Caribbean Travel Roundup

Newsletter - Paul Graveline, Editor


Caribbean Travel Roundup
Paul Graveline, Editor
Edition 122
February 1, 2002

Last Update 1 Feb 2002

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SAILING THE WINDWARD ISLANDS BY MIKE HAYNES

Copyright 2001 by Mike Haynes All Rights Reserved

In late April/early May, 2001, six of us embarked on a bareboat charter
in  the  Grenadine  Islands.  We  had  sailed the British Virgin Islands 
several
times, and decided on a change of scenery and more challenging sailing
conditions.  We  chartered  a  46-foot monohull from The Moorings in St. 
Lucia,
to  be  dropped  of  at  their base in Grenada 10 days later - a trip of 
about
120 miles.

We flew American to St. Lucia, which involved a long layover in San
Juan,  because  the  first  American  Eagle  flight to St. Lucia doesn't 
leave San
Juan  until  5:30  p.m.  That  put  us into St. Lucia at 7:40, almost 12 
hours
after leaving home.

All the flights were on time (a real surprise) and there were only two
inconveniences: 1) Although we made our reservations almost a year in
advance,  none  of  us  were  sitting  together,  and 2) the "dinner" on 
American
Eagle  was  amusing  -  sliced  Turkey  on a hot-dog bun. Reminded me of 
something
I  might  have  done  in  college.  We wondered if some other flight had 
hotdogs
on whole wheat! The worst part was after traveling all day with a long
layover,  we  landed  in  St.  Lucia  after  dark,  missing  out  on the 
spectacular
aerial views.

The Moorings had made hotel arrangements, and provided free airport
transfers.  A  porter  quickly  recognized our Moorings luggage tags and 
sped
us through customs, bypassing a long line. He delivered us to the taxi
dispatcher  who  also  recognized us as Moorings charterers immediately, 
but
almost  sent  us  to  the  wrong  hotel.  Turns  out  he had received no 
information
about  us.  After  several  phone  calls, he put is in a free cab to the 
Rainbow
Hotel.

The Moorings base is in Marigot Bay, and I had expected to stay in
their  hotel  there.  I  was surprised to find the Rainbow was not their 
hotel,
and was in Rodney Bay, several miles in the opposite direction from the
airport.  This  situation was both good and bad. We had planned to spend 
the
first day ashore, maybe see some sights, and also get a handle on the
operation  at  the  Moorings  base,  as  well  as  local  advice for our 
upcoming
sail. However, we got an opportunity to see Rodney Bay, which was quite
nice, even though our subsequent charter start was more hectic.
Rodney Bay has a beautiful crescent beach and a large marina, as well
as  a  reasonably large town on the water. There are lots of restaurants 
and
bars  in  the  area.  We  didn't have a car, and didn't need one with so 
many
businesses within walking distance.

The first night, we dined at "The Buzz." It was a nice atmosphere with
a  good  bar, good food, good service, and a large, varied menu. I tried 
an
Indian dish, and the others mostly grazed on the large selection of
appetizers. Entrees were in the low to mid $20s, US.
The Rainbow is an adequate hotel. The grounds and exterior are
attractive,  and  they  have  a  great  pool.  The  rooms are basic - no 
shampoo,
two  thin  towels,  no  washcloths,  no  ice  bucket, and a TV with poor 
reception.
They  have  a  small  restaurant  which  served  up  a nice, inexpensive 
breakfast.

The Rainbow is situated a short walk from the beach on one side, and a
short  walk  from  the  Marina  on the other. The price was reasonable - 
about
$85/night. We were just into the off-season, so I expect the prices are
much  higher  in  winter.  For the more luxury-minded, I'd recommend the 
Royal
St.  Lucian,  which  was  nearby.  It  has fabulous grounds, a beautiful 
lobby,
and  is  beachfront.  I  don't  know  the  price, but I'm sure it wasn't 
cheap.
We intended an island cab tour, but after the previous long travel day,
we  lazed  around  too  late. The island is large, and a decent cab tour 
would
have  taken  about  7  hours.  So  instead of sight-seeing we decided to 
drink.
Our walk on the beach was interrupted by a sudden rainstorm.
Fortunately, we were right in front of a beach bar/restaurant called
Spinnakers.  It's  a beautiful spot, with a fabulous view of Rodney Bay. 
The
blue   water  white  sand  bay  is  surrounded  by  large  hills,  which 
unfortunately
were  pretty  brown that time of year. The Windwards were at the tail of 
an
unusually  long  and intense dry season, and we saw mostly brown islands 
on
the entire trip. But it was still a beautiful spot.

