After arriving at dawn of the 25th, completing 20 days at sea, the lush landfall and bustling capital of Scarborough were both a delight. This is a seldom visited island, and the capital is only a waystation for the occasional cruise ship to unload passengers who scurry off in rental cars to the rainforest in the interior. All the tourist development is near the airport at the southern tip, handy to Buccoo Reef. The people are friendly, and except near tourist attractions not trying to "hustle" you. Peet was invited to join a dance class by the young ladies there, and beamed like the cat who swallowed the canary all Saturday afternoon as we drove our rental Kia around the coast and into the rain forest reserve. This is a destination spot for bird watchers. Unlike other Caribbean islands there are no venomous snakes, thus it escaped the introduction of the mongoose that happily ate birds and snakes alike to extinction throughout the region. We saw the King of the Wood who sports tail feathers ending in a pair of tennis rackets and a black bird with red crest found no where else. I was surprised to actually see the birds, and bird watchers clad in khaki shorts had cameras on tripods as well as field glasses. For $100 TT ($16 US) we hired a guide who led us for 30 minutes along a slippery rock and clay trail blazed in earlier times as a donkey route to carry produce to either the Atlantic or Caribbean shore, whichever one had calm seas, and was the only cross island route. The clay acts like a sponge creating an environment so moist it has never been destroyed by fire. Only hurricane wind can snap the top of the canopy to let in light for new growth. Since the island's founding in 1639 only 3 hurricanes have struck. At 12 degrees north of the equator we are safely below storm tracks. All we knew of Michelle that hit Cuba was rolly seas, and loss of wind that had all been sucked up by its vortex. While storms are rare, regrettably one struck in 1963, the year after Britain granted independence to Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad halted construction of a marina on its new partner, the storm destroyed Tobago's agriculture and it has languished ever since. Too small to be coveted zealously by any government it passed between French and English control 30 times. With no gold in the offing, Spain pressed on after Columbus found it in 1498. The farther from the seat of power, the more neglect we found. On the west end of the island gas stations were operating, but on the east, one was dry, and the other promised to open for 3 hours in the evening. We did without our air conditioning as we gazed down on King's Bay, a secluded anchorage with nearby islands, sandy shoreline, and verdant hills ringing its coast. Men with machetes and gangs of tethered goats and cows keep the grass trimmed. Laundry is draped over the shrubs as well as hung on lines. Roads are pretty good, but not engineered for safety. Jim drove across a cement culvert in the capital that gripped the rear tires requiring a boost from Peet to get us out, and later a front tire was flattened when we squeezed up against another culvert making room for an oncoming car. But picnics aboard Sunsets under the full moon capped both days. The 2nd we weighed anchor and motored through cloud bursts to re-anchor in Store Bay off the west coast overlooking the resort beaches. Typical of tropic climes rains are short interludes, and have done an excellent job of rinsing the salt from Sunsets' deck and brightwork. -The Landlubbers
We were tempted to stay in Tobago eating Rotis for lunch, a pocket of dough with ground chickpeas, curry and any meat from fish to goat that is a staple of the local diet, and snorkel near our anchorage. But the evening of the 4th the captain decreed a 65 mile overnighter by motor to Trinidad. We approached the northwest tip to a stunning red sunrise, then cleared The Dragon's Mouth pass and Point Gourd to our waiting slip at CrewsInn Marina in Chaguaramas Bay (Palms Bay). This was the haunt of Buccaneers, non-Spaniards bent on avenging suppression of trade with other nationals ruthlessly enforced by the Spanish. The Buccaneers raided towns, tortured fleeing inhabitants until they coughed up their hidden wealth, and shared the booty equally. The Spanish were so stricken by their thoroughness they had to admit French, English and Dutch colonists to maintain population. Indiscriminate and undemocratic pirates including Blackbeard supplanted the Buccaneers, and plagued shipping until 1800, but found the residents not worth stealing from: they had nothing left. Trinidad's 1860 sq mi is 6 times the size of Tobago which has 40,000 of the 1.3 million combined population. Plantations of cocoa, coffee and sugar were tended by African slaves, who were replaced by East Indian indentured laborers when slavery was abolished, now the main ethnic blend. Festivals of Hindu, African and Christian origins are all celebrated here. Carnival season builds from New Year climaxing at Lent. Christmas music is sung in island Spanish to a lively maraca beat. Steel band, the only new instrument in the 1900s, originated here, and this is the home of an annual pan competition. Our marina sponsored a night of music the 6th that ended with Peet dancing in the rain. CrewsInn is a first class facility with pool, hotel, restaurant, and 110 v electricity permitting use of our aft cabin air conditioning. Peet enjoyed after dinner movies and pop corn with us before braving the humidity in his forward cabin. Thursday we set off in a rental car to explore the nearby golf course in the hopes of hearing a troop of wild howler monkeys, and to tour a military museum recounting the role of Trinidad as a convoy center in WW II. Of the 400 Allied merchant ships and 7,000 men lost, half were sustained here. Oil, the bulwark of Trinidad's economy, made this a strategic target during the war prompting daring daytime German sub attacks. Now both the western and eastern bays off Point Gourde are filled with yachts rivaling Eastport and Severn. Friday we set out for the capital, Port-of-Spain. No more quaint roadside goats, just bumper to bumper traffic with vendors and people spilling onto roadways as we passed through outlying towns. The city has both the bustle of a modern port, and the charm of Victorian buildings left from British colonialism. At the city zoo we saw species of Trini wildlife until the lions in prison-like enclosures roared, and tender-hearted Peet left us to wait outside. Continuing to Maracas Beach on the north coast took us through a rain forest as dense as those in Venezuela 7 miles offshore from which Trinidad and Tobago separated eons ago. Many animals, ocelots, Weeping Capuchins, iguanas, caimans, anteaters, a tree porcupine, and 430 bird species of Venezuela are here. The beach at Maracas was protected by a character out of the movie "Shaft" toting a street-sweeper! Our Shark'n Bake, a delicious black fin shark meat on pita-like bread with tamarind sauce was superb. -The Trini Trio
From Maracas Bay we headed due south to the coastal Caroni Swamp for a sunset boat excursion into the wildlife refuge that is home to great flocks of white egrets and Scarlet Ibis. Our guide pointed out the mud-colored fiddler crabs on which the birds feed at low tide, a four-eyed fish that sees above and below water at the same time, a tree snake coiled in leafy ambush awaiting evening roosting and his chance for a meal. We passed out of sight of all signs of humanity as he plied the mangrove channels into a central lake to wait. From all parts of the swamp as day drew to a close the birds gathered on a central island. The egrets land on the branches then quickly disappear into the foliage. But the Ibis are the star attraction. They are the size of sea gulls, red as cardinals, and they soar overhead to perch on the crown of the island trees for the night. Peet's soul was restored seeing nature at peace and liberty. Our ride home was tense being unaccustomed to street vendors wheeling their carts home in the curb lane of a major highway after dark. But we inched our way back on overburdened arteries to sample the buffet dinner at Hummingbirds, a nearby marina whose owners have circumnavigated on 3 vessels they have built, Hummingbird I, II and III. Carnival costumes adorn the walls, and sea articles are lacquered to the bar. The size of the island, traffic and security considerations dictated that we turn in our car Saturday. Our car has a separate ignition lock as well as a key. The large shopping center where we stopped for ice cream had a guard at the entry who issued the driver a green parking pass. This is kept by the driver while shopping, and only drivers who present their green card may exit the shopping center. Both measures are aimed at curbing car theft. Time for R & R by the pool. Results of the Ward Evans Rowing Challenge that left Tenerife October 7 with 36 pairs of oarsmen in identical boats are in. The world's toughest rowing contest that entails rowing 12 hours per day for 50-100 days is the brainchild of the first Brit who rowed across in '72. The race was won by a Kiwi as he entered St Charles Harbor, Barbados on the 18th of November only 1 day behind the record finish of 41.1 days. Second place went to the 'Roos, and the only female team is fighting to hold onto 3rd place, also Kiwis. They are mighty tough Down Under! Something that isn't tough started out in the Malay Archipelago, a fruit introduced to the Caribbean from the East Indies. In the West Indies it was cross-pollinated by oranges, and a new fruit was born, our grapefruit. The 8th is Peet's departure date. He will return to South Africa via London after 10 months of travel that started with a job in England at a vegetable processing plant that recruits in his country, that financed his backpacking in Portugal and Spain, sailing the Med with a British couple, and joining Sunsets to cross the Pond. His favorite British expression: "He's as flush as a rat with a gold tooth." His tales of camping in the wilds at home where a lion might be drawn to a primitive shower to lap water while the bather waits inside, or lions napping in the shade of the circular concrete bathroom walkway, or a tent that unfolds on the vehicle roof so hyenas can't wander in at night make Yellowstone bears seem tame. My final hug left two hand prints on the back of his white shirt, the visible love of Mama Joyce sending him back to Papa and Mama at home. -The Trini Twosome
