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Petit Byahaut

Soon after the cruisers net this morning we moved Dignity around the corner to Petit Byahaut. The water here was crystal clear. Having put out the washing done earlier while testing the genset we put on our snorkeling gear and swam ashore to check things out. The water was abundant with life including hundreds of tentacled jelly fish which gave both of us a number of stings. Ashore we found the most quaint but empty mini-resort. Calling around we could find no one so we decided to head back to the boat and wait out the morning to see if anyone would show up.

On the way back to the boat we snorkeled further out and were rewarded with yet more sea life and yet more stings.

The morning played out, we had lunch and no further signs of life showed. With the relatively heavy weather forecast to come in on Wednesday we decided the best place to find a meal would be back in Bequia. So off we sailed, this time leaving before the current was properly in our favour. It was a close haul all the way but again we made it with one tack. We’ll go ashore soon to find somewhere willing to feed us.

On the way over the genset had another murmur. Folks on the net are reinforcing my view there is an issue with the fuel feed – probably a filter that needs replacing. I’ll start trouble shooting that tomorrow. We have now effectively begun our trip back to Grenada where we’ll get stuck into our summer projects. How far I can remediate the genset issue will dictate our speed of return.

For now here are just a few pics of Petit Byahaut. I wish we’d taken the camera ashore but that would have involved going back in the dinghy.

A little more detail

Ok – so I took the privilege of not writing too much yesterday. It was my birthday after all. This blog is for my own future reference so lest I forget, here’s a little more detail on the last couple of days.

On Saturday, after our trip to Montreal Gardens, we decided to go ashore on Young Island to look around. As it is a private island with a private resort built upon it we were restricted to visiting the bar. Given that they had decently priced cocktails this didn’t feel too limiting.

While sitting there we met a couple from Texas (Sandy & Tom) who had just arrived without their luggage. Their last flight had been aboard a LIAT plane which just reinforces the “Luggage In Another Terminal” expansion of their name. They joined us to chat and we soon learned about each other. Tom was an avid sailor and made a proposition to go sailing which we readily accepted.

The evening progressed with Tom and Sandy coming aboard Dignity for drinks, nibbles and further conversation.

The next morning we picked them up from the jetty at 7:30 in the morning and soon we were off sailing to Bequia. Being slightly east of Admiralty Bay we survived the current and made it there on one tack. As we approached Bequia I turned on the genset a little earlier than we would normally as we’d been using the stored power in the drive banks to avoid running the genset for the last week or so and were getting low on juice. For the first time we’ve experienced the genset gave a couple of ‘burps’ where it almost stopped but picked up again. Didn’t cause us any issues but it was concerning.

I dinghied Sandy and Tom into Bequia so they could explore the town. While they were ashore I checked the water strainer to the engine and cleared out a few small leaves and a baby crab. Not enough to cause issues but I was looking so I felt I should free the crab at least. I also completed my final oil change on the hookah as I had been putting it off and we wanted to go diving.

When Tom and Sandy returned I took them over to the dive site we’d been to before. Finding it was difficult as the bottle float that marked the end of the line to attach the dinghy to had lost it top and had sunk. Furthermore there was at least a knot current driving the bottle down and us away. I jumped into the water and dove down to retrieve the line and after a few goes with Tom steering the dinghy we were safely tied.

The current became a bit of an issue so we kept the hookah tied to the dinghy and limited our swim to the length of the hoses. This was far from limiting as it forced us to look more closely at a smaller area and we saw just as much as ever including a couple of lobsters hiding away.

In the afternoon we sailed back to our intended destination in St Vincent, Buccament Bay, where we’d heard a new Taiwanese restaurant had opened which was supposed to be quite good and had fair prices too. The timing was perfect as the currents would be in our favour at that time. The genset problems continued and this time it cut out. Not that it posed a great risk as we had the batteries now charged – more than enough to get into a safe anchorage. I tried switching to the opposing fuel tank and this time the genset ran fine. Again – we made the trip on a single tack. We anchored in a section of the bay that neither our charts nor guidebook suggested for anchoring. We found a great spot with the anchor biting first time and on inspection it had buried itself without dragging at all.

