The Grenadines, Southern Caribbean
Stretching like pearls that have fallen from a broken necklace, the Grenadines are part of the Windward Islands scattered in the southeastern Caribbean. They stretch from St. Vincent in the North to Grenada in the South. This is a beautiful unspoiled area of the Caribbean where you can enjoy beautiful scenery, and visit local spots not filled with cruise ships and tourists.
Before we start, however, I want to share a geography lesson. The “Grenadines” are not part of Grenada. They are part of St. Vincent. Grenada and its islands are just to the south of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Also, the “Tobago Cays” have absolutely nothing to do with the island of Tobago which is in the country of Trinidad and Tobago much further south. The Tobago Cays are also part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Not sure how or why St. Vincent wound up using the names of other Caribbean islands, but thought this might help when you start exploring the area and help to avoid confusion.
Let’s start with Bequia which is in the northern part of the Grenadines – in St. Vincent – and which has long been a favorite of yachtsmen, many of whom can be found ashore in the Frangipani Bar. This is one of the best stop on your Grenadines Yacht Charter. Admiralty Bay is a large, well-protected harbor with Bequia’s largest town, Port Elizabeth at its head. Boats anchoring in the harbor are often greeted by the young men rowing out to meet them. One of the items they offer for sale are sailboats crafted from coconut husks, with a bit of iron for a keel and sails of brightly colored cloth. You, of course, will want to purchase the fastest one in their fleet, so have them toss them into the water for a colorful mini-regatta.
The building of model boats is a Bequia specialty, and the coconut husk boats are only the start. Truly beautiful examples of this are to be found in either Mauvin’s or Sargeant’s. They will build any design to order, or you can buy one of their many display models.
An island of sailors and boats, Bequia used to be an active whaling station, though the tradition of hunting whales in small open boats using hand thrown harpoons is dying out. While exploring the island, you can visit the small whaling museum located in the home of the late Athneal Olliviere, formerly the head whale harpooner. After a visit to the whaling museum, you should probably visit the Hindson’s Whaleboner. True to its name, the bar, stools and entrance have all been built of whalebone from the old whaling days
Bequia, with its hilly terrain and many inlets, can be explored by land and sea. You can see all the best and most scenic spots in a 3-hour taxi tour, or do-it-yourself with a 4-wheel drive rental vehicle. More leisurely still, is the prospect of taking a nice stroll and stopping often to visit with the friendly people that populate the island, trying out the local cuisine and beverages or shopping at the many shops that feature locally made craft items. The third method for exploring is by visiting the many coves and beaches onboard the tender. Your captain and crew are sure to have their own favorite places they will want to introduce to you.
Approximately 10 miles to the Southeast of Bequia lies Mustique, a privately owned island that has been developed as an area of holiday homes for the rich and famous. This is a favorite stop of charter guests. There are miles of unspoiled beaches and countryside to explore by foot or some other means. Rental mules are really heavy duty golf carts, not the floppy-eared four-legged variety. Horseback riding is also available in the cool of the morning and evening.
Be sure to visit the Cotton House and Basil’s Bar. Superb cuisine in lavish elegance are the hallmark of the Cotton House which is a nice walk from where the tender will bring you ashore , or have the captain call and they will come to pick you up from the dock. The other end of the spectrum is Basil’s Bar. Built of thatch and bamboo, it is perch on stilts with the water lapping below. This is a great place to meet relax and meet people while watching a sunset! Be sure to ask about their Blues Festival and pick up a copy of the most recent CD.
Heading Southwest about 10 miles will take you to Canouan. An island of rolling hills and only a few hundred inhabitants There are two major hotels and the vast new Canouan Resort Development. The resort includes a golf course, tennis courts and a casino. The shallow water surrounding Canouan is responsible for the exquisite water colors offering excellent snorkeling areas to explore. There are several excellent dive sites in the deeper waters close by that have been discovered by the local diving center that would love to share the sites with you.
Between Canouan and Carriacou, the islands are all tiny, quiet and almost only a stone’s throw from each other. Though sparsely inhabited, any island that has residents is sure to have a rum shop. Often tiny in size, the rum shops in this area will introduce you to the local rum…Jack Iron. Powerful, rough, white rum, probably aged about 1 minute before bottling. Reputation has it that ice cubes won’t float in it. However, since ice is a rare commodity on many of the small islands, a small shot is poured into a glass and drunk in one gulp, hopefully without tasting it! Best to keep a large glass of water nearby.
