Union Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines:  June 4-5, 2009

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

On the way down to Canouan from Bequia we had fished with some luck, catching a blackfin tuna.  So on our short (11 mile) trip from Canouan to Union Island, we were hopeful.  Nice to have hopes and expectations fulfilled.  Caught another blackfin tuna -- this one about 7 lbs.  We knew Steve and Ann (Receta) were also headed for Chatham Bay, Union Island, and so when a bit later they hailed us on VHF we had our invitation all formulated:  would they like to join us for some sushi?

Several years earlier Barb had gifted me with a sushi kit, which we had used only once, and Receta had a similar kit that they had never used.  We were all excited about the opportunity to recreate with our own hands one of our favorite gastronomic experiences:  sushi.

We started with miso soup.  Next, a small salad with ginger dressing.  Then, blackfin tuna sushi.  Steve and I did the forming, and Barb and Ann kept us supplied in towels, clean plates, seaweed sheets, wasabi, pickled ginger, vinegar-spiked water (for cleaning and wetting knives and hands to prevent sticking), and beer and saki.  We made nigiri-sushi and maki-sushi mostly, but Barb also experimented with ura-maki-sushi (inside-out maki-sushi dipped in toasted sesame seeds), and we also nibbled on a fair amount of sashimi.  No sushi restaurant has ever had fresher tuna, and it was all delicious.  It is true that some of our creations were a little, um, ragged.  And we weren't very fast:  we gathered at about 6:15 and were not done eating until about 11:30.  But what fun.  What great fun.

Next day, we walked over the hill from Chatham Bay to the village of Ashton, where we caught a bus into Clifton.  There, we checked out of the Grenadines and then caught a bus back toward Ashton.  Not to Ashton, but toward Ashton, for I had talked the group into adding another peak to the list of mounts that we had summited in the Antilles.  Our objective:  the impressive, isolated, inverted cone known as the pinnacle.  Doyle calls it "one of the hardest and most spectacular, with a dramatic, 360-degree, precipitous view."  We were not the first to get to the top, but there wasn't exactly a beaten path on the way up.  There were plenty of times when we were clawing our way up over boulders and ledges.  But we made it.  Doyle was right:  spectacular view.  Dramatic and  precipitous.

The ascent side -- seen from the microwave tower to the east

Taken from the very top -- Steve is on the norwest outcropping

Defunct marina development

After our descent we walked back down into Ashton, just in time to partake of the annual festival known as "maroon".  Several islands in the area (separately) celebrate this old holiday, in which volunteers gather to cook over open fires masses of food, all financed by voluntary contributions that are apparently given in advance, since we saw no exchanges of money, save our own.  Each couple had given $20(EC) on our first transit through Ashton, when the cooking was well underway but the eating had not yet begun.  After eating, we were so impressed with the food and friendliness of the people that each couple threw in an additional $25(EC).   I asked how long they would be cooking and feeding.   "Until everyone on the island has had something to eat," was the reply.   We were also told -- repeatedly -- that we must come to the drumming and dancing that would take place that night.   We got a small taste of what would transpire, because one of the ladies had a drum, and so while she played and the ladies sang in Creole, several women danced on a sheet of plywood that had been laid behind the serving counter.   Small taste of what was to come, we are certain, since there was to be many many drums and a much larger crowd of dancers.   Alas, the walk up over the hill and then down the forested path on the other side to Chatham Bay would not be easily accomplished in the dark, so we had to forgo the evening experience.   A true pity.

Coo-coo a-cooking

Shaping lumps of coo-coo by swirling in a plastic container

Breadfruit placed directly into the fire

Ann and Chuck are urged to form some dumplings

Our pitiful results

The way they should have turned out

Belly up to the counter for delicious food

Ann gathering recipes?

Many of the ladies wore red and white

Dancing on the plywood sheet

The chorus and the drummer

On the way over the hill we encountered a young man, and we stopped to chat a bit.   He was very friendly, and very articulate.  We talked about the island and about the hikes and about island agriculture and about world news and world politics.  Overcome with curiosity, I asked him what he did for a living.   He said that he was an airline pilot, and a former air traffic controller.   Trained in Florida.  He had been laid off from one of the Caribbean airlines in the current global recession, and was now taking steps to regain his air traffic controller position.   He lived with his wife and children there near the top of the hill, with a gorgeous view down to the village of Ashton and the sea beyond.  

Later that night Barb and I joined Receta for another of Ann's fabulous meals:  this one featuring the barracuda that Steve had caught on their trip down to Union Island.   (For those of you recoiling in horror, barracuda is quite tasty, and perfectly safe to eat in the Windwards.)   During that meal, Steve and I hatched the plan of a fishing contest, to be held the next day as both boats made their way down to Carriacou.   But to learn how that turned out, gentle readers, you will have to tune in to the next exciting episode of "Chuck and Barb go cruising."