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Old 19-09-2014, 17:40   #1
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A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Hi all.

I have never sailed anywhere in the Caribbean, or even been there (outside of Cancun) and I'm looking to do a short 7 day sailing vacation with some friends in late March of 2015...

There is still plenty of time to plan this, but I prefer to book the boats early as I am able to get a substation discount when doing so, plus, it makes all the planning easier...

First of all - is late March a good time to sail in the Caribbean? I prefer to avoid the huge crowds and highest prices. I also prefer not to be anywhere near the hurricane or rainy season. From what I've read, late March might work - after the regatta season and before the Spring break crowd...

Second - what are the best destinations? So far, I've looked at the following options

BVI
St Martin
St Lucia
Grenada
Abacos
Antigua
Belize

Airfare and boat availability is relatively similar for all, so any of the above could work.

We prefer to be able to mix some local culture and nightlife with quiet and peaceful anchorages.
Anchoring is not a problem, in fact, we prefer it. We also love to scuba dive, though we typically do not go for deep dives, choosing to explore reefs and sea life at 10-15 meters... We prefer to be independent and would much rather dive on our own - without local guides (we do have Padi certificates)

I have read a lot about BVI being the ultimate sailing destination, but also read that it has become quite crowded and you will be surrounded by tons of other sailboats anywhere you go, and in fact getting a spot to anchor after 1-2pm is a problem in some areas. Is that true?

I've also read that the winds in the BVI are very light. Also, a negative for us...

After doing some reading, St Lucia and Grenada seem very appealing. The one way charter from St Lucia to Grenada would seem ideal, but the added charter cost and added airfare expenses seem too high, so we would likely do Grenada and sail (or motor) upwind first and then back downwind...

What are the best spots for diving in the Caribbean? For sailing? For best beaches?
I've even read that there may be some sea turtles in the Grenadines!



I know that it gets windy in the Grenada area, but I heard it is less so in March.
Anything below 20 knots in not a problem. Over 20 knots would turn a relaxing vacation into something else, and we would prefer to keep it relaxing...

Lots of questions... sorry... Thank you in advance!
-ilya



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Old 19-09-2014, 18:21   #2
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Late March is fine.

If you do not like it here you sail it to there. That's one of many fine things about West Indies.

b.
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Old 21-09-2014, 08:35   #3
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Yes I agree with what you wrote and Grenada would be a good destination for you. The main drawback is as you know the first day, with probably 8 hours motoring depending on wind direction. In March it should often be from NE to E, force 4 to 5, seldom SE. You will be changing countries and need to clear out of Grenada and clear in to SVG then out of SVG and back in to Grenada. An important waste of time.

You could also consider chartering from Union, Canouan or even St Vincent.

Provisioning is OK in St Vincent and quite good in Grenada.

Diving is OK in the Grenadines but law requires you use a dive shop.

You would certainly get to watch several turtles, especially in the Tobago Cays. There are many beautiful anchorages in that part of the Caribbean, nothing like the crowded Virgin Islands. You can find anchorages where you will not see another boat.

Hope this was helpful.

Michel
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Old 21-09-2014, 09:15   #4
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Thank you!! Very helpful.

How long does it take to clear customs going into and out of SVG? Can this be done at any of the SVG islands, or does this mean we have to first go to a particular port before being able to sail in the SVG area?
I assume that entering SVG from either St Lucia or Grenada would involve equal waste of time... Are there special vida requirements for US and non-US citizens?

Also - using a dive shop - does that mean that we can not do any scuba diving on our own at all in the SVG?

Are there other good places to dive in the Caribbean?

How is diving at BVI?

Thanks again!
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Old 21-09-2014, 15:33   #5
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

March is the very height of the busy season with the highest charter rates (except maybe Christmas). Get on a few sites like the Moorings, Footloose, etc. There are plenty of threads discussing the charter companies. Also, traveltalkonline is a good source.
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Old 21-09-2014, 16:07   #6
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

A week is not a lot of time. If you want a lot of anchorage options as well as minimal travel time to get there I would suggest you stick to BVI.

Diving in BVI... Wreck of the Rhone is right there, a popular stop.

Winds? All the islands you mentioned in the E. Caribbean are going to have the same general weather. In march you're not as likely to have sustained blows farther north as you might in January. Your weather report will probably say E winds, 10-20 kts, isolated showers, each and every day you are there.

Abacos will be a little cooler and still have the potential for fronts that time of year which can make finding a protected anchorage very important. Can't comment on Belize. Nowhere will hurricanes be threat in march.

Have fun, but with 7 days, you're really looking at only 5 days sailing, and the last thing I'd want to do is waste 2 of those clearing in and out if countries.


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Old 21-09-2014, 17:26   #7
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Thanks guys!

I've chartered from both Moorings and Sunsail in Thailand, Athens and Croatia - all 7 day charters. Not a lot of time, but it worked out great each time. I've had pretty good experiences with both companies so far, so I prefer to stay with them. Their service is pretty good, the boats are less than 5-6 years old and in good shape, plus, the prices seem competitive with other similar boats...

The locations I listed above are those that they offer in the Caribbean.

BVI sounds great, except, I'm put off by all the stories of the huge crowds. The crowds is something that we are really trying to avoid.

We love diving, and Tobago Cays in the Grenadines sounds heavenly, except that we enjoy being on our own, and not stuck with a local guide. Is independent diving not allowed in the Grenadines?
Sailing in the Grenadines sounds fantastic, but we would be coming either from Grenada or St Lucia and would then have to go through customs... SO I agree - that is a pain. Exactly how long does this procedure take and which ports can we do it at?

