Grenada

Grenada south coast.

We tied up to the quarantine jetty at St George’s harbour in Grenada at midday on the 9th September 2020, where a nurse and an official were waiting for us. We were informed that because we have arrived from St Vincent and the Grenadines and had been there for more than two months after negative PCR testing for Covid-19, we didn’t require further testing. An hour later, the necessary health clearance, customs and immigration formalities had been done and we were free to go.

The quarantine station at St George’s harbour

The Carenage on “The Lagoon” (St George’s Harbour)

We motored past the more than five dozen boats from other countries tied up in quarantine in the anchorage and dropped our anchor at lovely Morne Rouge beach, a mile to the South west. We were anchored next to Craig and Zena from Melbourne, on their Hunter 49 “Adriana”. They gave us all the pointers for Grenada over sundowners, as they have been here a while.

Morne Rouge anchorage.

Morne Rouge beach.

Grenada is known as the spice island, due to the many spices that grow in this lush green island, foremost nutmeg which was first planted here in 1843. Today, Grenada produces one-third of the world’s nutmeg supply and is the largest single supplier. The nutmeg fruits, resembling apricots, encases the nutmeg seed and is in fact, the only object represented on the Grenada flag, besides seven stars, one for each of the country’s parishes.

Grenada flag.

The Spiceland Shopping Centre with a huge IGA supermarket was about 2 kms across the hill. We walked there and found some reasonably priced Californian Chardonnay and other essentials to take back to the boat. The following day, we took a minibus taxi into St George’s to shop for boating equipment at the Island Water World chandlery in St George’s. We bussed back and joined four other Aussies for sundowners at the Plywood Bar.

Grenada coat of arms – a bit more artistic.

On Monday the 14th we motored south and then east along the south coast of Grenada to Prickly Bay to visit the Budget Marine chandlery and the Ace hardware store for some more parts we couldn’t find in town. On Tuesday it was a 4nm bouncy ride into the wind and swell to Woburn Bay where we anchored. We were joined for coffee by our young Aussie friends Matt and Kristina on “Yotty”, who we last saw in Martinique.

Dirk, Matt, Kristina and Annie.

We agreed that a serious catch up over beers was required the same evening, so we headed to Whisper Cove Marina where the happy hour beers were cheap and the pizzas tasty.  Recovery took a day and the next day we took a minibus taxi into St George’s. The minibus taxis run on predetermined routes and will hoot at all pedestrians to offer them a lift – they will stop anywhere and charge EC$2.50/person (AUD 1.30), regardless of distance. Despite the narrow winding roads, the drivers all aspire to a Formula 1 racing career – with white knuckled passengers (except for the driver’s offsider, who opens and closes the door and collects the fares).

View from the taxi stop above Woburn Bay – Hog island in the centre.

The social life in Woburn Bay was quite busy, so the week that we waited to haul out our boat at Grenada Marine, slipped by quickly. There were things to do while we waited, so we had all our gas bottles filled with propane, took a minibus into St George’s twice to get boat parts and buy wine. We were delighted to find Hardy’s Chardonnay and Cab Sav from Australia, in 3l casks at AUD 30/cask – not cheap, but hey! Infinitely better than some of the rotgut on sale here.

Karen our daughter celebrated her 32nd birthday on the 21st September in Newcastle, NSW.

Happy 32nd Karen!

Grenada Marine boatyard and travel lift.

On the 22nd September, Esprit was hauled out and pressure cleaned at Grenada Marine. The hull was scraped and then sanded before application of three coats of anti fouling. Gelcoat repairs were done to the many scratches above the waterline, picked up over the last two years in the crowded Mediterranean  harbours.

Grenada Marine – Laura’s Bar on the left.

The topsides were then polished and while this was done the workshop extended our davits by 300 mm and fabricated a new s/s protective strip for the bow. The work progressed slowly because of intermittent heavy rain and “liming”. The southern windward islands lifestyle of “liming” means chilling, relaxing and chewing the fat. This cuts productivity by 30%, so that the expected 7 days on the hard, dragged to 10 days.

Painting the first coat of anti fouling,  – the two “supervisor’s” are busy liming.

We have not seen an attractive boatyard in our more than four and a half years of travelling and Granada Marine wasn’t an exception. The up and down the ladder to go to the toilets and showers, the mud, the mozzies and the sandflies, (no-see-ums) and general chaos can be challenging and we were therefore relieved to launch Esprit back into the water on the 1st October 2020.

Annie’s home on the hard.

View from our cockpit over the muddy yard.

Annie making friends on her morning walks.

Evening respite at Laura’s bar and restaurant.

After re-launching, it was late afternoon, so we tied up to the dock for the night to leave the next morning in a freshening wind from the south. We motored 2 nm to Westerhall Bay, which is very sheltered from the southerlies, which by the evening, had increased to 25 knots and torrential rain. We decided to stay put until the two systems to the northwest of us, moved on to Mexico.

Gleaming hull with new s/s bow protector, before launching.

Heading back to her natural environment.

Matt and Bonnie, our yard neighbours for a week, taking their dogs back to their boat.

The stay in Westerhall also gave me the opportunity to unpack the main food cupboard to dismantle the shelving and linings, to remove the lentils from a torn packet, below the floor, before they started sprouting. I also fixed two shopping trolleys with broken wheels and serviced the anchor winch.

Westerhall Bay.

There was no rush to get back to Woburn Bay to the west, so we visited a few more bays on our way back. After Westerhall Bay for two days, we anchored in Calivigny Harbour, at the top of Chemin Bay, where we did a walk to the nearby SOG supermarket for provisions. The next anchorage was at Port Egmont (a very good bolt hole in case of a hurricane), before motoring to and anchoring back in Woburn Bay on the 6th October.

Calivigny Harbour.

Port Egmont.

It happened to be Tuesday when we re-anchored at Woburn Bay, so we visited Whisper Cove Marina for happy hour and pizzas and to catch up with the regulars we have met there before.

The wreck off Whisper Cove Marina.

The three master we were anchored next to.

A must do visit in Woburn Bay is Nimrod’s rum shack and adjoining kitchen/restaurant run by his mother. We ordered her tasty roti’s and a few beers.

Nimrod’s rum shack and bus stop.

Inside Nimrod’s.

Mum in the kitchen making the roti’s.

Annie with a tasty and generous roti.

