When we first started thinking about going to Carnival in Trinidad, I seriously considered joining one of the big masquerade bands. Even contemplated squeezing my middle-aged white bum into one of those sequinced and feathery bikini costumes. But then I did a little bit of research and learned that it costs around $1,000 usd to join a band. More if you want feathers. Yikes! So instead, we joined a few friends and bought tickets at a restaurant on “The Avenue” where we could watch the parades from comfort and it was perfect!
As opposed to the “Dutty Mas” of J’ouvert, Tuesday’s parades are “Pretty Mas or Bikini Mas” Folks choose a band to join and choose the simple “Backline” costume or more elaborate “Frontline” costume. It’s called “Playing Mas” (short for masquerade) In addition to the standard costume, many women buy colorful sneakers or boots, and wear elaborate sparkly makeup. Add a backpack of feathers and maybe a headpiece and it makes for a colorful joyous spectacle.
If you’re gonna play mas in Trinidad, you’d better have some stamina! Bands “chip” and “wine” their way through downtown Port of Spain all day long, dancing and bouncing to soca. The parades are fueled by local rum and local delicacies such as doubles and shark and bakes. I’m not sure how they manage to keep up the energy in the hot tropical sun!
Some bands avoid bikini mas, and instead wear elaborate costumes that tell a story or depict some of the history of Carnival. The larger, grander costumes are feats of engineering and take the entire year to design and create. It’s really pretty amazing to be there in person to see them “on da road”.
By the afternoon, some partyers get tired of their heavy costumes and leave them behind. Our gain! We had a lot of fun trying on the castoffs!
There’s a competition for the Road March – the most popular and most frequently played soca song in the parades. Our favorite “Come Home to Me” came in third place. We were robbed!
Last Sunday, our very good friend George Thompson drove us over three hours from his home in Underhill, VT to a Howard Johnson in Williamstown. I gotta tell you, it’s a very strange feeling to see that car drive away and be left in a strange town, wearing one set of inappropriatly casual clothes, with a small pile of “stuff” and to be left on our own!
Day 1- Mon 8/30 Williamstown to Seth Warner Shelter
2.8 miles (+6 extra miles) After breakfast at the Moonlight Diner, we walk two miles through Williamstown and North Adams to get to the Appalachian Trail (the At and the LT are the same trail for about 110 miles) Then we hike an uphill 6 miles to finally arrive at the Vermont line, and the official start of the Long Trail! I’ve got the First Day Blues (sore toe, bad knee, heavy pack, mud, slow going). It’s very humid today – clothes soaked through and sweat dropping. Rain started AFTER we arrived at shelter, Yay! Usually we’re not so lucky. Stayed in the shelter with a couple from St Pete doing AT, with trail names Shortcut and Adams.
Day 2 -Tuesday 8/31: Melville Shelter
13.3 miles, 19,600 steps. Better mentally than yesterday, but harder! Didn’t get started until 8:40 and hiked almost until 6pm. Nice view of Bennington, then steep, rocky downhill to Rt 9. Steep climb back up to the shelter. Last 3 miles were TOUGH. Shared a shelter with bunk beds with Backwoods
Day 3: Wednesday 9/1 -Kid Gore Shelter, 12.8 miles, 32838 steps
My Bad Big Toe Joe
I’ve named my broken/healing big left toe Joe. Joe the Toe. (My right big toe is quieter and much less needy. He doesn’t have a name)
Joe didn’t hurt quite as much today as he did the previous two days, and I’m not sure why… – Maybe because today’s hike was a bit easier and my pack a little bit lighter? – Maybe the Mobic medicine is finally kicking in? – Maybe backpacking is actually good physical therapy – who knew? – Maybe taking all these steps every day is deadening the nerves that carry pain messages from my toe to my brain? Who cares, I’ll take it!
Joe is slowing me down though. I’ve noticed that with a bum toe, I don’t push off with my back foot and stretch out my stride as I hike. Instead, I just sort of prance along; up and down, up and down, and it’s not nearly as efficient. Also, I’m super careful where I place my foot with every step, especially on steep downs and rocky terrain. By no means do I want to risk landing Joe-first! So between the two effects, I’m literally the slowest north-bound Long Trail hiker this year. In three days, I haven’t passed a single hiker, and I’m always the last person to arrive at the shelter. Shame on you, Joe!
(Rained from 2pm to morning with the remnants of hurricane Ida. My hiking clothes blew off the line into the mud overnight, so I started the day soaking wet.
