In the wake of the hur­ri­canes that dev­as­tated the Vir­gin Is­lands last year many char­ter­ers ended up go­ing far­ther south to Gre­nada and the Gre­nadines where Į Į p

SAIL - - Contents - By Paul Gelder

For Paul Gelder, a bareboat char­ter to the Gre­nadines re­sults in both some mag­nif­i­cent sail­ing and a trip down mem­ory lane

We kept a close eye on the depth as we made our way into the Tobago Cays

G“God must have been a sailor when he cre­ated the Caribbean,” a friend once told me. “How else could he have so per­fectly aligned the crescent of West In­dian is­lands run­ning north to south with tradewinds blow­ing from the east at about Force 4-5 al­most ev­ery day of the year?”

I could see God’s per­fect work for my­self as I looked out the win­dow of the plane tak­ing me to Gre­nada. The Gre­nadines are as close to sail­ing par­adise as you’ll find in the Caribbean and the is­lands are as lush as they come.

It was Novem­ber, and it was a case of three men on a boat look­ing for an early win­ter es­cape. My friends Pete and Ralph flew down from Bos­ton, and we met at a bar called the Dodgy Dock in True Blue Bay, right next door to the Hori­zon Yacht Char­ters base. True Blue Bay Re­sort is a great place to re­lax and spend the first and last nights of your char­ter. I couldn’t wait to get afloat, and a day later I was helm­ing our well-named Bavaria 45, Dream Maker, north on the sparkling azure seas to­ward Car­ri­a­cou, our first is­land stop.

Three hours out from the bay we passed the north­ern tip of Gre­nada, emerg­ing from the is­land’s lee into a slight ocean swell speck­led with a few white­caps. “Keep your east­ing,” was the sage ad­vice from Earl, who gave us a chart brief­ing be­fore we left Hori­zon Yachts. The Equa­to­rial cur­rent that sweeps across the At­lantic, driven by the tradewinds, is squeezed be­tween the is­lands, ac­cel­er­at­ing your lee­way.

We gave a wide berth to “Kick ‘em Jenny,” an un­der­wa­ter vol­cano that last erupted in De­cem­ber 2001. In 1939 it broke the sur­face of the sea with a cloud of de­bris, gen­er­at­ing a se­ries of mini-tsunamis, one of which reached Bar­ba­dos. The last “orange alert,” how­ever, was in 2015. Pass­ing Di­a­mond

Rock, we eased sheets to bear away for Tyrrell Bay on the south­west tip of Car­ri­a­cou, of­ten the first stop for char­ter yachts com­ing out of Gre­nada.

Mo­tor­ing through the pop­u­lar an­chor­age past blue­wa­ter yachts fly­ing flags from all cor­ners of the world we avoided a sub­merged pin­na­cle rock that some lo­cal wit had named “Bareboat Bounce,” and picked up a moor­ing off the gently curv­ing sandy beach.

It had been al­most 27 years to the day since my first Caribbean sail­ing trip to the Gre­nadines, and Tyrell Bay hasn’t changed that much (yet), though work had just started on a new port fa­cil­ity and ma­rina at the north end of the bay. The rest of bay still has echoes of a sleepy Carib- bean back in the 1970s and 1980s.

We took the dinghy ashore to Car­ri­a­cou Ma­rine, a small, friendly boat­yard at the south­ern end of the bay where a hand­ful of snow­bird cruis­ers were busy work­ing on their yachts, get­ting ready to re-launch. It seems to be true that cruis­ing is boat main­te­nance in ex­otic lo­ca­tions.

The main drag run­ning along the shore­line has a few sim­ple shops, shacks, bars and eat­ing places. Noth­ing fancy or flashy. Menus of­fer lob­ster, lambi (conch) or fish any way you like—fried, baked, cur­ried or stewed. We had a beer in the Lazy Tur­tle pizze­ria and bar, where our sassy wait­ress Melissa gave free life-coach­ing ad­vice. “Re­lax, you’re in de is­lands, mon!”