On Tuesday am I cleared Customs while Jim got our rental car, a stick-shift model for right-side drive, a new challenge for Mr. Toad. We drove along Grand Anse Bay and into the heart of St George's Harbour, the capital. Narrow streets filled with pedestrians and lined with mini-vans that provide bus and taxi service made stopping impossible, and our little car forged northward halfway up the coast. A nutmeg factory provided a fragrant break, and a chance to stock up on Nutmeg Syrup for pancakes. The Belvedere Road led us to the interior rain forest in the rain, then we returned via Grand Etang, a crater lake, and Annandale Falls. This is an isle of small farms rather than large plantations. Earlier sugar was replaced by nutmeg imported from Indonesia, along with cloves, cocoa, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and all the tropical fruits and vegetables. At the edge of the forest a home site may have a variety of trees to feed the family with goats, sheep or cows to graze the verdure. Flowers bloom everywhere, and the earliest bright orange immortelle trees that set the hills ablaze in Feb and March are just peeking out. Other than getting the spice workers to push start our car whose lights stayed on through the tour, we managed to miss the speeding vans and gaggles of children in school uniforms, and find enough signs to get us back to town in time for dinner. Grenada's culture began with pre-historic Ciboney, who were replace by agricultural Arawaks, who in turn were eaten by Caribs, who, in despair of falling under French rule in 1651 leapt en masse from cliffs at La Morne. French culture persisted after the island came under English control in the patois of the former slaves, and the cuisine. The live appearance of "Bosco", a local legend, who plays pan and sings to accompaniment he has pre-recorded on drums and guitar took us to Calabash, a premier resort. The terrace restaurant's ceiling is a grape arbor with tendrils of purple blossoms hanging down. My King Fish Welsh Rarebit was the winner, but every morsel was delectable, and superbly presented. By the way, patrons must also properly present themselves; Jim was turned away in his shorts, and dinghied back to Sunsets to see which of his long pants still fit. Eastern Caribbean currency with a 2.67 exchange rate is used here and in the next two West Indian nations. Jim realized the menu was in US instead of EC as we ordered, and splurged: EC come, EC go. The resort namesake, the Calabash is a tree with fruits nearing basketball size used for gourds. On the 12th we explored the exclusive resorts on the tip at Pt. Saline, and anchorages to our east. The Moorings on Mt Hartman's Bay is across from undeveloped park land for an idyllic anchorage with deluxe shore side crew accommodations on the terraced hillside. Lunch was crepes overlooking Grand Anse beach at Coconut's Beach French Creole Restaurant, followed by a buffet dinner at the Flamboyant Hotel with a 6 member steel band manning 15 instruments panning their hearts out for us. It was also Oldies night at Fantazia 2001, and Jim made a stab at bar hopping. But Miss Pumpkin was too hopped out to do more than dinghy back to Sunsets for a well deserved day of rest aboard Thursday. Yachts are coming and going. I saw a sleek dark hull from the galley window at lunch; "Donnybrook", helmed by Holly, was arriving for the Caribbean Regatta series. Crew gazed at Sunsets, assessing us as a potential rival, or cheered by our hometown hailing port. -The Tomorrow Dieters
"He was dressed in a red cap ringed with fur trim
And a Speedo that covered a bare fraction of him.
I was shocked and astonished, but what could I say?
I also go boating dressed exactly that way."
Season's Greetings to all. We see a few lights strung up the rigging, and the odd illuminated wreath but nothing like Annapolis' Parade of Boat Lights. We refilled our diesel at $1 a gallon, $96, took on 2/3 tank of water, bid farewell to Ken & Anne aboard "Sea Ya", another M65 at the marina (a 3rd 65 is on land), gave up our a/c, and set out at 6:25 on the 10th to sail 80 miles to anchor in Prickly Bay on Grenada's south coast. Today is election day in T & T with the lead candidates in a dead heat. Like politicians the world over impossible campaign promises are made. Our rainforest guide on Tobago burst into peals of laughter when I quoted our depression era slogan, "A Chicken in Every Pot." Locals can become heated over the outcome. For those who want to trace our land routes check out skyviews.com, an online guide to the Caribbean with fully interactive road maps. Another web site to watch is seismic.com for the latest on Kick'em Jenny, an underwater volcano 4 miles north of Grenada whose recent activity until Sunday had prompted a code orange alert: possible evacuation on 24 hr notice. It has been down-graded to green, meaning they have no idea if and when it may blow again. This is the area's tallest mountain, 1200 meters high the crater lies 150 meters below the surface beside islands know as The Sisters: one of 105 underwater volcanoes worldwide. On July 24, 1939 it sent an eruptive column 900' into the air, and generated tsunamis waves of 2 meters amplitude that washed over coastal roads in Barbados-without being recognized as such! Coastal areas have to brace for potential 12' waves with 1.5' waves likelier. Minor eruptions occurred in '88, '89 and '90 when the sea was observed "boiling turbulently and throwing up small dark objects." Sailors are advised to give her a wide berth. In the past it is believed that a vessel with a crew of 20 fell into a gas pocket released below them, and was lost (write up at caribbeancompass.com). I'm a veteran volcano camper. My family visited Yellowstone when I was 12 during an earthquake, and at a time before the bears had been reformed. They roved through the campsite looting trash cans, and adding spice to those after-dark-trips to the bath house. It all seems much scarier to the folks at home than to the traveler delighting in the scenery which is exactly what we plan to do. Our sail on the 10th was a close reach romp with 20 knot Trades under genoa and staysail on a 25 degree angle of heel, covering the 80 miles in 9 hours. Dolphins swam close to our hull for 10 minutes at a time arching completely out of the water as they took breaths. We are taking it easy today and enjoying our good weather; no crew, no reefed mainsail. Grenada was the beneficiary of Reagan's '83-'85 "rescue mission" to oust a Fidel-style leader, Maurice Bishop who had seized office in a '79 coup. At one time this Isle of Spice, major producer of nutmeg, was the region's most prosperous. Hurricane Janet in '55 flattened it, and its move to independence depicted in Waugh's "Island in the Sun" set it back. The 8 by 18 mile land is divided into 3 climate zones: rainy, rainier and rainiest at 160" annually. It's dry Jan to June, and very sunny now. Anchors are holding well now after a 10 pm rain squall reset-sans Peet! -The Spices
In the '70's Alan Sherman wrote a satire of a kid's letter home from Camp
Grenada. Two rainy days aboard Sunsets has inspired my own rendidition:
Hello, daughter. Hello, brothers.
Here we are on Isle Grenada
Where the wind blows and the rain flows
Down in torrents worthy of the ancient Noah.
We're at anchor here in harbor
Bailing more now than we ought'er,
While the shrouds sing, and the wind vane,
Generating spins in circles ever louder.
Take me home for Christmas, New Years.
Save me from this awful deluge.
Its so humid here. The barometric readings
Rival lows of "Perfect Storm."
Jim's cut finger* now is healing.
He's much better than our neighbor:
Broke his left arm Genoa reefing.
He will be here six more weeks while he is mending.
The mosquitos, the aegpypties
Breed in vases in the cities.
If they bite you they can give you
Dengue Fever, achy painful-when not fatal!
Save me from the evil (den-gee).
Give me 'lectricity and a/c.
The dinghy powered by 2 horses
May not make it back in headwinds.
When a lull came we went dinking
To the shoreside food and drinking.
Joining sailors who were fleeing
Monstrous waves that in the anchorage were breaking.
With the blue skies Jim got thinking,
On the 'morrow we could go sailing.
But the rainclouds back with a vengeance
Told us Carriacou wasn't going to be our Sunday's destination.
>From this anchorage heaving
Tell me we'll soon be leaving.
The wind velocity may pick up
And the anchor lose its grip.
Kick'em Jenny, the volcano
Lurks in waters we can't sail through.
Should we try it we could end like
Ships that vanished in air bubbles that won't hold you.
Nature's powers are so awesome:
The tsunamis and eruptions.
Will they come now? Who can say how, red alerted,
This island could in one day be deserted?
Please, God, leave Jenny sleeping
As past her we go creeping.
Eruption it is clear with lava, gas and ash
Could be lethal to those near.
The weather pattern we are in now
Could persist another week more.
Watching mast drips while it's raining
Constitutes our most exciting entertaining.
Could the cabin, sealed and soggy,
Lead to mildew, things unhearty?
Should a month pass without your hearing,
For God's sake, organize a searching party!
Take me to the Moorings shoreside
Where bands spread the joy of Yuletide.
Its dull here, and in this clammy drear and dank
I might die of ennui.
Sunlight's glinting off the transom.
It's stopped raining. Let's go snorkel.
The air is fragrant with island spices.
Daughter, brothers, kindly disregard this e-mail.
