Thursday, April 12, 2018

Heading North: St. Lucia, Martinique and Guadeloupe

We keep heading in a Northerly direction. That is our only goal right now! After leaving Granny and Kayla in Bequia, (and checking out on Easter Sunday, and paying the overtime fees…😡!!!), we left Bequia at about 7:30am. We had a long day of sailing ahead of us, our goal was to get to Martinique, or at least to the top of St. Lucia. We decided to play it by ear.

Our route north through the Windward Islands from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Guadeloupe
The hop from Bequia to St. Vincent is not a big one, and in no time at all, we were sailing on the leeward side of St. Vincent, sheltered by the big island, in calm, flat seas. St. Vincent is beautiful, with big, green mountains, but we kept sailing, having read too many stories of crime against cruisers on the island, and we also wanted to make as much distance as possible north.

Sailing past St. Vincent in clam, flat water.  The island is mountainous and green

We’d also read that the passage from St. Vincent to St. Lucia, about 30 miles, could be a tough one, but we had one of the best sails yet, and in no time at all, we saw the famous “Pitons” on the horizon. The “Pitons” are 2 mountain peaks rising out of the sea at the southerly end of St. Lucia, and the anchorage at their base is supposed to be lovely. However, having had a nice, early start, we wanted to keep going, so we admired them from a distance and kept on sailing. Like St. Vincent, St. Lucia is green and mountainous, and it looked gorgeous. By the end of the day, however, we decided to anchor in Rodney Bay, at the northern end of St. Lucia, for the night, so we could have a rest, and decided to tackle the crossing to Martinique the following morning.

The Pitons were visible from at least 10 miles away, a distinct outline on the horizon.  Ben and Gaby enjoy a rare treat:  lollipops that Granny brought with her when visiting!  Dave and I enjoy the scenery and one more shot of the Pitons

On Tuesday, April 3rd, we awoke early as we do most mornings, and pulled up anchor. We had about 20 miles of open sea to cross before we could tuck into an anchorage in Martinique. We’ve discovered this sailing of the Caribbean is one of calm, sometimes windless sailing (or motoring) in the lee of the island, and then “hold on to your horses!” sailing as you have to cross the open stretches between the islands! This was no different, and a day after we arrived in Martinique, we heard the French Coast Guard broadcasting a “man over board” message after the sinking of a sailing vessel on the stretch of sea between St. Lucia and Martinique that we had just sailed!

We had a mission in Martinique: we had to pick up some spare parts that had been so kindly sent to us by David Farrington of Lagoon. During our Atlantic crossing, we had lost the protective cockpit drain cover that prevents waves splashing up into the cockpit drain, and the engine room air intake cover, due to rough seas. David (Farrington) had arranged to ship the parts to the Lagoon dealer in Martinique…thank you again, David…you and Lagoon have been absolutely amazing!!!

Back in France!  Dave hoists the French courtesy flag and as we entered, we had a taste of the old and the new:  a French navy vessel and a tall ship with all sails hoisted
We anchored in the very busy Le Marin anchorage, outside of the marina and mooring field. As we were setting the anchor, and testing that it was holding, “Shuti” came sailing past! They had dropped off their previous guests and picked up the next one, and were heading to another anchorage in Martinique. We said we’d hope to meet them there the following day, if all our chores went well in Le Marin. News that another boat, “Toomai” was there, spurred us on to get out of Le Marin! “Toomai” was the first boat we met with kids on board: Antoine (now 16) and Paul (now 11). We met them in Panama, and then saw them again in the Marquesas. Since then, we have missed each other, sometimes by days, as we have both sailed around the world!!! So, with this goal in mind, we quickly went ashore and tracked down the spare parts, which were ready and waiting for us! We also found a big grocery store, and did some provisioning, but we didn’t need all the much (just some beer and a few fresh goodies!).

Back in France:  fresh baguettes again!
The next morning, we headed over to the fuel dock, figuring that here was as good a place as any to fill up with fuel, and so with fuel tanks topped up, water tanks full and galley provisions replenished, we were ready to head out to join Shuti and Toomai! We found them anchored in “Grande Anse D’Arlet”, about 15 miles away. On the way, we sailed past Diamond Rock, which, in 1804, was commissioned as a ship by the British Navy! During this time, the British had naval supremacy in the Caribbean, but ships were always scarce. Someone noticed Diamond Rock, and said that if the British had a spare ship, it would be a great place to put it! So the British commissioned the rock, putting cannons and a full crew of men on the snake infested pinnacle, and for 18 months, HMS Diamond Rock was a nasty surprise for any unsuspecting French or other enemy ship coming into Martinique!


