Author Archives: rachel
Beamreach to Barbuda
We were both pleasantly surprised at how lovely English Harbour was and were very excited about exploring it further with Joe. We’d imagined it to be spoilt and touristy, and, although it is quite touristy, it doesn’t feel spoilt, and even though there are yachts moored here that clearly cost millions, we didn’t feel like poor unworthies.
Magic Badger had 2 full days of intense cleaning, scrubbing and polishing in honour of Joe’s arrival and so she was looking better than she had since we bought her when he landed, looking pale but ready for adventure.
After a relaxing day spent snorkelling, eating and drinking, we sailed around to Falmouth to fill up with fuel and water, had a delicious restaurant meal of marlin carpaccio followed by dolphin steaks (no, don’t worry, it’s not the dolphin you’re thinking of) and, the next morning, sailed around to Deep Bay on the west coast, seeing on the way an enormous Moby Dick shaped whale leap out of the water and crash back into the sea leaving a huge splash. We’d sailed to Deep Bay mainly because there lies the wreck of The Andes, a 3 masted ship that had been sailing from Trinidad with a cargo of pitch in 1905 when it had set fire and sunk, leaving a reputedly good snorkelling spot. After a lovely walk ashore exploring Fort Barrington and admiring hundreds of hummingbirds feeding from the blossom in the trees, we returned for drinks and a meal and snorkelled the wreck the next morning. We tied the painter to the bit of the mast that was still visible, donned our snorkel masks and plunged in. And were instantly disapointed because we could hardly see anything, for some reason the water was really cloudy and swimming along the old wreck felt spooky when bits of it loomed unexpectedly close out of the gloom. Something brushed my leg and I felt pannicky and started to imagine grey shark shapes looming instead. Even the boys felt a bit scared I think and we swam (quickly) back to the dingy.
We then headed back down to Jolly Harbour for marine charts of Barbuda and Antigua, and then salied back up to Five Islands Harbour, an idyllic spot, where we had a bbq on our own private beach and lots more rum was drunk. The next morning we set sail for Barbuda and after some rain and wind, the sun came out and a huge whale surfaced right next to our boat, it was wonderful.
Anchoring fairly late in the afternoon on the mid west coast, we had just enough time to walk along the beatiful long white and pink sand beach, one which Doyle in his sailing guide describes as being the best in the Caribbean, stopping briefly to look at the menu of the only hotel on the beach (the only building actually) and being stunned to discover that a green salad on the lunch menu was $50 (US), (about £35)… Not surprisingly, it was totally empty, although it had a helicopter landing pad outside so presumably it’s visitors didn’t bat an eyelid at paying such ourageously expensive prices.
An article in last months Caribbean Compass had given us the idea to hire bikes to explore the mainly flat isalnd, and so we did, having a fantastic day, marred only by Joe being chased by a rabid dog. We cycled to The Highlands where the ruins of Codrington Estate lay, and, leaving our bikes, hiked through country similar to the Australian outback, to the huge Derby Sinkhole. It looked like something out of the Lost World, we’d been walking through scrubby scorched looking desert, then all of a sudden, this huge hole in the ground about 100 yards in diameter and 100 feet deep which had palm trees growing out of it appeared. We scrambled down and it was lovely and cool and shady and there were hundreds of hermit crabs scuttling around. After hiking back to our bikes, we cycled to a gorgeous bay where cliffs joined the beach and there were caves to explore after a much needed swim.
Later, whilst sipping G & T’s on deck, admiring the sunset and discussing what we fancied for dinner, a young couple rowed over from the next anchored yacht. We watched them get closer and then realised they were coming to see us. As they pulled up to the back, the young man drew the tail end of an impressive silver fish from a bucket and said “Would you like a fish?” Wow! Yes indeed we would, you chose the RIGHT boat. And all he wanted in return was a lemon. However, we insisted that they stay and have some G & T’s and chatted for a couple of hours. They were a lovely couple, much younger than us and had both crossed the Atlantic on numerous occasions, one being singlehanded. Respect! Anyway, the fish was gorgeous, we were so happy because we’d been dying to catch one (as we always are, and it’s only happened once…) and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
The following morning we sailed to Cocoa Point and had an excellent snorkel on the reef, heading back to Antigua the next day, arriving at Dickenson Bay by lunch time. We’d chosen the spot because it was a shorter sail and we thought that it might be lively and fun, only to discover that it had about as much soul as a dead parrot. Anyway, we made the most of it and got some provisions from the amazingly stocked Epicurean supermarket. After dinner, we went ashore and had to walk past the Sandals resort beach where a scene straight out of the Whicker Man greeted us. We were all a bit tipsy after beer and wine and couldn’t work out quite what was going on at first, but realised that the 10 or 12 elaborate paper and twig ‘tee pees’, each with burning club and awkward looking couple, placed at just the right distance from each other so as to be able to have a private conversation if they spoke really quietly, must be newly weds having their own ‘private’ special moment. God, it was awful. We had to try really hard not to laugh as we wound our way through them.
We were happy to return to heavenly Five Island Bay the following morning where we enjoyed more snorkelling and another fire and bbq on, again, our own private beach. A giddy, rum fuelled night led to sore heads the next morning, where an arduous sail, beating to wind, led us back to English Harbour. We had a fantastic night out in English Harbour and Joe left the following day. We are now waiting to sail up to St.Martin via St.Kitts for the next leg of our adventure.
The French Antilles
Martinique was lovely, startlingly similar to France and we would have loved more time to explore it properly. We sailed into Marin on the south west coast and anchored. Customs was a dream in comparrison to most of the other islands and it was free. The supermarket was excellent! Gorgeous French cheeses that weren’t ridiculously expensive, freshly baked baguettes and affordable red wine.
