Friday, May 31, 2013

Falling in Love with Dominica: Part I

Tuesday, May 21 - Saturday, May 25, 2013

Welcome to the beautiful island of Dominica! Before you get it confused with the Dominican Republic (and trust me, you wouldn't be the first), this one is pronounced "dom-i-NEE-ca", and it's an unspoiled island that lies between Guadaloupe and Martinique. Our cruising guide says that if Christopher Columbus were to come back today, Dominica is the only island he'd recognize. You won't find a major airport, fancy hotels, duty free shops, or casinos here, and this isn't a regular stop for cruise ships. What Dominica does offer is some of the most spectacular scenery you will see anywhere in the Caribbean.

But first...a note about the crossing: "HELLACIOUS!!!" We had strong winds and moderate seas for the first hour, and even got to do some "real" motor! Unfortunately, a massive band of black clouds had formed directly ahead of us. First rule of thumb when you're about to get nailed by a squall? Make sure you don't have more sail out than you can handle...especially if you anticipate 30+ knot gusts. We decided to bring in our jib and keep the main sail out. Wouldn't you know, at that precise moment the wind jumped up to 25-30 knots and the waves started bouncing us around. The jib sheets (a.k.a. "ropes"...yes, everything has a different name on a boat!) caught in the rigging, and we couldn't furl the sail. One of our jib sheet blocks (the pulley-like thing that leads the ropes from the sail back to the winch in the cockpit) was pulled off the track, so now we had a sheet flapping around and throwing a potential weapon in its wake.

There's an old saying about sailing...something like, "sailing is 95% boredom interspersed with 5% sheer terror". Yep, this was definitely our 5% moment. We finally got the jib rolled in (albeit WAY too tight). We motor-sailed for awhile to take a few much-needed breaths, and put the jib back out once the winds settled a bit. We had another beautiful sail...until we found ourselves socked in by sheets of rain. Add to that 30 knots of sustained winds, and Pipe was soon doing 8 knots. Visibility was pretty much zero, and we were two miles from Dominica before we finally saw the island's 4,000-foot peaks. Did I mention this all happened in the space of 18 miles, or less than four hours? What a relief it was to make it to the entrance of Prince Rupert Bay and be greeted by a local named Martin who met us in his skiff: "Welcome to Dominica! How was your trip down?"

One of the best things about Dominica - other than the insane lushness and beauty of this place - are the "boat boys" in the harbor. These are local men who have created a security and tourism team for cruisers. Known as "PAYS" (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security), they patrol the harbor, offer services like laundry and fruit/veggie delivery, and organize tours up the Indian River and into the National Park's rain forests. Each PAYS member has been highly educated in the history and botanicals of Dominica (not to mention first aid), so they really are fantastic tour guides for anything you want to do around the island. Part of their funding also comes from a weekly BBQ offering grilled chicken and salads, plus unlimited rum punch, which is always a perfect lure for cruisers!

After we finally got our anchor down near the beach, we joined Anne Bonny for a dinghy trip to the customs dock. From there, Chris and Denise showed us how to find the IGA grocery store, as well as an outdoor food court known as "the shacks" which catered to the American medical school next door. Attention cruisers: the food was cheap and tasty, and you could get anything from Mexican to Indian to jerk chicken...sometimes at the same shack!

