The day dawned with Parallax departing Petite Saint Martin, the last of the Grenadines, for Carriacou and Grenada. During the last several days, I had visited Bequia , spent four great days a the Tobago Cays and then another couple of days at Union Island, and now, closed out my stay in the Grenadines with an overnight stop at the picturesque Petite Saint Martin. Much like the BVIs these little islands are only hours apart but unlike the BVIs are generally oriented north and south which meant sailing to and from is a breeze. If I were going to charter a boat for a sailing vacation in the Caribbean I think I would charter out of Union Island and explore the Grenadines. True, they are not slick and polished, but neither are they manufactured for the tourist trade. Not entirely anyway. There is a proud heritage here, the towns are colorful and charming and though not a lot of nightlife there are plenty of good restaurants and the people uniformly friendly. Some of the islands are large enough to offer good hiking and magnificent views and the Tobago Cays, are well beyond any words I have to describe their natural beauty. I tried to make up this shortcoming with pictures and hopefully they will prove adequate where words fail. I left the Grenadines with several of the major islands still unexplored, adventures for another time.
Bequia had been a good stop; I was walking past a shop when I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was Louise from Quest, she and Chris had arrived about the same time as I, and were busily doing a little boat maintenance and enjoying Bequia. Thalia was also in port, crewed by a delightful sailing family, they were also getting a little work done while home schooling the two boys and exploring the island. Bequia is a seafairing town and the onslaught of the cruising culture hasn't changed that. The fishermen now hawk their catch to the anchored boats, and much of the economy is about fixing boats, sailing boats and even building beautifully handcrafted models of local sailing vessels. Bequians under international treaty may still catch up to 4 whales a year using traditional methods, open boats and hand held harpoons, some years they catch none and hardly ever the allotted 4. My last night there, the island was buzzing with celebration and the rum in my favorite local place was flowing freely. “ Hey skip, you know we caught a whale today, mon.” This is, in a nutshell, why I find the Grenadines so alluring. The people are proud of their culture and their islands and though they certainly have adapted to make money off the cruising boats they haven't lost their identity in the process. There are far more important things going on than catering to the cruising boats.
I left Bequia bound for the Tobago Cays where I again found Thalaii and her crew busily snorkeling all around the Cays. The Cays are a jeweled cluster of uninhabited islands surrounded by Horseshoe Reef, which wraps around the islands protecting them from the onslaught of the Atlantic. The multicolored turquoise and green waters change in color and hue with the passing clouds and there are acres of enchanted snorkeling on the protected side of the reef at depths of 3 and 4 feet. Cruising boats dot the anchorage, and early morning sees the local fishing boats make their rounds selling fresh fish and lobster. Later in the day the kite surfers stage from the sandy beaches and day trip snorkelers arrive by all sorts of local boats. But in the evening all quiets and the roar of the Atlantic against the reef only a few hundred feet away becomes dominant. So much for words look at the pictures.
The crew of Thalia, Tom, Karen and their sons Zack and Caleb invited me for dinner one night, so not wanting to appear the hapless solo sailor, I made a pot of stew using local salt fish, a plate of tomatoes and cheese and after being rescued in my wayward dingy, arrived with these offerings and a bottle of some cheap French wine. After warning the boys to be especially careful with the stew because of the bones left in the salt fish, I nearly choked when I wasn't so careful. Even so, it was a great evening with a family more resourceful than you can imagine. Although they had far more than their share of boat and other problems, they had cheerfully blown past each obstacle and if there were ever two kids that had taken to the sailors life these two were it. They were really into the sailing, the geography, the biology and the local culture nurtured ably I suspect, by the home schooling of their mom and dad. The youngest, was reading a series of books about the historic seafaring days and the boats of the era and could identify the various rigs and sails of the old sailing vessels. Thalia's return plans are roughly the same as Parallax's so hopefully we will meet again on the way home.
After 4 days in the Cays it was time to move on to the last of the Grenadines, Union Island. It was a bit like Bequia but only bit, the Grenadines seem each to be a delightful variant on a theme. The local seafaring / fishing culture was if anything even more evident and the little town of Clifford, though much smaller than Port Elizabeth, still had some great restaurants and local hang outs. The anchorage in the harbor was like a miniature Tobago Cay, open to the Caribbean but protected by a small reef. It was quiet here, but interesting and had I had time to take a tour or rent a car I think the little island would have been well worth the effort. There is a small local marina here, and at least one charter company with I noticed some slick looking cats with dagger boards and enough sail area to make them look fast and weatherly. This combined with a small airport might make this a good choice from which to stage a charter vacation of the Grenadines.
I hiked to the customs/immigration at the small airport and cleared the Grenadines for the next day via an overnight in Petite Saint Martin. I had made flight arrangements for my son to arrive in St Marteen the 8th, leaving only perhaps 4 days to visit Carriacou and Grenada before I made the 400 mile haul north, with no time at all for Petite Saint Martin, save this overnight glimpse. Carriacou was only a few miles to the South so we set sail with plenty of time to clear in and to see a little of the port before nightfall.