Gladlee of Guernsey
Caribbean cruise onboard s/Cat "Vision" 7th February to 15th April 2008
4th February 2008
The time arrived for Ron and Julie to leave Oman on 22nd January 2008 after two and a quarter years there. A sad farewell having to leave many old and new friends behind, but new adventures beckoned. We are flying out to Trinidad on the 7th February to join Frank and Tari on their catamaran "Vision" and sailing up to the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean with them. We will then head back to Deltaville in Virginia where "Gladlee" is parked, around mid-April, and re-commission her and start the liveaboard life again. Initially we will cruise the Chesapeake Bay area during the summer and then head south with the 'snow-birds' for the winter to Florida and The Bahamas. The following summer we hope to start 'the loop', heading up to New York and into the Hudson River to the Great Lakes and Canada, and eventually to Chicago and through the river system to emerge in the Gulf of Mexico.
We arrived in Trinidad late afternoon of the 7th to meet up with catamaran "Vision" in Crew's Inn Yacht Marina just round the bay from Port of Spain. Unfortunately it was necessary to leave almost immediately from Trinidad to Grenada because friends Steve and Karen had to catch a flight from there. We duly left at 03.00 in company with "Two by Sea", Jim and Betsy, and both had an awful passage over the 80-odd miles due to strongish winds and very rough seas, the biggest seas that "Vision" had experienced in 8 years of cruising. We had lots of water over the decks.
We made the anchorage at Prickly Bay on the south side of Grenada by about 15.00, found a buoy to tie to and just managed to check-in before customs and immigration closed at 16.00. Unfortunately there was some damage to the boat as both trampolines broke loose pulling out grommets and damaging 60 slides that were holding it. Also we spent a whole day drying out the deck lockers which had shipped a lot of water en route. This meant we couldn't continue until repairs had been done so spare parts were ordered and the trampolines put in for repair. Meanwhile the wind continued to blow strongly interspersed with rain squalls all week. On the Tuesday we did a tour of the island with Cuthi, a very friendly and knowledgeable driver, showing us all the different spices and trees along the way. Thursday we went into St George's for a bit of shopping and lunch, and in the evening went to Banana's Restaurant for an excellent Valentine's dinner with Jim and Betsy. On the Sunday (17th) we took Vision over to another bay for the planned Sunday B-B-Q on Hogg Island. Very local sort of flavour to the place including the very sweet smell of a certain type of "weed".
We had motor sailed up from Grenada and anchored in Tyrell Bay on the south side of Carriacou. This island is still part of Grenada so that we had no need to check through customs and immigration. We anchored in Tyrell Bay - at the fifth attempt - and had a quiet dinner on board. On Tuesday 19th we motored around to Hillsborough Bay as this is where the customs and immigration offices are. We checked out of Grenada and immediately headed over the relatively short distance to Union Island.
Strange place! Union Island is quite small and gains most of its anchorage protection from a major reef. We had managed to get into the bay a bit and actually managed to get onto a mooring - secured to a sunken wreck. Many other boats appeared to be in the middle of the ocean but in fact were protected from the rougher seas by the reef - though not protected from the high winds which are a bit of a pain in the rear end. We had also picked up that "Hokus Pokus" (we knew them in the Med) were in the anchorage. This is Mats and Ulla and also with them were two friends we knew - Rune and Els - all Swedish. Drinks and cocktails were served of course which did manage to go on a bit??
Union Island is part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines so we had to check in with customs and immigration here. While Frank and Betsy from "Two by Sea" (they are in company) went to the airport to do this we were sent for some basic shopping. Basic being the operative word in what is really a bit of a "Cowboy Town". Did get some nice fresh bread though.
As the name implies this is still part of St. Vincent. A really nice spot - this is actually a private island with a very exclusive resort on it. They do however allow yachts to anchor and to come ashore to walk the beach or use the restaurant. Which is exactly what we did as it was Frank and Tari's anniversary. A very expensive meal and not really worth it - but - you can only get so much in the island. This was also the night of the full eclipse of the moon and of course - it rained and was full cloud cover for the duration. The rum is good though.