We dinghied Sandy and Tom ashore and found a taxi to take them back to Young Island. We also found the Taiwanese restaurant but also discovered it closed for the holidays. Not sure if this is just for the carnival week here in St Vincent or for the entire hurricane season. Either way it meant dinner back aboard Dignity.

Our plans for the next few days are now focused around the genset and the weather which is threatening winds in the mid 20s from Wednesday for a few days. As of writing we’ve ran the genset for an hour doing the laundry and it has run perfectly. Maybe I have an issue with the original fuel tank – maybe it was just something in the fuel line. Either way it needs investigation at a place with access to parts and people. Given the current successful test we’ve decided to move round to the next bay, Petit Byahaut, where there is an exclusive resort with reportedly great dining. We’ll celebrate my birthday there. Tomorrow we’ll head back to Bequia where we know the anchorage is sound and try and determine the cause of the genset anomalies while the weather passes over.

Buccament Bay

Very briefly – more details tomorrow. Last night we went ashore on Young Island to look around and have cocktails. Met a nice couple who were staying there – Sandy and Tom. Agreed to go sailing all together today. Sailed to Bequia, dove on the reef and sailed back to Buccament Bay, St Vincent, where we parted company and they headed back to Young Island by taxi. All had a good time. Aim for birthday meal ashore thwarted as restaurant closed for hols. Curry aboard tonight. Really nice (and belated) birthday dinner (on Sandy and Tom) tomorrow. It’s my birthday and I’ll not write much if I want to.

Montreal Gardens

This country of St Vincent continues to astound us.

Today’s mission was to visit Montreal Gardens nestled high up in the Mesopotamia Valley. There was no direct bus there but from our visit to the Ministry of Tourism earlier this week we knew a bus from Kingstown would get us close with only a ‘walk up the hill’ to get us there. Getting into town was straight forward but finding the right bus to take to get us close to the gardens was not so easy. We eventually discovered we had to take the ‘Mespo’ bus which we did. This one initially took us back along the route we had taken into town but eventually took us up into the mountains offering us some awesome views of the southern end of the island.

The conductor let us know when it was time to get off and which way it was to get to the gardens. Soon we were climbing more and more hills. It was just under two miles from the bus to the gardens. We past plenty of locals who were very friendly, asking us how we were, greeting us good morning (one thought it was the afternoon already – too relaxed) and never asking us for anything. I mention this as St Vincent has a reputation for being unfriendly and pushy. We are seeing none of that.

Soon we were at the gardens. We learned very quickly they were not open at the weekend but we wandered in anyway hoping we would get to see something of them. In the end we managed to see the whole gardens having met the owner and giving him the entrance fee directly.

These gardens were unlike a normal horticultural garden where flowers are laid out almost as specimens. This was more a cross between an English country garden and a nursery. The best way to get a feel for the place is to visit, but second best are the pictures we’ve taken. Play the slideshow below full screen.

The big surprise was getting back. The gardens had one other visitor who was collecting some flowers for a local school holding their graduation ceremony today. He left around the same time we did and offered us a ride. He ended up dropping us off at a supermarket down by the airport where we could pick up some food and catch the bus back to where we are still moored. His name was “Ras-John”. He ran a landscaping business here in St Vincent but has spent time in the US. His 24 year old daughter still studies in Miami. Along the way down out of the hill Ras-John wanted to buy us a lot of fruit from a roadside stand. This is a very pleasant correction to the myths of the grabbing locals of St Vincent.

We are more than pleased we made our way back up to St Vincent before the hurricane season really kicks in. This island is really surprising us.

Tomorrow we’re back on the move round to Buccament Bay where we’ll stay for a few days.

