Thursday, July 31, 2008

St. Vincent & The Beautiful Grenadines

The island of St. Vincent lies 25 miles south of St. Lucia. The trade winds typically blow from the east so the sail south is a very nice beam reach. Along the way we saw large groups of dolphins. They are very playful and like to show off. This photo was taken by Carla on Alegria. Nice shot Carla.

St. Vincent is a beautiful island: green, lush, mountainous. There are, however, pirates here. Sailing with our friends on Alegria, we decided to brave the notorious pirate hideout of Wallilabou.

Do you recognize this arch? Imagine three pirates, strung up by the British, hanging from this arch. That's what greeted Captain Jack Sparrow when he sailed in to this port in the Pirates Of The Caribbean.

Some of the movie set remains..... with a little wear and tear.

Steve and Dan trying to get out of cooking dinner.....The next day we set out for a walk to a near by waterfall. It is a short walk. There is a road that leads directly to the falls. You cannot, however, take this walk by yourself. You will have a tour guide whether you like it or not. You cannot pick your own tour guide. The tour guide picks you. "no thank you, no thank you" will not get rid of your self appointed tour guide. We had three young boys as our "tour guide".

The water was cool and refreshing.

We all jumped in for a swim.Our young tour guides lounged by the water's edge. They are planning on how to extort something... anything, from us.

St. Vincent is avoided by many boaters. The crime rate is higher here than on other islands and boaters have been victims of violent crimes in certain harbors. The poverty is extreme and the drug use is high. Marijuana is cultivated, sold and used by many islanders. It is easy to be afraid but we have pledged to not let fear stop us from seeing the places we want to see. We come in groups and stay together.

But we do not stay long. The next day we headed south to the Blue Lagoon and the following day we head for Bequia.

Bequia is a boaters paradise. Admiralty Bay is a good place to drop your hook.

The locals here are friendly and helpful. They come by your boat and sell supplies, just in case you do not want to go ashore. Many locals are sailors themselves and enjoy a good breeze in the bay.

Onshore there are small markets, fruit and vegetable vendors, and small quaint bars and restaurants.

We also visited Brother King at the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.

Brother King nurtures baby Hawksbill Turtles and Green Turtles until they can fend for themselves.

Green Turtle

Hawksbill Turtle A week in Bequia went by quickly. We hiked around the island,

hung out with friends, sampled the local Roti (wrap with curry chicken, beef or fish) and washed all our dirty clothes. What a relief. We also bought a new lure. Good idea!

Leaving Bequia and headed for the Grenadines, we caught this nice little Tuna with our new lure. Delicious!

A few days later we were in the Tobago Cays. There are not many places on earth where the water is this clear and this beautiful.

The Atlantic Ocean is in front of us. We are anchored behind a horseshoe shaped reef.

It is a beautiful reef with lots of treasures.

A curious Reef Shark
Scrawled Filefish
School of GruntsJuvenile Surgeonfish and a Wrasse

SquirrelfishAqueous Homo Saphien

Stormy day. The reef protects from the swell but not the wind. This squall brought us alot of rain but the winds did not exceed 30 knots.

The Tobago Cays are surrounded by many small islands. We spent a little time on each.

We hiked to the top of Mayreau Island for a spectacular view.

Electricity was introduced to this island in 2003 (not a typo, it is true). The locals here are friendly and proud of their French-Catholic heritage

This beautiful stone-built Roman Catholic was built in 1929.

Equally famous is Robert Lewis "Righteous's" restaurant, Righteous & de Youths. It has Rastafarian written all over it, inside and out. You can get a mean rum drink here and if you come during high season, December-May, this place is happening.For dinner we lounged around the pool at Dennis's Hideaway. Dennis is an ex-charter boat skipper and is quite the business man. Boaters gather around his small bar as Dennis entertains us with stories of past girlfriends and his many children scattered around the globe. He also has a great cook :)One other small island we visited was Petite St. Vincent. It is a private island but the beach is public. Once you step past the beach, however, the security guards find you. I guess the guests who pay, starting at $900/night, want some privacy! Of course it is a game to see how far you can get.

We scored 10 seconds on a lounge chair.

But who needs a chair when you have this....

We are now in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou. It is Regatta Week. Stay tuned and I will soon tell you all about it.

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mangoes, Pineapples and Bananas

It is July 15th already. We are anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia. It is one of many beautiful islands in the group known as The Grenadines. Our position is 13.00 north, 61.15 west. We should be further south but we are slow pokes. We love these islands.

The tropical waves are rolling off the African Coast regularly now bringing us rain, wind, thunder and lightning. It is minor stuff for the tropics but we are watching the tropical satellites like weather nerds.

Let me back track and tell you how we got here. Our last entry had us leaving the French behind in Gaudeloupe. We arrived in Dominica in the middle of a downpour. It explains how this island is very green and lush. They get lots of rain, well over 200 inches a year. There is no water shortage here, in fact there are public water faucets every three blocks through town.

We were immediately greeted by the local boat boys (men). This would be the first of many encounters we would have with locals trying to make a living. Services would range from fresh fruits and vegetables, ice, laundry, trash or ??

It would be easy to call this island poor by US standards. They have few possessions. They live in small houses, some very run down. Unemployment among the local men is high. Women are frequently the breadwinners. Marijuana is widely grown and used.

Spend some time here and you learn wealth is not necessarily about money and "tings".

And they have mangoes here. Lots and lots of mangoes.

