Friday, August 26, 2011

An Untraditional Weekend

Even though our lives on Irie are nothing like the lives of people living on shore, we do have one big thing in common: the weekend! Even more: the weekend to look forward to. During the workweek, Mark and I are extremely busy with the business, writing assignments, boat projects and errands, moving about different bays and the usual housekeeping and shopping. But -since leaving St. Martin- once Friday night comes around, we (I) am ready to have fun, chill and hang out with friends.

During our stay in Clarkes Court Bay, Mark and I checked out Nimrod’s Rum Shop in the tiny settlement of Woburn, one evening. We met Sep, the owner, and he invited us over for a party he was throwing the following Saturday. It was a reason to stay in the area and postpone our return to familiar and rolly Prickly Bay. We convinced our friends Sim and Rosie from SV Alianna (and it took a little bit of convincing, but the promise of free food and an invitation on Irie for brunch did the trick – did I ever mention that Rosie LOVES food as much as I do?) to come around the corner and join in the local festivities, not exactly knowing what to expect.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dynamics in Southern Grenada

Prickly Bay in Grenada is a little bit our third home, after our real home (which I assume is the boat or Belgium or the States) and the lagoon in St. Martin. We have spent a lot of time here in previous years and it is always nice to be back. Once we get used to the rolly bay (at times) and the longer distances again, we are quite happy. There are less cruisers here than other years, due to the fact that calm Mount Hartman Bay has become more popular. Fortunately there are still some friends around. The two main bars De Big Fish and the Tiki Bar offer great happy hour deals and see us appear frequently

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This Weird Feeling

Something weird happened the other day. Well, maybe not weird to other people, certainly not weird to other cruisers or even people who enjoy relaxing… Mark and I were still in Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, with no friends around and not too many obligations. We couldn’t start any new boat projects, because if something would break during the process or if we’d find another problem, we’d be in trouble, since there were no marine or hardware stores around. I started a schedule of writing in the morning and errands or relaxing in the afternoon, if possible. Of course, on a boat there is always something to do, so the relaxing part, we saved for the weekends.

We sailed Irie to Anse La Roche, our favorite anchorage in Carriacou,. No other boats were there, just a few tourists on the pretty, building-free beach and later on some local fishermen who made the long steep walk down from the road to catch dinner. It was “naked time”, a very enjoyable feeling, to just take a shower in the sea without needing bathing suits! 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Reflections on Carriacou

It is hard to describe why we like Carriacou… Even though there are always a whole bunch of boats anchored in protected Tyrrel Bay (around 40), it is still pretty quiet on the water. Some of these boats are “stored” during the hurricane season, others have live aboard cruisers who made Carriacou home for (part of) the year, a few have their owners onshore and about a quarter of the sailboats are like us. They come and go, sometimes staying for a couple of days, sometimes for a couple of weeks. As it is time for us to move further south to Grenada (mainly for business and boat projects), I come to reflect on why I like it here and why I already look forward to coming back later this season.

I recently talked to a couple of cruisers who call Tyrrel Bay home for half of the year. We were sharing why we like this place and –really- it all came down to the fact that the pace of life is still slow here, the people are friendly and nothing much will change over the coming years. It is the Caribbean how it used to be twenty years ago. While the other islands are developing rapidly, becoming more demanding of visitors and getting more and more focused on tourism and activity, Carriacou is different. Each time I go ashore to buy fresh bread or to see what’s available in the small vegetable stand (nothing much), I have a smile on my face and relax. I walk the one street, barefoot (sometimes regretting not having put my flip flops on when the afternoon sun made the road surface unbearably hot), sweating, but not caring about that, greeting pedestrians and drivers and browsing the same old stores and the same old stands and the same old food items, stopping for a chat here or there. That’s life in Tyrrel Bay.

After an hour or so, I get back in the dinghy, pull it off the beach and slowly drive back to Irie, carrying my valuable cucumbers, avocados and bread. Once again, I did not find tomatoes, lettuce or meat other than pig feet, chicken legs, chicken thighs, chicken drumsticks and chicken wings. We’ve been on a diet of chicken parts, callalloo and rice, or plantains and potato, but that’s OK. I did give in the other day and bought a pound of pre-packed carrots for the equivalent of US$3. We’ll have coleslaw, potatoes and … chicken tonight! It actually is quite nice to have limited choices and still enjoy our food. Eggs and produce is bought at room temperature and can stay that way for several days. Our fridge is loving it.

