Safari explores St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines
Author: John Deane Posted on: 4/2/08 Print Version

Safari explores St Lucia, St Vincent, the Grenadine islands of Bequia and Union and culminating in Grenada

Safari of Howth arrives in Bequia on Sunday 20th January

Today is the 1st of February - la fheile Bhride. Ta an t-Earrach ag teacht! (St. Brigidís Day. Spring is on itís way)! However, I have to admit that unlike all other Januarys, this one has been the very best I have ever experienced. Blue skies, heat, magical seas, tropical forests. There were some heavy showers and strong winds but they were not of long duration and became a faded memory within the hour!

Life is different out here in the Tropics and we are acclimatising extremely well to our new surroundings and way of life!

Take a simple bus ride for instance. Ken and I prefer to use the local transport - it is cheaper and a great way of meeting and greeting the local people. The buses are privately owned and consist of 15 seater vans. Each bus has a designated route but will stop anywhere along the road to let passengers on or off. All passengers sitting in the way of a passenger wishing to get off the bus, have to all get off first to allow that other person to alight. You might have to clamber down onto the road 5 or 6 times during a journey! When you finally reach your destination, you get off and pay the fare through the front passenger-seat window!

Fares are pretty low compared to C.I.E. For instance Euro Symbol0.50 for a half hour journey! Very loud reggae music is included in the price. So they are very like "Party buses"! Most of the drivers drive very fast because the more journeys they make, the more money they earn and there are no speed limits! However, the prize goes to a driver in St Vincent, taking us from Wallilabou to Kingstown, who not only took the hairpin bends as if we were on a roller coaster ride, but sipped on a cold beer while doing so! Better than any Disney ride I have ever been on! We did, however, note the name of his bus - "Destiny" - and avoided meeting with an unpleasant and unwanted destiny on the return trip! All the buses have names emblazoned, grafitti-style, across the bonnet. I have seen "Caution", "Experience", "Hump" and "Ken" to name but a few.

Some of the shop names are quite quaint as well, like "Lazarus Funeral Home"! (the mind boggles!), "Mr Sparkle" laundry and "Bake Well" bakery. The most amusing name to date was on the boat of the owner of our mooring buoy in Bequia "Phat Shag" - it took all my courage to call him up on VHF when we were leaving!

I am getting used to the supermarket scene where "Pickled Pig Snout" could be on special or "Gizzards" ( no further elaboration required!) Nearly all the meat is frozen and there are no sell-by or use-by dates displayed, nor is there a detailed description of the contents. Health and Safety is not an issue anywhere on these isles and even though one would love to see some decent standards of hygiene in restaurants and supermarkets, one wonders if Ireland and the EC havenít taken the Health and Safety issues many, many steps too far?
A family home, Ashton, Union island

Fruit and Vegetables are also in very poor supply so one buys when ones sees something recognizable. The 60 containers of fruit from the Caribbean currently floating off the south coast of Ireland must contain most of the fruit harvest as very little of it seems to end up in the markets or shops over here! As I have a lot of tinned veg on board it is not a problem for us yet. On the plus side, the local fresh fruit juices are wonderful and available in most restaurants and cafes. This makes life for us non-drinkers much more enjoyable! (Yes, I am a whole year off the booze now - amazing isnít it!)

We have to take greater security measures over here than perhaps in Europe. Physical attacks on yotties are not unknown and theft from the boats is quite common on some of the islands. Because of the poverty of many islanders, "rich" yotties are a soft and easy touch. So before we left St Lucia, we fitted bars to the aft cabin hatch so that we can safely leave that particular hatch open at night to let in some air. We also added more bolts to the wash boards so they can be securely closed from the inside and we have chains and locks for any other valuables that have to be left on deck. We havnít installed an alarm system yet but that will be on the cards when the next tranche of work is being carried out on Safari.

On Jan 12th, we finally felt recovered enough from the Atlantic Crossing to leave the security of Rodney Bay marina. We spent the first 2 nights at anchor just off Pigeon Island and visited the island and itís former naval base before heading down to the much vaunted Marigot Bay for a further 2 nights. Then it was on to Souffriere and the Pitons for another 2 nights.

Finally we left St Lucia and headed across to St Vincent, home to a fair number of criminals who prey on yotties, where we spent 2 trouble-free nights on a mooring in Wallilabou Bay. Some scenes from the Pirates of the Caribbean had been shot here and the film sets have become a visitorsĀ attraction. We had debated about stopping off in St Vincent at all because some people had been attacked with machetes while sleeping on board their yacht just after Christmas and had to be hospitalised. This happened in Chateaubelair so we gave that anchorage a miss and took a chance that Wallilabou would be safe which it was.

