View Full Version : Advice sought for Atlantic / Caribbean cruise

16-08-10, 12:28
So here is the plan

Mel and I are off next year

We have 2 years booked as leave and want to head out from the UK around end May next year.

The plan is to head down to the Canaries via France, Spain, Portugal and Madeira and then head across.
So we should be in the Caribbean by mid Jan latest.
It would then be nice to spend as long as poss cruising the Caribbean ( any ideas about avoiding the Hurricanes? ) before heading north and crossing back to Europe via Bermuda and the Azores.

The boat is nearly ready ( well, I reckon another 6 months work and it will be! ) so we feel its time to look at the route in detail.

We would appreciate all advice but especially advice on routing once in the Carib, where to avoid, where to go etc.

Advice on the timeframe ( we only have 2 years ) would be especially welcome.

Thanks a lot in advance.

Mel and Nick

16-08-10, 16:49
Hi Mel and Nick,

We've only done it the once and I am sure lots of others with further experience will provide better advice.
The route you propose is absolutely normal but one common error (us too) is rushing past Brittany to make N Spain and missing lots. So one bit of advice would be to take some time both N and S of Ushant.
Spanish Rias same same. Easy to slip past some lovely places and regret it later.

When you make the Caribbean, you'll need to get south of Trinidad and into the Chesapeak to max your avoidance of most hurricanes from May to November.

So if it is a 24 month trip you might want to consider spenmding the second year summer up the US east coast..........

Otherwise, the windward and leewards are surprisingly close together so sliding up and down and up is not really a chore for anyone.

Good luck - well done - enjoy

16-08-10, 17:25
If you plan to return after two years, I would maximise the time in the harder to get to places. So, you could leave Brittany until later. Your Atlantic crossing will take you not too far north of the Cape Verdes islands and I would recommend including them in your itinerary. We did not spend long in the Canaries and would have enjoyed more time there. The Rias in Northern Spain are nice, but the islands in the Atlantic have more going for them in terms of scenery, culture difference and music. Southern Portugal is very hot and expensive if you go into marinas (not necessary, but ...)

We still have to visit the Leeward Is and the northern Windwards, but here is my two pennorth. Tobago is delightful and harder to get to once in the main chain of islands, but very highly recommended - we are going there for Christmas. Trinidad is best done during the hurricane season when you stay south - also convenient for seeing the leatherback turtles laying their eggs. Many people hang out in Grenada during the hurricane season, despite Ivan in 2004.

If you like doing more than just swimming and hanging out on the boat etc, buy a guide book that gives info about walks etc e.g Insight Guides. So, such as Dominica is good for that. We are francophiles and intend to spend a lot of time in Martinique and Guadaloupe.

We have found the US influence very strong on the ex-Brit islands and that's OK if your idea of a "special" is hamburger.

We have been informed that the islands get more expensive as you head north and commonsense says such as the BVIs (lots of charters and holidaymakers) will be more costly and busier compared to, for example, Tobago and Carriacou.

The safe period for hurricanes is indeterminate but you can probably bank on sailing until mid/late July and as early as November. Some people head for the ABC islands during the hurricane season, but then there's Venezuela nearby (a potential threat but to be regarded with caution not terror).

Then, of course there's Cuba which could be done in a second season before return to UK in May.

Hope this helps - buy a cruising guide e.g Imray for the Lesser Antilles and enjoy.

16-08-10, 18:12
Stay south in the carib to avoid hurricanes, or go west to azores then canaries again and back to carib the second year.

I would say that the med isn't the learner's paddling pool lots of people seem to pretend it is - not cheap, the spanish marinas often don't like you anchoring, and nasty short seas that can stop the boat dead when you thought you had everything sorted. Cote d'azur just had gales in august.

Important to get out of the med and off to the canaries sooner rather than later - lots of people going transat set off in late sept or even october or nov and get a massive kicking.

I go westbound with the arc - do the sums and you'll find that las palmas is the cheapest canaries marina by up to 50% - but you can't stay long if you aren't in the ARC. If you've got the kit then arc is cheap. If you haven't got the kit it's a load of gear to buy, but most if not all of it you should have already.

There are loads of chandleries etc in abroad land yerknow - the boat doesn't have to be totally srted to set off in good weather. Al those ratheap boats biscay marinas can make it to the next marina.

16-08-10, 19:33
Skip Brittany you can always do that in a summer cruise from the UK.

We regretted not being able to spend more time in the Spanish Portugese Rias. But leave late for the Canaries and your the chances of a gale en route are higher. We had to heave to for 24 hours.

IMHO the ARC often leaves to early. It certainly did in the year I had paid to do it and we watched from the mole as the fleet set off into a strengthening SW wind. After 3 days some of the smaller boats had only made 100 miles. Cruise the other islands of the Canaries and prep for the crossing after tha ARC leave.

What you do in hurricane season may depend on your insurance. have you checked the small print on what you can do and where you can be? Some I know will insist on you not being anywhere between Trinidad and the Chesapeake, 1st June till November.

I have cruised and am currently cruising The Windward Islands during hurricane season and feel OK about doing this as I am prepared to leave with a few hours notice and sail to Grenada or Trinidad or Venuzuela. For the last 2 weeks in August and the first 2 in September I would be in Bequia or further south.

