We weighed anchor in Marigot Bay and set off back up towards Rodney Bay. We had a gentle sail with the winds never exceeding 25 knots but it was, of course, on the nose! Still it made for a slightly longer sail which is always good. We were actually heading for a little bay that Freebooter had pointed out to us as having the potential for our own little piece of paradise. We were not disappointed and were really lucky to find the bay empty and every bit as lovely as promised. We were entertained in the afternoon by a bunch of young men who were jumping off rocks from about 40feet – lots of squeals and splashes from them as they made the most of Labour Day and a day off work. We then had the bay to ourselves and weren’t disturbed until the morning when the fishermen came and made a sweep of the bay – no fish though. They have a very interesting method of fishing – only the driver gets to sit down, all the crew stand and they motor along with their hands behing their back. Occasionally the lead man jumps into the water with his snorkel on to check what’s about. If he spots some fish then the net is cast and the work begins, if he doesn’t the team move on. Perhaps the only downside to the bay is that it was very rolly but frankly a small price to pay for such peace and tranquility. What a wonderful start to the month.
On Friday we weighed anchor and moved closer to the entrance to Rodney Bay lagoon. We’ve found a nice spot and can swim ashore if we are feeling energetic, we’re not too close to be bothered by the wake of passing ‘booze cruise catamarans’ and we think we should be able to pick up WiFi on the boat – just have to get the code from the local hotel!! One of the main reasons for moving closer to Rodney Bay was to go to one of Gros Islet’s ‘Jump Up’ nights. We teamed up with Paul from ‘Sonic Boom’, had supper on Ocean Rainbow and then went in to Gros Islet to see what ‘Jump Up Friday’ was all about. What an amazing evening. It was like a mini version of the Notting Hill Carnival with fire-eaters, bands, Caribbean dancers, stilt walkers and folk dressed in masquerade (we think they were ghosts designed to scare the children but no one was able to give us an explanation that made much sense!). On stage there was a local band who had everyone pumping the air and gyrating (well, let’s be more precise, it was the locals gyrating as the dance is so suggestive it would be banned in UK!) We think this may well have been a bit of a special event as St Lucia is holding its Jazz & Arts Festival over the next two weeks and this session was called ‘Cultural Explosion’. We retired home before the evening got too late and the noise too much for our ageing eardrums!!
Saturday was re-stock day! Yugh – always hard work in the heat and this one was no exception but we did have the real bonus of meeting up with Paul Redman on Pelican – last seen in Faro! – he’s back to sort out his catamaran ready for the trip back across the Pond to UK. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to chat later in the week. We didn’t manage to fit in the vegetables on the first run so we were about to set off in the dinghy again when the lovely floating veg shop arrived …. he had lovely produce so we saved ourselves a trip and bought on the water! In the late afternoon we dinghied across to Pigeon Island in the daylight and, as the sun set, had a leisurely supper at Jambe de Bois – a delicious meal served by lovely people in a great atmosphere (melodious guitar and female singer). The photo doesn’t do the place justice but we will go back and take a few more to show the detail of the wooden furniture etc. We made it back to the boat in the dinghy but it seemed an awfully long way in the dark!
On Sunday we set off early for church in Castries and had our money’s worth! Lots of hymns with a couple of jazz style ones thanks to the local group playing in the gallery and then it was off to the airport for James to collect Gilly while Claire bought a few more provisions in the street markets ….. wax apples are the latest addition to our fruit basket!
At last an update to the May page! It is not so straightforward – let me explain: we have friends who are also sailing around the Caribbean and we are always interested to hear where they’ve been (in case it’s somewhere we need to go or something we have missed!) and what they’ve eaten (which is always a source of great amusement) so we have felt a very little frustrated when they fail to post any entries on their website. Now we fully understand why …… visitors! Updating websites and replying to emails becomes a very low priority when you have someone with whom to share your adventure!! Gilly’s holiday has now ended and Ocean Rainbow is back to her normal crew list – ‘Just the two of us’, so the absence of news is about to be remedied.
