Whistle stop tour of the Grenadines

Mystique

From St.Vincent we sailed over to Mustique for our first night but most of the island was closed off as someone ‘important’ was there at the time. We moored just off Basil’s Bar and had a wander along the beach as far as we were allowed to go, closely watched by  security guards dotted about behind trees. The shore line was sprinkled with brightly coloured wooden boats and just behind them were a few pastel pink and blue shops. We had a look around the shops (expensive) and Gren was over the moon with his purchase of a tin of corned beef! 

Next stop was Tobago Cays, a group of small uninhabited islands protected by a horseshoe shaped coral reef.  The picture perfect scene of white sand, palm trees and crystal clear water. We had barbecued lobster on the beach as the sun set and it was the best lobster I’ve ever tasted.  In the morning we went for a snorkel in an area where you can swim with turtles, but have to keep your distance and not scare them. I found 4 gently grazing on the greenery beneath us and managed to get a video of them. It was magical. Every so often one would swim to the surface and take a gulp of air before swimming back down to resume munching.

Canouan was an hour’s sailing away and we were greeted by a little lad called Marky who helped us moor and then shot off to get us a big bag of ice. In the evening we wandered down the single track road that went through the ‘town’.  A few houses and shops that lined the road, the owners sitting outside listening to their music. We ended up in a restaurant on the beach where there was a DJ and some energetic local men who were nodding their heads in time to the music, progressing to jumping about enthusiastically.  We had a great evening dancing with them all before heading through the town and back to the boat.

Sunset Bequia

Our final port of call with our friends was Bequia.  Another stunning little island that had us hooked as soon as we arrived.  The guy we had to radio for a mooring was called ‘Phat Shag’, a name that seemed fitting as his taxi boat cruised towards us. A noble belly that he seemed proud of under his voluminous T-shirt.  Not to be distracted by Phat Shag, the town itself is colourful and charming. There’s a waterfront path at one end of the town that meanders around the bay and has bars and restaurants right at the water’s edge. We found several good places to eat but our favourite became the Gingerbread Hotel which had table outside under the shade of a huge tree, sand under foot and little hens pecking around. More importantly, they had wifi!  Many an idle morning has been spent under that tree, watching the world go by and reading Daily Mail online.

The beach in front of the town is shaded by palm trees and underneath these the locals tend to congregate to work on the little wooden boats that are pulled up onto the beach or just to have a snooze in a hammock.

Our friends got one of the island ferries from Bequia back to St.Vincent, leaving us alone again with no plans and in no rush to do anything

Arriving St Vincent

We sailed down to Marigot Bay where we’d spent Christmas and cleared out of customs there. I had to take the cats to the vet in a taxi to get their export certificate. This also involved a dinghy ride as we were moored out in the bay but they were so well behaved and completely at ease.

In order to travel around St Vincent and the Grenadine Islands we had to check in with customs and import the cats so we moored at Long Island near Kingstown where Sam’s Taxis dealt with all the paperwork for customs, saving us from going through the lengthy process ourselves. I’d emailed the vet and arranged for her to come and inspect the cats on the boat. This was a free service which seemed unreal.

We weren’t planning on staying in St Vincent but there was a local marina called Blue Lagoon nearby that looked quiet and we thought we’d stay there for a couple of nights. We fell in love with the place and ended up staying for 2 weeks.

The people in the marina were so friendly. We were greeted initially by Razmike who spends his time zapping about in his dinghy, helping boats navigate through the coral reef that surrounds the bay. Raymond is the sailmaker in the marina, such a pleasant guy who would come over to chat and offered to take us hiking up the volcano when we arrived. The dockmaster is a guy called Desmond who is always around somewhere to help take lines. Sunsail used to have a base in the marina but for some reason they left  and now the place is quiet with just a few charter catamarans that are there a couple of days each week. There’s a lovely bar on the beach called Flowt where you can wiggle your toes in the sand while having a drink and the Black Pearl restaurant which has the best views of sunset.(And the Black Pearl pizza is to die for!) The marina building itself is undergoing a complete renovation to provide some accommodation and rooms to let which should bring life and activity back for the locals who were badly hit when Sunsail pulled out. There’s a beach to one side of the marina and and a rocky area for snorkelling on the other side.  Behind the marina is an overgrown garden that became the cats’ favourite place to go for their walks. So many different smells and places to sniff with little lizards darting about.

Kingstown is a 20 minute bus ride from the marina and the journeys became our highlight of the day. Every one was different and such a blast. They play very, very loud music and you can hear them in the distance before you can see them. Each one has a ‘conductor’, a guy who hangs out of the window shouting at people on the side of the road and then cramming as many into the bus as possible. Just when you think the bus is full he’ll manage to get another one, two or even three in. When all the seats are used up he’ll produce a cushion from under a seat and sit someone on that. You know that the bus is full when the conduct has to crouch by the door almost sitting on someone’s lap. The bus ride is 2EC each which is about 50p and I could spend all day just driving around watching all the goings on. It’s hilarious!

Kingston itself is a busy, bustling town, especially on Saturday when it’s market day. Once again, loud music seems to blast out from everywhere. One guy walks around with a ghetto blaster on a wooden trolley and even the hardware shop has a massive music system on it’s doorstep. We loved it and went there nearly every day.

