Thursday, April 17, 2014


Everybody laughs when we say that we live in Grenada, but it feels like home as soon as we enter its waters. We even got used to their way of speaking, and understand close to 70% if we listen carefully.

Since we were going to Tyrrell Bay, Carriacou (they pronounce it as Caricoo), going around Union Island on its lee was logical (instead of cutting through the west side against the mighty current and under wind). Most of the way we had to motor, but it was a very pleasent and windless day, so we entertained ourselves by looking at the resorts peppering the lee side of Union. There are amazing bays, but some are so isolated, they look scary, especially after the incident when one couple was killed on their a solitary boat anchored at the bay next to the village of Union. When one incident is publicized, whole island becomes out of bounds for most. Pity but true, why take a chance?

After staying one night at Tyrrell Bay, we headed to St George's, Grenada. Winds were fine, and we made good time until we reached the northern edge of the island (Sauter area) , we had to fire up the engines, since the winds in the lee of Grenada are erratic, changing direction at times, or dying down completely.

I suggested staying the night at Moliniere Point, where we know that two mooring balls are available. Since it is a marine protected area, anchoring is not allowed, and if the two overnight balls are not available, the daytime balls (red in colour) can be used; however during the day the commercial tourist boats have precedence.

Anyway, when we approached the Moliniere, we saw that the area around the point where several red balls are located, (the diving mecca of Grenada), was loosely sorrounded by some information bouoys. After we turned around the point to get to the over-night balls, we detected 8-10 new balls placed instead of the two, very sturdy looking and clean. Wow, after the ones we had used with a lot of trepidation, these balls welcomed us home. The ranger came around, very official looking young islander with a big smile, and charged us 27 EC (US$10). I was glad to give it, since it is such an important service, giving us the peace of mind to sleep well at night! I was sorry that there were not more people moored there. I remember people racing towards the balls in more crowded times, but nowadays the island is quiet. In about a month or so, people who leave their boats in the safe harbours of Grenada for the hurricane season will start coming back.

Next morning, we headed to St George's lagoon to fill our water tanks at the Yacht club. It was so nice to see our friend Kiran, who welcomed us and chatted with Al.
It is uncanny, how even the people on the streets recognized us, let alone the vendors of the grocery stores that we fequent. We saw some clean-up and face-lifting on te downtown area. It appears that the new government, which was elected last spring right before we left, started to spend some money. When we asked Richard (our taxi driver and friend) before we left this season, he had complained that the government was bringing new legislation about a personal tax, the first time in Grenada history.

We were surprised that it took them so long to think about it. Richard did not vote for them, so he was not happy. I guess it is inevitable to collect some taxes to perform the services required. Last year, we had been forced to listen to one politician during his day-long speech blurted to the whole neighbourhood by powerful loudspeakers. He mostly talked in slogans, one he repeated periodically "JOBS,JOBS,JOBS!" Well, jobs mean money, wherever it comes from.

Grenada is an enigma. We see cargo ships coming into the harbour every day, occationally three-four at a time, and leaving with the empty containers (visible by the displacement of the ship hulls)! So, always buying and selling what in return? All I see are the spices, rum and some cocao; not much of any enterprise or tourism. I have to inquire about the source of the stream that turnss the mills when we come back the next season.


After more than a week, the winds subsided and we set sail for Canuan. It is quite near to Bequia, so we reached it before lunch and anchored close to Tamarind Bay Hotel, the famous five star luxury resort.

Canouan is a small and flat island, but shaped really different from all the others; like a crab with flailing tail.  It has a big bay on its leeward side, and small bays and reefs on the windward. North half of it is owned by somebody (?) And closed off, southern half is inhabited by islanders, who appear to be working on the several resorts along the Tamarind. It is a sleepy but pleasent tourist village, and despite being an attraction for many a chartered sailboat, the only dinghy dock (is it not essential?) Is provided at the Tamarind. The ferry dock is very high and cumbersome.

