June was a stressful month where storm warnings were concerned, after two potential threats passed us by we decided to escape the protection of Martinique and sail to Barbados. With the wind a little north of east we set sail mid afternoon to windward once again for the 105 mile bash, heavily laden of course with French goodies. Once out of the channel between Martinique and St Lucia the sea state calmed a little and by early morning we had Barbados in sight, only needing a short tack in the lee of the island to make it to our anchorage on the north west coast at Port St Charles. Jez caught a fish on passage with his new (birthday) fishing rod but as he brought it on deck in the early hours when I was off watch, it siezed the moment noting the lack of crew and with two fins up to the captain he slipped the hook and bounced off the deck into the blue once more. It was pork and rice for supper again.
Checking in at Port St Charles was easy and the officials were super friendly, usually they want the boat docked against their purpose built wooden jetty for check in but it was only about 35 feet long and a little ‘flimsey’ looking for Joy so we anchored off and took the dinghy in. From the first floor of the customs office the officials had a good view of Joy and so this wasn’t a problem for them. Jez asked how long we could stay and the customs officer said ”forever”! I think we’re going to like it here.
The island is about 21 miles long and 14 miles wide with miles of clean sandy beaches and crystal clear water, so its easy to see why tourists flock here. Barbados was colonised by the British about 400 years ago, until they won their independence in 1966 under the leadership of Errol Barrow who became their first prime minister. He is now a national hero and there are many statues on the island honouring him.
Port St Charles is the posh end of the island, with multi-million dollar condos and upmarket apartments, and the very exclusive marina sports a helipad. We swam to the beach from Joy to walk along the coast and explored the small nearby town of Speightstown which has some neat colourful buildings and a promenade with lots of bars and restaurants. It was nice to see plenty of street vendors selling an array of locally grown produce.
After a few days relaxing and swimming we got permission from customs to move anchorages (the coastguard patrols the area and needs to know where you’re going to be) and we sailed down to Carlisle Bay which is close to the capital of Barbados, Bridgetown. Here life isn’t so tranquil with lots of bars lining the beach with competing loud music and jet bikes roar around churning up the water. But its a great place to explore from, as the town has an inner harbour where you can safely dock the dinghy and it happens to be very close to the bus terminal where you can go anywhere on the island for just BB$2 each way, that’s about 80p! So we caught a bus to Hunte’s Garden which is a beautiful botanical garden built in a sink hole in the rainforest, and home to its creator the legendary horticulturist Anthony Hunte. Bus rides are always a good way to observe island life, quaint little wooden houses line many of the streets, mongoose bravely rummage through bins and monkeys play chicken in the road. Once out of town you can see why there is an abundance of local produce with rich orangey brown earth nurturing neat rows of veggies. We saw a well maintained banana plantation and sheep grazing the roadside verges, Caribbean style (very free range), and ‘Sugar Hill’ lives up to its name with fields of sugar cane swaying in the afternoon breeze. The gardens were well worth visiting.
Situated in Carlisle Bay is a small marine park with a few wrecks creating artificial reefs. We tried snorkelling it as our scuba tanks need refilling but they were too deep so we swam over to an area where some tour boats were all congregating with lots of people in the water, thinking there must be something worth looking at there. Then we spotted a turtle, then two, then a huge turtle came straight up to me and looked me in the goggles. I reached out and stroked its shell (naughty I know but too tempting and he didn’t seem to mind) disturbing the thin layer of green algae coating its back. The tour operators feed them here, and as a result they are friendly and inquisitive. It was fun even though it goes against the grain a little.
Another bonus of being in Carlisle Bay is each morning we get treated with horses swimming out from the beach almost to the boat, usually three are brought out each with a handler to exercise in the warm waters. We walked from Bridgetown to find the race course yesterday, situated in the historic Garrison area just outside town, and their next meet is this Saturday so we are looking forward to a day at the races before we sail back up to Port St Charles to explore the north of the island and in particular the rum distillery, weather permitting of course.