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Sailing to windward

3: Tobago Cays

The short hop from Mayreau to the world-famous Tobago Cays takes just an hour or so, but allow plenty of time for preparation as the navigation is tricky. The Cays, a collection of jaw-droppingly beautiful uninhabited islands, are surrounded by a large reef with just one or two points of entry for yachts. We threaded our way through impossibly small gaps in the islands, coral clearly visible underneath a cobalt blue sea, before popping out into the main anchorage area. Here the benefits of visiting out of season were immediately obvious — the Cays had still attracted several dozen yachts, but we were able to line up in a nice spot tucked behind a small island for shelter.

The Cays without doubt surpassed all our expectations, and we spent two days running around like ‘Swallows and Amazons’ explorers, buzzing from one tiny island to the next, often having an entire beach to ourselves, and snorkelling among shoals of fish and occasional turtles. The whole area is like an idyllic watersports playground, and with the yacht always within sight, we felt much safer and finally able to properly relax.

You can also take your dinghy towards Horseshoe Reef, where there are small mooring buoys, and snorkel off the boat — however be aware there are strong currents running. Alternatively you can book onto a guided dive boat. Evenings are spent on board — there are no facilities in the Cays — so we barbecued a Red Snapper we’d picked up on Mayreau. The boat boys will offer you freshly caught lobster, but the Cays are a National Park and it’s best not to buy seafood there in order to discourage fishing in the area.

Finally we dragged ourselves away, making for Palm Island, supposedly the most perfect beach in the Caribbean. However, visiting yachts seemed unwelcome at the private beach club, so we headed over to Union Island and got a pleasant surprise, finally finding the chilled out colourful Caribbean experience we’d been expecting. The town of Clifton is shabby but fun, with brightly painted buildings and friendly lunch spots, as well as locals dozing in doorways and bearing old-fashioned black umbrellas to protect themselves from the baking midday sun.

On one of the uninhabited beaches of Union some young islanders run a popular barbecue party, but the stunning Chatham Bay was deserted when we visited, so instead we put the throttle down to get to Petit St Vincent in the last of the light.

The anchorage off PSV was one of the nicest we’d seen all week, with plenty of local yachts and live-aboard sailors parked up as well as tourists. A quick call by VHF to a restaurant on neighbouring Petit Martinique secured us a water taxi for door-to-door service to the Palm Beach diner, which served Creole cuisine such as shrimp and jerk chicken, all along with sweet potato, baked banana and macaroni cheese!

Leaving the dinghy behind also meant we could make the most of Petit Martinique’s duty free status, with some of the strongest rum punches I’ve ever tasted.

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

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Mustique is without doubt the most famous of the Grenadines, playing host to the rich and famous, royalty and Hollywood A-list

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