Tobago Cays and Cumberland Bay

Sabbatical III at anchor in Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent Island

Tobago Cays

We left Bequia on March 6 and sailed to Tobago Cays further south in the Grenadines. The Tobago Cays consist of five small, uninhabited islands and several shallow fringing reefs and a large barrier reef to the east known as Horseshoe Reef. Behind the reef is a lagoon with a sand bottom where we anchored. The whole area is a marine national park. It blew hard every day we were anchored at the Tobago Cays as it has almost every day since we arrived in the Caribbean, So hard on some days that we could not swim or snorkel. Nonetheless, it is a magical place. At low tide on more moderate days we took the dinghy up to the reef to snorkel. The reef was still vibrant and there were plenty of fish, including a Caribbean blue shark that surprised us. Turtles swam around the boat constantly.

A boat sails into the channel leading to the lagoon behind Horseshoe Reef,
View towards Mayreaux Island.
On a day when the tide was high and the wind was strong, sargasso weed blew over the reef and into the lagoon. This is a view of the anchor chain and snubber of Sabbatical III.

Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent Island

Boats at anchor in Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent Island. Sabbatical III at far right.

We left Bequia (for the second time) on March 20 and sailed up the west coast of the high, mountainous island of St. Vincent as far as Cumberland Bay. We have sailed past St. Vincent Island many times, marveling at it’s beauty, but never stopped because of it’s longstanding reputation for petty crime against boats. Our friends Melinda and Dave of “Sassoon” spent a few days at Cumberland Bay on their way north from Bequia (at the same time that we went south to Tobago Cays) and sent us a glowing report of the beauty, friendliness and safety of the place. They certainly did not exaggerate.

We arrived at midday on a Wednesday that was, unbeknownst to us, “party night” at Cumberland. Large (60 foot) crewed catamarans come in late Wednesday afternoon and discharged their passengers for BBQ and steel drums ashore. There were 3 boats when we arrived at noon on Wednesday but there were 14 boats anchored by sunset.

The water in Cumberland Bay is too deep to safely rely on a single anchor to hold a boat in the prevailing easterlies that blow down from the mountains. The system is to drop an anchor in the deep water and then take a line ashore from the stern to a coconut palm or other object. The weight of the boat is taken by the stern line. The anchor mostly keeps the bow into the swell and any light westerlies that might arise in the afternoon. There are “boat boys” who come out in a dinghy to take your stern line and bring it ashore for a different set of men to tie to the tree. There are three of four “boat boys” who take turns handling arriving boats, even though only one would be enough to handle the traffic. The “boat boy” is tipped for his efforts and he shares some of that with the guy ashore who ties the knot around the tree. That way, more people in the community benefit from the boats that visit. Knowing the anchoring setup, we had a strong 140 foot line prepared, our longest line. But even that was not long enough. We added two shorter lines to the end of the long line to make a bridle to each stern cleat.

We did not join in the Wednesday night party ashore. We were content to listen to the steel drum band from the deck of Sabbatical III. We had snorkeled on the reef at the entrance to the bay earlier in the day and were tired from our long day. The next morning almost all of the boats departed leaving only 3 other boats at anchor. We went to the Mojito Restaurant ashore and arranged for one of the members of a large, extended family to drive us to Dark Falls, a set of waterfalls about an hour drive away. It seems that everyone in the small community of Cumberland is related. Our driver (Jamaal) brought his cousin (Mata) along. The cousin is one of 27 children born to the partners of his father. The four small restaurants ashore are all owned by different uncles, and they all know where you eat and even what you ordered. (One must order hours in advance since they acquire many of the ingredients after you order). Apparently, the most important industry in the hills above Cumberland Bay is ganja growing for export. This industry is somewhat in decline and tourism is a seen as a good alternative.

The trip to Dark Falls was amazing and the driver and his cousin were extremely interesting and friendly. The narrow road is cut into the volcanic mountains rising steeply from the sea and is full of hairpin turns. The driver honks the horn before every hairpin turn so as to alert any car that may be coming the other way. Typically, there is not enough room for two cars to pass on a turn. The views were spectacular. Dark Falls is set in a forested highlands and one must traverse a pedestrian suspension bridge made from bamboo. Laura even had a swim under one of the waterfalls.

We are now back in Le Marin, Martinique.

One of the waterfalls at Dark Falls, St. Vincent Island.
Village above Cumberland, St. Vincent Island. A dog bit me here when I tried to take a photo of the mural in the front of the house of a Rasta. Fortunately, St. Vincent is rabies free.
Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent Island.
Our fruit seller “Gas” on his way to meet our fruit cravings.
Fruits for sale. Cumberland, St. Vincent Island.
“Gas” paddles his fruit kayak as the sun sets. Cumberland Bay, St. Vincent

M.

Bequia

Laura’s favorite soft drink, locally made Hairoun Bitter Lemon, as viewed from the Frangipani Restaurant, Admiralty Bay, Bequia

We departed the anchorage of Rodney Bay, St. Lucia at 4:00 am on February 20 bound for Admiralty Bay, Bequia Island in the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There were quite a few squalls during the passage, with high winds and bumpy seas, particularly in the channels between islands. In 2004, we did this same passage with Laura’s mother, sister and brother-in-law and is was nothing like the 2019 passage. Good thing.

