Britannia Bay, Mustique
After checking through the yacht, set sail for Britannia Bay, Mustique, an easy 2.5 hour reach (17 miles). (Note: the easiest approach to Mustique is from St Vincent, rather than from Bequia or from the central Grenadines which would place you hard on the wind). En route to Mustique, pass the uninhabited islands of Battowia, Baliceaux and The Pillories. Approach Britannia Bay from the north (avoiding Montezuma shoals which lie about 800 yards offshore but are clearly marked – interesting snorkelling or diving with a wreck on the reef).
Britannia Bay is the one place in the Grenadines where it’s mandatory to pick up a mooring buoy. The most comfortable spot is just south of the small cargo ship dock (the anchorage can get a bit rolly if there are swells out of the north east – in which case it’s a good idea to set bow and stern anchors). No need to reserve in advance, it’s a first-come first-served basis and, unlike in the BVI, you don’t need to be worried about not finding space if you arrive after 2.00 p.m..
At some stage during your visit, someone will come out in a launch and will charge you $ 75 for the mooring – this entitles you to a 3-day permit. There is a mooring office close to the dinghy dock but it’s often closed. Note that Mustique is a marine park and so fishing or removal of anything from the waters surrounding the island is illegal up to 1,000 yards offshore. Whilst the island is well known for its stately villas and famous inhabitants, what’s more important are the beautiful beaches. From the main anchorage it’s a leisurely 25-minute stroll south to Lagoon Bay. Golden sand beach, fringed with palm trees, a couple of picnic areas with wooden umbrellas and tables, and not a human being or building in sight.
On a clear day you can see all the way down to Petite Martinique. From the dinghy dock, famous Basil’s Bar is just a minute’s walk to the north. Spectacular surroundings – white sand beach, sparkling blue water and a wonderful ambience. What a great place for a cocktail! On Wednesday and Sunday nights, the “jump-up” at Basil’s can be a lot of fun. A “must” in Mustique is Firefly – a wonderful restaurant built in what used to be one of the great private villas of Mustique. It’s perched halfway up the hillside overlooking the anchorage, and is stunningly beautiful – marble counters, giant ferns, a grand piano, Balinese furniture, two freshwater pools and a beautiful restaurant and bar. The food is first-rate and the prices moderater – but even if you don’t want to eat, you should still go there to savour the ambience. It’s fairly small so a good idea to book in advance if you plan to eat – unlike everyone else in the Grenadines who listens on VHF 68, Firefly monitors VHF Channel 10. It’s the sort of place where one might be tempted to wander in for lunch at noon, and wander out again at three o’clock the next morning. Impromptu performances from famous musicians are a regular feature. If you don’t fancy the steep up-hill walk, call owner Stan on the VHF and if he’s not busy he will send one of his staff down in a vehicle to give you a lift.
Close to Basil’s are a couple of food stores where you can get your Iranian caviar and Norwegian smoked salmon – and also excellent Italian bread baked by a real Italian baker. But don’t plan on doing any major provisioning there – these stores are expensive. There are also a couple of (expensive) boutiques, and a little fishing village just north of Basil’s, where you can pick up fresh fish directly from the fishermen. For those who fancy a gallop down a deserted beach, thoroughbred horses can be rented by the hour. But for those who don’t ride horses, I’d recommend they rented a “mule” – not a donkey, but a gasoline-powered cross between a mini moke and a golf cart. Ask the bartender at Basil’s, and he’ll call up the company who rents them (around $US 90 for a full day). Renting a “mule” is lots of fun and enables you not only to get around and explore some of the amazing villas, but also to access some of the best beaches which are a little too far to walk to from the anchorage.
MACARONI beach on the east coast must rate as one of the Caribbean’s ten top beaches – half a mile of fine white sand, with turquoise waves rolling in from the Atlantic, safe swimming, and a picnic area under the palms.
The hotel also has a freshwater pool with a pool bar, and a water-sports centre with Hobie Cats, windsurfers and dive facilities. If you need ice, you can get it at Basil’s – but you won’t be able to get water or diesel in Mustique. Well, that’s Mustique – if you’re looking for wonderful ambience and a genteel atmosphere, great beaches and a couple of excellent restaurants, this is the place.
