After being thoroughly bored watching the cricket for four days we returned to the task of repairing the boat and making her ready for our next trip to Tobago, but we wanted to see a little more of Barbados before we left. Even though we will be moving north again after the hurricane season in the autumn, Barbados is a little too far east for a comfortable journey back there so we will not be returning, just making our way up the Grenadines.
We also said a temporary goodbye to friends Steve and Hilary from yacht Modestine who we had first met in Mindelo. They had come been in Bridgetown for over a week but were now leaving for Trinidad. They hadnít enjoyed the passage much either and hope to sell their boat over here sometime, although they had never intended to do the return trip.
We did manage to do a few touristy things in the next two weeks in between the boat maintenance. We walked around Bridgetown one day, visiting the historic Garrison area. The old parade ground, the Savannah, is now grassed over and is a 6 furlongs race course. The buildings surrounding the race track were built in the 18th Century from bricks brought as ballast in ships from England. Some of these have been refurbished by Government offices and commercial organisations, while others remain derelict.
One of these buildings, the former military prison, has been turned into the Barbados Museum, which has a series of galleries displaying natural, local and military history, as well as a reconstruction of a prisonerís cell.
Also on the savannah is George Washington House, where, as a 19 year old, he stayed for two months in 1751 when he accompanied his sick older brother to Barbados. This is the only time Washington left his homeland and Bridgetown was the largest town he had seen! He unfortunately (or fortunately) caught smallpox while in Barbados. He became immune to the disease on his recovery, which probably saved his life as there was an outbreak of smallpox during the American War of Independence which killed many men.
We took the bus across the island to the hamlet of Bathsheba on the wilder east coast of the island, an area truly beautiful, and walked along the beach for some way, photographing beautiful green-backed herons hunting for morsels in pools. We visited the Andromeda Botanic Gardens there which have wonderful views along the coast. We unfortunately found out afterwards that Martin lived nearby but managed to catch up with him at work on his boat Phoenix one day and bought him a beer at a beach bar back in Bridgetown.
We visited the Four Square Rum distillery one day, and were given an enthusiastic tour by our guide Dawn, who afterwards gave us a lift in her car to the nearby Sunbury Plantation House which is over 300 years old and elegantly furnished in colonial style.
After Sunbury we caught the bus down to Oistins, which is the main fishing port of the island. There is a large fish market where you can see ladies expertly filleting flying fish at tremendous speed. While we were in Barbados, it was International Womenís Day and there was a photographic exhibition in Bridgetown featuring eminent Bajan women. One of the photos depicted a lady who had worked in Oistins fish market for 65 years! She must have been fast! There is a famous Ďfry-fryí here every Friday night where locals as well as tourists flock for the famous flying fish sandwiches.
Another day we again took a bus, this time to Harrisonís Cave, an outstanding series of caverns, waterfalls and pools deep beneath the limestone cap. You are taken into the system on an electric Ďtrainí and, again, the guide was enthusiastic and informative. From there we walked to Welchman Hall Gully, and followed a numbered trail down the gully through various types of trees and plants. There are supposed to be green monkeys here but we missed the feeding time so didnít see any. This and other gullies on the island were formed when the roof of a limestone cave collapsed. It was cool and pleasant to walk through on a hot day!
We had met an American couple, Joe and Michelle from Michigan on their boat Peregrine in the bay and went with them one day to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve where we DID see green monkeys, along with red-footed Barbados tortoises, Red Brocket deer, Patagonian Mara, caiman and iguanas. There is an aviary containing many parrots and love birds, also an area containing snakes and turtles. You had to be careful as you walked along the paths not to trip over a tortoise as they wandered freely in the 4 acre site. Mike turned one over which had fallen onto itís back.
There is a nature trail and early 19th Century signal station in the nearby Grenade Hall Forest but we didnít have time to see it as we had to catch the last bus back to town!
