Our Diary Callaloo Soup and other tings...

Or why u no get email sooner… I'se de Caribbeen man……… Tomorra is anoda day an' we can do it den…

I think we've been in the Caribbean too long. The laid back, no-hurry culture is contagious, especially in the hot and rainy season, where it's either too hot and humid - or the rain is so hard you can't stand up in it… Certainly the case in Trinidad.

We achieved our aim of getting to Palm Island to meet Kim and Cal on their honeymoon and had a lovely few days with them. All too short - Palm Island was a bit too exclusive for us and the anchorage was a bit rolly. We give them our love and wish them all the best for the future.

Continuing our trip down island we visited Bequia, Union, Tobago Cays, Carriacou, Grenada and Trinidad. Long a favourite of cruising folk, the anchorage at Admiralty Bay, Bequia is excellent; the facilities are not "too" developed and everything is close at hand. The island is small enough to walk around and we had some lovely walks including a trip to the Hawksbill Turtle Sanctuary. Lovely beaches and lively cheap bars and food - we had our first Roti here (a delicious large chapatti bread wrapped around curried vegetables and your choice of curried beef, lamb, conch or chicken).

From Bequia we went straight to Palm Island, which is a large exclusive resort island. Lovely facilities and can be recommended for a true get away holiday on a Caribbean island. Palm island is part on the Grenadines which is a group of small palm-fringed white beach islands, many of them only have resorts or exclusive homes - such as Mustique, home of the rich and famous. We took the chance to visit the Tobago Cays and Mayreau, mainly deserted with lovely swimming and snorkelling.


Union Island, the largest island in the group was my favourite - like many of the islands the people were friendly and chatty. Clifton, a bustling small port, is the main anchorage, sheltered within a lagoon. We met many old and new friends here including Cor and Olga from the Dutch boat Future. Cor and I together fixed two wind generators for "Happy Island" a bar for the yachties on a small island built entirely out of conch shells in the middle of the lagoon. Anything to get a free cold beer!

On the west side of Union Island is Chatham Bay, one of the nicest anchorages in the Caribbean; a lovely deserted beach (with not even a beach bar!!!!), lovely walks and good diving and snorkelling off the boat. Cor (Future) and I had a lovely dive off the headland. We hung around here for a week or so, meeting up again with Ed and Julie from Free Radical, last seen in St Maartens. From Union Island south to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou and our first encounter with tropical waves and squally heavy rains… a chance to do the laundry and fill up the water tanks. (The best method, we found was to just open the deck fillers and build a little dam downstream. Easier than collecting from canvas work, etc.) These tropical waves last about two days and seem to occur at six day intervals. Occasionally they turn into Tropical Storms and then Hurricanes. In between down pours we socialised at the yacht club and took some short walks.

A weather window appeared allowing a quick hop to St Georges, Grenada, 30 miles south. A lovely, close reach sail in 15 kts with views of the small islands off the coast. We were impressed with the confused seas around Kick 'Em Jenny, an active volcano on the sea floor. Grenada had been devastated by Hurricane Ivan a year earlier. The effects were clearly to be seen. Not a single house or building was left unscathed. Everyone had their own story to tell. The evidence was everywhere. Mountains of corrugated sheeting from roofs appear at every corner; the sports stadium (partly ruined), built with a $100m loan from the World Bank, was now used as one of these huge dump sites. Grenada is slowly rebuilding. Everyone is trying to help (some a little misguided - USAID was "beautifying" the lagoon despite 80% of the population having no roof on their houses!); a group of cruisers has set up a housing project called CrisisShield with much acclaim; another cruiser was collecting jars to supply a local chutney and jam business! While we were in St Georges the local high school went up in flames (tragic, considering Grenada has so much re-building to do already!). We also took the opportunity to take a couple of trips inland to look at the rain forest. The National Park, picturesque one year ago, was flattened and any tree left standing had been stripped of its leaves - although signs of regeneration are everywhere. It was lovely to see nutmeg and cocoa growing in native surroundings and the waterfalls providing a refreshing dip after the long walks. One surprising fall-out was the shortage of eggs - most of the chicken population had been blown out to sea!!!

