Escape to the southern Caribbean with a one way charter (published October 2016)
Pressing your face against the cool glass window of a small plane, you peer out to see the brilliant blue water far below dotted with tiny patches of land. Tropical, exotic, sexy—all those lovely words come to mind when thinking about the Southern Caribbean. Plot your escape to the Windward Islands in the Southern Caribbean starting from St. Vincent, sailing though the Grenadines and ending in Grenada.
Looking at Imray chart B3 “The Grenadines” the main islands of St. Vincent and Grenada look like bookends. The islands are about the same size, about the same shape with about 85 nautical miles between them. Within that space, you will find picturesque sandy beaches, stunning anchorages, and a rich culture of proud people.
THE ROUTE: ST. VINCENT TO GRENADA
Most sailors that ply these waters will tell you that the preferred route to cruise this area in 10 days is to start in St. Vincent and sail one way to Grenada. It costs a little more, but time is money and you can’t make more time. The winds are favorable, it’s line of sight navigation, and you won’t have to beat back to the charter base. Stay close in the lee of the islands as much as you can to avoid the current and be ready for bigger wind and waves at the north end of every island. Ten days is just about enough time to, as they say in the islands, “Relax yourself!”
DAY ONE: ST. VINCENT TO BEQUIA
Arriving at E.T. Joshua Airport (SVG) on St. Vincent, grab a cab and make your first stop the Sunshine Market right across the street from the airport for provisioning. They will have most of what you need, some of what you want and maybe even a few local favorites such as Erica’s Pepper Sauce or the award winning Sunset “Very Strong Rum”. If you would like to burn some energy after the long flight, skip up the 255 stairs of Fort Duvernette just outside of Blue Lagoon. Just ask around the marina, there is sure to be someone willing to shuttle you over. You will be awarded with an epic view of Bequia, as well as the ill fated islands of Battowia and Balliceaux. Before you head out, grab a chicken sandwich and a cold Hairoun at Flowt Beach Bar. Every time a boat sails in, you get two for one drinks. Trouble!
The two hour sail from St. Vincent to Bequia (pronounced Bek-way) can be bumpy so check the current before you head out. Chart your course toward the middle of Bequia, falling off as you get closer. Once you get under the shadow of the island, furl your jib, harden your main and be ready for the “Bequia Blast” when you point into Admiralty Bay. The best anchoring is in Princess Margaret Bay between Jack’s Bar and the rocky head which separates Princess Margaret from Lower Bay. Look for the sandy spots and avoid the dark bits. Once the anchor is set, dinghy to the Gingerbread’s dock, the one with the big dive flag. Stroll along the charming Belmont Walkway which will lead you into the village. Visit with the friendly entrepreneurs hawking their treasures and fisherman working on their hand crafted boats. You might run into local author, Silma Duncan, who will enthusiastically read to you from one of her children’s books. The new Princess Point Trail just past the famous Mac’s Pizza provides a picturesque hike over the hill to the white sands of Princess Margaret beach. On the way back to the dinghy, pick up a bag of ice from the Gingerbread for those sundowners you have planned. It’s a Bequia kind of day!
DAY TWO: BEQUIA TO MUSTIQUE
One and half hours
The next morning, weigh anchor and head around the south end of Bequia, past the Flintstone-like cottages known as Moon Hole. DO NOT attempt to slip through the small passage near West Key! You will see the red, rotting remnants of the last ship that tried that!
Mustique is known as the island of the rich and famous—Jennifer Lopez, Prince William and long-time resident Mick Jagger often frequent this private escape. Basil’s Bar right on the beach is a favorite hangout especially during the Mustique Blues Festival in February. But, it is a private island and the residents like it that way. Anchoring is not allowed. A mooring ball will cost you $75 and is good for three days. Mustique is one of the cleanest, most environmentally conscious islands in the chain and it shows. Perfectly coiffed beaches, palm tree lined shores and exquisitely clear water lap the edges of this paradise. Due to the actions of a few, the island is getting more restrictive. The rules change depending on who is on the island at the time. If your boat is approached by a sleek, black vessel it’s probably not pirates. It will be security telling you to move on. If you’re lucky, though, you might be able to take an island tour. The architecture on the island is noteworthy and the view from the world famous Macaroni Beach is just stunning! The few restaurants and bars on the island are expensive. But since you are here, why not give yourself the royal treatment and enjoy cocktail hour at the Firefly?
