We can still ride a bike

Since we have been in the Caribbean we have been planning on biking but either the islands were too small, the drivers too crazy or the water and rum-punch too inviting.

Finally today – anchored off St. Vincent – we set the alarm for sunrise, jumped out of bed, breakfasted, packed everything in to the dinghy, rowed to the beach, put the bikes together, got dressed in cycling gear and set off up hill.

Looking out acros St. Vincent

We followed the Windward Highway for the first few kilometers and then turned up a small steep side road. At nine o’clock we stopped next to the village school for a drink and then continued up in to the hills. We were far off the tourist trails and everyone looked at the crazy mountain-bikers. Thinking about it, we didn’t meet another bike of any type all day. Most people exchanged a happy “Morning! Morning!” with us and were pleased when we told them they had a “beautiful but steep country”. It was nice that they were happy as even some of the women carry machetes.

Eventually the road became a track and the track became a trail and we were riding along a ridge between two valleys surrounded by foliage and humming birds – real jungle feeling. The trail took a steep turn downhill which we slid down before realizing we should have taken a hidden turn at the top. We climbed back up a never ending bamboo staircase back to the top and sweat literally ran off us. Who needs a fitness studio?

the never ending bamboo staircase back up to the ridge.

Back at the top there was more great scenery before we took the correct turn down hill. On the way we passed a sign pointing to a spring so we stopped off there. Living on a boat, you really appreciate limitless, flowing cool water. We washed ourselves and let the sun dry us.

As the bikes were on land we used them to find a bank and a supermarket before returning to the beach for a beer and then rowing back “home”.

We climbed 650 meters during the 24 kilometer ride so we obviously still know how to ride a bike. We were also reminded how amazing it is to have bikes along and be able to get inland to places where people just live their lives without having to put on a tourist display. Our track is saved to gpsies.com

The advantage of experience

Yesterday we left the island of Petit Nevis to sail up the windward side of Bequia and then across to St. Vincent. A quick ten miles on the charts.

tacking to St. Vincent

Our first tack had us heading the wrong way towards Mustique. We tacked the other way and after about six miles we had actually achieved half a mile. But we are sailors so thought “it can only get better!” and tacked again. It didn’t get better. We were just holding our ground despite doing five knots sideways to the wind.

Eventually we gave in and switched the motor on and sailed straight in to the wind, current and swell. We were barely managing two knots and it was a long haul to the end of Bequia where we once again began to sail and once again we were being pushed much too far west but we persisted.

Once we entered the shadow of St. Vincent and got out of the Atlantic swell our course improved and with two tacks we anchored in Young Island Cut.

That evening I mailed an experienced sailor who is anchored off Bequia and knows these waters well. I asked what we were doing wrong.

He answered “… because there is usually a strong E>W current running most of the time all the way through the islands & it is particularly strong between Bequia & St Vincent. … the chop tends to stop the boat hence the slow progress which reduces the angle that you can sail to the wind. Very frustrating but that’s sailing.

He also crossed to St. Vincent today but he took the ferry!

Bequia

We stopped off at Port Elizabeth – Bequia for one night while heading south. We basically just checked in to the country, bought some new SIM cards and sailed on.

This time we have taken the time to get a better look at this beautiful island. We sailed upwind to reach the island and then did the necessary tacks to sail right in to Port Elizabeth and drop the anchor. The next day we did all our “jobs” and then on day two met Nicola and Davo for a days sailing. Davo is an experienced sailor which was nice as you could say “just keep her on the wind” and then disappear off to make lunch. It was Nicola’s first sail but we soon had her sailing a course as well. All four of us had a great day which we finished off with a fun meal in the evening at the beach bar.

Bequia Island

Nicola and Davo brought a few spare parts with them and two new snorkeling masks so can we now snorkel together. It is amazing just how much life is swimming around under our boat as we bob at anchor. And when you swim across to the rocks they are teeming with life. We have already ticked the stingrays off the list and are now searching for turtles.

Southern stingray

The following day we actually managed a day of “doing nothing”. We often plan such a day but it never happens – something always gets in the way. This time we actually managed to stay in bed until midday, eat brunch, snorkel, drink coffee, drink wine and eat. Amazing.

One way wind – looking north

Today we were fully refreshed so hiked up the highest hill we could find to a magnificent view point and then back. After three hours of walking we went for an hour of swimming and are now officially “tired out”.

Stingray picture by Matthew Hoelscher from Doral, FL, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Heidi and the Zen of Sailing

Today was going to be another upwind day. We waited until the afternoon before leaving Ronde Island so that the tide would be pushing us upwind. A good excuse for a long sleep and then a swim to the beach to wake up.

