The Farrelly Family go 'Grenada or Bust!'
12 January 2022
I know, I know It’s been a while since our last full update. Our internet connection in St Lucia was so patchy so it was difficult to post but we have been posting on our tracker updates and a few pics on instagram so hopefully at least everyone knows where we are.
Once again so much has happened since our last post (Martinique)
We managed to get a hold of the admin in Rodney bay marina right before we left – she called the St Lucia health authority on our behalf and confirmed they had all our paperwork. This was a big relief and we set off on our passage at least knowing that we’d have a home for Christmas.
We had a nice passage across from Le Marin in Martinique to Rodney bay St Lucia which is only 25 miles although most of this is in open water. Our only excitement was an encounter with a cruise ship bound for Barbados. Although power traditionally gives way to sail, considering she was 300 metres in length, we decided she should have right away and we adjusted course accordingly.
On arrival in Rodney bay, we hoisted the St Lucia Courtesy flag and the yellow quarantine flag and found a nice spot to anchor right in Rodney bay. I went ashore to clear health and customs. Usually the Captain does all this on behalf of the crew but in Rodney bay they would not clear the boat without temperature testing all crew members so we arranged to do this at 8:00 the following morning. This went without a hitch although it did take about 2.5 hours to clear through customs. The amount of paperwork is unbelievable and my documents folder is starting to get very heavy.
We brought the boat into Rodney bay Marina which is located within a sheltered lagoon with some very pricey houses stretching down to the water with their own docks. The sandals resort was quite conspicuous on the way in.
There was a great buzz in the marina village in Rodney bay and although this is a little manufactured as it’s inside a secured complex but it’s done nicely with lots of boutique shops, restaurants and the all important bar called Le Pitons.
It was time to get some Christmas shopping done and there was actually a wee mall across the bay so we scooted across in the dinghy. We had been advised about safety concerns in st Lucia and we were to get our first taste of this first hand. As soon as we got to the dinghy dock a boat boy demanded “protection money” to look after the dinghy while we were shopping. His rate was 10 euro. When you are cruising, your boat is your home and your dinghy is your car so we relented and paid up!
St Lucia is a beautiful country and we really enjoyed our time there but the boat boys are quite aggressive and not too friendly and are constantly coming by selling everything from Knick knacks to vegetables. We bought from a few of the boat vendors but the prices were ridiculously high.
We had a wonderful Christmas in Rodney bay. We cooked up a big Irish breakfast on Christmas morning while opening presents and then took the Dinghy over to one of the resort beaches where we hung out for the day. We found a very authentic beach bar run by an older American lady who came here 30 years ago and decided to stay. The prices were very keen and we enjoyed a few cold beers and some local punch. Later on Christmas evening we ate at an amazing Thai restaurant called Bosuns – all in all a very relaxing day.
On St Stephens day we sailed to Marigot bay about 10 miles South of Rodney Bay. This is a natural harbour with a sheltered lagoon and is so beautiful with mangroves fringing the anchorage. It has been developed in recent years and there is a small marina complex but it has been tastefully completed. The one annoying thing was that the best anchoring spots had been taken over by moorings and having tried to anchor we kept finding dead coral rock and could not dig in. Finally we relented and took a berth at the marina for 60 USD. We got up early the following morning and hiked up to the town of Marigot – Emphasis on the word “up”. This was quite a climb but we found the village and it was like stepping back in time. We found a great little bakery who sold us some local juices as well as fresh bread. Not sure exactly what was in them but they sped us along on our return journey back to the boat.
Next on our list for St Lucia was to visit the Pitons (known as “Les Pitons”. I had seen pictures before and the views looked spectacular. The whole area around the Pitons has been turned into a Marine park to protect the environment – The more cynical of us might think that they did this to extract more dollars from us Yachties :). This area got some bad reports from a security point of view so the advice we got was to hire a guide. Once we were attached to guide we figured everyone else would leave us alone. We found a chap called Soloman and called him in advance. The main town for the Pitons is Soufriere and we decided to anchor there while exploring. I use the term anchor loosely but it’s actually far too deep to anchor as the depths are up to 70 metres right into the shore line. The only option is to use one of the Marine Park moorings which runs at 45 EC per night. Soloman guided us in and came aboard to discuss his tours. We discussed pricing and his opening request was 200 USD per person. We ended up negotiating a deal for about half that with the agreement that we would have lunch in his mother’s place for 200 EC. They picked us up in their speed boat the next morning and in fairness we spent a very enjoyable 4 hours being whisked around the main sights in a colourful local taxi. We hiked to Tete the Paul, with fantastic views over the Pitons, went to Soufriere (Volcano) where we had a mud bath and on to an impressive waterfall to wash off. The tour finished with lunch as Soloman’s Mother’s place which was a lot of fun and a real local affair.