From here we took the famous bus ride, referred to above, into the capitol, Kingstown and spent an afternoon looking around this very run-down town. The place looked like a giant market with few buildings of note to admire. A lot of the people around the market area seemed to be stoned - no doubt from an over indulgence of the "weed" which is cultivated quite openly on the island. However, in spite of St Vincentís dreadful reputation, I have to admit that any people we met were helpful and kind and the island itself has great natural beauty. It s a pity that the authorities donít seem to take any pride in maintaining the buildings and houses on the island or encourage itsĀ citizens to prosper. It is also amazing that St Vincent, which is only 388 sq Km in size, is looked upon as the Mainland by itís much more prosperous satellite islands in the Grenadines.

On Jan 20th we headed across the notorious channel between St Vincent and Bequia in the Grenadines in fairly strong winds and big seas.

Bequia represents a big turning point for me as it was here that I fell in love with the Caribbean! We spent a delightful week on a mooring in Admiralty Bay and thoroughly enjoyed an excellent Music Fest over 3 nights. Bequia, (18 km sq) is a very popular island with yotties and land-lubbers alike.

As many Europeans have settled in itís tiny capitol, Port Elisabeth, there is a great mix of local colour and European flavours and standards. The Frangipani and the Gingerbread hotels on the waterfront would make a brilliant winter holiday destination for anyone wishing to escape the freezing conditions of Northern Europe!

We reluctantly left Bequia behind and headed further south to Union Island which is the gateway to the Tobago Cays, a magical marine park and nature reserve. Although beautiful and safe, Union is a very poor island with locals living mostly in wooden shacks. We stayed in Clifton, the main port of entry. The anchorage was tricky enough to access because of the many reefs lying around the approach and entrance. As Union is the last of the islands in St Vincent and the Grenadines, we had to check out here before proceeding on to Grenada, a different country, situated 40 miles further south.

We are delighted with the anchorage here in Prickly Bay, on the south coast of the island. Grenada has everything! Natural beauty and well- developed infrastructures. Yesterday, we went to "Spice Island Shopping Mall" and were delighted to discover a really well-stocked supermarket - the first since our arrival in the Caribbean. We even got to see the 6 Nation rugby matches in Clarke Courtís Bay marina! Congrats to Ireland although it wasnít a very convincing victory!

I am getting used to the supermarket scene where "Pickled Pig Snout" could be on special or "Gizzards" ( no further elaboration required!) Nearly all the meat is frozen and there are no sell-by or use-by dates displayed, nor is there a detailed description of the contents. Health and Safety is not an issue anywhere on these isles and even though one would love to see some decent standards of hygiene in restaurants and supermarkets, one wonders if Ireland and the EC havenít taken the Health and Safety issues many, many steps too far?
The main square, Clifton, Union island

Grenada seems to have fully recovered from the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan some years ago. It became an independent state in 1974 and even though things got off to a tricky enough start, the island is now amongst the most stable and prosperous in the Caribbean. Independence Day will be celebrated on Feb 7th. Already the entire island is awash with bunting and flags in the national colours of green, yellow and red. We are looking forward to the festivities of next weekend! In total, we hope to spend at least 2 weeks here before heading north again en route to New York where we plan to arrive in June.

Along the way, we have met some Irish boats Mary P from Kinsale who crossed with the Arc. The skipper, Niall Prendeville is a close personal friend of Kenís first cousin, Tony Small. What a 'small' world! They have headed down to Trinidad for the carnival. Then we befriended Vincent and Maureen OíFarrell from Schull who had known Safari of Howth and her previous owner, Ian Morrison. The world gets even smaller! Vincent and Maureen keep their catamaran in Grenada and winter out here. They gave us some great info and tips about where to go and whom to see here on the island. I was particularly delighted to welcome on board friends from Howth, Joanne and Brian Layng along with Kerry and Lut Vaughan while we were in Rodney Bay. They were visiting Castris (capitol of St Lucia) during a cruise of the Caribbean and came across by taxi to visit. Their visit was great and much appreciated.

There is, as usual, so much more I could tell you! I do keep a daily journal but I also know that too much info just gets boring for the reader and my reports are already very borderline, I would think!

The sailing is great, (very little motoring), there are marvellous anchorages, the weather is superb, and there is a visual feast around every single corner. The entry and exit procedures to the different islands are straight-forward if you follow the rules. The boat boys are a help, not the nuisance they seemed to have been in the past. Although one has to be security conscience, the islands welcome the yachting community and take good care of them because they are the second largest tourism sector after hotels. We are meeting lots and lots of like-minded people who are enjoying living aboard their yachts just as we are. So life couldnít be much better at the moment.

Carmel & Ken Kavanagh
Safari of Howth
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