Saturday, April 14, 2012

Roundabout Way to the Final Country

When we asked, the Customs officer declared that the best place to clear out of the Grenadines was Union Island, which is in the middle of Mayreau and Carriacou Island, which is a part of Grenada, along with Petit Martinique.

April 12th, Thursday we let the mooring ball go, and motored out of Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau. As we had visited Clifton Harbour, Union Island in our previous trip, to get water from the Clifton Beach Hotel, we knew we could dock the boat close to the Customs office, which would save time. We set the route carefully, since the entrance of Clifton is a bit tricky, since it is located at the east of the island, entrance of which is surrounded by reefs. I remembered that the reefs were well marked, so did not get too scared; however when we went underway, we saw that the current and the strong wind were pushing us onto the reefs. We were pointing towards the east of Palm Island, which marked the eastern end of the channel. By the time we reached Palm Island, the current brought us to its west side, close to the point to turn west and into the channel to go around the reefs.

Instead of getting ready for docking, I was watching the markers as well as calling the Hotel on VHF several times, to alert them that we were coming to no avail. When I looked up, I saw an older islander in the tell-tale wooden boat, trying to sell us a mooring ball in the harbour. When I told him about our docking intention, he took us to the dock of the Bougainvilla Hotel instead, which was much lower and kind of make-shift. In the short distance in the bay, I had to tie the fenders (I have to practice more to learn the right way) in a jiffy and give the lines to the multiple men waiting on the dock to help. The wind was pushing us onto the dock, so getting there was easy. When the guys learned that we did not need water or other services, most of them left. Al took off for Customs, and I sat in the boat to keep watch. A little later he came back after clearing the boat out, and said that we had to leave immediately, since there was another boat waiting to dock to get water. So he started the engines, and we left the dock, but he was hesitant to leave Union Island, since he had not been able to get our passports stamped, since the immigration officer lady who had just arrived at 9:00 am did not have the keys to the office. She suggested that Al walk to the Airport to get it done. Al asked me if we should get a mooring ball and do it, and I refused. Since the boat is already cleared, I did not think that it was necessary to also clear immigration since on some islands they did not even care to stamp our passports.

We motored all the way to Carriacou in about an hour, and anchored in Hillsborough Bay around 10:30 am. The wind got stronger in the bay, probably because of timing, while the trades pick up speed until noon. It is a very rolly harbour, the whistle of the wind and the waves do not let up, even late at night. Tomorrow morning we will try the Tyrell Bay, located at the west of Carriacou.

In the afternoon we had visitors on the boat; our Norwegian friend Marten from Fajardo, Puerto Rico came with his family and a young friend, Eva. Apparently they did the same voyage like us, but stopped at the same islands at different times, and reached Hillsborough yesterday. I had seen the old style red ketch while we were anchoring, but it seemed small for some reason. So when they came over, we got so excited, just like seeing old friends. In this vast ocean of loneliness seeing familiar faces is so reassuring!

We learned that Marten encountered a problem with his gear-box in his engine; he can only go forward, but cannot maneuver the boat without his sails. Such a scary thought. He is obviously a very good sailor, he had been able to take his boat out of the shallow and reef infested Tobago Cays two days ago, and dropped anchor here. He told us that he had left the Grenadines without clearing his boat, but did not have any problem explaining his predicament to the Customs officer in Carriacou. I am glad that we did not waste time for the stamp in our passports.

The night was so rolly that the next morning we escaped to Tyrrel Bay, just around the corner but facing west. There was a world of difference between the two bays, so we left the boat as soon as anchoring, and went to shore seeking laundry facilities. The sail guide mentions two places, so we chose the Yacht Club because of its nice dinghy dock. Inside we learned that it was laundry service, the only drawback was the need to wait until late the next morning. Oh well, we could spend two nights here, life is quite laid back and tranquil, and the people are extremely friendly and warm. We did our produce shopping without any incidents this time, thank God.

Carriacou is only two hour away from the Grenadines, but it is a world apart when the people are concerned. I did not see any Rasta people around here. I hope they will stay away, since the attitude they project is not conducive for real life, where some working might be required.

Anyway, we left our laundry with a very nice islander lady called Tracy, who also served us lunch, which took about two hours. When we went downstairs to pay, Al started talking to the elderly gentleman sitting behind the counter, while an elderly lady taking Al’s money. They were short of change, so Al gave a donation to their charity for children. Since the money transaction took a long time, I came to my patience’s end, and started strolling in the nice shaded garden next to the marina with haul-out facilities and a lot of trash dumped around. When I came back, Al was talking and laughing with the gentleman, Trevor. When I kind of rushed him out of there, he told me that Trevor was a very interesting character. Apparently Trevor politely asked Al where we were from, and when he learned our Turkish origin, he got very excited. Trevor was a football (soccer) player in England in his youth, and was almost transferred to Fenerbahce team in Turkey, but it fell through. Al and Trevor had discussed the Turkish teams, and the fact that the Turkish President Gul had attended Hakan Sukur’s (famous football player in Turkey) wedding. When we returned to the place the next morning for pick up, Trevor asked where we were headed. As soon as Al mentioned Grenada Marine at St David’s, he relayed a message for its manager Jason (Fletcher). I think we are covered; Jason has to be nice to us!

Later in the day we saw the teachers and students of the sailing school for juniors, first getting the lesson, and then the practice, in their wooden optimist sail boats which look like toys. It was a calm day today, so they progressed slowly around us. What a nice sight.

Tomorrow early in the morning we will be undertaking our last passage this year. We decided to pass on the windward side of Grenada, since we want to stop at the marina, which is at the eastern end of the south coast. We want to make the arrangements for the haul out and work, then we might go to other places for exploration.

I am inclined to return to Canada as soon as possible, since I missed my children and friends, and have some business to deal with.

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