Paradise Found by Captain John Borden
The Grenadines: Islands in the Clouds Part II: The Island of Mustique
Of all the Grenadines, Mustique is perhaps the most unique. You’ve heard of exclusive clubs and restaurants; who is to say that there can’t be an exclusive island? The private owners of the island united to form the Mustique Company, and their names read like the Who’s Who of Who’s Who! They are indeed the ultra-rich, and Mustique is their winter playground. Some seventy mansions with their gardens, tennis courts and swimming pools are scattered throughout the island’s hills and beaches. Charter guests have become utterly star struck when sailing into Mustique. One guest in particular tickled me with her enthusiasm after reading Mick Jagger’s name in the phone book. Others, however, like David Bowie, Princess Margaret and Raquel Welch are more discreet about their island getaway.
With only one resort and a small guesthouse, the French-owned Cotton House at the north end, Mustique’s tiny airstrip gets little traffic. Here, meticulously restored buildings from the eighteenth century are adorned with antique furniture of the same period. Set atop the hill above the Cotton House restaurant, the pool, bar, and verandah are completely encircled by sugarcane plantation ruins. The luncheon buffet is open to visitors and is quite a spread by any measure. Dinner and cocktails are served in the restaurant to guests and visitors in appropriate attire. For a more casual setting try the beach barbecue on Saturday nights. The Cotton House restaurant and guest chalets are perched on a hill just yards from a private beach. Here, one can sail, swim, snorkel, windsurf, water-ski or just soak up the Caribbean sun. Dive Mustique is conveniently located at the Cotton House beach, for those interested in scuba diving. The dive shop is run by New Zealander Leslie Danning who will show you reefs and wrecks for both advanced and beginning divers.
Most of the island’s visitors come by charter boat into Britannia Bay. Sailing south from Bequia, or north from Canouan, Mustique’s Britannia Bay is well worth the visit. On the beach to the left of the jetty is Basil’s Bar and Restaurant. Constructed almost entirely of bamboo and palm fronds, Basil’s has a very laid back Caribbean charm. Its stilt foundation stretches out over the bay, and one can take in lunch or sip cocktails and literally watch the tide come in. Basil’s Bar has an interesting array of tropical drinks and local concoctions to enhance one of the best views of a Caribbean sunset. There is also a small boutique next to the bar and one can buy fresh bread and provisions at the nearby general store. The New Year’s party at Basil’s is always packed, as celebrating celebs find their way down from the mountains for a cameo appearance. While I have never taken part in the festivities, I have heard embellished accounts, testifying that virtually anything can and does happen!
The island inhabitants were careful to preserve the natural beauty of Mustique. Britannia Bay is surrounded by hills rising 500 feet. Broken only by the multi-million dollar mansions, is a small group of beach shacks owned by the local fishermen. They live just as their forefathers had long before the Mustique Company was formed. Setting out at 3 a.m. every morning, these fishermen row their traditional craft out into the Caribbean Sea, returning by late morning with their catch.
Snorkeling in Britannia Bay is a real treat. One has a good chance of seeing tropical fish and even a lobster or two within the coral reef. Walking, scootering or horseback riding is quite spectacular as well. Scooters and jeeps can be rented from Tech-Serv; horses for riding through the Mustique Equestrians. The Cotton House, Dive Mustique, Tech-Serve and horse stables can all be reached by boat on VHF channel 68.
Though Mustique is only three miles long, and one and a half miles wide, there are quite a few extraordinary views and deserted sandy beaches. Of course, residents and guests of their estates insist that sightseeing visitors respect their privacy. On one occasion my wife Carole was near David Bowie’s driveway videotaping our boat down in Britannia Bay. As a van passed by, the local driver became irate, yelling at us to take the camera and leave immediately. We would have never noticed that Tina Turner was in the van with him, had he not made such a fuss.
More than a few friends have jokingly referred to my family as being somewhat clannish. With two brothers living on St. Croix at the same time my wife Carole and I were chartering in the Virgin Islands, it wasn’t long before one of them came searching for us when we sailed south to the Grenadines. Having only been there a couple of weeks, my brother Will had no clue how to find us except by way of a friend’s private plane. Obviously looking for a single sailboat in a stretch of islands fifty miles long is virtually impossible! Giving up the search, they finally landed at the island airstrip with the least potholes. Carole and I probably sailed into Mustique’s Britannia Bay at the exact moment my sibling touched down on the island runway. It wasn’t long before we gravitated to the same corner of the same beach. We had taken very different routes. I approached from the reef, where I had lost a desperate battle with an uncooperative lobster. Will approached me from the bar with a beer in hand, ready to catch a glimpse of the green flash, which everyone knows can only be achieved while tipping a Heinekin bottle at the exact moment the sun sets. As I stood up out of the water and faced my Cheshire-like brother it was instant recognition. Pointing to his beer, the only words I could muster were, “Where’s mine?”