As the name doesn't imply these few beautiful islands and reefs are not part of Tobago but are still St. Vincent. This is basically five small islands that are almost totally protected by reefs. Follow the charts to make sure you get in properly!!! We found a wonderful anchoring spot protected by one of the island. The whole area is a National Park and is really fantastic. Excellent snorkeling area and everyone except Ron (still suffering from a cold and chest infection) took off for some good, but rough, snorkeling in exceptionally clear water. Things did deteriorate a little later as the tide changed and suddenly we found that there was about a 4 knot current running next to the island. No great problem but a bit of movement during the night.
Not much to this place except for the fact that it is a Moorings Charter centre so there are lots of their boats about. We tried to anchor but couldn't manage to get it to hold so took a mooring ball in the main harbour area. No problem at all with this. Went to the small town for some basic shopping (again) though not too much about. Though we would have lunch at the hotel but turned out to be US$18 for a basic burger - so back to the boat for lunch. Boat boys had stopped by during the day and we had bought two lobster - the cheapest place we have found to date - US$8 per pound - this was dinner on "Vision" that night along with the third lobster Jim and Betsy ("Two by Sea") brought. On the next day we moved location to an anchorage which turned out to be fantastic. Our only anchorage so far where we were the only boat. Very nice and quiet, good snorkeling and beach.
Anchored in Admiralty Bay at this quite small island. A very "touristy" place for Americans mostly. Having caught two very nice sized Tuna on the crossing from Canouan we invited friends from "Two by Sea" (Jim and Betsy), "Island Dreamin'" (Bob and Jean) and "Orion" (Jim and Sheryl) for dinner. The tuna was delicious and well prepared by Tari. A short walk by Tari, Julie and Ron to stretch the legs managed to find us a nice ice cream parlour and restaurant. A nice place but as seems usual we are moving on tomorrow.
A nice bay just north of the Pitons for the first night. On the second day we took a tour to the volcano area and the sulpher springs. Also did the Diamond Falls and the Diamond Botanical Garden. Sounds boring but actually quite interesting. Then went up to a wonderful restaurant for lunch in a resort which overlooks the bay. A truly beautiful setting overlooking the Pitons which are the symbol of St. Lucia. The next day we move moorings to the more southerly bay which is actually between the Pitons. Took a mooring and finished up having an argument with someone who had supposedly reserved it. Actually we had and we won the day.
We moved round the corner to Anse Chastinet and took a mooring and decided to stay for the day and night. Frank and Tari went ashore to meet up with Nancy and Norman who had a house and guest house just up the hill. We had lunch at the resort in beautiful surroundings overlooking the lovely bay. On Thursday we motored round to Marigot Bay and went right inside the lagoon and picked up a mooring, lovely sheltered and enclosed bay surrounded by mangroves, marina and hotel. "Two by Sea" backed into the marina quay not far away. Friday was quite wet and windy so we just pottered about, Frank and Jim hired a car and went up to Rodney Bay to pick up some spares for their boats. Dinner at Chateau Mygo with Frances and Clive from "Double D". Saturday the six of us took a tour to the rain forest where we were harnessed up, taken on a gondola up to the top and did the zip-line, ten wires between platforms where we 'zipped' between the trees - great fun. Dinner on "Two by Sea". On Sunday 2nd we motored up to Rodney Bay (in the boat) and went ashore to the St. Lucia Yacht Club for lunch (open house for yachties) and again met up with "Island Dreamin'" and "Orion". A very convivial!! lunch eventually - it was very busy and then some supplies an a nice big supermarket right next to the dinghy dock.