We also went with Joe and Michelle to the Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve on the west coast for some snorkelling but when we got there the bay was closed to swimmers due to a heavy swell. Pat has just, after all this time, finally learned how to snorkel without getting a mouthful or maskful of salt water at every breath! There are some wrecks in Carlisle bay which attract fish so we had to make do with that for the present.
Came the day when we had to say goodbye to Joe and Michelle and to Barbados and we left for the 118 mile journey to Tobago on the 24th March. This should, in theory, only be an Ďovernighterí but as it turned out, we had hardly any wind at all the first day and were sailing against the current, so we finally reached Charlotteville at lunchtime on the 26th, 48 hours after we began. The journey was OK this time, although we rolled quite a lot and we broke one of our Timanfaya drinking glasses, boo hoo!
We dropped anchor in a tropical rain shower and were soaked to the skin immediately. Mike managed to catch some drinking water in empty pop bottles so that was OK, together with the fact that everything is as dry as a bone within half an hour of the rain stopping!
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) are one country just off the Venezuelan coast, yet they share little of the culture of South America. When they were first discovered they were inhabited by Amerindians and both islands changed hands many times before Trinidad was finally ceded to Britain from Spain in 1797.
Tobago has changed hands even more. The first settlers on Tobago were Latvians who arrived in 1642. They were overpowered by the Dutch in 1658 who were ousted by the French in 1672. The island changed hands between the Dutch, French and British many times until it was finally handed over to Britain from France in 1802. It became a Crown Colony in 1877 and was amalgamated politically with Trinidad in 1888. By some reckonings Tobago changed hands 29 times!
In 1962 T&T became independent and are similar in culture to the other English speaking Caribbean islands, although Trinidad in particular is ethnically more mixed than any other island. Tobago was primarily a sugar island like Barbados and most of itís population is of African descent. It is similar in size to Barbados but with only a fifth of the population and with many less tourists is much quieter. It is only 26 miles long and 9 miles wide and is a favourite holiday destination for Trinidadians, not unlike Madeira and itís holiday island of Porto Santo. Unlike Porto Santo though, Tobago is rich in flora and fauna.
Charlotteville is a tiny fishing village on the fine horseshoe shaped Man Of War Bay at the north west corner of the island. There are basic facilities ashore but we are able to buy all we require. Mike met one of the local fishermen, Joe, while he was ashore looking for diesel and they ended up having a beer together and he invited us to go to a Thanksgiving party being held on the Sunday at the house of a local politician! We had to wear our best clothes for this grand event. Apparently, each village on Tobago has a Thanksgiving Sunday (each different, so they go on all year) for their community, where everyone goes visiting with friends and neighbours, taking food and drink and having a jolly good time. We visited 4 houses in all in the village of Hope Betsy, including the politician, a young lady named Tracy, and various relations of Joe. We ate goat, pork, chicken, iguana and crab with a variety of root vegetables. Pat had to start drinking Coca Cola long before we reached the final house!
We walked along the shady path to Pirateís Bay the second day we were there. A short walk but interesting, through banana trees and with many houses on stilts hidden along little pathways in the forest. We have seen parrots flying freely in the trees near our anchorage, also Brown Pelicans, Magnificent Frigate Birds, Red Billed Tropic Birds, Southern Lapwings and many others which we canít identify yet. The bird life on Tobago and Trinidad is more diverse than any other Caribbean islands due to them having been part of the South American continent millions of years ago. Also, many birds migrate here for one season or another, and also pass through temporarily on passage. We hope to have a guided tour of the rain forest here before we leave.
Joe took Mike fishing on his pirogue boat one day and they came back with 2 King Fish. Mikeís face was a picture as he posed for photos!
The only internet access in the village is in an internet launderette so we are uploading this monthís update while our smalls are being decently washed for a change!
It is two years exactly to the day that we left Sunderland. It has been an amazing journey and we have seen so many places and met so many wonderful people, both sailors and locals. Many thanks to all of you for making this an unforgettable experience.
See you next month.