On the other hand, we saw enterprising people in pirouges, coming over to sell all kinds of goods, from fruits and bread to water and diesel. Two teenagers, who were helping with the mooring balls, approached us to be of some kind of service, and we gave them our garbage for 5 EC. Having read Doyle, I asked them what they were going to do with the garbage, and one of the guys laughed and assured me that he was going to take it to garbage bin at the dock. Then we remembered that  we did not have any bread, and asked them to bring a pack, and they agreed. Al gave them 20 EC up front (again Doyle cautions against it), and he promised to come back later in the afternoon.  We saw them going around for a while, then they vanished. At around 3:00 pm, I saw his  boat approaching while I was swimming, and he shouted that fresh bread was coming out at 5:00, "you understand?" What's there not to understand, we can wait.

I had a sinking feeling when 5:00 pm come and went. Were we taken for a fool? But no, I was so very happy to see that he came right before it got dark, and delivered two packs of bread instead of the one we asked. I am glad that the people realize the negative publicity hurts them in the long run!

Next morning was clearing out day, and I wanted to have breakfast at the Tamarind before going to the customs office at 8:00 am. We enjoy having breakfast at the resorts, the coffee, bread and the ambiance are always good an the prices nominally can never break the bank, whatever they are comperatively. As opposed to a dinner for example.

I remeber having dinner at the Tamarind, the very first time we had been to Canouan aboard our first chartered boat with our friends. The Skipper then, Deniz invited us on account of his son's (Mehmet) birthday. It was the third week of February, and the dining room was deserted that night save the seven of us. Since they have a dress code (for guys), the males wore long pants and shirts. It was a nice dinner, but I had wondered if it was worth the expense for Deniz.

When we settled at the same dining area around 7:00 am, there were several servers and only us. During the hour that we spent there, enjoying the food that we love best (coffee/bread), only another couple strolled in. How do the owners, whoever they are, afford to keep these resorts is a mystery to me. I guess we always see them at their low times.

Al and I reminisced about the old times, chatted with the nice maitre d'hotel and got directions for the government office, only ten minutes away on foot from the resort.
We reached the office complex exactly at 8:00 am but saw that it was still locked. While looking around, a young sailor walked in and started to wait alongside Al. I left the two chatting, and took a stroll on the main road. There were some stores and bars that were getting slowly ready to open up. Going all the way up and back did not take more than fifteen minutes. On my way back, I entered a small grocery store (a large vegetable stall really) to check the prices. A little more than Bequia, but understandable. However, the atmosphere was unbearable; some guy was smoking weed at that ungodly hour! St Vincent is the worst among all the islands when it comes to drugs. The wretched people everywhere, just smoke or drink. Is it a conspiracy or what?

When I got back, I saw Al in deep conversation with the sailor; a baby faced young French guy, laughing and talking in broken English. Apparently he was the hired skipper on a chartered boat, and he was taking his charges back to St Anne.
A young islander lady glided in and unlocked the door for immigration room, and settled in her desk. That did not help us, since we had to release the boats from customs. I thought the customs person must be a guy, being so late to show up for work on a Monday. True to my word, he (a giant of a young guy) came along, an let Al and I in to his room. When we showed him our papers, he gave us a form to be filled. The sailor, on the other hand, had his forms ready, so he got precedence with his eight people to be cleared at immigration. When Al gets impatient, I have to remind him that we have no plane to catch yet. The trip from Canouan to Tyrrell Bay, Grenada would take four hours at most (with the light winds that we had that day).

When the customs lady looked at our passports, she could not undestand why we had an entrance stamp on November, 2013 but no exit (which should have been the two days after). We had to explain that we could not see an immigration officer in Wallillabou, St Vincent on our way to Martinique, which was the reason for Ruyam II being cleared out, but not us. She got the telephone and started talking with somebody. We gathered that she had contacted the immigration officer in Bequia, who had cleared us in. She spoke with that undecipherable jargon wich passes as English among themselves. The only thing we understood was her last response "glasses". I gathered that the other lady remembered us (since she had to manually change the printed boat papers after the customs guy unsuccessfully tried to use the computerized clear in)  and verified our story. I am not sure if she had realized that we never had an exit stamp from St Vincent on our current passports, having had the same difficulty the first year around in Union Island. Why do not they learn from Dominica, and reduce the red tape by giving entrance and exit at the same time is beyond me. Do they really have a wisdom?