We then tried to find a new sailing guide because we’d reached the end of the Windward Islands, and Dominica, our next island, is the first in the Leeward Island chain. We have relied heavily on Chris Doyle’s sailing guides because they’re so useful with well written snippets of history and all the best anchorages and we couldn’t bear the idea of sailing into Dominica without one, but Marin had run out of them. We even sailed around to Fort de France, the capital, in search of one but to no avail. The city had a real French feel to it with cobbled streets, colonial architecture and large parks lined with restaurants and bars.
Fully stocked with provisions we headed up the coast to St.Pierre which was once the island’s capital and had been known as ‘The Paris of the Caribbean’. However, in 1902 Mt. Pelee volcano errupted and killed all but 2 of the towns 30,000 population, one of whom was a prisoner protected by his thick stone cell walls. We wandered around the lovely town where a lot of the old ruins remain and had an early night ready for our sail to Dominica the next morning.
Dominica is known as the wild island because of it’s lovely unspoiled country and dramatic scenery and again, we were sad to have only one full day to explore it because the hiking is said to be fantastic. We wandered around Portsmouth which seemed poor and quite run down but we did manage to find a copy of our sailing guide. The rest of the day was spent walking in the Cabrits national park and preparing for our next sail.
The wind was favourable leaving Dominica and we arrived in the gorgeous Iles Des Saintes well before lunch time. Checking in was even easier, we didn’t even have to see anyone, just input our details into a computer and printed off a copy, leaving us time for lunch and an afternoon sail on to Guadeloupe. We anchored at Point a Pitre and then ended up getting drunk on ‘ti punch’ (rum, lime juice and sugar – lovely but lethal) with our friendly ‘next door neighbours’ who came and introduced themselves after being excited to meet some fellow young cruisers! It was a lovely evening but a 4am rise to navigate through the Riviere Sallee after too much rum wasn’t so great. (The Riviere Sallee is a sort of canal that runs through the centre of Guadeloupe and acts as a short cut for those who want one).
But we made it and it felt like a real adventure, setting off in the dark (hastily following another boat in case it wasn’t clear where to go), and then waiting in the canal mouth with about 8 other boats for the bridge entrance to the Riviere Sallee to open. By the time we’d chugged through the mangroves to the north exit, it was light, which was lucky because we had to follow beacons through quite a treacherous channel, in fact a yacht that had overtaken us 15 minutes earlier got stuck and had to hail down someone in a speedboat to pull them off.
After a much needed breakfast we decided not to hang around in Guadeloupe because we didn’t really have the time to enjoy it, so we headed straight to Antigua where we arrived, with plenty of daylight, in the very beautiful English Harbour, to await the arrival of Joe.
A whole month has passed and we have been busy… working and drinking mainly, and, more recently, sailing.
We returned to Trinidad to work on a yacht which needed an enormous amount of stuff fixing and so, while Jamie was busy doing the glamorous and important stuff (wiring, but with added intelligence) I was needed for much less skilled work, mainly polishing miles of stainless steel. In fact, I spent the majority of my time sat under the 76 foot yacht, sheltering from either the scorching sun or the torrential rain, in a dusty (or muddy) boat yard, polishing a variety of marine fittings whilst trying to decipher what the fast spoken Trini workers around me were talking about. It was quite amusing most of the time, the guy who was in charge of the paint spraying would spend the entire day smoking ‘ganja’ and screaming and swearing at his workers. Anyway, we earned some cash and had some hilarious drunken nights with our co-workers/friends and the time just slipped away so quickly, as it always does when you have a job.
We abandoned work, the dusty boat yard and our new found friends to set sail to meet Joe in Antigua. This (if we make it) will be the longest journey we’ve had in the Badger, a 500 nautical mile trip no less! A lot of yachts sail straight up (or down) taking only 3-4 days to do so but, with my sailing skills leaving a lot to be desired, we are island hopping up to make the journey bearable.
The longest sail, one we’ve done before, is the 80 mile crossing from Trinidad to Grenada. We prepared by spending an afternoon in Scotland Bay (north west Trini) hacking off the barnacles from the bottom of the boat and scrubbing off the green slime that had collected in the few weeks spent in the green waters of Chaguaramas. Setting sail at 02.30 we managed to anchor in Halifax Harbour, Grenada at 18.00, a vast improvement on our timing from the last time we made the journey – what a difference a half decent wind direction makes. Oh, and Jamie’s just reminded me, we saw 2 hammer head sharks this time, swimming together, really close to the surface.
From Grenada we sailed up to Union Island. We arrived before dark but couldn’t face the idea of customs and thought we’d cleverly avoid overtime rates by going the next morning… Only to find out that the Prime Minister had declared a national holiday only 2 days earlier because SVG had beat the Aussies at cricket! We got totally stitched up with overtime fees and felt pretty cheated. The highlight of the day however, and one which even customs and their ridiculous rules and regulations couldn’t spoil, was seeing a leatherback turtle the size of a Mini Cooper swimming out to sea from Grenada’s coastline, what a fantastic sighting.
Beautiful Bequia was our next port of call and we gave ourselves a much needed full day break, giving us chance to fill our gas bottle, do some jobs on the boat and have a lovely snorkel out on the Devil’s Table. From Bequia we nipped (ha, there was nothing nippy about it!) We motored – once sailing became impossible – into a fierce headwind and strong current) back to St,Vincent to pick up some of the sale documents from buying the boat. We stayed only for an hour and then headed up to Keartons Bay, just before Walliabaloo (where the Pirates of the Carribean set was based) to spend a quiet night before our sail to St. Lucia.
The sail to St. Lucia was good, albeit a little hairy in places along the north coast of St. Vincent, however, we had been warned and had reefed accordingly. The famous Pitons (2 large conical pieces of rock strutting 2000ish feet straight from the sea) were visible many miles before we reached them and they were indeed beautiful.