Rodney Bay, St Lucia was our base for the week James flew back to UK (for meetings, dinner, parade etc) leaving Ocean Rainbow anchored in the bay with Claire in charge. Gilly Crofton came out to keep Claire company and to enjoy what St Lucia has to offer the tourist. It has to be said that we girls certainly did the tourist bit! The day James departed no time was wasted before we set off to ‘do’ Rodney Bay and came back hours later having inspected everything, had a beer in the yacht club and bought up a fair sample of the confectionery selection available to those with a sweet tooth! Pain d’épices (pronounced pindapiece) which is a wafer thin gingerbread biscuit, lamaba (a coconut biscuit), toffee tamarind (better than any toffee apple!). At a later date we discovered the delights of tamarind balls (too sweet even for us), coconut fudge, peanut fudge and peanut caramel (the best) …. We definitely weren’t losing any weight!
The next day we set off early in the dinghy with the intention of exploring Pigeon island (which used to be a British Naval base) and snorkelling. However, someone forgot the snorkel kit so the least said about that the better!! What little of the fort and surrounding buildings that are left are now maintained by St Lucia’s National Trust and it makes a nice outing with a walk up a steep hill to the fort for views down to Smuggler’s Cove and then up to the other peak for even more spectacular views across to Martinique (if the light is right) and across the causeway. The second peak is not for those who suffer vertigo – especially if the wind is blowing! When we visited, the park officials were getting ready for the Jazz festival and erecting a mammoth stage. Sadly the price of the tickets is so high that the local population aren’t able to attend. We spoke to a number of young people during the week and asked whether they would be attending but they all said no because of the cost. What a shame – but maybe the cost of these tickets helps to pay for the artists who perform at the free venues? Before we left Pigeon ‘island’ we stopped off at Jambe de Bois for a Piton (James and I had supper there on the Saturday before he left for UK), it’s a lovely venue with a super atmosphere and friendly staff. On our return we dinghied over to say goodbye to Pelican (Paul Redman), who having finished all his preparations for his return crossing to UK, was set to leave at first light on Thursday. He’s all set to come back again next year with the ARC+ and visit the Cape Verde islands en route – rather him than us!
Thursday we set off on the bus for Castries and visited the local markets. We must have stopped at every stall on route as Gilly asked the names of everything and their use! A very informative trip – we even found the bark that acts like Viagra and is included in spices for rum (no we didn’t buy any!). We wandered through the hats, baskets and clothes market and on to the vegetable market. We bought winged beans (very nice), a wrinkly looking cucumber (that was seriously bitter when we cooked it and not to be recommended!), were told about Tanya which is added to Callalou, had a tour of the fish market with Melissa who then proceeded to help us purchase two Dorade steaks but we didn’t need her to cook them as we had already arranged to eat at a local stall where we enjoyed Juliet’s Kingfish and Ground Provisions (for EC$12). We returned home on the bus with our purchases and returned to the boat to swim and recover! Friday we decided to head off to Mamiku and see what the island could offer in the way of permaculture (Gilly’s interest). A bus to Castries followed by a bus to Mamiku and we found ourselves at the entry road to the estate. We paid our EC$20 entry fee and meandered our way to the restaurant inspecting all the plants and referring to the plant guide as we went. At the restaurant we had much needed liquid refreshment and shared a sustaining coconut turnover (not quite the English version, but delicious all the same). We were then lucky enough to meet Gilbert who, for EC$25, gave us a 2 hour guide of the gardens which was invaluable and set us up for the rest of our ‘garden’ visits. Mamiku doesn’t practice permaculture but they do have a lovely ‘natural’ estate with a lot of varieties and a wonderful view from the estate across to Frigate island and the seamoss beds. After this visit we thought we would try and get to the Fond Estate. Well this was a failed mission, the bus driver said he knew where we wanted but sadly he tried to drop us off at a smart resort – despite our rather practical clothing!! – so we had to stay on board until Vieux Fort where we changed buses to get home (this time via Soufriere). Well, no sooner were we comfy on the Soufriere bus than we discovered that we had to go back to Rodney Bay via Castries not Soufriere as we would miss the connection going the long way around. This involved finding another bus stop altogether – the explanations were so complicated a young girl took it upon herself to show us the way and then, having settled us on the bus, she headed back to join her bus again – we only hope that she still had a seat and didn’t have to wait until the next bus. We had a bumpy, hot and death-defying ride back to Rodney Bay and then, as if I hadn’t had enough to scare me for one day, Gilly drove Puddle home to the boat! Actually, Gilly’s parking against Ocean Rainbow is immaculate and I could take a few lessons from her!
