Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Union Island Death March

The day before the March...Great sailing day just knocking off the 5+ miles from Carriacou to Union Island. We had a good plan for this. Instead of coming out of Tyrell Bay on the west end of Carriacou and just trying to lay Union Island (ain’t going to happen. Bearing is about 40 degrees and even in an east wind there is the 2 knot current flowing west. ) So we ducked east along the coast of Carriacou, motor and main, and got our easting in down there where you are somewhat protected from the current. Once we got to the northern tip of Carriacou we full sailed and tried to make our way to Clifton, the main town on the eastern end of Union Island. I’ll have a separate post on what happens when you are trying to tack into a current but for now let it be said that we sailed nicely but still couldn’t lay Clifton. So, we motor the last half mile.

If you look close at the picture you can see Mismo peeking out from under my shirt. That's where she likes to ride sometimes when we are underway!

Clifton is where the customs house is and this is Friday we want to get anchored there and check in before the weekend. The bay by Clifton is unusual. It is sort of horseshoe shape due to a reef right in the middle of the bay. We came in on the western leg and stopped at a marina to take on water. The popular anchorage here is just to the west of a large reef - so between two reefs. Nice and flat water. We tried to anchor twice and couldn’t get the thing to stick. Once that happens I am out of there because even if it does stick now I’m only gong to think about the two times it wouldn’t. All night.

By the way this trying and then re-trying is a bit of an adventure with some real wind and shoals and other boats. When we weighed anchor that morning it was great. With plenty of sea room and light air, Sue can stay down in the v-berth and organize chain into the chain locker as I crank it in with my new manual windlass. When the anchor is up she comes back to the helm and drives the boat. Here in Clifton though that wasn’t completely possible. After some cranking I’d either be blown too far off the anchor to be able to haul it or we’d be getting too close to other boats. In either case Sue would have to leave the v-berth and run to the helm. This was repeated about 6 times until we finally left. Sue was so happy with all of this!

On to Chatham Bay on the west coast of Union Island! Some of you may remember that I had the pleasure of stopping here when I crewed on Fleetwing a few weeks ago. Great place. Of course we dined at ‘Shark Attack’ the nice man that grills fish and lobster and a bunch of other great food. We probably had enough food for 4 or 6 people! Understand that in Chatham bay there are no roads and no electricity. Lanterns are set out and all the food is prepared on the charcoal grill. Only 3 or 4 boats in the whole bay and just us and a table of French people at ‘Shark Attack’. A perfect end to a great day. . .not counting the anchoring!

So we didn’t check in and are technically in St. Vincent (Union Island is the most southerly island of the Grenadines which are all part of St. Vincent.) waters illegally. This is no big deal and we’ve done this before. You go in the next day and say you arrived after they were closed. It’s all cool. But, the customs house is in Clifton and we’re in Chatham bay. Now a number of people have told me that you can walk from Chatham Bay to Clifton. Seems like a long walk but I’m game. Sue’s ankle is still not 100% so she stays back while I venture off.

Now a sane man would at least glance at a map before he took off. An intelligent man would take one with. But the man that once put a spinning top on his head only to lose a hunk of flesh and hair just marches off thinking …”How hard can it be”?

Actually I had asked one of the workers the night before where the path started and he told me behind the bar at the end of the beach. Right. Well there was a path there. A rock and cactus strewn path that went straight up a hill. Good thing I had a half a grape fruit for breakfast! Holy hell! If this is the path to Clifton I’m done now! But at the top it leveled off and there was a wide dirt road. Cool. Even better! The dirt road turned into a concrete road. Wheeee…..

I came to a fork in the road. Well, it seemed to me that I’m walking toward Clifton roughly and have Chatham bay on my right and want to keep it that way so I take the right fork. I’m hoping I don’t have to double back. After a few minutes I hear a bell and a bicycle rider is coming behind me. I ask him if I’m on the way to Clifton. He nods and just points his hand straight ahead. OK, got it.

I came to a fork in the road. On the left the road doubled back on itself and headed north and maybe even west. I want to go east. The other fork, well, was not a road. It was a trail. But it seemed well marked. I decided to trust my innate sense of direction and March off into the woods. (Remember that sentence.) That is the steep-and-rock strewn-with-sharp-things-grabbing-my shirt-and-hat woods.

Actually it was a pretty hike. I could tell I was still climbing, climbing. Finally I came to an open area. I guessed I was on top of one of the large hills around here. I searched for the continuation of the trail but it was hard to find. OK, there it is. I continue on. Hey I’m going down for a change. That’s cool. Hey, there’s some boats anchored down there. What anchorage is over on this side of the island? Hmmmm…..Hey there’s a fishing boat just like in Chatham Bay. And. . . Oh no. . There’s Enee Marie! I’d been hiking for an hour and a half and I’d gotten myself back to Chatham Bay. OH man…..I’m still no where NEAR Clifton!

I hike all the way back where I chose dirt instead of concrete. Brilliant. I follow the concrete into the town of Ashton which is good as that is on the way to Clifton. Unfortunately I march right past the road to Clifton. As I pass a couple of young boys the one is quick to tell me that his island is very beautiful and there are nice walks to be had. I tell him I know and that I’d just been on one. Hmmm...just to make sure I ask him if I am indeed on my way to Clifton. NO he says and points back the way I’d come. Yeah, I missed the road by a good mile. Back I go.

Now I’m on it. The road to Clifton! This is one of those walks now where you come to a turn hoping to see city around the corner and all you see is more road. And goats. Road. Goats. More road. I’m dying.

I finally make it into town and accomplish all my missions. Checked in with customs at the air field. Got money out of the money machine. Bought some groceries (but not much cause I might be carrying it all the way back too!)

Well, there’s no way I’m hiking back. I’m pretty sure I can’t retrace my steps and not sure I’d even want to! So, I talk to a taxi driver and ask him how much to get me as close as possible to Chatham Bay. 20 Ec. . . About 8 buck. OK!

At the top where I took the dirt instead of the concrete he even shows me and easier way down rather than the rock and cactus strewn path I took up. My knee is screaming and I’m cut from nettles. My shirt is sticking to me and I’ve torn my hat. It’s noon. I’m done.

Sue spots me walking along the shore and picks me up in dinghy (which is leaking air by the way). Oh man what a GREAT swim I had once I got back on Enee. I’m still not sure how I got so screwed up but I know I’m NOT walking back to Clifton any time soon.

It's a few days later now and we are in Mayreau about 5 miles north of Union. More adventures to come! Thanks for all the comments. Keep 'em coming!


LeahC said...

that walk sounds *crazy* and super frustrating. I know when I get lost because my inner compass gets screwy puts me in the best mood. good thing in chicago everything is numbered nicely :)

Anonymous said...

"Two roads, diverged in a woods, and I, the idiot...." I think it goes something like that.

Rich P

Anonymous said...

You call it the Union Island Death March. Us desk bound northern sailors who are still waiting to put the boats in the water call it paradise.

Waiting to Launch in Lake Michigan