Mayreau is a tiny island rimmed with pristine beaches that affords a magnificent view for those who venture up the hill. Be prepared – the climb will test your stamina but the view is worth it. With only one road, you certainly won’t get lost! The two main bays are Salt Whistle Bay and Saline Bay. Salt Whistle Bay with its sweeping half moon beach, is home to the Salt Whistle Bay Club. Its dining area is set in the open among the trees and each table is built of stone with its own thatched roof.
East of Mayreau are the Tobago Cays, a group of small deserted islands protected by Horseshoe Reef. Spectacular barely comes close to describing this bit of heaven on earth. The water and reef colors are a shifting pattern of turquoise, blue, green and gold. White sand beaches ring the islands. The water is so beautiful here that you will surely want to simply jump over the side of your yacht and snorkel to the closest reef. The Tobago Cays are a national park. Fishing is not allowed, nor are jet or water skis.
The larger island of Union Island, with its smaller sibling Palm Island nearby, are next in the chain. Union is visible from afar, thanks to its Mount Taboi, reaching the height of 1000 feet. Union is generally considered the jump-up center of the Grenadines and you are sure to find plenty of entertainment and live music.
Carriacou, which is a little further south and part of Grenada, is like the final pearl from the broken necklace. Carriacou is a Carib word meaning “island surrounded by reefs”. Local legend has it that there are over a hundred rum shops on the island, but only one gasoline station, which could explain the high population of donkeys. One thing to put on your “to do at Carriacou” list should sampling the mangrove oysters. Delicate and sweet, a squeeze of lime and a dash of local hot sauce will have you rolling your eyes and asking for more.
The Grenadines have become a popular charter destination and more and more yachts are available every year in this area. However they are still far enough off the beaten track to offer secluded coves, empty beaches and pristine waters. The sparkle of the water by day is rivaled only by the breathtaking sight of the black velvet of the evening sky thickly studded with stars. When you are here, you will know that you have discovered paradise. The only remaining question is: how soon can you return?
Day 1 Leave St. Vincent and motor-sail north along St. Vincent’s west coast, past Kingstown to the remote anchorage at Cumberland Bay. A picturesque setting with rustic, natural scenery, good snorkeling, hiking to the local volcano or island’s interior region.
Day 2 South for a short run to Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Many activities are available here, including snorkeling, diving, waterskiing or simply enjoying the white sand beaches. Onshore, there is ample shopping and excellent bars and restaurants.
Day 3 A close sail over to Mustique, known for it’s rich and famous residents such as Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Princess Margaret and Raquel Welch, to name a few. Perhaps lunch at Basil’s, a well-known bar and restaurant located on the bay. Then, on to the Tobago Cays, which offer coral reefs, crystal clear water and beautiful beaches. There are several excellent anchorages to chose from which are breathtaking overnight stops.
Day 4 A short sail to a “secret” lunch stop, which offers excellent snorkeling in clear water with a multitude of sea life and a seawall with a 40 foot drop. This anchorage features the beauty of the Tobago Cays, without the crowds. Then, a short to Salt Whistle Bay in Mayreau, one of the most magnificent spots in the Caribbean. The bay is formed by a narrow, crescent-shaped beach and offers a stunning view of the windward side of the Caribbean.
Day 5 Petit St. Vincent, a privately owned island known for it’s exclusive cottage-style resort is a short morning sail. Excellent snorkeling off of white sand beaches, a bar and restaurant with a breathtaking view of the anchorage below. After lunch, continue on to the lovely island of Carriacou, with perhaps a quick stop at Sandy Island for excellent snorkeling at this tiny, palm-fringed islet. Then, on to Tyrrel Bay. A beautiful, calm anchorage, there are a number of local bars, restaurants and run shops close by.
Day 6 An early start with an open water crossing to the coast of Grenada. Then a short run down the protected waters of Granada’s west coast to Halifax Bay for an optional, but highly recommended, land tour . The tour features spice farms, cane fields, the rain forest, as well as the rugged coastline with spectacular views. The tour ends at St. Georges Harbor, where your boat awaits you. The night will be spent here, so you have time to explore this delightful town.
Day 7 The day will begin with a leisurely sail southwest, rounding the corner and heading back toward the lovely anchorage at Prickly Bay. This quiet bay has a marina, bar and restaurant for shore side entertainment, and it is only a short drive to the airport from here. You will return home relaxed, with many memories of the beautiful places you have visited.