The Caribbean Sea – Windward Islands

Palmtrees

For those of you who follow my ON BOARD STORIES blog (and hopefully the ones who will at some point 🙂 ), as a part time job, I do plan sailtrips for sea lovers, adventure seekers and those who might like to taste a little bit what “being at sea” is all about. And I’m not talking about crossing oceans, or exploring the artic on an iceberg proof vessel (at least, not yet). What I am referring to is being part of a happy and young crew ready for the adventure!!

The plan

In case some of you is wondering how I plan those kind of trips…here you go with some of the crucial steps…

It usually takes us (the captain and the quartermaster) 6 to 12 months to plan the trip, from finding the right boat, check the flights, get the pilot books (and study them) etc etc. From this point on, we send an offer to the people we may think will be interested on joining our “Annually Sea Odyssey” (the price/person, boat details, suggested sailing area…)

What we always do (right after we have the crew list already sorted out), is to send an informative email (altogether with a digital document about the possible route) about relevant points to consider once on board…things like, you know, what to bring, what to do, what not to do…you name it.

Once on board, is good to know about people’s expectations, sailing experience and some personal (though basic) info:

  • One of the first thing we do (2-3 months before “the day”) is to let the people do some research about the area we are about to sail around. That sets and “adventure mood” to the crew from the first day, and makes the trip even more fun! So everybody have some relevant info about the area. Helpful, believe me.
  • Once on board, we discuss the information they looked up, on a map, all together, and talk a bit about the route we will follow, or try to follow. At sea, planification is imperative.
  • After that, an standard RYA safety brief is mandatory for all the crew. Things like, where are the life jackets, fire extinguishers, how to turn on/off the engine…vital information to make the crew feel safer and more confident on board.

So, lets talk about the route!!

The route – 14 days at sea

Being part of the Lesser Antilles, the Windward Islands are called such because they were more windward to sailing ships arriving to the New World than the Leeward Islands, given that the prevailing trade winds in the West Indies blow east to west.

They are a true haven for birds and sea creatures, as well as a flourishing land for bananas and exotic fruits.

MAPThe 2016 sailing itinerary took part between Martinique and Grenada. We found that the best way to get to the Caribbean sea from Europe was to fly (I hope to post an “Atlantic Crossing” post, some day…) from Paris to Martinique, on board an Air Caraïbes plane. Being relatively cheap, we did pay around 500 € each. Not too bad to get to the Paradise :)So after planning and bargain a bit with the weather, our COG ended up like this:

Day 1 (6th November) : Port du Le Marin – Rodney Bay

Day 2 (7th Nov): Rodney Bay – Marigot Bay – Pitons Bay – Young Island Bay

Day 3 (8th Nov): Young Island Bay – Friendship Bay – Port Elisabeth – Salt Whistle Bay

Day 4 (9th Nov): Salt Whistle Bay – Tobago Cays

Day 5 (10th Nov): Tobago Cays

Day 6 (11th Nov): Tobago Cays – Palm Island – Tyrell Bay

Day 7( 12th Nov): Tyrell Bay – Sandy Island – Grand Mal Bay

Day 8 (13th Nov): Grand Mal Bay – Subaquatic Sculpture Park – St George

Day 9 (14th Nov): St George

Day 10 (15th Nov): St George – Sandy Island – Mopion Island – Tobago Cays

Day 11 (16th Nov): Tobago Cays – Port Elisabeth

Day 12 (17th Nov): Port Elisabeth – Pitons Bay

Day 13 (18th Nov): Pitons Bay – Wallilabou Bay – Sainte Anne

Day 14 (19th Nov): Sainte Anne – Port du Le Marin

350 NM of adventures, friendship and sailing!!! Let me show you now some of those places…

DAY 1: Night in Rodney Bay

Just a rainbow…

6th November: Not much to say, since it was just an “stop&go” anchorage in to spend the night. Before leaving the harbour at Le Marin, we had to clear our visas at the authorities office, get provisions and stuff like that.

First contact with locals, the caribbean weather and a quite amazing complete rainbow out of nowhere welcoming us to the paradise 🙂

DAY 2: Marigot bay and the Infamous “Pitons”

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Pitons

7th November: What we had been expecting finally appeared: Palm trees and Caribbean Santa Claus selling pineapples on a kayak. Typical Caribbean lifstyle, indeed.

