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Tanny 11-18-2009 09:50 AM

Fees and Charges in the Caribbean
Hello everyone,
I've tried to skim over many of the posts here and apologize if these questions have already been answered elsewhere.

I'm currently trying to put together a cost estimate for living aboard a 35-40 foot sailboat in the Caribbean, and aside from the usual maintenance and repair costs for the boat, I can't find much info about other kinds of fees and charges to expect.

For instance, registration, insurance, internet connections, licensing, property taxes, moorage fees (or slip fees, but I don't want to spend much time in a slip).

Also, I'm not sure about the whole process of sailing into a different country, and what needs to be done or how much it costs.

The question of insurance is important too. I'm looking at buying a boat that is likely to be over 20 years old. Is insurance even available for older boats? Do I need to have a land based address to get insurance? And do I need to have insurance in order to get the boat hauled out and the bottom re-painted - or any other kind of work done on it? Do I need insurance just to fill the fuel and water tanks?

Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated!


Faster 11-18-2009 10:29 AM

We've sailed much of the Caribbean chain (St Maarten to Grenada) over several winters as guest crew. Since the skipper did the actual clearances this info may be a bit inaccurate but these are our impressions.

Customs fees at the various islands vary but seemed to be $10-20US per person - in some places these fees are reduced if you are 'crew' rather than 'tourist' so it pays to know the local 'ropes' as they say. There may have been a clearance fee for the boat too, can't recall. For so many of these areas each island is it's own country with their own rules.

Most of the marina fees were reasonable by N.A. standards, I think the French islands had the best quality marinas for reasonable fees. In the less populated areas you will often find mooring buoys here and there.. many are 'owned' and (maybe) maintained by a local beach restaurant and often waive the fee if you patronize their business. (The good news with these is at least, unlike BC, you can snorkel and check if their ground tackle is actually likely to hold you.)

The other issue you'll run into is the Boat Boy 'industry'. You'll be greeted - at times considerable distance off - as they compete for your business. They will offer to set you up on a buoy, or offer to help you anchor, or set a stern line ashore. In many cases they will also arrange other things like tours, water/fuel, dinghy watch etc. They do expect a fee for this but generally it's pretty modest ($10-20 E.C. or $3-6US), you are supporting the locals and generating some goodwill. We usually felt more comfortable leaving the boat having used them rather than snubbed them.

Then in some areas you'll get swamped by peddlars.. shell jewelry, produce, and even thinly veiled offers of other commodities perhaps not really legal. Again I think it pays to not alienate these folks, but don't be taken in either. If you buy from one one day, maybe get something from the other the next. Like all such, they can be persistent. You can barter with them and can often trade goods for an old T shirt and a crappy beer!

Restaurant prices vary wildly... but produce is inexpensive. We generally lived a vegetarian lifestyle there unless dining out, and when you see some of the frozen 'meat' available you'll understand why.

By avoiding marinas and restaurants you can live quite cheaply, customs costs of course depend on where you go, how often you move, etc.

I'm sure you'll get better info from some SNers that are there now...

Zanshin 11-18-2009 10:29 AM

I equate the typical charges for clearing in and out of most Caribbean countries to the price of a good evening meal. St. Barts cost me €5 and St. Martin cost €35 (first night is about €30, subsequent nights are €1). In the grand scheme of things those costs don't really come into play compared to other charges. Most places don't care about insurance, some marinas might ask if the boat has liability, filling up with water/fuel doesn't require insurance.

I just got the newest Antigua prices for dockage and they are about $1 per night per foot plus water & power - in line with most of the other places in the northern Caribbean.

Food and drink and spares/supplies/repairs are the major cost factors.

Tanny 11-18-2009 02:34 PM

Hey guys,
Thanks for the replies!

How about internet connections while cruising? Is it only possible while in a slip? I have investments that I need to manage on-line almost on a daily basis and don't want to spend my time tied to a dock.

Zanshin - you have an impressive website! I loved reading about your travels and using your interactive map to see some of your photos. Do you update this from your boat? What software do you use?

MMR 11-18-2009 04:14 PM

Just in case
you haven't found these sites yet...

Faster 11-18-2009 04:44 PM


Originally Posted by Tanny (Post 543264)
Hey guys,
Thanks for the replies!

How about internet connections while cruising? Is it only possible while in a slip? I have investments that I need to manage on-line almost on a daily basis and don't want to spend my time tied to a dock...

Daily access will be a problem.. we were usually able to find an unsecured wifi connection if we were in a 'port', but with so many other, better isolated anchorages your only hope will be a nearby megayacht if one's there - but you can bet it will be secured.

"NEEDING" daily internet access will seriously cramp your cruising style unless you set up your own satellite communications, I'd guess.

Tanny 11-20-2009 09:01 AM

Thanks very much for the link! This is exactly the kind of info I needed!

I kind of expected daily internet access would be a problem. I'll have to schedule my access for those times I'm in 'port'. It won't be a deal breaker.
Thanks for the reply!

Zanshin 11-20-2009 09:25 AM


thanks for the kind words, I've been playing around with the site for 3 weeks now - my demo license of Adobe Dreamweaver just expired. I am heading off to the boat this coming Monday and will activate the blog I installed (SV Zanshin's – Travel Blog). Depending on internet access and if I can get my newly acquired Pactor installed and running I'll be updating it regularly for the next 2 months or so.

I used a Dreamweaver template and built from there. The interactive map was the most work, combining the Google APIs and entering my pictures into a MySQL database took a lot of time. And all this newfangled PHP and HTML scripting is a shift from my standard COBOL and PL1 world, but interesting.

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