From St. Lucia we move up to the first of the French owned islands and what a difference. The investment and aid given to the island by France has made this a much more "European" island. There are no boat boys petering to sell their wares, housing is good, roads are good and the shops are excellent. The wine is cheap as well which is nice. We have anchored initially in Cap Marin (St. Annes) so that Frank can get some repairs done to the autohelm - successful as it turns out. Also managed to get lots of laundry done, gas bottle changed etc. Very successful. Next day we sailed north and had the dreaded "Screecher sail" out. It was actually very successful until we came to bring it in - then all hell let loose. Real bad problems getting it rolled up and we thought we were going to lose it at one point as it had "hour glassed" and was getting punished by the very strong winds that had got up. Eventually sorted it out but not without a lot of work on Ron, Julie and Tari's part. We then anchored off a small marina further north where "Two by Sea" have gone alongside while waiting for their guests to arrive. Dinner in the marina restaurant that night when "Two by Sea" was robbed during the dinner - wallet, phones etc. A really funny situation as the next day virtually everything was returned by a women who it transpired had almost certainly been the thief. Next day we had the compulsory island tour which turned out very expensive at US$10 per person per hour - we live and learn. We did have a good tour and a good lunch though. Next day we moved south to a really nice bay called Grande Anse D'Arlet where we snorkeled quite a lot in the very clear waters. A very easy day and dinner on board with Turkey Casserole and Fresh fruit salad. The next day we motored up to St. Pierre in the north to check out - unsuccessful as the place was closed, forgot the trash and couldn't find any bananas - successful because we met another yacht - Bright Ayes - who told us we didn't have to check out. On looking at the paperwork again we agreed so we headed off for Dominica (Domineeka).
Arrived after a good sail up from St. Pierre but with winds stronger than expected. Anchored off the capital city (exaggeration really) of Roseau. Took a mooring there assisted by "Roots" one of the local boat guys. As Roots was in the guide book we then booked an island tour with him for the next day. Managed to check in with Customs no problem and very nicely it also includes the check out so we have no need to do that when we leave. The tour - taken by Hayden - was very good but busy as there was a cruise liner in. Everywhere we went so did the tourists. We got back to the boat early enough to motor up to Portsmouth on the northern corner and again took a mooring - this time assisted by Alexis - again in the book. This time we organised the India River tour. This is by boat - the guides - as no engines are permitted up the river. About four hours later this was one of our best tours. Peaceful, lots of birds, and a walk round his "brothers" plantation where we were invited to taste virtually everything; Coconut milk, grapefruit, papaya, sugar cane, fresh carrots etc. Also most of us were given fresh fruit to take away with us. Real nice. Ron and Julie went out for dinner to the Purple Turtle and had great burgers. Frank and Tari stayed onboard to suffer through their diet.
An early start at about 0615 to try and avoid too much wind on the passage between the north of Dominica and The Saintes, a group of islands just south of Guadeloupe. Success and a real nice sail with no more than about 15 knots of wind. Anchor down here by 10.00am. Couldn't anchor off the main town as there was no room within anchoring depth so found another bay just west of town which is really nice. Snorkeling very good and lots of fish about here. On the 14th everyone went in to town to check in and shop except Ron and Julie who went to do "the walk". Le Chameau is the high point of the Saintes so it was decided we had to walk to the top. A tough and steep walk but well worth it at the end as the photos below show. The green iguana crossed out path inches in front of us. He was about two feet long to the tip of his tail. Anyway, back to the boat and a bit more snorkeling (for Julie at least) and then dinner on board Two by Sea - fresh tuna.
A leisurely start at about 08.30 to go up to Pigeon Island - about twenty miles up the coast of Guadeloupe. This place is the start of the Jacques Cousteau Marine Nature Park and the snorkeling and diving was supposed to be excellent. Well the snorkeling certainly was. Visibility at the island was about 50 meters and there was lots to see - including a three foot long Giant Barracuda - not in nasty mood though and just sitting there on the bottom. The morning of the 16th sees everyone going over to the island for more snorkeling before heading up to Deshaies on the north tip of Guadeloupe ready for the crossing tomorrow to Antigua. Hopefully we will have e-mail in Deshaies! No e-mail. In the afternoon everyone took a walk up the hill to the Botanical Gardens. A hot "march" up the steep hill but once there it was worth it. On the way in we had seen a boat we knew from Turkey and the Black Sea - "Trucial Coast" with Rob and Anne Cornish. They came over for drinks and a "reminisce" in the evening.
