For great sailing, fun in the sun and musical beach-bar evenings, chartering in the Caribbean has no equal (published August 2013)
Bareboat chartering in the Caribbean has something for everyone as long as you like warm trade wind breezes, beautiful clear water, fun and fast sailing days, walks on pure white beaches and evenings ashore enjoying a local restaurant and later kicking up your heels at a nearby beach bar. It’s all about sailing, swimming and having fun.
There are quiet anchorages for rest and relaxation and then there are the hot spots. Here are 12 in the B.V.I.s and the Windward and Leeward Islands where you can have it all.
The world’s most popular sailing charter destination, the British Virgin Islands is a bareboat chartering paradise with steady but not too strong trade winds, often flat seas and many safe anchorages that are equipped with mooring balls. There are plenty of idyllic and quiet anchorages, but for lovely days and fun evenings, here are the hottest spots in the B.V.I.
The Bight at Norman’s Island: Often the first stop on a week-long charter, the Bight has plenty of moorings, good protection from the trade winds, great snorkeling on both sides of the harbor entrance and a pretty white beach for lounging and swimming. After dark, the Pirates Bight beach bar and restaurant serves great local fare and often has live music. If you want to whoop it up, then Willie Ts, an old converted schooner, is for the fun loving and uninhibited.
Marina Cay: This hibiscus covered islet at Tortola’s east end has a big mooring field and good places to anchor. Just to the north, through the small cut, you will find good snorkeling and an inviting beach. At sundown, you can enjoy music and a drink at the Sunset Bar on top of the cay and then an excellent dinner at Pusser’s Restaurant where the party will continue well into the night.
The Bitter End: In Virgin Gorda’s North Sound you will find The Bitter End Yacht Club, which has many good moorings, lovely beaches, beach toys to rent and a festive atmosphere that is great for the whole family. You can savor your favorite libations at the beach bar and then go upscale for a fine meal at the resort’s excellent restaurant or go easy on the wallet at the fun local pub.
Foxy’s at Jost Van Dyke: A B.V.I. charter would be incomplete without a raucous night at Foxy’s. The mooring field in the small cove fills up quickly so get there early to enjoy a swim and a stroll around this lovely island. Then it’s dinner, music and dancing, and on most evenings, Foxy himself will sing a few songs and raise the temperature on the dance floor.
The French-Dutch island of St. Martin is a bustling tourist destination ashore, but a delightful chartering spot with various options for taking in the island’s facilities while enjoying the peace and quiet of your own boat.
Grand Case: On the northwest side of the island, Grand Case is a deep bay that offers good protection from the trade winds and a fine anchorage in crystal clear water. There is good snorkeling off Creole Rock and the beach is long and inviting. Grand Case is one of the culinary hot spots of the Caribbean with many restaurants to choose from for any budget. And, as the night winds on, the nightclubs begin to heat up to the sounds of calypso and rock that will keep you on your feet till the wee hours if you like.
Gustavia, St. Barts: A short sail south from St. Martin is the exotic French island of St. Barts where you will find a good anchorage just north of town. St. Barts is worth a couple of sybaritic days of scootering, beaching, sun bathing and soaking up the Frenchness of it all. Croissants and black coffee for breakfast, beach bars and bikinis for lunch, sundowners overlooking the megayachts that lie stern to the harbor quay and then an evening on the town. Only your wallet will know.
Anguilla: Northwest of St. Martin lies the low, arid island of Anguilla which is gradually getting the reputation as one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems and is a favorite of movie stars, moguls and charter boat parties alike. The beaches are pristine and the diving and snorkeling on the reefs in the nearby marine park is excellent. Anguilla is all about fine dining and there are several excellent restaurants near the anchorage that can accommodate any budget.
English Harbor: One of the most secure small harbors in the Caribbean, English Harbor is home to Nelson’s Dockyard, once a major base for the British Navy in the 18th Century. The anchorage is fairly small but has good holding. There is a pleasant beach nearby in front of the Inn. For sun-downers with a magnificent view, head up to the Shirley Heights party on a Sunday afternoon. Nightlife revolves around the Admiral’s Inn and The Copper & Lumber store. You might get lucky and be there on the night of a local jump up or seasonal festival. This is a famous sailing harbor and not to be missed. But if you want a little peace and solitude, all you have to do is sail south around the island and anchor close to the picture perfect white beach at Green Island where you are likely to have the place to yourself.
There are charter bases in St. Vincent, The Grenadines and Grenada, so take your pick. An excellent charter plan is a one-way charter from St. Vincent, through the Grenadines with the end in Grenada, and that’s the route we’ll follow here.
Bequia: Often the first stop on a charter, Bequia is a sailor’s island with a long tradition of boatbuilding and dinghy racing. The anchorage in Admiralty Bay is secure, the village charming and Princess Margaret Beach worth a stroll. Bequia is a dive center and has many good diving and snorkeling spots. A home to many expats, the nightlife ashore is varied and international; and the restaurants reflect this eclectic blend. Bequia is famous for its regattas and the parties that go with them so check the calendar before you book your charter.
Union Island: This is another diving and snorkeling island that offers days of underwater exploration. Small and less touristy than the larger island, you can drop the hook in secure Clifton Harbor to while away many hours or days on the white sand beaches, sip sundowners at the beach bars and tap your feet to the music of the steel drum bands. Union feels like the old Caribbean and is the essence of island time.
Carriacou: This is a real sailor’s island, too, and you will find many world cruising boats and veteran bareboat charterers in the anchorages. It is also a party island with a world famous Carnival in February and a rollicking regatta in July. The diving and beaches around the island are excellent and the nightlife ashore really heats up during the winter season. Also, the last time we were here there was a local lady with a powerboat in the anchorage that she converted into a small bar. Her grilled chicken was superb and the rum punch some of the best in the Caribbean.