After two previous attempts and two year-long postponements due to Covid, we finally have the 2022 Windward Islands Flotilla under our belts. We had thirty-nine people on seven yachts ranging in size from 45’ monohulls to 50’ catamarans. Altogether we visited eight beautiful islands over ten days in early-April 2022. (note: click on any image to enlarge)
The Windward Islands extend SSW from Martinique to Grenada. Our one-way flotilla started in St. Lucia visited three separate countries—St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines (often abbreviated “SVG”), and Grenada—which made the trip more interesting as each has its distinct culture. Despite being so close to one another, each of these island nations also has distinct Customs and Immigration as well as Covid protocols and procedures. Meeting these requirements to check each boat’s crew out of one country before checking into the next made the voyage more like blue water cruising that most sailing vacations.
We started from Rodney Bay, in the NW corner of St Lucia, where Moorings and Sunsail bases are located. There was a liquor store and grocery store within walking distance and in the same marina as the base, which helped make last-minute provisioning convenient, especially for perishables.
As usual for a bareboat charter, Day One was busy, with boat briefing, perishables provisioning, boat inventory, last minute equipment checks, repairs, etc. All seven boats got out by 3:00 pm and two hours later pulled into Marigot Bay, one of the more romantic harbors in the Caribbean. The Windwards are known for the Boat Boys, local men and women who motor out to help guide boaters to a mooring and help them pick up the line, offer rides to shore, deliver food, and more. As we approached Marigot Bay, a couple of Boat Boys came out to meet our yachts and get us secured for the night.
While all the boats in a flotilla start and end at the same destination, each follows its own itinerary. It is common to see at least one other flotilla boat at an anchorage, all rarely stay together the entire trip. Most of the boats stayed on St. Lucia one more night, mooring between the Pitons, two spire-like pinnacles of land. Some went on shore to hike or to explore the nearby town of Soufriere.
Due to Customs and Immigration requirements, we needed to leave the island of St. Lucia the next day, and due to Covid restrictions, we had to pass by the island of St. Vincent and make a relatively long passage to the next island in SVG, Bequia (pronounced “Beck-way”). The open water sailing between St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and St. Vincent and Bequia was invigorating. Winds were into the low-20s and the swells as large as five feet. It was passages like these where the Windwards lived up to their name.
Bequia has a rich tradition of boat building, fishing, and ocean navigation so there were lots of interesting things to see. Some of the flotilla members traveled by taxi to the windward side of the island to tour a couple of old sugar plantations turned into resorts. One crew was on a mission to obtain the world-famous lobster pizza from Mac’s Pizzeria. Unfortunately, Macs was restricted by an island wide lobster shortage, partly due to Covid and partly due to the time of the year. The crew bought lobsters from a place without pizza and delivered them to Mac’s and had lobster pizza after all.
Our next island destination was the incredibly beautiful collection of islands known as The Tobago Cays, also part of SVG. The Cays are low islands, rising from ancient coral reefs inside a gigantic horseshoe reef which is all that separates the mooring field from the Atlantic Ocean. We enjoyed swimming with sea turtles, finding great coral heads out nearer the reef and finished the two days off with a huge lobster barbeque on the beach put on by local fishermen.
After a couple of days in Tobago Cays, flotilla leaders Rich and Cecilia wanted to visit Salt Whistle Bay, a beautiful half-moon shaped bay that they had visited in 1987. Sadly, it appeared that over the last thirty-five years everyone else had discovered the bay. The anchorage was packed with boats. A couple of ours were fortunate enough to pick up a mooring and enjoy the beach. Others took a few pictures and moved on.
The next stop was Clifton Harbor on Union Island, the next port that offered water and provisioning, as well as being the port of departure for boats to clear out of Customs and Immigration for SVG. Clifton turned out to be a nice surprise, offering great restaurants and cafes. Some boats chose to stay in the harbor overnight. Others went elsewhere, including secluded Chatham Harbor in the lee of Union Island, and Mustique, an island where the rich and famous own vacation homes.
From there, the next port was Rodney Bay on the island Carriacou, the port of entry for Grenada. We cleared Customs and Immigration of Grenada here. Some boats stayed the night in this harbor to enjoy nice walks around the large bay and the popular sailor pastime of “Boat TV:” Sipping gin and tonics while watching late arrivers struggle with their moorings. Others left the harbor to anchor around the corner at Sand Island, a quiet sandbar off Paradise Beach that offers snorkeling as well as easy access to the restaurants on shore.
Some stayed two nights on Carriacou, while others pushed on to the island of Grenada. All boats spent time at Dragon Bay, a snorkeling and dive spot about halfway down the west coast that has sculptures scattered about the sea floor between 15 and 25 feet deep. Again, some boats overnighted on mooring balls nearby, while others pushed on to the flotilla’s final destination, St. George’s Harbor, Grenada. The harbor offered nice walks, an open-air market, a chocolate museum, and restaurants. By noon the next day, all of the flotilla boats had arrived at the Moorings/Sunsail base. Some folks were flying out that morning, and others had booked a day or more to explore Grenada.
To get back in the US, everyone needed to test negative for Covid. Most crew used proctored antigen self-tests. Eventually, everybody was cleared for travel.
As mentioned above, this was a one-way trip from St. Lucia to Grenada. We last sailed the Windward Islands in 1987, and at that time, sailed a round-trip from and back to St. Lucia. We saw much more on this trip and could spend more time in a few islands to explore them further. We would recommend the one-way option to anyone chartering the Windward Islands, even with the additional delivery fee that the carter companies require.