Life's a Reach
One-way bareboat charter to Grenada
By Capt. Steven Brickley
My wife, Shari, and I met at the Sarasota Christmas boat parade and spent our courtship sailing up and down the coast of Southwest Florida.
When we married, we bought a house on the Manatee River at the south end of Tampa Bay. The house wasn’t on sailboat water, so we traded the sailboat for a Sundancer and joined the local cruising club. Having never lost our love of sailing, we decided to give chartering a try.
After our first trip to the British Virgin Islands, we were hooked. Last year we took our seventh trip, a one-way charter to Grenada. By chartering one way, you sail with the seas and currents on a delightful reach for the entire cruise, and you don’t lose several days returning the boat.
On the downside, traveling by air to St. Vincent takes longer and costs more. It took us 12 hours to make the trip from Tampa. We flew into Barbados and picked up a puddle jumper for the final leg to St. Vincent. We made up some time flying home from Grenada, which took closer to six hours. The one-way charter fee also added a considerable amount to the trip’s cost.
St. Vincent to Mustique
Before departure, we had an informative, early-morning chart meeting, with tips and advice for a more rewarding sailing adventure. After a brief "boat show," as they call it, we were off.
Once at sea, we had perfect weather, 15-knot winds and 6-foot seas, which made getting used to the new boat a snap. We rounded the east side of Bequia without stopping, as we had been there before and had our sights on Mustique.
After a few wonderful hours, we approached the north end of what we thought was Mustique. It soon became obvious we were one rock off (so much for the chart meeting). This gave us another hour of sailing and time to make better use of the charts and GPS before reaching our destination.
Entering the harbor on the east side of Mustique can be challenging if you aren't aware of the reef that divides the harbor entrance. According to the locals, the reef sank a cruise ship years ago.
Although mooring balls are expensive in Mustique, there's no other option. As we approached, the harbor staff guided us in and helped secure our line to the ball. The beautiful anchorage features a small reef for snorkeling, a small, colorful village and the world-famous Basil's Bar.
After hitting the few shops and having a cocktail at Basil's, we returned to the boat to relax. That evening we took the dinghy back to Basil's for a waterfront seafood dinner. We watched for celebrities who frequent the island but had no luck. What the heck—we felt like rock stars!
Early to bed and early to rise is one good thing that comes with aging. After a short trip to shore for ice and supplies, we were off for another day of adventure on the high seas. We sailed south and around the west side of Canouan. Although an up-and-coming destination, the island isn’t quite ready for prime time, so we sailed with our eyes on the Tobago Cays.
As you approach the west side of the cays, you see only one tiny island. As you get closer, a skinny inlet reveals itself, and you see two islands. Soon you have lots of company as islanders in colorful wooden boats approach you with offers.
We caught a mooring ball with help from the locals and settled in for a pleasant anchorage. We arranged to have lobster grilled and delivered to the boat. Although it cost $40 U.S., the experience was priceless. We took the dinghy to shore for a hike and a snorkel at Horseshoe Reef. The wind and seas made our snorkel excursion more of a survival experience, but we enjoyed the adventure. I had never seen as many stars as I did that night.
Mid-morning found the Tobago Cays off our stern. With light winds and forgiving seas, we motored south on a short cruise to Chatham Bay, a highly recommended anchorage on the west side of Union Island. As the morning faded, the wind picked up, and we had a spirited sail to our destination.
Dropping anchor proved challenging because the wind funneled down the hillside to the anchorage at what seemed like 30 knots. After setting the hook, we used binoculars to check out the local beachfront restaurants. The wind was too strong to make the journey to shore worthwhile, so we opted to soak up the sun and enjoy the scenery.
Our next stop was Clifton Harbor. Leaving Chatham Bay, we traveled southwest around Miss Irene Point and sailed southeast around Union Island's southern tip. With our destination in view, we headed northeast on our final leg. The wind cooperated the entire day, and we dropped our sails at the mouth of the harbor. We headed to Anchorage Yacht Club to get a berth for the night. As far as yacht clubs go, it's not much to write home about, but the docks are excellent, the people are professional, and the tiki bar and restaurant are to die for. Having not had red meat for several days, I broke down and had an awesome bacon cheeseburger at the tiki bar.
We took a short walk over to the airstrip to clear customs before strolling to the center of town. Quaint shops, local fare and interesting people made the day pass quickly.
Near sunset, we strolled north on what seemed to be a trail to nowhere. Conch shells lined the path, and my wife asked a local man if she could have one.
"If you want one, take one," he said. "If you want five, take five."
The path led to a pristine beach with a tiki bar, where we enjoyed a cocktail and watched the kite surfers as the sun set.
After a beachfront breakfast at the yacht club, we set off. The dock master piloted our boat out of the marina and into the main channel. The trade winds filled our sails as we headed south to Carriacou. Off the port beam was Palm Island with Petite Martinique and Petite Dominique to the south. The sail was short, but the scenery was spectacular.
We stopped in Hillsborough to clear customs and set sail for our anchorage in Tyrrel Bay, which has a well-protected harbor and a small settlement that hugs the beach.
A boat boy greeted us, guided us to a mooring ball and helped us secure our line. We took the dingy to town and strolled around, trying to choose the best restaurant for dinner. At what looked like one of the better spots, we stopped for a cocktail and a look at the menu. The waiter said there was no menu, just the chalkboard, which was empty. The chef said he wouldn't know that night's menu until the fishermen returned with their catch.
Saying goodbye to Carriacou, we headed southwest for the longest sail of the trip. Although the winds were light that morning, we had our usual 15-20 knot easterlies as the day progressed. I wanted to set a course directly to Grenada’s west coast, but my wife and first mate refused to sail over Kick'em Jenny Volcano. We had been advised to steer clear of the active underwater volcano.
Our course took us close to the west side of Diamond and Ronde islands, where the views are spectacular. As we approached Grenada, we sailed close to the west coast where the water is deep. The long sail to the mountainous island’s south end allowed us to take in the lush scenery of this tropical paradise.
When I saw cruise ships docked ahead, I knew we were nearing St. George. A fort on the cliff overlooks the harbor entrance, and as we approached, the water tended to get skinny. We furled the sails, motored to Port Louis and hailed the marina. A dinghy and pilot greeted us and took us to our berth.
The accommodations pleasantly surprised us. The marina has new docks, offices, restaurants, shops and a spa—all the amenities. We decided to spend our last two days there while exploring the island. After a great meal at the marina's restaurant, we got a good night's sleep before enjoying the spa the next morning.
The marina hooked us up with a guide for a tour of the island that afternoon. A true gentleman, our driver had been born on the island some 70 years ago and knew every plant, spice and piece of history the island had to offer. He showed us waterfalls, plantations, rainforests and mountains all in one day. It was almost too much to take in, but we had a wonderful day nonetheless.
We look back on our adventure and wonder where the week went. Of all our West Indies sailing adventures, this one had the best sailing, and the islands were truly unforgettable.
Now our only problem is where to sail next year.
Capt. Steven Brickley is a water treatment consultant for an international water treatment company and his wife Shari is advertising director for a Southwest Florida newspaper. They share a home on the Manatee River at the south end of Tampa Bay.
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