Soggy Joyce & Clammy Jim
*Jim put a 1/4" deep cut in his forefinger when we arrived in T & T. Fortunately, we had tubular finger gauze that is doubled over the full length of the finger then taped at the base to hold the band-aids on. Very impressive. We've moved on to wrapping his chest with elastic tape for a bothersome rib, a victim of the late night anchor reset on Monday's arrival in Prickly Bay. A full recovery is expected. Dr. Mom
Tyrell Bay, Carriacou 12/17
Monday, the 17th, the cloud cover extending across the Atlantic showed a thinning that let us motor our way 35 miles straight upwind to anchor in Tyrell Bay on (carry-a-KOO.) Passing Diamond Island (a.k.a. K.'em J.), a bird sanctuary, we saw the birds who roost there actively pulling fish from the roiling waters, but no untoward activity. This most populous of the Grenadines, along with Petit Martinique is governed by Grenada. They are sleepy, and have survived by fishing, emigrating to oil fields returning later to raise families, and unsanctioned duty-free importing, i.e., smuggling. Tyrell Bay's anchorage includes a near-derelict inter-island freighter that broke free before we arrived and was bearing down on 3 boats at anchor in the worst of the wind. Local fishermen averted disaster, re-anchoring the unattended vessel on the edge of the bay from which it appears to be gradually receding back out to sea, but with no more boats in its path. Two other cargo boats moored here are fitted with a mainsail as well as a diesel, either as insurance against engine failure or to defray the cost of fuel. This is a laissez faire place. A welding shop/massage parlor and a bar are enterprises run from boats at anchor. On land goats and cattle are not tethered but free-ranging, multiplying at will. Owners make contact with their flocks in the dry season when they with their new dependants show up by the gate expecting water and feed. Their tracks are visible in the cement paving. This is a low island where rainclouds are less apt to linger; cisterns abound to collect their year's quota as it falls. Great improvements to the roads are underway along the shore at Tyrell. Cement paving and a sea wall are eliminating the docks of restaurants ringing the shore built for yachties intent on visiting. They offer mean rum punch. Perishable fruit juice is more expensive than immortal rum, hence, the usual proportions are reversed. One was too much for me. I'm on water rations from now on. Beagle Puppy set out on foot Tuesday morning to get the best island views from a nearby resort which could have passed for a ghost town. After roving 2 miles I was ready when the minibus named "Faith" slowed to pick us up for the ride into Hillsborough, the main town. Resorts here are equally down at the heel and empty. We had a great Caribbean meal of stewed Lambie (Conch), vegetables, and peas 'n rice while we watched wind para-surfers at Sandy Island as the waves lapped under the deck where we were seated. The Lobster Special at Tyrell Bay gazing out over Sunsets from the balcony was also a winner. We decided to just take the bus "D Tables Turn" back from town rather than rent a car. The island is criss-crossed with roadways laid out in the era of intense colonial competition. The French held the island from which the British sought to dislodge them by landing an invasion force. Since the British could weigh anchor to try from another shore when the defenses looked intimidating, the French built roads to quickly shift their artillery and men to outmaneuver their foe. And everybody wanted to be as close as possible to the Spanish Main along the South American coast to have first crack at the gold flowing north from Cartagena De Indias. Spain ignored the islands in her quest for El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. Later, Captain Bligh sustained his mutiny when he rationed his crew's water in favor of Breadfruit saplings from Tahiti destined for Grenada to feed slaves. -The Fairweather Explorers
The morning of the 20th presented an opportunity to scoot north to the next nation that is comprised of a continuous string of volcanic stepping stones ranging from Petit St Vincent to the main isle, St Vincent. After checking in at Clifton Harbor on Union Island we strolled along the mostly deserted road inhaling the aroma of fresh baked bread. The French heritage of fine cuisine is reflected in the Anchorage Yacht Club where we had dinner. Its lobster pond the size of a small swimming pool is well stocked. We tried the grilled Snapper, surprisingly succulent. The remains went overboard from our table into the beach front shark pond. The nurse sharks congregate close to the cook station making languid laps near the diners. But when food is detected a mouth is opened a fraction of a second as the morsel is engulfed with a vacuum cleaner-like sound. We paid a boat boy for the use of a mooring overnight in the lively anchorage with both an inner and outer reef. The constant comings and goings both of yachts and harbor vendors, and the close proximity to other yachts not to mention chocolate croissants nudged us to move 3 miles on to Saline Bay, Mayreau Island the 21st. Jubilation, its sunny again! We haven't seen any Santas with beards affixed by band-aids as my children remember in the Bahamas but we may be pressed into the red suits as our figures expand. Jim already has the beard and nose like a cherry if he skips his sun block. I tried to improve his image in this hemisphere by calling him Fidel but with a $25 million bounty, and tourism drastically curtailed by Bin Laden, Jim's beard inspires locals to dream of hitting the jackpot. Morning sunlight had us overboard snorkeling and beachcombing just after day charter boats out of Union had left: our own deserted strand. At sunset vast shoals of silversides massed beside us seeking the protection of our hull to no avail. Diving birds plunged headlong into the mass then bobbed to the surface to swallow. Saturday a cruise ship will put 1550 passengers off on Mayreau for the day. Time to move on another 3 miles to Charlestown Bay, Canouan, home to a sentry-guarded resort enclave, and future mansion property development. Alas, closure of the beach bar for remodeling coupled with an otherwise completely rustic aspect limited our stay on Canouan to a morning stroll before heading off for lifestyles of the ultra-rich at exclusive Mustique. An architect purchased the island outright, and his corporation designed retreats atop the 7 hills for Princess Margaret, David Bowie and Mick Jagger to name a few. Locals live in corporate houses while in its employ, and in shoreside fishing cottages if not. No pestering of guests is allowed. There are stables of rental thoroughbreds so you can imagine my thoughts when Jim told me he had rented a mule. Our Mule was an open golf cart we drove the 23rd armed with binoculars for celebrity sightings. We had to be contented with views of long landscaped driveways and glimpses of homes through the verdure as we ambled over all the paved and non-paved roads. Normally we avoid dirt tracks but with a Mule all things are possible! The Firefly guest rooms for Christmas/New Years have a 14 day minimum stay, 2 meals, 2 galas, and Mule included at US$9100-$11,200. For details see mustiquefirefly.com. Our EC$75 for a 3 day mooring in Britannia Bay is negligible. A US $200 set of photo books takes you inside the mansions to meet the owners and see the architect's accomplishments. -The Hobnobers
I was very tempted by the Firefly's dessert menu but we continued our Mule tour. It was a Walt Disney morning: the open air go-cart trek on fantasy island only lacked the mechanical animals. We were lucky to get our Mule. Jim asked directions of a local man repairing a scooter to the rental office. Binghy put away his tools and gave him a lift just before closing time. His sister runs the Hilltop restaurant where the 3 of us had a B-B-Que dinner the 22nd while rhythmic music blasted from twin speakers larger than I am drowning out conversation. Bingy insists we come to his home New Year's Eve. After excellent afternoon snorkeling in the anchorage it was off to Basil's, the beach bar beside the dinghy dock on Mustique. It was sponsoring a sunset fashion show the 23rd. With visions of sultry island beauties sauntering by to "I'm Too Sexy" Jim got a table beside the camera crew. Everything was as Jim envisioned except Basil has the young children of the ultra do the modeling. But like parents everywhere the ultra packed the place. Mick Jagger stood in front of me for 10 minutes waiting to get a snapshot of his daughter, and Jim got his celebrity fix. We were picked up at 8 pm for our dinner reservations at the Cotton House where Princess Margaret dines. Ordinarily, I wouldn't qualify for such rarified circles, but since I am traveling with the $25 million man, an exception was made. A pianist played throughout our meal which was fine, but the food does not exceed that which is offered to the ordinary at lesser prices elsewhere. Princess M wasn't there, and Mick J passed us in the driveway heading back to Basil's! Christmas Eve, island style, included snorkeling the reef approaching the mooring field. The water was as clear as an aquarium with many colorful fish darting in and out of the coral. We flitted off to the Firefly for dinner and carols by the piano, a lively gathering. We'll be on of the 3 ships of song sailing by on Christmas day in the morning for the hop to Bequia. All our love to family and friends celebrating Christmas by home and hearth. - Jim and Joyce
Admiralty Bay is a sight to behold: a well-managed mooring and anchorage area bustling with yachts ranging from charter mono and multihulls to "Donneybrook" and a British motor yacht the size of a small cruise ship. Jim was delighted to find a mooring immediately in front of the dinghy dock at the Gingerbread Restaurant in the center of Port Elizabeth's waterfront walkway. Victorian gingerbread trim appears on many of the buildings. (See bequiasweet.com.) Along the southeastern coast lies a unique community known as Moonhole. The first home built was under a natural arch named Moonhole, but the architect must have ignored the potential for falling rocks until his bed was crushed, and the home abandoned. But not before others were persuaded to build the ideal getaway: a home with no windowglass or electricity, accessible only by foot, built in the cleft of rocks with surf crashing just below the patio. They reminded us of pueblos as we motored by heading in. Bequia was stongly influenced by New England whalers who settled here to pursue humpback and sperm whales that migrate here to breed. The adjacent isle of Petit Nevis provided a base to process the catch. The Whaleboner Bar in town has a whale jawbone archway on the beach and barstools topped by padded whale vertebrae for seats. From The Sunny Caribbee Plantation House, with elegant grounds, to De Bistro, a casual eatery, a cement sidewalk threads its way along the shore mostly above the water until a rogue wave comes along known locally as a "tourist buster." Anything you need is delivered to your boat; we took advantage of same day laundry pick-up. Except for daily forays to different restaurants we have been taking it easy while Jim's back recovers from one jolt too many on Mustique. We have appreciated the high sheltering hills that keep Sunsets stable despite strong winds. This last island of the Grenadines is the first place since leaving home where we have used screens. The morning of the 30th the Captain was on the mend and dropping his mooring to head off to Calliaqua Bay between Young Island and St Vincent. Young Island is developed with 30 guest suites in landscaped seclusion from the bustle of the mainland with its half dozen restaurants lining the shore. St Vincent proved a stubborn island to subdue. A slave ship foundered offshore in 1675, and the intended cargo made it to shore. The fierce Caribs, unable to conquer the newcomers, intermarried and divided the island with what came to be known as the Black Caribs, or Garifuna. British forts were built with cannon aimed inland. Egged on by the French, Caribs wrecked havoc on British plantations until the late 1700's when a massive troop deployment overcame the resistance; 5000 Caribs were removed to Bequia for deportation to Dangriga, Belize, still the unruliest part of that country. The 31st we rented a jeep, and drove past the bays on the Caribbean side. The anchored yachts have little to attract them to the gritty towns. The fit can hike to the rim of Soufiere, an active volcano at the north end. No road circles past it, nor do any roads cross the rugged terrain studded with coconut groves and banana plantations. Despite eruptions and hurricanes the locals manage to thrive in this "Jurassic Park" setting. We'll take in the fireworks off Young Island, the most tourist friendly area we saw, and head to St Lucia. Happy New Year to all. -Joyce and Jim
