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post #1 of 15 Old 01-10-2013 Thread Starter
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Caribbean advice

We have never been to the Caribbean before. We have always sailed the Pacific and I easily get lost trying to obtain information on the Caribbean as there are so many places to visit and I get information overload.

Next season we will be crossing the pond to the Caribbean like most from the Verdes in late November. My question is what would you advise if we were only going to spend 5 or 6 weeks there before heading to Pannama. I would love some ideas on first island port which would be an easy place to have the grand kids come visit from the states. A good place that I can day sail, has plenty of great anchorages where the kids can fish and swim. They are from Wyoming and have never spent any time in a warm water destination. The three grand kids will be 7, 10 and 13 and may have to come without an adult so easy air travel to the island would be important.

Any ideas?
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post #2 of 15 Old 01-10-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

From across the pond I'd probably have to say Antigua is a good candidate, esp if you want visitors from the US.. English Harbour/Falmouth are good anchorages/marinas, good rates, decent facilities.. and if you're spending some time there and want a weekend diversion it's a pleasant sail around to Nonsuch Bay, Green Island area for great snorkeling on the reefs. Another easy sail back to port afterwards. Going the other way offers some nice sailing behind the reef to Jolly Harbour.

For a more Euro feel, then the French islands are south... Guadaloupe, Martinique have good marinas, and each has similar less busy 'destinations'... Iles des Saintes is a must see.. another nice daysail from a major centre (Pointe a Pitre). We know people that spend months here alone.

Further on in the SVGs I'd say that Tobago Cays should be on your list.. as should Bequia. If you get this far south, then Carriacou is a totally laid back, non cruise-ship-destination place where you can wander pristine beaches for miles all to yourself. The bus rides here are worth the trip alone!!

Panama bound and short on time might call for a diversion towards Nevis/St Kitts, then on to Saba, yet another totally different experience though weather and swell conditions are huge factors in stopping there... no good anchorage but a handful of buoys.. more interesting cab rides and an island night and day from your average sandy reef protected haven.. but worth it in its own way...

Pretty much can't go wrong.. it's all good!

Ron

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Last edited by Faster; 01-10-2013 at 04:40 PM.
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-10-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

Well, that would be St Martin.

Three reasons:
The best refitting port in the world and you are between a long passage and another.
Great easy airport with dinghy dock direct flights from Miami and Ft Lauderdale (and Europe)
Kid friendly cruisng, beaches, fun

The other reason which we shouldn't allude to is its great for adults too! Restaurants on the French Side are superb, like,Grand Case a bay side village that is full of restaurants ( take the boat and go on Tuesdays nights when the parade is on). Bars, clubs and nightlife on the Dutch side.

Get there and work out your cruise plan to get to Panama. I would suggest definitly St Barths, and Antigua and anywhere else you have time.

It's all good.

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post #4 of 15 Old 01-11-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

The best place for you is going to be Antigua. Lots to do and see, Montserrat is an easy day sail if you want to get close to a volcano and Guadeloupe is there if you want a French touch to your Caribbean sailing.

I try to include Guadeloupe when I have visitors.
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post #5 of 15 Old 01-11-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

If easy air travel from the U.S. is a top priority, then I would suggest Puerto Rico as the best, USVI second, and Antigua third.

First off, it appears that if they fly from a Wyoming airport they will have to connect through Denver, so it might be best if they catch the flight in Denver. My relatives in Cheyenne pretty much always drive to Denver before flying anywhere, but then I also have lots of relatives in Denver, so the Cheyenne contingent can always find family to visit and stay with if they want.

There are lots of flights to Puerto Rico from Denver with only one change, usually in Miami. St. Thomas, USVI can also be gotten to with only one change, but there aren't as many flights and they're a little more expensive. Antigua can also be gotten to with only one change, but there are even fewer flights than for STT and they are even more expensive.

The other suggestions are beautiful places to visit, but they will all require the grandkids to make even more plane changes, in small airports, where I, personally, would be concerned about the assistance and attention they would get from the airport personnel.
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post #6 of 15 Old 01-11-2013 Thread Starter
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Re: Caribbean advice

Thanks for all the advice. Last night I did my home work and everyones ideas look good.

Lot can change in a years time but thinking of making land fall in Martinique then moving up to Antigua.

I noticed that the windward side of Martinique has a lot of bays inside the barrier reef. Looks a lot like the S. Pacific Islands. our SV is aluminum centerboard and we draw 1 meter. Have any of you spent time on the windward side of Martinique? I read it can be done if you know what you are getting into.

Cheers
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post #7 of 15 Old 01-11-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

The boat we've cruised on down there had a 7 foot draft.. the windward side of Martinique never came up.....

