Union Island
  "What we would see of Union Island ... would depend upon how we were going to get off the island and when." 

Dec 1

Our day started on Bequia where we caught a ferry to St. Vincent; there we boarded the island hopping freighter, 'Barracouda'.  People were not allowed to go up to the passenger deck until just before we sailed when the Captain opened the lower door and collected passage fares.  Meantime hard working crew members had their jobs made more difficult by having to move freight around waiting passengers.  We watched in amazement.

Our first port of call after leaving St Vincent was Canouan.  The tiny 3.6 km long island is part of the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
St Vincent is the largest of the more than 30 islands (some uninhabited) which comprise the nation.  Like a kite's tail the Grenadines extend southwest from St Vincent with the major islands north to south being Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Union Island and Petit St Vincent.  Map courtesy of St Vincent & the Grenadines Department of Tourism
At the dock on Canouan everything from flats of eggs to bottled water, water pipes and furniture was off loaded.  For real heavy stuff at forklift was used but most freight was moved by hand.    
The red shirted captain, with his bag of money securely strapped around his body was  always within sight and sound. He runs a tight ship. 

When Terry said something light-hearted to him, the captain shot him a glance which would make the preverbal-mother-in-law's stare of disapproval look like that of a whimpering puppy.  

Two fellows attempted to stowaway, but the Captain's trained eye caught them and they were told, without ceremony, to pay up or get off. 

The impromptu entertainment by an unaware cast of characters was worth the price of passage. 

The two hardest working crew members at loading/unloading took deserved breaks between ports of call.
After a quick stop at Mayreau we sailed passed the Tobago Cays ... 'the crown jewels of the Grenadines' ... a large horseshoe reef which protects five deserted islands and crystal blue waters offering some of the world's best snorkelling and diving.  
It was late afternoon when we reached Clifton on Union Island and passed the little Happy Island Bar before pulling into dock.
We did not have confirmed accommodations on Union Island.  We had attempted to make reservations but received only one response and that hotel quoted a higher price than their own website's advertised rate.  

We looked down the main street and saw Erika's Marine Services.  On their internet site, they seemed to do everything from hotel, to diving to laundry.  We hadn't received any reply to the emails we had sent them ... we would try in person.  We got about as much help standing in their doorway as we had through our emails.  We moved on.

"Ask the lady in the bakery, the little red building near the end of the dock," someone told us, "she knows everything."  The bakery lady was most pleasant and pointed us down the road to the Internet Cafe.  "Ask for Roseman," she told us.
Roseman was sitting behind a counter at the end of an upstairs room whose walls were lined with computers.  We explained that we had been trying to get accommodations for some time on Union Island but without luck.  "We even emailed the tourist office in October asking if there was something wrong on Union; and asked if, as the tourist board, they could get in touch with any hotels or B&Bs and have them contact us.   But," we continued, "even the tourist board on Union did not answer our emails."

Roseman's response surprised us.  He called to a lady in an office behind the counter and asked her to come out.  "You know that email?" he asked her, "The one that you showed me this morning.  The one that came in October.  These are the people who sent it."    Roseman explained he is the president of Union Island Tourism and apologized that our emails had not been answered in a timely manner.

Trying to ease the tension we said, "We are here now, and what we need is accommodations.  Can you help us?"

"Yes, I can arrange that," he said making us feel much more comfortable. 

"How early does the boat leave in the morning," we asked.

"It doesn't," Roseman responded.   "Where are you going?"


"Well, you can stay here an extra day."

"We have confirmed reservations on Carriacou.  Are there any flights?"

"Not tomorrow.   You could take a water taxi.  It is not that far.  I can arrange that for you if you wish."  With that Roseman took us across the street to Kings Landing Hotel ... the hotel who upped their price when we asked them to confirm.  We had little choice now and paid their amount.   The innkeeper was pleasant and the room fine, a little overvalued even with it's harbour view and air-conditioning.  

We had dinner in the restaurant next to Kings Landing which was recommended by both the innkeeper and Roseman.  It was pleasant enough but not memorable. 

What we would see of Union Island would depend upon how we were going to get off the island and when.   The saying goes, "Red skies at night, sailor's delight."  We hoped so.
Dec 2
We woke to a partially cloudy day and had breakfast in the building behind reception.   It wasn't the most pleasant room in which to start a new day.  An older man, who may have been one of the hotel's owners, didn't think anything of loudly chastising a fellow in front of guests waiting for breakfast. 
The breakfast staff numbered three and we were the only two (other than the elderly fellow) in the room.  The breakfast was only memorable for its lack of presentation, taste (wieners and eggs) and poor delivery (number of staff does not insure quality).  We are not fussy people so simply laughed at the situation and looked forward to what we might discover within walking distance of Clifton's harbour.

