Caribbean Windward Islands – 2004 Bareboat charter

The caribbean windwards are some of the most wonderful and varied islands in the caribbean. In fact I would this is the best place to do a bareboat in the caribbean handsdown. You have islands like theTobago Keys, Mustique, Bequia, St Lucia, just to name a few.

In 2004 I organized a one way charter from St Lucia to Grenada over 14 days. Windward_saillog_4
We chartered a 43ft Dufour Gibsea from Moorings which turned out to be an excellent boat.

We were a crew of 6 and we plenty of space and having 2 heads prevented us from strangling each other especially when one got blocked towards the end of the trip ($70 to unblock it).

Most of my charters have been with Moorings and find them to be really good. It’s so hard to get the time and also get all your friend’s calendars in line that I don’t like taking chances going with a cheaper bareboat charter company. I was on a charter in the balearics from a small company and the engine problems ruined 3 days of charter. Not worth it my book.

Weather

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 at Marigot bay in St Lucia. Provisioned the boat
ourselves at the local supermarket. Was definitely a lot cheaper.

Day
2 – Sailed to the pitons and anchored right at the foot of the pitons. It was pretty cool to see them rise into the sky.

Day 3 – Next day we did a little sightseeing. There is a great restaurant with great views. Also saw some of the hot springs. That night we anchored at just outside Soufriere to pick up one of the crew.

Day 4 – Next day we sailed to right down St Vincent to young island spit. It is a nice anchorage, some good bars and restaurants. It was decent sail, leaving late morning getting there around 5pm.

Day 5 Next day we did the short to Bequia. The guide book warns of the Bequia blast and turn into the main anchorage. We reefed down, but it ended up being a whimper 🙂 We had to shake out the reefs to get boat speed back up. Bequia is a great place. Very laid back cool atmosphere. A yachtie heaven with lots of good bars and restaurants. We check into SVG here.

Day
6 – Next on christmas day we sailed to Mustique. They have mooring balls you can pick up at the main anchorage. Mustique was a wonderful island, the wonderful beaches were empty didn’t spot any of the famous residents. Ended up a firefly a very nice restuarant and mini hotel. Food was ok, but the cocktails were amazing.

Day 7 – Next day we sailed to Canouan island which has a brand new moorings base, with great showers! There are some good restaurants here.

Day 8 –Next day we sailed for Tobago Keys. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. A huge horseshoe reef sounding 4 uninhabited islands with beautiful green water and sandy bottom. Snorkelling on the reef is amazing. We ended up having a beach barbeque the first night.

Day
9 –The second day we moved the boat to the other side of the reef and ventured via dinghy another unihabited island outside the reef which was used in Pirates of the Carribbean. This has some fantastic snorkelling as well.

Day
10 –Next day we sailed to Mayreau and anchored in the main anchorage. A low pressure system had formed changing the easterly trades to a westerly. It kept building, and we had to let more chain out because the waves were getting bigger. Had a rough night keeping watch of the boat. One cataraman got lose and hit another boat.

Day 11 –Next day the wind kept building so at day break we decided to get better shelter at Union Island. Union island town has a well protected anchorage. Ended up finding a spot to go stern to and then crashed to get some sleep.

Day 12 –Next day we sailed to Carricou for new year’s day. There is not real yacht anchorange and we ended up anchoring in a mangrove swamp of all places. Pretty cool. The town was dead even though it was new year’s eve. All restaurants and the local club was closed. We found out later everyone was in church!!

Day 13 – Next day we had a long sail to Grenada, St Georges. Explored the town which is really picturesque.

Day
14 –Nexy day dropped of 3 the crew who had flights back and sailed to the Moorings base at True Blue bay to return the boat.

Highlights and Lowlights

Highlights

–  Tobago Keys
–  Mustique
–  Bequia

Lowlights
-Carriacou

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.
Weather

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

Highlights
–    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

Lowlights
–    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