St Lucia to Grenada
11th February to 21st February
(With Henrietta having given up writing for the time being and my son, Johnny back in London, I’ll have to scribble this myself.)
What to say?….After more than a month with crew, plus too many hot sunny days (plus some rum and beer), it’s all been a bit of a blur. I guess we’ve visited a dozen or so islands. But, like a cruise ship passenger who sees a new port each day and finds it hard to distinguish between one duty free ‘bargain’ and the next, or between one sweaty market-place and the next, I’ve ceased to appreciate clearly the distinction between one rather busy anchorage and the next, between one shimmering beach and another, between one terrifying mini-bus journey and another. (On the subject of mini-buses, it always troubles me to see windsreen labels like, “In God We Trust” when it isn’t actually God who’s doing the driving! Does everyone change gear only when engine screams and the tachometer is well into the red?)
(Not having absorbed as much Caribbean as I might have liked, I’ll digress: I’d say that one of the merits of travelling alone is that you observe, note and think more than when in company. And you make more effort to meet and talk to others. It’s often harder and occasionally lonesome to be single-handed, but there are many compensations and it can be rewarding. And to avoid further doubt, I’ll add that I have greatly enjoyed the company of my crew mates and family, and stress that sailing with a compatible lover is any man’s dream – of course!)
Back to the story…The Windward Islands stretch south from the Leeward Islands and cover about 200 miles. Big ones include St Lucia, St Vincent and here, Grenada (and Martinique, which is part of France). Smaller ones include Mustique, Carriacou, Union Island and Bequia; and there are lots more much smaller than them. My temperament is better suited to the less developed, gentler and emptier places. Going north from here in a few days (which is my current plan), I’ll spend much more time in Carriacou and the Grenadines. (I’m cross with myself for not taking more note of what has happened … turtles; mooring buoy that drifted off just before bedtime with us on it; generous help restocking from Johnny and Adrian; first shower since before Christmas; re-meeting friends last seen in Canaries and Cape Verde; sweaty rambles up a few hills; et al)
Overall, I have to ask the unthinkable question, “Is sailing in the Caribbean grossly overrated?”. Or, is it just the case that we hear and read so much about how wonderful it is, expectations are driven sky high (fuelled too by the hyperbole of Lonely Planet, Doyle and others). We are bound to be somewhat underwhelmed with the reality when we arrive? Perhaps I’ve just experienced the Caribbean equivalent of St Mark’s Square in Venice (impressive ok but also a touristy tacky rip-off), I need to wander more in the Caribbean equivalent of Venice’s charming back alleyways. For now, I’ll say that the winds and weather are generally magical (where else will you sail clear blue waters, on endless close and broad reaches, in hot sunshine?), but the islands are expensive, there are ‘security concerns’ that mean locking up your boat and bits, and many anchorages are far too busy. There is hassle too, which can quickly dampen my enthusiasm. All this is of course countered by the laid-back friendliness (bordering on careless indifference) of most good-natured folk.
I shan’t go on with these initial views of these tropical isles. The balance pans have not yet settled. I need to head north slowly reviewing the initial blur.
Plans? A month ago, I considered Panama, Pacific etc. A week ago it was USA. Now, I think Azores and Europe. Neither Henrietta nor I are ready for prolonged spell away from Europe; we both need treatments of one sort or another…and I’d like a vote on 23rd June. The US visa application process (ie. my inability to complete online application form and reluctance to sail to Barbados or Trinidad for interview, plus luke-warm feelings about a nation that takes Mr Trump seriously) deters me (N.B. if you might sail to USA, do get a visa before leaving home!) For one year, I think this Atlantic round-trip will be a good start and taster of an open floating future.