Friday, January 30, 2015

The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary - Bequia

January 27th, 2015
We set off around 9am to walk to the other side of Bequia to The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.  Fellow cruisers Bruce and Gina joined us.  It's 3.8 kilometer each way with some hills.  EACH WAY!

We were 2/3 of the way there when Bruce spotted an old guy throwing a casting net in the bay below.  We detoured off the road, down through the hillside to watch.  The old guy chatted a few mins with us as he prepared for his next throw.  He worked his way out into the water and then just waited and watched.  After 4 mins or so, he tossed the net.  He ended up getting a pretty good haul of small little fish.  Bruce was very excited and helped him dump them into an already full bin of fish. Then the old guy said "Ok.  That is enough.  I have to go.  I go to my sanctuary now.  I am the turtle guy."  Wow!  We told him that we were coming to see him.  He explained that the fish he caught today would feed the turtles for two days.  He fishes each morning like this.

Wait.... you're saying "Turtles eat fish?"  I know.  We said the same thing.  Brother King explained that this species does - Hawksbill.  Who knew....but then that is one of the reasons we are out exploring -to learning.

When we arrived at the sanctuary, Brother King was busy filling the various tanks.  Each morning they drain and then refill the tanks.  We visited with him as he worked, learning more.  He is a bit of a cantankerous old guy but his heart is in the right place.  

He basically takes the newly hatched turtles and raises them until they are 5-7 years old and then releases them back into the ocean.  The chances of a baby turtle making it are very low.  This gives them a fighting chance.  It is Brother King's passion and lifes work for many years.  It's just want he does.  The small fee we each paid to enter the turtle sanctuary helps a little.  

If you want to read more, you can The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary.

Bequia Music Fest 2015

Sorry we have been missing in action on the blog.  We have been on the lovely island of Bequia at the annual Bequia Music Fest.  Look for a blog posting on Tom's Music Corner tab soon.  Four days and late nights of music, plus catching up with old cruising friends,and making new cruising friends.....whew!  But we are fully recovered with new adventures to share so stay tuned for new blog postings coming soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fishing report

Handline trolling behind s/v Honey Ryder

January 18, 2015
Prior to cruising, we have not been fishing people.  Tom did some as a kid but other than that, we know very little about fishing.  We did a little last year which mainly consisted of dragging (trolling) a line out the back of s/v Honey Ryder for three days on our passage down to the Caribbean.  While other boats in the rally reported each morning with excitement the fish they had caught, we had nothing to report.  Argh!  

We are determined to change that this season and become fishing people.   Correction - fish catching people.  We bought a book to assist us - "Cruisers Handbook of Fishing" which we have both read several times.  Tom has talked to many cruisers about gear and techniques.  He purchased lures, hooks, sinkers, etc....and in one case found a rod....while in scuba class.  It had not been on the bottom long so he cleaned it up and now it works just fine.  He has also made two hand lines for trolling.

Results to date -
Trinidad to Grenada -      Honey Ryder = 0  fish =1
Grenada to Carriacou -   Honey Ryder = 0  fish = 1
Carriacou to Union -      Honey Ryder = 0  Fish = 3  we had 2 lines out AND the rod
Union Island -                 Honey Ryder = 1  Fish = 0  we bought a tuna so it really doesn't count

Tom has also started visiting with the locals about fishing.  Who better to know than the local fisherman, right?  He even showed Sweet Deal (the guy we bought a tuna from) his hand line for trolling behind Honey Ryder.  Sweet Deal nodded in approval but immediately said "Get rid of da wire.  De fish da see it."  Ah.....clever fish.  

We have not tried fishing since Union Island because of the Tobago Cays Marine Park so no fishing.  This also includes Mayreau.  But look out fishes.  We are coming for you.  We are headed to Bequia soon and we will be fishing the whole way.  
Can you see it?

