Monday, November 29, 2010


I am glad we waited for a better day as we had a cracking sail up from St Vincent with a reefed main and just the staysail for most of the time.

Even so we saw 6 knots and when I unrolled a smidge of the headsail we were seeing 7s. We held the course needed easily and it was not untill we hit the wind shadow from the Pitons at the South end of St Lucia that I needed the engine.

Elephants Child received a pretty complement from a fellow cruiser and 5 times circumnavigator aboard a 45 foot fast cruiser called Nero. He asked what kind of boat it was and how come we left after him and got into Marigot Bay an hour before him.

I told him we were cheating and had our swing keel down drawing 10 feet, to this he retorted well I draw 8 feet and I got a lot of lead down there but we still could not keep up.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


It has been a year onboard Elephants Child. I took possession in Chocolate Hole in St Johns on November the 23rd with a multi tool and a tin can as my culinary instruments and a pile of dreams.

I am looking back on a great year and the peaceful days cruising with Gisela who joined Elephants Child in Antigua for a short visit then came back on board in Grenada making many of my dreams reality

Today Gisela and I are holed up in beautiful Cumberland Bay on the West coast of St Vincent and waiting for a weather window to sail up to St Lucia.

We have some great pics of the some of the sets used for Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3 which was filmed in Wallilabou bay just south of our current anchorage but I will save them for another day.

We poked our noses out yesterday but we could not lay the course as the wind was well North of East and that was before the westerly setting current took effect so as cruisers we took the easy way out and turned around looking for a quiet anchorage. We left it to the charter boats to bash there way up wind and up current back to the Moorings base or the Sunsail base on there last sailing day in the West Indies. I am sure there would have be some very tired and seasick charters by the time they got there as the seas were running short and square on the North end of St Vincent.

So we will wait for a day or so checking out some of the victims of Hurricane Tomas and keep on checking the weather.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


We left the boat in Young Island Cut and took the bus into Kingston. But as we dinghied in and waited for the bus we were entertained by the ongoing screw up abaord a Moorings charter yacht. He finished up aground with a half raised sail and I presume a rope around his prop as a diver went to his aid.

Walking around Kingston the first impression was so many people all trying to sell the same things. As promised by the guide we walked under the covered walkways created by the builders extending the first floor over the pavement, which was just as well as it was pouring with rain.

After some undistinguished buildings we came into a church littered section. We decided to concentrate on only two. St. Marys Roman Catholic Cathedral and The Anglican Cathedral.

The Anglican Cathedral is the clear winner in terms of size. It occupied a significant expanse of Central Kingston and was longer, wider and probably higher than St. Marys. However, it was relatively uninspired being something a child could design easily with it's building blocks. But we were warmly welcomed by the Verger, Mr. Ulrice Doyle who showed us around and pointed out the highlights. One of these was a magnificent stained glass window which had been destined for St. Paul's in London until Queen Victoria saw it and 'was not amused' by the red robe on the angel and thus the window was rerouted to St. Vincent. On the way out we noted that even churches out here have termites and parts of this significant old building were closed off and under repair.

St. Marys was a complete contrast. The Anglican Cathedral was deserted. We had been the only visitors and the Verger plus the cleaning lady were the only people we saw. St. Marys was full of happy children who used part of it as a school, several very old ladies were resting and snacking on the entrance benches, a nun said please come in then disappeared into a doorway leaving us to explore on our own.

It was full of interesting nooks and crannies adorned with the essential statues of the Saints.

But it was the architectural part of the church that catches the eye. We would not have been surprised to see Harry Potter come around the corner as the soaring Gothic spider work of the spire could have come from Hogwarts.

But it would appear not all Vincintians are God fearing and law abiding citizens, I went into a pharmacy to buy some shampoo and found I was heavily guarded by at least three security staff. Gisela needed a stamp so it was off to the Post Office where we found a magnificent figure of a man, immaculately turned out with the shiniest of toe caps on his police issue boots guarding the stamp counter. Gisela escaped from this encounter possibly as she resisted the temptation to photograph him.

However, Gisela did not escape from the terrors induced from the local bus driver who clearly was in training for the Caribbean Grand Prix. Extracting maximum speed from his Japanese van fitted with shiny polythene seat covers, we all slid from one side to the other and prayed that on coming traffic would give way whenever he undertook an overtake maneuver. Gisela stated she did not think it was the end of her days yet and still felt queasy at dinner time.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


We visited a truly remarkable man this morning. Orten King is a retired Bequia fisherman, for 30+ years he used scuba gear to harvest lobster and conch from the waters of the Grenadines. In 1995 he retired to his pleasant beach side house and one day saw a hatch of turtles where the hatchlings were not getting to the sea. Something moved him to gather up these tiny scraps of newborn life and find a bucket of seawater. 15 years later his Old Hegg turtle operation has been responsible for raising and releasing over 800 Hawksbill turtles into the wild.