Thank you all once again!!
-ilya
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Old 21-09-2014, 19:52   #8
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

The reason why lots of people to the BVIs is because its good.

Less people go to the other places because its less good.


If I was chartering, or friends were coming in for a one week jolly I would go to the BVIs.


Photo of my mate John in the overcrowded BVIs

And this is Cane Garden Bay on Tortola!
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Old 30-09-2014, 07:43   #9
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyTanned View Post
Yes I agree with what you wrote and Grenada would be a good destination for you. The main drawback is as you know the first day, with probably 8 hours motoring depending on wind direction. In March it should often be from NE to E, force 4 to 5, seldom SE. You will be changing countries and need to clear out of Grenada and clear in to SVG then out of SVG and back in to Grenada. An important waste of time.

You could also consider chartering from Union, Canouan or even St Vincent.

Provisioning is OK in St Vincent and quite good in Grenada.

Diving is OK in the Grenadines but law requires you use a dive shop.

You would certainly get to watch several turtles, especially in the Tobago Cays. There are many beautiful anchorages in that part of the Caribbean, nothing like the crowded Virgin Islands. You can find anchorages where you will not see another boat.

Hope this was helpful.

Michel

Don't want to be a kill joy, and although Grenada is a wonderful place, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is Dangerous due to EXTREME POVERTY there. Please, before figuring that as a destination, I suggest you read up on it from cruising magazines and read up to date cruising guides. Many southbound sailors by/pass these locations because of the amount of crimes on boaties.
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Old 30-09-2014, 08:08   #10
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Quote:
Originally Posted by JstaRebel View Post
Don't want to be a kill joy, and although Grenada is a wonderful place, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is Dangerous due to EXTREME POVERTY there. Please, before figuring that as a destination, I suggest you read up on it from cruising magazines and read up to date cruising guides. Many southbound sailors by/pass these locations because of the amount of crimes on boaties.
Yes I completely agree with this. I refuse to anchor on the lee shore of St Vincent. If you must provision in Kingstown you can stop at Young Island Cut or safer at Blue Lagoon.

It is not the poverty as much as the major crop and export of this island country that is to blame.
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Old 30-09-2014, 09:10   #11
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Thanks guys!!

This is a whole new issue that I had not even thought about... I've already decided on the Grenada and SVG and reserved the boats.
I was not planning to go up all the way to St Vincent, and after reading your posts, I don't think I wanna go there...
The islands (areas) I was considering for visiting / anchoring are:
-Grenada itself Dragon Bay / Prickly Bay
-Carriacou - Sandy island / Tyrel Bay
-Petite Martinique
-Union island
-Tabago Cays
-Mayreau
-Mustique
-Bequia

I also heard Blue Lagoon in StVincent is pretty

Obviously, we wont visit all of these... Which would you recommend? Which are more or less safe?

What precautions should we follow to ensure safety? Lock the boats when not on them / not leaving boats unattended? Keeping your valuables / passports with you at all times?

When you mention crime - is it theft, or are you talking violent crime?

Thanks again!!
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Old 30-09-2014, 09:45   #12
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

I have spent many years sailing in the caribbean and spent most of those in Bequia. Crime like every place in the world does exist. Is it more prevalent there than in New York or Halifax? I think not. Take the precautions you would normally take and learn to recognize hospitality and remain open without becoming paranoid. I would consider sailing from north to south as it will be more comfortable. Pick up your boat provisioned in St. Vincent and set out for Bequia right away and enjoy your first couple of days there. Don't bother with Mustique as there is really nothing to do and Petite Martinique the same. The Tobago cays is a must, Canoun is just a golf course and Hotel now( a far cry from it's sleepy past) and Union is a nice little stop where you can resupply maybe and clear for Carriacou and Grenada. Will you be returning the boat or is it a one way charter?
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Old 30-09-2014, 09:56   #13
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Thank you so much!!

Unfortunately, we have to pick up the boat and return in back to the same location - Grenada / St Georges. I know that people prefer a one way south route - with the wind, but we will not have such an option.
There will be about 15 of us on 2 50 foot boats...
We are also diving enthusiasts and plan on doing plenty of diving.
(I understand that they do not allow you to do independent dives in some areas over there and you are required to hire a dive master... do you know anything about that?)
We plan to bring our gear with us - except for tanks and weights - already found a place in Grenada that will rent those to us...

We are going at the end of March - 22-29

I've only started to plan this now and have ordered cruising guides for the area and a guide on anchorages in Grenada SVG.

I know that we would have to clear customs going in and out of SVG at Carriacou / Union island. Does that take a long time, or is it pretty painless?

I was planning to motor north at the start, and then sail south at a slower pace. We only have 7 days for this, unfortunatelly, I know that it is not much... We've done many 7 day charters at other locations, and we enjoy this format - we spend 4-5 hours each morning sailing/motoring, and have the rest of the day to relax, explore, dive, swim...

Any suggestions would be hugely appreciated!

Also, are the winds still NE in late MArch? I heard that by that time they start to turn more East, and eventually, even SE - is that true??

Thank you!
-ilya
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Old 30-09-2014, 09:59   #14
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

https://mapsengine.google.com/map/ed...E.kTauRKcGLums

I've started to put this together... any ideas or suggestions would be great!
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Old 30-09-2014, 10:14   #15
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Re: A newbie question about sailing in the Caribbean...

Friends of ours did the one way from St Lucia to grenada last year .they are very experienced and have chartered else where .they had the time of there lives. The crew took care of the customs.if you are bare boating try to find something in ST Vincent that way you don't need customs to go to the keys
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