Sunday, November 4, 2012

BY THE SEA


Last week a modest swell
curled around the north end of Tyrrel Bay
and the surf was higher and louder than usual.
Remnants of Hurricane Sandy.
She never threatened the Eastern Caribbean,
but the storm was big enough to affect us here in a small way.

We're back in Carriacou after a lovely summer in Canada.
The Captain is another year older and I'm not.

We're reacquainting ourselves with the slower pace of life here,
getting used to the heat again and the constant reapplications
of sunblock and bug spray.

We're also devouring books at a stunning rate.
Some Canadian friends
passed on dozens of their once-read paperbacks.
Many thanks to Rick and Rona and Bob and Vickie.
These books have come to a good life and
will make their way around the islands via cruiser book-swaps.

Beach House is still on the hard at the boatyard.
Her now 'dry' bottom is looking good with new coats of epoxy.
We installed the new sea cocks and through hulls a few days ago.
Nolan will continue with several coats of bottom paint. 
We should be floating again soon, maybe in a week or so.

In the meantime, we're very comfortable in our land digs,
the Boathouse. This is a different property than
the cottage we rented last fall.

Cheerful signs greet us on our first-ever white picket fence.
 
The walkway up to the house from the gate
is a charming jungle .

The main living area is very comfortable and includes cable TV.
Yes. We partake. Why not? We don't miss it when we don't have it,
but keeping up with the US election news and Hurricane Sandy news,
plus vegging out on some junk shows, have been pleasant diversions.
However, the best view from the living room in not on the TV.
Check this out.
We find ourselves just staring out, mesmerized by the water colours.
Having this panoramic view of the bay is almost
like sitting in the cockpit of the boat. Almost.

This upper unit has one bedroom and
a large tiled shower with hot-water-on-demand.
 
The kitchen is fully equipped and the dining room
often doubles as our computer room.

The lower unit is a bedsit that opens onto the patio.
Fitzroy, our friend and landlord, clearly has a green thumb.
(By the way, that's Fitzroy in our blog header picture,
as you probably guessed.)

The boatyard is about 500 meters west of the house.
We have three choices for our walk to 'work'.

One option is to turn left as we head out the gate
and use the street access to
the Lazy Turtle Restaurant in the building next door to us.
We walk down the stairs to the restaurant
and then down to the beach.

Until this week, this was our preferred way to get to the yard,
but now the water is even higher
– there's not enough beach to walk on.
This next picture, looking back east along the beach,
was taken 3 or 4 days after the previous two beach shots.

So instead of the beach walk,  we turn right as we leave the house,
and walk up the main road along the bay. It's a slightly uphill walk
but we enjoy the varied scenery along the way.

 
There are two ways to get down to the boatyard from the road.
I'll show you pictures of the 'mountain goat' option in a moment,
but first here's my favoured route
- heading down the Slipway Restaurant driveway.
It's a little longer, but it's shady, it's pretty
and the slope is gentle.
 
There are two gates along this driveway
as we work our way down to the beach.

We pass through the small parking area
and on down the steps.
This brings us out to the Slipway Restaurant
and the walk joins up with our beach route.

A few more steps to the west brings us
to the new fence at the boatyard.

And catch this - they worked around a palm tree
when putting up the new fence -
quite exciting considering how many mature trees and plants
were sacrificed from the front yard of the former yacht club
to make room for more boat storage.


Earlier I mentioned the 'mountain goat' option
for getting to the boatyard. Well.
This is the first look at their driveway from the main road.
This is a double driveway for the first 15 feet or so.
Look at that angle going down.

Here's are two views looking back up at it.
So clearly I'm trying to make a point here,
one that the Captain finds somewhat amusing.
And maybe it's just me, but every time
I walk down, I walk sideways, taking tiny, mincing steps.
I may get out of breath walking up but I hold my breath walking down.
A wuss? Maybe. But I don't care. Hate it.
Bare knees and roughed-up concrete don't go together.

Once down that initial steepest part,
the rest of the driveway is doable - even for me.

There have been many changes at the boatyard since May.
What used to be the Tyrrel Bay Yacht Haulout
is under new management
as Carriacou Marine and the former yacht club building
is now the main office for the new business.

The Iguana Cafe is the turquoise building
to the far left of the main office building.
The walkways just went in a couple of weeks ago
and there is more landscaping to be done.

So we continue to work on Beach House
and can't wait to get her back in the water.

But we happily spend our evenings at the Boathouse,
enjoying the sunset over Tyrrel Bay.

It's been a quiet month.
Pretty much.
Except for the snake.