The 17th saw an early start from Deshaies and a pretty good sail all the way to Antigua. Big swell had been forecast and the seas wee fairly high but no problem and a good fast sail across. Took a look at English Harbour and though very pretty it was just too full for us to find anchoring space. Went round to Falmouth Harbour next door and no problem there at all. Frank tried to check in with the authorities but failed as the procedures do not allow this to happen in one trip. Anyway all finalised the next morning. Dinner out a t a steak house the first night even though not properly checked in. Next day (18th) went ashore to shop and then moved Vision to the fuel dock in the marina to fill up. Managed to get some laundry done so clean clothes again tomorrow. After fuelling went back out to the anchorage but closer to the northern side to avoid the forecasted big swell that was due - biggest swell in 40 years forecast and turned out to be the biggest ever recorded. Next day we (Ron and Julie) went in and picked up laundry and got fuel for the dinghy. When we came back we found Jay and Linda from "Helles Belles" on board "Vision". We knew Jay and Linda really well from the Black Sea and Turkey and they had also offered us dock space in New Jersey (New York) when we get there. Good to see them again. That night everyone came to Vision for dinner - a real good night. Next day (20th) the crew mutiny meant that we did not leave Antigua due to the high swell - despite Frank wanting to go. So drinks on board with Gordon and Etta from our neighbouring boat "Didi Mau" and then ashore in the evening for dinner with "Helles Belles" and "Two by Sea" at a really nice Italian restaurant at Cat Marina on the north side.
We left Falmouth Harbour at 06.00 on Friday morning for the passage across to St. Kitts and Nevis. These are two islands next to each other that had been formed into one country. We had a good sail across and then a very interesting passage between the two islands. In what had become fairly big swell and in very shallow aquamarine waters we passed between the islands by surfing some of the time on the swells that pushed us through. Anchored off Basse Terre which is the capital of St. Kitts and Nevis. Next morning we arranged an island tour with Leroy who was a very good guide. Not being a very big island the tour was only for about four hours and we returned in time for a very nice lunch in the town square. Actually described as an octagonal square circus!!!. The tour took us to Brimstone Hill which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been really well restored. This goes back to when the British first took over the island as their central Caribbean base for some obscure reason. The next morning (after a bumpy night in the anchorage we went further south on the island and anchored off the large Salt Pond. Ron, Julie and Tari took a long Sunday morning hike round the pond where we saw lots of birds but also some of the local green vervet monkeys.
On Monday morning we went a little further south to Nevis, an even smaller island. Frank and Tari had arranged to meet up with friends who live here - Peter and Carol from the boat "Eight Bells". We took a mooring ball here as there have been about one hundred laid to encourage yachts to visit. The problem is that it anchorage is very open to anything other than a NE wind. The wind was actually blowing very strongly - up to 35 knots so Ron and Julie stayed onboard while Frank and Tari went ashore to sign in and meet their friends.
Tuesday 25th sees us making a fairly long passage - 63 miles to the island of "St. Martins". This is a strange island as the northern side is St. Martins and belongs to the French while the southern side is Sint Maartens and belongs to the Netherland Antilles. Anchored in Simpson Bay outside the lagoon and did the initial check in and a bit of shopping. A bit of a rolly night so in the morning we moved anchorage location to further in the bay. All went ashore to "Shrimpy's" which is a bar/cafe/internet outlet and waited for the arrival of Geoff and Shirley from "Three Sheets" who would be visiting "Vision" for a week. Had lunch there and then dinner on board. On the 27th we all took a trip into the lagoon and visited the chandleries and hardware store. Took the dinghy back to the yacht club dock and walked to a really nice restaurant - Toppers - for our Wedding Anniversary lunch. Great friendly place and Topper and family pretty well run the place with chatty friendly staff. On Friday we all took the bus into Phillipsberg which is the capital of Sint Maartens. This whole island is a "duty free" haven so lots of high class shops to spend your millions at. Diamonds, fashion, jewelry etc. Our spending was limited to a repair of Ron's sunglasses and a new pocket digital camera (for Ron). Nice lunch at the Barefoot restaurant on the beach and then Frank emptied the duty free liquor store of all its Absolut Vodka - literally. On Saturday 29th Frank, Tari, Geoff and Shirley took a ferry trip to the island of Saba while we stayed around Simpson Bay to do internet and watch some live football. On Sunday Vision upped anchor and we headed off to start a circumnavigation of the island. Had a good lunch stop at Grande Case and went snorkeling on the reef before heading to Orient Bay on the East coast for our overnight anchorage.
