Friends Visit

Gren and Elaine friends from the UK flew out to St Vincent to join us on our discovery of the Grenadines. This sailing area is one of the world’s best cruising grounds and often features in yachting literature and folklore. 

After they stayed in the famous Cobblestone Inn in Kingstown we met them there for the taxi ride to the marina. We then went off to provision the boat on the famous local busses and stopped on the way for a beer and lunch. A delightful roadside shack clearly sold beer but we asked if they did lunch to which they replied “no the shack next door does”. We went next door and asked if they did lunch and were told, “We only have macaroni or rice.” Not very tempting but there was no choice. So 3 rice and 1 macaroni were ordered and we were then asked if we wanted fish, meat or chicken with it!!!!! What actually came out of the kitchen was rice, macaroni, salad and random meat no matter what was ordered. The drinks shack was more than happy for us to take our food over to them and rums and beers were consumed. After a mediocre pizza at the “Driftwood Restaurant” in the evening we set sail the following day for Mustique. It was an easy beam reach and took a couple of hours. The island was ‘closed’ because VIPs were in town. Yachties were allowed ashore but only to a small section of the beach and cameras were banned. As Raymond put it from Blue Lagoon- “They are not trying to separate the rich from the poor, they’re trying to separate the rich from the very rich”. We had dinner at the famous Basil’s Bar and a good buffet meal it was too. The next day we departed for Tobago Cays and it lived up to all the hype. Not only is it a truly impressive sailing area but the blue, turquoise, and green seas are breathtaking. The small islands lie behind horse shoe reef and there is a turtle population who are tame enough to swim with. So we did. That evening one of the Boat Boys convinced us to have a lobster BBQ on the beach. I am often wary of these tourist attractions but it was truly memorable. Not only was the setting fabulous we were with great friends, we had our own drinks and all of us agreed the lobster was the best we had have ever tasted. Done simply over wood coals with no stupid thermadore sauce that is often used to conceal the tiny amount of lobster in the meal. These were no tiny lobsters. We had 3 huge ones between us! The next day we set sail for Canouan and picked up a mooring ball just off the hotel. A rather deshelved local in a boat tried to get us not to go to the hotel but visit “Mangrove” a local restaurant. He said the beer at the hotel was double the price. We ignored him as the hotel was a stone’s throw away so quickly settled down for a beer, glass of wine and a rum and coke. When we saw the prices of the meals and Gren asked for the bill for the drinks we were soon out of there and off to Mangrove. We should have taken local knowledge. Mangrove turned out to be a crazy place. It was Friday night and the locals were getting down. The DJ was hilarious as he spotted us tourists, not a hard thing to do here, and told us not to worry the locals were just off their medication! Boy did they party. The food was great, the drinks cheap and the music loud and impossible not to dance to. In the morning we headed North for Bequia and arrived at Friendship Bay where we intended to stay the night. We anchored but it was soon clear the place was deserted. We pulled up the hook and sailed round to Admiralty Bay the large yachting community. The place was buzzing and there was a huge choice of bars and restaurants. We went to the famous “Jacks Bar” and we were the only people there. The meal was very good being a sort of French/Caribbean fusion and was the most haute quisine we had had since leaving St Lucia. We asked why it was so quiet and they told us everyone was on the boat. We nodded as if that made sense to us but later in the evening we discovered what she was talking about. In the port area one of the ferry boats had the largest sound systems known to mankind.  You could feel the groove and Gren decided to go and check it out. Luckily he did not get too near because it soon set off. We could hear it for miles as it made its way out of the bay. At 2am the sound returned as it sailed back in. This is apparently a twice-yearly locals party boat then goes around the island to much alcohol and music. We had a second night before our friends left so went to the Gingerbread restaurant that had good food and live local folk type music. It was great hearing some traditional Caribbean music all unplugged. I was so enthused I bought a CD for myself and one for Gren. Mine turned out to be blank so I hope he had better luck. The next morning Gren and Elaine had to make the 9am ferry to Kingstown to catch their evening flight to Barbados and then onto Manchester. There was a 1pm ferry but it was marked as “unreliable”. It was great to discover some of the Grenadines and luckily we have time to do it all again at a slightly slower pace. For now we are holed up in Bequia and we await the Easter Regatta.

Blue Lagoon and St Vincent

After the stay in Young Island we dinghy-ed over to Blue Lagoon to check out the marina. Blue Lagoon was a big Sunsail Charter base but they have departed to Rodney Bay leaving the economy devastated. The Marina is trying to get back on track and is a great facility. The Cruising Guide still has it listed as a Sunsail Base and also warns of a difficult passage to the lagoon. The reality is that RazMike is at hand. He zaps out to meet you and will pilot you through the deep water channel in the reef. Do not attempt this yourself. He is very skilled and has taken us through 4 times over the weeks. On one occasion the swell was so big we were surfing in on the waves. I was glad RazMike was on the helm. The marina has two great bar restaurants The Black Pearl and Flowt Bar with great views of sunsets over Young Island. The Capital is Kingstown and a bus ride like no other takes you there. The “Vans” take 14 passengers but most of the time they squeeze in 20 with a guy riding “shotgun” whose job it is to find passengers and squeeze them in. With accompanying loud music and fast driving this makes the journey and experience! Kingstown is vibrant and gritty. We never felt afraid and despite the obvious poverty the people were extremely friendly. We love Kingstown and visited it on many occasions. It is one of the places we could live and remains largely undiscovered principally because St Vincent lacks an international airport. This is all set to change soon and we had the amazing experience of driving onto the runway at the construction site of Argyle airport. Despite the lack of tourism the authorities list 32 must do’s and we have done 18 of them so far. The highlights have been Montreal Gardens, the Mespo Valley, a climb up the Volcano, a road trip up the windward side with our friend Raymond the sail maker from Blue Lagoon and Salt Pond at Owia

