04 February 2012 | St Lucia
We are still here in the Caribbean even though the wind is trying its best to pluck us out of most anchorages and send us flying westward. The Tuatara crew are feeling a little underwhelmed with the Caribbean at present, mainly due to the weather. Yes I know, Geoff and Trudi, you and many others told us, “there is always wind in the Caribbean”. The NE trades supposedly blow 15 to 20 knots day in day out. I am sure that this year the weather gods had a meeting and decided that’s a bit boring and predictable so lets up the tempo a bit. 30 to 35knots sounds a bit more exciting and even tho it’s the dry season some rain laden squalls will add to the fun. At this time of year winds called the Christmas winds can blow strongly for days but the locals say these winds now are stronger than usual even for the Christmas winds. The choppy water doesn’t make swimming as enjoyable as it could be, leaving the boat for shore excursions means shutting all the hatches…in case it rains … and coming back to a hot stuffy boat. Time away from the boat is not always relaxing, everytime the wind rattles through the breadfruit trees and makes the coconut palms bend we always hope the anchor is holding Tuatara safe. We should know not to worry by now as our trusty Manson Supreme anchor, kiwi made of course, has very rarely let us down. But not all boats hang nicely on their anchor as Tuatara does.
After we left Carriacou Island we stayed at Mayreau Is and Tobago Cays. The crystal blue water ruffled by the wind didn’t deter numerous turtles popping their heads up to check on the above water yachties before ducking down to eyeball the snorkelers. After a couple of rolly windy nights at Tobago Cays we punched our way north, 15 miles in strong head winds and uncomfortable seas to Admiralty Bay on Bequia Island(Beck-way) where we joined two other kiwi boats, Balvenie and Bandit and at last met Andrew and Claire on the Aussie yacht Eye Candy. We had been talking to Andrew for so long on the Magellan Net we felt we had knew him. A couple of days later Irene and Chris on Cutty Hunk sailed into the bay, the kiwis now starting to out number our Australian and American friends. We helped Rob and Dee of Ventana celebrate the completion of their 10 year circumnavigation. They gave us some tips on the Caribbean but did agree things had changed in ten years, mainly the cost of everything, cost is probably the wrong word more like the expense of everything. I continually wonder how the locals can afford to eat, basics such as tomatoes, lettuce and mango we are paying per pound what we would pay in Europe per kilo. Laundry is another issue for a washing machine -less yacht. My wrists start complaining at the sight of a full laundry bag so every now and then I close my eyes to the cost and gladly welcome the chance to easily turn a bag of tangled dirty clothes into fresh smelling smoothly folded ready to use linen.
The Caribbean is not all high costs and windy anchorages, we have managed to find many enjoyable Caribbean experiences. At Bequia we spent an evening listening to a 16 piece steel band. The band had come over from nearby St Vincent or as the locals call it ..the mainland… to open the Bequia music festival. The band played non stop for about 3 hours, the energy and enthusiasm of the young men and woman never faltered. The band was still playing when we all decided at about midnight to go back to our boats as one of our boat neighbours had just got the message they were dragging. One of the big gusts flying across the bay during the evening had caused our neighbour to slide backwards. The crew got back just in time to stop the boat impaling itself on the cargo ship anchored immediately behind us.
After 10 days in Bequia we said good bye to the other Kiwi yachts and headed north to Walliabou bay on St Vincent. The others are heading south to Trinidad and then west. Cuttyhunk is heading back to NZ the others we may see again next year. As we put our mainsail up in the bay a white sheet of rain headed our way and for 5 minutes or so we couldn’t see a metre in front of us. After the rain, the wind died a little so we continued hoisting the main and headed north. This was just a short 5 mile hop between islands and when we got in the lee of the mainland the short motor up to Wallilabou bay was accomplished on an almost flat sea. Once again we had to negotiate with the boat boys this time about their costs for taking our line ashore. The bay is deep so yachts anchor or pick up a mooring then tie back to a coconut tree ashore. Med Mooring…Caribbean style.
