Our friends on S/V Bahati made our landfall to Barbados a memorable one. Nat, the skipper, met us at our mooring ball holding his South African vuvuzela against his lips to announce our arrival to all the other cruisers in the Port St. Charles area, which happened to be zero! Nat has cruised the Caribbean before and told us to appreciate the solitude of this bay, as there will probably be nothing like it throughout the rest of our Caribbean tour. As the easternmost island in the chain, Barbados is very well placed for a stop on return from a South Atlantic crossing, but most cruisers of the Caribbean start in the U.S. (or charter a boat in the islands) and would have to beat into the wind for many miles to check it out. Anyway, we were really pleased to see our friends from Bahati again and had a great time catching up with them over dinner and drinks aboard their boat. Ever since we officially met Nat in Cocos, we have been tracking him and his various crew and chatting daily on the radio, and he has become one of our favorite new friends. We wish Nat, his wife Betsy, and S/V Bahati a warm congratulations on completion of their circumnavigation! Fair winds on the journey back to Maine.

bahati Saying good-bye to Nat, Betsy, Martha, and Jim (Nat’s sister and brother-in-law)

lone Pura Vida all by her lonesome in the bay

We are moored near the town of Speightstown on the west coast. The people here have been very welcoming for the most part, starting with the customs/immigration officials. The Customs Officer was a kind woman who gave us a booklet entitled “The Secret of Family Happiness” (a Jehovah’s Witness publication) and insisted that we try Banks beer, “the best beer in the world”. The combination of the two statements seem to sum up Bajan culture in an over-simplified nutshell. “Barbados is still a very religious island”, as a plaque near the Speightstown church explicitly states, and it is also the home of Mount Gay Distilleries, who have been operating for over 300 years and make “the rum that invented rum”. 

coming Barbados in a nutshell

Dallas and I caught the bus into the city of Bridgetown yesterday, which has some historical value but otherwise looks like a city designed around the needs of cruise ship passengers – nothing but duty free shops everywhere. We walked through the outlying village to the Mount Gay Distillery for a tour. Mount Gay’s marketing department has managed to make the rum the drink of choice within the sailing community by hosting hundreds of regattas, so Dallas has been familiar with their products for some time. Anyway, the overview of the distillation and blending process, the viewing of the bottling factory (no photos allowed in here, unfortunately), and the tasting of the Black, Silver, Extra Old, Eclipse, and 1703 (aged 10-30 years) varieties made for a very interesting and enjoyable afternoon.

Rum tasting is like wine tasting in that you can’t help but meet people. Even a very small taste of 100 proof alcohol has a way of putting people in a chatty mood! In our case, we befriended a fun couple from North Carolina celebrating their 4th wedding anniversary. Todd was interested in our trip, as he’s been wanting to do the same thing, though Rebecca gets seasick and is not so keen. We asked them for a lift back to Bridgetown and ended up riding with them down to where they were staying in the next city further south (St. Lawrence Gap) to join them for dinner. On the way, we went off-roading in their rental car into a farmer’s field to snag and taste a couple of stalks of sugar cane, as the travel books suggest. (The books suggest getting permission from the farmer first, but we skipped that part.) They then showed us around the Gap, a stylish area on the coast with lots of bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Dinner was fantastic (mmmm, salmon), and so was the company.

mount gay  Lots of laughs with Todd, Rebecca, and bartender Ryan at the Mount Gay tasting bar

Believe it or not, we have done more than drink rum here in Barbados. Dallas has started in on his long list of minor repairs such as trouble-shooting the AIS (no luck yet) and repairing the anchor light. I scrubbed off the collection of green growth that was building above the waterline, particularly on the starboard hull, as the swell came from that side. While I was working, a coast guard boat came by and alerted me to the presence of a whale in the distance. I shouted at Dallas as two whales breached and approached. By the time I got the camera, they had moved further away, but the coast guard guys offered to give us a ride out to where they were. It seemed like their motor scared off the whales as they didn’t breach again until after we motored off, but it was really nice of them to offer, and they showed off the horsepower of their outboards on the way back.whale

We needed a zoom lens for this one

We’ve been here almost 5 days now, long enough to recharge our batteries and have some fun. We’ve decided to set sail today for Dominica. It should be a very short passage (180 nm) by our standards, and we are looking forward to exploring the less developed island.