28 July 2007 | SVG
I love to sleep in when the morning is cool and the anchorage is flat. I also love to get up early and watch the sun come up on clear, crisp mornings. Somewhere in the middle is obnoxious though. I haven't quite put my finger on it but I think it is right around 7 AM. This is when the weather net comes on. Every morning. Except Sunday. I usually get up at 7 on Sunday anyway and listen to static on the radio for about 5 minutes, just long enough to thoroughly wake up, at which point I place palm to forehead and mutter appropriately for a few moments.
Today was different. There is a kind of music that is popular in the Caribbean, especially the southern Caribbean, called Dance Hall. The tempo is like that of a machine gun and it is about as soothing (I'm sure people say the same about me when I play old Rush, Kings X, Megadeth and Seven Dust). The lyrics of Dance Hall are shouted over a rapid fire beat by an MC with gang vocals shouting a unifying phrase or word over and over, content thereof often being hostile to certain groups of individuals.
The little island that was so happy last night had turned into a Dance Hall nightmare wake up call at 6:30 AM. Ug. We were of course the closest boat to Happy Island, but I'm sure the other boats were enjoying things almost as much as we were. I put on my headphones and plugged into the SSB for the weather, fortunately it was not Sunday.
After a nutritious bowl of Coco Krispies (I'd like to say that this was left over from the MacKenzie kids visit, but Emily would not allow Hideko to buy this cereal for them, so Hideko went back to the store after our guests flew home and bought a box anyway) we dropped the dinghy in the water and headed ashore. Union island reminds me of a family island in the Bahamas. No real tourism, at least at this time of the year, just a nice little Vincy town. They do have the southern most substantial airport in SVG, a few small hotels and regular boats to the Tobago Cays. There are some boat boys in the harbor but they are genuinely friendly and don't give you the Calcutta look when you don't buy anything.
I don't think that you see the abject poverty and desperation present on the main islands when out in the smaller, family type, islands. Mayraeu just received power in 2003. These people know how to live and enjoy life without outside help. You also have very little crime on islands where everyone knows everyone, for obvious reasons. I fear that our primary US exports, music promoting gangsters and materialism side by side with cruise ship tourism, help matters little.
Fred was waiting for us at the dinghy dock and helped us find a good spot to tie up. I was going to clear us out through Erika's Services but Cindy informed me that they wanted $75 for the service. I just walked to the airport building a half mile down the road instead. Customs was easy and friendly. It was Saturday so I had to pay $46 EC for overtime.
Fred and Cindy had headed back to Kelp Fiction II by the time I got back to Bougainville. Bougainville is a nice little hotel and restaurant right on the harbor. They have a great gift shop with lots of local arts and crafts and really nice carved wood items. Hideko and I had a wonderful pizza for lunch and then we sat around for a while taking advantage of the free Internet access.
We got back to Swingin' on a Star in the late afternoon and decided to head over to Palm Island for the rest of the day. It was 16:00 which is a little late to get underway but Palm Island is a 15 minute motor from Clifton Harbor. The timing was perfect. We arrived at the anchorage just as the day charter cats were beaching to haul their guests back to their hotels.
Palm Island has a small proper anchorage south of their main dock but it is filled with moorings and right next to the island's generator, a little far from the soothing and spectacular beauty of the beach on the northwest point. The beach however drops off rapidly to 30 feet and then 80. There is one area where the sand shelf at 15 feet comes out comfortably far from the shore to get a hook on. We stood off and waited for the big 70 foot cat to pull off of the beach. When the day charter cat left we had the entire anchorage to ourselves. Hideko guided us onto the sand shelf and we plunked the Rocna down in 13 feet of water with a white sand bottom.
We have about 5 feet of freeboard so this created a vertical distance to the bottom of about 18 feet. The weather indicated calm conditions overnight into tomorrow so we put out 6:1 (a little over 100 feet). Call me paranoid but you never get a forecast saying, "a squall will hit your position". Squalls are just too micro of an event for the weather man to care about or be able to predict. You're lucky if they tell you squalls will be in the area. Unless I'm in a totally protected anchorage I'm 6:1 or 7:1 in settled conditions and 10:1 (perhaps the whole box) with a storm coming. Why not? It doesn't do me any good sitting in the boat. Using our 88 pound Rocna and proper all chain scope, we've never drug anchor once set without some extraneous problem (garbage on the bottom fouling us in the Saint Martin Lagoon comes to mind).
As the chain settled to the bottom a good bit of it ended up in the 30 foot water. This caused us to ride a lot closer to the anchor than normal. This was great for beach access, but on the downside, if we drag into the deeper water, we'd be lying 3:1 or less and resetting might be a challenge. I dove on the anchor and it was well set and had a reasonable bit of shelf between it and the drop off so we signed off on the ground tackle solution.
Palm Island is private but, like all countries we've been to, the beach up to a cable beyond the high tide mark is public. Palm Island allows yachties to visit their bar near the dock and join them for lunch or dinner. Dinner requires reservations by 3PM and decent attire. A beer is about $4 US which is not cheap but not too bad for a place this nice.
The Kelp Fiction crew dinghied over from Union and we all enjoyed a beer and a walk along the amazing beach. Some of the guides rank this beach as one of the 5 best in the Caribbean. Now that is saying something.
We had a nice talk with a couple from Philly who were on Palm Island for their 10th anniversary. We congratulated them on bringing up the national average (7 years last I checked).
Two bareboat charter cats came in and anchored off to our port side late in the day. They were French families, and the French tend to be pretty good sailors but they seem to have less of a personal space concern when anchoring. The party was on the Lagoon 440 but the sailors on the Catana 47 arrived first. They were pretty close to each other but they gave us plenty of room, which was appreciated. So often when you get the best spot in an anchorage every charter boat within 10 miles comes in and anchors on top of you to try to get close to the "good spot". I checked their anchors just for fun and they were both set but anchored in the 30 foot zone and only lying to about 3 or 4 to one scope. No problem holding in these conditions but it is always interesting to consider the scatter patterns that might occur when things go light and variable.
Hideko and I swam back to the boat and watched the sun set. We had begun the very long road of total Star Trek immersion a few nights back. We watched "The Menagerie" tonight, one of my favorites. We have the rest of The Original Series (TOS to the Trekies), seven seasons of The Next Generation (TNG), seven seasons of Deep Space Nine (DSN), seven seasons of Star Trek Voyager, and three seasons of Enterprise to go. Perhaps we'll be done by Bora Bora.