Colombia, safe and sound

In the end we decided to stop in Cabo de la Vela in Colombia for a night, a beautiful little bay near a small village in the very north of Colombia. We arrived in the morning after a nice night sail. The day was spent pottering around Itchy Foot, I fixed the gas and we had a swim.

A quiet night’s sleep was rewarded with a lovely calm morning and a slow breakfast. With 140 miles ahead of us to get to Santa Marta we had no reason to rush. So coffee, fluffy pancakes (my best yet – less milk seemed to help) and a swim in the refreshing waters. It seems that as we sail west and south the sea temperature has dropped, from a bathtub 25C down to a refreshing 20C – much nicer.

We didn’t have much wind, so motored for the first two hours but by lunchtime we were sailing along nicely. Poled out the headsail and running before the wind and sea, is a pleasant way to travel. I spent the time reading a book about fishing and adjusting my standard fishing lines accordingly. It paid off! Shortly before lunch we managed to catch and land a couple (literally as they are a mating pair) of Dorado. A very tasty white fish from a beautiful and colorful fish. So lunch became fresh fish fingers!

The wind and the waves continued to build and into the night we had 20+ knots of wind. After dinner Mia headed off to bed, but it was a bit rocky and rolly so she didn’t managed to get much sleep and was up on deck again shortly after midnight to help me adjust the sails and head out of the cockpit, something we only do when we have two people awake and on deck.

About 4 in the morning Mia started her watch and I went to grab a few hours sleep before we arrived in Santa Marta. We arrived in the city around 10:30 am and were tied-up in the marina by 11am. It’s a lovely modern marina, hot showers, clean bathrooms, excellent security. They even have biometric security on the door, opened with finger prints, which Teo hasn’t got tired of yet!

We took a walk around the town in the afternoon, finding a supermarket and hardware store. The restaurants are cheap (5 usd for a main course) and the food seems excellent. The town is rough around the edges and I’m not sure how far we will wander at night, but during the day the police are obvious and the locals we’ve met a very friendly and welcoming. Speaking Spanish as always is helpful and earns goodwill. We’re looking forward to exploring the city and country over the coming weeks.

The cruising community is rarely found in a marina, so it was strange to be welcomed by people from five or so boats within two minutes of arriving. Before an early night we stopped at the marina bar for happy hour and met another 10+ boats worth of cruisers, all very welcoming. Now time to find more kids for Teo!

So, safe and sound in South America.

Along come Mormor and Grandpa

Written by Mia:

We stayed in Bonaire as long as possible and then were excited to see Mormor and Grandpa who flew from California to visit us in Curaçao. As we were entering Spanish Waters where all the visiting boats are anchored we caught a glimpse of the gorgeous resort of Santa Barbara that we would come to know and love over the next eight days. It was bathed in golden light and beckoned us, but first we had a day of logistics with Customs and Immigration in Willemstad. They were friendly in both offices and we really enjoyed the town, too. We rushed back to move Itchy Foot to a boasting place on the hotel dock. The beach right on the other side of dock is gorgeous and were enjoying a swim in the perfect water before long. Then we waited and waited and waited because we were excited and time passed slowly…. they came with a beautiful Police escort, Teo was well impressed.

We had a lovely time together, doing a little exploring and enjoying the luxury that comes with a resort hotel. Mostly it was wonderful just spending time together. On our first morning they came aboard to check out Itchy Foot who got a seal of approval. We took Itchy Foot out for a sail to Klein Curaçao which is gorgeous day trip destination with Bonaire colored water and snorkeling and an abandoned lighthouse.

And another bit of luxury… we had a rental car so zipping into town was quick and easy. What a charming town, and you can have it almost to yourself when the cruise ships aren’t visiting! On our first visit we found a great place for lunch called Boheme, with friendly staff and tasty goodies we stayed quite a nice long time. Later, we visited the fruit market, which is picturesque and full of excellent produce mostly from Venezuela. We also browsed in the shops and admired the architecture. On our second visit we went to the museum  which boasted some cool kitchen gadgets from the last century as well as a carillon that looks like a piano but plays bells on the outside of the building. We stayed until it got dark and enjoyed the lights of the Queen Emma floating bridge and also went out to a delicious, upscale dinner at Gouverneur with their green egg specials. The food was amazing as was the courtyard was charming so we sat and enjoyed a good chat for quite a long while.

