We are taking off from Antigua and are tightly belted into our twin-engine, seven-seater Britten-Norman Islander – operated by Fly Monserrat and captained by John, formerly pilot to the Toronto Blue Jays. Minutes later, we catch site of our tiny destination...
Glancing down into the water as I prepared to furl in the genoa for the approach to the Tobago Cays, a group of five uninhabited Caribbean islands in the Grenadines, I was struck by the incredible colour of the water – a sparkling sapphire blue that slid into astonishing hues of turquoise and aquamarine as the water grew more shallow near the entrance to the Cays. We could have been floating on a swimming pool.
The pristine water over the white sand bottom reflects the sky here and the clarity is so amazing that nearby reefs pop out visibly in hues of greens, reds, oranges and gold. With the sun high over your shoulder, the reefs are easy to spot and steer clear of. Fish fly in diamond-like showers and turtles raise their heads in a relaxed fashion as you cruise by. No worries. Be happy.
We’ve bridled our bowline to a mooring ball in Trellis Bay just off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.
My friend, Dave Anschuetz, fires up the Force 10 on the pushpit of our chartered Moorings boat, a Beneteau 43.3 named “Teranga.” Down below, my wife tosses a salad while Dave’s wife, Barb, marinates chicken.
Topside, I survey our surroundings while I concoct my own take on the iconic (and insidious) Painkillers we were drinking like water two nights ago on Jost Van Dyke.
We’ve dropped the anchor in the northwest corner of Pillsbury Sound, hard by a channel bisecting two lush islands. Waters rush through the passage, lured by the beauty of St. John, an island that reclines in the afternoon sun like a Renaissance courtesan.
Our skipper today, Captain Wilson, knows these islands like the back of his hand. He should – he’s boated here almost daily since 2008. “I will take you where you want to go,” he promises. “I will show you what you want to see.”
I’ve cruised the British Virgin Islands numerous times but I’m just getting my feet wet here. Today’s the perfect introduction.
I was ruined...completely and utterly ruined. At the young age of 22, my very first trip to the Caribbean was to Eleuthera, which is, in my opinion, the most beautiful place on earth. It will now be an uphill battle for me to surpass my visit there.
An opportunity to go to the Bahamas presented itself to me because I spoke French and I was available. I will be forever grateful to my parents for enrolling me in a French Immersion program.
The trip was arranged by Michel Sacco of L’Escale Nautique – Canada’s French-language yachting magazine); the charter was booked through a Quebec-based company, Navtours, so French was a necessity. Needless to say, my French sailing vocabulary was limited so I came prepared with notepad in hand, ready to learn how to sail in French.
Dominica has been on “the” list for quite some time now and when I actually get to do something on “the” list, my heart skips a beat!
Although Dominica still remains somewhat off-the-beaten track for boaters, it is located right in the middle of the chain of Caribbean islands and can be easily accessed from Antigua and Guadeloupe to the north or Martinique and St. Lucia to the south. Chartering boats from any of these islands is easy.
It’s just so easy to get to Antigua with direct flights offered by Air Canada and West Jet several days a week in season, Antigua also offers one of the best kick-off points for exploring so many other Caribbean islands…if you have the time and the winds are prevailing in the right direction.
However, don’t get me wrong. There’s lots to do in Antigua and since it’s pretty much a year-round destination, you could customize your charter vacation by planning it around Antigua Sailing Week in late April or the annual carnival in late July.
It’s an awkward fact of life for us at Canadian Yachting magazine that while we know the majority of our readers are power boaters, the majority of people who want to write about their cruising experiences are sailors! In addition to that, the greatest attraction seems to be far-off and exotic locations that can be both expensive and challenging to anyone’s skills as a skipper. So, we wanted to offer the power boater’s perspective too and to remind our readers that some of the most memorable and spectacular scenery is really closer than you’d think.
The Heart of It allAs an attractive destination for sailors and cruisers alike, Midland Harbour doesn’t really have to try hard to impress; the waters of Georgian Bay attract yachts of all sizes from all over the globe. With a history steeped in lumber and boat manufacturing, Midland Harbour today is an integral part of a thriving town, boasting the largest freshwater marina in the world amongst its offerings. The hometown of Sarah Burke, Glen Howard, Adam Dixon and David Onley to name a few, Midland is the heart of the North Simcoe area, the centre of the neighbouring Georgian Bay communities.
In the heart of the Huronia wilderness, the Jesuits established the first French outpost outside of the area we now know as Quebec. It was called Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons in 1639. Wendake, “the land apart”, was the ancestral homeland of the Huron nation. The Wendat were a matrilineal society of skilled traders and farmers. They introduced the ‘three sisters’ (corn, beans and squash) to the French and taught them how to grow these crops in mounds. Sadly, the mission was to last only 10 years. With the Huron decimated by disease and rising tension of more frequent Iroquois attacks, the Jesuits burned the mission to the ground and moved all inhabitants to nearby Christian Island.
Great performance in a versatile, modern design
For the Canadian Yachting readers who are not yet familiar with Beneteau’s broad range of power boat models, the Gran Turismo 35 may come as a bit of a surprise. Our test boat is a head-on competitor to the North American built express cruisers and the latest day boats that are coming on the market.
The GT35 has the style and amenities to match the best new designs in it’s size range, the stern drive power to deliver exhilarating high speed performance plus, it still adds in an overtone of Euro style.