The Cotton House hotel is definitely worth a visit – formerly a 19th-century sugar and cotton plantation, the hotel has been beautifully restored to its original grandeur. There’s a fantastic restaurant there – but it’s expensive and rather formal (long trousers for gentlemen for dinner). They also have an informal beach restaurant which is reasonably-priced and a good option for lunch.
Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau
Head for Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau – the “Caribbean beach dream come true” and one of the loveliest anchorages in the Caribbean. It’s a 3.5 hour broad reach from Mustique and the usual route is to pass close under the lee of the flat-topped island Petit Canouan, and then under the lee of Canouan itself.
Watch out for as you approach Canouan from the north – the northern tip of the island has strong currents, so don’t be surprised if a noticeable swell builds up about a mile offshore.
I don’t recommend stopping at Canouan on the way south – firstly, it’s a fast sail from Mustique straight to Mayreau; secondly, you can stop at Canouan and Bequia on the way north, which will give you a different itinerary on the way back up. As you pass under the lee of Canouan’s northern headland you’ll probably lose the wind for a few minutes – but if you’ve had reefs in the main, don’t shake them out – as you head across Charlestown Bay, you’ll be hit by strong guests of wind blowing over the island’s central ridge. Passing close under the lee of the island’s south-western tip, you then set out across the North Mayreau Channel towards Salt Whistle Bay.
Baleine Rocks to the east, and Jondell Rock & Catholic Island to the west are clearly visible and leave you with an approach passage about a mile wide. Enter Salt Whistle Bay pretty well through the middle of the entrance, to avoid the reef and shallow area protruding from the northern headland. If there’s room, anchor at the head of the bay in 8 to 10 feet of clear water. It’s a sand bottom and reasonably good holding ground, though if it’s busy or blowing hard you should consider a second bow anchor. Whatever you do, be especially careful about not anchoring too close to the reef on the southern shores – it’s a popular reef to be hit by yachts. There are several moorings here but if you do pick one up, dive on it and make sure you know what you’re tying up to – they have been known to move….
There’s good snorkelling on both reefs, and the white sand beach is pristine. The dormant resort nestles in the palm trees on the beach, a dozen stone and wood cottages, and the resort’s floor is the sand.
If you feel like a bit of exercise, follow the paved road from the dinghy dock, and, after a steep 25-minute walk (but well worth the effort) you’ll get to the “settlement” where 400 people, and about the same number of chickens, cows and goats live.
The old stone church (built in 1929 by a Benedictine monk) is definitely worth a visit and from the windward side of the church you’ll get spectacular views over all of the Grenadines. In the settlement itself, you’ll find 4 or 5 great little bistros, all very welcoming and serving good food. They accept credit cards and also have small minmarts adjacent to them. Dennis’ Hideaway is my favourite – Dennis is the Grenadines’ equivalent of “Foxy” on Jost van Dyke, except that he doesn’t play the guitar – but he’s the island’s Justice of the Peace, yachtsman, guest-house owner, restaurateur and raconteur – and he even has a swimming pool and dive shop.
A word of warning – if you get stuck into Dennis’s frozen Margaritas (which is easy to do), and it’s after sundown, remember that the pathway back to Salt Whistle Bay is unlit. Don’t forget your flashlight! Alternatively, you can ask for a vehicle which will cost around $US 8. Visiting Mayreau is like stepping into a time warp. There are around 400 yards of paved road, half a dozen vehicles, no high-rises, no police, and the island’s had electricity for less than 15 years.
Tobago Cays – Palm Island
Salt Whistle Bay is the natural stepping stone to the Tobago Cays, the high spot of the cruise for pretty well everyone. It’s an easy 45-minute passage, and best is to motor or motor-sail as you’ll be against current and on the wind. From the entrance of Salt Whistle Bay, turn to the north-north-east and point at Glossy Hill. When Jondell Rock is right on your port beam, turn to the south-east and you’ll see the Tobago Cays right on your bow. You won’t be able to see the passage between Petit Bateau and Petit Rameau, so they’ll look like one island until you get to the entrance itself.
