Chartering a Boat in the Islands – It’s Easier Than You Think

the Grenadines


Story by Sheryl Shard • Photos by Paul and Sheryl Shard

Glancing down into the water as I prepared to furl in the genoa for the approach to the Tobago Cays, a group of five uninhabited Caribbean islands in the Grenadines, I was struck by the incredible colour of the water – a sparkling sapphire blue that slid into astonishing hues of turquoise and aquamarine as the water grew more shallow near the entrance to the Cays. We could have been floating on a swimming pool.

The pristine water over the white sand bottom reflects the sky here and the clarity is so amazing that nearby reefs pop out visibly in hues of greens, reds, oranges and gold. With the sun high over your shoulder, the reefs are easy to spot and steer clear of. Fish fly in diamond-like showers and turtles raise their heads in a relaxed fashion as you cruise by. No worries. Be happy. 

Dropping the main to get ready to anchor behind Horseshoe Reef, I realized that it was scenes like this that my husband, Paul, and I had been dreaming of for so many years and waited so long to achieve. And we did.

The small islands of the Grenadines, belonging to the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, along with the islands of Petite Martinique, Carriacou and Grenada all belonging to Grenada to the south, are gems of the Caribbean Windward Islands. No wonder they offer popular cruising grounds and chartering destination for those new to sailing. 

the Grenadines - Beachside BBQClosely spaced, sparsely inhabited islands with golden beaches, great diving and fishing, opportunities for open water sailing, small settlements with friendly people to welcome you yet, access to good yachting services and facilities all make Grenada a great place to plan a sailing get-away, even for the novice.

Many of life’s commitments make the dream of sailing off to exotic foreign ports seem impossible, but it’s not. You can charter a boat in Grenada that suits your vacation budget and gives you the opportunity to learn to sail in warm and friendly waters.


Charter to Cruise and Learn

My husband, Paul, and I have now been sailing internationally for 26 years including six transatlantic crossings. But we didn’t grow up sailing. We were in our 20s when we got interested in the sailing lifestyle and, with little or no experience, we learned to sail through a type of bareboat chartering known as “cruise and learn” offered by many charter companies and sailing schools in fabulous worldwide sailing destinations.

The Grenadines - St. George'sMargaret and Douglas Kimmerly – passionate scuba divers who vacationed regularly in the tropics – had virtually no boating experience so they decided to go to the Toronto International Boat Show one year to see what was involved.

“We just wanted to see what boats were available and what the costs were to get into boating,” said Margaret. “There we discovered many charter companies in destinations we loved diving in. We had no idea.”

Sunsail offers charters in Grenada (as well as many others destinations), but Grenada was appealing due to direct air connections and of course, great diving. 

“So we went for it,” Maggie continues. “Our skipper was great! He let us handle the boat with his supervision, gave us great experiences due to his local knowledge and was really helpful getting our diving equipment organized. That first charter was a gentle introduction to the joys of sailing in a location that many longtime sailors at home seem only to dream about. We were hooked!”

 “We have had fabulous vacations sailing in the tropics since then. We improved our skills, and speedily gained confidence and finally qualified to charter on our own. In the summer months, we now sail on Lake Ontario on a shared boat through SailTime and will likely invest in a boat of our own when we sell the business and retire.”


The Grenadines - J'ouvertTobago Cays

Sails down, we glided past white sand beaches and palm trees as we entered the Tobago Cay anchorage which is snuggled behind the sweeping Horseshoe Reef that offers good protection from the ocean waves traveling across the Atlantic from Africa. There were about 30 boats all bobbing on the hook as we arrived: a mixture of monohulls and multihulls, some of them charter boats, the rest live-aboard cruising boats from beginners to diehards. 

As we dropped our anchor, well away from the reef and small coral heads, two small wooden boats approached us. One was the park warden collecting a small park fee and the other was Romeo, one of the many local fishermen who offer fresh caught fish, conch, lobster and ice for sale to the sailors who come to enjoy this paradise where fishing is not permitted. Romeo holds regular evening BBQs on the beach here – great fun and a welcomed break for the galley chef. Loads of grilled seafood, salads and vegetable dishes and the chance to meet other like-minded boaters – it was a party in the making and hard to refuse. 


