Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sailing St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Part 1

Its been 2 years now since we have done a sailing trip accompanied by two years of day dreaming about going back and doing it again.  In the middle of our long cold winter we unilaterally decided a Caribbean sailing trip was a must this year.  And so it was... book the boat, use miles for tickets, double check Grandma and Grandpa's schedule for the kids and we are off.  Of course its never that easy...  26 hours, 2 US states, 1 US territory, 4 countries, 3 trips through security in Antigua alone, and 4 planes later we arrived - miraculously with all of our baggage - I'm still in disbelief.

The thing about St Vincent and the Grenadines though is that what you pay for in inconvenience you are rewarded for in unspoiled beauty and culture.  This is the real Caribbean - not the Florida Keys, not the Virgin Islands, not Cancun or Cozumel - this is the real deal where Bananas are the largest source of revenue - not tourism, there are no all inclusive resorts, or even fast food, and you pay more not less for processed food at the grocery because it has to be imported.

After a quick taxi ride we finally made it to the charter company which has some very nice rooms and a fantastic restaurant overlooking the charter fleet on moorings and the island of Bequia to the south.  A great dinner in the ocean air and some of Randy's fantastic Rum punch (best in the Grenadines - we tried them all) quickly melted away all of the travel stresses.

Our experience has been that trying to get up and get the charter started quickly doesn't ever work out and we have been stressed out and frustrated by it all in the past.  This go around we embraced "island time" and took it easy, slept in, had a nice breakfast, did the chart brief, checked out the boat, did the grocery shopping (Phyllis the taxi driver took good care of us taking us to all the best stores and local fruit stands) got the boat packed and ready to go - only to find that the depth finder doesn't work.  Fortunately they were able to repair it and we were on our way to the enchanted island of Mustique.

This year we tried something new while sailing - fishing.  I scoured the internet and was able to find a couple reasonably priced, 2-piece deep sea rods that could handle 50lb test line, bought some lures and a cheap fillet knife, and brought along some home made rod holders.  To our amazement about an hour into our sail and the reel starts buzzing away with a hookup.

Fishing from the sailboat took a bit of forethought however - once you hook up - what next?  Its a 40' sailboat in 10' swells and 15knots of wind with two very large sails up - maneuvering is out of the question.  With only 40lb line on the reels we had to be sure to slow the boat down so we didn't break our catch off, but if you stop the boat the fish could get tangled up in the keel, rudder, or prop, so the boat has to keep going forward - only slowly.  Fortunately we had discussed what would happen if we actually caught something and put our plan into action... Kate took the fish and kept the drag loose and line tight while i slowed the boat.  Set the autopilot, release the Jib sheet and furl it in, and let off some main sheet as well.  We were still moving forward enough to keep pressure on the fish but no too much that we couldn't fight the fish.  Kate worked the fish hard and made some headway but handed it over to me for the last bit to ensure we did't loose it under the boat or around the dingy.  We were elated to find we had hooked into a nice black fin tuna - Fresh grilled tuna for dinner!  A couple of whacks on the head with that winch handle and I was off to work making some nice tuna fillets!

Now back on course with Mustique just off our port bow, fillets in the ice box and deck finally clean we hook up two more fish - both barracudas!  What a first day!

Mustique is one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean, it is simply spectacular!  It is a private island with bunch of villas on it, a couple restaurants and a little village with a grocery store, French bakery, and a fruit stand It is home to one of the most incredible beaches in the world, Macaroni Beach.  Two years ago when we visited Mistique, we made it a quick overnight.  The anchorage isn't the most protected and a bit rolly for your first night aboard and we were anxious to check out all of the other Grenadine islands.  This year we took a more "island time" approach, as noted previously and decided to stay an extra day and explore the island.

As it turns out that Tuna provided more fresh fish than we could eat.  Of course we didn't want any of it to go to waste so we took half of it ashore hoping to give it away.  The taxi driver sitting at the end of the dingy dock couldn't believe we were offering it to him and was so happy to get it he offered us a free ride to the beach we were headed to!  Who knew you could barter for taxi rides with fresh fish!?

We decided to spend the day on the famous Macaroni beach playing in the waves, reading a book, and a little exploring. 

After a long day on the beach our faithful taxi driver picked us up and we headed back to the boat, cleaned up and headed to Basil's Bar on the waterfront for a delicious lobster dinner - by far the best lobster that I have ever had!

The next morning it was time to head south.  Of course sailing means fishing and sure enough right out of Mustique we quickly land this little barracuda which we decided was just about the right size for the two of us for dinner!

Our next destination was Salt Whistle Bay and the little island of Mayreau.  Salt Whistle Bay has to be one of the best anchorages in the Caribbean with a setting straight out of a post card, a great breeze at night and a perfectly calm and quiet anchorage - couldn't ask for a better place to take a long afternoon nap!
After our last trip here we knew we had to make a little hike up into the village for sundowners at the one and only Dennis' Hideaway.  Dennis is quite a character, i'd classify him as the local "personality" who operates a little guest house, bar and restaurant.  The last time we were there we also met the bartender / waitress and Kenta who was extremely enjoyable to talk to and made some fantastic rum punches!  It was fun to see her again and as expected we had a memorable night with Dennis, Kenta, the young woman from Poland who is apparently Dennis's girlfriend, and a couple from Germany who were starting their second circumnavigation... 
   We had some delicious conch and had drinks until the money we brought ran out - Dennis was nice enough to buy us a round once our funds dried up!  What a guy!  In the morning we hiked up to the little church on top of the hill before weighing anchor and heading of to the near by Tobago Keys.

It wouldn't be hard to spend all 10 days of the trip here in the Tobago Keys.  Here a large horse shoe shaped reef protects four small uninhabited islands and provides yet another spectacular anchorage.  The Tobago Keys are a marine park with tons of marine life.  Sea turtles are everywhere, the snorkeling is great with lots to see.  This time around we saw both a reef shark and a nurse shark, lots of eels, lobsters, and of course thousands of colorful fish.  One night I even saw an eagle ray while looking over the side with a headlamp on! What a surprise!

Swimming with sharks... now we have done a lot of diving with sharks in the past, mostly nurse sharks that are harmless to humans but also with reef sharks which are the real deal.  When I'm diving with sharks I'm always a little on edge but when we came up on a reef shark while snorkeling in 6' deep water Kate and I were very uncomfortable.. not sure why really but we both had the same feeling of being out of our element and a little exposed...  Of course once it saw us it left rather quickly leading me to think it was just as afraid of us as we were of it.  Either way it was a very interesting and memorable experience.

More to come!!!

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful trip you had, can't wait to see whats next.