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Mark snorkelling in the Tobago Cays    
West Indies 2006 EUROPE 2005
ATLANTIC OCEAN 2005
WEST INDIES 2006
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The Grenadines & Grenada
ROUTE SUMMARY:
The Grenadines 21st May - 8th June 2006
Grenada 8th - 29th June 2006

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22nd - 23rd May 2006: Bequia
A NEW LEASE OF LIFE

It felt good to wake up and peak out of the window to see the white sandy beaches and clear turquoise water. Finally we are back in The Grenadines, back in paradise. It took us half an hour to row into Port Elizabeth to clear into the country. We would have used our meagre outboard had it not spluttered and died on us in Marin. While in town we bumped into Mike and Angela on 'A Capella', a couple we had previously met in Nevis. As luck would have it, Mike had the same outboard and had repaired it a number of times. Thinking that the impeller was the problem, he searched his boat and found a spare one to kindly donate to us. The impeller is a small rubber paddle wheel that pumps the cooling water around the engine. That afternoon Mike helped Mark pull it apart, and lo and behold, the impeller was ... knackered.

 

Mark spent the morning of his birthday putting it all back together. The whole operation was a success and we are now mobile again, although no speedier than when we row! We plan to chill out for the rest of the day and watch the sunset from the beach with cold beers.

 

Tomorrow we head for the island of Mayreau. The wind is forecast to ease by the end of the week, perfect timing for our trip to the Tobago Cays - a group of small deserted islands protected from the sea by a large reef. We plan to spend a week or so there before heading to Union Island at the beginning of June and then on down to Grenada.

Old impeller on the left!

Old impeller on the left!

 

Mark fixing the outboard

Mark fixing the outboard

24th - 30th May 2006: Bequia
RESTING IN BEQUIA

We delayed our departure from Port Elizabeth in Bequia as Nat got a cold, probably from showering on the deck on a dark, windy night. But it passed quickly and we didn't mind the delay; we spent day after day on the quiet Princess Margaret Beach, a short row away. We sat in the shade reading books and swam up and down to cool off. On one swim, a little fish took a liking to Nat and would swim along with her just under her belly. When she stopped it would swim right up to her face not realising it was time for a rest, then hang around and set off with her again on the next lap. On board we gorged ourselves on mangoes, pineapples and more mangoes. All local, all in season, and all mouth-watering. We've never tasted such fresh fruit.

Time was passing us by though and with every day the need to keep heading south grew. We got ourselves together and watered up. Thankfully watering up here is a breeze... or should be. On request a boat with large water containers comes alongside and transfers the water into your tanks. Unfortunately after filling our main tanks we noticed the water was green with bits floating in it. So another simple operation becomes a three hour job. Refuse to pay the guy, drain and disinfect the tanks, and the next day wait around to fill up again. Another lesson learnt the hard way but, looking on the bright side, we got to see the sun set again in a place we love so it wasn't all bad in Bequia.

Peaceful sunsets in Bequia

Peaceful sunsets, Bequia

 

31st May - 2nd June 2006: The Tobago Cays
THE TOBAGO CAYS

We had another fantastic sail south, past the island of Canouan and the Baline Rocks, and along the north side of Mayreau into the Cays using the day markers on the deserted islands of Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau to guide us safely past all the keel-hungry reefs.

 

We gingerly anchored behind the coral reef, which lies just below the surface of the sea, in about 3 metres of crystal clear turquoise water. You could clearly see the white sandy bottom, it felt like anchoring in a swimming pool. Straight in front of us was nothing but the wide open ocean, with the waves crashing on the reef, the end of their long journey across the Atlantic. If we could see for thousands of miles, we'd see Africa. Although the reef provided settled waters, the wind continued to howl over us. 

 

We took the dinghy up close behind the reef and snorkelled around the coral heads. It was teeming with fish of all different shapes, sizes and colours. Many were quite large at 30cm or 1' long. A shoal of 15 purple, disc shaped fish swam past Mark, each one the size and shaped of a 12" vinyl LP. He looked carefully at their mouths for teeth; thankfully none were seen.

 

The morning of our departure we woke early. We sat on the foredeck with cups of tea watching the sun rise over the sea. As we are usually anchored behind an island, this was the first sunrise we'd seen since arriving in the Caribbean. It was a bit cloudy but we felt lucky to be here, it reminded us of being on passage again and the relief we always felt when daylight arrived.

 

We continue to keep a careful watch on the weather as hurricane season officially started on the 1st of June. We are now officially just below the hurricane belt so officially we won't get hit. (Here's hoping it's a different set of officials from last year.) With more tropical waves on their way though, we felt the Cays were not the ideal spot to sit out a blow, so once more it was time to leave another beautiful place.

Tobago Cays: Petit Bateau

Petit Bateau, Tobago Cays

 

 

Tobago Cays: Baradel Island

Baradel Island, Tobago Cays

 

3rd - 8th June 2006: Mayreau & Union
CLEANING UP IN THE QUIET CARIBBEAN

Since leaving Antigua at the end of April we have noticed the Caribbean sailing scene has changed. With only a handful of charter boats around, cruisers finally rule. Prince Rupert's Bay in Dominica was deserted; under the Pitons we no longer needed to take a line ashore as there was no-one to swing into; there was plenty of room for everyone in the Tobago Cays; and in Mayreau we had Saline Beach to ourselves. The quiet side of the Caribbean suits us nicely. So does reef anchoring. The wind rushes through the boat keeping us cool and our batteries get pumped with juice all day and all night long from our wind charger.

