Sandy Lane Yacht Club – review

June 10, 2021

Reading time: 24 minutes

When I had to decide where to spend my first birthday away from home there was only one choice.

We had stayed at the Sandy Lane Yacht Club in 2018, a year or so after its soft launch. We knew that if we wanted a couple of nights of luxury, whilst keeping the costs sensible, it was a perfect choice. It also meant that we could enjoy a taste of land life without having to leave Mirounga unsupervised.

About Sandy Lane Yacht Club

Sandy Lane Yacht Club is a 120-berth marina occupying the southern end of Canouan, including Glossy Bay beach. The $250 million marina and resort began welcoming yachts in spring 2017. At the time we last visited, in July 2018, the marina and its facilities were open. The residences and plaza area were still being finished.

The marina, which can accommodate 24 superyachts, is the lovechild of Irish Billionaire Dermot Desmond. Desmond is best known to many as the owner of Celtic FC in Scotland, and the former owner of London City Airport. The development started life as ‘Glossy Bay’, but has since been relaunched under the Sandy Lane branding. Luxury travel and golf fans will know that Sandy Lane is Desmond’s famous resort in Barbados.

Transforming Glossy Bay

The plans for development date back to 2007 when various land parcels were combined to create the Glossy Bay site. This covers an area between the extended airport runway, Taffia Hill and Glossy Hill.

In just a couple of years, the site, a joint venture with the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was developed from its former state to the ground plan seen today. The photos of the civil engineering work are well worth a look!

The last time we stayed, Desmond himself was visiting, staying on his superyacht, Celtic Bhoy. We ended up having a drink at the bar with his Italian architect and Irish finance manager. It was fascinating to get a little insight into the project. The aim, as has become clear, was to create a Mediterranian Italian feel. The residences are built to be reminiscent of Portofino. After an initial frenzy of activity, the completion has become a slow-burn – villas are still under construction, not that it impacts visitors. Eventually, large private villas with their own yacht pontoons will overlook the beach. It’s going to be quite spectacular.

What SLYC brings to the Grenadines

Canouan is a small island and much of the north is already given over to the private villa developments of the Grenadines Estates and Mandarin Oriental Canouan.

Sandy Lane brings to the island the only facility of its type in the Grenadines. With so few facilities for larger yachts in this part of the Caribbean, the hope is that it will encourage the big bucks to come further south. As we’ve only visited pre-launch, and during Covid, we’ve only seen it very quiet. It was, however, apparently starting to get busy in the 2019-20 season.

Given the scale of the project, both in construction in operation, it brings good employment opportunities. From what we’ve been told, it also pays one of the fairer wages in the region. The staff we met were all very friendly, warm, and genuinely welcoming.

For yachties, it brings a chance to step off the deck onto dry land and take a welcome break from life on the hook. It’s also the closest yachting facility to the Tobago Cays Marine Park, with some of the best snorkeling in the southern Caribbean.

Arrival

You access Sandy Lane Yacht Club directly from the south-western tip of Canouan, through a well-marked and lit channel  (the coordinates are 12 degrees, 41.93N, 61 degrees, 21.26 W). It feels wholly un-Caribbean to pass between the twin mock-lighthouses. An elegant row of colourful Italian apartment buildings and shops sits to your left, and a classy beach club to your right.

View to port when passing in through the channel

We called up the marina on VHF 68 as we approached the channel. After an affirmation, a pilot boat was soon on its way to greet us. Davidson gave us all the guidance we needed to get our mooring lines and fenders set correctly to come alongside. He also, quite amazingly, remembered us from our last visit! This was our first time docking Mirounga and we were nervous, but Davidson was patient, calm, and reassuring throughout.

A safely moored Mirounga

We berthed alongside close, but not right outside, the Captainerie and Marina reception, which was ideal. Being so protected, the marina stays very calm, and the rise and fall of the tide didn’t cause any issues. Any discomfort we had during our stay was the fault of our own vessel – our hatch layout doesn’t allow for much airflow, and we have no fans or A/C so we got warm. We also failed to soap or put a barrier on our mooring lines to stop squeaking – lesson learned.

Covid-19 protocols

Part of the club

Once we were safely tied on, we had our temperatures checked in line with Covid-19 protocols. This was also done when we arrived back at the resort by car after an excursion. Staff and guests wear face coverings when in close contact, and always indoors. Hand sanitiser is available in indoor spaces. Once our checks were done we were fitted with pink wrist bands to show that we were marina guests.

