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Tokomaru2

Website of sailing yacht Tokomaru2's circumnavigation of the world

Crew: Nick Thomas and Liz Vernon
 

Greetings from Tokomaru  -  Stuck in Grenada  June/July 2002 

Throughout June we made our way south from Guadeloupe through the windward islands, spending most of the time in the Grenadines  - small low islands which lie between St Vincent and Grenada.  These include the privately owned Mustique, lying a bit to the east of the island chain, and requiring a whole day beating into the trade winds to cover the 12 miles from Admiralty Bay on Bequia.  Yachts are not allowed to anchor, but must pay to use a mooring buoy.  We decided it was worth it to go and have a look at this glamorous hideaway of the rich and famous.  The island is certainly different from any other Caribbean island we have experienced.  There are no goats, no bony tethered cows, no rubbish, no shacks, no dogs, no washing, no chickens scuffing in the dust, no dreadlocked young men carrying cutlasses, no speeding minibuses thumping out the beat and no one anywhere offering to sell you mangoes or fish or necklaces or anything.  It’s a bit like a huge park, clipped and trimmed,  through which people drive in their ‘mules’ (vehicles like large golf carts).  There’s a riding stable, tennis courts, and around the coast are wild and beautiful beaches - quite empty:  no bars, no fishing boats, no tourists.  Pretty boring really. Hard to believe that hidden amongst the trees all over the island are over 80 huge mansions, and it’s still a popular spot for the seriously rich;  we are told Tommy Hilfiger recently built a pile costing $25 million.    Presumably these people make their own private fun in the seclusion of their gardens and swimming pools.  There are tales of wild parties in the early 70’s after Colin Tennant had bought the island and people approved by him established homes there.  Apparently he refused Imelda Marcos and the Shah of Persia when they wanted to buy plots, while giving a 10 acre site to Princess Margaret.  And although he moved the local village off the beach and up the hill, Basil, of Basil’s Bar remained and was accepted into the society, despite being black, because he was handsome and amusing and sexy, and much beloved by aristocratic young ladies. We had breakfast in Basil’s Bar, the only bar on the island.  It was a formal affair with discreet, impeccably dressed waiters, linen serviettes, a butter knife etc and perfect scrambled egg;  but no sign of Basil or aristocrats or Sir Michael Jagger….. very disappointing.   There’s no sign of Colin Tennant either (now Lord Glenconner) as he failed to make a financial success of his island and now lives on St Lucia, where he continues to dream up eccentric ideas. 

                               

                                                Tokomaru2 moored Admiralty bay Mustique
                                                  Princess Margret's former home in the background

From Mustique to the Tobago Cays, a group of tiny islands protected by reefs.  These are your classic cartoon desert islands with silver sand beaches and a couple of palm trees -  a wild place where you anchor in sheltered water, while the surf thunders on  the surrounding barrier reefs.  There is nothing between us and the full force of the wind blowing directly from Africa.  The islands are uninhabited:  just birds and lizards, shells and driftwood, a fringe of coconut palms and crystal-clear sea. A beautiful spot where we stayed a few days.  But I prefer a bit of solid land between me and the Atlantic, so we went to Mayreau, the next Grenadine, and perhaps the least visited.  About 200 people live here, very frugally. It reminded us of the Cape Verde islands where life is hard, with scant rainfall, on a dry hilly terrain, difficult to cultivate.  From one of these hills we looked across to the Cays, often described as ‘the crown jewels’ of the Grenadines.  The colours do glitter in the blazing sun:  jade-green sea fading to soft turquoise over the coral sand,  green (emerald!) palm fronds against a fierce blue (sapphire!) sky,  the whole thing edged in sparkling white where the waves break over the great length of the reef. 

                             

                                                       Basil's bar Mustique

With a deadline to be in Grenada to meet Neville (Nick’s dad), we just had time to visit Petite Martinique and Carriacou, two islands which are politically part of Grenada.  Here our troubles began.  We caught something on the anchor at Petite Martinique and just could not raise the last 8 meters of chain.  The wind, of course, was blowing 25 knots, so we were on the move, dragging something extremely heavy with us.  We have picked up all sorts of things on our anchor before (including a whole palm tree trunk in Dominica) but this was impossible.  We were the only yacht, so no help was at hand.  Nick went diving down with a mask but it was too deep and murky to see.  So we worked our way into water as shallow as we dared and laid out another anchor to take the weight of the boat.  Nick went in again and this time could see the massive chain (presumably lost from some big ship) holding us down.  How we finally extricated ourselves (it was too deep to get a rope under the chain to lift it off the anchor) is too complicated to relate,  but after 2 hours we had our anchor back on board and were free to sail to Carriacou, fortunately just a few miles away.