We walked through the local neighborhood, which was mostly very nice
private  homes,  and  ended  up  at a tiny outdoor bar called the "Happy 
Day."
It's  owned  by  the big hotel next door, but is a low-key, freestanding 
shack
by  the  canal entering the Marina. It offers a nice breeze, a beautiful 
view
of  the  bay,  2-for-1  drinks,  and  a  continuous  stream  of  offbeat 
tourists,
yachties,  and  locals  - all friendly and interesting. If you like this 
kind
of  camaraderie,  don't  miss  this  place.  It's  my favorite memory of 
Rodney
Bay.

That night we had dinner at the Mortar and Pestle restaurant down on
the  Marina  docks.  This beautiful waterfront location has a great view 
and
excellent  food.  We had lobster (last day of the season), fish, shrimp, 
and
steak.  All  were  excellent,  and  the  prices  were  reasonable - less 
expensive
than the Buzz. They also had a great steel drum band.

Next morning, we got a late start because the Rainbow front desk forgot
our  wakeup  call.  Moorings  picked  us  up  at  9:00,  and  we  got no 
breakfast.
It was nearly an hour drive to Marigot Bay, and we stopped by a bank to
convert some US$ to EC$ (Eastern Caribbean). We couldn't exchange the
previous day because it was Sunday. I had read in the Caribbean Roundup
that  you  shouldn't  exchange to EC before you leave, because the local 
rates
are  much  better,  and  that  advice  was accurate. The bank was a zoo, 
however,
and  we got to Marigot Bay about 10 minutes late for our 10:00 briefing. 

Alex, the base manager, said "no problem", and hustled us right on in.
He gave an excellent briefing of our sailing area, and provided lots of
local  knowledge.  He's a wonderful and very interesting guy, and it was 
a
real pleasure to meet him.

We checked out through customs in Marigot, and after a brief boat
checkout,  were  ready  to go. Customs was a real pain-in-the-butt bunch 
of
red tape, but didn't take too long and the agents were friendly. 
I'd like to provide more information about Marigot Bay, but we were
only  there  for  a few hectic hours. Unlike the Rodney Bay area, it was 
quite
green  because it's situated near an inland valley. It was a lovely spot 
and
I  wish  we  could  have spent more time there. Doolittle's is pr	obably 
the
most  famous  spot,  and  it looked really nice. Gorgeous restaurant and 
bar,
right on the water. Maybe we'll visit it next time.

We didn't sail out of Marigot Bay until about 2:00, because the
Moorings  was  out  of  towels.  The late start was unfortunate, as I'll 
mention
below.

The sail to the Pitons/Soufriere area was wonderful, and uneventful -
15  knot  breeze  on  a  broad reach, flat water, and a dolphin escort - 
about
all you could ask for. Soufriere and the Pitons are probably the
most-visited  tourist  area on St. Lucia. The Pitons are a striking pair 
of
steep conical mountains about a half-mile apart at the base. There's a
lovely anchorage between them, which is only practical if you pick up a
mooring   -   the   water   is   900  feet  deep  (according  to  Alex). 
Unfortunately,
the  boat  in front of us picked up the last mooring. Now you understand 
why
I was miffed about the towels!

We left the Pitons and motored over to nearby Soufriere, which is a
small  town  on  the  water.  It's famous for its nearby sulfur springs. 
Other
sailors had warned us that it smelled like sewage. We noticed the odor
immediately, but I think it may have been sulfur from the springs. At
least,  we  gave them the benefit of the doubt, because we had no choice 
but
to anchor there. Once anchored, we never noticed the odor again.
We encountered our first boatboy on the way to Soufriere. He offered
to lead us to the best anchoring spot. We were warned repeatedly about
boatboys by guidebooks and other sailors, and expected the worst.
Surprisingly,  they  were extremely helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. 
I
learned to trust their advice and accept their help with anchoring and
mooring.  All  they  wanted  was  a  small  tip,  and  their  advice was 
accurate.
The  vendor  boatboys  were  also  quite  nice, and readily accepted "no 
thank
you" when we weren't interested in their products. My advice is to be
friendly  and  act  like  a guest in their islands - they will treat you 
most
hospitably.

Anchoring in Soufriere is a trip. The shore is so steep, you must drop
your  anchor  off  the  side  of an underwater cliff about 100 feet from 
shore,
and  tie  a stern line to a tree. The procedure is so common, the locals 
wait
by the trees to tie you up for a standard $10EC ($4 US) fee. 
Our anchoring was especially exciting. As we approached our anchorage,
a  shoreside  rainshower  greeted  us  with  a  beautiful  rainbow  over 
Soufriene,
so  close  we  could  almost  touch  it.  As I nervously anticipated the 
coming
squall  (which  never materialized) our boatboy told us exactly where to 
drop
the  anchor  and how much scope to use. Then, with my crew on the bow, I 
was
both steering and handling the stern line. With the boat in neutral and
presumably  safely  situated  for the moment, I began paying out line to 
the
boatboy.

