A Trip Report from Robert Sherer
Photography by Robert Sherer

 

Bob Sherer and I began corresponding in the summer of 2000, as he prepared for his February 2001 charter in The Grenadines.  During this time, he reviewed the Grenadines material, and we discussed some of the types of things his party would be interested in.  When he returned from his adventure, I received the following e-mail.  Thanks Bob!-  RC

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Hi Robert; 

Just got back Saturday at 2:30 am from two weeks in the Grenadines, February 10 - 24.  Thought I would drop you a line about some of the recent news.

Biggest problem: American Airlines has cancelled all flights into St Vincent - they no longer service the airport.  They have a person manning the desk for the next two weeks to absorb all the complaints but they are out of there.  We found out 15 minutes before we were due to leave for JFK airport in NYC!  Some found out two weeks earlier and so all the easier flights had already been booked by then.  The flights were complete fiascos!  Instead of NYC to San Juan to St Vincent, it was NYC to San Juan to St Martin to Antigua to Barbados to St. Vincent!  

Miraculously, we still arrive the same day, albeit, late at night on the very last flight out of Barbados and after being on standby twice and biting nails waiting to see if we made the flight.  Not a good start to the trip!  We became experts at talking to travel agents and in the proper form to assume in leaning against ticket counters for long hours.  On our return trip, we had to pass through Chicago to reach NYC later that night!

We found interesting explanations for the flight cancellation.  The first one we heard from an AA attendant was that AA lost their gate assignment (hey, not our fault, the airport cancelled us).  The next one we heard was also from AA that they cancelled all flights because the airport was unsafe! (canít blame us for that one, weíre just looking out for our customers, but oh those other airlines....)  Lastly, we heard that AA wanted to fly larger planes into the airport and it wasnít equip to handle them - AA was trying to force St Vincent to enlarge the runways but failed.  Interesting, all the half truths.

We had 9 to 12 foot seas and 25 to 35 knot winds for much of our first week.  The crossing to Mustique on the first day was quite a baptism for the crew since we hadnít sailed for 5 months.  In that weather, many of the supposedly good anchorages are very rolly.  Mustique was impossible with the boat rolling 30 degrees both ways all night long.  We couldnít keep anything on the table for dinner. 

We scrapped plans to stay an extra day at Mustique and sailed for Salt Whistle Bay, met Yellow Man and he led us into the most protected part of the bay, north corner and near the shore - but the rollers still made it in, not as bad as Mustique, just 15 degree rolls. 

We sailed into Union the next day (all the rolling stirred up the fuel and both fuel filters had to be changed) and found peace.  One thing you didnít mention was that if you wanted to pick up water at the Anchorage YC, you had to moor rear to the dock, Mediterranean style.  The only slots open were with the wind pushing you into the dock - exciting maneuver to back in while laying out the anchor and fit between two boats with a 30 knot wind pushing you into the dock (hope the anchor holds!! --- it didnít the first time).

There is a scam going on at Union where a boat boy will sell you a mooring and then the real owner shows up later!  We werenít hit but the boat next to us was.  Your boat boy guide was extremely helpful.  We met Herman and found him just as you described him - with us he was very helpful!.  Lambiís was $151 US for 6 people for dinner and two rounds of drinks with a great steel band and three dancing girls.

Petit St. Vincent was also calm, no rollers, even in the raging conditions we experienced.  We were told at every stop that the 9 - 12 seas and 25 to 35 knot winds with no sun were very unusual for this time of year.  The weather finally broke the second week.  I used Maptech digital charts corrected to WGS84 and printed out a copy for the boat with waypoints - which were deadnuts accurate - reassuring when you trying to anchor or navigate near reefs.

The boat boys really came into their own at Tobago Cays. We found Walton Bob to be absolutely reliable.  We even placed an order for a Sunday delivery and he arranged it to be done even though he was off on Sunday.  We bought tee shirts from Mr. Quality and Sydney Dallas.  Prices: $4 EC for small loaf of bread, $6 EC for a large loaf, $10 EC for French bread, $20 EC ice (about 2 feet long), $20 US for t-shirt from Mr. Quality and you got a volume discount from Sydney at $18 US each if you bought more than one.