Having checked into SV/G at its southernmost entry port on Union Island, we cleared customs at 5 pm on the 1st from the northernmost facility in tiny Wallilabou along with a half dozen other yachts. Two boat boys simultaneously vied for our patronage securing fore and aft between 2 mooring balls put in by the shoreside restaurant. I tried out my new fins and snorkel from Santa right off Sunsets' transom delighting in plentiful live coral as well as fish. How green was our valley with a natural rock arch at the north end of the bay, and tranquil hills circling us? But the tempo increased dramatically: the boat boy population swelled to 9 boats swarming each of the 14 yachts entering after us. While we drank iced beverages and dodged the sun under our awning, the boys rowed frantically to outdistance competitors. Those with fruits and trinkets relentlessly moved from boat to boat, and also served as taxis. Well after sunset 3 boats kept a vigil for stragglers. Its entertaining to watch the peripheral vessels that needed to run lines to trees and rocks on the shore, especially one who refused local help, made 5 failed attempts, lost his dinghy off the stern, and departed from sheer embarrassment. A couple we had last seen in Spain regaled us with their crossing tale using a stubby emergency tiller in strong winds and squalls. We headed out at 7 am, among the last to cast off, and joined the parade to St. Lucia. Another familiar island, Barbados, lies 100 miles east of St Vincent. It is low, undiscovered by Columbus, and serves only as a landing point for yachts finishing a crossing before heading off to better harbors. The passage to St Lucia was in light chop and rain obscuring our view of the twin Piton mountains guarding the entry to Soufriere Bay on the southwestern coast. We continued on to anchor in Marigot Harbour, a narrow,long indentation into the coast, and home to one of The Moorings charter fleets. Doolittle's Restaurant, film setting for Rex Harrison's, Dr Doolittle, gave us a great view of the entry. A two masted square rigger (see brigunicorn.com) dropped off day charters, and a 5 masted replica ship, "Royal Clipper", anchored overnight recalling the exploits of Admiral Rodney. The Admiral tucked his fleet into Marigot Bay, lashed palm fronds to his rigging, and gave his foes the slip. The port capital of Castries lies a mile north, now a cruise dock and tank farm that saw intense fighting in its outlying hills. "Relative to the size of the area, more British and French troops died in combat on the slopes of St Lucia's Morne Fortune than anywhere else except the trenches of Flanders." The isle changed hands 14 times, the British determined to secure Rodney Bay at the northern tip for its fleet. Nearby Pigeon Island, once a whaling station, was an observation and signal base for colonials and WW II combatants. Now a park with ruins of Ft Rodney and interpretation of the decisive naval battle of The Saintes that quashed the French for good. We enjoyed this historic setting in the modern marina, destination of ARC 2001 race. The 219 Atlantic Rally Crossers were led into port by the youngest skipper, 22, in his first ocean race in 12 days 21 min. Ahab is green with envy; I'm just thankful I was spared a green-around-the gills passage. One boat was lost and its French captain taken aboard another vessel after he lost his rudder. On the 4th the mainsail cover was removed, reefing installed, and a ghostly white apparition arose unseen since arrival in Tobago. -Ahab & Crew
After hoisting the main in our slip at Rodney Bay Marina and the staysail in the bay Sunsets covered the 25 miles to Le Marin on Martinique's southern coast in 3.5 hours plunging her bow under waves and knocking the 2nd anchor loose along the way. The spit of sand jutting into the Cul-de-Sac du Marin is home to Club Med. Of the likely 1500 yachts here 1000 must be at Marin's marina and anchorage on Martinique, part of France, largest of the Windwards, and Croissant capital of the Caribbean sure to make 2002 a Hippy New Year as one of our friend's put it. The groupings of these islands has varied as colonial flags have traded hands. Columbus in addition to seeking Japan also kept a sharp watch for the Antilles, charted but undiscovered islands reputed to lie along the way. As with the name Indies, Antilles was pressed into use in the New World. Puerto Rico is the pivotal island. All the islands to the east extending to Trinidad are today the Lesser Antilles; those to the west including Cuba are the Greater. This and the next 2 islands are the French Antilles (a phone category). This same division was inaugurated by the Spanish but with the names Windward and Leeward. Colonials liked that nomenclature, but applied it within the smattering of islands that they held. Moderns call Martinique to Trinidad Windwards and Anguilla to Dominica Leewards. Being in France means Euros (.9 to the dollar) arrived 1/1 with some confusion in stores with inventory priced in Francs. It also means total language immersion: few French are bi-lingual, and my college French is being pressed into service. Our rental Cleo on the 5th has left hand steering; Mr. Toad had to readapt to using the right lane as we circumnavigated this lower, more undulating terrain on excellent roads. Fewer fronds, more leaves, cattle pastures, sugar cane, rum factories, industry, dual lane highways, greater prosperity, and French building styles all set this island apart from its neighbors. Had it not been for the azure sea visible at every turn, enclaves of tin roofed shacks, and Mt Pelee in the north, this could be Europe. Jardin de La Pelee was our lunch break where the dozen guests were served Curried Chicken on the gazebo overlooking a lily pond, then strolled through the nursery for tropical flowers and banana plantation. Lush and serene with birds joining us at the table to share our bread, it belies the devastation of 100 years ago when Pelee erupted killing 20,000 in the coastal town of St Pierre. The spewing ash promted city officials to seek expert advice on evacuation. Reassured that activity would subside, the Mayor cancelled evacuation and prepared to hold elections. But 24 hours after the erroneous forecast the side of the mountain split emitting a plasma of fiery gas that not only killed the inhabitants but the crew of a ship that had put to sea 6 minutes earlier. The Captain, the only eyewitness to the Caribbean's worst disaster, and a land prisoner were the sole survivors. Ironically, the prisoner was a condemned man held in a cell below ground. His phenomenal escape earned him a reprieve as a popular exhibit in a world-famous circus. Sunday we re-anchored in St Anne's, the beach area nearer the headland to accommodate a course for gommier races to be held the next 3 Sundays. These are 33' native boats in 3 classes also called yole and bebe yole with low freeboard, a sculling oar in place of a rudder, and long hiking boards for crew. Capsizing is inevitable, and chase boats can right contenders. -Les Perries
Sunday morning's rain squall gave way to brilliant blue skies. The rectangular sail of each racer at a rounding mark could be seen from the cockpit. Later we enjoyed a fresh fish meal that the French raise to an art form in a restaurant overlooking the harbor. In atonement for our desserts we climbed the path behind St Anne's church with a station of the cross at each switchback, and were rewarded with a panoramic view of the anchorage. We strolled the white sand beach to the edge of Club Med, and headed back to watch a swapped video in the aft amphitheater. Jim scans yachts for American flags in each anchorage, then scuttles off by dinghy with our old cache of videos in hopes of replenishment. The 7th we set out in the morning walking 3.5m south of St Anne's to the beach, Grand Anse des Salines, on a path under poisonous Manchineel trees that gave way to palms. (Machineels have toxic apples, and irritating sap and rain runoff.) Baguettes filled with grilled meat, home made ice cream, and chocolate fudge filled pastries carried to your beach chair, models with baskets of swim suits to try on and buy, perfect sun, sand and surf make this a premier attraction well worth the walk back too. While we were driving Saturday we had seen the capital, Fort-de-France, that sits on the north shore of its namesake bay while the southern peninsula serves as a vast regional park and beach resort. Jim was disappointed by the grit of the city, although we see large mid-rise apartment developments that aim to replace aged, forlorn shacks, and roads have lovely landscaping for miles near towns. Yachts can anchor in the southern bay near the town of Les Trois-Islets, and 5 other more exposed coves ringing the peninsula. Across the road from Trois-Islets is the birthplace of the Empress Josephine who was raised on a 200 acre 150 slave plantation. Josephine made it to Paris, widowed, and used her sultry charms to cultivate relationships with men rising in government. Napoleon arrived at her salon as an uncouth artillery man in need of her polish but naive in the ways of love. Enthralled, he married her, but could not persuade her to accompany him on tours of duty. She read his impassioned letters to amuse her friends and lovers. Napoleon eventually learned of her duplicity, but when he crowned himself emperor, Josephine reconsidered, forsaking others to remain his empress. Off the southern coast of the peninsula where Josephine lived lies Diamond Rock. In 1803 the British, shy of a gunboat, elected to scale the rock with men, provisions and cannons commissioning it HMS Diamond. It harassed vessels bound for Fort-de-France for 18 months. Sacre bleu! Napoleon was incensed by this affront in the homeland of his empress. Admiral Villeneuve, dodging Nelson's blockade, set out from France with orders to liberate the rock and crush Nelson. Villeneuve succeeded in retaking the rock by duping Nelson into sailing off to prevent a feigned attack on Trinidad. Unmollified, Napoleon called for Villeneuve to return in disgrace having failed with his smaller, more poorly equipped fleet to trounce Nelson in battle. Villeneuve preferred death to disgrace, and so allied with the Spanish and engaged Nelson off the Atlantic coast of Spain at Cape Trafalgar. Nelson won, but died in battle, and was sent home in a barrel of Brandy. The French admiral who had sought death lived. What a play Shakespeare would have made of this. The 8th its off to Dominica. Au revoir, mes amies.
