Fair well to the Lesser Antilles
14 March 2019 | 18:42 064:47
After three and a half months sailing around the Lesser Antilles from St Lucia down to the Grenadines and up through the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands to the Virgin Islands, we are now heading North West to the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas.
We have spent the last couple of weeks sailing around the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, what and extraordinary place they are to sail around. We enjoyed blue skies and clear turquoise waters. Our anchorages have generally been flat calm where you can see the bottom in 10m or so of water, snorkeling around the boat we can clearly see the sandy bottom and the anchor well bedded in and plenty of fish swimming around us. The Virgin Islands are a paradise for sailing and snorkeling. There is more or less a constant force 4 breeze blowing from east to west, occasionally gusting up to force 5, and occasionally a little from the south or north of east. The seas between the islands are generally flat, with no fetch to create any significant waves, as the Atlantic swell dissipated as it breaks when it reaches the Caribbean shelf. Distances between anchorages, harbours and the different islands is only a few miles, allowing plenty of time to sail from one part of paradise to another leaving plenty of time to swim, snorkel or just relax...or even scrub the bottom of the boat. We have seen plenty of the devastation created by Hurricane Irma and Maria?? a couple of years ago, there are still plenty of wrecked buildings and wrecked boats lying around the harbours. They have managed to clear many of the harbours but there are perhaps 100 wrecked yachts and small boats in the Harbour at Road Town, Tortola. Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour where we were a few nights ago was apparently full of sunken yachts, but has now been cleared by the hard work and sheer determination of the hardworking people that live their, there is also much rebuilding work going. One lady I met told of the the horror of being caught not just in one hurricane but two within a few weeks of each other, how frightening the ordeal was, and the despair afterwards, no drinking water, no food, no roof over her head, but their resolve has seen them through and the re-building goes on. We have seen much hurricane damage from Hurricane Irma on our travels through the Lesser Antilles in St Martin, Anguilla, Barbuda, Dominica to name the worst hit, but the devastation seemed to be more severe in the Virgin Islands....We sailed around to the world famous Bitter End Yacht Club in the Gorda Sound, Virgin Gorda to find that it is still in the process of being re-built, along with the Vixen Point beach bar...no cold beer that night...
Since our landfall in the Caribbean at St Lucia in the Windward Islands back in December 2018 we have now traveled over 1200 nautical miles, been to 23 different islands and 14 different countries or dependant states, each with their own culture and way of life.
Our travels have shown us how, since the islands were discovery by Christopher Columbus in the 1490's and the Islands subsequent colonization primarily by the English, French and Dutch in the 1600's our way of life and the way of life of each of the island peoples has been shaped by slavery and the plantations producing sugar and other cash crops. A history that the English should not be proud of. However, is that very exploitation, and the slave trade that has made the islands and the island people what they are today and created rich and vibrant cultures. It is this history and the plantations that provided the funding for the Industrial Revolution and bring England out of the Middle Ages and make England one of the world's richest nations at the time. This wealth also funded many wars between England, France and Spain and shaped Europe and the British Empire.
Our whole voyage since leaving England back in August last year has been about following, and was shaped by the Tradewinds, the North Easterly trades that took us down the Atlantic coast of Spain, and Portugal and down to the Madeira Islands, the Canary Islands, the Cape Verde Islands, and from there across the mighty Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Islands up through the Caribbean Islands and back home via the South Westerly trades from the Bahamas and Florida taking in Bermuda and the Azores. This route has seen used for centuries by sailing ships carrying trade back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean from the Old World to the New World and back again. The 'discovery' of the islands by Columbus led to the extinction of the original Amerindian settlers, the Caribs and the Arawak who came up the chain of the Lesser Antilles South America via Trinidad, island hoping there way up and settling the islands as they went, these settlers date back nearly 8000 years, They were wiped out mainly from diseases brought over by the western Europeans and the African slaves from which they had no immunity. Most of the Caribs and Arawaks where taken from the smaller Lesser Antilles islands by the initial Spanish Conquistadors to work as slaves in the lager Greater Antille Islands such as Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba where they were used as slave labour to mine for gold. By the time the English, French and Dutch reached the Lesser Antilles which were abandoned by the Spanish as being 'useless' islands the Caribs and Arawak had all but been wiped out from these islands except for a few tribes on some of the islands notably Dominica where the terrain was such that the Spanish could not capture them and the local tribes could hide in the mountains. The only remaining Caribs in the Caribbean today exist in a reservation on the Island of Dominca.
When the English an French came, they brought in hundreds of thousands of slaves from Africa, may be 2 million or more. These slaves brought with them a rich and vibrant culture of music, dance, and song, it is the descendants of these slaves that make up the population of most of these islands and make the islands what they are today. Each of the island nations and their people are fiercely independent and different to each other and each island wants to retain its own ways, and cultures, they are immensely proud of there heritage and their way of life...they are are all peace loving and kind people...the rest of the world can learn a lot from them...the biggest problem they have seems to be corrupt and incompetent Governments...no change there then.
I have loved our trip through the Lesser Antilles and look forward to the Bahamas not knowing what to expect.
Richard and Alison yacht Cerulean of Penryn
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