Caribbean Itinerary Hmmm

Jan Arrive from the Transatlantic in Barbados short stay say Hi to Bajansailor
Tobeago longer stay
Trinidad I am a little biased against Trini as I like to swim and the waters of Chaguramas can be disgusting BUT it is a great place if your boat needs work and CARNIVAL starts Feb 20 in 2012. If you only do one Caribbean Carnival it has got to be Trinidad.
Grenada do an Island tour and the Friday night Fish Fry at Goave ask on the cruisers net for times and current prices. They will also know who to go with.
Bequia for Easter regatta.

I reckon the above is pretty definite because Barbados and Tobeago are hard to get to once you are in the windies.

After Bequia up to Antigua then back down for hurricane season hanging around south of Martinique.

OR up to Antigua then St Maarten BVIs USVIs Puerto Rico Dominican Republic ?? Haiti ?? ?? Cuba ??

Depending on when and where you want to be during hurricane season.

Luperon in the DR is many peoples northern Caribbean hurricane hidey hole and Bruce Van Sant, the guru for that area, has summered there for many years.

OR from wherever you finish up along PR, DR or Cuba just head south across the Caribbean for Venezuela or Columbia.

Now you will hear lots of negative stuff said about both Venezuela or Columbia but lots of people cruise through there with no problems. I can not speak from recent first hand experience so you need to exercise your own judgement and check noonsite for security updates closer to the time.

Things that people can miss, the Saints visit the Fort Napoleon museum, Guadeloupe allow several days to explore the Island. If your draft allows go though the canal and gunkhole the Cul de Sac du Marin.

gotta go pt 2 coming soon.

16-08-10, 19:50
I'm writing from North Brittany and 2 weeks away from ending our own Atlantic circle. We took 15 months and left the UK in late May as well. We took our time in the Spanish Rias and Portugal and then rushed past the Spanish Costas to enjoy our summer in the Western Med (Balearic, Sardinia, Corsica and S. France). We did not see Madeira but wish we had. Didn't see Cape Verde as we were in the ARC but would have otherwise. Saw the Caribbean from the Granadines all the way up to Florida and including Cuba, Turks and Caicos and Puerto Rico. I think next time we would stay in the southern Carib and depart from the Virgin Islands. We stopped in both Bermuda and Azores and enjoyed both (especially Azores).
More and more people with 2 years for a cruise are doing an enlarged Atlantic circuit that takes in Cape Verde to Brasil with the second winter spent in the Carib. Have you considered that?
I know people say the ARC leaves too early but last year was an exception. We took 17 days while friends that left later on a similar boat took 26 days and had to spend Christmas at sea! We found the ARC a lot of fun by the way.

16-08-10, 22:21
Another thing - take care making plans. this doesn't mean don't resarch in advance, but lots of people get wrapped into a schedule of meeting these friends from st lucia, then some others from antigua and it all sounds hard work.

My fave places in windwad/leewad chain are Les Saintes for cuteness, Barbuda for being a completely differently flat beach, and st martin cos loads of mates end up there and there's lots to do.

Actually i also oughta mention st lucia where my boat is actually a navigation mark. Yeah! Chris Doyle's book has close-up a pic of my boat in rodney bay and it says "rodney bay", so i spect lots of boaties there are a bit lost at the moment, looking round for my boat at anchor but nowhere to be seen...

16-08-10, 22:44
Why O Why does everybody make so much of going across the pond to the Caribbean. Do the eastern seaboard if you have too.
But for some real treats and no risks go into the St Laurence and up the great Lakes if you want a total lifetimes experience.
OK it may be a little more expensive and fraught with red tape, but they all speak and understand English.
It will probably take you two to three years to do it properly and you will have total iced up winters of 4 months to coupe with but they have the facilities to cope with all that and are well used to it.
How do I know Well I have done it all for six years from Florida to Duluth and Prince Edward Isl and Churchill in Hudson's Bay.
PS and crossing the pond (Atlantic) is only a watch Keeping exercise. At the best 4 on 8 off.

16-08-10, 23:27
well, they make a big deal of it cos they've got sunshine in carib in january, and not in canada/great lakes. Brrr!

Atlantic is a teensy bit more than a "watchkeeping exercise", and it's not too helpful that you attempt to belittle other people's grand plans, i think? ok, it seemed like that, perhaps i'm wrong. Atlantic is quite a big deal, really - I bet it was for you before you did it, hm? Well, i bet you didn't think oh, it's just a bit of watchkeeping?

17-08-10, 00:42
Old salty

Well Its not a 'pond' Its a full on big oh bit of yer life. Hard yakka.

Have done a bit of watchkeping for, well, most of me life.

Please do not taka tha pissa.

Why would anyone swap sandy beach for what you propose.......

Keep your bilges dry!

17-08-10, 08:28
Thanks for all the great advice so far.
It is interesting to see so many different views being expressed.
I suppose life would be boring if we all liked and thought the same thing.
I probably should have added a couple of additional facts when I made my original post as they are relevant.

I sailed the boat "Borne" from the UK to the Canaries about 10 years ago where I lived on her for over a year so she is well proven. And for what it's worth IMHO San Sebastian on La Gomera is the nicest and by far the friendliest harbour/marina in the Canaries, I don't like the City ( it's what I am escaping from ) and did not enjoy las Palmas.
When I left the UK she was a shell without interior or winches etc and her sea trials were the crossing of the channel to Cherbourg so I have no problem doing work on the go though she will spend the winter in our garden so plenty of time to get her right.
We don't like the cold. If we did them I would head north and explore Scotland rather than cross the Atlantic.
I was a competitive freediver and spearfisherman so want clear water and fish, that way we always eat well *as anyone who knew me in the Canaries will confirm.
We are leaving a little later than we could so that we can enjoy some decent weather on the way down.*
Have no urge to sail into the Med and we will probably head to Madeira before going much south of Lagos.
One thing a few people agree on is the Rias. Spent some time there previously but not enough so we do intend to enjoy Spain properly this time.
It is the info on the Caribbean that we most value. The American influence is not really what we are looking for so we are planning to pass the US only on the way home.
We will be living relatively cheap ( budget of £1000 max per month ) so want to avoid expensive marinas and too much organised stuff.
Most important thing for us is the people, both locals and other cruisers so we do look forward to meeting some if you out there.

