note: Latitudes & Longitudes are provided for armchair geographers
July 29 - Bequia
here are a number of things about Rodney Bay, St. Lucia (14° 04'N; 60° 57'W) that make it easy to linger. For one, the Lagoon is protected from just about any weather Mother Nature might choose to send, so cruisers can at last let their guard down a bit. The marina there is also a good place to get snail mail forwarded via Fed Ex. The restaurants are many and varied, and there's a new modern mall as well as a big new supermarket that one can walk or dinghy to. Three Amigos, a new Mexican restaurant right in the marina, has a swimming pool open to the public, and that square of freshwater and the endless supply of cold beer turned it into the cruisers' hangout. There are also a half dozen gratifying walks of just the right length for our morning 1 ½ hours, spider-webbing out from the marina in all directions, to the strip of hotels, to the causeway to Pigeon Island, to the Atlantic-coast village of Cas en Bas, and north to Club St. Lucia and the Cap Estate. This year these walks will be the most memorable aspect of St. Lucia, because day by day our pack seemed to grow!
Toward the end of our stay TacklessII finally escaped from the Lagoon for 24-hours beneath the flamboyant clad hillside of Pigeon Island. Pigeon and the causeway to it define the long northern sweep of outer Rodney Bay. A mammoth new Hilton Resort is going up on the causeway, but Pigeon itself is still a charming park featuring the old fort on the islet's two lumpy hills. Amazingly, we had the anchorage to ourselves most of the time, although several of our walking converts dinghied out the next morning to do the tour with us. We got lots of great photos.
nce the mail - email and snail - was received, sorted and answered, and once we figured out that the only way to send out all our great digital photos for the web site was by zip disc via snail mail, (now there's a contradiction in concepts!) we finally cut the umbilical cord and sailed south, a week after our arrival. This time I was determined to stop at The Pitons (13° 49'N; 61° 03'W), the two precipitous volcanic plugs that loom over St. Lucia's steep southwestern shore, where the diving has always been reputed to be superb. I'd been to St. Lucia three times and never dived them. Last trip south, we'd stopped at Anse Chastenet, just north of the Pitons and done the fabulous reef there, but in the end we'd skipped the Pitons as being too complicated to arrange.
This time we took a mooring off the Jalousie Resort (one of the region's most pricey), once known for its pet elephant. The whole Pitons area is part of a Marine Management Area, and diving must be with an approved guide. We went to bed with it all arranged, but the next day it looked as though I'd maintain my "0" batting record as the dive guide failed to show and the heavens opened in a day-long down-pour. But we hung in there an extra day and made the two famous dives with the shop operating out of Jalousie. Amazingly they gave us the best dive deal of the trip, and even refilled our tanks afterwards for free. Our first dive was the deep wall along Petit Piton. At about 120' there was not much fish life, but the coral and sponges were stunning. The second dive was Gros Piton's Coral Gardens on which there was little need to venture deeper than 30'. The reef here was bright, colorful and complex, and the fish life was busy, especially with juveniles including trunkfish the size of dice and a spotted snake eel! Afterward we enjoyed a late lunch of jerk tuna, christophene au gratin, rice and beans, green beans, and salad at Bang, an eccentric restaurant down the shore from Jalousie.
That night the full moon rose above the Pitons and the bay was as bright as day. We were tempted to leave right then, but even at 4 a.m. when we did leave, we hardly needed the radar. Two years ago we made the passage from St. Lucia to Bequia overnight, but this time we opted to travel during the day in order to see St. Vincent's rugged coast in daylight. From St. Lucia southward, the chain of Lesser Antilles begins to curve back westward to South America. Suddenly, our course was no longer hard on the wind. Indeed, for the first time a NE wind was a liability, and we actually had to drop our staysail since it was blocking the genoa! We swooped into Admiralty Bay, Bequia (13° 00'N; 61° 14'W) just after lunch on July 28, where we were surprised by a professional photographer lying in wait in his dinghy to snap several shots of our arrival! (See photo on home page.)
