Cruising in the Grenadines

Our Group


Dec 20, 2018

For at least ten years, six of us, all members at Toronto’s Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, have been talking about chartering a boat in the Caribbean. We finally put our money down, and selected a Lagoon 39 catamaran from Sail Grenadines in Bequia. It seemed like the perfect place; Nick and I had been to St. Vincent and the Grenadines many years ago and the others, Robert, Petra, Steve and Melanie, accepted our word that it was much less crowded than many of the other cruising grounds of the Caribbean.  A new airport was recently built in St. Vincent, and now you can fly direct once a week from Toronto. Sail Grenadines would deliver the boat to us in St. Vincent for a small fee.

We have all raced Thunderbirds together and against each other over the years. Knowing we could all get along on the race course meant cruising together shouldn’t be a problem.  Our biggest concern was making sure we would have ample supplies of rum and juice for our evening cocktails.

Floating AroundThe company informed us that the Laguna 39 we had booked was being taken out of service, and we would have to make do with a Laguna 42 at the same price. Such a shame. The boat was immaculate – almost brand new and has probably spoiled us evermore for chartering.

With about 150 years of sailing experience among us and Nick a marine industry expert Sail Grenadines didn’t seem worried about us taking the boat. Early on Nick informed us that if there was one thing we could count on, it was his ‘marine incompetence.’ (He later claimed he meant ‘competence.’)

We provisioned in St. Vincent, then headed south to Union Island. It was a fabulous sail with the wind aft of the beam, and we spotted a pod of whales between Bequia and Canouan Islands. Whaling is allowed for Bequia residents only, and only for four weeks a year. They have to use “traditional” boats and methods – that is Bequia whaling boats and spears. Apparently they get one about every three or four years.

Model Wendy brought home a model of a traditional whaling boat

We encountered some interesting folks on Union Island, and Lamba’s carries just about everything you can think of – mostly used. Wander through his collection of, er, items, and make him an offer. He was even willing to sell us a street goat for about $150 EC, but we passed on that opportunity.

We then headed off to Saline Bay, in the Island of Mayreau, with its population of about 300 people. As you can see from the photo, Robert and Steve were some stressed out floating on the inflatable pizza slices. We enjoyed a beach barbeque complete with Christmas decorations (wow, do they seem out of place on the beach!). We met John Forde who is an avid sailboat racer and showed us his boat. He is well known in the area for being the fastest on the race course.

We spent a couple of days at the Tobago Cays, which had been my favourite snorkeling grounds back in 2001. Alas, a hurricane has destroyed much of the coral since then, although the fish and especially the turtles are happy and plentiful enough. It is a national marine park and boats are not supposed to anchor there over night, so we headed off to Saltwhistle Bay, back on Mayreau.

John Of Canouan Mel Austin

After Tobago Cays, we headed back north to Canouan, where, just as the guide says, we bought water from John Junior, who delivers it straight to your boat at half the price of the water we paid for in Bequia. Who knew?

John Jr of Canouan

John and son John Jr. deliver water to visiting boats in Canouan;

Did I mention that the boat had four cabins and four heads? Turns out it had four holding tanks, too, which we didn’t discover until half way through the trip. When the time came for Steve and Robert to open the valves, Petra, Mel and I ran, practically tripping over each other, to the foredeck. Nick, who was driving, decided to head downwind, I suppose to share the delightful exhaust of the heads and thus displaying his ‘marine incompetence.’

The next day we sailed to Bequia, my favourite of the islands. We chose to skip Mustique, island of the rich and famous. Little did we know that we arrived in Bequia on the one day each fortnight that a cruise ship comes in. Oh well.

Georgeous Sunset a gorgeous sunset, ship or no.

Bequia is a delightful island, with plenty of beach bars and restaurants, stores, model boat builders, inns, and cottages. On our flight down, we ran into John Edwards, past commodore of Toronto Hydroplane and Sailing Club, who rents a cottage for five months a year in Bequia. I can see why. Four of us left Bequia by island hopper plane, and the security at the airport is nothing like what you will find in Toronto, to say the least. But if you fly out, be prepared to pay $100 EC ($40 US) to leave the country. That, in itself, is reason enough to just hang around Bequia until spring.

• Wendy Loat

Wendy Loat races a T-Bird and Laser, and is always happiest on a boat, any boat.

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