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Sea Dog Blog

Five Favorite Anchorages of the Windward Islands

Grand Anse D’Arlet, Martinique

The hills rise steeply from a long beach, creating a scene Gauguin might have painted in when he was in the Pacific. Ashore there is not much more than a string of beach-front restaurants that serve fresh fish and lobster, the pace of life is relaxed and easy. You can find good snorkeling along either shore and if little adventure calls, great hikes have been created on well-laid-out trials at either end of the bay.

Pigeon Island, Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

In the olden days, when Europeans entertained themselves by sailing around in wooden boats and firing potshots at each other, Pigeon Island was their main base in St. Lucia. The island (now joined to the mainland by a man-made causeway) is a national park and you can wander round, visit the old gun emplacements and lookout points. Best of all Barbara is on hand to welcome you at Jambe du Bois, an inexpensive cruiser-friendly restaurant with a great books swap and easy chairs.

Petit Byahaut, St. Vincent

This small and beautiful bay has a small beach backed by hills with conspicuous peaky outcroppings of rock. There is nothing here but the remains of an abandoned hotel. The bay is only approachable by sea, and for most of the time you will have it to yourself. You will probably not find better and more colorful snorkeling in the Windwards, especially if you take a short dinghy trip to the bat cave, where you swim in one entrance and exit by another.

Tobago Cay, St. Vincent Grenadines

The Tobago Cays are a group of small, deserted islands, protected from the sea by Horseshoe Reef. The water and reef colors are a kaleidoscope of gold, brown, blue, turquoise and green. It is so beautiful you could spend a day just watching the changing colors. But if that is not enough, small beaches merge into clear water, and there is an area where you always get to swim with turtles. Snorkeling on the reef, too, is brilliant.

St. George’s, Grenada

St. George’s is the capital of Grenada and there is no city in the Windwards is more picturesque. The recent building of Port Louis Marina, has changed the aspect of this harbor so town and yachts become one entity. The outside anchorage is pleasant and open. Town, marina, the Grenada Yacht Club and major shops are all within easy dinghy reach. There is plenty to do with great restaurants and activities which may be in the marina, the yacht club or over at the museum.

Elephants in the Gulf Stream

The crossing from Florida to Abaco is about 130 miles, 55 miles across the Florida straits, to West End, Grand Bahama Island and then onto Abaco. The most challenging aspect is crossing the Florida Straits. The Gulf Stream flows northward at about 3 knots and is 20-25 miles miles wide. During the winter months if the wind blows hard (15 knots or higher) from the north, against the current, you have the equivalent of a 25-mile wide tide rip. Looking out to the horizon it will appear jagged or saw toothed, large square waves (elephants), high seas kicked up by the determination of the stream, struggling to fight its way north against the wind. This is not the time to make your crossing. When the weather is right the crossing is not difficult. The key factors to safe Gulf stream crossings are watching the weather closely, traveling in the company of other boats, reliable communications & navigation electronics (preferably with a back-up portable VHF), safety equipment and filing a float plan prior to departure.

The Abaco Islands

A wonderful group of islands, situated 100 miles north of Nassau, the Abacos represent the most versatile, least challenging and easiest to navigate of the Bahamian island groups. Abaco is comprised of 100 or so large and small islands and cays with the largest being the Great and Little Abaco. Stretching from the northern most island, Walkers Cay to Hole-in-the-Wall at the southern tip of Great Abaco Island, the waters are largely protected without blue water passages. Navigation throughout Abaco is simple and you are seldom out of sight of a neighboring cay. The Abaco chain was truly created for the cruiser, sail or power. Situated approximately 130 miles from any Southeastern Florida port of call, Abaco can easily be reached by most any seaworthy boat, either sail or power. Faster craft can reach Abaco destinations in a single day, while aboard a sailboat or trawler is likely to involve a couple of days or more in good weather for unhurried cruising.