August 4 - Bequia
equia has long been a popular boater's hangout. There are probably a hundred boats spread out in Admiralty Bay's several sub-anchorages, many of which are based here year 'round. The island's nautical heritage - from whaling (they're still allowed one whale a year), boat building (their famous double-enders line the beaches) and model boat-building (add a "0" or two to the prices and you'd be buying the full-sized version) - sets the tone, and the string of relaxed bars and restaurants lining the long beach endorses it.
On our last visit, however, we failed to catch the Bequia bug; this time we caught it bad! We attribute the difference to the walking. Last visit, we barely got off the beach; this time we trod just about every road on the island, from residential neighborhoods to outlying bays. Even after all this time, it still amazes me how far one can travel on one's own two feet. And the detail of what you see on foot exceeds that of any taxi tour. The Bequia we saw this time is much larger than we realized. It is very neat, and the residents quite friendly. A definite high point was our two hour trek out to Industry Bay at the island's east end where a husband and wife have built a turtle sanctuary. About seven years ago they started rescuing injured turtles and have since expanded their endeavor to including the collection of turtle hatchlings which they raise and release when they are two, at which age and size (about 18") they are large enough to protect themselves from predators. This they do without official subsidy!
On Sunday, the first of August, we caught the 7:30am ferry to Kingstown, St. Vincent (13° 09'N; 61° 14'W) with the primary purpose of meeting our young friend, Adam, at the airport there. Unfortunately Adam chose to fly in miday the one day of the week that the ferry ran only twice, early and late, so we set about using the day to see some of St. Vincent. We have twice bypassed stopping here, mostly because of their reputation for intrusive boat boys and theft. Our impression was reinforced as the ferry docked and the passengers were besieged ON BOARD by taxi drivers. Some new acquaintances linked us up with Casper, an elderly gentleman, which saved us having to cope with the onslaught. Our only complaint with Casper was that no matter what we suggested, he had his own tour in mind.
e took us first to see Fort Charlotte, the most interesting part of which was a series of oil paintings depicting the history of the Black Caribs of St. Vincent. It seems in the 1600s, a slave ship was wrecked on the island's shores, and the surviving slaves, who happened to have been taken from an especially warlike tribe in African, set about carving a place for themselves from the also fierce Carib Indians. The Indians soon concluded the Africans were difficult and decided to kill all the young males. Instead, the Blacks stole the Carib women and escaped to higher ground. For a long time, the Europeans, both French and English, avoided St. Vincent. When they did start to colonize, the Black Caribs took to flattening their children's foreheads so they wouldn't be confused with the slaves brought in by the colonists. Eventually, there was fighting between the Black Caribs and the colonists, and in the late 1700s the defeated population was shipped en masse to Honduras!
From Fort Charlotte we went to the St. Vincent Botanical Gardens, which are the oldest in the western hemisphere! Kingstown, the capital city of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is a rough city (Casper managed to included both the men's and women's prisons in his tour!) The Botanical Gardens are a surprising oasis therein. Established originally for the cultivation of plants for medicinal purposes, these very genteel gardens comprise 20 acres of trees, shrubs, herbs, and flowers imported from all over the world, including a breadfruit tree descended directly from the one Captain Bligh brought here after the Mutiny on the Bounty! We acquired a young guide, who gave us an unexpectedly thorough tour, smelling our way from plant to plant, and who was relatively gracious when we only paid him half of the outrageous amount he suggested! From the Gardens, Caspar took us on a very slow drive along the southeast coast, where the houses of drug lords stand out from their poor neighbors! We ended up at Blue Lagoon, a bay where CSY once had a major outpost. Only one CSY remained in the harbor, now filled with ubiquitous modern bareboats. There we ran into an old friend of mine from the BVI, Phil Oliver, who had just delivered a catamaran and was about to head out with another. He invited us to join him for lunch at the Lime Inn (is there one on every island?) after collecting Adam from the airport, which is how we spent the whole rest of afternoon until the return ferry at 7pm!
