Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Peace and Quiet on St Vincent

Approaching St Vincent from the south
At anchor and moored to a palm tree stump,
Cumberland Bay

Temptress crew renewed their SVG visa’s and the boat’s cruising permit on Wednesday 24 April at Bequia Revenue and Registry office (it also houses the Post Office). The cruising permit was straightforward – pay the cash and an extension was immediately issued by a smiling customs officer.  The visas took slightly longer as we cheekily asked for an extension until June 2 (we have a reason!). Kevin bought two $25EC stamps from the revenue desk then handed them over to immigration together with three forms in various sizes for each of us. “Come back tomorrow to pick up you passports”.  I presented myself on Thursday afternoon and after a short hunt in the back office “Sorry not stamped yet, come back tomorrow”.  Friday morning we picked them up delighted to find a two month visa in each. Thank-you SVG immigration.

The weekend was a lazy one saying a temporary farewell to Andy and co at Maria’s Café and to Bastion who runs the greengrocers then on Monday after doing a final bit of provisioning we headed north across the lumpy bumpy channel between Bequia and the mainland (the island of St Vincent). Our destination 17 nm away, Cumberland Bay, was randomly chosen from Chris Doyle’s guide as it looked quiet, off the charterboat/tourist trail and it did not disappoint. 

Peeking into the bay from the sea
The boat boys met us off Wallilabou about two miles from our goal, our first real experience with persistant ones but once they understood our destination they simply fell in line behind Temptress until we approached the bay then returned to Wallilabou. Inside the deep curving bay another crowd of smiling boat boys, mostly young men but some older met us. There seems to be some sort of code of conduct between them;  the first guy to greet us paddled furiously to cross our bow then pulled up alongside and explained the form. Reverse toward the shore dropping your anchor in about 20 metres then take a line ashore (he did this) and tie it to the remains of a palm tree.

Once we’d engaged our man the others joined in to assist until another boat arrived when they dashed off eager to get the lead job which means payment - Kevin handed over $20EC (£3.75) to the smiling, chirpy and cheeky kayak guy. During the remainder of the afternoon various boats came along side – waterfall tour, beaded necklaces, bread, fish? The bead guys are easy to deal with – I show them my own handiwork and we discuss materials and local crafts. The food sellers are happy to be put off until we need something when we’ll call them over. And we admired the local wooden rowing boats, double ended about 12 feet long but deep and thin, their owners happy to talk about boat building and maintenance.  Engage the boat boys and they become friendly and animated forgetting to be pushy with their wares and services. Ashore most of them would greet us as long time friends, they never seem to forget our names where as we frequently do or muddle them up – is that Davis or Clyde or ….
Mojito's Cafe and Bar
Mojito’s is scruffy, tucked in the north corner of the bay with a concrete deck lined with bamboo poles. The tables and chairs are from the pre-plastic garden furniture age, they probably graced someone’s school hall or waiting room in a previous life but are comfy enough. Pink table cloths and damask napkins are the only indication that this is somewhere a bit special, oh and the view. The deck is built out to three leaning coconut palm that offer a fringed view of the black sand beach and the bay with the few boats at anchor.  The sun sets just around the northern headland and once our cocktails are drunk, mojitos of course, supper is served. There are just four dinners, Kevin and myself plus a honeymooning couple from Essex who arrived in a charter catamaran just after us.  The plates are beautifully presented, the food plentiful and tasty. Kingfish with an amazing garlic dressing heaped on top for Susie and wonderfully flavoured seafood curry for Kevin, coconut rice and fancily shaped steamed vegetables as accompaniments. Never judge a restaurant by its cover!

A walk up the river to Spring the following morning was an adventure following the river path rather than the steep road. We spied the local women doing their laundry at the communal concrete washtubs. Lots of smiles and hellos interrupted their gossiping for a few seconds. The way down on the opposite bank was alongside the HEP station’s feeder pipe a huge wooden affair constructed a bit like a barrel, the strips of wood tied together with pairs of iron bands. A blue overalled, hard hatted Vinlec team were repairing a section and happy to answer our questions. Further down we could see some of the damage caused by the recent Christmas Storm. It looked like water had torn through the HEP compound ripping out yards of chainlink fence, bending poles like matchwood. In this valley fortunately no one lost their life but elsewhere on the island there was a large landslide killing some five or six people and another few were drowned when water swept through a village. Hard to visualise with the river now a gentle tumbling trickle but debris is still piled up high in the trees on either bank and above the village the banks have recently been relined with stonework to direct the flow around the houses and under the bridge.