The next day, we tried to find the "Indian River Source" trail as described in our cruising guide. Let's just say it didn't' turn out quite as we'd planned! Chris Doyle's guide said to start at the town dock, but three locals disagreed about which dock this was. We tried three different docks before ending at the one near the Indian River. (Makes sense if we're looking for its source, right?!) The guide said to walk past the gas station... Check. Continue east...east?...and turn right. Well, east was behind us and there was only water to our right. Something wasn't working!
We headed back towards the river and looked for our next checkpoint: an "aerial". Hmmm...well, there was some sort of tower on the hillside, so we took the next "road" (read "grass and tire ruts") that led in that direction... and dead-ended in front of three houses. Okay, time for a new tactic. We began walking towards town, and spotted a now-defunct gas station on a road to the right. Bingo! Our cruising guide was a 2010-2011 edition, so maybe this gas station was still operational when the guide was written in 2009. After a few minutes, we passed a tower - hey, an aerial! - to our left, and found a muddy trail off to the right. Now we're cookin'! The trail took us through thick vegetation, along side a pasture (complete with a staring bull), and through a small forest.
Our shoes kept getting stuck in the ooze, and we were filthy from head to toe with spattered mud. At some point, the trail dead-ended. Failure! We decided to give it one more shot, especially since we were in serious need of a swim in the river to clean ourselves up. We went back to the main road, found yet another aerial, and saw another wide trail to the right. Could this really be it? We asked a local coming towards us if this trail led to the river. "Nope, but it's a good nature walk. A lot of people use it." Grrrr... Okay, fine. Maybe we wouldn't find the river, but at least we'd get a walk in.
We wandered past a gated horse farm, and petted a few horses that were actually tied on the outside of the gate on our trail. After making friends with the horses thanks to handfuls of lemongrass (it grows like a weed all over the island), we came upon a segment of the Waitukubuli trail.  The Waitukubuli trail is maintained through the national park, and criss-crosses Dominica through the Morne Trois Pitons National Park and the Morne Diablotins National Park.
This segment took us through a lovely old forest, and - SURPRISE! - we eventually ended up at the river. We had to climb down a steep and slippery embankment to get to the water, but it was worth it to get the mud off our legs. After rejoining the main trail, Denise found an easier access point to the river - one that was deep enough to swim in. This was the life!

Thursday we took an all-day island tour with guide Martin (skiff name: Providence) and fellow cruisers from Moonshine, Saralane, and Mahalo. After driving through the quaint villages of Dublanc, Salisbury, and Mero, our first stop was a private plantation that housed Spanny Falls. We walked along a short trail flanked by orchids, heliconia, red ginger, and anthurium, and came to a lush rainforest where Martin pointed out various species of trees and plants and explained the difference between epiphytes and parasites. (Who knew there were 90 species of orchids and 180 species of ferns in Dominica??)
Before we knew it, we arrived at the most beautiful grotto we'd ever seen. To our left was a volcanic rock wall, covered in ferns and moss and dripping water onto our heads. Beyond it was a half-moon wall of fern-drenched stone, complete with a 60' waterfall cascading into a pool beneath. Words don't adequately describe the beauty of this place, and we could hardly believe it was real.
We all jumped into the chilly pool, playing around and behind the waterfall. Martin led the braver members of our party up the wall of the grotto, using a rope to pull themselves to the top. On the other side were three more waterfalls that ended in another swimming pool. (Thanks to Rene for taking pictures - Stacy wasn't climbing up that rope!)

We finally tore ourselves away and got back into the van for the rest of the tour. After lunch at a lovely open-air spot that specialized in fresh fish, creole chicken, and homemade flavored rums, we continued on to a Carib Indian village on the east side of Dominica. The bakery specializing in cassava bread was closed, but we were able to stop at a woman's home to admire (and buy) her hand-woven straw baskets. We then drove around the north coast, through Wesley, Calibishie, and finally back to Portsmouth.
Martin was an incredible tour guide, sharing his knowledge and giving us local fruits to try. From two kinds of bananas to fresh coconut to the sweet local pineapple that rivals anything we've had from Hawaii...not to mention the "apricots" that looked like cantelope but tasted like a cross between a mango and a peach. He also pointed out cinnamon, papaya, vanilla, breadfruit, and mango trees, showed us the fruit/nut combination of the cashew tree, and gave us samples of lemongrass and bay leaves. The entire day was an incredible experience. Thank you, Martin!

It was time to bring the pace down a notch on Friday, when we joined our "boat boy" and tour guide, Albert, for a lazy canoe ride up the Indian River. Lazy for us, anyway...for Albert, not so much! The key to keeping the Indian River so picturesque has been to ban any motors beyond the bridge at the entrance. That means the tour guide, in this case Albert, rows the canoe for miles up the river. Granted, Albert has been doing this for nearly 30 years, and he's probably one of the best guides you can hire for the river tour.