The place to be in the evenings in Tyrrel Bay is the Lambi Queen. Mark and I used to love coming here. We’d buy a “quarter” of local rum, a glass ½ liter bottle of coke and ask for two cups and a tray of ice cubes, freshly made in the freezer. For the affordable price of EC$ 12 (US$5), we have enough rum & cokes to last us a couple of hours. On Friday nights, we’d order food from the grill and listen to the steel drums. When no entertainment was present, we’d just hang out, pet Jack the dog and hear the “click, click, click” of local guys playing dominoes. The place is under different management now and when we took our friends out for a drink about a week ago, the same drink arrangement came to EC$ 19 (US$8) for no good reason. When we opted to have a chicken meal the following Friday, the price had also gone up with EC$5 (US$2). We checked other options “in town”, followed the street, inquired in different local establishments and settled on the Old Rum Shop.

This cute little bar/restaurant is no stranger to us (we had some fun nights here last year), but we had never seen it open this season. Mark and I joined some locals “inside”, ordered a BBQ chicken meal and our usual assortment of “quarter” of rum (Clarke’s Court Bay, not the lethal Jack Iron), bottle of coke and “homemade” ice. A couple of “old” salts joined our table and the food was delicious. For the equivalent of US$20, we had a good dinner with 2 rum & cokes each, without the nagging feeling of being taken advantage of. We sure will be back, with our friends, next time!

Since it was Friday night, we did swing by the Lambi Queen and enjoyed listening to a group of talented local guys playing African drums, while their kids danced and juggled some sticks to the tunes. We had a great evening combining the best of two worlds without breaking the bank!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Growing Roots in Carriacou?

The initial disappointment of not being able to sail to Tobago (unfavorable wind and current) is slowly ebbing away, while Mark and I are spending more and more time in laid-back Carriacou. This island has always been one of our favorite stops, but we never managed to stay “until we got bored” because of other “obligations” in Grenada, like carnival in St. George’s or conducting business in Prickly Bay, or because of the urge to get to St. Maarten to sell Wiries during the high season. So now, Tyrrel Bay finds Irie in its protected harbor, with tons of other boats over the Carriacou Regatta week.

Actually, that event just finished and –even though we didn’t race or crewed on somebody else’s boat this year- we were a little bit involved in some of the activities. While the regatta is in process, the Carriacou Children’s Education Fund organizes a whole bunch of activities to collect money for its good cause. Mark and I went to the annual BBQ and potluck and met up with old friends and new friends while savoring a variety of delicious dishes. The youngsters (that’s us and our German friends) hung out until midnight that day and even the electricity outage couldn’t chase us off. Hurrah for the flashlight that lives in my pocket every night to help us find our way back to Irie, a mandatory habit form the St. Martin days…

The auction, where donated items are up for bit, was also a great success, with record sums being gathered this year. We donated a Wirie, just like last year, and now there is yet one more of those decorating a cruising boat in the Caribbean. It was a very hot day, with little shade around, and all the organizers and volunteers did a fantastic job. Also, for the first time in my life, I joined a yoga session organized by one of the cruisers in return for a donation. The air was hot and humid and sweat kept running down my face, but I truly enjoyed the experience and already feel more at peace… Keeping it up is another (non-existing) story. It might sound like I am promoting the CCEF events a bit too much, but that is because I have been deeply immerged in all the activities. I was appointed to write articles about the CCEF gatherings and they will appear in the September issue of Caribbean Compass and the October issue of All At Sea (also available at the Annapolis boat show).

Last Sunday the racing cruising yachts had a day off and the whole Tyrrel Bay crowd moved to Hillsborough by local buses to watch the events taking place there. The local work boats took off from the beach for several races and many activities with funny names took place in the streets and on a stage, while loud music boomed through massive speakers. The local bars were flooded with islanders and tourists alike and the atmosphere was festive. Drinks were very affordable and the streets filled with party goers. As always is the case with island events, time schedules were way off and finding/watching some of the games and competitions proved impossible. Mark and I did manage to observe the “balloon shaving” competition, but missed out on the donkey races, which would take place the following day. We did purchase a T-shirt to support the “We CARE-organization” (Carriacou Animal Rescue Effort) in hopes that one day they will be successful in spaying and neutering all the stray dogs and cats and in making sure all pets receive love and a good home.

The big differences between sitting in Simpson Bay Lagoon (St. Martin) for a while and in Tyrrel Bay are the pace of life ashore (and onboard), the shorter distance to shore (we’re not going through 5 gallons of fuel a week anymore) and the fact that we manage to take (most of) our weekends off. [Another big difference is that most food items are hard to come by, but we manage and spend less money in the process.] The advantage of those weekends off is that we are actually devoting some time together, the two of us, that we succeed to relax a bit and that we explore new places, like two weekends ago. Mark and I motored into current and wind for a good hour and a half, to reach Saline Island, where we rested, read, enjoyed the scenery, marveled at and into the clear water and snorkeled amongst the pretty and colorful coral. (See full story on It was nice and we’re hoping to do something similar the coming weekend. The goal is to find a healthy balance between work and fun and I think we might actually be on our way to achieving that!