Sheep and Egrets

Piglets

A lovely ford

Spot Temptress through the trees

Local fisherman!
Despite all that water the locals down in the bay still have a shortage of drinking water. We were asked if we would fill a 5l container so some fishermen could cook their lunch. The rainy season is not yet here and with no desalination the residents depend on rain water. It is collected in vast stone tanks or smaller more familiar black ones from roof gutters or concreted slopes. With the dry season almost over clean fresh water is in short supply. However in one of those weird things that make you do mental double take both locals and visiting boat crews have access to free fast wifi! This is sponsored by Lime, the local mobile phone operator and provided by the government for mainly for educational purposes in schools but is available to all. We had long skype video calls with parents and friends back in the UK for the first time in ages. More mojitos at sunset, supper on board and the following morning it was time to move on.

A lengthy, arduous voyage of almost 2nm took us from Cumberland Bay to the similarly sized Wallilabou next door in a few minutes. If you think the name is familiar, even if like us you can’t pronounce it, it is Wallilabou is famous for being  the setting of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The rock arch where the pirates were hung lies just to the north of the bay whilst ashore many of the buildings still bear traces of their painted makeovers. There are more buildings around the bay here than in Cumberland. Two ruined jetties make anchoring an awkward manoeuvre when combined with a bottom rearing up from over 60m deep just yards from the shore. A mooring buoy at $20EC refundable off food in the hotel therefore seemed like a good option. A young guy on a surfboard paddled out “I was in the movie as a fisherman” and helped attach a bow line to a central mooring then headed off with our stern line to the end of one of the ruined jetties – the uprights making an idea place to tie up to.
Moored for and aft at the dock



Keeping the cockpit into the light breeze makes it pleasantly cool under the shade of the bimini. Temptress gently shimmies from side to side, rocking in the almost imperceptible swell that finds it’s way into the bay. As we tie up other boat boys appeared as if by magic, there had been no one afloat or seemingly ashore when we approached. One volunteered to fetch us bread from the bakery in the village – it was still warm when he returned 20 minutes later, fresh out of the oven. Two extra large “finger rolls” or perhaps better described as short soft baguettes about 18 inches long. A bit expensive at $20EC but they’ll do us for a lunch and a breakfast. He’s promised to come back tomorrow to take us on a walk to a nearby waterfall where we can swim. We probably don’t need a guide but it enables us to contribute to the local economy and there are so few boats here now the winter is almost over that they have little to do.

Meanwhile our battery monitoring system has gone awry. It seems to have been confused by cloudy weather and the almost dead calm of the last couple of days (in stark contrast to Bequia where both wind genie and solar panels were at full pelt most of the time) and decided this morning that the batteries are below 60% charged. Running the engine soon proved this not to be the case as very little charge was going in indicating that the batteries are closer to being full. Kevin has tinkered a bit but we’ll just have to hope it sorts itself out again as it has before. Meanwhile just in case we’ll run the engine more regularly, the hot water being welcome for showers and laundry.

Wallilabou is a classic curved cove with high rocky cliffs covered in trees on either side, a small stretch of dark sand fringed by palms and grass but has more buildings ashore than Cumberland Bay and in front of the hotel there is a bit of a quay wall presumably left over from the filming like the ruined jetties and the mock warehouse that is actually a café. The trade wind makes its way down the valley more than in Cumberland which is not unwelcome, the resulting gusts are quite cooling. After a couple of quiet nights here Temptress will make her way south to Saline Bay, Mayreau again for this coming weekend’s Regatta which promises to be just as noisy and fun filled as the Bequia event.




Bequia at Easter

Double ender "Slip Away"
SlipAway racing on Easter Monday

Boats, thumping music and food stalls; it seems that whole of Bequia parties during the Easter Regatta. If you want a quiet holiday then this is the one time of year to avoid this tiny seven square mile island.  There are actually two regatta’s; one slightly more sober affair for yachties and the other for double enders of every size complete with man-sized speakers stacked high competing for attention on the shore. Boats come from far and near to take part but you have to admire the double ender crews who sail 30 miles to windward up from Carriacou with little but the clothes they are wearing and a few dollars in their pockets in a 28 foot open boat! At least the regatta sponsors are generous with clean shirts almost every day and the sea is warm.

