We’ve been asked to give a list of tips regarding cruising in the Caribbean by some friends doing the ARC next year, so this is an initial brain dump and in no particular order. Rob and I will sit down and give it some more thought! Won’t be long Steve 🙂
The ‘Equipment’ and ‘Our Thoughts & Tips For Living Aboard In The Caribbean’ sections under ‘Cruising Information’ also has details of our previous thoughts.
1. Bring as much antifouling as you can carry. It is horrendously expensive in the Caribbean! In Guatemala we paid 400 US$ a tin.
2. Get a 15hp 2-stroke outboard and RIB once you arrive. Doing long distances in the dinghy are common and you will use it all the time. Get a long security cable for it too.
3. Don’t bother with bikes unless you love cycling. Most islands have supermarkets with dinghy docks or free buses to the shops for provisioning.
4. Don’t over provision before you leave your home port. You’ll be surprised at what you can buy in Antigua, St Lucia and Grenada. Waitrose products for one. In Martinique and Guadeloupe there are great French supermarkets and boulangeries. We’ve had full turkey dinners at Christmas, including sprouts!
5. Wine is not as expensive as we were led to believe, nor are labour charges so don’t be put off by that. Good work and expertise can be found in many islands, at good prices. We had our arch made in Trinidad and shipped in solar panels etc from Miami. The area is set up for thousands of cruising boats needing parts and services.
6. Make sure you have a good anchor with plenty of chain. Our choice is a spade. You will be anchoring a lot as some islands don’t have any marinas. If not, you’ll be missing out on some wonderful bays. We only used the first third of our chain, so swopped the ends around to extend it’s life.
7. Take time to enjoy the islands if you can and immerse yourself in local life, using the ‘chicken buses’ and talking to the islanders. They have a lot to teach us and are friendly and welcoming. We spent months in many islands and didn’t rush through.
8. Be sensible about security. We always but always locked our ‘doors’ and all but the hatch above our heads at night and lifted and locked the dinghy onto the arch once we had it installed. Dinghies got stolen all around us one night in Rodney Bay but they had been in the water, so easier to steal.
9. Having good solar panels and a water maker frees you up to spend lengthy periods at anchor. Our quiet, diesel generator was also great for topping up the batteries on night passages when we used the autopilot and for the hairdryer and toaster!
10. Don’t be afraid to go up to other boats to say hello. You will soon get a huge network of friends and after a year or so, we never went into a bay without meeting someone we knew. There is safety in keeping in touch with the community, listening to the radio nets and monitoring the Facebook pages, weather and security websites.
11. Customs & Immigration: Respect the rules of each country you visit. If it says ‘Knock and Enter’ on the Customs door just do it. You may well be ignored if you don’t and starting off badly usually ends badly. Enrol in SailClear and eSeaClear to expedite the procedures.
12. Get a smaller genoa than you are used to. We virtually always had a reef in the main when sailing the Caribbean chain but the genoa has a better shape without a reef. We bought a 120% genoa to replace the 140% one originally on.
13. Join the Ocean Cruising Club, especially if you are heading for the USA. The hospitality and free docks are excellent. The OCC SSB net is a good way to stay in touch and join social gatherings.
14. The heat, salt and humidity ruins everything! Glue just melts away. The glue on our expensive Dubarry boots for example. Even if a product says ‘Marine’ it won’t last so you may as well buy cheap things that you are happy to throw away.
15. Costs for phones, Wifi, laundry, garbage and water can add up. Think about having a washing machine if you have space and a water maker. You will soon get to know which islands are cheaper!
16. Get some solar fairy lights for the guard rails or stern. Often we went ashore midday and then met friends and got back to the boat after dark. Having lights that turn on automatically helps you find the boat and act as a mooring light.