Soufriere – climb to the crater rim

Feeling stiff about now – here’s why. We left the boat this morning around 8am with only one slip up – forgot the map. After a brief trip back to the boat, setting the dinghy stern anchor a second time, and locking the dinghy a second time we were ready to set off.

It’s only a small climb to the main road to pick up the busses. We had thought that all busses heading away from town would take us up island but that was not the case. A local fellow sitting on the wall set us straight and as he recognized all the busses he helped us identify the right one. While waiting we had a little chat about not a lot.

Up and down the islands (except for Mustique of course) there is a similarity in the bus services. All rely on minivans which can squish in about 18 people. Both Grenada and St Vincent make use of ‘conducters’ who open and close the side door, lean out looking for new customers, help squeeze more people in and handle the money. This leaves the driver to concentrate on driving. And they need to here in St Vincent as they race along the winding roads at break-neck speeds performing acts of driving that would disqualify them from driving instantly in other countries. An example today was overtaking, at high speed, another bus which had stopped on a pedestrian crossing.

Today’s ride may just well be one of those that sticks in our memory. The ride was more memorable due to the local radio station playing Michael Jackson as a result of his passing yesterday. The driving was not too “Bad” but it was certainly a “Thriller”. I thought the lyrics “Don’t stop till you get enough” were quite appropriate. They managed to fill the bus to capacity despite us with our rucksacks, several large people, mother with small child on lap, a man with a ladder and someone else with a box. Amazing.

We survived the ride intact and soon caught a second bus to cover the remaining distance to the closest point we could ride a bus to the mountain trail. This was on the coast road a couple of miles from the trailhead which was also at around 1,100 feet above us. This extra leg was a small price to pay for the money saved. The ‘quote’ for the official ride was US$140. So far we’d spent EC$10 total getting there (less than US$4). The air was stuffy and very humid as we walked through a plantain plantation. I started developing a blister very quickly so we stopped so I could pay it some attention. I think all the walking in bare feet and flip flops have left my ankles with tender skin, unused to the rigours of hiking boots. As I was putting my boot back on a lorry/truck carrying teachers and kids from a local tech school came round the corner and stopped, offering us a ride to the trailhead. This was most welcome as it eliminated a climb of around 800ft from our overall ascent to the crater rim at 3,100ft.

We were soon on the trail sweating in what felt like 100% humidity. The vegetation varied along the route as we climbed from bamboo woods to rainforest to more like scrub towards the top. The trail was generally in good condition but towards the top it was a bit of a scramble alongside deep gulleys eroded into the volcanic soil. Towards the top we joined up with the leading group of students and their lead who knew the mountain well. I think he’d said he’d climbed the volcano around 50 times so he knew his stuff.

At the rim it was windy and chilly and initially not a good view. The crater floor which I believe is 1,000 feet from the rim was barely visible. We ate our lunch here waiting for the mist to clear and eventually we were reward with an awesome view. The crater is quite large with a bulge in the center forming a circular crater floor. There was a small lake on the floor nearest to us and steam was visible rising from the central bulge off to our left. A video I took perhaps shows this best.

We eventually parted company with the students and teacher who wanted to see if they could descend into the crater further round. There was a path for this but we weren’t up to it. Going down was, as ever, much easier than climbing up. Near the top we met a family (John, Lynette, Jasmine and Brandon (we think)). He had a distinct North London accent (Harringay) and she was clearly Australian. They were on their way back to Australia via St Vincent where his mother lives. They were on their way up.

Having made it back to the trailhead we set about walking down the road we had been given a ride up. Close to where we were picked up the first time a minibus stopped by – it was John and Lynette with their guide on the way back down. They gave us a ride back to Georgetown saving us a bit of a hot walk and an EC$ each for the short bus ride (it all counts).

After picking up a couple of drinks we caught a bus back to Dignity. From the start of our walk to the end of the final bus ride I had my GPS running so you can see our walks, our rides and the bus ride home on the following map (if you care to).

View 2009-06-26 Soufriere in a larger map

Back on the boat we’re resting our weary limbs. Finally – here are our pics.