Picture Perfect with Photographer Billy Black

A visit to a turtle sanctuary, a lobster BBQ on the beach, and photographing a local sailing festival are all part of another CW Adventure Charter.

Billy Black

Photographer Billy Black, ready for the next local boat to round the mark in the Port Louis Grenada Sailng Festival.Peter King

Cruising World's Adventure Charter to the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in winter 2011 presented flotilla members an added dimension. Renowned husband-and-wife photography pros Billy Black and Joyce Black came along and showed the group how to step techniques up a few notches. Here's a daily log by trip leader and longtime CW Adventure Charter partner Carol King:

Our small flotilla—Pelican, Havikah III, Tir Na Nog, and Ragazza II—sailed from the TMM base in St. Vincent. After completing all the formalities, we headed for the island of Bequia, and anchored in Admiralty Bay (N13°00 W61°14). Billy Black, our star marine photographer, and his wife, Joyce Black, the business's manager and Adobe Photoshop guru, are aboard as coaches for our adventurer charterers, who have a particular interest in improving their photography techniques.

Billy is up early every morning to catch the best light. He’s a pro at getting into these little villages, meeting and engaging the fascinating, friendly islanders. He learned that there’s a turtle sanctuary on Bequia run by an ex-turtle fisherman who decided it was time to “give back.” There’s not much turtle fishing now, but some still get caught in nets and traps.

At our briefing the next morning, fleet skipper Brook Robertson suggests our southerly course to the Grenadines island of Mustique. From West Cay, we turn sharply to port and make for Middle Cay and Semplers Cay, off Petit Nevis. Pelican passes Ragazza and Havikah anchored for lunch in Friendship Bay, Bequia. On we go with a reefed main in 19 knots. With so much breeze, we ate our fresh, sun-filled tomato salad, green salad, and tuna salad out of over-sized serving bowls. Brook has a fishing pole out on both sides; the big white, yellow, and red 6-inch reel gleams gold in the sun. Let's hope we catch something! (I'm thawing steaks just in case.)

The next day, our destination is Mayreau. Instead of crowded Salt Whistle Bay, we anchor in Saline Bay (N12°38.1 W61° 23.8). The hillside gleams with houses of yellow, turquoise, lavender, and lime green, with roofs of green, orange, blue and red. A kite boarder skims along a perfect beach. This is the ideal location for our traditional CW Adventure Charter Rum Punch Party.

Bottles of rum and tins of fruit juices crowd the galley. Peter, Karen Elliott, and Carol King concoct the potion, tasting each batch. Our big, empty water jugs make perfect decanters, which we chill in the freezer before the party. Tir Na Nog brought a nice healthy fruit plate for an hors d'oeuvre. Everyone else brought deviled eggs, which were all devoured, by the way. Amidst all the great conversations, learning about the other sailors on the trip, our attention is diverted when a local fisherman in a wildly-colored boat powers by, holding up a huge Caribbean lobster with its longs feelers squirming about madly. "Has anyone lost a lobster?" he calls out.

The next day, after breakfast of fruit and cereal, we dinghied ashore on Mayreau and climbed the steep hill, past the restaurant Dennis’s Hideaway, and stopped at the little grocery to replenish a few supplies. Important treasures we found were a metal scrubbie and salt/pepper shakers. Yeah! Now we can decant from the one-pound box of salt and the measly plastic bag of pepper. It’s the little things that make life on a boat easier.

We take on more climbing, past Roberts bar/restaurant, so colorful and festooned with everything under the sun, nautical and non-nautical. A woman is asleep on a cement porch. Baby goats are all around. A man and his wife are building a little shop near the school to be a “tuck shop” where kids can buy their candy. Just opposite, the local volunteers are digging up the earth to create a new road to the health clinic. Next door at the Catholic church is the best view in town across to the Tobago Cays and beyond. Inside, charming local artwork fills every nook and cranny. Enameled and framed Stations of the Cross grace the walls, and near the altar a lighted conch shell glows in the dusky light.

We’ve never seen so many boats in the Tobago Cays! Plenty of boat boys help with mooring balls or anchoring, off Baradel Island (N12°37.9 W61°21.3). Romeo, OJ, and Jason were selling lobster barbecue on the beach for EC$120, with a pick-up and delivery back to our boat as part of the bargain. Next to arrive was Mr. Quality, selling T-shirts, croissants, plain and chocolate, baguettes, bananas, bread, beer, ice. This was a winning combination, with something for everybody. We made our breakfast order for delivery the next morning.

At 5:30 p.m., our boat arrives and OJ ferries us to the beach barbecue. All the BBQ sellers have their picnic tables under the trees; ours was the purple/white tablecloth. We carry two sacks with our dishes, cutlery, glasses, and four bottles of wine. There’s plenty of time to wander around and inspect the set up. They’ve clearly been doing this a long time and have it all worked out; they provision from nearby Union island. There’s a man at the water’s edge whacking the lobsters in half. Romeo is at the BBQ, turning lobbies, basting with garlic butter. The table behind us is French, other side is Dutch, and there’s a Belgian couple to our right. All in all, there were at least 80 people, all thrilled that they didn’t need to cook on board.

What a feast! Side dishes arrive—rice with sautéed veggies, mixed veg, half-baked potato garnish, fried plantain, and the lobster centerpiece. After dinner, they even took our empty wine bottles—good service for sailors.

We visited Union Island next, spending the night at Chatham Bay. We depart at 5:30 a.m. the next morning for Grenada. Watching the local work boats race during the Port Louis Grenada Sailing Festival is the photographic raison’d’etre for this Adventure Charter.

The scene: pale blue sky, puffy clouds, 15-16 knots. Here they come, around the yellow turning mark, these tender work boats careening around, some out of control with make-up crews: Just imagine the colors, the action!

Billy is right there in the water just inside the yellow turning mark maneuvering his heavy camera in its waterproof armor into just the right position to catch the action of colorful boats and intense crews.

• Lady Abless (black bottom with yellow top)
• Mr. Surfrider (red & white in big angular blocks of color)
• Mill Reef (blue bottom with white top)
• Planass (white bottom with red top)
Oh, dear, one goes over! Endeavor (blue boat, red & white sails) is not quite around, she tacks and turns to make the mark.

• Riot Act (white)
• Mystery with a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch!!
• Voop (green with open shark mouth)
• Classic (lime, white, lime)
• D Rage (!)
• Solo 1 (yellow and black)

On Grand Anse Beach, butterfly sails line the beach waiting for their next start. More than 30 red and yellow beach umbrellas line the beach on the left flank, where intrigued onlookers take in the scene, beers in hand.

• Mr. Surrender (red with white flash)
• Reborn (white with RA on sail)
• Swift (a black swift on a snowy sail)

Mill Reef and Planass race to the mark, D Rage is close behind. Action!

Oh, dear. Swift goes over! There is a small rescue boat nearby for help. At a quiet moment, Billy swims up to him and is offered a tot of rum from the nearly empty bottle. It’s been quite an afternoon!