Union Island, like its neighbouring islands throughout the Caribbean saw a succession of inhabitants during pre-colonial times.   The first European settlers to arrive on Union Island were two French men who settled on the island in the mid 1700s with 350 slaves; it became known for it's fine cotton. Later the island was transferred to England as part of a treaty with France after which it was owned by a few different families until 1910 when the British Crown bought the island and parceled out two and four acre plots to the local population at favourable credit rates.  In 1979 St Vincent and the Grenadines became a sovereign independent nation within the British Commonwealth.  

We walked the main street of town ... it is not very long.  
Across from the wharf entrance and the bakery is Mulzac Square honouring Captain Hugh Mulzac.  Born on Union Island the Captain served on an English ship in WWI and later became a US shipmaster.  However, there was no ship available to a black captain and he was forced to wait twenty years and the outbreak of WWII to fulfil his dream.  After the war he again faced discrimination.  He died in 1971 at the age of eighty-four. 

Mulzac Square also acts as a memorial garden honouring the memory of all slaves who died on Union Island during the time of slavery; especially the fifty-three who died during a period of ten months (Sept 1777- July 1778) as a result of harsh living conditions and cruel slave drivers.  It was a period when the island's cotton production was increased 120%. 

The square splits the traffic.   Traffic has never been heavy here.  The first car was unloaded in 1956 - a Land Rover.  By 1976 there were twelve cars on the island; one in business as a taxi ... tourism had begun.

Across from the square is a market place with pastel painted stands offering primarily fresh fruits and vegetables.

We took one of the roads which went inland on an angle and walked past a field of sheep out to the airport.  We wanted to satisfy ourselves that there wasn't any flights available to take us off the island today.  There weren't. 

The only option now was to take a water taxi.  Our eyes surveyed the skies and wondered what we might be facing on the sea.  We had no desire to become shark bait.
Instead of retracing our walk back to town, we turned at the end of the runway having no idea where we would end up.  We came out on the water near the Bougainvilla Hotel, Restaurant and Bar.

Between the restaurant and the marina they have created a sort-of-moat which acts like a basin for sharks and turtles.

Continuing towards town, we stopped and talked to a little girl fishing and some fellows painting boats and water taxis in preparation for the upcoming tourist season. 
We checked in with Roseman who told us he had arranged a water taxi to take us to Carriacou.  The operator would meet us at the little dock next to Kings Landing. 

We still had time on our hands but not enough to go any distance.  We found a very large unoccupied restaurant and bar on the waterside of the Clifton Beach Hotel where we parked ourselves at a table and watched a kite-skier zip around yachts and boats in the harbour while sandpipers picked at some dried corn spilt out on the deck.

We picked up our backpacks from Kings Landing and took them to the dock and waited for the water taxi. 
A young fellow walked past with a blackened fish which had been cooked over an open fire. 
He bent down over the edge of the dock and aptly cleaned out the fish's innards then swished it around in the water.

"What kind of fish is that?" we asked.   He answered but we didn't catch what he said. 

"Try some, " he offered stretching out his hand holding the fish.  We picked off a little bit of the white flesh. 

"Oh, my, that is good.  Very tender.  Very sweet. Thank you." 

"You're welcome," he answered with a winning smile and continued down the dock. 

Around us there were many reminders of how the sea provides food for the island's people.  Conch shells piled up atop the rocky shore.  Behind us a breakwater was filled with more bleached-grey conch shells while nearby a man cleaned a turtle. 
Our water taxi arrived.  The owner/operator's name is Simon Alexander, but he is known as Kojak.  His green speedboat was accented with red and yellow and named 'More Fresh / No Long Talk' ... we didn't get a chance to ask.   

He zipped us across the water to another Clifton dock, picked up his girlfriend and another girl before we left Clifton in our wake.  

Once we cleared the harbour the wave swells got bigger ...  between 2.5-3 metres high.  Kojack would take the boat up one side of a wave, run along the top of it and down the other side until islands disappeared completely. 

It was a hang-on tight, rollercoaster ride.  Being so close to the water, having the cool mist air blowing on her face and calculating how she would handle being toss into the water,  Sherrie didn't have time to get seasick.

We were about half way to Carriacou riding along a wave's ridge when Terry pointed and yelled, " FLYING FISH ! " 

Top of page            To Carriacou           To Caribbean Home Page            To Travel Tales Home Page