Our departure from Bequia was delayed by having discovered a barefoot computer genius named Godwin Gurley, whose "cybercafe" business ICON, in an unlikely-looking shack on the hillside, drew us to him in the first place. Having collected and sent several days worth of email, we mentioned to him our computer troubles. Both laptops were coincidentally refusing to acknowledge their CD drives .on which, of course, all our electronic charts reside! Godwin quickly fixed a BAT file command on Don's computer, so, impressed, we left mine with him over the weekend a holiday weekend, of course. Although we were fairly sure my problem was a hardware connection problem, we thought it worth his looking for a software solution. Imagine my astonishment when we arrived Tuesday morning and found the machine in pieces, awaiting some special epoxy from St. Vincent! Guess that solved any question of when my warranty was going to expire! With trepidation, we waited another day and this morning we picked up a fully functioning machine!!!
August 8 - The Tobago Cays
omputer charts functioning we motored out of Admiralty Bay on an almost windless day for a ten-mile jaunt southeastwards to Mustique (12° 52'N; 61° 11'W). This is the first time since the Virgins that we have not raised a sail! As we rounded Bequia's West Cay, a small pod of four dolphins hooked up with us for about fifteen minutes. Although we have seen dolphins more often on this trip, they have stayed with us less. Maybe they prefer the engine noise!
Mustique is the kind of place featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Walking around onshore made me think of Montecito, extracted from southern California and plopped intact in the Caribbean. Many famous people have vacation homes here, from Princess Margaret to Mick Jagger to David Bowie to Raquel Welch. Every inch of it looks like a manicured country club! Suprisingly, not only were we allowed to walk around, but we were provided with a map. It was not exactly a map to the stars, as the houses were identified by number and name, and most of them were so set back from the road that you get only a suggestion of what they look like. The only people we saw who might have been residents were a couple of white guys playing tennis. Everybody else was part of the massive work force required to maintain everything.
One night in Mustique's rolly anchorage was enough, so we sailed on the next day to Canouan (12° 14'N; 61° 19'W), another island we had skipped two years ago. Our sail was dead down wind, a first on the trip, so we took the opportunity to use our new whisker pole and pole out the genoa. Nils will be proud to know that we managed it fairly easily, once we remembered to furl the genoa and then reset it!
Canouan is a crescent-shaped island with a calm bay off its main town. The whole northern half of the island is owned by a resort development company. We walked up to see what was going on and found a hugely elaborate resort complex, with a wandering fresh water pool, golf course, and tennis facility spread over several bays. It had just opened at Christmas, we were told. Although the buildings were glitzy, and the reef-protected bays glorious, the landscaping was raw and desert-like. Perhaps they are going for a Palm Springs effect. The development plan calls for 120 million-dollar homes to be built on the hillside of the forest reserve! Incredible to us that such goals are set so close to Mustique. Unlike Mustique, this development still shares the island with a very unsophisticated town. We found ourselves wondering what the prospects think as they drive through town from the airport?
From Canouan we sailed on to the Tobago Cays (12° 37'N; 61° 21'W), one of our favorite places in the world. Here amidst scattered rocks, reefs and islets is an azure blue anchorage from eight to thirty feet deep tucked behind a large horseshoe-shaped reef that looks east to Africa. There is nothing more awesome in the tropics than a settled anchorage with an unobstructed view east! No one lives here. There are twenty to thirty boats scattered around. Some stay on, some come and go. There is great snorkeling here, but there is also great sitting. We've been here two days now, and we've done nothing to speak of so far! Well, Adam repaired the fishing rod, Don plugged in the batteries for the cordless drill to repair the outboard bracket, and I've put a turkey in the oven. That's about it so far.
August 19, 1999 - Tobago
ou'd think having Adam visiting would have motivated us to a charter-like activity level, but young Adam has, at the tender age of 22, fully mastered the art of shipboard "liming". In other words he can do nothing just as contentedly as can the Two Captains! Also, the dive operation covering the Middle Grenadines had no deals to tempt us.
