We’ve had a lot of fun and relaxation anchored off of Port St Charles Barbados. We took the dinghy up on deck to replace an old patch that had started to leak, and then when it was fixed and back in the water we used it without the outboard motor to row ashore to explore, it’s easier to drag up the beach without the 50kg motor. There is an old concrete base at the top of the beach which was a perfect out-of-the-way place to leave it on (until my foot found the broken glass after returning to it in the dark). On Emancipation Day there were a lot of locals on the beach and in the sea, as we rowed ashore we were asked by a group if they could borrow it. Seemed harmless enough, we decided, as they had at least asked and not just taken it. We went on a long walk out of town, to find the gulley called ‘The Whim’. Its a pretty place to walk and very cool with the forest overhanging the road and lots of green monkeys came to investigate the afternoon intruders.
We were pleased to discover plenty of people still having great fun in our dinghy when we got back, in return we were invited to share their breadfruit which they had baked over a fire on the beach, covered in hot pepper sauce it was delicious and we were also given some to take back with us. It was quite funny rowing back to Joy in a dinghy full of sea water and sand, we had spent the day before giving it a good clean out!
The buses have continued to whizz us cheaply across the island, we eventually discovered that the yellow mini-buses and white ‘ZR’ vans not only had more direct routes than the islands Transport Board buses but they play loud reggae music too (much more fun). We spent an afternoon at St Nicholas Abbey and Rum Distillery in the parish of St. Peter, built in 1658 it is one of the islands oldest surviving plantations with 400 acres of rolling sugar cane fields, tropical gullies and mahogany forests. My favourite part (apart from sampling some very good expensive 15 year old rum at US$120 a bottle) was the home movie filmed in 1935 by one of the previous owners who lived in England with staff managing the estate in his absence. The film shows him travelling by ship with his family from Dover to Barbados to visit the plantation, and was narrated by his grandson who found the film 45 years later after his grandfathers death. It was fascinating to see footage of the journey which took them 2 weeks, the ship carried passengers and cargo all of which had to be offloaded into small wooden boats and rowed ashore as the ship anchored off Bridgetown. The plantation was busy harvesting the sugar cane, donkeys and horses pulling the carts, with teams of workers ageing from just 11 years old, boys and girls. It was then processed using their steam driven mill which had replaced the windmill in 1890.
Just before we left to walk the track through the fields to the nearest bus stop, we thought we would have a refreshing local Banks beer at the bar and sit in the cool courtyard – my eyes widened at the request for BB$24 (US$12) for two bottles of beer. We have been paying BB$10-12 for 4 beers anywhere else so this came as a shock to the system.
After two full days of torrential rain we had a very sudden wind reversal in the early evening putting us on a lee shore, despite only blowing at 20-25 knots a very nasty sea state soon followed. We sat for two hours with the engine on ready to go to sea as we horsed and bucked close to shore with its reef and rocky breakwaters seemingly ever closer behind us, the sound of the surf smashing down on them no longer therapeutic but unnerving. Our CQR anchor thankfully didn’t budge, but as the conditions were bad and the risk of ending up on the shore were great if things failed we decided to do shifts on anchor watch through the night, keeping a check on our instruments and gear. A steady stream of nervous local boats passed by during the night and entered the private inner lagoon at Port St Charles to escape the waves. It was a long night. As day dawned and the sea state started to calm we noticed a local sailing boat was missing from its mooring close by, we found it on the beach the other side of Port St Charles. A wooden fishing boat hadn’t been so lucky and had smashed onto the rocky breakwater. Another casualty of this strange weather event was our beautiful sandy beach, half of it had gone creating a large step half-way up the beach (very unfriendly to dinghy-dragging) and a steep ledge of shingle has been revealed at the shore line.
We sailed back down to Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown last weekend ready for ‘Kadooment Day’ (a Bajan term meaning ‘a big occasion filled with fun and merriment’) which marks the end of their 4 month ‘Crop-Over’ Carnival season which celebrates a traditional harvest festival dating back to the times of sugar cane plantations. The 9km carnival procession passes through the streets of Bridgetown, so we joined the crowds at Spring Garden Highway where the street is lined with lively bars, food vendors, and market stalls. It’s also where the procession ends, probably not the best place to have watched from as the participants where pretty hot and exhausted by the time they reached this point. It’s all about feathers, body painting, bootie shakes and bumping and grinding – and of course loud music and dancing. It was excellent for a spot of people-watching and to try some of the local dishes such as fish cakes (more like deep-fried doughnuts with pieces of flaked fish and herbs – we went back for seconds) and macaroni pie.