Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A tour through the Grenadines

Chatham Bay

Saturday morning, by nine we were heading south. The Captain put his index finger on the chart over the Tobago Cays. The reality was, once we got closer, that there were still a lot of swells from the north and he changed course to Union Island, the kite surfing paradise. For sure there were a lot of people practising the sport.

We anchored in Clifton Bay behind the reef for one night, but it was really rolly and next morning we moved to another spot, called Chatham Bay, on the lee side of the island, and stay one night to wait for the swells to slow down and then go to Tobago Cays. Our first encounter with an boat boy was with this 25 years old guy with big eyes and always open smile, named Dindin. He welcomed us and told us the whole scoop about the place. He works for a restaurant on the beach, motoring around the anchorage trying to get customers to come ashore for drinks and food.

The third day we were ready for the Tobago Cays experience, so we took off about nine, and went around Union Island and then to the sparkling blue water spot. It looks like a well maintained swimming pool, just perfect. We got there at low tide, anchored, and went snorkelling on the reef, about quarter of a mile away. What a beautiful experience, we saw manta rays, puffer fish, parrot fish, sponges and corals, little craps of every kind... majestic! “Like swimming inside an aquarium” Jim said.

When the tide started coming in, the waves started breaking over the reef and the boat began to rock and roll. And we are talking about really rocking and rolling! “This will cure you from getting seasick”, said Jim, bracing and holding on while the boat rocked. That night I prepared a tasty menu in a shaky galley, almost like a song name, including choreography, that we called the sailing dance. Jim got it down pretty quick, but I couldn't get Archie to dance it, he just laughed. Ah! The menu: Black bean salad with Caribbean spice peppers and bay leaves; white rice and fried plantains. Jim was in charge of fixing a very nice tuna sushimi, with a yellow fin tuna Archie caught with his wallet. It was so fresh that it was still dripping blood. The bottle of Argentinian white wine hit us hard, so by 9 o' clock we were numb and went to sleep, not kidding, in literally a washing machine.

We were all awake by 6, Archie and I didn't complain, but the skipper was all beat up and said: “Did everybody get enough of the Tobago Cays?” He was ready to set sail for a calmer anchorage.


Another mishap

Quick view of Clifton

Our brains were quite shaken from the night before's rocking experience, making any other anchorage look very good. Our next stop was Clifton Bay in Union Island, an anchorage protected by a long reef on which a local guy named Janti has constructed a small island made of conch shells and cement, he has named it Happy Island, a bar and restaurant where he serves drinks and food.

We motored in and dropped the anchor behind the reef, in the calmest and most protected place we found, in front of the kite surfing school. Then happy with the place that we anchored, we went ashore to have lunch and clear out of the Grenadines. We also did a tour around the island, that really didn't impressed anybody, but as we say: “been there, done that... don't need to come back”.

Then we went back to the boat thinking about a nap, a swim and a trip to Happy Island. Just as we started to lie down this dinghy approaches the boat and a kite surfing instructor announces that one of the kite surfing students got her kite tangled in the mast while we were gone, and said "I think she broke something up there, I'm sorry”. We looked up to the top of the mast and the wind instrument mast head unit was bent and had pieces hanging from the wires.

Archie and I took a express lesson of how to hoist Jim up to the top of the mast; and for his sake we are good students. He came down with the mast head unit, It was completely trashed. There was no way that it could be repaired.

The instruments on the boat were made 26 years ago, by a company called Datamarine, they are great quality and very accurate, and were put on Salty Shores in 1986, when she was built. Unfortunately this company is out of business and nobody makes them any more.

The solution he didn't like was to get a modern brand, which is not as reliable and more complicated. How was Jim going to make this Moroccan, raised in France, living in Haiti, working for the U.N. woman; understand that what had just happened wasn't a matter of a few hundred dollar?

Finally the French woman came on board. After a little introduction the conversation went nicely and then changed to the business of the problem. With a Budget Marine catalog Jim showed her a comparable new wind speed instrument. The cost of the mast head unit, the digital display, the  bracket and cable that connects the two would cost around 1800 dollars. The labor for installation would be at least 500 dollars and another two to three hundred dollars to stay in a Marina while the work was being done. There would also be the added cost of shipping and duties about 300 dollars.

I understand, I understand it's not inexpensive. My father has a sail boat and I own a plane, I know.” At the end of the meeting they exchange contact information, Jim also gave her his bank  routing and his account number, since she suppose to transfer 2000 dollars to start the process. During the entire time that she was on the boat she wore huge aviator sunglasses, so we could never really look her straight in the eyes. When she left I felt a little uncomfortable.