On Monday we returned to Simpson Bay and in fact entered through the lift bridge into the lagoon as there was bad weather imminent and the lagoon is well protected. Managed to get in on the 09.30 opening and found a nice spot just off from Shrimpy's. On Tuesday 1st April - should have known - all except Frank went on the small ferry to St. Barts which is a French Island about 15 miles away. An "exciting" ride over in big seas with half the passengers throwing up. Nice quaint island though and an enjoyable day. An easier trip back "downwind". That evening dinner at Toppers for their famous Rib Eye night. Very good and paid for by Geoff as a thank you to all for their week. The next morning Geoff and Shirley take a bit of a wet ride to the airport, Frank catches up on a couple of jobs and Ron, Julie and Tari go to Shrimpy's for internet and some shopping. We manage to find the Champions league game between Arsenal and Liverpool on so stay and watch that. Also collected laundry which means we can wear clean clothes again!! Thursday the 3rd and it looks like we may be here a while longer. Bad weather forecast and we have very high winds which means the bridge cannot open even if we did want to go. The plan is now to leave early next week (6th or 7th) for the British Virgin Islands. Watch this space. Not gone yet but the 6th sees us going to the Sunset Beach Bar which is right at the beginning of the runway so we have lunch, a few drinks and watch the big jets come in very low over the beach where the idiots gets blown into the water by the jet streams - great fun though. Early morning of the 7th and we at long last set off early - 0530 - for the British Virgin Islands.
After some good sailing, and some motor sailing, we arrived at Spanish Town on the island of Virgin Gorda just before dark and anchored. The next morning we put the boat onto a secure mooring and went to check in etc. We also booked a dive for the next day - our first this trip. In the afternoon we took a cab to "The Baths" which are caves and rocks at the beach. Good fun swimming here and wandering through the caves. Wednesday sees the tow of us head off for two dives. Visibility is excellent - 30 meters plus though (for us) there seems to be not too much marine life. What there is though was good. The biggest lobster we have ever seen - must have been great great grand dad and would have been difficult to lift - probably 50 pounds or so (23 Kg). On the second dive we were even more lucky - in excess of thirty (30) sharks are in and around us - luckily they are all nurse sharks and a fairly harmless. They are all in the region of 2 meters long and sleeping in nests under every overhang - amazing. The next few days we spend being "beach bums" and moving from island to island for the excellent beaches and snorkeling. On passage between two islands (Norman and Peter) we had the encounter of a lifetime. Just about ten feet behind the boat whale surfaced and then started to swim along with and under us. We could actually hear it calling from on deck. This was a reasonable size of about 20-25feet so we felt that there was no problem. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) mother decided to come along at this point and she was about 60 - 80 feet long. Obviously "baby" had thought that we were its mum and was crying out for a response. At this point it was decided that discretion was the better part of valor and we headed away from them quite quickly. (There have been reports of mother whales destroying boats that came near their babies). We also managed to get to some great places for dinner including "The Last Resort" where the band were amazing, "Willy T's" which is an old schooner anchored off in a bay and also "Foxy's" on Jost Van Dyke Island which has a "name" for itself among the world wide yachting community.
A difficult days sailing gets us into Culebra which is part of the Spanish Virgin Islands but in reality belongs to Puerto Rico and hence the United States. As it is Sunday there are no customs open so we cannot check in. Monday morning sees us head off for the airport early and we get checked into the USA very easily. Back to the boat and we head off immediately for the main island of Puerto Rico and the city of San Juan where tomorrow we leave "Vision" and this part of our adventure to return to "Gladlee" in Virginia. Continue to log into Latest News for our ongoing news. The Caribbean has been great fun overall and we have loved being with Frank and Tari on "Vision" for what has been over two months. We have to leave at this stage because their Bridge is getting too good and they are starting to beat us. Many thanks to them and to "Vision" for putting up with us.