The yachting°com Sailing Guide to the Caribbean
Why sail to Caribbean?
Thanks to steady trade winds, hot and stable weather, a large number of beautiful islands, lovely people, good food and great diving, the Caribbean Sea is the ideal spot for yachting. The best time to sail is from mid-November to the end of May. When it is cold at home, it is hot in the Caribbean, with reggae, cocktails, sandy beaches and palm trees, so why not set sail for exactly this location.
- Coral reefs and a varied underwater world (corals, rays, dolphins, flying fish, a huge number of colorful tropical fish, sharks, such as Caribbean reef shark, black shark, or tiger shark).
- Hundreds of islands and romantic bays, white sandy beaches surrounded by coconut palms and pure, turquoise blue water.
- Fishing (the most frequent catches are tuna, barracuda and dorada, except the hunting of sailboats, swordfish, rays or sharks, the most important experience is the hunting of a tarpone).
- Nature Reserves, wild tropical rainforests with numerous waterfalls, lush vegetation and exotic flowers (oleanders, hibiscus, magnolia, anthuria, etc.) and many animal species (monkeys, turtles, two-meter iguanas, hummingbirds).
- Cocoa, coffee, sugar and tobacco plantations, many kinds of spices, fruit and vegetables (Papaya, avocado, mango, pineapple, coconut and banana).
- White Caribbean rum, raggae and hot salsa.
- Many nightclubs, discos and other entertainment (steel band, dance clubs, live music).
Areas for sailing in the Caribbean Sea
The Spicy Caribbean. That’s exactly Grenada. A lush, green, mountainous island with a wild jungle interior and the true Caribbean life on the coast with the warmest seas and beautiful diving. The windward side of Grenada provides a rich underwater life on a coral reef. Grenada is more suitable for experienced yachtsmen and is ideal for one-way sailing to St Vincent or St Lucia.
Diamond of the Caribbean. Volcanic island, rainforest, a boiling lake and thermal waterfalls. Permanent sweeping winds, unrivalled panoramas, picturesque harbours, inland voyages of discovery, friendly joints and Caribbean cuisine that will enchant you. Saint Lucia, with an area of 616 km square, has a population of 174 000. The head of this island is Queen Elizabeth II. The main export item is bananas, which suggests that agriculture is the second most important form of livelihood, right after tourism.
Experience the sweeping winds between the islands and ocean waves, or enjoy the tranquility of the windward shore, palm beaches, picturesque bars, and undemanding but exciting snorkelling. The ideal place to head out from to nearby islands such as St Vincent, Tobago Cays, Mustique, and many more.
Saint Lucia has a variety of flora and fauna. You might come across one of the 50 specimens of the Amazona Versicolor, or Saint Lucia Parrot, which almost became extinct in the 1970s due to the hurricanes that raged here at that time. Despite that, in some cases this parrot can even be bred in captivity, its price is incalculable. Because this species of the Amazona Versicolor parrot lives only on the island of St. Lucia, it has become its national symbol.
Even nature lovers will find a lot to engage them here. In 2004, the two peaks of Gros and Petit Pitons were entered into the UNESCO World Heritage List. They originated 40 000 years ago and today make up the majority of a largely protected landscape area.
French culture in the Caribbean Sea combined with white-beaches and coral reefs, and the cradle of Caribbean rum. Sailing in the trade winds between tropical paradises. French civilization weds with authentic Caribbean culture. On Martinique, you will experience the undiluted Caribbean, without sailing out of it. If you do leave it, waiting for you in the south are Saint Lucia and Grenada, and the Dominican Republic in the north. Tropical islands straight out of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Don’t resist, and set sail.
Antigua offers the perfect place to combine Caribbean parties, discerning sailing experiences, wildlife, and white sandy beaches (exactly 365 beaches on the island provide one beach for every day of the year). A warm sea and steady winds make Antigua the ideal yachting location.
Spanish-French influences, with a combination of Caribbean culture and the reputation of an island known as a place where you’ll experience a good party, make St Martin the ideal place to enjoy excellent Caribbean cuisine combined with live music and entertainment that you will simply never forget. The trade winds in the open passages offer exciting yachting for even very experienced yachtsmen.
British Virgin Islands, BVI (British Virgin Islands)
One of the most beautiful yachting locations in the world. A unique location in the Caribbean, providing yachting in a huge, enclosed coral lagoon. There are sweeping trade winds and, thanks to the coral reef, small waves offering easy sailing between islands just a few kilometres apart. This popular yachting location is so rugged that it can provide privacy for a large number of sailboats.
Communism in the Caribbean has its own inimitable form. This open-air museum of socialism in this tropical paradise can perhaps only be understood first-hand, by someone who has lived in the communist regime. A unique destination with pristine seas, plenty of fish and a lack of restaurants. Cuba simply has fantastic, untouched nature that cannot be found anywhere else. Take a look at our boat rental offer in Cuba.
The Bahamas and Abacos
Cruise from one beach with desert dunes to another in crystal clear waters. Undemanding yachting suitable for beginners with plenty of good anchorages. Ideal for an easygoing and relaxing boating holiday. Beautiful snorkelling in a shallow waters with abundant marine life.
