“I feel as if I’m on holiday” said Simon on week two of our stay in the Grenadines. Strange to say this, perhaps, as some folk imagine our lives to be one long, happy charter holiday, going for swims in deserted bays and enjoying cocktails with a gorgeous sunset to admire every evening. However, as the Trinidad blog posts will attest, the cruising life is very rarely like that and although there is a fair amount of swimming, some of it will be in the service of cleaning the waterline of the boat. However, there are blessed periods where you don’t need to high tail it out of paradise to get out of the track of a coming weather system or to get to the closest marina with a rigger/engineer/electrician. Truth be told, we knew that our coming pit stop in Trinidad would be a hot and sweaty one with living on the boat on the hard being akin to camping in a hot metal box in a heatwave. And we were right! But for one glorious month all the boat jobs were put on hold and just added to the Trinidad to-do list, and we gave ourselves up to “liming” as the Caribbeans call it, that is chilling out and just enjoying life at a relaxed pace. This precious time is worthy of a blog post, even if we didn’t scale any mountains or dive on sites of record breaking beauty. Just taking it easy is the exception and not the norm in the cruising life. Looking back, I am so glad that we did it!
Petit Saint Vincent / Petite Martinique
Two of the places that we visited for the first time in the Grenadines were Petit Saint Vincent and Petite Martinique, two tiny islands opposite Union island which are a dinghy ride’s distance from each other and very different. Petit Saint Vincent is a private island which is entirely given over to a luxury hotel resort. The level of service must be incredible, as there are only two guests to each employee. The entire resort only has capacity for 60 guests we were told. The good thing about PSV from a yachtie’s point of view is that you are allowed to go ashore and visit their cafe or beach side bar, both of which are no more expensive than a road side coffee shop in gritty down town Clifton. You can therefore sample a taste of the luxury and landscaped fantasy of a Caribbean island that is usually only reserved for the super rich. Our coffee table came with its own authentic cannon and views of the little island, Petite Martinique, across the waters. However, although it is a great privilege to be able to dip your toe into this luxury lifestyle and enjoy the manicured gardens and views, I have mixed emotions about a place so artificial that a man is employed full time to rake the beach smooth of footprints and where local Grenadians are not allowed to set foot unless they work here. The guests circulating by bicycle also reminded me a little of the inhabitants in the seventies show “The Prisoner.” If you have ambitions to slope off and walk around the island, forget it. There is a very polite security officer who immediately greets you and directs you to the path to the coffee shop!
You could not have a bigger contrast to Petit Saint Vincent, a constructed Caribbean fantasy for rich people, than Petite Martinique across the waters, a real Caribbean island. Petite Martinique is a sleepy, little island which is actually part of Grenada and the Grenadines (rather than Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and as such receives its supplies from Grenada. The prices are slightly lower than in the islands around it and there is a water and fuel dock boasting cheaper fuel than anywhere else around. To avoid having to check out and check in again, simply anchor up between PSV and PM and dinghy over to the island. We had originally hoped to fill up with water there but having seen the dilapidated state of the fuel pontoon with its boards hanging loose and nails protruding, we decided better of it! Our walk along the main road in PM was certainly quiet. We came across two people, three goats and no vehicles at all. PM is the sort of island where everybody greets you. And if you see a sign on a shop advertising fresh lettuce, I recommend it. I was disappointed inside to find only tinned goods until the shop owner explained that the lettuce was growing fresh in her back garden. She picked it and washed it beautifully and it was delicious.
Hiding out in Mayreau
The plan was always to keep a weather eye open and during July we saw the first tropical wave come barreling over in our general direction, with a path forecast to swing quite low across Carriacou. NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) were giving this system a 10 percent chance of “organising” (or turning, the first phase of development of a hurricane) which then went up to 20 percent. The 20 percent became 40 percent briefly before going back down to 20 percent again. We hesitated about where to go to ride the storm out and opted for Saline bay in Mayreau. Saltwhistle, the more popular bay in Mayreau was absolutely crowded during this period and unpleasant, according to Dave and Diane, friends that we met in Mayreau. In the end, the system never became a storm, named or otherwise, and remained what NOAA call an “Invest” (short of Investigation). The day of the storm came and went like any others, and wasn’t particularly rainy or windy. Phew.
In fact, the speciality of this stay was the fabulous sunsets. Whether it was due to special weather conditions or we were just lucky, evening after evening we were treated to the most glorious display. We also had some very handsome neighbours to admire which reminded us of our time in the Grenadines in high season when these impressive square riggers are in full charter swing. I snorkelled to my heart’s content, enjoying the spectacle of a school of juvenile Barracudas among many other aquatic treats.
Tobago Cays : Snorkeller’s heaven
If snorkelling in Chatham bay, Bequia and Mayreau in the summer season was delightful, snorkelling in the Tobago Cays is breath taking. After my first swim sighting giant porcupine fish, schools of stoplight parrot fish, rays, turtles and sharks for Pete’s sake! (Caribbean reef sharks, not dogfish!) I came back on board and declared that I had progressed from snorkelling cannabis to snorkelling cocaine. It was an incredible, trippy experience. I only wish I had a camera that could have done this experience justice. All the colours of my underwater pictures come out bleached and dare. Once I had been swimming a couple of times near the barbecue beach, sometimes bumping into porcupine fish and stingrays swimming right under me, I realised that this area is a spot where tourists feed the fish with their dinner and lunch leftovers. No wonder it is a popular spot! You can practically reach down and pat the porcupine fish on the head here! Cheating, maybe, but I still find it enchanting to be in a spot where it is forbidden to hunt these fascinating Grenadian sea characters and where you can get up close to admire them.
The uninhabited islands themselves are also fun to visit, with a lazy hike to the top of the hill and views out across the reefs. It’s not often that you can say you have hiked around an island and had time for a beer in one hour! There is always time to relax and spot the baby sharks as they cruise up and down the beach front. You can spot wild iguanas and tortoises as you wander around as well. Apart from the beauty of the wild islands and the stunning marine life, the turquoise water is a hallucinatory colour if you anchor up in a shallow, sandy spot. Just be careful around the reefs!
Our time in the Grenadines was coming to an end. Carriacou would be our final stop before making the run down “pirate alley” to Trinidad. Simon, as Convoy Leader number 7, found himself very busy replying to emails and whatsapp messages. In the end, we left a little earlier than planned to get good wind for our trip down, missing out on the opportunity to do a dive on the Sisters in Carriacou as we had planned. Still, we got to meet some great people and make some friends before heading south and we enjoyed every minute of our Grenadines summer vacation. Batteries fully charged, we set off for a very different chapter of our trip!