TUNDRA TRAVELS – St. Vincents and the Grenadines

January 21 to February 5, 2002

Copyright © 2002 by John and Eleanor Coulthard
Permission to copy for non-commercial purposes is granted provided the source is acknowledged

Eleanor and I joined Kathy and Brian on board their Alberg 37 sailboat Tundra for a two week holiday. The following are the email messages I sent home. The highlighted links are to pictures. Use your browser’s back button to return to this page after viewing the picture.

Thursday, Jan. 24, Safe arrival in St. VIncents

 

John Coulthard here as acting reporter.

 

Eleanor and I had a straightforward trip from Vancouver, BC to St. Vincents. About 16 hours in planes and airports and a four hour jet lag. We were lucky and able to capture three seats each on the Toronto to Barbados run and catch some catnaps. It was sure good to see Brian and Kathy waving at us from the Balcony as we disembarked from the Dash 8 commuter flight from Barbados to St. Vincents.

 

The weather here is darn hot, but cooler and much windier than normal. Brian and Kathy elected to bring us around to the leeward side of St. Vincents until the normal Trade Winds reassert themselves. This is supposed to happen this weekend. Then we will head to the Grenadines and then work our way back to St. Vincents to rendezvous with our return flight.

 

Yesterday we went to Kingstown to shop and fuel our wallets. Today we came to this lovely little bay that we have all to ourselves.

 

Eleanor and I are suffering from a little jet lag and I am fighting a little nausea which I attribute to sea sickness. Other wise everything is fine. Kathy and Brian are superlative hosts, as always.

 

Saturday, Jan. 26th, Toumaka Bay, St. Vincents

 

We are happily anchored stern to shore here in Troumaka Bay a short way from Kingston in the lee of St. Vincent's Island. The weather continues to be cooler, windier and more overcast than usual. Still hot by my standards but cool to the locals. De Captain figures we are getting highs to the 80's(f) and down to the 70's at night. There are frequent showers. In the open the winds are predicted at 25 - 30 knots and the sea swell at 15 feet. We prefer to wait until the normal Trade Winds take effect but the weather people say that could be Wednesday now. But it doesn't look too bad out there so tomorrow we plan to stick our nose out and if it seems too rough turn back and just go a short way down the island - probably the next Bay. If this weather continues we may not see as much of the Grenadines as Brian and Kathy would like. But that is ok with me - it is all new country.

 

We are the only boat anchored here and which is also the home of Marcy's Restaurant and Bar. Yesterday we hired Marcy to take us to Trinity Falls, a 2 hour 4-wheel drive from there and another hour's walk. Our "transportation" was a Toyota pick up truck. Our "seat" was a 2x6 piece of wood tied across the front part of the box so that we could lean forward and grab the roll bar behind the cab for support. The RCMP in Canada would not be impressed but here it is "no problem mon". The roads are so narrow and curvy that the roads on Galiano are like a freeway by comparison. They also drive on the "other" side of the road so the trip to the start of the hike was a great adrenalin rush and my bottom was very happy to start walking.

 

The road took us through lush banana plantations, "ethically grown in St. Vincents". Bananas are almost like a free food here - we are trying to eat 4 each per day in order to keep up with the supply. The trail took us up and up through a wonderful tropical jungle. Trinity Falls is not a high fall but it has a neat swimming hole where it is safe to swim as long as you stay in the right area. The current takes you round into deep water, close to the falls then swings you back out to the shallow water where you started.

 

We have been eating at Marcy's the last two nights. The first night we had chicken, rice and delicious breadfruit. Last night we had fish stew made from Yellow Fin Tuna, green bananas and edo. Tonight we eat on the boat or some of our food will spoil. Kathy has been cooking marvelous meals. This morning we had French Toast and at noon Kathy prepared us a wonderful split pea vegetable soup with a lot of local pumpkin in it.

 

"Boat Boys" are ubiquitous. They row or motor out in a variety of craft. They can be annoying. They provide a wide range of services. It is pretty well required that you let them take your stern line ashore when you anchor ($10.00EC = $6.00Cdn). They will also bring you bread, fish, fruit, arrange tours or whatever.

 

We did some wonderful snorkeling today. We saw a Flying Gurnard, a Sergeant Major, Parrot Fish, Barrel Sponges, Pipe Organ Coral, gigantic Brain Coral, Angel Fish, Gold Spotted Eel and many others.

 

Eleanor has taken 75 pictures, fully two thirds of her supply of film.

 

Monday, Jan. 28th, Mayreau

 

Here we are safe and sound in the Grenadines ("a little wee dot on your map", says Brian). Yesterday was almost entirely overcast with frequent showers. This morning the weatherman indicated somewhat more tolerable conditions at 20 knots wind and ocean swells at 10 feet. We left at 10am after spending at least a half hour untangling a fish line from our stern line to shore.

 

Brian raised a working jib and double reefed main. Conditions were pretty well as predicted. I managed to survive with the help of two Dramamine pills. Didn't even reach stage one of sea sickness (stage one is you are afraid you are going to die, stage two is you are afraid you are *not* going to die). I was recovered and happy almost immediately after entering protected waters. We anchored at 5 pm. Strangely enough after spending half of the day prone I am ready to go to bed at 8pm.

 

There are 15 boats in the anchorage and lots more in the general area. We are a very short distance from the Tobago Cays and many other well known locations. From now on we only plan short 1-2 hour hops until we are back in St. Vincents for our return flight.

