It was last November and as the weather turned cold and grey in Europe we took off for a long holiday in the Caribbean. The plan was to meet with two of our friends for a 10-days sailing trip in Grenada, spend a few days in St Lucia to relax, then say good-bye to them and continue towards Barbados to join a cruise on a clipper-class tall ship for two weeks. Our final destination was Panama, where we planned to spend a week of exploring before returning home in Brussels just before Christmas. At the end of long and tough year, it was the perfect gift for me and my husband.
After a nine hour flight from London we finally landed in St. George’s in Grenada. It was afternoon there, warm and humid. We quickly shed our winter clothes in favour of tees and shorts and started to relax. Although we ordered the main provisioning on-line earlier (Moorings have a pretty good online shop, a bit pricey but time saving) , we asked our driver to stop at a supermarket en route.
We have sailed the BVI and St Vincent & the Grenadines before and found provisioning in the Caribbean a mixed experience. Grenada turned out to be quite good in that respect. After getting some cheese, fruit and most importantly a local gsm and data card, we reached Port Louis Marina on the south west coast of the island and found the Kea, our home for the next 10 days.
The Kea is a 40 ft Benetau, five years old and somewhat lacking in the comfort department but it is solid and powerful. Most importantly it has a large dinghy , which is a must for Caribbean sailing trips.
A word on the gsm/data cards : There are two service providers in Grenada; Digicel and Lime and both are easy to purchase and top-up. Most importantly they are cheap compared to international roaming rates. My husband bought a Digicel card and it worked perfectly up until Barbados.
The islands of the Caribbean sweep southward in a huge arc, like a string of giant-sized stepping stones from Florida to Venezuela. The Windward Islands are at the southern end of this chain, the last link before Trinidad and South America. The British named them Windwards because you had to sail windward to get there from many of their other possessions. They lie across the easterly trade winds and the four main Windward Islands, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenada are true tropical heavens.
Grenada consists of three main islands – Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique. After colonisation and changing hands between English and French too many times, the islanders had a rocky start at independence and for the last few decades democracy is finally flourishing. The money mainly comes from tourism, cacao and spice.
Grenada is the largest island and very beautiful. It’s exceptionally green and diverse with an abundance of flowers, lush valleys, waterfalls and rolling hills. The towns and houses are scattered all through the island and they are well maintained compared to other tropical islands that I’ve been to. The architecture is mainly colonial with a riot of colours – bright pinks, yellows, greens and blues- and the overall effect is pure Caribbean joy. The island has great beaches all around; Grand Anse that’s a short taxi drive from St. George is a favourite among both locals and tourists with its white sand and deep blue waters. Grenada is known as the spice island and in many places the lovely smells of cinnamon, nutmeg and cacao are in the air. We spent the first night at the marina and had an early dinner at one of the restaurants. Sleep came easy that night.
November is still the wet season in this part of the West Indies and we woke up to dark grey skies and our first squall of the tour.
After the chart briefing we left the marina for Moniere Point, an anchorage just 3kn from the marina famous for its underwater sculptures. We took a mooring at the Dragon Bay to the south and went snorkelling. Due to the rain the visibility was poor, but we still saw all the sculptures. I have mixed feelings about man-made snorkelling points. They are fun to dive but in general the fish don’t prefer them for some reason. And they almost always look better on the brochures.
I enjoyed the reef at the Moniere point though, it was shallow enough to see the full colours of the fern corals and schools of little fish, as well as trigger fish, groupers and a few angel fish.
Dinner was Pasta Arabiata with local red wine on board, accompanied by loud reggae music coming from the beach. It was windy with swells so we rolled all night long.
The second day found us sailing to Carriacou some 33kn from Grenada. Sailing is relatively easy in these waters with the constant north-easterly winds but one has keep an eye on the reefs and rocks that are not only around the islands but can come out in the middle of the ocean.
It was a clear day and the Kea made good progress thanks to a constant 15kn easterly. En route we sailed through a number of small islands – rocks if you prefer – with colourful names such as London Bridge, Twisted Sisters and Over Kick’em Jenny, which in fact is an active submerged volcano. After a short swim stop at Ronde Island, we arrived at the Tyrell Bay.
Tyrell Bay is a very large bay with the customs and a small marina on the south side and a lagoon with mangrove trees on the north side. The moorings and anchorage areas are also to the south. After a quick swim we spent a couple of hours exploring the lagoon with our dinghy and watched the pelicans perch on top of the mangrove trees.
Since we didn’t eat much that day we went for an early dinner at Lambie Queen on the beach. It’s a small shack of a restaurant with big cocktails, good food and friendly service. The clientele is a combination of locals and tourists, which is always a good sign. The service is slow, because everything is cooked to order, but tastes pretty good. We started with pina coladas and switched to lambie fritters which we washed down with cold Carib beer. So so good.