Please keep the replies coming, they are highly valued.

And if any of you are around Portland next week let us know.

17-08-10, 08:44
well, they make a big deal of it cos they've got sunshine in carib in january, and not in canada/great lakes. Brrr!

Atlantic is a teensy bit more than a "watchkeeping exercise", and it's not too helpful that you attempt to belittle other people's grand plans, i think? ok, it seemed like that, perhaps i'm wrong. Atlantic is quite a big deal, really - I bet it was for you before you did it, hm? Well, i bet you didn't think oh, it's just a bit of watchkeeping?

I was not tyring to put any one down the Great lakes are a fantastic place the temps in the summer months are fine 80 to 110f in places You can drop England in Lake Victoria and it won't touch the sides O and it can take 2 to 3 days to go end to end flat out, it is the winters that are cold but unlike our winters there they are dry so you don't feel as miserable and wet as in the UK.

Now the Pond as pros call it, Yes I have been across it in absolutely flat calm you could see the wake disappearing over the horizon on both sides astern.
I also have been thrown out of my bunk in F10 + and thats in a proper bunk with full lea boards.
Full blown electric storm's we have lost life boats and deck gear stove in water tight doors. Passed other ships The old Lizzie 3 to 4 mils off and never seen her.
Changed nave lights up the mast at 0300 in a f8/9 wet though.
Yep theres not much you can tell me about the Atlantic North or South.

As for my comment to a watch keeping exercise Seen it on a few occasions new boy stays up all the time for the first day or so, then when it gets a bit tough going he is too knacked to respond to do his stint.
So what I really mean is you start watches and with the off watch putting there heads down after S.O.P. and full away and stick to strict wachkeeping all the way over, that way there is always some one who is able to cope.
Thats the way we do it on trips from Liverpool the the Channel Isles as well.

17-08-10, 10:54
Lake Victoria? Think you got the Great Lakes (and continent).
The Great Lakes are great and I did my 1st sailing there but most of us escape to the warm climates when we go.
The other nice thing about the Carib, if you like that sort of thing is that you meet tons of people sailing and it's lots of fun. We found the cruising life in Europe and N. America not as sociable.

17-08-10, 13:27
Canít wait to get home and dig out the Atlas!!

Anyone got a set of charts they want to part with?
I will have a plotter but like to back up on paper, age of charts not so important as I understand that rocks and islands move very slowly! ( so no charts older than say 10,000,000 years old ! )

Mixmaster, I think you are spot on. Its all about the people you meet and thatís what I am most looking forward to.

Old salt, you are obviously a proper knarly pipe smoking sailor of the old school. Unfortunately, we are too used to our comforts. My mum told me that if there is a storm when we are crossing the Atlantic then we should drop the anchor and wait until it has blown over.........maybe you would have stayed in your bunk if you had tried this technique!! LOL.

TQA and all the other posters.......thanks, we will take all advice gladly and are hoping to draw up a rough itinerary with a view to being flexible once we get there and start talking to people.

Main thing that we were worried about ( and now feel is OK ) is getting it done in 2 years allowing for the Hurricane season.
Reckon we will spend as much time as possible in the Caribbean before we head home. so we will turn left when we get there and head far enough South to avoid the storms for the Summer.

Madly excited about it.

Please follow our progress on http://melandnick.com ,which I will try to update on a regular basis once we leave ( never seems time to write as too much time spent preparing at the moment )

Thanks again for all help.

17-08-10, 16:15
Lots of interesting advice. We are off soon on the same journey but one way. Anyone got any comment on a stopover in Agadir in November, followed by a mid December departure from Canaries for Barbados? Also, how unrealistic/grim is it getting back to Barbados from, say Desirade or Marie Galante (or would you kick off from some other point if you had to do it?)

17-08-10, 17:36
Offhand list of places I like....

Agadir. Now has a full service marina. Polite and friendly Officials. Next to huge beach, reasonably priced restaurants. Bit touristy. Try the Britsh Sports Bar (really) for footie! Easy trips inland to find the real Morocco.

La Palma (the Canarian Island). Lot less tourism than most, almost prefer it to La Gomera. Interesting new ish marina in Santa Cruz, looks like a lorry park but is great. You can use the Club Nautico for bar, restaurant, showers and swimming pool.

Lanzarotte. Fan of Puerto Calero, had a great 2 years there!

Cape Verdes. Mindelo does it for me, old fashioned, slightly scruffy with ragged edges. Like looking in a mirror. Cheapish good fresh food. Diesel bug at the fishermans diesel dock, use additive if desperate.

Upwind to Barbados is pants. Top first stop going west though.

Bequia has superb reef diving. Lots of the smaller Islands going South are good for short stops, Union, Canouan and Carricou well worth it. For me, Tobago Cays are an over rated tourist trap.

Try Dennis's Hideaway on Mayreau (spelling).