You’ll be heading down approximately 143 magnetic and what you’re looking for are the two transit markers – latticed pylons with spear shapes on the top – which you can usually pick up about a mile away. Baleine Rocks are visible right up to the entrance to the Cays and your route takes you about halfway between Mayreau and Baleine Rocks. This is an easy passage, about half a mile wide and I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem approaching the Cays from the north west.
A word of warning, however – don’t be surprised if you can see the bottom 30 or 40 feet down … the seabed consists of rocks and coral, which always look closer than they are. It’s what I call “Alarming Clarity Syndrome”. The passage between Petit Bateau and Petit Rameau is the “front door’ to the Cays. Astonishingly, the Imray charts mark this as an anchorage which seems to me to be pretty anti-social. There’s about 12 to 18 feet of water through the passage, so no depth constraints.
The best place to head for is south of Baradal – as you come through the passage, turn to the south east, cross the deep patch (drops down to about 50 feet) and then edge up towards Horseshoe Reef. You’ll be anchoring in about 8 to 10 feet of water in a sand bottom with excellent holding ground. The Tobago Cays are a marine park and are patrolled by Park Rangers. So no fishing, no removing anything from the water and be particularly careful not to touch coral. There’s an entrance fee of $EC 10 (about $US 3.85) per person per day and this may be paid directly to the Park Rangers who should properly identify themselves.
Note that close to Baradal is a protected green turtle breeding ground so stay well clear. In the Cays, you’re anchoring in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – with nothing between you and Africa except Horseshoe Reef. But don’t worry – not only is it a safe overnight anchorage, but it’s also a great place, from the security point of view, to anchor if bad weather’s coming through. The sea rarely breaks over the reef into the anchorage and, thus, whilst it’s always wind-swept (makes for nice cool nights), it’s usually pretty comfortable. But because you’re exposed (2,400 miles of open ocean in front of you), and if it’s blowing up, I strongly recommend a second bow anchor – more for psychological reasons than for the quality of the holding. You’ll definitely sleep better knowing that you’ve got that extra ground tackle out.
Although they’re uninhabited, the price of progress means that you can get pretty well anything you need in the Cays – the fishermen come out daily from Clifton Harbour in Union Island, and vend from their open boats. You can find everything from fresh fish, to lobster (in season, 01 September through 30 April), ice, jewellery, t-shirts, post-cards, soft drinks – and one fellow will even come round and take your orders for fresh baguettes directly from Union Island’s
bakery for tomorrow’s breakfast. These fishermen are friendly, helpful and offer a great service – years ago one would have to sail down to Clifton to top up with essentials, but now you can have everything brought directly to you, and thus sit in the Cays for as long as you want. Striking up a rapport with these people is easy and worthwhile.
A cold drink will bring you a friend for life and, before you know it, they’ll be offering to clean the fish for you and even to barbecue it on the beach. You’ll pay a bit of a premium for anything you buy in the Cays since obviously the fishermen need to cover their fuel costs and earn a few dollars. For instance a bag of block ice can cost between $US 8 and $US 10 – but, on the other hand, if your beers are getting warm, it’s worth it. The snorkelling in the Cays is everywhere – right around the main Horseshoe Reef itself, one of the longest barrier reefs in the Western hemisphere, and close to the islands themselves. You can dinghy in and out of the coral heads, the seabed clearly visible, and pick up a dinghy mooring. Be aware that the strong breezes create current throughout the Cays, so it’s usually best to snorkel upwind of your dinghy and then drift back down onto it.
It’s worth finding the dinghy pass which runs parallel to the northern end of Baradal – great snorkelling here, though make sure you don’t get too close to the outside of the reef, as this area can break and there are also strong currents running down the windward side of the reef. For those who dive, it’s worth calling Glenroy Adams at Grenadines Dive in Clifton Harbour (VHF 68) – he operates rendezvous dives through this region and there’s excellent diving at Mayreau Gardens immediately east of Mayreau, and, if the weather conditions are right, at World’s End Reef.
