Grenada and the Grenadines
The Windward Islands
Winter storm Niko interfered with some of the arrivals due to cancelled flights, but most of the eighteen made it to Horizon Yacht Charters at True Blue Bay Marina as planned on Saturday, February 11th. The final two crew arrived Sunday afternoon and were well received, although the sense of imminent departure was not just a feeling. Lines were cast off as soon as their gear was aboard. That day's activities were limited to a short sail to the planned anchorage site in Grand Mal Bay, due to the late start. All three boats: Dream Maker, Abim, and Indigo found secure anchorage along with strong rollers, and lights-out was early that night.
Monday, February 13 was overcast, but a double rainbow gave hope for the coming days as we headed over to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou, under motor power since the wind was right on our nose.
All three boats settled upon dinner ashore at Lambi Queen (lambi is local jargon for conch) and a few people tried it, along with local fish, vegetables, and lots of cool beverages. The restaurant set up one large table for us where most of us sat, while three others sat at a nearby table and received a rotating group of visitors as everyone enjoyed getting to know new folks, or wanted to check-up on friends. A good time was had by all ... but a pair of sunglasses was left behind (prescription) ... never to be seen again, although we checked the next morning.
It was calm at anchor that night, with clear skies and a cool breeze. February 14th (Valentine's Day) dawned clear and sunny and on Indigo we celebrated with French toast with a hint of rum. Once we left Tyrell Bay, we were leaving Grenada, and our skippers were required to report to the Customs Office to show all crew passports and check-out of Grenada in the Tyrell Bay Customs Office. So with high hopes, they left via dinghy for the posted office start hour - 8:00 a.m. However, island time is real and the customs office didn't have staff to open until closer to 10 a.m. Boats got underway for Clifton, Union Island (part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines), about 10:30 a.m. In Clifton, skippers had to repeat the process to check-in to St. V&G and pay fees. By the time all the processing was through, the sun was getting low in the sky and the skippers agreed to stay in the harbor for the night rather than sail around the island to Chatham Bay. The reefs protecting Clifton harbor provided a picturesque scene for dining on board.
Wednesday the 15th all boats got underway before 9:00 a.m. as everyone was excited to be heading to the Tobago Cays. But since it was only 5 miles away, and the wind was fair, the plan was to enjoy some good sailing and then head to our destination in the afternoon. And it was a good sail ... until the rain shower and strong winds changed things. We arrived earlier than planned at Tobago Cays, but were rewarded with some choice mooring balls that put us within swimming distance or a short dinghy ride to the turtle preserve. Romeo, the caterer for our beach barbeque planned for the following evening, Thursday, stopped by as arranged at 3:00 p.m. Plans were finalized for our food order and pick-up time and with that last bit of business taken care of, the trip leaders, along with everyone else, set about enjoying the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, the earlier squalls had evaporated and the rest of the day was bright and sunny. Tobago Cays is one of the most beautiful places on earth, both above and below the water, and there was no wrong way to spend your time. Nancy Beirne put it best - “I suppose somewhere there is a better way to spend a day, but I can't imagine it.”
Thursday, our layover day, started with the much anticipated arrival of the Windward Divers boat which came alongside Dream Maker to pick up divers Mia and Walt W. They enjoyed two drift dives, one on End's Reef to the south of the Tobago Cays anchorage, and the other on Mayreau Gardens to the east of that island. Lobsters were abundant on both reefs, as well as eels, sea urchins, and a wide variety of reef fish and sponges. Their guides spent both dives collecting a dozen invasive lion-fish. These pretty creatures with poisonous spines have no natural predators in the Caribbean, so have spread uncontrolled, to the significant detriment of the native wildlife. Most of the remaining crew of Dream Maker piled into the dinghy to visit the reef, leaving Nancy to enjoy some quiet reading.
Crews from Abim and Indigo also headed over to the reef in their dinghies, but Indigo had problems with the dinghy anchor ...it would not hold. It was a useless piece of metal. Walt and Ingrid, after trying to physically push the anchor into the bottom, gave up and decided to stay to snorkel the reef and then slowly swim back to the turtle preserve beach area. The rest of the crew went with Plan B - look for dinghy mooring balls. When that failed, Plan C was chosen - secure the dinghy back at the boat and swim over to the turtle sanctuary. That plan worked and by the time Bob, Linda, Joel, and Mary Ann swam over to the beach area everyone else was there! Those already at the beach area had done some exploring and showed the late arrivals where to snorkel at reefs right off the beach.