Before plastics were around, these turtles were hunted and killed for their shells for the purpose of making combs, spectacle frames, buttons, and other decorative items. Now, both adults and their eggs are hunted for human consumption and their reproductive cycle is disrupted by human development along beaches causing the hatchlings to travel at night not toward moonlight as their instinct tells them to do, but the wrong way, toward the brighter lights of the town. But the trade in shells still goes on, we were offered a beautiful shell of an immature hawksbill in the market in Grenada, the seller either unaware of its place on the critically endangered species list or uncaring of that fact.
Orten has built a pens, sheds, concrete pools and turtle isolation wards all without outside assistance and is a well known stop on the cruise ship circuit as he and his assistant give tours and talks on their efforts.
We were impressed by the practical knowledge that they had garnered and I must say I was a little skeptical that their releases were making it out in the wild as they had only known concrete pools and hand feeding since birth. But they acclimatise the larger turtles in the sea by allowing them out on tethers then watch them on the day they get released. Still it will be a few years more before they have proof positive of their success when a Old Hegg release with its characteristic two holes in the back of it's shell comes back to that beach and lays her eggs there.

Orten says “ I have 250 different sizes of hawksbill turtles ranging from three inches to 14 inches long, and I expect to get more hatchlings before the end of the year. I am getting the youth of our country involved by inviting our schools to visit so I can teach them the values of a healthy environment, which will be to their benefit in the future. “


After the visit I walked out to have a look at the piece of space debris that has washed up on the beach, possibly a part of a French Ariane rocket.

We had taken a taxi over but chose to walk back and were escorted off the property by a small flock ov extremely vocal guinea fowl who seemed appalled by our behavior and wanted to warn the world we were at large.

We walked by the old Spring sugar plantation where I decided to take cover behind the large cable reel that had been recycled as a roadside sign. Why? well this fellow was just ahead and as far as I could see he had sharp pointy horns and complete set of spherical objects dangling between his legs. Gisela said though that she felt he was a friendly bull and we should walk past thinking pleasant thoughts.

There are some very expensive houses around in this area, way beyond the means of tha average local. Here is one.

Monday, November 15, 2010

BEQUIA Friendship Bay and Petit Nevis

Bequia is a great place to stop and smell the flowers. We have been exploring it from the popular anchorage of Admiralty Bay. This is a popular anchorage with both liveaboards and charter boats because it caters to boaters rather than cruise ship visitors. There are stores, restaurants, chandleries, a fuel barge that delivers to your boat, customs facilities, ferries, dive shops and more.

But we sailed around to the other side of the Island to visit the island of Petit Nevis and the Friendship Bay anchorage on the south side of Bequia just a little easy of Petit Nevis.

I wanted to stop at Petit Nevis because it was the place they used to cut up the whales they harpooned. It turns out the whaling station was established in 1886 and remained a working site untill 1993 when two whales were caught and processed there.

But there has been a resurgence of interest in whaling and whaling in Bequia today is done just as it was when Nollie Simmonds' ancestor, William Wallace, started it. The whale is hunted from an open wooden boat, launched from the shore and powered by sail and oars.

"With a double ended wooden skiff, six men, some wrought iron harpoons and a lot of rope. A lot of sweat and muscle."

As Petit Nevis is now a privately owned island [ but looking for new owners ] a new working site was built on Semplers Cay by the entrance to Friendship Bay and a whale was procesed there on the 6th of April 2010 according to a local we spoke to.

We enjoyed a snorkle around Petit Nevis and I got this good shot of an angel fish being cleaned of parasites by a little blue fish.

We headed over to Friendhip Bay and were hoping for a sundowner at the famed Mosquito Bar but it did not seem to be open.

When we went for a walk ashore we found out that although Lars and Margaret Abrahamsson have operated the Friendship Bay Hotel for the past 19 years they have had it tough since 2006 and on Friday, April 23, 2010, three receivers of Roy Bailey of Ernst & Young in the Cayman Islands and Guardsman security took control of the premises and asked the hotel’s guests, as well as management and staff to leave the property.

We met one of the receivers who made us welcome on the site and even offered us free water from the hotels tanks but we had just filled up before coming round here [RATS]

Aparently the property has been shown to a variety of potential buyers but all have shaken their heads and walked away.

So this Caribbean Hotel is still for sale [ price negotiable ] as is Petit Nevis.

Did I mention the price for Petit Nevis? No; well just $15 million US to you sir.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Ashore in the cays we met some of the locals, they were just taking the sun and concentrating on looking good. They were relatively unafraid of us which might be a bad thing as the locals do eat iguana and feral cats and dogs find them an easy meal.

It turns out that these were common iguanas and might have been introduced as a food source replacing the Lesser Antillean Iguana (Iguana delicatissima) which was once widespread through the Windwards and Leewards but they are now critically endangered with only remnant populations hanging on in isolated enclaves.

But they looked cool and collected just hanging out in low trees and bushes.