Well, here we are in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. We spent the day shopping for my birthday present and I am now the proud owner of 2 pairs of lovely new flip flops (amongst other things) and Jamie bought clothes in which he will no longer be mistaken for a tramp in. It’s bed time. I’m sipping red wine and Jamie’s fast asleep on the couch. We’re setting off to Martinique at daybreak (well, that’s the plan) and I’m looking forward to some decent bread!
We’re back in Trinidad! It feels almost like home. Jamie was offered some work here and so we sailed from Grenada 2 days after Becky and Andy left us. It was a lot more speedy to return to, than to leave and we made it back in 14 hours. I wasn’t really relishing the idea of returning but so far it has been good. We’ve met up with some friends and made some new ones too, so our social life has started to flourish. And we got to see the world famous Trinidad carnival.
Our first taste of the carnival was ‘Jouvert’ held on Sunday night. We drove through to Port of Spain, the capital, with friends and spent a wild night drinking and dancing in the streets. Although we only managed to stay awake until 3am and the floats arrived at 4am we didn’t feel too bad because we got to see them eventually and the whole ‘street party’ was what we were all looking forward to the most. It was a bit like a festival only we didn’t camp out.
On Tuesday a group of us went to Port of Spain and pretty much spent the whole day drinking beer and eating street food while we watched hundreds of bright and beautifully clad people wearing amazing costumes all taking part in the carnival parades. Soca music blared from the floats, people danced and we all had a lovely day. The ladies here don’t seem to be at all self concious of their bodies, some enormous bums (and some enviably lovely ones) were on display in the tiniest of sparkly bikinis and Jamie took great delight in photographing as many of these as he could…
Whilst walking back to the car we found a variety of discarded carnival outfits which we pounced on eagerly like soldiers collecting the spoils of war, guffawing drunkenly while we tried to work out what each item was and which part of the body it was supposed to fit.
Spice Islands tour
As a tribute and farewell to Trinidad we arranged to go for a gorge walk with David (whose Christmas party we’d gatecrashed) and his friend, Keith. Dawn was a soggy affair and it continued to be so, thus the walk was spent in torrential rain, which actually didn’t matter a bit because the footpath we followed was a river. It was great to properly stretch our legs again and see some wild Trinidad. There was a small section in the ‘heart’ of the gorge that was, if I’m honest, pretty terrifying. I froze with fear, with one foot on each cliff/river side and a churning torrent of water flowing underneath, not daring to go on or turn around. I didn’t want to let the side down, being the only girl and all but had to concede to Jamie leading the way back to safety. What a great day though, finished, as all good walks should be, with a pub lunch and beer.
On the 24th January at 01.30 we set sail again, this time towards Grenada to meet Becky and Andy who were arriving on the afternoon of the 25th. We attempted to get some sleep beforehand but couldn’t. The moon was brand new and so we had no light, and as soon as we got through the Boca de Monos we realised how rough the sea was, even though we couldn’t see it. There was a 3 metre swell and a force 5 gusty wind and the boat was lifted around as if she were a rag dolly. This was much more terrifying than gorge walking! I knew it was bad because Jamie willingly let me put a lifejacket on him and allowed me to tie him on for fear he should fall off the back. We agreed to sail on until light and then re-assess our options. Waiting for dawn was the longest wait I can remember having. The boat bucked and leaned and the wind howled, I couldn’t even make a cup of tea because it was so rough. Finally, we saw the bright haze of the Poinesettia gas platform glowing in the distance and so at least we had some point of reference, and just before 06.00, daylight, albeit a grey and unfriendly one, finally arrived.
The morning continued in the same grim, drawn out uncomfortable manner but at around lunchtime the wind eased slightly and the swells became a little less alarming. Spirits lifted further when Grenada appeared on the horizon at around 15.00. Later on we spotted a hammer head shark circling the boat, and even later a pod of tiny dolphins joined us for a few minutes. At 22.30 we sailed into Prickly Bay, Grenada and were both so tired that we were hallucinating. We threw in an anchor, hoped for the best and fell into bed.
Whoop whoop, today is the day that Becky and Andy arrive! With just enough time to clean the Badger, go shopping and clear in with customs and immigration we met them at the airport, both looking amazingly white. Our long and arduous journey had been worth it.
A few days were spent in Prickly Bay with the highlights being a visit to Grenville for the most gorgeous ‘doubles’ yet (doubles are Indian influenced fried chick pea puris filled with curried chick peas and chillis, heavenly), a visit to Rivers Rum factory and the Grenada Organic Chocolate factory stopping off at some beautiful waterfalls on the way back for a quick dip. Once back, we had a few beers with some of the folks from our day trip who told us about a party they were going to that evening. We (foolishly in mine and Becky’s case) decided to forgo dinner and just carry on drinking. We managed to gatecrash the party (by entering from the beach) which was held for the American medical students here (the same ones that Reagan used as an excuse to invade Grenada in 1983) and had a great time. Our heads the next day weren’t so great however.
Once recovered we decided to show our new crew some Caribbean highlights and sailed via St. Georges (the capital) for provisions and headed north up the west coast of Grenada to Halifax Harbour, our anchorage for the evening. We’d had our usual lure out the back on which we’ve never yet managed to hook anything but seaweed. As Andy wound it in he said, “I think there’s something on it…” OMG, would you believe it, we had an enormous stripy fish hooked! Quickly identified as a Wahoo, we anchored, then the boys dragged it ashore with the dinghy to ‘put it out of its misery’.
Once ashore we lit a fire to cook our catch on. It was so big we weren’t quite sure how to deal with it and decided in the end, to saw it clean in half and grill it on the BBQ. With hindsight, the next time we’re lucky enough to land such a whopper I’d chop it into more manageable steaks because it took ages to cook. The flesh was gorgeous: firm, white and moist and there was enough of it to feed 20 easily. Needless to say fish curry followed by Thai style fish cakes kept us going for the next 2 days. From our lovely beach BBQ we saw our first monkey since arriving and spent a lovely peaceful evening by the fire on the beach.
