A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
Although we could have definitely stayed longer in the Tobago Cays, enjoying the peace and quiet and scenery both under and above water, the clock was ticking and we needed to get to Grenada for our fast-approaching haul out date. Our plan was to spend the night anchored in Saline Bay off the island of Mayreau, but after arriving there we found the wind and waves not especially favorable.
Instead we headed over to Chatham Bay on Union Island. As we motored into the bay, we noticed a familiar boat in the anchorage. It was our friends on SV Maple, whom we'd met in Dominica, and who had orchestrated our meeting with the families on SV The Amazing Marvin and SV Element. Our girls were thrilled, as were theirs, and there was much happy waving across the water between the boats. Later that afternoon, we all met up on shore. Maple had another family on board for a visit (a family of 3), and we all enjoyed meeting and catching up that afternoon. The kids played on the beach with a local boy, Emmanuel (the son of Vanessa and Seckie), the dads had a beer on the beach, and the moms headed down the beach to a small resort for a wifi fix.
Vanessa and Seckie own a bar/restaurant on the beach in Chatham Bay and they offer local fare to cruisers in the anchorage. We hadn't eaten on shore in a while, so decided to have dinner with them. We chose chicken, fish, and plenty of veggies on the side. Eoin thought both the chicken and the fish were some of the best he'd had in the Caribbean! Vanessa, Seckie, and Emmanuel were warm and welcoming - and very good cooks! We enjoyed chatting with them both during the afternoon, and at dinner.
Later that evening, as we hoisted the dinghy, we noticed a bright green light under the water. We were anchored in shallow (about 12') water and had been able to see the bottom clearly during the day. There appeared to be a lit flashlight sitting on the sand below. We looked around the boat and made sure we hadn't dropped anything overboard. We hadn't, but there was definitely a light in the water. As we watched, the light rose to the surface and spread out, and we realized that it was a ball-like cloud of phosphorescent zooplankton! We called the kids out to see and we all watched it float in the water behind the boat, swirling and changing shape as well as glowing darker and more brightly at intervals. At the same time, small fish fed in the glowing green cloud, creating trails of green sparks as they darted back and forth. It was at least an hour before the cloud dispersed (or too many of the creature were consumed) and it was one of the more amazing things we've seen on this adventure. Unfortunately, it was impossible to photograph, but we will never forget the experience.
The next morning, we left the anchorage early to head over to Clifton, on the other side of Union Island. We were headed to Carriacou later that day, but it is in a different country (Grenada), and we needed to clear out with St. Vincent customs and immigration first. Most countries require paperwork from the previous country showing that we completed the necessary formalities before they will clear us in. If you don't clear out before heading to the next country, officials could send you back to do it.
We picked up a mooring in Clifton, tied our dinghy to the dock at Lambi's (the owner enthusiastically waved us over, promising to keep an eye on our dinghy), went through a gauntlet of vendors selling fish, vegetables, and handcrafts, and emerged onto the main street of Clifton. Brian went to customs and immigration, while Kendall and the kids did some exploring and shopping. We were looking for a few fresh fruits and veggies and we also needed paper towels for some cleaning... and of course, some wifi. Brian was able to clear customs in the waterfront office, but the immigration officer was not there. He or she was due 'any time now' and Brian could wait, or he could walk to the airport because there was likely an immigration official there. He decided to go to the airport (it was reasonably close by). It was a pretty quiet airport, in fact one had to avoid cow patties in the parking lot and on the sidewalk. Kendall and the kids went to the post office to mail some postcards, stopped by the vegetable market in the center of town, and met some very helpful locals. Low season begins officially on May 1, and things get much more quiet in the islands. People have less to do and there is more competition for the fewer tourist dollars, but everyone was very friendly.
Once Brian returned from the airport, we went back to Lambi's, had a quick drink (a small courtesy to the owner for keeping an eye on the dinghy), bought some ice, and headed back to Counting Stars.
Before heading down to the Tobago Cays, we made sure to motor close to shore to view the houses in Moonhole. Our waitress in Port Elizabeth had told us that we couldn't get there by land (without an invitation or a booking), so we decided to see it from the water. The houses, made of stone and other natural materials, have no glass in the windows and few, if any, doors. We were a bit too far away for our photos to really do it justice, so we have included some from the Moonhole Company website. Definitely visit the website (linked above) for more photos of these incredible houses. Many are available as vacation rentals.
After motoring around the southwest end of Bequia to see Moonhole, we turned south. We had originally planned to stop in Canouan for a night, but we were enjoying our downwind sail so much that we just kept going.
Below is a video Kendall narrated. It is hard to hear her voice, even with the volume up loud because unfortunately that also makes the wind louder, too. Nevertheless, we are sharing it because it is a nice glimpse of our lovely downwind sail.