We motored round Diamond Island and then set the sails for hard upwind sailing and were depressed to see that we were going to miss Carriacou by at least four miles. The hoped for two knot push to the east just wasn’t happening but as Guru Heidi wisely commented “you can only sail where the wind takes you.”

Upwind sailing a la Heidi

As we headed north we saw another boat we knew getting pushed even further west but then we found the hoped for current and the course began to improve. Heidi took over the tiller and entered “Zen Sailing” mode. No looking at the compass or the surrounding islands – she just stared at the clouds and “felt” the best course. Sounds pretty wacky but you can’t argue with success. She was faster than Neill and slowly bent us to the east and Tyrell Harbour.

As the boat that had been pushed west motored back upwind and a French boat struck their sails to motor, Heidi tacked twice and sailed straight in to the harbour.

And all this from some one who only ten moths ago was complaining that “it is impossible to feel the wind”.

Quick visit to Grenada

Our “welcome to Grenada” on the island of Cariacou was a bit of a disapointment. We filled out everything needed to clear in to the country online and took the dinghy to customs. There we were met by an impolite and officious lady who told us she had no printer ink so we could redo it all manually. She continued to be impolite during the whole process. Luckily I have often travelled to the USA so I am practiced in dealing with officious, overweight and badly educated officials and knew the golden rule of just keep smiling and agreeing.

Immediately after things improved when we found a bar with Rum Punch and some other cruisers. I complained to the owner about the customs women who just asked “short, overweight and with an attitude?” When I agreed he told us we weren’t the first to be less than impressed.

The next day we sailed south to Ronde Island and anchored alone off the beach. No other boats. No habitation. No lights. Just an awful lot of stars. Also some big waves which discouraged us from landing on the empty beach. Just off the island is an active underwater volcano named Kick ’em Jennie. We heard no rumbles and saw no bubbles so it is obviously dormant right now.

We continued on to the south end of Grenada and the anchorage at Prickly Bay which we had heard was “the place to be”. On the morning radio net we heard about a cruisers versus locals cricket match and jumble sale but that is not really us. We met and enjoyed some drinks with a couple from Ireland who have winter off after working seven days a week at their bed and breakfast.

On Sunday we caught the bus to the capital but it was closed. The only life was round a party boat where the guests were waiting to board. Grenadians can fit an awful lot of women in to a bit of stretchy material. Another attribute that reminds me of the USA. The buses are great. They drive along blowing their horns and stop if you wave at them. Then they stop again when you want to get off. Everywhere is a bus stop.

After a big shopping expedition, refuelling and filling up with water, we set off back north. Real sailing against the wind. After sailing three thousand miles downwind this is going to take some getting used to. At the last moment we decided to stop off at Halifax Harbour. As we sailed in to anchor I recognised the boat “Sea Love” but it was Heidi who remembered it was Miles and Jo with their two kids. We last met them off La Gomera in the Canary Islands. That night it was drinks on their boat.

Just inland from the bay are the Concord waterfalls so we walked the five kilometers up through the tropical forest to see them. It was mostly uphill but we were rewarded by a refreshing swim in a gorgeous pool. Just the two of us. The best shower in months.

And as I write this we are once again anchored of Ronde Island far from the “real world”.

Roaming the Grenadines

The Grenadines are somewhere to lose yourself in.

We have met Danish cruisers who have been here, on and off, for eleven years and Swiss who have been at anchor for two or maybe three years. Happy Hour in Chatham Bay lasts three hours and everyone you meet has time for a chat. You can spend an hour sipping your rum punch and no one hassles you with an American “You guys Ok? Shall I get your check?”.

Turtles swim around the boat, pelicans crash in to the water and in the late afternoon the fish jump. Underwater there are fish in every colour and coral in every form. The water is warm and the breeze is cool and occasionally it rains to wash Artemis down.

Sunset from the beach bar

The sailing is easy. It is never more than a day from island to island and the wind always seems to be going roughly our way. Even upwind sailing is enjoyable.

We have visited the luxury island resorts at Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent and enjoyed their beaches and bars. On Palm Island we met a lovely English couple who seemed genuinely amazed that we sail across oceans in “that little boat”.

We anchored off Chatham Bay on Union Island. A beautiful horseshoe bay surrounded by wooded hillside. No swell to shake the boat but loads of wind to generate electricity. Neill actually needed a lot of electricity as he spent a week reprogramming a business application he accidentally killed while tidying up a server. There are worse places than Chatham Bay to program in. If it all gets too much you can swim, walk along the beach or up the hill and then enjoy a rum punch at the beach bar.

