CARIBBEAN Sailing and Touring the Caribbean Islands, Windward Islands

 

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BARBADOS & BEQUIA, CARIBBEAN

Dec 17

Landfall 19 days! The lights of the island of Barbados sparkled in the darkness. As we approached, a ball of fire sizzled from the sea and dawn's misty light revealed the rugged profile of the rocky shoreline.

We dropped the hook in Carlisle Bay, very pretty with a lovely beach. We were required to tie up to the commercial ferry wall in the harbour to check in, which we delayed until the following morning as the dock was too busy to enter that day and we needed some rest.

 Dec 18

After getting permission to enter Bridgetown Harbour, we squeezed into a small opening on the high jagged concrete wall of the ferry dock, no bollards to tie to and a surge that threatened to pop our fenders and scrape our hull! We just couldn't understand why we needed to take Ascension here to check in when a dinghy ride in would have been much safer. I climbed onto the dock and did the checkin procedures while Gord fended off at the wall. The customs officials didn't even look at the boat!

Bridgetown

To visit Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, required a rather lengthily dingy ride down the mouth of the Constitution River (Careenage) to a safe inner basin where the dinghy could be locked up securely.  Along the river is interesting architecture of old and modern.

Christmas Trees, decorated with paper cutouts adorned the square and reminded us that it was the Christmas season.

Bridgetown is a busy metropolis of shops, services and shopping centers. Supermarkets and rum shops were in abundance as was the local market. Amidst the colonial style buildings of Bridgetown, many of the streets were lined with the typical tourist paraphernalia including fine jewellery and baubles. Kentucky Fried Chickens appeared on every street corner and would become a Caribbean icon as we continued our cruising to the islands. Our favorite meal, sold at every local street venue, was the Rotis made with chicken (only boneless, sometimes!).

We enjoyed just walking around Bridgetown, absorbing the Bajan culture. The population of Barbados is only 275,000, primarily of African descent with English traditions mingled with African influence. English is spoken but the Bajan dialect used among the locals is impossible to understand by us foreigners. It has a thick dialect and the words are clipped. At first we were sure it could not have been English!

We investigated arranging transportation for a tour of the island. Busses were not well connected, taxis and organized tours very expensive and rental cars non-existent. Walking across the bridge a young tout offered tours. We agreed on a price and arranged to meet him the following day

December 19

We returned to the meeting point on the bridge in Bridgetown, sceptical that our driver would be there. But sure enough, although not the fellow we had talked to, a very large bubbly Bajan greeted us and offered to take us on our tour. Discussion about the price again, as expected, he tried to bump us with the US $ conversion.

Barbados is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide with gentle topography of low lying hills, being the only island in the Eastern Caribbean that is not volcanic.


The west and south coasts of Barbados are very built up but to the east and north of the island, there are some beautiful sandy beaches. On our drive we saw one of the Green Monkeys that inhabit the area. The road going east of Speightsown steadily climbs through historic sugarcane fields to Farley Hill which reveals a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean.  Below us stretched, Bathsheba Beach, very wild with big surf.

Our guide, Neil, with Gord and GB looking out at the windblown vista.

The wild Atlantic waters and spectacular craggy coast of endless sandy wave tossed shore.


St Nicolas Abbey

After a scenic drive, the narrow road wound under a cathedral of huge trees arching overhead to St. Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean style mansion that is one of the oldest plantations in the Caribbean.

Surrounded by 225 acres of sugar cane, there was an entrance fee to view the inside of the house so we did not go inside but wandered around the lovely grounds instead.


St John's Anglican Parish

We stopped to wander around the old St. John's Parish, a beautiful elegant church. It was when we wandered to the back of the church where an ancient graveyard stands as reminiscence of decades past, that Gord and I realized WE HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE! We had taken a Caribbean cruise 14 years ago and because all our photos were lost, couldn't remember if we had visited Barbados at that time. Well, it turns out we had.


