Cruising the Grenadine Islands

Each year for the last six years, my husband and I have spent three weeks sailing to different islands in the Caribbean. This year took us to St. Vincent and the Grenadines where we were thrilled to discover that each island we visited had a unique personality of its own.


Cruising the Grenadine Islands

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 2, 2002

The Grenadines offers the best snorkeling spots of any we've visited! You literally feel like you've entered a huge tropical fish aquarium. Along with the abundance of reef fish, we spied huge turtles, a multitude of lobsters, and nurse sharks (which, we were told in advance, have no interest in humans.) Divers will be in seventh heaven here. In addition to the abundance of reefs, there are several interesting wreck dives. Those who don't want to get their feet wet can take one of many tourist boats tours that will take you out dolphin and whale watching. (As a perfect end to our perfect trip, a school of 10 to 12 dolphins played around our sailboat as we headed back to our charter base.) Don't like the water at all? Take a land tour of St. Vincent to such sights as the 3000-foot La Soufriere volcano, the famous Falls of Baleine, and the Owia Salt Pond; go horseback riding on the island of Mustique; or play a round of golf at the resort on Canouan.${QuickSuggestions} We chose not to sail to various anchorages on the island of St. Vincent itself, having found through our research that the anchorages were deep (perhaps too deep for a safe anchorage with the anchor rode supplied on a chartered sailboat) and rolly. After reading some news articles in "The Compass," a free weekly newspaper servicing this set of islands, I was even more glad of this choice. It seems that in the past six months there have been a number of tourist-related crimes, including armed robberies of boats and the murder of four French tourists on their sailboat at one of St. Vincent's anchorages. One female tourist was mugged while hiking one of the many trails on St. Vincent. For safety's sake, I would recommend taking only guided tours of the island, including hiring a guide to lead you along one of the rain forest hikes. These problems were non-existent on the other, smaller, islands, and we felt perfectly safe whereever we went.${BestWay} A lot of the islands are so small that there is no problem walking from one end of them to the other. On others, you may wish to hire a taxi. On Bequia, hire a taxi for an island tour. The drivers are knowledgeable guides. If you are not on a boat, you will find ferry services and tourist boats available to take you from one island to another.

The Lagoon Marina and Hotel

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 3, 2002

We stayed at this hotel on the first and last days of our trip. The hotel, which is operated by Sunsail, a boat charter company, is small, with only 19 rooms. The rooms are very comfortably appointed, however, with two queen beds, air conditioning, ceiling fans, and a TV that can be used to access the internet. Fax services are also available. The rooms all have nice-sized balconies overlooking the marina. While devoid of art, the atmosphere of the room we had was as calming as a gentle sea, with pale green walls and a vaulted wooden ceiling painted blue and white.
Pacifica Golf Resort
Paseo De La Colina Playa Vista Hermosa
Ixtapa, Mexico
(755) 5552-500

Firefly

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 9, 2002

Firefly is perched on a hill overlooking Britannia Bay. It is situated right next to a huge pink structure that looks like it might be a hotel, but is, in fact, Liberace's old home. If you're not up to the hike up the hill, the restaurant will have you picked up at the dock.

Before dining, we elected to have some drinks at the bar while we enjoyed the sunset.

The waitstaff, though formally attired, were friendly and served us roasted, salted coconut chips with our beverages. They were a unique treat--somewhat a cross between banana chips and pumpkin seeds--and even my husband, who abhors anything with coconut in it, really liked them.

The dining area is very small--only six to eight tables--but elegant, with a nice view of the bay. Perhaps because of the small area, diners feel comfortable striking up conversations with each other. We enjoyed talking to a former member of the Canadian Parliament and his companion, a French woman, who were staying at The Cotton House, between courses.

My husband had the fish special, which was mahi mahi with vegetables, and pronounced it "superb." I selected the tortellini stuffed with spinach and sausage. It was good, but I saw little evidence of the spinach. It seemed more like tortellini with sausage meatballs in a delicate cream sauce although the meatballs did have some green flecks in them. Our bill for the entire evening, including all the beverages was $125 U.S., which we felt was a real bargain for the elegant, romantic evening we enjoyed.


