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  • Writer's pictureMagali Bongrand

Summer time cruise: Carriacou, Union Island, Tobago Cays


 

As Carnival season approached in Grenada and we were wondering which festivities we were going to part take in, we then suddenly realized that what our family needed was relaxation and quality time together. Our son had taken some kite surfing lessons during our last Easter cruise and really wanted to learn more so we decided to ditch all the carnival plans and instead set our sails towards Carriacou and then Union Island. Our crew included Captain Christian and me, our family friend Susanne and a tribe of children: two 6-years old girls Carmen and Naomi and boys 10-years old Luca and Ziggy and 14 years-old Max. The boys were going to give it a go at kite surfing while the girls were planning to spend most of their time cartwheeling on the beach.


We left our Grenada harbour of Prickly Bay at the end of the afternoon on Friday. We started our trip with a lovely sunset sail along the leeward coast of Grenada up to Halifax harbour, a picturesque bay framed by white stone cliffs and lush vegetation sprawling from the rainforest into the sea. As soon as we anchored the children started a dive competition from the bow of the boat into the then dark and deep water while the adults enjoyed Susanne’s exceptional cocktail-making skills and watched the sunset on the Caribbean Sea.


We ended the day with perfected cooked steaks on the BBQ and a very interesting conversation with the pre-teens and teens about growing up in 2022. There is something about being on the sea that makes kids feel free and open up. There is also something about the sea that makes everyone relax and unwind instantly. We all had a wonderful sleep.


Day 1


The boys were up at dawn to fish and set up their lines for the day. After all, we will be crossing over to Carriacou and they better be ready to catch lunch!

We set sail early for a lunch stop over at Isle de Rhonde, one of our favourite spots on the way up to Carriacou. The sea was flat as glass, and we enjoy a pleasant cruise along the green coast of Grenada. We took advantage of the calm water to stop by at The Sister’s rocks, a beautiful snorkelling spot at the south of the Isle de Rhonde anchorage but which could be challenging when the sea is too rough.

While we got back into the boat, the boys took the dinghy to go fishing around the rocks and caught a rainbow runner which was a perfect addition to our lunch! We enjoyed our stopover in Isle de Rhonde. There was something to do for everyone. Boys went fishing, girls snorkelling and playing on the nearby beach, adults enjoyed their siesta or a chapter of their favourite book and then we were ready to sail again towards Tyrell Bay.


As we snoozed in the cockpit during the crossing, Ziggy suddenly came up with excitement that he spotted dolphins! They were behind the boat and there were hundreds of them! Clearly having a feeding frenzy as they did not follow us, as they usually do, but we saw several of them breaking into summersaults and back flips over the water. What a spectacle! There is always something magical about encountering dolphins while sailing.


We entered the colourful Tyrell Bay just before 6 pm and got our best frocks on to hit the restaurants and bar strip of Harvey Vale where we had been recommended to try Tanty Marvis restaurant. A locally owned family-run restaurant with great seafood on Saturday nights and live band entertainment by a French couple singing Brazilian songs. We had a great time and went for the last dance at Crazy Beach Corner, a little down the road where a rock-reggae band was playing great 80’s hits! It was a great night out for everyone.

Day 2


After some additional provisioning at the very well-stocked Alexis supermarket in Tyrell Bay, we left the harbour to sail north toward the little sand-patch island of Morpion.


We sailed along the Leeward coast of Carriacou and past the picturesque beach of Anse La Roche where we often stopped for lunch at Tim’s Garraway Sunset Beach Bar. While on the way to Morpion, we found another little sand-patch island called Punaise which we had never visited before. We decided to make the additional stop and did not regret it. Much like Morpion, the island is protected all around by a great reef barrier which is striving. We dropped off north of the reef for a drift-snorkel over a shallow stretch of colourful corals and myriads of tropical fishes until we effortlessly reached the Punaise’s fine sand beach.

Back on the boat, a delicious Burritos pie was waiting for us in the oven. We certainly needed a big siesta after this lunch, so we moved the boat a little further north to Morpion and just relaxed, with the turquoise waters around the island as our backdrop. An hour later, the little girls were ready for another adventure, so I took them for another snorkel dive over the reef of Morpion. Once we reached the sandy ground, we encountered a beautiful spotted ray gracefully swimming as if flying. We followed her for as long as we could, and the girls were mesmerized and squealing with excitement. A local family was having a Sunday outing on the little island and their children joined the girls in showing off their cartwheeling and other gymnastic skills on the beach before we head back to the boat over the southern part of the reef.