Suddenly, everyone was yelling, and I spun around with horror to see
our  boat  heading  for  a  T-bone  collision  with the huge, immaculate 
catamaran
alongside. I yanked the boat into reverse about 10 feet short of a
collision.  Our  neighbors  were all on deck regarding us with amusement 
and
probably no small amount of disgust. 

After our boatboy expertly tied us up, two of us dinghied over to our
neighbors with two Carib beers (the excellent local brew) as a peace
offering.  They  were  gracious  to  a  fault, and invited us aboard for 
drinks,
reinforcing my opinion that sailors are universally wonderful folks.
Unfortunately, we had a ton of stuff to do aboard and had to decline.
Back at our boat, we were running the engine in neutral to charge the
batteries and chill the fridge (have to do that twice a day). Boatboys
started coming by and telling us we were in reverse and pulling on our
anchor. One of our crew snorkeled and discovered the prop was indeed
turning. After several attempts, I managed to shift into neutral. That
explained why we nearly T-boned the big cat - when in neutral, our boat
would  sometimes  decide  to  drive itself around. What a way to start a 
trip!
But  rather  than  delay our morning departure, we decided to wait until 
we got
to Bequia to seek a repair.

That night we dined ashore at the Hummingbird Restaurant. This place
looks  like a dump from the beach, but is remarkable inside. It is built 
of
stone, with open-air seating, and is decorated with hand-carved totems -

some  very  large  ones  supporting  the  roof over the bar.. They had a 
great
happy  hour  (four  rum  punches for $4 US), and the food was wonderful. 
I'd
recommend  it  for  food,  atmosphere,  and  service, with entrée prices 
around
$10-$25 US.

Had  we  found  a  mooring  between  the  Pitons, we would have dined at 
nearby
Dasheen, high in the hills above the bay. The locals back in Rodney Bay
recommended  this  upscale  restaurant  for  fine food and a spectacular 
view. 
Food in general on this entire trip was very good. I don't think we
ever  had  a  bad  meal,  and many were excellent. We ate mostly at mid-
range
priced  places,  with  entrees  in  the $10-$20 US range for things like 
fresh
fish, chicken, shrmip, etc. On advice from others, we stayed away from
steaks  and  such,  which would likely be frozen. Our only complaint was 
the
menus  were almost identical in every restaurant. There was some variety 
in
the  preparation  or accompaniments, but in general, every place had the 
same
selection - Appetizers: salad, Callaloo soup, gazpacho, pumpkin soup;
Entrees:  steak,  lobster (unfortunately out of season after 4/31 - most 
of
our trip), lambi (conch), shrimp, chicken, and sometimes pork ribs.
Although  this  selection  sounds  broad,  the  preparation  was similar 
nearly
everywhere, with little variety.

Anyone down there will tell you to always get the fish. It's local,
fresh,  and  usually  prepared  in a unique way at each restaurant. It's 
almost
always fish of the day. We had Tuna, Dorado (Mahi-Mahi), Flying Fish,
Barracuda,  and  Red  Snapper.  Several  of  our  crew were delighted to 
discover
a taste for Callaloo, a local green, usually used in soup but often in
other dishes as well. Another favorite was Christophene - a fruit which
looks  and  tastes  somewhat  like  a potato when cooked, but grows on a 
tree (we
think) and looks a little like a squash.

We met our neighbors from the Catamaran again at the Hummingbird. Very
nice  folks.  They invited us again for drinks aboard their boat, but we 
were
all  just  too  tired  from the long day and declined. Too bad - I would 
have
loved a tour of that big Cat.

Sleeping in Soufriere is a little tough. Roosters crowed all night, it
was  just  rolly enough to be uncomfortable, and there was little breeze 
so it
was pretty hot in the cabin.

Next morning we got an early start for our 37-mile trip to St. Vincent.
Ubald,  the shoreside boatboy, brought us ice promptly at 7:30 am, as he 
had
promised  the  night before when he helped us land and launch our dinghy 
in
the surf.

We had paid extra for a 1-way trip from St. Lucia to Grenada, because
the  wind  "always"  blows  in  that  direction,  and  we'd have a great 
downwind
sail  all  the  way.  It  turns  the  10  days  we chose to sail were an 
exception
to  "always."  The  normal  NE wind veered into the South, and we sailed 
upwind
the entire trip. It wasn't a terrible trip, usually a close reach,
sometimes  a  beat,  and  we  never had to tack, but a broad reach would 
have
been much easier.

The trip to St. Vincent took six hours. Much of it was in 6-foot
swells or more, with confused seas - no two waves traveling in the same
direction.  It  was  tough  sailing  but  exhilarating.  Only  one of us 
avoided
nausea  (it wasn't me), and only one lost breakfast (not me either). But 
it
was  still  a  lot  of  fun.  St.  Vincent  is  a  foreboding sight when 
approaching
from  the  north. The volcano is shrouded in black clouds and mist, like 
some
mysterious  island  in  a horror movie. But down on shore it's beautiful 
and
unspoiled.  As  soon  as we rounded the northernmost point, the wind and 
water
immediately settled, and the conditions were perfect.

