Departing Tobago Cays, we sailed downwind a very short distance west to Union Island where a man named Janti built “Happy Island.” This is similar to the island off the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI’s called Saba Rock. Saba actually was a rock that was expanded dramatically, but HAPPY ISLAND did not exist before. Janti created the island by piling up conch shells on the reef. WHAT? Yes, he gathered up conch shells tossed away from the harvest of the conch. Next, he hauled and piled these shells up until he had enough area to build a small shade building. Eventually, this grew and grew and grew into what is now Happy Island with a complete house and bar with a dinghy dock, palm trees, picnic tables, and large speakers for party music. Happy Island is the place to stop on Union Island, it is right in the middle of the reef! Look at these photos over the years!
A walk around Union Island
In order to leave for Grenada, one must check out of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That requires a stop on Union Island at the Customs and Immigration offices at the airport or at the local town’s office building. The local office will charge an overtime fee if you request services over lunch or on a weekend. We stopped in at 1205 and decided to walk the town until early afternoon and spend the overtime fee on ice cream instead. Union Island is a busy little town with street vendors, gift shops, bakery, grocery store, banks, and a coffee and ice cream shop. Of course, we hit Gypsy Soul, the coffee and ice cream shop above the Captain Gourmet.
Union Island, the town of Clifton, is the home of all the hard-working people who run boats over to Tobago Cays. They sell bread, fish, jewelry, collect trash and they created a Beach BBQ for cruisers and charterers. The trip from Union is about 7 nm in small homemade wooden boats with outboards. Supporting these industrious people at their BBQ is well worth the $40 US, including transportation from your boat in their boats. The menu is a choice of chicken, fish, or ribs with vegetables, rice and bread served family style. They all work so hard to make it a special event for the cruising boaters. Then after running the Beach BBQ, they make the crossing across open ocean waters to Union Island late at night. Thank you CLIFTON, we will be back.
Where is Happy Island?
Zoom Into our Travel Map Here
Thank you for sailing along with us, we really enjoy sharing this adventure with our friends and family.
Tobago Cays, south of Bequia, is a National Marine Park managed and protected by the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Several islands surrounded by a large fringing reef make this a top sailing destination. Cruisers anchor behind the reef with nothing to the east except Africa. Behind the reef is a sandy bank only 10-20 feet deep. One of the islands has become a Green Turtle nesting area. The area is now fully protected. It is one place where you can easily swim with large sea turtles and watch and listen as they feed on the seagrass floor. We spent two nights and three days here and swam with turtles every day. It was the highlight of our trip south so far!
Photo Essay of Tobago Cays
We are living a DREAM
We wrote down this sailing goal in 1996. Now, in 2019, it has become a reality and it is better than expected. That makes it all even more special. In 1996, we said we would retire in 2011, and set sail, and we did. We are very happy with the outcome and reflect every day how fortunate we are to be here. Our hearts are full of gratitude!
Zoom into our LIVE tracking Map here
Also, when looking at the tracking map, switch the layer to AERIAL and you will see the reefs and the sandy beaches and the islands.
After two wonderful days in Marigot Bay on St. Lucia, we set sail for Bequia, passing St. Vincent. Sadly, many cruisers skip St. Vincent because of the bad experiences we all have had on that island. The only place we might stop is Blue Lagoon Marina on the south side, as for the other harbors, we sailed past. Bequia, the next island south, has Admiralty Harbor, a dream harbor where the boat boys do NOT bother you and the locals welcome you and want you to stop in. Every cruiser you meet down here LOVES Bequia, and so do we. It was a joy to sail back here for the first time since 1991 and see this great harbor doing so well.
Walking the town
The waterfront is well managed and is alive with all the businesses centered around the very active ferry dock. These ferry docks are where all the products arrive and where all the tourists arrive as well. So there are taxis, fruit stands, gift stands, banks and customs and immigration. On our first walk we went into the St. Mary’s Anglican Church from 1828.
The entire waterfront has a concrete seawall with a walkway designed and built to move the people along the harbor. Along this path, there are many dinghy docks for boaters to tie up and to enjoy a coffee shop or pizza shop or fine restaurant. What a great idea to help the boaters with a place to tie up and explore. This walkway is well over 1 1/2 miles long.
Great Restaurants on the harbor
Boaters LOVE pizza and ice cream and Mac’s is the place to stop in and enjoy a great meal. Of course, this was our first stop on night #1 in Bequia.
Grenadine Sails and Canvas, Chaps in a Day
As much as we thought we would never add chaps to the dinghy, we have watched our 2007 AB dinghy take a beating in the tropical sun. The fabric was starting to deteriorate and we felt that if we added the chaps as so many boaters do, then it should last two to three more years. So, we called Grenadine Sails and Canvas on VHF. They said to come in now and we will take the pattern on the beach. That was Friday and by Monday afternoon we had them installed.