Another colourful bar across the street.

On the ay back to our dinghy – I couldn’t open the door of this car.

We motored around Hog Island to Secret Harbour, where our Canadian friends, Jan and Jane were anchored. We had last seen these fellow Jeanneau sailors in St Martin in January.

The Secret Harbour anchorage.

We caught up over drinks with Jan and Jane, with dinner at the Secret Harbour Marina restaurant, followed by a Sunday brunch at the West Indies Beer Brewery.

Jan, Annie and Jane at the Brewery.

The Saturday weather was fine, so we installed a third reef in our mainsail – something that we wished we had during our Atlantic crossing, but probably won’t need on our Pacific crossing, (according to Murphy). In the afternoon we motored to Hog Island for a walk around the island and to have beers at Roger’s Barefoot Beach Bar afterwards.

A brisk walk around Hog Island.

Arriving at Roger’s.

Roger’s regulars chewing the fat.

Monday the 12th October saw two significant events. Simon Clay, the local B&G agent came out to Esprit, to update the software on our electronics system, which I wasn’t able to do through the hotspot on my mobile phone. The VHF radio wouldn’t talk to the portable handset and the autopilot was playing up. Simon downloaded the latest software updates and took the handset to check it out.

The technology today is so different, compared to 1982 when we did our first South Transatlantic Race to South America – back then we had a sextant, compass, charts, shortwave radio and sometimes weather forecasts. Now you need to be an electronics wiz. Not easy for a 73 year old fart.

The other event was the arrival of a young man on an Air Canada flight with Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases, which was stable for 6 months, at 24 persons infected and no deaths, to 25. I must say, Grenada is an excellent example to the world of how to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mask wearing and social distancing is mandatory everywhere, as is contact tracing. On entering a business, you have to wear a mask, sanitise your hands and going into restaurants/bars your temperature is checked and your name and contact number recorded in a logbook. Surely, this is fake news Mr Tweety Trump?

The 14th October was another good day. John of Fast Manicou was back and delivered our beer, wine and bulk supplies in the morning. At midday we picked up the new Tohatsu 9.8hp outboard in Prickly Bay, which we had ordered from Budget Marine. Our trusty Suzuki 6hp outboard has always been a bit light for our 2.9 m Highfield dinghy. We celebrated at the music jam hosted on Wednesday nights at Secret Harbour Marina with a large group of cruisers.

Prickly Bay Harbour.

Some of the muso’s at Secret Harbour.

On Friday evening there was another enjoyable music jam at Hog Island with the cruisers anchored in the bay. The wine was flowing copiously at the boerewors braai aboard Esprit afterwards, with the result that we are having a quiet Saturday today, with me taking the opportunity to post this update.

Hog Island jam.

Our route from east to west in yellow.

The end of October signals the “end” of the hurricane season in this region (who knows?), so we plan to then sail west to the ABC islands to the north of Venezuela – we will update you then with our progress.

Finally, two updates from our daughter Michelle in Papua New Guinea: A socially distanced photo of the UN Women’s team meeting in Port Moresby and her working visit to the Kumin people in the Southern Highlands of PNG.

UN Women’s Team PNG.

Kumin Women PNG.

 

 

Bequia: Take 2; Sailing to Grenada.

We anchored back in Bequia off Jack’s Bar on Saturday the 15th August. On Monday the 17th, Annie and number of the cruising ladies, took the ferry to the main island of St Vincent, to do some shopping and have a long lunch.

Gary and Dirk having drinks at Jack’s Bar.

The menfolk enjoyed the opportunity to get on with some work and chatting over coffee, before hitting the Rendezvous bar next to the ferry dock to await their beloved’s arrival at 5:30pm. The ladies were suitably lubricated in the ferry bar on their ferry return journey. The Covid pandemic has much to answer for.

During the following week we had our bimini infill panel fitted with new zips after the wind shredded the existing ones in the Tobago Cays. For most of us, a valid credit card is a necessity today – to my relief, a replacement Visa card for the next four years arrived in Bequia from Australia, during the week.

Annie and I did an eight km walk to Spring Bay to visit the Firefly Plantation Hotel.

Most Caribbean Islands grow sugar cane and they produce rum with an alcohol content of 40 – 50%. Supermarkets stock more rum brands than beer or wine, with 5 litre casks of cheap rum on their shelves. A lot of  locals supplement their income by running pubs or rum shacks from home – like speakeasy’s or shebeen’s elsewhere. Boredom having set in, on Saturday the 22nd August, 12 of the cruisers went on a rum shack tour through town.

The start of the tour.

The view from Fort Hamilton.

Having started at 2pm and visiting 7 local rum shacks, where the music was pumping and dancing the rule, we finished with dinner at the Rendezvous at 9pm, thoroughly sozzled. I have a confession to make: my first meeting with the demon drink at 18, had me motherless on rum and coke. In the 55 years since, I haven’t touched rum. In the spirit of supporting the local industry, I re-acquainted myself with the local rum punch, but it will be while before touching it again!

Our first pub with the friendly pub owner.

From here, it started going downhill.

This pub owner showing us the moves, while Bob enjoys his ganja slow boat.

White men can’t dance – so the ladies stepped in.

Esprit has not been out of the water for 18 months, since her last haul out in Greece and maintenance work was becoming urgent.Trinidad informed us during the week that due to a spike in Covid infections, we won’t be able to enter, to haul out our boat for the foreseeable future. I emailed requests for quotes, to boatyards in Carriacou and Grenada, Venezuela, the ABC Islands and Panama. Grenada Marine came back with a detailed and reasonable quote for the work required, so we decided to make Grenada our next stop.

We decided to give the dinghy a good clean up at Lower Beach.

The problem is that Grenada is in the process of changing their current 14 day Covid quarantine protocol at the end of August, hopefully to follow the SV&G protocol for PCR testing on arrival and free movement afterwards for persons testing negative. Currently St Vincent and the Grenadines have had 60 Covid-19 cases, all recovered, with no deaths, whereas Grenada has had only 24 cases, all recovered, with no deaths. That may just require us to be quarantined on arrival. So we are waiting for the 1st September for answers.

Annie and her dinghy cleaning offsider.

In the meantime, our younger daughter Michelle settled into her UN role as a protection specialist in Papua New Guinea, flying to the southern highland province, to conduct training of her team of community mobilisers in the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children, and to convene with the provincial council of women.

