The 'slow and steady' approach
If you’re the ‘slow and steady’ type, you will first have to decide if you want to cruise the islands north or south of St Lucia. A determining factor for mileage minimalists is where you intend to be at the end of the season. If you’ll be spending the summer in the Caribbean below the hurricane belt, there’s abundant time for a leisurely ramble along the southern route. However, if you plan to sail to Europe or the east coast of North America in the spring, a northward meander will place you well for departure.
After stopovers at Marigot Bay and/or Soufrière on St Lucia’s west coast and perhaps Wallilabou on St Vincent, you’ll arrive in Tortoise heaven: the Grenadines. A true sea turtle can spend weeks – even years – around this 30-mile-long group of islands, reefs and cays.
Admiralty Bay, Bequia, easily offers something to do every day for a week, as well as provisioning, dining and yacht service options. From there, cherry-pick your next destinations in the Grenadines according to weather and whims.
Insider’s tip: get-away-from-it-all types can anchor at tiny Frigate Island just off Union Island and idle away the days swimming, snorkelling or walking. It’s not far from any of the southern Grenadines anchorages to pop into Clifton Harbour on Union Island to restock on essentials.
A short sail from Union Island takes you to Carriacou, another spot where Tortoises love to linger. The well-protected cruisers’ favourite hang-out of Tyrrel Bay provides free wifi in the anchorage, a selection of casual restaurants, yacht services and a good, small boatyard. There is interesting walking ashore – you might see a traditional wooden boat being built – and nearby diving, snorkelling and fishing.
When Grenada calls, you can head down that island’s leeward side to the photogenic capital of St George’s and take a slip at the new marina or the yacht club, or anchor in the Lagoon or at nearby Pandy Beach. Alternatively, take a rollicking sail on Grenada’s windward coast and arrive among the island’s cluster of south coast anchorages where a Tortoise can happily spend another week or more.
In past years, Prickly Bay, Mount Hartman Bay and Hog Island have all taken turns as sailors’ top picks for lengthy stays. Grenada’s south coast anchorages are close enough together for you to be able to mosey from one to the next until you find your preferred spot. Altogether, Grenada offers a good choice of boatyards, marinas and other yacht services, restaurants and sightseeing, as well as secluded hideaways.
Some of our Tortoises will stay in Grenada for the summer, while others will continue south or westward to Trinidad, Venezuela or the ABCs for the summer season.
Tortoises with a shell full of Euros will be happy to bask in the pleasures of Martinique. A 21-mile sail from Rodney Bay, the Ste Anne/Marin area is worth at least a few days’ exploration. Up a mangrove-lined channel, the town of Marin has numerous yacht services, French groceries and internet cafés. The anchorage at Ste Anne is off a beautiful beach for sunning and swimming, and restaurants ashore serve up Creole cuisine.
When the spirit eventually moves you, voyage slowly up Martinique’s west coast.
Insider’s tip: this is best done during the week, as anchorages can be crowded at ‘le weekend’. There are overnight anchorages with shoreside villages at Petite Anse D’Arlet, Grand Anse D’Arlet, Anse Mitan, Trois Ilets and more. If you want a taste of city life, French Caribbean-style, you can anchor right at Fort de France, the biggest town in the Windward Islands, or take a ferry across the bay from Anse Mitan.
Further up Martinique’s leeward coast, St Pierre is a wonderful place to stop, unless there is a northerly swell. Hiking, diving, touring and investigating the town’s history can provide days of diversion. If a swell happens to catch you at St Pierre, it’s only 12 miles back to Fort de France or, if you’re prepared, you can set off on the 36-mile passage to Roseau, Dominica.
Waterfalls in DominicaPlan to spend time ashore on Dominica. After visiting the quaint town of Roseau, cruise up the coast and dig the anchor well in at Prince Rupert Bay. Then turn your attention landward. One could write a book about Dominica’s rainforest, the boiling lake, the Carib Reserve, Fort Shirley, waterfalls, parrots, the Indian River boat trip and much more. Suffice it to say, Tortoises could spend a fortnight thoroughly exploring the Nature Island. Tortoises will also have fun pottering around in the lovely Les Saintes archipelago, 20 miles from Prince Rupert Bay.
Now drop into Guadeloupe’s busy capital city, Pointe-à-Pitre, 20 miles from Les Saintes, where you can find almost anything, including a full service marina.
From here, choose whether to carry on to Antigua by transiting the Rivière Salée canal or by sailing up Guadeloupe’s west coast, where the windy, but well-protected bay of Deshaies, with its low-key village and pretty surrounding countryside, form another Tortoise magnet. This is the usual jumping-off point for the 40-mile crossing to English Harbour, Antigua.
English Harbour and its Georgian-era Nelson’s Dockyard is fascinating. Nearby Falmouth Harbour provides more ample anchorage and the combined harbours offer a wide range of services and watering holes.
After a bit of time here, Tortoises who love solitude and have good eyeball navigation skills can sail about 40 miles to idyllic, unspoilt Barbuda. Those staying in Antigua will be spoilt for choice with the dozens of anchorages all around. You could spend a month here, stopping at a different anchorage each night.
Antigua’s North Sound provides a good exit for those continuing on to explore the northern Leeward Islands and beyond. Those who have travelled at genuine Tortoise speed might find themselves only reaching Antigua by the end of April – perfect timing to join ARC Europe, departing on 7 May.