Connecting the Grenadines
Bridging the Gap Between Carriacou and Union Island

The islands of the Grenadines are a delight for travelers.  Just a hundred miles to the west of Barbados, they run in a straight line to the south southwest from St. Vincent to Grenada.  A compact archipelago less than 70 miles in length, it includes seven island communities of distinct character, dozens of smaller islets and rocks, dramatic landscapes and splendid coral reefs. There are palm-fringed white sand beaches, cooling trade winds,  clear blue waters - everything necessary for a postcard perfect tropical paradise.  The towns and villages are easy-going, welcoming places. They are well off the path of mass tourism and much attached to a slower West Indian pace of life, but most of the families have connections with Europe or North America and are used to dealing with a cosmopolitan set of visitors.   A favorite destination for sailors, super yachts and a luxury villa owners, the island chain is also ideal for the independent traveler on a more modest budget.  Indeed, if it were not for one awkward fact, the ferry journey all the way from St. Vincent to Grenada, would surely be one of the most affordable and popular tourist routes in the Caribbean.  The inconvenient reality is an international border!

The northern Grenadines are part of the state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while those in the south are part of Grenada.  Although neither country is much larger than 120,000 fortunate souls, each takes its nation status very seriously, and the border in between is consequently a serious inconvenience both to the local population and to visitors.  The former dealt with the problem in past times by quietly ignoring it, and there are strong family connections pervading the entire chain.  Yet, despite the overwhelming cultural similarity and attempts at realizing the advantages of a customs union, no efforts have been able to overcome the individual prerogatives of the two governments. Meanwhile, increased international security pressures have made the formalities of crossing the border ever more time consuming and costly. The result is a bizarre situation where both countries have excellent fast ferry services that run to within a few miles of each other - and stop - a situation which is frustrating for locals and tourists alike.. 

But, thanks to 
a determined private ferry operator who has continued a long tradition of providing a crucial link between Union Island (St Vincent) and Carriacou (Grenada), the moderately adventurous traveler can overcome this artificial obstacle - if only twice a week! 

The Lady JJ                                       
Union Islander, Troy Gellizeau, operates a regular ferry service with an ex-fishing vessel that he converted into a suitable passenger craft.

The “Lady JJ” is 37 foot long with an inboard diesel engine.  She is far from a luxury vessel, but provides reasonable comfort in a decently covered and ventilated space.  Passengers stay dry and, unless the wind is perverse, isolated from the diesel exhaust.  The crossing is approximately 45 minutes.  If the seas are high, the boat will certainly roll a bit, but at least half the distance is in the sheltered lee of the islands. 

Lady JJ operates between the town of Ashton in Union Island and Hillsborough in Carriacou twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays.   The ferry leaves Ashton at 7:30 AM.  Coming back from Hillsborough, she is scheduled to leave at 2:00 PM, although this is sometimes delayed by the loading of cargo.  For 2016, the fare is EC$50 each way for adults.  Children and youths from five to fifteen years of age travel for $25 each way, and children under five are free.

So far, this is all pretty simple, but there is, unfortunately, an international border to cross, so it becomes a strangely complicated.  It is a tiny distance - only four miles of water separates the two islands - but it takes several hours, most of them spent in clearing out and clearing in. But it is all pleasant enough if you are patient - indeed, it makes for nice few hours of mild travel adventure amid gorgeous scenery.  Ashton harbor, surrounded by Union’s volcanic peaks, is quite spectacular, and the view of Hillsborough from the sea is one of the prettiest townscapes in the Caribbean.  And it is a nice opportunity to meet some local islanders and other travelers.   Click here to see how to use the Lady JJ ferry

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