From St. Vincent to Grenada. The islands are small and close together making a cruising ground not unlike the Virgins. Also like the Virgins, the Grenadines are divided politically in two, with the northern group linked to St. Vincent and the Southern group to Grenada. However, since we had done the southern Grenadines and Grenada two years ago, our itinerary now called for us to jump off into the Atlantic for an overnight passage to Tobago.
So, we left the Tobago Cays on the morning of August 9 and sailed one hour south to Union Island (12° 35'N; 61° 24'W), the very island at which we discharged Adam two years ago, to clear out. Union was a bit of a surprise to us. Two years ago, it seemed very, very quiet. This year the Anchorage Resort was bustling, full of French tourists! Still in the region of the persistent boat-boy, we must have been asked three or four times to take our garbage for $5EC. Most cruisers don't like to do this because rumor has it the boat boys just dump the garbage any old where. So Don set out himself with our heavy Hefty bag for the nearest dumpster, bringing on him our first mishap of the cruise, when the bag brushed his calf opening a four-inch slice! None of us know where the broken glass came from, but the result was impressive. Several locals jumped to his aid, and a taxi driver carted him off to the clinic where he got four stitches at no charge!
Having nursed his wound with a few cold beers and lunch at the Anchorage bar, we sailed on for an afternoon rest stop at the tiny island of Petite St. Vincent (12° 32'N; 61° 23'W). PSV, as it is conveniently known, is another high-end private island, this time devoted to a cottage resort. The anchorage was charming, and we were sorry not to spend enough time there to explore, but we had a weather window to grab.
And grab it we did, departing around 4 PM that afternoon, for a fifteen-hour, 88-mile overnight passage southeast. Winds were fluky, and we had to motor a chunk of the night, but the stars were superb, especially when the old familiar winter constellations - Cassiopeia, The Pleiades, and Orion - started rising in the wee hours. Near dawn we had to change course to stay clear of a research vessel "Western Inlet" towing seismic sensing equipment at the end of a 400' cable. An hour or so later, "Western Inlet" interceded on our behalf to divert a huge freighter that didn't give evidence of diverting around us! Good to know someone's paying attention!
(11° 10'N; 60° 50'W) port of entry is their capital, Scarborough,
which is a three-hour beat up their southeast coast, a coast girded
by extensive shallow reefs and plagued with strong current. What a chore
that trip is after a night passage, and by the time we anchored in Scarborough's
micro-harbor, we in a cranky frame of mind. So, of course, it rained
on us. After the shower and after lunch, the sun returned and our mood
improved. We successfully completed the treasure hunt of finding the
well-hidden Immigration office, managed to eventually get the layers
of carbon paper right there and at Customs, and armed with a wad of
TT dollars from the bank and a case of Stag beer, we decided to get
out of the downtown anchorage and get somewhere picturesque. Friends
from St. Thomas had hailed us in passing as we rounded the Western tip,
so we headed back towards them. We were looking forward to scudding
back before the wind we'd been pounding into, but of course, it had
now died. Fortunately, the current was still piping, and we made good
time back to Pigeon Point, an anchorage tucked behind the huge Buccou
Reef system, arriving at dusk with good-sized kingfish on the line!
Adam cleaned, gutted, and cut him up into steaks, and we sure relished
our fresh fish dinner and the first of our spectacular Tobago sunsets.
The Pigeon Point anchorage has been a good base for many activities, so we've stayed put a week so far. Pigeon Point itself is a private beach facility with shops, bars and restaurants and frolicking swimmers lining the golden beaches at Tobago's western and flatter end. Buccou Reef, a national park, wraps around us to the north and uncovers daily in the 3' tide (we are used to about 8" elsewhere in the Caribbean). Trinidad looms on the southwestern horizon, often with large cumulus build-up above it. A huge lagoon is just up the coast and is open to boats only in the event of a hurricane. The last hurricane hit here in 1963.