Day 4 Thursday 9/2 – Stratton Pond Shelter 15 miles
I have no problem stomping right through any clear, clean, running water. Streams, Creeks, Rivers… I’m in! But, color it black and call it mud? Suddenly I’m a delicate sugar plum fairy, dancing from root to rock, desperate to avoid falling in and hearing that dreaded SCHALURP
Day 5: Friday 9/3 Pinnacle Lodge near Manchester Center 11 miles
I suspect that I only like backpacking for the town stops. I don’t like being cold, dirty, and wet. But…I love the way a hot shower feels after five days of being cold, dirty, and wet! One night in a hotel to clean ourselves up and get a good night’s sleep, now it’s back out to the trail!
Warning – for the next three weeks, this sailing blog will be pre-empted by the trail journal of my end-to-end hike of the Long Trail in Vermont.
Instead of The Grenadines, we’ll be walking 273 miles from Williamstown, MA to the border of Canada. Instead of the gin-blue waters of the Caribbean, you’ll see the emerald greens and deep earthy browns of the Green Mountains. Instead of Jenn and Capt. Mike, we will henceforth be known as Dingle and ToeJam.
Way back in March 2020, we said to ourselves, “Let’s just sit tight through this Covid-19 thing, and we’ll be able to cruise again next year.” Cue 2021, and we’re STILL sitting tight and waiting for the world to open up again and to let us travel freely again. I’ve seen a lot of friends recently posting warm weather travel pictures on Instagram – and you’re mostly visiting US states territories such as the USVI, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or the Florida Keys. So you get it! While travel is possible again these days, testing costs and quarantine requirements still make travel between countries tricky and expensive. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself that we made the right decision to spend five whole months in the Grenadines 😜
June 1st is the official start of hurricane season in the northern hemisphere so after our extended farewell party circuit of the Grenadines, we dug out our boat paperwork, To-Do lists, and links to government websites and started planning our trip back to Grenada. On May 1st, Grenada issued a new policy stating that fully vaccinated visitors could bypass most of quarantine. Hooray! Instead of the two-week quarantine we performed last year, vaccinated visitors just need to get a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Grenada, submit a bunch of health forms and documents, get tested again on arrival in Grenada, and quarantine on the boat until we get negative results from the arrival test – from 24-48 hours. This makes a lot of sense, and hopefully will allow the Caribbean islands to fully reopen to tourism in the fall. We used the two weeks after our second shot to say goodbye to all of our favorite places, as described in my last post, and then I went to work planning for a smooth transition between countries.
Sunrise on Monday May 10 found the crew of Sanitas at the dinghy dock in Bequia, heading to the hospital for our “leaving SVG” Covid test. These tests must be processed manually in a lab on the main island. Test appointments are super early so that the nasal swabs can be put on a ferry and sent north to St Vincent. It sounds so logical but… island time! Capt. Mike and I sat on the ground in front of the tiny hospital from 6am until about 7:15 when we handed over 104ec per person (around $40) and finally were taken into an air conditioned shipping container and got the old swab up the nose. Our test didn’t make it on the first ferry, but they must have made it on the next one – we were thrilled to get our test results via email first thing Tuesday morning. By that time, we’d sailed back down to Union Island, the southernmost point available to clear out of SVG.
Negative test results in hand, I pestered the ports authority in Carriacou until they replied with an email granting us permission to sail to Tyrell Bay exactly five months to the day after we cleared in. How crazy is that? We cleared out on exactly the day our cruising permit expired and made the short nine-mile sail south. The travel gods continued to smile on us, as we passed our health assessment quickly, and before we even made it back to the boat, we got called back for our “arrival in Grenada” Covid test. Before noon on Wednesday, we settled in cheerfully on Sanitas, making the best of our 48-hour wait for results and freedom.
What do we do to occupy ourselves while confined to a teeny boat during quarantine? Well, I’m obviously catching up on blog posts 😀 We cooked up some comfort food treats, like homemade gluten free pizza, and a delicious steak dinner. We reviewed our To-Do list for prepping Sanitas for hurricane season, and started to check off a few items that could be performed in advance. We did more planning; booking our haul-out date and an apartment, and even booking flights back to the US. We binge watched a young adult fairy romance series on Netflix (don’t ask how the algorithm decided we’d enjoy that one) and rewatched both seasons of Derry Girls. We even (and this is a little pathetic in retrospect) packed go bags. So if we heard the Port Authority call us over the VHF radio, we could simply pull on our nicer “customs and immigration clothes”, grab backpacks stuffed with boat paperwork, wallets, and swim suits, and after clearing in we’d be all set to walk over to Paradise Beach to celebrate our freedom. But… Thursday crawled by. And Friday morning turned into Friday afternoon. And other boats in the quarantine anchorage started calling the ports authority asking when we could expect results. About 4:00 I got an e-mail addressed to “Dear Captains” stating that they hadn’t received our test results, so we’d have to stay in quarantine through the weekend. Say what? Our 48-hour quarantine just turned into five days. I didn’t bring enough Netflix or sweet and salty snacks for that much time!