Oop North, Antigua and in particular Jolly Harbour is place to rest up a while and draw breath. Check out the Saturday yacht racing, brill.

Nevis. Pinneys Beach, Sunshines Bar. Niller Bee punches. After several you feel as though you have been.

As TCM mentioned, St Maarten / St. Martin is a good meeting point. Try also the bar by the end of the airport runway.....topless girls drink free! Also for the less prudish, people watching at the Orient Bay nudie beach.

Lots of the smaller Islands along the Venezuelan coast. Tops. Robinson Crusoe style. Didn't find a pirate. Diesel 4 years ago was just over a penny (!) a litre.

Could go on, but its a start!

Happy cruising and don't let the regular customs clearances get you down!

17-08-10, 21:54
Good list.

there's a new bar in st martin based around a busted bus on the beach in simpson's bay, next to the runway, fab food but no topless discount. The topless discount bar is sunsetbeachbar.com, and you gotta with a v cheap bird cos the beers are only 3 dollars. so basically they go toples for 3 dollars, hm. Mind you, if eleven blokes went in with 1 woman and she took her top off and said i'll have a dozen beers would that work?

Jolly harbour is getting a bit manky compared with new five+ years ago. Nice anchorage and good suoermarket tho.

17-08-10, 22:26
If you have 2 years then have a look at the NW Caribbean,

Probably the best hurricane hole is the Rio Dulce Guatemala and you have Belize, Honduras and the Yucatan peninsula and Cuba all within reach

17-08-10, 23:14
Hi MelandNick

Lots of good Advice from everyone.
We had the same plan 8 years ago and still haven't got plans to return, so be aware that your plans and out look will change once you get going!.
Somewhere no one mentioned is the San Blas Islands of the coast of Columbia and Panama, truly out standing and a trap for many happy cruisers who can find no reason to go anywhere else as they find all the ingredients to make for a perfect time and no hurricanes, but some really spectacular electric storms.
The indigenous people the Kuna are friendly and welcoming and strongly in touch with their heritage and very proud of their independence as a people.

The rias of northern Spain are worth all the time you can spare especially during Fiesta season, but that may not co-incide with your proposed itinerary.

The year we left from las palmas we watched and listened to the ARC get beat about by strong winds then becalmed for days at a time, we waited for 3 weeks for our window and had a great crossing, not the fastest at 22 days but a great crossing with no horror stories, so pick your departure with a longer term out look, it may be preferable to wait for a weather window rather than leave on a set date, that is one of the advantage of being a cruiser rather than a participant in a rally, you get to make the decisions and can change any part at any time.

When you make land fall Barbados will be a good first stop, with all the islands only a good days sail after that, we planned 5 days and stayed 3 months, just because we could.

Bequia is a nice stop and a gate way the Grenadines, it is a tourist trap with fees and extra payments, but so what you and I are tourists and when are you going to see them again, it is worth the fees as these islands and reefs are world class and not be missed if it can be helped.

Grenada is beautiful and has recovered well from Ivan with great facilities and many free anchorages.

Trinidad is worth the stop if you are staying with your vessel but don't leave your pride and joy unattended for any length of time as there is a big trade in stolen parts and they have to come from somewhere, we know as our boat was broken into and looted while on the hard and no one cared in least as we were seen as rich tourists who could afford the replacement cost of all the un-recovered property, $5,000.
So be aware! I wont return but don't let that stop you from going at least once.

St Lucia has some spectacular scenery and an expensive marina which is well appointed for repairs and food stocking.

Dominica is even more spectacular with volcanoes, rain forrest and waterfalls all worth the hikes, and many great eco trips and tours in the northern anchorages. Most of which you can do yourself with a good dinghy or kayaks.

The French islands are very French, if you like the south of france then you are in for a treat but with your proposed budget then maybe not for you.

Antigua, is a beat to windward if you go from the main routes, but some amazing history from the moment you land in the southern harbours.

St Kits and Nevis have great beaches and good hiking.

St Barts can be extremely expensive but with a little looking around you can stay cheaply for a few days before heading to ether Saba (which always has a rolly side) or on to St Martin (wifey says thats the party island) with many bars and restaurants( ranging in price from $5 to $100 for a meal per person) and all the facilities you could dream of for any repairs and routine maintenance. But check the inbound customs costs on the Dutch and French sides as there are charges that vary from anchorage to anchorage, some free some pay as you stay and the bridges are also worth checking as the French one is free and the Dutch charge by the foot into the lagoon, the French dont charge for anchorage in the lagoon but the Dutch do, so do some research and check the cruisers radio nets for latest advice.

The Virgin Islands come in three parts, British, US and Spanish (Puerto Rico) all are beautiful but with vastly different customs procedures.

As an aside all the Island states are independent countries and have different requirements and procedures which you must take seriously.
I still ask for help when ever I go to customs office as things can change and if you are polite but plead ignorance most will be happy to help you enter their country.
I always go in clean clothes and am as respectful as I can be as politeness is valued above almost every thing else, always start a conversation with an inquiry as to how the day or the weather or the cricket is treating the customs officer you are dealing with. It goes along way.

But the best advice I/We can give you is buy the cruising guides to the islands in the Caribbean that you are planning to visit and ask the cruisers that you will meet for the latest on what is going on.
There are thousands of us moving north or south or not going very far but willing talk for hours about where you plan to go next, usually for the price of a happy hour libation.

These are some of our ideas and experiences and unique to us, as you travel you will meet many who will give their idea of the perfect cruise, you can pick the good bits and leave the rest.