DAY THREE: MUSTIQUE TO TOBAGO CAYS
Four hour sail
As you leave Mustique, raise your main under the protection of the island and motor west for about 20 minutes before turning south, then unfurling your jib. This will set you up for the perfect angle for your next destination—Jupiter Point at the north end of Canouan. When you see an island being gobbled up by large machinery you know you are looking at Glossy Hill. They have been working at tearing this hill down for years in order to make way for a better approach to the airport runway. Half the island is private and off limits. Raffles, run by Trump International, was once located here but has since declared bankruptcy and been taken over by another resort. The anchorage is notoriously rolly, especially during a north swell, so it is best to make this a lunch stop if you are curious to explore the island.
It’s about this time you’ll start to notice a brilliant difference in the color of the water—crystal blue! You are approaching the Tobago Cays, the crown jewel of the island chain. This is a marine protected area with uninhabited islands, turtles, rays and an amazing horseshoe reef. As you approach the Cays, it looks like one big island but that’s an illusion. It is actually a group of five: Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Jamesby, Baradal and Petit Tobac. The boat boys in their colorful boats are posted at the entrance and act as a marker to the channel. Leave them to port and give the tip of Petit Rameau a wide birth due to a reef hiding just beneath the surface. It would be wise to appoint a spotter on the bow. Not just for rocks but for unsuspecting snorkelers who might have wandered out of the protected zone while following the local wildlife. Know this: if you point at a turtle, he will disappear. That is a known fact! Try it, it works every time. The boat boys in the Cays are an organized group. They take turns approaching boats as they come into the channel. If you are not in need of their assistance (ice, beer, fresh croissants), waive then off in a friendly manner so they can get back into the queue. Respect goes a long way in dealing with boat boys. Romeo is one of the most popular with his friendly spirit and humble personality. He does an excellent BBQ on the beach with his wife, Juliet. Anchoring is easy in the Cays with a sandy bottom and depths around ten feet. Keep an eye on your depth gauge! The wind and current roar through this area so be aware when you are swimming or paddling that you don’t get swept away. Snorkel with the turtles, hike with the iguanas and, if you are a confident swimmer, visit the reef. Tie your dinghy up to a red mooring ball, swim against the current until you get to the drop off. It’s like you were just dropped into an aquarium! You can’t even see the bottom but what you can see is an ocean that is teeming with life. It’s hard to imagine that so many species of fish seem to tolerate and even ignore each other—and that means humans too! As long as you are not chasing them, they will surround you.
DAY FOUR: TOBABO CAYS TO MAYREAU
15 minute motor
Leave the Cays in your wake and motor over to Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau. Here you will find an idyllic anchorage surrounded by powder sugar sand, beaches lined with palm trees and lively rum shacks. Beware of the dinghy dock as it is in bad repair. Another option is to beach the dinghy or swim ashore. Soggy dollars are always welcome at the Last Bar Before the Jungle! If there isn’t enough room at Salt Whistle, Saline Bay is right around the corner. Watch out for the red marker off Grand Col Point. Leave it to port as you are heading south. Visit the legendary Robert Righteous for some local wisdom, cold drinks and the best conch fritters in the Caribbean. Climb the tower at Denise’s Hideaway for a romantic sunset view. Oh, and sunrise at the Catholic Church at the top of the hill is epic!
DAY FIVE: MAYREAU TO UNION
20 minute sail
Pick up a mooring ball in Clifton Harbor as it can get pretty crowded. Maneuvering around the bay is also complicated by the surrounding reef. Check out of St. Vincent at the airport which is straight through the Anchorage Yacht Club and to the right. Don’t forget to unload your garage along the way (trash bin is to the left of the bathrooms.) There is a French influence on this island so “Bonjour, comment allez-vouz?” is a pleasant way to start a conversation. Stock up on fresh baked goods, homemade yogurt and delicious French cheeses at Captains Gourmet. Look for the locally harvested “Jus Natural Sea Salt” which makes a great souvenir. If you are around during the full moon, JT Pro Kiteboarding Center puts on the best full moon parties—EVER! During the day, you will find the kite boarders jumping over Janti’s Happy Island. This little bar, built with conch shells, serves up one of the most dangerous things in the Caribbean—rum punch!
DAY SIX: UNION TO PETITE ST. VINCENT AND PETITE MARTINIQUE
45 minute sail
As you approach Petite St. Vincent (PSV) you will see a little spit of sand with a grass umbrella—the iconic tropical island. This is Mopion, the smallest registered island in the world. The best way to get there is to anchor near PSV and dinghy over. It’s very shallow and surrounded by reefs. In fact, be very careful when you dinghy in.
