We like Union Island so we decided to stay for 3 nights. Having done some passage planning we realize that it is ok to take time in places we like. We don’t have to be in Antiqua until the middle of March and it is surprising how close all the Islands are. So we can chill..How blissful this is.
Union Island is very special – each Island does have its own unique culture and Union seems to be friendly, relaxed and also cosmopolitan. Some of the local businesses come from France and Belgium and the feeling is that every nationality is welcome. There is a delightful little dingy dock – you have to go under a little bridge and then you can moor up your dingy in a bespoke area. It is funny how soon, something like using your dingy to go ashore, becomes normal. When we arrived in the Dingy Dock the other day we were met by a charming man with a large, fresh Tuna in each hand – he was singing “this is my Island in the Sun” – I said to him that is not something you see everyday – “I do love a man swinging fish and singing” – he laughed. We have met up with him several times since and he loves May. Everyone loves May – she causes quite a stir when she walks down the high street. She makes everyone smile and they say “Lovely Puppy!”
There is a wonderful charity here on Union that is looking after stray dogs and also runs a castration programme – offering local people castration for their dogs for free. There is an issue in the Caribbean with stray dogs as a lot of people fall for a puppy and then when the dog grows and costs money for food and care they cannot deal with it and just let the dog become a street dog – it is pretty sad. May and Mark and I went to visit the charity and helped a little. We do try to think about our footprint as we travel. For a treat we went to Happy Island for a sundowner – Happy Island is a great story. There is an intelligent and charismatic man called Jantie. Janti had a bar that wasn’t very busy and he also worked for the local tourism authority where his job was to clean up the town. So Jantie had two problems – his bar wasn’t busy because it was in the wrong place and the town had an issue with conch shells – a very large pile of them had accumulated from the fishermen discarding them (Conch is a much loved food in the Caribbean)
So, Jantie had an idea – He took the Conch shells and piled them in the sea at the end of reef – so creating his very own Island. He called it Happy Island – on it he built a bar, which has become very successful and his home. Problems solved – creative, enterprising – and fun. Now the shells are all cleared up and his bar is thriving – sipping rum and coke there listening to Reggae with Janti as the sun goes down is a pretty unique experience.
This is going to be our last day and night in Union Island. The wind is dropping and we plan to go to Tobago Cays tomorrow. As the wind should be light we will be able to take a buoy and stay for a few nights. Tobago Cays is a unique part of the world – turtles thrive here protected in their turquoise warm water by the largest crescent reef in the Caribbean. We hope that we will meet up with Hans and Yvonne on Thindra – Yvonne is my dear friend from the village we lived in, in North Yorkshire – the beautiful village of Nun Monkton. It is a wonderful story – as we introduced Yvonne to Hans. Yvonne flew out of the UK to Lagos in Portugal where Magic was moored up beside Thindra – we introduced Hans to Yvonne and that was months ago. Now she is here in the Caribbean with Hans – it is always an unusual feeling when world collide – we are so happy for them both and are excited to meet them. How funny to arrange to meet someone in the Tobago Cays! As I write I am sitting on a sun lounger on soft powdery sand looking out at a perfect lagoon – there are only two motorboats and it is quite apart from the waves lapping a meter from my sun bed. Mark is swimming and May is sleeping under the lounger. We are at Sparrows – a new bar and restaurant on the far (one mile!) side of Union Island from Clifton. We are relaxing following a bit of an incident this morning.
We are not happy with our anchor mechanism so we take a mooring buoy when we can. Friends of ours – Di and Neil from Sail Ionian own Sail Grenadines and the business here in Union is run by their daughter Katie. We called Katie as we arrived to see if we could use one of their mooring buoys as in Doyle’s Guide he says they are the safest. Katie was unable to let us use one of theirs as they were taken. So when a local approached us (as they often do) as we arrive into the harbor we followed him what he said was his mooring buoy. We moored up and tested the buoy and it seemed secure. He asked for 100EC, which is a lot so we said 80 and gave him a bottle of wine as well. He pretended to be unhappy with the lower fee and said he would be back tomorrow to see if we wanted to stay. The following day we spoke with Katie and were surprised when she said we were on one of her mooring buoys. We explained what had happened and she said they had been having trouble with that guy. So, we paid Katie for the next two nights. That should have been that – but this morning the same guy came aggressively towards Magic on his boat shouting that we owed him money. We explained that we had paid Sail Grenadines and that this mooring buoy was not his to sell. He was shouting and yelling and calling Mark a racist and a liar and told him to fuck off – whow …it was stressful. I stepped in and said to him – “ok, so lets sort this out – lets all go and see Katie as we have paid her and she says that the mooring buoy is hers and not yours. He sped off – so we thought lets go see Katie and ask her advice. We don’t know how things work here but if this guy is not happy he could cut our lines and Magic would be set free to crash or he could board the boat …. We felt uncomfortable. We took the dingy into the dingy dock and then went to see Katie. She advised us to go and see the Tobago Cays authority and she would come with us. As we walked along the dock the guy came along side us in his boat. He wasn’t making any sense and was saying he was a Spirit and that we couldn’t tell him what to do. We walked with Katie to the officials’ offices and made a statement to them. They then called the police and we had to wait – so we went to The Snack Shack near by for a coffee and waited. About an hour later we were told that the officers wanted to see us. They had dressed in civvies so that they could go and find the man. They took us very seriously and apologized sincerely. They said that nothing would happen to our boat and we could be sure of that. So – rather than feel like victims and watch our yacht we have gone to Sparrows on the other side of the Island and will trust the police and to luck. It is a real shame that these things happen in the Caribbean – the authorities are doing their best to regulate things but it is difficult. Yesterday a catamaran got into trouble on the sand – within minutes seven locals speedboats were racing out to help. Some pushed and others took lines and pushed. The cat was moved off the sand and freed. Then as they moored up all seven of the local boats attached themselves to the yacht and got on board – I was concerned for the owners as following a stressful situation they then would have had another challenging situation trying to negotiate with seven different locals – I am sure they would have all wanted $100EC – Tomorrow we will have this behind us as the only mooring buoys are official Tobago Park ones and going North we have not found any issues. Union Island is so very wonderful and friendly and the authorities’ have said this will all be sorted out for next season. But for anyone sailing here – just be wary, anchor if you can and only take a buoy from someone who is officially from one of the companies like Sail Grenadines. It won’t put us off – we have been in the Caribbean now for three months and this is the first incident that has directly affected us. We understand that the locals have to make a living and we genuinely do what we can wherever we go – we eat local and buy stuff from boat boys. Yesterday we bought some delicious Banana Bread – they come to the boat and sell bread and cakes – lovely. In some islands they have formed associations to protect their reputations from guys like the one we have encountered here and that is a great idea because we all want the Caribbean to remain safe and for cruisers to enjoy the islands and add to the local economies.
Oh yes and the dead man in the fridge I mentioned in this blogs headline…. For our dingy we have a dead man switch, which protects us by cutting out the engine, should the driver fall over board. We need it to start the engine and yesterday morning we couldn’t find it. We looked in every cupboard and bag and pocket. I used to be pretty bad at losing things and have been better recently – Mark then opened the fridge – and you guessed it – the dead man key was in the fridge – I had carried it in my hand along with the bag of fresh salad I had bought in the market – got on board and just put both in the fridge – a dead man is not supposed to be in our fridge.
Got to go as we are just going to have lunch at Sparrows under the palm tree – another rum and coke? Oh I think we need to support this local business don’t you?
Tomorrow Tobago Cays then north to retrace our steps back up the islands – Mustique, Bequai, St Vincent, St Lucia, Martinique – then new places …Hee hee