Albert told us all about the river's history and its flora and fauna, pointing out different trees, birds, flowers, fish, and crabs. We saw the spot where scenes from the second Pirates of the Caribbean had been filmed, as well as the leftover sets from a pirate-themed TV series that was just shot a month ago.
We finally reached our "destination" (this tour really WAS about the journey!), only to find the Indian River Bush Bar closed. Nooo! Not that a rum drink was a brilliant idea at 11am, but we'd been told their "Dynamite" was a must-do. Oh, well... we've heard there's a walking trail that goes up to the bush bar. Sounds like we'll have to try to find it one of these days. :-)

Saturday we went to Portsmouth's vegetable market, where we'd been told we should arrive by 6:30am for the best choices and quality. 6:30? In the morning? You've GOT to be kidding. We actually arrived at 8am, and still managed to find more fruits, vegetables, beans, spices, coffee, etc., than we could possibly buy.

After lunch, we joined Catatude and Pa'la O'la for a hike in the Cabrits National Park. We were told we could leave our dinghies at a floating dock next to the cruise ship dock, and walk through the gate (if it was open) or through the adjacent building to Fort Shirley. One problem: both the gate AND the building were locked! Since we couldn't see anyone in the area to help us out, we climbed through a hole in the fence. That obviously got someone's attention, and we were immediately joined by a park official who told us we'd committed an offense and he had us all on camera. Oops! Rene explained what we'd been told about the gate, building, etc., and we were finally allowed to continue on after a stern warning. (Note to other cruisers: apparently you should call "Cabrits Cruise Ship Dock" on VHF 16 for access through the gate/building.)

We finally made our way up the hill to Fort Shirley, an 18th century British fort. The main building has been restored, and you can hike to the ruins of the outbuildings. As we arrived at the main site, we found the entire courtyard filled with buffet tents, tulle drapery, a bandstand, lanterns, white linen-covered tables, and a vase filled with orchids and floating candles at each place setting. The entire place was being outfitted for the wedding reception of a local businessman's daughter, and no expense was being spared.

We tried to stay out of everyone's way as we wandered the grounds, admired the old cannons, and walked through the small museum (more of a clubhouse). We could still hear the sound checks of the band as we started up the trail to the top of East Cabrit. We hiked along a moderate trail through dense forest and hanging vines, stopping to visit the ruins of the Commandant's Quarters and an observation point overlooking the harbor.
We kept working our way uphill until we reached the old battery, a massive rock wall surrounding a courtyard at the top of the mountain. At over 450 feet in elevation, East Cabrit offered us spectacular views of Portsmouth, the harbor, and our own boats in the distance. It was definitely worth all the huffing and puffing to get there.

The fun continued Saturday evening as we all joined new friends ShaSha and Jim for happy hour on their beautiful boat, ShaSha. It was fun getting to know them better, and we look forward to spending more time with them in Grenada. A huge thank you to our hosts!

I guess it's pretty obvious that we've fallen for this gorgeous island. There's so much to see and do that we're taking a lot more tours - and pictures - than we normally would. That also means a lot more to blog about! Since our first five days here have already become a novel-size blog post, we'll have to break Dominica into multiple sections. Tomorrow night is the big cruiser party, hosted by PAYS. Unlimited rum punch? That might warrant a chapter all of its own... :-)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Iles des Saintes

Thursday, May 16 - Monday, May 20, 2013
If you've never heard of "the Saintes" before, don't be too surprised. It's one of those tiny places that has no big resorts and few swimmable beaches, so it doesn't get much notice. Being only five miles from Guadeloupe at its closest point, most visitors to the Saintes are day-trippers ferried in from Guadeloupe's south coast...and a few cruisers. Just about any cruiser we've met who's been here absolutely loves it. The locals are friendly (and speak more English than in mainland Guadeloupe), there are tons of yummy spots to sample the local cuisine, and the anchorages are relatively calm and roll-free. Made up of a cluster of islands, the Saintes has only one real town known as Bourg des Saintes, situated on the island of Terre d'en Haut. Here is where you'll find groceries, internet, boutiques, and people-watching of all sorts. Leave the main anchorage in Bourge des Saintes, and you may find a few other boats enjoying the peace and quiet - but little else.

