A lot of people have bucket lists, I on the other hand have an ‘if only’ list. “If only I’d married a millionaire and spent my winters cruising around the Caribbean in a private yacht”! Thankfully, Dream Yacht Charter makes it easier to enjoy this much desired experience with their By the Cabin cruises, offering the opportunity to book individual cabins, with en-suite bathrooms, on catamarans sailing in 16 destinations worldwide. I was lucky enough to join a 7-night cruise on board Dream Baradal (an Ipanema 58) around The Grenadines in January this year. Silver Travel’s recent Solo Travel Survey reports that 83% of the solo travel respondents had taken a holiday on their own in the last 5 years. A by the cabin cruise is an ideal choice for solo travellers like myself who want to experience the freedom of the ocean without having to book a whole yacht or the hassle of organising a large party. The survey also reports that a wapping 3/4 would not consider sharing a room with a fellow traveller of the same sex and I’m afraid it’s something I would also never contemplate and was delighted with my very spacious cabin for one.
No sailing experience is required on the cruise as there is a skipper (on our yacht, a rugged and skilled French sailor caller Christophe) while a cook prepares all the meals. The catamarans are extremely stable and feature airy main saloons and spacious decks for relaxing, sunbathing and enjoying the endless snacks, drinks, meals and cocktail hours. However, it should be noted that this is a cruise for nimble Silver Travellers only, there’s lots of jumping in and out of dinghies and steep steps down to your cabin and up to the sun decks. The itineraries have been designed so that sailing times are kept short and the shallow draft of the catamarans means that they can get much closer to the shore and enter private anchorages. What to bring, swimwear and more swimwear, ditch the shoes, a pair of flip flops and trainers will suffice and if like me, you’re a 10 cuppa a day tea drinker then your favourite brand of tea, there’s all manner of fruit teas on board but in terms of builders, just the ubiquitous Liptons Yellow label, drunk the world over except in the UK where tea really matters.
Starting in Martinique our itinerary included visits to Bequia, the Tobago Cays and Saint Lucia but it was the first port of call Mayreau that was easily my favourite. There’s no port so to speak (you anchor off the beach), no resorts, just 400 residents on an idyllic palm covered island (part of the Grenadines) with one particularly postcard worthy, crescent shaped, white sand beach.
Mayreau is the closest island to the fabled Tobago Cays, a cluster of five tiny, uninhabited islands collectively sheltered from the open sea by the appropriately named Horseshoe Reef and a magical place to snorkel amongst the abundant fish and coral. It was here that I had my very own underwater aqua aerobics class, watching green and hawksbill turtles foraging freely, copying the wing like strokes of their huge flippers. Then on to laid back, hassle free Bequia, all candy coloured houses and delightful Belmont Walkway, a continuous coastal path that meanders along the South shore of Admiralty Bay with a number of inviting little bars, restaurants and wi fi.
With its natural beauty, St Vincent is far less touristy than some of its neighbours. Of the 32 islands located in the Caribbean Sea’s Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, only nine are inhabited. St. Vincent, the mother island is the largest and is your gateway to the Grenadines. Although, we sailed past it on route from Martinique to Mayreau, it was on the journey home that we anchored in Cumberland Bay to properly visit the island. Cumberland Bay is a deep, natural anchorage in a very picturesque bay, surrounded by lush hillsides and like Petit Tabac in the Tobago Cays also a setting for Pirates of the Caribbean (something that won’t go unnoticed if recounting the voyage to any grandchildren).
Unlike on a cruise ship, instead of having a thousand new acquaintances, on a Dream Yacht Charter, you’ll make just a few new friends, in my case 2 French and 2 Italian couples and a lone Frenchman, sadly only one of which was fluent in English. I really should have paid more attention at school and was at a disadvantage not being able to speak either language. However, the language of smiles speaks volumes and my fellow silver travellers (nearly all 50+) had what I most admire in anyone “joie de vivre”. For once I wasn’t the first to dive of the boat, to swim under a cascading waterfall or to borrow the yacht’s kayak to paddle to yet another Robinson Crusoe like deserted island. My new European ship mates were only too happy to linger over a long rose fuelled lunch (our own Alan Fairfax would feel very at home), with cheese (naturally) followed by pudding the French way. From day one, roles were assumed, Roberto acting as on board cocktail maker (making good use of the local rum, punch, and fruit juices on offer), Patricia, a natural organiser set up the What’s App group and became official photographer whilst Francesco (a veteran of numerous DYC by the cabin charters) had everyone entertained with his salty seadog stories. Food on board was plentiful and original using local fruit, vegetables and fish (including the latter caught by a fishing line dragged behind the boat). Julien, Dream Baradol’s likeable and creative cook was thrilled with the 20kg Tazar fish he reeled in between St Vincent and St Lucia on day 6, expertly prepared into steaks for dinner the next day. Other aquatic delicacies included a succulent and spicy Octopus stew and tasty cerviche. Not such a winner in my book were the boudin creole, a blood sausage served as an appetiser.
Nothing quite matches, the sweet, intense and slightly charred taste of BBQ’d lobster, even more delicious when eaten barefoot on a sandy beach with nothing but the stars competing with the twinkling lights on the top of the masts of the anchored nearby yachts for company. Various excursions are on offer during the cruise and one definitely not to miss is the lobster beach BBQ on Petit Bateau. It’s also a chance to make merry with the locals and admire their silver beard topiary.
If you believe in setting less dramatic bucket list ideas and are looking for an intimate and affordable way of exploring the natural beauty of St Vincent and the Grenadines and love being on or under the water, then this is a cruise for you. I’ve sailed pretty much all my life and some sailing experiences stick in the mind more than others. Snorkelling with turtles in a pristine turquoise lagoon, escaping the British winter to look out on palm fringed beaches and the camaraderie with my fellow crew mates will all be up there but it was the simple pleasure of watching the orange gold of the daily sunset dripping into the sea, whilst devouring another book on my kindle in perfect peace that got the biggest thumbs up of all. I felt totally spoilt with no need to have married a millionaire, I read ‘The Great Gatsby’ instead.
To find out more about Dream Yacht Charter visit www.dreamyachtcharter.co.uk
To find out more about The Caribbean visit www.caribbean.co.uk/