Gingerbread Restaurant

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 5, 2002

The Gingerbread Restaurant is easy to locate--look for the building with the ornate Gingerbread trim. If you're on a boat, you'll be happy to know it has its own dinghy dock. For breakfasts and the luncheon barbeque, you will be seated in a garden setting right on the waterfront. (A sign is hung on the restaurant balcony indicating what meal is currently being served.) For dinner or light lunches, (sandwiches only), you will be dining upstairs in an open-air restaurant that also looks onto Admiralty Bay. My husband and I had dined on one of their light lunches here (huge tuna fish sandwiches) one afternoon and returned on a later date for dinner. I had the chicken curry, which gets my five-star recommendation. It is served with six different and very unique sauces, which we had also had a chance to sample with our appetizer. My husband ordered the equally delicious shrimp creole. You'll find the wait staff friendly and efficient. Sailors might be glad to know that they can conveniently buy ice at the Gingerbread Cafe (downstairs)where breakfast is served at a reasonable price.

A good destination for

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 3, 2002

If you have sailed only the British Virgin Islands in the past, the Grenadines are a good choice for your next destination. Do not let the fact that they are "windward islands" intimidate you. The sails between islands are relatively short--five to twelve miles, with land in sight the entire way. In easterly winds, such as we experienced, most sails are easy beam to broad reaches, and you will reach your destination in one to two hours in most cases. We never had to tack and only jibbed once. The hazards (reefs, mainly) are no more difficult to maneuver around than those you encounter in the B.V.I., and are well-marked. The anchorages are wide, and you will find yourself in 10-30 feet of water in most of them. However, you will have to anchor. Mooring balls are not as numerous as they are in the B.V.I., and on some islands are non-existent, so brush up on your anchoring techniques before you go. It will be well worth it. While we enjoyed our sails in the B.V.I., we found the islands to be rather homogeneous compared to the Grenadines, where each island has its own special personality, and there are a lot more land activities to enjoy. The snorkeling and diving here is as good, if not superior, to that found in the B.V.I. If snorkeling is your "hot spot," let me say that snorkeling in the Tobago Cays, in particular, will eclipse any experience you had on Anegada in the B.V.I., which I had considered the best snorkeling experience in all the Caribbean until our visit to the Grenadines this year.

Different islands/Different personalities: St. Vincent

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 3, 2002

St. Vincent is by far the most populated of the country known as "St. Vincent and the Grenadines." As such, it offers a greater agenda of sightseeing opportunities than do the islands that are collectively known as "the Grenadines." Many tour agencies exist that will provide guided tours of the island's 3000-foot volcano, its numerous and beautiful waterfalls, rainforests, nature trails, and the Owia Salt Pond. One such is HazECO Tours, located in Kingstown. Its phone number is (784)-457-8632. As mentioned in the overview, for safety's sake, I recommend paying for a guide, even if you simply plan on taking a hike along one of this islands nature trails. HazECO tours also offers Flora, Fauna, and Bird Watching tours. Dive St. Vincent (Phone (784)-457-4928; e-mail bill2s@caribsurf.com; web: www.divestvincent.com)can set up your scuba adventures for you in advance.

Different islands/Different personalities: Mustique

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 9, 2002

Mustique is the island of the rich and famous. Privately owned, it has been a second home to personalities such as Liberace, Princess Margaret, Raquel Welch, and Mick Jagger. There are only 80 homes on the island, and you may mistakenly think some of them are castles or elaborate hotels rather than private residences. A walk around the island reveals pristine little cottages as well. There are two hotels to choose from--The FireFly House (phone: 784-456-3414; e-mail: fireflymus@caribsurf.com; web: mustiquefirefly.com) and The Cotton House (phone: 784-456-4777; email: cottonhouse@caribsurf.com; web: cottonhouse.net). They are both small, so you will be insured privacy at each. The Firefly has only four rooms and the Cotton House, twenty. Be prepared to pay a tidy sum!

The snorkeling here is superb. There is a reef on the southwest coast of the island where you will find a large variety of fish, including the harmless nurse sharks. At the entrance to Britannia Bay is Montezuma Shoal. The Wreck of the Jonas lies in 40 feet of water on the east side of the shoal. There is a dinghy mooring that you can tie up to when snorkeling, and the water is so clear, the wreck is clearly visible. Barracudas and nurse sharks can also be seen. If you wish to dive, you can contact Mustique Water Sports (VHF:68,16). They will pick you up at your boat.

