Friday, March 16, 2012

Pan Carribbean Posting

Rousseau, Dominica – There are three main ways of life you can enjoy on the Caribbean islands:  catering to the locals, catering to the cruisers or catering to the super-wealthy.  We have found vast variations from island to island and somewhat like Goldilocks, we are constantly in a search for finding the way of life that is “juuust right.”
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been a very pleasant surprise for us, and each inlet of an island can be a very unique experience.   Clifton Bay on Union Island was our first point of entry where we were introduced again to the world of charter boats.  We had forgotten about charters since it has been over a year since we have been with sailors who are not actually living on their boats but on vacation.  Because of this, the attitude is quite different than a cruiser.  The bay itself is beautiful with the crystal clear waters the Caribbean is known for; however, because it is so beautiful, it attracts everybody.  It is common that most boats around are not sailing with an experienced captain.  Huge catamarans fly by, way too close for comfort, at extremely high speeds.  Anchoring is a whole other story, where experienced sailors make sure to leave room between all boats around them just in case the wind direction changes and all the boats swing around. 
And boy how the wind has howled!  For the last week and a half we have had 25-35 knot winds, rain and choppy water.  Seeking refuge from dragging boats and difficult conditions we moved after one sleepless night, to another bay called Chatham.  While Clifton was a quaint town with one strip of shops and markets, not too touristy, Chatham was completely local.  How great it was to be anchored close to a sandy beach with little restaurant huts lining the shore!  Picture very rustic and simple wood roofs held up by brightly painted 2x4s, with an owner touting their food fare.  Very proactively these owners would get into little dinghies and go around the bay to all the sailing newcomers to offer their services.
For some reason we cannot help offering sugestions to the locals on how to improve their business by offering other menu items besides the $65 per person chicken and rice dishes.... but understandably, it is very difficult and expensive for them to get food to these remote areas, and the philosophy is that they don't want to dirty the kitchen for a little appetizer or soemthing if unless they are cooking for a large group and making some real money.  It is foreign concept to us, and we have seen outsiders open restaurants and shops and have more success than the locals becasue they have a more customer-focused mentality.  But, who are we to judge?
When the wind finally died down, and we got over the fact that both our laptop and our iPad were ruined by getting blown off the table inside our boat, we took off to the Tobago Keys, famous for snokeling with the turtles.  This is an area with crystal blue waters and gorgeous reefs, but unfortunately it was still windy and rainy so the turtles were nowhere to be found.  e have enjoyed seeing so many in other parts of the oceans that we were not too upset,and even were able to purchase some t-shirts for the entire family straight from the capitalist peddlers who come right alongside selling lobsters, freshly baked breads, souvenirs, etc.  Here supply-side econimics were in full-force as you can imagine the hords of tourists who come here: from cruisers like us, to charter boats, to tour boats from the big cruise ships, etc. 
St. Lucia was a disappointed in that it was very pricey and very built-up, with the Sandals all-inclusive right on the beach in front of us, and the harbor still filled with boats that crossed the Atlantic with the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) that left the Canary Islands back in November.  The night we arrived, we wanted to treat ourselves to a nice dinner only to eat a $110 pizza (in Eastern Caribbean currency) that was worse than what I could have made on the boat, and we were even accused of stealing the candle fro our table as we left!  The highlight of St. Lucia was having the Volpes onboard for an afternoon visit.  They were conveninetly in St. Lucia for an anniversry trip and we coincided there. 
Bequia (pronouced "Beck-way") was our next stop... and we found there was a good mix of the local/traditional vs. the touristy.  Again, we ran into some other fellow cruisers whom we have been sailing on and off with, as well as with Juliano, our Atlantic crew.
Martinique was a wonderful experince for us as it still has some colonial architecture left over from the french, tha language si still spoken there and there is a very European feel to the island.  The cities we visited were not necessarily posh, but very inviting.  we were thrilled to visit the Carrefour supermarket which had a plethora of European cheeses, and vegetables, and breads... it was like heaven.  We stocked up on jarred pickles, Nutella, peanut butter, various snacks like pistachios and dates... it was heavenly!
For the past few days we have been in Dominica, a former British island, which is known for its natural beauty: watefalls, rainforests, natural hot baths, Champagne Bay (which has bubbles seeping fdown mountiansrom underneath the sand while you snorkel).  We have certainly taken advantage of what this island has to offer and have done our fair share of exercising as we climb up and down the mountains.  We are all suffeering from sore leg muscles and were glad to finally visit the hot thermal baths to ease the pain.
All the island shave been a very unique experience.  We have had very touristy areas, very remote areas, and some things in between.  The touristy areas are too "noisy" with charter boats, jet skis and exhobitantly priced restaurants and activities.  The remote areas, are too remote, not offering the service and amenities we are used to.  And otehr islands lile Bequia, Martinique and dominica, are Juuuust right, offering a little bit of both!
Next stop:  Guadaloupe
Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines... as close to paradise as you can get.

Goats run freely on the island

shopping for vegetables

More goats just walking down the streets

The only clinic on the island

Three buddies and a turtle

The kids' mission in Bequia was to clean the ocean floor of garbage... I think about 50 bottles were collected in al

Taking a goat home for a feast on Bequia... it was pretty painful to hear its bleeting!

At a turtle conservatory

This guy was about 50 years old

A "surprise" visit from the Volpes who are living in our house in Evanston

Every captain's worst nightmare:  to have the mast fall down while sailing.  These guys looked pretty shell-shocked as they came into the bay in St. lucia

The remains of the Fort of France Theatre after the big volcano eruption in 1920 that obliterated the town. There were only two survivors... who happened to be inmates in the local jail on Martinique.
Thre's the volcano in the background... this town was a little reminiscent of Mindelo in Cape Verde and of Terceira in the Azores... with the difference of French being spoken instead on Portugues.

... and on to Dominica....

a 26 kilometer hike into the mountains to a boiling lake of sulphur.... quite a challenging hike for all involved... and the kids did really well.

Trafalgar Falls, Dominica

Scaling the rocks

Natural hot baths

Too good to be true!

More competitive volleyball on the beach

Kids' pillow fight on Free Spirit

Sorrel, from the hibiscus family.  Delicious juice is made from this flower all throguhout the Caribbean

All sorts of exotic flowers and fruits abound.