Since the 16th Century, the warm waters and bountiful islands of the Caribbean have had a magnetic effect on sailors because of the near perfect conditions and many follow in the wake of the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan to enjoy the best sport afloat.
The optimum time to sail the Caribbean is January through March as the summer rains and hurricane season from June to November do not always offer the best of conditions.
Sailing around the Caribbean is great fun for all standards of sailors. Whether you’re a first timer looking for gentle cruising and island hopping or an experienced crew member wanting practice races, the destinations are varied and interesting. Your sailing itinerary depends on the pace you want to set, places you want to visit and whether you want to moor next to a wooden jetty protruding out from swaying palms or dive into the sea off an isolated picture postcard cove and swim ashore to imprint the only footsteps in the sand. You may choose an island because you have a penchant for wildlife or have a hankering to visit a particular festival.
It’s generally accepted that the near perfect conditions make The British Virgin Islands the top destination for Caribbean sailing. About 60 islands and cays lie in clear water in an area measuring about 32 x 15 miles and sailing is propelled by North East Trade Winds. The BVI Spring Regatta is a three day festival visited by more than 100 yachts to make one of the most exciting sailing events in the Caribbean. The BVI are good for inexperienced or first time sailors.
If it’s laid back and unspoilt islands that you want, then sail The Grenadines. This island group includes the paradises of Mustique, Mayreau and Union Island but also numerous uninhabited jewels where you can spend the perfect day by anchoring just offshore and heading to pristine beaches for sunbathing and swimming. You could visit a number in any one day or jump off at immensely beautiful St. Vincent, the group’s main island where it’s heavily rain forested and has some attractive jungly coves and the blue lagoon. Bequia is worth a visit just for the superlative water front.
Antigua is another island that’s home to major sailing events: Sailing week is a world class regatta and there’s the Classic Yacht Regatta attended by a huge variety of ships including schooners, ketches, sloops, yawls, tall ships and traditional island crafts. Beside the events, Antigua has dozens of little harbors to enjoy.
St. Martin in The French West Indies is a great destination for a multitude of deserted beaches and from there you may strike out to one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque bays, Fort-de-France, Martinique or to Orient Bay on St. Martin. Sail for about half a day from St. Martin to make land at the oh so glamorous St. Barts.
These are the pick of the bunch of Caribbean sailing hotspots but there’s others worthy of mention: The Bahamas, easily reached from Miami, Fl. where you can enjoy the coral reef close to Abaco Island. Barbuda with many deserted coves and is home to a huge colony of Frigate birds, and Guadeloupe and Martinique both with a diverse set of beaches, islets, bays and inlets within barrier reefs.
So it’s all aboard, anchors aweigh and wait for land ahoy to be called.