From St Georges we sailed around to Prickly Bay on the south side of the island. This is the jumping off point for the 90-mile sail to Trinidad. Tropical Waves were coming over with high frequency - not a good omen. Many cruisers were gathered; some heading to Trinidad, some to Venezuela, and a small number staying! Social gatherings were the norm and new friendships made - between each Wave a group would depart. On Tuesday 21st June after a rainy and squally weekend we left with Domoi (a Contessa 32) and Free Radical for the overnight sail to Chaguaramas, Trinidad. This is often a tough slog to windward against an unfavourable current and confused seas. This trip was no exception. We had double reefed our main and under staysail and reefed genoa we beat into the seas. Poco Andante again proved herself as a good sea boat and into the night, steered by our trusty Hydrovane, we made good time. Conditions were a bit tough for Bill on Domoi, who turned back and set out again the next day. As we approached Trinidad the wind and seas abated and we motored the last 20 miles into Chaguaramas. We tied up alongside Free Radical and checked in with Customs and Immigration before going round to TTSA (Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association). This is an excellent anchorage close to all the facilities. However we soon discovered why there was so much room! After a peaceful afternoon the local bar/disco started their practise! We have never heard such loud music - the whole boat vibrated, even though we were a quarter of a mile from the epicentre! Next day we went back to Chaguaramas Bay and picked up a mooring…

With so many yachts spending the hurricane season in Trinidad, the social life amongst the cruisers is really active. Mexican Train dominoes at Crew's Inn Marina on Sunday afternoons; pot luck BBQ at Coral Cove Marina on Sunday evenings; turtle watching trips, supermarket runs and informal talks (one afternoon we entertained about 40 cruisers with a talk about Cruising Cuba). So much to do - and so little time! Keith enjoyed an evening trip to a beach on the north coast where he watched 6' long leatherback turtles coming ashore to lay about 80-100 eggs. Turtle eggs from previous nestings were hatching and the babies making their way to the sea - an amazing experience. We also learned to play Mexican Train dominoes - a variation using dominoes with up to 12 pips on. Great fun - Keith managed win the "yellow jersey" on his first afternoon's play!

Chaguaramas seems to be geared up to cater to the re-fitting needs of all the yachts which come there. Port of Spain, the capital, is about 20 minutes away and has whole streets specialising in fabrics while others make made-to-measure mattresses for the weird and wonderful berth shapes usual on boats. The people are helpful and friendly and everything you could possibly need can be supplied. We decided to order some parts from UK and US and they arrived within a week direct to the local Customs office for duty free clearance.

Amidst all this, Tropical Storm Emily was building up and heading our way - theoretically too early in the season and too far south. Yachts started arriving from the north as they sought safer harbours. The barometer started falling and the air was still. All the boats were taking off their sails and clearing their decks in anticipation of a big blow. We decided that our mooring wasn't a good place to spend a hurricane so we motored about 3 miles to a bay across the harbour. About 6 other yachts had the same idea and we all spent the afternoon un-hanking sails and making preparations. By 4pm the still air had an ominous feel to it - so we decided it was party time! Wayne and Debby from Sunshine (South African) and Pierre and Adele from Honiara I (Canadian) gathered on board Poco Andante and drank far too much. The wind picked up during the night but wasn't too bad until about 6am when the wind starting gusting up to about 35 knots and the seas started to build. Our choice of harbour had been good - only one or two waves about 2' high came through. The gusts were causing problems on other boats with anchors dragging - one had a hectic few hours trying to re-lay in 30 knot winds and eventually motored into the wind for 1½ hours - just to stay in place (just off our bow, which was worrying!). But eventually the wind and seas dropped and we put the boat back together and headed back to Chaguaramas. Tropical Storm Emily went on to become a hurricane and hit Grenada (they really are having a bad time!) before heading north-west and the Yucatan peninsula.

We had finished our shopping and carried out some major modifications to our refrigeration and attended to a few of the jobs on our "to do" list. Many people were leaving their boats in Trinidad and departing to their respective "homes" for the summer, while others, like us, were heading to Venezuela for the hurricane season. We left Trinidad on 19th July and had a lovely sail to Los Testigos, a picturesque group of islands off the north east coast of Venezuela.

Exploring the Caribbean Islands has been great fun, such a mixture but all with lovely anchorages and fair sailing winds. We would certainly go back to Guadeloupe, Dominica and St Vincent to see more. We didn't expect a culinary delight - and we didn't get one! Real West Indian food is far from "haute cuisine". Lots of fried chicken and stews of various types - many of the dishes emanated from the slave era. "Popular" ingredients include cow heal, pig snouts and ears, chicken feet, fish heads, etc. These are turned into soups and stews and served with starchy tasteless vegetables such as breadfruit, christophene, pumpkins, yams, tania, dasheen, eddo and plantains. I figure they invented hot sauces, which are delightful, to add flavour to these. The fruits, however, are great - bananas, paw paws, mangoes, pineapples and many others. Callaloo (an elephant ear shaped deep green leaf) has intrigued us through the islands. You see it growing, prettily, along streams - it is plentiful and sold everywhere. I tried it in many restaurants but was disappointed, so I decided to make a soup out of it and took it to a pot luck dinner one day. I was surprised that everyone loved this green muddy soup! If you would like my recipe let me know…

This ended our second season in the Windward and Leeward Islands. Ahead a new continent to discover - South America.