Capt. Mike and I took turns being grouchy and then optimistic all weekend. We have a rule in our marriage that only one of us is allowed to be in a funk at a time. We polished stainless, wiped down closets with mildew killer, ate the rest of our cheese and crackers and chips and cookies, and somehow made it until Monday. Finally, at 10:30 we got the call on the radio to come in for our health clearance certificate. As I write this, it is 11:30 Monday morning, exactly 5 days or 120 hours after our supposedly 48-hour quarantine started. We brought our health certificate over to customs and immigration across town to FINALLY check in. The customs officer told us they are open from 1pm to 3pm. The officer must have seen my face, ’cause he said “ok, I know this is a stressful time. I can process you now” I gotta say, I’ve had my fill of Island Time for a while 🤣 We’re official now, and planning to sail to Grenada tomorrow. Phew!
Just before the La Soufriere volcano erupted (life is now measured in BV, and AV) we spent three nights anchored off the private island of Mustique. Why three? Because the Mustique Company charges 220ec (about $82) per mooring ball, whether you stay for one night, two nights, or three. And the crew of Sanitas always get our money’s worth!
Mustique is definitely “Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous” If you’ve watched The Crown, you know that Princess Margaret owned a home here, and visited for decades. Bryan Adams, Tommy Hilfiger, and Mick Jagger own homes, and several large villas are available for rent to the very wealthy at around 40,000 per week during the winter high season. Only small private planes can land here, and the rif-raf is definitely kept out. Except for us, lol! We’re considered “yachties” and we are allowed limited access to this beautiful island. ⛵🌴🌄 Of course our first stop was the world famous Basil’s Bar, clinging picturesquely to a wooden dock over the blue, blue water. It’s a lovely beach bar, decorated with carved wood, rattan lamps, and antique musical instruments. Unfortunately, we arrived one day too late for the weekly Wednesday “jump up” of live island music. We watched a mediocre sunset while sampling tasty but obscenely expensive cocktails and burgers. It was a bit of a shock seeing the menu in US dollars rather than in ec. Well I did say I wanted to see how the other half lives – so far, I think they get ripped off, lol 🤣
The mooring field in Brittania Bay is beautiful with tons of happy healthy sea turtles swimming around. We visited with Zach and Lindy on SV Holiday, and we shared this large bag with only two other boats. Unfortunately, it can also be rolly here. On Friday morning we experienced an insane roll as if we were sailing in one of our most difficult passages – we think caused by the volcano’s first seismic activity.
Visitors, like us yachties, are welcome to visit the amazing gourmet supermarket, gift shops, and a few restaurants.
Sean at the mooring office told us “When you see a Private Property sign, you turn around!” We didn’t realize how quickly we’d hit one of those signs on our attempt to go for a walk along the waterfront. Pretty much every road that heads inland from the bay is marked Private. 😡
Most of the island is kept natural and undeveloped, and I’d read about beautiful scenic hiking trails. So I wrote to Sean and asked very politely if we could do a hike to the southernmost point on the island. He said yes! As long as we stayed away from all homes, and didn’t take any photos of residents or their villas.
At this point in our stay, the volcano had started erupting, and the sky was grey and full of ash. So maybe, just maybe, going for a hike and breathing in all that crap wasn’t the smartest idea. But remember my goal of getting my Mustique money’s worth? We could feel the grit in our teeth and ended the hike with black streaks of dirt in our elbows and arm pits, but I honestly think it was worth it.
Rich people islands have gorgeous hiking trails! Great signage, mowed grass, and beautiful stone steps to climb the hills. In a distance of less than three miles we changed environments from bird watching in a blind on a salt pond, to a moonscape of exposed rock and cactus. We also glimpsed gorgeous wild beaches, of white sand on the Atlantic side and of black volcanic sand on the Caribbean side.
So is it worth visiting Mustique on a sailboat? Honestly, I guess it depends. If you follow royalty or you’ve always dreamed of rubbing shoulders with celebrities and CEOs, it’s probably the cheapest and easiest way to get here. I didn’t feel very welcome here; it felt more like we were just being tolerated But I have to say, Sanitas has anchored in many equally beautiful harbors where we could anchor for free. And I’ve enjoyed delicious barbequed lobster on the beach for the cost of a burger and a beer at Basil’s. Since we’re spending five months in The Grenadines this year, we’ve set a goal to visit every inhabited island in the chain (and some uninhabited!) so I think Mustique was worth a stop, especially with our lovely hike included. But if you’re here on a brief charter, or if the weather is bad, or if you prefer to spend 12ec for fruit juice and sunset rum instead of $20…. I’d probably pass 🤪