Our destination was Wallilabou Bay, which has a narrow entrance in an
otherwise  continuous  shoreline.  We  probably  would  have  missed  it 
altogether
except for the GPS, and a few inexplicable dots on the water. As we
approached  we  realized  the dots were boatboys - local hawkers drawing 
in
business which might otherwise sail right by without noticing.
One picked us out and began rowing his small boat beside us, offering a
mooring.  We  accepted, and unbelievably, he rowed the small boat at the 
same
speed  we  motored  -  about  5  knots. I was suspicious of a scam about 
helping
with  a mooring, but it turned out they had no pennants and were hard to 
pick
up,  plus  they  were so close together you needed to tie the stern to a 
tree.
The  other  boatboys  pitched in and helped, working very hard to get us 
secured. A bargain at $10EC ($4US). 

While I'm at it, a word about the currency: local currency is the
Eastern  Caribbean  Dollar  (EC Dollar). It has a fixed exchange rate of 
$2.67
to the US Dollar. Local banks and hotels will give you $2.60 or better.
Typical  street rate is $2.50, because it's easy to calculate. (Multiply 
$EC
by 4, shift the decimal one place left, and you have $US. For example,
$10EC  =  4  x  10,  drop the 0 = $4US) I couldn't find anyone stateside 
giving
better  than  $2.43.  Change  your  money  when  you get there. Or don't 
bother.
Everyone  accepts  US  anyway. But be sure you have lots of small bills. 
And
it's a good idea to get some small change (at least $1, $5) in EC, for
buying from the boatboys.

Anyway, back to Wallilabou. As soon as our boat was tied up, I
noticed  there  were  boatboys with their wares lining both sides of the 
boat.
They  had jewelry, carvings, ice, guided shoreside tours, lobster, fish, 
you
name  it.  We  politely  looked at everything, but only bought some ice. 
All
were pleasant and friendly, whether we bought anything or not. 
Shortly after we arrived, we watched a German boat try to anchor and
set a stern line without the help of boatboys. It took them about 45
minutes.  They  had  crewmembers  climbing the rocks ashore, then diving 
when
they  dropped  their  sternline. They anchored too far away and couldn't 
reach
the  sternline  to shore, reanchored, and still couldn't reach, all with 
the
boatboys  patiently  watching, encouraging, and advising for free from a 
few
feet  away.  When the boat finally realized the sternline was too short, 
the
boatboys  loaned  them an additional one. Maybe they finally got a tip - 
I'm
not sure. But we were amazed at what some people will do to save four
dollars!

Wallilabou is a beautiful little anchorage. It's very protected, with
a  gorgeous  view of the Caribbean between the huge rocks on either side 
of
the  bay's  narrow  mouth.  We  had  to  go  ashore around 5:00 to clear 
customs.
More carbon-paper triplicates to fill out in a hot room. Another slow,
inconvenient experience, but again the officers were pleasant.
I wish we'd had time to visit the local waterfall, or hire a car up to
the  volcano, but we'd had a long sail and didn't have much energy left. 
I'd
like to visit Wallilabou again and see a little more of the area.
Back at the boat, our neighbors were a couple from Dallas, Texas, with
their  toy  Poodle,  Rosie.  The Escapade had been working down from St. 
Martin
for over five months, and were bound for Grenada, same as us. Wonderful
folks, and Skipper Mike had a great sense of humor to go with his Texas
drawl. They were the only American sailors we met on the entire trip.
We dined ashore at the Wallilabou Anchorage Restaurant. This place
looks like a dump, but its laid-back charm grows on you after a few rum
punches. It's locally-owned with local food. I think some of our crew
found  their  meals a little sub-par, but the Tuna with Creole Sauce was 
my
favorite entrée for the entire trip. Prices about $8 - $20 US.
Sleeping in Wallilabou was again a little rolly, and very hot. Tying
bow  and  stern doesn't let the boat swing to the wind, and we had light 
wind
behind us, which doesn't get channeled down into the boat very well. 
Next morning we set out for Bequia (pronounced Beck' wee), the
northernmost and largest of the Grenadine Islands. St. Vincent and the
Grenadines  are  one  country,  so luckily we were finished with Customs 
for a
while.  Bequia was about 45 degrees off the wind, so the entire trip was 
a
beat  on  one  tack.  The wind was 20+ knots, and we had to reef just to 
keep
the  boat  under control. But the seas were about four feet and regular, 
so
it was a fast and glorious sail.