-Jacques et Marie
Mon Dieu! Dominica ce n'est pas francaises: its an independent isle. How can we leave Madinina, Island of Flowers, as the Caribs called it? Leave the land of beignets (donuts with exquisite fillings)? Mais, non. We'll anchor the night of the 8th in St Pierre on the northwest coast, and arrive in Dominica in daylight. Aussi, c'est finis avec Jacques; pas de Jacques. Comme Josephine, c'est mon mari, le capitaine Pierre, pour moi toujours. As we motored north along the coast past Josephine's plantation we saw Diamond Rock rising straight up from the sea with great chunks scalloped from its side. One wonders, was it once smooth but scarred by cannon in the liberation assault? Would we find spent mortars if we could scale it? There is nowhere to land, and seemingly mere handholds. Hauling the provisions of a ship to the summit is incredible. Continuing up the coast we dropped the hook at 1:00 to explore the ruins of St Pierre on foot. This is where the French got their toehold in 1600, and defeated the Caribs by 1658. But the vanquished called down the curse of Pelee on the victors, fulfilled in island time: 1902. Charred partial walls are the foundation of the modern city, a ghost of its former persona. It was the Paris of the Caribbean, home to 30,000, port of entry for 7/8 of island goods, with a cathedral, grand theater, and botanical gardens built around 2 waterfalls in the foothills of Pelee; 5000 call it home today. The colonial customs house has been rebuilt as an art museum with a new grand plaza linking it to a tour boat dock under construction. Photographs and exhibits in the museum of before and after photos are stark. Nothing on land nor in the sea was left after the eruption except floors and low rubble walls of collapsed buildings. The governor left his home in Fort-de-France to stem the tide of voters: 1000 had already gone. Governor and 28,000 voters alike died deterred from evacuating by his determination to retain power. Did his paid expert die, too? The cathedral bell and glass bottles deformed in heat that partially melted them. Bundles of nails fused into a single mass. The prisoner, Louis Cyparus, locked in a dungeon that originally was a thick-walled room in the fort, survived for 4 days with serious burns saved by acess to water, and his small window that limited the penetration of flaming, toxic gas. Nursed by a priest, did he gain church sanctuary? Freedom through loss of court records? Released to P T Barnum because the angel of death had passed over him while slaying his condemners? A 12 year old orphaned while in F-de-F for the day went to France to earn enough money to repurchase his patrimony: all deeds were lost. From whom? Did the government collect to cover restoration of municipal services? Floats in the harbor mark dives to the merchant ships that sank. It is an open roadstead; F-de-F is a superior harbor. Pelee's top had an incandescent glow by night; an obelisk of obsidian as large as the Washington monument was thrust upwards and crumbled away. Eventually 700' of the crest collapsed into the crater. Clear skies gave us a good photo op back aboard Sunsets of benign Pelee, dormant since 1932. A perfect rainbow over town capped the day as Pelee receded into the mist of rain clouds: a dinner shower that cleared to reveal the city lights. The 25 mile ocean passage on the 9th was a lively motor & staysail affair with Sunsets tossing spray occasionally all the way back to the cockpit. We put in to Dominica's capital of Roseau at 11 am. -Pierre et Marie, Toujours
The Caribs named this the tall island for its central mass of mountains cut into innumerable gorges by the 350" of annual rainfall cascading in waterfalls and river plains. Citrus, coffee, cocoa, and sugar are grown on the slopes of the coast and the river valleys while the interior is set aside in forest reserves. We picked up a mooring in Roseau, the capital at the Anchorage Hotel with pool. The waterfront, vulnerable to storms, is occupied by shanties whose survival of the 150 mph winds of "David" in 1979 (80% structural damage) defies comprehension. The lifeblood of Roseau is now the cruise ship dock: two docked the 10th, the day we booked a tour of the interior. We were in a 4 wheel drive van with another couple going to Titou Gorge. Our road became a gravel power company right-of-way where the water is pooled for hydro-electric turbines. We stepped down the rocky steps into cool mountain water, and pushed ourselves upstream off the bottom and rocky gorge walls that narrowed in places to just a few feet while up ahead the plunging waters of the fall lured us on. Encouraged by our example, our traveling companions took the plunge, but we had it first all to ourselves. The entry pool is warmed somewhat by a sluice pipe from the boiling crater lake, a 3 mile arduous hike above us. Before we left for Trafalgar Falls, the second part of our tour, 4 refitted military transport trucks loaded with cruise ship passengers descended on our secluded spot. Trafalgar, a 200' fall in two cascades, was as popular as monuments in DC with lines snaking up the hill to a packed observation deck. Increased winds encouraged us to leave our roadstead and move up the coast to Prince Rupert Bay. It has a 2 mile sweep of beach marred by steel hulks driven ashore by storms but otherwise, a popular anchorage. The coast has several dive preserves, and anchorage is barred there. The east coast also has a territory set aside for Carib descendants who along with escaped slaves had an aloof existence in the hills. The 11th we weighed anchor, raised the main and set out for Bourge Des Saintes on Terre D'en Haute, one of a small cluster if isles known as Iles des Saintes on the way to Guadeloupe. Our passage was uneventful, unlike the day in May of 1782 when Admiral Rodney's fleet of 36 men-of-war intercepted De Grasse's fleet of 30 who had left Fort-de-France, Martinique as if bound for home, then turned west above Dominica for a planned attack on Jamaica. Naval battles followed a strict protocol. Each fleet assembled single file, then proceeded in opposite directions raking one another broadside while passing. Shifting winds caused the British to cut the French fleet in two places leaving a group of enemy vessels in a cross fire from both sides at once. Nearly all of De Grasse's ships were lost. His flagship, Ville de Paris, a 110 gun ship built from 2000 oaks 1 meter thick in places, was captured but sank in tow to England. The Battle of the Saints established Britain's naval superiority. Fort Napoleon guarding the northwest coast of Terre D'en Haute has a museum depicting the battle. At one point the wind died and firing was halted for an hour. No one could see through the smoke enshrouding the combatants to fire. The island is tiny, low, and dry, and was home to a fleet of fishermen descendants of northern Frenchmen isolated from outsiders with noticeable stagnation in the gene pool. Military doctors called for their training fleet to be stationed here for 2 weeks a year: problem solved.