It’s also worth taking your dinghy over to the beach at Petit Bateau – this is a great spot for a lunch-time picnic, and there’s a scenic reef just a few yards from the beach, with a drop-off down to about 35 feet. If you’re planning on a beach barbecue, check with the Park Rangers as there are nominated barbecue areas. Most people plan a half a day or so in the Cays, but end up spending most of their vacation there. I first sailed in there 25 years ago, and still find it hard to leave … but the time will come when you have to go …
Clifton Harbour, Union Island
By this stage in the trip, many people will be thinking about fresh water, and so our suggestion is to head down to Clifton Harbour for lunch, water, fuel and re-provisioning, and then to head south to Petit St Vincent for overnight. Exit the Cays the same way that you entered, i.e. through the north-western approach. You might see some people dog-legging through the reefs to the south-west – don’t try it. That passage is narrow and unmarked, and requires perfect water clarity and local knowledge. More importantly, remember that coral heads are growing and so charts are never 100% accurate when it comes to coral. For your own peace of mind – if not for the bottom of the boat – sail out through the main entrance and approach Union under the lee of Mayreau – about an hour and a half’s sail to Clifton Harbour.
When sailing under the lee of Mayreau, give an extra wide berth to the reef that protrudes about 200 yards off Grand Col point. Hurricane Lenny removed the marker in November 1999 and, although a temporary red buoy has been laid in its place, it’s small and unlikely that you will see the buoy until you’re fairly close. Before this reef was marked, it was one of the most popular ones in the Grenadines to be hit by yachts – about once every 2 weeks (not the same yacht). So – stay 400 yards clear of this headland.
The almost vertical mountains of Union Island are visible 40 miles away on a clear day. You need to sail almost over to Palm Island before turning to the west and up into the main harbour at Clifton, the cross-roads of the Grenadines where you can obtain pretty well everything that you need. The harbour is divided into a western and an eastern side, separated by a reef in the middle. The main harbour, to the west, is lousy – deep, poor holding ground, and you’re on a lee shore so all the crud in the harbour accumulates there. Don’t anchor in here, or even pick up a mooring. The best anchoring is to be found if you tuck up on the eastern-side of the harbour, behind Newlands Reef – it’s a sand bottom, great holding ground, cool and breezy, and the water is crystal-clear.
From this anchorage, it’s a couple of minutes by dinghy, not only to the shore, but also to the unique Happy Island, the labour of love of one man. Janty got fed up selling pizzas in town so decided to build himself an island. It took him a couple of years and a lot of sand, conch shells and palm fronds, but today it’s finished and he has a wind generator, solar panels, hammocks, reggae music – and a well-stocked bar. This is a must – and all visitors are welcome. If you’re planning on a lunch-time stop, then head up to the north-western corner of the harbour where you’ll find Bougainvilla Marina. Give them a call on the VHF (Channel 68) to let them know that you’ll be coming in. You can get fuel, ice and water here.
Bougainvilla has a particularly good restaurant and is home to the excellent Erika’s Marine Services run by Heather Grant. Erika’s offers a laundry service, telephone and internet, weather forecasts, digital photography, book exchange and bicycle rentals. The town of Clifton is just a short walk along the beach (don’t fall into the shark pool next to the Anchorage Yacht Club) and there are plenty of small supermarkets in town.
Clifton is a funky little place with friendly people, several supermarkets and stores, and a number of great little restaurants where you’ll find excellent Caribbean fare at reasonable prices. If you plan on overnighting at Union, the best options are either to stay on the dock at Bougainvilla , or to to anchor behind Newland’s Reef. A word of caution – there have been occasional reports of visitors being hassled by youngsters in boats. The majority of people in Clifton are very friendly and honest, but there are a few scamps around.
Always make sure you know the price of something before buying, and always assume the price is in Eastern Caribbean Dollars rather than US Dollars. And don’t be surprised, when topping up with water, if you put 100 gallons into a 75-gallon tank …. I think their meters are running a little faster than they should.
Mopion Island / Petit St. Vincent
From Union, we recommend you take an afternoon sail (one hour) down to Petit St Vincent, one of the loveliest spots in the Grenadines. When leaving Union Island, be sure to give Grand de Coi reef a wide berth, close to Palm Island. It’s clearly marked, but it’s astonishing how many yachts decide to hit it. Petit Martinique, to the south, is a volcanic island that rises steeply out of the water and is visible 40 miles away on a clear day.
