickety benches and when we asked if there was a Tote Office one of the locals said maybe. We thought initially that “maybe” meant only an unofficial betting office but, oh no, this is Antigua and she meant “maybe” as in there might be but there might not be. The Commentator made us laugh when he announced that “the Betting Office Window is open but there is nobody there but….. there might be by the third race!!” We had gone with Brian and Neil & Tracey (Adonde) so, to have some fun between ourselves, we made up our own Sweep Stake Rules for EC$5 per race (£1). This made it a bit more exciting and Neil won the first two races and Roger the next four. One of Brian’s horses “Balls R Us” provided the entertainment of the afternoon as his testicles were absolutely enormous and Brian was determined to get some good photos ! The jockeys were obviously all quite small but their helmets were huge to cover their dreadlocks – they probably would have been quite safe without hard hats as their dreads would provide quite a cushion if they fell.
After all this excitement, we had a few quiet days before the OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) rally which Martin had organised and which we had been looking forward to since seeing him at the last rally in Falmouth in August ’06 just before we left the UK. It kicked off with a few Rum Punches on Charm of Rhu followed by Dinner with about 40 people and the next day 10 boats sailed to Green Island in Nonsuch Bay for a Beach Party. Vivian had kindly offered to cook us Dinner on Charm after the party so we had a lovely evening and planned our Race Strategy (well, perhaps not…). The rally finished with a meal back in English Harbour where we ended up drinking with a couple from Harrogate – Harvey & Charlotte from yacht Flimkin.
Antigua Classics Week started 20th April and on board Charm of Rhu were Martin, Vivian, their daughter Olivia and her boyfriend Greg (who, unfortunately, had to fly home after the first day) and us. We had a fantastic time and we even won the second race.
Overall, Charm of Rhu came third in her class. We were so pleased that Martin asked us to crew for him in the first place but, for him to take home a prize, was the icing on the cake. We certainly won’t forget all the fun we had even though Martin proved he didn’t really need crew when he came fifth overall in the single-handed race on the last day. It seemed such a shame when it was all over and Martin & Olivia had to take Charm up to the BVIs for her to be shipped home.
It was now time for Antigua Race Week to start and therefore time for us to leave English Harbour. There were too many boats arriving and far too much testosterone for us to stay although we did wistfully look at some of the racing yachts wondering if they needed any crew. After the gentlemanly event of Classics week, it probably wouldn’t have suited us so we left for Jolly Harbour where we stocked up with lots of provisions before leaving for Barbuda.
Barbuda has the most glorious picture postcard Caribbean beach – 11 miles of beautiful clean soft sand. We anchored close to shore and spent a week without seeing another soul. No boats anywhere near us and we were able to swim to shore, sunbathe, stroll and swim back again – absolute Heaven.
Unfortunately, we do need to get South before the end of May to get out of the Hurricane Belt so could not stay here any longer – maybe next year…..
Our next Port of Call was Montserrat which is a British Colony but which was virtually devastated in 1995 when the Volcano, Soufriere, erupted wiping out 75% of the Country including the Capital City, Plymouth. Now, 12 years later, they are still building new houses in the North of the Island trying to encourage Montserratians to return home. However, even as recently as January 2007, a new area of the Island was evacuated as the Government believed there to be a risk of further Volcanic damage and over 50% of the Island remains subject to an exclusion zone. Indeed, the anchorage that we were intending to visit has disappeared since the Pilot Book was printed in 2006….
We left Montserrat, heading South and our first stop was Deshaies in Guadelope where we spent an enjoyable couple of days partaking in French cuisine and getting back to reality following the rustic charms of Barbuda and Montserrat. We decided to stop briefly in The Saintes just to see what the Islands were like ready for next year’s cruising itinery. Unfortunately, we are rapidly running out of time as we need to get a few things done in Grenada and need to be away from there and further South by the end of May.
