Caribbean - TOBAGO CAYS
The marvellous Tobago Cays are the ultimate destination for a cruise in the Grenadines, where everyone should go and anchor at least once in their lives. A magical place, with a wild and unique beauty…
To get to the Tobago Cays, there are several solutions: either charter a catamaran in Martinique, and enjoy a passage to the Grenadines (St Vincent, the entrance to the Grenadines, is 90 miles from Le Marin), or charter your boat directly in the heart of the archipelago.
Moorings, for example, has a base at Canouan, 3 miles from the Tobago Cays… because the Tobago Cays are really exceptional. They now form a marine park (where there is a charge for anchoring), protected by a big horseshoe-shaped coral reef and four small islands (Petit Rameau, Petit Bateau, Baradal and Jamesby).
Opposite, on the other side of the reef, is Petit Tabac island, where ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was filmed. This is where Jack Sparrow was held prisoner and escaped by tying two turtles together… You will see a lot of turtles in the Tobago Cays, as well as a beautiful seabed along the horseshoe-shaped reef.
But if you feel you have the soul of a real ‘Crusoe’, and enjoy deserted anchorages, you must go to ‘World’s End reef’. The entry is quite easy and the reefs easily visible, as long as you go in with the sun high in the sky, and above all, not in your eyes. A deserted anchorage in the middle of nowhere, where you can experience some extraordinary diving with mask, snorkel and fins. Be aware, however, that this is only a daytime anchorage; staying overnight could be risky…
Another place not to be missed is the anchorage at Windward Bay, on Mayreau Island. This deserted anchorage, just opposite the Tobago Cays, has good holding for the anchor and is easily accessible, as long as you approach it with the sun high in the sky, so you can see the coral heads. An anchorage where you can spend the night with no problems.
The Tobago Cays’ success has a disadvantage: overpopulation of the anchorages. It is quite common to see between 30 and 50 boats anchored between Baradal and Jamesby. But you will often be alone (or almost) if you anchor between Baradal and Petit Rameau, or even better, in the provided by Jamesby… It is quite incredible to see boats congregating in the same place, when a few hundred metres away there are anchorages which are just as beautiful and with just as good holding, but perfectly peaceful…
Advantage of the Tobago Cays: the ‘boat boys’. Every morning, outboard-engined boats offer hot, fresh bread, then throughout the day, fish, ice, vegetables… and even t-shirts! This very practical system allows you to restock, whilst remaining inside the marine park, where there is no other way of taking on provisions. Be careful however, it is expensive, and it is the done thing to haggle over the prices a little…
The Tobago Cays area is a beautiful place to spend a few days. Between Mayreau and World’s End there are no less than a dozen sublime anchorages, some of which are overcrowded – such as Baradal or Salt Whistle Bay – others absolutely deserted. It’s up to you to get off the beaten track and enjoy the Grenadines to the full…
Leaving from Martinique, you will have an overnight downwind passage, before arriving in St. Vincent or Bequia for your clearance. Next you can choose from Mustique, Canouan, Mayreau, Tobago Cays then Union and Petit St Vincent. If you have the time, don’t hesitate to sail down to the Grenada Grenadines (Petite Martinique - Carriacou and the Ile Ronde). You will then need to clear at Carriacou to enter and at Union to return to the St. Vincent Grenadines. You must then sail back up to Martinique (often to windward), with a possible stop at St. Lucia. A programme such as this requires two weeks. If you only have a week ahead of you, the ideal thing is to charter a boat directly in the Grenadines and enjoy this area, where the distance between the islands is never greater than 7 miles…
Itinerary for a two-week charter leaving from Martinique:
1st day: Le Marin (Martinique) - Rodney Bay (St. Lucia).
2nd to 11th day: St Vincent - Bequia - Canouan - Mayero - Union - Grenada - Carriacou - Petit Saint Vincent - Mustique - Bequia.
12th day: Soufrière/Marigot bay (St. Lucia).
13th day: Sainte-Anne (Martinique).
14th day: Sainte-Anne (Martinique) - Le Marin (Martinique).
Formalities : Entry and exit formalities are compulsory when changing islands or groups of islands. To carry out ‘clearance’, the boat’s skipper must have each passenger’s passport, (valid for at least 6 months), the boats papers and must hoist the courtesy flag of the country visited. These formalities can be carried out in Kingston and Wallilabou (St Vincent), Admiralty Bay (Bequia) and Clifton Harbour (Union) for the Saint Vincent Grenadines; for the Grenada Grenadines at Hillsborough (Carriacou) and St. George (Grenada).
Weather : Tourist season from December to April. But sailing is very pleasant until the end of July. August and September are much wetter (lots of rain) and above all, this is the period when the hurricane risk is very high.
Buoyage : You will be sailing in zone ‘B’ (green buoys to port, entering the harbour). Buoyage remains random and the lights do not always work. In any case, night sailing is extremely inadvisable and even forbidden by the charter companies.
Note : All fishing is prohibited in the Tobago Cays (underwater fishing as well as fishing with trailing lines or rods, non-commercially). Buying crayfish is prohibited from 1st May to 30th September (buying a crayfish carrying eggs is prohibited at any time). Since December 2006, anchoring in the Tobago Cays costs 10 $EC (around 3 euros) per adult per day, payable to the National Park Marine Rangers.
Money : The money in the Grenadines is the EC dollar (1 euro = 3 $EC)
Sailing Guides : In the West Indies, the ‘Guide des Antilles’ by Jacques Patuelli is a MUST.