Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Ride On The Wild Side

Bruce and I were getting antsy just hanging out on the mooring at Sandy Island. We got up in the morning and I started plotting our next move before we had breakfast. I just about had it all figured out when we heard Pura Vida hailing us on the VHF.

Just like that, our plan-that-was-hardly-a-plan was changed! We were going over onto the Wild Side!

The three boats, ours, Pura Vida and Kailani were all in need of a few groceries, so we made a stop “in town”. That’s the little town of Hillsborough, which we later learned is the ONLY town on the island, the rest are “villages”. It was about what we’ve come to expect for a Caribbean town. Bustling with people and delectable smells wafting from simple board huts with no name that sold the usual local dishes.

Hey!  You're too big for the dinghy dock!
Bruce and I moved Dos Libras over to anchor just off the big concrete public dock. It was a little rolly but we would only be there for as long as it took us to load the groceries, then we would be off. We met Nigel, the dinghy watcher, at the lower section of the dock more appropriately sized for dinghies.

Nigel's work.  We bought one on our next visit
Even with Nigel’s help, we had a hard time getting off the dinghy due to surge. But he steadied the lines and even took charge of our two bags of trash. I saw that he was also working on a wood carving in his spare time. His little box of woodworking tools was there, open next to a work in progress. Nigel has a disability and it warmed my heart to see him making a living with both his art, and from helping visitors. He was very sweet and we felt confident that our dinghy was safe in his hands.

We had to shop at three different stores to get what we needed. Bruce found a case of Caribe in bottles for half of what he’s been paying anywhere else. If we could have carried more, we would have! Fresh veggies were found at the stalls in the streets and I picked up some tomatoes from one of the nice ladies there. We saved the best for last. Patty’s Deli. There we found fresh deli meats and cheeses along with other goodies! 


The ever-vigilant Nigel

We lugged our loot back to the boat and scrambled to get going. We didn’t want to give the wind more time to pick up and could already see Pura Vida making way slowly toward the north off in the distance. 

Cutting through the shallows between Jack Adan Island and Carriacou with Bruce on the bow to watch for coral heads, we made good time as we crept up the coast just offshore. We were full on throttle and still barely making 5 knots with an adverse current. We rounded Gun Point and motored along the northern end of Carriacou with better conditions than I expected. The waves increased a tiny bit but the current was more favourable. We saw speeds of 5+ knots until I reduced throttle to allow a squall to pass.

We saw the rain coming and knew it could get dicey if we were caught in unprotected waters before we reached the dampening affect of the reef. There is some protection from Petit Martinique, more than I thought there would be, actually. For that, I was thankful. But we still had the occasional big roller come through that tossed some water onto the bow and bimini top! 
Here it comes!

The rain came in sheets and the wind gusted to about 29 knots for a brief time before settling back down leaving a gentle rain and breeze of about 15 knots. I could see it clearing off up ahead and knew that it wouldn’t be long before we were OK. Bruce kept watch out the starboard side so that we didn’t run into any stray coral heads and I worried that if we committed to a full turn to the south, we would be broadside to the big waves. 

Suddenly I noticed that our course-over-ground was almost following my route. And that’s before I turned the wheel to starboard! We had a current taking us gently to where we needed to go!!! I encouraged it a little more with just the slightest turn of the wheel and we rode the waves in comfort and stayed right on our route line! Awesome! Sometimes you just get lucky.

Wreck ashore
The rain was just clearing up as we reached the shallow waters protected by an outer reef. There was a bit more depth than charted… hooray! That was it for our drama! We motored over the sand bar seeing nothing less than 7.5 ft (at high tide) and found a sandy spot to drop anchor behind another small rocky reef in Watering Bay. 
My spotter

Pure Vida was already settled, and Kailani arrived later in the afternoon. Nobody seemed interested in doing anything so we called it a night and ate leftovers after making plans to go see the boatbuilding site in the morning. We were relieved at the opportunity to nap and just lay around reading. Hanging out with friends is fun but can be exhausting!

Here on the windward side of the island, even though we were protected from the sea by the reef, there was still a fair amount of chop. The boats rode it well enough, hobby-horsing fore and aft instead of the dreaded side-to-side roll. But it was still quite a bit of activity. Jezabelle grew increasingly cranky as we acted like we were settled, but the movement of the boat still felt very much like being under way to her! Poor girl.