All in all, Canouan as a customs clearence destination is excellent! I recommend it to everybody.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Early in the Monday morning, we got the help of an islander to release our shore line, and hoisted the sails. Al was a bit apprehensive about the forecast, which told about 15-20 knots of winds, since the frequent gust take it over that a lot. So he was thinking of making a reef, but I urged him not to, since we can never get any speed if the winds stay around 15. He listened to me, but was watching some other boat on the way, and showed me a catamaran with a reefed sail.  See he said, we  should have done the same.

As soon as we approach the south end of the island, the winds got strong, although the trades had not yet started. It was the wrap around winds that first hit us, then after reaching the open seas, we picked up speed. It seemed that we were flying, I only saw 7 knots on the GPS, but apparently it got up to 8-9 which he did not tell me, and Al put his foot down to reef the sail at mid-channel.

We turned into the wind, but the swells were so high, it was an ordeal to keep standing to release the main halyard. A bit scary, but not impossible. After the reef, we made a steady 7 knots, until we reached the mouth of the Admiralty Bay, in two hours straight. I am glad that we tried something different this time, instead of being constantly afraid and limping along the way. In one of the books that we had read, it was mentioned that, the first moment you feel uncomfortable and ask yourself whether if you should reef the sail while underway, you should! reef it. That is to say, one feels the strain of too much wind on the sails, which become dagerous of course. Having sailed our small hobby cat for ten years previously, we acquired the feel quite accurately, from the accompanying sounds and forces. This time Al was more afraid than me (surprise surprise), maybe because he expected it.

It was an adventure in itself, and an experience, which I am grateful for. I think I am losing my usual reserve, after listening to people who went through much more than we had ever ventured for. This does not mean to be reckless in any way, but allow ourselves for some thrill once in a while.

After we  anchored at our usual place in front of the Princess Margaret beach, we saw that the water was uncommonly clean and calm, but the wind was constantly howling and not seem to abate at all.

We were thinking of clearing out of St Vincent at Canouan (we just learned about the customs/immigration service provided there, since it had an airport) and not at Union Island. Union is a pain and not safe. I hate the harbour itself and the people who crowd around, the two offices are not at the same place, but leaving the boat unattended while tied to the pier does not feel secure. The last time we cleared out from Union, Al only went as far as the customs, and skipped immigration, since he had to go to the airport for that.

Anyway, this time it is going to be from Canouan, but its harbour is not very protected. While listening to the howls of the wind, we decided to stay put at Admiralty, which is the best place to wait for a calmer day.

It appears that St Vincent in general, and Admiralty in particular are learning how to deal with foreigners; we have not encountered the combattive behaviour for snatching up the business from competitors, or forcing the potential customers to buy their products, as many a blog writers had complained before.


Saturday morning, we released our lines and got out of Rodney Bay. Next time we come we hope to stay anchored at the bay outside.

We were headed to the Pitons for staging, before tackling the passage to St Vincent. The weather was nice, and the way not too long, so we motored down, and got there before noon. Last time we has stayed at the Pitons, we had chosen the mooring balls of Harmony Estate, but found the water in the small cove extremely dirty, being close to and downstream from Soufriere town. We had looked at the debris going in circles around the boat cought in the current and not clearing away. This time we want to go to the other side of the Petit Piton, where some mooring balls were also offered. Jalousie Plantation is a high class resort, tucked in the far corner of the Piton, so calm and clean.

When we got down to outside Soufriere bay, Gregory of the pirogue called Beautiful Isle approached us to offer help for going to the town. We told him we were going to Jalousie, and he promised to come for help, after he dealt with the mono-hull in front of us, who was also going to the same place. We followed the boat, and saw it having anchored in front of the resort, but Gregory was nowhere to be found. As we approached a mooring ball, another islander came by, and assured us that Gregory had called him to help us, since he was busy elsewhere at the moment. No matter, the help is required fo fishing out the pennant, since it is left sunken without a floater. It took a few minutes, but the guy asked for 30 EC for the service. Al did not go for it, and gave 20 to the dismay of the guy. It is usually 10 - 15 EC around these parts, we could not understand the sour face, and Al gave him a cold beer as consolation. Half an hour later Gregory showed up, and asked if we had paid the guy. Of course, what do you think? It was apparent from the whole affair that they were going to share the money, Gregory having found the work. Al talked to him for a while, and gave him some money as well, which made him happy. He gave Al his card, and obtained a promise to contact him when we came to those parts again, mentioning that he was working as a water taxi and land guide for excursions. I don't know what to think, these people rely on sailors a lot for a living, but what they earn does not seem to be a lot.

