12 February 2009

Union Island, Grenadine Islands

Anchored at Clifton
Union Island
Grenadine Islands
Caribbean Sea
392 miles from SV Christa
(Click Photo To Enlarge Happy Island)

Just a short transit through the reefs in Tobago Cays Marine Park. Sandpiper had a one-mile ocean transit to where Sandpiper is on the hook, sitting off the small town of Clifton on Union Island. This is our last stop in the Grenadine Islands.

Before entering the harbor, just across the channel, there is Palm Island which has a very fancy resort surrounded by white sandy beaches. We stopped there for an hour to take a swim. While snorkeling  to shore and to the resort we found 3 conchs under the Piper that we quickly grabbed and threw into the dinghy. After a short stroll down the white sand beaches in front of the resort we jumped back into the water and returned to the 'Piper for the short 5-minute motor to where we are currently anchored.

Its been since I was a small kid since I have seen a conch cleaned. Once the hook was set we got the WiFi hooked up and watched Youtube videos on how to clean a conch. But it all looks so easy until one is faced with actually cleaning one. I did as instructed to get the conch out of its shell, but I could not get a grip on it to get it out of its shell. After about an hour I decided that I had had enough. So I grabbed the hacksaw started cutting the shell in half hoping no locals motoring by in their boats would see what I was doing and laugh at me. Minutes later I had 3 conchs out of their shells and Amy took on the job of pounding them out. That first evening at anchor we had a delicious meal of curried conch over rice.

Later that night we made our way through this very tiny town of Clifton checking out the local bars. We ran into Angelo, a local from Union Island, whom we had met on the beach a few days before in the Tobago Cays. Union Island and the town of Clifton are like a scene out of the movie "Captain Ron" and we love it here! The town is very tiny, lining the waterfront with colorful shops and restaurants. Most of the businesses cater to the charter boats that frequent here needing to re-provision.

Most white folks that come to Union Island are here to be on a charter boats. So most just arrive, get on a boat, and then head out for the Tobago Cays. This means that there are very few white tourists in town, which leaves lots of colorful locals that are super friendly.

There is a very tiny airport that is on the edge of town that that makes for afternoon entertainment. When planes land  they have to fly very low, right over town, and then drop straight down in time to stop before they run out of runway and hit the water. Our friend Angelo told us that there were no runway lights. So if a plane had to land at night, or if there was a medical emergency where someone had to be flown to the nearest hospital some distance away to St Vincent, then all of the locals would line up their cars along the runway with their headlights on to guide the plane in.

Angelo then showed us his nightly hangout, the ‘Stressout’ bar, which has become our new favorite haunt. The Stressout Bar is more like a two story house where the upstairs is the bar. There are even couches in the bedrooms if you want to sit inside. In the living room area is the bar where there is a laptop hooked to several large speakers pumping our all kinds of Reggae music at mega decibels. The best part of the bar, other then the dirt cheap rum, hard core Rasta guys smoking, people dancing everywhere, dogs running around in the yard, and blaring music, is behind the bar is something that looks like an aquarium that early in the evening is empty. But as time goes by, it starts getting filled with fried chicken and toast from the kitchen hidden behind the bar! Its brilliant. Who would have thought that eating some fried chicken and toast after a few strong rums could be so delicious.

After being here for just a few days, and with the few days we were in the Tobago Cays, we feel like royalty in town. The locals know our names, and at the Stressout Bar we get all kinds of fist bumps as we walk in. Last night I was talking to the tallest Rasta man I have ever seen. I told him that he must be the tallest person on the island. He told me that there was one man taller, and then suddenly the slightly taller man walked into the room. This left me cracking up because this could only happen on an island this small.

This morning, having no plans, I was sitting in the cockpit having my morning coffee when our new friend Angelo stopped by with his boat. Angelo has a small powerboat that he takes to Petite Martinique, which is an island belonging to Grenada four miles away. There he buys cheap gas for his boat and sacks of live lobsters. He then spends his days over in the Tobago Cays, just a few miles from here, selling his lobsters to the charter boats anchored there. Sometimes he cooks them on the beach. He makes all his money during the charter season because once hurricane season starts there are no more customers until the next year.

Angelo tied up his boat to the 'Piper and announced that he was going to cook us a lobster lunch. There was a flurry of activity by Team Sandpiper... setting up the grill and getting ready for the feast. Angelo used our stove to boil potatoes, that once done he threw on the grill. Angelo then jumped into his boat and grabbed a sack he had hanging over the side. He pulled out three nice lobsters, which he then cut in half lengthwise. While climbing back aboard the 'Piper with his platter of lobsters he managed get a nice burn on his arm when he accidentally leaned against the grill. Then gashed his toe on one of 'Pipers cleats, dripping blood everywhere. 

After we got him patched up and medicated with a big glass of rum to ease his pain Angelo cooked up a huge feast of buttered garlic potatoes and lobster. It was even better then what we had the previous days in the Tobago Cays, leaving us completely stuffed.

The remainder of the day was spent drinking rum while Angelo told us about the happenings on Union Island. Every once in a while a large Venezuelan fishing boat arrives in town that causes much excitement. After the boat arrives at port, they give the customs officers several cases of booze to not pay attention to them for a while. They then tie up on the waterfront and sell gasoline for $4.00 a gallon. The local price of gas is normally $8.00 a gallon. Gasoline is 5 cents a gallon in Venezuela, and they they can sell it for $4 dollars a gallon here. This makes them more money then fishing. Also, they sell cheap liquor and other powdery substances that are white in color…

After a whole day of drinking rum on the 'Piper, Angelo announced that he was going to take us over to Happy Island. Happy Island is located on the reef just off Piper’s starboard side. A man named Janti decided that he wanted to make his own island. So he had all the small speedboats in the harbor start hauling old conch shells that had been piled up in the harbor and dump them on the reef. After thousands and thousands of shells had been dumped he had his own island which he then topped off with hand mixed concrete. He then built a really cool wooden house over this foundation and planted palm trees around his tiny island. He then opened the Happy Island Bar and BBQ.

This is one of the coolest bars we have ever seen. It is really nice at night, sitting way out on the reef while sipping rum punch and looking out at the anchorage. He runs his bar all by 12 volt batteries charged by solar panels. They give him enough power to light up the bar at night, refrigeration to keep the drinks cold, and crank out reggae music. Afterwards we jumped back into Angelo’s boat and he just returned us back to the 'Piper.

Sandpiper’s current plans are to head out to Carriacou Island, just an hour’s sail away, in time for Amy’s birthday this Friday the 13th. Last year Amy spent her birthday on watch crossing the Indian Ocean. So we are hoping for a much better birthday this year.

More from the land of ‘Jack Iron’.
Tom and Amy

1 comment:

Benji said...

Yo Tom, its Ben. We met on Union with Angelo at Happy Is. My wife Alana had short blonde hair. Remember stress out? that was a fun night. You still around? We're thinking of moving to Union for a while...where r u now? Sold the boat yet?