Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mustique, the island of the ultra-wealthy; May 2007

On May 2, 2007, we sailed a whopping 13 miles from the nearby island of Bequia to Britannia Bay on the island of Mustique. We picked up a mooring at 12.52.728N; 061.11.316W.

Notes to sailors about this area: The charts indicate there is a flashing light twice every 15 seconds on the buoy that marks Montezuma Shoal just east of Britannia Bay on Mustique. The buoy is still in place but there are no lights on it so don’t sail at night around here until you have confirmed the location of this shoal; many boats have hit it. The charts also indicate a flashing light once every 40 seconds on Petit Canouan. That light is also no longer working. However, there is a really bright flashing light that almost looks like a slow strobe light. It marks the casino Donald Trump built at the posh resort Raffles on the northern end of Canouan. You would think it is important to keep lights functioning on reefs that have sunk several boats, but beware because there are no longer lights to warn you away from these dangers.

Boats less than 70 feet in length are not supposed to anchor at Mustique; instead, they are required to pick up a mooring ball. The moorings are very sturdy and well maintained but they do not have pennants or painters. You must attach a line through the eye on top of the mooring ball. Bill used our heavy wooden boat hook to literally pick up the mooring ball and raise it high enough to run a line through the eye and then dropped it back into the water while holding onto the line. He cleated it off and we were set. Chris Doyle’s sailing guide does an injustice to Mustique because he says that it will cost $75 for a mooring for 3 nights; he fails to mention that it is really $75 EC – which is less than $30 USD for 3 nights on a mooring. That is a very, very low price for a mooring and we are glad to pay it. Chris also mentions several times in his guide that the bay is rolly. Well, it is; but it is a gentle “rock me to sleep like a baby” type of roll.

Bill had called Basil’s from Bequia and made a reservation for dinner tonight. Basil’s normally has a “jump up” on Wednesday nights but not tonight. That was fine with us because we knew what we wanted to eat at Basil’s – LOBSTER! Hard to believe that we have been on this boat for a full year and have not eaten lobster even once. After we arrived in Mustique we went ashore and visited the bar in Basil’s for a quick beer and to confirm that they had our reservation and that lobster would be available. Affirmative answer from the bartender to both questions.

So we donned our best attire and arrived a few minutes early so we could enjoy cocktail hour before dinner. I finally tried a Sex on the Beach (I know, a decade or two late in this). It was made with gin and Cointreau and passion fruit juice and tasted darn good. Should have tried this drink long ago. Bill stuck to his normal Hairoon beer (local beer of St. Vincent). Then we learned that the restaurant manager had made a last minute decision that they would serve a buffet tonight, so no menu service. There went our lobster dinner! Neither of us likes buffets so we opted not to eat dinner at Basil’s tonight after all. We made a reservation for tomorrow night and confirmed that they would service regular menu service; then returned to BEBE and had leftovers for dinner.

Early the next morning found us walking around Mustique. We wanted to get started on our walk before the day heated up. We had planned to pick up pain au chocolat and croissants at Sweet Pea Bakery for breakfast, but when we arrived we found that they were closed for the entire week. Tuesday was Labour Day in SVG and several businesses used the excuse of this one holiday and closed for the entire week. We walked about two hours and saw everything that we wanted to see; reviving memories from our last visit so long ago.

Last time we were on Mustique we walked all over the new house under construction that belonged to Mick Jagger. It reminded us of a Japanese jigsaw puzzle, as it was built somewhat like a maze. There were long hallways that connected separate bedroom suites to a main house; very unique. His original house was also there on the grounds – a tiny wooden pier-and-beam house raised a couple of feet off the ground. And his large trampoline under the palm trees that he used for exercise. There was a great view of the sea and some rocky tiny islands. We wanted to see if we could find this house again. The bartender at Basil’s told us last night that Mick had been on the island for quite some time but had recently left.

