Trip on Simon Sez starting 2012-02-14 in BSAMar12
Bernard Smyth and I joined other contacts from CSSA for 10 days sailing in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Whilst this was not a BSA trip I thought other members who have been to the BVIs may find this a useful comparison if thinking of another Caribbean sailing holiday.
We chartered a Jeanneau 39i in Port Louis which turned out to be not at all well maintained - by Sunsail or its American owner? Few of the instruments worked and there were problems with both heads and holding tanks - quite a problem with six people aboard particularly being in a Marine Park where discharging tanks was not allowed inshore. Whilst being very pleasant and doing a comprehensive briefing Sunsail staff were unable to fully resolve these problems and could not offer an upgrade as there were few boats available from Port Louis, particularly monohulls. The description of the style/position of the second heads was also somewhat misleading as regards privacy!
We sailed a total of 150nm, initially going north against the prevailing, NE, trade wind which luckily was not too strong that day. During the 10 days the winds increased so on our return south it was blowing F6, gusting F7 which along with a 3m swell on the open water stretches made for a lively sail. A firm hand or the autopilot was necessary that day! Our nights at anchor were quite rolly and the wind did not die down but we all got used to being rocked to sleep in this fashion. Often there were only 5 or 6 other boats at anchor in the bay. The navigation was tricky due to the many reefs between islands so our skipper was kept busy. Although there were tides and tidal diamonds on the charts we never found any tide tables and interestingly the charts showed a variation of 14° W! It was difficult to see the chartplotter on the deck due to its small size and the brightness of the sun.
We visited several islands in both countries, anchoring off white sparking beaches each time. There were lots of opportunities to dinghy ashore where there was usually a bar or restaurant. The food was better quality and value than in the BVIs so victualing was easier with a much wider choice of local fruit and vegetables. We ate onboard several nights, buying fresh fish from local fishermen but as in so many places fish is now scarce and expensive - partly due to the Japanese buying most of it!
We got as far north as Tobago Cays - tiny islands in a turquoise sea where we swam with turtles and walked with iguanas. The swimming was good but due to the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 the coral reefs have been badly affected so snorkeling was not very worthwhile. Our most southerly stop was on the south Grenada coast where there are ria-like bays but this is much more 'commercialised' than the rest of Grenada and St Vincent.
This area has more of a Caribbean atmosphere than the BVIs and the islands more individual with their own culture. Grenada itself is beautiful with lush spice- growing rain forest covering the steep volcanic mountains and colourful houses scattered like Smarties across the lower slopes. Hurricane Ivan destroyed 80% of the houses so most are newly built though some very poor dilapidated ones are still lived in in the mountains. The local people we met could not have been friendlier or more helpful and we soon got into’ Caribbean Time’!
All is not perfect in Paradise, however and there were unexpected hidden disavantages such as having to emigrate and immigrate between Grenada and St. Vincent each time which cost in time and money.
It was an interesting trip with more challenging sailing conditions than the BVIs and on reflection we agreed it could have been more advantageous to charter from St. Vincent. This would have avoided the long sail along the west coast of Grenada where there are no safe havens but then we would have missed Grenada itself which was well worth visiting. There are more islands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines archipelago than in Grenada and Sunsail run small flotillas from their base there.
We rented an apartment in Grenada for 2 days at the beginning of the trip which gave us an opportunity to see some of the island and as I had managed to get BA flights cheaper than the Sunsail /Virgin package this paid for our extra two days on land.