Michelle and her PNG community mobilisers.

Grand opening of the hall.

It also allowed her to attend the opening of a new village hall, partially funded by the UN, with the local people in tribal dress and body art, to celebrate the event. Her weekends are busy with pottery classes and a kiteboarding club.

Traditional dress.

Kiteboarding in PNG.

Michelle mainsheet trimming with her UN colleagues.

A tropical disturbance developed over the windward islands with heavy rain setting in at our anchorage over the weekend of the 30th August.

Torrential rain won’t stop our Friday arvo drinks in the water.

Wednesday evenings the Figtree has roti’s on the menu and Samuel playing the violin, so we decided to step out for a romantic evening. The roti’s were excellent and Samuel had us almost in tears.

Sunset from the Figtree deck.

Samuel on violin.

A generous and tasty meal.

The 1st of September came and Grenada started the SeaClear system for entry, which means you have to register on this database and then have a Covid-19 PCR test on arrival, which if negative, allows you to enter without quarantine. We tried, but couldn’t register on this site, despite numerous emails to their software support people. By the 4th September, we decided to leave Bequia and go anyway.

Esprit’s route to Grenada.

We stocked up with provisions, had dinner with friends on the 4th at the Figtree and set off on Saturday the 5th to sail south. We had an excellent 30 nm sail to the Tobago Cays, where we anchored inside Horseshoe reef.

Stocking up.

This was followed by a stop at Union Island to check out of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We then enjoyed a relaxed sail past Carriacou, overnighting at Ronde Island (right next to “Kick ‘em Jenny” an underwater volcano), before sailing down the West coast of Grenada to tie up in St George’s for check-in.

Location of Kick’em Jenny just north of Grenada.

Underwater profile.

Tobago Cays, Mayreau, Canouan and Union Islands.

Salt Whistle Bay from the top of the hill.

Our next stop 19nm to the South west of Mustique, was Salt Whistle Bay on the island of Mayreau. We had drinks and dinner at the “Last Bar before the Jungle”, a Rastafarian joint where you can also smoke pot.

Walking along the Salt Whistle beach before dinner.

Unlike Keith Richards, I was not climbing up to pick a coconut and fall on my head.

Salt Whistle Bay restaurant strip!

The last bar before the jungle.

The wind came up overnight and after heavy rain the next morning, we motored the mile south to the sheltered anchorage of Saline Bay. The anchor winch gypsy started slipping whilst we were anchoring, so after settling down, we stripped the winch, cleaned and serviced it, with a note in my diary, to do it again in 60 days. At sea, the salt buildup inside the anchor winch is substantial and needs constant cleaning.

View down to Saline Bay with Union Island in the background.

We walked to the highest point on the island, to orientate ourselves with the Tobago Cays which lies next to and to the east of Mayreau Island.

Walking down to the anchorage.

The unique Rastafarian architectural style.

The next morning we motored into the Cays through the South Passage and anchored between two small islands, Petit Bateau and Petit Rameau, which are located in the National Marine Park costing us EC$10/person/day. After a swim and relaxed Sunday afternoon Nanna nap, we tackled the walk to the crest of Petit Bateau to check the dinghy pass through Horseshoe reef.

Our anchorage between Petit Bateau and Rameau.

View from the top of Petit Bateau – Petit Tabac on the other side of the reef..

The dinghy pass through the reef led us out to sea, to do the short one mile hop to Petit Tabac Island, where there are good dive spots. Unfortunately, the swell coming out of the East resulted in huge breakers on the beach, ruling out a landing and the swells on the reef would have smashed us while snorkelling. So we bounced back in the dinghy, to safety inside the reef.

Petit Tabac out at sea – too rough to land.

The reefs inside the outer Horseshoe reef, are disappointing, but the water and sand is quite clear. In the afternoon the heavens opened and so we had to shelter from the tropical rain through the night. We picked up the anchor at 8:30 the next morning and motored out through the North Passage into a 30 knot wind on the nose, to Canouan Island 6 nm to the North and anchored in the sheltered Grand Bay.

A dinghy ride to the rough concrete ferry wharf, got us into Charlestown, which from a distance looked quite pretty, but up close, down at heel and dirty. Photos won’t do justice to the squalor. I spent the afternoon doing a long overdue service on the high pressure desalinator pump, replacing the oil and the filter. The strong easterly wind predicted  for Wednesday night the 12th August, hit us with force during the night, tearing the canvas infill panel over the cockpit – more repairs to be done when we get back to Bequia.

Grand Bay anchorage and Charlestown, at Canouan Island.

The wind settled down the next morning, so we had a relaxed sail down to Union Island, 11 nm to the South. Quacey, of Marine Tech Services in Clifton harbour came highly recommended as an outboard repair specialist, so we had him test our Suzuki 6hp dinghy outboard motor. The motor has for the past two months, just spun and cavitated at higher revs.

Clifton harbour anchorage at Union Island.

Quacey stripped the propellor and found that the rubber hub on the lower drive shaft had stripped and hence the prop slipped at higher revs. He didn’t have the correct prop or hub kit in stock, so he refitted the prop. Hopefully, we will find the correct parts soon – we just need to be patient about puttering around slowly.

Small bar on a rock in the bay.

Union Island history.

Quiet main street of Clifton.

Now we know where to run to in case of a tsunami.

Union, like Canouan and Mayreau, being smaller islands close to the Tobago Cays are totally dependant on tourism. Covid-19 has wiped out their small economies and the towns have hardly anybody on the streets, with the locals lazing about or fighting one another, zonked out on beer and ganja. It is quite a sad situation.

Our anchorage in Clifton Bay behind the reef – lots of kite boarding and Palm Island to the right.

Palm Island – we didn’t stop, as it is a private island.

Esprit’s track in the Grenadines.

On Saturday the 15th August, the wind changed to the South east providing us with a good apparent wind angle to sail back North to Bequia. We left Union Island at 9am and anchored off Jack’s Bar in Bequia at 2pm – in time for drinks and a BBQ at the Upper Deck at 5pm. On Monday we will check if my Visa renewal card has arrived at the Fedex agency. We will hopefully report from Grenada, in the near future, as Trinidad is still closed . Until then, cheers for now.

Bequia and Mustique.

