If you were to find the real treasure in the Caribbean you’d be rich. Many a Spanish Galleon was lost in a hurricane or under pursuit from pirates or privateers. But the real jewels that reveal themselves are the Grenadines; that scattering of cays and small islands to the south of St. Vincent and to the north of Grenada. We are here and I feel rich.
The reefs create an actual mine field for the drunken or GPS challenged sailor but these precious gems create a scene so beautiful that you want to imprint it in you memory forever. If you’re ever inclined to visit here and you only have a limited amount of time, ensure to begin in beautiful St. Lucia and make your way south, preferably under sail. Here you will capture the ideal Caribbean flavour.
After leaving the welcoming harbour of Bequia, we sailed to the south to the small island of Canouan. There, they are practically printing their own money by charging nearly seven dollars US for a beer. Thomas had to ask the bar tender three times for the amount that he owed thinking he must’ve heard incorrectly. The island had a beautiful lagoon on the eastern side but the access to it was limited. We were wanting to have a snorkel there but upon investigation we decided to wait until we were in the clear waters of Tobago Cays. Half of Canouan is a private resort and the remainder of the island is covered with a smattering of local houses. Some quite elaborate, others small wooden shacks. The people there were friendly and directed us to a place where we enjoyed a hike up a steep road to over look the lagoon. The fruit here that was on sale was already ripe so it was only good for a couple of days. By the time we made it to our next stop we were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Mental note to self: Shop early in Canouan and stock up on pineapples at least.
We had a short sail to the small and palm tree dotted bay of Saltwhistle on the northern tip of Mayreau the next day. We thought we were quite close to shore when an endless flotilla of charter cats squeezed in ahead of us and buoyed up only metres from the beach. They would have a swim and a wander ashore and then leave. They had barely left the bay when another would replace them. There were at least five there at any time of the day. Half of this small bay was covered with abrupt reefs positioned at both the northern and southern ends of the bay. The snorkeling was disappointing but the scenery was delightful. The water was clear and beautiful and there was a small sandbar with an island style restaurant and an abundance of palm trees perched upon it. There was no protection from the trade winds or Atlantic squalls and we had a bit of a restless night.
We moved around to the bay where the ‘capital’ was. A small group of houses and restaurants, a church, two small supermarkets and the generator made up this township. As we went on a mission to buy fresh produce, we were greeted by the friendly locals. On our way up to the church, where the lookout was, we bumped into two couples of regular cruisers. One couple was heading to Trinidad and the other couple was heading to Grenada. We questioned them about our prospects for seeing out the hurricane season at either place. Both sound interesting in their own right but Grenada will win out due to the clean waters and ease of customs. Anyway, we have time to explore both. They also advised us about fresh fruit and Lyn, off ‘Silver Heels’ told us about some native plums growing on the island. She had organised a young man to pick her a large bag full. Fresh on demand. After tasting them we found that there was very little fruit around a large stone so gave them a miss.
The next morning we headed off to Tobago Cays. We had been able to see them from the lookout near the church and they looked enticing. The passage there, dodging submerged rocks and reefs was quite exciting. Thank goodness for GPS. It is no wonder that our guide constantly points out reefs and shoals where bare boat skippers have gone aground. I wouldn’t like to be wandering through these parts without experience behind me. (In fact when we were on Canouan we heard someone calling, “White charter cat in the Tobago Cays, do you see that reef directly in front of you?”) This can also be a very crowded place in the winter, which is the main cruising season. Sometimes there are as many as 200 boats in the lagoon inside the cays so maneuverability is again thwarted with the added danger of collisions. We were lucky to have only about 15 neighbours.
There are other private islands in amongst the ones I mentioned, but they charge quite a bit just to visit. Although we may have spotted someone rich and famous there, we decided to stick to the ones that don’t incur an outlandish fee.
Once safely anchored up in the lagoon of the cays we went off to explore. We swam with the turtles around a small island, we snorkelled out near the barrier reef and we danced on the beach at another small island. It was very picturesque. The wind picked up during the night so the next day we headed off to Union Island where we can check out. One of the lovely things about St. Vincent and the Grenadines is once you’ve checked in, you don’t have to deal with red tape again until you get to Union Island. Union Island has an abundance of good quality fresh produce. So we have stocked up again, tapped into good wifi and danced away at the local full moon party.
The party was held at the kite surfer’s beach so it wasn’t too surprising when they put on a display of night kite surfing with the kite and the surfer adorned with flashing glow sticks. It was quite spectacular. They had placed large day beds on the edge of the water so we claimed half of one and cuddled up to watch the moon rise. After a good dance with the locals we decided it was bed time. Horrified that it was only 2115 hours, we figured we must be getting even more into the rhythm of nature. Early to bed, early to rise. We deny that we’re getting older.
It is Sunday today so we’ll check out of here tomorrow and head south to towards Carriacou and Grenada.