Friday night we popped across the bay to Honey Ryder and had sundowners with them and listened to the Jazz from Pigeon Island. It was more melodious than the noise down our end of the beach but it still wasn’t my idea of jazz! Very good to be with Sabrina and Tom though – what wonderful company and do hope we meet up with them again. Saturday and Sunday we had as easy days and swam and snorkelled. I would have done emails and updated the blog but my computer crashed! In the absence of James’ computer and iPad I had no means of sorting out the problem myself so everything had to wait until Monday. A really lazy weekend! I did go to the Farmers Market though – very nice stallholders with some lovely produce but their prices really are very high and geared towards wealthy yachties.
Well, Monday dawned bright and early – we’d decided to hire a car and visit Fond d’Oux under our own steam. It was a brilliant day. We were away in the car before 8.30am, dropped off my sick computer at ComputerWorld in Rodney Bay at 9am and then set off in earnest. We were very familiar with the route to Anse La Raye as that is the route the Vieux Fort bus took but after that point it was all new territory and new hairpin bends! We drove slowly to appreciate the landscape but also because our car was not exactly blessed with horsepower and, as we were running the air conditioning, there was even less power! Still, four wheels are always better than two legs so we weren’t complaining. We wiggled our way to Canaries where we saw women washing clothes in the river as we drove south and men washing their cars when we came back north! From there we made our way to Soufriere and a coffee at Zaka’s having purchased a few ‘sweets’ from a local stall! We filled the petrol tank (and the fuel jerry can for Puddle’s Yamahohoho engine) and set off further south to Fond d’Oux. What a wonderful little estate. We were made so welcome and were delighted to have Phillip as our guide for the permaculture part of the estate – not normally open to tourists – unless, of course, you are Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall! I’m hoping Gilly will have a bit more to say on her blog contribution about what we saw … she knows all the names! It was marvellous to see everything growing in its natural environment. After this visit we were made our way to Choiseul which is famous for its basketry and weaving. We didn’t see anyone actually making baskets but we did have a wander around the culture centre where there was a fair collection – although none of the baskets were as pretty as the one Gilly bought for me from the market in Castries. Then we went on to the village in search of a roti (this is a curried meal contained in a pancake/tortilla type wrap) but we were just too late and the café was shutting. Instead we were directed to Sea Breeze where we sat down to a magnificent dish of Red Snapper and Ground Provisions! That night we had an apple for supper – no room for anything else!
From Choiseul we went on to Balenbouche where we met Ute, the daughter-in-law of the estate’s original owner. We were shown around the colonial home and Ute took a lot of time to show us the grounds and explain her philosophy of life. The estate had been a huge sugar cane plantation but now it is a much smaller enterprise, run by Ute and her daughters with the help of only 3 estate workers. It was a wonderful insight into the plantation way of life. Our next stop was Laborie which is famous as the place where fishing nets are made. We duly found our way down to the beach and saw a few folk winding down from their days’ labour. We also watched a catamaran making its way slowly into the bay – the route was fascinating with the skipper bringing the boat in really slowly and making some very definite turns to follow the channel in. We commented to the fishermen who said it must be a local as visitors needed a boat boy to lead them in. Having aborted our attempt to go to Laborie last month because of the swell, I was interested to go and see what the swell was like on a calm day. We drove down to the jetty (through a street packed with beautifully dressed folk on their way home after a funeral) and I am very glad we didn’t attempt to bring Ocean Rainbow in to the anchorage. Not only is the channel very narrow with breaking waves from both sides, the swell causes the waves to crash around harbour so in anything but really benign conditions it would be a worrying night at anchor.
The drive down to Laborie, although slow and long, had been a pleasure so we decided to go back the same way and view the sights from a different angle. This time Gilly took photos of the rainforest, we stopped off at Dasheen and drank a Piton (well Gilly did!) between the Pitons, pulled off the road somewhere above Marigot Bay and watched the sunset and even (with a little imagination) saw a green flash! The joy of this route back to Castries was the lack of traffic during the rush hour (on Friday we took over 2 hours to do the Vieux Fort to Castries route and it was hair-raising!). Once back on the familiar route to Rodney Bay we took a quick detour to find out what the strange pyramid building was on the dock at Castries – Alliance Française, in case you’re interested! Strange place to have it but I guess the cruise ship passengers find it helpful but not sure it is easily accessible for anyone else. To make the most of the car we even went to the supermarket on the way home and stocked up with food for the next week! We finally made it back to the car park at 8pm, exactly 12 hours after we had started our little adventure.
