This is a last view of the shore at Cumberland Bay on the west coast of Saint Vincent, just before we left on Tuesday morning.
We anchored there for several days; it is a bit off the beaten path, though we were never alone. Various other boats came and went every day; we gather that in full season (December to maybe March?) the bay is often quite full of boats. One of the restaurants there - we didn't try it - that is run by a French couple, so it seems that many of the French-speaking cruisers make a point of stopping at Cumberland and eating at the Black Baron. We heard one boat ordering "deux poulets et quatre Tartares" on our second night. We ate out once, with "Old" Joseph, a local who cooked bonito, rice and a warm potato and tomato salad for us.
I think of it as the "other Caribbean" in part because the west coast of St. Vincent developed a reputation some time ago - even at the time we chartered in SVG in 2003 - as being somewhat unsafe for visiting boats. It's true that some of the inland parts of St. Vincent on the west coast are centers of a pretty active marijuana industry, and that some crime spilled over into the visiting cruiser community, but the problems were perhaps somewhat blown out of proportion (that happens often - one story multiplies itself into many, details are lost, and a place gets a reputation that is probably unwarranted), and now it appears that the local residents are trying quite hard to support their visitor trade. It's also about as far from the much visited Caribbean ports that center on land-based tourism as it's possible to be - almost no one comes to Cumberland who isn't either a charterer or a cruiser.
JP had wanted to explore the area for some time, so when we left Marigot Bay on St. Lucia (see: land-based tourism at its finest) we decided to make a St. Vincent stop. It's a different (for us) kind of anchoring experience, as the bay is very deep very close to shore, and it's necessary to anchor with the boat pointed out to the west (definitely away from the prevailing easterly winds) and then back up toward shore and tie the stern to a tree on shore. Several of the locals make a little money (about 20EC or about $7US) by meeting incoming boats and helping them with this unfamiliar manoeuvre. Our guy was called Rico, and he did his work very professionally. He visited us a couple of times, helping us re-set when it seemed that we had a bit too much chain out, and brought us several gorgeous water nuts (young coconuts prized for the water inside) as a kind of parting gift. All the locals we met were equally kind to us, and we look forward to a return trip on way north next time.
I have somewhat mixed feelings about these kinds of stops - nothing very original. We came here to the Caribbean to see another way of life, not just to sun ourselves on the beach (or off the transom of the boat). We try to engage in conversation and contact with local people whenever possible, and we generally find the experience interesting and often rewarding. The hard part, for me anyway, and I think for all of us, is the economic disparity between "us" and "them". Even between cruisers who travel on considerably tighter budgets than we do, and locals (specifically locals who offer their services to visiting boats) who are relatively prosperous, the differences can seem enormous. And whenever we try to offer something (beyond paying for the services), we are nearly always offered something in return, from people who seem to have so much less to give.
Anyway, I'm glad we stopped at Cumberland, and we will return. Thank you Rico, Joseph, Old Joseph, and everyone for a great and memorable experience.