Sunday, December 23, 2018

Saint Vincent

In our first visit to the Grenadines, more than 15 years ago, we did a crewed charter that started in St. Vincent.  There is an interesting story at the start of that trip.  We had a few hours between arriving at the airport and being picked up by our charter crew.  We decided to take a taxi tour of the island, and were extremely impressed by the scenery.  At one point, our driver stopped and we got out of the car to appreciate an unusually beautiful view.  We spent a few minutes there, then returned to the car and drove to the harbor.

When we arrived, David discovered that he had only three of the expected four passports in his pocket.  Luckily, the missing one was his, because if it had been Gretchen’s or one of the kids', he’d have been in big trouble.

We guessed that the missing passport had fallen out of the pocket when we stepped out of the car.  What to do?  We didn’t know the name of the taxi driver.  Our charter captain suggested we ask around at the cab stand to see if anyone could figure out who he was, which we did.  We then went out to the boat to try and figure out what to do about the missing passport.  The nearest US consulate was on Barbados.

Some time later, we saw a water taxi approaching rapidly, and our taxi driver was standing in the bow holding the passport high.  What a relief!  The driver had heard of our problem, and had driven all the way back to the place where we stopped, and found the passport on the ground there.

So, our first impression of St. Vincent was a very positive one.  But that was the last time we visited the island until this year.

There have been some problems with cruising boats visiting St. Vincent.  First, the available anchorages are quite difficult.  Many are very deep and you can’t really anchor but must take a long line to a tree ashore.  Second, there were large crowds of very pushy men competing for the opportunity to take said line ashore (for a handsome fee).  Finally, for quite a few years there was a spate of crime against cruisers, thefts and even muggings.

So, for the past several years, we have simply sailed right by St. Vincent, going directly from Bequia to St. Lucia.

That is a very long (9-10 hour) trip.  This year we decided we would take a chance on stopping half-way up the coast of St. Vincent to break up the journey.  The crime wave seems to have receded, the boat services folks have learned to be less pushy, and the bay of Chateaubelair is described as having an ample shelf of moderately deep water to anchor on.

Our arrival in Chateaubelair was great fun.  School was already out for the Christmas holiday, and the harbor was teeming with boys and young men.  We were met by a pink powerboat with six or eight young fellows in it, and they were certain that they knew the perfect place for us to anchor.  They proceeded to lead us to the spot.  In addition, there were several surf boards paddled by one to three boys each, also eager to help.

As it turned out, the place they picked didn’t work.  The seabed of the bay is covered with thick seaweed, which makes it hard to get the anchor to penetrate.  The spot they recommended was between two other boats, and before we could get our anchor to catch, we had dragged back, far too close to the boat behind us.

No worries, this happens all the time when anchoring.  We picked up our anchor, moved over a few boatlengths, and tried again.  The second try we also dragged back 10 meters or more, but were finally able to get our anchor to stick.

Well, the guys in the pink boat were very happy that we had anchored successfully.  It was time for a little commercial activity.  We were offered grapefruit for purchase.  Wanting to help the local economy, we said we wanted three, and negotiated a fair price.  We also gave a generous tip for the anchoring advice.

A few minutes later, a quite young boy paddled out on his surfboard and delivered the grapefruit.  We asked his name and he told us it was Jarvin.  That’s quite a coincidence, because our friend in St. Lucia, who we would see the very next day, is also named Jarvin.  Our new friend Jarvin was a little confused, because he assumed the other Jarvin must be a little boy like him, not a grown man.
We offered Jarvin some water to drink and a peanut butter sandwich to munch on, which he appreciated.

The warm welcome from these young men made our stop on St. Vincent pleasant and memorable.

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