We walked through the grounds at The Cotton House, the most exclusive and nicest hotel in the entire Caribbean. There have been many new homes built since we were last on Mustique. There were only 27 homes when we were last here. They belong to people like Princess Margaret, Raquel Welch, Mick Jagger, and other celebrities or rich and famous people. Today there are more than 90 homes on Mustique, and they are all really nice and very large. I particularly like the white one on top of the hill on the southwest tip of the island; looks like a version of the Taj Majal when viewed through my binoculars from our cockpit. Mustique is a very well-kept island. The other difference we found is that there are “private drive, please do not enter” signs all over the place. We stayed strictly on the roads or paths that were not marked as private. We found what we think is Mick Jagger’s house – or at least a similar styled house in the location that we remembered.

Nearby is an empty small lot that is not marked as private, so we walked out to the beach. And there we found what appeared to be a stone bench located beneath the palm trees and facing the sea. It was a beautiful location and the bench appeared to be placed so that one could sit and watch the ocean under the shade and enjoy the breeze. Turned out that this is a gravesite for a man who was a sailor. On the seat of the bench is engraved the poem about “a sailor home from the sea” and the back side of the bench is signed by what appeared to be his grandchildren. What a lovely location for a final resting place for anyone who loved the sea.

Bill was entertained most of the afternoon. He became the self-appointed mooring line helper for arriving boats that looked like they needed assistance. Some boats could handle picking up a mooring ball with no painter attached, but most could not. Have to remember that there are a lot of charter boats down here with people who are not experienced with all facets of boating life. Bill would watch a boat approach the mooring field and see how they intended to handle the situation. If they were obviously confused or short-handed, then Bill would jump into the dinghy and go help them attach lines to the ball. Gave him something to do and people to talk to. He also was entertained by a girl on the beach. The couple are apparently staying someone on the island, not on a yacht. A driver brought them to the nearby beach and left them there for a couple of hours. After swimming the girl walked back onto the beach and promptly stripped out of her swimsuit and not is a modest manner. She pranced around a bit as if she were on a stage and then donned a cover up top. Stunning girl and provided Bill with entertainment.

Looking forward to our special treat lobster dinner tonight. cWe are considering this our anniversary dinner to celebrate our first full year living aboard.

Early yesterday afternoon a British yacht arrived and dropped a huge anchor about 40 feet behind our boat – right inside the mooring field! He dropped that anchor to the inside of 5 moorings. Bill happened to be in the dinghy assisting another boat moor, so when he finished with the first one he went to the Brit to see if he wanted any assistance. Bill thought the Brit was just putting down an anchor to hold the boat in place while he took his dinghy down from the davits so that he could do his own mooring line. But this was not the case; the Brit intended to anchor – right in the middle of the moorings! Talk about poor seamanship, not to mention safety issues and simple rudeness. The Brit said he planned to drop far back (he didn’t; he ended up lying aligned evenly with the last mooring ball). Yachts longer than 70 feet are allowed to anchor, but only well behind the mooring field; yachts smaller than 70 feet are required to use moorings. This is a requirement for conservation reasons to protect the marine life and sea bottom. Yachts that are anchored are still required to pay the $75 EC conservation fee, same as if on a mooring. So it made no sense that this guy was anchoring right in the middle of the mooring field since he was going to have to pay anyway.

Bill: “I think they will make you pick up a mooring.”
Brit: “I don’t think they can make me use a mooring. That isn’t legal.”
Bill, smiling and with a shrug, and motoring away: “It’s Mustique.”

I was concerned about where he had dropped his anchor and the fact that he did not let out enough scope and was lying too close to moored boats. Anchored boats swing on their anchor lines differently than moored boats swing on mooring balls. The anchored boat has a much greater arc of swing because he has longer scope. If the winds had changed during the night as so often happens then that Brit would swing into one or more moored boats. But he was far enough away from us that our boat was not in any danger, so we let the situation alone. Not our problem.

Before we went in for dinner last night Bill watched the harbor master do his nightly rounds to each boat to collect the conservation/mooring fees. The guy on the British yacht spoke with him for awhile and then the harbor master handed over a piece of paper. The British guy did not pay but did accept the paper from the harbor master.