For the new boats Crystal Claire and Slip Away the regatta was adjudged a success, no outright wins but both boats proved competitive against the very experienced crews of Bequia Pride and Confusion. With practise the boats will almost certainly faster on the water and the owners of the older boats are already considering whether to build new boats to ensure they stay ahead. The fleet is competitive but friendly, even the strongest critics from the other crews came to congratulate Chris and Dylan on their achievements over the weekend.

Racing yachts - mostly J24s
Crystal Claire
 Racing a double ender is a unique experience. Firstly there are the starts off the beach, each boat in a class (usually four or five) is launched then held parallel to the beach by the tallest crewmembers with everyone else aboard waiting for the off. The race officer is equipped with a megaphone to count down the time and be heard over the surf. On the shout of “Go” the boats are pointed seaward, jibs pulled in, mains trimmed and the wet crew haul themselves on board. The first leg is usually downwind when starting in Admiralty Bay so no trapeze; just keep the weight low and the boat flat. The main with its huge sprit can catch the breeze high up so soon Slip Away is surfing the waves out towards West Cay, the westernmost point of Bequia.

At the point harden up close to the waves breaking on the steep too rocks and round onto a reach to the next mark then it is a long beat towards Petit Nevis off Friendship Bay – do you go in towards the airport on the coast or stay out at sea? The local sailors on board Shian, Gerrard, young Delray and Lewis advised inshore out of the current running west through the gap between Bequia and the off-lying islands.
A small double ender
Beating to windward in an open wooden boat with no added buoyancy is a wet wet experience. If the four trapeze guys aren’t quick enough then leeward side digs in spraying up and more importantly scooping up gallons of water. A double ender can soon become waterlogged. Lori’s almost permanently role was to bail, that was when she wasn’t adjusting running backstays or helping manhandle the traveller up its track. Meredith and I handled the jib sheets during the tacks aided by Delray, the rest of the time we hiked on the side without the aid of trapeze or toe straps to keep us in the boat.  Mikko’s height and weight made him ideal for the trapeze where he called sail trim and gusts, Delray sat on the side at his feet, Wayne trimmed the main, a constant task in the gusty conditions and Skipper Dyan managed the helm. By the time we crossed the finish line off the beach at Pagets Farm slipway we were soaked and exhausted but it had been fun despite the breakages.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Double Blessing

Boat painting in progress last Monday
A cruising life is not always the perfect idyll you might think it is. One of the big negatives is a sort of isolation especially if you were used to socialising most days with friends, family or colleagues who are now several thousands of miles away in different time zones. Kevin and I are pretty self-sufficient and so content for the most part with each other’s company but every human being craves communication with people, new discussions on all sorts of topics and sharing experiences.

Moving on every few days or weeks we meet many people but rarely get to know anyone very well. The  downside of being at anchor is that you don’t get to talk to neighbouring boats as easily as in a marina unless you make an effort and dinghy over to them to introduce yourself or take time to go and greet crews that you met on the dock in another harbour a few weeks or months ago. Ashore you might get brief snippets of conversation with shop or bar staff. However whenever anyone turns up somewhere new the locals will always be reserved; after all why invest in building a closer relationship when the visitor will be gone in a few days or weeks?


Pondering about mast fittings
Inside Crystal Claire before the paintwork was completed
The welcome yachties receive in Bequia is therefore exceptional. This is an island of sailors so we expected to have a bit more in common with the populace here than other places we’ve visited but we have been overwhelmed by the friendliness of everyone and the willingness to include their visitors in the life of the island. Go for a walk and you’ll be offered a lift or stopped to be shown the baby or talked to about a nearby vista/building/boat. If they find you are a sailor then they’ll talk model boats (gum boats they are called after the tree from which most are made) or double-enders, Bequia Youth Sailing and quickly start to regale you with tales of Iron Duke the grand-daddy of double enders that every Bequian is extremely proud of. The islanders include everyone in their conversations whether holidaying for a week in a local hotel, arriving by charter boat, island hopping on the ferry or liveaboards like ourselves. Possibly a reflection of their own mixed heritage of European whalers, African slaves and East Indian indentured plantation labour. Definitely a recognition of the income such visitors bring to this tiny place.  If you can talk about boats or sailing and are willing to be involved then they’ll recruit you into their schemes without hesitation. Kevin loves fixing boats almost as much as he loves sailing them so it took only a couple of days before someone suggested they introduce him to Andy.