The Saintes are recreation islands for their commercial mainland, Guadeloupe. Cruise ships and ferries bring day trippers to the beaches, shops, and 2nd homes built in the town of Bourge De Saintes. The nearby islands have hiking trails. Our anchorage in Bourge was near the yacht club with a fleet of 20 Hobie Cats that raced Friday and Saturday. Swim lanes were marked between piers, and a meet was held followed by a band in the evening. Scooters provide the main transportation, and we had exhausted the roads in half a day. The beach caters to picnickers which the loose goats now exploit. Like Yogi Bear, the goats loot hampers for food while bathers are snorkeling. On the 13th we motor sailed to Point a Pitre on Grand Terre of Guadeloupe bypassing Marie Galante isle to our east. Starting with Grenada the Lesser Antilles have been a string of pearls that we visited in succession through Dominica. Now the islands lie in a buckshot pattern, and Beagle Puppy can't do them all: we have to make choices. Guadeloupe is in reality two islands that have merged save for a 7' deep channel know as the salt river, Riviere Salee, which we took the 16th heading to Antigua. Guadeloupe has the shape of a butterfly with the city of Point a Pitre where the two halves meet. It is a commercial port that shuts down on weekends. It has a smattering of colonial buildings, mostly decayed. Perhaps the cruise ship dock will spark an urban revitalization of its waterfront, but we took a quick look-see then dinghied to the 1000 slip marina complex for its vitality. Surprisingly in the evening a marching band materialized in town and crowds appeared: the ferry loads of day trippers back from the Saintes. The cities are not what draws visitors. The Caribs called this the land of beautiful waters, and it is that asset that drew Club Med and wind surfers to the southern shore of Grand Terre, the east half of the island. Inland the low rolly hills are ideal for sugar cane and Brahman cattle. We drove along the whole coast of Grand Terre Monday, and on the 15th, Jim's 55th birthday, we crossed the bridge over the Riviere Salee into the west half of Guadeloupe, Basse Terre. While its name implies that it is low land it is not. It has 8 functional volcanoes, and is as high and rugged as Dominica. The French government has built excellent roads and paved paths to waterfalls, a rainforest zoo, and the rim of Soufriere Volcano. We enjoyed our 20 minute hike along a stream through the jungle rainforest in light rain to reach the 125' drop of one of the 3 Chutes du Carbet fortunately when there were no crowds. On the coast aside from a packed marina in the capital city of Basse-Terre there are few anchorages for yachts. There was intense development of condos near the marina, and waterfront villas on the town's outskirts. Narrow roads plus prosperity creates traffic logjams. Divers enjoy the steep wall descending on the west coast at Pigeon Island. Jim's resolve to observe a day of rest on the 16th lasted until 4 am when we arose, pulled up the hook, and joined boats waiting for the 4:30, 5 and 5:30 am openings of the two Riviere Salee bridges, the only openings. This permits north and south bound traffic to clear both without playing havoc with traffic. Mooring buoys allow waiting boats to stand-by overnight, but we didn't fancy a calm night in the heart of the mangroves full of mosquitoes and no-seeums. After sunrise we hoisted the main and staysail for the 40 mile close reach to English Harbor. -The Seniors, Both 55
Whoa! Our glassy calm departure through the Riviere Salee gave no inkling of the boisterous 40 mile passage in store for us to Antigua the 16th. Solid sheets of water cascaded over the bow with spray on the pilot house occasionally catching Jim in the cockpit. We furled in the staysail and sailed under reefed main alone during a squall, and made it to fabled English Harbour in 5 hours. The harbour is a narrow, deep curved arc with high hills and mangrove swamps, a real hurricane hole, and in the days when ships were pulled over on shallow beaches to perform bottom work, an ideal careenage. The British developed this as a dockyard in 1745, and continued to expand and improve it for 100 years. Hanging with friends or carousing today is known in the islands as "Liming" since that is what Limeys waiting for repair completions did. Like Annapolis, the old dockyards are converted from shipyards to restaurant, business and hotel use with historical markers denoting original purposes. It is commonly called Nelson's dockyard after Britain's favorite naval hero who served here from 1784-1787 becoming commander, but who left in such poor health he took a barrel of rum along as a preservative in case he didn't make it. "Nelson was stationed here in 1784 under Sir Richard Hughes, who had recently blinded himself in one eye while chasing a cockroach with a fork." Nelson recovered, survived the loss of his right arm in 1797 in a failed attack on Santa Cruz in Tennerife to the cannon, El Tigre, that the Spanish proudly display. The one-armed admiral then defeated Spain and France combined at Trafalgar using the divide-and-conquer tactics developed at the Battle of the Saints. On the shore opposite the dockyard a path leads to Antiga's highest point, 490', Shirley Heights guarding the harbor mouth which we climbed one afternoon past scrub growth, prickly bushes and cacti: what my kids use to call hiking torture, but a great view. Falmouth Harbor lies just to the west of English Harbour in easy walking distance. This is a more open basin, and home to million-dollar-and-up yachts. Southern Cross Restaurant overlooks this cradle of conspicuous consumption serving a scanty but elegant $65 lunch. Our surrogate son, Mark Talbott, is joining us for 3 weeks, and what with the strong winds and brief, intense squalls, we have been content to hang right where we first dropped our hook until our crew arrives Monday. Our choice of destinations was easier to make than I thought it would be. Barbuda to the northeast is a sandy Frigate Bird Colony. When sea levels were lower this was part of Antigua. The space between them now is shallow with 200 wrecks on its reefs. We'll let the birds known for the red chest they can puff up enjoy the beach in peace. Incidentally, they are named for warships from their habit of harassing other birds into dropping their catch. Frigates can't take off from water, and so keep their distance, catching their fish from the air. Montserrat to the southeast was the scene of a 1995 volcanic eruption that devastated its southern half, destroying the main city, Plymouth, and reducing the population by 2/3. The volcano is still active belching ash, oozing lava, and is monitored daily since it could even threaten Antigua if it began lobbing lava "bombs". We wouldn't want ash on Sunset's decks. We'll head to Nevis. Eastern islands formed long ago in geologic time, and have worn to gentle hills. Volcanoes on the western fringe form the high rugged isles. -The Limeys
The 21st was car rental day on Antigua which we had visited for a week in '89 when we stayed at Yepton Beach. The coast drive took us past the partially filled Jolly Harbour Marina, a first rate facility, but isolated. The island seems down at the heels with roads suffering most. Jim picked Mark up at the airport at 8 pm and had the thrill of dodging vast goat flocks, a downpour and potholes to successfully retrace his route sans signs back to Sunsets. English Harbour where we stayed anchored through the 23rd is the only draw for the cruise ship throngs docked in St John's, a gritty port. We needed a day to take Mark to Pigeon Beach at the mouth of Falmouth Harbour a short walk away from our anchorage. While there the 5 masted Royal Clipper cruise ship was hosting a beach cookout, but alas, we couldn't think of a way to crash the buffet line. The 23rd we moved half way around Antigua to an anchorage in Deep Bay around the corner from the capital of St John's. Jim and Mark took a snorkel over the remains of the Andes, a three masted vessel laden 1n 1905 with a cargo of asphalt from a pitch lake in Trinidad bound for Chile. June heat beating down on the poorly secured cargo resulted in smoldering, and denial of entry into the port at St John's. The Andes ducked into Deep Bay, but opening the hatches only added oxygen to fuel the fire that sank her. Strong winds made for a cloudy snorkel but the bay was a calm overnight spot. An 8 hour motor sail on the 24th brought us to an idyllic overnight anchorage off Nevis at Pinney's Beach. Little trace of human activity is visible from the cockpit, just a 3 mile long broad white beach, palm trees with a mountain backdrop. Having stayed on nearby St Kitt's for a week in '92 we had a chance then to take the ferry to Nevis and see the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, and no doubt, drive all over. Enroute to Nevis we passed the Kingdom of Redonda, an island whose bird droppings were mined for phosphates from 1870 to 1930. A Monserrat merchant had Antigua's Bishop crown his son king of the island. The king's successors, literary figures in London, pestered England to sanction the title. The current king, Bob the Bald, lives aboard his yacht in English Harbour; his only subjects are birds. Some of the English are a little barmy. The original instigator must have been a heavy church contributor to rope the Bishop into his scheme. After a morning stroll on the strand of Pinney's Beach the 25th we motor sailed past the coast of St Kitt's to St Eustatius, or Statia. Settled by the Dutch it was a trading hub of the Caribbean. Colonial rivals, hamstrung by trade restrictions found obtaining Dutch papers for their goods a handy loophole, and Statia was the Golden Rock. Warehouses lined its beach protected by a seawall now sunk into the sea. Oranjestad, a modest community on the high hill above sits perched on the ruined walls of early estates. Its undoing began in 1776 when Stacia's governor returned a salute from a warship there to take on arms, manned by American rebels, our first international naval recognition. Admiral Rodney was dispatched from St Lucia to quell this aiding and abetting of rogue colonists. He quelled with gusto, fleeced the populace of their worldly goods, and split the take with his crew. Regrettably some Statian merchants were Brits who objected loudly. Before Rodney could be recalled he sank the French fleet at the Saintes Battle. Unsporting to take a hero's spoils. All was forgiven; they named a Bay for him instead. -The Islanders
