Off the Grenadines – Union Island

Mar 20, 2018 - Sea Cloud

We sailed out of Soufriere in St. Lucia last night on our way south to the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Sunrise was at approximately 6:09AM and the weather was a balmy 81 degrees Fahrenheit at 8AM. We had a 13mph breeze off our port beam and under sail we were doing 3.6kts. We were almost under full sail or as they say from “Royals down.” At 9:30 Tom Heffernan gave a talk on the religion of the Rastafarians. After Tom’s talk we hosted engine tours of the Sea Cloud and saw the very modern engines and some of the wonderful brass hardware from the original engine room of 1931. We had a good wind for much of the morning and sailing was superb. We decided that sail conditions were so favorable that we would put in at Union Island instead of Carricaiou which was a further 10 miles south.

Lunch was on the Lido and after lunch we got ourselves ready for our visit to Chatham Bay on Union Island. Few places today can be called pristine tropical paradises but Union Island can legitimately be called that. The island is 1 mile by 3 and has two villages, Clifton and Ashton. The total population of the island is 2,600 and almost everyone lives in the two villages. Our captain anchored expertly anchored us in Chatham Bay and we boarded zodiacs to take us to the beautiful gleaming half moon beach.

On arrival on the beach those of us who wished to snorkel followed Patti and Ian and the swimmers remained with Tom Heffernan. The snorkelers saw literally reefs of fish, lobsters and Moray eels. The beach at Chatham Bay has a few classic and famous “Rum Shacks” run by “Shark Attack” and “Boll Head” and they are their names! The snorkeling was very good and the sea was inviting and warm. Where I was swimming I saw an occasional brown booby, pelican and laughing gulls diving in the bay for fish. We lay on the beach and after an appropriate amount of sunning we gravitated to the “Rum Shacks.” The hills of Union Island rose up before us green and lush and the tropical sea was aquamarine. The last zodiac to leave the island was full at 6:20 PM and I suspect few wanted to leave as the sun began to set in the west! 

After dinner we watched the wonderful video of Captain Irwin Johnson’s sail from the Baltic around Cape Horn in one of the great “Flying P” line vessels – possibly the greatest of the square riggers ever built.

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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.

About the Photographer

Ian Strachan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

One steady constant in Ian’s life has been the ocean. Born by the rocky shores of mid-coast Maine, his family repatriated to far north Queensland in Australia early on in his life where he became a dual-citizen and sparked his passion for exploring new environments. Living only an hour away from the Great Barrier Reef served to direct, if not focus, the exhilaration of discovery and set him on his current path. Returning to native soil for education, Ian was fascinated by altogether too many subjects, leaving him with a bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College in Psychobiology, focusing on animal behavior and perception, and with minors in Astronomy, History, and Environmental Science.

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