Happy Island

Darrell Jackson and Sarah Barnes
Sat 24 May 2014 21:42
12:35.61N 61:24.69W
We left after breakfast to motor sail the short distance across to Union Island, just using a well reefed Genoa. We could see Union Island's dramatically mountainous outline from Mayreau. It was a fast journey and we arrived in Clifton mid morning. Clifton, the main harbour, is protected by a reef that was a kaleidoscope of colours as we sailed in. We decided to anchor in the green/turquoise water near the reef, which was rather busy, and managed to tuck in near two catamarans by Happy Island near the entrance to the harbour.
Janti's Happy Island is built on the edge of the reef. Janti created his own island by hand. He used to own a bar in Ashton on Union but lacked customers, and he also worked for tourism, trying to clear up the local area. One of the problems was the huge pile of conch shells left by local fishermen on the beach. He solved both problems by taking the conch shells from the beach and used them to build Happy Island. We enjoyed snorkelling around it during the afternoon and then had a drink there while we watched the sunset and kite-surfers in the evening. A very Happy place to be!
We went into Clifton to explore. As we left the dinghy dock we encountered sharks basking in the midday sunshine. Clifton has a pleasant atmosphere and a cosmopolitan feel. The buildings are colourful and there are many brightly painted traditional buildings. Despite it being the quiet season and many of the businesses being closed or in the processes of closing down, it still had a general bustle. There were the usual many mongrels lying in the shade and we commented that we have never seen anyone actually taking a dog for a walk. We did however see an elderly lady taking her goat for a walk on a piece of string. The goat accompanied her into the shops and this was obviously quite normal judging by the lack of response from the shopkeepers! On the main jetty several men were busy making huge concrete blocks. Fishermen were sorting out their catches and vendors were selling fruit and veg. It had the potential to be like Port Elizabeth on Bequia, but it has a general shabbiness and rundown feel as if they can't quite be bothered or have had enough after a long season. We found a great place for lunch and wifi (must get the important things done when ashore!), before returning to Stream to chill and swim.
As Clifton is St Vincent's southern port of entry for customs clearance, it has a regular turn over of yachts. Some stay a night, others a few hours. It can be interesting or worrying as they go around the anchored yachts looking for a place to squeeze in, especially as some seem to to enjoy the thrill of the slalom event and speed up. They often appear determined to pass as close to yachts as they possibly can and seem to take very little care in ensuring that their anchor has set. Not conducive to a sound nights sleep for other yachties in their vicinity!
In the morning we were up early and set off to clear out. This involved a walk to the airport, as customs in the harbour closes at the end of April. Fortunately the small airport is only 5 minutes away and we soon got through the 3 parts of the process completing the identical form, with the identical information that we had done when we cleared in at Chateaubelair 12 days before. The customs office was very small for the two officials and had a very large safe, a filing cabinet, piles of old forms and papers covering most of the floor and a desk, the whole top of which was covered by a ledger for their accounts, meaning that our forms were stamped on top of the papers in their in/out tray. Technology and/or the need to keep people in work, has not reached this part of the Caribbean.
Although we had cleared out of the country we wanted to visit Petit St Vincent (PSV), which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and also Petit Martinique, which is part of Grenada, before we cleared in officially to Grenada on the island of Carriacou. Have a look at Google Earth and you'll understand the predicament, that to do this "officially", one would have to sail to Carriacou, clear in with customs, and then sail back almost to where you had just come from to visit Petit Martinique. We decided to risk it!