The water in that small bay was amazing. We swam to our heart's content, and passed the day leisurely.

The next morning it was time to get underway for Wallilabou, St Vincent. Among all the anchorages around here, Wallilabou is the most dismal looking. It is very small, the water is murky and rolly with whirls and swells. The boats have to be tied to land from the mooring balls, which are next to each other. Once the land line is released, the boat starts to swing and hit the one beside. Last couple of times releasing the line early in the morning became a problem. But hey, deal with the problem when it presents itself.

We had selected a window of calm weather, so the passage to St Vincent was pleasent but somewhat slow. It is hard to get what we want all the time. Even the winds were mild, the swells were not, so the ride was bumpy and slow, but we reached the lee of the island on time, and afterwards was motoring all the way to Wallilabou, located around the middle of the island. Unfortunately it is the only anchorage there to clear the customs, as well as being safe. I read about the next anchorage around the corner, which has a small resort, but it is not feasible to go there because of the customs ordeal.

When we approached the bay, I called our guy  Davies, who answers channel 68 on VHF, and got his help for tying to a ball. Davies has a row boat to give a two minute ride to the shore, since it is not worth the effort to lower the dinghy. He also works at the restaurant and collects the mooring fee, which is redeemed if the boat owners eat there. That seems the only business generated for the restaurant, every time we have been there, the occupants of the few tables were the sailors waiting for the customs lady to show up (around 5:00 pm every day, including Sundays).


After more than three months in St Anne, Martinique, it was time to return to Grenada. We had bought our plane tickets back to Toronto for the end of April, and wanted to spend some time in St George's bay before that. We said good-bye to our friends Guylaine and Levent on the afternoon of March 14th, weighed anchor at Le Marin early in the next morning, and set sail towards Rodney Bay, St Lucia. It was a short and pleasent sail, going south is never a problem around these waters. The current seems to be favorable most of the time, the wind almost always.

We had not cleaned Ruyam II with feesh water for so long, that I wished to spend some time at the Rodney Bay marina, which had been cheaper than most we had seen so far. Last time we were there (early December), they had incredibly low rates, due to a promotion.

We reached the bay around noon, and went into the channel without delay. I called on VHF and the guy told us to proceed to a spot at the dock. When we got there, I looked and looked to no avail, there was nobody in sight to give us a hand.

Thankfully it was a very calm day, and Al was able to slowly slide by the finger dock, onto which I jumped down with the front line. This was the first time that I did such a thing, always having had people on the docks to receive the lines. Anyway, I jumped and tied Ruyam II, before she hit the dock.  It was good that I did not know in advance what I had to do, otherwise I would have got scared and maybe botch the affair. When our friends Buket and Ender of Istanbul yacht told us about their similar experiences in the marinas around Europe, we were quite surprised. Live and learn. However, I was not impressed with the IGY employees. Are they trying to change the culture around here.

Although we had stayed at this marina twice before, we had never explored the vicinity by boat. We had walked around and even taken a bus to Castries (capital city) at those times, but had neither seen the extent of the lagoon, nor the bay outside.

First mission was to get to the small village around the south end of the lagoon, which had a big shopping centre and American style grocery stores, one of them being Canadian IGA, as shown by Doyle in a detailed map. So we started in the general direction by dinghy, and surely saw the top of the shopping centre, and a small dinghy dock at the corner, almost obscured by the private docks of the villas/apartment complexes sorrounding the lagoon.

