This is part of an ongoing series. In the original feature I explain why you should sit down and map out a multi-year travel plan to make sure you get to see and do all the things that are most important to you. Read this guide, “Why Right Now is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List” here.
In this follow-up series, I present 30 different curated Once in a Lifetime experiences and destinations for you to consider. Obviously everyone’s dream list will be different, and whatever it is that you feel you really want or need to do should be at the top of your list, but with the help of experts and my 25-years experience as an award-winning travel journalist I’ve put together some great highlights to consider. Each day I’ll present a different option (see them all here):
Sailing Charter in the Grenadines
Why? Forget about crowds or spring breakers. Even when travel returns to “normal” after the current pandemic, there will be an emphasis on low density destinations, the great outdoors, and close-knit time with friends and family, and this kind of trip address all of those.
“This is the Caribbean of yore, where you anchor and then go snorkeling with turtles near the shoreline or with the multi-colored fish at one of the most pristine reefs I’ve seen,” travel expert Steve Jermanok told me. “If terra firma calls your name, you can simply swim over to the beach and walk in the sand, practically deserted except for the lone fishermen sewing his nets. At twilight, you zodiac over to the requisite beachside bar and restaurant, dig your feet in the sand, and have a stiff rum punch spiced with local nutmeg, before dining on freshly caught lobster, conch, and red snapper.”
Sailing is inherently idyllic, but this is a place of great natural beauty and few visitors, with excellent condition for pleasure cruising, and the way Jermanok described it to me evokes the kind of perfect waterborne fantasy I would imagine – a large, comfortable and well-appointed boat with an expert skipper and days spent swimming, sunning, eating, drinking, relaxing and taking it all in at a self-determined pace.
A travel guidebook author and former columnist for The Boston Globe and National Geographic Adventure, Jermanok has visited nearly 100 countries. Since 2012, he and his wife, Lisa have run ActiveTravels, a membership-based boutique travel agency in Boston. Their clients include many you might think would not need a travel advisor, like TripAdvisor founder Steve Kaufer and Mark Snider, owner of top hotels on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. A few days ago I wrote here at Forbes about Wanderlist, a special online platform from luxury travel consortium Virtuoso that helps you select and plan a lifetime’s worth of Bucket List trips, and the software is limited to a select group of specially trained Wanderlist advisors associated with Virtuoso, of which Lisa is one.
“South of St. Lucia and west of Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines are known as one of the world’s best cruising grounds. But what makes this 100-mile sail from St. Vincent to Grenada so enjoyable are the anchorages, wondrous sheltered bays ridged by the hillside and lined with often desolate crescent sand beaches. We spotted whales in the distance and fish jumping closer to us as we were content sailing in the steady winds, eyeing the islands, and soaking up the sun as the week became a blissful watery blur. Along the way, each island has its own distinct flavor.”
When dinners were not at colorful beachfront local spots – no shoes required – they ate well on the boat. “On our last night our captain pulled in a beautiful black-fin tuna. He filleted the fish and we immediately enjoyed some as ceviche, spiced with lime, salt, and green pepper. That night, we would put the fillets, wrapped in aluminum foil, on the boat’s charcoal grill. We dined as the glowing moon rose over the capital of Grenada, St. George’s. The perfect ending.”
Where?: The Grenadines are a chain of several dozen islands in the Lesser Antilles that comprise two countries between them. About two thirds of the islands form St. Vincent & the Grenadines, while Grenada owns the rest. Nine of the islands are permanently inhabited.
The new Argyle international Airport directly connects St. Vincent & The Grenadines with major cities in the U.S. and there are smaller inter-island flights.
If you want to combine the sail with a land-based luxury vacations, Jermanok notes that “Canouan and Petit St. Vincent are home to two of the most exclusive resorts in the Caribbean, the Mandarin Oriental and Petit St. Vincent.” Mustique is a famously private island in the chain with exclusive villas and one venerable luxury hotel, the Cotton House.
How? This is trip that can be done by both expert experienced sailors and those with no knowledge of boating whatsoever.
For the latter, a crewed charter is the answer, which is how the Jermanoks went about it. “We chartered the 48-foot Andiamo Piano from Horizon Yacht Charters out of St. Vincent, the same outfitter we used two years prior when sailing the British Virgin Islands. Captain Bryan knew these islands like the back of his hand and led us to his favorite locales to spend the night.” The company has an assortment of monohull and catamarans with expert crews in the 44-58 foot range.
Those who know how to sail do bareboat charters, the wind-powered equivalent of a car rental, and Horizon has those too. But the best-known company for such charters is the Moorings, a global specialist that has been at it since 1969 and has a location on Grenada. They also do a lot of one-way charters from their marina in St. Lucia to Grenada.
If you want to enjoy the beautiful area while learning to sail, Barefoot Offshore Sailing School (BOSS) in the Grenadines is the local affiliate of the American Sailing Association (ASA). BOSS has been at it for more than two decades and has an excellent reputation. Horizon is also an ASA affiliate. The American Sailing Association promotes learning to sail with a wide variety of programs and certifications for all abilities and has over 300 affiliate school partners worldwide.
Travel Advisors: When planning these kind of Bucket List trips I always recommend using a good travel agent or travel advisor. In addition to making sure you get it right, they can often save you money or get you upgrades and more bang for the buck. For more on why you want to use a travel agent/advisor and how to go about it, read my recent article on this topic here.