Day Trip to the Grenadines
There is no place further removed from the stress of every day life than a sail boat trip through the Grenadines. This archipelago of over 600 islands and cays, stretching from St. Vincent in the north to Grenada in the south, is still largely unspoiled by development. We recently joined several of our great friends, along with several now new dear friends, aboard the sailing vessel Flagship under the command of legendary Captain Roger Bagga. Along with the ever-efficient first mate, Coastman, and the aptly named galley mate Angel (pronounced Ahn-jel) whose delicious fare is still a topic of discussion amongst our group, we were well looked after for the entire day.
Our party of ten left Barbados via a private plane for the 100 mile, 50 minute flight to Union Island (population 3000) which is located at the Southern end of the Grenadines island chain. The plane flies at a mere 10,000 feet providing breathtaking photo ops from the window. Known as the crossroads of the Grenadines, the air strip at Union Island’s tiny airport is a thrill seekers delight when the plane swoops around a high rocky crag before descending roller coaster style onto the sometimes goat maintained runway. Clearing immigration and Customs is a “hello and welcome to “Union Island”. We were taken on a 2 minute motorized tram (think Fantasy Island without Tattoo) ride to the dock for a warm greeting by Captain Bagga —- Bagga or Roger to his friends —- and champagne on ice. We breakfast on freshly baked banana, mango and coconut breads, local fruit and juices, with tea and coffee. My good mate hears the champagne calling and barely two Bucks Fizz to our UK hosts, or Mimosas to the Americans, later the Flagship is under sail towards our first destination, Mayreau. Settling in on the spacious deck under a sky streaked with rainbows, there is Happy Island off the port side, a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it man made island. Local legend has it that a determined fellow named Shanti spent well over a year dumping palm fronds, rocks, conch shells and boat load upon tiny boatload of sand in order to create his own little untaxed piece of paradise. Beer and rum is sold daily to passing watercraft assuming Shanti has decided to open that particular day for business.
Mayreau and its Salt Whistle Bay is our first anchor. There is not much there save for a small 10 room inn called Salt Whistle Club and sailing yachts flying flags from around the world. The Salt Whistle Club is owned by the Canadian Potter family who some 30 years ago decided everyday concerns like wearing shoes, traffic, and the concept of hurry should be options rather than requirements. 250 residents inhabit this island with no general electricity, a single, unnamed village and, only 2 or 3 motor vehicles depending on who is telling the story. After a refreshing swim to shore and a brief tour of the 1 ½ square mile island, we signal Flagship that it’s time for a ride back to the boat in Coastman’s launch. One of our guests thought she saw what vaguely resembled the Professor and Mary Ann but we attributed her bemusing notion to Captain Bagga’s rum punch. Several local Hairoun beers later, we set sail for the Tobago Cays, passing along the way a magnificent five- masted, 42 sail goliath of a sailing vessel, the Star Clipper’s Royal Clipper which originates in Barbados and other islands for trips throughout the Caribbean. The Royal Clipper has the proud distinction of being the largest and only five-masted sailing ship built since her predecessor, Preussen, was launched at the beginning of the last century.
Flagship slices lazily into the channel of the Tobago Cays for a much anticipated lunch. Protected by a horseshoe shaped reef nearly 5 miles long, this is a place you already sense that you don’t want to leave. The inviting white sand and crystal clear waters are a snorkeler’s heaven. A feeling of sun-drugged hypnosis prevails that is strangely calming. Visions of quitting everything and making this the escape you’ve always wanted gives way to yet another ice cold beverage from the reliable Coastman.
Lunch is announced and today’s epicurean feast includes fresh local spiny lobster, West Indian style spicy barbequed chicken and dolphin marinated in herbs and spices alongside breadfruit and plantains, accompanied by a delicious assortment of fresh salads, breads and fruits. Captain Bagga took the launch over to a nearby deserted islet and grilled the still moving crustaceans himself. Several wonderful bottles of white burgundy made it all the more special. With sybaritic glee, we dig in to the sumptuous lunch display while anchored just off Petit Tabac. We are so close that you could almost hear Captain Jack Sparrow bellowing from the Black Pearl. Alas, no sightings of either Johnny or Keira. Petit Tabac was the setting for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. And there is a reason why St Vincent and the Grenadines was chosen as the surroundings send the senses reeling, pinging the mind searching for just the right description of the water’s color….blue topaz, no, aqua marine, maybe powder blue…If you cannot relax here you most certainly need a maximum dose of statins. This is the raw Caribbean without re-touched photos or cruise ship soldiers invading a different port each day.
After lunch, our group decides to pay a visit to Mopion. Almost an editorial cartoon caricature in real life, we set foot on what looks like a sand bar in the middle of the sea with its one man made palm tree. Not a bad location to be marooned for the day if the company is right. You can hear Tom Hanks… WILSON! WILSON! Mopion is made up of the most incredible “soft sand” which more than one visitor has commented that it should be bottled and sold on some late night infomercial as a miracle elixir. Really; grab a handful of the sand at the water’s edge and exfoliate to your heart’s delight while standing atop this tiny dollop of sand surrounded by gently lapping surf breaking over the protective reef..
Time seems to have passed slowly. After enjoying our afternoon tea onboard it was time to head back to Union Island for the return trip to Barbados. There was no need to rush: it was our plane after all, and although we passed through a metal detector for security, the informal and friendly inspection is performed with one for the road, er, sky in hand. And we were number 1 and the only 1 for takeoff.
It was an uneventful trip back to Bim, or The Rock, as locals refer to Barbados. During the short flight, we exchanged cameras to view and comment on the digital images, usually to spontaneous laughter, promising to email one another the downloaded files. Our pre-arranged mini coach was waiting for us curbside outside the arrivals hall. It was over. A great day, with great company. It is often said amongst the locals, that the worst Caribbean day is the best day in the rest of the world. We wholeheartedly agree.