Two and a half hours later, we entered Admiralty Bay, an enormous,
well-protected  harbor,  which  easily  held a freighter, a cruise ship, 
and
hundreds of smaller vessels. Nestled in the corner is the town of Port
Elizabeth.  I  love  this place! The water is a gorgeous blue surrounded 
by
white  sand, the anchorage is vast and pleasant, the surrounding town is 
a
delightful  collection  of  local  architectures  in  traditional pastel 
colors,
and there are plentiful services and distractions for the yachtsman. We
stayed two days.

Almost anything you could want can be delivered to your boat. Daffodil
Marine  supplies  water  and fuel from a barge which comes right out and 
ties
to  your  boat.  They also have an excellent laundry service which picks 
up
and  delivers  by  dinghy  - hand washed and line dried in the Carribean 
sun.
Garbage? Out of rum? No problem mon' - call Daffodil on channel 69. I
love this place!

Against the charter company's advice, we rented a mooring from a
dubious-looking character, and hoped for the best. It was a good move,
because  it  was secure, and more conveniently located than any place we 
could
have  anchored.  And  I do mean secure, because the wind nearly blew the 
paint
off the boat the entire time we were there. We had no complaints about
ventilation in Bequia!

Bequia is one of The Moorings' service locations, so we made a call to
their  local  contractor  about  our  transmission problem. "Mr. Fixman" 
arrived
shortly to check it out. He was a colorful character, tall, barefoot,
dressed all in Khaki, sun-burnt blonde hair, indeterminate age, and a
Scandinavian  accent.  Since  the problem was intermittent, it of course 
would
not fail in his presence. So he patiently explained that I didn't
understand the "feel" of the single-handled control, and carefully
demonstrated  for  me.  I explained this was my fourth charter in such a 
boat,
and  I knew perfectly well how to operate the controls, but to no avail. 
He
also  told  us  it  was  "normal"  for the prop to turn when in neutral. 
Didn't
sound right to us, but you can only argue so much with an expert. We
thanked Mr. Fixman for nothing, and he dinghied away.
After evening cocktails and a fabulous sunset, we dinghied in to the
Gingerbread  Restaurant  for  another  great meal. The Gingerbread has a 
lovely
balcony with a view of the town and bay. The next day, we explored the
town,  which  is  situated  entirely on the water. There is nothing more 
than
one block from the shore. There are ample eateries, watering holes, and
shopping.  They have a couple of supermarkets, and even a drugstore. All 
of
these  became  rare  as we ventured farther down the Grenadines. Be sure 
to
visit  the  bookstore,  which  has  a  fascinating  collection  of local 
history,
and geography, as well as boating books in general. Also notice the
beautiful  handmade  local  boats  plying  the harbor. Boatbuilding is a 
Bequia
tradition.

We considered an island tour, but all the cabs were pickup trucks with
benches in the back. After the previous days of hard sailing, we just
weren't  ready to bounce down dusty roads on a hard bench, and declined. 
My
retirement plan is to move to Bequia and start a cab service in an
air-conditioned van. The market is there.

We lunched at Mac's Pizza - a small place high on a hill, with a
commanding  view  of  the bay. Honestly, it was the best pizza I've ever 
had.
I  tried  hard  to  be  objective and ignore the atmosphere, and I still 
think it
was the best. Don't miss it!

Dinner was a tough decision. There are just too many good restaurants
here. We'd had drinks at the Frangipani, so decided to dine at the
Plantation Hotel's Green Flash Bar. At this point great meals at a
waterside  table  with a fabulous view were becoming commonplace, so the 
best
part was the homemade coconut ice cream.

The next morning we left with a choice of destinations. We headed for
Mayreau  (May'  roo),  with a backup plan to stop in Canouan (about half 
way)
if the weather was rough. The day was gorgeous, with light seas and a
beam  reach,  so  we  slipped  into Mayreau's Saltwhistle Bay about four 
hours
later. The sail was uneventful until our Skipper (moi) got a little
confused   about   our   location  as  we  passed  Catholic  Island.  My 
unforgiving
crew will never let me forget it. 

Saltwhistle Bay is the most beautiful anchorage in the Windward
Islands,  but  don't  tell  anyone  because it's very small and we don't 
want it
to  get  overcrowded.  It  is  well-protected,  with  a small white sand 
crescent
beach  lined  with Palm Trees on one side, and steep rocky cliffs on the 
other
two..  Anchoring  is  good, but you have to get in early to find a spot. 
We
didn't get a good anchor set the first time, and on our second try were
assisted  by  a  boatboy  named  "Yellow Man." We didn't really need the 
help,
but  didn't  refuse,  and he didn't bug us for a tip. We made a deal for 
him
to bring us ice from Union Island the next morning (none is available
locally).

This time our transmission offered a new surprise - I pulled it into
reverse  to  slow  the boat and instead it surged forward! Thanks again, 
Mr.
Fixman! 

