Life is short – start with dessert!
By Andy Adams
It’s been a long time since the Galley Guys got together to have some fun, so Greg Nicoll, the original Galley Guy, got me, Managing Editor Andy Adams and our Canadian Yachting Ambassador John Armstrong together with Linda Armstrong and Katherine Stone our expert Canadian Yachting sail reviewer for a fabulous reunion trip to St. Vincent & the Grenadines at the start of summer 2023.
The plot was hatched at the Toronto International Boat Show from a discussion Greg had with David Feick at the Barefoot Yacht Charter display. That led to a friendly burger and beer dinner with David and Phillip Barnard, owner of Barefoot Yacht Charters, where Greg described the Galley Guys’ philosophy about good fun, good food and good friends. Logically, the idea of a Galley Guy reunion flowed from that.
A combination of being busy with business and hamstrung by COVID meant the Galley Guys had not been out and about for ages, and that reminds us that life is short. The Galley Guys were way overdue for their just desserts – or at least a great trip somewhere.
From the conversations at the Toronto Boat Show, it was clear – Barefoot Yacht Charters is the perfect gateway to St. Vincent & the Grenadines, a place with great sailing, glorious tropical beaches and a lot of unspoiled territory. What a treat it would be to cruise their chain of 32 tropical islands.
Located in the southern Caribbean Sea forming part of the Windward Islands, St. Vincent & the Grenadines is a chain of islands and cays extending 45 miles to the southwest like a kite’s tail. St. Vincent, Young Island, Bequia, Mustique, Kanawati and Meru, the Tobago Cays Marine Park, Union Island, Palm Island, and Petit Saint Vincent are the main islands.
St. Vincent (the “Vincies” call it the mainland) is by far the largest of the islands and covers roughly 150 square miles. The population of St. Vincent & the Grenadines is approximately 110,000. Sounds wonderful!
So, with guidance from the team at Barefoot, we got ourselves organized and flew down to Saint Vincent & the Grenadines for a memorable week in the sun. The question we struggled with was, were we working, or were we on vacation? Sometimes it’s hard to tell!
Airfares on Air Canada from Toronto direct to AIA (Argyle International Airport) on St. Vincent, ran about $850 a person at the time. We took off early on May 25 and after two movies and a washroom break, we landed in Saint Vincent.
The very efficient staff at Barefoot had arranged for a taxi to pick us up and we arrived at the Barefoot Base in Kingstown, comfortably ahead of cocktail hour. St. Vincent and the Grenadines are volcanic islands and the hillsides are fairly steep, but that means the views everywhere are simply grand. The Barefoot Base includes three decks, the docks, their offices, the Barefoot Offshore Sailing School [BOSS] and the delightful Driftwood Restaurant with a stunning view of the harbour.
The helpful crew set us up onboard Sonhos, our Bali 4.4 Open Space catamaran, one of many yachts in their fleet. From there, we made our way to the bar in the Driftwood Restaurant where expert bartender PJ, mixed up a welcoming Passionfruit rum punch for everyone.
Barefoot Yacht Charters’ owner Philip Barnard then invited us to the deck upstairs where he provided us with all the charts, documentation and helpful hints that we needed for our trip. He took us through the itinerary his team had crafted for us so that we could make as many of the area highlights as possible through our week-long trip.
Afterward, we explored the facilities and got comfortable aboard Sonhos before going for a delicious dinner in the Driftwood Restaurant where we organized our group.
Everyone had their special role. Galley Guy Greg, with a lifetime of sailing experience, was tasked with doing the actual work involved with sail trimming, dinghy launching and general organization. Galley Guy John Armstrong, our retired Air Canada pilot, handled the navigation. As the editor and life-long power boater, I was tasked with keeping a watch.
You might think that with three Galley Guys on board, the galley would be a crowded place, but somehow Linda Armstrong wound up doing most of the food preparation!
The biggest responsibility was taking the helm of our beautiful new Bali 4.4 Open Space catamaran and that fell on the capable shoulders of our captain, Katherine Stone.
Knowing the Galley Guys only too well, the Galley Gals had arranged for all our provisions with the experts at Barefoot, so we were well equipped for our tour through the Grenadines and we really lacked for nothing, although somehow we lost the can opener.
We sailed the Grenadines in a clockwise direction which worked out well. Had we gone the other direction, we would have started the trip in Bequia and that would have been as far as I needed to go. Memorable beachfront bars, delightful restaurants and colourful local shopping could have kept me busy for much longer than one week!
Instead, we sailed south and east, stopping at the most popular places and in particular, headed for Tobago Cay.
