After 10 days in Barbados, we were excited to get to Vacation Part Deux – Sailing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Thursday morning Dwayne Wayne picked us up from Cotton House with his beautiful 3 year old daughter in the front seat. We rode to the airport while she told us stories of zebras and distributed hugs and kisses. Arriving to St. Vincent, we met our guide for the day, Darren. He had arrived to shuttle the guys to Barefoot Yachts while the girls crossed the street to the market.
Lisa, Gretchen and I had a serious shopping list for 10 days of staples. We walked the aisles of the modest store, searching and substituting as needed. A hour and a half later, we carted stacks of boxes laden with food out to Darren’s taxi after a torrential downpour. Our next stop was the liquor store. More boxes came out while Darren looked on in shock by our 11 cases of beer. Little did he know, we’d actually cut our beer allowance in half.
We arrived back at Barefoot to find BJ, Brad and Tim getting to know the boat – a 47 foot Beneteau called Indian Summer. We were pretty well outfitted with towels, linens and the bare essentials of cooking – 3 sauce pans, 6 sets of silverware and plates, utensils and a tiny frypan. We loaded the boat up with groceries (pulling everything out of their boxes to avoid cockroaches) and settled in for a peanut butter and jelly lunch. We had to wait until 4 for the tides to rise so we walked the 1/4 mile to the fish market to see what we could find for dinner.
The fishmen were glad to see us. They had 2 fresh red snapper and after some haggling, we had them fillet it and scale it. Here we learned the miraculous “virility” effect of the fish heads. Despite the fishman’s advice, we told them we didn’t need the head or to suck the eyeballs and left with our fresh catch.
When we arrived back to Indian Summer, Chris was ready to shove off with a vastly improved frying pan in hand. Chris is our friend and connection to the Grenadines. He taught Tim to sail in the San Juans and would accompany us to Bequia our first day. It was late in the day so we motored 15 minutes to a calm harbor called Young’s Cut.
Rising above Young’s Cut is Young Island – a 18th century British military outpost with cannons perched high above the seas. 264 steeps steps lead up to the top of the tiny island where 2 ton guns point out towards distant Bequia to protect the islands from the French and back towards St. Vincent to protect the outpost from the natives.
By 6 pm, we were back on board Indian Summer fixing a red snapper taco dinner. At just 13 degrees of latitude above the Equator, the Grenadines get a consistent 12 hours of daylight year round which meant sunset at 6:30 – dinner always came shortly after.
Chris dinghyed home for the night and we settled in early for our first night on the boat. Friday we woke up to a grey and soggy morning. French toast brightened things a bit, but by the time Chris joined us for our first open crossing, we were already a little waterlogged.
Chris was just going to be with us a day and while Tim had plenty of experience on a boat, the rest of us were novices. Chris started off with basics about how not get your hand caught in the winch and raising the sails. The waves were about 2 meters high with winds of 22 knots. It was a great day to have Chris on the boat since even Tim hadn’t sailed in seas that big.
2 hours in, Lisa was driving and we were getting used to the rolling of the boat. Chris guided us around Bequia for practice tacking, anchoring and man overboard drills. This meant we all got turns pulling ropes in gusty winds while he watched and advised.
Exhausted, we were glad to return to calm Bequia harbor for the night. A flotilla of Lats and Atts (A irreverant sailing magazine) writers had arrived and after dinner, we went to “cown” to explore. We were too late for the party, but got a taste of local nightlife (big speakers, a macbook toting dj and lots of loud music).
Saturday we finally glimpsed the crystal clear water that the Grenadines are known for. The morning was bright blue and after some resupplying and dropping Chris off on land, we set sail again for the first time on our own. It didn’t take long for the “crew” to find their places and we sailed 4 hours to the famed Tobago Cays.
It was a beautiful day and at 15-17 knots the winds were blowing perfectly for us. We made good time with only a few major incidents (lessons learned – always check your jib lines after knot tying practice and don’t always trust the charter company when they say your anchor chain is 250 feet).
