Six Characters in Search of Summer Cruise a Warm Winter Sea

Jan. 21, 1963
Jan. 21, 1963

Table of Contents
Jan. 21, 1963

Point Of Fact
A Season For Discovery
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

Six Characters in Search of Summer Cruise a Warm Winter Sea

It isn't exactly easy to get from the cold northland to the Grenadines, but that is certainly a major part of their charm. It is also the reason why so beautiful a group of West Indian islands has remained almost unknown to American travelers

Two thousand miles south of the nearest snowflake, the island of St. Vincent rises dark and green as a giant breadfruit out of the turquoise Caribbean. A halo of cumulus crowns its peaks, once active volcanoes that now reach harmlessly almost 5,000 feet into the sky. The vegetation is lush and tropical, with bananas, coconut, bamboo, poinsettias, bougainvillaea threatening to choke the valleys and lower slopes, while the cliffs above are overrun with shrubs and flowering vines. Down the mountains and through the forests tumble streams of crystal water to find their way eventually to the coves and bays that indent St. Vincent's shoreline like a knuckled fist.

This is an article from the Jan. 21, 1963 issue Original Layout

The water of the coves is as clear as any mountain stream, but here the resemblance abruptly ends. Violent shades of green and blue flash from the surface, and beneath grow the coral reefs, white and orange and mustard, where fantastically colored fish weave in and out among giant sea fans a fathom, two fathoms, 20 fathoms down. At dawn and dusk, feeding schools of bonito and jack crevalle shatter the serenity of the surface, slashing like some Marineland gang at the small citizens who live there, the great flowing schools of finger-long baitfish. Then the bonito and the jack are gone as suddenly as they come, and the water of the cove is broken only by the concentric rings sent shoreward by a rolling tarpon, rings that break gentle as a liquid breeze on the fine white sand of the beach. A shower moves across the mountains, settling the dust on the narrow roads beneath the coconut palms, along which a native woman walks barefoot with a load of bananas on her head. Far out past the protecting headlands, the bamboo mast and flour-sack sail of a fisherman tending his pots make a silhouette on the sea.

Recently, in one such cove named Cumberland Bay, a man lay across the cabin deck of a blue-hulled yacht and observed, in enchantment, the things about him. It was December, but he wore only a pair of swimming trunks. If the sun became too warm, he could always dive into the water, or row the dinghy ashore and lie on the beach beneath the shade of a palm. Or he could simply remain where he was and wait for a shower, as inevitable as the sun itself, to come along and offer relief. So, for a long while, he did nothing. Then he sat up, his arms encircling his legs and his chin on his knees.

"When we get home," he said, "I think I'll sell the house and buy a boat."

"O.K., Sinbad," his wife said, "but before we set out around the world you might take a course in seamanship first."

"Just a short course," the man said. "I'm only going to sail this far. Then I'm going to drop anchor and never move out of this spot for as long as I live."

It is a vision that soon or late infects us all, or at least that portion of mankind beguiled by islands awash in the sun, and although we generally succeed in pushing it away in favor of some such practicality as earning a living, a segment of the dream always remains. Because of this, Nassau and Jamaica and Puerto Rico and St. Thomas have long been overrun, and now the gathering ant trail of tourism is threatening the upper reaches of the Lesser Antilles, too, an army marching down to meet another coming up from Trinidad and Barbados below.

It is almost a miracle that one beautiful group of islands remains relatively untouched, in fact almost unknown to Americans, islands protected somehow by the very barrier of larger, more famous neighbors on their perimeter and the blessing of runways too short for jet aircraft. These are the Windwards, the West Indies islands immediately south of Martinique: St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada and those scattered emeralds in between, the Grenadines.

