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Old 05-11-2013, 23:33   #1
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How crowded is the Caribbean?

Seems when I see pics and videos of anchorages there are usually dozens of boats sharing the space, is that what I should expect? How easy is it to find solitude and lonely beaches?


We get spoiled here in the Pacific Northwest!
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Old 06-11-2013, 00:08   #2
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

The Caribbean covers a lot of ocean. The pretty anchorages most visited and thus most often photographed are busy, particularly in season. At the same time there are countless empty anchorages that one can sneak into for solitude. Equate it to looking at the USA - a visitor to New York will see one thing while a visitor to the town of Nowhere, Arizona will see something different.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:33   #3
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

Eastern Carib is packed - particularly so during the winter/spring season. The Western Carib has all the space you want and you can spend months in an isolated anchorage.

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Old 06-11-2013, 06:53   #4
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Depends in how many people are there.
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Old 06-11-2013, 06:55   #5
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No offense intended, but it is amazing how many posts pop up here on CF referring to the Carib like its one place. The Carib Sea is about 1,600nm across just on its E-W axis. Is this not common knowledge?

The Carib Sea is a big place and there are still many anchorages that are not over crowded. I think you see photos of crowded anchorages because they make a more interesting pictures (although as posted the E Carib, Windward & Leewards, does tend to be more crowded).

Also, paradoxically, some cruisers have a strong herd instinct and they tend to congregate in certain anchorages. Some spend most of their season in the more popular anchorages. In the Bahamas for example, Georgetown is extremely crowded, but you can easily find anchorages elsewhere where it is likely you wont see another boat...Acklins for example.

In Belize the cruiser congregation point is Placencia, but you can cruise many other areas of Belize and only infrequently see other cruising boats...you can easily have an anchorage all to yourself for days at a time.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:04   #6
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

We were in the San Blas Islands, Panama, December 2012 to January 2013. After cruising the Pacific side of Central America we were shocked to see so many boats. Most of the popular anchorages were full of anchored boats.

During the morning SSB net, they took a count of boats once a week. It averaged between 175 and 200 boats.

When we headed north through Providencia Island, it had about 10-15 boats during the ten days we spent there.

In Roatan, Honduras there were a number of anchorages and Marinas. Although the popular ones seemed fairly full, there was always room for another boat. The marinas always had space as well.

At Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the harbor was pretty packed, but always room for more and the marinas all had extra berths available.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:19   #7
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

The San Blas islands comprise >350 islands over 150 miles. You were in the 3-4 anchorages in a small 20nm corner of those islands. While there are up to 200 boats there during the short season everyone is moving in/out the canal, almost all of those boats are clustered in those 3-4 anchorages.

During these times, we go off and have anchorages all to ourselves. If you leave that little corner of the country and head a bit East, even during the high season you won't see any cruising boats for 100nm - maybe 2 or 3 scattered about.

During the summer, the SB's have fewer than 20 active boats scattered about those 350 islands.

Providencia and Isla Mujeres are poor examples because there is really only one harbor in each, and not multiple choices. However, head 8nm North in Providencia and hang behind the reef up there and you have it all to yourself.

We spent a month in the Hobbies/Vivirillos area with just the birds. Many, many other similar places in the Western Caribe.

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Old 06-11-2013, 07:34   #8
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

The funny think about anchorages is that you can be in a beautiful quiet spot all by yourself and if just one boat comes in, they will anchor right on top of you.

Never could figure out that mentality.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:51   #9
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post
The San Blas islands comprise >350 islands over 150 miles. You were in the 3-4 anchorages in a small 20nm corner of those islands. While there are up to 200 boats there during the short season everyone is moving in/out the canal, almost all of those boats are clustered in those 3-4 anchorages.

During these times, we go off and have anchorages all to ourselves. If you leave that little corner of the country and head a bit East, even during the high season you won't see any cruising boats for 100nm - maybe 2 or 3 scattered about.

During the summer, the SB's have fewer than 20 active boats scattered about those 350 islands.

Providencia and Isla Mujeres are poor examples because there is really only one harbor in each, and not multiple choices. However, head 8nm North in Providencia and hang behind the reef up there and you have it all to yourself.

We spent a month in the Hobbies/Vivirillos area with just the birds. Many, many other similar places in the Western Caribe.

Mark
Mark you are right about only visiting 20% of the San Blas Islands, but our time constraints keep us in the west end. We visited 13 anchorages there and only found one with less than 10 boats.

The majority of the cruising vessels visiting the San Blas Islands stay in the west of the San Blas, which is what causes some many to be in a small area.

Your advice to go east is a very good idea, if you have the time.

Also in your advise about the San Blas in the summer months, you forgot to mention the severe weather that accompanies the wet season, including vicious lighting and horrendous winds and rain... This past summer one of the San Blas cruisers reported 60 mph winds of the mountains and several boats dragging or damaged. I know of one boat that took a direct lightening strike in the San Blas last summer, and three the summer before.

I myself spent the wet season on the Panama City side of Panama and would never spend another wet season in Panama after my experience.

As far as mentioning Provencia and Isla Murjeres... They are in the Caribbean and thats where cruisers go, especially ones heading north from Panama.

Your suggestion to anchor in the reef north of Providencia might have been good several years ago, but the coast of Honduras is now very dangerous. Last year a cruiser was taken of his boat by local pirates and was forced to watch while his boat was striped by the same people. He was released unharmed, but his boat was a total loss. I wouldn't recommend it.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:57   #10
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

Obviously not all Caribbean locations are the same, but that's one thing I prefer about the Bahamas. Even on charter trips in the Bahamas, I've sometimes managed to have 9 of 9 nights where we have the anchorage to ourselves.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:13   #11
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremiason View Post
Mark you are right about only visiting 20% of the San Blas Islands, but our time constraints keep us in the west end. We visited 13 anchorages there and only found one with less than 10 boats.