 

Carriacou has a long tradition of boat building, and we were lucky to see one of these classic fishing boats tacking up the windward side of the island, sailing home with the day’s catch, followed by gulls, its huge sails full and taut in the strong wind.  A fine sight.  Mostly the islanders prefer to race around in open pirogues with massive outboards, roaring between the islands at 20 knots.  But their boats are also locally built and brightly painted, and look very picturesque hauled up under the trees on the beaches.  We sailed on to Tyrell Bay on the west side of Carriacou and decided to drop anchor number two, as it was still out on the deck and is easier to handle, being on rope rather than chain;  (the windlass, a winch for levering up the anchor, had broken under the strain that morning).  The only problem with rope is that if it gets caught around a rock it can chafe through.  Tyrell Bay is wide and spacious with excellent holding on a wall to wall sandy bottom……but there is one small rock…….  In the night we found ourselves flying out to sea between the headlands trailing a bit of frayed rope.  So we drove back into the bay and put out anchor number one.  Next morning we went snorkelling and found the anchor, not too hard in 5 meters of very clear sea, and that rock to give us a clue.  Not so easy to get it to the surface, so another delayed start. Having nearly lost two anchors in two days, we began to think we should perhaps carry half a dozen!  - it’s a pretty essential bit of kit.

 

A fine fast sail (still got those reefs in!) took us the 30 miles from Carriacou to St George’s harbour in Grenada.  As we passed the fishing village of Gouyave we had another chance to admire traditional sailing skills in action; it was the ‘Fishermen’s Birthday’ regatta  and a race was in progress:  small boats with huge sails flying along against a backdrop of lush green hillsides.  For we are back in a high volcanic island covered in rain forest, a refreshing sight after the parched scrubby terrain of the Grenadines.  It’s the end of the dry season and the green is patched with blazing crimson -  flamboyant trees in full glorious bloom.

 

After lazy days in the hot dry Grenadines,  St George’s is a bit of a shock.  This town is up and running and you need your wits about you.  Traffic whizzes up and down the steep roads, dozens of minibuses pick up and drop off passengers, finishing up in the chaotic terminal by the market.  Well, it seems that way until you know the ropes (as it were).  The market is fantastic, crammed full of stalls overflowing with paw-paw, limes, bananas and, of course, fragrant with spices: nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa.  You can’t escape without buying something.  Grenada is a good-humoured, gutsy island where people greet you and chat to you, and not just in the market  - anywhere at all.  While Neville was with us we visited most of the island and saw the nutmegs growing -  surprisingly tall trees covered in yellow fruit, some ripe and burst open revealing the nut inside covered with bright red mace.  Grenada exports a third of the world’s nutmegs.  There are loads of cocoa plantations but we never found the chocolate factory;  the roads around here are a bit short on signs.  We went up into the cool misty mountains, got hopelessly lost on unmade roads and met lots of cheerful helpful people.

                               

We are anchored in a very sheltered harbour called the lagoon, a ten minute walk from the town.  From here, St George’s looks like a European port, with three fine church towers on the skyline and pretty French colonial buildings on the waterfront. There are still lots of charming old houses with ‘fish-scale’ roof tiles, pink bricks and wrought iron balconies.  Around the lagoon we have a strange contrast.  Sleek grey herons and snowy egrets fish around the shore, while lorries thunder past on the road. On top of the hill overlooking the lagoon is the prison where the hard-liners who murdered Maurice Bishop in 1983 are serving life sentences. 

 

And here we stay, for a number of reasons.  Nick had a bad knee injury which completely immobilised him for a while.  It’s taken three weeks to get a new sprocket for the windlass and fit it.  We’ve also been working on the windmill to re-site it up the mast out of harms way.  Nick’s friend Chris kindly fashioned a special fitting which Neville brought out.  After many trips up the mast this is now in place and working nicely.  To add to our problems, one day last week a freak gust hit the lagoon and caused mayhem:  boats dragging all over the place, oars and water containers floating away and so on. The gust flipped our dinghy upside down, soaking the outboard motor.   We’ve watched this happen to other people in the past, so I guess it was our turn. The anchorage is very sociable and two days later, after lots of conflicting advice, shared experience, and plenty of cold beers, it’s now going again.

 

The only thing keeping us in Grenada now is the weather.  The rainy season is well established and the weather much less settled.  There is also the hurricane factor.  Grenada was last hit in 1985, hurricane Janet.  Our insurance company wants us south of 12 degrees north, which we are. But, as they say around here, it only takes one, and we don’t want to be out in it. This lagoon is a good place to be.  So we’re waiting for a ‘window’ to go to Los Testigos, the first of the islands off Venezuela.

 

 So, in anticipation, it’s hasta luego from Liz and Nick 



Website © Nick Thomas and Liz Vernon 2008