Monday, March 02, 2009

Was that only a week ago? :)

Mike and I got married in October, but waited until mid-February (aka: post-hurricane season) to take our honeymoon - two weeks of sailing in the Caribbean island country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

(here's a map in case you don't know where it is - I didn' t really know until we started planning the trip!)

We left on Valentine's Day (a coincidence, I swear), and flew from Ottawa to Toronto, to St. Lucia, to St. Vincent (my carbon footprint really does worry me!). Week one we spent on a 40 foot boat called Andato, with another couple and our Instructor - since neither Mike nor I had sailed on the ocean before, and never in a popular (and therefore busy) sailing desitination, we decided it would be useful to take an sailing course for the first week...
This approach was cheaper than hiring a capitan for the charter boat, and also let us earn official qualifications that will come in handy for other charters in the future. Plus, when you're on a course, you actually get to do all the sailing, rather than just watching the captain do it for you! :)
the view from the balcony of our hotel room (attached to the charter company), the morning after we arrived

sailing, day 1 - look how pasty white we are! :)

Brian and Jennie, our co-sailors the first week

After the course ended (Mike qualified for the Advanced level in the American Sailling Association's system, but I only got the Intermediate one, which I already had the Canadian equivalent of... but at least its more experience for future courses), we switched over to a smaller, 32 foot boat called Sly Mongoose. We slept aboard in the harbour on Saturday night, and set out on our sail on Sunday. Despite the 3m swells and 20 knot winds, we put in a 5 1/2 hour sail south, and made it almost all the way to the southern Grenadine Islands - zoom in on the map: the island between Canouan and the one marked "Ashton" - really known as Union, Ashton is just a town there - is called Mayreau; that's where we stayed the first night.
Sly Mongoose, moored in Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent (before we climbed aboard)

All went well those first 2 days - great sailing, beautiful anchorages, and much fewer boats in the anchorages than had been there the previous week. Then on Tuesday, as we were sailing from Petit St. Vincent back to Union Island, the rudder suddenly fell off the boat. For those not familiar with sailing, the rudder steers the boat - having it fall off is basically the same as having your car's steering wheel break off in your hands as your crusing down the motorway! We didn't really believe it ourselves till Mike leaned over the transom (the back of the boat) and actually saw that it was gone.

Thanks to Mike's many years of sailing experience - most of which was on very small boats when he was a kid, the situation stayed pretty calm. The reality of the situation didn't really sink in for me, even when we found out that the electricity (and therefore the radio!) had shut off when the rudder went (it was only an easily rectified blown circuit board, but we didn't find that out till later). So, after we set the sails in such a way that the boat would sit (relatively) flat and just drift (sort of like hove-to, but minus the rudder that makes that technique more safe), we got on the 'emergency' cell phone and called for help. The "we'll be there in 15 minutes" turned into 2 hours, but eventually help arrived (first one little boat that was too small to do anything, and then a proper little tug, which managed to take us out of the 3m swells that had come up during the morning). During that time, we were drifiting in a channel between 3 islands and their associated coral reefs, and had to force the boat to tack (turn) about 4 times - this is not an easy operation when you don't have a rudder; Mike knew how thanks to his years of sailing 1-person boats as a kid. Anyway, the little tug towed us back into Clifton harbour on Union Island, and tied us to a mooring ball, where we waited for the Charter company to bring down a replacement boat. It arrived Wednesday morning - a 40 foot Bavaria called Flying Fox.
Clifton Harbour, Union Island

Mike sailing the Flying Fox, several days later

After this adventure, the rest of the week was pretty calm, and much more relaxing as a result. Coming home was tough - it was about 30*C in St. Vincent when we left, and -20*C in Ottawa when we arrived! :) And I have totally caught the sailing bug - we are already trying to decide where we will go next! :)

and now for the rest of the photos... :) (there's quite a few of them!)

The 'swing bar' at the Mosquito Bar, Friendship Bay, Bequai:

Sunrise, at Saltwhistle Bay, Mayreau

A 'Pirate' Cruise Ship, anchored outside of the Tobago Cayslook closely - do you see the man hanging from the rigging, fixing that sail?!

Lobster Pizza, on Bequai. It was good, but I don't think this is the best way to enjoy lobster! :)
This is a much better method! The whole feast is delivered to your boat, for a mere $40 each! :) (the potatoes and fried plantains are hidden under the foil, next to all that fruit!)

Here's one of the bizzare lizards we found in the Tobago Cays

Mark bbq-ing on the Sly Mongoose

Frobisher and Hudson came too, but they didn't like the seas much. I think they were a little sea-sick! :)
Post-snorkling in the Tobago Cays... we saw a 10-foot shark down there!

One of the islands we visited was Petit St. Vincent - a very private island, which is basically just one giant resort - you can rent a cottage on the island for a mere $900 a night, including 3 meals, morning coffee and afternoon tea. Such a deal, really! ;) Mike and I went ashore via our dinghy, and snuck past the restaurant (the only public area on the island, except for certain beaches), to take a peak at the place. All the rooms are separate cottages, and if you want service, you raise a little yellow flag and a "waiter" will come see you in his little golf cart.
This is one of the cottages on the East side of the island. It looked like there was someone in, so we didn't want to get too close.

If you want to go to the beach, the attendants will come and pick you up, and drive you to one of these little beach huts:Complete with drinks, apparently, since each one we passed had a little cooler sitting on the accompanying tables. This is (part of) the view:
Clearly, there were a few kids on the island too...

Next to Petit St. Vincent is Petit Martinique, which is actually part of Granada. You can visit it for the day without checking in with customs (which is on a different island, about a 40 minute sail away).
Boat building is a big enterprise here; these are some of the motorboats built on the island.

This is the cockpit of Sly Mongoose... she was such a good boat - until she fell apart!

The sails of the Flying Fox...
If St. Vincent is too posh for you, you can stay here, at Canouan...
I know its a bit rustic, but I'm sure you'll manage somehow... :)

While in the Tobago Cays, a turtle sanctuary/National Park, we went to visit Petit Tabac, the island on which they filmed the bonfire scene from Pirates of the Caribbean...
At one end of the island, Mike tried parting the seas...
But I think the angle of the sandspit had more to do with it than he did! :)

And here's one last postcard view, just to tempt you into going there yourself! :)


glittrgirl said...

Wow that looks amazing.

The Knit Nurse said...

Looks gorgeous. The propeller incident sounds a bit scary. At least you have a great story to tell the grandchildren.

Tiffany said...

What an amazing trip!! (nice tan!)

I went out with your mom last night and heard about the rudder mishap - yikes!

Glad all is well... I'm still staring at all that blue water and those sandy beaches. You guys sure know how to relax.

- Tiffany

Anonymous said...

Looks like a great trip!! Next time send me one of those lobsters