If you want to stay drier, a horseback ride will provide you with a nice island tour. These are usually provided in the early morning (8 or 9 A.M.) or the later afternoon (3 or 4 P.M.). You can arrange for a ride with the Mustique Company at Brittania Bay or by calling the Cotton House. Or simply take a walk to the famous and beautiful Macaroni beach on the east coast of the island and relax with a drink as you lie in a hammock and keep your eye out for any celebrities who might be about.

If you're sailing, you need to be aware that there is no anchoring allowed off Mustique. The Mustique Company rents mooring balls at Britannia Bay, which is a beautiful anchorage. The charge was $20 U.S. for the first night, and the second and third nights were free. If you've sailed only in the B.V.I., be aware that these mooring balls are a bit different. They have no rope attached, and you must either go "stern to" to pick one up and walk it to the bow or send a crew member out in the dinghy to grab one. Better yet, especially if you're short-handed, call Mustique Moorings on VHF: 16/68 and the ranger will dinghy out to help you. We found him to be a great source of information on the island as well; he pointed out Liberace's former home, told us where we could dispose of our garbage, and directed us to the best snorkeling areas in the Bay.


Different islands/Different personalities: Bequia

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on September 5, 2002

Bequia is a short hop from St. Vincent. Those not on a boat can fly directly to Bequia or take a ferry from St. Vincent. The first ferry leaves St. Vincent about 6:30 A.M. and the last ferry returns to St. Vincent from Bequia at about 7 P.M. It will prove a good day trip. Bequia is only 7.5 square miles and has the atmosphere of a small fishing village. Historically, the islanders were active whalers, but this is no longer the case. An island tour, which will take 2 1/2 to 3 hours at a leisurely pace, can be had from any of a number of taxi drivers who will accost you as you pass. Some of these have recently banded together and call themselves the "A-team." They have standardized prices and print their own mini-tour pamphlet. They charge $20 U.S. per hour for 1-4 people. Our "A-team" driver proved very informative about the island, but be aware that a "taxi" here means that you will be riding on a bench in the back of a pick-up truck for the most part. I recommend against visiting the much-touted turtle sanctuary during your tour. Our driver stopped at it, and it seemed to be nothing but a large number of turtles, housed in individual compartments. The price of entry was $5 U.S., which seemed excessive for the small cage-type building at which we had stopped. Our driver did not seem to be overly enthusiastic about it either and did not try to convince us when I decided not to enter the sanctuary.

I found that Bequia had the best-priced souvenirs of all the Grenadines. My husband was delighted to find a t-shirt he loved was only $10 U.S. at Melinda's. On other islands, the same t-shirt was $20 U.S. Noah's Arkade, which is right on the waterfront, has great prices on Caribbean crafts and spices. I bought a great set of "fish" coasters there for my Caribbean-motif gameroom for $6 U.S.

There is a reef extending offshore between Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay Beach in Admiralty Bay that makes for some nice snorkeling, though not as good as what you will find elsewhere in the Grenadines.

If you're sailing, we found that the best anchorage is between Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay Beach. It's convenient to everything. Snorkle the anchor, though. When we anchored here on our way back, we found that our anchor rode was twisted around a huge log and had to do some manuveuring to get it off.


Different islands/Different personalities: Tobago Cays

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on May 13, 2003

The Tobago Cays are not just one island, but a chain of deserted islands (except for all the boats anchored off them) that constitute a national park. I have dubbed them the "Adventure Islands" of the Grenadines. The islands are protected from the ocean by Horseshoe Reef and the snorkeling here is the best we've found in the Caribbean, rivaled only by Anegada in the B.V.I. In fact, it rivals many of the reef dives I've ever taken. The water is a brilliant turquoise that entices you to jump off the boat the minute you set anchor, and fades to blue, green, gold, and brown as you get closer to the reef. There are dinghy moorings positioned along the reef so you can anchor in the clear, deeper water, and then dinghy out to where you can literally snorkle for hours without becoming bored. It is a magnificent close-to-the-surface aquarium that provides snorkelers with sights that are normally available only to those who scuba dive. (For those who do want to dive, Grenadines Dive specializes in the Tobago Cays, and they will come and pick you up from your boat. You can also give them a call if you are staying on a nearby island and want to dive the Cays. Contacts for Grenadines Dive are as follows -- Phone: 458-8138; e-mail: gdive@caribsurf.com; website: www.grenadinesdive.com.)

