Caribbean Leeward Islands May 2001 – 2 week bareboat charter

This was my first bareboat charter and I was a little ambitious. I chartered the boat from Stardust yacht charters, it was a 5 year + old beneteau First 42s7 which was a little beaten round the edges but definitely cheap! It was a 2 week trip, and my plan was pretty aggressive. We managed to do it all, but I was pretty tired by the end of it! We had a crew of 6 in total.

The great thing about these carribean islands is the trade winds, which give you consistent winds of 15-25 knots. Depending on the time of the year they blow from NE to SE. So you want to plan your route so that the wind is on the beam or on your quarter. Beating into ocean rollers in 25knots is not fun especially since most of the islands are well spaced out, no less than 30 miles separating them.

A couple of things to watch out for are the swells generated from storms up north near the US. Weather reports give this information which can make western side anchorages untenable.

Squalls are another thing to watch out for. They can come up pretty quickly. Apparently they can sometimes carry 40knots+ winds, but I have never experienced this on all my trips in the Caribbean.
Islands and Trip log

Day 1 – Got the boat in Antigua at Nelsons Dockyard. Provisioned the boat ourselves at the local supermarket. Was definitely a lot cheaper.

Day 2 – Sailed to eastern side of Antigua. We had a some large swells created by a storm system which made western anchorages untenable. Lots of reefs here.

Day 3 – Sailed to the western side of Antigua and got into a marina. The storm swell was still running, so I didn’t want to anchor.

Day 4 – Sailed to Barbuda, needs careful reef navigation. Barbuda is incredibly flat, you can’t see until you are very close. We starting doubting our GPS as we got close.. There was a leap of joy by all when we saw land! It was a tough beat into the ocean swell to get there, so there were a few sighs of relief.

Day 5 – Sightseeing in Barbuda. Barbuda is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Long virgin beaches surround the island with hardly anyone in sight. There are two small hotels on the island and you need a private plane to get there. No wonder Diana vacationed there..

Day 6 –Got up at the crack of dawn to make the long 72 mile ocean sail to St Barts. Luckily it was a downwind sail, but the rollers were huge.. You really feel you are in the ocean on this crossing because you loose sight of land..

Day 7 – Sightseeing and beach bumming in St Barts. St Barts is a magical place with wonderful Creole/French cuisine. We paid some $1.50 a night to anchor outside Gustavia, which was a little bit of dinghy ride but the anchorage can get pretty packed.

Day 8 – Sailed to St Martin, got into a marina to fill water. We didn’t like St Martin much. It was too commercialized.

Day 9 – The sail to Statia was another upwind bash into ocean waves. We had a good 20 knot breeze so made the 30 miles or so in good time. We anchored in Statia, but rollers made the anchoring very uncomfortable. We had to drop the kedge to angle the stern to the waves.

Day 10 – Next day is Statia we went diving.. 4 dives including a night wreck dive. I would highly recommend Statia for diving. We had a really funny experience with the divemaster, no one could remember his name correctly. After many screwups we didn’t expect to come back alive from our night dive.

Day 11 – Next day we sailed to St Kitts. We got there pretty late and anchored south of the main port. We had a very surreal experience here. Walking down the streets it was like no one had seen tourists before. We were the spectacle of the town. Not sure I would recommend visiting St Kitts.

Day 12 – Next morning first thing we set sail back to Antigua. It was another slog windward into ocean waves. Good times. We anchored in deep bay, which is lovely. Highly recommended. We had a beach bbq, we had the whole anchorage to ourselves and took full advantage of it. We mixed all our alcohol together into a witch’s brew and suffered the consequences the next day.

Day 13 – Next we had a slow, hung over sail back to Nelson’s Dockyard. Anchored outside.

Day 14 – We returned boat back to Stardust and got on our Virgin flights back to London!  It was a great vacation, a little ambitious in retrospect.

Highlights and Lowlights

–    St Barts. One of the most enchanting islands in the world. Great food, style and fun. Best way to see it is by boat.. it’s a lot lot cheaper
–    Barbuda  – Amazing virgins beaches, snorkeling. Because the island is pretty low lying the trades blow through all the time.
–    Antigua – cool island, lots of things to do.
–    Statia – great diving

–    St Martin – too commercial for our tastea
–    St Kitts – surreal. Wouldn’t recommend it
–    Beating into the 20 knots+  trades with ocean swells. Plan your route to go downwind as much as possible.
–    Long distances between islands.. Typically 30 miles which is ends up being a 5-6hr nonstop sail