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Spice it up in the Caribbean

Spice it up in the Caribbean 

The best way to explore the islands of the Caribbean is on a yacht.

To explore all of the 7,000 islands in the Caribbean would require several years and several pairs of swimwear. These gems are scattered over 2.7 million square kilometres in water that ranges from a deep blue to that eye-catching azure blue that lures so many visitors.

On my high seas adventure, we sailed from Martinique to Grenada by way of St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines. All names that I knew nothing much about. In Martinique, part of France, I am reacquainted with the good ship Influencer, a 56-foot Dufour yacht, and its skipper, who just happens to be my husband Matt. He is currently enjoying a boy’s own adventure, sailing around the world as part of the World Arc, which is managed by
the World Cruising Yacht Club.

Visiting the Saints

After dancing across the water with seabirds and dolphins, we drop anchor in Marigot Bay, a tiny cleft in the coastline that could easily be missed. Inside the secret cove, there is a palm tree-lined sand spit where legend has it that French ships could hide their vessels from the British, with palm fronds tied to their masts. These days it is no secret, ever since it was featured in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and before that, the first
Dr Doolittle movie.

We chug ashore in the dinghy, toasting our good fortune with a pina colada at the Hurricane Hole bar, named so because this bay is a great place for boats to take shelter from hurricanes. It is my first experience of dinghy parking, where you just pull up, tie up and drink up.

After jumping into the water in the early morning light the next day (something that becomes a ritual), we go ashore and hire a taxi driver named Errol to act as tour guide for the morning. He takes us to the main town of Castries and shows us the historic market that was built in 1891; tells us that St Lucia has two Nobel Prize winners; reveals that it supplies the UK with 1,000 tons of bananas every quarter; and stops to show us a 400-year-old samaan tree in Derek Walcott Square. I love the tangles of vegetation everywhere, with fat juicy mangoes and huge avocados ripe for the plucking.

A quick swim at Reduit Beach at popular Rodney Bay finishes the tour and we head back to the yacht to sail on to Bequia (pronounced ‘Beckway’), one of 32 islands that make up St Vincent and the Grenadines. We drink Carib beer under exotic trees and frolic in the turquoise waters at Princess Margaret Beach, then stroll back to town along the pretty boardwalk. The snorkelling and diving is excellent here, as are the fish, which you can buy fresh from a fisherman going from boat to boat with his fresh catch or even banana bread that his wife made.

From Bequia it’s on to Tobago Cays, which wins the prize for most gorgeous spot of all. Part of a marine park of five small islands, no one lives here and you can only get here on a boat. Picture a perfect bay with turtles swimming in aqua water and searingly white beaches with no one on them – that’s Tobago Cays. When the tour boats go home we feel smug as we go for another swim, then sit in the cockpit with drinks, cheese and copious dips to watch the nightly sunset spectacular.

Grenada – not Granada

We sail to Grenada, where Molinere Bay is the first stop to snorkel over the world’s first underwater sculpture garden. My favourite is “Vicissitudes”, which is a circle of children holding hands, but I also love a man sitting on a bench seat with room beside him should you be able to dive down far enough. Its creator – Jason deCaires Taylor – is currently working on the first underwater museum in the Southern Hemisphere, which will be located in Townsville.

Grenada is known as Spice Island thanks to its cinnamon and nutmeg, and also for its chocolate. It has 40 beaches, 50 dive sites, 15 waterfalls and three rum distilleries, but we don’t have time for all of it. We do experience the glorious Grand Anse Beach, taking in the sunset with a cocktail from the beachside Umbrella Bar in hand; explore the vibrant Carenage area of St George’s, with its colonial era buildings, swarm of fishing boats and quirky restaurants; and hike to one of its waterfalls. We reminisce about the trip over dinner, discussing all the high points we’ve encountered along the way.

For me, it’s sailing from island to island, looking forward to the next port, the next Caribbean country. It’s the smiling faces of the locals, the Bob Marley music waning and lilting on the breeze in every anchorage, and the crazy history created as different nations fought for the various islands.

Having visited just a handful of them, it is easy to see why.