We had both heard and read about the blues festival on Mustique – or rather about Basil’s Blues Festival, since Basil’s Beach Bar is the sponsor. We thought – what the hell? I mean we’re cruisers and we’ve got nothing else to do. So we set a course for Mustique, a hard sail against the wind and with heavy swells. After months in the Caribbean, we’ve gotten used to sailing downhill and now the uphill slog seemed harder than it actually was, although it was heavy enough.
Arriving, we were met by Berris who came out in his dinghy to tie us up on a mooring ball. What’s this? you ask, A mooring ball? Gotten soft and now you need a mooring? What happened to the hook? Well, it cost EC$200 to lie in the bay regardless of lying at anchor or on a ball. Since a ball takes up less room, we chose the ball.
Most cruisers sail right past Mustique, because it has a reputation about it. Reputation? Mustique is a private island owned by the Mustique Company. The Mustique Company is owned by the house owners on the island. Who owns the houses? Good question. Only the Mustique Company knows and they ain’t telling. This is the haven for the ultra rich. Elton John for one. Sir Mick Jagger for another. USD 10 million will, according to some, buy you the smallest shed that exists on the island. Thereafter the prices go up and reach several hundred millions (or more – no one knows). There are some enormous palaces hidden between the trees on this island. The island is closed to the public for 3 weeks or so at Christmas/new years and the same at easter and for a couple of weeks during the summer. Otherwise, you can freely wander around, although the houses, driveways and lots are completely off limits. Taking pictures of the houses or the house owners or guests is strictly forbidden.¨
Vinni and I have talked a bit about why so many sailors sail around Mustique. We think it is because many think it is expensive, EC$200 for 3 days- although this equates to about US$20 per day – which is not particularly expensive when you think about it. The other reason is that the island is owned by the extremely rich and they keep it as a refuge for themselves.
We don’t want to anything to do with those filthy rich people – yuck!
Vinni and I feel that this is an excellent opportunity for Sir Mick or Elton to be allowed to hob-nob with the likes of us, so we dinghy’ed in to the island. Actually, many of the owners come to Basils in the evening for a beer or dinner and the only thing they ask is that yachtties treat them as “normal” people, meaning they can drink their beer and chat with those sitting around them.
Where was I? Ok, we’d dinghy’ed in to the island, dropped off our garbage (although in these fine circumstances perhaps we should say garbage) and looked around the town, such as it is. There are 4-5 houses and a smattering of sheds and fishermens houses. Of course, there’s Basil’s and then there is a wine and liquor store with a complete assortment of the finest vintage wines you can imagine and virtually every type of hard liquor you can think of – not to mention a humidor with a collection of Cuban cigars that will make any aficionado’s mouth water. The prices, of course, are unworldly. Vinni and I looked, but didn’t buy.
Then there’s the baker and a small supermarket. The supermarket has a much wider assortment than we’ve seen anywhere else in the Caribbean, but the prices weren’t higher than we’ve seen other places.
It had gotten late in the afternoon, so we went home to Capri, made some dinner and hit our bunk – we wanted to get an early start on island wandering the next morning. There’s a path that runs completely around the island – halfway around takes about 3-4 hours. We went round the southern half the first day
What a trip!!!
Our guidebook to the Caribbean had noted that the island was one of the most unspoiled in the Caribbean, with the exception of the houses. There are no houses on the southern half and this part of the island is completely unspoiled! It looks and feels like one of these islands would have been a couple of hundred years ago. Great areas of Mangroves, untouched beaches and a large salt lagoon where a multitude of birds hang out. We saw the Great blue Heron and the Frigate bird – both birds with wingspans of 3-4 feet. But the most fantastic part of the day was the total lack of people – there literally were none.
The east side of the island is unbelievably rugged and harsh, with cliffs and stone reefs. No Way to land a dinghy here. But even here, there were a couple of heart-breakingly beautiful beaches. Inviting as hell, although there were large signs saying there were strong undertows and currents – so swimming, surfing or windsurfing was not allowed.
The beaches clear round the island are picture perfect – bounty land. And there is not a soul on them. The water here is the clearest we have seen in the Caribbean – words like “crystal clear” don’t do it justice. Vinni and I agreed that “transparent” is a better term. It is almost as if the water simply isn’t there.
And Vinni found “her” beach here. It hss everything she has ever dreamed about – even in her wildest fantasy – transparent water, small waves, fine, fine white sand, and little beach hut and sun, sun, sun. She decided she would never leave and spent many minutes trying to find good reason for continuing out in the world. Finally she sighed heavily and said that she could always comeback if the rest of the world disappointed her. Then maybe she could get a job as a maid or something in one of the big houses and that way she could spend all her free time right here on this beach.
