Long before I left the United States to return to my sailing trip, I marked the village of Windward, Carriacou as one of those places I must see during my travels. I had heard about the town in a documentary titled Vanishing Sail, about the last of the traditional Caribbean boat builders.
Village of Windward, Carriacou
Windward has a long tradition of boat building. Grenada was returned to the British in 1783 after the Treaty of Versailles and many plantation owners on Grenada and Carriacou wished to import goods into the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the West Indies. Trading vessels were few and far between, so Scottish shipbuilders settled in what is now Windward to build trading sloops and schooners. Walking through the cemeteries in Windward confirms this, as all the headstones are Andrews, McLawrence, Roberts, etc.
The village is a quiet one, almost a ghost town. Its population is around 1,000 Kayaks (patois for the inhabitants of Carriacou). The streets are lined with bright flowers that compliment the old gingerbread houses behind them. The able-bodied men were all out fishing so the only people I saw was the occasional old lady out for a walk, who’d greet me with a smile and a “good morning sir,” which I returned.
Nothing about the boats has really changed in centuries, except for the goods carried and their destinations. Rum may or may not still be smuggled on these ships; I won’t speculate. These boats are still built in Windward using the same methods, though in smaller numbers. Wood is sourced from Carriacou and Grenada and cut using axes and hand saws, and planed by hand, except for the planking. Everything is measured with the trusty eyeball method.
On launch day, the entire island comes to Windward to participate in the party and the blessing. An enormous cookout feeds everyone throughout the day and the only rum that is spilled on the ground is the rum offered up by the priest to appease their shipbuilding ancestors. The boat, built on the beach, slides into the water and will anchor there until its first passage.
A fishing vessel was being built the day I passed through with its giant pilothouse on deck. Unfortunately I was there during the week, when all the shipbuilders were out fishing. They only work on the boat during the weekends. Hopefully they’ll be working on another boat the next time I’m in Carriacou, and I’ll be sure to show up on the weekend to watch.
This large beach and turtle nesting area is accessible on the north side of Windward, just before reaching the village of Petite Carenage. A small, marked trail veers off the side of the road and down into the mangroves. It’s a short trail and lined with conch shells. A fork will take you off to the right into the bird sanctuary (or swamp), but I kept to the left to Petite Carenage beach. Again, just like at Black Sand & White Sand Beaches, when I emerged onto the beach through the trees I saw that I was the only one here.
The beach is long but narrow. At high water almost all of the beach will get touched by the sea, except for the areas above the dunes where the turtles nest. But even then you can walk north along the entire beach and study all of the curiosities washed ashore. It appears that someone even built a little house-shack from all of the odd things that have drifted in; it looked permanently occupied.
The water is an unbelievably beautiful shade of turquoise, backdropped by Union Island, Petite St. Vincent, and Petite Martinique.
Here’s another trail to an interesting curiosity that I tried to access by land. Supposedly there’s a trail in the village of Petite Carenage that leads northeast out to Gun Point. The only trails I saw appeared to be goat trails, and they passed through closed gates and uncomfortably close to houses.
So instead I accessed this point from Petite Carenage beach. The north side of the beach dead-ends at a small cliff made of volcanic rock. Some of the rocks were crumbling but others were well-set, so I carefully climbed up to the top and into the meadow where I picked up the trail to the point. The only signs of life were strategically placed cow patties (nice work fellas).
A rusty cannon suddenly appears out of the ground right before land’s end.
The story behind that cannon is that some time around the 1780s, when the Grenadines were being split up between Grenada and St. Vincent, administrators needed an actual line of latitude to separate the two. It wasn’t just enough to say “Carriacou and Petite Martinique go to Grenada, Petite St. Vincent and north goes to St. Vincent.” No, they needed an actual line. So a cannon was placed approximately 10 yards from the north tip of Carriacou. Grenada has everything south of the cannon and St. Vincent gets everything north. Silly British.
St. Vincent is nice enough to let Carriacou and Grenada administer that small point north of the cannon.
Gun Point (also called Rapid Point) is very windy but it has great views of Union Island, Petite St. Vincent, and Petite Martinique. A shipwreck sits below the point.
Buses (or I should say 17-pax vans) from Hillsborough to Windward are $3.50EC (~$1.30US).