Update - 
Tobago Cays to Bequia -    Honey Ryder = -3  fish = 3 
We lost one off the rod plus the hook and then caught not one but two barracuda.  Yes, I know they can be good eats but only the smaller ones since the larger ones can carry ciguatera (toxins).  Since we are new to fishing, we don't really know what is small and big, so we didn't keep either.  Plus we really didn't want to mess with a barracuda (mean fish with teeth) as our first "landed, gutted, prepped and eaten fish".  The important thing here is that we Tom caught two fish.
Fish on

Grenadines and Island Proximity

I posted some very basic information previously in The Grenadines giving island size and distance to St Vincent.  I thought you might like to see the distances.  Sorry the pics aren't the best.  It was a bit hazy that day.  These were all taken from our anchorage between the islands in the Tobago Cays.

The above is looking north towards Canouan.

This view is looking west toward Mayreau.

Here we have Union Island to the south, southwest.

And finally, Palm Island in the foreground and Petit St Vincent and Petite Martinique in the background to the south, southeast.

Tobago Cays

This is basically a group of small, uninhabited islands and a reef.  We anchored between two of the small islands.  We dinghied out to the reef area.  There were probably 30 boats on mooring balls just behind the reef, however not as protected as our anchorage.  We stayed two days.
Not all charterboat cats - lovely Carriacou sloop
The current is strong, especially on the reef.  We tried snorkeling but it was too strong.  We ended up snorkeling off the boat.  We saw a handful of rays, two spotted eagle rays and a couple of turtles.
Another Carriacou built wooden boat
We also explored the beaches on one of the islands.
HQ for boat boys beach BBQ
Many boat boys trying to get people to come ashore for their lobster beach parties each night.  Too expensive for us but perfect for the numerous charterboats that flow through here on holiday.
Boat boys waiting for the next charterboat to come through

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Tom on the NE windward side of Mayreau
This small island in the Grenadines has two main anchorages.  The guidebooks say Salt Whistle Bay is the stuff of postcards.  Saline Bay is bigger and perhaps a tad better anchorage.  We did a drive by of both upon arrival - they are close to each other.  We opted for Saline Bay.  Salt Whistle Bay is small and chuck full of charter cats on mooring balls.  So much so that you can practically walk from cat to cat.
Island power plant -four huge generators
We did however walked up and over the hill from our anchorage in Saline Bay to check Salt Whistle Bay out.  And I do mean up and over a very, very steep hill - huff puff.   But first we stopped for lunch in the village at the top of the hill.  Lobster sandwich for me and a club sandwich for Tom. YUM!
THE road and the one passing area
There is basically one main road on Mayreau.  Did you get that?  ONE!  It is a pour concrete one lane road with one small passing area.  The handful of cars, trucks, and micro vans honk when climbing the hill so anyone coming from the other direction will know they are coming.  And I do mean handful of vehicles.  There are not many - maybe 20 max + 3 scooters.  Most people walk.  We sat and visited a bit with some locals.  Mirabella runs Uncle B's waterside restaurant and limin stop.  Uncle B is the Mayreau guy for all the cruise ships that stop here.  He is the liaison that coordinates the ship beach parties and the locals selling goods.  Mirabella says she walks up and down the hill from the village to the beach shack 6 times a day.  At the very least twice a day as do all the locals working on the beach.  We stayed two nights in Saline Bay.  There were three small cruise ships in during those two days but they were off the beaches and back on the ships by 17:00.  One left almost immediately after we arrived.  The first night there were 10 sailboats and the second 5.
What is it?
Any guesses on what the above picture is?  Anyone?  Anyone?  It is one of two cisterns on the island.  The rain hits the sloped area that is covered in ancient stone and mortar and then flows down into the corner where it flows via gravity and piping into the square storage cistern.  Pretty clever.
Windward Mayreau beach all to ourselves - Tobago Cays in the distance 

Many people skip Mayreau as they rush around the corner to the Tabago Cays.  Sad as we found it lovely.