HMS Diamond Rock:  not really much to look at!
Anchored in Grande Anse D’Arlet, we had a great reunion with both Shuti and Toomai, but especially Toomai, whom we had not seen in over 2 years!! The kids had so much fun reconnecting, that we decided to stay an extra day, so they could spend the day together. After a morning of laughter and card games, they disappeared to the beach after lunch, and we didn’t see them again, until sunset, when they returned sunburned and tired, and Fabienne and Kristophe, the parents came over for drinks and dinner, and we had a lovely evening reminiscing and catching up on their travels, and they on ours. It was a sad farewell that Thursday, April 5th, when we said goodbye, not knowing when we would see them again, but glad that we finally were able to see our first boat friends again…at the beginning of our journey and now at the end!

With Fabienne, Kristophe, Antoine and Paul 
The next day saw us heading up the coast of Martinique, another 15 miles or so, to the town of St. Pierre. This was a lovely stop, with the town having an amazing history, which those of you on Instagram may already have learned about from Benjamin and Gaby’s posts. St. Pierre lies at the foot of the volcano Mt. Pelée. At the turn of the century, St. Pierre was known as “Petite Paris”; it was the commercial, social and cultural center of Martinique, with a population of around 30,000. Despite some warnings in April of 1902, when the volcano started rumbling, and after 2 eruptions on May 2nd and May 5th, that actually resulted in some deaths, very few people left St. Pierre, choosing to believe that they were safe. This was partly due to wealthy plantation owners who did not want to endure the economic consequences of an evacuation, convincing the mayor, and the city folk that it was safe, and due to the mayor, who was up for re-election, choosing to believe the plantation owners, and not wanting to make the wrong call, which could have cost him his election. However, on the morning of May 8th, 1902, the side of the volcano facing St. Pierre glowed red, and erupted, releasing more energy than an atomic bomb, completely destroying the entire city of St. Pierre, and 30,000 of its inhabitants with it. Only 2 people survived: a cobbler and a prisoner, Cyparis, who was imprisoned for murder in a stone cell.

St. Pierre at the foot of Mt. Pelée
The town was eventually rebuilt and many of the buildings have been built onto old structures, but many ruins remain. We spent an afternoon walking around the town, feeling like we were in Europe, and marveling at the old ruins and imagining what it must have been like before nature unleashed her wrath upon it.

A view of the main street that runs along the waterfront

Some images of St. Pierre
The cell in which Cyparis was imprisoned at the time of the eruption, the cell that saved his life!  More ruins along a cobbled street and a view of the anchorage from the hill.  Old cannons overlook the bay and more ruins are seen below.  Cool Runnings is the 4th boat from the right

The ruins of St. Pierre:  On the left are the theater ruins, on the right in the middle is a statue, depicting the suffering of the people of St Pierre, that was done by a student of the famous sculptor Rodin.  
Sunset in St. Pierre; the town from the water, the beaches here are black from the volcanic sand
Next on our northern agenda was Guadeloupe, also belonging to the French. In between Martinique and Guadeloupe lies the island of Dominica. Not wishing to check out of Martinique, check into Dominica, check out of Dominica and then back into France in Guadeloupe, we decided to skip Dominica and head straight for a small archipelago of islands to the south of Guadeloupe called The Saintes. Unfortunately Dominica was badly hit by one of the big hurricanes of 2017, and we could see the state of the trees as we sailed past. Dominica is known for its inland beauty; rivers and rainforests, but we could see the hills that had been stripped bare, with trees just sticking out like matchsticks. Shuti had visited Dominica in 2016 and were there again now, and they said they could definitely see the difference. The people are still shell-shocked, but are doing their best to rebuild.

Interesting rock formation as we sail into the Saintes
It was a long day, close to 80 miles. We were up at 4:30am and we were on our way around 5:00am, leaving St. Pierre asleep behind us. We enjoyed the now familiar romp between the islands, where the winds and seas come sweeping through from the Atlantic, with nothing to stop them, and then calm as the islands provide shelter from those same constant trade winds. About 12 hours later, we arrived in the Saintes, and found a spot to anchor off the small (and only) town of Bourg des Saintes on the island of Terre d’en Haut. There were lots of boats here, many on mooring buoys, and a few anchored, but we had expected this, as Moby had given us a “heads up” that it was crowded, but worth the visit.