Since our last post, all the major maintenance work on the boat had been completed: the sail and canvas work mentioned before, reinforcing of the framework for the solar panels over the bimini, stripping the stove and oven to replace broken door springs and treat corrosion and numerous smaller jobs.

No sooner could we sit back and relax, when tropical storm no. 7 started forming south of the Cape Verde Islands and moving across the Atlantic. On the 22nd July this storm was named “Gonzalo” by the US National Hurricane Centre, predicted to reach Bequia by midday on 25th July 2020.

Hurricane Gonzalo.

The cruisers anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia decided to have drinks on the beach on the 23rd, so that we could all worry together and talk about what to do. Quite a number of boats sailed south the following day and a few went north, as it appeared the centre of the hurricane was heading for Bequia.

A toast to Gonzalo.

This being our fourth hurricane since 1987 and having survived the previous three, gave us the misplaced confidence to think we knew how to deal with this one. So, we stayed put in Bequia, moving Esprit 400 metres to a buoy on the north side of the bay, stowing all loose items and crossing our fingers.

Alex the mooring man helping Annie to tie up to a buoy.

Luck was on our side, as 24 hours before reaching Bequia, the hurricane veered southwest and passed south of Grenada, leaving us with a 30 knot wind and heavy showers for an hour. We celebrated by having a hike across the hills to Friendship Bay and back – and the news that another system was already forming off Africa and heading for the Caribbean, faster this time!

A solid downpour.

Hurricane Issaias.

Hurricane Isaias came charging across the Atlantic, but on a more northerly course, hitting the Leeward Islands to the north of us and producing heavy rains in the rest of the Caribbean – most of the islands needing the rain. On Friday the 31st July 2020, Esprit was booked to be hauled out at Peakes Boatyard in Trinidad. The Trinidad borders are still closed, so, no do.

On the coastal track into town.

View from the coastal track across the bay.

Walk to Friendship Bay – a friendly dog at the bus stop.

Friendship Bay – life’s a beach.

Old Pretoria girls at Jack’s – Rowena and Annie.

Sunset at Jack’s jetty.

Life carried on in Bequia, with walks into town to get provisions, drinks at Jack’s with the sailors and Annie having an EC$30 haircut. I asked her to cut my hair, and either out of spite because I wouldn’t pay her, or because she thought I could audition for the new season of “Prison Break”, she cut my hair to within a millimetre of my life. I now wear a stylish Panama hat for the sun.

My free haircut.

Annie’s EC$30 haircut.

My sun protection.

The 1st to the 4th of August were public holidays in Bequia – Emancipation Day and Vincy Mas days. The party music was very loud on the Monday, so we decided to leave town and go and explore a bit further afield. We had a good sail down to Mustique, 14nm to the south east, where the friendly harbour master tied us to a mooring buoy. Not cheap at EC$220 for 3 days.

Anchored off the beach in Mustique.

The island is owned by the Mustique Company, a private limited company which is in turn owned by the island’s home owners. The island has around a hundred private villas, many of which are let through the Mustique Company. The name Mustique comes from the French moustique, “mosquito”, which thrive in the tropical environment of the Grenadine Islands.

Statue of Lord Glenconner.

Mustique was purchased from the Hazell family in 1958 for £45,000 by The Hon. Colin Tennant, who became The 3rd Baron Glenconner in 1983. He initially planned to start farming, “cotton, beef and mutton” but then decided to develop the island into a hideaway for the wealthy, after forming the Mustique Company in 1968 and spending a fortune on the project.

Two pretty shops in Mustique.

The Food store.

View out on the anchorage – Esprit the only yacht in the bay.

Today, the rich and famous holiday on the island, to name but a few: Tommy Hilfiger, Paul McCartney, Shania Twain, Tom Ford, Mick Jagger, Peter Lynch, Denzel Washington, John Travolta and Bryan Adams. We didn’t spot any celebrities during our hikes over three days around the island – only candidates for “Weight Watchers” tooling around in golf carts.

The rich and famous do need horses – picture Mick and Keiff on these fillies!

Walking to the south – a tortoise crossing.

On his way to a tortoise meeting.

Sea view.

Basil’s Bar, which is on the water’s edge and famous for its Blues Music Festival in January/February each year, is an excellent watering hole with good food. They hosted a “Jump Up” music session on the Thursday night we were there.

Basil’s Bar.

On the deck for sundowners.

The stage for the music events.

Annie having a rum punch and studying the dinner menu.

Our next report will be from the Tobago Cays!

St Lucia, St Vincent & Bequia.

Route: Martinique to Bequia.

After checking out of Martinique on Monday the 29th June 2020, we lifted anchor and sailed from Anse Caritan at midday. A light 12 – 15 knot easterly with a medium sea swell took us the 22 nm to St Lucia, where we anchored at 4 pm after a relaxed sail. St Lucia was still in lockdown, and there were only 20 other yachts in Rodney Bay – usually the bay would be packed with boats, particularly at the finish of the ARC rally across the Atlantic in January.

Enroute to St Lucia: Sargassum seaweed invading the Caribbean.

St Lucia: Entering Rodney Bay.

Rodney Bay: Almost deserted.

Similar conditions prevailed the next day, allowing us to sail down the west coast of St Lucia and visit beautiful Marigot Bay and the Pitons with hardly any yachts around, before anchoring at Vieux Fort on the southern tip of the island by mid afternoon. In fact, in two days of sailing we saw only two yachts underway, one north and one southbound – courtesy of Covid-19?

Motoring into Marigot Bay.

Beautiful Marigot Bay.

Marigot Bay village – almost deserted.

Sailing past the Pitons.

The 31 nm crossing to St Vincent was a repeat of two days before, with a medium swell and strong westerly current. We anchored in Chateaubelair bay with three other yachts for a quiet night and left at 5:30 am the next morning to sail the 14 nm to Young Island Cut, to tie up to a mooring buoy at 08:00 am.

Approaching mountainous St Vincent.

Anchored in Chateaubelair Bay.

Chateaubelair Bay sunset.

At 10:00 we went for our PCR Covid-19 tests, at USD 60 per person, USD 75 for the agent, USD 25 for Customs and USD 20 for the mooring = USD 240, to enter St Vincent and the Grenadines! The test results were emailed to us 28 hours later – both of us tested negative. Happy days!

Young Island offshore on the south side of St Vincent.

Boats awaiting Covid-19 testing in the Young Island Cut.

Annie’s PCR test.