To check in, you head to the main reception on the plaza, which is also a good chance to check out the shops. We began our walk around and were soon stopped by a friendly face in a golf cart. This happens constantly and is very welcome. The complex has over 5km of roads! You can call reception and ask for a lift, but you generally find that if you start walking somewhere a passerby will pick you up soon enough.

Checking in

Contemporary styling in the reception office

We hadn’t seen the plaza completed, so arriving was a treat. In the stylish reception, Rebekah checked us in quickly. We had sent copies of our paperwork in advance when we booked which really helped speed things up. Once checked in, we had access to all of the marina facilities.

Marina facilities

As a marina guest, you have access to all the facilities you would expect, and a few you wouldn’t.

All berths have access to shore power (European and US connections) and fresh potable water (which costs less than our usual supply in Bequia). There’s a dedicated fuel dock, and sanitation pump-out services. Domestic bagged waste can be collected, bagged ice can be provided, and there are laundry services available at a reasonable cost. We found that the complex had good high-speed wifi throughout. We also had additional support when we needed it unexpectedly – we had engine trouble and Davidson helped us to arrange for a mechanic to come to take a look.

Check out the rate card for full details on pricing and facilities.

The reception can arrange almost anything else you need, from customs check-in, to island tours and airport transfers, to day trips to the Tobago Cays Marine Park.

The two big draws for us were the Captainerie, and the pool. We were lucky to have both to ourselves for our stay.

Captainerie (shower facilities)

The Captainerie is a lovely air-conditioned building containing a sofa, TV, desk space, and bathroom/shower facilities. Within each gender-segregated space, you’ll find a changing room with basins, three WCs (one of which is accessible with nappy changing facilities), and two showers. The shower rooms are fantastic and have their own area for drying off and changing.

The pool is open to all Sandy Lane Yacht Club guests. It’s located beside the Shenanigans bar and restaurant as part of the beach club. It’s a beautiful large pool with a lovely stepped area where you can sit in the water to cool off. We found it a perfect place to enjoy an afternoon cocktail. It’s right beside the beach should you prefer to swim in the sea, and there’s a shower for you to remove sand before using the pool. There are plenty of sun loungers, both on the beach and by the pool. Lovely candy-striped towels are provided, and loungers either have their own sun shades or umbrellas (or both).

Shopping

To go with its European look, the Plaza at Sandy Lane Yacht Club allows for a rare European shopping experience in the Caribbean. The only time we’ve seen something similar is at Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Barbados.

There are a few smaller boutique stores. At the time of our visit, we noted a clothing store with colourful non-gendered clothing, a branch of Diamonds International, a yacht charter office, and a furnishings/art store. I bought a couple of “Colors for Good” bracelets at the clothing store.

Then there’s the supermarket. Coreas Marina Mart was a real highlight for us, and something we’ll aim to go back for. Clean, bright and well-organised, the supermarket has an excellent range of products. We were able to find a lot of things we’ve been struggling to get hold of, like pasturised milk, strong white bread flour, and fresh mushrooms. We were also able to find some of our favourite treats, including our favourite chocolate digestive biscuits from the UK.

Having become used to poorly lit, hot supermarkets with limited stock and long-past sell-by dates, it was just a lovely change. And the prices (which are in Eastern Caribbean Dollars) weren’t excessive. Our favourite Pinehill Dairy juice was actually cheaper than it is at Knights in Bequia. The cashier was very friendly, and we were very pleased to see a number of local people using the supermarket.

Dining and bars

Sandy Lane Yacht Club currently has four hospitality/catering outlets – the casual Scruffy’s Bar, fun Shenanigans Beach Club, chic Foxy Jacks, and very welcome Foxy Jacks Bakery.

Shenanigans

Shenanigans is where we spent most of our time on shore, which speaks to its versatile nature. Set beside Glossy Bay Beach, it’s either a mile by golf cart on land or a very short dinghy ride from the Captainerie. Despite being one establishment, with one menu, it has different areas which provide variety if you eat there multiple times.

On our last visit in 2018, we loved Shenanigans for its friendly service and amazing pizzas. We’d ended up eating one pizza for lunch at a beach table, and another for dinner in the restaurant.

This time was no different. On our first visit of this stay, we wanted a casual ambiance, so we opted to sit in the bar area. We ordered the sushi of the day (spicy tuna) and a pepperoni pizza to share. Everything was just as good as we remembered.

