For many, the Caribbean represents the ultimate charter destination. A wonderful climate, idyllic tropical islands, stunning coral reefs, palm trees and rum cocktails; these are the reasons why the Caribbean remains high on many people’s must-visit list. The Caribbean’s proximity to the US mainland, and good international transport links throughout the islands, means that chartering in the Caribbean could not be easier.
The Caribbean islands can be divided roughly into five groups – the Bahamas, the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands, the Greater Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles. Each group has its own particular identity and characteristics, all of which are subtly different and which have their own specific appeal.
Generally speaking, the further ‘down island’ you go (in other words, the further south you travel) the more ‘Caribbean’ the islands become in character. The Bahamas, situated just off the coast of Florida, tend to have a more American feel to them, and are more touristy than the islands of the Lesser Antilles just off the coast of Venezuela.
The Bahamas are blessed with excellent facilities, including state-of-the-art marinas, resorts, and almost limitless duty-free shopping opportunities.
The Greater Antilles consist of the larger islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and Puerto Rico. Generally speaking, the Greater Antilles tends to be less visited by charter yachts due to a relative lack of facilities compared to elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Similarly, the Lesser Antilles see fewer charter yachts because of their distance from the US mainland and more complicated international transport connections.
The Leeward and Windward Islands, which include the Virgin Islands, St Martin, St Barts, Martinique, Saint Lucia, and Barbados (among many others), typify most people’s idea of the Caribbean. Here you will find gourmet dining or beach barbecues, full-service marinas or deserted anchorages, top-notch casinos or a game of dominoes in the shade of a palm tree.
Wherever you go in the Caribbean, you are certain to find an island that is just right for you.
It’s often better (less windy hence calmer seas) for motor boats in summer – if you can get a boat and avoid hurricanes it’s a wonderful time of year to visit..
Don’t use the lagoon at St Martin in a big boat, the unreliable lifting bridge doesn’t open very often, and sometimes gets stuck for days! Anchor off Simpson Bay near the airport instead, where you can often have your bags trollied directly from the airport to the jetty just a short walk away.
Beware of ciguatera poisoning: not only when you fish yourselves, but from unknown sources.
When planning your itinerary try to keep the trade-winds behind you on long sea passages to make life more comfortable – discuss with your captain and follow their advice.
For smaller boats, especially sailing boats, it’s hard to beat the British Virgin Islands