Island Hopping 1

Fri 5 Jan 2007 12:55
Most of the family have now departed leaving four behind, Alex and
girlfriend Aisling, his cousin Peter and girlfriend Maria, plus Sue and me.
We did a short cruise to the other end of the island to visit the famous
Pitons. The town of Souffriere and is right in the shadow of Petit Piton. We
were led to a mooring buoy by a local touting for business well offshore
where he hangs around waiting for approaching yachts. The buoys are
arranged close to the shore, mooring is by the head and a line run to a
tree on the shoreline as the wind sweeping down from the great pointed
mountain behind is all over the place. A very dramatic setting. We
negotiated a price of 40 Eastern Caribbean dollars, about £8, for the boat
services which was to include taxiing us into town and back later in the
evening. An hour after we arrived another man swam out to the boat to tell
us that he was the one who dragged our line ashore and tied it to a tree.
Another 10 EC plus two beers ! Later the official ranger boat came for his
40EC$ for use of the mooring. The town is a pale imitation of its former
colonial grandeur, very run down, most of the people obviously poverty
stricken. A bit depressing I have to say, but amusing. Everyone trying to
sell or coerce us in some way, not too intrusive though. We had a look at a
menu in an upstairs cafe with a balcony which we thought might be quite nice
to sit out on, but eventually found our way to a smart semi-outdoor
restaurant called the Hummingbird where we enjoyed the Creole quisine. The
lady we spoke to in the upstairs place was out in the street looking for us
as we walked back. The people on the island are very pleasant and quaintly
naive, care must be take not to intimate or hint your intentions as they
take everything one says very seriously and expect you to do the same. For
example, we showed some interest in things being made by a Rastafarian
craftsman but also let slip the location of the boat, he turned up at the
marina, five miles from where we met him, still trying to interest us in his
wares. We bought some out of sheer embarrassment. The cruise down the Island
was pure pleasure, a brisk wind just off the beam, and wonderful views of
the little fishing villages nestling between the steep hillsides. About a 3
to 4 hour run. The beat back the following day was brisk and exciting, warm
spray flying and lots of plunging up and down. Also dropped in at Marigot
Bay on our way back, a very picturesque anchorage full of swanky yachts
coming and going, plus the usual contingent of boat boys selling everything
from bananas to conch shells, doing brisk trade too from what we could see.
New years eve, eating outdoors at the Jamb de Bois, a bayside restaurant,
fireworks from all points of the compass at midnight, was excellent. A
little jazz quartet playing so Alex,
his girlfriend Aisling and me took turns at the mike doing the usual
The youngsters danced all night back at the street party in Rodney Bay but
I caved in, its very hot and sweaty here, energy sapping. Sue and me
climbed into the bunk at 3am.
Did the paperwork for departure north to Martinique which is a bit of a
smile. Three officials sitting within three feet of each other which have to
be visited in turn to complete the formalities plus an extra charge for
overtime as it was new years day and a public holiday. I had been pondering
for some time about the wisdom or not of going north while the wonderful
Grenadines were within spitting distance to the south. A professional
charter skipper I met on the dock suggested it might be a good idea to go
south first as we were in the locale and conditions would allow an easy
passage. Also had a conversation over a drink with an American, Rich
Washington, who sails in this area for up to six months every year which
clinched it. South it was. The three officials were not very pleased with
the news as it was a problem to delete the original plan from their computer
and input the new. I smiled through the wynging and came away with the new
clearance papers so all was well. Conversations with a few other yachties
told of 45 knot winds offshore and tales of others who had been driven back
by the fierce conditions, something about the Christmas winds that can blow
up till Easter. It didn't seem any worse in the marina than it had been for
a few days, same direction just a but stronger. We arranged for Alex and co
to join us for the first leg south to Marigot Bay where we planned to spend
the night and set off with a final warning from Alan Jones ringing in our
ears. Had a great sail to Marigot and a truly magical dinner in Doolittles
where we said our goodbyes as the others took off back to the hotel by taxi.
Early start the following morning south along the coast to the Pitons and
then struck offshore on route to St Vincent. A few gusts of no more than 25
knots as we left the island which settled into a strong N/easter of nothing
above 20. Rough seas, six to eight feet at a guess, on passage in the
exposed bit between the islands gave us a bit of a wetting but after about 4
hours in the exposed bit we were in the lee of St. Vincent. Lovely island
but not very many sheltered anchorages, just high cliffs with houses dotted
about in the most unlikely places. Richard had told us of two safe places,
Cumberland Bay and Wallilabou and we were met offshore of the latter by
Granddads Taxis, a tiny little speedboaty thing who's owner shouted a quote
of ten EC to get us anchored and a line ashore. No problem. Wallilabou was
the location for Pirates of the Caribbean and it was interesting to see the
set which was still largely intact, very convincing 'lava brick' buildings
which were hollow shells in reality. Other boat boys made themselves known
to us very charmingly so we spent a few dollars on fruit an trinkets. One
pair, John and Julian, hung around and were happy to go away with Sues old
sandals and a tidy pair of shorts from me which John promptly dragged on
over the ones he was wearing. Didn't bother to go ashore as we were tired
from the days bouncing so we prepared a meal aboard. In an effort to save
water as we were no longer on marina mains, I washed the dishes in sea water
and carelessly threw all the cutlery over the side with the dirty. John and
Julian turned up the following morning to see if their were any more
pickings just as I was squinting down looking for our kitchen stuff. A bit
of a todo with my borrowed mask located the missing items and I suggested we
fish for them with a magnet. The day was saved by the arrival of Julians
nephew in another little 8ft double ender which is the style of boat mostly
used hereabouts. 'I am an expert diver, ten EC and a beer and I will go
down' was agreed and down he went in my mask. We were astonished and
delighted when he reappeared with a handful of knives and forks including
our special sharp one. A second plunge secured the rest. John played hell
with Julian, seems he was not too pleased with losing ten EC to 'Chronic',
so called because of his dope smoking we were told, because he was too
chicken to do the get his gear off and do it himself. We were pleased to pay
up and gave the losers two beers and some tinned tuna as consolation. They
promptly opened the beers and polished them of in double quick time. A
little later we set of up the road to find the fabled waterfall we had heard
about. Bit of a sweaty and long '10 minute walk' through wonderful and
dramatic palmclad cliffs, trees with Avocado, Oranges, Nutmeg, and others we
couldn't identify, Banana and Date palms growing everywhere around. We
delightedly swam in the pool beneath the falls which was very invigorating.
Walking back in the pouring rain we came across J and J in a little bar
beside the road demolishing the tuna in the rolls they had tried to flog us
earlier. Left Wallilabou at 1pm for the short trip down to Young Island. Had
a bit of a rude awakening when we changed course for the final 3 miles into
the teeth of a 25 knot gale, did a bit of useless tacking around and ended
up motoring into the moorings where we were met and led in by Sam, ex London
and Birmingham, but now back home with his heart. Manny