The SCHOOL BOAT! This boat took a load of kids from Carriacou to Petit Martinique!
We watched rainclouds move across the sea
The sun set early here, dropping behind the island well before it found it’s bed. We slept well in spite of the fact that the winds never calmed, nor did the seas. It is beautiful over here with views of Union Island, Petit St. Vincent and Petit Martinique around us. The shallow waters inside the reef are glowing-gorgeous. If only the wind would calm and allow the waves to abate, this would be a perfect spot to do some reef and wreck snorkelling!
Sunrise behind Petit Martinique and PSV

Same sunrise, only moments later.  What a change!
Pure Vida called us in the morning and we made plans to meet at the dock at 11:00. That gave me some time to do some housekeeping before getting ready. By the time we headed for shore, I was ready to get off of this boat and back onto solid ground. We left Jezabelle sleeping and headed for the stability of land! 

Just getting off the dinghy was like a scene out of a Crocodile Dundee movie! There was some chop near the shore and the occasional rolling wave that threatened to dash our dinghy, and our bodies, against the pilings, but we made it off. The other two boats joined us and we walked on unsteady legs up the dock to the sleepy little village of Windward, Carriacou. 

The wind didn’t seem noticeable at all as we turned right and walked the short distance to the Boat Building Site. The little homes are so cute, we could all see ourselves living out our old age in one or another of them. (No, not really)

Lots of conch shells!

Alas the boat building place was closed. We stared through the fence at a 60+ ft boat in the process of coming to life. It’s amazing to me that a simple guy with some simple tools can actually create such a vessel. I am so disappointed that he wasn’t around so that I could pepper him with questions.

Our thoughts turned to food. I asked some guys hanging out at the nearby Disco where we could find lunch. One of them gave us directions to Judy’s and advised us that it was a good distance, maybe we should take our dinghies. But we wanted to walk and see the village. Our first choice was to find the Pizza place on the main street reported to have wifi, but they were inexplicably closed until 1pm.

You KNOW I can't pass up a cemetery!


Pretty sure those are PLASTIC plants!

Wrecked ship as a PLANTER!  Brilliant!
We still have to go all the way down this beach!

Lobsters are getting away!
Onward to Judy’s then! It was growing warm, even with the cloud cover, and Bruce was beginning to balk about the long walk. We stopped to see some lobsters caught by some fishermen. They assured us that we were on the right path to Judy’s and pointed it out to us. It was WAY off in the distance! Bruce revolted! We caught the next bus that came by and filled it up! The price of about .75¢ US pp each way was a bargain! When the driver dropped us off he asked if we wanted to be picked up after lunch, Judy would call him! Sure we do!

I walked into the little clapboard building and found Kimberly talking to Judy about our lunch choices. Basically we could have chicken or fish and the sides were scalloped potatoes, cole slaw, peas-n-rice, vegetables and provisions. I could see the hesitation on Kimberly’s face, but I put in my order for chicken right away! Everyone else chimed in with their choice, then picked out drinks from a cold case. Drinks in hand, we drifted through the gate to the side yard to see where we might be sitting…

Behind the counter

The smell of fresh baking bread was heavenly!

That’s when it got really fun! We found a young man languidly wiping barnyard detritus off of a picnic table with one bench. Chickens were milling around and just past a wire fence was a herd of goats and sheep, including several newborn babies! 

More chairs were found and soon everyone was seated. We had a cold drink and chickens pecking at our ankles. Life was good! No really, one of the chickens pecked at my anklet, and another one kept going after Will’s toes! You can’t make this stuff up!

We waited for a long while, mentally adjusting to the barnyard surroundings, with smells of baking cookies and fresh bread convincing us that we needed some of that to-go! We had a blast!

 The food arrived eventually and we each received our plate heaped with wholesome goodness. We’ve eaten a fair number of these plate lunches and can honestly say that Judy is the best cook around! 

Kimberly gave the chickens all of our leftover rice!  They went nuts for it!

Happy chickens

With full tummies, Bruce and I went up to pay our tab. I picked out an enormous loaf of fresh white bread and a custard flavoured popsicle. Our bill, with drinks, bread and popsicles, came out to less than $17 US. I took my popsicle back to the table and told the others about them just as our bus arrived. Everyone scrambled to pay and grabbed their chosen flavour of popsicle. There were Egg Nog, Sour Sop and Guinness. Yes, Guinness beer! 