We went into Basil’s and didn’t give the Brit a second thought. Basil’s is open air like most Caribbean restaurants, and it is built out over the water. We were seated at a corner table with a beautiful view of the bay as the full moon was rising. While we were enjoying our cocktails (another Sex on the Beach for me; I’m developing a taste for that gin and passion fruit juice), Bill noticed that the arrogant Brit was pulling his anchor. Only thing we can figure is that the harbor master gave him a copy of the local laws regarding anchoring and conservation fees in Mustique; the guy still refused to pay; and the harbor master said that he would have to leave. We watched his stern light as he sailed away toward Canoaun in the darkness. Can you believe that someone on an expensive yacht would chose to sail away at night rather than pay less than $30 USD and stay on a mooring for 3 nights? Makes no sense to us. Sheer arrogance: nobody-is-going-tell-me-what-to-do type attitude.

We enjoyed our lobster dinner. It was a real treat and grilled perfectly. For those who don’t already know this tidbit, lobsters are basically marine arachnids, meaning that they are sea spiders or sea bugs. Sounds yucky to think that you are eating a spider, but the darn things taste so good! We definitely prefer the warm-water Caribbean lobsters over the traditional cold-water Maine lobsters.

We also had a little surprise. Our waiter used to work as the bartender on 2 of the Windjammer cruise routes that we sailed back in the 1980s. What a small world. His name is Aussie and he has had a number of jobs in a number of different places since then. Funny that we should run into him here. Bill remembered him well because Bill spent a lot more time in the bar on the Windjammer cruises while I was prone in our cabin due to seasickness. Aussie told us about several of the other Windjammer employees who have since passed away – like Ingrid who worked in the dining room on the POLYNESIA and Offshore Eddie who was old even back then. Offshore Eddie was a real character. He was a master sailmaker and could repair sails by hand and could make basically anything from canvass or sailcloth by hand. He worked on the Windjammer ships for living quarters and all the food and rum and beer that he wanted to drink. A real old codger who did not want to give up his life on the sea.

Aussie explained to us the employment arrangements of working for Basil’s. The workers are provided with housing, food and even uniforms. They must remain on Mustique and work for 30 days and then they are allowed to leave the island for 4 days. Kind of reminded us of a modern version of slavery, but the workers seem very happy with this arrangement.

BTW, I bought a small container of sour cream yesterday. Cost $9.80 USD for a container of about 6 ounces. Good thing that Basil’s provides meals for their employees because they certainly could not afford to buy their own food on Mustique.

Later on May 4…….

The sail was so nice that we skipped right by Canouan. We decided there was no good reason to stop there. Bill had bought a loaf bread in Mustique this morning so that was taken care of, and we had no intentions of visiting Raffles resort or casino; so why stop? Then we heard a hail on the VHF “BEBE, BEBE, BEBE; ALLELUIA!, ALLELUIA!” Our friends Tito and Roberta were on their way from Bequia to Tobago Cays and could see us. We decided to sail on to the Cays rather than stop in Mayreau.

So that is we where we sit this afternoon. Sailed 20.5 NM in F5 conditions on a broad reach. The way sailing should always be. We are at 12.37.890N; 061.21.385W in the heart of the beautiful Tobago Cays, anchored behind the long southern reef with less than a meter of water beneath our keel and facing the Atlantic Ocean.

Oh, one other thing about today. When we approached the Cays there were several boats arriving at the same time so we were forming into a line to pass single file in the narrow passage between the 3 islands. Two boats ahead of us in line was the same British yacht that had refused to pay the mooring/conservation fee in Mustique last night. He chickened out of the tight and shallow passage and we all had to wait for him to turn back and re-track his course. This boat has no name on it, but it was definitely the same boat. He has 2 wind generators mounted way out to either side on the stern; the boat is easily identifiable; and we want to avoid him as much as possible. I think it is funny that the arrogant expert was afraid to negotiate the difficult passage and turned around. Later we drove around the area in our dinghy and saw that this boat had anchored right in the middle of the very narrow channel between the 3 islands. Hopefully he will be gone before we are ready to leave, because he is now completely blocking the channel. We have dubbed this man the Anchor Guy.

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