We woke up early at Tyrrel bay to get ready to sail to Clifton at sunrise. Our friends and crew had scheduled an afternoon dive with Dive Grenadines out of Clifton so we wanted to make sure we made it to Clifton in time to do immigration before their dive trip.
The sail to Clifton was quite easy. We sailed north at about 20 degrees True until we reached the southern coast of Union Island. We then tack twice and were able to sail directly to the entrance of Clifton Harbor. We were warned by the charter company to never take any of the moorings offered by the Boat Boys as they are usually a scam. The scam goes like this: the boat boys take your money, take you to a mooring, and then leave. Soon after someone comes and ask you to leave the mooring since it is private and completely unrelated to the boat boy who took your money. That was a very useful warning since as soon as we entered the harbor several of the boat boys came by to ask if we needed a mooring.
The harbor in Clifton is gorgeous albeit very intimidating for first timers. The safe channel is relatively narrow and the anchorage very crowded. Our monohull had no prop-walk which made it a bit more difficult to do U-turns in close quarters (for our non-sailing friends, prop walk is the tendency of the boat to turn in one direction when put on reverse and it is very useful when turning in circles in small spaces). After some tense turns around some boats we finally found a relative safe spot. The anchor held perfectly and soon after we were on the dinghy on our way to immigration.
We were told to avoid the airport immigration office and instead to go to the small office located west of the dinghy dock. The problem was that we didn’t find the dinghy dock at first. So we ended up tying up to the Yacht Club dock at the most easter part of the bay. On our way out we asked a security guard about where to do immigration and he suggested the airport since it was much closer than the town customs office. We should have listened to the advice to avoid the airport! After a 5 minute walk we arrived at a small airport and were greeted by the most cranky immigration officer yet. Immigration officers are notoriously cranky but this guy had a special talent. We kept being as polite as possible to avoid antagonizing him, despite his efforts to get us into a discussion about Venezuelan politics! Luckily, our “yes sr.” worked and we were cleared into St Vincent just a few minutes later.
After clearing we walked 10 minutes until we reached the main urban core of Clifton. We needed to change some US Dollars into Eastern Caribbean Dollars so we had some local currency for when we got to Tobago Cays. We got to the bank at 2:10 just to realize that the bank closed at 2. For some reason it did not occur to us to try the ATM machine and by the time we realized the bank had an ATM, the ATM was closed too! So keep the early closing times in mind if you need exchange funds while in Clifton.
The rest of the town was charming with a small farmers market, several bakeries, and a couple of small grocery stores. We got a few veggies for the next couple of days and some break and provisions from a nearby store. Sadly our time in Clifton was limited because we needed to lift the anchor and sail to Tobago Cays before sunset. Or more importantly, we needed to get there before our friends’ diving trip ended. While we were enjoying Clifton our friends were off on their diving trip, after which they were going to be dropped off at our boat somewhere in the Tobago Cays.
This little 2 hour sail from Clifton to Tobago Cays was another first for us. Although we have been managing charter boats between the two of us (i.e., without additional help), this was the first time we did a passage without any additional crew onboard. I’m not sure why I was a bit anxious about the “two-handed” passage but luckily everything went perfectly.
We arrived to Tobago Cays in the late afternoon and promptly dropped the anchor at the entrance of the channel between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau. The anchor held perfectly in soft sand and the views were amazing. Our friends were dropped off by the dive boat and we finished the day enjoying one of the most amazing sunsets of the trip and a yummy burrito night dinner.
The only problem with our anchor location at the entrance of the channel was the northerly swell that made it unbelievably rocky. It was by far the rockiest night of our short sailing life. The next morning we realized that the masts of the boats anchored inside the channel were not moving at all, so after our friends left on another diving trip, we raised the anchored and moved 200 yards or so deep inside the channel. The rockiness stopped and we were left to enjoy a beautiful day at the cays.