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Old 18-08-2011, 07:39   #1
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Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

I am planning to sail to Caribbean from Canary Islands beginning of Jan and return from Cuba/Bahama (or directly from BVI, if the time presss) via Bermuda or direct to Azores latest by mid/late April.

I know many would say "too short" but no other choice. I made a quite a bit of research on the net and the more I do the more I am confused due to contradicting views and comments. I realise that everyone has a different taste, but I would like to hear from first hand yr comments.

Things I want to avoid to all cost:
-crime of any kind..
-sophisticated / strict entry/exit procedures

Money is not an issue, I would like to spend every 3-4 nights in marinas, make the inland (in safe and worthy places), nice dining once a week or so, good snorkelling..

I will be in a 44 ft catamaran with my wife and occasionnally with some visitors.

So which islands and which specific spots ?

Thx for yr help..

Yeloya
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Old 18-08-2011, 07:42   #2
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Re: Short trip to Caribbean, where to avoid where not to miss

Given time constraints, I would fly and charter.
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Old 18-08-2011, 07:57   #3
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Re: Short trip to Caribbean, where to avoid where not to miss

Landfall in Antigua's English Harbour, then north to St Barts, St Martin then BVI's.

English harbour is the most beautiful port in the world to tie to Nelsons Dockyard is a moment you'll remember; St Barts exclusive like Capri; St Martin will be an eye opener for the super/mega/supamegasupamega yacht world; BVI's for pure tourism and see how the charter market works.

You can do it all in short time because the clearing in/out is very easy in those ports.
Most people don't go east across the Atlantic till end of may/June. Theres a tight weather window.

Distances are short in the Carib.
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Old 18-08-2011, 08:40   #4
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Re: Short trip to Caribbean, where to avoid where not to miss

Based on your desires and limited time I would suggest doing the French Islands. If you can get to Martinique first that would be within your list of preferences.
- - Cul de Sac Marin is a major cruising/sailing center with great facilities. Also the French food is as good as it is in France itself. Check-in/out is the easiest of anywhere in the Caribbean and almost free - some places charge a fee for using the French Customs computer. The French Islands are "do it yourself" check-in/out.
- - From there north you have Dominica which is a jewel to be experienced also with very easy check-in/out at Portsmouth on the northwest side of the island. Dominica has great ecological sites and places to experience.
- - Next island north is Guadeloupe - also French so the procedures are easy and the food, etc. fabulous. Sightseeing is great if you drive around the island especially to the eastern side.
- - Next island north is Antigua - which as MarkJ mentions has some great marinas - but - their check-in/out is very tricky and can get you into trouble if not done correctly - British place.
- - Then there is the trio of Ste Barths and Ste Kitts/Nevis and French Ste Martin. Ste Martin is one of the popular places where you can stage for the trans-Atlantic crossing back to Europe.
- - Heading further west can get complicated as you need to bypass the US Virgins and Puerto Rico unless you have a US Visa. The Dominican Republic is a tricky place as being a 3rd World Spanish heritage island there are ways to do things and ways to get ripped off if you don't know what you are doing.
- - Cuba is fine for non-USA citizens/boats but you need to research where you can visit and where you cannot carefully.
- - The Bahamas are easy to get in/out but it is a quite expensive process.
- - With such a short - one season in the eastern Caribbean, I would suggest staying east of the US Virgins/Puerto Rico and then departing for your return Atlantic crossing from Ste Martin.
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Old 18-08-2011, 09:14   #5
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pirate Re: Short trip to Caribbean, where to avoid where not to miss

I'll back Orrisail's advice... tho' April is not to early... most stay on because they can more than from when the window opens...
With deliveries especially... we try to fit two in if possible... its a short season...
had my fastest crossing with a mid April start... 21 days St Martin FWI to Faial in the Azore's... good ole Horta and 'Peter's'...
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Old 18-08-2011, 16:50   #6
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

Thx all..

So far all, suggestion starts from Martinique upward excluding Barbados, St Vincent and Grenadine, Grenade, Tobago, etc. Is this because of safety concern or not worth the trip ? Tobago Cays is supposed to be an exceptionally beatifull spot, albeit there have been recently armed robbery there..

Everybody is saying 3-4 months in the Caribbean is rushing. Most of the islands seem to be very close to each other + most of the islands are small enough to be easily visited in a couple days. So, what am I missing there??

Cheers

Yeloya
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Old 18-08-2011, 17:52   #7
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

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Originally Posted by yeloya View Post
small enough to be easily visited in a couple days. So, what am I missing there??

Cheers

Yeloya
You'd only get to see the clearing in port. Not enough time, perhpas, to see the nicer locations.

