Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caribbean Recovery

Wheaton is not St. Vincent. I suppose that's self-evident. I am glad to be back in the relative cold of suburban Maryland, but I really enjoyed the wonders of a Caribbean vacation. I guess that's why I've been making it an annual habit since 2006. I'm cold-blooded, and the Caribbean isn't. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

Time goes fast on the boat. We were on the Callisto this year, registered in Burtonsville, Maryland. It's a Beneteau 505 (monohull) chartered through TMM in Kingstown, St. Vincent. We had eight guys and a skipper. None of us ended up as shark bait during or after the week.

The boat is eight years old, and beginning to show its age. Like all sailboats, it is designed to suck money out of your wallet, if you are foolish enough to actually own one, but quite a delight to sail if you want to charter one for a week in a warm locale. I found the cabin very comfy compared to what I've had on other boats. The galley is crowded when more than one cook is in the kitchen. The galley has a freezer as well as a refrigerator. This particular boat had the dullest set of knives I've ever had to use, pretty much worthless. I think they were put on the boat eight years ago, and promptly forgotten.

You don't have to sail very far in the Grenadines to find a nice bay, a pretty beach, or an interesting port. My faves included a death march up the Pinnacle on Union Island, mooring in the Tobago Cays, and swimming to the beach on Mayreau (Jerry, Mark, and I also walked up to the Catholic Church at the top of the hill, there, for a beautiful view).

We stayed a couple of nights at the Rich View Guest House on Sion's Hill on St. Vincent. The first night, Jerry and I stayed in a room with a spacious balcony, overlooking the little valley below the hill. On our return, we stayed in the basement in a smaller, but comfortable room. The boys loved hearing the roosters, lots of roosters. It was also the valley of the talking dogs. Any car or person walking through the neighborhood, would precipitate a canine discussion group that would last for several minutes. These dogs were actually talking to each other.

Bed for a Princess
Can you find the pea?

After the guesthouse, we skedaddled across the water to Bequia to stay at Burke House in the Moon Hole development at the west tip of the island. This is the bed that Jerry and I slept in. I felt like a princess! Burke House is an experience to have. The views are gorgeous, the house is one of a kind (surrounded by other one-of-a-kind homes, too), and the breeze at night is magical, BUT that is mosquito netting on the bed, and it's not for show. Grackles regularly flew through the living room, and Jet the Parrot kept us all entertained. We thought about preparing the 2-foot resident iguana. It's supposed to taste just like chicken.

The house has a cook and housekeeper. Marva took good care of us, and fixed us local specialties. Captain and Jim didn't spring for the stewed conch, but Jerry and I had little difficulty in finishing it off. We bought a mahi-mahi at the fish market in Port Elizabeth, and Marva fixed it a couple of different ways, creole style, and once with a lentil-cornmeal polenta. The market provided a lot of variety for vegetables and fruits. We did not lose any weight over the stay.

Jerry and I rented bikes in Port Elizabeth for a couple of days so that we could explore Bequia up close and personal. He and I walked from Moon Hole past the airport to the village of Paget Farm, where we caught the "bus" to Port Elizabeth. The bus system is comprised of several minibuses with names like "Faith," "Hope," and "Charity." We had the good fortune to ride on Faith and on Pebbles. The bus driver and his helper riding shotgun can effectively pack about 18 passengers on a bus. On St. Vincent and on Bequia, we had the good fortune to be on a well-packed bus. The crowd was very jolly. We had a good time with it.

We rented a couple of mountain bikes. Considering that Bequia doesn't have a lot of level road surface, that's a good thing. You don't go fast, but you get up the hills, and downhill can be a little terrifying without good brakes (like on my bike). Jerry and I explored a lot of the island. Because Jerry has done the bike thing here, before, he had all sorts of ideas about places to visit, and we had a lot of fun poking around. We went out to the Turtle Sanctuary one day, and up Mt. Pleasant the next day. I think most Bequians thought we were crazy to be out in the midday sun riding bikes, but it was totally worth the experience.

So, I'm not sure where I'll be late February next year, but I'd bet some money that it will be in a warm (dark?) place on a boat near beach on an island with a mountain and a forest.