St. Vincent is the most northerly and largest Island that make up this country, but Bequia is the northern island in the Grenadines group. We entered St. Vincent and the Grenadines from the south, at Union Island. This was the Island our son-in-law, Dan, was based on for a time flying a piper-arrow. Our daughter Brigitte joined him for a short stay. Neither were impressed with the Island, but it was summer at the time and they had no air-conditioning in the house. Also the mosquitoes and “no-see-ums” were so bad that they were eaten alive. For us, well we had a completely different experience. For a start it is the winter months where temperatures are perfect. You always have a lovely breeze out on the water, so sleeping at night is not a problem, and as for the bugs, well they are not around yet !!!
We anchored in Clifton Harbour. It is another one of these anchorages where one must take particular care as you enter the harbour as it is protected by reefs at the entrance and along the western side of the bay. It is also a busy bay, and a hub at this time of the year being used by many charter yachts as well as cruisers. “MOONDANCER” arrived just before us, so together we set off to the small local airport to clear in with customs and immigration. Once this was complete we had a quick look around the small town buying some fresh papaya, mangos, passion fruit and bananas. Lovely, but quite expensive. Alec makes up the most yummy fresh fruit salad for us to have every morning with our cereal and yogurt.
The town is bright and cheerful with buildings painted in vivid colours. Restaurants and shops line the small main street. The market is a real photogenic place and the vendors are happy to have their photos taken. We found them to be to very friendly and not pushy if you did not want to buy anything. They know how important the tourist dollar is and how the cruisers make up a large number of their clientele.
On Union Island, like many of their neighbouring Caribbean Islands, evidence has been found that they were settled as early as 5400 BC by the Ciboney people from South America. Then, much later by the Amerindians, Arawaks and Caribs, who originally set off from the Orinoco Basin in South America in canoes that exceeded 20 metres in length. That is twice a long as us !! Then the Spanish arrived and life for these people drastically changed. Not that they weren’t war-like before, but the Spanish arrived heavily armed. Then later once again the British and French were competing for ownership. Again the British won out, and they set about establishing cotton plantations. The slaves lived under harsh conditions and cruel slave drivers. Many died as a result. There is a plaque set up in the town square in memory of them.
We find ourselves settling in to this anchorage. We take the kayak around the lagoon, as the water is lovely and clean, clear and warm, so plenty of swimming. There is a tiny island on the outer reef called Happy Island which has a Bar, and that makes for a nice place for evening drinks. The only trouble is prices are high here in paradise - NZ$5 for a small beer and NZ$10 for rum punch. There is a second even smaller Island along the edge of the reef called Green Island, which we have nicknamed Robinson Crusoe Island, as there is one guy living out there. Only thing is he is not nearly as well equipped as the original Robinson.
It was here on Union we heard the sad new about a group of tourists who had been killed at the Bardo Museum in Tunis. We visited that very same museum just under a year ago.
On one of our trips returning to “SHAMAL” in the tender, we saw another kiwi flag flying from the stern of a yacht, so that called for an investigation. Over coffee onboard “KIR ORA” we heard tales of owner Alan’s adventures. He had also crossed the Atlantic this year, but in the ARC rally. So after nearly a week at Union Island it is time to move on. Again we leave “MOONDANCER”, up anchor and take a short sail to the Island of Mayreau.
We motor on out between the reefs passing Palm Island heading for Mayreau which is only 4nm away. On the north western side of this Island we motor into Salt Whistle Bay. It is a spectacular crescent shape bay, hills on both sides which makes for good shelter, a lovely clean white sandy beach with palms surrounding it, and those gorgeous clear turquoise waters again. We take the tender ashore to explore and swim. As it is so beautiful and has good shelter, lots of yachts come in here, and while we were there the bay did fill up.
Next morning we up anchor and motor on out to the the Tobago Cays. We can see why so many yachts find St Vincent and the Grenadines such a wonderful cruising ground. It is an exotic chain of Islands set in pristine waters with beautiful beaches. The Tobago Cays are a group of five small uninhabited Islands protected by Horseshoe Reef. As we approached our anchorage we saw three turtles swimming by.
The boat boys are there in their speed boats to help, and collect revenue from anyone who wishes to use a mooring buoy – we drop anchor. They will also collect rubbish and deliver bread to those who want it. As the area is a National Park, so you also get a visit from the rangers who collect a small fee. I could not wait to go snorkelling out onto the reef. It was beautiful with a number of lovely fish like parrot and angel fish, but, we have been spoilt by our time in the Red Sea which was quite the best snorkelling we have done to date. Alec hooked up the power snorkel and spent time in the water with that. It was also out here Alec thought he had seen some wonderful new bird species with a magnificent turquoise under-wing, when we realised it was the reflection from the lagoon waters on the seagulls wings.
