8 Tips for Sailing in the Caribbean
A sailing trip in the Caribbean can be a truly magnificent experience, but there are some pitfalls that could sour the experience. Arming yourself with as much knowledge as possible before you head off on your adventure will ensure a smooth voyage. Keep the following eight tips in mind for sailing in the Caribbean so you don’t end up in a precarious situation in foreign waters.
1. What to Pack
One of the most important things you must do is pack everything you need. Keep your packing to a minimum as space on board is always a little tight. Items you need to remember include: sunblock, toiletries, polarized sunglasses, deck shoes, personal wipes, and Aloe Vera lotion. You also want to bring a soft duffel bag instead of a hard case to make stowing your gear easier. Keep clothing to a minimum to save space – you’ll find that your swimsuit and a few T-shirts will suffice.
2. Staying Safe from Pirates
This isn’t the Caribbean of old with Blackbeard and other buccaneers running wild, but there are still pirates operating in the Caribbean. Most of the incidents occur near Venezuela, Grenada, and sometimes Trinidad & Tobago. Try to avoid danger areas, and make sure you always have a good radio with the Coast Guard frequencies programmed into it so you can call for help if necessary.
3. Protect Your Boat When You Are Onshore
Pirates are a possibility, but burglaries when you are away from the boat are much more likely. The best way to prevent this is to always secure your boat with heavy-duty locks whenever you leave. You may think it is a hassle if you are just going on a short excursion, but you’d be surprised how quickly it can happen, and it is far better to go to that effort than to risk coming back to find your ship ransacked. Installing a security alarm is also a smart idea to scare thieves away.
4. Know the Customs Rules
You had better know all the customs rules of any island you are planning to visit before you land, for docking at the wrong port could cost you a hefty fine. Try to stick to The French islands for a more relaxed customs experience. On the other hand, the British Virgin Islands and Antigua should be avoided as their customs officials can be a pain.
5. Leave the Guns at Home
It just isn’t worth it to bring a gun with you. You may believe it will make you safer, but the odds are more likely that you will be killed if you have a gun during a pirate attack. Also, forgetting to declare your weapon to customs officials can get you some serious jail time for arms trafficking.
6. Always Secure Your Dinghy
No matter how isolated a spot you may be in, you should always lock your dinghy up. If you make it a habit, you’ll never forget to secure your dinghy, and as a result, you’ll never risk having it stolen.
7. Know Where to Get Provisions
As well as having friendlier, more relaxed customs officials, the French islands in the Caribbean are good for provisioning your yacht. Experienced Caribbean skippers highly recommend Martinique in particular for purchasing provisions. Also, as a general rule, prices for parts and provisions get cheaper the farther south you sail.
8. Insurance is a Must
Every ocean voyage has the potential for disaster to strike, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay the price for it. Inclement weather, pirates, illness, and other critical situations you face become much easier to handle when you have the safety net of insurance to fall back on. So, never leave for a Caribbean sailing trip without insuring yourself and your vessel. Even if you believe nothing will go wrong, you’ll be thankful to have the peace of mind in the case it does.
A trip to the Caribbean is almost always a dream voyage, but you have to do your part to make sure it goes off without a hitch. Proper planning before you leave and taking precautions as you sail is the best way to ensure your Caribbean sailing trip is a memorable one.
Ryan Bridges is a contributing writer and media specialist for CYI Charters. He regularly produces content for a variety of sailing blogs, based around the challenges that come with preparing for voyages and purchasing vessels.