We certainly had a wild ride getting to the Saintes from Pigeon Island. The forecast called for 14 knot winds with 5-foot seas. Instead, we had 6 knots on the nose and oil-slick seas for the first 10 miles. As we approached the southern end of the island, Island Dream called us on the VHF to warn us of gusts near the point. We began getting knocked over by 25-30 knot gusts, and soon had 26 knots of sustained wind. Coupled with 6-8' seas and waves crashing in the cockpit, the short trip between mainland Guadaloupe and the Saints really wasn't what we bargained for!

We eventually arrived in the main passage and got a call on the radio from Pa'la O'la. Gary and Barbara had been hiking up to the Battery, and saw us come in. They gave us the run-down on the mooring balls (11 euros per night for a boat Pipe's size; required if you want to be in the harbor nearest town), and told us that Blackthorn Lady was also here - a great surprise since we'd expected them to leave for Dominica the day before. We found a mooring ball near our friends, and settled in for some lunch and wi-fi on the boat. An evening pass by Blackthorn Lady turned into an impromptu happy hour catch-up (thanks, Jackie & Ian!), so we never quite managed to make into town as planned.

Friday morning, the six of us rented mopeds to tour the island. The morning started off with more excitement than we really expected - or needed - when the employee in charge of getting our moped started it up, gunned the gas, and lost control of it. I (Stacy) had just come out of a store across the street, and managed to stop the rider-less moped with my leg. Ouch! After a few choice words from our party and an ice pack strapped to the goose egg on my shin, we mounted up for our tour. With "Blue Leader" Barbara in the lead, we made our way up to our first destination: Fort Napoleon.
Built in 1867, the fort is on a hilltop north of town. You can walk around the fort's perimeter for some spectacular views of the Saintes, Guadeloupe, and Marie Gallant. Inside, the fort holds a museum full of old photos, model ships, and stories of the Saintes' history. Fort Napoleon is well worth a visit to anyone coming to the islands. Fair warning, though: the cruising guide describes this as a relatively easy walk from the anchorage; in truth, it's on top of a very long, very steep hill. Just saying... :-)

The next stop on our moped tour was the Baie de Pompierre, a beautiful protected bay on the east side of Terre d'en Haut. With a small entrance and land nearly all around, the bay seemed like it would make a perfect anchorage for a few boats. Sadly for cruisers, the government decided that as this was one of the island's prime swimming beaches, Pompierre would be off-limits to marine traffic and all of the "pollution" boats bring.  (I know, fellow cruisers, I'm not EVEN going there.) Oh, well... You're welcome to visit the beach, whether by foot, by scooter, or by shuttles that pick up tourists from town. There are gazebos with picnic tables up and down the beach, and you can bring your own lunch or pick something up at a couple of roadside stands near the park entrance.

The rest of the day took us to every side of the island, with stops at Grand Anse on the east coast (no swimming allowed thanks to breaking waves and a dangerous riptide), Anse Rodrigue (beware of little brown "gifts" left by wandering goats) to the south, and an overlook at Pain a Sucre to the west. Lunch was an adventure in itself, thanks to our first try (the Yacht Club) being closed, and our second try (Case aux Epices) being much too pricey for our tastes. (25 euros for lunch?) We finally ended up at Le Mambo, a reasonable spot in town that has great breakfast and lunch but is particularly known for its pizza. We "settled" for some fantastic mahi mahi and goat curry, since the pizza ovens don't get lit until 7pm!

Our next couple of days were spent moored at Ilet a Cabrit, a deserted island less than a mile from the town anchorage. The mooring field was full thanks to a three-day holiday weekend (Whit Monday is a national holiday's good to be French!), but we were able to grab the last available ball. This spot was perfect for some down time; there were no ferries, no shopping, and no internet. We enjoyed beautiful sunsets and even managed to do a few boat projects. We find we're much more productive when we don't have too many distractions!

We spent our last evening in the Saintes with Pat and Darnell on Island Dream, who had joined us after picking up Pat's cousin, Celest, in Guadeloupe. Darnell hosted a Mexican night potluck (one of our favorites!), which made prepping Pipe Muh Bligh MUCH easier for the 20-mile trip down to Portsmouth, Dominica.