But you could give it a go. A lot sail overnight between the islands freeing up the days

Mark
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Old 18-08-2011, 18:08   #8
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

I'll agree with MarkJ and add that you could cross and enter at Grenada which has an easy check-in/out process. But from there north things get more complicated and not necessarily worth the time and trouble to get there or transit. Anything south is definitely not worth the time and trouble compared to what is available to the north.
- - The Grenadines and Tobago Cays are crowded with charter boats and offer less than pleasant experiences unless you really know where to go to avoid the hassles and crowds.
- - Ste Vincent is currently not a very worthwhile or "safe" place to be gunk-holing around alone. Then you have Ste Lucia which, depending upon your nationalities, can be a nightmare checking in/out or not.
- - Spending a day or two in any of the island areas is really about the same as flying in on an airliner and looking around the airport before leaving for the next place. You miss way too much of the charm and flavor of each island/place.
- - Concentrating on just a few places that are "highlights" and have cultural environments that are familiar and compatible with your cultural norms is a much better use of the time and money you will be expending for such a short visit.
- - Then there is the weather - and - boat mechanical problems. It is rare that everyday for months will be good for island hoping. There will be times when you have to "hole up" for a few days and then can make use of that time to explore in more depth the island where you are located or make repairs. And you will need some significant time in Ste Martin preparing the boat for the crossing back across the Atlantic.
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Old 18-08-2011, 19:59   #9
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Re: Short trip to Caribbean, where to avoid where not to miss

Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
Landfall in Antigua's English Harbour, then north to St Barts, St Martin then BVI's.

English harbour is the most beautiful port in the world to tie to Nelsons Dockyard is a moment you'll remember; St Barts exclusive like Capri; St Martin will be an eye opener for the super/mega/supamegasupamega yacht world; BVI's for pure tourism and see how the charter market works.

You can do it all in short time because the clearing in/out is very easy in those ports.
Most people don't go east across the Atlantic till end of may/June. Theres a tight weather window.

Distances are short in the Carib.
+1

This would be very nice. Then you can head to the Turks and Cacaos, Bahamas, Bermuda, then back. Send me a message if you get to St. Martin. I'm planning on leaving from St. Martin for the Azores in late April of next year so maybe we will cross paths.
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Old 19-08-2011, 12:51   #10
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

Very useful info.

After what have been said, I will skip the lesser Antilles.. Landfall can now be Martinique, nice marina (any suggestion ??) to recover from the passage.. Then up.. Antigua/Barbuda was on my list, after Osirissail's comments on entry/exit , I'll give another look..
Then probably west, if I am still on schedule.. If so, US territories (Puerto Rico, USVI, etc), Haiti and Jamaica are out of question..
For Dominique republic, I've heard positive comments, particularly for Boca Chica and one marina there. (Osirissials , could you pls specify more what are the risks there?)

Coco&turks is a must for me and Bahamas of course. Having a Turkish flag no issue for me to visit Cuba, but I am not sure yet whether we really want it or not..

In this case, I have to leave from there towards Europe, but I am told that Bahama is not a good idea for provisionning to do the passage, maybe with an exception of Nassau. Anybody with different idea ?

Palarran, if I decide to not to continue to west, I'd be delighted to get in touch with you and go together. But if I go west, turning back 1.000 nm (and upwind..) to meet you , even for cheaper and better provisionning from St Martin doesn't make sense.
I'll see you in Marmaris..

Thx for all yr inputs and feed back..

Cheers

Yeloya
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Old 19-08-2011, 20:20   #11
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloya View Post
. . . Landfall can now be Martinique, nice marina (any suggestion ??) to recover from the passage..
Then up.. Antigua/Barbuda was on my list, after Osirissail's comments on entry/exit , I'll give another look..
Then probably west, if I am still on schedule.. If so, US territories (Puerto Rico, USVI, etc), Haiti and Jamaica are out of question..
For Dominique republic, I've heard positive comments, particularly for Boca Chica and one marina there. (Osirissials , could you pls specify more what are the risks there?). . .
In this case, I have to leave from there towards Europe, but I am told that Bahama is not a good idea for provisionning to do the passage, maybe with an exception of Nassau. Anybody with different idea ?. . . Yeloya
The only major marina in Martinique is in Cul de Sac Marin, a very large bay on the south side of the island. They had a website but it seems to be down now. Below is a photo.
- - However, there are a lot of bays and coves around the island and with the new Do-It-Yourself Check-in/out you can use the French Customs computers in many different bays.
- - I particularly like Fort-de-France on the west side of the island which is another very large bay that weaves its way into the interior of the island.
- - Although we have been there a dozen times we always seem to spend a month there in the various locations.
- - For the US Islands everybody on board MUST have a US B1/B2 visa in their passports for entering and departing by private yacht. No exceptions.
- - The Dominican Republic is a favorite island of mine as I have spent a lot of time there. But it is a 3rd World Spanish heritage island where everybody, especially officials, are very underpaid. They make up the difference by extracting money from cruising boats and just about any other opportunity to con you out of money. There is a marina on the south coast that has been very actively promoting itself and the D.R. without really telling you the "whole story." Their marina is very nice and the folks friendly and helpful. There are also some very dangerous areas along the south coast unless you are Spanish speaking and are savvy in dealing with 3rd World officials and locals. The D.R. is sort of a "love-hate" kind of place. If you know how to deal with them it is a wonderful island full of opportunities for adventure. Otherwise, you will hate the place.
- - Staging and provisioning in the Bahamas is rather a risky and expensive endeavor. Except for Nassau and Marsh Harbor there are few places to get a good assortment of foodstuffs. Navigating through the Bahamas can be challenging as the water varies from a thousand meters abruptly to 1.5 to 2 meters when you get up on the "banks." You would want to have the chart kit called "Explorer Charts" before attempting to wander through the islands. They also charge US$300 for entry (vessels larger than 10 meters).
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Old 21-08-2011, 10:55   #12
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