We finally had enough of Soloman who was constantly negotiating new arrangements so we decided to cut the chord and go it alone. It looked safe enough so we moved down the coast and took a delightful mooring right beside the Pitons where we did some Snorkelling. Mandy and Aoibhin climbed the “Petit Piton” and we cooked up a local Dorado type fish on the Barbie.
We were now ready for the next part of our adventure – A passage to the next island country of St Vincent and the Grenadines. The challenge as always was to figure out the health arrangements. We again needed PCR tests and we found we could get these done at the local hospital in Soufriere. The fee was 275 EC per test which we agreed to (approx 100 USD) but they would only take Cash! We found an ATM but it would only dispense 300 EC per day so we figured it would take us almost a week to get enough cash to pay for the tests! Finally we got introduced to another local who told us about a “special ATM” (for a fee of course) and armed with all our cash we went to the hospital and had the tests taken. We were promised they would email us the results within 24 hours but 36 hours later we had no response. We went back into the hospital and literally sat there for 3 hours until someone dealt with us. They agreed to process the tests and a few hours later we were the proud holders of 4 negative PCR tests. We quickly completed all the paperwork for St Vincent and sent it through. They advised that the health checks were not being completed in the Customs offices on mainland St Vincent so we decided to sail directly to Bequia, the first of the Grenadine islands where we could complete the health check and customs. This was a long 60 mile sail and it did mean we did not visit the mainland of St Vincent but it was a good decision. We left at first light from our anchorage in the Pitons and arrived into Bequia on New Year’s Eve shortly before 4pm. I dinghied across at full speed to complete the health check and made it to the customs office just before is closed. Everything went smoothly and I was welcomed to St Vincent and the Grenadines, our sixth country!
We anchored in Admiralty bay in Bequia and the main town (port Elizabeth) was a buzzing place, bursting with local markets, restaurants and little shops. We spend 3 days there and took a tour around the island – One of our favourite places was a beach south of the Island called Friendship bay. We found a very secluded boutique hotel called Bagatelle and had lunch there in a picture perfect Caribbean surrounding.
We were now ready to explore the grenadines which are the Jewel in the crown for St Vincent. This truly is a Sailors paradise with lots of islands to explore. The one thing you need to remember is that these islands are right in the middle of the Atlantic and the passages between these islands can be just as rough as the open passages between the larger islands.
We set sail for the little island of Mayreaux which is approximately 30 miles south of Bequia. We needed to take on Diesel and water and knowing this is in short supply in the Grenadines we discovered that there was a marina on the island of Canouan which was on route to Mayreaux so we decided to pull in for a brief stop.
What an experience.
We learned that the high class marina complex had been built by our very own Dermot Desmond (Irish Tycoon) in a partnership deal with Saint Vincent. Although the waters were a beautiful Torquise colour and the setting was definitely beautiful, it all looked a little false and lacked the Caribbean charm that we have found in almost all Islands that we have visited. Still we managed to fill up our tanks and turned down their kind offer to eat in lunch in their exclusive restaurant, opting instead for some very fine ham sandwiches onboard Bermuda.
Mayreaux was a short hop from Canouan but the breeze was blowing hard and entry to the harbour at Salt Whistle bay was difficult as we needed to negotiate reefs on both sides so we literally surfed into the tiny anchorage and then hash to quickly size everything up so we could get a slot for the night. Boats were packed in pretty tight so we opted for a mooring. The anchorage was very unique and had a view across a short sand bar (lined with coconut trees) to the windward side of their island. One of the boat boys offered us a beach BBQ in his “Last bar before the Jungle” establishment and we took him up on the offer. There was a great scene on the small beach with a few casual huts that operated as bars / restaurants. Our host cooked up a Red Snapper and a chicken and served it with some home cooked potatoes and rice and it tasted amazing. He also managed to rustle up a fine Rum Punch so everyone was happy.
The next part of our adventure in the Grenadines was to visit the famous Tobago Cays. This is a small group of uninhabited islands (5 in total) protected from the Atlantic Ocean by a 4 KM Reef called horseshoe reef. The water and reef colours are a kaleidoscope of gold, Browne, blue, turquoise and green. There are rocks everywhere and interestingly there is quite a bit of tide – up to two knots in places so from a navigation perspective, it is really important to keep transits so you don’t end up adding to the list of wrecks!
For once I am a little short of words – This is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. Of course we took plenty of pictures but they just don’t do the place justice. Sitting out on deck at night and staring up at the stars was amazing.
And that was just the top of the water!
Tobago Cays is a national park and brimming with life under water. We spent two nights here and the highlight was a resort dive with a chap called Glenby who owns Grenadine dive centre. Mandy is an experienced diver and I dived the Great Barrier Reef when I was in Australia years ago but the kids had never done it and were really excited to try it out. They spent about an hour with us in shallow water teaching us the basics and then we went straight out to the reef on a full on dive down to 40 feet! We are still talking about it and got some pretty good video on the GoPro.