On our big day out, we took a long drive. We crossed the big suspension bridge to the sound of Teo’s delight and drove north. We drove around the island and soaked in the feel of the island. We went for a welcomed swim in the crystal clear water at Kanepa beach. Next we drove to Westpunt and watched the turtles at the fisherman’s bay. I can’t believe I forgot the snorkeling gear! We explored the island and loved all the color in the neighborhoods and they took their manchineel trees a step further up there and painted them into giant octopus warning signs.

At the resort we loved the pool and the beach, even having a picnic lunch there one afternoon under the trees at a picnic table. The balcony as perfect for a couple low key dinners. And Teo moved in and soaked up the endless water for showers followed by wrapping up in a robe in the air con and extra cuddles that come with visits from grandparents. Grandpa was tempted by the course and played a great game of golf one afternoon. He is probably happy to answer questions about it if you ask 😉 All in all everyone was happy and it felt like vacation for the Itchy foo crew.

Itchy Foot herself was also spoiled by my parents, she stayed in a fancy marina and got some TLC.  We took advantage of the fresh water hookup to wash lines and clean upholstery since the weather was warm and dry.  And since we were away exploring, we redid caulking around the sinks that were not being used and on the deck that was not getting walked on. It felt great to check some boat jobs off the list.

The hardest part of our chosen life is being so far from family, made worse by the difficulty of just hopping on a flight to go and see them. So for us, this week with those we love has been Christmas and birthdays rolled into one. We are very grateful they made the effort and were so generous for coming to visit. Hopefully we’ll see them again in New Zealand or Fiji!

Grenada gets a Do Over

Written by Mia:

So, as I said we didn’t give Grenada a fair chance… and then the stars aligned or refused to and we found ourselves waiting instead of sailing away right after relaunching after the haul out. We are sorry that we will miss the chance to buddy boat with new friends, but there are a few things to take care of first. Spice Island boat yard had to haul us out a second time to fix the bow prop which was broken during the antifouling process. And UPS could not locate one of the two parcels of our order and then they was the after they make the pick up process so convoluted that it took many days to finally get our stuff. In fact, we are now pretty sure it was here the whole time everyone has been searching for it, maybe it was a foot rest or a coffee table?

The details of the why we are still in Grenada don’t matter as much as the lovely treats we got in exchange. We got to spend lots more time with the fun kids boats here, and that is one of our favorite things to do. This included a magical evening on Trismic, catching the tail end of the dinghy regatta, a sail around the harbour for Teo with the big boys and giggles as the kids zoomed by on the new water toys Pierina bought. Plus, Itchy Foot got a 20th birthday present. The lovely, generous family on Nahanni toiled and helped us sew hatch covers, a wind scoop and a table cover. We have had the fabric to do this job for just over a year and it is amazing to have it finished and everywhere I look I admire how fancy Itchy Foot is looking!

The Itchy Foot crew went on an island adventure. We ended up taking five locals buses each with its own flavor to explore the northern part of the island. The buses of Grenada deserve a chapter of their own. The vehicles themselves are like mini-buses and it looks like the drivers own them as they usually have special decoration to show their personality. There are a handful of lines they follow to cover the island, and usually there is a conductor that will take money for tickets and make sure everyone has a place to sit and that the driver knows when to stop to drop off or pick up passengers. Even though the lines are somewhat laid out, the buses will stop anywhere along the way and the drivers are usually happy to divert a bit to pick someone up or drop them off nearby. There seems to be a democracy of sorts going on as the other passengers on the bus are usually consulted if they agree to the diversion. Our trip the northern part of the island gave us quite a different view of this place than we have had in the anchorages we have frequented. There is national pride everywhere you look in the form of everything including curbs, trees bridges, rocks and walls painted red green and gold to match the flag. Also, the billboard advertisements are hand painted and along the way we saw some men painting new ones, with narrow brushes a very careful lettering. The jungle scenes were breath taking and the colorful bustling centers we caught glimpses of from the bus windows gave us more of sense of Grenada than the rest of our time here. The locals loved chatting with Teo along the way and gave us lots of Grenada tips.

