The eastern Caribbean is a wonderful place for your charter, with amazing volcanic landscapes, the friendliest people around, and warm, steady trade winds for great sails up and down island. Those attractions bring in the crowds and the more famous anchorages can get a bit tight. Of course you’re going to want to visit those places—they’re popular for good reason.
But where do you go when you want a break, a great place to decompress, or just to get away from it all? Here are some places you can leave the crowd behind, relax under the stars, and be off the beaten track—but still close by.
The southern Windward Islands offer plenty of anchoring possibilities if your charter is based out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) or Grenada. Many of the southern bays of Grenada are popular with cruisers. But a little away from the crowds is the great get-away spot just behind Calivigny Island in Clarke’s Court Bay. Enjoy the beautiful surroundings, clean water, and no surge. Dinghy over to the sleepy village of Lower Woburn and lime away the afternoon at Nimrod’s Rum Shop or enjoy great local cooking at the Little Dipper Restaurant.
Sailing north from Grenada or south from the charter bases in SVG will get you to the Tobago Cays. Just east of the popular Horseshoe Reef anchorage are two spots that should not be missed. These are fair-weather anchorages, so if the wind or seas are up, use them only as day stops. Try the small anchorage at Petit Tabac. This is the island made famous in the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. Now that the island is completely recovered from being “burned down” by the film team, you will most likely have the island, reef and beach all to yourself. Sadly, the rum is gone.
Another half-mile east is arguably the most beautiful location in the eastern Caribbean – End of the World Reef. It’s a beautiful white sand embayment completely protected by the reef. No island, no beach, nothing except crystal clear water and complete solitude.
Close to the charter bases in Guadeloupe are two great places to spend some time. The north side of the island boasts a cruising ground that has it all—back-reef anchorages, deserted islands, the quaint town of Sainte Rose, and excellent gunkholing up the Grand Riviere de Goyaves. The Grand Cul de Sac de Marin is about 30 square miles of everything the Caribbean has to offer. It’s a popular spot on the weekends but during the week you might be the only boat in the bay.
Getting there is an easy day sail around from Deshaies on the west coast or, if you want the adventure of a night transit of the Riviere Saleé, a short trip north from Pointe á Pitre. Sail down Guadeloupe’s southeast coast to the very French town of Sainte Anne. It’s a popular tourist destination but not too many boats call here. Sit at one of the great on-the-beach restaurants sipping your ti’ punch with your toes in the sand, grab a baguette at one of the boulangeries or catch a bus and visit the rest of the island.
There are, of course, many others like Mero, on Dominica’s west coast, with its black-sand beach, rum factory and one of the best hikes in the Caribbean. There’s Salt Island in the British Virgins—sit and watch the crowds rush back and forth in the Drake Passage while you have the whole island to yourself. Or visit Great Bird Island in Antigua for the rush of a Red-Billed Tropic Bird gliding by a few feet away.
When you sail off the beaten path there are some things to check before you go. Make sure your charter operator allows you to go to these places. Have a favorable weather forecast—some out-of-the-way harbors can get uncomfortable if the wrong sea is running. You should be comfortable reading the water—you may have to tuck up close behind a reef to find the perfect patch of sand. Beyond that, be careful: these are places where you can happily sit for weeks … and sooner or later you’ll have to return the boat.
Jim Ewing is a freelance writer, sailor and avid cook. He and partner Ann Frederick are currently cruising in the Caribbean aboard their sailboat, Bees Knees, with no particular destination in mind.