The Grenadines - Union IslandWhen to Go

You can sail in Grenada all year long. On our last visit, Paul and I had decided to cruise the islands in summertime. Yes, during the hurricane season (officially June through October). Since it is located at the most southern tip of the Windward Islands and on the outer edge of the hurricane zone, the risk of these powerful summer storms is low. Temperatures increase only slightly during the summer months but, when sailing or at anchor; there is always a cooling and consistent trade wind from the east. We found that the breezes and seas are gentler in the summer months offering more relaxed cruising, swimming and snorkeling. If you’re planning a “cruise and learn” or a bareboat charter here, rates are considerably cheaper in the shoulder- and off-season months.

Spicemas, Grenada’s annual carnival celebrations, takes place at the end of July and first week of August so it’s a great time to begin, or end a bareboat charter. Sailors among us agree that the people here are the most friendly and welcoming. During Spicemas, visitors are encouraged to join in the “bands” and participate in costume in the spectacular parades. We participated in the evening light parade as well as the J’ouvert Pageant, where at 4 a.m. everyone gets up and marches down the street dancing, hugging and painting one another until sunrise.


The Grenadines - BequiaGrenada – A Great Place to Start

The main island of Grenada is a great place to start a cruise of this area at any time of the year. We made our base the marina at Port St. Louis, part of the Camper and Nicholsons chain, where there are beautiful facilities and close access to the historic town of St. Georges with the old Carenage, market, shops and restaurants as well as the beautiful two-mile long Grande Anse Beach. There are good marinas and boatyards and many well-stocked chandleries.

If you go, allow some time to explore the island by land. Rent a car or take a taxi tour to visit its beautiful natural sights, such as the rain forests and waterfalls – where there are good hiking trails), the nutmeg factory (Grenada is known as the Spice Island and has a nutmeg on its flag) and the chocolate factory which produces the most delicious chocolate which is still shipped to Europe on Tres Hombres, an old-fashioned, square-rigged Brigantine 32-meter sailing ship.

A one-week cruise would start at one of the marinas with a first stop in St. Georges, either mooring in Port St. Louis Marina or anchoring off the harbour entrance near Grande Anse Beach. On Day 2, prepare for a great sail along the west coast of Grenada past Isle de Ronde and Kick ’em Jenny to the Grenada out island of Carricou. You’ll likely anchor in Tyrell Bay, a favourite hangout with rum shops, beach bars and good The Grenadines - Sunsetlocal restaurants, and all easy access from your inflatable. We actually phone The Lazy Turtle ahead of time to ensure a hot delicious pizza is ready for our arrival! Next day, enjoy a sail to Sandy Island for snorkelling and sunning before making the jump to Chatham Bay on Union Island where music and good beach dining offered by local fishermen awaits – a common theme in the Caribbean. Day 4, sail around to the west side for a shopping stop at Clifton Harbour or lunch across the channel at the Palm Island Resort. Day 5, have a pleasant sail up to the Tobago Cays to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Watching the sunset, plan your return trip to Grenada via Petit St. Vincent and Petite Martinique for out island delights and friendliness.

Still thinking sailing a beautiful yacht in a tropical destination is a far-off dream? Check out the great deals offered by charter companies and airlines and start planning your escape under sail now.


The Grenadines - Chatham BayPaul and Sheryl Shard have been cruising internationally since 1989. Before setting sail from Port Credit Yacht Club on Lake Ontario, they did Cruise and Learn flotilla chartering, then bareboat chartering to build experience and try out various boat designs before they built their first boat and set sail. They are award-winning travel documentary filmmakers and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series available on DVD or online on Vimeo on Demand. You can follow their adventures on www.distantshores.ca


Fast Facts

Camper and Nicholsons camperandnicholsons.com

Sail Canada (formerly CYA –  Keelboat Cruising Courses) sailing.ca

Grenada (Tourism) grenadagrenadines.com/

SailTime (Fractional Ownership) sailtime.com

The Grenadines - Tobago Cays National Marine Park RangerSunsail (Charters and Cruise and Learn) sunsail.com

Toronto International Boat Show tibs.com



Grenada Tourist Board



St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourist Board



The Grenadines - ShipbuildingGrenada Cruisers Facebook Group



Grenada Cruisers, Coming Events and Advertising Facebook Group



Tobago Cays National Marine Park



Noonsite: The Global Site for Cruising Sailors by World Cruising Club




The Grenadines - NutmegBest Cruising Guide

Start planning your cruise or charter now by picking up a copy of Chris Doyle’s, 2015-2016 Sailors Guide to the Windward Islands, 17th edition, the definitive guide to cruising and chartering in this area.