Monday, May 14, 2012

ONE PARTICULAR HARBOUR

("One Particular Harbour" lyrics by Jimmy Buffett)
   

Over recent years, St. Vincent has gained a reputation
for being a ‘hot spot’, a place where crimes-against-cruisers
had seemed to cluster. Was it all true?
Was any of it as bad as it sounded?
Although we knew such incidents were rare,
and theoretically can happen anywhere,
we’d avoided stopping on St.Vincent.
Until this year.

So what was different?
Three factors came into play.

We’d been reading postings and articles written by cruisers
who have enjoyed many stops over the years at various bays
on St. Vincent’s south and west coasts.
They described friendly locals and pretty anchorages
with never a hint of a problem. Hmm.
First hand information from people we’d met
surely trumps speculation and rumour.

And Chris Doyle, the guru behind Doyle’s Cruising Guides,
and a cruiser himself, has written recently
about increased security in various Vincy bays
– an effort by the locals to put cruiser-worries to rest
and to bring us ashore to their businesses. Okay then.

And the last factor that changed our minds?
It would make sense that our confidence level has increased.
We knew we were being overly cautious in avoiding St. Vincent,
but that was the decision that worked for us in the past.
Apparently though, this year, we were ready
to lift our ‘personal ban’ on the island.

We decided in mid-January to break up our move north
from Bequia to St. Lucia with a stop in Cumberland Bay for the night.
It would be our test of sorts, a chance
to put our toes in St. Vincent waters.
Or at least our anchor and boat lines.

Cumberland Bay is located midway
along the west coast of the island.
This bay is very deep and banks steeply less than
one hundred feet from shore. There is no room for
conventional anchoring. Stern-to-shore Mediterranean mooring
is the solution and we had expert help for our first experience.

Neil, on his little fishing boat “Faithful”, came to meet us
and guided us through the process of backing in towards shore,
dropping the anchor on his say-so,
and giving him our line to take to shore.
Presto – we were anchored off the bow and stern-tied to a palm tree.

Our dinghy motor was lifted onto the aft mount.
Look past the dinghy motor propeller in this next picture,
and you'll see the long line to shore.

Neil came back to Beach House for a chat.
He’s a lovely young man with a ready smile
and he clearly loves St. Vincent.
He was disappointed that we were only staying the night
and not going ashore. Like a good ambassador for the island
and for local businesses, Neil urged us to come back
to Cumberland Bay on our way south again – a good plan.
We liked everything we could see from Beach House.

Palms and banana trees with a bonus rainbow ......

…… a black sand beach ……

…… and a handful of quaint beach restaurants.  

We departed Cumberland Bay early the next morning,
knowing we’d be back.
  
And a chance meeting in St. Lucia with friends Jeff and Carolee
on s/v Contessa confirmed the decision.
They had never stopped on St. Vincent either
– it was time for both boats to check out 
one particular harbour on the island.


After a rainswept motorsail, Beach House and Contessa 
stopped briefly in Chateaubelair to check in
with Customs and Immigration,
then motored the few miles further south to Cumberland Bay,
getting help again from Neil to set our anchor
and tie our stern line to shore.

We planned to stay for two nights,
allowing us a full afternoon to explore ashore.

Neil had recommended Mame Elma’s Restaurant.
Lunch was plentiful and delicious
- more chicken and fish than the four of us could manage
and the side dishes were served family-style
- cole slaw, potato salad, fries and rice,
all in large serving bowls set in the middle of the table.

Our view from the restaurant was classic postcard Caribbean.
Palm trees, our beached dinghy, and this time,
the proud St. Vincent flag.

Next stop was a visit to Joseph’s Restaurant.
Joseph was very chatty, talking about his family,
his business and about his new roof,
necessary after Hurricane Tomas
removed the original one 18 months ago.

Joseph is a fisherman as well as a restaurateur.
If you plan on going to his restaurant to eat,
he prefers to know ahead of time
so he can row out in his little fishing boat to catch your dinner
– from his fishing line - to his grill - to your plate.
Mame Elma’s lunch was delicious
but we’re considering Joseph’s place
on our next visit to Cumberland Bay.

It was time for a little walk along the beach
to check out the volcanic black sand,
visible especially at the water’s edge.

A procession of locals walked down the beach,
singing a haunting gospel song.
When they reached the very north end of the bay,
the preacher entered the water,
followed by several of his congregation.
 A baptism. We kept a respectful distance,
enjoying the music and the moment.

Walking back along the shore, we enjoyed the touristless views.

No beach chairs, no hawkers, not much of anything except serenity.