On Tuesday James returned from his travels so we were able to get the boat ready to sail for another anchorage. We had a lovely sail down to Marigot Bay on Wednesday with Gilly at the helm for most of the trip. We dropped an anchor in the bay and then took Puddle ashore so that Gilly could have a look around and we could catch up with admin – my computer was supposedly fixed but it was a muddle so I arranged to speak to Martin Vine (Martin’s Helpdesk) in the morning to get everything back to a stage I could manage. We did stop off in Chateau Mygot for a beer on the way back to the boat but sadly no green flash sunset. Maybe green flashes really only happen with a rum in hand? Thursday I spent a lot of time sorting out my computer but the evening was much more fun as we entertained Sonic Boom (Paul) and Amaris (Steve and Sean). Paul had, as usual, managed to sneak in during the night and anchor just in front of us!! This is now the 3rd time! We look forward to waking up somewhere else down the line and finding his lovely Elizabethan parked in front but it won’t be for a while as he is staying north for a little longer. Amaris is a 50’ catamaran with all mod cons but it was interesting to hear that they too had had to fit a wind generator after their Atlantic crossing and, guess what, they too have a Silent Wind and are delighted with it. Theirs is called Windy!!
On Friday we sailed down to Soufriere and anchored by Bat Cave. It was rolly but we decided to stay so that we could make the most of the snorkelling. The water was some of the clearest we have seen so far and there were lots to see which was great. On Saturday we went off to see Soufriere Sulphur Springs and the Diamond Falls. We were told the springs opened at 8am which was not quite accurate but it didn’t make any difference as we were allowed into the springs and had a wonderful mud bath before all the tourists arrived and then we paid our money and Tom gave us a tour of the springs. It’s awesome to think that the heat generated to cause the boiling pools of sulphurous mud comes from deep inside the earth. Definitely a geographer’s paradise but not so sure about the long term effects of the smell and sulphurous fumes on the inhabitants of Soufriere (which, incidentally, we are told means sulphur springs. After this visit we caught the bus back into town and walked to the Botanic Gardens and Diamond Falls. The gardens were lush and full of colour unlike Mamiku but there were few species of plant on display and the restaurant was certainly not up to Mamiku standards! The waterfall was very nice but nothing special so I think I have muddled these Diamond Falls with another by the same name in a different country! As you will have noted, a lot of countries have towns and beachs and mountains all named the same which does lead to some confusion! On returning to town we finally had our Roti at Ali’s restaurant – according to our source, the best in town. They were delicious and definitely stood us in good stead for the rest of the day. On returning to the boat we moved across to a mooring buoy under Petite Piton for Gilly’s last night. That’s when the sound of running water was heard …. we had sprung a leak in the freshwater pipe feeding the sink tap. The only reason James had a problem fixing it was the fact that the pipe was an imperial measurement and the valve metric so the pipe was really, really tight on the valve. Although we could get the pipe back on the valve the moment we turned the water pressure back on again it split. Ah well, plans change again …. Sunday will not be the day we venture further south having seen Gilly off to the airport, instead we will be on our way north again to Rodney Bay to buy spare parts!!!
18th – 22nd May
Sunday morning we took at a leisurely pace, swam, had brunch and let Gilly get herself sorted out for her trip back to UK. We went ashore at 1pm and Gilly was met by Kelvin (from Rent a Ride in Rodney Bay) who had offered to take Gilly to the airport. Once she was safely on her way we went back to Ocean Rainbow, put Puddle on the foredeck and set off. We had a totally fabulous sail back up to Rodney Bay which was lovely compensation for the fact that we were going backwards yet again! We anchored in the early evening and got ourselves organised for an early working start. Monday dawned, we took photos of the pipe fittings in the daylight, made a list of things to buy in the hardware store, loaded the laundry and set off in Puddle only to find, on looking back at Ocean Rainbow, that somehow we had dragged our anchor. James had checked at 6.30am and all was well so there must have been a real gust we hadn’t noticed as we were so busy doing chores!! We re-anchored and Claire stayed on board to keep an eye on things while James went ashore to get spare parts. He returned a couple of hours later with a bag of bits and proceeded to turn into ‘Handy Jim the Expert Plumber’. After an hour or so we had total success – what a relief and a big pat on the back for Handy Jim!! We could continue with our sailing plans and head south again to St Vincent and the Grenadines. Only one small problem – we’d forgotten to check out of St Lucia! Oh well, we sailed back to Soufriere (where we checked out) and had another night on a mooring buoy watching a spectacular sunset under Petite Piton with gospel music from the shore, a sundowner in hand and the rather alarming sight of forest fires in the hills. No one seemed bothered so we assumed this was a fairly normal occurrence and the fires had burnt out by the morning so all was well.