Union Island Radio

Tiny airport on Union Island
There is a guy that comes on the VHF radio each morning at 7:45 am for a short informational net of his own.  He starts with the weather.  He gives the temps in various cold places around the world...."In Moscow it's -5F.  In Chicago it's -7F." etc, and then finally in contrast..... "The local weather in sunny Clifton, Union Island is 23C or 73F."  Then he gives the forecasted weather.  He reports the schedule for the various ferries that day, if the bank is open and what the hours of operation are and most importantly whether the ATM is working, with an added "good luck with that" just in case it quits working.  He announces meal specials at a few local spots adding humor as he goes "Rumor has it Seckies is out of Vanessa's famous goat curry for the moment."  It's a delightful net.  If you are ever at Union Island, be sure to listen.
3 big piles of lambi shells

Squally Day

Windy reef
Tues Jan 13th, 2015
It blew like crazy last night.  Probably the highest winds we have had yet here in Clifton on Union Island.  Our anchor has held well through all the windy days but we had to wonder about the forces tugging on it last night.  Tom opted to sleep in the salon/saloon just in case he need to get up quickly, but we did fine.  However, when morning came with another round of squalls, things weren't so fine. Three boats ended up dragging anchor.  One American boat near us got tangle up in the long bowsprit of an old schooner.  The same schooner we were originally anchored in front of.  It took a boat boy to get them off the schooner bowsprit and after 20 mins of struggling, they finally got re-anchored.  Action was taken in time with the other boats so nothing serious happened.  The old schooner's bowsprit is a beefy one and sustained no damage.  The bimini frame on the American boat took the brunt of the encounter and ended up pretty mangled.  The odd thing was that no one drug during the night when the winds were our knowledge.
Windy anchorage
Anyway, we decided to pull up anchor and head to the leeward side of the island.  We were nearly ready to go when some fishermen (Sweet Deal)came by with fish for us.  Payment from boat boy Buddha for recovering his lost mooring line from the sea floor the day before.....or so we thought.  It turned out it was payment from him in the form of a discounted fish to buy, not free.  But we didn't discover this until after the transaction.  Oh well.  Lesson learned and we got a fabulous, fresh tuna!  We cut it up further, bagging most for the grill later, while enjoying sashimi for lunch.
Sweet Deal cleaning and cutting up the tuna

Now what?

Steaks bagged for grilling later, stew pieces and sashimi lunch
We finally pulled up anchor around 13:30.  I motored very slowly out of the anchorage thus letting a squall pass just ahead of us.  Then with the headsail partially out, we were broad reaching along nicely.  On the south side of the island we jibed in order to sail around to the leeward side of the island.  We were nearly there when another squall rolled through, this one catching us.  Gusty wind and rain accompanied us into Chatham Bay around 14:40.  Then it moved on, leaving only a light drizzle for us to anchor in.  Both s/v Honey Ryder and us got a needed wash down and then it was over. Dinner was of course grilled tuna.  Yum!

Kite Surfing School On Union Island

Kite surfering show - neighbor on the bow of his boat watching

Tom =" It doesn't look all that hard.  I mean they make it look easy."
Sabrina = "Yes, exactly.....they make it look easy."
Tom = "These people learned.  Doesn't that mean others  I could too?" 
Sabrina = "Yes.  Did you notice that nearly all of them are quite a bit younger than us?  Quite a bit!"
Tom = "Yes, but there is one guy that looks older, like our age."
Sabrina = "Tasha of the blog Turf to Surf is much younger, super athletic and still ended up in the hospital in the DR when she went to kite surfing school there.  According to her, It is NOT easy." 
Tom = "Okay, but don't you think it's pretty Kewl?"
Sabrina = "Yes it is and you would probably be pretty good at it."
Sabrina = Inside my head "Rut-Row!"
Kites on the beach during a break in the action
This was the on and off conversation as we sat anchored behind Newlands Reef on Union Island.  The bow of our boat the perfect front row seat to all the kite surfers zooming by.  It was a spectacular show that ran everyday from 7am to dark, often times with up to 10 kite surfers performing for us.  A guy on a boat near by had a cast on one foot and sat on his bow each day taking the show in.  *Do you think the cast on the foot is a coincidence?  I think not!