The dinghy dock was manned by an islander, who promised to take care of our dinghy (for a small fee of course), and helped us out. The dock was tied to an alley beside a restaurant, which lead to the European style village with many shops and restaurants. It seems that all the establishments there were catering to the inhabitants of the million dollar villas in the area. I saw an advertisement for a one bedroom apartment for sale, for over three hundred thousand US dollars. Thanks to them, it is possible to buy stale peppers, grapes and apples, as well as angus beef for exhorbitant prices at those grocery stores. We made a turn at the store and bought a few items. Unfortunately, nobody seems to go for the local produce or meats, which are available at the open market in Castries for a fraction of the prices, but an hour away by bus. This time we decided to buy from the neighbourhood, and did not venture there.

Same day, we also dealt with laundry and filling our propane gas bottles. There is one lady in the marina working for a company called Suds, which provides the service for both. As far as convenience goes, her services are good; same day pick up and delivery at the boat, but they do not come cheap. She charged more than Yvonne at Le Marin, Martinique. We paid 40 dollars for laundry and as much for two bottles of gas. We had not seen such prices in our three seasons around the Caribbean. Oh well, we know now where to avoid for the necessities of life. (Doyle thinks Rodney Bay is the place for any kind of work done on the boat. I beg to differ.)

I should make one correction however; on our way back from Dominica, we realized that a portion of the UV protection piece on our genoa was ripped, which had to be repaired before we could use it on the trip back to Grenada. The sail maker Ken at the marina was praised  by Doyle, so we asked him to take a look. He came and after seeing that it was a small job, reluctantly agreed to sew a new piece, saying something about the next morning. We had to ask him several times for an estimated price, which came out vague;  one or two ours of labour plus materials. He charges US  $45.00 per hour. Al thought that he was probably going to charge around US$150.00, and got prepared for it.

We waited around on the next day for him to show up. When in the afternoon Al went in to check, Ken  scolded him for not bringing the sail early in the morning to start the work. He argued that he would not be able to return the sail the next day. It meant staying one more day at the marina, but no matter, we were determined to make the most of it, and had a lot to do.  Apparently he expected us to bring down the sail and deliver it ourselves. Taking down the genoa is not that hard, so we managed to make a neat bundle, but delivering it was the problem. Our part of the marina had only one trolley when we asked for it. The guard told us to go to the section for mega yachts, and get one from there. Getting the trolley was our morning exercise. We never appreciated Port Louis marina in St George's until now, which Al finds pretentious, but they provide excellent service!

The next day, we donned our swimming suits and headed outside to the bay as our second mission. Doyle was talking about a yact club somewhere on the beach, and I wanted to check it out. We had seen several resorts side by side at the south side, with no place even to land our dinghy. It was interesting to note that the club was tucked in among the resorts, without having access from the sea! No dinghy dock or a piece of beach to land the dinghy, since the sea was roped out for the swimmers. So after making a tour by dinghy, we headed to the north side, and saw a dinghy dock at a complex called Landings. While tying there, we asked if we could have a bite to eat, and the guard welcomed us. The dinghy dock was next to the beach, from where the restaurant  was accessed through a small seating area, like a beach bar in front of the secluded restaurant. We sat there for a while until lunch time, went in the water, which seemed clean but full of weeds; we enjoyed the sun without attracting any attention from the servers, who were busy with the breakfast crowd.

It appeared that this place was an apartment complex rather than a resort, possibly a time share, which could be the reason for welcoming outsiders.

When lunch time came, a server strolled by and gave us menus. The clientele seems to be from US, prices in US dollars and US standards. Al had not brought his credit card, just some EC dollars, and it would not be enough to eat there for both of us. So we returned the menus and promised to come back some other time. Not likely, it is not worth paying money for bad food and bad service.

Last day before taking off, we did a lot of cleaning up, filled our water tanks. It appears that I used a lot of water, and it turned out that Rodney bay was selling their water like gold. We had not seen such an exhorbitant amount added to our bill. Al mentioned that the lady who calculated our bill remarked about our water usage. It seems that she made a mistake in her calculation, there was no way we could have used that much, but he did not argue and paid the bill. The last time we passed by the marina we were offered a reduced price due to a promotion, but when the time came to pay the bill, Al was charged the full price and some by the same lady. Beware! Unfortunately Al hates making a scene.