The only thing we didn’t like about Horizon Yacht Charter is that their boat check out was at Noon (unlike the 8 AM check out we experienced in the BVIs). That meant we could not get out of the marina until mid afternoon, which essentially eliminated any chance of sailing directly to Carriacou on the first day. We were thinking that maybe they needed the time to turn around the boat since the return check in is at also at Noon, but our boat had been at the marina for 2 days prior to the departure. So the late checkout is still a mystery and it was the only blemish in an otherwise perfect customer service experience by Horizon.
Around 11 AM we met with Bernadette who led an extremely informative and thorough charter briefing. She went through every one of the most common anchorages and provided incredibly useful tips (which my very attentive First Mate took written notes of), from which “boat boys” to avoid, to how to do the immigration clearance at Union Island the most efficient way (non-airport vs airport). I was also impressed with how poised she was when dealing with one of the charter captains attending the briefing who was a real handful – imagine a combination of overconfidence, cluelessness, a touch of psychopathy, + verbally expressing not wanting to follow any of the rules (including immigration laws!). Anyways, she handled it with professionalism and ease.
The boat checkout went well and fast. We had booked a Bavaria 45 boat, which, although a bit older for a charter boat (2011), was in great shape and extremely well maintained. The only issue we saw was a malfunctioning stove (repaired before the checkout was over) and a large dent/scratch on the boom – clearly the result of an accidental jibe as the boom struck the shrouds. The boat sailed beautifully and fast. The design below was smart with great attention to detail (a compartment to keep your towel and clothes dry while taking a shower in the head? why haven’t we seen this on every boat?). The only thing we didn’t like about this particular boat was that raising the main was extremely difficult. We did everything by the book: perfectly head to wind position, loose main sheet, loose vang, etc, and yet raising the main was an exhausting upper body workout. I have sailed in many boats and I have never encountered a main so difficult to raise. When we told the charter base about this issue after our return they said it likely just needed some lubrication. Then we sat and enjoyed seeing the staff struggle and take turns trying to raise the main! It was nice to get confirmation that it wasn’t just us making a silly mistake.
After the boat check out with Horizon and a safety briefing I did with the crew, we finally left the marina around 3 PM or so. The plan was to travel north to the Underwater Marine Park or Grand Mal to spend the night in preparation of our passage to Carriacou the following day.
The sailing was beautiful with 15 to 20 knots east winds all afternoon. We both adjusted easily to the new boat and by the second tack we were working in sync like old pros.
We arrived to our destination in a couple of hours and decided to anchor in Grand Mal as opposed to taking a mooring in the Marine Park. I had received some great tips online about where to anchor in Grand Mal and the target anchoring area was totally empty. So we headed there and dropped the hook in 20 ft of water over a sandy bottom. The holding was perfect and the anchorage was perfectly flat. It is well protected from everything but northerly swells and there was no northerly swell that night! We eventually began referring to this anchorage as Walmart because it is the equivalent of the Walmart parking lot for RV travelers. It is convenient, cheap (free), perfectly located, but ugly – at least ugly for Grenada anchorage standards.