Heading Down Island
It’s been a while since I sailed out of St. Vincent—the “mainland” to the eight inhabited (three by resorts) islands of the Grenadines, plus the Tobago Cays—so I was happy to be invited on a press trip there, especially one that included two days of sailing. It’s probably the most popular charter area after the Virgin Islands, and with good reason: the sailing is superb, though more challenging than the Virgins, and there’s much to do and see on shore. Here are some things I learned or remembered.
• The Tobago Cays are a national park and a national treasure. I’ll never forget a night spent at anchor there under a full moon that turned the waters around us into an illuminated aquarium.
• The high green island of St. Vincent offers numerous hikes up to waterfalls or up the volcano; these are quite (or very) challenging. It pays to hire a guide/driver; the coastal drive is not for the faint of heart, and you’ll be happy to have local knowledge on the hike. Ozzie from Sailor’s Wilderness Tours (www.sailortours.com) made a stop at Wallilabou Bay, where some of the filming of two Pirates of the Caribbean movies took place. You can look at the sets and read the nice notes from the cast and crew to the locals who participated. This tour took most of a day, starting in Kingstown and including a break for roti, the West Indian empanada, on the way back. Ask your charter company to recommend an anchorage north of Kingstown if you need to save some time.
• If you’re interested in old buildings, there are plenty of them in Kingstown. The Grenadine House hotel (www.grenadine house.com), which opened after and extensive restoration last July, was built in 1765; it’s a lovely place to stay—especially if you’re planning some pre- or post-charter exploration of St. Vincent—and has an excellent bar and restaurant.
• The six of us on the trip unanimously chose Mayreau’s Salt Whistle Bay and the beach at Lower Bay, Bequia, as our favorite swim stops. The lobster sandwiches and tasty French fries at Dawn’s Creole Beach Caf on Lower Bay helped us swimmers stave off starvation.
• There’s much to do in Bequia’s Port Elizabeth—shopping, eating, visiting Sargeant Brothers model-boat shop (the other one, nearby, is Mauvin’s)—but there’s more than that to Bequia. We did a driving tour with Sandra Olivierre (Challenger Taxi, 784-458-3811) and learned much about this tiny island. The whaleboat-based local boats race on Sundays.
• If you want to extend your stay beyond the charter week, Bigsand on Union Island is a reasonably priced hotel on a beach (www.bigsandhotel.com). My suite had a tiny kitchen, which would allow for some self-catering; you can provision in Clifton, the main town, and you can easily explore or revisit many of the other islands via ferry.
• For an ultimate indulgence, consider Young Island Resort (www.youngisland.com), just across from Blue Lagoon on St. Vincent. Young Island’s seven- and ten-night sailaway packages include two and three, respectively, days of cruising.
• I flew direct to and from St. Vincent via San Juan—a more convenient route than traveling via Barbados. If you go this way, be sure to pick up checked bags in San Juan and transport them to Liat (in Concourses A, B, and C Terminal) yourself.