The Grieve family sail into St. Vincent where they are besieged by local boatmen touting for trade, in sharp contrast to the easy-going charm of Dominica.As we entered Wallilabou Bay on the island of St. Vincent, a haphazard flotilla of boats made their way out to greet us. Some men rowed, some shot over in high-powered pirogues and others pulled themselves towards us on nothing more than old surfboards.
My heart sank as I watched this little armada of hope approaching. Known as boat boys in this part of the world, these men regard anyone on a yacht as a multi-millionaire. In comparison to them we probably are.
The water in this bay is deep right to the shore, and figuring out how to anchor safely was a challenge. At the helm, trying to concentrate on calculations regarding fathoms and feet and lengths of chain and warp, I kept being distracted by insistent calls.
"Hey Skip!" one man cried as he pulled up on the port side, clinging to the guardrails while his boat clunked worryingly against Forever's hull. Another man was abreast of us: "Follow me and I'll take your shore line," he shouted, rowing energetically to keep up. "Want some bananas?" I heard from the starboard side, and turned to see Oscar and Luke already accepting a brownish hand of fruit.I looked over to another yacht that was also being besieged, and decided to turn around and head back out to sea. As we left the men called after us, some of them imploring, others philosophical, one shaking an enraged fist.
Out of the bay we sat in silence, relieved to have escaped, yet feeling guilty at having turned away from people who are desperate.
St Vincent in particular has suffered a number of attacks on yachtsmen in recent years, and it is not difficult to see why, as boats lie unprotected and vulnerable in isolated anchorages, surrounded by people who have absolutely nothing. It's unpleasant to find ourselves in a situation where people view our boat as a kind of floating cash machine.
A few weeks earlier we'd had a completely different experience as we entered Prince Rupert Bay in Dominica. A mile or so off the island I radioed a man named Martin Carriere, aka Providence, who, according to the pilot book, provided a really good service to visiting yachts.
As we neared the bay another fast boat came out to meet us and offered help with getting food and supplies. I thanked him for coming over but said that I had already arranged to meet Providence.
"Hey, no problem," he shouted with a grin. "Welcome to Dominica!" After we had dropped anchor, a sleek, homemade boat shot over to us and carefully drew alongside. It was Providence.
He handed us a map of Dominica, and as we all talked it was clear that this bright, energetic man would add greatly to our experience of the island. He guided us up the magical Indian River and introduced us to Paul, who took us into the interior. We stopped to marvel at precipitous hillsides planted with verdant crops, picked fresh coconuts, stood on bubbling volcanoes and sucked cocoa beans.
A farmer we met by the roadside took us to see nutmeg and cinnamon trees, and then - as we said goodbye - pressed a cutting from a vanilla vine into my hand. As we passed Paul's home village, he stopped the car beside his aunt's house, and emerged with the biggest grapefruit we had ever seen - a gift to our children.
We stopped to eat chicken with "provisions", a local term for vegetables dating back to the times of slavery, and as we ate we looked out at a view of the Atlantic framed by reefs, offshore islets and palms. Passers-by stopped to ruffle Oscar's hair or chuck Luke under the chin, and around us weekend village life continued in truly relaxed West Indian style.
Dominica has something special, which stems from pride, which comes, I believe, from the knowledge that it is self-sufficient. Tourism is a good thing, certainly, but in the knowledge that it can afford to be fussy, Dominica is taking steps to ensure that development happens sensitively and well.This positivity is evident as soon as you arrive, and are welcomed rather than besieged. People like Providence have realised they have great wealth, and this richness stems from their island and a way of life that is simple, joyful and independent