The Caribbean Sea has been touted as the most popular cruising and sailing area in the world, with more than 7,000 islands and islets constituting a 2,500-mile long and 160-mile wide chain. No longer a sanctuary for pirates and buccaneers, the Caribbean nonetheless still remains a strong attraction to those who love to live their life on the sea, and to discover the secret treasures of tropical islands.
THE LURE OF ARCHIPELAGOS ON PRIVATE BOATERS
Those who choose to explore locations by sea constantly remind land dwellers of the exclusive sites that they alone can access. This rings especially true for the many who set sail in the Caribbean, where there are many ‘special places’ that only boaters know about. Here, hidden beaches – some with bars – turquoise coves, and volcanic landforms abound.
‘By boat’ is also the only way to see the myriad chains of small uninhabited islands and the archipelagos within archipelagos that populate the Caribbean. For some, the exploration is endless. In one case a retired couple spent eight years “swinging on the hook at some of the most beautiful anchorages on Earth,” reported International Living Magazine, surviving on just US$1,000 a month by mimicking the locals in terms of sourcing food, attention to health, and other necessary services.
Eight years may seem a long time to travel in one region, but when you couple the Caribbean’s natural splendour with the uncountable number of lively marinas and boatyards across the entire basin, its appeal becomes apparent. Grenada’s colourful Port Louis Marina, or St Kitts and Nevis’ Christophe Harbour, for example, feature yacht berths and trendy restaurants, drawing celebrities from all across the world. Even if time only allows a few weeks to experience the Caribbean, sea vacationers choose to return many times.
Ask any seaman about the Caribbean and you’ll be in for a long chat. You will hear about sighting tropical and unspoiled environments from a distance, or spotting small towns and their daily activities. You may be told about the quiet and calmness of the sea, only interrupted by the sound of gentle winds and water flowing. You will also be asked to envision pure freedom: the ability to disconnect from land routines and choose a destination at a moment’s whim.
While many believe that yachting or boating is somewhat of an expensive and long-term, commitment, it is not necessarily so. The variety of full service marinas in the region suits any pocket right up to superyacht status. Short- and long-term mooring is available, and there remains the ability to moor just short of port and dinghy into any number of exuberant, high-class establishments whenever a break from the waves is required.
ALTERNATIVE SEA EXPERIENCES
If owning a boat is not viable, there are other ways to enjoy the Caribbean Sea. Hiring boats, chartering yachts, or volunteering as a crew-member are all worthwhile alternatives. There is even the possibility of traversing the sea in replicas of 19th century ships, giving passengers a sense of what it was like to be without technology and using maps where ‘an X marks the spot,’ as well as a taste of the true art of sailing – a 7,000 year-old activity. Ships and yachting contractors are creative too. There are, for example, themed cruises catering to all – the more well-liked being food, music, or books, or even golf, dancing, and religion.
SAIL, COMPETE, AND SPECTATE
There is also a special breed of water babies: the racers. These are the competitors who go to the Caribbean to partake in the year-long race calendar. Such events are varied, ranging from regattas to rendezvous. All the islands have some form of race sailing, and many of those unfold over several days. The Grenada Sailing Week, which takes place annually over five days in January or February, is more of a festival – including not only boat races, but also sailing courses, which it has had to increase exponentially to accommodate the growing range of yachts attracted to the event.
Dominica has recently upgraded its yacht security and yacht services training, and now serves as a model for other Caribbean islands in terms of safety. Its yachting calendar includes an annual ‘give back’ event, the Dominica Yachtie Appreciation Week, which was established “in appreciation of [yachting visitors coming] to the island and the financial contribution that they inject into the local yachting services sector.” From a yacht perspective, Dominica (along with Grenada) is acknowledged as having some of the best diving spots and whale watching opportunities in the basin.
St Kitts and Nevis does not fall short of its neighbours. The St Kitts Yacht Club extends its activities to include a Youth Sailing Day, tournaments, and a national sailing week. One of its events, ‘Chase the Monkey,’ is described as a “fun pursuit race from St Kitts to Nevis,” which tests seafaring skills through various nautical challenges.
The Caribbean is the most coveted area in the world for sailing, and, whether you are a leisure sailor or a competitor, once it is visited, it is never forgotten.