Hurricanes are something you learn to live with or something to be avoided at all costs, that will depend on the speed of your information and the speed of your vessel, if you hole up on an island for the season you could miss 4- 6 months cruising.
With some research and planning you could spend your time moving around with hurricane holes only a day's sail away on most islands. All info on approaching hurricanes is available 5-7 days ahead, so there is time to move.

Good luck on your plans and keep us all informed on your progress, look forward to meeting you in a year or two.

Mark N Lee
s/v Manatee

18-08-10, 08:43
Thanks capnsensible and mandlmaunder
Sitting on the commuter train in to London and reading your input has pretty much made my day.
Mel looked up at me and asked if we can't leave straight away!
Keep the advice coming and can't wait to meet some of you out there in 18 months or so.

18-08-10, 17:22
. When you say arrive and turn left that means you are ignoring the advise to arrive in Barbados and sail over to Tobeago. Sailing from the Windwards to Barbados is done all the time but it is upwind and upcurrent and pretty hard work unless you have a boat that is a witch to windward.

Anyway Tobeago for sure now I know you like the water.

There have been comments that the French Islands are expensive. That is not neccessarily the case relative to the other islands. EVERY WHERE is expensive out here. Both the major rench Islands have good ECONO supermarkets. The one in Cul Du Sac Du Marin in Martinique is particularly good value and has its own dinghy dock. I stock up there and so do other frugal cruisers. They are cheaper than the other islands on most items.

Montserrat is worth a visit and take the volcano tour with Mr Philips accept no substitutes.

The Heineken Regatta in St Maarten is now bigger than Antigua Race week but the Classic week is special.

St Barts is really expensive but if you do go there make a point of visiting the hill above the airport and take your camera.

If you go to St Maarten visit Anguilla possibly by ferry and find out about the rebellion of 1968/9.

If you get to the BVI you must visit Saba Rock and see the leagacy of Bert Kilbride who began diving in 1948 and came to the British Virgin Islands in the late 1950's. Over his lifetime, he helped discover over 90+ shipwrecks. In 1967, he was named "Receiver of Wrecks" by Queen Elizabeth. This title allowed him to document and determine authenticity, if possible, of all BVI wrecks for HM government and ensure they were not desecrated. Then go to Barbuda and visit some of the wrecks he found. Many can be seen free diving.

Then go to the BVI icon of Foxys on Friday at Jost van Dyke. Take an old t shirt and marker pen, you will see why.

The Turks and Caicos used to have some of te best spearfishing in the Caribbean but I have been told that locals from the DR have fished out the southern reefs.

Now for the good news bad news bit.

OK first the good news.

It is still possible to cruise the Caribbean and not stay in marinas or pay for moorings. I have sailed from the USVI down to Grenada this year without a single night in a marina and only one night on a mooring which could have been avoided but it came with free water so it was a bargain as I have big tanks. See for details http://sailingonelephantschild.blogspot.com/

The bad news.

Most islands now ban spear fishing by visitors. Spearguns often have to be declared and may be held by customs until you check out. I think only Martiique and Guadaloupe in the Windwards and Leewards allow it. Also there are much fewer worthwhile fish around compared with 20 years ago when I fed the cats and myself occasionally with a speargun. A lot of the locals now go spearfishing/lobstering/conch collecting

Gunkholing around the Cul du Sac Du Marin in Guadaloupe will give you some chances though and it is a great area to explore with fair to good water quality depending on the swell direction.

But if you shoot with a camera as I do nowadays then there is good news as there are an increasing number of marine sanctuaries where fishing of all sorts is banned. The larger fish are not gun shy and in places where the local dive operations feed the fish they can be positively pushy.

18-08-10, 20:05
Thanks TQA
Be assured that we are ignoring no advice.
we need to sit down in front of a chart to understand the geography before all this advice makes sense.
Love the pic, looks like a big grouper or jew fish?
reckon I will get a good waterproof camera/camcorder for when I can't spearfish and stick to catching big fish on a line or else head out into blue water to spear big stuff.
I am pretty sure we will eat well either way.

We have been blown away by the response to my post and are humbled that people are spending so much time giving such detailed replies.
I owe you all a drink if I meet you on the road.....or sea.......you know what I mean.

In just over a month "Borne" will be sitting in our back garden many miles from the sea so that I can spend every spare moment working on her.
Next question to the panel of experts will be how to support her without a cradle....but I will leave that post for another day.


19-08-10, 15:44
>Why O Why does everybody make so much of going across the pond to the Caribbean.

What utter nonsense. It can be an easy trip and it can also be a nightmare. A few years ago the wind was never less than twenty five knots and usually over thirty. The crews arrived exhausted with torn sails, broken rigging, broken autopilots, broken booms, broken goosenecks. If anybody thinks it's a milk run they haven't done it in a bad year. It happens about every fourish years.

19-08-10, 21:47
Hi Kellyseye.......thanks for sharing that with us. We had been told it would be a picnic.
We have decided that its probably safer for us to stay at work in London.

That was a close one.......nearly did something really dangerous there!!!

anyone want to buy a boat....nearly ready to do an Atlantic circuit?

19-08-10, 21:53
>Why O Why does everybody make so much of going across the pond to the Caribbean.

What utter nonsense. It can be an easy trip and it can also be a nightmare. A few years ago the wind was never less than twenty five knots and usually over thirty. The crews arrived exhausted with torn sails, broken rigging, broken autopilots, broken booms, broken goosenecks. If anybody thinks it's a milk run they haven't done it in a bad year. It happens about every fourish years.