And pineapples

The number one industry is banana export (hidden in blue plastic to keep them clean and presentable to buyers). The number one buyer is the UK.Tourism is a close second and we would learn many things from our great tour guide and island friend, Alexis. Sure he does not look like your stereotype of a tour guide but don't let that fool you. He and his fellow guides have extensive knowledge of this island. Politics, economics, horticulture, medicinal plants, and anything else you might want to discuss in English or French. Educated in the French islands, Alexis and a few other young men are working hard to ensure boaters, like us, feel secure and welcome in Dominica. And we did.We took off with Alexis for an island tour. No air conditioning but the windows open. Good thing.He took us to a small fishing village.The fishermen build their own fish traps and bait them with coconuts andCats?

Just kidding about the cats.

75% of this island is covered by rainforest. The forest was a great hiding place for runaway slaves called Maroons. It also provided cover for the indigenous indians called Caribs. The French and English battled for control and eventually the slaves and indians were overcome but today there is still Carib Indians here. They live in the Carib Territory, a 3700 acre reservation on the eastern side of the island.

We visited the reservation and tasted delicious hot Cassava Bread.

The island has French and British influences so it was not surprising when our tour guide found a local cricket field. It was a bit primitive and we thought the British might be a bit "out of sorts" if they had mangoes tossed by the "Bowler".

A visit to the Emerald Pool. The fresh cool water was a great ending after a long hot day of exploring.

The Japanese have built a fishing port on the east side of this island for the locals. In return they were granted whaling rights. The Chinese are improving the roads next year in return for ? Venezuela is here also, helping out in small ways. There is oil on this island and the locals fear for the future.

We thought it would be nice if a country would help remove some of the washed up boats that litter part of this coastline.

How would you like to wake up some morning after a storm to find these rust buckets in your front yard? Eight years later they are still there.

We had one last sight to visit before we left Dominica. Fort Shirley sits atop Prince Rupert Bluff Point. This bay was the sight of the famous Battle of Les Saintes, a formidable battle between the French and the British.

Part of the Cabrits National Park, the fort is undergoing extensive restoration for future history buffs.Getting ready to leave we found a stowaway. He was not much of a deck hand but was at least nice to look at.We have also added another flag to our boat thanks to the very nice Swedish couple (on a Danish boat) in Antigua. It was time to head south again. The next island on our way was Martinique. We had discussed skipping this island. It is French. They don't speak much English. They use the Euro. Everything is expensive. But we relented and made a pit stop in St. Pierre. A very charming small town with great pizza.

The next morning we were escorted out of port by the French Navy. Bad weather forced us to make another stop in Martinique and we were soon Desperados. A few days and a few Desperados later we raised the sails and headed south again.

The sailing community in the southern Caribbean is small but well organized. We have daily radio broadcasts with other boats that help us stay current on weather and security. Security is a concern here. There are places you do not go. There are modern day pirates.

Our next island south was St. Lucia. Some of our friends would not stop here for security reasons. We decided to have a look anyway. We are careful. But not quite careful enough as you will soon see.

First stop was Rodney Bay. Mangoes, pineapples or bananas anyone? 'The Fruit Man'

Boat boys (men) is another sore point with cruisers. These salesmen often do not understand "no". We spent 3 days in Rodney Bay St. Lucia and this guy visited every morning. We would buy something from him every day but his wares were expensive and not of the best quality. Is it extortion? If you don't buy will he come back when we are off our boat? And then what?

The islands are trying hard to deal with security issues. They know tourists like us will stop coming if we are harassed and our safety is threatened. They hire security guards, they educate the locals, they encourage small business owners, but the drug use and unemployment of young males is a very big problem.

A bit further south at Anse La Raye, we attended the local"Friday Night Fish Night". It was a memorable experience. This is a small town not frequented by tourist except on Friday night.

The nets are cast in the afternoon

A swimmer positions the nets and ensures the small fish are trapped.

The catch was not impressive. It took over 2 hours with 10-12 adults working the nets.

Soon it was nightfall and the tables were setup on main street. Families set up outdoor kitchens and soon the night air was rich with aromas of various delicacies: octopus, crab, shrimp, snapper, bread, rice, vegetables and much more. We walked from table to table sampling the wares.

The children played on the beach. Making friends is easy here. Ava and Lydia are onboard S/V Toucan from Colorado.

The local laundry, we opted to pass on doing our laundry at this stop.

The next morning we headed south to Soufriere and the Pitons. This is one of the most scenic areas we have visited.

It is also where our dinghy was vandalized. We forgot to pay our extortion fees to the local young boys. After returning from lunch at a local restaurant we realized our mistake.

The young boys eagerly told us to avoid a similar problem in the future we should be sure to pay someone to watch our dinghy, no kidding!

In addition to pulling up our stern anchor and allowing the dinghy to slam repeatedly up against the cement dock, they let the air our of our bow. We are not sure if they intended to sink the dinghy? There was scratches and loss of paint to the motor cover but no damage that cannot be fixed.

We considered leaving but didn't. We wanted to see some more of this island.

There is a beautiful botanical garden within walking distance of the anchorage. We paid to have our dinghy watched and set off on foot with our friends from Toucan.

It was worth it.

Lots of Nutmeg here.The next day we went on a rainforest tour with friends on Alegria. We paid the local boys to not vandalize our dinghy again. They did a good job.

We had a great guide for our forest tour.

There is nothing like a waterfall after a long hot hike.

A nice meal, cold beer and great view to end the day.

And so we stayed for four days. We paid our security fees to the local boys and men. Is it right or wrong to pay for security this way? We are not sure. Interestingly, you never see a girl or a woman holding their hand out.

We are almost to Bequia but there is one more island to cover. The island of Jack Sparrow and the Black Pearl. ARRRRRHHH! Stay tuned for the second half of this long winded blog.

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line