 

Off South

The time has come where we must finally start to go south. We have booked into Port Louis Marina Grenada for 6 months starting June 1st. The idea is to be enough south to reduce the risk of hurricanes and be within striking distance of a refuge if one does come. From Grenada it is 12 hours sail to Trinidad and they have not had a hurricane in recorded history. So after over 3 months in Rodney Bay it was time to prepare to go to sea again. As Sephina has been in the water for over 12 months we arranged a lift out to clean the bottom and replace the 5 anodes that protect the metal from corrosion. Rodney Bay has a big travel lift so it was very easy. The copper coat had performed well as apart from some small molluscs the bottom was relatively clean. On the 22nd March we set off to Marigot Bay to get used to sailing again. We stayed for a few days and arranged to take the cats to the government vets in Castries to have the export permits. These are required in the next country, St Vincent and the Grenadines before they are allowed to be imported. We checked ourselves out in the customs office and had a temporary permit issued to stop over night in the Pitons area before crossing the water to St Vincent. We moored in Malgretout just to the north of Petit Piton and had a great dinner in Harmony Beach Bar and set off early the next day for St Vincent. The open water between St Lucia and St Vincent takes you into the Atlantic swell. The last time we were there at the end of the Transatlantic waves were large but luckily they were much calmer. The last part as you approach the northern tip of St Vincent cut up a bit rough but we soon had the lee of the land and all settled down. After another couple of hours we arrived at Young Island where we had arranged for Sam’s Taxi Tours to clear us into customs and immigration and the government vet to clear the cats for import. All went to plan and we picked the vet up in the dinghy to check the cats on board. We had arrived at our next country. 

Stoned

Your heart stops when you see blood in your urine. If you are female there are lots of innocent causes but if you are male less so. My one piece of advise is do not google “blood in urine” it will give you nightmares. And so it happened to me the day Matt and Steph set off back to the UK after helping us across the pond. A visit to the local medical practice in Rodney Bay resulted in a batch of medical tests, Blood, Urine and Ultrasound. An anxious few days followed waiting for the result of the tests but the blood continued and the tests were all clear. The local doctor then wanted to refer me to a Urologist. At this point you start to think are you doing the right thing. Luckily our friends and owners of Gozwaz who also did the ARC were two doctors, Haematologist and a GP. Their strong view was to go back to the UK to get a CT scan. Ju would stay to look after the cats. The flight booked and a few calls to ex-colleagues and I was back in the UK having a CT the following day with real time reporting. All well! Phew. The diagnosis, kidney stones. I had passed a kidney stone which was still in the bladder and after seeing the Urologist I was listed for a stent as a day case. I was staying with Carina, Dave and Luke who looked after me and I took the couple of days as an opportunity to visit Steph and Matt in Porthcawl. We went to look at the wedding venue where they will be married in November. They have chosen well. The day surgery went well until the following Thursday when I was admitted as an emergency with acute abdominal pain that even morphine wouldn’t ease. A few days in hospital and Ju flew back to the UK while we got this all sorted. Things stabilised and the Urologist let me fly back to St Lucia to return in a month to have the stent removed. Another quick trip home and a simple outpatient procedure and all is well. Thanks to all the family, friends and ex-colleagues who made the whole affair bearable and quick. I know strings were pulled.

 

Christmas In Marigot Bay

After several days chilling out in Rodney Bay, Sephina was on the move again. This time a very short downwind hop to Marigot Bay. Our friends on Kika who finished the ARC+ had bende sent to Marigot Bay to clear out of Rodney Bay for the big ARC fleet arrival. They had been there for some time and Jon had flown home for Christmas to be with his family. Colin was left minding Kika so we invited him for Christmas dinner. The arrival in Marigot Bay is quite special as it is a very narrow deep entrance that opens up into a spectacular hurricane hole. There is a marina in the lagoon that accepts superyachts and it is a marvel how they get in there. We took a mooring in the inner bay just in front of Kika. Matt and Steph were still with us and we made several visits to the local bars and restaurants. One of the famous ones is Dr Doolittle's named after the film. Many reviews in Tripadvisor comment that the name is apt as apart from the setting the food is mediocre and the staff “do little”. The night before Christmas Eve it started to rain. In the morning and throughout the day it continued, not drizzle but torrential rain. We would be missing our traditional Christmas Eve party which we always held at home for our friends but Steph and Matt delivered superb party fare to compensate. Christmas morning dawned and the rain had stopped. It had been raining solidly for 36 hours, which became known as the Christmas Tropical Wave. It wreaked havoc across the Windward Islands and on St Lucia 5 people died and many more on other islands. Roads were washed away and there was no water or electricity. Luckily we were self-sufficient on the yacht with our water maker and generator so the turkey was put in the oven and we went out for a drink at the local hotel. On our return the roast potatoes were made ready and with some good wine the 5 of us had a full traditional Christmas spread. As is family tradition we watched a film in the early evening slept through most of it and went to bed. Perfect.