Chatham Bay, Union Island

Mar 13, 2018 - Sea Cloud

The sun rose over St. Vincent at 6 a.m. The wind was 17 knots from the east/southeast and perfect for sailing. We achieved a nice speed of 7.1 knots by 10:30 a.m. as Tom Heffernan gave a talk on the religion of Rastafarians. We anchored in Chatham Bay at 1 p.m. and were shortly landed on the lovely, sandy beach. Union Island is tiny, with an area of only three miles, and has two villages, Clifton and Ashton. It is part of the chain of islands known as the Grenadines. The total population of the island is three thousand, and almost everyone lives in the two villages. There is a single bus on the island but no hospital, so if an islander needs sophisticated medical treatment they have to be airlifted to St. Vincent. We were really, as the expression goes, off the grid!

Chatham Bay has a beautiful, gleaming, half-moon beach. There were a number of yachts in the bay: two massive yachts (150 or so feet), one with helicopter, and a smaller one from Gdansk, Poland. Palm, tropical almond, and sea grape trees gently moved in the breeze. On arrival at the beach, those of us who wished to snorkel followed Patti and Ian, and the swimmers remained with Tom.

One of the exotic attractions of Chatham Bay is the rum shacks owned by Shark Attack and Baldhead (both their real names). Both are as expressive as their names suggest, like characters more likely found in a novel than real life. These men were the first rum shack “entrepreneurs” on the bay. They embody the pace of the island: slow and easy. They enjoy drinking their rum as much as they love selling it. Their favorite? The “pain killer”—enough said.

The sea was calming and captivating. The snorkelers reported enormous shoals of fish of every variety. As we lolled in the sea, the hills of Union Island rose up before us green and lush, and the tropical sea was aquamarine. The last Zodiacs to leave the island left at 6 p.m. I suspect few wanted to leave as the sun began to set in the west!

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About the Author

Tom Heffernan


Tom, a native of New York City, who has had a life-long passion for travel and exploration, is the Kenneth Curry Professor of Humanities at the University of Tennessee and the founding Director of the university’s Humanities Center. His areas of interest are anthropology of religions and historical linguistics.

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