Sunday, July 13, 2008

Day 5 (Wednesday)

I awoke early on Wednesday morning, and as is my habit while on holiday, I went out onto the veranda to have a look at the island in the first light of the day. After inspecting the coastline and horizon and satisfying myself that paradise was still intact, I lounged in a chair and enjoyed the view. The skies looked promisingly clear with only a few scattered clouds, and the winds were significantly calmer than the previous day. If the weather held out, this could be our day dedicated to playing on that sliver of sand known as Sandy Island. As I daydreamed about the day’s plans, I fell back asleep in the chair. There’s nothing like an early morning nap on the veranda.

About 8:30 a.m. I woke Laura and excitedly told her how the weather had improved. She agreed that we needed to go to Sandy Island, especially since we did not know what the weather would be like for the remainder of our trip. I suppose that one could go to Sandy Island regardless of the weather conditions. However, our plan was for the whole family to snorkel the day away. Our children are still a bit younger and none of us are anything more than an advanced novice with a mask and snorkel, so we do not want the weather to make the effort any more challenging than what it may be already.

We arranged for a boat to take us from Paradise Beach to Sandy Island. ‘Dee-vis’ (Davis?) had a good-sized boat with outboard engine that was more than sufficient to do the job. His cost was EC$150 for a round trip for the four of us and all our gear. That may seem like a high price, but we considered it reasonable in terms of costs from the States, especially since Davis came highly recommended as a trustworthy service. By 10:00 a.m., we had our snorkel gear loaded on the boat and we were on our way for the short ride to Sandy Island.

The distance between Paradise Beach and Sandy Island is about one-half mile, with water depths no greater than 40 feet and more typically at 10 to 15 feet. On a calm day, there are some who enjoy covering this distance with a brisk swim. We were not up to that challenge, regardless of how calm the water was. About half way to the island, we were surprised to rather suddenly meet-up with a middle-aged couple swimming back to Carriacou. This encounter highlighted one of our main concerns with swimming between the two locations; safety. There is a fair amount of boat traffic through this area, and some of the boats are quite fast with powerful engines (such as the large inter-island ferries). The ‘bobbing heads’ of the swimmers were rather difficult to see in the small waves and they easily could have become the victims of a serious boat versus swimmer accident.

By 10:30 a.m. we were on the island and preparing our snorkel gear. We were thrilled to see that Sandy Island was the new home to several small trees and other native plants. The west side of Sandy is now very well protected by a natural seawall made of broken coral that was washed-up by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Apparently, the coral cap is actually a bit longer in length than what the island was before it was devastated by Hurricane Lenny in 1999. This natural breakwater helps to protect the island from strong seas from the west and has made the island slightly longer. If the young trees continue to grow and the visitors respect and care for the site, Sandy Island may come back stronger than it was before.

The marine life around Sandy Island has certainly made a come back. The ocean floor in the shallows to the east of the island have begun to host many small sections of live coral, and the fish that live about them. With a wind-aided current that was moving north to south, we were able to easily drift along the coastline and walk back along the beach to make the trip again and again. It was an astounding snorkeling adventure, as we saw many types of fish, both large and small; some in absolutely huge schools that must have held hundreds if not thousands of fish. We also spotted a couple of rays, but no turtles as Laura had hoped to see. It was an amazing experience and it left a great impression upon the children.

Davis arrived with his boat right at the agreed-upon time, and we returned back to Paradise Beach in the early afternoon. We spent the next few hours resting from the morning activity and talking about the sites that we had seen. We also discussed dinner plans and got out our trusty reference, Chris Doyle’s “Sailors Guide to the Windward Islands”, to locate the correct phone numbers.

Our first call was to the Roundhouse Restaurant in Bogles; a very favorite of ours, but since it is priced at the high end of our dining budget, we limit ourselves to visiting here only once during our holiday. After a couple of attempts, we received an answer on Phil and Roxanne’s mobile phone and learned that they have limited their hours during the low-season and are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Our next selection was the Green Roof Inn. They were excited to accept our reservation for dinner and we made plans to be there at 7:00 p.m.

Everyone got cleaned-up and dressed in some nicer than normal clothes. That prompted Laura to get out the camera and exclaim “It is time to take photos!” We all took turns posing for the camera to help record some memories of our visit to Carriacou. The family is a bit camera-fanatic, but not to the extent that it rules our vacation. With everyone equipped with some sort of camera, the family winds-up taking a lot of candid pictures throughout our holiday. It is entertaining to see what each family member considers photo-worthy, and the kids in particular bring an interesting and creative perspective to the lens.

We left early for the Green Roof Inn to run some errands in Hillsborough. First was a stop at the ATM for some more cash. Then the Shell gasoline station. Gasoline prices are high in the States, and here too on Carriacou. Regular unleaded gasoline was selling for slightly more than EC$13 per imperial gallon, and our EC$60 barely put the Geo Tracker’s small tank at three-quarters full. After fueling-up, we stopped by the Hotel Laurena and spoke with Honor Newton to strike a deal for WiFi access for the duration of our stay on Carriacou. Although there is quite a bit of free WiFi service available at certain locations throughout the island, none others were conveniently accessible from our villa, so this type of deal made sense for us. Finally, we were ready for dinner at the Green Roof.

The Green Roof Inn has guest rooms, restaurant and lounge. It is a fine dining establishment on the upscale side of restaurants on Carriacou. It is in a great location, conveniently about one-half mile north of Hillsborough on the main road, definitely within walking distance if you are staying in town. The dining area overlooks the Hillsborough harbor and south along the island’s coast. On this night the air was warm and humid with absolutely no breeze whatsoever. The fueling barge and work boats on the smooth-as-glass harbor water offered a wonderful silhouette against the setting sun. Unfortunately, the lack of wind also made it easy for the no-seeums, called rain flies by the local residents, to wander-up from the adjacent beach. The bugs became rather thick, so we requested our dinner to-go and enjoyed a delightful meal back at the villa. The meal was only about EC$30 each, with drinks adding a bit more to the total cost.

The evening weather was a bit unusual based on our experience on the island. It was the first time in our memory that the wind was virtually non-existent so early in the evening. The lack of a sea breeze made it a rather uncomfortable night as the humidity and flying insects both seemed to hang on you. Thank goodness our bedrooms were equipped with ceiling fans and bed nets.