Boatbuilders and Bommies in the Southern Grenadines
Petite Martinique, or PM, is part of Grenada but separated by a narrow stretch of water from the most southerly dependency of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Petit St. Vincent, or PSV as it is colloquially known. The two small islands are very different and well protected by a single barrier reef lying to the east of the islands and the dividing channel. PM is quiet. It has a sleepy, local feel and an active fleet of Tunamen. The fishermen are away for a week at a time into the deeper Atlantic waters east of the island. Along with boatbuilding and seafaring, this is the main source of income for the 900 or so islanders. Accessible only by boat with a small ferry linking to Carriacou and Grenada, tourism is limited to some passing yachts. There is a convenient jetty and fuel dock, with deep water and good access, which attracts the odd yacht passing north on a limb through Grenadian Waters, or drifting south from PSV and the Grenadines on route to Carriacou. The fuel tanks are empty so business has dried up and the anchorage is yacht free. A history of flip-flopping between the French and British during the 17th and 18th Centuries has resulted in a delightful array of place names and has had settlers with a mixture of backgrounds over the centuries. The morning and lunchtime is spent wandering through Madame Pierre the small hamlet of a capital. Primary school children are playing yard-cricket during their lunch break, with the wicket practically in the main street. Vehicles are like hen’s teeth.
After lunch we make the ten minute crossing to PSV and unofficially enter St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This is the ‘private’ island and home of one of the most longstanding exclusive hotels in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s low impact, individual stone cottages are scattered loosely around the island. They house wealthy guests who summon room service, or request not to be disturbed, by raising colour-coded flags outside their room. All this said yachts and their crews are still made welcome and can drop anchor in sand on the south side. Visitors are expected to respect the off limits signs and generally keep a fairly low key presence in and around Goatie’s Bar which has an adjacent bit of beach open to all comers. It is a beautiful spot and the next day we sail over to Union Island to officially check in to SVG Customs and Immigration before returning through Crazy Corrigans Crocked Passage to the deserted islet of Mo(r)pion. By the evening we are back in PSV for couple more days of beach cinema, beachcombing, sunsets and marveling at ‘Beauty’, the local wooden sloop, with her skilled Petite Martinique crew.
With the wind just north of east we can head west back through Crazy Corrigans Crocked Passage and make a close haul up to the Tobago Cays. It’s a comfortable couple of hours before we check out Petit Tabac outside of the Horseshoe Reef. The shelter west of the island is too shallow for Moana so we carefully motor back around into main lagoon. The sun is high and Jo and Freddie are at the bow scanning the dark blue and azure water….‘eyeballing for bommies’. Once through the maze of passages and inside the reef the water is an exquisite shade of light blue as the sunlight dances off the white sand. It’s high season and busy with both private, charter and day tripping yachts.
There’s still plenty of space to anchor behind Baradal Island, near the turtle reserve and the snorkelling spots around the outer reef. The Ranger boat does the rounds, collects the Marine Park fee and continues on to manage the park, for better or worse, with a light touch. It’s been a superb day and before settling down for the night the wind picks up and we move to a more sheltered spot behind Petit Rameau to stargaze. It’s not the secluded paradise of yesteryear but the Tobago Cays still delivers some Caribbean magic.