This is the story about a Swedish couple, Emelie and Marcus, as they sail over the Atlantic Ocean to Bequia – and continue sailing to nearby islands in the Grenadines.
Our first stop after the Atlantic crossing was Bequia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. Many tourists pronounce Bequia as ‘beq-uía’ or ‘beck-wee’, but the locals pronounce it “Beck-way”. It’s a truly beautiful place but perhaps not the most practical right after an Atlantic crossing. It’s a small island, so the bunkering and inventory possibilities are somewhat limited.
However, we had a lot left that our guests wanted to see before they would fly home from Grenada, so the trip went south towards Mayreau and the coral reefs of Tobago Cays. It was a rough sailing trip with a lot of wind, waves and rain under the December grey sky. We were very glad it was only a short trip.
Mayreau is a small but inhabited island that has two anchoring bays. The northern part, Salt Whistle Bay, is extremely beautiful. We then visited the southern part. It was clear now that we were a little rusty in terms of anchoring techniques. Although there were very few boats, we had a hard time finding a good place. But later, we realized that we could venture much closer to the beach than you would think. Here we also had the company of a small cruise ship, so there was a lot of hustle and bustle on the beach.
We took a walk through the village up to the top of the island. Here, on the back of a church, we had a great view of the Tobago Cays. Someone had also painted a map of the Grenadines on the church wall, which made it easier for us to identify the islands we saw around us.
When we came back down to the beach, the cruise guests were on their way back to their ship. The beach was almost deserted, the bar closed and the souvernir stands gone. It was almost hard to believe that it was the same place we had stepped ashore on an hour earlier.
The day after, we travel the last nautical miles to Tobago Cays. We were excited to go in between the coral reefs, as it was clearly visible in the sunshine and we could conclude that the plotter did incredibly well correlating with reality. We anchored in the lee behind the reef, but with a wind blowing from the Atlantic Ocean. It was a bit unusual as we were used to swing in no more than circa 14 knots per second. Here, we were going to be overnight in closer to 12 meters per second.
We took the dinghy to a small island that is a turtle conservatory and snorkeled with sea turtles. So cool!
In the afternoon we took the dinghy out to the edge of the reef we were sheltered behind, and here we snorkeled at a depth of two meters around the coral heads. What a life it is under the surface!
The following day we woke up to an overcast and threatening rain clouds. Not the best weather to snorkel, so we set off after breakfast to the last island in the chain, Union Island.
Next to Union Island is another paradisiacal location, Palm Island. No use trying to describe – just look at the picture below. We had hoped to anchor here, but the bottom sloped too steep and with the swell going, we had to give up.
Union Island’s capital, Clifton, is a little bit odd too. The port is only protected by a reef, so it is just as exposed as out on Tobago Cays. Hoping to get a quiet night we chose to go to the island’s leeward side and Chatham Bay. Here we were almost alone, but did not receive the peace we were looking for. Strong katabatic winds pulled down from the mountains around the bay, so it howled in the rig. But it was still a beautiful place.
At a short walking distance along the beach we had to eventually take cover from a rain shower – in a bar, drinking rum punch while waiting for a break. What a tough life this is…
It wasn’t any day of the year, but the fourth Advent. We lit all four candles while we drank glögg (traditional Swedish mulled wine) and ate the last Christmas cookies. Now it was also time to change country, so we had to get to Clifton to clear out, i.e. tell the customs and immigration that you’re about to leave the country.
We didn’t want to spend the night in Clifton because of the exposed anchorage conditions, and the wind was still at full effect when we got there. It was crowded between the boats and we had difficulty getting hold of the anchor. After trying for an hour, we gave up and paid a fair amount of money to lie on the mooring while we visited the authorities.
Too bad we didn’t feel comfortable staying longer, because it seemed to be a cozy place. After the paperwork was done, we began our trip to the island of Carriacou, belonging to Grenada.
According to our guidebook we had to visit Carriacou’s “capital” Hillsborough to clear in. When we got there, it seemed to be a protected anchorage without waves or wind. However it was pretty boring without a nice beach and with more fishing boats and ships, rather than yachts. The authorities had already closed, so we took a little walk along the hundred-meter-long main street. During the night there was a strong wind. We slept restlessly, and when Emelie went up at two o’clock to check the plotter, it seemed as if we had drifted. We decide to sit anchor watch for safety reasons. During the night we saw how four of the six boats in the bay drifted – the boat behind had moved almost a football field away from its original anchoring spot.
As soon as the office opened in the morning, Marcus and his mother went into town to clear in, and then we pull up the anchor. We passed another paradise island, Sandy Island, on the way out of Hillsborough. As the name suggests, it is a low sand island with moorings outside. In better conditions, we would have gladly stopped by, but once again the weather made us want to move on.
