Date: 16 January 2014
Position: 12°35.738N 061°24.746W, Clifton, Union Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines
The DS and I were collected from Mina2 at 0930 by Gary on his brand new diving catamaran and taken to the dive site for our first PADI Open Water dive. Diving at a modest 10m, it opened up a completely new world of coral of every description and exotic fish of every shape, size and colour. By the time we surfaced we felt like Mr and Mrs Cousteau.
We then went off to dive site No 2. The DS decided not to do this dive, fearing an exacerbation of the sinus problem from which she has almost recovered. But I went down alone with Gary and went through a number of training exercises like taking my breathing regulator out of my mouth, chucking it away, finding it again and putting it back in without drowning, and then flooding my goggles with water and then evacuating the goggles with air from my nostrils without losing my contact lenses (less successful). After that we went for a saunter round the coral reef, Gary pointing out a spectacular Lion Fish with extraordinary plumes, and a small Moray Eel that was poking its head out from a hole in a rock, waiting for an unsuspecting fish to pass by. Anyway, half way to getting the basic Open Water qualification, and the Caribbean is stuffed with some of the best dive sites in the world, so hopefully a lot of fun to be had.
No sooner were we back on Mina2 than we had to cast off for our next passage to Union Island, the most southerly of the islands of St Vincent and the Grenadines. As we arrived at the extremely crowded anchorage in Clifton, the main harbour, we were approached by a couple of small boats who aggressively started touting for business by offering us a mooring. Moorings are anchored ropes which you simply tie up to, rather than putting down your own anchor. Problem 1 with moorings is that you haven’t a clue how strong they are and there have been numerous reports of moorings dragging, and Problem 2 is that you can be charged quite a lot for using them. Might not be problems for someone in a charter yacht, but definitely a no-no for me.
One of the boat boys got the message, whilst the other one persisted in yelling at me the entire time the DS was actually in the process of deploying our own anchor. A bit of a distraction. I certainly don’t mind paying boat boys for services I need and indeed for occasional services I don’t need – these are very poor communities and it is a way of putting a little bit back – but aggressive touting which in some places start up to two miles from the anchorage is what we are going to have to get used to by all accounts.
However when we had finished our anchoring and it was clear that we really and sincerely didn’t want a mooring, ice, diesel or an extremely large lobster that he was holding up, he give us a grin and a cheery wave and went off to harass another yacht that was coming in.
We went ashore to clear into the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines with customs and immigration at the airport, which was short strip of tarmac only five minutes walk from the anchorage. All the bureaucracy was sorted efficiently and politely in less than half an hour. What a relief after the horrendous bureaucracy of South America where you had to allocate up to a whole day to go through the process.
We then went for a walk around the small town. Reports we had were that this was one of the least attractive islands in the Caribbean chain, but we found it rather charming with a little village square lined with colourful wooden huts where friendly smiling traders were selling local produce.