The Galley Guys‘ mantra about good food, good friends and good times tends to focus on great dining more than the Galley Guy kitchen skills, so we gladly put in at Mustique and made our way to Basil’s Bar. Basil’s has a great stage for hosting live bands but with no one on stage that night, the Galley Guys were welcome to ham it up under the spotlights.
Mercifully, the attraction of snorkeling in Tobago Cay Marine Park which is a marine sanctuary and sea turtle breeding ground, persuaded us to behave so we could get up early and start sailing south.
The Tobago Cays Marine Park
Throughout the whole trip, the weather was remarkable; almost always a daytime temperature of 27 C, lots of steady wind and any rain showers blew through quickly. The water was really warm and welcoming in all the anchorages too. We all agreed that we wanted to make the Tobago Cays Marine Park our main focus and the Barefoot staff had set us up with a great beach feast and a guided powerboat tour of the area.
Tobago Cays is a group of small islands protected by a horseshoe reef. We sailed into the bay anchoring west of Petit Rameau in the cut between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau near Baradel. On arrival, we were met by one of the mooring ball guys. They are local people who help you get moored and typically, you tip $10. Then a park warden wearing a uniform will arrive in another boat near the end of the day. The warden collects the fee to stay there which is typically $50-$60 US and you will get a receipt.
That done, we grabbed our masks, fins and snorkels, launched the dinghy and carefully made for shore. This beach is a sea turtle sanctuary and we really did see a sea turtle swimming by us at fairly close distance. The water is crystal clear, warm and shallow – ideal for exploring and looking for marine life.
The beach feast came at the ideal time. We had been told to watch for “Romeo”. Without any effort on our part, Romeo drove up, introduced himself and explained the plan for the beach barbeque feast and a cruise of the area. He transported us the short distance to Petit Bateau where Romeo’s wife Juliette (really) was cooking on the open grill under the shed roof on the beach.
Everyone was ready to dig in and with either a frosty beer or ginger ale from Hairoun, the local brewery, Juliette began serving our beach feast. Platters of BBQ chicken, fried plantain, BBQ ribs, rice with corn and plenty of hot sauce kept everyone busy and satisfied. Afterward, some of us wanted a walk and there was a path to the top of the island. You need good shoes to do it, but the reward is a grand view of the Tobago Cay Marine Park.
It was a great day and we closed it out with a wee dram on the back deck, looking forward to sailing to Mayreau the next day.
The jaunt to Mayreau
It was just a 30-minute motor to Mayreau from Tobago Cay and again the bay was idyllic – white sand, swaying palm trees and friendly Vincies. The swimming was excellent and we enjoyed a relaxing day in the sun and on the beach.
We had planned an extended visit to “The Last bar Before the Jungle” but luckily it was closed that day. In fact, it was a holiday for most Vincies and a massive power catamaran arrived with what must have been 50 passengers heading for a church service on the island.
Again, I could have spent a week moored at Mayreau, but we wanted to make it north to have a day at Bequia before we headed home. That would be a long sail, but the steady winds made the journey easier.
Bequia welcomes visitors
We breezed into Admiralty Bay and actually dropped the hook for the night. The bay is shallow and very clear, again, lovely for swimming and relaxing. But we wanted to get ashore to explore the shops and features of Bequia with its colourful waterfront and great mix of stores and restaurants.
We arrived first at the Whale Boner Café (which was closed) but the owner was there! She served us ice-cold Hairoun beers and regaled us with several memorable stories about Bequia and the other islands including their history of whaling.
Bequia has many shops where we could top up our provisions, but this area has so many great bars and restaurants that you won’t want to be cooking onboard!
Everything had been just about perfect and our only complaint was that we would have gladly stayed at almost all the islands for our entire trip. St. Vincent & the Grenadines is the kind of place where you would love to be a castaway!
Amazona Nest and the River Lobsters
As a very special final day treat, Phillip Barnard scheduled an excursion to the rain forest, about an hour drive north of Barefoot Base. We needed four-wheel drives to climb the mountain to the Barnard’s ancestoral home, fording several rivers and almost loosing the road driving through the forest. But the reward was a unique and very special lunch of breadfruit, plaintains and all sorts of other spices and ingredients all from the property, including freshly caught “river lobsters” – very big (and tasty) crayfish that our hosts gathered with a small spear gun!
Read about the Amazona Nest and the River Lobsters HERE!
Life aboard Sonhos
Our charter yacht, Sonhos really deserves special mention because it’s virtually a sailing luxury condo with all the trimmings. Read the separate sailing review by Katherine Stone in the October 2023 issue of Canadian Yachting magazine.
We had a simply excellent Galley Guy (and Gal) reunion and we would love to plan a return to St. Vincent & the Grenadines. We were living the dream!
For more information visit: Barefoot Yacht Charters https://barefootyachts.com/