Archipelago Adventure Starts in Carriacou
The 18 hour sail downwind from Barbados was rolly. A cross swell and relatively light wind meant less is more when it comes to sail area. We settled on just the Yankee, fully out and tight into the whisker pole. This minimized the clank of a boom and the luffing of sails as Moana inevitably rolled her way forwards. A steady 6 to 7.5 knots over the ground was enough to ensure that we made comfortable progress, but didn’t arrive too early in Carriacou and be faced with landfall before dawn. The thousands of metres of depth in the Caribbean Sea quickly became around 30 to 40 metres as far out as 30nm from land. The archipelago of beautiful small islands from Carriacou up to St Vincent sit on a large shelf, strewn with inshore and offshore reefs and islets.
After skirting around the southern end of Carriacou we anchored in Tyrrel Bay and cleared customs and immigration for Grenada before enjoying a quiet day relaxing and catching up on some sleep.
The next day we headed a few miles around the corner to the idyllic Sandy Island, just off Hillsborough and settled into some serious sun,
sand and snorkelling. Although there were plenty of yachts around it wasn’t too crowded and Carriacou seems to have escaped the development of mass tourism which is at least a part of most of the other islands we have visited so far. There’s no evident industrial development, the airport can only take light planes, there’s reasonably opaque land title arrangements and ‘aliens’ need specific governmental permission to buy property. There’s certainly a feeling of ‘authenticity’ here with traditional boat building and fishing still mainstay employers.
Sandy Island is far enough offshore to keep it a Yachties playground, so we used the RIB to explore L’Esterre Bay back on the mainland, and the lovely strand of Paradise Beach. A couple of small hotel/guesthouses and quirky little bars are scattered along the shore among water taxis, fishing boats, buoys, lines and nets. The north end of the bay runs into shallows with sea grass and mangroves before reverting to a reef teeming with shoals of small fish and feeding pelicans. Colourful local boats prevail. Heavy, made entirely of wood and carvel built on a strong frame, the distinctive design has a flat transom, the hull cut to a sharp ‘v’ and a long pointed bow.
‘Cigarettes’ as they are known. They effortlessly cut through the waves and resist being thrown airborne by the strong winds gusting around the coastline. More often than not they are overpowered with Japanese outboards and rely on their skillful handlers to tame them.
Curtis Malcolm owns the ‘Off The Hook’ bar and restaurant on the south end of the beach. He also cuts hair. In need of a trim we tried the phone number written on the wall and he tells us that he’s in Grenada and back at 4pm. At 4.30pm we’re back at the bar, Curtis still wasn’t around, but we were kindly invited to join a group of 15 or so people on the beach who were celebrating the life of their recently deceased maternal relative. Some had travelled back to Carriacou from the USA and the UK for the occasion. Working abroad and saving money most were hoping to eventually return to the island as soon as possible. Ben an enterprising young man had just started a fledgling community music project in Bedford and had plans to return in February to work on a new Film and Music Festival in memory of his Grandmother back in Carriacou. At around 5pm we all watched and waved at the light plane, with Curtis aboard, flying past the beach and within half an hour he had arrived with his girlfriend and opened up. We settled in, ate some fresh fish and aborted the haircut.
The following day we explored Hillsborough. It was a Sunday so the atmosphere was sleepy. The buildings along the main street are colourful and skilfully hand decorated. Singing drifted from large Catholic Church which was full to the rafters on St Patrick’s Day and a couple of cafes and bars were also opening up for lunch along the waterfront. A notice at the dock reported that the customs and immigration office had closed until further notice in the previous November. So we returned to Tyrrel Bay, fixed the wifi aerial cover which had disappeared overboard on route from Barbados, and checked out with Customs and Immigration early the following morning. By 9am the sails were set for the hop up to Petit Martinique and then on to Petit St. Vincent for a short, unofficial, entry into The Grenadines.