An early start was made with Carriacou as our destination. As we approached the top of Grenada the wind became so ferocious that it made us lean until Becky and I were screaming. After reefing the sails and a shot of rum (it was 10.30…) to calm us down we continued, arriving at Tyrell Bay just before sunset. That night we were rudely woken by an almighty thud only to find that we were in a compromising position with a catamaran. We re-anchored and no damage was done to either boat but that was the second time that we have slipped anchor in Tyrell Bay.
A lovely shiny morning greeted us, although the wind was still pretty fierce, and we decided to climb Chapeau Carre, the islands tallest peak. It was a lovely wooded track, we saw a tortoise on the way up and the views accross the Grenadines and the island were stunning. A much needed swim in the gorgeous sea was had after our walk.
The next day we headed for Petite Martinique (PM) and its even smaller neighbour Petit St. Vincent (PSV). The following morning we explored PM and bought some provisions, then spent a couple of hours snorkelling off PSV. It was Becky’s first go in the water with her float (due to a broken arm) and it was a success.
Following lunch we sailed over to Union Island, after clearing in at Clifton, we headed for the gorgeous Chatham Bay. The next day was spent attempting to climb the 1000 foot Mt.Taboi, however, with undergrowth that wouldn’t have been out of place in Sleeping Beauty and a huge tree across our footpath we didn’t quite make the top. A lovely relaxing afternoon of snorkelling and a BBQ on the beach was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Another early rise took us via Clifton for provisions and on to the Tobago Cays for swimming with turtles. A relaxing down wind sail took us to Mayreau to overnight. Some friendly yachties invited us for drinks on board their lovely big catamaran. A pleasant evening was spent chatting and drinking then it was back to the Badger for food and some very special pina coladas. Yet again, we were rudely awoken in the early hours with Jamie starting the engine. We had slipped anchor again, but this time were heading out into the open ocean…good job Jamie woke up.
On the way back to Tyrell Bay, we stopped at Sandy Island for some really good snorkelling and some lolling on the amazing white beach. Becky and Andy treated us all to grilled lobster (mm, except Jamie who had chicken…). The next day we had a fairly long sail back to Prickly Bay, Grenada, a drunken night in Grenada’s equivalent of a pub quiz, and then departure day loomed. I cried as I watched their plane roar over the bay and am still feeling sad now, but a lovely holiday was had by all.
Meet the parents
From Scotland Bay we nipped back to Chaguaramas (a 1 hour(ish) motor) to clear out, buy supplies and set off to Tobago. How exciting! Well, the first couple of hours were, as we motored east across the north coast of Trinidad while waiting for wind to pick up…except it didn’t. We had been warned that sailing to Tobago was tricky depending on the wind direction and we had a north easterly 25-30 knot head wind, 3 metre north easterly swells along with a 3 knot current and an unfavourable tide to contend with. At least the scenery was lovely as we motored slowly along.
We anchored for an hour in Las Cuevas Bay to eat dinner and strap the tender to the deck and then continued our motor sail along the coast arriving at Grand Riviere Bay after midnight. We anchored and slept as best we could in the most rolling, uncomfortable anchorage we’d experienced until now.
A brief breakfast was eaten early on and we continued the motor sail over to Tobago. Crown Point was reached at lunch time and we finally arrived at Castara Bay at around 6pm. Two days to get to Tobago. Lessons learnt? Wait for a favourable wind unless you’re desperate! It was worth it as two friendly faces greeted us from a lovely beach. Jane and Ross wined and dined us with all the lovely food we’d missed, creamy Stilton and rich homemade fruity Christmas cake…what a treat. They even brought proper sausage with them, the ones here are repulsive, at least they look it, I’ve never been desperate enough to buy them.
A lovely relaxing week was spent sight seeing, eating and catching up. We hired a car for a couple of days and went walking in the rainforest then visited Argyle Falls where an unofficial tour guide showed us cayman in the river pools and regaled us with a mixture of factual local knowledge and old wives tales. Jamie and I went for a swim in one of the pools (according to our guide this would heal any spiritual unrest in our souls…) and it was lovely. We drove to Charlotteville which was gorgeous stopping the car every few miles to gather the not too damaged mango windfalls. We drove to the south end of the island the following day which we all agreed wasn’t as lovely as the north. Here I tried the ‘crab and dumpling’ that the guide book tempted me to try. It was disappointing, the crab was too hard to get at and the dumpling consisted of three slabs of tasteless white goo…the sauce was really good though.
We set sail with our new crew and, after a bit of a hectic start, had a relaxed sail and anchored on Pigeon Point next to the beautiful Buccoo Reef late in the afternoon. The following morning we all got into the dingy and spent the day walking and swimming around the national park, unfortunately the strong wind made the snorkelling that we’d been so looking forward to impossible.
Clearing out of Tobago was a bit of a nightmare, we thought we’d be able to do it at the airport, but, when we got there, the most patronizing, unhelpful jobs-worth customs officer ever, informed us that we’d have to go back to Scarborough, a half hour taxi ride away. Here we were greeted with the most helpful, friendly and courteous customs officer ever, who had been called in especially to clear us out and she made up for the idiot at the airport.
Trinidad was our next port of call and we set sail at about 4.30am to get a good start. A favourable wind got us to Maracas bay where we had a lovely late lunch BBQ on the beach. The next day we had a leisurely sail to Scotland Bay where we stopped for lunch and a swim, then back to Chaguaramas just in time to clear in to customs.