The picturesque town of Bourge des Saintes
The town of Bourg des Saintes is picturesque with all the buildings having distinctive red roofs. The Saintes have been French since shortly after they were colonized, and there is a very strong link with France, and especially with Brittany (where, by the way, our friends on “Moby” are from!). Since there was never any agriculture on these dry islands, there were never any slaves, so the population is overwhelmingly French, and not Caribbean. In fact, as we stepped onto the dinghy dock, and walked into the little town, we were immediately transported to a small fishing village somewhere in France! Baguettes and pastries were displayed in the little cafés and you were greeted with “Bonjour!” wherever you went!

We walked the steep road up to Fort Napoleon, sitting on top of the hill overlooking all the islands of Isle de Saintes, and as far as the main island of Guadeloupe. The fort, originally named Fort Louis, was built in 1782, but was destroyed by the British in 1809. It was rebuilt in 1867 and named after Napoleon III. However, after that time, it never saw use in battle, and was used instead as a penitentiary. As we walked up the hill, and saw the outside walls, we all (rather arrogantly) thought the same thing: “another common-garden fort”! How many forts have we seen on our travels?! But this one turned out to be worth the walk up the hill! It has been beautifully restored, and we happily paid our €17 entrance fee to walk around and admire it, and enjoy the museum and exhibitions that we found inside. There were beautiful models of old ships and depictions of the battles they fought in these waters.  We thought of the old fort in Grenada, Fort George, also built in the late 1700’s, that is just decaying, seemingly forgotten on top of the hill, and compared it to this beautiful old fort, so carefully looked after and able to be appreciated by so many visitors.

Fort Napoleon

More images of Fort Napoleon
On our walk back down the hill and through the town, we admired the typical Saintes architecture, with the houses having the gingerbread lattice work trim and distinct shutters on the windows.

Saintes architecture
We also saw “Shuti” arrive, and called to them from halfway up the hill, but they did not hear us! Instead, after we had bought our baguettes for lunch, we quickly stopped by on the dinghy and said “bonjour”! After lunch, the Shuti boys, Yoav, Eyal and Dror came to play, a bittersweet playdate, as this was to be the last. We knew were leaving the next day, and Shuti’s agenda, is keeping them in the Guadeloupe area a little longer as they drop off their friend and pick up Momi's father over the next couple of days. By the time they make it up to Antigua and the British Virgin Islands, we will already be in the Bahamas, so we will likely not see them again (in the near future). We will, undoubtedly see them again sometime, as this is a special friendship, formed over thousands of miles of ocean, with shared experiences that forged a unique and special bond. We shared a lovely evening with them aboard Shuti, with a bottle of Caribbean rum punch helping us to say farewell, but not goodbye!

Top: The kids have a last playdate:  Gaby teaches them a card trick!  And a last shot that evening after drinks
And so, with two sad farewells behind us, we keep heading north, in our effort to catch up with our other special friends on “Moby”, so we can see them one more time before they head across the Atlantic back to France, and as all our adventures slowly start coming to an end. We sailed from the Saintes on Monday, April 9th to the top of Guadeloupe and anchored in Deshaies, where we checked out with the Gendamerie. We love the French islands: paperwork is kept to a minimum (you enter your own information into a computer and it prints a one page clearance document), and it is free. Services are great and people are friendly. What more could you ask for?! Next stop: Antigua!

Gaby blows the conch as the sun sets at our anchorage in Deshais, Martinique
PS:  Since these are posted in quick succession, if you have not seen the post on St. Vincent and the Grenadines, click on "Older Posts" below!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Sailing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Previously on svcoolrunnings.blogspot.com: We had checked out of Grenada, getting ready to head to our next island destination, but before checking into St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we spent a night anchored off the small island of Petite St. Vincent, just a few miles from Union Island, where we needed to check in. However, all that is on the island is a private resort, and it seems acceptable that you can stop here without checking in, because if you check in first, you’d have to back-track to Petite St. Vincent, which no-one really wants to do! We were joined here by “Shuti” the following morning. Our reunion was not long, because we headed off to Union to officially check in, and “Shuti” stayed another 2 nights. We knew we would catch up with them in the Tobago Cays, so we waved “so long” and motored the 4 miles over to Union Island.