The first destination we had in mind was the Rivers rum distillery on the river Antoine. They have been making rum there since 1776 and they are still using much of the same equipment. Winfield gave us a wonderful tour starting with a fabulous view of the wheel that crushes the sugar cane and then it was going through a process of evaporation to make the sugar water more concentrated and then fermented and finally it goes through a heat exchanger to finish the process, bottled when it is stronger than 70 proof. Most of the distilleries have equipment like this but it is kept around only as a museum. This place was still using it and we learned that sourcing replacement parts is one of their biggest difficulties. The tour gave us a great insight into the history of rum and it was lovely to hear the questions Teo had along the way.

Next stop was the Belmont Estate and we were here to see the process to make chocolate! Kelly was our guide here and he was very energetic and enthusiastic. He used to play basketball for the Grenada national team. He took us first through the gardens and we got to smell and taste the herbs and fruit. In their fields all the trees grow together and it is gorgeous to observe. After we had a look at the resources, we saw where they ferment the cocoa beans for six days, one batch at a time, they are turned every four hours. Next we visited the green houses and where they dry the beans for another six days. Then they are roasted and the smallest beans are used to make a drink with cinnamon and mace. The last stop on the tour is where the chocolate is mixed with cocoa butter (oil from the beans) and sugar/milk if desired. Finally it is put to rest for three months, minimum. Not a quick process!

Our trip back took us up and over the volcano which was misty from a torrential rain storm. It was a wonderful way to round off our day of adventure. It was a full day and great treat. And we chatted about our day as we drank lemongrass tea from our herbs after dinner when we were back on Itchy Foot in the evening.

Another treat of our extra time in Grenada has been a few lovely days in the lap of luxury. We made some new friends on a boat called Somewhere when they graciously offered to store our frozen food during our haul out. They introduced us to the University Club which is a slice of paradise in our paradise! It has a gorgeous pool with a shady area and it is a perfect way to spend the day, and by chance they also do yummy lunch and drinks. We have really enjoyed a few afternoons hanging out and chatting and floating with our boats bobbing in the sparkling water beyond.

As it turns out, I got to celebrate my birthday with these lovely people too. In the morning I was spoiled with bagels for breakfast and presents and cards. Sta Vast left a package for me way back in March! And so many friends made an effort to come around and anchor near us. Drakkar even came back from Carriacou and fished on the way so they brought us tuna they caught. We had a beach party with sushi and rum punch and brownies and cake. I love the hand made cards and gifts like loom band bracelets and yarn dream catchers that this lifestyle brings with it! The evening brought half price pizza and ladies night dancing at the brewery. It was a fabulous day!

And then we caught a glimpse of the “Camp Grenada” we have heard so much about. First, all five families were anchored in Prickly Bay and we spent another lovely social evening aboard Trismic before they went home to Canada for a bit. And one afternoon as we were paddling around and had a swing on the spinnaker pole, we were joined by another family boat called Mahia, a great Australian family with three boys. Everyone had a close eye on Irma and in her wake we had different weather in Prickly Bay and it got bouncy so we all moved around to anchor off Hog Island. With all the boats anchored in swimming distance we fell into a lovely rhythm. The kids I’d some boat school in the morning and had the afternoons to themselves. They explored the island all on their own and came back exhilarated, chattering of their base and all the excitement that comes with real freedom. The older kids always look after Teo and he comes back to the boat right before dark with tons of stories to tell us. They have a row boat and handheld radio and show such responsibility. We have become really close to these families with the ladies walking most mornings and hosting various social afternoons. The crew of Itchy Foot were quite touched by the lovely cards and gifts for Teo as we prepared to leave for Bonaire. We will carry these friends with us in our hearts and hope to see them again soon!

Hauling out – Ready, Set, Stress!

Written by Mia:

We put Itchy Foot on land (also known as on the hard) once before and it was last year at this time. Using a crane to pull a boat out of the water and store it on land for a time is also called “hauling out” and whatever you call it, I find it terrifying! We had a few things that needed checking and replacing and we checked some prices to find out this exercise gets more and more expensive as we move west. We could get most of the materials we needed for our jobs here and there was time and lots of praise for the guys working in the yard so we decided to haul out here in Grenada.

