Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Grenada, like all the Windward Islands, is volcanic and mountainous with lush vegetation. I know this from what I have read and can see from the boat. Grenada also has good Internet services. We actually have a strong and inexpensive connection (HotHotHotSpot.com) from the boat so we’ve (sadly) been glued to our computers and other data gadgets since we arrived. We plan to stay at least a couple more days so that we can explore Grenada’s interior, which has been highly recommended to us by sailors and Caribbean natives.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
We approached Union Island while the sun was high and to our back so we could clearly see the surrounding reef upon entering the main port of Clifton. Although small it’s a busy place full of character, especially the colorful outdoor market. Union is the last of the St Vincent Grenadines (some of the Grenadines belong to Grenada) so it’s a popular stop for boats (often charter) to check in or out. For reasons I can’t completely explain, this was my favorite island among the Grenadines. In part because people were welcoming and helpful but not in a way that made you fear they might be taking advantage of you, which was the case in some islands. I like that the island and its populous are small and yet it has good shops, restaurants and bars. Most of all Union felt authentic and the locals graciously allowed us to get a taste for their island among their good company. Favorite times were at the Determination Bar and on Happy Island (a man-made island from reef and conch shells) in Clifton, and at Jerry’s and Shark Attack’s in Chatham Bay.
Union is a great place to hike with rewarding views and for diving or snorkeling among the reefs. I visited Chatham Bay a couple of times to snorkel off Rapid Point which was teeming with an array of colorful coral, plant life and fish. While snorkeling I could see birds, sometimes pelicans, diving into the water claiming fish. Most visitors in Chatham Bay arrive by boat seeking the large bay's protected anchorage and the three beach bars along the beach that also serve tasty local catch dinners. Otherwise one can take a taxi to “the path” and from there you must hike down a steep trail – just follow the goat droppings.
Friday, February 22, 2008
I could not get my snorkeling gear on fast enough…Mask defogged, flippers on and camera in hand, I spent most of our stay in the water. Unfortunately hurricanes Ivan and Emily caused considerable damage to Horseshoe Reef so although it is in recovery, I was disappointed by the reef’s condition and underwater plant life. It was also very windy during our visit so we experienced reduced visibility and turbulence while snorkeling.
We had intended to stay longer but due to the strong winds, crowds of boats, disappointing snorkeling and with more Grenadines to explore, we decided to make our way to Union Island, only about 5nm away.
Additional Caribbean photos can be viewed at Flickr.com.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Day one we walked the streets of Port Elizabeth and entered most of the shops. I was very impressed by the local arts and crafts offerings – these people need a website to sell internationally! I also enjoyed the sport of shopping at the market block for fresh local produce. I continue to be amazed by the selection of fruits and vegetables in the Caribbean that I had never known about before. I’ve become a fan of several fruits whose names I still do not know because I swear people call them different names, and along with their accents, I’m more puzzled with each purchase. I should be writing the names down…
Day two we took advantage of the fairly priced taxi services to see more of the island and visit Friendship Bay for more snorkeling and cocktails at Moskito (which looks fantastic for a nice dinner). Then we taxied north to visit the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary before heading to the new Firefly Bequia for sundowners. (Spring on Bequia has had an incredible make-over and is now a Firefly.)
As my photo proves, I finally got the nerve to try out the underwater case for my camera. Technically it was a success but I clearly need to practice taking photos while moving with the current. In most cases by the time I managed to stay still long enough for the camera to focus, the fish were gone. Thank goodness it’s digital.
As we departed Bequia under sail, we managed to get close enough to her southeast shore to view (with binoculars) the fascinating Moonhole homes.
Additional photos of my stay in The Grenadines can be viewed on Flickr.com in my Caribbean 2008 file. Next stop is the greatly anticipated Tobago Cays…
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Also called billionaires’ island, Mustique is known for its famous residents who live among the islands luxurious villas – over 60 of which are available for weekly rental. It wasn’t the star spotting that lured us to the shores of this 1.5 by 3 mile (2.5 by 5km) island. We went to lunch at what is reputed to be the Caribbean’s best beach bar, Basil’s. Upon approach to Britannia Bay we were escorted to a sturdy mooring by the Mustique Harbormaster. (Moorings are $75 EC and that price entitles you to stay for up to three nights.) Soon after we piled into the dinghy and headed for Basil’s beach bar, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year. What I liked most about this beach bar is that it is big, has real furniture, interesting Balinese carvings and a wooden (verses sand) floor, which is more of a deck that extends out over the water. We enjoyed a waterside table complete with the sound of water lapping beneath us. We all ordered different lunch items but the meager portions did not impress and they should have given the heartbeat-skipping-high prices. Perhaps our expectations were too high?
Next we strolled along the waterfront through the island’s only commercial area (bakery, general store, food store, local produce stand, fish market and a couple of boutiques), which is impressive considering the island’s small size and population. By now it was time for an afternoon swim so we returned to the boat. Our swim was not as tranquil as the water appeared because upon diving in our boat neighbors informed us they’ve been seeing a shark in the water. We all managed to go for a swim unharmed but were constantly on the look-out.
Another libation destination on our must-do list was Firefly. A posh hotel that claims they’re “Not an hotel - An experience”. (I struggle with their use of “an” verses “a”.) All I know is that any of their 5 rooms for the night will set you back a month’s mortgage payment. My cruising budget typically limits my point of entry to the bar or lounge area of such swanky places so that’s where we went. The Firefly lounge did not disappoint with its beautiful yet comfortable setting and fantastic views of the anchorage perfect for a special cocktail hour. And to date, they served the best rum punch. They also have a restaurant that I would try on my next visit because the prices are on par with the beach bar yet the Firefly atmosphere is on another stratosphere.