Another place we want to investigate further is Dominica which seems to be a beautiful Island with lots to offer and we have promised ourselves that this Island is definitely on our list for next year. We stopped again in Portsmouth for just one night and instantly bumped into Adonde. Surprise, surprise, we had one or two beers with Neil & Tracey before leaving early the next morning to get to Martinique.
It is strange how your thought process changes as we now frequently travel 50 – 60 miles a day between Islands without thinking about it whereas, back in the UK, it would take much more planning if we were going over to Cherbourg for the weekend.
Martinique is not somewhere we wish to spend much time and Fort de France is more similar to being in Europe than the Caribbean. The only good thing about the place is that we managed to get some tinned Brussel Sprouts – we’ve never seen them anywhere before and not sure what they are going to taste like but, in an emergency, they might just do….
From Martinique, we sailed on to Rodney Bay in St Lucia. Again, just a quick stop overnight before heading for Bequia. We skipped St Vincent again as we just didn’t have time to do the Island justice – another place to explore in 2008.
No sooner had we arrived in Bequia and before we had even had a chance to anchor, a Rib approached us at great speed and, no it wasn’t someone trying to sell us Banana Bread or Lobsters, it was Adrian from Squander who we hadn’t seen since Las Palmas last December. He and Jan were travelling with Scorpio (Richard & Jan) and we all went out to the Franjipani ‘jump up’ to catch up on all the news and to hear of their Atlantic adventures. Poor Scorpio had had a few injuries on her crossing but now all repaired and fixed.
Unfortunately, it looks like we are too late to see Brian & Penny (more triangle friends) who were holidaying out here which is a real shame but maybe next year they will be back out again.
From Bequia, it was just a short hop via Union Island to St David’s in Grenada. We would say that we travelled down with Squander but, as they averaged 7.2 knots, they obviously left us standing and we rolled up a couple of hours later !
Darramy came over the following day from Prickly Bay and the six of us went out for a lovely dinner at the Bel Air Plantation which is one of the nicest restaurants on the Island and which also has the best happy hour – even including 2 for 1 Carafes of wine with our meal and that can’t be bad !
We sailed off to Clarkes Court Bay Marina (our first night not at anchor since we’ve been over here) so that we could wash and oil our decks as they were looking a bit dry and salty and needed a bath even more than we did......
We left the Marina after 2 nights feeling very pleased with ourselves and with our rejuvenated decks (amazing what a drop of water and some Teak Oil can do) and headed off for Hog Island with Darramy who were invited over for a spot of supper which concluded with a yoghurt fight…….
The Sunday Hog Island Beach BBQ is well known and we hadn’t been before so we thought it would be a good idea to go before we left Grenada. Squander and Darramy came with us and we had a great time. There were 3 Bands who started about 2 and carried on until 7ish and the BBQ was excellent as was the Rum. We don’t think Sue stopped dancing all afternoon !!
From there, it was back to Prickly Bay to see our friendly French Welder to fit our security grilles. He has done a smashing job and we can now leave our hatches wide open with the Boat being totally secure even when we are not on board - hopefully, should prevent any potential 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. Whilst back here, we have seen Flame and Flimkin again – both are hauling out in Grenada for the Summer.
We have also found the time to sail the Dinghy…..at last. Ian (from Lady Natalie) even took some snaps of us trying to look like we knew what we were doing!! Lady Natalie is a lovely 60’ Steel Ketch which Ian & Natalie use for skippered charters so, if any of you fancy a luxury yacht for a week or so, this could be the Boat for you……
Adonde & Malarkey have now turned up so, no doubt, we will participate in one or two happy hours with them while we wait for the right weatherbox to head off for Tobago. If no good NorthEasterly winds are seen by mid June, we will change our plans and go straight to Trinidad although, with the wind in the South East, we are being tempted towards Los Testigos……….decisive, as usual……
It is now mid June and the wind has aided our decision. We are leaving Grenada tomorrow (19th) and are heading off to Los Testigos which are the nearest Venezuelan Islands - about 90 miles away. We will be travelling overnight leaving about 5pm which will be a novelty - our first night passage since our Atlantic crossing......