On the bus ride back to our dock, everyone was mmm-ing about the popsicles! Simple pleasures! We paid our friendly bus driver and defied death to get back into our dinghies in the bouncy waves! The wind wasn’t letting up yet!

We had all afternoon to rest and laze round with our happy tummies. With the wild bouncing, there wasn’t much else to do! Next on the agenda? DINNER OUT!

I’ve got to admit, Bruce and I were ready to bail on the plan for going ashore in increasing wind and waves… in the dark! I was nervous about getting ashore without being soaking wet, and about leaving our dinghy there on that lonely dock for hours. It began to rain about an hour before time to prepare, and I hailed the others to get a confirmation that the plan was still on. It was. I could still hope that conditions would improve with sunset like they often do.

But conditions did not improve. I even think they deteriorated a bit more and I thought to myself “this is CRAZY!” as I defied death once again trying to get into the lunging dinghy with a slinky long dress plastering itself to my legs! I couldn’t have been more hobbled had I used duct tape! The place we were going was a “nice” place. Bruce had a shirt with a collar and the pants that zip on and off so he got to go to shore in shorts, then transformed to pants once safely inside the taxi!

The ride to shore wasn’t as bad as it could have been, we went down wind with the waves. The tide was high and the waves were pounding wildly against the dock. It took us a while to figure out how to even get off the dinghy! Eventually we did, and the solid ground beneath our feet felt completely foreign. Once again I felt sorry for poor Jezabelle out there on the bouncy-house that is our boat! Hopefully she will just sleep through it all and not commit some sort of hari-kari for us to deal with upon return home later on. 

The bus ride through the dark streets of unseen villages was fast, rocking us in the dark. We peered out the windows and saw flashes of small but very neat homes along the way. I wished we had some light to see the island properly. As we were, it was almost like being blindfolded with a few peeks now and then. 

This didn’t end when the ride was over! Our driver let us out next to the sign Bogles Round House Restaurant. We still had to negotiate a somewhat slippery drive down to the restaurant. Everyone made it without mishap and we all stared open-mouthed at the little Hobbit House before us. 

The yard was festively lit and we had our choice of outside seating or inside. Our reservation was for inside, not trusting the weather. We were taken to our table by a window. All of the tables were by a window in this - literally - round house! A polished tree trunk held up the centre rafters which spread like a wagon wheel to the thick rock walls. Round windows were filled with wagon wheels, metal spider webs and other metal art shapes with no screens or shutters.

Seated at a simply elegant table with more utensils and real GLASS glasses than any of us had seen in a while, we laughed away the evening. Wine and rum punches flowed. Dinner choices were simple but elegant. Each of our faces lit up when the plates came. This was “pretty” food. And the prices were much more reasonable than we expected, Bruce and I were truly able to relax and enjoy the evening without guilt of paying way too much for food!

We lingered after dinner and the owner/chef came out to chat with us. Kimberly asked about this building and we listened as the owner told us of having spent her childhood in this house. Her parents came from South Africa and built the house themselves. There used to be a staircase in the centre where the tree now stands. It lead through the trap door to the upstairs where they slept. Unseen but heard, is the Caribbean Sea just beyond the tree line at the edge of the yard. Our Chef grew up in this wonderful Hobbit House on the edge of the sea.

The food was delicious and we hope to come back here again! Our driver was called and we left this magical place to make way back up the drive to the main road. Another wild ride in the night air brought us safely back to our dock where I was thankful to see three dinghies bobbing there still. 

Will wonders never cease? The wind and waves were actually almost manageable! The tide was much lower but there were no more big rollers pulling the dinghies out from beneath us as we transferred our weight from the blessed stillness of the dock, back to our rocking world. The ride back to the boat beneath a huge, lopsided moon and a scattering of stars was worth it all. Warm moist air caressed our skin and ruffled my hair. The dinghy bounced across the waves, carrying us to our beloved Dos Libras where she waited to envelope us in familiarity after another successful foray into the wild. 

Tomorrow morning we would all scatter. Farewells were said at the dock as our friends are heading north while we continue slowly south. Bruce and I have enjoyed our solitude but having friends close-by for frolicking has been a welcome treat. We’ll see these people again next summer. 

In the morning we would take advantage of an early favourable tidal current to whisk us back over to the calm side of Carriacou. Thanks to Pura Vida for planning this wonderful interlude on the Wild Side!

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