We put a line in the water and caught a barracuda, which we released. Because of the possibility of ciguatera poisoning, we do not eat any top reef predators, such as barracuda. However, we have heard that in the southern Caribbean ciguatera is not considered to be the risk it is further north. Indeed, when we mentioned to a St. Lucia fisherman our habit of releasing barracuda, he expressed his incredulity at our passing on a delicious dinner. Since then, we have heard from others that barracuda are delicious, so maybe we'll keep the next one we catch.
Just before 2:00pm, we reached the Tobago Cays and were immediately awed by their rugged beauty. Part of the Tobago Cays Marine Park, it is an archipelago in the southern Grenadines consisting of five islands and many coral reefs. The outer anchorage (where we stayed) is completely exposed to the tradewinds blowing over the Atlantic, with the ocean swells mostly tamed by the extensive network of coral reefs. With only the narrow white lines of the breakers between us and the vast Atlantic, it felt like we were anchored at the edge of the world. We were there at the perfect time, as it is now 'off season'. The charter boats that often crowd the Cays were not there, and many cruisers had already begun their hurricane-avoidance journeys either north to the US East Coast, south to Grenada, or west to the ABCs. Although during high season there can be around 100 boats in this area, on most days we were just one of 10-15 boats in the extensive anchorage.
The waters were Bahamas-clear and we couldn't wait to get into the water. We'd already seen numerous sea turtles on our way into the anchorage and were hoping to see some while swimming. We launched the dinghy and headed toward Baradal Island. Almost immediately upon entering the water, we saw two sea turtles. This was the first and last time we'd be in the water so close to turtles, although we would see many from the boat each day.
After swimming with the turtles, we anchored the dinghy near the reef to do some snorkeling. Although we'd seen healthier coral in The Bahamas, the diversity of fish species here was amazing. We spent a lot of time exploring different parts of the reef each day. Because we were near the breaking ocean waves, there was often a very strong current to swim against and at first we were concerned about the girls. But they did great, we all got good exercise, and the current made for an easy drift back to the dinghy when we were ready to get out of the water. We used both of our underwater cameras while we snorkeled and got a few good shots of the underwater life. Unfortunately, the one day we left the cameras on the big boat was the day that Brian, Eoin, and Marin jumped off the dinghy and found themselves face-to-face with five nurse sharks barreling over the reef! We had a brief moment of panic until we identified the species :-)
As we had motored through the anchorage, we noticed that both SV Tell Tales Again (Mike and Eva) and SV Rum Tum Tiger (Curt and Nancy) were moored there. Unfortunately, Rum Tum Tiger left while we were snorkeling, but we stopped at Tell Tales Again for a visit. It was nice to catch up with Mike and Eva, and although we were sad to have missed Curt and Nancy, we knew we'd end up in the same place soon.
We will let the photos and videos speak for themselves. The colors were far more vibrant than we could capture and the fish much more diverse and numerous. We really enjoyed our daily snorkeling of the reefs! Fish identifications are our best guesses...
After a nearly 10 hour mostly uneventful sail (a squall or two early in the trip), we reached Admiralty Bay in Bequia. Bequia is in the St. Vincent Grenadines, just south of the main island. When we investigated and found the anchor to be securely set, Brian went to shore in Port Elizabeth to clear us into St. Vincent. Kendall and the kids had just put down the swim platform and were ready to get in the water when Marin noticed that the boat next to us was a kid boat! The kids were getting in the water and swimming our way - and they were speaking English! Finn (10) and Rada (8) invited the kids to their boat and they all swam over. Soon the girls were jumping off the roof and Eoin was discussing wildlife sightings with their dad. Once Brian returned from customs and immigration, he and Kendall dinghied over to the other boat for a visit. They were a family from Australia living aboard a Lagoon catamaran, traveling, and kiteboarding.
We did not go to shore as a family that night, preferring to rest and have a quiet dinner aboard. The next morning, went into town on the Belmont Walkway, a trail that winds along the shoreline from Princess Margaret Beach to Port Elizabeth. The town was beautiful and charming, and we loved it right away. We walked along the lush greenery on the waterfront road until we reached the Bequia Bookshop, where we perused the many books by West Indian authors they had in stock (and buying a few of them). After that, we walked to the other end of the town, stopping to visit a model boatbuilding shop, a grocery store, and a batik store. We also were fortunate to meet Silma Duncan, Bequia's poet laureate. She recited a couple of her poems for us and we purchased a children's book she wrote about whales, which she signed for our new nephew/cousin, Seamus. We were hungry, so we stopped for lunch and had a very enjoyable and informative conversation with our waitress about Bequia, its culture, expats, Moonhole (see the next post for more), and visitors who come by boat.
Later that afternoon, we caught a ride in a pickup truck taxi (a very common mode of transport in Bequia) to visit the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. We had a brief tour of the facility, learning about the efforts to protect the endangered Hawksbill turtles. We loved Bequia; it is a place we would like to return to someday.
Here are a few videos showing a calm day on the water. This was filmed on May 16 as we sailed from St. Lucia to Bequia.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars