Report & Photos by Ken & Carmel Kavanagh Cruises Index >>

In Bequia - Grenadines
12th March 2008

Where exactly are we?
Many people have asked where exactly are we, so here comes the Geography lesson!

Map of Windward & Leeward Islands >>

The Caribbean islands, which are divided into the Windward and Leeward islands, are also known as the Lesser Antilles and the West Indies. In the Windward group going south, there is Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines and finally Grenada. The Leewards, going north, include Dominica, Guadalupe, Antigua, Barbuda, St Martin, St Kits, Montserrat, Anguilla, The US and British Virgin Islands and some other smaller ones. Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the Bahamas are not included in the list of Windward's and Leeward's.

We are currently in Bequia which is the most northerly of the Grenadines and is governed by St Vincent. There are 7 islands in the St Vincent Grenadines: Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Meyreau, Tobago Cays, Petit St Vincent and Union Island. The 2 remaining islands in the Grenadine group, Petite Martinique and Cariacou belong to Grenada which is the most southerly of the Windward Islands and lies only 85 miles from both Trinidad and Los Testigos which is an island off the coast of Venezuela. So going south from St Lucia one ends up in Venezuela and going north as we are trying to do, one hits the East coast of the U.S.A. Hope that clears things up a bit.

Why are we not further north by now?
Today is March 2nd- Mother's Day. The Kavanagh children are getting off lightly because I am not at home to be pampered and spoiled! We are back in Bequia in the Grenadines since last Tuesday on our way north. However, we ended up spending nearly a month in Grenada partly because we loved it there and also because the really strong north easterlies prevented us from going north.

Non-sailing friends please note:
Yes, we could motor into it but it is very uncomfortable because you have to drive into the wind and the swell at the same time which makes for a very bumpy, wet, slow and unpleasant passage and off course the sails are virtually useless! So we stayed put on anchor in Prickly Bay, Grenada.

The Carenage, St George's, Grenada

Some frustrations of the Cruising Life:
We also had some boat troubles which are part and parcel of living aboard one's yacht full time. A sailing friend of mine, Jayne, who has 16 years cruising experience, advised me that if I couldn't accept that there is always a list of jobs to be done and problems to be solved on the boat, then the cruising life would not be for me! How wise and right she is as I had to take her advice very much to heart in recent times!

For instance, while weighing anchor in Prickly Bay, the anchor windless (the motor that hauls up the anchor chain) lifted slightly off the deck when the 60lb anchor was coming over the bow. There could be no question of any further anchoring until that was fixed! First we had to find a marina berth which we did in the Lagoon, St George's (capitol of Grenada) and then locate someone with the necessary know-how to sort out the problem. Mike, of Palm Tree Marine, made up and fitted a robust stainless steel plate to support the underside of the windless and we were in the anchoring business again!

Then on another occasion, we noticed flickering in the electronic equipment on board - a loose connection. Well, the shunt for the Battery Monitor (new) had to be taken out and re-soldered, so another few days lost and another few dollars less in the sailing kitty! But the company who made the battery monitor, 'Sterling', agreed to replace the unit without any arguments. It will have to be brought out to us by the next visitor to the boat.

A third and final example of the vicissitudes of the live-aboard life was the discovery that all the coolant was escaping from the engine! As we had the engine taken out and re-conditioned in Gran Canaria, we were extremely disappointed with this development. The cause? A broken o-ring on a pipe that connects the heat-exchanger to the engine block. The o-ring costs less than 50p but we couldn't use the engine until it was replaced - which is was with all speed here in Bequia.

None of the above mentioned would break even a pensioner's bank but they are a nuisance and cause delays which in turn can cause one to miss good weather 'windows'.

A pleasure in disguise!
I have to admit, though, that it is no punishment to have to spend a little extra time in most of the magnificent places we have visited. We are not on schedule. By now, we had planned to have visited Martinique, Dominica, les Saintes and Guadeloupe and possible even Antigua. But what odds? As long as we are over at the British Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico by this time next month when our friend, Regina, joins us, we are in no rush. What we don't see this season, we will visit again when we return to the Caribbean from the States and most places are only a day sail away anyway. One or two overnights can cover a lot of ground. The long hauls will be from the Bahamas to the coast of America and then up to New York - 2,000 nautical miles in total.

Life as a live-aboard in Grenada.
In Grenada, there was a fantastic Cruiser's net every morning at 0730. It was divided into different sections: Priority Traffic (medical or navigational problems), Weather Forecast, New Arrivals and Departures (of yachts), Treasures of the Bilge (great opportunity to offload unwanted equipment and to acquire necessary items at great prices). There was also a list of social activities in the area. So there was absolutely no excuse for not having a good time!

We met some wonderful people through the net and went on a great island tour specially organised for yotties. While in Grenada, we visited all corners of the island - Sauteurs in the north, Grenville on the Atlantic Coast, the Annedale and Concorde Waterfalls, the Rain Forest, Nutmeg and Rum factories.

Remember, Grenada is also known as "Spice Island" because of the vast number of spices which are grown here. The spice market in St George's was a most interesting and colourful place to spend a few bob.

Dressed in Grenada national colours
for Grenada Independence Day

We met some wonderful people through the net and went on a great island tour specially organised for yotties. While in Grenada, we visited all corners of the island - Sauteurs in the north, Grenville on the Atlantic Coast, the Annedale and Concorde Waterfalls, the Rain Forest, Nutmeg and Rum factories. Remember, Grenada is also known as "Spice Island" because of the vast number of spices which are grown here. The spice market in St George's was a most interesting and colourful place to spend a few bob.

"De Friday Fish Fry" in Gouyave, a fishing village about an hour north of St George's is an event not to be missed. It is like a fish only "Street Party". All kinds of fish are barbequed and sold from stalls including delicious lobster and you eat them on the spot! There is some casual seating and of course lots of music and dancing- a great experience.

We also got to see all the rugby matches so far in the six Nations Cup on a big screen in Clarke's Court Bay, a bus ride from Prickly Bay-thanks to RTE and computer technology. I am already worrying about next week's major match in Croke Park between Ireland and Wales (Hmmm - editor). I am hoping that one of the French Islands will be showing rugby because of France's involvement. Otherwise there will be no hope as rugby is unknown here- they are all cricket mad!

We have sampled the regional specialities- Rotis (curried food wrapped in a type of pancake) and Calallo soup (a first cousin of spinach but tastes much nicer!)

Much and all as we are enjoying the beauty of the different places, one is also aware not only of the poverty of the indigenous population but of the huge foreign development that is talking place and which will eventually rob the natives of the possibility of ever owning their own patch of land on their own islands.

The different governments are literally selling vast areas of their islands to foreign developers. These rich developers, mostly American and British, are buying up the most beautiful spots with the full support of the governments and building very up-market holiday homes, hotels and apartments which will only have seasonal occupation and of course cannot be afforded by the local people. Already there are many supermarkets where the locals cannot shop because the prices are simply too high.

In my opinion the great tragedy is that this is being done with the full consent of the various governments of the islands. The best anchorages are also being bought up for development to accommodate the Super Yachts trade. So soon the live-aboard community of yotties will also find themselves priced out of the Caribbean market. Charter companies such as 'The Moorings' have already taken over many of the best anchorages and marina berths. An example of this is Marigot Bay in St Lucia. There is no more room for ordinary visiting yachts in the inner basin. The few remaining moorings outside are very expensive and anchoring is not a great option because the water is very deep. This type of development is also particularly evident in the south of Grenada and here in Bequia.

The talk around here is that the best days of the Caribbean are fast coming to an end. It would appear that the average live-aboard yottie, who is generally on a fairly tight budget, will have to move further south to maybe Brazil in search of a more affordable life-style which the Caribbean islands had offered up to now. It is a pity that Venezuela seems to be so crime-ridden that it is not a popular option.

On a more positive note!
There is still plenty for us to enjoy and hopefully most of these developments will come on stream very slowly in GMT time which down here means "Grenada Maybe Time"!

Last Sunday, I went to mass here on Bequia for the first time. It was better than any concert! The singing to the accompaniment of steel drums and guitars was brilliant. It was all so raucous and kind of tuneless that I could even sing along! At the end of the mass, the priest asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday during the forthcoming week and the congregation duly burst into a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for those birthday boys and girls. Then it was the turn of anniversaries and finally new arrivals on Bequia which off course included Ireland! Then they burst into song with an arousing rendition of "We all love you, yes we do". It was amazingly good humoured and fun.

I also took some time out last Sunday to walk over to the Atlantic side of the island to visit the Turtle Sanctuary which has been responsible for rearing 849 turtles to date and returning them to the sea.

It is now Friday 7th March and since starting this account, we have helped friends to sail their boat up to St Lucia from here. It took 2 days in very strong winds but was an exhilarating experience. The skipper, who has a heart condition, had a bad scare when his defibulator went off on the way from Grenada to Bequia.

A lucky turtle in Turtle Santuary, Bequia

They couldn't continue on their own so Ken and I stepped in. They have a 45 ft Gulfstar Hirsh, an American make of boat which is now going on the market. We flew back down to Bequia yesterday and are currently sitting out some nasty weather before hopefully setting out ourselves at daybreak tomorrow morning in an attempt to get further north once and for all.

I will let you know how we get on. In the meantime, take care of yourselves and enjoy each day!

Carmel & Ken
Safari of Howth

EMail: carmelveronicakavanagh@yahoo.ie