Like many of the islanders Andy owns a multi-faceted business, in his case a bar cum internet café cum laundry and probably a few other things we’ve yet to discover! His passion though is for sailing and he has been overseeing the build of a double-ender (so called ‘cos bow and stern are identical) for Chris, a Geordie with a second home on the island who seems to be on a mission to put something back into the community that has welcomed him and his family. Andy rapidly had Kevin contributing experience, tools and practical effort to the rigging of the boat in return for a place on the crew in the Easter Regatta.

The Vicar watching over the mast lift
with owner Chris and his wife Claire
Crystal Claire is a mix of traditional design, modern building materials and some outright high tech ideas and is not the only double ender being launched this year. A second smaller and more traditional wooden one Slip Away was also nearing completion. Local tradition has it that new boats are blessed before launching so Friday afternoon both boats had their masts raised, the vicar arrived in the parish yard behind his church and vicarage which has doubled as a boat-building yard for several months and a big crowd gathered. A short service saw both boats and their owners blessed then it was time for launching.

Getting these 20 odd foot long boats with their overhanging lowered masts and sprits onto a boat trailer required lots of muscle power involving most of the local men and several willing cruisers. Brenton who has painted Crystal Claire immaculately directed operations, anxious about his gleaming white and blue finish. Then boat and trailer had to be man-handled past the  various palm trees leaning at awkward angles across the yard, round the corner of the buildings to the narrow driveway, then up the rails that form both a cattle grid type crossing over the deep gutter and a ramp out of the yard, ready to cross the main road. The latter is not that wide but can be busy with minibuses and taxis coming and going between ferry quay, the airport over the hill and the informal parking along the beach side.

Andy and Kevin securing the forstay
Across the yard Slip Away is having some final touches

Some of the audience/boat lifters wait on the boat trolley

Leaning palm trees don't help!

Through the gate over the gutter and across the road to the beach
Cars parked along the edge of the beach opposite had their owners summoned to move them so the final leg of the journey to the sea could commence. Another big push across the road onto the beach under the trees fringing the sea, then hanging on to the heavy weight to prevent a premature launching as the grassy sand sloped downwards, executing a right turn along the beach before coming to rest by the Youth Sailing boats.

The Vicar (left) minus his cassock recording the moment
Crystal Claire left his churchyard
Double enders originally were whaling boats and everything including the mast had to be stowed inside the boat when it was on the ships that sailed down from North America to hunt whales. Because these little boats had to be fast to follow and capture the whales the mast had a removable top part called a sprit that enables them to carry huge amounts of canvas. The modern masts are much longer than the boats but they still carry a traditional sprit to support a mainsail several feet taller than the mast itself. However the original plank outriggers have now been replaced by trapezes so that crew weight can be kept outside the boat upwind to prevent a capsize.

launching  double-ender Crystal Claire
Launching
Eventually Crystal Claire was pushed off  the trailer and floated in the clear water – the sailing kids swarmed around and over her protectively ensuring she was tied securely to a tree and had a fender under the bow to prevent her scraping her bottom on the sand and coral. The mast was raised and then she was pulled ashore by the bystanders to sit on a series of fenders until tomorrow. The whole procedure was then repeated to ensure Slip Away was quickly launched too with Dylan, her young American owner, desperately trying to slow down the locals sufficiently so he could put the bungs in before she reached the water to keep her from sinking.

 
Afloat ready to raise the mast
Afloat - ready to raise the mast



Dylan and Slip Away make the beach
Dylan and Slip Away make the beach
A mass of locals, ex-pats, cruisers and holiday makers thronged the narrow beach spilling out onto the road and up into Andy’s first floor café enjoying the launch party. A German film crew making a documentary of SVG island life hovered around capturing all the proceedings on camera. Finally as the sun began to set Chris ordered a crate of beer and we toasted the boats and their crews before retiring to the bar to discuss the launch, tomorrow’s sailing trials, the forthcoming regatta and anything else boaty we could think of.  It had been a unique afternoon even for the Bequians with two boat blessings and we feel very privileged to have been included in the event as friends. This is a very special island. 