Our next stop for the night was the private resort island of Petit St Vincent. Usually, a great spot for a civilized cocktail hour at the beach bar but sadly closed at the time of our visit. The resort is super luxurious, but they welcome cruisers to their facilities such as the restaurant and the SPA if a little additional luxury is on your agenda.




Day 3


We woke up to the shimmering waters of the strait between Petit St Vincent and Petite Martinique. The idea of just chilling out and enjoying the view for the whole morning was on our minds and so we did just that. Right before lunchtime, we did have to take account of the fact that there were active little children as part of our crew so Christian rigged up the water skis for the boys behind the dinghy and we took the little girls for a snorkelling session along the reef at the south of Petit St Vincent. Not a very noteworthy dive as the reef is rather damaged compared to the dives of the day before but we spotted an octopus, which made it worthwhile.


After lunch, we headed back to Carriacou to bring back our friend Susanne, who sadly had to get back to work the next morning, to the ferry terminal and we checked out of Grenada to move on the Union Island, in St Vincent and the Grenadines.


The sail between Carriacou and Union is always a pleasurable, calm crossing along a string of little islands with their white beaches and colourful reefs. We arrived in the beautiful harbour of Clifton at cocktail hour and took a mooring short dinghy ride away from Happy Island which is the perfect place to enjoy a rum punch at this time. The little man-made island at the outskirt of the harbour was built by Gentil, a charismatic local character who built it out of conch shells. It is now a vibrant bar and restaurant, a favourite spot amongst cruisers coming to Union.

Day 4


We woke up to a crew of excited boys ready to take on their first kite-surfing lessons with Happy Kite on Frigate Island. The girls and I went to town to clear the boat in with customs and Christian took the boys to their destination.


The quaint little village of Clifton is a great stop for shopping and restaurants. There is a cosmopolitan feel to this place that has attracted many expats throughout the years. Whether you prefer to shop at a local supermarket or at a French-provisioned delicatessen shop, you’ll find what you need here. There are also several cute boutiques with some of the best clothing collections in the Grenadines alongside the farmer’s market on the green, where it is possible to find a great variety of freshly grown fruits and vegetables. The atmosphere is relaxed and super friendly. We took a break at Boujie café where they served the best milkshakes I tasted in a long time. After our stroll around town, we took a bus from Clifton to Ashton, a village south of the island near Frigate Island where I would meet the boat and our kite surfing adventurers.


By the time we came back, they had all finished their kite lessons and were very excited to share their exploits over lunch. All of them had managed to handle the kite and even to stay up on the board for a few seconds on day one, which is not bad.


After a well-deserved siesta for everyone, Ziggy, Carmen, Naomi and I swam to the south of Frigate to explore the island, which is a narrow strip of land populated by mangroves and several types of birds between Clifton and Ashton harbours, offering great views on both sides. The walk took us to the north of the island where hanging bridges have been built to cross over from the island to Ashton lagoon where a large path has been cleared in the mangrove and leads to a birdwatching lookout tower offering beautiful views of the lagoon and the islands to the south.


Back on the boat from our adventures, everyone settled around a BBQ followed by roasted marshmallows and we all agreed to an early bedtime.


Day 5


A good sailing plan is one that changes to give space to adventure and serendipity. We woke up to a very flat day and not enough wind for the boys’ kite surfing lesson. I did take an appointment in town for Naomi to get her hair done so I set off early with the girls for a walk through the Ashton lagoon and mangrove forest. We then took a bus to Clifton and Naomi had her hair done at Jenny’s market stall at the farmer’s market by her young niece. Jenny is a delightful vendor at the market. Her stall is fully stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which are kept in the fridge at the back so do not hesitate to ask for greens that may not be on display. She also sells some typical Caribbean clothing, a choice of colourful dresses, beach wraps and men-shirts, as well as little locally made souvenirs.



Meanwhile, Christian took the boat around to Sparrow Beach Club, a fancy restaurant and bar on the leeward side of the island. We had booked a table (it can get very busy with day-trippers from other islands), on the beach and tucked away under a magnificent neem tree. Sparrow offers the kind of experience that you’ll picture from the Caribbean in movies and magazines. A sparkling white-sand beach, turquoise sea, peach-coloured French rosé wine and gourmet food.