Wallilabou bay is where 3 of the Pirates of the Carribbean movies were filmed ….well parts of them. The local restaurant has the movies playing and lots of memorabilia scattered around. Many photos of Johnny Depp around but sadly he was not there in person. When cruise ships are in Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent, the Anchorage restaurant and wharf is buzzing with people, cameras clicking the location scenery. Other days it is quiet just a few yachties wandering around possibly avoiding the boatboys in the bay selling anything from jewellery and coconuts to boat cleaning services.
“I have many pretty necklaces”
“No I really don’t want any thanks”
“I have coconuts and mango”
“Sorry we have just come from Bequia and have plenty of fruit and veg”
I then think we have exhausted his meagre variety of wares, when he looks down and offers to clean our dirty hull. That’s when I opt out of the bargaining and say, “you ask my husband”.
We eventually bought guavas and a coconut from a man on the beach who had 5 children. I love guavas so with the combination of guavas and 5 children I was a push over and probably paid him too much. Guavas, passionfruit and mango for breakfast ……lovely.
Millions of cruise ship passengers visit the Caribbean every year, go on package tours, laze on golden beaches and buy a t shirt or two. One of the real Caribbean experiences they miss is a ride between towns in the local mini buses. This is an experience that combines sightseeing and the heart in mouth adrenalin rush of a carnival roller coaster ride. Then there is the squash factor. We have taken bus rides on most of the main islands so far, every driver is not satisfied until 20 backsides large and small are squeezed into the 10 seater van. Too many big people and the boy who collects the money and orchestrates the seating plan has to stand crouched over the passengers with his toes hanging onto the backdoor step. One malfunction of the door and he would be flung out to disappear down the hillside never to be seen again.
The ride from Wallilabou to Kingstown on St Vincent was to date our most, squashed, scenic and “thrilling”. We got on at the local stop, the start of the run so the van was virtually empty. The bus boy gradually spotted more and more people to pick up. There are designated bus stops but all bus boys seem to have a built in potential passenger radar spotter. We’ve been on vans that will reverse way down a road to pick up a passenger spotted by the bus boy. The potential fellow squashie does not run to the bus as we would, they know he will pick them up so why hurry. In the meantime we are wondering where is this person going to perch. No problem , plenty of room, the bus boy has inserted a small cushion in the tiny gap between the bench seat and the fold down seat we all suck in a bit more and another $4 is handed to the driver. Both our St Vincent rides seemed to be full of very large people, maybe St Vincentians are naturally larger than other islands. There were 3 rather large momma’s, bopping away to the music, in the back seat. No real room for another bottom but we know from experience there are to be at least 4 in the back seat no matter what. Next stop a very slight young lady got on, her eyes widened with horror as she contemplated the ladies she had to sit with. With some giggling the bopping ladies wriggled over and the young girl wedged herself between two of them. I doubt very much if her bottom touched the seat she just balanced herself on their thighs all the way into town.
For the trip to Kingstown I sat by the window so had a good scenic view of the coast. I also caught the occasional sweet flavor of marijuana which floats on the wind in St Vincent. As we swung around the outside corners the view down below luckily took my attention away from the view ahead which at times didn’t include a road surface until seemingly at the last minute the van slid around the corner to attack the next bit of narrow road. On the way home as the corners came rushing towards us, I thought if we go over the edge I won’t have to worry about my injuries as the lady next to me, would suffocate me with her ample curves. Sailing across oceans seems far safer than travelling in a Caribbean mini bus, luckily for us on the most part both activities are thoroughly enjoyable.
The heat of bodies lulled me to sleep and I woke up nearly back at Wallilabou and school was out. We stopped by primary school and a couple of the ladies yelled out the window. Playing kids looked up and two little girls skipped out to the road side to be collected by the bus boy and delivered safely across the road to their mothers still in the bus. A cute 5 year old plonked herself down between her mother and I, told the little boy in front of her he was ugly, smoothed her neat blue and white uniform out and smiled sweetly for a photo. These Caribbean ladies learn about style and confidence at a young age!