Capt. Virginia Wagner is deep in concentration at Matau’s helm. The Privilege 75 sailing catamaran is firmly anchored off Petit Bateau in the Tobago Cays, south of St. Vincent in the Grenadines. There’s a bit of wind and a solid current, plus there are at least a dozen bareboats entering the already bustling anchorage. I sit quietly out of the way on the flying bridge, assuming that Wagner is doing careful mental calculations about our scope, our swing and our safety, come sunset.
“Would you just look at the color of this water!” she blurts out. “My God!”
This is a woman who has been cruising the Caribbean, and in particular the Grenadines, for the better part of 20 years. She is a captain so in tune with nature that she has sailed some 120,000 miles by celestial navigation — consistently to within four-tenths of a mile using nothing but stars and sextant. And still, the unspoiled beauty of the Tobago Cays has the power to leave her awestruck in the middle of a random January afternoon.
“It’s just a different kind of charter experience down here,” she says, launching into the best personal campaign for a charter destination that I’ve ever heard. “The Grenadines are still fairly undeveloped compared to the Leewards. You don’t have the big chain resorts. There’s really nothing to buy except fruits and vegetables. The pace here is a lot slower. That’s not to say there aren’t boats, because there certainly are more sailors here. But even the bareboaters are real sailors. Very rarely do you see a muck-up, whereas in the Virgin Islands, you see a muck-up every 20 minutes. People cruising here, they’re not novices. There are very few markers and an awful lot of reefs.”
It’s a soliloquy worthy of Shakespeare, the way Wagner steadies her gaze firmly on the turquoise horizon while letting the words flow. I can’t help but lean over Matau’s upper-deck rail for another glimpse at the water myself. The closest I’ve seen to the colors beneath our hull are not in the rest of the Grenadines, nor even in the South Pacific, but in the Exumas chain within the Bahamas — where it’s darn hard to find a crewed catamaran operating at Matau’s level of luxury.