The next day we rented a mule. Not the hairy four-legged type. A metal four-wheel cruising machine. For about $85 USD for 24hrs, our Kawasaki Mule maximized our visit by taking us on a land cruise that revealed breath taking vistas, magazine-worthy homes and incredible beaches including:
Endeavour Bay, bordering the grounds of the Cotton House resort, was a fun place to snorkel. Plus the Cotton House’s waterside Beach Café served us a special lunch of local seafood. The resort also offers beachside pampering; chaise lounges, umbrellas and drinks – if you can stay out of the water long enough!
Macaroni Bay is a perfect picnic beach since there are no nearby amenities and during our visit its dramatic waves were ideal for body surfing. (My last wave resulted in an uncontrolled double summersault exit that required a couple of Ibuprofen.)On our last evening we decided to give Basil’s another try since it was their famous Wednesday night ‘Jump-Up’. Unfortunately we were again left wondering why all the hype because this jump-up resembled a boring wedding with a bad band lost in the 70’s. Time to move on...
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Saturday, February 09, 2008
It was a good decision because the passage required our full attention with winds usually well above 20kts and an active sea state. More often than not we had a reef in both the main and the 100% jib, and at night with gusts to 30kts we had two reefs in the main. Our one port-tack sail was also a wet ride with frequent breaking waves over the port side. During the first day we took on one large wave that arched above us and then fell in such a way that it immediately filled both cockpits. Removing the salt residue from our sunglasses in order to see was a full-time job. We couldn’t remember the last time we were so salty! Even our lips hurt.
I often complain about how people falsely think we’re lounging and sipping drinks on deck because we rarely get a chance to lounge and we never “drink” during a sail. So, shame on me for having such an idyllic image of island hopping in the Caribbean. I thought we’d surely have a nice leisurely sail down island. A good weather window, sunshine, and warm weather, perfect right? As experienced, I have since read the short passages between islands are often difficult due to high winds, erratic downdrafts and strong currents.
As far as we know, we made the 343nm trip to southern St Vincent without any damage, aside from a few bruises. We’re currently on a Charlie Tango mooring between the mainland and Young Island, surrounded by picturesque views and happily salt-free.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Simpson Bay or Simpson Bay Lagoon Harbor Fees
Cost per week or portion of a week for boats is:
$20 USD 8 – 13 meters in length
$40 USD 13 - 18 meters in length
$60 USD 18 - 23 meters in length (and so on)
Vessels Entering the Lagoon
Special openings $1,000 USD.
$10 USD 9 – 12 meters in length
$30 USD 12 – 15 meters in length
$60 USD 15 – 18 meters in length
$120 USD 18 – 22 meters in length
$200 USD 22 – 28 meters in length (and so on)
Based on tonnage:
Customs clearance fee $2 - $9 USD
Harbor clearance fee $5 - $20
Another change worth mentioning is that the Coast Guard has been enforcing the 5mph speed limit in the lagoon. (Another form of entertainment best viewed from the St Maarten Yacht Club.)
By the way, there are no fees on the French side when staying outside the lagoon and we found the anchorages to be more comfortable.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
During the yachting high season (December – April) it’s amazing to see so many incredible mega yachts in one place.
This yacht club is unlike most in that anyone and everyone is welcome. It’s especially fun during happy hour (4-5:30) when a cold bottle of beer is just $1. Be sure to get your order in before the bridge reopens for the inbound boats at 5:30 because that signals the end of happy hour.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Apparently the bail failure was related to the gooseneck damage suffered during our ocean crossing. We had no choice but to delay our departure and make repairs. We have opted to take advantage of FKG, a reputable marine rigging and fabrication shop here in St Maarten.
Just short of reaching Saba we heard a loud bang and noticed our bail had broke. (A bail is what holds the main sheet to the boom, and ours happens to be metal.) Due to the fast actions of my captain and some engineering ingenuity, disaster was averted.
Saba is the smallest island (5 sq. miles) of the Netherlands Antilles and can be best described as a dormant volcano, called Mount Scenery, rising out of the Caribbean Sea to a peak of about 877m (3000ft).
We moored off Wells Bay and then the captain gave us a dinghy ride to the pebbly shoreline that seemed determined to keep us away. Once we finally made it ashore we hiked The Ladder, an 800-step stairway chipped out by pioneers. (see photo) As the brochures say, it’s for the fit so we had to stop often on the way up but this gave us cause to turn around and enjoy the view.
With advanced planning, the girls decided to get the full Saba experience and stay ashore. We chose the Ecolodge Rendez-Vous, eco friendly cottage accommodations at the edge of the rainforest and along the hiking trail up Mount Scenery. Each cottage is theme decorated. We had Dolphin cottage. (see photo) A highlight of our visit was dinner at their Rainforest Restaurant, which is alone worth the hike. (You can also get close by taxi.)
The Saban’s appropriately call their island the Unspoiled Queen. Divers, hikers and nature lovers will be hard pressed to find a better place to explore. I was most charmed by the people and the Saban cottages. I can’t wait to go back.
Additional fun facts about Saba:
- She has less than 1,500 inhabitants.
- Climate is between 70 -85 degrees Fahrenheit all year.
- Saba has the worlds smallest commercial airport runway at only 400m (1300ft) and it immediately drops off into deep sea.
Check out more photos of Saba and other 2008 Caribbean digital memories in my Flickr.com account.