Jane and Ross went to stay in Port of Spain and we joined them after a couple of days and hired a car for a long awaited explore of Trinidad. We visited the pitch lake at La Brea in the south of the island. I’m ashamed to admit that I had always thought that asphalt was made by men mixing tar stuff into a goo, but no! It can occur naturally and this is the largest such instance in the world. 180 tonnes is taken for export every day and Jamie commented that this was the best time he’d had in a car park since Charnock Richard Services circa 1990. Sir. Walter Raleigh was recorded as having visited in the 16th century where he used the asphalt to re-tar his ship. We were informed by an extraordinarily unenthusiastic guide in a monotone pitch (boom boom!) that this was the 8th wonder of the modern world. As unbelievable as this may have been, it was certainly worth a visit and I shall not look at roads quite the same again…
The second day with car was spent visiting the Asa Wright bird sanctuary in the mountainous northern region. The drive was beautiful through lush rainforest on windy and at times, badly damaged roads. The sanctuary was a beautiful airy colonial house in tropical, wild, rainforest grounds. We all stood on a huge verandah and watched an exquisite array of tiny hummingbirds and gorgeous turquoise, blue and green birds feeding, then had a guided tour into the forest. I really wanted to see a toucan but they were too high up to see. We tried to drive back via Blanchisseuse, however, an avalanche had demolished the road so we drove back the way we’d come.
The next day a sad farewell was made, Jane and Ross caught the fast ferry back to Tobago. We’ve had a lovely couple of weeks holiday respite and indulgence and now it’s back to the grindstone! Only a few more big jobs to complete now and we’ll be heading back to Grenada very soon, then it will be holiday mode again.
Christmas at the colony
Two days before Christmas and the forward cabin is complete, the white faux leather headliner has been stuck to the wall nearly killing us with the glue fumes in the process and the varnishing in there completed. The aft head (bathroom) has been smartened, the floorboards varnished and the stack pack sewn and installed. It was time to leave Chaguaramas (not forever unfortunately) for some Christmas festivity. However, not before we had attended the obligatory Christmas ‘works do’. We basically gatecrashed the Christmas ‘do’ of an electrical shop which we have been patronising recently and with whose staff we have built up a rapport. Too much rum was drunk (I fell flat on my face whilst trying to run in the car park in front of everyone…) and a wild night of partying culminated in a dawn bed time and ridiculously bad heads for Christmas Eve. Luckily, we’d had the foresight to do our food shopping the day before and had only to get ice and diesel before heading off to Chacachacare, our festive destination, an island that was a leper colony and had been abandoned as recently as 1984.
We sailed (the first test of our new rigging) to the island, the furthest north-west part of Trinidad, and anchored in a beautiful and large bay in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve. It was utterly peaceful and there was only one other yacht moored on the other side of the bay. We could see a couple of houses on the shore and decided to go and explore before it got too late. The shore was totally overgrown and we stepped through ruins choked with weeds (and a depressing amount of dumped trash) while bats flapped around our heads. It was spookily eerie and the sight of a rusted, wheeled hospital bed sat in the dark, dank corner of a roofless wooden house was too much for me to bear. Even Jamie was spooked. We headed (quickly) back to the safety of the Magic Badger.
After a sirloin sizzled on the BBQ and several glasses of red wine followed by some star gazing, confidence was restored, faltering only briefly until we realised that the shiny sparks of light flickering in the trees on the shore were fireflies.
Christmas morning, ah, how different from usual, no hangover, instant warmth and not a single present in sight : ( We had the traditional bucks fizz with breakfast, dinghied ashore and trekked up the only up-kept road (dirt track) on the island to the lighthouse. It was quite a slog in the heat but worth the climb. We passed a tiny hummingbird, saw hundreds of vultures cirlcing the thermals above the lighthouse and looked across to Venezuela, nearer to us than Trinidad now was. After a phone call apiece to our families, we walked down to have a snorkel, more bucks fizz and a fish. We both caught one, Jamie’s was edible and mine looked like some kind of alien so we put him back.
Later on, the coast guard’s big grey boat whizzed over, we both hastily dressed, there had been little point in clothes until now, and answered his questions. “Had we seen anything suspicious?” No. “Where were we from” etc Their presence was a comfort after reading that a yacht on the northern shore had been boarded by Venezuelan pirates a few years earlier.
Boxing Day was spent in a similar sunny alcohol fused haze, except we used the opportunity of clean water to clean the propeller and the underneath of the tender which was covered in green slime and barnacles. Dolphins showed up to swim with our boat on the crossing of the bay, do
they think we’ll feed them or are they simply curious? They made our day either way. The next day we headed back reluctantly to Chaguaramas. It was more depressing than ever after the lovely peaceful time we’d just spent in Chacachacare. Luckily, we managed to escape again on New Years Eve.
This time we sailed to somewhere even closer, Scotland Bay, a popular place for locals and yachties alike to escape the confines of Chaguaramas. We arrived close to dusk, anchored and ate (though I say so myself) the best rib eye I’ve ever eaten. Again, despite the presence this time of several other yachts and gin palaces, the place was beautifully tranquil. Fireflies sparkled in the trees on the shore and, to our amazement, fruit bats flew into the salon several times, presumably on the scrounge for food. We couldn’t even stay awake to bring in the new year and went to bed at 11.30!
We woke early the next morning to be greeted by a strange but beautiful phenomena. The water around us appeared to have huge golden leaves flashing through just below the surface, which, on closer inspection were these strange long fish that looked almost eel like, doing synchronised swimming. They’d swim like regular fish, then, all together, they turned on their tails (looking a bit like giant sea horses) and swam upright very slowly, then they’d all start to swim normally again. There were thousands glinting around the bay and I tried to photograph them but just couldn’t capture the spectacle at all.