Union Island boasts one of the few kite surfing schools in the Caribbean.  The reef is the perfect setting and brings eager students and seasoned kite surfers from around the world.  
Kite Suring beach shack
Finally we Tom stopped by the office in Clifton to inquire.  The owner was very honest with Tom.  Lessons are one on one, $250 for three hours and that includes rental of the kite surfing gear.  Most students require 3-4 lessons to get it. The people we have been watching aren't beginners.  Those he takes around the corner to Frigate Island to learn where it's more protected.  The people we are watching have graduated and are practicing along with the seasoned kite surfers.  They really do make it look easy.  After learning there is also the matter of your own gear.  Tom decided he would stick to his newly acquired scuba skills and continue down that path for now.  

We did visit the kite school beach shack where they hang out and launch.  Very Kewl setting.  Who wouldn't want to be a part of that!  We observed several sun bleached- bronzed skin- tattooed up- 20 somethings all there to kite surf with a few groupies thrown in for good measure. Similar crowd to many surfing hot spots we have visited in the previous decade or so.  There were four towheaded guys with Dutch accents.  I overheard one tell someone they went to Brazil in Sept 2014 to kite surf seriously and since have been roaming around surfing various locales, and pushing each other to the next level.  One of his mates busted out a very nice camera, big lens and tripod to photograph his buddies.  Cha-Ching.  Many things about this sport/hobby scream money.  However, the flip side is two local hotshots that showed up out on the reef every afternoon late - possibly after work, and just rip it up.  Nice to see both.  I guess it's similar to sailing, many jump to the assumption that it is expensive and takes gobs of money. can be.  However, a simple little boat on a simple body of water doesn't cost all that much.  It just depends and so I guess the same goes for kite surfing.  

So if you want to learn to kite surf while on holiday, Clifton on Union Island might be a good spot.  

Union Island Boat Boys

Boat Boy Romeo in Tobago Cays
We have found these guys to be curtious and polite.  First of all, we were not bombarded.  Only one guy approached us initially.  When we declined a mooring ball, he simply moved on.  When he saw us a little while later still trying to anchor, he came back around and checked with us again but not overly pushy.  Subsequent guys approached us to see if we needed/wanted various services.  Once we declined, they just moved on, no worries.  This was true of the fish guy, the trash guy and the BBQ to your boat guy.  Yes, you heard right....BBQ delivered to your boat.  Well of course Tom had to get the details on that offer!  For $120 EC Clem (boat named Fair Deal) will bring 2 BBQ dinners to your boat.  We found that a bit high priced for us.  However we engaged him more to find out what was happening locally and he gave the inside on local BBQ ashore for $20 EC each.  Thanks Clem.

All the boat boys we have observed here have colorful, big Carriacou built boats with nice sized outboards and plenty of fenders to avoid scuffing visiting boats when they tie up alongside.  Boat boys in other locations don't have as plentiful of fenders (like Grenada and Carriacou) and should perhaps up their fenderage.  Additionally, they all appear to be vey competent boat operators and most can maneuver a boat like a graceful dance!
Tiny village of Clifton
Some cruisers get so upset over boat boys.  There are anchorages that have reports of very aggressive boat boys that use questionable tactics but we have not found that to date.  We don't begrudge these guys at all.  It is their country/island and they are trying to make a simple living in a place where the opportunities are somewhat limited.  A walk ashore in Union island substantiated that.  In visiting with some locals, we learned that more Unionites live abroad than on the island.  I guess it's no different than a tiny town in rural anywhere.  The young kids leave for opportunities in bigger towns.  Education is another factor.  Any secondary education means taking the ferry each morning to St Vincent.  Post secondary means St Vincent or Grenada or further afield.  

