25 Jan - Return to Carriacou
Julie’s return was like a second Christmas – in more ways than one! Alongside the Red Cross delivery of tea and chocolate (which should keep us going until Easter…well, the tea anyway) there were some bits for the boat. Apart from a nice new RNSA burgee, the best things were some battery powered, USB-recharged lights for use in the cockpit in the evenings. We can now retire the rather cumbersome gas lamp which is a sod to light, threatens to leak, runs out at inconvenient moments and has one of those fragile little ‘mantles’ that demand you treat it like an Old Master.
Less successful was the Plastimo Outboard Motor harness. Designed to offset my bad back, the promotional literature claims it can hold a 15hp motor weighing up to 50kg. So, no problem for our smart 6hp Mercury weighing just 25kg then? Not a bit of it: the strap is not long enough to go around and the buckle slips when I pull it. I wouldn’t use it to lift a bag of gash. Contravenes the Trades Description Act IMHO. £34 from Marine Superstore plus £17 in import duty at the airport for a piece of utter rubbish. The Marine Superstore have offered to refund me if I send it back. The sums just don’t add up so I’ll probably cut it up for spares.
The other disappointment was a clever little gizmo I saw at the boatshow which fixes our Wifi aerial to the satcom mast at the stern. The aerial is very good at picking up signals from pubs and bars ashore and allows us to piggy-back off their wifi (assuming we’ve been there for a drink to get the code!). But the aerial is not the most marinized piece of kit I own, so it only comes out at anchor or in harbour. Enter the RailBlaza ‘system’ all the way from some jolly enterprising chaps in New Zealand. It’s designed to clip things like aerials or fishing rods or tins of beer to stuff like pulpit rails and stump masts or the tops of kayaks. Whilst very few chandleries seem to stock the components, you can find them on Amazon, so I was disappointed to find that the promotional literature is misleading and the Railmount component is utterly useless without an additional ‘Starport’ fitting. I complained about clever names for not-so clever toys. A chap called Chris in some unpronounceable corner of the Isle of the Silver Fern replied at once and we’ve had a very constructive dialogue since. We shall have to wait until St Lucia for the missing bit to arrive… Still, the kit locker is full and we have enough of everything to survive in some comfort for a week or so!
On Sunday we went alongside at the new Clarke’s Court Marina to embark fresh water, as I have now managed to damage a bit of high pressure pipework in the watermaker and it’s out of action until St Lucia. The marina looks like an excellent place to leave the boat ashore for an extended period, possibly during the hurricane season. There’s quite a good chandlery, but it’s a bus ride into St Georges if you need victuals. We sailed at lunchtime, bound for Tyrrel Bay in Carriacou. As we cleared Clarkes Court Bay, so the rain started. It did not stop for the next 12 hours and by the time we were off St Georges a couple of hours later, we decided to drop anchor and wait for things to improve. Surely such seasoned offshore sailors can handle a drop of rain, particularly when the temperature is still close to 30oC? It does sound a bit feeble, doesn’t it? But you can’t see much, the sea is quite rough and you can’t let the wind blow through the boat, so everything gets rather damp and sticky. And it’s supposed to be FUN, after all.
Rain looks much the same the world over…
Monday was much better and we had a very enjoyable, sunny beat to windward up to Carriacou. Our friends Andrew and Kate were following the same itinerary in their brand-new catamaran, and this was their first proper upwind sail since collecting the boat in La Rochelle. Escapade showed her pedigree, although she does not go especially well upwind – a combination of all that tea and chocolate in the hold and some sails which have dragged us more than 15000 miles and are no longer the shape I agreed with the sailmaker…
Carriacou – picture perfect?
We have not taken nearly enough exercise since leaving Cape Verde, so started to make amends on Carriacou. On the first day, we walked from the bay to Paradise Beach and on through Laurieston and back – probably about five miles in all. Paradise Beach looks out over Sandy Island (see earlier blogs) and is aptly named. There is a brightly painted collection of beach bars in the centre, empty sandy beaches lined with mangroves and a mountainous, island strewn backdrop. We paused for refreshments before searching for some essentials in the new supermarket that has just opened in Tyrrel Bay.