Union Island is easily recognisable with its distinctive peak called "The Pinnacle" (far right)
Clifton, the capital of Union Island, was pretty, but the harbor was a nightmare to anchor in. Mooring buoys have been placed in all the best anchoring spots, and the price to use them is steep: 60 EC Dollars (Eastern Caribbean Dollars, a fixed rate of 2.67 to the US dollar). After our previous experience with mooring buoys, we wanted to steer clear of any mooring buoys, but there was precious little space left in which to drop an anchor! We have encountered the mooring buoys all over now, and the disappointment with them is that they have been placed purely as a money making racket. The only legitimate use for mooring buoys (in our opinion) are if it is too deep to anchor, or if there is coral that needs to be protected from anchors, in which case we are always happy to pay for a mooring. Here, the water is clear and about 5 – 10 feet deep in sand…perfect anchoring, and there is no need for mooring buoys. Their holding is also questionable, as you don’t know who is maintaining them, and to leave our expensive home tied to a ball without knowing what’s underneath is too much of a risk to say the least!

The Clifton fruit and vegetable market has the typical Caribbean style colored stalls.  

We spent the shortest amount of time possible in Clifton, checked into SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines), and then headed over to Palm Island, where we spent a rather rolly night at anchor. The following day, we moved to Frigate Bay, where we spent a few days, waiting for Granny’s plane to arrive. It was a lovely anchorage, protected and calm, and we spent our days watching kite surfers whizz up and down! The kids did lots of school, so they could take some time off while our guests were with us. Soon it was time to head back to Clifton, so we could walk to the airport and collect Rosemary and Kayla from the airport. We stood on the side of the runway and waited for their small propeller plane to land. We were so awed by the small runway and how quickly the plane touched down and turned around, we forgot to video their dramatic arrival!

Arrival, Island Style!  Dave and his mom, Rosemary (Granny) walk back along the airport road to the boat
With our guests now safely on board, we did a short stock up of fresh fruits and veggies from the vendors at the Clifton market the following morning, and then headed north. The distances are so short, that it took us about an hour to head to the island of Mayreau, and into the popular anchorage of Salt Whistle Bay.

Our niece, Ben and Gaby's cousin, Kayla, on the paddle board in Salt Whistle Bay
It is a beautiful bay, but very crowded with charter boats. We were extremely lucky in that, when we arrived, 2 big boats were just leaving, which opened up a coveted spot in the corner of the bay. We got a good hold on the anchor and settled in for a few days. We amused ourselves by watching the anchorage filling up with more and more boats. Just when we thought they couldn’t possibly pack in another boat, another one came and found a spot. Here too, in crystal clear water with good holding, they had laid mooring buoys, which you could have the pleasure of using for 60EC a night!

Packed with boats!
There are a few vendors selling T-shirts and jewelry on the beach, and a few rustic beach bars and restaurants. The prices were outrageous. Where in Grenada we had paid 25EC for a full meal at the Little Dipper in Grenada, here a comparable meal was 60EC and up!

Vendors selling T-shirts and sarongs on the beach

Gaby in her natural habitat:  thrilled to be climbing palm trees again!
After 2 nights in Salt Whistle Bay, we headed around the corner and over to the famous Tobago Cays.  We had found our turquoise water at last!!  The Tobago Cays are a group of small, deserted islands protected from the sea by a big reef called Horseshoe Reef. The water is shallow and crystal clear in the sand behind the reef, providing a good, safe anchorage, and turtles swim around eating the sea grass at the bottom. Here too, there were many boats, but the anchorage area is bigger, so it was easier to find a spot. We spotted “Shuti” and dropped anchor next to them.

Stunning Tobago Cays
We spent a week here, swimming, snorkeling and meeting Shuti for sundowners on the small beaches in the late afternoon/evening. It was a lovely playground for the kids, and for us, it felt like a holiday, not having to move, not having to check the weather and just enjoying “chilling out” for a while! We were lucky enough to snorkel with turtles a couple of times during our stay there!

One of my favorite shots:  Gaby checking out this friendly fellow!

Enjoying Turtle Time!

And, because you can't swim with turtles all day, every day...  Yoav from Shuti, joins Kayla, Gaby, Granny and Ben for a game of Risk!
One of the days we took Cool Runnings over to an island called “Petite Tabac”, on the outside of the big Horseshoe Reef. We enjoyed a day there, exploring the little island and snorkeling on the reef, but after lunch, we pulled up anchor and came back to the main anchorage for the night. We decided that it would not be safe to stay there, as the small island is surrounded by reef, and if anything were to go wrong, we’d be on the reef within seconds.
Petite Tabac
Fun times at Petite Tabac

Shuti left to go back to Union Island to pick up guests of their own, and we spent one more night in the Tobago Cays without them. We moved to a different part of the reef, just for a change of scenery. Dave and I went for a long swim and snorkeled on the outside of the reef, where it drops away dramatically into the depths of the ocean. It was very pretty, but after we spotted a shark checking us out, and with the tide starting to go out as well, I decided it was time to go back into the safety of the inside of the reef!!

