“Clearing in” and “Clearing out”(aka known as immigration services in boat speak) can be such an administrative nightmare for boats sailing in the Carribean islands! Each island or island group has its own customs and immigration processes and they can vary from online which is fast and efficient (the French territories) to 3 page forms separated by carbon paper (remember you have to press really hard) and stoney faced officials who are at various levels of efficiency and friendliness. One guy, whose location will remain nameless, was unashamedly watching porn when we arrived at the counter! It can take anything from 10 minutes to 2 hours – when we arrived at Union Island the Customs and Immigration office was having technical problems so we had to walk out to the airport. We completed all the paperwork and then realised that we did not have enough local currency so we had to walk back to town,find the one and only ATM on the island and then return to the airport, collect our documents and passports and walk back to town…none of the above would stop me from returning to this idyllic part of the world though!!
Fresh milk is another! Finding a supermarket with fresh milk becomes a daily hunt – you quickly learn to befriend the local shop owner to find out when milk will be delivered to the island and then try to get there as soon as the milk is on sale. There can be weeks where you miss out – UHT milk has become much more palatable in the last decade!! Forget about skimmed or low fat!!
For a few wonderful days we were at anchor in Bequia in the Grenadines. The time spent here aptly sums up why we have chosen to participate in a rally as opposed to going it alone. We have been in the company of two other Oyster yachts and have had such a fabulous time! “Meteorite” is the co-owned yacht of Hugh and Janice, Andy and Debbie while the two couples on “Tianelle” are owners Rob and Jeanette with their friends Nick and Yvonne. We dined, danced, drank and dived our way through the days and nights that we spent together and as truly nice Brits, they even helped us to celebrate Australia Day by being force fed songs like “Down Under” (Men at Work) “True Blue” and “Waltzing Matilda”! One highlight was a group Oyster scuba dive (minus the lovely Janice, Nick and Yvonne) with Kathy at Diving Bequia who helped to reveal the underwater highlights of this stunning Carribean island. There were a few incidents such as fin and face collisions and a ruptured sinus but apart from that it was a throughly enjoyable group bonding session.
Our dinner reservation at the Firefly Restaurant on Mustique for a romantic supper for two had to be cancelled when we had to make a sudden change of plans to take Charlie to Grenada for a chest X-ray. He had been quietly brewing a chest infection which was causing him shortness of breath and diminished oxygen levels in his blood to the extent that the nebulisers given to him by the local medical clinic on Bequia were of little use. Dr Spike Briggs (our on-call medic from MSOS) suggested that we pull up stumps and head south for some tests…..To our delight on arrival in Grenada we found Oyster “Sea Flute” and the Pedley family – Lindy (the resident nurse) was on call with a brand new oxygen indicator and she found that Charlie’s levels had returned to a more normal status. A full check up and X-ray revealed some post viral fluid on his lungs and a slightly low platelet count so a full recovery will be made!
Harry Butler (a well known Australian naturalist) came to mind as we toured Grenada with Dave and Lindy, a couple of days later. Bill (a local farmer and guide) took us on a horticultural extravaganza – a herbalist’s dream – on what is known as “spice island”. Trekking into a pristine waterfall he pointed out fruit and vegetables grown on hills and valleys in thick tropical rainforest, macheted away overhanging fronds and delivered to us tastes of the the many spices grown on Grenada. As the second largest producer of nutmeg, we also tasted cinamon, mace, a Carribean version of cilantro (coriander), lemon thyme, and even saw cashew nuts (my favourite!) and to top this off he took us to his own plot for tomatoes and herbs to take with us back to the boat. Highlight – just the four of us swimming and enjoying the waterfall with no one else around – sensational!!
An awesome dive on Carriacou, a fantastic visit to the Tobago Cays where we snorkelled with the turtles in a turtle sanctuary – a delicious lobster BBQ but a somewhat restless night with over 40 knots across the deck – just a few more days in the beautiful Winward islands of the Carribean and then we start to head west towards Panama and the Pacific…homeward bound.