Our list of to do’s was long and there were even a few nice to haves that snuck their way in even though they did not make the list. I thought is would outline what we have been up to. We were pulled out of the water last Thursday and since then have been very busy. We decided to pay the yard to do the antifouling job this time. Jon did it himself last time but it is a nasty job, scraping, sanding and painting paint full of copper and poison. We had a long list so it was an easy decision to get some help. On Thursday Itchy Foot got her bottom pressure washed, sanded and had a layer of very fancy silver primer applied. The rigger also came to do some work on the spreader that we found had a problem just before crossing the Atlantic. We moved into an apartment in the boat yard which has air con and endless water which to us is like the lap of luxury. We have decent wifi and a TV which Teo has been enjoying – or maybe that is not the right word, he has been watching a lot of TV which has allowed us to get lots done on the boat, but I don’t think it is doing him any good, he has developed a horrible attitude and I think he has square eyes! But seriously I am looking forward to getting back onboard and having some cozy days together family time.

Jon – “it is interesting to see what happens to a child when you remove access to TV for 18 months and then give him 6 hours a day for 4 solid days of Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoons”. Not pretty.

Friday we were preparing for a visit from Tropical Storm “Harvey” and it worked out very well that we were on land. Itchy foot was given extra straps to secure her to the ground. We got lots of rain but no high winds so we once again counted ourselves very lucky. We celebrated with yellow fever vaccinations! But seriously, you must have them for some of the countries we visit next, and we just happened to have doctors and dentist appointments scheduled. The doctor gave us all jabs, Teo wanted to go first and giggled his way through three injections, when it was my turn I yelped. The doctor was nice, a Bruin Alumn, and has offered to have a look at the drugs we have prescribe anything else we might need which is much appreciated since some of our medicine cabinet is expiring. Teo visited the dentist and had his teeth polished and now has very pearly whites!

On Saturday the guys are not working and the the boatyard is quiet. We made the most of it by taking care of odd jobs. I got up early and went to prep for the first coat of varnishing. Back in Bequia Winfield helped us with some varnishing in the companionway and around the cockpit and he gave me some pointers so I was “ready” to take on the job. Since we need the sink every day when we live onboard and we can’t use it when she is on land, this seemed like the perfect time. The preparations take a long time and the more thorough you are the better the end result. SO, instead of being done at lunch time it was more like 4pm before the first coat was finished and the brushes in cling film in the freezer. Jon and Teo laid out the whole anchor chain, washed it and painted lines every ten meters to make our anchor chain markers easier to read. The anchor locker was also cleaned to get ready to store the pimped up anchor chain. Jon replaced some seams of caulking on the keel as well which can only be done on a dry keel. We try to keep Itchy Foot’s keel under the water as much as we can. And in the evening the whole family got haircuts

Sunday was a second coat of varnish, three loads of laundry including hand washing and bleaching our curtains as we started to see signs of mold. As soon as all the laundry was hung to dry the heavens opened and it took three attempts to get it all to dry. Jon polished the Itchy Foot’s hull and inspected chips in the gel coat. He spray painted our gas bottles and inspected them to make sure they are safe, unfortunately we have to replace one. He ran water into the bilges to make sure the emergency bilge pump kicks in when it should and checked the through hulls. We are trying to focus on the jobs that are crucial with the boat out of the water and when we have all this water!

Monday we woke up to the sound of heavy rain. Need I mention the laundry was still “drying”? It was also the final coat of varnish before the guys started working at 8am. Jon replaced the gas bottle that had a broken, rusty connection. The rigger installed the mended spreader and checked the tension so we know Itchy Foot has a healthy mast. I cleaned the boat including the floors the carpets, the hatches and the walls to discourage mold which can be a huge problem in the tropics. Another perk of being in the boatyard was being close to welders, they make for perfect eclipse viewing. 

Tuesday is another pile of errands, including provisioning for the next passage, another doctors appointment, and picking up our water maker. And we have to put everything on the boat back together so we can get ready to relaunch Itchy Foot into the water on Wednesday. We are hoping things will go smoothly so we  can get back in the water and sail to Carriacou on Thursday and on to Bonaire on Friday. Fingers crossed the weather is good and we can get our last coat of antifouling applied and the wind operates with our plans.

Grenada – water, water everywhere but not a lot of swimming.

Written by Mia:

This is a disappointing post to write. We have heard a lot about “Camp Grenada” where there are tons of kids boats and many returning seasoned cruisers all unite  while hiding from the storms. We decided to join them and spend the hurricane season in Grenada. It seems to be a strange year with a shortage of kids boats on the island, and those who are here are spread out between the anchorages. We’re not sure why it is quieter than normal, maybe the early south tracking tropical storms scared people away, who knows. But, ‘Camp Grenada’ doesn’t seem to have really happened that we can see.