Tobago Cays is an iconic anchorage in the Caribbean with snorkling, sea turtles and blue green waters. Here we settled in for 3 days of relaxing boat time. Our first morning we met our first local personality, Walter, who takes a small motor boat across the sea from Union Island each morning to sell ice, t-shirts, and the “best banana bread in the Grenadines”.
At $12 a bag for ice, the convenience doesn’t come cheap, and we quickly learned to ration our supply (our cocktails were served “on the rock”). Next Mandy Man swung by with fresh tuna that he reluctantly cleaned on the boat (our dull knives were not going to filet any fish successfully).
Once stocked for the day, we dinghyed to the coral reefs for some extreme snorkling. Fast currents provided a good workout as we took turns swimming to the tops of reefs and floating down to watch the fish. Having justified our first Hairoun, we returned back to the boat for another rigorous day of reading in the sun. While BJ, Lisa, Gretchen and Brad left to explore another small island, Tim and I signaled Walter back to the boat to buy Tobago Cays tshirts for us all.
BJ, Lisa, Gretchen and Brad had their own surprise waiting. While we were occupied shopping for just the right shirts (Same Shit Different Island was a favorite) they were blowing up the inflatable Deer that they rescued from Frank’s Wedding Day decorations on the distant beach. 15 minutes later they arrive back on the boat with BJ riding the deer. Needless to say, Deer riding became the new favorite pastime (along with wearing the Jack Sparrow wig, rum cocktailing and eating bacon, of course).
That night after a dinner of fresh grilled yellow fin tuna, we ended our very busy day with a game of poker and showing of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Monday was another blue sky day. After a morning of reading, we dinghyed over to the Turtle Sanctuary for iguana viewing and snorkling with turtles.
People watching was almost as entertaining as turtle watching. Everyone hangs out on their boats, keeping an eye on each other. Americans are a minority in the Grenadines and we got a kick out of our French, British and Scandanavian neighbors.
After 3 days in the Cays, we’d planned to head out early on Tuesday for a quick sail over to Clifton Harbor on Union Island. Tim and I were on deck early when a dinghy drove up. An older man introduced himself as Martin and explained they’d lost someone overboard in the middle of the night. Shocked, we helped search the closest island to see if their friend had swum to shore with no luck.
We drove back to Martin and he told us the story of how at 2am, their sailboat had gotten hit by another boat that had come loose from a mooring ball. After assessing the damage, they’d gone to bed, but an hour later Steve had gotten up again and disappeared. They searched the boat and at sunrise began searching the islands. Coast Guard was on the way.
Feeling helpless, we asked if there was anything we could do, but Martin thanked us and said no. 2 hours later when we arrived in Clifton Harbor we heard the rest of the story. Steve’s body was found and the later autopsy showed that he’d fallen overboard and died of a heart attack.
We arrived at Clifton Harbor feeling more and more confident handling the boat. As soon as we sailed in, we were bombarded with locals in their boats offering mooring balls, ice, fruit and fish – harrastiffarians (thank you to Spike for that accurate nickname). We declined the offers and after some snorkeling, got in the dinghy for a resupply trip to town.
We landed on the dinghy dock and first met Clem who helped us with our trash in exchange for a rum and coke. ”Need any fish?” Clem asked. We said yes we’d get some in town. 10 minutes and a 1/2 mile later, we are walking through the streets when we hear a loud voice: “You all want the fish, right?”
We turn around to see Clem, only it isn’t Clem, it’s Icebo, Clem’s lookalike cousin, ready with 6 fresh red snapper. This was our introduction to the Kingpin of Clifton. Icebo shuttled us into the market, sat down with us for beers at Lambi’s, sold us snapper, and gave us cooking tips. 2 hours later we left with hands full of fish, fresh spinach, limes and pineapple…and an awesome snapper recipe.
Once the fish was on ice on the boat, we set off again to Clifton’s other famous feature, Happy Island. Built on the reefs in the harbor, this one bar sandy island lives up to it’s name. As you arrive by boat, you are announced over the intercom by the beaming bartender/dj. Rum punch and painkillers flow freely and we raised a toast to Steve.