One day we decided to go and see the island’s number one attraction which is the Montreal Gardens up in the Mesopotamian Valley. This involved 2 bus rides and we went equipped with a  basic map from the Tourist Office. The bus weaved up and up and we eventually got off in a little town and stood looking at our map. The bus driver stopped, reversed to ask us where we were going and looked at the map with us. He told us to get back in and then took a diversion to get us a bit nearer.  After a 10 minute ride he told us to hike up a track and then turned the bus around and went bouncing off down the road with all the other passengers. It certainly was a hike, 40 minutes of wondering where we were going and if we’d ever find the gardens. Eventually we saw the sign “Montreal Gardens”.  They are quite stunning but sadly are getting neglected as the government won’t put any money into them. There used to be a workforce of about 20 but now there are just 4.

We wandered around beautiful flowering lilies, prehistoric looking trees and shrubs and had the whole place to ourselves. Taxi drivers don’t like going up there because the road is full of pot holes. On our walk back to catch the bus we passed a few men walking back from the fields carrying machetes and an old lady carrying a huge basket on her head.

We also had a trip to the Botanical Gardens in Kingstown, another beautiful place within walking distance of the town.

After chilling out for a couple of weeks we were joined by our friends Gren and Elaine who were expecting a week’s sailing, so it was time to move on for a whistle stop tour of the Grenadine islands.

 

On my own...

So, news from us just ground to a halt in January after some idiot managed to hack into the website, but we’re back now and I’ll try and give a flavour of the missing months.

The first few weeks I’d rather forget about as Clive was taken ill, went to see a doctor, had various tests that were inconclusive so he flew back to the UK for a CT scan.  It turned out to be kidney stones, which was a relief, but he needed an operation. 

I’d remained in St.Lucia as we though Clive would only be gone for a week. One week turned into two and I was lucky to have friends on another boat  in the marina as news from the UK was very limited and I wasn’t sure what was going on with Clive.  I started to go stir crazy.  During this time he was staying with our eldest who had just gone back to work after her maternity leave and Luke was teething so she was having quite a stressful time.  She returned home one day to find him doubled up in pain and immediately took him to her local hospital where he remained for a couple of nights heavily sedated.  It was at this point that I packed a bag and returned to the UK to join him.  I had to quickly find somewhere to leave the cats and the local vet seemed a safe option.  I wasn’t at all happy with the condition that they’d be living in but I tried not to think about it too much.

It’s at times like this that I’m grateful to have such good friends as I emailed my dear friend Cherry to ask if we could stay with her and she opened her home to us for as long as we wanted. Clive was out of hospital and had so much medication that he had to carry a bag a round with him.  He had a couple of hospital appointments and a few more tests but when he saw the consultant was given the all clear to go back to St.Lucia.  It was lovely to see family and friends again even though it was for all the wrong reasons but we made the most of our impromptu visit and I had some precious cuddles with Luke.

Back in St.Lucia and CJ met us at the airport. I couldn’t wait to rescue the cats and we went there first.  They were huddled together, cowering in the corner of the room and looking very scared.  Poor babies, I promised never to do that again to them. They were so relieved to be back on the boat and couldn’t stop purring and following us around.

 

By now we were into March and were still in St.Lucia. We’d decided to stay in the marina for a couple more weeks to make sure that Clive was fit and well before moving anywhere.

This was a turning point for us. If we were going to ship Sephina back to the Mediterranean then we’d need to start heading north to be in St. Thomas for April.  This would mean that we’d see nothing south of St.Lucia and I knew that in years to come we’d regret having come all the way across the Atlantic only to miss out on a big chunk of the Caribbean, so we decided to stay for another year. As simple as that!

 

Decision made, we started to head south.

 

Family reunion Caribbean style

Our eldest daughter has been and gone!

The week went so quickly for us but we managed to cram quite a lot in to the time that they were here, including a trip to the rainforest. That was just amazing and I’m so glad we all did it taking a gondola ride above and amongst that tall trees Obviously it rained, but that’s the whole point.  This picture shows Dave having a bit of trouble with his poncho which seemed to have a lit of its own.

Little Luke was such fun and so well behaved. He seemed to be inquisitive with everything around him and certainly knows how to charm the ladies.  It got embarrassing after a while as everyone seemed to be drawn to him, but then he is gorgeous. We took him to the Spice of India restaurant in Rodney Bay for Sunday lunch and he had his first taste of curry, courtesy of Pirate Granny. His face was a picture and he just wanted more. He wasn’t overly impressed with the beach (which was a shame as we were all happy with the cocktails in the bar), but he loved the swimming pool back at the house and enjoyed a thorough dunking by his Dad before Mum got in on the action.

Our youngest daughter and her fiancé have just gone back to the UK after spending just over 2 months with us and the boat seems very quiet now they’ve gone. The support that they both provided to us on the Atlantic crossing was invaluable and we were so grateful to have them along.  But apart from that it’s been lovely having the opportunity to spend quality time with them both as they’ve been working abroad for the last 2 years and the time that we’ve all managed to get together has been fairly scant. They’ve been good company and hopefully they’ve had a good holiday out here.

Meanwhile, we’re still exploring the area and chilling out with the locals and, now that we're alone again, we can get up to date with our website.

"Here are couple of photos of Luke saying 'hello" to Thornton and Peri aboard Sephina. Isn't he a treasure!