Young Akeem sitting protectively on Crystal Claire  watching Slip Away being launched
Young Akeem sitting protectively on Crystal Claire
watching Slip Away being launched

Monday, 7 April 2014

Small Island, Small World


 On Bequia nothing is very far away, though we can’t tell you exact distances as our one road map has no scale and each of the islands seems to be drawn the same size. After the morning net on Wednesday we set off on a hike to the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. Having been told it was a taxi ride, someone else said it was 45 minutes to an hour along the “main” road.

Up the hill and down to the windward (Eastern) side of the island, the narrow concrete road provided stunning views across to other islands and down to coral reefs and sandy beaches. We took a small diversion past some cows across short springy turf through a grove of tall, spindly coconut palms to a beach deserted except for a red golf buggy parked on the sand some distance away, a couple of local sailing boats and some fishing nets. Over another bluff there was a short cut across a beach missing out the lovely gardens of some seriously big homes which we spotted on our return via the road.
Picture perfect beach

The best grass is obviously in the ditch!
After the next little headland was the Bequia Turtle Sanctuary where rare Hawksbill Turtles that have hatched on the beach are reared. After five years they are judged big enough and have lungs developed enough to fend for themselves so then are released into the sea. The sanctuary also cares for a few injured or deformed turtles including one pretty Greenback. The lad in charge was very knowledgeable both about his young brood and turtle conservation.



An 18 year old Hawksbill

A tiny 6 month old Hawksbill

A four year old more interested in eating fingers

Another resident of the baby turtle tank - a conch
(taken with Kevin's waterproof camera)

Another underwater snap - a greenback turtle
Walking back afterwards, it was hot almost midday and we were wishing there was a taxi when a 4x4 pulled up. “You guys want a lift to town?” Kingsley is a part time resident with a house in Springs, the settlement close to the turtle sanctuary, his other home is in a Bedfordshire village close to where Susie was brought up! It is a small world indeed. Further down the road he stopped and picked up another couple, Swiss holiday makers who had also walked out to the sanctuary.

Spot the hammock!
Deciding what to do next is hard – there is the Bequia Regatta over Easter weekend, Tobago Cays (if the weather ever improves, next week’s forecast is not much better than this weeks was), Kevin has an opportunity to help trial a brand new double ender which its genial owner Andy (the former SVG prime minister, Sir James T Mitchell’s son) is hoping will be ready in time for the regatta. It was being spray painted yesterday at the boat builders in the grounds of Port Elizabeth’s Anglican Church!!  Also seven or so miles away is St Vincent with the capital of SVG, Kingstown with some beautiful countryside, waterfalls and botanic gardens to explore. Shall we sail over there for a few days or stay put until after the regatta? Should we leave Temptress and take the ferry, it’s only an hour each way? Everyone is so friendly here; we are getting to know a few locals and acclimatising to the fierce rain squalls that sweep down from the hills once or twice a day briefly preceded by a bank of black cloud but with little other warning. Plus where else in the world can you purchase a spark plug and a case of beer from a single store? And we haven’t yet managed to walk over to Pagets Farm where the airport, boat museum and the other harbour are located either.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Wandering the Grenadines - 2

Oops - don't think this is the right gap
between the rocks off Bequia
 As the forecast was not particularly calm or dry we decided Tobago Cays could wait for better conditions and set sail on the last Friday in March for the beat north to Bequia (Beck-wah). After all cruising like this we have no holiday timetable with return flights booked in two weeks time as many sailing here have. With a month’s cruising permit for the whole SVG we can be patient and even apply for an extension if we need to. There is plenty else to do – museums, provisioning, hiking, boat fixing – that can be done despite squalls and tropical downpours. The whole thirty nautical miles was past islands on the starboard side (the east) – Canouan, Mustique and a host of smaller ones we found it hard to identify without having the chart on deck all the time. Squalls passed ahead of us and behind us, it got windy for a time but we barely got damp, enjoying the freedom of being at sea again for several hours.