We oriented ourselves to Tobago with an excellent all-day island tour with a guide named Jameson. We drove up the north side, across the rain forest, out to the eastern end, and back down the south side. Jamo showed us all the bays suitable for anchoring in, all the major resorts, Argyle Falls (one of Tobago's many), and Jemma's restaurant, a famous eatery in Speyside.
he very next day, on Don's birthday (August 13th), we joined Manta Dive for a trip to back to Speyside, where we made two dives off Little Tobago. In the small world department, our divemaster was a fellow Pan Aqua diver (my old shop in NYC) named Ken Biscombe. Prepped for strong currents (all dives are drift dives), we were hoping to see mantas. The mantas and the strong currents were a no show, but our second dive in particular "Callisto Train" had about six "chapters" in one dive, including a field of swept-back barrel sponges looking snow-dusted; several sand chutes, one populated with hundreds of gray ocean triggers (a sighting of one or two is a rare thrill in the VI!), and another dropping off like an infinity pool! (we didn't get too close has it is know to have strong down currents!) and the second largest (recorded) brain coral in the world. Lunch at Jemma's again afterwards, with our fellow divers hailing from Holland, England and Germany, was another delicious showcase of Tobago's local cuisine.
A couple of days later we made another dive with Manta, which Don, Adam and I all rank as one or our most memorable dives ever. It all got started when we mentioned to Ken our new spear gun and the desire to learn how to use it. Next thing we know we're pumping across the bottom over an offshore plateau named "Diver's Dream" in the wake of Ken and Manta Dive Shop owner Goran ( a Swede) each of whom are carrying spearguns that make ours look like a toy! (our was left behind!) The terrain alone would have been fascinating with boulders, arches and ledges cloaked thickly with deep water gorgonians (the stuff that looks like naked tree branches), thickets of 6" tall orange-tipped hydroids, and something red, against which swam huge neon blue and yellow queen angels. The viz was a spooky 50' and through the murk swam a half dozen or so 4-5' nurse sharks! This did not put off the hunters. Goran (a sort of Tarzan of the Reef character) shot a large Crevally Jack, hand-over-handing the line in, the fish still fighting, forcing Goran to wrestle it to the ground and kill it with his knife. Up comes an impressive cloud of gore at the very moment a huge black-tip shark skirts the area! Of course, Ken rode shotgun the moment he heard his boss's gun go off, but I noticed all us spectators backed right off! Goran threaded his catch on a metal stringer which he hung from his belt (what they always tell you never to do!). Don could hardly take his eyes off this 3' dead fish hanging between Goran's legs!. A little while and two turtles and a stingray . later, the gun zinged again and the above scenario repeated itself, black tip and all. On the surface, Goran was eager to hear that we'd enjoyed the dive. Were we scared? he asked. Heck, no!, we told him, you had the fish! Afterwards, we took our untried popgun home and concurred that, although it was exciting to see once, we wimp divers wanted nothing to do with that kind of hunting!
Adam flew out early Tuesday morning - on schedule from the right island this year! - back to St. Augustine, eager to get back to his own boat projects and perhaps a little less eager to start his last semester of college. After three weeks as a threesome, it back to the two of us!
Although the summer's weather has been very kind so far, hurricane season is about to enter its peak period. At this latitude, the chief evidence is a more active Inter-tropical Convergence Zone, thrusting its build-ups and thunderstorms northward into our area. Tropical Depression #4 debuted last night in the eastern Atlantic and will most likely be a hurricane by tomorrow. We, at least ,are safely south of its track, but we will continue to worry about our friends back home. Our plan now is to cruise up Tobago's north coast for the next few weeks, checking out all those pretty bays we saw by car. Come mid September, we'll run downwind to Trinidad and the next stage of our refit.
Don & Gwen, The Two Captains
Other Web Sites of Interest for Fans of Paradise
www.thecoverts.com/csy info on CSYs
www.caribwx.com A weather info site produced in Tortola by David Jones, the man we all depend on for our Caribbean cruising weather.
www.flagshipvi.com A display of the yachts currently chartering through Flagship, the clearing house Whisper and Tackless II cleared through.
web page featuring the USVI with links to many businesses