Update - We moved over to Chatham Bay on the leeward side of Union Island.  A lovely, protected bay that doesn't get much traffic do to lack of services ashore.  Fine by us.  We entered on the tail of a squall.  Only one boat boy approached us.  He suggested we anchor closer along the north edge "less wind". We opted for the spot we were already headed for.  After we got our anchor set he approached again.  We said hello and engaged him to get the lowdown on the place.  Bushman wanted us to come to his restaurant on the beach for dinner.  Too expensive for us.  Tom inquired about lunch but we made no promises.  We told him we had big tuna to eat.  Yay!!!  He said he would check in with us in the morning for ice, trash and bread.  Tom inquired on the bread and made a deal to buy a loaf of whole wheat.  Later a second boat boy came along.  He was very laid back.  He knew Bushman had been by.  He said "I just want to let you know what I have offer."  Secky had similar items ashore plus a taxi for taking people to customs in Clifton and fresh fruits and veggies available.  We told him we stocked up in Clifton, purchasing from Jenny -" Oh, ok.  You bought from Jenny.  No problem, man."  It seems to help to mention other locals by name.  We never did get our wheat bread "It finished this morning.  No bread when I pass by." meaning the bakery was out of bread.  

Additional Update - We have found the same with the boat boys on Mayreau, Tobago Cays and Bequia.  Once we told them we didn't need anything, they left us alone and simply waved when they went by.  
Again, local people trying to make a living and we respect them for it. 

Carriacou to Union Island

Front row behind the reef
January 8th, 2015
20.4 nautical miles was our total trip.  Union is to windward of what does that mean dear readers?  Think hard.  You know this by now.....wind on the nose!  However, this passage we had time to sail (despite a later than planned departure - see Dirty Laundry) so we pointed the bow northwest, set the reefed sails for a close haul and took off at 6+ knots.  We sailed until we were nearly even with the top (north) of Union Island.  Then we tacked back to the southeast, towards the windward side of Carriacou.  When we were about even with Frigate Island (just south of Union) we were contemplating a tack so we could furl the main and start motoring directly into the wind and towards our anchorage at Clifton, however the helm didn't want to respond.  Hum?  Very odd.  I had a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind but didn't say anything.  We regained control and I turned on the engine.  Because of my suspicion, I was very careful and immediately shut the engine back down as a huge, terrible noise came from under the boat.  Not good!  A broken up fishing float, two actually shot out behind sv Honey Ryder.  Oh shit!  We had sailed over a  couple of big fishing floats.  Not good!  Not good at all!  I was concerned that despite immediately shutting the engine back down we still may have wrapped some of the line around the prop and shaft.  Don't forget we only have 1/2 of a line cutter on the prop.  The other 1/2 is missing and we have yet to replace it.  *Getting the correct one has turned out to be a bit tougher than we thought.  Luckily, we were in open water and not near any of the numerous reefs in the area. Tom said "turn the engine on and see what happens."  I did and then carefully I put it into gear with my hand ready to take it back to neutral if needed.  It sounded ok and we slowly moved forward.  Whew!  I guess 1/2 of a line cutter saved us this time.  **Note to self, locate and get the line cutter ordered!!!
Close neighbor in windy conditions - big fun
We motored into the Clifton, Union Island anchorage and started our search for an anchoring spot.  We declined the boat boys moorings as we couldn't be certain of how the moorings are secured to the sea floor.  It's better to be on our own anchor.  We tried 3 different spots before settling in on anchor directly in front of an old 2 mast schooner.  I mean Right in front of it!  40 feet in front!  AND, this schooner has a 15 ft wooden bowsprit.  Yes, it seems we have become the people who anchor too close.  Crap!  I don't want to be those people.  Ugh!  But we were holding so we launched the dinghy and Tom went to check us in with immigration and customs.  I stayed aboard and on anchor watch.  I finally decided that we weren't moving and shut off the engine but left the key in the ignition just in case I needed to fire her up quickly.  Tom returned, we lowered our yellow quarantine flag and hoisted the St Vincent Grenadines flag.  We limed for a bit in the cockpit and watched as more boats came and went.  It was windy.  Then Tom dove on the anchor and found we were not set at all.  We raised the anchor and moved over to where a charter boat had just left.  Tom dove the anchor and we got a good set but we ended up 30 ft in front of a small sailboat.  Crap, crap, crap....we really are becoming the people who anchor too close.  Ugh!  But we were holding and the little sailboat seems to be used only during the day by a guy that is kite surfing the reef.  That does not excuse us anchoring too close but he wasn't there on his deck in his speedo to dissuade us - see Anchoring Stare.  Never the less, when the wind picked up around 9pm, I started anchor watch.  We held through the night so I guess we"ll stay put.
Tight anchorage
Update - We stayed 5 nights in Clifton during which many boats came and went and the wind blew and blew and blew.  We continued to hold fast.  A follow up anchor check showed our anchor continued to dig in more and more.  The anchorage was such that anchoring was tight at times.  We ended up with a catamaran 20 feet in front of us - ok 30 but it looked like 20 and another boat near our starboard bow.  It was good practice for us to experience these tight conditions but a little more space is our preference and generally what we have.  