Two days ago we walked across the Island and officially ckeared out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We then sailed the ten miles across to the Country of Grenada. Distances are short here.

Rustler Spotting

Artemis is a “Rustler 36”. Only 125 of these boats were ever built; each one according to the wishes of the new owner – they were built when ordered and not “for the showroom”. One of the boats was wrecked and another was recently abandoned in the South Pacific during the Golden Globe Race so there are 123 out and about spread across the world.

We have a list of all 125 boats, who owns them and what differentiates them. Therefore whenever we see another Rustler 36, Neill scurries to the list to look it up. The West Coast of Scotland is a Rustler nest and we got quite used to meeting others. In Lochmaddy one berthed next to us and the owner came over for a chat. In the Outer Hebrides there were only two boats anchored in Vatersay Bay and the other one was also a Rustler 36.

Dan Hogarth and Crew on Rustler 36 no. 108, Eschaton

Falmouth (where they were built) gave us another great Rustler spotting opportunity but since we left the UK we have been Rustler-less. Many people recognized our boat especially after a sister vessel won the Golden Globe and another came second. In Spain a Frenchman greeted us as “Monsieur et Madame Rustler” and in the Caribbean, the skipper of a huge luxury catamaran congratulated us on owning a “real” yacht.

Last week we sailed in to a lonely bay at the back of a small island in the Grenadines and, amongst the blocky white catamarans saw a Rustler 36. We sailed slowly past and invited the skipper and crew for coffee. Neill checked “the list” and was stunned to find that here, in the middle of nowhere, we had met the only other Rustler owned by a Hogarth – Dan Hogarth. Coffee on board was followed by drinks on the beach and Dan proposed us for membership of the Ocean Cruising Club.

And then today just north of Grenada we passed Rustler 36 number 15 heading north. Much waving took place on both vessels but they didn’t answer our radio call. A shame as the boat is from Chichester which we visited last summer.

The view from Fort Hill

Today we are anchored just off Union Island and decided to go for a walk before we hit the fruit market and shops. As always when we are out walking, we took the road that went uphill – there is a reason Max didn’t used to join us on our walks. We walked to the top of Fort Hill which is directly above the bay and offers great views in all directions. From the old fort we had a fantastic overview of the islands and reefs that have been our sailing area the last week.

Looking north

1 is Canouan Island where we anchored in Rameau Bay. 2 is Horseshoe reef where we enjoyed the turtles swimming past. 3 is Petit Tabac, our very own coral island where we spent the night anchored alone.

Looking south

4 is Palm Island with its stunning beach. 5. is Mopion Reef with its straw roof and fast Internet. 6 is the island of Petit St. Vincent with the ridiculously expensive drinks. And 7. is Roundabout Reef with us at anchor just to the left of it.

Fast Internet everywhere (except Germany)

If you believed the Bavarian government, then Germany has the best Internet in the world and Bavaria has the best in Germany. That is absolute rubbish! There are whole villages in Germany where the Internet is slow or non-existent.

We have a tiny house and a vineyard at the end of a remote side valley in deepest Croatia. There we have fast Internet per LTE mobile phone network.

Anchored off the Cape Verde Islands off Africa we had fast Internet. In a tiny Hebrides village with five houses we had fast Internet.

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Mopion Reef, SVG

And today we were anchored at Mopion Reef in the Grenadines. It is a sandbank with a grass roof. But, of course, it has fast Internet per LTE. I could log in to my server, communicate per WhatsApp, rework a few photos in the Cloud and deal with my emails.

The lesson is obvious. If you want fast Internet and live in Germany – emigrate.

Life at the reef

Yesterday we left our anchorage in the wind shadow at Rameau Bay and headed back out in to the Atlantic swell and to Tobago Cays National Park. This is a collection of tiny volcanic islands surrounded by coral reefs.

We navigated between the shoals, islets and reefs until we were just behind the sweeping Horseshoe Reef which protects us from the Atlantic swell but leaves us exposed to the 20 knot trade winds. We anchored in about four meters of caribbean water and were visited by the first turtle before we were even swimming. This is picture book Caribbean.

Today we took the dinghy across to a tiny island ( Baradal) for some snorkelling and exploring. In the water Neill was swimming face to face with a curious fish and on land we met a leguana, a snake and a tortoise.

We then once again got soaked dinghying across to a slightly larger island (Petit Bateau) where we climbed the hill for photoshooting, met a bigger leguana and found a bar.

At the bar we met Mandy and Neil who greeted us with “you must be the Rustler people.” They are anchored next to us in a 1973 ketch. Despite today being there silver wedding anniversary, they joined us for drinks and later a coffee “back at our place”. Nice, fun people.