There is nothing here but a resort called Saltwhistle Bay Club. It is
beautifully  situated  on a narrow spit of land covered with palm trees. 
If
you  walk  across  this  little peninsula (about 100 yards), you come to 
the


ocean  on  the  other  side. This walk is truly spectacular under a full 
moon,
beneath  the  shadow  of  the  palms.  We  swam ashore for drinks in the 
afternoon
and returned for dinner that evening.

The food was excellent, with an unbeatable atmosphere . I'd like to go
back  there  and  stay  in  the  resort some time. It is a collection of 
"huts,"
all made of stone with thatched roofs, but with full amenities. The
restaurant  serves  outdoors at round stone tables, each surrounded by a 
low
stone  wall  with  built-in  bench,  and a thatched roof. Dinner entrees 
were
$15-$20 US.

Dining is also available in nearby Saline bay. A van will pick you up
and  shuttle  you  over  to  Dennis'  Restaurant.  We weren't there long 
enough to
try  it  out, but the menu looked good. You can also sail over to Saline 
Bay
- we didn't stop there, but it looked nice from the water. 

The next morning we headed out early for the Tobago Keys - the most
famous spot in the Grenadines. It took about an hour to motor over from
Saltwhistle Bay - no point in raising a sail. This collection of tiny
uninhabited islands is protected by an enormous reef on two sides. The
islands are a mile or two apart, and you can anchor almost anywhere in
depths  ranging  from  6  -  30 feet. It feels eerie to be anchored in a 
spot
that  appears completely exposed, but the reef about 1/4 mile away makes 
it
feel like a lake. The result is an expansive panorama of blue water
stretching to the horizon. You just don't get a view like this in a
protected anchorage.

We quickly found an anchorage, and did a little exploring. We had been
told  we'd  find  it hard to leave the Tobago Keys, and to plan at least 
two
days  there.  The  harbor  was full of boats from every country, most of 
them
private-owned.  These  were  big,  beautiful, well-kept boats - the kind 
you
dream  about.  Our  little  charter boat was almost embarrassing in this 
kind
of company. 

Even though it is uninhabited, you can stay in the Tobago Keys
indefinitely on a boat. The boatboys will bring you anything you need.
They  always  offer  staples  like ice and bread, as well as fresh fish, 
lobster
and  conch,  cleaned  and/or  cooked  to  order  if you like. If there's 
anything
else you need, you can place an order and they'll bring it out the next
morning. Of course there's the usual collection of T-shirt and souvenir
vendors. 

One of the little islands appeared to have some activity, so a couple
of our intrepid crew dinghied over to investigate. They discovered "The
Last  Bar and Boutique." This establishment offers a full bar (two kinds 
of
beer  and  couple  of rum drinks), about a dozen T-shirts (the Boutique) 
and a
full  service  restaurant  (fish  and  lobster,  deep-fried on a Coleman 
stove),
all under the shade of some old sails and tarpaulins strung between the
trees. 

There are no chairs, but there's a three-legged table, with the fourth
corner  lashed  to  a  tree.  The  proprietors,  Nigel  and Bushman, are 
friendly,
and  keep  the  joint  hopping  by  occasionally  swapping  out  the car 
batteries
that run the incredibly loud stereo. Bushman has a dog, for us animal
lovers,  and their "watersports facility" rents a worn-out sailboard for 
a
reasonable  price. But above all, the view is unbeatable from the top of 
the
hill.  You  can  see  the  entire  reef, a Kaleidoscope of colors in the 
water,
and  all  the  boats  seemingly  suspended in air. Be sure to visit this 
place,
get  yourself  a Hairoun beer (the SVGI local brew) and admire the view. 
You
won't be disappointed.

Down on the beach, we again ran into the folks from the Escapade. This
was  our  third  meeting - we bumped into them on the street in Bequia a 
few
days earlier. 

That night we found that even though the reef breaks up the swells, you
can  get  lots  of wind while anchored in the Keys. It blew well over 20 
all
night, and made sleeping difficult due to the noise and pitching of the
boat.  I  expect  had  the  wind been from the north, it would have been 
much
more comfortable.

Next day, we decided to abandon our plan to spend two nights here. It's
a beautiful spot, but we were frankly getting a little bored. There's
supposed  to  be  excellent snorkeling, but you can't get the boat close 
to the
reef  so  you  have to go by dinghy. Snorkeling by dinghy is always some 
work,
and  it's  even tougher with an inflatable and a stiff breeze, even with 
the
dinghy moorings supplied by the Tobago Keys park service. 

We actually snorkeled very little on this entire trip, which was a
little disappointing. In the BVI, snorkeling is often convenient to the
anchorages,  and  you snorkel right off the back of your boat. We didn't 
find
snorkeling  within  easy  swimming  distance  of  any  anchorage  in the 
Windwards.
However,  if  you're  dive  certified, this place is ideal. Almost every 
little
island  had  a  dive  shop, and they'll take you out in their boat, with 
all
equipment,  for  a  reasonable  fee.  It's  much  more  convenient  than 
snorkeling
or diving from a sailboat.