We have been in a windy, showery weather pattern that makes Sunsets' decks lively at times. Fresh crew inspired the captain to unfurl the genoa, unseen since Grenada, for our run beside St Kitts. A sheet of solid water rose up the pilot house windows, and a macho ride was had by all. The 26th we left the fort and few restored colonial buildings of Oranjestad for the wild abandon of Saba, another Dutch island. Saba exemplifies the saying, stubborn as a Dutchman. A tiny island whose old custom house lies in the middle of a flight of 600 steps up the rock face to the flat top above. Our efforts to land were thwarted by the surge that risked ramming Mark's head, or worse, Sunsets' bow into the floating drum mooring buoy, and there was nowhere safe to land the dinghy. Saba's ruggedness led Dutch engineers to reject building them a road whereupon a determined resident took a correspondence course in road making and organized a local labor force to build their road. An airport followed. Saba's streets must remain a lofty mystery to us. We pressed on to St Barthelemey, or St Barts, one of the Renaissance Islands along with St Martins and Anguilla. Geologically, these isles reflect ancient volcanic origins which wore away, submerged while corals crowned their contours before being thrust above sea level again. St Barts is experiencing a Mustique style development: la crème de la crème of French and international society are building here. Our sea trek upwind from Saba to an anchorage on the outskirts of the port of Gustavia put crew in the mood to cocoon overnight. But refreshed by the morning of Sunday the 27th we set out by 4 wheel drive jeep Suzuki Sidekick up steep slopes, down past salt ponds, neat homes with nary a shack, and an unprecedented sight, a stack of cars crushed to cubes. The island rule is that deceased cars are allowed to rust in peace seemingly where they stop be it prime town parking space or the edge of a narrow road. Occasionally a vehicle is pushed up on its side, thoroughly stripped, and decently shrouded in vines. But tiny St Bart's enjoys sufficient wealth to maintain impeccable grooming throughout: see http://discoverstbarthelemy.com. But we mustn't tarry among the croissants in the port of Gustavia, not a very French sounding name. But France swapped free port access in Sweden for the use of St Bart's as Sweden's Caribbean free port. It has since reverted to France, but retains its duty free status. The bay on the NW tip, Anse De Columbier, made a snug overnight mooring spot with snorkeling in crystal clear water. Enough seclusion. On the 29th we set out for the 7 mi by 7 mi island shared since 1648 by 2 nations, Sint Maarten (Dutch)/St Martin (French) arriving in the harbor of Philipsburg set on a wide bay of broad sandy beach. Philipsburg absorbs cruise ships four at a time. The town is a vast shopping maw that maroons the courthouse, school and a church in a tidal wave of commercialism. The French restaurant, L'Escargot, is sited in an original house with ambience and cuisine intended to take the cruise shipers by storm. It worked on us. Mark ordered course after course from snail sampler appetizer through mousse. Fortunately the Guavaberry Daiquiri anesthesia lasted through presentation of the bill. We tried to be good on the Dutch side of the island, but the wily French entrapped us with L'Escargot. Overnight 4 cruise ships left port to make way for 4 new arrivals. Our serene anchorage was rolly between shifts without the windbreaks. Les Gourmets
After rolling about at our Philipsburg anchorage we decided to seek a more settled site in Marigot Bay just over the border into French St Martin along with our last taste of French culture. Marigot's waterfront has been spiffed up since we stayed here in 1988. Pavilions of stalls accommodate the open air fish and produce market, and nearby displays of clothing flapping in the breeze gives a gaiety to the seaside lacking in Philipsburg. The rows of cafes spilling onto the dock has a continental flair that proved irrestible for Les Gormets on the 30th. With a 4 am start we will be able to make St Croix in the US Virgin Islands the 31st bypassing Anguilla to the north. Anguilla is something of the mouse that roared. The British, unable to sustain the upkeep on its Caribbean empire after the end of slavery, the collapse of sugar prices, and relentless costs from successive hurricanes began pairing off adjacent islands into independent states. Anguilla was lumped in with St Kitts which threatened to turn it into a desert. Anguillans opened fire on the police station manned from St Kitts unnerving that tiny force, then went on to invade its domineering master with the help of two Yanks. By 1969 St Kitts had lost all interest in managing Anguilla. The Brits could only assume such upstart behavior must mean that the Yanks had ensconced the Mafia. A Faulklands-style counter attack by the Brits was launched on Anguilla, but the goats offered the only resistance. An island worth defending must be worth keeping, so the Anguillans remain under the British flag. Hurricane costs are staggering. The US Virgins has a $46 million loan to recover from David 12 years ago, and another $160 million for Marilyn in 1995. They are negotiating to have 97% of the amount due forgiven. A funny thing happened on the way to St Croix. The squalls and prevailing wind direction prompted a shift to a less ambitious destination: BVI Virgin Gorda. Gusts of 40 knots sneak over the protective hills ringing Gorda Sound where we are moored. All the cruise ships tucked themselves away here also to await a calmer day. -The Virgins
The 75 mile sail under reefed main and genoa from St Martin to Virgin Gorda put a smile on the captain's face and cost crew his breakfast. Top speeds of 17 knots were reached in our 7 hour passage. Mark recouped from our rigors with dinner at The Bitter End Yacht Club fulfilling a life goal. I think of the Caribbean islands as freckles of the Atlantic, and the Virgins as flyspecks. Nestled close together with trade winds for sailing, white beaches, clear water and sun have made these isles renowned among sailors. Bitter End was a bar 20 years ago. Today it is a sprawling resort complex, impeccably landscaped with a fine dining room where we were treated to the Princeton Men's Glee Club of 13 singers on a working vacation: they sang for their supper to our delight. Friday the 1st of February we checked into Virgin Gorda Yacht Yard for the decadence of air conditioning and a bed that doesn't rock all night. A cab ride took us to the southern tip of the island, Devil's Bay, famed for its Baths. This is a unique geological formation of massive granite boulders heaped on the beach of the Bay with clear pools tucked among them and shafts of light filtering into a fairyland . Eons ago these boulders were pockets of granite surrounded by softer lava flow. With time the surrounding material wore away leaving the granite and grotto baths for curious tourists to climb between and over. The Top of The Baths restaurant with pool commands a sweeping view of Tortola and a half dozen isles the size of Turkey Point. It will linger in Mark's memory for the Chocolate Sensation that capped the day. The 2nd we came back with Sunsets which we moored while we snorkeled among the submerged Baths under brilliant blue skies. A close encounter with a reef fish determined to find something edible in Jim's beard inspired a massive reduction in the face fur. I'm much lighter too since my island hairdresser used her razor trimmer all over the back of my head. Cooper Island a short hop away provided our overnight mooring and dinner at the island resort restaurant. I don't believe the balance of our time among the islands will have any historically redeeming value. Nothing more mentally taxing than when to seek shade. That is, it would be our main concern if the rainy season would decently decamp. Superbowl Sunday, the 3rd, we took advantage of a break in the morning showers to move across Sir Francis Drake Channel to Village Cay Marina in Road Town Harbour on Tortola. This is home base to a massive fleet of Moorings charter boats, a new cruise ship dock, and a largely commercial town nearby. Its wealth in bygone years rested on cotton, then cane sent to the US to make rum then traded for slaves. The Sunday Brunch at the marina with a one-man-band entertainer was a real day brightener as rain poured down off and on all afternoon. Jubilation, its sunny again, and on cue for a morning run over to Norman Island for snorkeling in The Caves, reputedly treasure caves, matey. At least in the imagination of Robert Louis Stevenson who is said to have written a portion of "Treasure Island" while camped ashore at the Bight. Hoist the main. Unfurl the Genny. A sail along St John's northern coast, past Frenchman's Cay, rounding the West End tip of Tortola was easy going with mountain vistas for a backdrop. We anchored for the night in Great Harbour with a contingent of lively week charterers whopping it up. Weather is settling into island perfection: calm nights with moderate daytime winds, 80s, no humidity. -The Lizzards
We left Jost Van Dyke, reputedly named after a Dutch pirate, and the last of the British Virgins on the 5th to putter off to St Johns which along with St Thomas and St Croix are USVI. Originally Danish, these isles were bought for $25 million before WWI to keep them from becoming German Submarine bases. Islands attract eccentrics. One St John's pioneer of the 1950s, Ethel McCully, spotted her dream home locale off Francis Bay, jumped ship, swam ashore and consummated her purchase. Home construction proceeded with materials sailed over and hauled by donkeys. She penned her memoir under the title, "I Did It With Donkeys" but her prudish publisher insisted on the less racy "Grandma Raises the Roof." Another personality from Virgin Gorda is Bert Kilbride, a diver who located an anchor that Columbus lost encrusted in 500 years of coral growth, and developed the resort dive course making diving widely accessible. He is still diving at 87. He is with wife #5, but remembers Wife #3 fondly as the body double for Jacqueline Bissett. The randy diver's 8 children range in age from 63 to 13. While these 3 Virgins were in Dutch hands they flourished relying on the 3 Cs: cotton, cattle and cane. Danish owners embarrassed their monarch on trips home with the size of their retinue. He passed legislation restricting the number of liveried servants permissible for commoners. Introduction of sugar beets to Europe and the end of slavery brought obscurity to the isles. We took a morning stroll along the streets of Cruz Bay in St Johns, 2/3 of which is parkland, then unfurled the Genoa for the 6 mile passage to Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. Before taking on life as a cruise ship port St Thomas was the auction market for plunder seized by privateers (those whose practice of piracy was sanctioned by a government against its enemies) which flourished during the Napoleonic Wars, and the swashbuckling Blackbeard. Blackbeard armed himself with 6 pistols, mounted burning matches in his beard and could terrorize a victim into giving up without a fight based on his gruesome reputation. -The US Virginians