The majority of the cruising vessels visiting the San Blas Islands stay in the west of the San Blas, which is what causes some many to be in a small area.

Your advice to go east is a very good idea, if you have the time.

Also in your advise about the San Blas in the summer months, you forgot to mention the severe weather that accompanies the wet season, including vicious lighting and horrendous winds and rain... This past summer one of the San Blas cruisers reported 60 mph winds of the mountains and several boats dragging or damaged. I know of one boat that took a direct lightening strike in the San Blas last summer, and three the summer before.

I myself spent the wet season on the Panama City side of Panama and would never spend another wet season in Panama after my experience.

As far as mentioning Provencia and Isla Murjeres... They are in the Caribbean and thats where cruisers go, especially ones heading north from Panama.

Your suggestion to anchor in the reef north of Providencia might have been good several years ago, but the coast of Honduras is now very dangerous. Last year a cruiser was taken of his boat by local pirates and was forced to watch while his boat was striped by the same people. He was released unharmed, but his boat was a total loss. I wouldn't recommend it.

I didn't advise to stay in the SB during the summer. We were hit by lightning there and it is very ferocious. You know of 3 the previous summer, but I know of 14! The catabatic winds are nothing - they are rare and very short lived. That 60kt (cruisers in the SB are notoriously inaccurate with winds) was just a short time. Thunderstorms also do this everywhere - FL, MD, etc. They also occur everywhere around the world where mountains are involved. Likewise the rainy season in the SB is much drier than the rest of Panama. You get an hour or so of rain most nights, but several days of consecutive rain is rare. On the mainland, it rains continuously for months. We chose not to spend this summer there specifically because of the lightning. I only meant to point out that it empties out during the summer.

But I was trying to make the point that even in that small area of the SB during the "crowded" season, there are many, many areas and anchorages that have no, or few, boats in them at all. For example, we sat out on the beautiful reef and islands just above the East Lemmons with one other boat looking back at 37 boats jammed into a tiny anchorage 1 mile behind us. Attached is a picture of one of these places in that area during the crowded season - that's our boat in the background and we were the only boat here for a week. I can give you dozens of other examples.

Many places are crowded only because there are a lot of cruisers who must be around each other planning daily group activities and potlucks, etc. Also, these types have a big herd mentality. If those 200 boats in this example, were spread out among all the nice anchorages in the SB's - even that 20% area - the place would seem desolate.

The reef above Providencia I was speaking about is only 8 miles North of Providencia - it is nowhere near the Honduras mainland. Likewise the Hobbies/Vivirillos. The incident you describe happened almost on the mainland in an area that is well-warned about not going to.

And my point regarding Prov and Isla is that no one really "cruises" there - they are more just convenient stopping points en route to other cruising grounds, so they don't represent the "crowded/uncrowded" data very well.

Now take the Eastern Caribe and find me a beautiful isolated and protected anchorage there. Yes, they exist, but they are rare indeed - especially compared to the Western Caribe.

Mark
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:14   #12
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

Quote:
Originally Posted by nautical62 View Post
Obviously not all Caribbean locations are the same, but that's one thing I prefer about the Bahamas. Even on charter trips in the Bahamas, I've sometimes managed to have 9 of 9 nights where we have the anchorage to ourselves.
Agreed. The closest we have found to this in the rest of the Caribbean is the San Blas islands. They are the Bahamas with palm trees.

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Old 06-11-2013, 08:29   #13
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

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Originally Posted by Cotemar View Post
The funny think about anchorages is that you can be in a beautiful quiet spot all by yourself and if just one boat comes in, they will anchor right on top of you.

Never could figure out that mentality.

ideal target for a pissing contest........even the girls could hit that one
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:50   #14
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

Perhaps it's b/c the OP and I currently cruise in truly uncrowded parts of the world, but I too wonder about this question. By "uncrowded" I mean travelling for days, sometimes weeks, without seeing a single cruising boat -- that's uncrowded.

So far I've learned that the Bahamas, and the Western Carib in general, is the place to be. What about the influence of guide books? Does this create flocks of cruisers? It does up here. One basic strategy is to avoid anchorages that are recommended in these guide books.

It would seem obvious that crowds will be located near service centres, so being self-sufficient would be useful for avoiding parking-lot anchorages. What about the growing desire/demand for wifi? Does this drive crowding?

Like the OP I'm curious to learn how you, belizesailor and colemj, avoid the crowds.
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Old 06-11-2013, 08:51   #15
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Re: How crowded is the Caribbean?

The reality is when people ask about the Caribbean they mean the eastern Caribbean islands! not the San Blas.

The eastern Caribbean island chain is full as you can stuff it with cruisers, and although there are many bays the cruisers have found ALL the best of them.

If you want to anchor in a boring, smelly, dump of an anchorage there's plenty you can go to an be by yourself. But if you are after pristine beaches, palm trees any solitude except for some picture perfect rum shack on the beach there just to serve you fresh lobster then that ain't gunna happen at all.

The closest chances of getting those places are for a few days only before or while heading to other places.

The pristine or Barbuda is a good example... It's great for a few days to chill out.... But their isn't really much to hold anyone more than a week. Fishing is illegal unless you are a local, and I don't break the law... So one just hangs out. And you still have to share the anchorages although you are further away.

It's possible to get away in the Caribbean! but not in some story book manner. So take that and enjoy it



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