Wednesday morning at 5.30am we set off for St Vincent. We had packed Puddle away into the wet locker so that our decks were free, everything was stowed ready for any eventuality. The acceleration zone between St Lucia and St Vincent is supposed to be one of the fiercest – as it turned out, it was a blustery crossing but one of the easier passages we have had! We still found ourselves with our ‘petticoats’ on show a couple of times. St Vincent is a real surprise. It is so green and lush. An artist’s palette would have trouble to find enough greens to accurately capture the hillsides. There are lots of little ‘farms’ in the hills surrounded by a cultivated area (rumour control says it’s hash!), there are forests leading down to the sea, little bays with volcanic sand and very little sign of life. As we approached Chateaubelaire we started to see fishermen and very simple houses. Once anchored in the bay of Chateaubelaire our attention was drawn to a lady waving at us from the shore. We waved back and were informed by a young boy on his paddle-board (not exactly a boat boy as he wasn’t offering anything, just curious about our ensign!) that the lady was the customs lady and she could give us hassle! We busied ourselves getting Puddle ready to take James to shore to complete customs formalities but before we could even get the engine on she was out to see us – having commandeered the dinghy of a catamaran whose Skipper had just been to her offices! We assured her we were coming ashore just as soon and as fast as we could. James duly went and completed formalities but his assessment of the town was that it had nothing to offer (very simple with one shop and not a lot else!) and we may as well move on to Wallilabou that afternoon. The great attraction of this area is the snorkelling but we really didn’t want to push our luck during our first visit by staying too long in one place and ultimately we would like to spend as much time further south in Canouan, Tobago Cays and Union Island before getting to Grenada.
Wallilabou Bay is amazing – it really is a very narrow bay. We were met by PNUT and accepted his help for mooring but actually the final number helping us were legion! We paid PNUT EC$15 which was the rate advised by the other English yacht in the bay but didn’t pay anyone else. It was a bit odd to be reversing back towards the beach having dropped our anchor in 30m of water and not knowing if it had caught, however all was well and we handed our stern line to PNUT who secured it to a pylon on a building on the beach. The boat boys swarmed around but we only bought fruit from Kenneth and told the others we had what we wanted and we would consider their produce next time we came as we had bought all we intended on this visit. They were all very friendly and went on their way. We went ashore and had nose around the Pirates of the Caribbean props and then went for a walk to the next village – having hitched a lift on a bus which was blaring music at us. When we asked to be dropped off the driver didn’t charge us so we wondered if, in fact, it had been a bus at all! The people are all very friendly but the area is obviously very poor with virtually nothing on sale in the little shop we visited. All the other shops appeared to be bars of one kind or another! We made our way back to the boat stopping for a beer at Wallalibou Bay restaurant, a museum of Pirates of the Caribbean memorabilia. Another amazing day on the good ship Ocean Rainbow.
Thursday morning we had a leisurely start with the intention of sailing to Young Island Cut on the south coast of St Vincent. As we neared Kingstown an entered the acceleration zone, the winds got stronger and veered; by the time we got “round the corner”, the wind was on the nose and a trip to Young Island Cut would mean a beat into strong 35 knot headwinds!! We decided to head off for Bequia instead and make sure that next year we make it to Young Island Cut on the route north! We had a cracking crossing to Bequia with very strong winds and Ocean Rainbow averaging almost 7 knots despite the reefed main and yankee. There is a huge contrast between the lushness of St Vincent and the relatively barren nature of Bequia, we are so glad we stopped off in St Vincent.