We had the opposite very light winds for the first 19 days and were often becalmed. lots of 2 to 3 knot days where we were happy to see 60 miles run and that was with a big assy spi.

A number of days we downed sail at 4 pm and went for a swim. The skipper holding on to a rope very firmly.

30 days in total, and did not break anything which was our goal unless you count the spi. halyard chafing through. The last few days we had the trade winds set in and in fact they were reinforced trades or the Christmas winds as the locals call them. 20 to 30 knots.

Nowadays there does seem to be a tendancy to drive the boat harder, we reefed down for the night and only flew the spi at night in light conditions with a good moon. Standing orders were that it came down at 5 knots plus.

Perhaps I was a wimp but we got there without breaking stuff.

20-08-10, 04:16
Mel and Nick, I hope that you will stop off in Barbados to say Hi to us on your trip across the pond - many folk arrive here saying 'oh we will only stay a few days, just need some fresh food', and a few weeks / months (years even....) later they are still here......

Just a few random thoughts now that havent really come up so far......

Although sunshine in northern latitudes is jumped upon whenever it makes a (rare) appearance, down this way you will find that you want to stay out of it as much as you can, otherwise you just get barbequed.
You should try, by whatever means possible, to have some form of bimini awning over your cockpit - and if you can arrange it so it can be left up when sailing, then even better. You will find that so long as the rain is not chucking down while at anchor, your cockpit becomes your saloon, as it is often too hot and stuffy down below, even in our 'wintertime'.

If you have room for a second tender, even if it is just a wee 6' roundtail inflatable, then go for it. And if your main tender is easily rowable, then even better, as then there is less dependence on the outboard engine.

Re places to go and see - if I was in your wellies (or bare feet rather - too hot for wellies here!) I would be seriously thinking about spending the summer going up the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, rather than sweltering in the lower Caribbean.
It is very hot and humid down here in the summer, and the tradewinds have absconded, hence anything is possible.

Even if you arrived out here in (say) early January, you could have a few months sailing in the Windward and Leeward islands, and then wander up through the Bahamas to the USA around May (after first taking in Antigua Classics and Race Week in mid / end April).
Potter northwards as summer advances, enjoy the Chesapeake, and aim on getting up to New England, especially Maine and spending some time there before absconding south again in the Fall (autumn).
I have sailed up that way a few times from the Windies, and thought it was wonderful.

Re sailing south again, you could typically leave from Newport, Rhode Island bound for Bermuda - it is only just over 600 miles rhumb line, and light years different when you arrive there, partially as a result of the effect of the Gulf Stream, which you have to cross.
But Herb gives excellent weather routing advice for crossing the Stream on his daily radio net (more about Herb at http://www3.sympatico.ca/hehilgen/vax498.htm )
So, maybe 5 days to get to Bermuda, and then perhaps 9 days from Bermuda down to the Leeward Islands (we took 11 days in an S & S 34 going the other way fifteen years ago, but we had very light winds then).

I know that the Western Caribbean has been mentioned above, and I know (from reports received) that it is very nice, however it is also a very loooong way to beat to windward to get back east again afterwards on your way home. Even if you go north from (say) Central America around the western end of Cuba and then through the Bahamas.

If you are keen on racing (on other people's boats), and partying, well, there is an almost non-stop continuous regatta scene in the Windies in winter time.
I think the La Source regatta is on in Grenada around January, and then there is the Heinekin Regatta in St Maarten in March, and the Bequia Easter regatta, followed soon after by Antigua Classics and (usually a week later) Sailing Week.
If you are still down south in May, Tobago has its Angostura Regatta then, followed soon after by the Mount Gay Regatta in Barbados.
And then there is the Carriacou Regatta in August.
(Have I missed out any?)

I hope that all goes well with Borne's re-fit, and we shall look forward to seeing you out here in the not-too-distant-future.

PS - Have a look also at the other islands mentioned in the link in my signature below.
And I will endorse the opinion aired earlier about getting some copies of any of the Cruising Guides to the islands - Chris Doyle's and Don Street's Guides are good, but there are others as well.

20-08-10, 12:12
Thanks for that Bajansailor and TQA.
I spent £140 with Amazon yesterday so I am looking forward to having plenty of reading time during my daily commute to plough through all the guides etc and make some sense of the advice we have been given.

We are very much cruisers rather than racers. I prefer to touch the tiller leaving and entering a harbour and let "Blondie" ( my old hasler wind vane ) do the steering the rest of the time.

My rig will be twin headsails poled out ( roller and hanked on a removeable inner forestay ). I donít have a spinnaker track on the mast so I shackle the cup fixings together and support them on a halyard and a line to the bow and another to the base of the mast.
This triangulated fixing is totally adjustable and very flexible so little rolling.

My boom is too low to have a bimini up when sailing with the mainsail ( unless someone has a clever idea? but downwind for the crossing I can set up a shade over the cockpit as the main will be stowed.
I was also hoping to rig the shade as a raincatcher with a hose take off in the middle so I can run it straight into the tanks.
I promise that we will visit ( and buy a drink for ) anyone on our route who we meet via this forum......it's all part of the adventure.

20-08-10, 12:21
Re. cockpit shade,

On our boat we use a poled out headsail on the inner forestay one side. For the biggger genoa, we use the boom as its pole. Prevented right out as far as it will go, sheet rove through a block on the end of the boom.

Works great and means you can get some cockpt shade.