On a different note, we've purchased a month of wi-fi from a company which has towers in the Saintes, Dominica, and a number of other ports down-island. It seems to be working well so far (hence so many new blogs), so we hope to post again from "the Nature Island", Dominica. Cheers!

Please enjoy more pictures of the Saintes here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

La Belle Guadeloupe

Monday, May 6 - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Ahhh, Guadeloupe...what a lovely jewel of an island. Okay, so Guadeloupe is actually two distinct islands, shaped like the wings of a butterfly and separated by a narrow river between them. The western island, Basse Terre, is filled with spectacular rain forests, waterfalls, a gas-spewing volcano, and plenty of hiking opportunities. Grande Terre, the smaller of the two, is better known for its white sand beaches, rolling hills, and sugar cane fields. And the fact that the mountainous island is called "low land" and the flat one is called "large land"? Well, we'll just assume that had something to do with the French wine and local "rhum". :-)

As luck would have it, we arrived in Deshaies, Basse Terre's northernmost port of entry, in the middle of a downpour. (Why is it that whenever it rains, it happens when Rene is either dropping or raising the anchor? Poor guy!) We'd left Montserrat at 6:30am for the 38-mile passage to Guadeloupe. Winds were below 5 knots, and the sea was a giant oil slick. We had clear blue skies, other than the cluster of clouds that always seem to hover over the mountain peaks in this part of the world. Montserrat was no exception; we couldn't distinguish the rumored gas plumes from everyday clouds around Soufriere's peak as we passed along its eastern shore.
Regardless, there was no mistaking the volcano's active past; we could easily trace the ash flows along the hillside, along with the remnants of homes and businesses that had been destroyed by eruptions in 1995 and 2008. Even now, there remains a 2-mile maritime exclusion zone around the southern half of the island, and the only safe anchorage is at the north-western corner of the island. Still, we've been told that Montserrat's northern half is well worth a tour.

But back to Guadeloupe... One reason we were in such a hurry to get here was that we had a number of buddy boats we were anxious to see. We anchored next to Barbara and Gary on Pa'la O'la, who we hadn't seen since early in our stay in St.Martin. Two hours later, Anne Bonny did a fly-by as they arrived in the anchorage. We hadn't expected to see Chris, Denise, and Christian for a few days, and were thrilled about the early reunion.
We spent the next morning checking in (all online - got to love French customs & immigration) before wandering through town. Deshaies' claim to fame are its botanical gardens, which are said to be some of the most beautiful in the Caribbean. It was on our list of to-do's, but first we had one more "road trip" to make: John & Jolanda on JoHo were on the north side of Guadeloupe and would be leaving in a few days. We wanted to get up there to see them before we had to say goodbye again.

We, along with Anne Bonny, left Deshaies Wednesday morning for the 20-mile trip to Baie Mahault. The first half of the trip took us along Guadeloupe's lush coastline, while the second half led us into a protected bay surrounded by mangroves. We could see green pastureland above the shores of Grande Terre, giving us a glimpse of Guadeloupe's split personality. We were soon anchored next to JoHo; other than a couple of permanently-moored local boats, we had the bay to ourselves. Heaven! The first order of business? A celebratory beer on Anne Bonny. The second? Rental cars!
We'd expected to spend a couple of quiet days in the bay exploring the town and its river, but JoHo thought a tour of the island might be in order. What a perfect idea! Since Thursday was a holiday on the island, we focused our attention on the always-open national park.
We drove along Basse Terre's east coast and into the island's interior, where we hiked up to the second falls of the 350-foot Carbet Waterfalls.
Being in the heart of the island's rain forest, we enjoyed massive ferns, elephant ears, birds of paradise, and a thousand other tropical plants and flowers. After the hike to the falls, we followed a separate trail to the "cistern", which we thought would be one of the swimming ponds we'd read about. The 45-minute "medium" trail started out well, but a possible wrong turn (which is still up for debate!) soon had us grasping for tree roots and branches as we made our way up a 60-degree incline.
45 minutes later and still no sign of a cistern (but plenty of harsher terraine), John and Rene finally made the call to turn back. We were disappointed not to be lounging in a pool cooled by a falling waterfall just like in the travel brochures, but we had more exploring to do.
Back in the cars, we rounded the south coast going through Trois-Riviers ("three rivers") and Vieux-Fort (literally "old fort"), stopping long enough to guessed it...the old fort. From there, it was lunch at a roadside family spot followed by more twisting roads up to Bains Jaunes ("yellow pools"?). On the plus side, this gave us our much-needed chance to cool off in a natural pool. The drawback? A sign warning of the possible presence of fatal ear- and nose-entering parasites if we put our heads under water. Oh, well...with only 100 cases per year worldwide, we took our chances and stayed in the pool...neck-deep!