Paradise Beach with Sandy Island visible in the distance
Not a great experience; it reminded us of the rather odd Government-owned place in Rabat – stocked with things we didn’t want. The cereal aisle for example, would be fine for a sugar-obsessed five-year-old, but with no bran, no muesli (safe for Royal Marine Generals, then) and only ‘own brand’ corn flakes in a clear plastic bag, they are clearly not catering for the sensitive Waitrose-shopper. As the place was absolutely empty each time we visited, I’m not sure they have worked out who the client is, yet.
We found respite at the Gallery coffee shop, run by an Anglo-French couple who used to run the small boatyard here on Carriacou. They are the agents for Budget Marine chandlery, sell jewellery and make excellent coffee and banana cake. They have been here ten years and offered an interesting perspective on ‘island life’. Little or no regulation, a simple place to make a living, but challenging to run a business employing local staff and even more challenging to sustain a decent logistics route for things to sell as just about everything is imported. The island has no water, so everyone collects rainwater; there is a small desalination plant at Hilsborough, but a limited distribution of pipework.
We saw a small sailmaker’s and decided to ask about some canvas to make a tent over the hatch to the aft cabin; the unexpectedly regular rainfall makes sleeping an on/off affair as you keep having to open/shut the hatch. ‘In Stitches’ is run by Andy, an English expat who lives on his boat and has a view on many things. We got on rather well, unsurprisingly. He agreed to make the thing for us (I thought the half-tonne sewing machine was going to come out of the bilges for a moment) within a day.
So we stayed another day. We caught the bus into Hilsborough, which is a single street of shops all selling everything interspersed with garden sheds – sorry, rum shops - proudly licenced to sell ‘spirited’ or ‘intoxicated’ liquor. Apparently there are 100 rum shops on Carriacou, but only one petrol station. Whilst we were there, the small tanker that resupplies the islands with fuel came in and transferred a few thousand litres ashore from a couple of buoys in the harbour. I’d like that job…
The modern ‘tramp steamer’ – bringing fuel and essential supplies to the smaller islands
We walked through the town and on up the hill towards the north. In Bogles, we stopped to admire the view (which was stunning) and were greeted by a local lady sitting in her car. She had a strong East London accent and it turns out she was born in England but returned to Carriacou about twenty years ago. She doesn’t seem to work, but lives a very pleasant, simple life. She told us about a good bar with a fine view just a few hundred yards further on. The Round House Bar, Restaurant and Hotel is indeed an idyllic spot. Situated about 50 feet above the sea with a path down to its own beach and stunning views across towards Sandy island and Grenada, it’s a collection of low-profile chalets around a main house set in beautiful gardens. Peaceful, with a perfectly sheltered garden looking out over the sea and the best ice cream this side of Ben and Jerry’s, we could have stayed there for ever…
The Round House garden gate. Who could resist walking through it?
A typical smallholding with matching paintwork throughout
The sea here is absolutely crystal clear. Not like the silty, cloudy stuff in Clarkes Court Bay, so we dived on the hull and started the fight back against barnacle growth. The antifouling we put on in Gibraltar has done a good job of keeping the weed at bay, but it’s no match for the Caribbean barnacle population. Fortunately, they are easily defeated by a blunt wooden spoon.
That evening, Andrew and Kate joined us for dinner onboard (Not the same spoon - Ed). The heavens opened again, so for the first time since Northern Europe, we ate below decks with the air conditioning running to keep the temperature bearable. The following morning, our new ‘tent’ arrived. It fits beautifully and does a pretty good job of circulating air in the stern of the boat whilst keeping all but the most persistent, gale-powered rain off my tootsies.
The new canvas rigged over the aft cabin
We sailed for the Grenadines in good spirits that afternoon and a couple of hours later anchored in Chatham Bay, Union Island. A beautiful, almost empty beach surrounded by steep, forested hills. The turquoise sea, striped with sand, coral and weed, the mangroves, the trees, some grassland… another idyllic Caribbean location.
Chatham Bay from the top of the hill. Escapade is in the middle!
We were in good company, so it seems: as we came in to anchor, so did two 80ft Oysters of a more recent vintage than Escapade. One of them, Lush, is owned by the Formula 1 ‘legend’, Eddie Jordan. I’m not sure if he noticed us, but perhaps the boat is under charter? I didn’t mind, after all – all my kit’s on here!
Eddie’s rather large grey machine