Another passport stamp. Another new country. Cindy said we probably change countries more than most people change their sheets. This week we arrived in the Grenadines part of the St. Vincent. We stopped very briefly at the port of Clifton on Union Island to clear in with customs and immigration. This was pretty simple since the yacht club has a free dinghy dock and from there it is about a five minute walk to the airport and government offices. We anchored Cream Puff in the harbor. I know I am going to ruffle some feathers here; we wanted to spend as little time as possible on Union Island. These islands do not have a good reputation for crime. We are going to stick to the safe touristy neighborhoods and not stray too far off the beaten path in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The check-in process was painless and the customs officials were friendly. They told me we had arrived ahead of the crowds. They normally get an onslaught of boaters arriving in December. Where do all these boaters go? The Tobago Cays an archipelago in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This is the top charter destination in the southern Caribbean. It is a small cluster of islands and reefs. The whole area is a marine park and turtle sanctuary. We sailed (meaning we motored) across from Union island and picked up a mooring buoy in a perfect spot in the park.
I am going to ruffle some more feathers here. Some cruisers we have met tend to be prejudice toward people on charter boats. I really do not see why. A veteran cruiser who will remain a nameless person that we met in Port Louis marina told us to skip this area because there are too many charters. I just listened. There is no way we were going to skip this area. It would be like going to Italy and skipping Venice because there are too many tourists. Just not going to happen. Yes, most of the boats here are charters, but so what. A boat is a boat. And, aren’t we all tourist? This same person told us he hated the BVI because there are too many charter boats there. We avoided this person the best we could for our remaining time during hurricane season at Port Louis Marina.
In the park area of the Tobago Cays, there are boat vendors. They will offer assistance to pick up a mooring buoy, sell fresh fish and lobsters or bring supplies from the mainland if you tell them what you need the day before. They have brightly colored boats. Upon entering the park we made our way to a protected area between two islands. We had picked out this area on our charts because it looked like it offered some protection from the wind. We were right about this. It is nice and calm in the channel. The park area is open to the Atlantic Ocean and although protected by large reefs the water can get choppy in the open area where most boats anchor or moor. We were greeted by the ever so polite Captain Neil in an orange boat. He offered to help us tie to the mooring. We took him up on his offer and pointed out the buoy we wanted. He worked with Cindy to secure Cream Puff with double lines. I gave him a nice tip. The boat vendors do not charge fees for helping but tipping is greatly appreciated. Boaters are not required to use the boat vendors but we figure having a little help from a local never hurts. There are fees to use the park mooring buoys. We don’t mind paying a small fee in a marine park if the money goes to the upkeep of the park. It is EC$45 per night (about US$15) and there is also a daily fee of EC$10 (US$3.50) for each person on the boat to be in the park. Like most cruisers, we prefer to use our own anchor. This is allowed in the park and this was our initial plan. We could have saved some money using our anchor. However, the area we wanted to stay in is pretty tight and being tied to a mooring reduces our swing room considerably. Bumping into other boats as the boats swing about in the middle of the night is not fun (if it’s going to happen, it’ll be in the middle of the night). We opted to pay for the buoy.
By the time we were settled in it was about 4 o’clock. We decided we would save our first snorkel and search for turtles until the morning. We enjoyed some homemade spaghetti bolognaise and watched the sunset off Cream Puff’s stern with a glass of sangria.
The next morning we lowered our dinghy into the water and attached the outboard motor. I tried to start the engine but the 8hp Yamaha just didn’t want to play nice. So frustrating. It usually starts on the first pull. Here we are in the most beautiful marine park in the southern Caribbean and our dinghy motor decides to take a vacation. It’s time to get the tools out and take it apart.
I spent most of the day cleaning out the carburetor of our outboard engine. I have two spares and managed to make one good carburetor out of the three. One thing for sure about this lifestyle, you learn to fix stuff. Stuff breaks on a boat. We carry lots of tools and a good inventory of spare parts but if we have a spare we can count on that particular item never breaking. The only stuff that breaks is the stuff we need right away and for which we don’t have a spare. So, we have to fix it. With the help of a couple of books to aid troubleshooting, I managed to get our outboard motor running. It took the best part of the day and this accomplishment was rewarded with a large glass of ice cold sangria. Do you see the theme developing?
The following day we tried again and the engine fired right up. It still is a little rough running but at least it’s working now. We went on a “search” for turtles. I originally used the word “hunt” for turtles but Cindy said this has a negative connotation. She said it makes it sound like we are going to eat the turtles. Even though turtles are delicious, we didn’t eat any. There is an area of the park roped off for turtles. The ropes protect the grass they eat from being torn up by boat anchors. All the tourists head to this area first to search out a turtle. We did the same. The only problem we found was nobody told the turtles they are suppose to stay inside the roped off area. Turtles were just about everywhere except where they were supposed to be. Very disobedient rebel turtles in this park. I captured this video of a smallish turtle. I had to swim really hard to keep up with it. It’s amazing how fast they swim with seemingly little effort. (if you do not see the video click here):
Although we are now running low on Sangria, we decided to extend our plans to stay here a little bit longer. This is perhaps the best part about not having a schedule. When we find somewhere nice, we stay longer. If it’s not so nice, we pull up the hook and leave. This place is nice.