In this episode, we continue south through the Grenadine islands and learn why the famous Tobago Cays are so darn famous – aside from being in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. We snorkel with sea turtles, eat lobster on the beach, and visit the Caribbean’s smallest island Mopion.
The old adage that you must crawl before you walk relates to our first lesson steering the boat. Here we each take turns motoring our 38′ catamaran towards a floating mooring, simulating a common practice where cruisers utilize moorings for an easy anchorage. Often times, the seafloor can be too rocky or unfavorable for one’s anchor to make a firm connection. Without the anchor solidly hooked, a change in the winds or just the boat’s rocking motion can break an anchor free or drag an anchor downwind, possibly putting a boat in shallow water or even worse, rocks. Moorings typically consist of a buoy floating a sturdy rope which is connected to a very heavy rock, anchor, or concrete block on the seafloor. Moorings also typically cost $$ so knowing how to set an anchor well is a valuable skill to know. With the island sheltering us from most of the morning’s trade winds, these moorings should’ve been easy to motor up to. Well either someone was underwater moving them, or us landlubbers have a lot to learn. Most likely it was the latter, but we didn’t give up and shortly after proving to our skipper we were hopeless we finally mastered this skill. It didn’t look that hard, after all, have you ever seen Captain Ron’s docking technique?
We decided to take it easy on Alessandro and didn’t ask for extra practice catching moorings. Besides, the famous Tobago Cays lay just a few miles away and we couldn’t wait to see this world renowned spot with our own snorkel and fins! On our voyage there we used no GPS or electronics and built onto our navigation skills from previous days. From our maps we were able to discern a few key landmarks which we triangulated to confirm La Mouette was in the deeper water path we planned. This wasn’t covered in the video but it was critical, just a slight deviation from our charted course would put us in knee deep shoals and reef. Such an event would likely end our trip, and we were having way too much fun to waste time being shipwrecked.
To be honest, arrival in the Tobago Cays wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I anticipated. We’d spent the night prior sharing a quiet anchorage with one other catamaran and one multi-million dollar mega yacht. Now it felt like we had entered the New York City of the Caribbean. We had to maneuver through and around a dozen charter boats of all shapes and sizes to reach the primary channel leading out to the turtle sanctuary where nearly two dozen more boats sat anchored. Jenny and I quickly donned masks, fins, and snorkels; the sun directly over our heads making the cooler water even more enticing. We swam several hundred feet to where Horseshoe Reef provides habitat to marine animals while protecting the islands from crashing surf stirred up by trade winds. For anyone planning to do this trip, I’d recommend you venture farther out to the outer edge of the reef to find some bigger creatures. Most of the fish and animals nearby the anchorage were beautiful yet small. That is, except for the sea turtles munching on pieces of coral. Many were only as wide as us, but a few big boys and girls were easily 2 1/2 feet wide or more. They’d allow the occasional, annoying human to swim within a few feet for photos so long as the coral tasted good. But once we got too close or the food was gone, they were quick to show us who was faster and with a few strokes of their legs would disappear into the blue.
I think the lighting was a critical factor in the natural beauty, because as the sun dipped lower to the horizon the incredible blue hues of the water met the lush green foliage on the islands. Earlier, the mid-day heat gave the Cays a somewhat oppressive desert island feeling. Now however, the sun no longer bleached out the colors and cooler wind brushed across our red sunburned skin. A few times, between sips of Cuba Libre’s, the cool wind would flush a goose bump or two but we were all so busy sharing stories about snorkeling or things back home they were quickly forgotten. We also finally met up with Roberto and LLeva, both attractive, lean and tan, whom we’d met kitesurfing back at Union Island a few days earlier. They were really great people and we’d became quick friends over dinner and rum drinks back at Union. In a funny turn of events, Roberto and Alessandro our skipper, both Italians, were buddies and we’d explained over that dinner days ago how we’d be sailing the high seas with this guy Alessandro from St. Vincent. Well, fast forward and here we sit sipping drinks from the comfort of our catamaran awaiting sunset and the amazing lobster dinner on the beach we’d heard so much talk of.
Luckily Zach squeezed us into a spot that was good and sandy for our boat’s anchor as well as nearby the beach. Our overloaded dingy probably wouldn’t have gone far before taking on water, but with less than 100 feet of water between La Mouette and the beach we quickly made landfall. After working out a few glitches we finally launched the drone just in time to capture the sunset. I’d attached a pretty dark ND filter from this kit and forgot to take it off before flying. ND filters allow the video to record at a slower rate giving a cinematic look, only the filter I’d chosen (ND16) was for really bright light and didn’t allow as much detail to be captured. Nonetheless, the aerial views couldn’t have been any more impressive. All types of boats lined the shores and distant islands dissected the sea from the sky. It was a truly magical experience enhanced with the afterglow from an amazing day of many firsts accompanied with rum and stories with new friends.
The feast tasted amazing, but make sure you bring plenty of cash because it’s not cheap. There are several other local folks doing the same thing on different parts of the island. I’m not sure how much variation there is on price but it could be worth checking if you have a large group. We ate at Romeo‘s piece of the island, and our initial shock and concern of the $45 cost per person (yes that’s US $) was replaced with very satisfied bellies. We wouldn’t normally spend so much on a meal but after all this was our honeymoon, AND this was possibly one of the most enchanting places you could choose for a fancy meal. Darkness came, yet we ate and drank at the beachside picnic tables well into the night. White lights strung overhead offered the faintest light and intermixed with the wavering light from stars in every direction. A generator droned in the distance beside the kitchen while the sound of waves against dinghies and sailboats reminded us we were not on the mainland.
The trade winds blew all night keeping us cool and comfortable in our berths. We awoke refreshed and feeling like competent sailors our team made short work of preparing the boat for the next leg of the voyage. Our young crewmate Jonathan made his way back in time as well. At the lobster dinner a cougar (older woman) had set her sights on him and talked him into joining her Spanish sailing group for the night. Since he spoke little English, all we knew was that he came back with a very big smile on his face. Today we’d take a short sail to Petit Martinique to practice docking before setting the hook for lunch at nearby Mopion, the Caribbean’s smallest island. The zombie sandwiches tasted fine, but the lobster dinner was hard to keep out of my head. I’d coined the name zombie sandwich for the color, or lack thereof, of the ham sandwich meat on the boat. Food is perhaps one of my biggest personal challenges when travelling out of the country, I’m such a big-sissy about weird foods. Luckily the ham tasted like ham, only it’s pale grey complexion looked more like freshly sliced zombie meat. This was no fault of Barefoot’s, as all the sliced meats in the region were similar. No, this was just one of the things that remind you to enjoy home and all the familiar things you are accustomed to. Jonathan jumped in and we motored over to Mopion with the dingy, but played hell trying to find a safe spot to beach the craft. As soon as we thought it was safely beached a wave would wrap around the tiny island and either slosh 20 gallons of saltwater inside or push it off the steep sandy incline and out to sea. We’d already seen Alessandro frustrated at our pitiful mooring performance, we weren’t about to swim to the boat and try explaining how the dingy disappeared while were snorkeling. In the end I just heaved the heavy boat up the beach a couple feet at a time between breaths. After Jenny’s photo shoot, we motored back to La Mouette for zombie sandwiches and one of our last cold sodas. Knowing that in a few hours we’d be back in the familiar waters of Union Island, we laid in the cockpit and basked in the sun and enjoying this tiny island to ourselves for a few minutes.
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Benro A2573FS4 Tripod