Snorkeling on the reef
Early on Sunday morning, Dave called me up onto the helm station and said, “I think there’s a cat (catamaran) on the reef”! We looked over to Petite Tabac, where we had been only two days before, and saw a boat at a very odd angle to the wind. A monohull was also anchored there, and they were facing into the wind, confirming our suspicion that the cat was on the reef. After looking through the binoculars, Dave said, “we should go and see if we can help them. If it was me, I would want someone to come and help us”. We got our spare anchor with 300ft of rode (rope), extra mooring lines, mask and fins, and topped up the dinghy gas/petrol tank. We decided that Ben and Gaby would go with Dave, and I would stay on Cool Runnings to monitor the radio. About 2 ½ hours later, Dave and the kids returned, having successfully helped get the boat off the reef! Dave said the damage was relatively minor, and most of it was on the keels. The boat was a new Lagoon 420, and luckily Lagoons are built to take the weight of the boat on their keels. Luckily Dave not only knew the boat and Lagoons, but he also knew our dinghy would be powerful enough to be able to push and pull if needed, as we have used it before as a “tug boat” on Cool Runnings in strong wind. In addition having been there a few days prior, Dave knew where the holding was good to put our spare anchor, and help winch the boat off the reef. The folks on the Lagoon were of course very grateful for his and the kids help, and called us later on VHF to say they had safely made it to Union island and to again say thanks!

The Lagoon 420 on the reef, just after the grounding
After this exciting morning, we still decided to leave as planned, and headed out in the afternoon towards the island of Canouan, which was just an overnight stop before heading to Mustique the following day. In a very short time, the scenery changed from shallow turquoise water and white sand, to deep bays and mountains. The sail the next day to Mustique was a little rough, as we had to point more to windward than we would like, and we had about 13 miles of “open water”, that is, the passage between the islands, where you don’t have the protection of the island to shield you. But it didn’t last too long, and soon we were in Britannia Bay, tied to a mooring buoy.

Boats on moorings in Britannia Bay, Mustique.  Cool Runnings is 3rd from left at the back
Mustique is a private island and use of mooring buoys is mandatory. However, the buoys looked very strong and well-maintained, so we didn’t mind paying the somewhat high fee for their use. (The cost is 200EC (about $75) for 3 nights). Mustique is very pretty, and largely undeveloped. The water around Mustique is a conservation area, and we also found that on land, they were very environmentally conscious, which was a wonderful surprise. They desalinate water and much of the power comes from solar power, pretty much the same as Cool Runnings!! The tiny little town is pretty, and the island has about 90 homes on it, many of them owned by the rich and famous. In fact, when we went for a walk, we tried to get to the library (we’d read the internet was good!!), but we were prevented from going there, as the road was blocked off “for about 2 weeks” we were told, so we figured someone famous was on the island, and didn’t want to be disturbed!! (A few days later, we actually saw Mick Jagger on neighboring Bequia, and we were told he often came to Bequia, as he had a house “next door” on Mustique).

Beautiful, colorful Mustique:  Bougainvilla in all colors, tortoises roaming around freely, Stanley's vegetable stand where we stocked up on tomatoes and cucumber, and Granny, Kayla, Gaby, Ben and Dave enjoying an ice cream!

We spent 3 days in Mustique, making full use of our payment for the mooring buoys (it’s 200EC, whether you stay for one night, two or three). On one day, there was a little craft market, with artists coming from St. Vincent to display their goods. Like everything else on the island, it was all too expensive for yachties such as us, but it was nice to just walk around and look. In fact, we bought our most expensive sausages in our lives in Mustique…12 Johnsonville Brats and 1 can of creamed sweetcorn cost us 80EC, about $36!!!

