By Van Diehl, with help from Ted and Claudia Bowler
A group of us recently took a wonderful sail charter to Grenada and the Grenadines. One of the Caribbean’s nicest sailing areas, the Windward Islands consist of Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica. The islands got their name from the British, who had to beat to windward to sail there from their colonies. The islands lie almost across the easterly trade winds, which makes for an easy northerly or southerly passage. Just far enough apart to allow for an exhilarating open ocean sail, the islands are lush and richly tropical, with high mountains that trap the clouds and produce dense green vegetation.
With trade winds ensuring exhilarating passages and delightful anchorages aplenty, the Windward Islands are a joy for any sailor. The weather stays pleasant year-round with temperatures between 77 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The ocean stays warm all year, and the winds nearly always blow between northeast and southeast at about 10 to 25 knots. Rain usually arrives in intense squalls that can be seen coming from afar, sometimes bringing lots of wind.
In Martinique, the official language is French; in others, it’s English, with the locals speaking a variety of dialects and patois.
Charter company and boat selection
Sailing your own boat to many of the top sailing areas of the world—the Greek islands, the Caribbean, the South Pacific—is often impractical, making a sail charter the obvious alternative.
The price of a charter vacation covers your accommodations, a galley for preparing your meals, transportation to inaccessible island locations, as well as unmatched scenery and adventure every day of your trip.
For this trip, we selected Horizon Yacht Charters, which had good reviews and much lower prices than some of the other charter companies we looked at. Horizon has charter locations in Grenada, Saint Vincent and Antigua with a good selection of monohulls and catamarans as well as a knowledgeable and helpful staff.
We selected a 2008 Jeanneau 50 DS and paid $3,295 for 10 days during the low season (July 10 to October 31). The charter cost $1,098 per couple, or $549 per person.
Where did we sail?
Since we would be sailing in and out of the island nations of Grenada and the Grenadines, we became familiar with their customs and immigration procedures. Horizon prepared the necessary paperwork for us, which helped greatly.
Our charter started at True Blue Bay Boutique Resort in St. George’s, Grenada. The Horizon charter base is next to the resort. We arrived a few days prior to departure to buy provisions.
While in St. George’s, we rented a car and drove (on the left side of the road) all the way across the island through luxuriant tropical vegetation and acres of cacao trees to the northern town of Sauteurs. We visited the world-famous Grenada Chocolate Company and tasted its internationally award-winning organic dark chocolate products.
Actually a chain of islands, the nation of Grenada includes Grenada and six smaller islands, including Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Known as the spice island and untouched by mass tourism, Grenada possesses the feeling of a place time forgot. Its capital, St. George’s, has what is arguably the Caribbean’s most picturesque waterfront. The island’s history can be seen in its colorful old houses, forts and buildings. Welcoming to visitors, the friendly locals will immerse you in their way of life.
Grenada also serves as the gateway to the unspoiled cruising grounds of the Grenadines, where you’ll find some of the best sailing in the Caribbean.
One of the world’s most perfect charter destinations, the Grenadines are a string of verdant islands and islets dotted with sandy beaches and palm trees surrounded by stunning turquoise waters. You can learn about the old whaling culture in Bequia, experience the trendy atmosphere of Mustique (a playground for royalty and the rich), or head for the unspoiled and remote Tobago Cays Marine Park to snorkel among colorful reefs teeming with tropical fish of all sizes.
Other incredible island stops like Mayreau, Canouan and Petit St. Vincent have their own distinctive flavor and allure. Union Island, sometimes called the Tahiti of the West Indies, is the southernmost of the Grenadines and well worth a visit.
A great sailing team
Our group—Suzy Cooper and Mike Crumley; Claudia and Ted Bowler; and my wife, Cida, and I—made the charter fun and interesting. All except Mike are USPS members and sailors. With a variety of skills among us, we always had a helping hand. At each destination, we discussed plans for the next day during our happy hour.
Cruising and learning from other squadron members was a joy. We saw and discussed various methods of route planning, strategy to minimize strong currents and winds, different methods of anchoring and mooring, sail trim, group provisioning, and battery maintenance. Classroom education is great, but nothing beats on-the-water learning and participation.
Van Diehl and his wife, Cida, have been making their dreams of sailing to distant and unknown destinations a reality in their Hunter 37.5 sailboat, DreamQuest, and in bareboat charters. Van dedicates a lot of his time to teaching advanced grades, elective courses and chairing the advanced grades board. Van and Cida are proud members of California’s San Luis Rey Power Squadron/28.