Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mayreau Island and Union Island

The very tiny and sparsely populated island of Mayreau has held a special place in our hearts for several decades. The first time we visited this island was on one of the Windjammer cruises in the early 1980s. There were 40 residents on the island at that time. The St. Vincent government had built a dock and a very short road-to-nowhere at the end of that dock. Supply boats delivered essentials to the residents on a sporadic schedule. These people had nothing. Except for beautiful incredibly white sand beaches covered in coconut palms and surrounded by turqoise waters. You cannot believe how excited the children were to receive simple things like a pencil or little notebook.

When we returned to Houston after our first stop at Mayreay I collected various school supplies and shipped these to the Windjammer offices in Florida. Several of the passengers on our cruise had agreed to to the same and to continue to do so in future years. The Windjammer company would send these supplies down to Mayreau through their distribution system to their tall ship that cruised this area -- which at that time was just the Mandalay. This started a tradition. As more small privately-owned cruising boats started visiting Mayreau, cruisers began to bring more school supplies to the island. That tradition of donations for the school on Mayreau continues today. The cruisers are more organized and actually hold annual functions these days. This doesn't garner a great deal of money or donations, but every little bit helps and both children and parents are very appreciative of anything to help their childrens' educations.

Salt Whistle Bay is our favorite anchorage on Mayreau. It is very small and can get crowded so it is important to arrive early in the day. We could stay anchored there for weeks. There is a small resort of sorts now located at Sail Whistle Bay. What a beautiful location for a secluded vacation.

The other main anchorage on Mayreau is Saline Bay, where the government built dock is located. The road now extends up the hill to the small town and even farther up to the northern end the island and ends not too far from Salt Whistle Bay. There is a thatched-roofed structure on the beach at Saline Bay where several of us cruisers gathered for happy hour late one afternoon -- BYOB, of course. This structure is used by the locals to sell their wares when the occasional small cruise ship anchors in this bay. The only cruise "ship" we saw anchor there was a small Venezuelan cruise ship in May 2007. The residents of Mayreau said this ship comes every couple of months.

In May 2007 we visited Union Island for the first time. The only reason we stopped at Union was to clear out of St. Vincent and theGrenedines before sailing the very short distance over to Carriacou. Carriacou is part of Grenada and boats must clear out of SVG before visiting Carriacou. Not much to say about Union Island as we only stopped there long enough to clear out. It was a very, very crowded anchorage with no place to disembark from your dinghy. We paid a guy to "help" onto a temporary mooring and to bring me ashore. The mooring was far too risky for both Bill and I to get off the boat for any length of time. I walked to the airport and cleared us out. Them stopped at the most poorly stocked grocery store that I have ever seen anywhere. There was not one item in that store that we would buy. I felt so sorry for the local residents if this is the only food available to them. Mind you, this was there main town on this island and this was a relatively large store. I then walked back to the dock area and eventually got Bill's attention and he came out to collect me in the dinghy. We couldn't wait to get out of that harbor. Union Island is not a place that we would recommend.

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