Chaps are made differently here. Usually, they are designed to go over the rub rail but that will simply chafe thru as we hit docks and pilings. So these chaps stop above the rub rail and then holes are drilled in the rub rail to tie down the chaps. Interesting idea. At first I did not like it, but it really is a good way to make and install chaps.
Fruits and Veggies abound
There are no shortages of fruits and veggies down here. The bananas are to die for, with so many different kinds. There are passion fruit, mangos, grapefruits, oranges, papayas, and much more. The street vendors sell everything, and we do mean EVERYTHING!
Dinghy Docks abound
Bequia caters to the to cruising boaters and they are very smart to make their waterfront so friendly to the boaters. There must be 6 dinghy docks like this along the waterfront. Here is Whale Boners and Frangipani.
For Jan and Al
Our good friends sent us a picture of the two of them on these chairs when they cruised into here years ago, so we needed to send them our photo. Thank you, Jan and Al, wish you were here aboard Coral Moon, too.
The South End of the Bay
We anchored right off this area on the south end of the harbor. What a view from on shore at the beach pub named Jack’s.
Fun on the LaaDeeDah, 65 foot Grand Banks
We met up with Gary and Betty owners of the 65 foot LaaDeeDah Yacht, a beautiful Grand Banks 65 footer. They invited us over several times to enjoy their company and their wonderful yacht. Having a happy hour up on the third floor of a 65 footer is like nothing we all have ever experienced. WOW, the view is amazing. But better yet, Gary and Betty make us feel so welcome, with lively conversations. Betty is such a fantastic chef. From delicious appetizers with great cocktails to fine dining on the aft deck with comfortable deck chairs, these were evenings to remember. Thank you, Gary and Betty, what a joy! We look forward to seeing you next season!
The LaaDeeDah, 65 ft Grand Banks
Bequia is a JOY
With all the services and support and a wonderful harbor that is safe and secure along with a town that wants boaters to stay, this all makes Bequia a real joy. Many boaters will spend weeks and even months here and make it a home. We can really see why. We love Bequia….
See our Travel Map here
Zoom in and Zoom out to see our entire trip from Annapolis, MD (Sept 22 to here!)
During our taxi tour around St. Lucia, the driver stopped at beautiful Marigot Bay. In November 1991, we chartered a 50-foot Moorings bareboat there with our dear friends Freddie, Gail, Scott, Barley, Craig and Wendy and we have not been back since. When we arrived by cab and walked around the newly built resort, we knew we had to sail here and spend a day or two. So, we checked out of Rodney Bay Marina and headed south along the coast, an easy sail of just 10 miles. Traveling in the lee of these islands, we find winds from the North, South, and West and if we are lucky, maybe East. The winds in the lee are so unpredictable. To really sail, it is best to be miles off the island, out of the wind shadow, where the winds come back down to the sea, steady and easterly.
Look at this happy sailor girl Radeen inside the harbor at Marigot with the resort to our starboard bow and palm trees off our stern. Memories of being here in 1991 flood our minds and we reflect on how lucky we are to now have sailed into Marigot on our own little Island Packet 35. Thank you ISLAND SPIRIT, you got us here….
Let’s take a look around
Much has changed since 1991, and yet, some of the places were still easily recognizable. DOOLITTLE’S is the same and we remember a really good time here. with our dear friends. We felt so remote, so wild and so far from home. With a poorly equipped and poorly provisioned Moorings 51 footer, we sailed out and south to Tobago Cays and Union Island and up to St. Vincent. It felt as if we had sailed to the moon and back. Here is a photo of Doolittle’s and the place where the Moorings base was located. We stayed in the hillside villas.
What did they build?
The other side of the harbor, which was just a ferry dock to get across the cove to Doolittle’s now has a 5-star resort, called the Marigot Marina and Resort. WOW, 5 restaurants, bars, spas, rum caves, grocery stores, gift shops, and swimming pools that waterfall into each other with swim-up bars and sushi chefs. We were amazed at what they have built! This is also a destination wedding resort and the day before there was a wedding so we could see the fresh floral arches and other decorations. We love boating into these kinds of places where we can either anchor out or take a mooring ball for only $30/night. With a mooring ball here comes full access to the resort. NOW you are talking! So, we stayed for two days. 🙂
Radeen loves pools
Of course, Radeen hit the pool right away. She loves to swim and she loves to do laps. All Pisces love the water and Radeen is here to prove that. We nearly had the place to ourselves as May 7 is towards the end of the cruising season and the resort was moderately occupied.
Meanwhile, back on the boat
Sunsets from the boat were a dream through the palm trees off our stern. The winds are always EAST so the sunset is always off the stern in the Caribbean when at anchor. Our daily routine is to enjoy the sunset while sipping an icy cold drink when the sky presents the many colorful hues as night falls.
The next morning I swam around the boat and cleaned up the boot stripe and the thru hulls and then went for a walk on the beach. Living on a sailboat is so simple, so peaceful (when all systems are working) and so different than living in a home.
