Our Thoughts & Tips For Living Aboard In The Caribbean

This is not a ‘which boat to choose’ as everyone’s opinion differs. On our ‘About Beyzano’ page are a few reasons why we chose a Beneteau 473 but for us, especially after 4 Caribbean seasons, she is still perfect for our lifestyle.

Getting Aboard
For us the cruising life involves being at anchor 95% of the time, so getting on and off the boat, with luggage and supplies needs to be easy. A wide stern with a wide platform in the sugar scoop makes getting aboard simple. Imagine a choppy anchorage, a bouncy dinghy alongside and a heavy load such as dive tanks to get on the boat. Climbing up a ladder on the side of a boat is not easy.

Christmas Morning Brunch

Big Cockpit
If you enjoy sitting outside and having friends over, a large cockpit is desirable and we do spend the majority of our waking hours in the cockpit. It is also nice to be able to lie down easily on passage to rest. Lots of storage lockers are essential as during your cruising you will amass many items, such as diving bottles, engine spares, lines, boxes of tools, snorkel gear and countless other items. Inflatable fenders save on storage space and we rarely get to use our big bulky fenders.

Cockpit Comfort & Safety
Good thick cushions with shaped backrests are just more comfortable and it’s always pleasant to be invited on a boat which has good seating!

A clear, clutter free cockpit with a good sized table, no mainsheet traveller to clamber over and lines coming back to the cockpit, all make life easier. It should be secure when sailing and we replaced wire lifelines around the cockpit for solid stainless steel tubes.

Jackstays installed from the companionway to the helms make it easier to clip on at night, as soon as you leave the saloon and it is still possible to move around the cockpit without unclipping. Having as many lines as possible fed back to cockpit means nobody has to go on deck at night or in bad weather.

A 3rd reef put into our mainsail and the reefing line led back into the cockpit was another addition to improve safety.

In mast furling is popular with short-handed sailors, so long as it doesn’t get stuck!

Sheltered From The Caribbean Sun

Davits
The main reason we didn’t have a hard bottomed dinghy before is that they are heavy and difficult to store, unless you buy an aluminium version. It is far safer and easier to have the dinghy lifted out of the water at night, as dinghy theft is quite common. To facilitate this, we had davits installed. At the same time they support 4 solar panels, which pretty much give us all the power we need. We lift the dinghy every night and lock it on for security. For long passages we just take the fuel tank out, add a few more straps to secure the dinghy to the strong arch and use the cargo hoist to support the weight of the outboard. It never moves, despite some rough conditions and it’s so easy to drop it down to get to customs. Towing dinghies is a nightmare.

Dinghy & Outboard
Most cruisers have update their dinghy when they arrive as distances and choppy seas require a hard bottom dinghy with a 10 or 15 hp outboard (our 15 is the same weight as a 10 so better to get more power) is essential. Hyperlon is a must to avoid UV degradation and many people fit dinghy chaps to protect them. We also put ‘fins’ on the outboard to help with lift and fuel economy. Don’t put the name of your boat on the dinghy if you can avoid it as we think it just advertises the fact you aren’t on board.

Hard Bottomed Dinghy With 15hp Outboard & 20 Litre Fuel Tank

Anchor & Chain
Forget the CQR. They just don’t seem to hold and we always see them for sale at the boat jumbles! Spade & Rocna anchors are the popular choice here and most cruisers have minimum of 2 anchors, some have 3. The Spade resets itself quite easily if you swing around 180˚ and the Spade manufacturer’s literature recommends a lighter anchor for our boat length and weight (25 kg for our boat) compared to a 33 kg Rocna. We paint ours brightly and are happy when we can’t see any orange in the sand or mud.

Trusty Spade - Painted For 'Non-Visibility' In The Seabed

Most cruisers carry plenty of chain. We have 75 metres plus 25 metres of rope on the end but we rarely use more than 40 metres of chain. We also have our old delta anchor and a danforth in the locker in case we need a stern anchor as well. It is best to have a good nylon snubber made up so it can be easily deployed, as boats swing around quite a lot in many anchorages so the snubber absorbs some of the shock and sits more quietly in the bow roller. If you sleep in the bow it helps give a quiet night.

Sun Awnings
Good awnings are another essential and we learnt pretty quickly that we needed to adapt our UK ones. The bimini is large on our boat and goes to the edges of the hull, a good idea. What we then added was zipped on side screens in a mesh material so we can still see out of them, a long back piece to keep the sun off our necks when helming and the evening sun out of the cockpit. It can be tied horizontally when we sail or right down when at anchor, or be rolled away.

Another addition was a plastic panel in the bimini to enable the helm to see the mainsail when its being hoisted or dropped.

