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Sailing to windward

1: Introducing the risks

St Vincent and the Grenadines, part of the Windward Islands, are renowned as one of the world’s most spectacular sailing areas — much of the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ was filmed there, and it is an area rich in nautical history with pirates, smugglers, whalers, and the super-rich all having dotted the seas at one time.

We arrived late one Friday evening, after a surprisingly pleasant transatlantic flight with First Choice airways (who surpassed my very lowly expectations ) to Antigua, and a brief hop to St Vincent via LIAT, the local airline. Awake bright and early on Saturday morning we were keen to head out and explore, having grabbed ourselves some snorkel gear and basics from the Sunsail base shop (a provisioning service is available, but being on a press trip we weren’t offered it — one of several little hiccups we experienced during the booking process).

However, we first had a lengthy briefing, which was extremely informative and detailed, if a little unsettling. The SVG sailing area is, like the BVIs, largely line of sight navigation. However, it is recommended for the more experienced sailor: the reefs and currents are more treacherous, marinas are non-existent so anchoring is par for the course, and two very specific risks are present: hurricanes and piracy.

We visited in mid-November, right on the end of the hurricane season. Initially my main concerns were that the weather might not be that pleasant — in the event it was largely glorious, with only one squall — but at the briefing the prospect of severe weather was driven home: a large low pressure system was making its way across the Atlantic towards the Caribbean, and all yachts were given a mobile phone in case conditions worsened so the base team could notify us and guide us to safety. However, the timing of our trip also meant that were visiting right at the very beginning of the tourist season — the hurricane season is defined by very definite dates, and literally within a week all the yachts would be fully booked — so on many islands services simply hadn’t opened yet.

As for the threat of piracy, crime in SVG is actually very low, but shortly before our visit there had been an armed burglary on a yacht and the authorities were taking it very seriously — we were warned not to leave any valuable belongings on board, always padlock the inflatable dinghy and its outboard, and be fanatical about locking up the yacht, leaving lights and music on as a deterrent. Coming from one of the less salubrious areas of London the risk of someone stealing a few dollars didn’t really concern me, but combined with the general lack of people around the two made for a slightly tense atmosphere some evenings.


With thanks to:

Sunsail


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We quickly realised that catering on board was often much easier than relying on going ashore

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