23rd May – 27th May
We had a bit of a drama in the middle of the night; Claire was awoken by shrill whistling and looking out to see what was up found, to her alarm, another yacht very close to Ocean Rainbow’s stern. We had been up to check the anchor on numerous occasions during the night and James had dived to check the anchor was dug in so we were really disappointed to find that we had dragged in the final hours before dawn. James flew out of bed and the next hour was spent sorting ourselves out in the dark. We decided to take a mooring buoy as that would guarantee we would stay in the same place, the only problem was that we had to lassoe the buoy rather than pick up a strop which is the normal form. Normally lassoing is easy for James but in the strong winds it proved to be really tricky, there is only so long you can hold a boat against a buoy in the dark with winds gusting at 30 knots – we did succeed after a couple of attempts and all done without one cross word! We went back to bed for a couple of hours before the sun woke us and we had to pack up the boat for the next stage of the trip – our passage to Canouan.
It’s a good job we packed the boat ready for any eventuality. The seas between Bequia and Canouan were really muddled and so reminiscent of our Atlantic crossing – we’d almost forgotten about waves coming from all angles and water rushing across the deck and occasionally into the cockpit. The sight that greeted us at the other end was well worth the sail. Beautiful clear turquoise waters in a bay with only a couple of yachts and a deserted beach. The Tamarind Hotel was virtually closed with only a few staff and even fewer guests (from what we could determine). We went ashore leaving Puddle at their dinghy dock and no one protested. We didn’t even have a drink in the hotel as we stopped off at a bar in town where there was WiFi but at a cost so we decided to leave emails until another day. The town is very dusty and dry. The people are lovely and friendly. The bus drivers need lessons in speed control! The island has even less road on the flat than the route from Castries to Soufriere in St Lucia! The gradients defy belief and the revving of the engines and general speed of the buses made us very nervous! There are a couple of supermarkets that are well stocked with frozen and dried goods (at a price) and the market had an abundance of fruit and veg so no problem to stock the boat should one wish to spend a long time in Tobago Cays. We bought a couple of Red Snapper for supper and watched as the locals cleaned and filleted them – much easier than trying to catch and prepare something ourselves!! We walked over to the west side of the island on our second day and swam in the reef. The water was so warm but not so much to see in the shallows except ‘sea eggs’ which look like sea urchins with small furry spines. The locals BBQ them in their shells and then split them open and eat the contents …. we have yet to see a BBQ in action, perhaps we will before the end of this season. We didn’t venture further out in the reef as we had spotted a young man darting in and out of the undergrowth along the beach and we felt we might run the risk of losing our camera if we left our bags unattended. Better to be safe than sorry.
On Sunday we weighed anchor and sailed over to Tobago Cays. The previous night the winds had been very blustery and our sheltered anchorage proved to be really quite boisterous! We had a lovely sail but it wasn’t long before we had made our way down the northern channel and it was time to furl the yankee and put away the main in preparation for anchoring. We found a lovely spot on the edge of the anchorage just off Petit Rameau and there we stayed for a couple of days. We went ashore to Petit Bateau and climbed to the top of the hill for a wonderful view across Hoof Channel to Horseshoe Reef. Loads of yachts were anchored off the turtle reserve but we felt that our little anchorage was rather more secluded even if it did mean that we would have to take the dinghy to go and swim with turtles. We didn’t do that until Monday morning when everyone else was having breakfast and we had the beach to ourselves. It was wonderful and we had the added bonus of spotting a couple of iguanas. What weird and ancient looking creatures they are … evolution seems to have missed them out! We then went back to the boat for a late breakfast of very expensive but delicious baguette (EC$15 = £3.50!!) that we’d bought from the boat boy earlier. That afternoon we snorkelled around the boat where we saw a number of rays and an array of multi-coloured fish of all shapes and sizes – now that we have our ‘Coral Reef Guide’ we are getting better at naming them. The weather has been most peculiar with little rain squalls passing through and then followed by brilliant, scorching sunshine to be followed by rain again. It keeps the temperature down a bit and it is refreshing but it is playing havoc with our ‘airing the boat’ routine!
