September 8 – November 25, 2022
Our last holiday in Grenada was Halloween. I hung up a string of lighted purple bats, and the people of Grenada do a beautiful remembrance of their ancestors at the Grand Anse cemetery. We planned to leave on Nov 1, but some boat work we hired out wasn’t quite completed we didn’t actually leave Port Louis Marina until the 2nd, pretty close. We spent a couple nights on a mooring outside St George, just enjoying the breeze and freedom, and not going to the big grocery store to stock up as we should have. My grocery store phobia has continued into retired life, and Jeff seems to have become infected too.
On November 4th, we sailed north to Carriacou (another island that is part of Grenada), and picked up a ball at Sandy Island. Our little flotilla of friends, Sweet Debbie and Aqua Therapy, from the marina was there too, and we had fun revisiting Paradise Beach to see our painted Renegade plank displayed in a prime spot at the front of the bar. The water was so clear and beautiful, we snorkeled and kayaked, and hung out on the beach. Sitting by the waters edge talking and drinking, I got a bit of a sunburn. First time in more than a year. I blame the summer heat in Grenada. My tan faded because the summer sun was so hot, we were always hiding in the shade or air conditioning.
On the 8th of November, we checked out of the country via a dinghy ride to Tyrell Bay. This was a classic check out situation. The local bar right there in front of the customs office, to collect your money for breakfast while you wait to pay the port captain. The customs office had a nice big sign on the door with their hours, “open at 8AM”. We arrived a few minutes after eight, and there was just one other boat waiting and having eggs. By nine thirty, the bar was full, and the picnic tables in the yard were filing up with late arrivals. 9:35 am, the port captain walks up, makes a nice little speech, “good morning captains, for those of you waiting to check out, only two at a time in the office”, and disappears inside. Well, we had a nice leisurely meal, and still left in time to be underway before lunch.
Our plan was to go 6 miles (an hour) to the southern most island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, the wind was perfect – 12-18 knots exactly on the beam. We sailed right on by Union Island, and headed straight up to check in at Bequia, the northern most of the Grenadines. Jeff and I didn’t stop smiling the less than 4 hours is took us to get there. We averaged more than 8 knots of boats peed the whole time. 10.5+ surfing waves. If it were always like that, I wouldn’t be worried about the circumnavigation at all!
The island of Bequia is super cute. We checked in (so easy) poked around town, and the hotel I picked for my sister’s visit next month passed inspection and offered a nice glass of prosecco. We saw some friends and enjoyed the water. I kayaked a bit. We dived the reef “Devil’s Table” with two other boats. We ran into SV Hylander from the regatta in the Chesapeake, and went for lunch at Firefly, a pretty eco-resort in the hills and afterward walked out to a turtle farm. Very nice.
By Nov 13, we were impatient to sail again. We headed back down south to the Tobagos, and uninhabited group of tiny islands behind a horseshoe shaped reef. (Appropriately named Horseshoe Reef). We anchored behind this reef, next to Aqua Therapy and Sweet Debbie. Lots of snorkeling, beach waking, and turtle viewing ensued. This was especially good from the elevated position of Sweet Debbie’s fly bridge, where the drinks are cold and it was clear we were parked in the middle of a turtle highway! Alan arranged a lobster dinner on the beach at Big Mama’s, and we went early to avoid the mosquitos. We know it was an awesome night because all we remember Janet is a terrific DJ (turns out Aqua Therapy has a night club up top).
After the Tobagos, we snuck around the corner to Mayreau island to get out of the wind and surf that was picking up over the reef. At Mayreau, Aqua Therapy teamed up with us for a wreck dive and then a “spa day” at Mayreau Beach Resort. This escape designed especially for sailors has a great dinghy dock, yummy food, a swim up bar in the lowest layer of three infinity pools ascending up to a gorgeous “captains lounge” on the top level. They have rooms to offer too, and an “SOS” program for when you are Sick Of Sailing. However, after the second day, the swell was rolling in and we were rolling out.
Next stop, Canouan. This island lost it’s yachty trade back in 2019 or so, when a crazy local guy was boarding and robbing yachts, even in the middle of the day. Saliors were quickly scared off. It didn’t take long for the locals to find the guy, beat him up pretty thoroughly, and lock him up. However, by then the damage was done, the reputation established. And then COVID. So by the time we showed up, the town was looking like they really need revenue from outside. There was a delightful coffee shop with a playground, a friendly local rum shop on the beach, and a gorgeous, multi-million dollar marina. The marina is isolated at one end of the island, several miles out of town, and deserted except for groundskeepers. 4 boats with room for 400. A bit sad, but it was early in the season. We’d already done 5 miles walking back to town, with the sun was high in the sky, when a friendly guy stopped to give us a ride. We were so grateful! Back in town, Jeff wanted water and asked at the rum shack. The guys were all so friendly, laughing saying it was only rum or beer. Beer is good for you!
Regarding Canouan, I should note there are two beautiful hotels, that don’t really interact with the local community. There’s the Mandarin Oriental, on the windward side so we never saw it. The Tamarind Yacht Club, which was very friendly to sailors, is now the Soho Beach Club. We went in for dinner with Aqua Therapy. They were extremely welcoming, which some of the more sophisticated service I’ve seen in a long time here in the southern Caribbean. A great night.
By the 17th or so, the days blur, we meandered back to Bequia, which is famous as an old time whaling center. We did a 4 hour island tour with Alvin Olivierre. His family came to Bequia in the early 1800s from Portugal, and they are one of the two major whaling families on the island. His younger brother is a whaler, but he is one of a disappearing trade. By international treaty the islanders are still allowed to take two whales a year using only traditional methods and equipment. This means boats powered only by sailing and rowing, hand thrown harpoons, etc. It’s very difficult and with hardly anyone with whaling experience left, they didn’t take any whales last year, and only one the year before. Overall, I am totally opposed to whaling, but it is still possible to morn the passing of a way of life. In many ways, it feels like we are in a bit of a time warp in the Grenadines. As an example, the island of Mayreau only got electricity back in 2002. Wow. Mr. Sargent is a famous boat builder here in Bequia. His wife Mercy gives tours of a one room boat building museum. She is not that much older than me, and remembers when wind power how they traveled island to island. She told us of taking the sailing schooner “Friendship Rose” back and forth to St. Vincent, for shopping and supplies. Sometimes the 10 mile trip took two hours and other time hours and hours is the wind wasn’t blowing. She always brought a change of clothes because you were certain to arrive wet. I feel lucky to have spent time with her.
I also had a fun day dog sitting for Wildest Dreams (we tend to refer to friends by their boat’s names) while they were away. I think I actually pulled a muscle in my arm for Baker, their 1.5 year old Bernadoodle. So cute and smart. He just kept bringing that Frisbee back, never wandering off. De-sanding him in the transom shower reminded me of how hard it is to keep a dog on a boat, and that although I miss Sammy every day, we did the right thing leaving her in Boston to do her important life guard work.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving. We are very thankful to be experiencing this way of life. However, there are sacrifices. Zooming with family is not the same as being there. I miss my mother’s stuffing! It’s her grandmother’s recipe. Last year, we had a Thanksgiving Feast at Foxy’s. It was fun and certainly different than Thanksgivings of our old life. This year, friends were going to a restaurant on shore that had a traditional meal on offer, but Jeff decided that didn’t feel right. We decided to eat on Renegade just the two of us. We had turkey breast, stuffing, mashed potatoes, fresh broccoli, tons of gravy, and a home made pumpkin pie for dessert. All from our tiny oven! Yay Chef Jeff!