Sailors have long considered St. Vincent and the 40-mile Grenadines island chain to be among the best sailing grounds in the Caribbean, rivaling even the British Virgin Islands. These relatively untouched isles, where much of Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, provide a glimpse of the region as it looked in years gone by.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines are a favorite for charterers thanks to the variety of uninhabited and upscale islands. The best time of year for yacht chartering in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is from November to April.
While St. Vincent is only served by regional air carriers, making it a bit remote, starting a cruising vacation from this West Indian island saves hours of sailing transit time from St. Lucia to the north or Grenada to the south. A favorite eco-tourism destination, St. Vincent has a 3,000-foot active volcano, La Soufrière, which last erupted in 1979. Hiking to the smoking crater area is a popular day trip.
Most visitors anchor out in the Grenadines, and the anchorages are spectacular here. One of the best is deep, horseshoe-shaped Admiralty Bay on Bequia, at the north end of the chain. The upscale Mustique and charming Canouan are also must-see stops, as is pristine Tobago Cays Marine Park. The Grenadines are all fairly close together, which makes for a relaxing itinerary with short morning sails and plenty of time to enjoy the area’s abundant snorkeling, diving, dining and star-gazing opportunities.
The best way to explore St. Vincent and the Grenadines is by traveling one-way. The archipelago is like a string of pearls come undone and scattered in a line. Winds are often from northeast to southeast at 10 to 25 knots, with sailing more challenging in the winter months compared to summer. During hurricane season, the Grenadines are usually one of the safest locations in the Caribbean, which means the cruising can be terrific here all year round.
A smart starting waypoint is Kingstown, in the south of St. Vincent, because it is both close to an international airport and well-positioned for raising anchor and heading south to the rest of the Grenadines. Kingstown itself is a busy urban area that offers plenty of provisions and supplies at the start of a cruise. With a one-way itinerary, a one week charter can start in Kingstown, meander through the Grenadines, and end in Grenada, where there is also an international airport.
Bequia is the first stop along this north-to-south route, and a lovely stop at that. The island is far less populated than St. Vincent, and the waterfront area is also more welcoming for cruisers. Boutiques and cafés line the beachfront at the main harbor, which also includes a concrete walking path with gorgeous views of all the boats at anchor.
The next of the larger islands is Mustique, which, on approach, appears to offer far less civilization than Bequia. Don’t be fooled; the development on Mustique is simply more exclusive and spread out. The waterfront area at the main harbor includes only a couple of boutiques, eateries, and a small fresh-fruit stand, but the island itself is filled with villas and mansions that lure the rich and famous. A small airstrip offering local flights is inland for private planes. Also just inland, within walking distance of the harbor if you don’t mind an uphill hike, is a cocktail bar called The Firefly that offers the absolute best views of the boats at anchor.
Continuing south from Mustique, you can stop to play on the beaches at Petit Mustique and Sevan Island, or make way a bit farther for Canouan. It is home to two major resorts with luxury golf courses, along with an airstrip for local flights. The Moorings has its Grenadines base at Canouan if you are interested in bareboating.
South of Canouan is perhaps the prettiest part of the Grenadines: The Tobago Cays. Its five uninhabited islands are part of a national park and wildlife preserve that includes beautiful reefs for snorkeling and scuba diving, clean waters for swimming, and even a few bays that are frequented by large sea turtles. Day charters do visit here from nearby island hotels, but if you anchor for a day or two, you can quietly enjoy all that the area offers during the morning and early-evening hours. At sunset, barbecues take place on Petit Bateau. The butter-coated lobster is fantastic when enjoyed at picnic tables on the beach overlooking the harbor filled with boats.
The next major stop to the south is Union Island, which offers a local airport as well as some waterfront eateries and restaurants. Union Island is less affluent than Bequia or Mustique, so expect a more authentic day-to-day Caribbean ambience.
Should your travel schedule allow, you can cruise beyond Union Island to Palm Island or Petit St. Vincent, both of which offer lovely beaches for relaxing. Just beyond them, over the Grenadines border, is Grenada. It boasts a megayacht marina along with an international airport for flights to the United States, Europe, and beyond.