Good-bye, `real world,' Hello, Mayreau. Eating, snorkeling, sailing in the glorious Grenadines
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Petit St. Vincent, an island resort, lies at the other end of the pampering spectrum. This 100-acre resort island caters to just 44 guests - housed in 22 cottages scattered amid the island's palms and sea grapes and attended to by a staff of 70. Rope hammocks, protected from the sun by thatched roof huts, are scattered about the powder sand beach that rims the island.Skip to next paragraph
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One of the pleasures of a cruising vacation is its simplicity. The boat is both your transportation and hotel. There is no concern with what to wear. Bathing suits, shorts, and T-shirts suffice, with only one slightly dressy outfit for the fanciest restaurants. We had arranged for the Moorings to ``split provision'' our boat. They provided amply for all our breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, and six of our 10 dinners. For our onboard meals, we relied heavily on the charcoal grill, hung off the stern. We left St. Lucia with a large stalk of bananas - the island's chief crop - and cooked up endless variations: Our dwindling stalk became our calendar, measuring the days left until our return to the ``real world.'' On our nights out, we splurged at Petit St. Vincent and the Cotton House on Mustique, an elegantly restored 18th-century plantation, and had a more native meal at Captain Hook's at Soufri`ere Bay in St. Lucia.
Often what is most memorable about sailing in the Grenadines are the times you did nothing or close to nothing. Such times were spent sipping a cold drink on deck while watching the long afternoon fade into dusk, then the gaudy sunset show followed by the dizzying spectacle of the Milky Way. There was the nightly search for the green flash - a streak of green light on the horizon that's said to follow the Caribbean sunset. Few pleasures equal snorkeling very slowly through clear turquoise water amid a million tiny silvery fish, sailing alongside a school of playful dolphins, or watching the rain give way to a vibrant rainbow.
Our final destination was St. Lucia's Soufri`ere Bay. Once our boat was safely tied to a palm tree, we took a side trip by cab to Soufri`ere volcano. The bubbling pools of lava, the hazy yellow clouds of sulfurous steam, the accompanying rotten-egg smell, and the stained green and yellow ``moonscape'' seemed to provide a fitting, if somewhat ironic, finale to our trip. The now dormant volcano was a vivid reminder of the violent origins of these islands that had provided us with such peace and serenity.
If you go
Chartering a yacht: These companies arrange both bare-boat and crewed charters and assist with travel arrangements; departures are generally from St. Lucia or St. Vincent: The Moorings USA, Suite 420, 1305 US 19 South, Clearwater, FL 33546. (Tel. 800-535-7289). Stevens Yachts, 252 East Avenue, East Norwalk, CT 06855 (800-638-7044). Caribbean Sailing Yachts Ltd., Box 491, Tenafly, NJ 07670 (800 631-1593). Ann-Wallis White, 326 First St., Annapolis, MD 21403 ( 263-6366).
Figuring costs: Renting our 43-foot Beneteau, one of the smaller, less expensive boats offered by the Moorings, costs $442 a day in the high winter season, $292 in off season. Split provisioning (that means breakfasts, lunches, and four out of seven dinners) costs $16 per person per day.
Planning your cruise: The following guides are helpful: Chris Doyle's ``Sailor's Guide to the Windward Islands'' (Cruising Guide Publications, Box 13131, Station 9, Clearwater, FL 33519 ( 797-9576). Jill Bobrow and Dana Jinkins's ``St. Vincent and the Grenadines: A Plural Country'' (Norton).