 

And so we found ourselves another reef to anchor behind, this time just outside the town of Clifton on Union Island. We made it our home for a few days for a reason. A month ago Nat read an article about The Sustainable Grenadines Project and immediately went about investigating how we could help in the activities to support World Ocean Day on the 8th June. Within no time we were signed up on a coastal clean up in Clifton on the 5th.

 

The day arrived with an early start. At 6am we headed to the waterfront to meet Nolan, a nice guy from a local church group, and while waiting for the clean up to start we chatted and watched breadfruit cooking over a fire. Katrina, the lady who had organised the event, arrived and eight of us got to work. The aim of the day was to pick up all the litter from around the town's waterfront and beaches, prioritising plastics. Understandably Katrina found it difficult to hide her disappointment at the turnout; a hundred letters sent to the local community with countless promises to attend and only eight of us stood before her. The kind folks in St Vincent didn't even manage to send some gloves as promised. But we picked away, Nolan sang, 50 large bags got filled, and the coast slowly started to breath again after months of suffocation from all kinds of waste, mostly plastic bags and drinks bottles. We did what we could but basically you need an army of people to clean up this place. Thank goodness paradise has someone like Katrina to fight for it. The clean up ended with a thank you and a prayer followed by breakfast on Katrina's porch.

 

The winds rose steadily during our time in Clifton until the point we were hanging on by our fingernails and any plans we had to visit neighbouring islands were kiboshed. For brief periods - always in the night - the wind reached 30 knots and the saltwater spray from the waves crashing on the reef coated the boat. We felt quite exposed with the open sea and wild water in front, another reef 100m behind us and darkness all around us. By day the journey to town on the dinghy was like a fairground log flume ride but not as much fun and, to top it all off, red dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa covered the boat. Smashing.

 

We waited impatiently for the visibility to improve and the wind to ease so we could set sail for our final destination, Grenada.

 

 

8th - 29th June 2006: Grenada
ALL WORK & NO PLAY

We arrived in Grenada on the 8th June after a pleasant sail from Union Island. The big decision for the passage was how much room to give the underwater volcano north of Grenada called 'Kick 'em Jenny.' The guidebook recommended consulting the website www.uwiseismic.com to find out the current exclusion zone. Thank goodness we had not visited this site when we first arrived in the Caribbean, we may never have left Rodney Bay. The Eastern Caribbean islands lie on the boundary between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. It is home to 19 live volcanoes and earthquakes happen on a very regular basis; two have been reported near Trinidad and one to the north of Dominca in the past two weeks alone! Enough information to give any earthquake virgin the shakes. Luckily 'Jenny' was relatively kickless, requiring only one mile clearance.

 

Our first port of call in Grenada was The Lagoon at St Georges, the capital of the island. The highlights of our stay here were bumping into friends we had met in St Kitts - Gerard, Monica and their three children Tom, Jonty and Rebecca on Clarabella, a Nicholson 35 - and wandering around the colourful Saturday morning market. While there a large steel French boat anchored in front of us, veered sufficient scope for the anchor to just touch the bottom and shortly afterwards started to drag down towards us. As the boat floated past us alarmingly quickly we shouted to alert them. A teenage girl stuck her head out of the companion way and proceeded to shout 'merde', which was exactly what we were thinking, only in English. She didn't look very experienced but managed to get the engine going and stuck it into forward gear. On realising that she was alone Mark jumped into the dinghy catching up with the boat under row power and then hurled himself on to it to help her re-anchor safely. It was like watching a James Bond movie.

 

Our haul-out was booked for the 19th and we were keen to move to Prickly Bay on the south coast of the island, despite the recommendation from Gerard to stay at St Georges for as long as possible. We had a lot of work to do and psychologically we needed to be at our final destination to get going on it. So we ignored his advice and made our last voyage of this season - five miles around the headland into Prickly Bay. Almost immediately we regretted it. The marina was a dump and the bay was open to the swell. Clarabella's word is now gospel. We struggled over the next week to get the boat sorted in between bursts of torrential rain and swarms of flying ants. It was not that much fun but we were happy with our progress. The 19th came around quickly and the haul-out went smoothly despite the initial battle with a Moorings charter cat who wanted to push to the front of the queue - we won, together with the other boats waiting their turn.

 

And since then it's just been all work, work, work. We have removed the mast, prepared the engine for storage, cleared tons of clothes and cleaned from stem to stern below decks. It's been very hot and humid here recently and, without the sea all around us and the breeze of the anchorage, working inside the boat was unbearable. Fortunately we had reserved a small apartment nearby, into which we fled between lunch and early evening on most days.

 

Tomorrow we slide the hatches closed for the last time this summer and, leaving Free Spirit for the first time in over a year, return to England. Months at sea will be undone in only a few hours. It doesn't seem possible.

 

It has been a truly wonderful year packed with many years worth of memories and friendships. We know we will miss many things but for now we can't wait to get home and see our family and friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grenada haulout

Grenada haul-out

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