Sometimes when your children work abroad, you try and picture these places. Karen has worked in hospitals in Cape Town, London and St Vincent. I was happy to discover that St Vincent is quite organised and civilised and not the ganja smoking Rastafarian Island I had imagined.

Leaving St Vincent for Bequia.

At 3 pm the next day, we cast off the mooring buoy in Young Island Cut and had a relaxed, short 9 nm sail to Bequia (pronounced Beckway), where we anchored in Admiralty Bay off the main town of Port Elizabeth, with a suburb called Pretoria – also historical and original city names in South Africa, but now renamed Nelson Mandela City and Tshwane, in the new improved SA.

Arriving at the dinghy jetty.

First stop in Bequia: the Frangipani restaurant for coffee.

View from Frangipani across Admiralty Bay.

Bequia is quite special and alluring, with some well preserved Victorian homes and quaint shops and restaurants. The island has its own flag which has a whale on it, because New Bedford whalers settled on the island way back. As a result Bequians became great boatbuilders – a craft that continues on through today. The whaling has pretty much come to an end. Following are some photos of Port Elizabeth.

The Whaleboner bar next to the Frangipani – showing their whaling history.

Grand old houses turned into upmarket accommodation.

Motoring into town long the shore.

View across the bay from Maria’s bar .

Local taxis are utes with bench seats at the back.

The harbour is busy with ferries coming and going.

Boat building has slowed down, but model boat building fills the gap.

This old house is in need of new timber shingles.

Another fixer upper.

This old Rastafarian uses his house as a notice board.

Youth dinghy sailing at the yacht club on Saturdays.

I was going to check out the Penthouse Pets, but Covid-19 has closed down the bar.

There was still no indication of Trinidad opening before their general elections in mid August, so we decided to have some of the work planned for Esprit, done here in Bequia. As a result our first week in Bequia was quite busy with getting quotes for canvas and stainless steel work, measurements done for a new mainsail boom bag, taking the mainsail, jib and bimini down for repairs and having a template made for a new canvas cover (chaps) for the dinghy.

The view from our anchorage to Jack’s bar and Princess Margaret beach.

Walking along Princess Margaret Bay.

Lower Bay.

Dinner at Mac’s pizza bar – really tasty pizzas!

The quaint local church.

 

The cruisers at anchor here, are quite active socially, with a radio net, walks, pot luck and music evenings and BBQ’s. Our first get together at the Open Deck Bar on the Saturday was quite a liquid affair, wiping out any attempt at doing the 14 km hike on Sunday morning. Annie, again ending up in the water after a late night failed gazelle like leap from the dinghy onto the boat.

Potluck BBQ at the Open Deck Bar.

A jam session at the Open Deck – great sound.

During the following week, we managed to get the repairs to the mainsail and the jib, as well as bimini canvas repairs done by Grenadine Sails in Bequia. They also made us a new boom mainsail bag and UV cover for the dinghy.

Calvin the master sewer, with the new dinghy cover he made.

Our new boom sail bag. The old one was totally knackered after 5 years.

The week was wrapped up with a climb up the mountain, for a great view down to Port Elizabeth, followed by sundowners and dinner at Jack’s Bar later in the day.

Our hiking group halfway up the mountain.

View down and across to Port Elizabeth, from the top.

Here we are at the top.

We still have some steel and aluminium welding to be done here in Bequia, so we plan to be here for a while before sailing further south in the Grenadines. Until later, keep well and safe wherever you are.

Cheers

Annie and Dirk

Martinique: Final post.

Since our last post of 10th June, we spent more time in Martinique, while waiting for islands to the south of us, to open their borders. A large number of yachts departed to Grenada, where conditional entry with two weeks quarantine and Covid-19 testing on completion, was put in place.

On the 14th June we sailed north to Martinique’s capital, Fort de France, with “Nimrod” and “Purrr” for a change of scenery. We used the FdF anchorage as a base and rented a car to reach some trails on the island.

Sailing to Fort de France.

Passing Rocher du Diamant.

Our first 10 km hike was the Canal de Beauregard near St Pierre in the north. This 5km long irrigation canal, fed from the upper reaches of the Carbet river, was built by slaves in the 18th century. The canal clings to the side of the mountain and in sections near the end, has a sheer drop of hundreds of metres down into the valley of the Carbet river – absolutely breathtaking.

Start of the canal walk.

Far down below, the river and some farms.

Walking along.

Deceptive: the drop on the left is about 200m

Tall bamboo’s along the way.

A beer and lunch after the hike: Dirk and Chris.

The next hike was high up in the central mountains, to reach the Didier falls. This walk takes you through a 150m long tunnel. Afterwards, we visited the beautiful “Jardin de Belata”, a few km’s further up the valley. These gardens were established in 1982, by the horticulturist Jean-Philippe Thoze.

Start of the Didier Falls trail: Annie, Sue and Chris.

Lights on!

In the tunnel.

Reaching the weir where the water supply pipes for Fort de France start.

The first falls.

A swim to cool off, after the first leg.

The view from the top of the falls.

The entrance to the Belata gardens: Annie and Sue.

Majestic 40 year old palms.

View down the valley.

The tree top walk.

The girls on the rickety walkway.

A view from the tree top walk.

One of the amazing flowers.

Our last hike this week, was along the “Trace de Jesuits” a trail established by Jesuit priests along the Lorrain river. This walk is in the rainforests and lived up to its name – we walked back in the rain, on the way back to the car. 

Start of the Trace de Jesuits.

Following in the footsteps of the Jesuit priests.

Rain forest.

Back in Fort de France, we visited the Schoelcher library. This library was shipped from France after a Paris exhibition in the 19th century and rebuilt here piece by piece.

The Schoelcher library – much of the facade is made of cast iron elements.

We woke up on the 18th of June, to a dust storm blowing in from the Sahara, over thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean. We thought we had seen the last dust storms in Egypt and Cyprus. The dust blanketed out the sun for three days. With the following rain, our boats looked like they had a mud bath.

A surprise awaited us when we tried to start the engine to sail to Anse Mitan at the three islands, to join a group of friends for lunch on Saturday the 21st. The 5-year old engine battery died suddenly, as they sometimes do. We motored back to Fort de France on the Monday and bought and installed a new 70A/h starter battery, before sailing to Petite Anse d’Arlets in the south.