It hasn’t been a washout by any stretch. Luckily we have been in the company of friends we collected along the way, as well as making some new ones. There have been some lively evenings including an open air cinema experience on Una Vida and drinks and snacks in the nick of time on Trismic, and  Flip Flops had a lovely birthday celebration for their daughter.  The Tiki bar has pizza specials and movie nights for the kids and yoga in the morning, unfortunately the bar area is swarming in mosquitoes so it’s not ideal. Also, we have made two trips to the actual movies, in a cinema, which has been a little exotic for this cruising family. And we had lovely company when we were in a marina hiding from Tropical Storm Don. We spent a day exploring the underwater sculpture park and all went to Carneval together and the kids get along really well. So a nice time has been had. The main downside of Prickly Bay (the most populated anchorage for kids boats) is that the swimming is far from inviting, something you NEED with 30C heat, 90% humidity and no air conditioning.

Our to do list for Itchy Foot was long when we arrived in Grenada and we had a week where something broke every day so the list expanded. As others headed up to nicer islands, we stayed in Prickly Bay to try to sort a few things out. It has a well stocked chandlery and haul out facilities. More on that in a later post. Not our most fun week, as Jon spent three solid days lying upside down in the engine room trying to get the generator working again.

Teo has been hanging out with the lovely kids from Pierina, Drakkar, Nahanni, Blue Zulu and Trismic on the beach often in the afternoons and one day we went to the True Blue resort and watched a cooking demonstrations and the kids made up games and later used the pool. Una Vida came and picked us up when we were stranded and needed a break so we went around the corner for a holiday. And we joined them at the pool when they moved into the marina for a few days. St George’s is a vibrant town that feels authentic and we enjoyed wandering through the steep streets and catching glimpses of the people who live there.

For all the moaning, we haven’t really given Grenada a fair chance as we have failed to travel further into the interior to explore. There are waterfalls and it is called the Spice Island so we are probably missing an opportunity. We never made it to Sandy Island which is a snorkelling paradise and we heard about a really cool distillery and the chocolate factory is supposed to be amazing but we have decided to move on sooner than originally planned.

We’ve found a buddy boat to join us for the next leg of the adventure westward to Bonaire and crystal clear waters await. Hopefully a more timely post when we get there!

Clive Returns – Like Batman Except Much Cooler

Written by Mia:

Itchy Foot and her crew love to have visitors and Clive returned for a third time back in early July and we were all excited as we raced to Grenada to meet him. We have really enjoyed the islands in the southern end of the chain and we were hoping the weather would cooperate and we could return and explore them with Clive. We pulled into Prickly Bay where we can see and hear planes taking off and landing. We had to promise to wake Teo when he arrived but even though he was tightly strung he did finally fall asleep. Clive’s plane was on time and Jon picked him up on the dock, and it was lovely to hear them chatting in the dinghy upon approach. We had a lovely catch up, hearing about Clive’s new job and boat purchase and summer plans and before we knew it, it was time for bed.

We spent a few days in Grenada watching the wind and weather reports and planning our trip back to Tobago Cays. In the meantime we met up with the lovely crew of Pierina and together explored Grenada’s capital, St. George’s. We ate chicken roti and ice cream and had a long walk around, before doing a little shopping. The town seems real and not touristy, a place you can visit a library and a fabric store, but I am sure it feels a lot different when the cruise ships are in town. We were anchored off Grand Anse beach and very much enjoyed the view and the water even if it was a little rolly. We did some snorkelling and swimming nearby and enjoyed the incredible sunset. Teo was impressing Clive with his big arms (forward crawl moves) and deep dives.

We had a fabulous sail up to Carriacou, which is a beautiful island north of Grenada. We anchored in Tyrell Bay after giving “Kick ‘em Jenny”, a live underwater volcano a wide berth. Clive treated us to pizza at the Lazy Turtle in Tyrell Bay and we had a lovely evening. The next day we checked out of Carriacou and sailed for an hour and checked into Union Island which is the southernmost customs office for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our plan was to return to Tobago Cays which is just a stone’s throw from Union Island.