Then we continued with fish or chicken curry served with oven baked patties and coleslaw. My chicken was juicy and tasty but my friend was not very happy with her fish.
Afterwards we went back to our boat and watched a huge full moon rising behind the masts of the anchored boats. It was one of those nights where everything was in perfect harmony and I felt grateful just to be there.
We had a late start the next day. Since we were planning to visit St Vincent & the Grenadines, we had to do customs check-out at Carriacou. Afterwards we sailed a couple of miles to Sandy Island, a tiny island with the whitest sand imaginable within a protected marine park. It’s inhabited by pelicans which are everywhere. Since anchoring was prohibited we took a mooring there for EC 25. Then we spent a few hours snorkelling and walking around the island. We had another squall in the afternoon but the weather cleared pretty quickly once it passed. At sea you can see the squalls coming so you have time to get ready and more often than not they are short lived.
We took a dingy trip to Paradise Beach later in the afternoon to do some shopping from Fidel, another Caribbean tradition. Then we took the local bus to Hillsbrough, the largest city in Carriacou. It was a longish ride with people getting on and off and the driver playing the tour guide for our benefit. Hillsbrough turned out to be a seaside town with bars, hotels and a few shops, as well as the school and a small health centre. Most of the restaurants were closed due to early season, so after a stroll we took the bus back and ate again at Lambie Queen, this time with even better choices. I had the lambie curry; it was very tasty and went perfectly with my ice cold Carib. Instead of dessert, I ordered a pina colada with fresh coconut shavings and slept like a baby later that night.
We heard Lazy Turtle was another good place for dinner but true to it’s name, it was closed.
Day 4 found us sailing to Union island at SVG and we anchored at the Clifton Harbour. It was a quick trip of just 10kn. and we were familiar with the island since we spent two weeks sailing the SVG a couple of years ago. With its little shops and fruit stalls, Union Island is also one of the best places in the area to replenish the provisions.
While the boys went to the airport to do the customs check-in (cost EC 180) we went to Captain Gourmet for a cup of decent coffee and good internet connection. While we were chatting in our native Turkish, one of the other customers came and introduced herself ; that’s how we met Kamile and her handsome son Deniz. She told us that she left Turkey to merry a local man from the Union Island and she was quite excited to meet with fellow Turks this far from home. She and her husband have just acquired the Calypso Bar down the road and were preparing it for the season. Now we have another reason to go back to the lovely Union Island.
After saying goodbye to Kamile we did some quick shopping for fresh papaya, mango and avocados at Jenny & Trinity’s fruit stall and bought french bagets and banana bread fresh from the oven from the Yummy Stuff Bakery. They were super tasty, one of the banana breads just disappeared on the dinghy ride to the Kea.
We then sailed to Tobago Cays, one of the best destinations in the Caribbean. Tobago Cays are five small deserted islands that are protected from the fury of Atlantic with not one but three giant reefs; the Horseshoe, the Egg and the aptly named World’s End Reef. The islands and the reefs form an exceptional marine park and one of the islands – the Baradal – is the hatching & feeding ground for turtles.
We took a mooring at the main anchorage between Baradal, Petite Tabac and the reefs. (Cost EC 45 for the buoys and EC 10 pp for the marine park).
One thing about the Tobago Cays are the colours, or rather, the nuances of colours.
The sea changes from turquoise to green to deep blue twenty times a day, the rocks on the islands are darkest gray with red and violet veins where they sit on top sparkling white sandy beaches and the sunsets are a crazy palette of yellows, oranges and reds. ;
And of course there’re the reefs. They are shallow enough that you can see the incredible colours of the marine life which make everything else pale in comparison.
We spent two magical days there, doing little else but snorkelling, exploring the tiny islands, swimming and eating. The reefs were alive with schools of tangs, trigger fish, box fish, stingrays, angels, sea urchins and the fattest and reddest sea stars I’ve ever seen. Like people the fish have their own personality, some are territorial, others are shy and the angels are always a pair.
Waking up early to catch the turtles at their breakfast was also great. They never allow you to get too close, but they are curious creatures who like to check their surroundings, so as long as everyone keeps their respectful distance, all is well under the seas.
Nights were spent eating fresh lobsters at beach barbecues. These barbecue dinners cost around EC 100 pp and an absolute classic. First, they come to your boat to agree on the menu and the price. You can bargain a bit, but don’t forget that these guys have to earn a living. Then they take you from your boat and ride to a small island. The rules are simple, you bring your own drinks (and mosquito repellents) , they provide everything else. The menu is lobsters, plantain fritters, salad and brown rice and the portions are generous. Dessert is whatever fruit they could find that day. The dress code is barefoot with bikinis and shorts and instead of electricity you have candles and stars. Sometimes one of the other diners would bring a guitar and you can have an impromptu party but mostly all you hear is the sound of the sea and the chatter of the fellow diners. Heaven.