When it was time to head on, we sailed over to Bequia, a very pleasant sail, stopping at a small island called Petite Nevis for the day, before heading over to Friendship Bay, on the southeast coast of Bequia for the night. On Friday, 30th March, we took a slow sail along the coast to the other side to Bequia, to the main anchorage of Admiralty Bay, and the town of Port Elizabeth. It was very crowded in Admiralty Bay, and quite rolly, with large swells rolling into the bay. On a catamaran, we were somewhat more stable than monohulls, who were rocking quite badly from side to side! There were major parties happening on shore, and every night we had to go to sleep with the extremely loud reggae music rocking us to sleep! We also walked around the small town (where we saw Mick Jagger!), and on Easter Sunday, we went ashore and Granny treated us to lunch at the Gingerbread Hotel, where we sat under a tree, next to the water and enjoyed our Easter Lunch! (toasted sandwiches for Granny and Gaby, Rotis for Dave, Ben and myself and a burger and fries for Kayla).

Gaby made our Easter decorations.  The bunny even managed to hide a few eggs and the kids found them on Easter morning!  On the dock outside the Gingerbread after our lunch
Before we knew it, it was time for Granny and Kayla to head back home. Early on Monday morning, April 2nd, Dave, Ben and Gaby took them to shore and they waited at the Gingerbread hotel for a taxi to take them to the airport, where they would hop on another small propeller plane that would take them to Barbados, and then American Airlines would take them back to Miami and ultimately Tampa. Two weeks had flown by in a blur, but this time, when we said goodbye, we were able to say “see you soon!” We have about 10 weeks left before we will be back home, and just like Granny and Kayla’s 2 weeks flew by, our 2 years have flown by equally fast!

Sunset in Bequia

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Exploring Grenada

Surprisingly enough, we continue to find it difficult to find enough internet access to get our blog posts updated and uploaded!  We are currently in Martinique, where we made a stop to get some spare parts that David Farrington of Lagoon so kindly sourced for us and sent to the local Lagoon dealership for us to pick up.  Thank you again, David, for all your help along the way!  Our rough plan is to leave here tomorrow, sail to Guadelope, with possibly a short stop in Dominica, and from there, make our way to the BVIs, via Antigua, and then on to the Turks and Cacios and ultimately on to the Bahamas to hopefully meet up with our friends on "Moby" before they make their final crossing over the Atlantic back to France.  With that being said, let's step back a few weeks in time, with our arrival in Grenada:

Situated within large Clarke’s Court Bay, Grenada, is a very small marina called Whisper Cove. We typically try not to stay in marinas, especially now that our savings are dwindling, but as we approached Grenada, we hailed a few of the marinas on the radio, and Whisper Cove was the only one that responded. We knew that we had to fill up with diesel and re-provision, and that is always so much easier when attached to a dock, as opposed to having to dinghy heavy jerry cans of fuel to and from the shore to the boat, and likewise with precious bags of food!

A roadside establishment in Grenada with some good messages:  "Thoughts become tings, Choose the good ones"
So we made the decision to stay at Whisper Cove Marina for a few nights, to get ourselves reintegrated into society! Now, one might not think that Grenada is a buzzing metropolis, and it is not, but we had not seen so many boats and people congregated in one place since, well, probably since leaving Key West, Florida! The horizon was just a jungle of masts, and we were glad to be able to tie up at Whisper Cove, and not have to fight for a tiny spot of real estate, where we could safely drop our anchor! Whisper Cove is really just one dock, with space for maybe 10 boats, but it was perfect for what we needed, and it had free WiFi! (with payment of dockage fee, of course!). But it was cute, and beautifully landscaped, and had clean ablution facilities, in fact, their showers were pretty awesome: the water was cold, but you really didn’t need warm water in the hot, humid temperatures. The showers were large, wooden buildings, surrounded by foliage, with the slats missing at eye level, so it felt like you were showering outside! We typically shower on the boat, even when we are in marinas, because on the whole, our own showers are usually nicer than any marina showers, and it is so much more convenient, but these showers were just so great, we all took the opportunity to enjoy them as much as we could!! (can you tell…it’s the small things in life, like a good shower, that we, as cruisers, have come to appreciate?!).

Whisper Cove Marina - the brown, wooden structure at the end of the dock are the showers!
First order of business was, of course, to check in to Grenada. There is a Customs and Immigration office around the corner from Whisper Cove, at “True Blue” and Dave was able to take the dinghy over there to check in. Once again, although he arrived during office hours, Immigration was not there, and the customs officer held on to our passports, telling us to return on Monday at 11:00am to collect them! This was getting old… But having no option, he left them there, and we carried on with getting ourselves organized. Dave spoke to the marina manager, and was able to arrange car hire for 2 days, which would allow us to get to the supermarket and petrol/gas station and also to explore the island of Grenada. We set off on Sunday morning, and headed to St. George, the capital. On the way, we scoped out the gas station, and found a lovely, big IGA Supermarket, where we would later do all our provisioning. We went inside to have a look, and the look on the kids’ faces was precious! Every few seconds, they would stop and gasp, their mouths hanging open, or jump up and down in excitement, upon seeing a familiar food!

