When we left Florida on the Big Adventure on March 1, 2018, we were hoping to eventually make it to Grenada, which is one of the last islands in the Caribbean before South America. Yesterday, we made it!
We spent two months in St. Martin (French) / Sint Maarten (Dutch), where we hauled Smartini out of the water for 16 days and completed a lot of projects. (That will be the subject of another post.) But by the middle of September, we were getting tired of worrying about the next Tropical Wave spinning off the coast of Africa – was it going to come our way? Would it develop into a Tropical Storm, or a hurricane, and would it visit St. M? Would we be in a safe enough place to avoid damage? We decided to get while the gettin’ was good, and a forecast of calm weather for a week or more was all we needed.
We left Sint Maarten on September 26 and went just a few hours to a nice anchorage on St. Bart’s for the night, which gave us a relatively easy (about 10 hours) run to Antigua the next day. (In case you’re wondering, everyone we met on Antigua pronounced the last syllable “guh”, not “gwa”.) We spent that night anchored on the west side, but didn’t check in until the following morning when we went around to English Harbour on the south side. After checking in, we moved around to Falmouth Harbour, and there we stayed for four days and nights. We rented a car and drove all over the island over the next couple of days, visiting St. John’s (the biggest town – VERY crowded) and Stingray City (see pictures), and every other part of the island that we could drive to. Since it was smack dab in the middle of Hurricane Season, most businesses (especially the bars and restaurants) in the two big boating harbours (Falmouth and English) were closed, so it was pretty sleepy. It might be fun to visit again when there are other boaters there, and it’s supposed to be CRAZY there when they have the big sailboat races, but it doesn’t seem like a place we’d really want to spend a lot of time.
On October 2, with a really good three-day forecast, we left Antigua for the small island of Bequia (pronounced BECK-way) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We did it with three long days*, with overnight stops at Iles des Saintes (south end of Guadaloupe), Grande Anse d’ Arlet on the southwest corner of Martinique, and Willilabou on the west side of St. Vincent. On the fourth day, we made it to Bequia in about two hours, and anchored in Port Elizabeth. The plan was to spend at least two or three days on Bequia, in part because we needed a break from the long days* of cruising, and in part because we’ve been hearing about Bequia almost since the beginning of the Big Adventure, and we really wanted to experience it.
(* Our sailboat friends will laugh at my use of the term “long days” to describe our travels. They think nothing of going two to five days, occasionally longer, NON-STOP. They think we’re wimps, and we think they’re crazy. But we still love ’em.)
We rented a car for a day, but drove to the far corners of the entire island in a very leisurely six hours or so – it’s not a big island. It’s beautiful, and the people were very friendly, and it’s far enough south that for the first time in a long time, we encountered a bunch of other cruisers. There were 15-20 boats in the anchorage each of the nights we were there, some charters, some liveaboards. So most of the island’s businesses were open, and we found some good food and nice atmosphere at Mac’s, Maria’s, and Papa’s. Papa is a Swede (real name Gert) who is a hockey nut – specifically a Detroit Red Wings nut – and a real nice guy. They throw what’s supposed to be a helluva New Year’s Eve party, and we made reservations!
Our favorite thing in Bequia was snorkeling on the reef right in the anchorage. It’s not that big – maybe half the size of a football field – and it’s not the most beautiful reef we’ve seen, but it’s absolutely loaded with fish and other sea life. On our first snorkel, we saw FIVE octopus (we get excited to see ONE), more than 10 eels (five different species), and a squiggly little fish called a black brotula that we’d never seen before, anywhere. It was so good, we went back the next night, right after sundown, to see if we could see the octopus hunting (they were all in their dens the first dive). We went back one more time the day before we left, and met another snorkeler who’s been there for a couple weeks, who told us he’s counted eighteen different octopus on that reef! I sure hope we get to stop at Bequia on our way back north!
After five nights in Bequia, we made a three hour run to the Tobago Cays, a small group of islands that are part of the larger group of islands known as the Grenadines. Most of the Grenadines are part of St. Vincent (hence the country’s name “St. Vincent and the Grenadines”), but a few are part of Grenada. I never knew that until we arrived here, so don’t feel bad if this is news to you, too.