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Very useful info. . . . Cheers Yeloya
Here is a link provided by another poster in another CF thread but may be of interest to you. If is about a Euro couple who recently crossed and are visiting the eastern Caribbean . . .
World Tour Stories - Alex and Taru sailing around the world: Costs - updated

- - Along the right side of their webpage are links to the different islands and some fabulous photos and descriptions of their experiences there.
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Old 21-08-2011, 11:08   #13
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We are planing the same route, to leave Tenerife in beginn of january and leave antigua end of may. May idea is to have the landfall
in Gernada (or maybe Barbados) and to stay a few weeks in Grenada/Grenadines/Tobago Keys before sailing to the french islands. We sailed in July from Barcelona to Tenerife and went home to work a little
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Old 21-08-2011, 11:58   #14
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Trota.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 08-02-2012, 19:13   #15
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Re: Short Trip to the Caribbean: Where to Avoid and Where Not to Miss ?

I had started this thread in August 2011while I was in the planning stage. Now that I am half way in the Caribbean I just want to share with you what I've experienced, what was up to the expectations, what wasn't. Those who had contributed can also fresh their knowledge:
-as expected the med in late November-Mid december wasn't very nice. The worst was the passage between Pilos Greece to Catania Sicilly.
-Gibraltar straight supposed to be very challenging was extremely bening to us And all the way to Lanzarote I had to motor: zero wind for 5 days, incredible..

-We left Las Palmas in Jan 6 th and touched the land in Rodnay bay, St Lucia in 17 days. The weather was very nice with the exception of two-three days in midway that we had very light winds..
-Rodnay bay was extremely easy for checking in and out, no problem at all.
-We did Marigot bay (exceptional spot..) , Wallilobou (stVinc) , Blue Lagoon in the southern tip of St Lucia where there is also a marina run by Sunsail, Bequia where we easily checked in and stayed one night, Tobogo cay which was the best that we have so far seen. Unfortunately strong current and wind forced us to move the next day. Mustique was not worth the upwind sail we did. On the way back, Wallilobou again to clear out from St Vinc. Marigot again, then sailed to Fort de France. We stayed one night on the mooring balls of the Nautical Club on the south east of the bay, then moved to the marina in Anse Mitan. Best ever check in and out on the computer, spend 3 days and sailed to St Pierre where we are now.
St Lucia-St Vinc-Bequia-Mustique and Tobago, general thoughts: extremely expensive, even more than Martinique.. Mustique can easily be avoided, you pay 50-60 US for a mooring ball in a very rolly bay, unfriendly port officier.. Nothing worth seeing. Bequia is so so. Wallalobou is an interesting place and worth a visit. I avoided some risky spots like Chateaublaire, Pitons, etc and did not feel unsafe anywhereelse The local vendors of every kind can be embarrassing sometimes, but they usually leaves after couple of "no, thx". The only exceptions was the Pitons where they started chasing us 2 nm out of the bay and never let us stay , so we moved to Marigot.
Martinique was a big disappointment for us, not because of language (I speak french very good) but the arrogant people, too much french nature of the island in overall, poor marina conditions in Anse Mitan, etc. Everyone taste is different but frankly I found other islands much more attractive and friendly..
Now I am looking forward seeing the leeward islands that you all suggested. Timewise, I did quite well so far; I don't like to hang on for days on the same spot.
By the way 2 days out of three, we had a rain..Is this usual or just my bad luck ??
Cheers
Yeloya
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