We had the good fortune of connecting with Danny Donelan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danny, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I turned 40 and got tired of making other people rich and them not appreciating the passion and hard work and sacrifice I put into making their business a success. I guess you could say I just woke up one day and had an epiphany and decided it was time to do it for me and not someone else. Starting my own business was definitely one of the most satisfying things I have ever done with my life because it enabled me to build something that I was completely passionate about and something which I think is instrumental to protecting my island’s history and helping move it forward into the next generation
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Savvy Grenada Sailing Charters is my business and we do exclusive, private charters on our locally built wooden sloops by the very boat builders that built them.
Boat building is a 200 year old tradition that has been passed on for 2 centuries. 30 years ago the tradition was dying as more and more sailors opted for steel and fiberglass boats because they take a lot less maintenance and easier to buy than to build. Also faster with bigger engines and more room as tend to be a lot bigger as well.
My company through the patronage of our guest who want a real authentic experience and a true connection to the people of Grenada and our stories have been able to keep going by providing a niche product that is different from anyone else out there.
Honestly I have been most excited about providing an authentic experience to our guest that I know no one else can. Also doing regattas all over the Caribbean from Grenada to Bequia to St Lycia to Antigua and St Barths to Carriacou.
It hasnt been easy getting to where we are today and that was only made harder by covid and 2 years of no tourist. Tourism has definitely come back though and the hotels have done a good job getting the tourist back. What we have found is that more and more tourist are seaking a real connection to the places they visit and we have been able to bridge that gap and provide them with a tour that is real which they love
It hasn’t been easy getting here but it definitely has been enjoyable. What I have learned is keep true to your vision. Competition will come and go but once you provide something that your guest enjoy then word of mouth keeps you going
Our biggest treat has been foreign boats coming in and breaking the rules and the law to further their business. Whether its hiring foreign shipwrights without work permits instead of hiring local boatbuilders or operating without licenses or slashing their rates and price gouging. What we have found is that alot of these foreign boats don’t need the money to operate their business but some of them are just bored and want beer change for the weekend so they can afford to cut rates. The fact that they also live aboard their boats and dont have to pay a mortgage or rent like the locals is just not fair to us. They also get concessions in the chandleries because they are foreign flagged and have been known to sail to other islands to buy their stock instead of supporting the local economy. For them it’s all about winning at all cost and pushing out the small local business owners. But can you imagine how bad it would be for tourism of all of the tour provides ended up being not from Grenada and not having any idea about our culture and what makes us tick?
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ok let’s start with the weekend then. Sunday sail over to Hog Island for some local food, reggae music and just nice Caribbean vibes on a small island off the South East coast of Grenada. Very laid back vibes. You could also get a water taxi from Woburn to Hog.
If you want something a little more high end then head to the Aquarium Restaurant for the Sunday BBQ and live band. One of the nicest settings for a beach restaurant anywhere as far as I’m concerned.
Monday morning catch the ferry going to Carriacou our smaller sister island. Stay for 2 nights returning Wednesday. Check out Paradise Beach Club for lunches and dinners, also Bogules Round House. Check out Selwyn at Lambie Queen or Froggie for tours to the outer islands and Tim on Anse la Roche for the best lobster lunch ever. Saline Island, White Island, Sandy Island are a must. Drive around the island and stop off at the rum shops and just take in the raggae music and island vibes. Carriacou has some amazing Airbnb’s so definitely worth checking out.
Wednesday night it’s off to Dodgy Dock at True Blue Bay for the street party and live band. Book a table early as its normally pretty filled.
Thursday take a day out and go have a spa day at Silver Sands, Calabash or La luna.
Friday do an island tour stopping off at Anandale Waterfalls, Seven Sisters, Belmint Estate for lunch, rum tasting at Rivers Rum Distillery with its 200 year old working water wheel the oldest in the western Hemisphere. Friday night head over to the beach Cabana at Mt Cinnamon Resort for their beach bonfire
Saturday go hiking with the Hash House Harriers. Every Saturday they hike on a different part of the island always ending at a rum shop for very cheap drinks and local food. This is a great way to meet locals while getting some exercise. Saturday night Plywood beach bar on Mourne Rogue beach is my spot
And ofcourse my number one recommendation is come sailing with us on Savvy Sailing on traditional locally built wooden sloops sailed by the very boatbuilders that built them
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My Grandfather Doctor John Watts who was a maverick for his time. He was a dentist for over 60 years; bought Rotary International to the Caribbean and never missed a meeting in over 40 years; was instrumental in politics for over 50 years and along with my Grandmom showed me and my siblings unconditional love and the value of hard work and that education was key to success. My Father the very eccentric artist known affectionately as Mophead because of the great bush of hair on his head. He worked for companies when he first finished university for about 5 years and decided that was not for him. He then did a variety of jobs eventually teaching himself to be an artist and worked at it for many years before becoming successful at it. He would always try to convince me to take over his business and not worry about university and I would always laugh and say you have taken your path and now I must take mine and he would always hit me back with when you eventually open your own business after working for other for years you will then understand the freedom running your own business gives you. Push forward 20 years and I kind of wish I had taken his advice a long time ago. It’s weird now when I look back at his life and how much freedom he had because he lived simply and didn’t owe anyone anything and just danced to the beat of his own drum that I have realised that the older I get the more I have become like him and the closer i feel to him as a man. One of my few wishes is that he was still around so he could go sailing with me to St Barths and just sit on the dock in Gustavia and start painting away.
Peter Desavry (affectionately known to his workers and friends as PDS) who came to Grenada and like a tornado turned a derelict lagoon into a world class marina. He then flew in something like 150 of the best journalist from all over the world and started a promotional blitz on Grenada like it had never seen before. PDS started putting Grenada on the tourist map and is instrumental in all of the new Hotels that have come here over the last 20 years. He is also filled with energy and passion and stories and charisma like noone I have ever met before or after. He is a force to be reckoned with a really good and kind soul who treats everyone around him with respect and kindness. He is the reason I own Savvy which used to be his boat but decided to sell her to me at a steal because I believe he was convinced that I was the right person to help keep the legacy going.
Alexis Andrew’s who produced, wrote, directed, got funding to produce the film Vanishing Sails about this amazing 200 year old tradition of boat building in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. He also produced 2 amazing books Genesis and Vanishing Ways and has been instrumental in keeping the tradition alive in the Caribbean
My crew Cal Enoe and Samuel Thomas who work their butts off and support amazing families along the way. I’m lucky enough to have a crew I consider best friends having raced many regattas with them over the years and had many a good time on the ocean fishing, sailing, partying etc. A big part of my company is coming to sail with the boat builders and local people who help keep this tradition alive. We are not the Disney tour, we are the authentic, real thing. When you come to Grenada you should do a tour with locals who live the life, who have the stories and experiences to make your stay more real and and enjoyable and this is what we strive to do with our company
Facebook: Savvy Grenada Sailing Charters
Other: Telephone or wassap 473 409 3255