When we arrived, we introduced ourselves to our other island-mates, a group of sailors from Aspen Colorado. They’d just come up from Petit St. Vincent and had stories of beach bars and hamburgers. We’d planned to head to Petit Martinique the next day but rumors of hamburgers changed our minds. Man cannot live on fish alone.
One sunset later, we were back on the boat and cooking up our snapper per Icebo’s instructions. Taking the entire fish, we sliced it vertically (BJ and Lisa’s recommendation after a trip to Costa Rica), seasoned the entire thing with Adobo spices, egged, breaded and dropped it in oil. Best fish ever. After some Happy Island rum, we were feeling a bit braver and Tim and Brad even tried the head but I don’t think they’d recommend the eyeballs in the future.
On Wednesday morning, we packed up Indian Summer again and set sail to Petit St. Vincent with dreams of beef dancing in our heads. We arrived before noon and once anchor was set, we all jumped out of the boat into the perfect turquoise water. When you think of perfect Caribbean islands, PSV is what comes to mind. Small and private, PSV is a single resort that boasts of discretion and privacy for it’s guests. Accomodations consist of stone huts on the beach that run a whopping $1800 a night.
Lucky for us, their beach bar is significantly less expensive and accepts reservations. After our day of swimming and sunning, we dressed up and dinghyed over for dinner. First stop? Air conditioned granite tiled bathrooms…now that is luxury.
After a feast of mango barbecued ribs, conch fritters, crab back and a burger for Tim, we were back on the boat for movie night featuring Mission Impossible.
The Caribbean kept delivering great days. Thursday was no exception. We sailed out of PSV around Union Island under blue skies, with medium winds. Our next stop was the island of Mayreau and another famous beach, Salt Whistle Bay. On our way, we sailed by Mopian – a single sandy beach with an thatched umbrella. Tricky coral kept us from anchoring but we took it in from a distance.
Once settled in Salt Whistle, we relaxed on the deck for the spectacle. A small bay with limited room, Salt Whistle is one of the most coveted anchorages in the Grenadines. Boats vie for the limited space and there is inevitably some confrontation as they bump their way through. Tim had our fenders and hook at the ready as a French family came within 2 feet of our boat on their way to the beach.
By Friday it was time to start heading north again. We spent the morning hiking to a church with spectacular views of the distant Tobago Cays before setting sail on our 4 hour crossing to Bequia. We took the 2 meter waves and Easterly wind at a broad reach. Tim couldn’t stop smiling thanks to the perfect sailing.
We arrived in Bequia with plenty of time to swim and get ready for dinner. We were excited for Mac’s Pizza, the famous local pizzeria with delicious pies and even better rum punch. 2 large pizzas later we were stuffed and exhausted after yet another “strenuous” Caribbean day.
Our last day on the boat arrived too early. The night had been calm with occassional gusts of wind affectionately named by sailors as Bequia Blasts. The weather reported 20 knot winds with gusts up to 25 and 2 meter waves. Our crossing was over open seas with little protection so we knew it would be a big day. We put together a breakfast of leftovers and got ready for sailing. Rounding the corner out of the harbor, Tim instructed the main to be hoisted and the jib unfurled.
5 minutes later the gust hit, heeling the boat over. Just a “little puff” Chris would describe it later when we told him the story, but it definitely got our attention. After adding a reef to the main, we sailed across the channel between Bequia and St. Vincent in good time, sliding up and down the large swells.
Once back in Blue Lagoon, we had a mimosa toast and an antipasta plate of leftovers before getting bustled off the boat by an eager Barefoot cleaning crew. It was hard to believe we were leaving our trusty boat after 9 days. We met up with Chris and walked down to a local bistro for rotis, shark and fries, snapper and motorcross racing on television.
Our long day ended with a 1/2 hour flight to Barbados and midnight arrival at the Sun Bay hotel. We were guided to our rooms located directly across from a thumping bass bar. Two room transfers and a half dozen showers later, 6 sleepy sailors finally headed to bed.
Thanks BJ and Tim for all these amazing photos!