The Grenadines

Grenadines (St Vincent)
St Vincent - 133sq miles 18 mi long x 11mi wide population est 97,638
Bequia - 7 sq miles, population est 4,861, 9 miles from SV
    pronounced Beckway
Mustique (Moustique) - 2sq miles, population est 552 private island, 17 miles from SV
Canouan - 3.2 sq miles, population est.1,165, 29 miles from SV
     pronounced Canawon
Mayreau - 1 sq miles population est 254, 35 miles from SV
     pronounced Mayroo or Myroo -both are used by locals
Tobago Cays - scattering of 5 atolls, no population 
Union - 3 sq miles, population est 1,935 including Palm and PSV, 36 miles from SV
Palm - resort island, see Union
Petit St Vincent (PSV) - private island, see Union
Grenadines (Grenada) included but not included in The Grenadines depending on who you talk to
Petite Martinique 
     pronounced Carriacoo

The Grenadines are basically a mini-archipelago made up of volcanic islands, coral reefs and sandy patches.  Despite the smallness of islands and difficulty in getting here via conventional travel, it is a very popular cruising destination for charter boats, full time cruisers, kite surfers, divers and snorkelers.  The rich and famous also jet in on private planes to uber posh boutique resorts - Mustique and such.
One of many, many reefs

On a personal level, anchoring behind a reef is somewhat new to us since we skipped the Bahamas on the way down.  We have done it a few times but not that much.  It's still astonishing that we can find shelter behind a tiny little reef that may or may not stick up a foot or two above the water.  Seriously? There are so many, many reefs here, it's amazing.  To me, it's weird to nose right up tight to the edge of a reef and drop the anchor.  While the sound of the surf tumbling on the reefs during the day is soothing - given the picture perfect- postcard setting, at night it's a tad....exciting to hear that same surf very near by in the dark.  
Yachts anchored behind a reef
Reefs, reefs and more reefs.  Rocks awash as well.  
Water and fuel are limited and expensive - we have big tanks and a watermaker so this is not an issue
Limited repair services - we are good for now....fingers crossed
Provisioning is limited to small shops and an occasional fruit and veg vendor - they charge more
Restaurants charge more
Boat boys
Limited connectivity - cell and wifi - what's new

Turquoise waters
Sandy beaches
Stunning sunrises and sunsets
Snorkeling and scuba diving
Post card perfect settings
Nice boat boys 
Endless boat and people watching possibilities 
Friendly locals
Turtles, dolphins, whales, fish