The next day, we unanimously voted to have a lazy beach day. (Having been to Guadeloupe before, John and Jolanda knew how tired we'd be from the hikes and planned accordingly.) We crossed the river into Grande Terre and made our way through the capital city of Pointe-a-Pitre to Le Gosier on the south coast. We enjoyed gorgeous views to the water below, but even the stairs to the observation decks had our thighs and calves throbbing after the previous day's hike. (Note to self: you've got some work to do before you try those hashes in Grenada!)
Next up was a short drive to Sainte-Anne, a touristy spot filled with spice markets, souvenir stalls, and a beautiful white sand beach. The crystal blue water called our names, and we stayed so long that we ran out of time to go around the rest of the island. We finally packed up our gear in order to look for another beach and lunch further east, but eventually came right back to our new favorite spot at Sainte-Anne. By then, most of the lunch places were either closed or out of food, but we managed to find a boulangerie that still had fresh baguettes and a shop that sold rotisserie chicken. Our impromptu picnic was a hit as we sat on our beach towels, toes in the sand.

Saturday was a day of temporary goodbyes as Anne Bonny headed to Dominica and JoHo went back to work. Sunday we made the return trip down to Deshaies for another reunion: Island Dream finally arrived from Antigua! Pat and Darnell had had a fabulous time enjoying the parties, races, and camaraderie at the Antigua Classics Regatta while we dealt with our outboard issues (jealous? me?? ha!), so we were anxious to catch up with them again after nearly a month apart.
We hosted Mexican potluck night on Pipe with Island Dream and Pa'la O'la, and Pat and Darnell joined us the next morning as we left for Pigeon Island. After a couple of days snorkeling the Jacques Cousteau National Marine Park, it was finally time to leave mainland Guadeloupe for the Saintes. We plan to spend a few days there before moving on to Dominica. Dominica is supposed to be THE most beautiful island in all the Caribbean, with a hiking trail for every day of the year. Between that and the 4-5 buddy boats we're hoping to see again, it should be quite an adventure. Til next time...

Guadeloupe is such a beautiful island that we have more pictures than we could possibly fit in a blog. If you'd like to see more, please click here

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bye-Bye St. Martin, Hello Nevis!

Wednesday, May 1 - Sunday, May 5, 2013

We've done it! We've finally left St. Martin, which has been our longest-running anchorage second only to Luperon. As much as we loved St. Martin, we've been excited to get back into blue water (St. Martin's Simpson Bay Lagoon is perfectly protected from waves, but the water is a not-so-lovely greenish-brown) and explore some new islands in our own boat. We left through the 9am Dutch bridge in Sint Maarten on Stacy's birthday, and enjoyed a beautiful sail to St. Eustatius, a.k.a. Statia. Statia is supposed to be a gorgeous Dutch island, but we've also been warned that the anchorage is miserably rolly. Just imagine trying to sleep while your bed does 30-degree rolls from the left to the right. Oh, yes, and don't forget the sound of the mooring ball slamming into your boat at 2 o'clock in the morning as the wind dies. And here you thought sailing was all about what you see on glossy magazine covers!