A double ender out sailing
Admiralty Bay, Bequia is a huge space surrounded by steep tree clad hills and crowded with mooring buoys, charter boats at anchor plus a few cargo ships, local ferries and, when we arrived, Sea Cloud a lovely old windjammer now used as a small cruise ship. Port Elizabeth the only town on the island (think small village in European terms) has a few supermarkets and veg stalls (supermarkets only sell tinned and packaged foodstuff, alcohol, household items like loo paper plus catering quantities of paper plates or plastic cups and sometimes frozen chicken and pork). Temptress stocked up with a slab of local beer, two bottles of South African wine and two litres of UHT milk. The latter had been hard to find anywhere since we left St George. Liquid milk is more expensive than alcohol, it seems most locals prefer the powered variety as it keeps longer and occupies less space, crucial when everything has to be shipped in. Hence having a breakfast of cereal and milk has become a treat rather than the norm on board with our precious stock of UHT reserved for use in teas and coffee.

More local sailors
We are finally getting used to shops with almost bare shelves - no stacking things high here, spread them out to fill the space. Often there is little or no organisation requiring several rounds of the entire store to locate items even with staff trying to help you. And in order to complete the shopping list, a visit every store is necessary plus the veg stall and the bakery. Some surprising things turn up – wanting Bonjela I presumed we’d have to walk to the pharmacy but there, just as we were leaving Knight Trading’s main store, was a glass fronted wooden cabinet with various first aid items including tubes of Pakistani produced Bonjela!

Choices are limited too – stock cubes are Maggi chicken, lemonade in bottles bigger than single servings is illusive and then only Sprite. I am jealously guarding our last litre of tonic for sundowner G&Ts. Butter is usually margarine of the type that does not need a refrigerator, still plucking up the courage to purchase some, the tubs are big and I have a feeling it won’t taste pleasant on toast in the morning. On the other hand what can be better than a loaf of bread so hot and fresh you hardly hold it, purchased late on a Sunday afternoon from Hamilton’s bakery across from where we anchor!

Examining a double ender ashore

A mix of high, low and make-do technology

Got to love these mast racks
On the waterfront we stopped to admire the boats of the Bequia Youth Sailing (who needs a club house, just a strip of sand scattered with palm trees a tarpaulin for shade and a big banner). As well as a collection of donated opies for the younger members there are several double enders in various sizes up to about twenty feet, based on N American whaling boats for this island was once a whaling station. In fact Iron Duke is an original whaling boat from the 1870’s and everyone here is very proud that it still races!  With fully battened well made gunter rigged sails and three or four trapezes the Bequian double enders seem an odd mix of old and new sailing technology. Fast and furious and unforgiving of any mistakes when sailing the local teenagers love them even when they turn turtle and are swamped – getting wet is not an issue when the water is warm and the sun hot. A couple of older locals are busily training up a new generation of sailors to ensure that Bequia’s boatbuilding and whaling past is not forgotten. Every day after school we see one or more boats out on the bay. The Bequia YC also has a fleet of double enders owned by its members plus an Etchell and what we think is a Sunbeam – the latter two are sailed most afternoons by youngsters racing each other out beyond Hamilton point and back.

Port Elizabeth from Hamilton Fort

Hamilton Fort - named for Andrew Hamilton
who later signed the USA Declaration of Independence

Three cruise ships and a masted trawler

Temptress anchored near the orange fuel/ice/water barge,
the inter-island ferry (black hull) just leaving
This place reminds us a little of Salcombe – built up on one side, Hamilton & Port Elizabeth and glorious sandy beaches on the other with steep hills all around and it seems the whole population are into sailing – model boats makers, chandleries and marine services abound.  Everywhere below Hamilton and in town sailing boats are pulled up on the shore. Between the town and the beaches is a lovely area called Belmont, a quaint waterside narrow pathway lined by old buildings set back in gardens. Mostly they are cafes, dive shops, hotels or bars and in keeping with the local multi-business thing, all seem to have some sort of boutique though the Gingerbread (so called for all the fret work under its eaves) has what in France would be called a “cave” selling vintage wines from all over the world. Each wooden building has own unique architectural style but difficult to capture in a photo because of all the exotic trees out front. On windy days the waves lap over the path ensuring you won’t arrive at the Green Boley or the Fig Tree with dry feet!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Kevin to the Rescue

One squall that missed us as we were out for a walk!
Life is always varied and to quote or misquote Monty P "one should always expect the unexpected":

On our first Saturday in Bequia we visited The Green Boley for a cheap supper (rotis are a just a few $EC) and some live music. Late in the evening Kevin was at the bar when the old guy who owns the place started to collapse in front of him. He reached across the bar and held him until the man’s son took the now limp body and gently lowered him to the floor behind his bar. Kevin then dashed over to the band and asked them to make an announcement asking if a doctor was present. One of the guitarists was a doctor here on holiday so aid was quick. Meanwhile the local GP was called and sometime later the patient by now conscious enough to protest he didn’t want to leave his bar was taken by wheelchair down the waterside walkway to a car and on to the clinic in town. We popped in a few days later to see how he was and his son-in-law told us thankfully he is now at home recuperating.