Speaking of bushes the common Aloe Vera style succulent that grows all over the cays is being systematically vandalized by oiks with knives who just can not resist carving some kind of “I woz ere” message.

Bolton you are a vandal!

Friday, November 5, 2010



On the 28th of October 2010 in the sleepy village of Bellvue on Petite Martinique a valiant police officer was involved in a life or death struggle with a dangerous foreign spy.

In his own words comes the truth of this deadly plot to attack the peaceful world found here.

“ If I did not take these steps I could not sleep here at nights”

What was at stake was the location of the Petite Martinique Police station and an image of the identification sign board used to proclaim it's existence to all who pass by.

A foreigner, recently arrived on the island, was observed taking photographs of strategic locations such as the reinforced bamboo lookout post, goat pasture points, rallying points for the home guard, potential police patrol vehicles as well as the latest in high tech, high speed pursuit water craft.

But when she photographed the police station this was a snap too far and the fearless policeman swung into action and intercepting the escaping camera woman.

Summoning her and her large accomplice into the police station the ever vigilant policeman questioned them at length over their reasons for visiting the strategically placed island of Petite Martinique and their decision to photograph the sign over the police station.

Declaring that the location of the police station to be a state secret and the sign above the police station to be of national importance and a classified matter he insisted on the picture of the sign being deleted, nay expunged, nay totally obliterated for ever.

Explaining that he slept in the police station at night and that if he knew that images of the station and it's sign were published on the Internet then he would not be able to sleep as he would fear a terrorist attack on the station.

The terrorists were allowed to delete the offending picture of the police station and the sleeping policeman in Petite Martinique were able to go to their slumbers without fear of surprise attacks from the outside world.


Well the threat from the terrorists photographing the Petite Martinique police station may have been just ever so slightly exaggerated but we woke up this Saturday morning to a real threat from the weather.

Perhaps this sunset misled us.

We had anchored overnight behind Frigate island on the South side of Union island expecting a bad day of heavy rain on Saturday from a strong tropical wave approaching the islands. However overnight a low developed on the wave and swiftly developed into a Cat 1 hurricane.

The forecast track took the storm over the North end of St Vincent and as we were some 50-60 miles south of that we decided to sit tight as we are well protected from East through North round to the West by that lump you can see in the background plus the rest of the bay.

However it was a worrying morning as a couple of refugees from less safe anchorages arrived and dropped anchor close too us then the damage reports started coming in over the radio with many reports of roofs being blown off, the electricity supply had been switched off and roads blocked on St Vincent.

We were also subjected to endless repeats of the Prime ministers message to the nation on hurricane preparedness.

We had a very disturbed night with strong squalls and the expected swells rolled in. However we had put a second anchor and moved to get a little more shelter close to Frigate Island.

Tomas briefly became a large Cat 2 hurricane and we got the trailing tail with some strong winds but less rain than was forecast. The local radio gave very little useful nautical information but had endless repeats of the shelters and who had had their roofs blown off. More than 300 houses reported serious roof damage.

But he blew away and we were back in the sunshine and heading off to that little part of paradise on earth known as the Tobago Cays. I have spent many days there including my 63rd birthday but it was my great pleasure to introduce the beauties of this National treasure of the Grenadines to Gisela.

Soft sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, picture postcard little islands with palm trees and fearless iguanas who seemed to be admiring us as much as we admired them.

But the highlight came on the third snorkel when we found the turtles feeding on a bed of sea grass.

Dustbin lid sized refugees from the age of the dinosaurs who paid no attention to us but ate their sea bottom salad takeaway with awkward sideways bites which displayed their magnificent mosaic patterned skin and shell.

The same grass beds are also home to dense populations of conchs. Overfishing has made this giant mollusk a hard to find and increasingly expensive menu item but not here, I could have picked up a dozen in five minutes or so.

When we dropped anchor there were only two other boats there. I could not believe it as I have never seen less than 20 boats in the Cays and there have been days with 200+ fighting for a space to anchor. However a moments reflection gave the passage of Tomas as a reason for the charter boats to have been told to return to base or the mangroves in Carriacou. So our G&T sundowner was taken in comparative solitude and things were quiet enough for the local fish population to surround our boat and snack off the little critters drawn to our cockpit light as we dined under the bimini with a warm Caribbean wind blowing under the dodger. With a glass of wine in hand, a starry sky, splashing fish around us and a boat rocking with just the gentlest of movements we both thought that this is just what we deserved after surviving hurricane Tomas. OK OK slight exaggeration here guys, but we were about 60 miles away from the eye wall as it went over the northern end of St. Vincent !

But at the end of our second day here numbers are creeping back up and there must be about 20 boats anchoring here tonight and there is trouble and panic in paradise as we have run out of tonic, drunk the last of our wine and can find NO MORE BEER IN THE BILGES!

So it is back to civilization and a decent grocery store perhaps in Canouan but I suspect it will be Bequia before we find some drinkable wine, honey for my French toast and Gisela is running low on fruit for her morning breakfast bowl.