Our holiday would be centered around Grenada & St Vincent & the Grenadines in the far south
Hence travelling between two countries involving customs & immigration twice over which was beaurocracy gone mad involving time, frustration and cost, and to us just making jobs for the locals.
We were due to holiday in the Virgin Islands but after the devastation of Hurricane Irma this was switched to Grenada. The three couples shared a Beneteau 45 ft 3 berth yacht based in Port Louis marina in St George’s. Bill & Pam Preece & Peter & Pamela Houghton are experienced sailors & had previously owned their own yacht & sailed extensively in Scotland. Elspeth & I were complete sailing novices. For us therefore everything nautical was a novelty & of course there were many challenges. Surprisingly neither of us were seasick. Elspeth did fall quite ill through food poisoning we think, at a fish restaurant & I suffered as usual from multi insect bites.
The early impression at Port Louis was the unrelenting heat & the mind boggling wealth displayed. Words associated with sailing at this level are wealth, status & elitism. Looking around you see mono hulls, catamarans & super yachts. Our charter, although impressive to us & costing around £250,000, is only a Ford Fiesta in a pool of Aston Martins, McClarens & more. Near our birth was “Here Comes the Sun” a 272 ft Dutch built super yacht to carry 12 guests & has 25 crew, available to charter at £1.15m per week. There was also everything in between.
One of the first nautical novelties was navigation. Latitude & longitude are alien to someone brought up on eastings & northings. The Beneteau is equipped with a multifunction touch screen with GPS, electronic chart, depth & speed indicator & autopilot. This does away with traditional navigation to a large extent as long as the batteries are working but of course traditional skills are required for emergencies.
On a practical note the Beneteau behaved well but with some challenges. There were battery issues including a failed starter battery (replaced very efficiently in Bequia) but also failures on the charging capacity of the other batteries. On a long journey this would result in catastrophes like the freezer not functioning thus losing ice. The photovoltaic panels did not seem to contribute. The rear cabins are near claustrophobic and the noise levels on the fans, aircon & water pumps are accentuated by the sound box design of the yacht. There were small defects with a door handle & non-functioning toilet which the charter company stubbornly charged for (but they were not our fault). On full sail we were achieving 7 to 9 Knots.
The main benefit of a cruising holiday is the freedom to go & moor wherever the fancy takes you Grenada & the Grenadines have wonderful beaches, picturesque bays, clear turquois seas & the people are friendly & helpful/There was virtually no pestering apart from good natured boat boys. One feels safe all the time. The locals have accepted tourism for what it is. Except for Bill & me, the group greatly enjoyed the swimming & snorkelling in near perfect conditions sighting brightly coloured fish & sea vistas (especially the sea sculptures off the Grenada coast). There was plenty of time for chilling out although one has to respect the sun exposure. The clouds & constant breeze were a saviour. Convectional rain would arrive with little warning, but was soon gone.
It seemed the three couples got on really well together in what is a cramped space for two weeks. Individual idiosyncrasies were tolerated. However the others may disagree. All menial tasks were willingly shared the food on board was excellent sometimes worthy of the scrap yard challenge scenario often given on food programs. Nearly all the meals out were a joy.
Being a sad person I could not help comparing Grenada with Pembrokeshire. Both have limited diversification, a small domestic economic market & limited exports. Both rely heavily on tourism. There is now massive competition for the tourist buck. Standards are improving but need to get better. A good maxim is- do the simple things well .Grenada has a lot going for it. Not a big hitter like Jamaica & Barbados. However wonderful beaches, sunshine & ideal sailing conditions. There has been significant inward investment from people like Camper & Nicholsons & Desmond. Are the developments at, say, Canouan good for the locals? On balance it would seem so as there is local employment which would not exist without that investment. Our journey encompassed Grenada, Carricacou, Union Tobago Cays, Canouan, and Bequia, all of which we found attractive and interesting and every island had something different to offer. There was no sign of hurricane damage although there had been strikes in the last 10 years.
We found the temperature and humidity overwhelming, especially as most of the time we did not have air con which only worked of mains power. I think it is fair to say that none of us would want to return to such heat again.
However, this was not the fault of Sunsail/Moorings who delivered everything as promised. The boat was only a year old and performed well except for the battery problems mentioned above.
Overall it was a fantastic experience which we will all remember for a very long time. LEN COTTON – Cabin Boy.