Sydney was great and after we introduced ourselves (we told him he was on the Internet - he was famous!) he went into quite an explanation about the boat boys.  Seems the government is trying to eliminate them as part of the national park formation.  There would be park rangers and no boat boys.  Sydney is part of the boat boy organization (he said he was president of the group) and they have approached the government to be deputy park rangers.  They would agree to keep off the islands (there goes Mr. Plat!) but still be allowed to approach boats as in the past.  He went on quite a bit about providing a service to the boating community at the isolated anchorage of Tobago Cays. If thereís a medical problem, the boat boys can provide fast transport to Union.  They provide a level of security too.  At any rate, thereís an election coming up in March and in order for the boat boys to remain, Sydney believes there must be a change in the controlling party.  He talked on for at least 20 minutes.  Heís off to Germany in the summer to visit his two kids he hasnít seen for 13 years.  The boat boys make good money as measured against the average wage of $40 EC/day in Union for unskilled labor and $80 EC/day for a tradesman.

All the boat boys were great.  However, Mr. Platís on-beach barbecue was lacking.  Of the 6 of us, 2 got very small lobsters.  The table consisted of a sheet spread on the sand.  The lighting was a wick in a wine bottle that kept going out every 1 to 2 minutes (those 25 knot winds!).  Eating lobster in pitch black darkness is a real challenge (how to keep sand out of the lobster if you canít even see it?)  A Dutch couple ate with us and he commented,  ďThe only nationalities stupid enough to pay for this is American and Dutch.Ē  Actually, I enjoyed the meal - the darkness was a challenge but I had brought a small flashlight (Platís was sorely in need of new batteries).  The meal came to $25 US. 4 left satisfied, 2 very dissatisfied in our group.  We had to provide our own dinghy service too.

 

The Tobago Cays was great.  Not rolly at all and the snorkeling was great.  We stayed three days.

Off to Canouan and another scam.  We saw a young man holding up a mooring as we approached.  He was on a sailboard (minus the sail).  He asked rather forcefully for a $20 EC tip.  We asked who owned the mooring, he replied that he didnít know - had no idea, etc.  We thought the mooring was free courtesy of the hotel.  Against better judgment, I gave him the $20EC tip thinking thatís not so bad since the mooring was free.  Another fellow came by and asked how much I tipped the other man.  It seemed that the first guy used this guyís sailboard and he wanted half of the tip.  When I replied $20 EC, he left to collect part of the $20 EC.  We overheard a loud argument which ensued, from which I concluded he didnít get any part of the $20 EC.  Next came the real owner of the mooring.  $40 EC he said.  Hummm, Iíve been had.  I complained that I already tipped the first guy $20 EC.  He lit out after him and they both came back in the boat.  They obviously knew each other and more arguments ensued, mostly between the two of them.  I did pay for the mooring, $40 EC.  I later saw a repeat performance on another incoming boat, this time the first guy swam out with a snorkel mask - he apparently lost the use of the sailboard. At any rate, I couldnít find a free mooring at Canouan.  Later that night, the rollers came in and much of the crew got little sleep.  I never had a problem with the rollers but it affects some people.  It does make dinner and breakfast difficult.

At Bequia we took a Daffodil mooring at $16 US a night.  Itís on the north shore and was protected from the rollers.  We toured the island at $60 EC/hour for the 6 of us and had dinner at Gingerbread which was very good. 

At St Vincent, we also toured for $60 US for about 2.5 hours going to the Fort in Kingstown and the Gardens, which were outstanding.

Overall, the sailing was extraordinary!  9 to 12 foot seas are exhilarating.  The anchorages have to be carefully selected if you have crew sensitive to rolling too much at night.  At any rate, eating dinner with 30 degree pitches is still difficult.  The snorkeling was very good but concentrated at the Tobago Cays and a few other places unless you wanted to travel in a dinghy to snorkel.  Sunsail was outstanding in every way.  The hotel we stayed at the last night was first class ($95 US/day).  Lots of hot water and it came with a swimming pool too.

Any questions, just ask. Your guide was most helpful, please keep it up!!

Regards,
Bob Sherer

Last Updated: July 1, 2001
Copyright © Robert Sherer 2001