We arrived into Tobago Cays in the afternoon and jumped into the glorious water as soon as we could and were greeted by the welcoming committee and my favourite, trunk fish. They are amazingly relaxed and come right up to check you out, plus it doesn’t hurt that they have a cartoonish triangle shape and look like they are coming to kiss you. And then it didn’t take long for the main event, and we spotted lots of turtles, too! When we woke up the next day, the water was the most amazing emerald green and we took the dinghy ashore to snorkel off the beach. Teo and Clive went exploring and saw some iguanas and we did some snorkelling off the beach. We spent three days there and saw lots of turtles, trunk fish, rays  and star fish, and at one point a school of tiny sardines took shelter under Itchy Foot and we saw about twelve baby barracuda come fishing. Baby barracuda are the only type I can tolerate. Tobago Cays it is a truly amazing place and we feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit twice.

On the way back south, we visited Mopio, a amazing tiny strip of sand with a gorgeous reef around it. We didn’t see any turtles here but we did see some of the most amazing aquarium like conditions of any of our snorkelling so far, it was full of little, adorable, colourful, playful fish. When we got ashore we had lots of fun running from the water one side of the island to the water on the other side. It was all of three long steps over a tiny hill of sparkling white sand. There was even a little parasol and next time we plan to have the place to ourselves! After our brief stop in Mopio we went to Petit St Vincent where we were joined by Blue Zulu to celebrate Itchy Foot’s 20th birthday! There were bubbles and cake, we even poured some on her deck. The private resort of Petit St Vincent has an outdoor cinema and Clive and Mia went ashore and giggled our way through “Live and Let Die” sitting in directors’ chairs watching the movie under the stars.

Jon and Clive gave Itchy Foot a scrub on her belly as a birthday present and headed to Union Island to check out in preparation for our sail south to Prickly Bay as our time was quickly coming to close. All too soon we were waving him off with tears in our eyes and happy memories in our hearts.

Tobago Cays – Turtles, Trunk Fish and Squalls.

Early in July we left Mayreau and went around the corner to Tobago Cays.

Since we decided to cross the Atlantic I’ve been excited about visiting Tobago Cays. I could explain why but it’s simpler just to show you an aerial photo of the area:

OK – now we’ve established why we wanted to come here, we can talk about what it was like!

The weather wasn’t perfect, a little overcast and a bit too windy to get the crystal clear waters we were looking for. But it was safe enough to be there and we weren’t sure we’d be able to return this far north again when Clive came to visit, which was our plan.

Tobago Cays is protected by a huge horseshoe shaped reef with several little islands jutting out of the shallow sandy sea behind. Nowhere in he area is deep and it’s all sandy so anchoring is easy enough, there are a couple of areas yachts are prohibited from entering to ensure that the turtles which breed in the area aren’t disturbed, but mostly it’s open. We picked a spot windward and oceanward of the islands, with only the reef, hidden below the sea between us, the Atlantic and ultimately Africa. It’s very strange to anchor in a spot that looks so open and exposed, but the reef does an excellent job of eating the swell from the ocean and other than being open to the full force of the wind it is a great anchorage.

We anchored and before we even had time to get into the sea we were greeted by the local turtle population. Along with the ever so fearless trunk fish these guys were constant companions. Getting into the water we were rewarded with so much sea life and good visibility. With out a doubt some of the best snorkelling we’ve experience so far on Itchy Foot.

One of the unusual side effects of not being anchored behind land is that you can see the squalls coming from a long way out. They roll across the ocean and bring with the huge torrents of rain and strong winds – nothing to worry about but exciting nonetheless.

 

After a couple of days enjoying this magical place it was time to head south to Union Island – the last port of entry for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and where we had to check-out. Then a lovely sail down the windward coast of Grenada and into Prickly Bay where we had agreed to meet Clive who was arriving in a couple of days.

We loved Tobago Cays and thankfully got to return again with Clive. I’m very glad we came here off season and instead of when the usual 50-100 charter boats area present. When we were there, we were one of only ten in the whole area.

More about Tobago Cays and the other islands in this area when we post about Clive coming to visit.

Mayreau – lots of vowels, little money.

Written by Jon:

Back in late June we were still making our way south to meet Clive and stopped in Mayreau on the way. Mayreau is picture postcard pretty. Our first stop was Salt Whistle Bay which has a reputation as being one of the pretties in the Caribbean. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would also be one of the poorest places we’ve visited so far.