First sight of Oreos in 2 years!!

The old buildings in the historic waterfront part of St. George called The Carenage
Fort George, the 18th century fort situated on the hilltop above the town of St. George 
We spent the day exploring, and while we enjoyed driving around the island, we found that it wasn’t all that different from Tobago. It had the same, small, windy roads, leading from village to village, the beautiful, rainforest inland, and rugged coastline. We stopped for lunch at the north end of Grenada, at a small hotel called Petite Anse hotel, near the town of Sauteurs, and then made our way back along the east coast, briefly stopping at one of the famous plantations, Belmont Estate, that has turned into a tourist attraction.

The view from the top of Grenada across to the other islands.  It was so exciting to be able to SEE the next destination with the naked eye!
The old plantation road at Belmont estate.  It was a little rainy at this point

Grenada is known as the “Spice Island” and there are numerous nutmeg processing plants on the island. We tried to stop at a less touristy one in in the village of Gouyave, and encountered the most hideous detour of our lives! We were SO close, but the road was closed and the detour took us on the scariest, narrowest, steepest roads we’ve ever encountered, and when we were spat out at the coast again, I insisted on going left, as I was sure we could get to the nutmeg facility, and Dave wanted to go right, to get away from the town. But being the good person he is, he humored me, and we ended up having to go on the detour AGAIN, so that was that for the Gouyave nutmeg processing plant!!

This abandoned building was on an "off the beaten track" road, with paintings still for sale, but no-one to be found
The reason for the road closure, which we also encountered (to a lesser degree) in other villages, was that there were general elections coming up, and this day had obviously been designated a day for rallies and party gatherings. We came to know the two parties as the “greens” and the “yellows”, as everywhere we went, the supporters donned either green or yellow T-shirts. Our road trip came to a grinding halt when we were caught up in a traffic jam of epic proportions, and it took us hours to make the last few miles home! We came to dislike the “Greens”, as they were the cause of the traffic jam. The “Yellows” seemed more organized, and we saw them gathered at fields on the side of the road, and they drove along in an orderly fashion. The “Greens” seemed to use the road as their rally points, and drove, in truck and car loads at a snail’s pace, cheering and waving, but not giving the opportunity for anyone to overtake (a difficult task on a good day, as the roads are pretty narrow as it is!). Poor Dave had to negotiate this mayhem on the roads, and we returned to the boat eventually, completely exhausted (and with no energy left to do our shopping, which we had planned to do, but did not dare to go out onto the roads again)!!

A cool little place:  the "Epic Bar and Lounge"...we did not go in, but it looked cool!
On Monday morning, we heard on the cruiser’s net (a virtual meeting, of sorts, where a designated channel on the VHF radio is allocated at a certain time each morning, and you can tune in and listen to what’s going in the cruising world in Grenada), that a cruise ship was in port. This was not good news for us, as we had planned to head to one of the waterfalls, and I had read that if a cruise ship is in town, the waterfall becomes overrun with tourists, vendors set up stalls, and it is generally very crowded. Not our scene at all! So we quickly gathered the troops, and our stuff, and made our way to Annandale Waterfall, and arrived in the nick of time! When we got there, we had the place all to ourselves. Not another car, tour bus or person in sight! We enjoyed swimming in the cool pool and standing under the waterfall, letting our shoulders be massaged by the force of the falling water. As we got out, we saw the first people arrive, and by the time we got back to the car, it was mayhem! We barely managed to get out, and made a quick get-away, away from the madding crowd!!

Taking a dip in the cool pool at Annandale Falls
Selfie under the waterfall!
We took one more drive to Etang Lake, a lake in the crater of an extinct volcano, but were once again disappointed when we arrived, to find tons of people there, and you had to pay an entrance fee to go and see the lake. Having come from places where we have just been able to enjoy nature in its most pure form, we were having a hard time with the commercialization of everything, and we decided to turn around. The drive in itself was pretty, so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

The road to and from Etang Lake was very green!
After a quick stop to pick up our passports, we had lunch at a place called “The Little Dipper”. We had read about it in the cruising guide, and we were not disappointed. We were the only guests at this tiny place, and the food was delicious. We had “lambi”, which is conch, fresh veggies and rice, all freshly made.