Ron

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".. there is much you could do at sea with common sense.. and very little you could do without it.."
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post #8 of 15 Old 01-11-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

I've spent 4 winters in the Eastern Caribbean and have seen most of it. Faster and Mark in their posts above offer good suggestions. Antigua is a great island with the best parts IMO being English Harbor (home of Nelson's Shipyard) and Nonsuch Bay, a fairly remote spot on the windward side sheltered behind a reef. The French islands are nice and very cosmopolitan by Carib standards. Our favorite spots in the French islands include Iles de Saintes and some of the bays south of Fort de France on Marintique. If you're looking for some city life Fort de France (Martinique) and Point-a-Pitre (Guadeloupe) are good choices, but are lacking somewhat in "island" atmosphere. Sint Maarten (Dutch)/St. Maritin (FR) is a good stop and as mentioned the marine trades available there are very good. The Dutch side offers easier anchoring (Simpson Bay Lagoon) and is a bit over-developed IMO having much less charm than the French side. There are places in Sint Maarten where you think you're in the US.

Re routing for young travelers from Wyoming -- they will have to change planes somewhere. They can probably get direct flights to many major islands from Chicago and many more islands from Miami / Ft. Lauderdale. Flying through San Juan presents even more island destination options with the major US airlines and is an easy connection to places like the US and BVI. Islands where it might be difficult for you to get to the airport to pick them up would be anywhere in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, the airport on the south side of St Lucia, anywhere in Martinique except Marin and Fort de France, anywhere in Guadeloupe except Point-a-Pitre and anchorages on the east and south coasts of Puerto Rico. Among the easiest places in the Caribbean for meeting arriving crew are St. Thomas, BVI (Beef Island), Sint Maarten, Antigua, Point-a-Pitre, Fort de France and Castries in St. Lucia.

Although probably not your first stop in the Caribbean, I encourage you not to overlook the US Virgins, which are a great place to have kids visit -- and especially St. John. If I were picking one place for grandkids to visit and I wanted to be sure they had a nice tropical experience, it would be St. John. You'll will find very few places in the Caribbean prettier and more restful than the bays on the north side of St. John and few places as unspoiled as those on the south side of the island. All the major bays on St. John are in the national park, all have high quality moorings at reasonable prices ($15/night), most have great sandy beaches, there are great walks to take ashore and, best of all, much of the island is still in a natural state. On the other hand, St. John is American, tropo-American yes, but you know you're in the US. If it's the true Caribbean cultural experience you want them to experience you can hop over to the BVI. Downside of the BVI is all the charter boats. Connections into and out of the US/BVI easy via the San Juan and there are more and probably better opportunities for varied day sailing in the US and BVI than you'll find anywhere else (except perhaps the Grenadines).

Stopping in the VI also sets you up nicely for the trip to Panama. The passage from the VI or eastern Puerto Rico to Colon is not difficult -- 6-7 days in the trades. Starting from there (vs the Windwards) shortens the passage somewhat and gives you an opportunity to avoid the windy zone usually found 25-150 miles off the Columbian coast. This is an area where the winds are sometimes near gale force and the seas are among the largest in the entire basin. (See the Caribbean pilot chart). If you were to take a course that runs from the USVI to about 14N 77 30W and from there direct Colon you can avoid the area mentioned above.

Good luck and have fun with the grands.

Last edited by billyruffn; 01-11-2013 at 03:29 PM.
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post #9 of 15 Old 01-11-2013
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Re: Caribbean advice

If the kids have to travel without an adult, there aren't many reasonable options. I think St Thomas is your best bet, with Puerto Rico a close second. But I would check with the airlines to see if they would allow unaccompanied minors on international flights, and if STT and SJU qualify as international for these purposes. I certainly wouldn't expect a 13-year-old to be able to shepherd two younger siblings through immigration coming and going, if anything, anything at all, went screwy.
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Re: Caribbean advice

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Originally Posted by hannah2 View Post
I noticed that the windward side of Martinique has a lot of bays inside the barrier reef. Looks a lot like the S. Pacific Islands. our SV is aluminum centerboard and we draw 1 meter. Have any of you spent time on the windward side of Martinique? I read it can be done if you know what you are getting into.
Never been there and don't know anyone who has -- and as I said in an earlier post I've spent 4 seasons in the Eastern Carib. From my overland trips to the windward side of several islands my guess is that most of these bays probably aren't suitable for cruising boats and are accessible only by exposing yourself to a bash to windward in getting there. Bear in mind that in Carib sailing the windward side of islands routinely experience trades of 20-25 kts. It's one thing to sail in the trades with the wind on or abaft the beam, but bashing into them to get to the windward side of an island and then finding your way through a reef to shelter in a spot that probably has the look and feel of a similar bay on the leeward side of the same island......well, it's probably not worth the effort. In short, there are lots of places on the leeward side of islands or in areas that don't require a big beat to windward. In my experience most cruisers in the Carib stick to the leeward side of islands.

One of the issues you'll deal with moving up or down the island chain in the Caribbean is the acceleration of wind velocity when moving between islands. This is especially true with islands with big mountains near their N and S coasts. The islands create a Venturi effect between the headlands on the north and south coasts of two islands. To get to the windward side of an island you often need to beat into 25 or more knots of wind in seas created over a 2000+ mile fetch. Not a lot of fun, believe me.

If you want to see the windward side of Martinique, rent a car.
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