Sailing past the “Pitons” on the southern end of St. Lucia
The Pitons are illuminated by a beam of sunshine during a squally sail down the length of St. Lucia

I started out by trolling two fishing lines from the stern of Sabbatical III. Almost immediately they caught sargasso (Sargassum) weed. There was weed patches everywhere, particularly in the channels. I hauled in the fishing lines and cleaned off the weed and reset them, but soon found it to be useless to try.

Catch of the day on Sabbatical III: sargasso weed

We arrived in Admiralty Bay, Bequia in mid-afternoon and found it crowded with boats. It is a popular spot with sailors and it is easy to see why. Although the wind constantly blows strongly off of the hills, there is good protection from waves and the town of Port Elizabeth is charming and only overrun with tourists on the days when a cruise liner anchors outside and ferries in their passengers in motorized pods. Even then, we know which places to avoid. On those days Princess Margaret Beach (named after Queen Elizabeth’s sister) is one mass of bodies laid out in the sun. We just hike up and down a steep hill at the end of that beach and wind up in Lower Bay with an uncrowded beach and a couple of small beachside restaurants.

Our friends Dave and Melinda from the boat “Sassoon” were anchored at the other side of Admiralty Bay when we arrived and it was nice to spend two weeks with them catching up. We shared coffee or tea and cake at the Gingerbread House, our favorite cafe, where we sat under the huge “almond tree.” We also shared walks, lunches, and snorkeling with them.

With Melinda and Dave of “Sassoon” at the Gingerbread House.
The Gingerbread House and “almond tree” with the convenient dinghy dock in the foreground.

We left Bequia on March 6 and sailed further south to Tobago Cays. We will write a separate blog about Tobago Cays and about our time at Cumberland Bay on the big island of St. Vincent. On the way north from Tobago Cays, we again anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia for another week (March 13 to March 20).

Most days we enjoyed strolling on the recently restored Belmont Walkway. This ocean front walkway is a major attraction on Bequia for visitors and locals. It starts in town running alongside Belmont Beach and continues over a headland to Princess Margaret Beach. At the other end of the beach another trail leads up and over a headland and connects with the road leading down to Lower Bay.

Signpost for the Belmont Walkway and Princess Margaret Trail, with Admiralty Bay in background.
Princess Margaret Trail, Bequia
“Pizza Hut” on the Belmont Walkway, Bequia
Sign in front of bookstore, Belmont Walkway, Bequia
Fruit and vegetable stand, Port Elizabeth, Bequia
Mark at Princess Margaret Beach, Bequia
Selfie taken at Fort Hamilton (as in Alexander Hamilton) above Admiralty Bay, Bequia
Sign at the Whaleboner, Belmont Walkway, Bequia
Laura’s Restaurant, Port Elizabeth, Bequia
Laura climbs aboard after one of her many swims off of Sabbatical III, Admiralty Bay, Bequia

M.

Martinique and Saint Lucia

Aqua Grill, Sainte-Luce, Martinique

Sabbatical III spent five weeks in Martinique. The first two days at anchor in Sainte Anne, then one month in the nearby marina at Le Marin, then 4 days at anchor in Sainte Anne again. While Sabbatical III was in the marina, we took the opportunity to fly to California for 10 days to visit our children, Laura’s mother who was visiting from St. Paul, and Laura’s brother and sister. It was a wonderful trip.

We also had the Amel base in Le Marin perform some of those maintenance tasks that are required only every 10 to 15 years. This included disconnecting the engine from the transmission by unbolting it and moving it aft, and inspecting the transmission coupling and changing the bushings on the coupling. We also had a rigger experienced with the Amel rig inspect the standing rigging and tune it.

Cattle graze on the east coast of Martinique

We also rented a car for a few days and toured around the southern half of the island. The roads are winding but in good shape.

Lunch with Frank and Barbara of “Destiny” at the Creole restaurant Le Cocotier in Cap Chevalier, Martinique
Laura at the beach at Petite Anse, Martinique. We had lunch a Creole lunch at Snack Fredo and Laura had a swim.
Mark at the beach at Petite Anse.
View of Rodney Bay, St. Lucia from Pigeon Island.

On February 8, we had a nice sail to Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia from Sainte Anne, Martinique. We hoped to catch fish in the open waters of the channel between the islands but after 5 minutes of trying it was apparent that all one could catch was sargassum weed. There were weed patches everywhere. Even with a lure weighted to keep it well below the surface, weed piled up on the lure and hook after only a few minutes. The widespread infestation of sargassum weed has fouled beaches, particularly those that are east facing, and has already affected our sailing plans. Beaches and bays on the west (leeward) side of islands are relatively unaffected.

Sunset at Gros Islet, St. Lucia (near the Rodney Bay Marina)

We are now in the Rodney Bay Marina in Saint Lucia. This is our fourth time at this marina (2003, 2004 twice, and 2007). There is new mall nearby with a very nice supermarket (with mostly American products), so we will re-provision the boat. We expect to stay for a couple of days more and then head south to Bequia Island in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

M.