Sailing the Atlantic, Cruising the Caribbean - Avalon of Arne

By Phaon Reid

Grenada flagGrenada flag

Carriacou and Grenada

From Union Island to Carriacou is a short, easy sail. We arrived early in the afternoon and anchored off the capital, Hillsborough, to clear in, but the holding was not good and it took several attempts to get the anchor to hold. There was a red sloop about the same size as us anchored nearby, which we had also seen in Union. They beckoned us over for a beer, which was gratefully accepted after the exertion of pulling up and dropping the anchor a few times.

Carriacou/Grenada Steve and Sue on Oleander were to become good friends. Anyway, suitably refreshed, we went ashore to go through the formalities with customs, immigration, and port captain. They spun this procedure out quite a bit, probably in the hope that it would take us beyond four o'clock so we would have to pay them overtime. We didn't pay any overtime in the end, although the Port Captain did ask us for a contribution for a sposored run or some such thing. I gave him a couple of EC, which annoyed Sarah! Sue and Steve had cleared in at the same time, so we went for a wander round the town and a couple of beers. Exploring the town didn't take long - although it is the capital, in terms of size it would scarcely qualify as a village by UK standards. The beer at the bar was Venezuelan Polar - no doubt illegally imported by fishing boat from Margarita.

S and S are both divers, so the next morning the four of us had a pleasant dive together around the small island off Hillsborough. In the afternon, we sailed round to Carriacou's main anchorage at Tyrrell Bay. We found that the entrance to Tyrrell Bay required caution. In Chris Doyle's guide you are instructed to pass to the starboard of two white buoys, otherwise you could hit a wreck on one side or a reef on the other. Well, we identified two buoys which might once have been white and went in very cautiously, as the echo sounder indicated a serious lack of water. Oleander did the same, and we both anchored up in the sheltered bay.

Shortly after this, as we were sitting having a drink on Avalon, we saw a yacht come in and run itself hard aground on the reef. A number of the local boat boys and those yachties with powerful tenders (including Steve) went to help, and eventually got the boat off. No sooner had Steve got back to Avalon, than another boat attempted the entrance and did the same thing. This was to be a regular occurrence during our short stay at Tyrrell Bay. The two buoys referred to by Chris Doyle were so rusted as to be nearly invisible. The two we had seen were right over by the reef. The less charitable yachties speculated that they might have been established by the locals precisely so that people would go aground and have to be hauled off. I believe that the pilot book has now been updated.

Tyrrell Bay is a good anchorage (once you're in) with excellent shelter. There are boat boys in evidence trying to sell you stuff (generally at inflated prices), but they're only a minor irritation compared with the pirates you can encounter in, say, St. Vincent. If you buy lobsters from the boats boys, make sure that they are over the permitted minimum size and are not pregnant females.

Our stay in Carriacou was a short one as both Oleander and Avalon were aiming to be in Trinidad for Carnival. From Carriacou to Grenada is a pleasant, brisk day's sail. Between the islands you pass a number of rocks and small islands such as London Bridge, Isle de Ronde and Kick'em Jenny. The seas between the islands can be rough. Once in the lee of Grenada, though, you have a flat calm sea and generally, a fair breeze. Incidentally, the islands between Carriacou and Grenada offer some of the best and most unspoilt diving in the Caribbean. Because of the sea state and the currents, these dives are best suited to divers who are reasonably experienced - and who don't suffer from seasickness.

We sailed into Prickly Bay on the southern coast of Grenada. This large bay has reasonable shelter (it can be a bit rolly occasionally) and it is probably Grenada's most popular anchorage. Ashore there is a small Boatyard (called Spice Island Marine) and a bar/restaurant (called the Boatyard). The food here is not cheap and its standard is variable. Drinks are not too extortionate, especially during happy hour. The location of the bar is pretty idyllic, looking out over the anchorage, and it is a popular meeting place for yachties, expats, the better-off locals, and the American medical students. Quite a number of boats stay in Grenada fairly long-term - some people even lay their own moorings. Prickly Bay has its own Customs/Immigration office and is the most convenient place to clear in and out of Grenada.

Our stay in Grenada on this occasion was short, only 2 or 3 days (that Carnival deadline again), but we were to spend quite a bit of time here in the following two years. We visited the capital, St. George's, which is one of the most attractive ports in the Caribbean, and the beautiful, long beach at Grande Anse. We talked with the people at the Dive shops there - when we came back, we wanted to dive the wreck of the Bianca C, the cruise liner which caught on fire and sank off Grenada in 1961. This 600' wreck has a reputation for being a spectacular dive, but it is deep (90 to 140 feet) and there can be quite a strong current.

We set off for Grenada in company with Oleander. The sail between Trinidad and Grenada is normally done as an overnight passage (mainly to avoid customs/immigration overtime charges), so we left a little before sunset. Just off the entrance to Prickly Bay are some exceedingly vicious rocks, just awash at low water, known as the Porpoises. It is a good idea not to hit them.

Avalon was quite a bit faster than Oleander (their sails weren't in very good shape) so we reefed down to keep them in sight. It was an excellent night's sail with a good breeze, and we became a bit concerned that we would arrive at the Dragon's Mouths (Bocas del Dragon) before dawn. These are the fairly narrow channels between the western extremity of Trinidad, the outlying islands, and the Venezuelan coast. So we reefed down some more, only for the wind to die completely just as the sky was beginning to lighten. Eventually we gave up and put the motor on. We motored through the easternmost channel, the Boca de Monos, which is quite narrow and spectacular. The winds are fluky here and there can be a strong outgoing current, so it is difficult to sail through at the best of times. Once through the Boca, the current eased off. We motored past the Coastguard Base, and the commercial ship yard, and there we saw the biggest forest of masts I've come across this side of the Solent...