The next day, we came back for lunch. We had planned to take one of the tables in the sand but the sun was a little overwhelming. We ended up sitting in the main restaurant to enjoy the shade. This time our picks from the all-day menu were the ceviche and fries for Colin, and salmon tartare for me. The Mango daiquiri was a perfect accompaniment.

A special occasion

For our evening meal that night, Colin had requested in advance that we have a beachside table for my birthday dinner. The setup that greeted us was perfect, and on the advice of reception, we arrived at the perfect time for sunset. The light was gorgeous, and our lovely waiter offered to take photos so we could remember the night.

We had lofty intentions of having a grownup meal, and the menu certainly had appealing options. What stopped us in our tracks was the announcement that the sushi of the day was crab. We knew we couldn’t eat a full main course each even if we split the generous serving of sushi. We ended up sharing the sushi and a pizza again (vegetarian this time) and having most of the pizza boxed to take away. Saving the pizza meant that we had room to share a dessert. The waiter’s nudge towards the chocolate mousse cake when we were indecisive wasn’t without reason – it meant I could have a surprise! When the cake arrived, it had a happy birthday message and candles, which was a lovely touch.

The varied and exciting cocktail and wine list should have a special mention. We enjoyed a bottle of Whispering Angel with dinner, and in our two days got a fair way through the cocktail list.

The prices at Shenanigans are very reasonable, especially when you take into account portion sizes. We’ll definitely be back even if we’re not staying in the marina, as non-residents are welcome.

Foxy Jacks

Foxy Jacks is Sandy Lane Yacht Club’s high-end eaterie. It was closed in the evenings while we were there, which makes sense given low visitor numbers. When it’s open, it offers a more formal dining experience than Shenanigans, with indoor and outdoor seating available. The inside of Foxy Jacks is just stunning and reminded me of some of the higher-end establishments I’ve visited in New York. I was in love with the design – even the bathrooms were beautiful.

Although we couldn’t have dinner there, we could eat brunch at Foxy Jacks. It really was like being back at The Jane in Chelsea. We sat outside and enjoyed eggs benedict and huevos rancheros. The cappuccino was so good I had two – a rare win when you only drink decaf! With a view of the plaza and fountain, we felt like we were about to enjoy some people-watching in Venice. There were no people, but we were happy to settle for bird-watching.

Foxy Jacks Bakery

When we’ve spoken to friends who have visited Sandy Lane Yacht Club, the first thing that comes up is the bakery. It’s got quite the reputation amongst the cruising community. We enjoyed one of our breakfasts there and could instantly see why it’s infamous.

Everything is baked fresh on-site, and the offerings vary a little each day. We took advantage of the “3 for US$10” deal and had a cinnamon roll, pain au chocolate, and mini quiche between us. These were heavenly. Pain au chocolate is a favourite of ours, and something we always seek out. This wasn’t the same as a French offering might be, but it was equally delicious. The same went for the cinnamon roll. I think if they had sold cardamom buns I might just have set up camp… The bakery is set up for takeaway but has a couple of indoor tables, and you can use the seating outside of Foxy Jacks.

We spotted that there was lovely-looking focaccia. We knew we were having a pot-luck dinner with friends the day we left, so we went back to buy some that morning. There wasn’t any but we were kindly told it was in the oven, so after breakfast, we took possession of some lovely fresh bread. It was probably the best focaccia I’ve ever eaten, and our friends agreed. The wheat loaf we bought was also delicious with butter and jam.

Foxy Jacks Bakery is probably the best European-style bakery in the Caribbean outside of the French islands.

Scruffy’s Bar

We had originally planned to eat at Scruffy’s Bar the night we arrived, so went there first. It’s in a special, secluded spot, a casual beach bar with its own tidal pool. It looked like a great place to spend the evening and is billed as the Yacht Club’s crew bar. Locally run, it offers a more relaxed snack menu and a great range of cocktails.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t checked ahead that food would be available. Understandably, with visitor numbers low, food isn’t available nightly. It was getting late and we were hungry so we didn’t stay for a drink, but we’d love to go back when things are more lively.

The Residences

Sandy Lane Yacht Club is about more than just boats. There is also a range of luxury residences available, ranging from one-bedroom apartments to three-bedroom villas.

After touring Mandarin Oriental Canouan, we realised we might be able to do the same at Sandy Lane Yacht Club. We arranged with Kareem at reception to have a look around, and he was happy to give us a tour.

Plaza suites

Above the retail and restaurant space along the Plaza is a series of beautiful townhouse-style apartments. Kareem showed us around one of the two-bedroom suites. This is accessed from the first-floor walkway behind the Plaza. This hidden street also has offices, and parking for both cars and golf carts.