Kevin on an idyllic beach as long as the coconuts don't fall
- apparently they kill more people than sharks do!
Then one afternoon just as we were climbing into our dinghy to cross to one of the beaches on the Belmont side, either Princess Margaret (apparently she took a dip here in the fifties) or Lower Beach for a swim and snorkel, we spied a charter boat in some sort of difficulty. They’d tried to anchor close by us but made the same misjudgement we did when we first tried to anchor off Hamilton; here in places the bottom steeply shelves away from 3 or 4 metres to 20 or more and an anchor won’t hold on the steep part. For them though the real problem was that on pulling the anchor back up it got stuck with the shank only partly above the water and from on board though they guessed something was hooked on it they couldn’t see what. The entire crew were peering over the side mystified. We motored over and took a look for them, an old rope mooring with presumably a large weight at the end held them fast. The German crew were experienced sailors and quickly passed down a rope end which Kevin threaded through the obstruction. With both ends of their line firmly attached to their boat they then lowered the anchor. In theory it should then come free but in practice the shank of the anchor was still jammed solidly in the tangle of heavy rope loops that was the old mooring.

Crescent Beach, Bequia


Kevin came to the rescue. He took off his cap, sunglasses and t-shirt, donned his snorkel and mask then stuck his head under water. After a few minutes tugging the anchor started to move. The Germans hauled up the mooring rope tangle a little more then tried to lower the anchor again and this time it swung free. They were very happy, we swapped introductions and left for our swim with a promise from our new friends that they would buy us a beer before they left. That evening we went out for supper at L’Auberge just across from the anchorage. The place was busy as Wednesday night is live music night - blues jazz and a few old favourites. Great food, friendly attentive staff plus an amazing view from their balcony across the bay made for a night to remember. Just as we were wondering whether to have a night cap here or back on Temptress one of the waitresses arrived bearing two brandy snifters of local aged rum, mindreader we thought. “A digestif from the table over there” she smiled. We looked up and there were the German crew waving at us. They too were just finishing their meal so we joined them for the rest of the evening and some more rum!

On Thursday (April 3) Kevin spent the day helping new acquaintance Scott from the USA re-wire his boat’s solar panels after Scott had put out a request for assistance on the local VHF Net the previous day. Scott repaid by not only helping to wring out a particularly heavy bit of laundry (our mattress cover) but also treated us to rotis a large helping of curried meat, fish, conch or lobster wrapped in thin bread for lunch at the Porthole Cafe. The Net or properly the Cruisers Net is 10-15 minutes of weather forecast and short classified ads for local business etc broadcast at 8am on VHF channel 68.  In Grenada listening in is an essential part of the cruisers day so you know what the local lunch specials are or where volunteers are needed to help with school reading schemes or whatever, here is a little less hectic and more laid back, with just the weather and some other info but useful none the less.

Fishing nets drying - love the colour!
Then on Friday as we were finishing lunch there was a pan pan on VHF68* as someone had spotted a 43 foot charter boat dragging its anchor out to sea, possible next stop if it made it past the long rocky arm that forms the south side of Admiralty bay would be Cuba. A second call was for local businesses (who all listen to/use VHF 68) to alert the crew who were somewhere ashore (it turned out they were immigration checking out of SVG). Meanwhile Temptress’ skipper took practical action and dashed off in the dinghy to rescue the yacht before it became a worse problem. He got the anchor up, another yachtie also turning up to help before the charter yacht’s professional skipper arrived. Once the drama was over the errant yacht’s professional skipper wasn’t particularly grateful for the help he’d received, not even a grudging thanks. Ah well.

* VHF Channel 68 is used by the cruisers here as the hailing channel to keep Channel 16 clear for commercial and coastguard traffic.  If calling Mayday a boat should, if time, use both channels as there is little safety rescue cover and cruisers are more likely to be able to respond than any authority.