Before I start this blog, I would just like to mention the fact that if you wish to view see the photos better, you can actually click on them, and they will enlarge to their full size on a new tab. I recently figured it out myself, so just in case anyone else was getting frustrated with the tiny photos 😉
These past two weeks we have been spending at Martinique – but since nothing specific really happened, because of my dad’s knee (more on that later) I’ll tell you about some of the other islands we visited in the windward chain.
So obviously we sailed on from Grenada, where we had hooked up with our Brazilian friends on AmarSemFim (Love without end). It was great to have friends to enjoy the experiences with, especially since they’re also Christians! We have spent quite a lot of our time on their boat since then.
From Grenada, we spent some time before Christmas at Carriacou. Especially at Sandy Island, which is a strip of mini-island that is more like a beach.
On one specific day, we all went to the beach with the two Yoshima kids. Dad, Mom, Franci and I took to the water and went snorkelling. I think the younger kids also did some swimming and snorkelling, but when I came out they were most definitely running around on the shore. When Franci and I went to investigate (and put our newly acquired sea urchin skeletons on Shampoo) we were intrigued to find a hermit crab farm. (Or hole.)
Maria, Juca, Sophia . . . and I think Karin helped too, but I’m not completely sure . . . had found a lot of land hermit crabs walking around the island. (Or rather, hiding under the trees.) Using a plastic cup and their hands, they had carried all of them to the beach to put them together in a hole they had dug for the purpose. On further investigation, it was revealed that they had first tried putting them in a kind of mini pen built from sticks and rocks. However, since this barrier seemed to go completely unnoticed by the hermit crabs, they soon abandoned it for the more practical hole in the sand.
Unfortunately this method too had a drawback – the slope of the hole wasn’t steep enough to keep the busy hermit crabs inside, and so there always had to be someone on duty to flick them back into the hole when they started climbing too high. Franci and I took a turn at this, but we felt bad about just flicking them so that they rolled down the slope, so we took each individual by the shell and gently lifted them back to the bottom. The hermit crabs were too fast for us (very industrious, those hermit crabs) and so I’m sure we lost a few . . .
There was some enjoyable diving around there, but we had to hire a guide, so we only went twice.
We celebrated Franci’s birthday there, and also the fact that we’ve been sailing for a year now!
When the Christmas winds started howling through, we decided that the best course of action was to get to a nice safe anchorage so that Christmas eve and Christmas itself could be relaxed. So we cleared out of Grenada (Carriacou and Grenada are under one government) and sailed over to Union Island.
Union Island is part of the group of small islands called ‘the Grenadines’ which fall under ‘St Vincent and the Grenadines’. We had to clear in at Clifton bay, but it was really crowded and exposed to the wind, with unsure holding for the anchor. We weren’t sure that the boat would be okay, so my mom, Franci and I stayed on the boat while my dad and the two younger girls went to clear us in at customs and immigration. Just in case we had to suddenly start the engine or something.**
Thankfully, we were fine, but we weighed anchor asap, and motored around to the other side of the island to a nice protected anchorage. Also very crowded (in Brazil I can remember it only ever being us who actually stayed over-night in most of the anchorages at Ilha Grande) but it at least didn’t feel unsafe (as if we were going to swing into anybody).
We spent Christmas there, and had a lovely time. We took out our little wire baobab that we had bought before leaving South Africa, and decorated it with a bag of quality street sweets!
I learned how to make “Uncle Ricardo special bread” ^_^. Very funny – Uncle Ricardo (Brazilian boat) has this standard bread recipe (Italian, I think) that he makes, and it’s very nice. So he taught us(i.e. me) how to make it on Christmas Eve, so I tried it out that same evening. (It has to rise for about 8-10 hours before you can actually bake it, so I was making it for the next morning.) I think it was a success – I’ve made it quite a few times since then.
Not much going on on land, so we never ventured there. The water wasn’t as beautiful as in Clifton, because it was deeper and had ground/mud/grass as a bottom and not white sand. (That is what gives the water the amazing blueness – the white sand just a few metres under the surface. Of course, the water needs to be clean too for the full effect 😉
After Union Island, we headed to Tobago Cays. (Pronounced ‘To-bay-go Keys’ ) It was lovely there. Enough reef to make it shallow enough to make the white sand give that beautiful effect, and lovely little islets.
The Tobago Cays basically consist of a few islets surrounded by reefs. Behind the reefs there is quite good anchoring, but it’s very exposed to wind. When we first arrived everyone was hiding behind the little islands, because the Christmas winds were still hurrying past with full force.
There were a lot of boats – I assume partly because it was holiday (between Christmas and New year) and partly just because the Caribbean is getting crowded. Every morning there would be these HUGE charter boats coming in to anchor some way off, then they would send out little speed boats packed with people who came to spend their day on the white beaches. The ships weren’t those humungous white cruisers (although we did see some of them in Grenada), they were . . . I suppose technically they should be able to sail, but I’m sure they never really did. Some of them looked newer – all white with four or five masts. Others looked more ‘pirate-ship’y, and had about three to four masts. These were the ones who had a more wooden aspect about them.
The most numerous yachts are those that we call the ‘chocolate boxes.’ (We borrowed this term from Martinique, a woman who wrote about her sailing experience as a child in the book ‘Thinking up a hurricane’.) These boats are very obviously the charter crowd, who have huge ‘Sunsail’ prints on their sail covers and boats. They anchor and relax in their swimming things, obviously not cruisers. (Identifiable by lack of ‘stuff’ on deck.)
The super yachts (fun to watch) are those that very often have a jet-ski or two strapped to the front. They are the huge, sleek, expensive private yachts that always have about two crew members in uniform doing all the sailing, winching, driving, etc., while the family (or whoever owns the boat) does the swimming and tanning. 😉 We had one anchored some distance from us, but without any boats in between, so we got to know it a little in the time we were there.
You had to pay to stay at Tobago Cays (it’s a marine park, you see) but it wasn’t too expensive. Diving, however, was out of the question – waaaaaaay too expensive! (Again, it’s a marine park . . .)
We could however snorkel whenever we felt like it. We (Dad, Mom, Franci and I) went once with Shampoo to one of the less crowded beaches, and snorkelled all around the island. (We literally swam around the island) and it was nice. We saw two turtles, and some fish life, some coral and a huge red sea star. (Sophia and Karin stayed home and baked banana bread.)
Another time only my dad, Franci and I went. We tied to a tiny little mooring in the middle of one of the reefs, and snorkelled around there for an hour or two. It was very cool – we saw three rays, and a nurse shark! I think that’s the first time I’ve seen a shark since I was twelve . . . maybe thirteen. Really cool.
The islets were pretty much deserted – with some trails going through them. True, one was overrun by iguanas but there were no buildings on the islands.
We felt as though we got through what there was to see fairly quickly, and so decided to be off to Bequia.
Tell you about that later . . .
**You can go have a peak at Clifton bay on Google earth. It is really small, with reef around protecting the anchorage, and then a huge reef right in the middle too! We had to anchor on the west side of the middle reef, since it was way too crowded on the other side.