Just around the corner, we went into Tyrrel Bay. What a difference! We went far into the large and well-protected bay, meandered between all the boats and found a vacant turquoise spot (meaning: sandy bottom and good grip for the anchor) on the inside edge of the shore. Here we felt, for the first time, that we had landed in paradise and we felt we had time to linger.
We just enjoyed a number of days, one of which happened to be Christmas Eve. We celebrated with herring from IKEA and Skåne Akvavit from our OSK-friends Björn and Gertrud and potatoes from a local supermarket. Cream cheese substituting the sour cream. In the evening we drank glögg with the bay’s other Swedish boat, Shira, and then went along to the restaurant Lazy Turtle. It’s not every year that you’re eating pizza on Christmas Eve.
To get some private time for ourselves before switching Marcus’ parents for Emelie’s, they would stay a few days at the hotel Grand Anse in Grenada, where we were now steering the ship.
Unfortunately we did not anchor directly outside the hotel, but still within dinghy distance. It was a bit of a strange feeling to have picked them up by car at the airport and now letting them off by dinghy on a sandy beach on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Grand Anse only had one restaurant open on Boxing Day, but it proved to be a success. We sat on a bench under an umbrella with good food, lovely cocktails and great live music, completing a perfect evening.
Unfortunately, all the shops were closed because of the Christmas holidays and then the regular weekend, and we swayed too much at anchorage, so we sailed around the corner to True Blue Bay. A cute name and a nice sheltered cove where we were almost completely alone, so we anchored just next to a small hotel. Here we went on a guided tour of Grenada with Eva-Marie and Mathias as the conclusion of their journey with us. It was very nice to be “ordinary” tourists together, where none of us had to lead or take decisions.
We just followed the guide, Kennedy, wherever he took us. We got to visit a nutmeg sorting plant, cocoa plantations and a rum distillery. We also learned about the many plants we saw along the way, more about Grenada’s checkered history and ate a good lunch with great views and delicious food at a small local restaurant.
Then there was a difficult farewell when we said goodbye to our Atlantic crew outside their hotel. However, it was very cool to see their airplane fly over our anchorage on the way home to cold Sweden.
Now we had another couple of days for ourselves before Emelie’s parents, Anna-Lena and Thomas, would sign on. We moved to the larger bay Prickly Bay and decided to take an extra big bite out of our budget. We did not rely completely on our outboard, and had realized the value of having a proper engine, so we anted up a hefty lump of dough in exchange for a new 2-stroke Tohatsu from Tokyo. This was one of the best decisions we made on the whole trip. Here we also got to know that the marina restaurant would have a big party on New Year’s Eve, so we bought the tickets. Lots of good food and an open bar made me (Marcus) take action from a long-planned idea and proposed to Emelie.
New Year’s Day, I (Marcus) spent creating temporary rings to wear until we would pass by our goldsmith in Kalmar on the way home.
A few days later Emelie’s parents joined us. As our newly arrived guests did not yet have sea legs and the anchorage off St George’s rolled heavily, we chose to go a bit further north and use a mooring. An awesome place with almost 30 meters deep water nearly all the way to land. And tranquil… to begin with.
Shortly after we had gone to sleep it began to roll stronger than we had experienced in any previous anchorage. In search of a calm night, we went straight back to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou.
It was a little bit like coming home again, and Emelie’s parents liked the place as much as we did. Once again, we got a couple of calm days, and Emelie got her first and long-awaited lobster at the restaurant Slipway. We enjoyed the restaurant, as it was part of an old boatyard with boats in the ceiling and old machines in the interior.
Heading north again, as it was time to get new stamps in the passport as we went back to St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Back in Clifton on Union Island, where we didn’t get the anchor to grip a few weeks earlier. Now the weather was a little quieter and we had better track of how much space we needed to anchor. There were fewer boats, so we found a place to anchor pretty quickly.
But no. After lunch on board we slowly started to drag anchor. Again, half the crew watched the boat while the other half stressed through official custom forms.
At the customs at the airport, Marcus met our first “celebrity” – one of the guys from the boat Aurora. Their blog, segla.nu (in Swedish), is one of those that we had followed regularly since we decided to make this journey. Unfortunately, they would continue south.
Back on board, as the anchor seemed to have dug itself properly, we decide to linger overnight. We had been missing sailing buddies since we left the last gang in Europe, but now got our needs satisfied.
Next to us, we found our OSK–mates Seabee, and soon we heard Loupan on the VHF. The day after, we sprinkled around in Clifton, which we didn’t see last time we were here. A cozy place, but felt touristy and seemed a bit more run down than we’ve seen in other parts of the Caribbean, so a morning there was sufficient. Swedes as we are, we were highly eager to move on to more nature; Tobago Cays next!