Caribbean Santa Claus
Caribbean Santa Claus

Quite, cool, huh?! We didn’t expect a Santa Claus neither…:)

Jokes aside, Marigot bay is nicer above the water than below. The water isn’t as clear as expected, but good enough to cool down the skin after a couple of hours of pleasant sailing.

As said, short after the break, we set sails to the Pitons Bay, a lovely spot located in between a pair of majestic volcanic plugs (771m and 743m high). Le Gros et Le Petit.

NOTE: In this place we had the first encounter with locals. They tried to fool us out. The first one tried to sell us 4 limes and 2 bananas for 10$. The second one with the mooring buoys, charging us 15$ for what he said was his mooring. A couple of hours later, the Rangers came claiming for the same thing, so we had to pay again…so, don’t tell me I didn’t advice you! 😉

Marine life was getting appealing, even though not spectacular, yet. I was shocked at seeing how many Scorpion fish there was. We did read afterwards that this kind of fish is very invasive.

DAY 3: St Vincent to Carriacou

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8th November: After having to spend the night in St Vincent (Young Island Bay) because of the weather during a late evening sailing, we woke up planning to spend the day in Bequia.  Spend a couple of hours in Friendship bay, before heading back to Port Elisabeth (for checking in at the authorities office) seemed like a great idea.

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Young Island Morning

Bequia is the second biggest island in the Grenadines archipelago at 18 kmand roughly 4.300 inhabitants.

DAYS 4/5/11: Mayreau & Tobago Cays

Salt Whistle Bay
Salt Whistle Bay

9th / 10th / 16th November:

I must say this was the most expected stop on our sailing journey, the Tobago Cays!! 🙂 It was that great, that we felt we had to stop on our way back to Martinque.

One of the best ways to plan you entry to the Cays, is to drop the anchor in Salt Whistle Bay and get to explore the island a little bit. We decided to go all across the island through the main town (the only one, btw) for an hour hike, in order to use our feet a little bit…which after some days on board, feels like you still “floating” while you walk. Weird but cool.

Tobago Cays are an archipelago of 5 small uninhabited islands  – Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradal, Petit Tabac (where one of “Pirates of the Caribbean” scenes was setted)  and Jamesby -. The fauna on those islands is also quite interesting.

We did swim with turtles, hanged from palm trees, eat lobster bbq for dinner, explored some of the small islands, … have a look!!

Thanks to Carlos, captain of “Daddy Boy” boat, who cared a lot about our crew! Setting up the lobster dinner, bringing fresh and tasty fish on board…

Those islands are the key element of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. The park consists of 5.7 km2 sand-bottom lagoon which encompasses the five cays, the inhabited island of Mayreau and the 4 km Horseshoe. The beaches and sea grass beds are feeding and nesting grounds for Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Leatherback Turtles.

Those islands are the key element of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. The park consists of 5.7 km2 sand-bottom lagoon which encompasses the five cays, the inhabited island of Mayreau and the 4 km Horseshoe. The beaches and sea grass beds are feeding and nesting grounds for Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles and Leatherback Turtles.

We had the chance to swim next to green turtles, among other subaquatic creatures (we also saw a huge manta-ray!) and it was one of the most beautiful experiences we ever had!

We also had a couple of sunsets…

And the chance to take a shower from the nature…

DAYS 6: Union Island and White Island

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11th November:

After woke up in the middle of the Cays, we decided we needed some fruit on board, so we head to Union island to get it (and took the advantage to call the mechanic to fix the water pump…that turned out to be just a bit jammed after all).

We were really disappointed by a couple of “characters” the “fruit crew” did find ashore…the guy selling fuel (for the dinghy) tried to charge us almost 10 times the setted price from the petrol-station, screaming to us like a mad person…and the fruit woman, who tried to fool us with the fruit willing to charge us 200$ for some bananas, pinapple and limes…so thanks to them, we had to avoid our highlight of the day…the Happy Island:

Happy Island
Happy Island

As you see on the pic, the sky started to get covered by clouds…leaving an strange feeling of another caribbean storm around the corner…so we decided to stop for a quick bath into a lovely swimming pool, at the white island, right after have ordered a couple of drinks, of course.

DAY 7: Diving Day in Carriacou

Jordi Pages, from the special forces

12th November:

The day didn’t really woke up clear and sunny at Carriacou’s Paradise Bay (were we spent the night) so part of the crew decided to go for a dive…

The dive master told them that since a hurricane did hit the island a couple of years ago, some of the fauna went away, so they couldn’t really see much of it…pitty!