Little Dipper gets a thumbs up from Cool Runnings!
After lunch, we dropped the kids off at the boat, and went to do our chores. We headed to the supermarket and started filling up our shopping cart. We were surprised at how much food we bought, having been convinced that I had bought enough in South Africa to last us all the way home! When we exited the supermarket, it was pouring with rain, and I mean absolutely pouring, and it didn’t show signs of stopping anytime soon! After getting thoroughly soaked after loading our groceries in the car, we headed to the gas station to fill up our 9 jerry cans with diesel. The roads were starting to flood and the water ran in rivers down the sidewalks. We navigated to the gas station and were able to fill our jerry cans with diesel. We started our drive back to the marina, which, on a normal day, would have taken us 10 minutes at the most. We expected a slow drive back, but we were once again crawling along at a snail’s pace, at times not moving at all. Within a stone’s throw of the turnoff to the marina, we started noticing cars doing U-turns. We recognized a guy from the marina who drove past us, so we quickly asked him what was happening. Turns out the road was completely flooded and no-one could get through!! We had to turn around and drive all the way back to St. George, and then back to the marina along another road. What should have taken 10 minutes, ended up taking more than 2 hours! Poor Benjamin and Gaby thought we had abandoned them, as we didn’t have any way of communicating our predicament to them. They, in turn, had troubles of their own. The rain was so strong that it started flooding our dinghy, and they had to bail out water in the pouring rain, in order to stop it from sinking!!

A view of St. George and St. George's Bay from Quarantine Point 
We were glad to give the car back at the end of the 2 days, as our experience on Grenadian roads had not been a pleasant one! Looks like we were more comfortable on the water! We left Whisper Cove, but spent a few more days in Grenada at anchor, one day we went to the underwater sculpture park, which was a little disappointing, but interesting nonetheless. There are numerous sculptures placed underwater, and you can snorkel or dive to see them. We snorkeled, but they were quite deep and quite difficult to find. The visibility was also not very good that day, so that added to the disappointment. However, we came back to anchor outside the harbor in St. George, next to our friends on “Shuti”! We had last seen them in St. Helena, where we had gone our separate ways: they went to Brazil, and then from there on to Tobago and now Grenada, and we had gone to Ascension, Tobago and now Grenada. We celebrated that evening with them, as they had now “crossed their wake”, and were therefore officially circumnavigators!!

One of the underwater sculptures
The following morning we pulled up anchor and sailed to Carriacou, the next island along, that also belongs to Grenada. It was only 30 miles, but one of the toughest day passages we have ever done! We had to beat into the strong wind, tacking multiple times, and it took us 8 hours to get to Tyrell Bay, where we had to find a spot amongst the many, many other boats in the bay. This Caribbean experience was something we were going to have to get used to!! Still disappointed at not having found our turquoise waters, and eager to escape the crowd in Tyrell Bay, we left early the next morning and headed just around the corner to Hamilton, stopping at a small islet along the way, aptly named “Sandy Island”! As it is a marine park area, we had to pick up a mooring buoy, as anchoring was not allowed. We did so, and tried to tighten our lines. We kept reversing, testing the hold on the mooring line, and trying to get our lines to tighten up. It never happened…we kept going further and further away from the island, further and further out to sea! The mooring was completely loose, not attached to anything, or else, its hold was so poor, that it couldn’t hold our weight, and dragged the whole way! We had to abandon that mooring buoy, and went to pick up another one. Understandably, we were a little nervous, so after tying up, Dave dove down to check the mooring. This one, he said, looked good!

Sandy Island:  turquoise water at last!
We spent a few hours swimming and snorkeling and walking along the small beach, but when the wind started picking up, I was nervous of leaving Cool Runnings on the mooring buoy, so we headed back, and went to anchor in Hamilton Bay, where the holding was so poor, that it took us about 3 tries before we felt we had a good hold on the anchor! I didn’t sleep that well that night, with the memory of the broken mooring buoy and the poor holding in the bay, coupled with the wind coming in tremendous gusts down over the mountains and into the bay.

The next morning we went to Customs and Immigration to check out of Grenada. We were on the move north, in search of our turquoise water, and with a rendezvous in Union Island, which belongs to St. Vincent and the Grenadines with Dave’s mom Rosemary and niece Kayla, who were coming to visit and would be spending 2 weeks with us in the Grenadines.