Power boat pick-up for our group beach barbecue started about 5 p.m. and seemed to come entirely too quickly for some of us, just getting out of wet bathing suits and trying to find all the essentials required. By the time everyone was on the designated BBQ beach island, the sun was getting ready to set. Thankfully, someone yelled “Group Photo” and everyone headed to the beach for a great trip group shot.
L to R: Narayan Bhagavaltula, Jitender Singh, Bob Rainey (ATL), Cynthia Hauris, Kim Vallejo, Linda Baker, Steve Krakauer, Ingrid Vandegaer, Walt Croom and Joel Mack.
Back row: Nancy Beirne, Mia McCroskey, Rudy Vallejo, Mary Ann Gordon (TL), John Hauris, Walt Wronka, Julio Menendez and Jerry Peck.
Friday, February 17th - All three boats dropped our moorings about 9:30 a.m. and we set a course for Salt Whistle Bay on the island of Mayreau.
This picturesque half moon bay was a favorite of those that had visited it on the 2011 St. Vincent trip. It was basically the same, but not as
crowded as it just became part of the marine park. The Harbor Patrol is active, and charging for mooring balls and supervising all anchoring.
The positive part was the moorings were in excellent condition. Most of the crews of Dream Maker and Abim hired a car to go up
the hill to a restaurant on the other side of the island where they enjoyed a most delicious fish and chips lunch with some cold brews, followed
by a dip in the swimming pool and a fresh water shower, compliments of the restaurant/hotel. The skippers and Dream Maker's first mate spent
an equally lovely day on board their respective boats. In the afternoon some folks took a hike over the northern hills to enjoy some beautiful views;
we were joined by a very friendly and lovely local dog who we named Henry. Jon and Cynthia opted for some shopping on the beach. This group, joined
by Mia and Steve, opted for dinner ashore at Black Boy and Debbie's place - the same bar where we'd had a lobster feast back in 2011. The ambiance
was enhanced by a complimentary bottle of wine, free dinner for the skippers (which they simply applied to their boat mate's dinner tabs) and some
sort of island style, appetite opening
aromatherapy. Jitender had read in the New York Times that this restaurant is one of the twenty-nine must-visit restaurants in the world while
researching the trip. He was not disappointed!
Jitender, Debbie & Black Boy
The crew of Indigo had walked up the hill to the old church and explored some of the far side of the hill, with a stop in a small restaurant for a cool drink and to escape the sun. Some of us had Pina Coladas and were pleasantly surprised by a small amount of freshly ground nutmeg on top. By the time we made our way back down the hill and back to the boat, we were more than happy to spend a quiet evening on the boat using provisions and playing a few games of Farkle.
Saturday, February 18th - Aboard Dream Maker, Jitender, Narayan, and Walter teamed up to take the motor off of the dinghy without Steve or Mia's supervision. Upon seeing their success, Steve observed that Mia should promote them from Minions to Minions First Class. Mia promptly made the adjustment to the crew roster.
All three boats begrudgingly left Salt Whistle Bay for a sail back to Union Island and the Clifton customs office with a promise to quickly check-out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and head over to Chatham Bay for the night anchorage. This time the plan held. There was some really good snorkeling along Chatham Bay's north cliff wall and many people took advantage of this spot. There was an abundance of fish frantically swimming in large schools in one area where we snorkeled. Bob began to wonder what large creature was frightening the fish when he saw a large black object in the corner of his mask. After being completely startled, he realized it was Joel in his black snorkeling suit. The crew of Abim did some snorkeling and a enjoyed a relaxing sunset on the boat capped with a steak dinner and sundowners. Several of Dream Maker's crew also snorkeled the reef, counting several eels, a lionfish, and lobsters. Jitender, Narayan, and Walter all ended up having drinks at a beach bar before catching a ride with a local back to the boat for dinner.
The Indigo crew made reservations after a long beach walk, at Seckie and Vanessa's place and thoroughly enjoyed their Taste of the Caribbean
dinner which included some of everything! The night was warm, the breeze was soft and we felt welcomed. Linda, Bob and Mary Ann realized after
some discussion this was the very same place we had a group “happy hour” on the 2011
St. Vincent Trip and did the limbo using a broomstick and danced into the night! Perhaps inspired by our talk, Walt and Ingrid decided
to dance to the music provided before dinner arrived.
