Southern Grenadines: Union, Palm Island, Mayreau and Tobago Cays      
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for the chartlet of our first Caribbean trip
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Sailing along these small islands in the Caribbean is a pleasure.  Almost flat seas, nice wind, it is really something different. The only disadvantage of the Caribbean is that you have the idea of taking part in some kind of relay race, i.e. you have to determine where to check in and out (not necessarily the first or last island in a row so very important for the routing) and all this paperwork with time and again the same stupid questions.
We sailed from Petite Martinique back to Carriacou (7 nm) to clear out in Grenada. In doing so we recognized the villain's face of a “wanted” person whose picture was affixed behind the immigration's desk, so the immigrations officer immediately placed a phone call to Surinam. After this we enjoyed a nice sail to windward to Union Island (another 7 nm), where we dropped our anchor in the sand behind a reef next to a palm beach to start the clearing procedure in Clifton Harbour.
Union was a drawback but we were warned in advance. You are anchored almost on the airstrip with a lot of other yachts and who wants to snorkel in someone else's loo? The prices are minimum 25% higher than on Grenada (and twice as high as in Surinam). We bought some fish from a fisherman and fled to the next island: Palm Island, directly next to Union, yes we visited them all. Another luxurious resort like Petit St.Vincent's, white beaches and hundreds  of palm trees (what's in a name). The view from the beach was breathtaking.
Film view as seen from Palm Island beach (1.78 Mb)

Concerning special meetings with other boats, the Grenadines area is quite miserable. 75% is chartered (bareboat or with skipper), the majority are catamarans and crews are not interested in contact, unless they need help in case they have done something stupid. This intensive tourism is spoiling the market. We were offered a red snapper for 20 euro's! P asked what the weight of this fish would be. “Four pounds”, the fisherman said without blinking an eye and the price per pound was 4 euro's. Huh??? We put the fish on our kitchen scales (they were impressed) and yes: not even 2 pounds. But the boys saw the humour of the situation.

Miep is an extraordinary appearance among this “The Moorings”- and “Sunsail”force of castle-like catamarans and white plastic bathtubs. Talking about despicable boats, in this area we started to meet monster cruiseships taking a 1000 passengers and more.

During daytime the patients (this is what we call them) are transferred from their cruiseships onto big party catamarans, which are circling around interesting objects such as Miep. Of course it is a nice way to explore the islands in these shallow waters, as the cruisehip cannot come close to the beaches.
We did not only see monster cruiseships, but also a monster yacht of 114 meters length. “Le Grand Bleu” is 1 of the 5 biggest motoryachts in the world. On the aft deck she carries a helicopter, a 50 ft motoryacht and a 60 ft sailing yacht, judging by the number of spreaders (4 sets). Suppose you'll have to sail a freighter like that...

Palm Island was not a very good anchor spot (unprotected and 36ft deep) so we moved quickly to the somewhat larger but small island of Mayreau. Finally some rest, as the crowds are anchored in the Tobago Cays. The pilot guide calls Mayreau a “one road two cars island” and this is a perfect characterization.
Two cruiseships came in early morning to keep Miep company in Saline Bay so we went quickly ashore to be ahead of the crowd. At that hour the entrepeneurs are already waiting in front of their elegantly decorated little restaurants plus and souvenirshops until the island begins to liven up, and this is as soon as the patients are released from their cruiseships. Pink and fat they drag themselves at about 11hrs up mountain, it is humiliating and the villagers will have their own view without saying so. But tourism is their only source of income so they remain extremely friendly. There is a pretty little catholic church of which the windows on the back are bricked up. It is not at all ugly as they are painted with nice fresco's, a.o. a chart of the islands from Grenada to St.Vincent. P digitally added our route: the already sailed track is yellow and where we go from here is green.

Mayreau's one road leads from Saline Bay to Salt Whistle Bay, where we dropped our anchor two days later (we seem to stick for days to each place). You get the feeling of competing in a jostle for positions to obtain a spot, as the bay is so small it will only take ten yachts (and catamarans are two boats in one). Apart from that it is known as one of the Grenadines' highlights and goal of every charterboat. Most of the time these sensibly pick up a mooring as they have no anchoring experience, but our German neighbour gave it a try. With two anchors and eight meters of chain!!

Obviously the anchors were not dug in and the chain was way too short so the boat started to drag when her crew was ashore. While JW protected Miep from an eventual collision, P and Boris (Misty Moon) anchored the boat again. Upon return the Germans turned out to be extremely witty people (yes it is possible) and we had an enjoyable evening with them.

We spent a couple of days with Boris. Had dinner together, snorkeled at Mayreau and went to the Tobago Cays (pronounce as “keys”). The Cays are a touristical “must”, consisting of five mini islands surrounded bij extended reefs. Including Mayreau the nature park extends over an area of 5x5 nm. In 1998 it was declared a national park and the rangers come by to collect 3 euro's pp/day for the preservation of the park. Boatboys buzz around with high speeds and sell anything you need for way to expensive: T-shirts, Caribbean jewelry, French bread (3 euro's), water (3 gallons for 12 euro's), fish, lobster and organized barbecues on the beach. They concentrate on charterboats and they almost don't give us a glance; they know their customers. Arnie and Andrea, the Germans we met in Mayreau, dinghied immediately alongside and took us along in their huge dinghy with 15 HP outboard engine to go snorkeling on Horseshoe Reef. This was very convenient as our outboard is a bit quirky lately. The reef is lively with lots of coral, many fish and sea turtles and especially on the outside of the reef big schools of small and large fish; but also a heavy current. As an unsuspecting snorkeler you have to be careful not to be overtaken by a buzzing boatboy or charterboat dinghy. The Tobago Cays reminded us of Chichester Bay: too busy (even in slow season) and the reefs overrated, as the reefs of Sandy Island were at least as beautiful or maybe even prettier.

After the Cays we said goodbye to Boris and his Misty Moon. Boris returned to Trinidad to haul out his boat before leaving for the Netherlands for a couple of months, and we continued into the direction of Martinique to gain some windward miles for our return journey to Surinam. For the sailors: with an E-SE wind on a course of 155-160
° we'll have to sail 650 nm to windward with after 120 nm a stop in Barbados. Obviously we hope for a wind shift to E-NE to make the reach not too close to windward.

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