Your route is going to take you through the passage between Mopion and Pinese sandbanks but it’s made very easy by using a bearing on the peak of Petit Martinique – when the peak is on 163 Magnetic (at the time of writing) you’ll pass safely through the gap. The island has dark sand beaches – but as you head towards the pass between Mopion & Pinese from Union Island, you’ll see a little white sand beach that looks as if it is on Petit Martinique.
This is Mopion – the ultimate desert island – 15 yards long, fine white sand, and with a triangular thatched shelter in the middle of it (and a bottle opener bolted to the shelter’s support beam). As you approach the gap, if it’s low water you’ll see Elkhorn and Staghorn coral above the surface. If it’s high water, note that Pinese is subsiding and will be just below the surface. But the gap is about 200 yards wide so you have plenty of sea room and it’s very hard to go wrong if you can see Petit Martinique. You’ll have about 20 feet of water as you pass between the sandbanks, and will probably see the bottom as you go through.
You’ll then need to motor up to the east to the lovely anchorage at PSV. Don’t go too close in because the seabed shelves and you’ll find yourself anchoring in about 20 feet or more. If you stay a little further down to the west – and the chart does show the soundings – you’ll be able to anchor in about 15 feet. It’s a sand bottom and well protected from the seas, but it can be breezy I’d recommend a second bow anchor for overnight. When in PSV, whether you’re thirsty or not, you need to visit the bar, a few minutes’ walk up the hillside.
The ambience is great – hummingbirds flying through tropical vegetation, fat Labradors lounging in sandpits, and the finest fresh, tropical fruit frozen daiquiris in the Grenadines. There is an excellent, though somewhat expensive (around $US 100 per person) restaurant, but if you’re planning one very special night out during your charter, this is the place to go. Note that gentlemen require long trousers for dinner. If you need ice, you can obtain it at PSV, but you won’t be able to get diesel or water.
Saline Bay, Mayreau
You have a few choices today. There are two anchorages in the central Grenadines that we
haven’t yet mentioned. The first anchorage is at Saline Bay, Mayreau. This is a pretty spot and only half an hour or so from Chatham Bay but if you do go there, don’t believe the Imray chart which indicates anchoring in the north-eastern corner – the holding ground there is bad and there’s a commercial wharf with plenty of ferry activity.
Anchor in the southern part of the bay, in 10 to15 feet of water with a sand and weed bottom. If you’re making this a lunch-time stop only, then one anchor should be fine, but if you’re over-nighting, I’d recommend two anchors – although the ridge at the head of the bay is fairly low-lying, it’s surprising how strong those early morning gusts can get. There’s a lovely beach at Saline bay, and also a paved roadway up to the settlement – and there are also a couple of lights on this road, so access to the settlement is slightly easier than from Salt Whistle Bay. A point of interest is the wreck of a British gunboat which lies just north of the western tip of the reef at Grand Col Point, and you can snorkel over it as it starts in only 14 feet of water.
For overnight, you might want to head up to Canouan, an hour or so from Saline Bay. As mentioned earlier, I’d call Canouan a stop of convenience. It used to be an island of 700 farmers
and fishermen and one very slow hotel, but that changed in 1990 when an Italian group came and built the Tamarind Beach Hotel in the centre of Grand Bay. The approach to Grand Bay takes you through two markers with about 300 yards between them. Don’t try and take a short cut! Head towards the hotel jetty and pick up a mooring there – you’ll be charged around $US 15 for the night. In the unlikely event that the moorings are full, do NOT anchor in this area – although the Imray charter marks this as an anchorage, it has the worst holding in the bay. For anchoring, tuck well up into the north-eastern corner – and always put out two bow anchors.
There’s not much snorkelling in the bay, but you’ll probably sea large star fish on the sea bed – they like the sand and turtle-grass environment. The hotel is very pleasant – has a good Italian restaurant with a real Italian Chef and reasonable prices, the cheapest ice in the Grenadines, showers for visiting yachtsmen, and friendly staff. The Tamarind Beach Hotel was the fore-runner of the world-class Raffles Resort which encompasses most of the northern and north-eastern parts of the island. Part of it is managed by an American gentleman called Mr Trump. The resort has around 250 luxury villas, tennis courts, a huge swimming pool, a spa and health centre, a casino, an 18-hole golf course, an Italian piazza, and two restaurants (food flown in fresh from Rome every week). It’s expensive but if you’re looking for amazingly good food and something “different”, check it out.