We decided to head over to Palm Island. This small island has a nice
resort, and sounded great in the guide book. We motorsailed over in a
couple  of  hours.  However,  the  wind was very strong out of the South 
that
day,  and  Palm  Island's  barely-protected  anchorage was a mess. There 
were a
number  of  boats  anchored too close together in white caps, pretending 
they
were  getting some protection from the island, but we elected to skip it 
and
head  over  to  Union  Island.  It's  a pity, because Palm Island looked 
enticing
from our vantage point.

Clifton Bay was only a little calmer than Palm. The Southerly breeze
was  sending swells right into the harbor. It looked very uncomfortable, 
and
if not for the protection of the reef, it would have been an impossible
anchorage.  We  motored  around  Union  Island  to  Chatham  Bay, on the 
Northwest
side and well-protected from the Southerly breeze. The trip around the
island was wild and wooly, even under power, in huge swells. 
Chatham Bay is an enormous anchorage, uninhabited, and absolutely
beautiful. I'm glad the wind/water conditions were lousy that day -
otherwise  we  might  have  missed  this place. You can anchor anywhere; 
there's
a broad, sandy shelf extending half a mile or more from the white-sand,
crescent  beach.  The  entire  bay  is  about  four  miles  wide.  It is 
surrounded
by  tree-covered  mountains and tall rocky cliffs. The only civilization 
is a
couple of shacks in one corner - we never saw any activity there, and
believed they were uninhabited.

A dinghy trip ashore was interesting. As you approach the beach by
dinghy,  you  must  wait  until your bow hits ground before you get out. 
The
water  is  consistently six feet deep right up to the beach. If you step 
out
too  early  you'll go in over your head. The only creatures on the beach 
are
a few goats and cows. If you walk across the beach you step into dense
woods,  and  almost immediately the mountain goes straight up. It's easy 
to
understand  why  this  place is uninhabited. It would be a major project 
to
get a road there, so it is only accessible by water.

There's a price for the raw beauty, though. The cruising guide says
this  area  is  prone  to  "shrieking gusts" of wind. We had a big laugh 
reading
this phrase on our way in. We got anchored up easily, and had a nice
15-knot  breeze  off  the  shore.  A  few minutes later, I saw the water 
boiling
off  to starboard. Then the 30-knot gust hit us broadside. Everything on 
the
boat groaned as we slammed sideways, swinging around to face this new
breeze.  Some of our crew were swimming and had to clap on to the dinghy 
to
avoid  blowing  away!  After  about two minutes the gust subsided and we 
swung
90  degrees  back  to  our  original  position. This phenomenon repeated 
about
every ten minutes all night. We now have more respect for the term
"shrieking gust."

Next morning, we motored back around to Clifton to clear customs. The
wind was still howling out of the South. While our shore party did the
paperwork, we made another call for Moorings assistance with our
transmission.  Rick  Chinsley  came out and once again explained how the 
shift
lever  worked.  "It's a "feel" thing," he said. I could not convince him 
we
had  a real problem. However, he did replace the bent prop on our dinghy 
(it
was  like  that when we got it - honest) and recommended we overnight at 
Petit
Martinique (PM) instead of Clifton, so we could get out of the wind. He
even  made  us  a  dinner  reservation with a buddy of his, and got us a 
free
mooring. We liked Rick a lot, even if he didn't fix our transmission.
We didn't spend any time in Clifton, other than the hour it took to
clear customs. Some of it looked nice, but much of the town was pretty
run-down.  However,  they  were  having  some  kind  of  festival with a 
parade.
It  probably  would  have  been fun to stick around had the weather been 
more
cooperative. 

The trip over to PM was pretty wild, motor sailing into heavy wind and
waves,  but  an exhilarating ride nonetheless. We hadn't sailed much the 
past
few  days,  and  enjoyed it. PM and it's sister island Petit St. Vincent 
(PSV)
are  tiny islands a short dinghy ride apart, but in different countries. 
PSV
is  part  of  the SVGI, and PM is part of Grenada. We had cleared out of 
the
SVGI  already,  and  there's  no customs on PM, so technically we stayed 
there
illegally.  But  the  guide  book  said  that's  customary  (slight  pun 
intended).
PM is rumored to be founded by smugglers and thieves, so it seemed
appropriate.

