Back with Bandit
Our kiwi friends David and Brenda were there to greet us. We had said our farewells to Bandit last April in Santa Marta, Colombia when they carried on west to Guatemala and Balvenie turned south down the Colombian coast and onto Panama. It was great to catch up with them again. In French Cay there is quite a sailing community, daily activities were announced on a morning radio net ~ evening potlucks, pizza nights, yoga classes, games afternoons ~ the list went on. We decided against the US$50 pp “Bash on the Beach” for New Years Eve (but did enjoy their fireworks display) and instead we had a potluck gourmet meal on board Balvenie with Bandit and Samarang and popped open a bottle of Vevue Clicquot Champagne to celebrate in style the arrival of a New Year.
New Years Holidays
We spent several days in the protected anchorage sitting out some very gusty winds. We kept ourselves busy while the wind howled through. Snorkelling on the fringing reef was rewarding, the variety of fish quite good although low in numbers, some of the coral was alive and vibrant with exquisite purple fan corals swaying with the underwater current. Inside the reef within the marine park area the seabed was teeming with lobsters, some not at all shy and savvy enough to come out from under their rocks to be hand fed, they know they are safe here. One afternoon we visited the nearby Iguana Farm home to hundreds of Iguanas of various ages and sizes. These reptiles are truly prehistoric looking, hard to imagine what our planet must have been like with creatures that look this scary in monster sizes roaming around freely millions of years ago. Some of the residents here are over 25 years old ~ they all looked ancient. Like the lobsters, they just seem to laze about waiting to be fed by another tourist – not a bad life!
We took a day tour of the island on a day when the winds had eased. We drove up along the spine of the island with 360 degrees panoramic views. The brightness of the green land colours against the many shades of blue across the reef and out to sea backed by steely grey storm clouds made a spectacular vista. We ventured east to the settlement of Oak Ridge, a small harbour side village that tourism hasn’t yet touched, basic wooden houses perch over the water on wobbly looking wooden piles, dilapidated verandas with peeling paint completed the picture, time appears to have stood still at Oak Ridge.
It’s quite the opposite at the other end of the island, West Beach is the main tourist destination, white sandy cove, very cute waterfront road lined with tastefully restored and colourfully painted wooden buildings, verandas framed with overflowing flower baskets, all housing bars and cafes, chic clothing stores, tourist and dive shops ~ quite a contrast to Oak Ridge, but it really did have a laid back restful holiday feel to it. A little further south west is West Bay, a couple of large generic resort properties have the monopoly on the beachfront real estate, looking around you could be in any number of beach holiday spots worldwide, pleasant enough but not much local character.
We had seen all on offer on this island paradise, so waited another couple of days for the squally weather to settle down, then we lifted anchor, tiptoed out of the anchorage, pointed the bow west once again and flew off downwind.