Monday, May 14, 2012


("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.