Thursday, July 31, 2008

Walter – the face of the Tobago Cays! Walter is the senior statesman among the boat vendors in the Tobago Cays. He was there in ’96, when we first visited and he’s still there – still smilin’!

All on our own in the Tobago Cays. Behind the reef on the North side of Baradal Island, Canouan in the background. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Lunch on the trampoline. A bit of shade, a bit of breeze (well sometimes more than a “bit” – often 15 – 20 knots), a cool drink. Gathering strength for the afternoon snorkeling expedition.

This is not Thrifty’s! Market square in Clifton on Union Island. Stopped here a couple of times during the 3 weeks were were in the Cays, so Cathy could try to find some fruit and veggies. Pretty sketchy and expensive.

Of course the scenery on the "drive" to the market is pretty nice!

Bequia Pictures

Leaving the Pitons of St. Lucia, headed for Bequia.

Rum cake to keep you going through the squalls!

Dinner soon come, Mon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bequia “sidewalk”. When the swell is breaking, you do get a bit wet as you walk along the promenade. The larger waves are known as “tourst busters”!

Roti at the Green Boli – They even put together a veggie one for Cathy without onion or garlic!

Port Elizabeth harbour, Bequia.

Bequia whaling museum. Harold, nephew of Athneal Ollivierre, most famous of the Bequia whalers (whom we met when we were here 12 years ago), led whale hunts for 40 years. Bequia, by agreement with the International Whaling Commission, still takes 1-2 humpback whales per year – in the traditional way with sail/row boats and hand thrown harpoons. The catch is shared amongst the community.

This blog powered by Heineken!

Lost in the Cays

Its been a while since our last blog update from St. Lucia. We’ve been away from any reasonable web access. Though we have managed a few emails via our satellite phone, it doesn’t work for the internet. So here we now are in Grenada, having spent the past month in Bequia and the Tobago Cays. And it’s been fabulous!

Bequia is a laid back, friendly island that reminds me of a Caribbean version of Saltspring about 40 years ago. We met up with our friends Lynn and Randy from “High States” and also Jen and Jay from “Rum Runner” and did a 3 hour tour of the island with them. We did a couple of great scuba dives out along the southern shore of Port Elizabeth. The second dive, a site called “the boulders”, was spectacular with lots of caverns and tunnels. The corals and fish are so much healthier and prolific than what we have seen in the Virgin Islands in the past few years. It gives one hope!

After 10 days in Bequia, we did a nice day sail down to the Tobago Cays. We dropped anchor in behind the reef, North of Baradal Island – and for a day or two had it all to ourselves. The water is soooo clear. And the holding is excellent in sand. The ‘cays’ are an area of shallow water over fine, white sand, and a few small islands scattered behind a horseshoe coral reef about 3 miles long (all imperial measures here). The reef breaks up the swells and pokes up through the water in places. The water is mostly calm while the wind is a constant cooling force at around 15 knots – a heavenly reprieve if you have been sheltered from it for a while. With temperatures of 27 degrees by breakfast and 34 and higher later on, the wind and the water, at 83 degrees are essential coolers. We spent the next 3 weeks snorkeling, exploring and hiking up some of the cays and just hangin’ out. Went over to the islands of Mayreau and Union, for a few provisions (very few – there is not much to buy here!) and a change of scene. There are many other reefs around and we were tempted by the World’s End reef a few miles beyond the Cays to the east, and made a dinghy trip – a bit rough but it was hot and the spray was welcome. And we found that the reefs were quite barren and seriously beaten up, with the taller corals toppled but still recognisable and smaller ones, just rubble - very little living coral and at least at that time of day, few fish. This, and other outer reefs took the worst of a hurricane that blew through here 3 years ago, and helped to protect the Tobago Cays, where, though there is considerable coral damage, there is much live coral as well and the fish are prolific.

Snorkeling in the Tobago Cays is endlessly fascinating. We swam with turtles, often 5-6 at a time of all sizes. There were thousands and thousands of fish hovering over the reef - swaying back and forth with the motion of the water. We saw so many cool species and spent hours watching the interactions between the various players. Along the shallow inside of the reef, in a million holes and canyons there are masses of brightly coloured fish. Our fabulous ‘Reef Fish” guide has been well used. There is a cut in the reef that you can just manage to dinghy through to access the outer reef which drops off to 50 – 60 feet. Here are more of the larger fish, along with the smaller ones too. The large sandy stretches provide their own critters – sting rays are common with the occasional eagle ray and nurse shark cruising through, razor fish pearly, goatfish of several species, yellowtail snappers, snake eels, and our favorites here, the flying gurnards.

The cliff areas of the little islands are nesting sites for several species of coastal birds. We enjoyed the antics of the laughing gulls, brown noddies and brown boobies – their many voices, territorial spats and acrobatic flying as they attempted to pirate each other’s just caught fish.

We visited Chatham Bay on the west side of Union for several days as a series of squalls moved through the Cays, and met Bruce, Laura and the boys on Amaryllis. Cathy, Bruce and Laura walked around the island, while Derek was a bit under the weather due to lack of electrolytes or a virus or something (took about a week until he really felt better). Turns out it’s a bit of a wind tunnel, so we would probably have done just as well back out at the Cays, which is where we went for several more fabulous days. Multiple times a day one would happen to glance up and always be completely awed by the beauty of the pale turquoise green water and the surroundings.

Finally it was time to check out and keep movin’ South. We did an overnight stop in Petit Martinique; meandered through the lovely, perhaps better off, town than we have seen for a while, and stocked up on wine and beer, and then cleared into the country of Grenada at the port of Hillsborough on Carriacou Island. Much nicer than we remembered from 12 years ago. Quite a bustling place. Enjoyed lunch on the veranda of a tiny seaside cafe with the Amaryllis crew, and even found pears and grapes in the store - fruit unseen for months! Sandy Island, just off Hillsborough, looks like its been pretty much destroyed by hurricanes – trees and sand have all but disappeared, leaving just some coral rubble. Very sad, it was an exquisite and special spot.

After 3 days in Tyrell Bay (one more than planned due to weather), we popped the chute and had a wonderful 35 mile sail (winds mostly 10-15 knots which gave us about 7-9 knots of boat speed as we lay on the trampoline and sailed with the autopilot remote control!) down the South coast of Grenada to Prickly Bay where we are now. We’ll try to get our still struggling starboard engine sorted out. And turns out that our SSB radio is not transmitting, so hopefully we can get that fixed too. And a bunch of other stuff….

Until next time,

Derek and Cathy

s/v Idyll Island