Admiralty Bay, Bequia
Next stop is Bequia – close-hauled in winter months but in the summer you may do it on a close reach, anything from 4 to 5 hours. As you leave the northern end of Canouan, be prepared for a slightly lumpy sea until you get into deeper water. And remember that there’s strong current at either end of the Canouan Channel, so you’ll need to point up a little more than usual – in fact leaving the northern end of Canouan, it’s best to point at the middle of Ile a Quatre and you’ll find that this usually enables you to tuck close in under West Cay for the approach to Admiralty Bay.
If, when south of Bequia, you find yourself well up-wind, do not be deceived and fall off – it’s surprising how quickly you can be set to the west as you get closer to Bequia’s south coast. This is important – under the lee of these islands, the wind tends to back, so if you find yourself a couple of miles down-wind of West Cay, it’s going to be a real struggle to get yourself into Admiralty Bay The open-water passage is only about 3 hours, and as you round West Cay (which you can do comfortably about 50 yards off), you’ll then need to motor or motor-sail up the cost and into Admiralty Bay – about another hour’s passage.
The best spot to anchor in Bequia is Princess Margaret Beach – the second golden sand beach to starboard as you head up towards Port Elizabeth. You can drop the hook in about 15 feet of water in a sand bottom, and should find that a single anchor is fine. The water is clear for swimming and there’s some snorkelling off the northern headland. There’s also a small restaurant here with a dinghy dock. To get to Port Elizabeth, it’s just a couple of minutes’ dinghy ride around the bay’s northern headland and you’ll see dinghy docks along the waterfront footpath that runs from the Plantation House hotel right the way up to the Frangipani, the popular Happy Hour meeting place for cruisers (good for the Thursday night “jump-up”.
There are many great bars and bistros along the waterfront pathway – Mac’s Pizzeria is a favourite – not a “Pizza Hut” but a great restaurant that happens to make wonderful pizza, in addition to freshly baked breads, cakes and pastries. Tommy Cantina is an excellent Mexican
Restaurant, and Gingerbread Hotel does great local and North American food. A relatively new restaurant overlooking the water and close to the dinghy dock is Maria’s French Terrace. They have a great menu, excellent service, and the prices are very reasonable. Overall, there’s a great choice from French to Caribbean, and something to suit every pocket.
Although Port Elizabeth is well developed by Grenadines standards, it still retains a sleepy, old-world Caribbean charm. Most people still access Bequia by boat, and the island’s sea-faring traditions such as whaling, model boat building and fishing still remain. If you’re in need of exercise, there are some great walks – notably to Hope Bay, a deserted bay on the east coast, lined with a golden sand beach, with coconut plantations sweeping down the hills almost to the water’s edge (about an hour’s walk – take food and drink) and to Spring and Industries bays on the north-east coast (also about an hour).
Getting around Bequia is inexpensive in local transport and you can pretty well tour the whole island for about $US 5. The turtle sanctuary is worth a visit, as is the Old Fort, a charming hotel with stunning views, a freshwater pool and regular entertainment. You wouldn’t get bored spending two or three days in Bequia – it really offers a little bit of everything – good places to eat, great beaches, spectacular scenery, snorkelling and diving, reasonable shopping, friendly people and the chance of seclusion.
Blue Lagoon, St. Vincent
Time to return to Blue Lagoon. This is going to take around 1.5 to 2 hours – longer than you might expect, but chances are that you’ll be close-hauled and have some current to contend with. The best bet is to short tack up the northern coast and then to bear away to St Vincent from Anse Chemin.
But if the wind is strong, that can be a painful way of doing it, in which case simply head up from Admiralty Bay – you should still be able to make it on one tack. Don’t be alarmed if you can only point as high as St Vincent’s West Coast as you leave Admiralty Bay – once you clear the northern head of Bequia, you’ll find that the wind will veer and you’ll be able to point up towards Young Island.
Give us a call on VHF 68 as you approach Blue Lagoon, and we’ll send our staff out to bring you back into the dock. Hope you had a great trip!