Lavish resort facilities are the exception here—some of the Grenadines do not even have people—and gourmet dining is almost unknown, but if there exists a spark of romance and adventure inside, this is the place to go. A cruise through the Windwards aboard a comfortable sailing vessel, completely independent of what lies ashore, can be a pure delight. It can be done in 10 days if one is pressed for time and two weeks at leisure. It is not a cheap vacation, but neither is it terribly expensive: $1,500 a couple, perhaps, including air transportation, with three couples sharing the cost of a charter. And, afterwards, what a gasser at a cocktail party: "What were we doing last weekend? Why, skin diving in the Tobago Cays. Wasn't everyone?"

The reason that everyone wasn't is that it isn't exactly easy to get there from here. We left Idlewild on a miserably cold December afternoon, three couples from Long Island sandwiched aboard a British West Indian Airways 707 bearing the Barbados police band home after a five-week engagement at Radio City Music Hall. When we landed at Barbados, only three hours behind schedule, a cheering crowd of thousands was there to meet us. "Radio City Heroes," the signs said. Of our 13 pieces of luggage, five went on to Trinidad.

We spent the night in one of Barbados' plusher hotels. Outside, a peculiar West Indies breed of cricket screeched like a banshee, keeping most of the island's dogs awake and getting the roosters up at 3 a.m. At 4 a.m. the telephone rang. It was B.W.I.A. "Your 7 a.m. flight to Grenada will be late," said the cultured English voice. "How late?" we asked. "Possibly 9 a.m.," said the local Macbeth. Between B.W.I.A. and dawn there arrived one very large mosquito. "To heck with it," we said, and went downstairs to search for coffee. We found Jerry instead. "No coffee," he said, "but the rum punches are great. Say, did you have a mosquito in your room?"

Our flight finally left at noon, stopped briefly at St. Vincent and continued on to Grenada, down the 60-mile length of the Grenadines. We emerged, our noses flat from pressing against the cabin windows and wonder in our eyes. "What gorgeous islands," said Debby, Jerry's wife. "Just think, that's where we're going to be."

We weren't there just yet. The Windwards are volcanic in origin, and by some geologic logic all of the volcanoes sprouted along the western, or leeward, sides. Because the steep cliffs and irregular shoreline thus formed offer the best anchorages, the major towns were built there. The only level land occurs on the eastern sides of the islands, however, and it is here that the airports are located, 10, 15, 25 miles away. For more than an hour we twisted and turned through the mountains, up the wrong side of the road, our progress heralded by a continuous blast of horns from the two local taxicabs, through banana and nutmeg and cocoa bean groves, over the top and down the other side. Brilliant red and yellow flowers grew everywhere; so did small boys who had neglected to put on their slacks. Around a final curve we skidded, and down into the twisting streets of St. George's.

"Would you stop at the first clothing store, driver?" Barbara asked. "My things are all in Trinidad."

The driver looked around. "Sorry, mo'm," he said. "Stores are closed on Thursday."

Five or six large sailing vessels rested in the harbor. "If that blue-hulled one isn't ours," said Dick, "let's all go home." She sat there at anchor, her mainmast soaring 65 feet into the sky, her gleaming sides reflected in the water, her deck scrubbed, her brass on fire. Through Jerry's binoculars we made out the name on her stern: Eleuthera II. We stood on tiptoe and waved like castaways. "Yoo-hoo, Eleuthera," my wife screeched. "It's ahoy," said Dick. "Ahoy, Eleuthera" Charlyne yelled. A figure appeared on deck, took one look, courageously jumped into a dinghy and came ashore. He was about 35, slim and sunburned, with a small mustache, thinning hair and a rather shy, appealing smile.

"Morris Nicholson," he said, extending a hand. "I'm very happy to see you. Shall we go aboard?"

The Eleuthera is a 60-foot auxiliary ketch with a 78-hp Mercedes-Benz diesel inside. Named after the island in the Bahamas, she was built in 1954 at a cost of $80,000 at the Rasmussen yard in Hamburg, Germany, from an Alden (Boston) design for G. H. Koven, a New Jersey industrialist. Nicholson, who is English, has been her captain since she came off the ways; the other member of her crew, a Spaniard named Jaime, has worked his magic in her galley for six years. She flies the American ensign at her staff and the burgee of the New York Yacht Club at her truck, but she has never touched a U.S. port, having spent most of her life in Majorca or the Greek islands or Canada or the Caribbean. The varied national origins of the boat, builder, designer, owner, captain and cook lend a certain international flavor to the Eleuthera that one never quite escapes while aboard.

She sleeps six in relative nautical comfort, eight in only minor discomfort: two in the owner's cabin aft, two in a bunked cabin on the port side, two in the narrow crew's quarters in the bow, and two in the spacious salon, or deckhouse. The only trouble with the deckhouse is that its occupants have no private bathroom—pardon, head. Furthermore, early risers from either of the other cabins must troop through to get topside. In bad weather, meals are also served in the salon, but only once in 10 days were we forced inside to seek refuge from a squall while dining. The rest of the time we ate in the cockpit on a large table built to fit snugly into brackets between the wheel and the mizzenmast.

Dick and Barbara, the last aboard, won the salon. "Tough," we said. "That's all right," said Dick, "I'm an early riser." "Yeah," said Barbara, "early in the afternoon. Don't worry. The entire British navy could sail through here at dawn and he wouldn't hear a thing." We stowed our gear, took off our shoes, wiggled our toes and had a cold beer.

"This may be your last chance in some days to find decent accommodations ashore," said Morris. "The new hotel out on Grand Anse beach is rather lavish, I hear." We looked at each other. "Are there crickets in Grenada?" we asked. "Crickets?" said Morris. "Why, yes, I believe there are." We shook our heads. "We would rather sleep on the boat." The captain seemed pleased.

It was too late to go far, and since B.W.I.A. had assured us that the missing luggage would be in St. George's next day, we decided to cruise to a small bay an hour away on Grenada's south shore. We purred out of the harbor, past Grand Anse and its white sand, around Pointe Saline, decorated by a black-and-white-striped lighthouse, past the old whaling station on Glover Island and, with the depth-finder blinking away at steadily decreasing intervals, slid smoothly into Prickly Bay.

We dropped anchor 100 yards from shore in 20 feet of water that must have been poured from a bottle just the day before, and went for a swim over the side. Debby, who had never been underwater with a face mask, was entranced by the underside of the boat. "I never knew all that stuff was down there," she sputtered. "It looks like an iceberg. I always thought boats were flat on the water, like one of my daughters' drawings." Jerry looked at her. "It's called a keel, dear," he said.

Before dinner we ran ashore in one of the dinghies (the Eleuthera, fully equipped, has two, one for show and one for bouncing off coral beaches) and said hello to a man on a pier in front of a very modern house built on the side of a hill. "We hope you don't mind us parking in your front yard," we said. He smiled. "Not at all. You're very decorative out there." We had dinner (baked bonito, Spanish style) by candlelight in the cockpit. The moon came up at 8:45, barely an arm's length away, and turned Prickly Bay into a twinkling sea of light. "I wonder what the folks are doing back in Green Bay, Wisconsin," Jerry asked.

Next morning a spoon and a feather jig, trolled back and forth across the bay for an hour behind the 3-hp outboard, produced no strikes. Morris, a superb seaman and congenial companion, was a complete flop as a fishing guide; his sympathies, we later decided, were with the fish. So were Barbara's. "Didn't the great anglers catch anything?" she asked. "We released them," I said.

Back in St. George's we found our luggage waiting, and also an answer to why fish don't bite. An American shopkeeper told us there were plenty of fish around. "Barracuda, tarpon, kingfish, bonito everywhere," he said. "Bonefish, too. I see them when I skin-dive, and when I first came down here eight years ago I used to try to catch them. I fancied myself an angler then. But they would never hit anything. There's just so much baitfish in these waters that the big ones aren't hungry. Maybe somebody will figure it out someday, but right now, if I want a fish I get him with a spear."

While Morris shopped for fresh lettuce, a search that went on for 10 days, the rest of us mailed postcards, bought straw hats, bargained for souvenirs and dodged into doorways to escape the quick tropical showers that came down every few minutes. At noon, when everything in town closed tight for two hours, we retired to The Nutmeg, a pink stucco building on the waterfront that specializes in chicken, steaks and the local lobster, which really is langouste, or crayfish. Lunchtime, we found, was a bad time to eat lunch. In Grenada, restaurants seem to close two hours at noon, too. During the meal it rained 12 times. "Must be a record," Jerry suggested. "Not at all," said Morris. This is the dry season. Shall we get under way?"

We went north along the lee coast of Grenada, our sails drying in a light breeze, the diesel rumbling softly underneath. Upon clearing David Point we picked up a fresh easterly, the prevailing wind for this region at all seasons, shut off the motor and began working our way toward Carriacou, the first large island of the Grenadines, some 20 nautical miles away. The Eleuthera, on a close reach under full sail, heeled over to port and her speed moved up to six, then seven knots. As we gained the channel the green water turned to blue; whitecaps appeared and spray freckled our faces in the cockpit; flying fish fled before Eleuthera's plunging bow, sailing off on their gauzelike fins to disappear in a splash hundreds of feet away. Half of the passengers went below to their bunks. "Haven't got their sea legs yet," the survivors explained. Presently one of these disappeared, too. The Eleuthera was in danger of turning into a floating flophouse. Barbara shook her head. "Not me," she said. "If I'm going to be sick, I'll do it right here."

"Have any of you done much sailing?" Morris asked, perhaps to take our mind off the chop. I admitted to limited small boat experience. "Dick was on Weatherly" Barbara said. "Oh?" said Morris. "Yeah, he took a picture of Bus Mosbacher one day." "Oh," Morris said. He turned the helm over to me and went forward to trim sails. "She handles great," I told the captain on his return. He looked a bit embarrassed. "Well, actually," he said, "I left her on autopilot. You might just push in that little knob there under the wheel."

The Eleuthera can be handled easily by two men, but neither Morris nor Jaime was a fool. Because we were interested, Morris let each of the three male passengers, in time, take regular turns at the helm. Because we were crazy, Jaime let us help crank up the anchor time without end, hoist and trim and lower and furl sail, swing the dinghies away and bring them back aboard, even swab down the decks and polish brass on occasion. Often, with the boat getting under way, it must have looked like a family reunion in a spider web. "Boy, I bet Jaime will hate to see us go," puffed Dick one day. "Just look at him up there, growing fat."

That first night, however, Morris and Jaime brought her into Tyrell Bay, on Carriacou, alone. It was as black as the inside of your hat by the time we eased past the first headland, but Morris kept moving—half by some mysterious sixth sense and half on the guidance delivered by a small, blinking light on a building ashore. "That's a hospital up there," he explained. "How comforting," Charlyne said. Then the anchor went down, Morris turned on two bright spotlights high in the spreaders, and suddenly we were in a pale green world, full of chirping, lapping, gurgling sounds and peopled by swarms of small fish who arrived to investigate this oversized intruder. Dick brought his tape recorder topside and we dined (roast chicken) to music. The moon came up for dessert, this time bisected by the peak of a nearby mountain. "Rather impressive, Morris," said Jerry, "but what do you do for an encore?" We were tired and turned in early. It's hard work, driving a boat.

We were awakened next morning by native fishermen casting their nets into schools of small baitfish close to a thick section of mangroves near shore. From the dinghy, we asked them what the bait was used for. "Snoppers," they said, pointing to their fish pots and then out to some hidden reef offshore. We asked if they ever fished with hook and line. No, said the fishermen. Did they ever see any large fish feeding on the surface? A very old fisherman with a gray goatee nodded. "Surely there are very large kingfish everywhere," he said. We decided to go swimming instead.

It was a magnificent day, clear and sparkling, with native children out of school for the holidays playing on the shore. Mango and breadfruit grew right to the water's edge, shading the series of small, scalloped beaches. A dugout, with three occupants, came alongside. One of the boys stood up, unfolding a yellow, aged letter. "On Her Majesty's Service," read the official seal, which authorized a certain Ronald Gay to collect $1 a bushel for any oysters harvested in Tyrell Bay, and stating that oysters were not to be picked indiscriminately.

"Where are the oysters?" we asked Morris. "Over there," and he pointed toward the mangroves. "They grow on the limbs of the trees, just at the waterline. You can pick some if you like, but they're small and not too tasty, hardly worth $1 a bushel."

After breakfast Dick went ashore to photograph the people and small houses of the village, with Charlyne and Barbara tagging along. Charlyne was looking for ancestors. "Tyrell Bay," she said. "We must have relatives here somewhere." Debby, Jerry and I snorkeled along the beach, finding the grassy floor some 20 yards offshore covered with spiny black sea urchins and thousands of small, green-striped fish. In two hours the tourists returned, to report that 1) all water on Carriacou is collected in cisterns following rains, 2) basketball is the island's favorite sport, 3) there were no ancestors and 4) stores in Carriacou close on Saturday. Despite this, Dick had somehow found the ingredients for a treasured recipe rumored to produce sensational planter's punches. We tested the recipe aboard, after which Morris managed to get Eleuthera under way and wobbling out of the harbor.

The days began to fit into a pattern, a pattern changing only to the extent that the islands themselves changed as we sailed north. We would awaken about 6 o'clock—a barbaric hour under normal conditions, but now quite pleasant, we discovered—and, after breakfast, go skin diving or fishing or swimming or for a walk ashore. We found that small grouper and rock hind occupied most of the inshore reefs and would strike a small yellow or white jig, although only on the very lightest of spinning tackle did they fight hard enough to make it worthwhile. The underwater life, however, was varied beyond belief and indescribably fascinating, something that, as every skin diver knows, one must discover through a face mask for himself: the colors, the patterns, the formations, the living things that swim and scuttle and move and, often, simply grow. The beaches were uniformly magnificent: clean, fine, glistening coral sand or, on occasion, a black volcanic sand that appeared muddy and gloomy from a distance but turned out to be just as clean and pleasant as the white. The water itself, in all its changing hues, was a constant delight. If the island was uninhabited we usually limited our explorations ashore to collecting shells on the beach and a short climb up a nearby hill. Then we would return to Eleuthera and set sail for the next island, eating a light lunch of salad and sandwiches under way. Since Morris was English, tea was always served at 4 o'clock. Usually long before dark we would anchor again.

Generally the islands at which we stopped contained other human beings besides ourselves, however, and, as in any part of the world, it is other people who chart your course. At our anchorage for the third night, on the windward side of Union Island, we were greeted by two powerful young men in a home-built skiff".

"Would you like some fresh lobster?" the older one asked.

"Perhaps," said Morris. "How much?"

"Very little extravagance," the spokesman said.

"Will they really be quite fresh?" Morris asked.

"We will spear them in the morning and bring them direct to you." The younger one nodded. "Vincent is one of the best divers in the Caribbean," he said.

We asked if several of us might go along, to take pictures and perhaps to dive ourselves. "Surely you may," Vincent said. "David and I shall pick you up at, say, 7 o'clock." "Say 8 o'clock," Dick said. The boys nodded and began to pull away. Then they stopped.

"Maybe you would like some steel band music tonight?" Vincent suggested. How much? we asked. "Very little extravagance," Vincent said.

The local six-man combo, with David on cello-pan and Vincent as guest conductor, arrived as we finished dinner, banging and clanging away with that strange, compulsive rhythm born in the dark forests of Africa and collected and perfected in the back alleys of bright, sunny Trinidad. We helped the musicians aboard, Morris shuddering as each sawed-off oil drum slid across Eleuthera's rail, and for an hour they assaulted our senses with a mixture of calypso, Stateside popular music and Christmas carols, puffing away at our cigarettes all the while. Eventually Debby, a musician of no small repute (University of Maryland Opera Club, 1935), invited herself to sit in. Within minutes, she had mastered Jingle Bells on the ping-pong pan. "Try Chopin's Second," Jerry said.

Dick, a sneaky recorder, had captured the concert for posterity, and now he played back the entire rendition. The boys were entranced. "You'd better shut that thing off," I suggested, "or we'll be smoking Players the rest of the trip." The band left, the music more mellow across the water, and as they rowed and drummed they sang a chant. It was truly lovely. "Why didn't they sing like that on board?" Debby asked. "They were too busy smoking our cigarettes," Jerry said.

David and Vincent appeared in the morning at 7 ("Go away," Barbara told them) and at 8 and at 9, when we finally left, Jerry and Dick in the skiff with the divers and Barbara and I in a dinghy putting along behind. We rounded the point, moved out to rougher, more open water, and then Vincent went over the side. I threw our line to Jerry, slipped on flippers and mask and followed Vincent down. The water here was more than 20 feet deep, and the lobsters were hiding under shelves of coral and in holes right on the floor. Vincent seemed as much at home as any lobster, but my excursions were limited to deep, graceful dives, followed almost immediately by frantic, clawing returns to the surface for air. Finally I crawled into the boat, while Vincent bagged five lobsters with his spear gun in an hour. We ate them for lunch and sailed for the Tobago Cays.

The Tobago Cays are four very small, uninhabited islands surrounded by a protecting reef through which a boat with a seven-foot draft must proceed as cautiously as a destroyer through a mine field. Morris felt his way along, with Jaime hanging over the bow and peering into the water ahead. We passed the southernmost islet, then another, and turned sharply to starboard. Before us lay one of the most beautiful spots in the entire Caribbean.

The narrow channel in which we anchored was perhaps three fathoms deep, and down through the pale, aquamarine water one could almost count the grains of sand on the ocean floor. A striking beach was on our right, 30 yards away. Orange-and-black-striped fish mingled with others of purple and gold. Coral heads jutted toward the surface near shore, and sea fans waved on their perimeter. Green stones, the residue of some timeless volcanic upheaval, glittered in the sun. Dense foliage grew down to the beach, almost hiding the small, rugged hills behind. It was a completely wild, uncivilized spot. And there, smack in the middle, squatted three native fishermen around a dugout sailing canoe pulled up on shore. They stared back at us and refused to wave.

"What do you suppose they're doing here?" Charlyne asked. "I imagine they're waiting until dusk to run their fish pots and return home," Morris said. It looked to me like three guys who had come over to the Cays to get away from their wives for awhile, and I made the mistake of saying so. I went off alone in the dinghy and caught three spotted rock fish at least 10 inches long over a reef in the middle of a rain squall.

A six-hour sail the next day took us past Canouan Island and Petit Canouan, past Mustique and Petit Mustique, past All-awash Island and Pigeon Island and into Admiralty Bay on Bequia. Along the way, a monster of a barracuda devoured the red-and-white feathered jig that I had been hopefully dragging astern for the better part of four days. An unforgettable battle ensued.

With the Eleuthera plowing steadily ahead, 200 yards of 10-pound monofilament disappeared from the spinning reel like a puff of smoke. I took one look at the spool rapidly coming into view and screamed at Jerry, at the helm, to bring her into the wind. Morris muttered something about flapping the sails, and we kept on course. "Why don't you pull him in?" asked Barbara, last of the great back-seat fishing guides. In desperation, I tightened up on the drag. Suddenly there was nothing on the line. "He threw it," I said. "Damn."

But then I noticed that Morris, bless him, had brought the boat about; we were now on a starboard tack and the fish was still on—but on the other side. I reeled in furiously. I was fouled on the rudder. No, I was free. I passed the rod through cables and ropes and guy wires and flagstaffs to get to the other side. Pumping hard, I brought him alongside. "He's beautiful," said Charlyne. She grabbed the leader and I heaved him aboard.

"Ugh," said Debby, "look at those teeth." "What do you suppose he weighs?" Jerry asked. "Oh, 10 or 12 pounds," I said. Jaime came up and grinned. "Cuatro," he said. "Cinco, maybe," and took the little barracuda away. "If you catch a couple more like that, we can have them for dinner tonight," Morris said. I glared at him and put the rod away.

It is hard to conceive of each day being better than the last and every island and bay and cove an improvement on the one before, yet this is what seemed to be happening to us. Take Bequia. There was a quaint little town, with pastel buildings and red roofs, with white houses on the shore beneath sheltering trees, with fields and hills and roads that wound to their tops. There were fishing boats drawn up on shore and little native boys swimming naked nearby. There was a beach, named after Princess Margaret because it is supposed to be her favorite of all beaches, and we could see why: a great, curving expanse of sand lying before a coconut grove that seemed to have been pruned with toenail clippers and, protecting the beach at each end, huge rocks hollowed through with tunnels from the pounding of the waves.

There was also another yacht, a gleaming white schooner, the Boekanier, anchored nearby. And there was a hotel, the Sunny Caribbee, that was all that a hotel in the tropics should be: small and white with bougainvillaea growing on the roof and, beneath it, a big open veranda with a hammock in the corner and a bar 10 paces away. We put on shoes, for the first time in days, and across a lawn sloping down to meet the water, assaulted the Sunny Caribbee and its bar. We were met at the door by the manager, Tom Johnston (Princeton, '32), who offered us a platter of lobster tails. "Welcome to Bequia," he said.

The next day we crossed Bequia's narrow waist in a Land Rover taxicab, stopping to pick up Tom Johnston on the way, and went skin-diving in what is more or less Anthony Eden's front yard. "Sometimes he comes down and talks to you," Johnston said. "Watch out for the sea urchins. They're everywhere." Ten minutes later I stepped on a sea urchin.

Johnston helped me ashore and explained that sea urchin spines are seldom fatal and do not even hurt after two or three weeks. They have some sort of microscopic hook on the end, like a cactus thorn, and are twice as brittle. You cannot pull them out—they immediately break off—and it is senseless to dig. Eventually they disappear.

"Where to?" I asked. "I don't know," Tom said. "They are absorbed or maybe they come through the top of your foot six months later. A chemist told me that the best treatment is to pour a little hot wax over them." I suggested that we return to the Eleuthera and try Dick's planter's punches instead. "Let me show you something first," said Tom.

The cab driver didn't want to go to the top of Bequia, and after a while I was on his side. We went up a road that few goats in their right minds would have attempted, Tom making like Ben Hur. Then we were there and all that I could do was look and blink, a little humble and full of awe. Instead of a tropical forest, we were standing in the middle of a vast upland meadow of high grass, waving like a Kansas wheatfield in a strong wind. To the west lay Admiralty Bay and the Eleuthera, a small blue toy mounted on a pane of sapphire glass. To the north lay St. Vincent. To the east, the twin islands of Battowia and Baliceaux rose abruptly out of the sea, craggy and rough as a Scottish landscape. And far to the south we could make out Grenada, a peaked shadow on the horizon. "That's where we started," I said.

The place to end a cruise through the Grenadines is Cumberland Bay. It lies halfway up St. Vincent's lee side, and until the boat is almost within the headlands one hardly realizes that the cove exists. We took one look—at the trees and the mountains and the little river, at the fish boiling on the surface, at the deep water extending almost to shore—and Jerry sighed and shook his head. "This," he said, "is it." No one jeered.

We bathed in the river, and nothing in this world was ever more refreshing. I caught two big jack crevalle on tarpon plugs, and I chased the tarpon themselves all around the harbor, almost as content to watch them roll as I would have been had they struck. Two little girls came down at dusk to light a red lantern on the end of the pier. "Do you light the lantern every night?" we asked. They nodded, shyly. "Do many boats come in here at night?" "Never," they said, and went away.

That evening, wine flowed at dinner and conversation was never so sparkling or gay. Debby even got up and danced on the table. The next morning, at daybreak, the pier was full of natives. "What in the world are they doing here so early?" Barbara asked. "Waiting for Debby to dance," Charlyne said.

We turned back south and visited Kingstown, lunching atop a hill five miles above the harbor at picturesque Sugar Mill Inn. The food, we decided, was only fair ("Jaime has spoiled us," Debby said) but the view was special. We discovered, however, that we were all restless. "I know what it is," said Charlyne, "we all want to get back to Cumberland Bay." It was just as well, since the shops in Kingstown close early on Wednesdays.

We returned to the little cove for one more night. Then we cruised on to St. Lucia, awarding the dramatic twin cones that are Gros Piton and Petit Piton only a passing glance. Ashore in Castries, we took our first fresh-water shower in eight days, but it was hardly as refreshing as had been the little river in Cumberland Bay. We ignored the famous old forts, where French and British once fought so desperately for glory and honor and sugar cane; we decided to pass up the steaming sulphur springs in the crater at Soufriere. "If you've seen one hot spring, you've seen 'em all," Jerry said. We did sail into Marigot Harbor the following morning and were as startled by the modern development there as if, while on safari in Africa, we had suddenly found ourselves walking down Collins Avenue on Miami Beach. "Boy, this is living," Debby said. "Yeah," said Charlyne. "Let's get back to the boat." The long sail to Martinique was almost a bore.

"You know what it is?" I asked Jerry. He shook his head. "Well, I'll tell you. I'm tired of looking at your face. Let's get ashore."

We told Morris and Jaime goodby and blew ourselves to a wild night in Fort-de-France at a luxury hotel. By 8 o'clock everyone around the dining table was about to fall asleep in his soup. "This crazy land keeps rocking," Charlyne said. "I'm going below. I mean to bed."

On the way to the airport in the morning, we saw that the Eleuthera had sailed. "Gee, I hated to leave her," Debby said. "There'll never be another trip like that." At the airport, we tried to buy some duty-free liquor.

Closed on Sundays, the sign said.

PHOTORICHARD MEEKThe "Eleuthera," under full sail, glides swiftly past Tapion Rock at the entrance to Port Castries on the island of St. Lucia.MAPWINDWARD ISLANDS
Fort de France
Grand Anse
Marigot Harbor
Cumberland Bay
Admiralty Bay
Tyrell Bay
St. Georges
Prickly Bay
PHOTORICHARD MEEKJaime, the chef, holds aloft langouste speared by natives.PHOTORICHARD MEEKThree wives, one skipper return from a shopping foray ashore.PHOTORICHARD MEEKUnder critical eyes of Charlyne, Barbara and Jerry, author holds the course as Debby unconcernedly naps behind mast.


The "Eleuthera II" (sleeps six, charters for $1,200 per week) can be booked through Richard Bertram & Co., Miami or V.E.B. Nicholson & Sons, Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua. Nicholson's has 18 other yachts available, ranging from the 106-foot motor yacht "Xebec" (sleeps six, charters for $1,316 per week) to the 44-foot cutter "Linney" (sleeps two, charters for $294 per week). Fuel and food, liquor and laundry average about $6 per person per day on all cruises. In three weeks one can cruise from Grenada to Antigua; in two weeks, from Antigua to Martinique or St. Lucia, or from Grenada to Martinique—the route of the "Eleuthera," charted above. All cruises can be done just as easily in the reverse direction. Off-season rates are cheaper, sailing usually fine. In addition to lightweight sportswear and deck shoes, bring skin-diving gear, suntan lotion, sunglasses, lots of film, cigarettes (unless you like English or French) and three swimsuits (one wet, one dry, one drying).