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by Dan and Jan Ahart

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Our next stop was the island of St. Lucia, which is also English speaking. We anchored in Rodney Bay on May 23rd. Columbus did not discover St. Lucia, but Europeans did establish settlements during the early 1500s. The French succeeded with a permanent colony in 1635 and signed a treaty with the indigenous Carib Indians in 1660. However, the British invaded in 1663. The French and English fought over the island on and off until it was finally ceded to Great Britain in 1814. The people still speak English with and odd British/French accent. We stayed three days at Rodney Bay and then moved south to a national park called the "Pitons" so named because of the twin peaks, flanking a small bay, that rise directly out of the sea to an elevation of over 2,000 feet. There is a narrow, shallow shelf just off shore that is excellent for snorkeling. Beyond the shelf, about 50 to 100 yards from shore, the depth drops rapidly to over 600 feet. Snorkeling is good over the shelf and because no fishing is allowed, there are lots of fish to see. We stayed at the Pitons for three nights and took a tour of the local sights, which included hot springs, water falls, hot sulphur pits with boiling mud lakes and a very nice botanical garden. There is no doubt St. Lucia is a volcanic island.

On May 29th we sailed to Admiralty Bay on the island of Bequia, which is part of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG). We bypassed the main island of St. Vincent because it has no really good, protected anchorages for sailboats. We stayed two nights in Admiralty Bay, visiting the local town of Port Elizabeth. The Grenadines are a chain of small islands between St. Vincent and Grenada. Most of them, Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau and Union belong to St. Vincent. The most southerly ones, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, belong to Grenada. Columbus probably discovered St. Vincent and the Grenadine Islands around 1498, but the Carib Indians were not subdued until 1762, by the British, who maintained rule until the islands gained independence in 1979. The highlight of our visit to this area was the Toabago Cays, which are just east of the island of Mayreau. The cays consist of several small-uninhabited islands that are protected by a coral reef on the east side. The resultant lagoon has the clearest water this side of the Bahamas and the area is a divers and snorkelers paradise. We snorkeled in the lagoon for two days in water about 12 feet deep. We even snorkeled one night, which was a first for us. Some cruising friends had underwater lights and invited us to accompany them. If it hadn't been for the relatively shallow water and full moon that night, we would not have gone. However, we surprised ourselves by enjoying it and finding it as interesting as we were told it would be. Some fish really do sleep at night. Some hide in coral crevices head down and tail up. Crabs and lobster come out at night as well as shrimp. It was all rather eerie and I'm still not sure I want to make a habit of it, but it was different. The last day we were there, we snorkeled on the ocean side of the reef, where the coral is very thick and slopes down into very deep water that just turns dark blue and goes on into the depths of the Atlantic. The fish were much larger and more numerous on that side and many more predator fish were seen. It was awesome.

Our next stop was the little town of Clifton on Union Island, which was the only island that did not want to join the St. Vincent/Grenadines independence movement in 1979. Perhaps they are still miffed about it because the people did not seem to be overly friendly and we encountered some absurd bureaucracy. The day we wanted to check out was a holiday, so we went to the airport, which has customs and immigration officials present every day. Even though they were on duty, the officials told us we would have to pay 56 E.C. dollars, about 22 U.S. dollars, to check out since it was a holiday. We asked if all the airline passengers had to pay the same fee and were told no because they purchased their tickets in advance, but we were on boats so we could check out any time. So we returned to our boats and went back the next day and checked out for no extra charge. The bureaucratic mind is a mysterious thing.

Once out of SVG, we needed to check in to Grenada. We did so at Hillsborough on the island of Carriacou, which is the northern most island, of the Grenada island group. That check-in went very smoothly although we had to go to three different offices to accomplish it. Apparently the British instilled a firm belief in paper work before granting these islands independence. After one night in Hillsborough we sailed on to Tyrrel Bay, where we stayed only long enough to check out the availability of haul-out facilities in anticipation of hauling Sojourner later in the year. From Tyrrel Bay, we sailed south to Dragon Bay, where we spent one night. The next day, June 6, 2001, we sailed into St. George's Harbor, the capital, where we spent one night and purchased some provisions.

Columbus discovered Grenada in 1498, but again, the Carib Indians were not subdued until 1750 when the French established the town of St. George's. The British and the French fought over the island from 1762 until 1783 when it was ceded to the British. The island gained independence in 1974 and elected a Parliament and Prime Minister. But in 1979 a coup d'etat lead by Maurice Bishop, an admirer of Fidel Castro, resulted in a Marxist regime with close ties to Cuba and the Soviet Union. In 1983 internal strive within the government led to a split between factions. As a result, dissident party members executed Bishop and half his cabinet ministers. The surviving faction terrorized the island by taking over the radio and television stations, closing the airport and imposing a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and shot violators on sight. Needless to say, the economy was paralyzed. In order to liberate the people and reinstall democracy, invasion forces from several Caribbean countries, lead by the United States, arrested the surviving communists and either expelled them to Cuba or the Soviet Union. Those not expelled are still in the prison overlooking St. George's harbor. Grenada has been democratic since. Conversations with native Grenadians about this episode in their history reveal a great deal of gratitude for the action taken by the United States. Today, the economy is thriving, with signs of home and commercial construction everywhere.

Besides not wanting another communist country in the western hemisphere, the United States was very interested in stabilizing Grenada because of the number of American professors and students at the international medical school, which is part of St. George's University. The facility is beautiful, sitting on the shore of True Blue Bay. With several thousand students at the university and nearly 800 medical students, it is a major contributor to the economy. Stay tuned.

Dates: 2001-05-23,
Locations: St. Vincent/Grenadines; Grenada

The Ahart Odyssey 1999-2004 Dan and Jan Ahart. All rights reserved.