It is very different from PSV, which is a privately-owned, very
exclusive  island  resort. However, you can anchor there, and the dining 
is
supposed to be superb. PM on the other hand is a settlement of small,
sometimes  dilapidated  houses,  but  all  with that Caribbean flair for 
pastel
colors. It's quaint and quite beautiful in it's own way. 
We picked up a mooring off the Palm Beach Club, which is a beach front
restaurant  operated  by  Emmanuel - one of the nicest folks you'll meet 
in the
islands.  We  dinghied  ashore  to  visit  the "supermarket." A Windward 
Island
supermarket  reminds  me of the country stores near my childhood home in 
rural
North  Carolina.  They  are  typically  one-room  wood buildings, with a 
small
assortment  of  staples.  You  never know what they'll have (except beer 
and
rum) or what they won't. Don't expect it to be like shopping at home. I
never  saw  one  that  was  air-conditioned,  and they have only a small 
selection
of refrigerated goods.

We wandered through town, visiting the bakery - another tiny wood
building,  where  the proprietors also appeared to live. On our way back 
down
to the beach we saw numerous boats under construction. They still build
boats  completely  by  hand in their back yards, some of them 30-40 feet 
long.
PM is a thriving and interesting little community, not driven solely by
tourist  trade  like  so  many  islands.  The  locals  are laid-back and 
friendly,
and  we  enjoyed this opportunity to be part of the Caribbean daily life 
for a
short while.

Dinner at Palm Beach was a real treat. This restaurant was probably
our  best  dining  experience in the Windwards. Emmanuel picked us up at 
the
boat  in  a  launch, and we had a beautiful table by the beach. The food 
was
excellent!   We   had   the   usual   Callaloo  Soup,  fresh  fish,  and 
Christophene,
but the preparation was just a little better than most of the other
restaurants.  And for dessert - Mango Mousse! The dessert alone is worth 
a
trip back.

As soon as we went to bed, the wind instantly picked up from a light
8-10  knots  to  about  25.  Another  sleepless  night as we pitched and 
banged.
Next morning we found our mooring had drug about fifty feet and we were
right  on  top of a junk sailboat anchored in the bay. Luckily we didn't 
hit
anything.  As  many  times  as  I worried about our anchoring skills, we 
only
drug  once,  and  it  was on a free mooring. You get what you pay for, I 
guess.
To his credit, Emmanuel came out and apologized the next morning.
We filled our water tanks at the brand-new fuel dock nearby. They
told  us  it  was  new because a hurricane two years before had torn out 
nearly
every  dock  on  the  west side of all the islands. The hurricane wasn't 
even
visible  locally,  but  the  storm  surge  traveled  from  miles away to 
destroy
everything  on  many  of  the  beaches.  We  at  last understood why the 
cruising
guide  inaccurately  described  so  many  dinghy  docks,  and why we ate 
dinner so
often in wet pants!

>>From PM, we sailed around the North end of Carriacou (Carry-a-coo).
The  wind  had settled some, and was behind us now, so we had a nice run 
and
reach   to   Hillsborough,   where   we   cleared  in  through  customs. 
Hillsborough is
a  fairly  large town with plenty of anchoring room in the bay. But it's 
also
a  busy  port, and we had been advised not to overnight there. We pulled 
out
and sailed on down to Tyrrel Bay. 

Tyrell is another large, well-protected bay with lots of anchoring
room.  We  intended to take an island tour, but it was really hot ashore 
and
we  didn't  think  it  was  worth  it.  There are a number of businesses 
there,
but  it  is  more  laid-back  than most of the other islands (if you can 
imagine
that).  We  wanted  a  drink but couldn't find an attended bar. Some had 
their
doors  open,  but no one was there. After a few beers on the front steps 
of
the  "supermarket"  we  eventually ended up in the Sea Blast Bar, a tiny 
place
with  loud  music,  strong  drinks, cable TV, and Internet access ($5 EC 
for 15
minutes).

Rum Punch is the drink of choice in the islands, so we ordered several.
These  were  made  with  Jack Iron (also called Iron Jack) Rum, which is 
made in
the  islands.  I  think  someone  invented it thinking the Caribbean may 
become
a  world  power  and need ballistic missile fuel. When they found it was 
too
dangerous  for  propulsion  of explosives they decided to drink it. This 
is
powerful stuff. I know - my wife couldn't drink hers, so I had two. 
We met some British folks at the Sea Blast who sail the Windwards every
year.  We  all  sent  some email, had some drinks and laughs, and headed 
back
to our boats, which were anchored near each other. Shortly afterward, a
traditional wood three-masted schooner came in and anchored under sail.
This exhibition brought everyone in the harbor out on deck. 
We dined that night at Poivre et Sel (Salt & Pepper), a French
restaurant  next  door  to  the  Sea  Blast. This place only has about 8 
tables,
all  arranged  on  a  2nd-floor  veranda  overlooking  the  bay.  It's a 
beautiful
view, especially at night.

Tyrell Bay's dinghy dock was another casualty of the hurricane surge.
The surf in the afternoon was minimal and we had no trouble landing the
inflatable.  But  that  nigh