Advice for the Caribbean

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Youngpup, Feb 5, 2009.

  1. Youngpup
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    Location: Flagstaff, AZ

    Youngpup New Member

    I'm going to spend the summer in Hawaii with my grandfather. He is an experienced sailor and is going to teach me the ropes. I dream of sailing the caribbean one summer but don't know much about what it will take. I'm looking for some more experienced input from those who would know or have already sailed the caribbean. The trip would be me and one friend. How big of a boat? What kind of cost? How far and long from island to island? How safe is this? Any information you think is worthing sharing would be very appreciated. Thanks so much for your input.
  2. PortTacker
    Joined: Nov 2008
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    Location: Oregon USA

    PortTacker Junior Member


    I recommend reading good old fashioned books. Lots of them.
    and perhaps a Cruising World subscription.
  3. Youngpup
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    Location: Flagstaff, AZ

    Youngpup New Member

    I just went out looking for books today. I didn't find anything that looked great, but I did pick up a couple magazines with articles about the caribbean. Last night I saw a couple books online that looked like they might help, so I think I will order them soon. Thanks for the reply it is much appreciated.
  4. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    Books aren't going to prepare you for the reality of sailing in the Caribbean. These are real countries filled with real people. Please note I said countries, and they are not governed by the United States (except Puerto Rico and the USVI). To a foreign country you are a tourist and source of cash, not a citizen. You have no rights and US law does not apply if you are in Jamaica or St. Maarten. Barack isn't going to send in the troops if you get caught smoking a joint at the wrong time and place.

    The best advice I can give you is to travel there first and charter a bareboat. Talk to the brokers - they know exactly where to go, and what is safe or not. They talk to each other every day, and get up to the second reviews from clients returning charter boats.

    If you are going to live on board, bigger is always nicer but more expensive. Dockage is paid by the foot, so smaller is cheaper. Tourist destinations charge outrageous amounts for docking, pumping out and getting shore connections. Phone costs are astronomical.

    Most marinas will not let you run gens, and make you pay for shore power. Same for all services they can charge for - even if you have the capability of making fresh water, they don't want you to run a desal unit tied to a dock.

    Much of the Caribbean is shallow water, and deep draft boats bring with them a whole set of navigational nightmares, many requiring local knowledge. You have to be able to time crossings for reasonable weather, and can't live on a schedule.

    In addition to the on-the-water issues, adapting to West Indian culture can be challenging. They can instantly make their talk incomprehensible to you if they don't want you to understand. They move at "island" pace on many issues and do not understand that you have a schedule, nor do they care. Although West Indians are some of the most friendly people you can meet under normal circumstances, there are places and times where you may not be welcome or safe. North Americans have grown up in a pretty insulated and safe world - but parts of the islands aren't exactly Disneyland.

    Go there. Meet and make friends with charter brokers - they are your best current information source. Figure out health care insurance, boat insurance, captaincy requirements, visas & travel approval etc. beforehand.

    I've travelled quite a bit there, and my sister chartered her boat there for many years - Bahamas, Puerto Rico, US and British Virgin Islands etc. I was just back in the Bahamas a month ago.

    Cheers, and have fun with Grampa - what a great time!

  5. Youngpup
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    Location: Flagstaff, AZ

    Youngpup New Member


    Thanks for the great information. That is just the sort of advice I'm looking to hear. I am not used to luxury, so I think I will be able to handle living on the boat. And I am very curious to find out where I should go and where I shouldn't go. I'm also curious what the rough costs are for staying in a port for a day or two. Again thanks for your helpful reply.
  6. Kay9
    Joined: Oct 2006
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    Location: Central Coast Oregon US.

    Kay9 1600T Master

    As for books, you can just never go wrong with Coast Pilot....#4 I think covers the Carribean.


  7. Somerville
    Joined: Feb 2009
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    Location: Palm Beach

    Somerville Junior Member

    Being a newbie on this forum but an old hand in the Caribbean, first I would like to say - DO NOT think about sailing in the Caribbean in the summer time!! Hurricane season!!

    Now you could think about sailing from Trinidad along the Venezuela coast to the ABCs (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) during the summer months but even then you must always have a hurricane hideout plan for those occasional rogue storms that decide they want to visit South America.

    The other comment "Much of the Caribbean is shallow water" just isn't correct. The Bahamas are shallow but I never think of them as being 'Caribbean', I've sailed the islands on two boats with drafts of 11+ ft and had no problems with entering harbours.

    In my younger days, as a delivery skipper, I once sailed an O'Day 32 from Florida to the BVI, nasty trip, horrible boat but we made it - 13 days without stopping but hove-to for a couple of the days. Frustration was being passed one night by a friend on his 48 race boat, a week into our trip - his total time from Miami to St Thomas was 5 days.

    I would recommend the smallest boat that provides standing headroom for you and your sailing partner.

    bistros posts
    "adapting to West Indian culture can be challenging"
    Oh, yes. Slowing down in your approach to government officials is the first step. When you get to the customs desk, have your paperwork ready but ask the officer how they are doing, how lovely the island is, how nice it is to be there for the first time - let them lead. Ask their advice about a good place for lunch - Slow down. As you will hear, more than once, "Soon come, mon, soon come." Stuff happens when it happens.

    do it! and have fun.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2009
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