Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Grenada to Venezuela

Apologies again for the sporadic nature of the recent entries. Crossing the Atlantic, blog writing was a welcome distraction and fitted in well with our watch keeping. Now we're in the Caribbean the distractions are numerous and days unstructured; we'll do our best to find time to write.

The last entry left us in Bequia heading for Grenada for a rendezvous with my parents. En route to Grenada we called into Union Island, anchoring securely (after a few attempts) in the shelter of a reef. It was impressive seeing the full fury of the Atlantic crashing onto the reef while laying in calm waters on the other side. Union Island is an official port of entry/exit for St Vincent and the Grenadines and I duly arrived at the customs office half an hour before closing time to check-out. The office closes at 6pm and despite arriving at 5.30pm was stung for an overtime payment. A little frustrating, but all good humoured and they included a ride to immigration (1 mile away) as part of the payment. From Union Island we could see the enticing Tobago Cays - confusingly situated between St Vincent and Grenada - not even close to Tobago. They come highly recommended by the pilot guides and we planned to visit them with my parents.

Friday we had a beautiful sail down to Grenada, marred only by a soaking received in the torrential rain which started just as we prepared to anchor in Prickly Bay.
The following day we waited anxiously outside Arrivals as the last of the passengers emerged, but no Jenny and Brian. They eventually appeared full of tales of Grenadan customs bureaucracy - Brian had been a little over-honest and declared they were carrying spare parts for Kika and had been hit with import duties. On previous visits we've kept my parents busy helping with boat maintenance. For this trip we were determined to spend our time sailing. Unfortunately the forecast predicted huge swells and high winds for the first few days so island exploration was the order of the day. The first few days we explored the local beaches and St Georges, the capital, on the fabulous reggae buses.

Grenada is mountainous and covered in vibrant rainforest. A trip through the forest to a waterfall was decided upon and Jenny, Brian and Nick set off - sadly Ellen was recovering from stomach upset and remained on Kika. Jenny requested a level walk, "without too many hills" so inevitably the waterfall we headed for turned out to be at the end of a steep descent along an occasionally treacherous path. We all made it, partly thanks to the help of David, a Grenadian, who supported Jenny as she wobbled across a log over the river.
David turned out to make part of his living from diving off the top of the waterfall and duly impressed us - I don't remember this being mentioned as an option in my careers lessons.

He stayed with us on the trip back, pointing out mango, nutmeg, cinnamon trees and helping us past the more perilous sections. We supported further entrepreneurship with a stop at the "Keep Taxi clean shoe wash" bench and enjoyed a hair-raising high-speed bus ride back down the mountains.
Unfortunately the weather continued to be unfavourable, so we sailed 10 miles from Prickly bay round to St Georges, then back a couple of days later. Brian was reluctantly dragged to the local beach away from essential maintenance on a blocked toilet.

Most of the day was spent disassembling and reassembling the pump, finally passing Jenny and Brian heading back from their day enjoying the sun as we headed to the beach to clean off. Jenny and Brian seemed satisfied with the brief sail and hopefully we've wetted their appetites for further Kika sailing trips.

The following day we headed off for Los Testigos. There's always too much to do and see, so although our time in the Windward Islands has been brief, we've been so enthused by other sailors with the treasures that await us off the Venezuelan, Columbian and Panamanian coasts never mind the Pacific, that we're excited to be heading west again. We've also arranged a rendezvous with Ellen's sister and family in Bonaire on the 10th Feb so we need to keep moving.

We sailed overnight from Grenada to Los Testigos in the company of Brendan and Amanda on Alliage who we met in St Georges (Alliage is a a Rival 34, a smaller version of Kika).We've spent three days at anchor in a bay with a low sandly spit protecting us from the Atlantic swell. Our first taste of Venezuela. The air is full of Frigate birds, brown Bobbies and the occasional pelican. The islands are practically deserted, and only frequented by passing yachts and fishermen.
A highlight of the visit was bartering some sugar and coffee for a Barracuda and three unidentified red spiky fish, which we were assured were safe to eat. We cooked them on a drift wood beach fire, under a clear starry sky exchanging sailing stories with Brendan and Amanda.

Today our time at Los Testigos is over - its not an official port of entry, but we were granted a temporary stay of three days. We're currently sailing on a slight sea to Margarita - the official port, which the guide describes as having ".. a carefree holiday atmosphere and is the most popular holiday destination for Venezulans". Time to dust down our Spanish and practice the Salsa - should be fun.

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