At the end of the day, we sailed off to Chatram bay, a calm anchorage located south of the island and surrounded by mountainous greenery on all sides. There are several restaurants on the beach, but we are partial to Sunset Cove where the food and entertainment are great. They had a bonfire on the beach and great music to dance to. It was a lovely way to end a lovely day.


Day 6

We woke up to 5 knots of wind and we knew that plan B was needed again that day as kite surfing was not an option. We first sailed to Clifton harbour for some provisioning. Boys wanted to spend their pocket money in town and Jenny’s stall was busy again with the Bacchanal crew.


Then, to the general acclaim of the crew, we set off for the Tobago Cays, an atoll of deserted islands which looks like paradise on earth. We anchored between Baradal, the island best known for the sea turtles grazing on the sea grass around it, and Horseshoe reef, a stunningly vibrant reef that protects the atoll. This way, we could easily snorkel towards the turtle sanctuary or the reef.


Tobago Cays did not disappoint us again this time! The weather was stunning, the colour of the water surreal but, most of all, the underwater world was incredible. We swam with more turtles than we could count, we snorkel the reef surrounded by hundreds of angel fish of every colour, we saw multicoloured corals and swam amongst sting rays. No one could get enough, and we snorkelled ourselves to exhaustion! It was an amazing surprise day trip.


Day 7


We woke up to the calm, turquoise waters of Tobago Cays and 12 knots of wind. The conditions were good for more kite surfing. We set sail early to go back to Union Island to start the lessons again. We arrived by Frigate Island at 9 am and the boys jumped straight into their kite surfing instructor’s boat for 4 hours of fun. Not only do they love their Happy Kite instructor because he is extremely patient and shows them great tricks to improve their skills, but he is also called Pokemon, which, to 9 years-old boy, is an unbelievable bonus. How would they have loved for us to name them that way too?!



While the boys were having fun kiting around the bay and Christian was following them in the dinghy to take footage of their exploits, I felt like going for some kayaking. I rigged up the paddle board to tow the girls with the kayak and we set off for an adventure towards the beach at the southern side of the bay. It was quite a workout as I was rowing against the wind and the current whilst towing boisterous passengers but a lot of fun all the same. The girls played on the beach for a while and then I was quite happy to see Christian coming to tow us with the dinghy, to the delight of the girls who love the fun of water skiing on the paddle board. The boys joined us at the Gypsea Café catamaran which is the base and we all went for some more towing fun around the bay before l


After lunch, we relaxed, the children played, and the boys went back to kite surfing. We just chilled for the rest of the day, reading a book, colouring mandalas, doing some crosswords… Just what the doctor ordered! As we were getting ready for cocktail hour, the children informed us that they spotted starfish, an albino sea urchin, and a spotted eel under the boat. We snorkel with them for a while and resumed cocktail hour shortly after, followed by dinner full of chat about the day’s adventures and bedtime soon after a few games.


Day 8


Every morning, we heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet on the deck above our bedroom from the crack of dawn, but we did our best to ignore the children and continue to pretend we were having a lie-in. At about 7 am, the little girls figured it was time to gently get us out of bed so they were so kind to prepare us what they thought would be our favourite breakfast drink and brought us beers in bed! We delayed questioning why they chose beers instead of tea and got up after a good laugh.


We had been monitoring the weather for a few days as sailing during the rainy season can bring a few surprises. A tropical wave, bringing rain and high sea, was now on track to hit Grenada the next day, when we intended to sail back. Meanwhile, the proverbial “calm before the storm” meant that there wasn’t enough wind to kite surf anyway. Left with the choice of extending the holiday by an extra day or returning to Grenada straight away, we decided to take the responsible option to get back to work on Monday.


After a hearty breakfast of eggs and bacon, I set off with the dinghy to the Ashton jetty and took a hike up to Clifton to clear customs and immigration. It is a 4km walk and under the sun, I would say quite a strenuous one, but it did allow me to spot the period houses along the way, some of them nicely renovated, and to enjoy the beautiful reef and lagoon views.


While I was busy with the administrative duties, Christian was squaring up the boat and we were ready to depart by noon. Despite the weak breeze upon departure, the wind picked up a bit when we sailed offshore the coast of Carriacou and towards Grenada and we picked up a decent 8 knots cruising speed to bring us back home.



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