Few people know that after the Great Barrier Reef, the coral reef around Belize is the second largest coral reef in the world. Belize, is an as yet undiscovered yachting paradise. This part of Central America is best defined by the words pristine and virgin. There are many low, palm islands and bars where you can order crayfish for the price of lamb in Croatia. Old Indian civilizations left traces of architectural monuments, hidden away in the surrounding primeval forests. In short, a land both exciting and unspoilt.
Weather and climate
The Caribbean lies in the area of the NE trade winds that bring relatively stable weather with them, apart from seasonal tropical storms. During the winter months, visibility is mostly very good. During the summer and autumn months temperatures rise along with humidity and cloudiness, while heavy showers and storms are very frequent. The tropical season in the Caribbean is usually from June to mid-November, but in exceptional cases, tropical cyclones may even appear in May and December. The greatest danger of tropical cyclones occurring is in August, September and October. This period, averages around 12 tropical storms with wind force of 8 on the Beaufort scale (BFT) or more, half of them reaching hurricane strength. Visibility is frequently reduced due to frequent showers and occasional haze.
The Antilles Current flows in a NW direction on the Atlantic side of the Lesser Antilles and combines with the Gulf Stream north of the Bahamas. The strength of the current is between 0.5–1.2 KN.
Best sailing dates
The best time to sail is from February to May, which is high season in the Caribbean. November, December, January, and the start of June are also suitable times to sail. Mid-June to the end of October is hurricane season. You can also sail in the Caribbean at this time, but it is very hot and often rains. Of course you will need to monitor weather forecasts so that you are not caught unprepared for a hurricane, turning your relaxing cruise into a completely overwhelming, catastrophic adrenaline-filled holiday.
From December to May, winds blow steadily from a northeast direction, this time being the best for yachting in the Caribbean. Winds can be a very strong 5–6 BFT between the islands, so this is not yachting for beginners. In winter, systems of high air pressure often appear to the northeast of the Leeward Islands. If these get stronger, they can create sharp, easterly winds (known locally as the "Christmas Winds") with a force of 5–6 BFT (20–25 KN) and sometimes 6–7 BFT (25–30 KN). In summer and autumn, the winds turn eastward, become unstable and weaken to an average of 3 BFT (7–10 KN) or less, and can blow from different directions. There is a high probability of tropical storms and hurricanes here.
Which boat is most suitable for sailing in the Caribbean?
Definitely a catamaran. The weather is always hot in the Caribbean and you will be spending most of your time on the upper deck. And you will find almost everything on the upper deck of a catamaran, except the cabins and toilets. You have a lounge on deck with a galley connected by large doors and a spacious cockpit. There is a lot of space there for sunbathing, including comfortable nets to lie on, between the hulls. The catamaran is simply the best choice for a relaxing sailing holiday in the tropics.
In the Caribbean, most wind usually blows from the same direction. Boats are equipped with good anchors and anchored often. You are either anchored at the beaches, or anchored bows-to, with your stern moored to shore with a long rope. In inhabited areas, a local will gladly help you moor to shore for a few Caribbean dollars. You must accept their help, as it is part of the local custom. If you refuse, you risk the local people’s disfavour.
What to look out for
Sailing in the Caribbean is permitted only during the daytime. Anyone who has seen the deep black darkness that takes over when there is no moon, understands the reasons for this very well. There are not many navigation lights in the Caribbean, and in fact, there are quite a few rocks and reefs which are at best marked with wooden stakes, these are invisible at night.
If you plan to sail near coral reefs, always sail when the sun is high and "read the water". Have someone at the bow, looking into the water and looking out to make sure there is enough depth. Don’t rely on maps, whether paper or electronic versions, near or around coral reefs.
The individual islands in the Caribbean are usually independent countries. This means that when sailing between them, you must frequently register. And you really must register or risk a hefty fine and an unpleasant situation.
The islands you visit in the Caribbean have for the most part, been influenced by American and French cuisine. On Guadeloupe and the surrounding islands, you can enjoy creole specialities such as Creole Sauce (sweet and sour) Boudins (small dark sausages), Accras (fried cod fritters), Boukit (a sort of fried sandwich), and Agoulou (a grilled sandwich mostly filled with ham, cheese, meat and eggs).
Bananas used for cooking are also a local speciality. A little larger than conventional bananas, these are fried and added to the main meal and known as "plantain" in French.
Everyone should take advantage of their time in the Caribbean by sampling some exotic fruit. What about trying some guava or passion fruit? We all know the mango, but it is much tastier in the Caribbean. Starfruit, though, is an almost unknown fruit to most—it is shaped like a star and the locals make a superb jam from it.
Naturally, white rum is an inherent part of the Caribbean, the most celebrated being the rum of Martinique. This white rum has an alcohol content between 40% and 60% and this is why it is most often served in cocktails such as Piña Colada, Cuba Libre, and the very popular aperitif, Ti' Punch, which is white rum with lime and cane sugar. These are basically similar ingredients to those used in a Brazilian caipirinha, but how it is served is different. Don’t forget to try Planteur—a liqueur from white rum and the juices of several different exotic fruits.
There are still a lot of fish in the Caribbean and a good fisherman can catch enough fish for the whole crew. Predatory fish are caught here on bait dragged behind the boat (tuna, golden dorado and so on). Harpooners can also enjoy some wonderful hunting here at the edges of the islands where sea currents provide a lot of nutrients and there are plenty of fish. But beware of the strong currents!
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