Charlotte Amalie became a favorite port of call after Cuba was barred hosting as many as 7 cruise ships a day. We anchored in the west end of the harbor Tuesday, the 7th after an easy passage under genoa from St John's. We watched a row of 3 cruise ships rotate daily nearby without feeling crowded. The town was named for the queen of Denmark, and no regally named town could be haphazardly constructed. Danish planners imposed a grid plan of streets on the town with no regard for topography. Flights of over 100 steps provide pedestrian links between levels but the walker is rewarded with beautifully restored colonial buildings. Cruisers can still shop 'till they drop, but there is a town surrounding the commercial mill for balance. One cultural shock for us back on US soil for the first time since leaving home in June was that the cars drive in the left lane. A local explained to us that when the US bought the islands we could have changed the pattern with the people, but not with the flocks of animals conditioned to go with the flow. Its US, but heed the message painted in the road, "Stay Lef' Mon." The Tramway to the top of Paradise Point observes TGIW, Thank God Its Wednesday with free rides after the cruise ship passengers are safely aboard. The view from the top of the nature path takes in St Croix 40 miles south and the two islands across the harbor. The bar brings in a band and has a special on drinks. We fell in with the locals, and Miss Pumpkin partied 'till 7 pm. Thursday we set out under main and genoa for the 18 mile crossing to the isles off Puerto Rico known as the Passage Islands. We anchored in Bahia Honda, Culebra and dinghied ashore to Mama Cita's where Jim, both Marks, and Wally landed in 1996 on a sister M65. We had a memorial toast to the absent crew at the same table before setting out for Customs. Customs must have been inspired by the now defunct Coast Guard decal program. They issue you a Custom's decal for $25, but aside from that gouge life is cheap here. When our anchorage proved too close to the Ferry boat route, and open to swell, we sought out the tip of a quiet cove and tried the restaurant at Seabourne's. My Grouper diner with white table cloth service was $13 and we thought we had stumbled into a great deal of a meal on St John's where for $10 we got a home cooked meal from the cook who keeps the cab drivers fed served at a picnic table gazing at Sunsets. Friday we weighed anchor and put into the port at Isabel on Vieques, the island of bombing protests. It is sited invitingly close to the mainland, and the populace was clustered like ham in the middle of a sandwich. The US had bases on both ends. We have given up the west end, and the locals are intent on pushing us off completely, possibly by 2003. All was calm as we toured a restored "fort", the last built by Spain. It served primarily as the governor's house, and now displays protest art. This is strictly a day anchorage spot open to swells. We took Sunsets to the luxury of a slip in Puerto Del Rey in Puerto Rico Friday the 8th. We have the cultural reassurance of driving on the right now, but the stop signs say "PARE" here in the Greater Antilles. -The Spaniards
Marina Del Ray is vast and management offers taxi service in golf carts to and from slips; there are more vacancies than 5 years ago. Saturday the 9th crew took the reef out of the mainsail for a long day's run along the southern coast of Puerto Rico to Playa de Salinas. A mountain range parallels the coast and forms a rain barrier. All the precipitation falls on the northern facing slopes. The southern facing hills we could see were treeless and arid. The coast has seen significant industrial development with smokestacks sending fumes out to sea. No wonder the Puerto Ricans want the island closest to them, Vieques, purely for recreation: its upwind with no development. Strong sunlight heating the land makes for strong breezes which peak in the afternoon along with clouds. The autopilot was holding a steady course with the staysail poled to hold our wing 'n wing sails. We made it to Salinas which is about midway along the coast a little before sundown, threading our way through a break in the reef to anchor in the mangrove ringed bay in perfect calm. We reached our destination Sunday, Ponce, Puerto Rico's 2nd largest city, about 25 miles further, in time for lunch ashore at the fisherman and yacht club beach. Great crowds were gathered at the waters edge to feed fish the size of salmon with chum sold by the fishermen's association. We wondered if the fish hung out there all week, or if they were conditioned to show up with weekend park crowds. The beach is used mainly in the summer. The winter trade winds kept all but a handful of kids away. A short cab ride took us to the town square at Ponce which was gearing up for Mardi Gras with streets closed for a parade. The locals brought chairs and staked out shade trees. Us Gringos had to be content with curb seats in the sun. The parade in Ponce draws every musical and marching group in southwestern Puerto Rico in a seemingly unending cavalcade. We watched till our setters gave out. We resorted to walking the rest of the parade route back to its staging area about a mile away. Teen spectators enjoyed dressing in full length caped costumes liberally trimmed in ruffles topped by fierce masks. They all carried boppers made from toughened balloons with a short string at the neck. These they smacked against their legs, friends or the pavement for a sound effect. Monday's winds carried us all the way around the southwestern corner for an overnight anchorage in Boqueron bay. We were reminded of the need for constant vigilance when we came too close to an anchored boat for comfort. 4 miles offshore in 25kt winds and waves, the little white hull blended in almost too well. Spacious Boqueron bay could accomodate many yachts with no crowding. The palm lined beach was as pretty as any we have seen but used by locals in the summer. Shore leave was curtailed until Tuesday morning while Jim and Mark tinkered with Little Junior's 2 hp innards. Mark did make an oar powered foray before sunset Monday in search of bright lights while Ma and Pa dozed in the salon until bedtime. Mark is extending his tour by a week or more to help sail Sunsets back to the states. Tuesday the 12th we sailed through the Mona Passage, between Puerto Rico and Hispanola. West winds were right on our nose as we motor sailed out of Boqueron, shifting to the northeast for some of the best sailing of the trip, 8-10 kts. Dinner in the cockpit was set aside to watch a pod of 65' Fin Whales blowing with one close frisky fellow rising out of the water like a porpoise. We carried our sails all night. -The Whalers
Dominican Republic to the Bahamas:
After an exhilarating downwind rush to Puerto Plata, it was a bit disappointing to find Columbus' "Silver Port" had become the Soot Port. Constantly belching huge diesel generators sit at the water's edge, right next to scenic Ft. San Felipe (1540). The harbor is completely commercial, with a few local fishing boats wedged in, fenced, with shotgun toting guards. The DR boasts many upscale resorts and beautiful beaches, and Joyce and I stayed in one in the mid '90s. The largely agricultural countryside can be quite pretty, although poverty pockets dot the roadsides in equal number with new condos and villas. But with tourism down 70% since 9/11 the local customs, harbor, and immigration officials extracted $190 from us in various fees and extortions for our one night stay, and withheld our exit papers overnight for another anticipated go round at 7am. No one showed; we booked sans papers. Our early departure preceded the trade winds so motoring was necessary about half the 185 miles to Great Inagua, the third largest Bahamian Island, home of Morton sea salt. It is evaporated here, scraped off the dried mudflats, and processed to remove impurities. Chugging along relatively smoothly over a sparkling ocean, with the occasional freighter or sailboat for company, certainly beats Puerto Plata harbor. Our spirits rose with the afternoon wind and Sunsets again started ticking off the miles under sail, full main and genoa through the night, gradually slowing till motorsailing 10am Fri the 15th with 12 miles to go. We arrived Great Inagua Island and anchored in very clear azure blue water. Our effort to land the dinghy on the town beach looked too rough so we scrambled up a big tire in the tiny (200'x200')commercial harbor, a test of agility. Sister Dee, the taxi driver, gave us a quick tour of Mathew Town where 95% of the residents work for Morton Salt. This is not a tourist destination but tours of the flamingos in the salt pond can be scheduled. After burgers at a surprisingly busy restaurant (one patron ordered 30 chicken sandwiches for a sports team), and clearing customs ($100.) we moved the boat 9 miles to a more protected anchorage, dodging a Morton salt ship which was coming in to dock near the 7 mountainous piles of salt. This was a truly terrific spot, with crystal clear water over virgin unpolluted coral beds teeming with fish, just off a mile long soft sand palm studded beach. The 6am departure the 16th went smoothly and we had some good sailing and some motoring to make our 76 mile distant roadstead anchorage off the southern tip of Atkins Island, just in time for a swim. We spotted a long-abandoned float plane on the beach, and wondered what happened. These islands have more similarities than differences, and roll by one a day. The 17th from Atkins, 5am departure with a nice breeze, we set sail in darkness and sped towards Long Island 71 miles off. A cold front blew in with rain and squally winds, but we pressed on, dead upwind now to Clarencetown. Joyce was glad to get a break at Annie's restaurant, excellent home cooking. Mark took a picture standing next to the "Welcome to Clarencetown" sign on our visit in '96, so a duplicate was made, with him sitting on the now fallen sign. This is a low key place, but we met a couple who spend 6 months each year here in a rented cottage. All the land of many of the Bahamas Islands is owned jointly by island residents and cannot be sold. This is changing slowly as surveys and ownership claims are being instituted. -The Bahamians
Clarencetown on Long Island is unique among cities on the islands boasting 2 large churches built by the same man, an Episcopal priest with a bent for architecture. He built St Paul's, but with his yen to build unsatisfied, he converted to Catholicism, returned and built St Peters. He ended his days as a hermit building the stations of the cross into the hillside. A drizzly evening limited our church tour to one, and we pressed on in the morning for Georgetown on Great Exuma Island. This is something of a mecca for exiles from winter. Usually it is far enough south to escape high pressure systems but not this time. Long shirts and pants appeared, and we listened to the winds howl, and the boat-bound yachties yowl over the VHS about it being too rough to dinghy to shore. Would this stop a Perrie? Well, it did keep us out of the dinghy, at least in the morning. We contented ourselves on the 19th maneuvering onto the fuel dock with all available manpower pouring out of their cabins to assist with lines, replenishing our ship's stores and water, exchanging videos, partaking of grub and grog at the Two Turtles, and casting off to re-anchor off Volleyball Beach. A sizeable crowd braved the spray to dinghy ashore for sunset libations, Sunsets' crew included. The over-wintering cruisers pine for a perfect weather window if they contemplate a change of scenery. While they hem and haw our stalwart and well patched crew, Mark, is hauling up our anchor heading Sunsets out into the open where she can get a good bone in her teeth. And a bone she found on the upwind 100 mile run to Highbourne Cay. The average speed of 10kts was one of our fastest runs. Her bow plunged, nudged the white water aside, and tossed it up over the cabin all day until we dropped anchor a half hour before sundown, after safely negotiating the narrow cut from the ocean onto the shallow banks, enjoying the calm and a meal aboard. The morning of the 21st brought us seas as tame as the preceding day's had been lively. We are gliding along at a sedate 5 knots with none of the surges to 15. With only 32 miles to cover we can take our ease on now calm seas. Nassau on the tip of New Providence Island is a metropolis in contrast to the sleepy towns en route. Paradise Island is sprouting a luxury waterfront housing development on its tip, and new condos have supplanted a hotel abandoned 25 years ago on the opposite shore. The skies and temperatures are perfect today. A small sea plane just took off behind our anchorage near Nassau Yacht Harbour, and boaters are revealing in the fine breezy day. -The Paradise Islanders
Last Update: August 04, 2007