The rest of the crew waited at the Sandy Island…I will talk about it on a following chapter…meanwhile…

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DAY 8: Grenada Sculpture Park

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November 13th:

After a calm night in Grand Mal Bay (nothing special, but good for stay overnight), we headed to the subaquatic sculpture parka truly special place for great snorkeling!

Day 9: St George Port

Georgetown
St George

November 14th:

After more than a week without any port visit, we arrived to our southern most point, Georgetown, in Grenada. I’ve to say there are not many ports where to stop, and btw, we all enjoyed a real shower after 9 days of limited water…

Georgetown port is with one of the best facilites I’ve seen (a feeling strongly reinforced given the place we were sailing…). Swimming pool, very good restaurant, great showers…even Nelson Piquet (the world’s famous F1 driver from the 80’s) has his Pilar Rossi boat here, a 70m kind of monohull-trimaran!!

Day 10: Mopion and Sandy Islands

Mopion Warriors
Mopion Warriors

November 15th:

The day we conquered 2 Islands had arrived…

After a the usual “Checking out” at the port authorities, we set sails to head north, to a waypoint we already knew, the Sandy Island. Off the west side of Hillsborough Bay, is a favorite daytime destination for snorkelers and sailors. It’s a tiny postcard reefed island of glistening sands surrounded by turquoise waters. Insane.

We were completely alone on the island, so after a swim, we decided to go explore somewhere else…

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So we arrived to the Mopion Island (don’t ask me why it is called like that), and we can say is the smallest island in the Caribbean Sea. At least the smallest with a proper beach…and an umbrella!!

So after checking the size of the ground, we organized “The Mopion Cup” 1st edition. (Check the video below!)

From here we went to the Tobago Cays again, where we spent the night and eat lobster and tuna (again!!). This was the Sunset we enjoyed that night…

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Day 12: Saint Vincent and Wallilabou Bay

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November 17th:

Since many people (and many websites) told us that Saint Vincent wasn’t really safe (specially when you are on a boat, and during the night) and we were also a bit tight on time, we decided to stop and go in Wallilabou bay, which takes the name from the river which is born in the middle of the island. It was also one of the settings from The pirates of the Caribbean. (link)

After a couple (of dozens) of photos, we set sails to St Lucia, Pitons Bay.

I have to say that Saint Vincent is really astonishing from the sea, with an amazing combination of greens, blues and dark stone, one really gets a the feeling of sailing a volcanic caribbean island!

One of the things that really impressed me was how quick the weather can change here…and how easy is to see if an storm is approaching. Have a look at the following picture with a boat heading to a Caribbean storm…

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Day 13: St Lucia to Martinique

Gros Piton

November 18th:

Sadly, was the time to got back to Martinique. Even the weather seemed to know about it…St Lucia woke up foggy and grey, but the Pitons remained impressive.

One of the best moments we had was when a group of friendly dolphins came to say HI! to all of us…they are sooooooo cool!!!!

While Martinique was getting closer and closer, “Le Diamand”, the picturesque island that gives name to the beach in front of it, started to look more and more interesting.

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Le diamand
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Anse Caritan
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Le diamand from Anse Caritan

We spent the night in one of the busiest bays we have ever seen, Anse Caritan, in Sainte Anne starting and ending waypoint for a lot of sailors who are looking for one of the biggest challenges a sailor could face, the Atlantic crossing.

Day 14: Sailors without a boat

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November 19th:

We spent the last night in a hotel at the beggining of the “Anse du Diamand”. They day after, some of us went to visit the main city, Fort-du-France, while the others went to Anse Arlet (a sweet beach spot on the W coast)

At Anse du Arlet, plenty of restaurants are offering criollo food and ice cold beer literally ON THE BEACH!! WOAAAH!!

🙂

So…if you have enjoyed this post, please give me a like on Facebook!! You know how this “social media thing” works…

The pics were taken by members of the Crew, not only the captains!

BTW, if at some point in your life (let me tell you that you should), you are interested on doing a sailtrip like the one you just read about, do not hesitate to contact me! Would be happy to be your skipper! 🙂

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RYA Yachmaster Offshore and Industrial Designer - I do organize sailtrips around the world onboard monohulls and catamarans up to 24m

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