Reflect on Life
With this cruising lifestyle, one really takes time to reflect on life and to take in nature and the beauty of a sunset. It is such a joy to see a sunset drop over the horizon and then watch for another hour as the sky darkens and the colors change. We find the time after the sunset is actually better than the sunset itself. Take time to watch a sunset this way and you will enjoy a small piece of the sailing and cruising lifestyle. Thank you Marigo, St. Lucia, for this reflection.
After stocking up on French wine and delicious cheeses, we finally pulled up the anchor off lovely St. Anne, Martinique and sailed south to St. Lucia. We needed a slip where we could lower our wind turbine and troubleshoot the wire connections. On the north end of St. Lucia, there is the perfect place to dock and that is Rodney Bay Marina. This is the primary destination for the World ARC sailors as they arrive from Europe. We can now see why. Rodney Bay Marina is 5-star top notch IGY marina with 50 foot floating slips which worked perfectly for us.
First the sailing. Once again the sailing south was a joy. Beam reaching in 20 knots just like the last several legs south has been a dream. Here are a few photos….
Docked at Rodney Bay
We sailed into Rodney Bay Marina to access a dock, as we needed to look into an apparent wiring short in the wind turbine. Little did we know that this marina had floating docks and full-length finger piers of 50 feet. PERFECT for the job we needed to do. Our request to dock to starboard was easily accommodated. The dock hands were fantastic in assisting and everyone we met was so helpful and kind.
Lowering the wind turbine pole to the dock went smoothly. I designed the mount to do exactly this in the case we would ever need to access the machine. We unbolted the two down struts and loosened the bottom bracket so it would hinge. We have not taken it down this way before, so it was a new process and we were pleased with how well it all worked out.
Re-wire the Wind Turbine
Since arriving in Antigua, we have been troubleshooting the turbine shorting out. This short would only happen on a port tack at about 20-30 degrees off dead ahead. When shorted, the electromagnetic brake would come on and the turbine would power down. When back to straight ahead, the turbine worked fine. So we wanted to find this shorted wire and document this for the company, Jeff Fields at MarineBeam.
We removed the turbine off the pole, inspected all the wires and even cut the wires off, removing perfect crimps and heat shrink. We checked all internal wires, taking the turbine totally apart. I sent photos Jeff which showed nothing chafed or disconnected. We could not find any issues. We reassembled the unit and made new crimps and added new heat shrink and reinstalled the turbine. Now it is working just fine once again. How odd, we never found a problem, but we are glad it is back to normal operation once again.
While docked, Let’s Wax
With the wind turbine fixed and back up, we decided to spend a few days servicing the boat. We have not been at a dock since early March at Samana, Dominican Republic, and our boat was looking neglected. The constant exposure to salt and sun really takes a toll. The cabin top needed to be compounded and waxed, the stainless steel needed to be polished (again!) and the teak needed a service coat of varnish.
Hello, SHERMAN! Yes, we met up with a very nice local man who works around the marina as a subcontractor, like so many others. We really liked him. He offered to help us with any and all jobs. Let’s get to work! We hired him to compound and wax the cabin top and the cockpit and then clean and polish the stainless steel. With the front sunshade up, Sherman worked on wax and I worked on teak. Two days later the boat was back to her beautiful self, clean and waxed and looking great. We highly recommend Sherman at Rodney Bay Marina if you need any help.
We took a small tour
One of the boats we are running with is a 65 foot Grand Banks called the LaaDeeDah. Betty and Gary were docked at Rodney Bay and we enjoyed time together, including a great cocktail party on their beautiful yacht up on the third floor roof deck. WOW, what a view and what a yacht! Together we hired a taxi to show us a few sights. We toured Castries, Marigot and the beach at the Sandals resort in Rodney Bay. St. Lucia is very large and we only saw a small part of the island. The driver also took us to the large Massey Supermarket, which was like a Costco.
On a Saturday, we rode a local bus (a privately owned mini-van) to and from the Mall. The shoppers were a mix of locals and cruisers from nearby anchorages. On days when there are 5 cruise ships in port, it must be very busy!
Eventually, we Need to Move on
After a full week, (we had intended to stay 2-3 days) we really needed to break free of this dock and marina. It was not the rate, as it was a reasonable $0.75/ft x 35 feet is only $26.25 a day to dock! YES, that is a deal, and it was why we stayed a week and worked on cleaning up the boat. But there is so much more to see. On our taxi tour, we saw MARIGOT and we knew we had to go there by boat. So, we celebrated our completed work with a happy hour drink at one of the many pubs and cafes and made a plan to move on.
Onward to MARIGOT, St. Lucia
The last time we were in Marigot was November 1991, when we chartered a 50 ft mono-hull from the Moorings with friends Craig and Wendy, Scott and Barley and Freddie and Gail. Wait until you see what has been built at Marigot, St. Lucia now…..next post!