I especially liked Willy’s Place, the island was even more remote than the others and the lobsters were truly huge and tasty. On the way back to the Kea it started to rain heavily. After dropping us off , Willie and his wife had to ride home to Union Island, another 10 miles under the soaking rain.
Next morning there was no sign of the squalls and we sailed back to Clifton Harbour for the customs check-out under a blue sky. Downtown Clifton is cute, useful and very familiar after so many times. Its people and places are growing on me and I can’t wait to go back there.
After a short stop we continued to Petite St. Vincent, a small island home to a lux holiday resort.
Approach to PSV is real easy. Just avoid the Mopion Reef where the sea bed drops from 30m to 30 cm instantly, keep to the starboard at the Crazy Corrigans Crooked Passage and drop anchor when you see the jetty of the Goatie’s Bar, where Mr. Bequia, my favourite bartender of the West Indies welcomes you with a huge smile and a cocktail menu to die for.
Everything is pricey here but worth it and we dined and wined quite famously. After spending the night at anchor between PSV and Petit Martinique, we had an early start to
St. George’s for customs check-in (EC 130) and to get some water. Then we continued to the south coast of the island. It was a day of swells and squalls and countless rainbows, it felt like sailing in the midst of a Gay Pride.
I’m not angry, just needing my shades
The south and south west sides of Grenada are where you can find the most popular beaches, luxurious resorts, posh villas, the university and the international airport. The best bays are to the the south of the island. Most beautiful and famous of these bays are Prickly Bay, Hog Island, Petit Calivigny, Whisper Cove and Secret Harbour. These bays generally provide good anchorage and are home to a large number of boats. Grenada is a major stop for the boats sailing from Europe. So the bays are like huge display rooms for all type of sailboats, from the modern and the new to truly ancient or home-made.
After a long day we found a good spot at Woburn Bay and anchored at Petit Calivigny Cove. It was a quiet night with macaroni and wine on board.
The next day we woke up to gray skies and light rain so we decided to spend the day exploring the island. Moorings agents helped us to find a taxi to take us on an island tour at short notice. It turned out to be a good idea and we ended up having a better appreciation of the island and its people.
We stopped at many interesting places however I especially liked the Anandale Waterfalls where young athletic islanders jump from the top of the rocks to the small natural pool for a small tip and a lot of applause, a trip to a spice shop just to enjoy the wonderful aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg among many others and last but not the least, a tour to a chocolate factory.
We took a tour in a cacao estate and enjoyed it a lot. Our host Kelly was knowledgable and funny. They use the traditional methods with modern touches and their products are 100% organic. What I found most interesting was that the cacao plantations were full of fruit and spice trees such as cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, banana, golden apple, soursop, lemongrass and countless others which gave different fruity- spicy tastes to the cacao bean and hence the chocolate.One of the best things about Belgium is it’s top quality chocolate and now I can appreciate its flavours much better.
We had lunch at another cacao estate , the Belmont, where there was an open buffet Sunday lunch and live music. It was packed with islanders enjoying good food and a day with families and the relaxed atmosphere was contagious.
The real treat of the day was the trip to Roger’s Barefoot Beach Bar on Hog Island. Only accessible by boat, it’s famous among sailors and a truly classic throwback Caribbean beach bar. There’s no electricity, running water or fancy cocktails but the rum, the atmosphere and the people make it unique and fun.
Two minutes after we arrived, we were surrounded by people from everywhere coming to greet us and to tell us their stories. I spent the night chatting with a petrochemical engineer from New Zealand who is living on his boat recovering from a nasty divorce from his Venezuelan wife, a Bulgarian piano player who crossed the Atlantic on a bath tub and working at a lux hotel to earn money for the repairs and a Texan who wanted to tell me everything that’s wrong with the US of A. Luckily he was too drunk and spent the night mumbling to his glass and I enjoyed myself with my new best friends.
Robert the divorcee told me that the bays of Grenada were full of gypsies of the sea and Roger’s Bar was their meeting place. I can’t think of a better definition.
The next day was our last day on the Kea, so we spent as much time as possible on exploring the other bays and swimming the crystal blue waters. Our last anchor was at Martins Bay, close to St. George’s. Dinner was a dinghy ride away at Sails restaurant on the harbour where we truly enjoyed ourselves on painkillers , coconut shrimp and yellow tuna in lime sauce.
Another great restaurant to try is the BB’s Crabback. It’s on the water to the edge of the St. George’s harbour and have a well deserved reputation. I had the grilled crabs and my husband tried the house speciality , the curry goat. Both were exceptional and the Pina Coladas were the best I ever tried.
Next stop : Saint Lucia
Team Kea : Mutlu, Ayşegül,Deniz,Erbil