Our plans to leave Mindelo by mid January came to nought as we sat out gale force winds for a few days.
We took advantage of the delay by visiting the only ‘resort’ area on Sâo Vicente, Baia das Gatas, just a few kilometres from Mindelo on the north coast. We had seen huge sand dunes from the sea as we approached the island and when we got there it consisted of a man-made lagoon fronting some quite palatial houses and a couple of bars. Most of the houses are weekend retreats for rich residents of Mindelo. We had intended to swim but even the lagoon was choppy and the seas outside tremendous so we gave it a miss. On our return journey, the bus driver took us along to where the present road ended beside the dunes, which were pretty large, and extended a long way along the coast in between barren tracts.
So off we set on Saturday 24th January for the 2,000 mile journey to Barbados. With a lot of trepidation we may say. Even though we have already covered 2 and a half thousand miles on our trip so far, this was going to be the longest time at sea and the journey was going to take between 16 and 20 days.
We left Mindelo in company with other yachts who were heading for Brazil and the Caribbean and we never saw any of them again. We saw only one yacht in the distance while we were at sea and a total of 4 ships, all seen at night.
We had really good weather all of the way except for a few squalls but the sea was quite rough for the first few days and then the misadventures began to happen. Mike will fill you in on all the details on his page, but suffice it to say, we didn’t enjoy the crossing at all.
We were doing quite well to begin with and were managing 125 -135 miles a day, which would have meant reaching Barbados in 16 days but it was 19 days later when we limped into Port St Charles.
Barbados is the easternmost Caribbean island with a population of 286,000, and is one of the most prosperous of the islands. It is 21 miles long and 14 miles wide at its widest point. It is primarily a coral island therefore the rainfall filters through the limestone into underground reservoirs providing natural drinking water. The earliest inhabitants were Amerindians as shown by artefacts but was uninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1536 and named ‘Los Barbados’ after the beautiful fig trees which grew on the island, which have long beard-like tendrils. It was claimed and settled by England in 1625 and the first settlers arrived in 1627. It became independent in 1966 and is now a well developed and stable democracy.
Barbados is one of the most British of the Caribbean islands, with red telephone boxes and UK food in the supermarkets (hooray)! It was primarily sugar plantations which provided the wealth of the island in colonial days but the main source of income now is tourism. The island is shaped like a slightly tipsy pear with the south coast containing the main tourist areas. The east coast, open to the Atlantic, is less built up, quieter with more rugged scenery, while the west coast is typically Caribbean, all white sand and palm trees. The interior is more rural, with rough pastures, woodlands and sugar cane plantations. The highest point, Mount Hillaby, is only 340 metres, quite a change from the Cape Verde’s and Canaries.
Our first port of call, Port St Charles, is a luxurious marina on the west coast. We anchored and checked in on Thursday 12th February, assisted by Lori’s friend Martin, who kindly brought us a gift of fresh fruit which we gratefully received. This marina is private, with room for a few visitors on the breakwater, but El Lobo would have definitely ‘lowered the tone’ in our bedraggled state. There wasn’t room for us in any case so we were happy to anchor off.
We had managed to foul our propeller on the journey (see Mike’s Page) so the first job to do was to free it. Martin again came up trumps and arranged for Dwaine from the local diving school to come out and do the business. This part of the island has large, luxury hotels along the tree lined beach and is typically Caribbean.
We stayed in the area for a few more days, primarily because the engine wouldn’t start, but also we liked the nearest town, Speightstown, the second largest on the island. Holetown, further down the coast, was the original landing place of the first settlers and we visited there too on the local bus. Pat managed to get her hair cut by the hairdresser Alana in Speightstown, who very kindly let us do a load of salt encrusted and crummy washing in her machine at home. A really nice girl. Thanks again Alana .
The buses are similar to those of Guernsey, in some respects. You pay $1.50 for each journey, no matter how far. You can take the official blue bus or the ‘reggae’ bus, bright yellow, which is privately owned and plays loud music the whole time. We must be getting old as we only took the ‘reggae’ bus once! Too loud!
On the 20th February we left to sail down to Carlisle Bay at Bridgetown as the swell was getting up and it is more sheltered there. We still had no engine but managed to sail from the anchorage and down the coast all right. When we got to Carlisle Bay, however, the wind was strong and right in our face so, after vainly trying to reach the anchorage, we had to call for assistance and the coastguard’s rib arrived and towed us in. We were a bit embarrassed but we might have ended up in Tobago ahead of schedule otherwise! We thought we might have to pay for the tow but, like in the UK, the service was free. We gave the four lads a (warm) beer each and they were happy. Thanks again to the Barbados Coastguard.
Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and is a mixture of old and modern buildings. It is also the home of the famous cricket ground, the Kensington Oval, and unknown to us beforehand, England were in the West Indies for a test series and they were due in Barbados while we were there. Well, we had to stay for the match, didn’t we. We aren’t quite part of the ‘Barmy Army’ but we bought a season ticket for the 4 days and really enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole thing although the cricket was less than scintillating
We want to see the east coast of the island before we leave so will be hopefully having a day out or too in between the ‘work’ days.
See you next month.
Photos below as usual.