We arrived right around sunset and a friendly, chilled out boat boy offered to rent us a mooring but we were happy on anchor. He hung around for a bit making jokes with Teo. He told us that he is from St. Vincent and it is pretty normal to go work on the islands. We watched a gorgeous sunset and really soaked up the magic of the moment.  The next morning we headed ashore and took a walk to the other side of the island, there is a road from one side to the other and the bit in between  is known as ‘the village’. The people on this island don’t have much money, it seems that their only source of income is tourism and the season for visitors is quite short, November to May. We got chatting to a local guy, Phillip, who was friendly and was happy to show us around, he remembers when he was younger and they had no fresh water on the island, drinking from a very small pool of water, not even big enough to call a lake, more a pond. Now the houses on the islands collect rain water from their roofs and store it in large black bins for the dry season.

We continued down out of the village onto the far side of the island and found a beach which we had largely to ourselves. This is the bay the cruise ships anchor in during the season and gorge out the source of income to the island – all quite now.  That afternoon we played on the beach and swam in the clear waters. Teo realised that if he had his mask and snorkel on he didn’t need to stop for air and could keep swimming indefinitely, so up and down the bay we went. We also made friends with a local stray dog which we helped after it got tangled in a fishing net on the beach.

Then back to the village and we met Phillip again from earlier who took us to a bar where he hangs out and was kind enough to teach Teo how to play the drum. After a musical interlude we wandered back through the village and he showed us his family house, their kittens and even a baby goat that was less than a day old. He walked us back down to our boat, chatting about life on the island and the government in Saint Vincent.

Teo had been asking to make a sword for a few days, so before going back to the boat we went around to the windward beach to look for drift wood. We sat, enjoyed the view and then carried our suitably sized drift wood home. Unfortunately, on returning to the dinghy we discovered that somewhere during the day we’d lost the dinghy keys! Teo and I rowed the dinghy back to the boat while Mia retracted our steps. Thankfully, she found the keys where we’d sat on the beach looking for drift wood, but that was only after walking the entire length of the island again!

The poverty of the island is striking with the only sign of new development coming from a christian mission which was expanding. The island has a population of 271 people and three churches. Electricity didn’t come to the island until 2002. What surprised us most was that the seemingly rich and fertile land around the locals huts and houses wasn’t being used to grow anything. We wondered why the common areas weren’t planned with fruit trees to supplement the local diet. No doubt there is a complexity or detail we’ve missed, but it struck us as strange.

Despite the hardship and dependance on tourism, the locals we met were generous, welcoming and very laid-back. We’d gladly return.

After a good night sleep we woke up early to head around to Tobago Cays and hopefully some of the best snorkelling in the Caribbean.

Canouan – a rude awakening.

Written by Jon:

We left Bequia back in late June and time was marching on as we had to be down in Grenada to meet our friend and semi-regular crew Clive who was flying in from Norway early in July.

Leaving Bequia we had a lovely little sail down to Canouan. We dropped the hook along a stretch of coast next to a couple of other yachts and started to make dinner. Just before Teo went off to bed the wind shifted and picked up in strength. It wasn’t a dangerous situation but we we’re too happy with the anchorage so we decided to move along the coast to the bay outside the main town. We’re not too happy anchoring in the dark, especially somewhere new to us, but on the charts it was straightforward and I could see that the navigation lights were working. Anyway, 30 minutes later we were safely anchored near the only other sailing boat in the bay, a catamaran. Then off to sleep.

I woke up early, to the sound of an urgent voice on the VHF radio. The skipper of the catamaran was calling all the other boats in the bay (us) to warn them that they awoke to someone walking around on the back of their boat. The opportunists had swum out to their boat in the early hours of the morning and when they were disturbed by lights coming on they jumped back into the sea and disappeared into the dark. I stayed up on deck with a torch for a while, until the sun came up, and it was clear that there wasn’t anyone around. As it turns out, nothing was stolen from the catamaran and everyone was OK. But, it was a reminder why we leave our VHF on overnight, why we put our washboards in (doors) and lock them, and why I’ve just installed an alarm on the back of the boat.

The places in the world where poverty rubs shoulders with the wealthy, where many of the local people often have so little and their government is corrupt and favours the wealthy at the expense of the poor, you will have crime and these paradise islands are no exception. What makes it particularly sad is that 99% of the locals we meet on a daily basis are friendly, welcoming and generous with their time and smiles – irrespective of how little they have.