Finally we had full deck awnings made, one with a water catcher for the bow and another to go over the boom and slightly overlap the front of the bimini. So all our teak deck is covered and we can leave some hatches open in the rain. To be honest, we mostly use the bow awning, as it’s smaller and easier to put up. The larger one can flap a bit in the high winds we often get but it was useful in the heat of the Trinidad yard where it was rarely windy.

We have seen some awnings inserted into long channels fixed to the length of the boom, so you don’t have to drop the lazy jacks to put them up. If they are easy to put up they get used more often.

With A View Like This Why Sit Inside?!

Hatches
Having deck hatches that open to face the bow is perfect at anchor when that’s the way the wind will be blowing, so don’t put your hatches in the other way around!

More Sun Protection

Hatch covers help cut down UV damage and help keep it cool inside the boat. Ours were made by Outland Hatch Covers, which fit quickly and easily.

Air-Conditioning
We don’t have AC but did fit 4 12v fans. As we rarely run the fans, we are glad we didn’t bother with AC as it takes up space and most people only run it in the marina or have to run the generator all night! Our boat has 15 opening hatches and it is usually windy, so there is no problem with getting a breeze through the boat.

Plenty of dorade vents are also good to have as they can be left open in all weathers. Ventilation around the galley is a must.

Water Maker
Yes, you can get water in many islands. Sometimes it’s easy on a big fuel dock but often you are carrying cans back to the boat. You always pay for water unless you can just catch the rain, another thing we have done. Water makers are popular but troublesome. Ours can produce 60 litres an hour but we tend to run the generator or engine at the same time as it uses a fair bit of power. It is expensive to fix but as it was already installed when we bought the boat, we have kept it going as it gives us the freedom not to worry about finding water. It takes up a big space under our bunk.

Some are 240v, so you always have to run the generator but the 12/24v versions can run from the engine or a generator or even solar panels if you have enough output.

If you work out the cost of buying water compared to buying the unit and the fuel to run it, you can decide if you need one. Lots of people don’t bother.

Extra Tanks
We can last a month on our 3 water tanks, showering daily and not being too careful with water usage. We have enough fuel in 2 tanks to motor for 6 days.

Galley
A galley needs plenty of prep space and to be safe at sea. We added a strap and hooks to enable the cook to strap in at the cooker or worktop. A salt water tap for rinsing dishes saves on fresh water and a fresh water tap that is foot operated is necessary in case the electrics go down. Some cruisers fit a filter to this tap so they can have filtered drinking water.

Keel cooled fridges and freezers seem to the most efficient and can be retro fitted to some makes. They appear to be less trouble than water cooled versions.

Freezer – not essential but great for freezing meals for passages, impromptu BBQs etc.

Cooking Gas Bottles – ours are 3 blue Camping Gaz ones, which you can fill in most islands. It is probably better to have 2 of the 10 lb American ones, which can be filled everywhere.

Sea Berth
Best located close to the centre of the boat for comfort and access to the chart table and companionway. Doesn’t have to be a cabin, just a sofa with a lee cloth is fine.

Power
Most modern cruising boats are power hungry, depending on what you want to run, such as a microwave, freezer, electric winches etc, so you need at least a couple of methods of providing power. Solar panels, wind generators, a larger alternator on engine, a big inverter, generators and a good battery bank – 6-700 amps seems to be the norm. Trojan golf cart & AGM batteries are the most popular.

The newer wind generators, such as the D400 are becoming more widespread as they are more efficient and quieter.

We have a 3kw diesel generator located in our stern lazarette and we have a water/gas separator on the exhaust to make it quieter. The other popular choice is to have a portable Honda 2kw petrol generator but they are noisy but take up less space.

For the engine, it would be useful to have 2 primary fuel filters with a switching capability so you can divert to the second one if the first clogs up, without having to dismantle everything whilst at sea. Some fuel in the Caribbean can be a bit suspect so choose places where there is a high turnover of fuel.

Antifouling
What a shock the price of antifouling was! It costs us 1000 British Pounds for paint each time we haul out. If we had known, we’d have used Coppercoat and a lot of people are now using that quite successfully. Other than that, it seems the harder antifouling is more effective than the soft.

Avoid staying in any lagoons or marinas for too long as barnacles jump on fast and in huge numbers. If you don’t scrape them off quickly, they soon grow and leave hard white ‘cement’ behind. A snorkel is a crucial bit of kit.

Other Equipment
Under Best and Worst Equipment we have noted our thoughts about specific items.

This page will be updated from time to time but please do contact us if you have any questions.

One Response to Our Thoughts & Tips For Living Aboard In The Caribbean

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for the update, most of it were there on, but still a few gems! ta

    Steve

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