Lunchtime with beautiful ladies: Sue, Annie, Annie and Suzanne.

And their beau’s: Charlie, Marc and Chris.

In Petite Anse d’Arlets, we joined Chris and Sue Jones on “Nimrod” for their 20th wedding anniversary dinner and party, with these yachties – a jolly evening and a late night affair, with lots of dancing. 

Chris and Sue Jones, celebrating 20 years of marriage.

These Frenchie’s can dance: Annie and Marc.

Pole dancing at 2 am!

Word reached us that St Vincent and the Grenadine islands to the south, will accept yachts from the end of June, subject to an application submission and a Covid-19 test on arrival, which if negative, will allow the crew to enter after 24 hours. We immediately submitted our application online and got approval on the 25th of June. We sailed back to our previous anchorage at St Anne to do our laundry and check out of Martinique on Monday the 29th June 2020. So, here we go at last, after an unplanned four months in lovely Martinique, to travel south to St Lucia and on to St Vincent and the Grenadines. We’ll keep you posted – until then, Cheerio!

Martinique: Take 5.

A walk with Matt and Kristina was planned for Wednesday the 20th May, but Annie woke up with a sore knee, so we had to cancel it – just as well, because it rained just about the whole day. Thursday and Friday were the Abolition of Slavery public holidays in Martinique, so we managed to do some walks. The Saturday evening we had another music evening with Helmut on SV Kepasa.

Dirk, Kristina and Matt.

Young bikers on the trail.

Annie and mangrove roots.

On the Sunday, after 10 weeks at anchor, Esprit’s hull looked like a veritable vegetable garden. I worked away in the swell to clean the starboard side of the hull, in the process getting covered by dislodged water lice, resulting in bites similar to blue bottle stings. Copious applications of “Stingose” and anti histamine tablets got the burning under control after 3 hours.

Boredom was getting the better of us, so on Monday the 25th May we rented a car for three days to travel the island and get some retail therapy. The first day we visited Decathlon, the amazing sports goods store near Fort de France, followed by Mr Bricolage (like an Australian Bunnings, Plus) hardware store opposite, and finished with the Hyper U store nearby, for provisions.

Enroute – here comes the rain. (beehives in the foreground)

The next day was the sight see and exercise day. We did an eight km hike in the Caravelle nature reserve halfway up the East coast and got thoroughly drenched in a heavy 30 minute downpour. We then drove up to Mt Pelee in the North (see our first post on St Pierre in Martinique). This is the volcano that destroyed the town of St Pierre in 1902.

Mt Pelee before it clouded over.

The view to the south.

When we  reached the start of the 2 km track up to the caldera of the volcano, the sky was clear, but 5 minutes later, the clouds came in, making the hike a non starter. Matt quickly launched his drone to give us a view of the caldera, but the clouds were too fast as the drone disappeared out of view, before returning to base. We got back to St  Anne well after dark.

A: Come on – let’s walk up to the top! D: Are you talking to me?

Cut it-out! –  and smile for the camera.

On day 3 we did more shopping in Le Marin, at the Leader Price supermarket for food and wine, as we were told that wine is expensive further south. After returning the car to the hire company, I cleaned the port side of Esprit’s hull, with Matt helping me clean the sail drive leg, keel and rudder. (Being 30 years younger, he can free dive for up to 4 minutes)

On Thursday we moved Esprit about a km south to Caritan beach, where the water was calmer, so we managed to do some maintenance and scrubbing the green waterline clean on the Friday. Saturday was laundry day and in the evening, Helmut had 35 dinghies tied up to Kepasa for his concert. We were pleasantly surprised when first, Michelle and later Karen, called us on WhatsApp, for the first time in weeks! (all good on their side).

Chris and Sue Jones from London, on their catamaran Nimrod, joined us for drinks on Esprit on the Sunday evening. Interestingly, there are not many English speaking boats anchored here, with the majority of the boats from France and Europe. Also, it is encouraging to see how many of these boats are sailed by young couples or families in their 30’s and 40’s, making us old farts almost unique in this part of the world.

Kasia, Marcin and their son Vincent from White Dog.

Monday the 1st of June has arrived and so far only Grenada to the north of Trinidad has opened it’s harbours to yachts that have reservations at their marinas, subject to a 14 day on board quarantine period and testing afterwards. A lot of yachts have left Martinique to take up that option.

June 1st – the sunset has moved north from the small island on the left, in the time we have been here.

We are still waiting for news from the other islands to the south of us, as we only have to be in Trinidad by the end of July – weather permitting. No sign of potential hurricanes forming in the eastern Atlantic at this stage, but we are ready to move south at short notice. In the meantime we carry on walking.

Walking group having a rest.

Chris and Sue – serious hikers.

The easing of restrictions now allows us unlimited walking (also on the beaches) and socialising in groups of up to 10 people. Sailing between Martinique and Guadeloupe to the north (both French islands) is also permitted. We already have spent some time on Guadeloupe on the way here, so won’t do that.

Picnic with French, UK, Canadian and US sailors.

Sunset view from our picnic.

By the 9th of June we have been anchored her in St Anne for 12 weeks, but with the exception of Grenada to the south (see the map) none of the of the islands have opened up. We have heard that the anchorage in Grenada is overflowing with boats allowed to enter, as a result of bookings in marinas.

Windward islands.

Expats from Cape Town – John, Annie and Dirk.

Beautiful flowering tree.

Passing the stations up to the church on the hill.

View from the church.

Drinks with French Annie, Dirk, Chris and Charlie.

We will carry on walking, travelling and socialising on this beautiful island, as we have made many new friends here. An approaching hurricane, or islands opening up will see us moving south, but until then we leave you with photos of our lives here on the island. Until then, cheers and stay safe!

That’s us.

Another beautiful sunset.

 

Martinique: Take 4.

On Friday the 8th May the Cruisers Net informed us that the French government decided to relax the quarantine conditions as follows: All shops and businesses except restaurants and bars can now open from Monday the 11th. People can also meet in groups of up to 10 (with social distancing), walk more and travel up to 100 km on Martinique. There was no news from other islands and no other borders have been opened.

Annie making our masks.

