St. Vincent and
the Grenadines is an irresistible archipelago country offering some of the most exciting
cruising in the Caribbean. St. Vincent is by far the largest island of this group, though
each of the major Grenadine islands has its own page on this site.
St. Vincent is
an island of towering mountains, craggy peaks and dramatic precipices. Everything is
dressed in a tangle of dense green forest. St. Vincent's steep and wild terrain was among
the last to be settled by Europeans. At the time Columbus sailed through the islands, St.
Vincent was inhabited by amber colored Caribs who had migrated from South America and had
a more poetic name for the island: Hairoun, which means "home of the blessed."
They were a fierce tribe who had wrested the land from the previous and more peace loving
residents, the Arawaks. While the other islands were being exploited by the newly arrived
Europeans, a slave ship was wrecked off Bequia and the Caribs took the slaves as their
own. However, these slaves were a fierce and warlike tribe and gave the Caribs lots of
problems. To control this, the Caribs decided to kill all the young male black children.
This caused a revolt among the slaves who killed those Caribs they could, stole their
women and ran into the hills. They kept the names the Caribs had given them, followed some
Carib customs and became known as the Black Caribs. Over the years they took control of
the land from the original Caribs and put up fierce resistance to British settlement.
Finally, in the late 18th century, they were defeated by a superior British force and
shipped en masse to Honduras.
The northern end
of the island is dominated by Soufriere, a 3000-foot volcano. I had a friend who was
anchored under the volcano in April 1979 with an amateur geologist on board. Together they
scaled the volcano and peered into the depths. The geologist declared it was safely
dormant. That night, which happened to be both Friday the 13th and Good Friday, there was
a rumbling from the very bowels of the earth and it erupted with a massive cloud that
landed dust hundreds of miles away. It created a murk in the area so thick they couldn't
see to the bow of the boat and had to leave completely blind, steering by compass to get
away. The eruption, which lasted for some days, was Soufriere's second since 1902. The
other was in 1973. As you sail by you can see some rivers of dark volcanic matter that
flowed down from the summit. Despite the absence of any warning, everyone left the area in
time and there were no casualties. The enthusiastic can hike up Soufriere and it is
unquestionably one of the Windwards' best and most exciting hikes. Starting on the
Windward side there is a clear trail that starts in farmland and goes through rain forest,
cloud forest, and then into an area where only tiny plants can survive. The top is often
in cloud, and you need a little luck to see down into the crater or get the views over the
island. The wind often blows a gale at the top and it is cool and damp. You have to be
careful not to get blown down into the crater which is a sheer thousand foot drop with no
guard rail. The longer you spend at the top, the more likely you are to get windows in the
clouds and see into the crater. The crater is an impressive cone with a huge smoking
volcanic dome in the middle.
In St. Vincent
it seems that neither God nor man was completely sure they wanted tourism, for it lacks
tourist type resorts, the acres of white sand beach and the convenient, easy anchorages of
the Grenadines. In compensation, this very beautiful island remains unspoiled and you can
drive or hike amid exotic, almost theatrical, scenery. Its fierce, uncompromising form is
the perfect scenic complement to the appealing and gentle Grenadines farther south.
St. Vincent has
several beautiful anchorages. Cumberland Bay, Wallilabou and Petit Byahaut are all in wild
and wonderful countryside. The capital is Kingstown, which has a cruise ship
dock. Young Island Cut and Blue Lagoon on the south coast are
both very attractive to yachts and close to services.
click chart to enlarge