S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Slowing Down

Sunday, November 13
Tobago Cays, Grenadines

Dean said to me, as we sailed the last few miles the Tobago Cays Marine Park, "Are you ready for the highlight of our trip?"

Yes, the Tobogo Cays are that good. Palm-fringed islands, white sand beaches, good holding and plenty of room to anchor, turtles and rays swimming around the boat, topaz-colored water, miles of lively reefs for snorkeling, visibility of up to a hundred feet, starlit skies at night, potlucks with friends, yoga in the sand after breakfast, and a series of zero-dollar days...there's so much to tell. But it will have to wait another week. Part of what makes the Tobago Cays so charming is it's remoteness. The islands here are uninhabited, and the only way to get here is by private boat or by charter. A few locals make their living by delivering ice, bread, and fish to the boats anchored here, but Internet access is out of the question. Having stayed in Carriacou long enough to get the election results, we will suffer the deprivation as best we can.

Where else have we been lately? After leaving Carriacou, we spent a day anchored off two small, close-together islands known as Petit St. Vincent (PSV) and Petit Martinique (PM). The former, an island of the Grenadines, is a private island featuring an exclusive and all-inclusive resort, which was recommended enthusiastically by Dave Rollins. We riffraff were welcome on the beaches, in the bar, and at the restaurant and gift shop, but that was it. After months of staying in anchorages where the water had ranged from murky to downright poisonous, we were thrilled to swim in the perfectly clear water off the boat and walk along the lovely beach. I even found a new kind of shell for my ad hoc collection.

Petit Martinique, contrary to its name, is part of Grenada, not France. The island has about 800 inhabitants who make their living fishing, working at the resort on nearby PSV, and selling the occasional postcard to the few tourists who trickle there from Grenada or the Grenadines. Because there is no Customs and Immigration office in PM, and because nobody would otherwise stop there if they had to go to official ports of entry on Union and Carriacou first, officials sort of look the other way when boats stop there for a day or so after checking out of one country and before checking into another. I got official-yet-unofficial permission to visit PM after checking out of Grenada and before checking into the Grenadines, so we stopped there for the night with Paul and Karin of Dream Weaver, and spent some time walking through the small village.

One tiny store (really a small shed with some signs on it, attached to the front of someone's living quarters), advertised fresh lettuce. We stopped in to inquire if they really had any available. The shop's owner disappeared out back for about ten minutes. When she returned, she was putting two gorgeous heads of freshly washed lettuce into plastic bags. Then it dawned on me: she had picked this lettuce from her garden behind the house! What a treat.

We sailed from the Petits over to the Tobago Cays, where we will stay as long as we can. It is perfect here. So here's my advice to you (yes, you): get down here. Take a plane, book a hotel, charter a boat (Moorings operates a fleet in nearby Canouan Island), or sail your way from New England. It really doesn't matter how. Just get yourself to the Grenadines AS SOON AS YOU CAN, and then pay somebody to sail you over to the Tobago Cays. Money is unimportant. The exorbitant plane fare and the long wait between connecting flights will be worth it. Quit your job if you don't have vacation time, or fake appendicitis. Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a year instead of going out to lunch. Stop having your hair dyed professionally. Cancel your cable TV. Go to the library instead of the bookstore. Buy Schlitz instead of Sam Adams. There are ways, and the things you forego will be well worth the reward of sitting on a beach or a gently rocking boat and looking out over this heartbreakingly blue water for a whole day. Really, you owe it to yourself to see this place before it's bought up by some resort and turned into a theme park.

If we found a way to take all this time off, buy a boat, fix it up, learn to sail it, dispatch with debt, and make our way thousands of miles at a speed of five miles an hour, and now we're telling you that THIS is the place for you (all of you), then it behooves you to click over to Travelocity.com or call Harry the travel agent or whatever, and see how you can get here. After a year of this stuff, Dean and I are pretty discerning regarding the quality of the sand, the perfect lean of a palm tree toward the surf, the clarity and temperature of air and water, and the elegance of sea fans as they caress the fins of a colorful parrotfish swimming through a coral reef.

We recommend that you charter a boat, which would give you the most flexibility and enable you to spend a week here, where the only other people are other boaters. If you want more privacy an less tipping over than a boat like Delilah provides, rent a catamaran. They are all the rage down here in the charter world. If you must have a little civilization and dry land, try the resorts on Petit St. Vincent, Palm Island, or Mayreau (Salt Whistle Bay), or book a cruise that stops in Mayreau for at least a day. Brace yourself; it won't be cheap.

We are awestruck by the Tobago Cays. Is there really a tiny sand island just for us with only a palm-thatched hut for decoration? Yes. Can we really see ripples in the sand in eleven feet of water from the deck of our boat? Yes. By moonlight? Yes. Did a foot-wide sea turtle just surface beside us? Yes. Is it the cooling air of the Atlantic Ocean beyond the reef that makes this such a pleasantly temperate anchorage? Yes. What are we doing tomorrow? Doesn't matter. Let's just watch the sun set for a little bit longer.


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