L O G B O O K - by John Philp


 

THE LAND OF THE EXPENSIVE BANANA

MON 20th MARCH - Mustique is a gem of an island, with an air of privileged, self containment. Much of it is set aside as large private properties, home to royalty and rock stars.

At lunchtime we head to another beautiful island - Bequia. The anchorage is congested, forty yachts anchored in four meters of gin clear water. Lining the white sand beach are restaurants, cafes and bars that thrive on the yachtie patronage. In the laid back, funky town Tony and I have a good laugh at Lydia being hassled by the rastafarian market vendors. Four of them follow her around the stalls, chattering all at once. Fruit and vegetables are excessively priced here - I think they sell the worlds most expensive bananas!

TUE 21st - We leave Bequia early, ambling north up the Windward Island chain to St Lucia. Soon we were passing under the lee of St Vincent, below us is a veritable ‘highway’ of yachts heading in both directions up and down the Windward Island chain - twenty three in all.

On her SW corner of St Lucia the twin volcanic plugs of Petit Piton and Gros Piton rise majestically from the sea. Past them the surf caresses the pretty rocky coastline, the odd village and beach lodged between rocky outcroppings. It is a striking vista, and I am sorry my camera is not working. Onto Rodney Bay where we drop anchor in a large bay ringed by a long sandy beach, broken only by a breakwater and narrow entrance into the large lake beyond - dredged to accommodate yachts in an inner bay.

WED 22nd - Inside the inner bay are two marinas, numerous restaurants and hotels and condominiums mostly catering to the yachting trade. ATM’s and ISD phones and cyber cafes give it a genteel, country club atmosphere.

I catch up with a friend Francois here - an unexpected surprise, this far from Fiji. Francois and his wife Caroline used to live in Suva.

THUR 23rd - It was fortunate that we met up with Francois as he organised for the French Embassy to grant us visa’s for the French territories ahead on our itinerary, in a day, rather than the traditional two weeks.

FRI 24th - The crew walk up to the Pidgeon Island fort today in the NW corner of the bay. Rodney Bay oozes history. In 1805 Lord Nelson’s fleet lay here for 24 hours during the game of cat and mouse with the French Admiral Villeneuve’s fleet, after which Nelson chased the French across the Atlantic and cornered them off the coast of Spain in the historic Battle of Trafalgar, eventually leading to Napoleon’s downfall.

SAT 25th - Francois planned to be in Martinique on Monday to pick up a computer and he seemed very keen to be sailing again so we take him with us at 7am to Martinique. It is a windless day and we motor. Off the SW corner of the island we pass Diamond Rock, where one hundred English men lived for eighteen months in 1805, fortifying it in order to deny the channel to French ships. It is a bare rock with sheer sides. All canons, food, and materials had to be inched up with a block and tackle. Eventually the French made a concerted effort and evicted them, first floating barrels of rum downwind to the rock to distract them before attacking!

It seems the English and the French could never agree on ownership in Martinique and so the island changed hands 16 times! Ah the good old days... In the capital - Fort de France, which we reach just after lunch, the old fortifications remain. Thick high walls, canons bristling...

It is a wet afternoon so we sit at a waterfront cafe eating icecream and drinking beer. The weather reminds us of Suva. Later I visit on an old Polish yacht with a bunch of new friends, we sit around an old wooden table below decks in a poorly ventilated cabin, sweating in the humidity, drinking rum like a bunch of pirate’s : one Australian, a Dane, an American, a Pole, a Czech, a Fijian, and even a South African dog! The Polish skipper - George had spent some time in Fiji on his yacht 19 years ago and insisted on showing me a photo of his then girlfriend in Suva. Very pretty George - but I don’t think she looks that beautiful today!

SUN 26th - It’s a lazy grey day on the Tau. We watch the ‘Victoria’ (a replica of the very first one to circumnavigate the earth) anchored beside us , firing up her wood stove. She’s an honest to goodness square rigged replica of the original sixteenth century Magellan ship - without motors, electrical lights, or a gas stove!

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