Anyway, we were wide awake and rolling when the sun came up Thursday morning, so we dropped our mooring lines and motored the 35 miles from Statia to Nevis. With only 5 knots of wind on the nose, the waves were almost non-existent. Trust us - when you can do dishes, clean the galley, and take a shower on a crossing without getting queasy while down below, it's a good day! We arrived in Nevis around lunch time, and wandered into Charlestown to clear customs and immigration. After one of our most efficient clearings-in (Luperon, take note of these guys!), we walked around town to get our bearings. Happy hour found us at one of the thatched-roof beach bars, run by Patrick and frequented mostly by locals. (FYI: it's the first tiki hut south of the Four Seasons, outside of Lime Beach Bar.)
We wandered over to Sunshine's Bar, Nevis's version of Jost Van Dyke's Foxy's. Sunshine himself wasn't there, but we enjoyed one of his infamous "killer bees" (think "killer rum punch"). Sunshine's was actually the big draw for our going to Nevis, as Stacy had been there on a Windjammer cruise 16 years before. Just like Foxy's in the BVIs, Sunshine's has grown over the years thanks to its reputation among boaters and tourists. It's now the largest bar/restaurant at Pinney's beach, and you should really go just to "say you were there". Admittedly, there isn't much left of the cozy little beach bar with the picnic tables and sand floor from 16 years ago. If you want someplace to grab a cold beer, chat with the locals, and bury your toes in the sand, go pay a visit to Pat.

Saturday, it was time for some new scenery. We'd read about the Yachtsman's Grill, which our Doyle guide said was run by an ex-boater who was extremely friendly to cruisers. Best of all, it was supposed to have a POOL that we could use if we ate or drank there. Score!! We moved a mile or two up the coast to the next mooring field, and dinghied to the Nelson's Spring complex that had a beach-side pool resembling the one in the ad from the cruising guide. One problem...after hauling our nearly 200-pound dinghy up the beach and out of the surf, Rene went to make sure we were at the right place. Surprise! This was the place where the Yachtsman's Grill used to be...until it re-opened three months ago at its new location down the beach. No worries...we heaved the dink back into the surf, motored a half-mile down the beach, and went through the motions again. (Note to anyone coming to Nevis: the Yachtsman's Grill is in the southern complex amidst the new pale yellow condos...NOT the white ones with green roofs to the north.)
We wandered into the Grill, talked to waitress Tallah, and found that yes, they did still have a pool in the back for us to use; yes, they'd be happy to bring drinks to us poolside; and of course, we could even have lunch served at the pool if we preferred. It was official. We had died and gone to cruiser heaven! After staking out a couple of lounge chairs on the palm-covered island at the center of the pool, we waded in to meet Tallah and our cold bevvies at the other end. We then swam under the bridge that connected the "island" to the main walkway, and soon saw a familiar face: Hugh, a young fisherman from South Africa whom we'd met at Patrick's bar, was taking the Yachtsman's chef out to his truck to show him a couple of gorgeous mahi mahi's that he'd caught that morning. Mahi was soon added to the blackboard of lunch about getting it straight from the sea to your table!

After lunch and some internet, the Yachtsman's owner, Greg, sat down with us for a chat. Greg has been in Nevis for a few years now, but spent a lot of time cruising the Leeward and Windward Islands prior to opening the restaurant. He grabbed a cruising guide from his shelf, and went about showing us some of his favorite anchorages and restaurants down-island. We really enjoyed talking to him, and have told him to expect a few of our cruising friends to come in for a visit over the next week or two. (You know who you are!)

As much as we wanted to stay a few more days in Nevis (I can't believe we're missing the Booby Island Race!), the weather dictated a hasty departure. We plan to stop in Montserrat overnight to break up the 70+ mile trip to Guadeloupe. Given the volcano's destruction of the southern half of the island, the only tenable anchorage is at the northwestern tip of Montserrat. Northerly swells are supposed to begin on Monday, meaning we have to be there and gone before then. We're already planning a longer return trip to Nevis after hurricane season, so we'll save our tour of the island and its inland beauty for next time. Cheers!

BTW, for those of you who think we spend too much time talking about good food, wine, and beach bars, you're probably right. Still, we have to give a special mention to the Lime Beach Bar behind Pat's tiki hut. A number of locals and tourists alike recommended it for dinner, and the Lime certainly lived up to its reputation. Their West Indies curried shrimp had just enough spice, and their jerk-glazed mahi mahi was perfectly cooked. Prices weren't unreasonable, and you could even enjoy the sunset before dinner from their roof-top seating area. For cruisers spending only a night or two in Nevis, it's tough deciding where to go for dinner. :-)

Feel free to view more pictures here.