Also, on the 8th May, Michelle our younger daughter, turned 30 and we had a WhatsApp video call to wish her well. We were sorry that we could not be in Sydney. How the time marches on – it feels like yesterday when this noisy baby, looking like Charles Bronson with a head of black hair, arrived in our lives. She has been a challenge and a pleasure since. See Shell’s 30th Birthday Video compiled by her friends from around the world – mostly from the UK, where she has lived for 5 years:

https://vimeo.com/418094180

Michelle’s birthday cake.

The 15th May 2020 marked four years since we sailed out of Sydney on this adventure. It gave us the chance to reflect on how much we have seen and learned in the four years. We have heard statements like “You are so lucky to do this”. We don’t agree – it takes a lot of planning and hard work to do this. Had it been easy, a lot more people would be doing it. Doing this, also has the advantage of keeping our brains and bodies active.

That could be me!

It was almost five years since we saw the photo above of a Sun Odyssey 439 in the Jeanneau catalogue and I thought, but didn’t tell Annie: “Yesss! That could be me! (Before I started growing sideways instead of lengthwise). And here we are, still enjoying the experience and looking forward to our next year in the Pacific Ocean. The Covid-19 pandemic has tied us down in Martinique for two months, but hey, it could be worse.

Walking south to Caritan.

Arriving at the beach in Caritan.

Walking back to St Anne.

Annie having a rest.

Remy and Annie.

Illogical as it may seem, the relaxed Covid-19 rules allows us unlimited walking with no attestation approval required, but, not on the beaches! We have crisscrossed the roads and tracks on land for exercise and decided we would take a chance and walk on the deserted beaches, which are really pretty. We came across one other person, Remy from Bordeaux, who with his dad sailed a sister ship, a Jeanneau 419, from France to the Caribbean. They plan to transit Panama into the Pacific next year. Our list of buddy boats is growing!

St Anne’s statue celebrating the abolition of slavery.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning the yachties around Martinique listen in and contribute, on VHF radio to the “Martinique Cruisers Net”, to keep themselves up to date with the latest news and developments. This is expertly run by Steve in English and Patrice in French. This has been expanded to musical quiz evenings on Friday nights, covering Jazz, Classical and Rock, run by John and Les from Cape Town – I wish my friend Jim was here to help me with the quiz. Sunday nights we have a general quiz evening hosted by our American friends.

Helmut on guitar.

…and on saxophone.

Last Saturday night we had the talented Helmut from Kiel on “Kepasa” host a live show, playing the saxophone and guitar with vocals. We were tied up with a whole bunch of dinghies behind his Bavaria 44, drinking and singing along. He had been quiet for a month since his last show, due to a severe cold, but is now back in form. We look forward to another show this coming Saturday. See these links for the video’s:

https://vimeo.com/419945513

 https://vimeo.com/419945912 

https://vimeo.com/419946139

We slightly overdid our walking, with a hike to Pointe Dunkerque on Saturday and on Sunday, with a long hike to Anse Meunier, Petite and Grand Anse des Salines. We got back footsore at lunchtime on Sunday after an early morning start, had a swim and a Nanna nap before we had guests over for sundowners.

Setting out under the trees.

The mangroves behind Anse Meunier.

Petite Anse des Salines.

Fever tree.

The route is well signposted.

Grande Anse des Salines.

An hour and a half after starting: a selfie.

Annie had to carry on walking to the end of the bay!

So, I took a rest.

Heading back to St Anne.

Mountain bikes by the dozen passed us.

There is no news yet about the borders between the islands opening, so we sign off with the hope that next time we will report on us leaving Martinique after 10 weeks to the islands further south. Until then, we leave you with a photo received from our girls in Australia – they seem to be having fun. Cheerio!

Karen and Michelle.

Martinique: Take 3.

As previously reported, on the 17th March 2020, the island of Martinique in the Caribbean, introduced a compulsory quarantine for all persons on land and at anchor, to contain the Covid-19 virus. Not much news is available for our blog, so bear with us as we cobble together some photos of the lovely village of Sainte Anne, it’s surrounds and it’s anchorage, to keep you informed about our quiet existence.

Sunset from our anchorage at Sainte Anne, Martinique.

On April 6th 2020, at the end of our week 3 in quarantine, Juliette and Guerric, while delivering our baguettes, eggs and croissants, informs us that the Prefect of Martinique is thinking of extending the quarantine to the end of April – we will know during the next week.

Juliette and Guerric.

I received the email meme below, from a South African friend: It was also Founders Day in SA, as Jan van Riebeeck landed in Table Bay on the 6th April 1652, to establish a re-victualling station for the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope. I was born 295 years later at the foot of Devil’s Peak, behind JvR, in the painting.

Van Riebeeck meets the locals.

On Esprit, life carried on, albeit slowly and a bit boring, with mostly reading and swimming around the boat to keep us occupied – all the boat maintenance items were up to date. Three days earlier, Annie was politely asked by the Maritime Police not to paddle board amongst the boats in the anchorage.

Annie cleaning the deck.

Annie working out on the clean deck.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary on the 10th April – quietly. With our girls’ emails of good wishes, came the news that Michelle was now working for the UN Women remotely online, doing policy writing and advocacy on Gender Based Violence and Covid-19, while waiting for her deployment to PNG, whenever the Covid-19 pandemic will allow this. Karen was still working her butt off in orthopaedic surgery at the John Hunter hospital.

Our wedding anniversary – still alive.

On Monday the 13th April, Emmanuel Macron the president of France announced that the lockdown in France and its territories has been extended to the 11th May 2020. This includes Martinique, but the date may be reviewed during, or at the end of this period. Bonjour St Anne – once again! Tuesday the 14th marks one month in quarantine for us, with another month to go.

A quiet afternoon in St Anne – we drop off the rubbish and go to the supermarket.

Rubbish separation.

Walking back to the jetty with our groceries.

We are getting concerned with the time left to us, to get out of the Caribbean hurricane zone, by the beginning of June. We were planning to reach Trinidad, which is outside the hurricane zone, by the 1st June and we have a booking at Peakes Boatyard in Trinidad to have Esprit hauled out on the 15th June, for 3 months. With most of the windward islands to the south of us still in lockdown, it may be quite a rush to get there in time.

Cat 5 Hurricane tracks 1851 to 2018. Martinique is to the north of Trinidad, slap in the middle of the tracks!

We had completed our travel plans on land for the 3 months, to visit Cuba for a week. Then a road trip from Florida to North Carolina to visit friends, before travelling to New Orleans and then on to Guatemala and southern Mexico to visit the ancient Aztec sites. Fortunately, we haven’t booked airline tickets yet and will have to see what the Covid-19 situation allows us in terms of travel.

