Tourist Information: St. Vincent and the Grenadines Department of Tourism, 784-457-1502. Fax: 784-456-2610.
Location: In the southeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea, about 100 miles west of Barbados. This north-to-south collection of 100 cays and coral islets extends like a string of pearls, stretching about 35 miles from hook to clasp; St. Vincent is at the far north, with Union Island and Tobago Cays at the south. Although Grenada, which includes Carriacou and Petite Martinique, is often mistakenly included in the Grenadines, it is an independent nation.
Topography: The terrain is hilly and blanketed with verdant forests, as well as a grand variety of fruit and nut trees. St. Vincent is the largest island at 18 miles long and 11 miles wide, while Union Island is only three miles in length and one mile in width. Some cays are only a few acres in area.
Currency: The Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$) is the official currency, but U.S. dollars are accepted. US$1=EC$2.71. Most restaurants, retail stores and hotels accept U.S. dollars or travelers' checks.
Climate: Year-round temperatures hover between 77!F and 81!F with nearly constant tradewinds. The average rainfall per year is 60 inches on the coast and increases to 150 inches inland, with the wettest months being May through November.
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 cycles AC. Adapter and transformer are required.
Time: Atlantic Standard Time, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Area Code: 784.
Documents: Passports or birth certificates with a photo ID are required, as well as an onward or return ticket.
Taxes and Tipping: A departure tax of EC$30 is required. A 7-percent government occupancy tax is charged for all hotel accommodations. Hotels and restaurants add a 10- to 15-percent service charge.
Ground Transportation: Car rentals are available from local companies, but aside from St. Vincent, most islands are quite small and best explored by hiring a driver.
Ferries: These provide some of the cheapest and most reliable modes of inter-island transportation. Favored by locals, ferries are typically tourist-free. One runs daily between St. Vincent and Union Island, with stops at Mayreau, Canouan and other islands. The five-hour, one-way trip costs about US$14.
Getting There: Daily flights from San Juan to St. Vincent's E.T. Joshua Airport are available, as well as twice-daily service between Martinique, St. Lucia and Union Island. Many visitors fly to Barbados and then take local carriers to Union Island (schedules and carriers change frequently). Both Bequia and Union Island have new airports, while Mustique and Canouan boast private airports. For travel arrangements, call New World Travel at 800-308-SURF.
Chartering a Sailboat: As a general rule, it pays to shop around when choosing the ideal sailboat to meet your needs. Outfitters are constantly adding to their fleets and offering older boats for charter at a discount. In addition to The Moorings (see page 83), the following outfitters offer charter sailboats:
Sunsail: Ranking second only to The Moorings in the number of sailboats chartered in the Caribbean, Sunsail's extensive fleet - based throughout the U.S. and Europe - makes it the world's largest sailboat-charter company. In the Windward Islands, Sunsail offers bareboat and crewed charters from bases in Martinique and St. Vincent. Call 800-327-2276 or visit www.sunsail.com.
Admiralty Yacht Vacations - AYV Bareboats: This outfitter can arrange charters throughout the Caribbean. Call 800-544-0493 or visit www.bareboatz.com.
Sun Yacht Charters: Specializes in sailing vacations throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with bases in Martinique and Union Island. Call 800-772-3503.
Barefoot Yacht Charters: Operates from a base in St. Vincent and specializes in charters throughout the Windward Islands. Call 784-456-9526 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.