The Tobago Cays are all small and relatively close together, separated by mostly shallow sand banks, not unlike a lot of the Bahamas (Abacos and Exumas, in particular). We put Killer in the water and loaded up the snorkel gear, looking for some reef. We found some, but it was kind of rough and the visibility wasn’t great. We had been told that there are a lot of turtles in one area, so we buzzed over there and immediately saw a turtle at the surface and two in the water under Killer. We hopped in the water, and it was Turtle Mania! Almost immediately we saw two, and then a group of three. At one point, I was swimming with one to take pictures, and he swam into a group of three others. We’ve been in some turtley places before (with Steve and Challen on St. John in the USVI, and most recently with Matt and Jane in St. Bart’s), but we’ve never seen as many turtles as this!
We had a nice lobster dinner on the beach that night (the “beach BBQ” is one of the main tourist attractions), and left the next day for Union Island, the southernmost of the St. Vincent Grenadines that has a Customs and Immigration office – we have to not only check in to each country when we arrive, but also check out when we leave. We went ashore and immediately met Charlie Brown (not his real name – his “business name”, as he told us), who makes a living doing things for the visiting boaters. He helped tie up Killer, and asked what we needed – a case of beer? fish? conch? (they export a huge amount of conch from here!) maybe a lobster dinner at his sister’s house? We opted for a case of Hairoun (brewed in St. Vincent, and not bad for an “island beer”), four conch, and some green peppers for the conch salad we would later make onboard. We bought him a cold Hairoun at The Tipsy Turtle Bar (we had a few with him) and tipped him EC$45 (about US$17). We could have easily gotten the goods ourselves, but we like to support the local economies where we visit, and they all need it during the off season.
After one night at Union, we left yesterday morning about 6:00 for a six hour run to St. George’s on the southwest part of Grenada. Arrived about noon, dropped the hook, put Killer in the water, and checked in with Customs and Immigration by 1:00. A taxi took us straight from there to the West Indies Beer Company, where we spent the next three hours sampling their beer and cider, and chatting with Will (an American student at the local university), his girlfriend Walker (just in for a five day visit), Leti (a Honduran woman who works for the Sandals Resort company), and her co-worker – and now our new best friend – Stephen / William. He’s Scottish, and we could understand only about 1/3 of what he said, so we’re not sure if we’re supposed to call him Stephen or William. He’s such a jolly guy, though, I’m sure he doesn’t care. Within twenty minutes of meeting him, he INSISTED we come to his home in Edinburgh (which he pronounced “Edmuh”, or something like that) and stay with him, his wife Rachel, and their two children, when we’re in Europe next summer. He meant it, and we just might take him up on it!
While at the brewery, we contacted our friends Max (Maxine) and Whitey, who have been here for about three months on the charter boat they operate, Nutmeg. They’ll be here for only another week or so before heading back to the Virgin Islands for the start of another charter season, which is part of the reason we wanted to get down here so quickly – so we could spend time with them. We met them in Key West just after Hurricane Irma two years ago and became friends immediately. We were able to see them several times while we were in the Virgins, but they brought Nutmeg down here at the start of Hurricane Season. The told us they were going to a Full Moon Party in the bay where they’re anchored, so off we went, and had a fantastic reunion with them.
We also contacted Paul and Liz, who we met the minute we arrived in Puerto Rico at the end of our long journey from Turks and Caicos in March. After spending a month with them cruising along the coast of Puerto Rico, they had to move on to meet some friends in the Virgins, and then their two kids were joining them in St. Lucia, and they already had their Hurricane Season haul-out scheduled in Grenada. They just arrived back here about ten days ago and have been getting their boat, Oniero, ready for this cruising season. They’re another reason we wanted to get down here quickly – so we could spend time with them before they go wherever they decide they’re going this season. They couldn’t make it to the party last night, but we’re going to connect with them today.
Now that we’re in Grenada, here’s the general plan: stay in this area until November 5, when we’ll put Smartini in a marina while we fly to the US to do all of our Thanksgiving visiting: Florida, Oregon, Vegas, Indy, and Fort Collins. We’ll return on December 7, and soon after, we’re hoping for a visit by our other almost-niece, Abby. We’ll show her all around Grenada and some of the Grenadines, and sometime after she leaves, we’ll start back north again. We missed a lot of islands between Sint Maarten and here, and we hope to visit all of them on the way back. Eventually, we think we’ll end up back in the Bahamas, doing volunteer work in the Abacos to help them rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. We’ve spent a lot of time in the Abacos, and met some wonderful people there, and we hope to spend at least several months there. After that? Your guess is as good as mine!