After breakfast, we dinghied ashore to look for a walking track that apparently existed all the way to Macqueripe Bay. Disappointingly there was a ridiculous amount of rubbish on shore, plastic bags filled with bottles and plates and cigarette cartons strewn around and tied to trees. Clearly, a nationwide litter awareness campaign is desperately needed in Trinidad. We didn’t find the trail but, after finding the shed skin of a large snake, (several poisonous ones live here) and seeing ants as big as grapes we suddenly felt less inclined to cut through the jungle with our machete and returned to the Badger to clean her topsides. We peered at a yacht anchored next to us on the way back. She looked like a ghost ship with decks piled with rubbish and a rotting sail cover in tatters. Strangely, there was a deflated dinghy tied next to her that gave the impression that someone had gone aboard and hadn’t left. Spooky. Was their a body on board? Should we check? Who was there to check in circumstances like this? Neighbourhood Watch wasn’t around to clock the milk bottles piling up on the doorstep… Whats more she was called ‘Mysterion’ and registered in Southampton. We didn’t dare to check, just glanced at her all day long wondering what had happened to her owner(s).
A fish called Diesel Turd
A month has passed and we have hardly moved from Chaguaramas and we have been busy, busy BUSY.
Diesel Turd introduced himself on the second day and has hung around ever since and is, contrary to his name, spectacularly beautiful. He has an iridescent purple, blue and green body, long snout (??) and googly eyes and a girlfriend that looks just like him. We christened him thus because he seems to thrive in water that is strewn with the afore-mentioned along with a whole tide of plastic nastiness.
Work on the boat has ceased only for a day and a half and that was to take a much needed trip away from the sweat, toil and tears last weekend. Prior to this trip we’ve had a whole host of troubles which we have been slogging away at, trying to resolve. I shall try not to bore you too much.
These have been the major causes for concern so far:
1) Wi-fi – with Jamie’s work and connections to home depending upon it it has been a major issue. After much investigation (walking around the few electrical suppliers and quizzing them thoroughly) we bought a ‘Bullet 2’ which is an aerial which enables us to have up to a 7 mile range for wi-fi. It seems to be working pretty well so far.
2) Batteries – ours were at the end of their life, and , after lots of price negotiation and information prising, we bought 4 Trojan golf cart batteries from Brian who certainly knew his onions when it came to marine power issues.
3) Rigging – ours was too old and had to be replaced for insurance purposes (they recommend replacement after 10 years, ours was 14 years old). There is currently only one decent rigger here now, a Swede called Jonas, and he was too busy and too expensive to fit ours before Christmas, however, Jamie was an eager student and slowly, piece by piece, he removed ours, took it to Jonas, got new bits made up and, armed with advice on how to fit it, replaced it all. This took a week, the worst of which was spent carrying the jib furler – a 46 foot length of metal cable – half a mile down the road. I think I can imagine how poor Jesus felt like on Maundy Thursday (or was it Good Friday?).
We managed to accomplish the rigging in Calypso Marine, a sheltered spot kindly lent to us by a bloke called Chicken via a wonderfully helpful Brian (of battery source). It was here that we realised that the shrieks we’d heard each morning and evening were made by grass green parrots and where we first spotted sunflower yellow and sky blue birds and iguanas grazing.
4) Bimini and stack pack – ours need replacing however, after some pricing it seems that it will cost us approximately £1000 for a glorified piece of tent and a long tent bag. We are considering buying a sewing machine to try and avoid such excessive costs…
5) Trinidad is not cheap!!! – It has built a reputation over the last 15 years for being the place to come as a Caribbean cruiser to get work done. It has lots to offer but it is certainly not cheap, it just has more choice than the rest of the Caribbean. It has recently been accused, sitting comfortably with it’s Caribbean monopoly, of letting standards slip and prices rise.
6) The headliner in our cabins is minging (that’s faux white leather wallpaper for those who have no idea what headliner is) and also needs replacing. I spent a day chiselling half of our bedroom cabin wall off. YUK. Dead cockroaches and glue that may as well have been there for 100 years – the heat from the sun melds the glue with the foam backing and proves even worse than 1930’s wallpaper stuck to Victorian plaster to remove…a job still not finished.
7) Re-badging the Badger – this was completed today! It proved a messy and time consuming effort to remove poor old Rainbow Chaser.
8) Fishing boats – these are skiffs measuring 20 ft with 1000 HP engines stuck on the back. Why? Venezuela is temptingly near I fear. Cocaine smuggling pays much more than a few red snapper. Anyway, they zip past at 100 mph causing annoying and potentially dangerous waves. Nothing a bow mounted whaling harpoon wouldn’t resolve immediately.
9) Food – the contradiction. Trinidad is so unlike St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It has shopping malls the like of which I haven’t seen since visiting the Trafford Centre. It also sells Hagen Daz in every supermarket and there is an absolutely gorgeous cafe, within a stones throw from our mooring, serving iced coffees oozing with cream and ice cream (at least 1000 calories per serving) and heavenly cakes. These have been our undoing. I have troughed for the last 4 weeks making up for the lack of readily available nice food in the SVG. Unfortunately when Kate Moss said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” she was clearly only referring to herself. The contradiction is the supermarket ‘Hi-Lo’ just around the corner from where our cafe is. Although it sells Hagen Daz the rest leaves a lot to be desired. Amongst the lows are bread that is canary yellow in colour and tastes of washing powder. Greasy tasteless cheddar that also tastes of washing powder. Tomatoes that, unless cooked, are revolting and staff that barely manage to conceal their contempt for their customers. We were served a few days ago by a girl who didn’t look at us once or say anything, just dragged our food through the scanner as if it was an effort that was totally beneath her and she paused every few items to take big mouthfuls of her lunch. Jamie and I couldn’t help but look at each other and giggle. I’m being unfair, it does sell lovely ripe papayas and excellent bananas.