The holding in PSV is easy for anchoring but the wind rushes through the channel so be sure to put out plenty of scope. Everyone is welcome at the bar and the restaurants on this friendly private island—as long as you respect the privacy of the guests (paying anywhere from $1,100 to $27,200 per night!) Be sure to wipe your feet as you step through the whimsical entrance to Goaties—the perfect beach bar. Relax in a cozy lounge chair and enjoy a chilled glass of wine as you watch the sun go down behind the silhouette of Union Island.
Just across the way from PSV, is Petite Martinique (PM). You are now in Grenada. Top off your fuel and water on the dock or stock up on duty free spirits. Roam the quiet streets of this sleepy island that seems to have stopped time.
DAY SEVEN: PETITE MARTINQUE TO CARRIACOU/HILLSBOUGH, TYRELL BAY
1 hour sailing
In Carriacou, “The Land of Reefs”, you will find secluded beaches, great snorkeling and traditional boat building. “Vanishing Sail” is a beautiful documentary chronicling this rich tradition. This island is the heart of Grenada. This is where the locals come to vacation. Hillsborough is the main town which offers a selection of stores and small open markets for provisioning. Once you step off the dock onto the main road, take a right and look for Patty’s Deli. Here you will find a gourmet selection of items along with fresh deli meat cut with a unique manual slicer. For other grocery items, head straight up the street from the dock about two blocks.
DAY EIGHT: CARRIACOU TO MOLINERE POINT
Five hour sail
This is the home of the world’s first Underwater Sculpture Park. Pick up a mooring ball at Grand Mal anchorage as it is more protected than Dragon Bay. Word Of Advice: If you want solitude, snorkel the park before 9:00 a.m. otherwise you will be surrounded by booze cruise boats, cruise ship snorklers and the dinghy gang—collectively known as “Suffering Humanatees”. As you snorkel the park and swim through a wall of fish, the shadowy sculptures will appear just like magic! Don’t be surprised by the all night Soca music on Friday and Saturday night coming from the rum shack on the hill. The people of Grenada take their weekends seriously.
DAY NINE: MOLINERE POINT TO GRAND ANSE BEACH
30 minute sail
You can’t anchor in front of Grande Anse Beach so pick a spot just north of there. From here, you have access to St. George’s, Port Louis Marina and Grande Anse Beach. There is a dinghy dock near Coconut Beach Bar. Coconut Beach Bar serves delicious French creole food and has live music on Sunday afternoons.
DAY TEN: BACK TO THE DOCK
travel time varies depending on charter base
Radio the charter base for instructions on coming in. Often, they will send out one of their staff to bring the boat back to the dock for you. Take advantage of this opportunity. Once they take the wheel, this relieves you of liability as well as the stress of docking in an unfamiliar spot.
Your trip doesn’t have to be over once you hit the dock. Be sure to schedule a few days to explore the beautiful island of Grenada. You will discover a variety of beaches, a lush rain forest, sparkling waterfalls and smiling, happy people all along way. Remember, when you’re in the islands, it’s important to “Relax yourself!”
As you gaze out the airplane window, those little dots sprinkled in the blue water have a much more intimate meaning than when you first arrived. The sensation of warm sand under your feet, the splash of waves on the bow, and the friends you’ve made along the way will forever be etched in your heart until you return again to the original Caribbean—Saint Vincent, the Grenadines and Grenada!
BEWARE THE RUM SQUALL
Two things that could send you to the hospital – machelle trees and rum punch! Machelle trees have waxy leaves and little green apples which are toxic. Stay away! Rum punch is made with very strong rum and it tastes delicious. You don’t realize how much you’ve had until it’s too late. Beware the rum squall!
WHY NOT ST. LUCIA?
St. Lucia is easy to fly in and out but you’ll have a long sail to St. Vincent or Bequia then a bash back if you do a round trip. This will basically take two days out of your vacation. The International airport is a $100 cab right to most of the amnesties including charter bases, shopping and the inter-island airport. But the Pitons at sunrise are amazing!
Grenada is also easy to fly in and out of with non-stop flights available from several major cities. It’s a five-hour motor sail up to the next island of Carriacou. But you will sail under the shadow of the island and enjoy the scenery as you go. Once you get to Carriacou, you have short hops to the other islands.
In 2013 Chrystal Young moved to the Caribbean to start LTD Sailing – “Living the Dream!” with her partner Chris Rundlett. She is also a yacht broker for The Multihull Company and 5 Oceans Marine Group. Chrystal@LTDsailing.com. Look for her at the Annapolis and Miami Boat Shows.
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