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The anchorage in Tyrell Bay. Photo by Janet Hein
The anchorage in Tyrell Bay. Photo by Janet Hein

Carriacou: Down Island Time Travel

Sailing into Carriacou’s Tyrell Bay is a refreshing tack back in time. The bay, nearly half-a-mile wide, meets the land in a gentle curve, attached by a ribbon of sand and road. The bay often accommodates over 100 vessels flying flags from all corners of the world.

From the anchorage there’s an obvious lack of amenities: no mega marinas or mooring field; dingy docks are sketchy and the shoreline is void of all things modern and manic. The simplicity continues ashore in the village of Harvey Vale where you’ll find some of the friendliest locals in the Windward Islands, especially if you remember to put salutations before business.

Tyrell Bay’s history is steeped in maritime tradition and commerce. Wooden cargo vessels, built on the beach, were routinely maintained by careening at anchor.  Fishing was done under sail; lobsters collected by woven traps.

Working the sea continues to be both livelihood and tradition.  Upon your arrival, you may be met by a small boat offering fresh catch and some wine with which to wash it down. Every menu ashore boasts lambi, lobster, and fish—stewed, fried, baked, curried or corned.

New services crop up periodically and existing ones segue to meet the demands of modern vessels and visitors.  Wi-Fi is abundant; there are two laundry facilities and buses run day and night.

Carriacou Marine, Ltd., which fills the southwest corner of the bay, is a full service boatyard with a 50 ton travel lift and ample space for yard work and repair. Snowbirds love it for off season storage. The tidy compound includes a mini market, cafe and Island Water World outlet.  Recently an office for Customs and Immigration opened on site, eliminating the need to anchor for clearance in nearby Hillsborough.

Next door is The Slipway, a marine railway built to haul and repair yachts, that was abandoned years ago but lives on today as one of the island’s premier restaurants. Owners Daniela Angelico Stewart and Kate Stroebel embraced the site’s artifacts, creating an elegant, yet nostalgic dining venue by turning table saws and band saws into dining tables and placing on display a collection of antique dinghies and boat blocks.

Down the beach is Lazy Turtle, now in the hands of Sue Hamelin and Shayne Wallis. They set out a year ago from England, in search of a restaurant and an island to love. Since opening in November, they haven’t looked back. Their pizza oven and skilled staff produce island inspired pies and there’s frequently live music to help dance it off. You might hear a string band or their own Brenden McKie, aka Kill A B, who recently placed first in the Soca contest.

If steel pan is your music of choice, show up Friday night at Sherwin Noll’s Lambi Queen. It’s the most constant music tradition in Tyrell Bay and if you miss it ashore, no worries; you’ll hear it loud and clear on your boat.

Topping the list of popular night spots is Sundowners Beach Hangout, a tiny wooden structure clinging to the edge of the road. Painted turquoise and purple, it’ll grab your attention as you stroll by but if it’s dark, you’ll be lured, instead, by the amazing aroma of Jeanette Henderson and Frankie Collier’s local dishes and stunning breads. They switch it up, blackboard style, with palate pleasing specials like callaloo fritters or Carriacou style oil down.

The newest establishment in Tyrell Bay is the Gallery Cafe, serving hearty breakfasts and exotic lunches. The dining room triples as an art gallery showcasing wares from local and transient artisans. This is also the Budget Marine outpost office. Owners Sally and Paul O’Regan, who have called Carriacou their anchorage for eight years, know what cruisers want and need.

Provisioning in Tyrell Bay is simplistic. Alexis’ market, the largest of several stores, carries everything you need that comes in a can, bottle or package. If you want fresh, head across the street to one of two plywood-box buildings where you will find what’s ‘fresh today’ and leave without, ‘it finish’.  Denise Mathew of Big Mama Market Yacht Provisioning has an interesting assortment of goods ranging from turmeric root to hair extensions. What else would you need?

At the northern corner of the bay, bordering the mangroves, sits ‘the elephant in the bay’ – a long running government/private project that is rumored to grow into a mega-marina/condo/village affair. Locals are excited and skeptical at the same time. “It could be a blessing or a thorn,” says Sue Hamelin. “Tyrell Bay has the potential to grow but it must be done organically. This just might be the last real West Indian island.”

No doubt about it, with change on the horizon, these are the good old days in Tyrell Bay and we’ll be talking about them for decades to come.

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