So, after all our work (I’ve missed lots of sanding and varnishing and screw cleaning out but didn’t want to make you sleep, however, Dad, all your training in matters of DIY has proved invaluable, thank you!) we thought we deserved a night away from the hustle of Chaguaramas and sailed (actually, motored with the jib flapping – no wind) to the island nearest here, Monos, to a bay called Grand Fond Bay but known locally as Turtle Bay. It was a beautifully tranquil spot, at least it would have been if there weren’t 7 or 8 gin palaces moored together in the middle while the rich white kid owners had a rave that lasted until 11pm. Anyhow, we didn’t let this spoil our fun and we dinghied ashore only to find that there was no beach, just a crust of plastic amongst the palm trees. It was horrible. We’d really been looking forward to a swim, then we saw all this litter and it put us off totally. Still, we thought we’d explore because our guide book said that there were tracks you could walk on. We followed an obvious one into the jungle and had only been walking for a minute when we were hailed by a man naked to the waist waving a machete in the air shouting “This is private property! Are you after my coconuts?” We froze, then said “Er, no, we’re just having a look around.” As soon as he saw us and heard our accents he stuffed his machete back into his scabbard and said more gently “I thought you were after my coconuts. Don’t be scared, it’s OK you can carry on” but we didn’t much fancy it after that so headed back.
The morning really was beautiful, the rave had gone and the bay was still and green with exotic bird sounds calling from the shore. We saw a turtle, a spotted ray (we found out later that this was a Leopard Ray) and a huge blue butterfly that was so big it looked like a bird that flew like a butterfly from a distance. After lunch and a swim (yes, we couldn’t resist and put the memory of the plastic tide to the back of our minds as we dipped in) we sailed back to Chaguaramas to continue the work.
Kick ’em Jenny
Golly it’s been a while, for those of you who are interested and like to be updated with news of our travels I apologise for the delay. We have been suffering yet more wi-fi problems and have had to resort to using an internet cafe. We last communicated from Bequia but have been to so many other places in between that I struggled to recall all of them and it took both Jamie and I, aided by prompts from photos, to peice together our journey since!
From Bequia we sailed south to Canouan. We had initially planned on heading for Mustique but the wind was against us and so we re-routed to Canouan hitting lobster pots along the way. In aproximately five hours we anchored in a lovely bay, ate a very late lunch (4pm) and sailed ashore. We had only been walking on land for five minutes when we were hailed by a man driving a ute. It turned out to be a chap whom we’d met some weeks previously in a bar in Calliaqua (St.Vincent). He took us for a tour of the island, although half of it is a privately owned resort that we were unable to access. Large tortoises lumbered along road sides as we peered from a mountain view spot onto the palatial homes in the private resort. These were in stark contrast to the ramshackle dwellings on the other side of the island.
The next morning we set sail south again to Mayreau, a tiny and sparsley populated island. We arrived after an hour or two and hurtled into a tiny bay full sail (nothing to do with me) which impressed a yacht full of French people who all called “Bravo!” and clapped from their deck. It was a beautiful spot, the kind you imagine when you picture a desert island. We were offered lobster by some local fishermen (who asked what was wrong with our engine because we’d arrived full sail) but declined as it was a little on the pricey side. After a couple of hours of snorkelling, walking and coconut collecting we went back to the boat where Jamie proceeded to hack open our coconut with an enormous hatchet he’d bought specifically for the job. Strangely, the coconut water/milk stained the deck an ugly orange despite looking clear, so, for future reference, coconuts should be prepared on the beach. Later, as we sat on deck in the beautiful tranquil bay with a few other yachts moored nearby, a deafening ghastly raquet of what I can only describe as ‘rasta rapping’ blasted out from a beach shack. It continued for at least two hours. We retreated to below deck to escape but some French (there seem to be a huge amount of French yachtspeople here) who were moored next to us started to shout ‘shut up’ which seemed to exacerbate the music players(I use the word music in the loosest possible sense of the word) and the raquet continued. It was really funny (but also quite annoying) to watch the ‘tourists vs the locals’. The locals were probably under the impression that their ‘music’ was marvellous and that we would also share this opinion, and that it would, in fact, entice us all into their beach bar shack. Instead, it was some of the most offensive noise I’ve ever been subjected to and all we (and clearly every other yachtie there) wanted was to enjoy the tranquility in a rarely found beauty spot.
Tobago Cays was our next port of call, again, only an hours sail away. It is a marine national park with an entrance fee of $10 EC per person, not much for such lovliness. We’d both been highly excited about visiting this place as it has been the most reccommended place to visit in the entire Grenadines archipeligo, and it was indeed very beautiful. A scattering of tiny sand lined islands surrounded by turquoise seas with lots of turtles swimming past. It was however ridiculously popular and there were a lot of other yachts moored around which spoilt the whole feel of the place. Similar to the Lake District in August on a sunny day, still beautiful but too full of other people. We spent a couple of hours snorkelling which was amazing, gorgeously clear and packed full of a vast variety of beautiful fish and marine life, then, after a spot of lunch and a giggle at some young kite surfer who got his kite caught in someones rigging, we headed off to Union Island, the last Grenadine before Grenada.
Union Island was a strange place, the capital, Clifton, was fairly basic with half empty supermarkets but had a gem of a french cafe where we sipped freshly squeezed orange juice whilst waiting for custioms and immigration to open the next morning. We had to ‘clear out’ before leaving as our next port of call, Carriacou (an island belonging to Grenada) is a seperate country.
The sail was lovely, we stopped off for lunch at a divine and deserted beach, had a swim then continued the sail to Hillsborough the capital. Here we dingied ashore to customs and immigration, ‘cleared in’ and sailed around the headland to Tyrell Bay where we anchored and ate.
The bay was packed full of other yachts, all live aboards presumably doing the same kind of thing as we are. It was a windy night and Jamie woke me at around midnight telling me to get up, that the anchor was slipping. Ugh, rudely awoken! We couldn’t really anchor with ease so stole a mooring for the night and moved off at 6am to avoid being charged for it. After sailing around the bay for about half an hour we realised that it was looking unlikely that we’d be able to anchor again due to the amount of weed in the bay and the lack of space between other yachts so off we sailed, this time to Grenada.
