Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yachtsman's View of SVG

Only 8 of the Grenadines are populated and the remaining are bird sanctuaries and very popular for both hiking and snorkelling. All are volcanic in origin and deeply embellished with inlets where the sea washes up on fine white sandy beaches. St Vincent has lush green mountains. A yacht charter in St Vincent and the Grenadines also offers the opportunity to visit some of the sites used in the making of the film xPirates of the Caribbeanx. St Vincent and the Grenadines is a yacht charter destination for those looking for peace and seclusion.

The choice of yacht charter in St Vincent and the Grenadines is wide including both sail and motor yacht charter, bareboat yacht charter, skippered yacht charter, luxury crewed yacht charter and both monohull and catamaran charter.

Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves, either shipwrecked or having escaped from one of the neighbouring islands and seeking refuge in St Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Garifuna or Black Caribs. In 1719, French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, cotton, and sugar on plantations worked by enslaved Africans. In 1763 St Vincent was ceded to Britain. It was restored to French rule in 1779 but regained by the British under the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Conflict between the British and the Black Caribs lasted until 1796, when General Sir Ralph Abercromby crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 Black Caribs were deported to Roat√°n, an island off the coast of Honduras.

After slavery was abolished in 1834, labour shortages on the plantations resulted in the immigration of indentured servants. Portuguese came from the Atlantic island of Madeira and shiploads of East Indian labourers arrived between 1861-1880. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the century.

St Vincent was granted associate statehood status on October 27th, 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, under Milton Cato St Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence on the 10th anniversary of its associate statehood status, October 27th, 1979.

Year round winds in St Vincent and the Grenadines make for the perfect yacht charter holiday. During the summer months a prevailing 10 ? 20 knot wind from the southeast blows. The winter months will see more challenging winds of 20 ? 25 knots generally from the northeast. Although St Vincent is below the hurricane belt there is always a possibility during the months of July to October. Check this with your yacht charter company. Average high temperatures range from 25°C to 30°C with the highest in July through October.

The major airport in St Vincent and the Grenadines is Joshua Airport on St Vincent. There are flights from Barbados, Puerto Rico, Saint Lucia, Martinique and Grenada. Both US Dollars and x Euro are used. Major credit cards may be accepted in hotels, restaurants and some shops. There are many places throughout the yacht charter area to change money. English is spoken throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines

Many yacht charters start at the Lagoon Hotel and Marina on the southern tip of St Vincent. There is a swimming pool for a refreshing dip on shore before or after your yacht charter and good supermarket for provisioning. This is a well protected yacht anchorage nicely positioned to sail south to the Grenadines and for land trips around the island of St Vincent. Take a day ashore and follow the foot trail along the windward coast, through banana and coconut plantations to La Soufriére volcano. On the leeward side Trinity Falls can be reached by following the trail from Richmond.

Bequia lies just nine miles south of St Vincent and it the gateway to some of the best sailing in the Caribbean. The history of Bequia Island runs deep with age-old seafaring traditions of boat building, fishing and whaling. The main port of entry is Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bay. The quaint waterfront of Port Elizabeth is lined with bars, restaurants and shops selling local crafts. This yacht anchorage is extremely popular with mariners from all over the world because of its ample and clear waters that allow deep-keeled boats to arrive for repairs and services. Bequia has an excellent selection of marine services with amenities that include showers, laundry services and internet access. Bequia offers great beaches, spectacular snorkelling and diving and great food. Princess Margaret Beach is the best yacht anchorage in all of Bequia. It boasts calm clear waters and a beautiful golden sand beach. The beach has no road access and as a consequence is virtually deserted. A short dinghy ride around the bayxs northern headland and you will come find Frangipani bar, a popular meeting place for a cruisers xHappy Hourx.

Mayreau lies west of the Tobago Cays and is perfect for those seeking privacy and a romantic Caribbean hideaway. With no roads, cars, electricity or many of the familiar sounds of civilization, it is a last frontier in an unspoiled tropical paradise. There are hiking trails that will lead you to some of the most spectacular panoramic views of the Grenadines.

Salt Whistle Bay is one of the most exquisite yacht anchorages in the Caribbean and only reachable by boat. Sweeping white sand beaches rim the entire island and are perfect for snorkelling and sailing. The bay is a hot spot for sailors so yacht moorings are in short supply. Enter Salt Whistle Bay through the main channel, as there are reefs on either side in shallow waters, the southern one being particularly dangerous. Anchor at the head of the bay in 8 to 10 feet of clear water. It's a sand bottom and offers reasonably good holding. Be especially careful about anchoring too close to the reef on the southern shores.

Mustique has a wonderful ambience and a calm atmosphere, great beaches and a couple of excellent restaurants. Mustique is a privately owned island that has been developed as an area of holiday homes for the wealthy. Mansions with tennis courts and swimming pools sit on rolling grassy hills and long lawns that stretch to sandy beaches. There is no place to get water or diesel fuel in Mustique.

Britannia Bay is the commercial heart of Mustique. There is a small general store, grocery and bakery. Provisioning on Mustique is very expensive and so are the boutiques. Donxt miss the Wednesday night barbecue buffet and the xJump Upx party at the famous Basilxs Bar and Restaurant. Although the food and service leave something to be desired, Basilxs promises a great deal of fun with wonderful ambiance and spectacular surroundings. When arriving in Britannia Bay it is mandatory for yachts to pick up a mooring buoy rather than anchor. There are plenty available on a first come first serve basis. During the early part of the evening harbour personnel will come up to your boat by launch and collect the overnight fee. The most comfortable spot to get a mooring is just south of a small cargo dock. When the wind blows out of the northeast, the waters in the bay can become choppy. Lagoon Bay, a golden sand beach, lined with palm trees and picnic tables with wood umbrellas, is a 25 minute walk from the village in Britannia Bay. A great spot for a romantic picnic as there is virtually no one else in sight.