In between the reefs again – here we felt like we were at home waters. We passed by where we had anchored last time and chose to anchor next to Loupan in a strait where we were more protected from the wind.
We had time to snorkel among the turtles at the beach before we were picked up by Carlo, who arranged a barbecue on the beach. Here we enjoyed cold beer, rum and cola in the sunset with Loupan, another Swedish boat named Cavatina and a Dutch boat named Shiva, shortly followed by a festive barbecue by Carlos.
We remained a full day as we snorkeled the reef and enjoyed paradise. Unfortunately, it seemed as if we never were going to get more than one day of nice weather here, as the clouds rolled in and stayed. Time to move on again…
For the first time since we crossed the big pond, the thing we never thought was possible happened: no wind! Our habit from Europe of using the engine, took us up to Bequia. Again, it felt like coming home. We really love this bay! This is, according to us, a perfectly balanced mix between a Caribbean postcards place and western service. Local shacks and fantastic restaurants.
To begin with, we were a bit stressed. Anna-Lena and Thomas would fly home from St. Lucia and to get there in time we couldn’t spend too many days here. Marcus took the opportunity to collect his 30th birthday present from Emelie and took a dive certificate at the recommended Dive Bequia. It’s a true luxury being the only student with a dive teacher. At the same time as Marcus is getting his certificate, Emelie shows the island to her parents while they think about the possibility of flying from Bequia to St. Lucia. It turned out that one of the dive shop owners had a light-sport aircraft, complete with painted shark mouth, that could charter them.
As the dive certificate got completed, the decision was taken: we would stay here. Just then, an unusual northerly swell pulled into the bay because of a storm in the northern United States.
The waves hit up all over the beach. A few boats looked dangerously close to being washed ashore and we rolled with terrible intensity. With so many days left on Bequia, we decided to visit Friendship Bay, located on the south side, to change the environment and find a more comfortable place to set anchor.
Paradise again! It might be dandling a little bit, but we’re starting to get used to it. After all, we are at sea.
Admiralty Bay had hundreds of boats anchored there, so we felt almost alone with only ten neighbours scattered in the bay. A closed hotel at one end, a luxury hotel at the other and in between just a local lady with a cooling bag and yummy rum punch.
After a couple of lazy days on the beach we went by Petit Nevis before going back to Admiralty Bay. It was probably the best snorkeling so far with lots of triggerfish, a moray eel, a large puffer fish and coral environment with rich colors. We even picked us some souvenirs in forms of dried coconuts, conch shells and some other washed ashore natural objects. Pretty different from the Swedish archipelago’s driftwood.
Then came a tough farewell when Emelie’s parents took a seat in Bob‘s taxi, leading up to the airport. However, he was considerate enough to let us see them again. Albeit at a distance as they flew over the bay in a flying speed of 160 knots.
As a moment to brighten us up, the next OSK-boat appeared; Fragancia with Janne and Jens on board. Emelie had a lot of contact with Jens via WhatsApp since Europe, but this was the first time we had met each other in real life.
They persuaded us to stay here a few days and go to this weekend’s music festival together. After that, the plan was to spend about a week on St. Lucia, two on Martinique and another one on Dominica before the next guests would arrive in Guadeloupe.
In all, how were we doing over in the Grenadines? Well, although we mostly enjoyed it, there is still a workday in the background – something all boat owners know.
For example, Marcus initially installed the battery meter incorrectly, which means we probably stressed the batteries too much. Even more unfortunate, it also meant that we knew that the solar panels we had (210W) were not enough, and we needed to run the engine one hour every other day or run the engine instead of sailing when going from one place to another.
A wrongly timed dirk (a cord in the mast) dropped and went into the wind generator and broke a wing. Although we found spare blades in Grenada, we needed to borrow a ladder from someone to access and replace it. The biggest electrical consumer was the refrigerator, which was not near as well insulated as is needed for this climate, and connectors to the wires received patina. The fridge reacted as if the batteries were dead and wouldn’t get started and function correctly.
Grocery shopping was also a new experience. It seems that everyone were subsistence with fruits and vegetables, so when you buy it, it’s is usually from the main islands, and quite expensive. Food stores have mostly canned food, and if you want meat you need to check if there is any in the freezer boxes. A lot is imported from the US. We once received bread from Trinidad (we still wonder about the percentage of preservative) and the cheese comes from New Zealand. At the same time, the quality of restaurant food is absolutely fantastic!
The feeling of paradise, however, is overwhelming. In each bay we saw turtles. We were followed by a manta with the dinghy, at Tobago Cays there were two puffer fish and three rays all the way inside the shore and the climate is optimal. Even if it rains at least once per day. The atmosphere and the air pressure is at the same level.
Sailing to Bequia – the itinerary
These were the dates in 2015 och 2016, when S/Y Emma of Sweden sailed to Bequia, around the Grenadines and back to Bequia