 

Tuesday, Jan. 29th, The day after the full moon, Union Island.

 

Sitting at anchor in Mayreau we watched the sun go down, then we turned and watched the big fat moon rise on the opposite horizon. The night of the full moon is very special. It is only during a full moon that the story of the Moon Cuser can be told. Unfortunately conditions were not perfect so the story was not heard. Then there is the Green Flash. The Green Flash is a Superhero popularized by Marvel Comics. There are other green flashes, but alas, they appear to be equally fictitious.

 

Mayreau has a population of 200 and 2 cars. We spent the day wandering the street of Mayreau. We visited the school and enjoyed the wonderful beach where the cruise ships stop about twice a week. We took our garbage to the dump and picked some Bolle fruit from the Bolle tree. The fruit is quite large, somewhat larger than a coconut. It is not edible, but after having been opened and scrapped clean the shell dries and becomes very hard. The next day we fashioned one into a bowl and the other into a lamp shade. It will be our most precious souvenir of the trip.

 

While walking the beaches we were visited by children of a fisherman who were looking for a handout of some kind. Eleanor and Kathy spent a long time chatting to them and they parted no richer but perhaps friends.

 

While I was sketching with Eleanor at the beach a little 2 year old girl became quite curious. She was chewing on a chicken bone and her hands were quite greasy. When she wanted to finger my sketch book I said "No!". She looked and me and said, "You fuckin ugly.". What can I say? Out of the mouths of babes. . .

 

Eleanor says we had a wonderful party by the full moon in Mayreau and Kathy and I discovered "Free Range Potatoes". Eleanor will explain it when she comes home.

 

Today provided our second overcast day and the coolest to date. We had a short, lumpy 1 hour crossing over to Union Island. This is a main supply point for this area and provides an opportunity to replenish our supplies and refuel our wallets.

 

Brian says the captain is healthier than a bull moose. The first mate says she is having too much fun.

 

Thursday, Jan. 31st, Tobago Cays

 

Tobago Cays that is, not Tobago Island which is close to Trinidad. We are a mere hour from Union Island. Yesterday we had an excellent hike around Union Island. We had lunch at Jante's Restaurant. Eleanor and Brian split an absolutely huge lobster.

 

Tobago Cays is very beautiful. We are anchored behind a wonderful coral reef. It is hard to get used to the idea of anchoring in a spot where the wind blows at 30 knots all the way from the coast of Africa. But it is normal and there are dozens and dozens of boats in this idyllic little spot. Most are much larger than Tundra's 37 feet.

 

Kathy says they are enjoying our company so much and that two weeks is not long enough. We may stay another day in Tobago Cays. Eleanor says she likes the Tobago Cays so much that she is never going home.

 

Sunday, Feb. 3rd,Bequia, Grenadines

 

This is your intrepid reporter, John Coulthard, reporting *live* (as opposed to deceased) from Bequia.

 

We left Tobago Cays yesterday at 10am and arrived here in Bequia at 2:30pm, a brisk crossing. Kathy described the crossing as "robust". The Captain made reference to a "washing machine". The winds were about 20-25 knots and the seas 8-10 feet. Eleanor says there were a few minutes when she wasn't frightened. I was mostly hanging on in a sort of dazed stupor after taking a Dramamine for sea sickness (It worked too!). It was a starboard tack with double reefed main and working jib. The port rail was in the water quite a bit of the time. Eleanor says, "we were really screaming along. We saw flying fish and frigate birds but none of them could keep up with us."

 

Admiralty Bay is the quietest and calmest of all our anchorages so far. Little gusts of wind sneak down from the protecting hills and provide welcome cooling breezes. A giant cruise ship sits in the background. We turned in early before 8pm and slept for 12 hours. It was a wonderful feeling.

 

Bequia is a lovely little gem of a tourist island. We had a wonderful lunch at the Frangipani Hotel and then walked over to Lower Bay and found Joan and Jerry Kennedy. It was a real hot walk. Then we all took a taxi across to friendship bay for a drink. Taxis are plentiful and cheap (Pickup trucks with benches in them). Everyone is very relaxed and friendly. Finally we returned by taxi again to the Frangipani and returned to Tundra for our customary late afternoon swim and shower.

 

Tomorrow we head over to Young Cut on St. Vincents, about 10 nautical miles. It should take less than 2 hours and hopefully be less bouncy as the trade winds are settling down to more normal levels for this time of the year (15 knots). Tuesday we fly out on the 11:30am flight. Kathy and Brian have some shopping to do after we leave. The starting battery needs replacement and two propane tanks are empty.

 

Wednesday, Feb. 6th, Vancouver, BC.

 

Our final day's crossing from Bequia to St. Vincents was wonderful. The trade winds were blowing about 15 knots with a swell of 5-6 feet. We enjoyed a fine last meal with Brian and Kathy at the nearby Lime Pub. Tuesday morning they dropped us off a the Airport and carried on to do some shopping.

 

Our trip home was straightforward but 15 hours in planes and airports does take it's tool. At 1am Vancouver time (5am Grenadines time) we fell exhausted into bed.

 

It has been a pleasure being a temporary "Tundra reporter".

 

PostScript

 

The term “ugly” is often used in the Caribbean to mean “bad mood”. It seems likely that the little girl was commenting that I was in a bad mood, not actually physically ugly.

Go to John & Eleanor Coulthard's home page.

Create: February 11, 2002
Revised: February 13, 2002