On the 16th April we got French attestation documents, allowing us to go for one hour walks in St Anne. We used the first opportunity to walk 4.5km to a fruit and veg stall to buy fresh stuff and on the way back stop at a small shop to get wine, beer and groceries.

We may now walk for exercise!

Mural on the way to the Fruit & Veg.

Another mural towards the church.

Mural detail.

Beautiful colours along the road.

At the Fruit and Veg stall.

So happy to be on land – my princess hugs a palm tree.

With this new document, we wanted to make the most of it, without putting anyone at risk with Covid-19. We ventured forth again the next day doing another 5km walk in solitude, enjoying the lovely scenery, before going back to the boat. We were knackered after a month of inactivity, so we hit the water to cool down and then relax for the rest of the afternoon.

The town beach.

Murals to brighten up the street.

Religious statue

Out of town, walking past Brahman cattle.

The road back to town.

Matt, our Aussie neighbour on “Yotty”, is a keen diver and from time to time brings us some crayfish from his catch. He also helped me strip the lower leg gearbox of our outboard, to try figure out why the engine revs go up, but the prop revs stay the same. We can’t work this out, but the owners manual mentions the “over-revolution limiting system” which must be checked by a Suzuki dealer. That will be done in Trinidad when we get there.

A crayfish pressie from Matt.

The next milestone was my 73 birthday on the 28th April. Our neighbours on both sides, Kristina, Matt, Kasia and Martin join us on Esprit to quietly celebrate with drinks (A hurricane action plan meeting, if the cops turn up). A news item around this time, quoted Brian May, astrophysicist and lead guitarist of Queen, saying that us baby boomers are now old and vulnerable. I do a Google search for old age homes in Sydney.

Happy birthday!

Annie and Matt.

Martin, Kasia and Kristina.

Next morning – this quarantine thing makes you thirsty!

To quote my friend Trena: “When this is over…what meeting do I attend first…Weight Watchers or AA?”

News on the Martinique cruisers net, on the same date, is that the quarantine period here and in Trinidad has been extended to the middle of May. So, we bid you adios – we will do an update in a fortnight.

Martinique: Take 2.

The Covid-19 lockdown in Martinique, announced by the prefect of this French prefecture in the Caribbean, came into effect at 12:00 on the 17th March 2020 whilst we were in Petite Anse on the West coast of Martinique. We were able to stock up with provisions at Le Marin, 15 nm to the South east, the following day. St Anne, a bay to the south of Le Marin offered good shelter, so we anchored here the following day, with about 350 other boats. This would be our anchorage for the next 14 days – or so we thought.

St Anne beach and anchorage.

We managed to go ashore for a walk down the beach on the 20th of March and realised that these measures were more serious than we thought, when a police boat ordered everybody off the beach and back to their boats. The maritime police were out early the next day, recording all the boat names and their positions by cameras and drones. It was announced that we would incur a EU135 fine if we visited other boats, so quarantine was a reality.

Week 1: I started the water maker and made 350l of water to fill the water tanks and 100l to do our washing. Annie disinfected all the surfaces we touch, inside the boat and on deck and also cleaned all the stainless steel work. I checked all the fixings and made a hull scraper for the copious growth of barnacles and green stuff on the hull. Three days of scraping barnacles and marine growth from the hull, rudder and waterline followed. We quietly swapped books with Matt and Kristina on “Yotty”, another Aussie boat.

My new barnacle scraper.

VHF channel 68 is the communication link for our anchorage. Daily, we hear accents from around the world, Australia, New Zealand, UK, South Africa and other languages like French, Italian, German, Russian etc., exchanging advice on maintenance, routes, etc.

Michelle’s new job.

The UN informed Michelle our daughter that her 10 month posting to PNG has been put on hold, in fact, all UN personnel in PNG are being repatriated to Australia. Having sold her car the week before, she moves into Karen’s house in Newcastle, taking on the posts of cook, housemaid, gardener and setting up a bar on Karen’s back porch.

The Cock “tail” bar.

Week 2: The authorities announced that the quarantine/self isolation period in Martinique is extended by two weeks until the 15th April. We follow the reports of the cases worldwide with shock and note that Martinique has 80 reported cases of Covid-19 and one death to date. This is small compared to China, Italy and the USA, but worth the quarantine effort. Fortunately, we have good mobile phone and data reception to stay abreast of the news.

St Anne anchorage.

Annie’s reading position.

In our beautiful anchorage, we read many books, swim a lot, Annie paddle boards and do her exercises every day. I make an effort to brush my teeth before midday. A big event occurs when a huge stingray jumps out of the water. Also, some really big turtles are swimming around the boat and looking at us inquisitively. We receive very funny emails from around the world, trying to put a humorous spin on the quarantine lifestyle.

Hmmm.

Hmmm again.

I listen to Jim Petrie’s extensive collection of music which he kindly downloaded for me in Cape Town, 14 months ago. I enjoy the Aussie legends, the artist previously known as Johnny – John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, Ian Moss, Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows – and the many artists we have listened to at the Manly Boat Shed, the Basement and other venues in Sydney. At sunset each evening, a talented saxophonist on a nearby boat plays his instrument to big applause from the surrounding boats – we have become a village.

Our milk cartons.

My own lame effort at humour occurs when I look at our milk carton one morning, thinking about the Bovine community. Picture these bulls looking at their “Playbull” magazine, lusting after this “Playcow” of the month.

Each morning a lovely young couple, Juliette and Guerric (Licensed Artisans Gourmands) comes around on their rubber duck with their masks, gloves and disinfectant, offering delicious warm baguettes and croissants, fresh fruit and veg, beer and wine for sale. We support them, saving us the risk and effort to motor out to the supermarket. Alcohol consumption increases and each evening at 8pm, the fleet at anchor blows their foghorns and this cacophony grows over time as pots and pans for drums, join the foghorns.

At the end of March, the start of week 3 of quarantine, I do my daily check of the daily Covid-19 data and note with shock that worldwide cases have doubled to over 800,000 in two weeks, with nearly 40,000 deaths. Martinique’s cases increased from 80 and one death to 119 and two deaths over the same period. We may have to stay here longer than the 15th April! We will keep you posted. Stay safe everyone!