We took a little nap, ate some dinner and then went in to Basil’s to hear some blues. Basil’s is expensive, we knew that – but what the hell! – we only live once and we are only going to be here once. The band was not only good they were a kick-ass band that lifted the ceiling off Basil’s. Unfortunately, neither Elton nor Sir Mick came by to listen (or jam). We didn’t see any famous people we recognized, but everyone had a good time and the music really was kick-ass.
Next day, we did the northern end of the island. This end has many of the magnificent homes. Some can only be described as palaces. Believe it or not, Vinni and I managed to get lost twice trying to find the path. But we did find it and we have to say that Mustique was a nature experience we wouldn’t have wanted to miss.
Back aboard the boat, we ate dinner and listened to the blues from the boat. Our boat was just the right distance from the bar – close enough that we could hear the music clearly and enjoy it, far enough away that we also could talk to each other.
There’s fishmarket on Mustique and we stopped by to see what they had – today’s catch was barracuda – which would have been fine, except we had to buy the whole barracuda – that would have been fish enough for the two of us to eat 3 times a day for a couple of weeks. We don’t have a freezer big enough to keep fish – so we asked what else they had. How about live lobster at EC$16 per pound? That’s the cheapest price we’ve been quoted yet, so at US4 per pound we bought the smallest one they had. It was so big we almost couldn’t get it in the biggest pot we have – but by pushing and shoving, I managed to get it down and cooking, 12 minutes later – the most beautiful red lobster emerged from the pot. I went in alone to buy the lobster so I couldn’t resist and went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of Cava – can’t eat lobster without champagne! Unfortunately the Cava was bit on the sweet side – but it was drinkable. So Vinni and sat like kings and queens in our cockpit, eating lobster, drinking champagne and listening to unbelievably good blues.
Yes, dear friends – life as a cruising sailor is indeed tough. Almost too tough for words.
Our 3 days were up, so we hauled our line off the mooring ball, turned Capri and headed northwards towards Bequia to clear out of the Grenadines.
We stayed a night on the hook at Bequia and then sailed north. The sail was hard – very hard. It was uphill all the way and the swells were running 3-4 meters. It became so hard that our “safety at sea officer” (AKA Vinni) mandated lifevests and tethers. It’s been along time since we have had to use all that – we’ve gotten used to sailng in our bathing suits (unless, of course, we’re au natural like Adam and Eve).
We were bound for Martinique but knew there was no way we would get all the way there unless we wanted to do some night sailing – neither of us were in the mood for that, so late in the afternoon, we glided into Marigot Bay and dropped the hook. It had been a long day so after some dinner and some wine – we crawled into our bunk and slept like logs.
Next morning we could see one of the boat that was anchored near us make some strange maneuvers and we wondered if they had problems getting their anchor to release from the bottom. That turned out to be true, because when we raised our hook, the entire boat was watching to see if ours came up (it did without any problem), at the same time, a dinghy came out from ,shore with a diver to go down and free up theirs. I wonder why they didn’t yell over to the 3 or 4 boats around them and ask if any of us were divers. Vinni or I would cheerfully have put on our tanks and gone down. They could have saved the divers fee.
We had one of our best sails from St. Lucia to Martinique. We were on a close reach to board reach the entire time, a wind angle Capri just loves. The swells were true Atlantic swells, only 2-3 meters, but wide, round and with a long period. We simply flew over the waves and we could feel how Capri was happy dancing lightly on her toes across the waters and showing off how much speed she could put on for us. It was such a joy to be sailing like that, that we hand steered the entire way, simply to enjoy the sailing.
Late in the afternoon, we blew into Le Marin bay. We were prepared for seeing a lot of boats (the sailing directions told us that), but not this many. There must be several thousand boats at anchor here.
Martinique is French – so this is like arriving in France (in the Caribbean). Here, you buy baguettes at the bakery (they taste just as good as the ones you buy in France). The supermarkets have almost anything you could desire and the shelves are loaded with things we haven’t seen since we left the Canaries.
This is a paradise for food lovers. Everyone has told us that Martinique is expensive, but we’ve found the prices to be lower than what we have experienced in the southern part of the Caribbean.
Aside from the supermarkets, Le Marin also has 5 chandleries or porn shops, as we boat people like to call them. Also 5 sailmakers and engine specialists etc – so you can find almost anything here.
Here’s how you get to the chandlery and the sailmaker.
This is like coming back to civilization after months in the “bush”.
We’ll spend the next week on Martinique and then head northwards. We’re beginning to feel the time running away from us. If we’re going to make the 100 year celebration on the US Virgin Islands – we need to get moving northwards.