There are Turtles everywhere and on our second day we spent the morning swimming with them – I mean right with them. I really enjoyed this part and it was a treat to see these majestic creatures up close.
With a slight tear in the eye it was time to move on and visit our next Island – Union Island. Typically we have been visiting the Leeward side of all the islands in the Caribbean as its sheltered from the Trade Winds and the Atlantic waves that are consistently blowing out there day and night. However with Union, the main harbour – Clifton is actually on the windward side of the island and the protection is from a reef called Newlands reef. We anchored on the first night but we were backing on to another reef which was effectively was a lee shore (you sailors will know what I mean). The forecast was for some heavy weather fronts (called pulses here) coming through so we decided to move on to a mooring buoy. I think this was a wise call as I woke in the middle of the night to 35 knot gusts and I slept a little easier knowing we were on a good mooring – That’s one of the great things about anchoring or mooring in the Caribbean. Unless its really deep you can dive down with a snorkel and mask to check out the state of the chain on the mooring and make sure its ok before you trust your boat to it!
Union Island was a little gem. Very ramshackle and Caribbean like with loads of markets on every corner. Not as sophisticated as Bequia but really laid back and lots of really local restaurants and bars which we sampled. We were moored right beside Newlands reef – I mean front stage seats and an enterprising young chap called Janti effectively built his own island right on the reef and turned it into a cool bar. What can I say – It’s important to support local enterprise so we felt obliged to share a few cold beers and Rum punches with him. Interestingly Union Island is a Mecca for Kite boarders and we ran into an Irish girl (hello Sara) who is a complete Kite Board aficionado and is out here for three weeks to Kitesurf. She travels all around the world to find the best spots and she rated Union as THE number one place for Kite boarding – It has all the main ingredients – Consistent breeze and flat water because of the reef.
We spent 3 nights in Union and a little like our experience in Terre de Haute back in the Saintes off Guadeloupe, we hired scooters and went around the island. It’s only 3 miles by 2 miles with 2000 inhabitants but there is so much going on with lots of colourful villages along the coastal areas. In particular one really interesting place that we visited was Ashton which is one of the last surviving lagoons. However a development project in the 90’s to build a big marina complex went south and a restoration project is now in place to recover the region and put back the natural waterflows for the wildlife. The had built some suspension bridges to view the area and the views were first class.
My only complaint about Union is that you don’t ever get a break from the wind in Clifton harbour – Of course you are protected from the swell and the waves but the wind never turns off. The winds have been 20-25 while we were here. It was time to leave for the next part of our adventure…
So where to next….
I have been getting lots of texts asking about our plans and when are we starting to turn around. In truth we have made some great progress South but the Covid health checks have slowed us down a little. We want to spend a decent amount of time in the places we choose to visit so we do them justice.
It’s the 10th of Jan at the time of writing this blog and we are expected back in Guadeloupe on 22 Jan. The reality is that fitting Grenada into our plans was starting to look less likely.
We spent a couple of days thinking about our options and we finally came up with a solution – It will cost us a few Euros but we think it is worthwhile. Our charter company has a base in St Georges in Grenada. I reached out to the base manager, Vincent, in Guadeloupe – He was very understanding of our position and agreed to allow us leave the boat in Grenada. Now that we knew this was an option we started to explore ways to get from Grenada to Guadeloupe so we could catch our flights home. Bottom line is that the only option we found was to charter an 8 seater twin prop plane at a cost of 8k Euro which I politely declined. However the silver lining was a Virgin flight, from Grenada to Barbados and then on to London which we somehow got for 250 USD and then an Air Lingus flight to Dublin.
What a relief. Although the trip has been amazing so far, I was very disappointed at the prospect of missing out on Grenada – It was always my goal to sail from Antigua all the way to the Spice Islands in the South.
We quickly mobilised some PCR tests in Union Island on Saturday for a much better price – 60 USD per person and now have a negative result for everyone. We cleared out from Union customs on Sunday morning with yet another island stamp on our passports. All the health paperwork has been sent to Grenada and we wait for their approval. Assuming all goes to plan, the dream is still alive and we set sail for Carriacou. This is one of the Grenadines but is owned by Grenada so we can clear into Grenada here.
While we wait for approval from the Grenada health authorities, last night we came to the tiny island of Petit St Vincent. This is a resort island and we dinghied ashore last night to see if we could have a drink at their beach bar but they informed us that they were closed to visitors. So back to the boat where we whipped up a nice Vegetable curry – We are running a little short on supplies as the Grenadine islands are not great for provisioning – hardly surprising considering how remote they are!! – but we lashed a bunch of ingredients together, found some Thai curry paste and bingo – a nice meal under the stars washed down with some Wine left over from Martinique.
Grenada here we come (finders crossed).
Thanks everyone for all the comments on our tracker and Instagram etc – Keep then coming.
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