22-08-10, 20:19
Here's an idea - try and choose a departure date to maximise moonlight ie probably full moon halfway thru your trip. This reduces the total blackness thing.

You can expect momentary winds (gusts) over 40knot true which sounds like awful but it's behind you. I've done it westwards 4 times and yep, one of those years was heftier winds, the rest not really enough. Or the sails not big enough, not sure....

22-08-10, 20:55
Everybody has talked about the passage west and all the islands when you get there. I haven't managed the time, money and opportunity simultaneously but did spend 5 years working in the W Indies..

Prior to this spent three years in Bermuda and still have to go back to see SWMBO's relatives. On your way back, if you want to take a break there, dont plan on it being much longer than it takes you to catch up on rest and re-stock provisions. You can tour the island in just a couple of days by bus or rented scooter .... and burn loads of money in shops, restaurants and bars.

The Azores often sound attractive - I quite fancy sailing there and back without going any further west.

26-08-10, 14:03
We did the circuit a good few years ago now and don't have much to add about the Windies. Would endorse the remarks about the Spanish Rias, in fact we are planning to return there next year post retirement. No-one has mentioned thwe Intra-coastal Waterway. We sailed from Martinique via DR and Cuba, Bahamas and then to Ft Lauderdale and then up the ICW to Baltimore, with some of it outside, but most of it in the waterway. It really was one of the highspots of the trip- the southern states in particular, the Carolinas and Georgia, for the wild-life, the history- the wonderful old towns like Savannah and Charleston, and the friendly and hospitable people. The Chesapeake was wonderful and we had a memorable side trip to Washington. And don't believe all the stuff you read about "must haves". We didn't have refrigeration or a bimmini and it was fine, though these days a fridge would probably be on my wish list.

26-08-10, 18:12
I will second the ICW as being worth doing. I did Key West to Washington DC and back down to Florida covering all of the ICW at least once but popping out from time to time in 1996.

However you would do this in summer which is Hurricane season. I was 20 miles south of the spot where Bertha hit. Then had Fran to contend with while I was in Washington and finally Josephine had a swipe at me.

27-02-11, 11:24
We did a couple of circuits, but one was a couple of years:

Uk, Rias, Canaries, Barbados and up the chain. Over to Bermuda and cross to Maine etc for Summer - Don't knock the US until you have been! - back down to the Bahamas, around Cuba and down to the Caymans, turn around and back to Cuba and home. - more or less!

The things you might be interested in are that generally in the US, the Bahamas and Cuba, there is plenty of spearfishing..... Cuba is probably the best cruising we have ever had.

It was a great route. PM me if you need more info or top fishing spots!

Patrick and Sinead

27-02-11, 21:03
We did a couple of circuits, but one was a couple of years:

Uk, Rias, Canaries, Barbados and up the chain. Over to Bermuda and cross to Maine etc for Summer - Don't knock the US until you have been! - back down to the Bahamas, around Cuba and down to the Caymans, turn around and back to Cuba and home. - more or less!

The things you might be interested in are that generally in the US, the Bahamas and Cuba, there is plenty of spearfishing..... Cuba is probably the best cruising we have ever had.

It was a great route. PM me if you need more info or top fishing spots!

Patrick and Sinead

Never too late!
We leave in about 3 months.
would love to hear more about Cuba and the Bahamas (I read it was very shallow?)
Did you keep a blog or something we can look at?


27-02-11, 21:29
Never too late!
We leave in about 3 months.
would love to hear more about Cuba and the Bahamas (I read it was very shallow?)
Did you keep a blog or something we can look at?


People make too much about being constrained by their draft in the Bahamas. Yes there is lots of skinny water but there are also lots of places you can get to with 8 feet draft.

Anything up to 6 feet means you can go most places but expect to touch from time to time. 6 -> 8 feet requires some careful chart reading and possibly sounding ahead from the dinghy getting in to some anchorages. Oh yes get some tide tables too!

If you plan to " do " the Bahamas make sure you allow time for the Turks and Caicos which are great.

28-02-11, 15:35
Mel and Nick

l can't add to the places here. I am half way thru' my one year circuit. But the thing that has really made my trip is the cruising community. I have never experienced such a supportive community before. You have to lose your British reserve; get used to knocking on the hull of your neighbours at anchor. Chnaces arethat they'll offer you a beer, tell you the best places to go, introduce you to the rest of the anchorage and invite you to eat with them later. And it's not long before you reciprocate. I broke a windgen blade by walking into it. The threee year old who witnessed it remembered me weeks later 100 miles away! On the cruisers net I asked if anyone had a spare. Within seconds I had offers from all over Prickly Bay - free! Nationality etc are nothing. I was on a bus ride around St Lucia last week with 5 diff europeans, 2 americans and a St Lucian.

So I would treat your plans as you did your ongoing refit to the boat: as a working title. It will probably change along the way.

One thing: DO NOT arrange to meet friends in both place and time. One or the other; ask them when or where they would like to join you: not both. It just doesn't work. Either you get streesed trying to make an inappropriate passage or they spend extra money getting to you. If they want 'where' then ring them a little before to say when; or if they want 'when' then ring them a little before to say where. It's cheaper in the long run. I've got the t-shirt!!

01-03-11, 15:02
Again, thanks for replies.

TQA - touching the bottom never appeals to me ( well, suppose it depends how firm the bottom is ;) ) and that is what has put me off the Bahamas as I draw over 6' in cruising mode, but I will take a good look at the charts.
The other thing is time, if we get to the Caribbean in Jan then we need to see as much as poss and be heading North and home before the wind gets out of hand so not sure if we would get time.

mattonthesea - I imagine in these days of worrying about pirates etc that if you knock on the hull of an American boat then you are likely to get shot!!!!

