Paradise in the Tobago Cays

Picture that perfect Caribbean beach – soft white sand, photogenic coconut palms, gin-blue water – you know, the sort of beach you THINK we visit every day. For the past week, you’d be right! We’ve spent that week anchored in the Tobago Cays marine park which is the quintessential tropical Paradise. In a “normal” year, during high season, there would probably be 100 boats here fighting over the mooring balls, but in Covid times there are no charter boats and only between four and maybe twenty cruisers each night.

Our park fees of 20ecd per day (around $7.50) allow us to anchor inside a coral reef and next to a sea turtle preserve. We can snorkle right off the boat with these gentle creatures who munch on sea grass all day long, pausing every 5 to 15 minutes to surface for a breath of air. They seem to know they are safe here, and don’t swim away from medlesome humans. Although they certainly don’t look enthused at the sight of us! I’m pretty sure green turtles invented Resting Bitch Face, lol!

On one unusually calm day, we dared to take our little dinghy, Bug, outside the protective reef and into the wide open Atlantic. A journey of about a mile and a half over open water brought us to the beach at Petit Tabac where scenes from the original Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed 🏴‍☠️ This teeny island is absolutely stunning. A narrow point of sand stretches east and a line of waves from the north meet another line from the south forming a mesmerizing triangle of constantly moving water. Our friends on SV LeefNu and SV Holiday joined us for a sunny beach afternoon and for hunting and gathering a delicacy of green coconuts. Add a splash of dark rum and you’ve got yourself a coco loco!

Petit Rameau is the only island in the park to boast any man-made structures. Now we’re not talking hotels or spas. Nope, we’re talking a few picnic tables, a couple of barbeque grills, and a latrine. We paid a “boat boy” 20ec to bring us charcoal from Union Island and had ourselves a fabulous beach barbeque, dominos tournament, and ukulele concert on the beach. I think we beat most island restaurants in terms of delicious food and homemade margaritas and you sure as heck couldn’t ask for a better view!

After being off-grid for about a week, we got a little tired of my boring cooking. Never fear – Romeo and his lovely wife Juliet were there with fresh spiny lobster and they cooked us up a feast! For 100ec per person (around $37) we each had a whole lobster grilled in garlic butter, rice pilaf, grilled potatoes, fresh island veggies, and sweet plantains for dessert. Add in a couple of Juliet’s rum punches, and enjoy the sunset with your toes in the sand, and you have an absolutely idyllic island experience.

This past week has been absolutely perfect and I’m truly grateful to be spending time in this beautiful park. Soon enough, we’ll return to boat chores but this brief stay in paradise has done my soul good!

Winner winner, lobster dinner!

After our tour of the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, our guide George Jeffreys steered his Boston Whaler north in the lagoon to a spot near the ruins of the old Lighthouse Hotel. Capt. Mike and I kind of looked at each other, like “Where’s he going? I thought he was taking us back to our boat” But George found some magical unmarked spot and lo and behold! Raised up a big lobster trap and dumped it in the boat. Silly me wondered whether there would be a lobster in the trap. Well, there were at least a dozen! George used a stick to pull out all of the lobster that were over the legal size for fishing – seven in all. For $15 we had the makings of a wonderful dinner!

Treasures from the deep
George teaching us the difference between male and female lobster

At least we WOULD have a good dinner if we could herd those grumpy lobsters onto our boat, and could figure out how best to clean them and cook them. So Capt. Mike is in charge of sailing, and I guess I’m in charge of killing lobster. I googled “how to clean a Caribbean lobster without tools”, and it goes something like this…. First, put on a pair of work gloves to protect your hands from the spiny bits. Then grab the body of a lobster in one hand, and it’s tail in the other and pull and twist. Drop the body overboard quickly, so you don’t have to watch it twitch or confront the reproach in its beedy little eyes. Save one of the long tentacles because you’ll use it to pull the digestive tract (aka the poop chute) out of each tail. Then rinse well with seawater.

Before all the killing and cleaning
After all the killing and cleaning

I trimmed the soft inner shell off each tail, topped with melted butter, garlic, and Old Bay spice, and roasted in the oven for 15 min. With a side of mashed sweet potatoes, and a fresh tomato salad concocted by Melinda on SV Sava, we had an amazing lobster dinner while watching the sunset.

The finished product! Bon appetit!

And we’re off!

After a wonderful month in Colorado filled with hikes, friends, and margaritas, it’s time to start our real hurricane-season adventure. On July 8th, we became global nomads again, taking the red-eye to Paris, then easyJet to Biarritz, then a bus to the Centreville, to the smallest studio apartment I’ve ever seen.

We only had one full day in Biarritz, but we made the most of it, hiking for miles along the gorgeous coastline, admiring the beautiful architecture surrounded by hydrangeas, and doing lots of people watching!

It was fun to use my high school French again. Thank goodness I can still remember how to order two coffees, and to ask if they have any gluten free bread! What else do you need? That little bit of French came in handy when we loaded up on delicious meats, cheeses, and rillettes for a picnic near the Roche de Vierge – the rock of the Virgin Mary. Her statue high atop this rocky island is intended to protect the fisherman at sea.

I have a feeling this will be the first of many amazing picnics! After lunch, we have in to the call of the sea and got our feet wet. This whole side of the town is simply one beautiful beach after another. Climb up a little hill and down the other side, and another amazing mile of sand appears. We’re trying to beat jetlag by walking it off! Over 20,000 steps today.

That evening, we stumbled into the Wednesday market. (I guess my French isn’t really that good – I translated the signs to mean they were closing the street for a parade. Oops!) So much fun to see the narrow brick streets jammed with people of all ages, and everyone happy, smiling, shopping, and drinking wine. We grabbed wooden platters of sausage and cheese and a couple of glasses of crisp rosé at Least Comptoir du Fois Gras and soaked it all in.

Lest you think we only eat cheese and sausage, never fear! I discovered another food group as a sign posted outside Les Halles market drew me in. A dozen oysters and two very small plastic cups of wine for 10 Euros! That’s the face of a happy Jenn.

I may not believe in jetlag, but apparently it believes in me. We headed back to our teeny tiny little studio apartment before dark, which isn’t quite as pathetic as it sounds because the days are crazy long this time of year. I tried to finish my Duolingo Spanish lessons, but I was falling asleep between questions. So I guess it was time to say bonne nuit to Biarritz.