When you enter the apartment, the first level has a large kitchen, W/C, utility room (with washer/dryer), and family-sized living room. The kitchen is so sleek, with all appliances hidden in cupboards. There’s an elegant and neutral style to the apartments, and lovely use of wood paneling and flooring. I particularly loved the art in this apartment – lots of glorious studies of the female body. From the comfortable living room, you can step out onto a long balcony with views towards the beach and marina, and outdoor seating.

Upstairs, there are two sumptuous bedrooms. Both have walk-in wardrobes, desks, and a luxurious bathroom. One is larger and classed as the master, but really both are very generously sized. The master opens out onto another outdoor terrace. The design of this is so reminiscent of Italy that it felt oddly familiar. I half expected to turn around and see Urbino or San Marino, not Canouan. The layouts of apartments all vary – some have the bedrooms downstairs and the living space upstairs. It’s a nice touch to know that the accommodations aren’t all carbon copies of one another.

Plaza suites start at US$600 per night for a one-bedroom suite.

Private villa

After a drive up to see a viewpoint above the marina, Kareem took us to tour one of the larger villas. There are two and three-bedroom options available. Again, the layouts all vary – some villas are two-storey, some are three-storey. The two-bedroom option we looked at is incredibly spacious and even has a lawn alongside its ground-level terrace.

The downstairs of this villa has a large open-plan living space, as well as a W/C, utility room, and an unexpected amount of discreet storage space. The kitchen is along one wall, but with its hidden appliances, it doesn’t impose on the room. There’s a large dining table set up to seat eight people, and a frankly enormous amount of sofa space. The lighting in this room, including above the dining table, was gorgeous.

The staircase is a beautiful feature, and Kareem told us it was his favourite part of the design. Louvered windows let in light and give you a view in three directions. The bedrooms are all opulently sized, with walk-in wardrobes and large bathrooms. Again, however, one is the master. In this case, it has a larger private terrace with inviting chez-lounges and stunning sea views. Both bathrooms in this villa had large walk-in showers. Some of the three-bedroom villas also have a bathtub in the master suite.

With the amount of space in these villas and the access to restaurants and amenities, they would be perfect for family trips and larger groups. They really are full houses and come with everything you would need. In due course, more villa accommodation will be available. The villas with private pools that were nearing completion looked incredible!

Villas start at US$2000 per night for a two-bedroom villa.

Residences amenities

In addition to accessing everything that marina guests can, people staying in the residences also have some exclusive areas. One of the most impressive is the private pool and beach area. The pool is a beautiful tidal pool with a water feature, set into a secluded spot. There are beach cabanas complete with charging stations and mini-fridges. There’s even an honesty bar.

I’ll admit, as beautiful as the Beach Club pool is, we were quite jealous of those cabanas!

There are also meeting rooms, a private indoor gym, and padel tennis available for guests staying in the residences. In order to help you get around, each suite and villa comes with complimentary use of a golf cart.

Come for the showers, stay for the pizza

We really loved our 2-night stay at the marina and would love to come back again. Because things are quiet right now, the 50% supplement for catamarans isn’t being charged, which made it within our budget for a special occasion. When our budget won’t allow a stay, we hope to anchor in Glossy Bay so that we can visit the supermarket, bakery, and Shenanigans.

We’ve visited other marinas in the Caribbean, and in Croatia. Sandy Lane Yacht Club is by far the nicest and best-appointed. The only place that’s come close in terms of facilities is the Dream Yacht setup in the BVIs (though our experience of that was pre-hurricane).

Sandy Lane Yacht Club plaza at night

Sandy Lane Yacht Club offers something that is extra special. If our budget was not so tight, or we had friends coming to sail with us, we’d love to spend a few days staying in one of the residences. Having the peace of mind that Mirounga was safely moored whilst we enjoyed some luxury time on land would be a dream come true. We’re not certain if Sandy Lane Yacht Club offers a discount on marina reservations for guests at the residences, but think this would be a really good idea.

If your budget is low, like ours, don’t be put off by the posh appearance of the club. It’s incredibly welcoming and prices are perfectly reasonable for a night or two of treating yourself.

If your budget is high? Go for it. Soak up everything this wonderful place has to offer. Stay in the gorgeous residences and make the most of every minute. You’re worth it.

Thank you Sandy Lane Yacht Club for another wonderful stay, and a very memorable birthday.

A.