December 11, 2019

The Gorgeous Grenadines

We spent the first few weeks of November exploring the beautiful Grenadine islands; the clear blue waters, white sandy beaches and sea life are surely among the most beautiful in the eastern Carribbean, and in our opinion, are rivaled only by the Bahamas.

There are 32 islands and cays in the Grenadines, and only 9 are inhabited. The northern two thirds of the islands are part of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, while the southern third of the Grenadines are part of Grenada. The Grenadines islands for the most part are small, uncrowded and unspoiled with commercialism.

We had a great time exploring new islands, and revisiting a few favorites, but it wasn't all highs for us though, as Nick suffered from a fever and head/chest cold for more than a week, and we had several days of heavy weather sailing through squalls that came as part of a tropical wave.


On Friday, October 25, after officially checking out of Grenada, we sailed away from Carriacou 37 nm north towards Bequia, one of our favorite islands in the Grenadines (and where we spent 2 weeks in early June). We had nice sailing conditions and on the way caught a beautiful black fin tuna and saw two whales breaching nearby.

St Vincent and the Grenadines celebrated their independence from Britain on October 27, 1979, and so it was the Thanksgiving and Independence holiday weekend on the island, which was being celebrated with a series of events in the main harbor, including a double-ended boat sailing regatta, swimming competition, and a children's coconut boat race. We had so much fun taking in the events and chasing the competitors around in our dinghy.

St Vincent

A few days later, we joined cruiser friends on the ferry to mainland St Vincent, which is a beautiful island with lush mountains and craggy peaks, but lacks easy, convenient anchorages and has a reputation for petty theft of visiting yachts.

We booked a tour guide for the day and visited old Fort Charlotte, took a dip in Dark View waterfall, explored Wallilabou Bay (the main location for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), and walked along the island's volcanic black sand beaches.

To add a bit more adventure, our tour van overheated several times (thank goodness for handy cruisers who diagnosed and fixed the problem), but we didn't let that sour our awesome day!

Tobago Cays

A few days later, on Wednesday, October 31, we weighed anchor and headed back south towards the Tobago Cays, a group of small, uninhabited islands protected by the large Horseshoe Reef. The islands are part of a national park, so it costs $10 Eastern Caribbean dollars per person per night to anchor (so just over $7 USD for us).


The waters of the Tobago Cays are crystal clear and definitely the most magnificent in the Grenadines, making for excellent snorkeling along the reef, where we saw ray, small reef shark, huge lobsters, a gaggle of tropical fish, turtles in every direction, and a small octopus hiding in a hole under a conch shell, who challenged Nick to a game of tug-of-war.

We also hiked the short distance up Jamesby cay - a small spit on the north end of the anchorage and home to only some sunbathing iguanas - for some great views of the sparking turquoise sea below!


After two nights at the Cays, on Saturday, November 2 we motorsailed 4 nm around the corner to Saline Bay, Mayreau, the smallest inhabited island in the Grenadines.

The Roman Catholic Church is a staple in the town, and its back porch offers dramatic views of the Tobago Cays to the east. We had a lovely day ashore walking around the island, up to the village and then down to the picturesque, but crowded, Salt Whistle Bay anchorage where we took in the sights and enjoyed an ice cold beer at Black Boy and Debbie's while talking US politics with the locals.

Unfortunately, when we returned to the dinghy that afternoon we realized we'd locked the boat to the dock but had forgotten the key, so into the water Sara went to swim to the boat and back to collect the key and free the dinghy (unfortunately, this is when Nick was suffering terribly from his head and chest cold, which he likely picked up on the crowded ferry to St Vincent).

Union Island

The following day, Sunday, November 3, we sailed downwind on the jib in 15-22 kn to Frigate Island, on the back side of Union Island, which is quieter and better protected than the popular Clifton anchorage on the eastern shore.

In 1994, construction started on a 300-berth mega yacht marina, which went bankrupt and the project stopped. Recently, a conservation group, removed the bulkheads connecting the mainland with Frigate and many of the yacht slips, which completely blocked the movement of water flowing through the basin. After reopening the water flow, the conservation group planted mangroves, installed bridges allowing hikers to scramble out to the island, and installed 10 new and free moorings for cruisers.

Frigate Island has a great scramble hike up to the top with a magnificent view of the bay below, which is a mecca for kiteboarders, and we enjoyed watching their colorful kites zip around the bay during our stay.

On Thursday, November 7, we sailed off our mooring on a reefed headsail downwind toward Chatham Bay, on the lee side of Union Island, where the guide said the winds come funneling down the hillside in shrieking gusts, and definitely rang true!

Despite the high winds, we had an amazing day snorkeling the bay, which is littered with giant starfish; we'd never seen so many or as big!

Hiking around the bay was also great; we followed a rough road to the northern point of the bay and then a small path to the center ridge, both with wonderful views of the boats and bay.

A squally sail to Bequia

On Saturday, November 9, we left Chatham Bay for Bequia in pleasant 15-17 knot winds, sunny skies and calm seas. After a few hours, we saw dark clouds on the horizon; sometimes a squall will bring rain and an intense increase in winds and sometimes with barely nothing at all, however, there is no way to know before it arrives.

We reefed both of our sails in preparation, but not nearly enough for the almost 40 knot winds that blasted into us a few moments later. In the high winds, we struggled to pull in the remainder of our headsail as waves of knee-high water washed over the deck of the boat. Unfortunately, we were in shallow 100-foot water, and the swell built quickly from the high winds. After two hours, and little progress in our intended direction because of oncoming 6-8 foot waves, we made the decision to backtrack towards Canouan island, where we found near immediate relief from the swell as soon as we sailed into Rameau Bay on the northwestern shore.

Sadly, we also lost our favorite lucky fishing lure, which was snapped clean off the line from a fish before all the hubbub.

The following morning, we resumed our trek to Bequia, in some remaining sloshy seas and 17-25 knots of wind with a reefed head and main sail. Unfortunately, we realized too late that the hatch in our front v-berth cabin was closed over a line from the strapped down dinghy on deck, which we couldn't see from below, creating a small gap that allowed gallons of sea water to seep through, soaking our bedding and mattresses. Aye, the highs and lows of cruising!

Next up, after a quick cleanup and provision in Bequia, we set sail the next day for St Lucia!

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