St. James Church

Set amidst a grove of stately Mahogany trees, was St. James, the oldest church in the Barbados. It was another Anglican Parish.

pictured Sarah and Ginny


We continued through cane fields to Sunbury Plantation House

Built in the mid 17th century it was restored after a fire in 1995, the house has thick walls made from local coral and the interior is furnished in antiques

The gardens around the old Plantation House were beautiful, poinsettia plants towering above flowering shrubbery.


Four Square Rum Distillery

It was Saturday and the Rum Distilleries were closed. But that did not stop Neil from showing us around the Four Square Rum Distillery. We drove through the unmanned gates and he said "I'm sure dat der is an unlocked door eer somewhere!" It didn't take him long to find a wide open back entrance. Inside oak barrel were piled high to the ceiling containing thousands of dollars of aging rum! No one in sight!! Gord thought he had fallen in love.

Neil showed us around, explaining the process of rum distilling. There were even sample bottles in the lobby unguarded. A great private tour and we could take all the photos we wanted!

Mt Gay Rum Visitor Centre

A few days later we visited the famous Mt Gay factory where we were not allowed to take photos. Mount Gay Rumis the world's oldest rum dating to 1703. I wore one of Gord's Mt Gay racing hats which got me in for free.

There was rum sampling at the end of the tour. 3 Kinds of rum. Low alcohol, medium (the kind purchased in stores) and then an 80% alcohol rum that knocked your socks off. I couldn't even swallow mine as I thought it would take the top of my head off! The 160 overproof variety is not for export, only local consumption

Over the next few days we enjoyed swimming and snorkelled on a wreck right in Carlisle Bay, although the visibility wasn't flash. We had some enjoyable beach parties on the lovely sandy shores of our anchorage, sharing stories with many friends we had met in Morocco and the Canary Islands.

The Canadians "Toboggan, Feel Free, Ascension"

Christmas was fast approaching and we had had enough of the rolly anchorage so we decided to join our friends in Bequia for Christmas. It was an overnight 100 mile trip and would put us in a position for an 80 mile downwind run to Grenada to meet Chris December 28.

At 5 pm we lifted anchor and set sail along with Djarrka and Grace. With 15 to 20 knots behind us we maintained great boatspeed, sometimes 9 knots, double reefed, pole-out with a reef in the genoa too. Smooth sailing but we arrived much too early despite unsuccessfully trying to slow down and had to wait outside the harbor until there was enough daylight to enter.

Bequia

Bequia with its mere population of 5000 has the remoteness that makes it a favorite stop for cruising boats. Because it is part of the Grenadines chain of islands, we needed to change flags and check in. We were only planning to stay 2 nights but the cost for checking in was the same for 1 night or 3 months. Worse was that it was a weekend which incurred overtime charges. All in all Bequia was an expensive stopover for the limited time we had to explore.

We were anchored near Princess Margaret Beach in Admiralty Bay, the most protected area near Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth is a sleepy little town with a line of shops rimming the beach. Because it was a holiday, we had a very difficult time getting money from an ATM as they were all empty! But we did find a little beachside restaurant where we enjoyed Rotis with Djarrka and Grace.

Christmas in Bequia

With no twinkling lights decorating the houses, no traditional Christmas carols bleating from overcrowded shopping malls, no Salvation Army Santas ringing their bells, no deluge of advertising for "last minute Christmas presents," it seemed that Christmas was just a figment of years past. But I did dig out my 2 foot plastic Christmas tree, and hung my little decorations from around the world. This year I added colorful Moroccan slippers to the collection of Turkish Evil Eyes, Thai elephants, Ozzy koala bears and NZ seashells.

December 25, 2009

We had  a great Christmas pot luck lunch on Grace with the gang, followed by too many rum punches!

The following morning, we set sail for Carriacou to overnight in Tyrell Bay, then on to Grenada the next day.