Macaroni Bay on the east side of the island is the best swimming beach on Mustique. A half a mile of fine white sand, with turquoise waves rolling in from the Atlantic offers safe swimming, a picnic area, and even a few hammocks slung in the palms on the southern end of the beach. It is too far to walk from the yacht anchorage, so for fun people rent a xmulex, a gas powered mini golf cart

Gelliceaux Bay is marine conservation park where the diving and snorkelling are magnificent. It is illegal to fish or remove anything from the waters surrounding the island.

The Tobago Cays are a cluster of small deserted islands sheltered from the ocean by Horseshoe Reef. The reefs offer fish and coral in a dazzling array of colours. There are small sand beaches and clear water almost everywhere you look. The Tobago Cays offers some of the finest diving in the world. This is the perfect place to anchor your charter yacht for a few days to soak up the sun, sand and sea. Anchoring your yacht is permitted behind Horseshoe Reef and around the islands in sand only. The sand provides excellent holding reducing the risk of damage to the coral from a dragging anchor. Anchoring is not permitted within 60 feet of coral or sea grass. Also yachts must anchor in water deeper then 1.5 meters. Sailors should note the presence of sea grass around the Island of Baradal, and the patches of reef just beyond the beaches of Jamesby and Petit Bateau.

Local boat vendors spend time in the Cays selling everything from ice, bread, and lobsters to jewellery. They are a friendly group of locals and are very accommodating if you need them to bring you ice or bread the next day. If you want to be left alone, they will oblige your request. It is best to avoid vendors offering barbecue fish lunches as they may have taken fish from the reef. A recent problem to be on the look out for is youths offering to dump garbage for a fee from the charter boats at anchor. Do not give in to their request; they have been dumping the trash illegally off the windward side of Baradel Island. One will pay a premium for anything you purchase at the Cays since the vendors need to cover their fuel costs and earn a few dollars.

Canouan is a crescent shaped island surrounded by wide shallow waters and coral and is a scuba diver's dream. Canouan is an island in transition. Just ten years ago it was a sleepy island that time forgot. A new era of development began when Italian contractors purchased the northern part of the island. The considerable addition of new money has rapidly transformed the island, with many fancy new homes built by locals. The new development is a gated one, with guards at the entry points. The spacious, elegant new hotel and golf course opened again, with Trump running the casino, luxury apartments and Raffles running the resort end. From the visitorxs point of view there are spectacular beaches, great views, and lovely walks almost anywhere.

Union Island is about 40 nautical miles from St Vincent. The island boasts a dramatic outline of ridges and peaks, the highest being Mount Parnassus some 900 feet above sea level. Clifton, the main harbour, is protected by a coral reef that reveals brilliant colours and patterns as you sail in. The town is clean and picturesque with several new, locally run stores catering to visitors. A couple of bars provide perfect street-side viewing points for watching the world go by. The market, with many colourful stalls, has been rearranged round a pleasant green square. There are many good restaurants and the provisioning is excellent with a really wide choice of fresh produce. Basic services like docking, water, laundry and Internet connections are readily available. Located in the northwest corner of the harbour you will find Bougainvilla Marina and The Anchorage Yacht Club. 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 at either of these places. There have been occasional reports of visitors being hassled by kids in boats. These xtown hustlersx try to sell anything to make a buck. If they tell you that the Yacht Club is closed or that therexs no diesel or water available donxt believe them. What theyxre trying to do is to sell you their own moorings or someone elsexs fuel and water at inflated prices.

Petit St Vincent is about 5 nautical miles from Union. This 113-acre island resort is privately owned and offers private cottage-type accommodation and a wide range of sporting and marine activities. It is almost entirely surrounded by white sand beaches and has excellent anchorages for yachts. A walk up the hillside will find a bar in which the ambience is extraordinary. Hummingbirds fly through the tropical vegetation and the best fresh tropical frozen fruit daiquiris in the Grenadines are served here.

From the anchorage, you can swim directly towards Mopion Sandbank but will come up to a reef. Follow the reef round until you come to a wide opening. You can swim or dinghy through, straight up on to the sand bank. This is the ultimate desert island and if you stand on the south-west corner, you can get a photo with the sea on the left, on the right the hump of sand with the triangular thatched shelter in the middle and nothing in the background except for the ocean. The snorkelling around the reef is very good and you may see rays, large parrotfish and even groupers. This is a terrific lunch stop but not an overnight anchorage as the holding is poor.

Chatham Bay is a very secluded yacht anchorage. It is rare to find more than 5 yachts anchored here even in high season and in the low season you could well be the only yacht. At Chatham Bay there are no bars, no restaurants, no buildings, no roads, and no people.

One way yacht charter options are available from St Vincent to Union, Saint Lucia, Grenada and Martinique. Consult with the yacht charter company for more details.

Diving: St Vincent and the Grenadines have a large number of recognized and enthusiastic diving schools on St Vincent, Bequia, Mustique and of course the Tobago Cays. Spectacular underwater seascapes include the wreck of Jonas on the eastern side of the Montezuma shoal near Mustique and there are many drift dives offering a changing panorama of soft corals, turtles, Creole wrasses and the occasional sighting of an eagle ray.

About the Author:
Ken Jones runs a Yacht Charter Guide.

About the Author:
Ken Jones runs a Yacht Charter Guide.