Published by Chris Doyle Publishing in association with Cruising Guide Publications, ISBN 9780-944428-94-8. Updates and additional resources at www.doyleguides.com



Grenada Marinas

Clarkes Court Boatyard and Marina

Clarkes Court Bay, St. George’s



Grenada Yacht Club 

St. George’s, Grenada

http://www.grenadayachtclub.com , gyc@caribsurf.com 


Le Phare Bleu Marina & Boutique Hotel 

Petite Calivigny Bay, St George’s, Grenada 



Martins Marina (formally Secret Harbour Marina) 

Mt Hartman Bay, St. George’s, Grenada



Prickly Bay Marina 

Prickly Bay, St George’s, Grenada

http://pricklybaymarina.com , info@pricklybaymarina.com 


Whisper Cove Marina

Clarkes Court Bay, St. George’s, Grenada

http://whispercovemarina.com/ reservation@whispercovemarina.com


Port Louis Marina 

St. George’s, Grenada

http://www.cnmarinas.com/marinas/details.htm?id=5&name=port-louis , reservations@cnportlouismarina.com 


True Blue Bay Marina 

True Blue Bay Marina , Grand Anse 

http://www.horizonyachtcharters.com/grenada/grenada.html , info@horizongrenada.com 


Grenadine’s Marinas

Anchorage Yacht Club Hotel (stern-to docking only)

Clifton Bay, Union Island


Clifton Bay, Union Island


Bougainvilla Marine Mall (stern-to docking only)

Clifton Bay, Union Island



Photo Captions

Photo 1 – “With the sun high over your shoulder, the reefs are easy to spot and steer clear of. Fish fly in diamond-like showers and turtles raise their heads in a relaxed fashion as you cruise by. No worries. Be happy.”

Photo 2 – No fishing is permitted in the Tobago Cays but local fishers visit the anchorages to sell fresh fish, lobster and conch. They also offer BBQ’s on the beach most evenings which are great fun to attend. You get loads of fresh seafood, salads and vegetable dishes in a beautiful setting and get to meet lots of other sailors.

Photo 3 – One of the top marinas favoured as a base for cruising this area is Port Louis Marina, a Camper and Nicolsons Marina, in St. George’s, Grenada. Here you have a beautiful view of The Carenage in the old part of town in St. George’s. It’s an easy walk to the old market, historical sites, restaurants and shops as well as good chandleries.

Photo 4 – What to do after sunrise when you’re covered with paint after J’ouvert? Several restaurants offer a hose and soap plus breakfast! The staff at Port Louis Marina had a station ready to hose and soap you down as well before coming back into the marina.

Photo 5 – Union Island in the Grenadines is a popular stop for charterers and cruising sailors alike due to the colourful market, small grocery stores, shops, boutiques and good restaurants.

Photo 6 – If you have longer than a week to cruise up from Grenada you will have time to sail to Bequia, another jewel in the crown of the Grenadines. The main anchorage is found in Admiralty Bay where strolling along the waterfront path you will find charming restaurants, bars and boutiques as well as good grocery stores including Doris Fresh Foods that carries hard-to-find gourmet items, a couple of sailmakers, small chandleries and numerous yacht services. Many sailors get “washed ashore” in Bequia finding it hard to leave. Good drinking water is delivered right to your boat by calling on the VHF radio.

Photo 7 – Boat at anchor in Tyrell Bay, a great place to watch amazing sunsets and the “green flash”.

Photo 8 – Chatham Bay on Union Island in the Grenadines where music and good beach dining offered by local fishermen awaits.

Photo 9 – The Tobago Cays National Marine Park is a protected area. No fishing is permitted making it a great place to snorkel and dive since there is an abundance of marine life. When you arrive a friendly park ranger will visit your boat to collect a daily per person park fee. You can also buy weekly, monthly and yearly permits if you plan to spend some time cruising in this area.

Photo 10 – Sailing and shipbuilding has a long history in this area and traditional sloops are still built and raced in Grenada, Carriacou and the neighbouring islands of the Grenadines. Here the villagers of Sauteurs on the north coast of Grenada launch their boats from the beautiful beach here for weekend practice

Photo 11 – Grenada is known as the Spice Island due to the production of nutmeg and mace crops here and is one of the world’s top exporters.


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