Next morn­ing Pete and I walked to Hills­bor­ough, Car­ri­a­cou’s cap­i­tal, on a nos­tal­gic tour. Like me, Pete had been here 27 years ago, but time and mem­ory de­cided to play tricks on us, and what we thought was a stroll to town turned into a four-mile hike. We amused our­selves by count­ing the nu­mer­ous rum shops along the way, some no big­ger than a front room—in­deed, per­haps they were some­one’s front room. Car­ri­a­cou folks like their rum, but we re­sisted temp­ta­tion, as we were on our way to get our pa­pers stamped at im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms. Red tape and cruis­ing go to­gether here. Some is­lands are coun­tries, “each with a flag, a cap­i­tal and bored cus­toms of­fi­cials,” some­one once told me, and we needed to clear out from Gre­nada to sail in St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines, with lots of pa­per­work, rub­ber stamps and forms to sign. Af­ter a cool drink we caught the minibus back to Tyrell Bay for 3.50 EC (East Caribbean) dol­lars ($1.20 US).

We set sail and less than three hours later, an­chored in the translu­cent emer­ald wa­ters of Clifton Har­bor, Union Is­land, and took the dinghy ashore to “clear in” and go through the whole rig­ma­role again. Twenty years ago my pass­port was stamped in a straw hut by a land­ing strip as cat­tle grazed around the run­way. To­day there’s a pur­pose-built air­port ter­mi­nal funded by the Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment.

Our next is­land stop was Mayreau. Its spec­tac­u­lar half-moon beach at Salt Whis­tle Bay was crowded, so we spent the night in Sa­line Bay. Ralph grilled pork chops, and we dined un­der the stars as a cool tradewind breeze floated through the cock­pit. The ex­er­tions of sail­ing, hik­ing, hot sun and rum meant bed­time was at “cruiser’s mid­night”—2100. Ralph slept in the cock­pit, tak­ing ad­van­tage of the breeze, and 11 hours went by be­fore we stirred for break­fast.

Tak­ing the dinghy ashore we walked up the main street, a steep hill, pass­ing bars and cafes, one blast­ing out reg­gae. It’s some­thing of a breath­less pil­grim­age to get to the Catholic church at the top of the hill and en­joy the spec­tac­u­lar, panoramic views of the Tobago Cays, our next stop. The Tobago Cays is one of the Caribbean’s most spec­tac­u­lar, ex­otic (and usu­ally crowded) an­chor­ages, vis­ited by sailors from all over the world. Ralph and I were on the bow look­ing down into the iri­des­cent depths as we mo­tored slowly through a nar­row pas­sage be­tween the is­lands of Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau, and Pete manned the helm, call­ing out the depths. At one anx­ious point the depth­sounder in­di­cated 1ft of wa­ter un­der our deep keel, though, with the usual char­ter com­pany fudge fac­tor taken into ac­count, Pete guessed it was more like 3ft.

The cays are a pro­tected ma­rine park with five small, un­in­hab­ited is­lands ly­ing be­hind Horse­shoe Reef and the aptly named World’s End Reef. Be­yond, across thou­sands of miles of empty ocean, lies Africa. We dropped the hook east of Jamesby Is­land. If you want con­ve­nience, you can pick up a moor­ing buoy for 10 EC dol­lars per per­son a day. To our east lay Petit Tabac is­land, where they filmed Johnny Depp and Keira Knightly ma­rooned and dis­cov­er­ing a stash of rum in the first Pi­rates of the Caribbean film.

With 14 beaches on the is­lands, the cays are a pop­u­lar nest­ing site for Hawks­bill tur­tles. They swim by, pop­ping their in­quis­i­tive heads above wa­ter to check out the new visi­tors. It’s a great snorkelling spot, but on the day of our visit a strong breeze and cur­rents made it un­ten­able. At the cays I had a reunion with 54-year-old “boat boy” Syd­ney Dal­las (see side­bar) who had sold me a T-shirt 27 years ago. Yes, I bought an­other.

From left: Ralph en­joys an­other ex­cel­lent day’s sail­ing; Be­quia is fa­mous for its model whale­boats; look­ing for­ward to a very merry Christ­mas; the beauty of Car­ri­a­cou’s Tyrell Bay

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