Along the way we checked out the grouping of buildings
we’d noticed from the boats.
This complex is brand new and built for cruisers.
The building on the left houses washrooms,
showers and laundry facilities with prices
well in keeping with what we’ve paid in other places.
In the central building, there’s a small bar and cafĂ©,
and the building to the right is for offices and shops.

Our last stop was Mojito’s for a rest and an ice cube.
We were again greeted by smiling locals who made us feel welcome.
They also served up this view.

It was one of those idyllic afternoons.
Beautiful surroundings, perfect weather and good company.

Jeff from s/v Contessa summed up Cumberland Bay,
saying it reminded him of what the Caribbean used to be like.
We would have to agree – beautiful, quiet, and charming.



Saturday, March 24, 2012

"KALEIDOSCOPE"



Picture a kaleidoscope.
Fill it with turquoise water, bright blue skies,
green palm trees and a golden sun
- lovely colours tumbling around,
reflecting smiles and laughs.

In the mood for a couple of turns of our kaleidoscope?

You’ll meet more of our cruising buddies,
some good friends from Canada,
and a family member or two.
And there just might be an island beach along the way.

We left Carriacou in mid-January.
On the way north, we ran into good cruising friends
Charles on ‘Margaret Sharon’ and Kathy and Greg on ‘Indigo’.
The ladies love Charles because he has a ready smile
and he likes to dance.

Here’s Charles dancing on the beach with Kathy and me,
in Friendship Bay, Bequia.
 All the husbands like Charles as well.
One reason might be that he likes to dance
and thus keeps the ladies happy?

The reason for dancing on the beach in Bequia
(not that we need a reason)
was the Bequia Mount Gay Music Fest
and Saturday’s free concert.
Our chosen vantage point changed when a group of young ladies
set up a table in front of us.
The blog photographer called this next photo ‘Rum Bums’.
Look what they were setting up. Mount Gay. Free tasting.

Here’s Greg, Kathy’s husband, checking out the choices with me.
Decisions, decisions.
So. No more pictures of that afternoon.
But there was definitely more dancing. It’s a bit of a blur.

Goodbye to Bequia and on to St. Lucia
to meet up with Dave and Rose Johnston
who were flying in to join us for ten days.
Their arrival night was a party on Beach House.
Fourteen people brought food and libations.
There wasn’t a shrinking violet to be found.
Lots of stories and lots of laughs.

Two days later we headed to Martinique with Dave and Rose.
It was a boisterous sail.

The seas were bigger than the pictures indicate,
with the wind at 20-25 knots, gusting higher.
A great day on the water.

We checked in at Marin, did a walkabout and had lunch.

Ste. Anne is just a short motor around the corner.
The public dinghy docks in the French islands are magnifique.
What a pretty little town.

Next day, Dave took the wheel to take us along the south coast of Martinique.
We passed Diamond Rock and headed up the west coast
to Grande Anse D’Arlet.
 
It was fun to play tourist, walking along the beachside promenade,
stopping for a cool one when needed.
Our last Martinique stop with Rose and Dave was Fort de France,
the capital of the island.

We walked and shopped.

And walked and shopped.

One more turn of the kaleidoscope finds us further up island in Antigua
to meet our daughter, Jodi, and our grandson, Max.
No sooner did Max come aboard and he turned into Gilligan.
But we did a little more than a three hour tour.

On the first full day we took the bus into St. John’s.
Here are the requisite tourist shots.

Next day we were off to the beach where Max gave body-surfing a try.

Grandpa taught Max the ins and outs of driving the dinghy.
He became our number one driver for the rest of the week.
 
And having visitors gave us the chance to see more of Antigua
than we had previously. We rented a car and hit the road.

So much of Eastern Caribbean history
and economy is tied to sugar cane.
Betty’s Hope Plantation is a rustic example of what life was like here
in Antigua for hundreds of years.

Devil’s Bridge is a limestone arch, formed by the pounding
of the Atlantic Ocean over the centuries.
Numerous blowholes surround the arch.

No tour of Antigua is complete without a stop at Shirley Heights
where the view of English and Falmouth Harbours speaks for itself.
Shirley Heights is part of Nelson’s Dockyard National Park.
The grounds and buildings are beautifully kept.
And the museum had a surprise for Max.

Antigua boasts 365 beaches, one for every day of the year,
so we wanted to get Beach House to one more
before the end of Max and Jo’s visit.

What a lovely sail from Jolly Harbour to Deep Bay.
Gentle winds, calm seas, and only five miles. Perfect.

Time for some fun in the water for Frogman Max.
Then a walk.
No beach visit is complete without the ‘dinghy shot’.
No dinghy shot is allowed to stay so normal.
Here's hoping Jodi and Max enjoyed their Antiguan vacation.
We did!