Two Drifters’ Guide To Sailing Around St Vincent & The Grenadines
If you’re looking for the typical Caribbean idyll of powder white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees and turtles basking in warm aquamarine water, then the Grenadines delivers on this promise by the bucketload.
Situated in the southern portion of the Windward Islands, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is made up of 32 islands and cays, only nine of which are inhabited so you won’t have to venture far to find your own little slice of paradise. Admittedly, you may have to share it, but if you get up at sunrise, which is the quietest time of day for a swim, then you can enjoy the solitude and beauty of the beach against a a film-set location backdrop.
And if the photos look a little familiar, Wallilabou Bay on St. Vincent and Tobago Cays in the Grenadines were the backdrop to scenes from The Pirates of the Caribbean films. There are still tall ships around transporting tourists on day trip excursions between the islands, but there’s no evidence left of Johnny Depp or Keira Knighly being here!
While a handful of the islands are supported by plane and ferry transfers, travelling by boat really is the best way to explore; so it’s no surprise that they are a prime destination for cruisers, super-yachts and charter boats all looking for their own island-hopping adventure. And the very best bit about crusing SVG…jet skis are banned!
The most popular islands and not-to-be-missed include delightful and laid-back Bequia, where the yachtie-set gathers in their clusters; Mayreau, with beaches worthy of a film-set and the stunningly gorgeous Tobago Cays where turtles jostle with boats for pole position in the gin-clear warm water.
Admiralty Bay, Bequia
Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau
Here’s Two Drifters’ guide to cruising St Vincent & the Grenadines:
Best For…yachts checking in or out with a pet on board!
Lush, tropical and with a dramatic, mountainous west coast, St Vincent has all the ingredients for a Caribbean getaway; offering a raw appeal for those looking to get away from the polished islands of Barbados and Antigua. Sadly, its reputation for crime has been the downfall of its tourism and as far as boats are concerned most of St Vincent is a no-go area for stopping.
Because we are sailing with a dog on board, Molly needed to be checked-in and out of the islands; so a visit to St Vincent to the government vet was a requisite. Luckily, the one stop that is recommended is Blue Lagoon, a lovely, safe little marina with reasonably-priced mooring buoys, and just a 15-minute drive from the capital of Kingstown.
Best For…integrating with local life – and provisioning
Bequia’s capital, Port Elizabeth, is a bright and friendly village with great shops, restaurants and laid-back cafes and bars, all looking out onto the daily comings and goings of Admiralty Bay, which is busy with boats, ferries and the occasional small cruise ship. A wooden walkway links Port Elizabeth to two of the best beaches (Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay), however, this is currently being re-built after it got destroyed during storms and a heavy swell in March 2018.
Bequia is by far the best place in the Grenadines to buy fresh fruit and vegetables; but as far as anything else goes be prepared for tins and frozen meat as dairy and fresh meat are very hard to come by.
Not to be missed: Walking the trail from Port Elizabeth to Lower Bay, sampling the watering holes on the way of Jack’s and Keegan’s Beach Bar (where you’ll often be rewarded by a live band playing) and return via Mac’s Pizza & Kitchen for the best pizza in the Grenadines!
Best For…Emptying your wallet to sip cocktails in the infamous Basil’s Bar
Sundowners at Basil’s Bar
Long renowned for being the playground of the uber-rich, famous and royalty, Mustique is a privately-owned island where privacy and fine-service rules.
Signposts dotted around, advise that only hotel guests, residents or authorised vehicles can pass certain points; so basically, keeping out the riff-raff like us who turn up on boats. They even go one step further and at certain times of the year, the island is a no-go area to visitors, just to ensure the privacy of certain high-brow VIPs or royals.
While they welcome yachts into Britannia Bay, they charge US$75 for a boat of our size, which is for one night, but comes with two consecutive nights free. It’s an interesting policy as it makes boats think twice about visiting, especially if they are just on a seven-day charter.
We found the island quite soulless. We enjoyed walking around the trails, swimming and snorkelling the very clear water and yes, we imbibed on a drink at Basil’s where Mick Jagger has been known to do an impromptu set – but why come here? The anchorage can be very rolly unless you time the swell direction right; it’s by far the most industrial of the Grenadine islands, with lorries and trucks carrying construction goods and landscaping equipment tearing around, and it lacks the realness, authenticity and the charming people found on neighbouring islands, and to be honest, we’ve seen much better beaches elsewhere!