The weather, which started off grey and misty, didn’t improve, in fact worsened and as we sailed over Kick ’em Jenny, a submerged volcano, a squall hit us and we had to very quickly reef the jib and the main as torrential rain near drowned and frightening wind buffeted us. I was terrified I’m afraid, very close to tears and expecting to capsize at any moment, however, just as Jamie was trying to reassure me that this was all fine, just, in fact, part of the whole sailing package, it started to lift and within twenty minutes the sun was shining through the clouds. Shortly afterwards a couple of what must have been whales (I’ve no idea what kind) swam in front of the boat and death didn’t feel so close after all!
We anchored just outside the marina at St. George’s, the capital city of Grenada. St.George is an attractive colonial town guarded by two forts, built originally by the French but stolen by the British and used to defend against the French later on.
We walked up to St.Georges Fort which now houses the police headquarters. It was strangely tatty and unkempt, the old and original parts looking sturdy and strong, the new additions looking in a much worse state of repair with roofs missing and plants growing inside. We passed the spot where Maurice Bishop (once Prime Minister) and his cabinet were executed in the early
eighties during the unrest in Grenada in ’83. After a couple of nights anchored here, we sailed south to Prickly Bay to visit Budget Marine and purchase the charts and bits to fix our VHF radio in preparation for our sail to Trinidad.
Jamie had to climb to the top of the mast in a homemade bosuns chair winched by me on three seperate occasions to fix the radio aerial. I felt sick looking at him and I don’t think he particularly enjoyed the experience…but he managed to fix the aerial the clever sausage. We also bought a Red Ensign but decided to be understated (Jamie dislikes even a sniff of patriotism) and bought the smallest one. Unfortunately, it’s so small it looks like a tiny pair of red knickers dangling from the rigging, barely discernable. Hmph, I’d like to get something a little bigger, nothing ridiculous you understand, but just large enough to actually be identifiable as an Ensign, but have been outvoted…so far.
At 6pm on Monday the 14th we sailed for Trinidad. This is the cheapest place in the Caribbean to replace the standing rigging etc. We sailed all night passing two huge oil rigs but no other boats. I managed to cook two meals – dinner and breakfast and make tea and proper coffee during the trip while being flung around the little kitchen. I also managed to stay awake which is pretty impressive considering I normally fall asleep at 9pm. An hour after dawn, with the coast of Venezuela to our starboard and Trinidad ahead and to port, we met our first obstacle, the Boca de Monos. The sea was behaving very strangely around the Boca entrance, where the Southern Equatorial Current enters the Caribbean sea, the waters were an odd mix of brown and grey with tumultuous swirling areas right next to calm bits of water.
The wind dropped to nothing and we had to turn on the engine and bring in the flapping sails. As we reached the mouth of the Boca with cliffs towering on either side a sense of foreboding, made worse by lack of sleep, grew. Huge black condors circled on the thermals above, Jamie stood on the bow checking for rocks and I steered all the while checking the depth and shouting out to him what it was every thirty seconds. It got to thirty feet at one point where I felt so panicky I forgot to breathe. Slowly, the swirling current and our engine took us deeper into the Boca and the depth began to grow. As it got to about seventy feet a large pink and grey dolphin appeared from nowhere and crossed under the boat a couple of times and the feeling of doom lifted and I started to breathe again! Chaguramas was around the corner in the next bay, we anchored, breakfasted (again!) and had to face the ordeal of customs and immigration before finally managing to get to bed just after lunch at 1.30pm. Argh, sleep at last.
Finally, after weeks of fixing, sorting insurance and collecting tools and provisions we set sail. It seemed prudent to take her for a test run first rather than just sailing off into the sunset because, although we had sailed her briefly before buying, we wanted to double check, amongst other things, that the running rigging was up to the job. We took a sail north up the west coast of St.Vincent as far as Cumberland Bay, the next bay up from Wallilabou (where the film set for the Pirates of the Carribean was…still is in fact). The swells were pretty big in places and I’m ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified as she leaned when the wind became strong. It’s been ten years since I sailed in the sea so it will take a bit of getting used to. The scenery was spectacular all the way, huge lush green mountains and craggy cliffs. We wanted to eat lunch in Wallibalou Bay but had been warned that should we choose to do so, we would be plagued by locals in little dinghies, some offering to help us moor and others just on the scrounge. Lo and behold, as we came alongside Wallibalou, a couple of kayaking locals paddled up and pestered us to sail into the bay. When we declined one just said “Can I have a cold beer?” We told him sorry, but no, we didn’t have one. (Utter lies I’m afraid but why would you? Cold beer is luxury on a yacht with no solar/wind power or generator).
As we edged in to Cumberland Bay, the same thing happened again, a bloke on a dinghy asking if we wanted help. Even after we’d said ‘no thank you’ he loitered right next the boat. I felt annoyed, mainly because I was wearing only my bikini and felt exposed and self concious but because I was steering, I could hardly start yanking my clothes on! Jamie also got pretty pissed off but remained polite and after saying very firmly ‘no thank you’ he got the message, only to be replaced by yet another… We decided to moor around the corner in an isolated and idylic little bay where lunch was eaten, a bit of snorkelling done, then we sailed back, the last hour and a half in the dark. It was a good test run and highlighted a couple of small issues which we fixed the next morning.
Once the jobs were fixed, food had been bought and we’d filled her two tanks with water we set off, this time ‘for real’. How exciting! It was quite late by this time, 15.30 to be precise, but it gave us enough daylight to sail to the first Grenadine of our trip, Bequia (pronounced beck-way). We moored up at 17.40 in a gorgeous place, Princess Margaret Bay just outside the main port of Port Elizabeth (the capital) in Admiralty Bay. And it is from here that I am now typing this.
We spent yesterday chilling out (we’ve both got stinking colds) and we took the dinghy into Port Elizabeth, a lovely quaint little town, then did a bit more snorkelling despite the colds. Today has been spent fixing stuff. Tomorrow we hope to head out to our next Grenadine! I shall update you all on which one soon.