We found a private little beach on Canouan with some lovely snorkelling and swimming. We had a great day together enjoying the sea, picnicking and relaxing. We were lucky enough to find a private hotel beach, staffed only my security guards and maintenance staff – it was closed for the season – but they were very welcoming and let us use the beach if we wanted. Rather than stay another night we sailed onto Mayreau and Salt Whistle Bay.

Itchy Foot enjoys Bequia, Twice

After leaving St. Anne in Martinique, packed with the provisioning and kids boats, we started our journey south. We made a short stop at Rodney Bay in St Lucia and Jon and Teo went to speak with a distributor about a water maker and few other errands. The next day gave us good conditions for a sail to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

We had to make a technical stop in Marigot Bay which is right around the corner but managed to get everything sorted in a short time and were off again. Thankfully the horrifically expensive sound our engine was making was just a bit of plastic rubbing against the alternator – phew. But our stops slowed us down and as the sun was setting, we were just outside a small anchorage in St Vincent and we thought we would stop instead of arriving at Bequia in the dark.

We were approached by some boat boys and they, as usual helped us pick up a mooring. During the process Jon asked how much the mooring would cost and who he needed to pay, it was a reasonable price and he was told by the boat boys that they would take the money. Later, as Jon went ashore to check-in with customs, he got chatting to the bar owner who’s mooring we’d taken as he was told that he would have to pay him the same again. Jon explained that he has already paid and wasn’t going to pay twice… and then tensions rose and the mood of bay turned sour. The bar owner got angry (not at Jon, at the boat boys) and was talking about taking matters into ‘his own hands’. Not wanting to be in the middle of something nasty, Jon came back to Itchy Foot and said “We’re leaving!” The beauty of living in a moveable platform is that if a place doesn’t feel good, or safe, then you can just pick-up and leave. In fairness to the rest of the locals, they were very apologetic about the behaviour of the boat boys and reassured us that we could get our money back if we complained in the town. But, we felt it wasn’t worth getting in the middle of something for 15 USD. So we had a lovely night sail down to Bequia.

Night sailing isn’t always ideal as we are careful to avoid all the fishing gear, but as it turns out, the temperature and the conditions were perfect and we enjoyed our sail, so much so we decided to do a planned night sail again soon.

We arrived in Bequia just in time to get an early night and we were all excited to see Blue Zulu and Pierina the next day. Everyone really enjoyed seeing each other, so much so that Pierina changed heir plans and stayed an extra week, how lovely! The women thoroughly enjoyed slipping away for walks to explore the island. The walking and talking being equally important! And we all got together for Tim’s birthday which was great fun, especially  watching the kids try to keep it a secret! I love that birthdays in the cruising community are filled with hand made cards and small tokens of affection and small surprises.

The kids were also very happy to see each other again, too! so much so that Pierina changed their plans and stayed an extra week, how lovely! We had a super time in Bequia with the kids visiting each other, playing, running around,  and doing lots of swimming and snorkeling. Teo is really enjoying the snorkeling and is getting very good at swimming. Also, we did lots of good boat school and started using an online program for math which is great if we are online because Teo is very motivated to earn points to upgrade his dragon. We even had an educational seminar on Blue Zulu with the topic “Ocean” where the kids did some research and held presentations. And another highlight in Bequia for this kids is reading club organized by a lovely local woman called Cheryl. She invites all kids to come to the Fig Tree restaurant and do some reading, draw a book report and later tell the group about the story. She splits the group up by age group and usually gets some adults to volunteer and the kids really respond to reading with adults who are not their own and fun day is had by all.

We spent extra time in Bequia as we gave Itchy Foot some extra love as well. Jon was approached by a man with a van, I mean a boat. The price was right, we got a recommendation and hired Winfield to help us do some varnishing. Every morning he came and sanded and added a coat of varnish as we spent the rest of the day avoiding the companionway (which is our only really doorway. We also didn’t want to leave Itchy Foot out of our sight as we couldn’t lock up without our wash boards. Anyway, Winfield did and excellent job and was a wonderful presence as well (there is something special about someone who whistles or sings as they work) and he gave Mia some pointers and let her try her hand so she can take on a few varnishing jobs in the future. And Winfield and Teo really hit it off, they have plans to take his boat into space to pick mangoes.

We stayed in Bequia longer than planned and had a short break in the middle to hide from Brett back up in St. Lucia, but very much enjoyed this lovely community and would happily go back sometime!