In our opinion, save your money as from a boat’s perspective, Mustique is a Must-Not!
Best For…Solitude in Rameau Bay
Canouan is home to a couple of luxury hotels, but if you’re staying on a boat this is another island in the SVG chain that has fallen foul to crime. Dinghy theft and the boarding of boats at night in Charlestown Bay (the island’s main anchorage) is rife, which puts many yachts off coming here.
However, head a mile north to Rameau Bay and you can enjoy being just one or two yachts in a bay that is perfect for swimming and snorkelling. The peace and quiet is refreshing, with just the occasional boat boy passing to sell freshly-caught lobsters or relieve you of your rubbish.
Best For…Beaches, Swimming, Snorkelling, Lobster
There’s no airport on this island, so the only way to arrive is by ferry or boat. Tourism is low, until one of the small cruise ships arrives at Saline Bay and then the beach is completely taken over by gleeful passengers champing at the bit to rest their laurels on a sunbed while a steel band plays in the background, just so they can’t forget they are in the Caribbean!
Head ‘round the corner into Salt Whistle Bay and you will be met by a location worthy of a film set with a spectacular half-moon beach of swaying palm trees, aquamarine warm water and a powder white-sand beach.
The beach is perfect…until you get to the northern end which is where all the plastic and rubbish washes up.
The sad reality of the litter at Salt Whistle Bay. There is no rubbish dump on the island.
That said, if you’re on a boat, a front-line position on the north of this bay is idyllic. It’s away from the noise and music of the beach bars and the hullabaloo caused by boats tearing in through the entrance and trying to get their position before they are approached by one of the many boat boys. We counted 35 yachts jostling for position in here one night; and we thought the bay was full when it reached 25 yachts!
Not to be missed: the sun rising over the palm-fringed beach followed by a swim before the bay wakes up
Sun rise at Salt Whistle Bay
Best For…Swimming with Turtles / Posing on a palm-fringed beach like Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightly!
Made up of five small islands ringed by Coral Reefs, the breathtakingly-beautiful Tobago Cays are in a national park and offer some of the best snorkelling and diving in SVG.
Only accessible by boat, the daytrip-excursions come in mid-morning with enthusiastic passengers in their hordes. Couple that with the many charter boats on their way up or down island and the mooring buoys and anchoring space soon fills up making Tobago Cays look like a boat park.
Arrive early, get a good spot and then just watch the action around you as boats and turtles jostle for position. The turtles are quite adept at popping their heads up, like periscopes, to see where they can swim to next; totally oblivious to being chased by a convoy of snorkelers.
Not to be missed: The boat boys all want to sell their organised beach BBQ’s on Petit Rameau. Go one stop better, chat with the Park Warden who will show you an area where you can organise your own BBQ – as long as you clear up after yourselves. Cheap at half the price and a lot more fun!
Best For… kicking back from it all in Chatham Bay
While the main village of Clifton is a great source for bars, restaurants and provisioning for fruit and vegitables, its anchorage has some belligerent boat boys, who make coming into the bay an unforgettably unwelcome experience.
Better to head ‘round to Chatham Bay where the swimming and snorkelling is good, the sunsets stupendous, the bars are relaxed and there’s a charming resort where you can use the swimming pool and sun loungers while you sip on your rum punch.
Petit St Vincent (PSV)
Reputedly one of the best private island resorts in the world, guests staying at PSV hail their private butler by raising a yellow flag from their room. Sadly, when we hoisted a yellow flag up our mast it was ignored; however, we were able to go ashore to use Goaties, PSV’s beachside restaurant, which has a mouth-watering menu and stupendous views.
Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on PSV, so while Molly drooled at the sight of their gorgeous beaches, she was unable to get off to sample them.
Boats anchor just off PSV overlooking the most mesmerising colours of blue water that we’ve seen outside of the Bahamas. It’s totally relaxing and virtually free from boat boys and passing traffic.
Not to be missed: a sneaky 5-minute trip in the dinghy across to Petite Martinique (which is actually part of Grenada), where the rum and water are a lot cheaper than in the Grenadines!
© Two Drifters Travel