Our next Island is Bequia.( Pronounced Beck-way) We have a lovely sail of 25nm arriving into Admiralty Bay with the township of Port Elizabeth at the head of the Bay. Bequia is considered the gem of the Grenadines and very much a favourite with yachties. In fact much of it’s tourist industry is based on visiting yachts. The bay is big and well protected. While we were here Alec counted no less than 90 other yachts anchored in the bay. We drop anchor off Princess Margaret Beach. Small hotels, bars, restaurants, small boutiques and general shops spread from town along both shores.. It is still relatively unspoilt. There are services which come out to your yacht – delivering fuel, water, ice and bread. They will even take your laundry for you and bring it back next day all nicely done. We had one local who cruised the bay on a paddle board with a small bucket on the front holding bread and mangos. We nick-named him Banana Bread Man, as he came around every morning trying to sell us Banana Bread. One morning when the winds were gusting about 30kts in the bay, we gave him a tow back to his boat ( see photo below ) with our tender as it was quite hard going for him !! He has built a shack on an old beach catamaran as his home. We heard that some of the people here are illegal immigrants for places like Haiti. Maybe he is one!!
Bequia is also renown for its traditions of boat building, and as a whaling station which is still active today, but in a very low-key and traditional way. The International Whaling Commission ( IWC ) allow the Islanders to take four whales a year, but some years they don’t get any. So few people are left with the old skills using open sailing boats and hand thrown harpoons. The Islanders are descendants of whalers from North America, farmers from Scotland, freebooters from France, and slaves from Africa – quite a mixture here !!
It was also here on Bequia that we finally were able to identify the very poisonous manchineel tree which grows on most of the islands along the waters edge. This is the tree I described in my last news letter. Note here that Alec and Steven are sitting under it, but all was OK as there was no rain about at the time.
We are still having rain nearly every night. This must be one of their wettest winters for a while. We spend our time here with visits ashore and lots of swimming. We even had a resident turtle who lived around the boat. Many of the yachts here were staying for the Easter Regatta which is a very big event in Bequia, but after six day here we needed to keep moving north. So on our last evening, along with Steven and Linda off “MOONDANCER” we went out for a yummy crayfish dinner.
Next morning we up anchor and head for the island of St Vincent. ‘'MOONDANCER” follows. This island is not so popular with yachties. It has had a reputation for being unsafe with robberies from boats in the past. Well, we will just be very careful and lock up well and not hang around unsafe areas at night. There is a yacht charter business at Blue Lagoon in the south of the island where we are heading for, so it can’t be all bad. On arriving at Blue Lagoon we are met by boat boy Mike, who could not be a nicer person. He comes out in his small speed boat to make sure you enter through the reef safely and helps you tie up to a mooring buoy. The main entrance only draws about 2.2mts. It is not possible for many monos to enter through the main entrance due to their draft, so they are lead through a deeper channel to the south. A channel too dangerous to do without local knowledge.
Again, this island has a long history, believed to have been inhabited for some 7000 years, starting with the same groups of peoples who inhabited the other islands in the Grenadines. Siboneys, Arawaks, Caribs, then the Spanish, and later the French and British. Again the British won out and set about establishing plantations and importing African slaves to work them. However it didn’t last long as La Soufriere – the highest mountain on the island - had two major eruptions, plus a few powerful hurricanes hit the island , then slavery was abolished. Eventually the plantations were broken up into small farms. With the importation of the African slaves and the arrival of people from close and far, today's population is quite mixed.
We spend three nights here, one on a mooring buoy in the lagoon, and two just outside the lagoon which has the same amount of shelter. Why pay for a mooring when we are safely sitting at anchor. We have heard about a supermarket which is said to be well stocked, out by the airport, which is only a short mini bus ride away, so we all head off for yet another re-stocking. In fact it was not wonderfully stocked, so we head on to Kingstown – the capital – to finish our shopping. No one ever gets everything on ones list, but it is fun trying and finding new things to try out.
Kingstown is a little rough around the edges so to speak. Cobblestone streets and alleyways, and steep hills surround the town hemming it in between land and sea. We were down in the market area where vendors set up stalls outside shops selling fruit and vegetables. It was interesting to visit, but good to get back to the more openness of Blue Lagoon. That evening we took the tender across to Young Island where a gorgeous resort has been established among the coconut palms and tropical flowers and trees. We had our sundowners here being droned out by the tree frogs singing their nightly song, before all returning to “SHAMAL” for dinner.
The next day we cleared out, and were really pleased to find customs and immigration have now set up in the Blue Lagoon marina. This saved us from another trip into Kingstown. We then spent the rest of the day relaxing as we had decided on a dawn start the following morning for the run up to our next island – St Lucia.
So another group of islands have been visited and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time here.
The Admiral and The Commander