It’s Tuesday so it must be another island! Actually last night was so bouncy that we decided to move on to find a more sheltered anchorage. We sailed under reefed yankee alone across the channel to Mayreu and Saltwhistle Bay which is another of those idyllic little beaches with a few palm tree huts selling innocuous sounding rum punches! However, we were not convinced that it would provide much shelter from the winds – and there were already 6 yachts at anchor so positively crowded! We therefore sailed a little further and dropped our anchor in Saline Bay. As is our habit, the moment we feel we are anchored securely (i.e. the chain checks when we reverse and we have enough chain on the ground for the conditions) James jumps over the side to make sure we really are dug in. He was delighted to find that yet again there were a couple of rays under the boat and these ones were even bigger than the couple in Tobago Cays and yes, we were dug in.
Once settled we took Puddle in to the dock and went ashore to investigate. The beach was deserted with all the stalls shut up for the season but we did find one bar open near the ferry dock with really mellow music playing – must be run by someone our age!! We then walked very slowly (it was seriously steep) up the main street of Mayreu to a lovely little catholic church perched at the top of the island where Father Rex (newly arrived from the Philippines) presides. His parish covers Union Island, Canouan and Mayreu so he spends a few weeks living on each island and on Sundays he does a whirlwind tour in a water taxi to conduct the various services. Mayreu must be his smallest parish as there are only about 250 residents. The school is the next building down from the church and then the houses, bars and restaurants sprawl untidily down the hill with one ‘supermarket’ at the top of the hill and the other – known as First Stop Supermarket – at the bottom. Robert Righteous Rasta Restaurant has to be the most colourful restaurant we have seen in the Caribbean. It is an on-going artwork dedicated to the Rastafarian culture. We didn’t make it there for lunch this time, but we will next year. Our first day ashore we bought bread from the Combination Café – straight from the oven – but on our second day we were too late and were directed up to Simon’s house where we knocked on the door and ‘Mrs’ Simon greeted us in her towel straight from her bed! She was more than happy to sell us some bread but not until she’d got some clothes on!! The only vegetables on offer on the island were onions, potatoes, garlic, cabbage, green peppers and carrots (which were imported!) and no fruit of any description. The town is dusty, goats and chickens run around loose and the inevitable mongrel dogs roam around looking for scraps. It is a smaller version of Canouan even to the extent that there is a glorious reef on the westward side of the island which, on a calm day, would make a wonderful area for snorkelling.
Thursday dawned rather dull and misty so we thought we might as well move on! Customs and Immigration motored into the Bay in their powerful RIB to check we were all OK – they actually boarded the boat next door and checked their papers, they spoke briefly to us as they motored past – and then we were off. We had a lovely gentle sail across the channel between Mayreu and Union Island and down the west side past Chatham Bay (looks fabulous and we shall return there) to Frigate Island and the town of Ashton. There’s ‘weather’ coming in so we need somewhere protected to sit out the front and so anchored in the lee of Frigate Island: seemed as good a place as any. The waters are crystal clear with so many different coloured star fish and there are turtles but they are not in the least bit tame and skiddaddle in the opposite direction the moment they sense you near them. Still it’s lovely to have them popping up their heads so close to the boat.
James went ashore on his own to investigate what Ashton had to offer – Claire stayed on board to keep an eye on the anchor as we weren’t convinced it had set properly and it’s always best to send ‘the man’ into a new place! He came back full of info and guests for a sundowner! Peter and Liz (s/y Rhapsode) duly came on board around 6pm and totally inspired us with their travelling especially their trip to Venezuela when they left the yacht in Grenada and joined a package tour – sounds much safer than trying to sail there! They’ve now moved on and left our little anchorage even more select.
Our investigation of Union Island involved the normal hell-for-leather bus ride from Ashton to Carlisle Bay. The bus driver seemed to be extra solicitous as he drove the Ashton passengers direct to their doors – one lady alighted with the tiniest of bundles clutched in her arms, she’d come direct from the hospital having given birth a few days earlier. Not exactly the comfiest way to arrive home with your newborn son. Carlisle Bay is so colourful and the people are lovely. We had a good wander around the shops and market stalls eventually coming away loaded with fresh veg and fruit. Trini and Treasure provided most of the goodies but we did purchase a few things from other stalls. One of the funniest sights were the sharks. We were so convinced they were ornamental despite the notice in the pool saying ‘Beware Sharks’ then the middle one moved and caused a ripple from all his neighbours – definitely very much alive sharks! We stopped for ‘Wicked Chicken’ at the Big Citi and then went home to our lovely anchorage far away from anywhere surrounded by azure waters and turtles. This is an absolutely heavenly way to finish the month of May.