When you finally decide that you have to stop snorkeling to eat something, the sandy beach of any one of the four islands making up the Tobago Cays provides a perfect setting for a beach barbeque. (Please take your trash with you when you're finished partying, though.) If you've neglected to provision well, boat vendors will be along offering fresh fish and lobster, fruits, ice, and bread. They also sell T-shirts and jewelry, but before you buy a T-shirt from one of them, look for someone who has a clothesline of shirts set up on either Jamesby or Petit Bateau Island. Wilma Dember sets up her "shop" on one of these two Cays most days and has great-priced, high-quality T-shirts for only 35EC$, a much lower price than you will get from a boat vendor and also much lower than you will find in most shops on the islands in the Grenadines.

After the barbeque, head back to the boat and relax on the deck under a sky decorated with a confetti of stars while planning your next adventurous day in the Cays. Bet you can't do just one!


Different islands/Different personalities: Mayreau

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by mplunkert on May 13, 2003

Mayreau is a quiet little island. It has none of the bustle of Bequia and it is not a habitat of the rich and famous. It boasts one small village, pristine beaches, and spectacular views. It is, in my mind, the island of romance. Unfortunately (or, fortunately, for some of us), the only way to get to Mayreau is by boat. There are no airports on the island. Perhaps the best recommendation for the island comes from a sailor we met while anchored in Salt Whistle Bay. He hails from Trinidad and claims he sails to Salt Whistle Bay every year for his month-long summer vacation.

There are two good anchorages off Mayreau, of which Salt Whistle Bay is the prettier. It is bounded by two reefs, which makes for good snorkeling. If you plan to anchor here, arrive early as the anchorage fills up quickly. Ashore is the Salt Whistle Bay Club (VHF: 16/68), which is nestled in the trees right off the beach. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but be aware that you must make your dinner reservations, including meal choices, by 8pm. Dinner service begins at 7pm and we found it to be a unique, exceptional experience in all ways. Huge stone booths with thatched roofs and subtle lighting provide privacy from other diners, and conch shells filled with fresh flowers decorate the stone slab tables. We opted for a breaded shrimp appetizer (cost: 26EC$) that was wonderful. The shrimp were presented on a salad of cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peaches. My husband ordered lamb chops in red wine sauce and I had chicken Parmesan. Each entrée was 50EC$ and came with fresh bread and butter, fried potato nuggets, a cabbage salad, and green beans -- both dishes were five-star restaurant quality. We opted out of dessert, but the choices were vanilla ice cream (10EC$) and crêpes suzette (12EC$).

A short path winds alongside the restaurant area to the windward side of the island, and it is well worth the short walk to see the spectacle of waves crashing against the reefs with Canouan in the background. If one of your party feels that the mere sight of another wave will induce nausea, he or she can always opt to browse the little boutique that is adjacent to the restaurant or down another drink at the bar.

If you arrive too late to anchor in Salt Whistle Bay, you will probably find a spot in Saline Bay, on the east side of the island. This is also the anchorage to choose if you want to try to get some basic supplies, as there are none to be had in Salt Whistle Bay. (Boat vendors do come along selling fresh bread, ice, fish, and T-shirts. Don't pay more than about 6EC$ for the bread, which is the going price, but do consider ordering some. It arrives warm early the following morning! Ice should cost about 20EC$ a bag for block ice or cubes. We found some vendors tried to charge substantially more than these prices if they thought they could get away with it.) You will find some small grocery stores in the village off Saline Bay, however, as well as several nice restaurants with great views of the harbor, according to other sailors we met.


http://www.igougo.com/journal-j12543-St._Vincent_and_the_Grenadines-Cruising_the_Grenadine_Islands.html

©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009