I agree though, that when cruising, the community is what makes it worthwhile.
It takes a certain kind of person to take all they own and stick it in a small floaty thing and then risk it all to the sea for the sake of a little adventure.
These are the people we want to be around and I have awesome memories of my last trip and the characters that became friends.


02-03-11, 01:16
Hi Mel n Nick
Things are different when you get out there and start your adventure, if you arrive in the Caribbean in Jan then the trades are or should be in full effect giving some high winds and great sailing but if you head to far north to early you will be arriving in winter and all that that entails.

Look at the passage charts and check the percentages for big winds at various lats and longs, it is very hard to keep to a schedule once you start as the weather doesn't care where you want to be next week!

Piracy isn't a huge concern in most anchorages and most cruisers can spot another cruiser when you drop anchor. it takes a little getting used to but the expectations are always to say hi to your neighbours and exchange travel info going in both directions, where you just came from and where you are headed.
Internet and happy hour locations is always a great ice breaker along with the best supermarkets and local produce.

Have fun.


02-03-11, 03:39
The tradewinds have set in finally, and they are blowing lustily - its even rather chilly at night, with temps getting down to around 22 - 23C on the east coast of Barbados (and that is before the wind chill factor!).

Re pirates, hopefully the various dinghy and outboard motor thieves havent cottoned on to what the lads in Somalia are up to now. I think they are happy though, doing what they do best, ie dealing in dinks and motors.
Hence you want to make sure that you provide lots of discouragement for them re your dink, so they go and have a bash at somebody elses.
RHIBs and 10 - 15 hp OB motors are VERY desirable, a wobbly old Avon Redcrest with a 2 hp on the back a bit less so.
But still lock up that 2 hp!

But the general consensus seems to be to just be careful, and take the same precautions that you would in eg somewhere like London. Many American yachtie folk seem to be quite happy living in big cities in the USA, yet feel compelled to equip their vessels with a veritable arsenal of weaponry for a Caribbean cruise.

Re the Foxy's B-log, it is here - http://www.yachtfoxglove.typepad.com/
I met them here in Barbados after they crossed the Atlantic, and I also met Foxglove with her previous Owners (a lovely American couple) in Lymington almost 20 years ago; they had built her themselves about 10 years earlier, and gone off on a wee cruise around the world.
Have a look also at Jonic's B-log at http://www.theyachtmoonshine.com/

09-08-11, 09:10
For several reasons we will be delayed making our way from Gib across the Atlantic to (British) Guyana then the Caribbean. I would be v grateful for all advice and comments on the advisability and problems we encounter leaving this late. I had thought of hading down the African coast to Cape Verde (keeping several hundred miles off-shore) then once we reach the CV head across to Guyana. We would like to cruise up the Essequibo River for a few months before working our way along the Caribbean then Panama and the Pacific.

I have looked at the pilot charts and can see that there is likely to be more gales in Feb / March than November / December, but is it poasaible with good weather advice and routing to work our way down to the CV?

09-08-11, 15:37
Firstly, welcome to the forum.

You should have no problems what-so-ever at that time of year. In my humble opinion, you should stay well north of the ITCZ, at least 200 - 300 NM and only head direct for Guyana once you are well west. If you don't, you will have an extended stay in the doldrums, which can be exiting because of the squalls that appear out of no where and from any direction.

There is another option: Head for Brazil, it's magic. Perhaps Salvador, then back north with stops all along the way.

By the way, on the NE coast of South America, you want to sail to the north of the continental shelf, say about 20 - 50 NM north - you will then be able to take advantage of the Guyana current and will avoid the wooden and unlit fishing boats that litter the waters on the shelf.

09-08-11, 19:25
We would like to cruise up the Essequibo River for a few months

Hello, would you mind sharing the sources of information you have for that area ? I'll pass through next year and have not found a lot -actually nothing in practical terms- in terms of pilotage, etc (apart from Sailing DIrections)...


and if you need anything about Brazil... :smile:

09-08-11, 19:46
I first found out about the river from my wife and I subsequently saw a book at one of the Boat Fairs. The BEST sources I have found are:


I found Bernie Katchor's book extremely encouraging and if you go onto his website he provides loads of navigation information.

Let me know if you find out any further information.:)

09-08-11, 20:09
Let me know if you find out any further information.:)

thanks a lot for the references

I put your address in my favourites, I'll let you know if I find anything :smile:

09-08-11, 20:53
Get an American visa before you go. They are time consuming to get once you've left home.

The cruising up the eastern seaboard of North America is excellent. This year, we've made it to Newfoundland. The people and the scenery are brilliant, if not the highly changeable weather!

12-08-11, 19:30
We agree, get the US visa before you go and go to Maine if you cant make further north. Great place and lovely people - much better than hanging about Trinidad and waiting out the season. If you get chance go to 79th St Boat basin in NYC. Fantastic - middle of Manhattan for US$180 a week, including showers and use of a washing machine - what more can you ask!

13-08-11, 18:39
It is a great read and covers the crcuit (except the US coast)

It is on amazon

You can be EITHER in the South (Trinidad, Panama etc) or up in the US N of Cap Hatteras for Hurricane season.

We have been up and down the US coast a couple of times, and found Maine MUCH better then the Chesapeake Bay. I will never enter it again, unless weather forces it.