Bob Rainey, Joel Mack with Ingrid Vandegaer & Walt Croom dancing on the beach
Sunday, February 19th - We started back to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, that morning so we could check back in to Grenada in the afternoon before the Customs and Immigration office closed at 2pm. We made it in time, but it is never easy. The same entry form that we all filled out when flying into Grenada needed to be filled out again. Of course we didn't have a supply of these forms on the boats so this meant extra trips for the skippers to bring the forms back to the crew, get them filled out, signed, and back to the office. We were at the bay early enough to do some exploring once we were checked in. Some people walked along the shore, others took a dinghy to the northern part of the bay to check out the mangrove lined cove and nature preserve. Indigo had our last dinner on board. The crew was somewhat apprehensive as we were using one of Bob's emergency meals brought from home - Trader Joe's cheese tortellini and a can of white clam sauce. Dinner started out on the quiet side until most realized the meal was quite good and went back for seconds. As the sun sank low to the west, crews of Abim and Indigo watched intently. On Dream Maker, the crew was equally focused - not on the horizon, but on the two big boats that lay at anchor between them and the setting sun. Their blocked view was made all the more frustrating when, just after it ended, Julio came on the radio to rave about it being the best green flash he'd ever seen. Mia's response was simply, “Photos, or it didn't happen.”
Monday, February 20th - Late on Sunday afternoon the skippers agreed via radio that we should leave Tyrrel Bay by 7:00 a.m. in order to
allow time to stop at the Underwater Sculpture Garden that we had bypassed at the beginning of the trip to make up for the snow delay.
As Indigo pulled out of the bay at 7:00 a.m.,
the other two boats showed no signs of life. By the time Indigo had passed The Sisters, we spotted first one set of sails and
then another and so learned they were not that far behind.
Great smile Mia!
Julio's Abim did not stop at the sculpture garden as a couple of people's early Tuesday morning flight meant they had to finish the charter check in on Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. Indigo stopped off at the underwater sculpture garden. Trip Leader Mary Ann had really been looking forward to snorkeling this spot. However, due to some recent storms the area had been badly disturbed and many statues had fallen over. Mary Ann states: “I'm glad we stopped and I had a chance to snorkel over it, but I must admit I was disappointed. Many of the statues were deeper than I anticipated. Joel and Walt both dove and provided more detail to what we could see from the surface. There was a large school of Sergeant Major fish that kept swimming with us, as if we were part of the school. That was great fun!”
Aboard Dream Maker the engine's overheat alarm had started going off for no apparent reason - the engine had coolant and oil, exhaust water was flowing, and the engine was not particularly hot. On the way to the sculpture garden Mia called the charter company. Hearing her description of the situation the mechanic said it was probably a bad sensor and to just silence the alarm. Up until the last moment Mia had been considering skipping the sculpture garden. But as they came abeam of it, Steve said he'd stay on board and she could see that the crew really wanted to do it. So she donned snorkel gear and led the Minions First Class, Walter, Jitender, and Narayan, into the park. They soon found the ring of standing statues at about twenty feet. Mia and Walter dove for a closer look while Jitender and Narayan took photos from the surface. Not realizing that there were other sculptures in the garden, they beat a hasty retreat to Dream Maker. Back underway Jitender produced a brochure that he had picked up somewhere and read that a number of the sculptures were laying down on purpose to reveal the impact of the shifting bottom sands.
We resumed our sail for True Blue Bay marina and our point of departure eight days prior ... it seemed a much longer time! Marina crew boarded our
boats from a dinghy and took them back into slips like they do it everyday .. which they do! The crew of Dream Maker gathered on the stern of their boat for a group shot:
Dream Maker crew
L-R lower level : Walt Wronka, Nancy Beirne, Jitender Singh, Mia McCroskey (Skipper).
Upper level: Narayan Bhagavaltula and Steve Krakauer (FM)
The resort facilities were a welcome site and quite a few folks wound up in the resort pool that afternoon or enjoyed the shaded areas. All crews met up
late that evening at the True Blue Resort restaurant for dinner and goodbye hugs because the morning was going to be rushed for many.
Like all trips, not everything went exactly as planned, but enough things did go as planned and some of the changes were so much better than what was planned! Thank you to everyone on the trip, especially the skippers and first mates who tried very hard to accommodate the needs of all their crew. It was the smiles and enthusiastic involvement of everyone that made the trip wonderful ... of course, the tropical islands with warm breezes helped a lot too.
Some more photos:
Thank you to Jitender, Joel, Mia, Rudy and Kim for the photos.
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