Is the Caribbean really that busy these days?

GHA

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Hmm, wonder where we'll (me n the boat) will end up this time. Seem to be drifting south (Canaries with itchy feet) so before too long will have to turn right across the pond. Looking in google maps satellite it just looks packed out these days in the likes of Prickly bay and Carriacou compared to last time, which seems not so long ago but checking it was 2010!. Plus some well travelled friends were over for the winter & said it was more expensive than before & busy.

But... google earth historical images definitely show it busier but not as much as my memory. So seems like a good idea to look a bit deeper than just unreliable memory.

Think Kelpie & Geem are over there maybe amongst others - what's it like nowadays? Prickly bay does look completely mobbed, not really very enticing 🤔

South America seems to be winning at the moment, no TRS season to worry about for one thing but lets just ask around & see what the lay of the land is, won't need to make a decision just yet.

Opinions anyone?

Ta 😎
 

BobnLesley

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... what's it like nowadays? Prickly bay does look completely mobbed, not really very enticing 🤔

Opinions anyone?

Ta 😎

I'm sure that those cruising there now (for their first visit) generally think it's wonderful and I've no no doubt that it is. For you returning again after fifteen years, then your opinion is likely to be dictated by the mindset that you arrive with: If you're looking for it to be just the same, then you'll probably be disappointed - I've made that mistake more than once - but if you arrive with fresh eyes and ready to embrace those differences, then you'll no doubt enjoy it (albeit differently) once again.
Not Prickly Bay of course, that's a bog-hole. But then again that's just a matter of opinion; I've never enjoyed staying for too long (they're ok for a week or so's holiday) in yottie ghettos anywhere, though would concede that Prickly and more especially Tyrrell Bays are preferable to The Solent, Vlikho or Marathon
 

GHA

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For you returning again after fifteen years, then your opinion is likely to be dictated by the mindset that you arrive with: If you're looking for it to be just the same, then you'll probably be disappointed - I've made that mistake more than once - but if you arrive with fresh eyes and ready to embrace those differences, then you'll no doubt enjoy it (albeit differently) once again.
Yeah, agree, well aware of that. Each and every minute is best seen with fresh eyes, very western cultural thing to measure everything against something else. Better to ask "is this fun" and not "Is this good compared to..."
Go back to a great anchorage a week later it will be a completely different place.

Actually last time I ended up in South America first & after down there it seemed a touch on the tame side and full of Americans organising everything, but still lots of fun. But just looks so busy everywhere so would be interesting to hear from experienced people out there how it is these days. Least there's still the option to go up from South America, going down isn't.
 

RupertW

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Our first real Caribbean cruises last year for nearly 20 years.

Definitely more crowded and more developed but still very doable and fun. For example on Mayreau we had always found Saltwhistle Bay crowded but this time found it impossible to get a slot on the 3 occasions we tried and instead of being one of a couple of yachts in Saline Bay we were one of dozens with a few in the next bay along too.

But everywhere else up to Guadeloupe was easy to get an anchor spot every time but more like Med anchoring than the Caribbean I remembered. The biggest difference to the Med was that the charter to owner ratio was reversed.
 

GHA

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Thanks Rupert, just doesn't seem to appeal for me anymore. With planning best seen as trying to guess what might actually happen rather than being silly enough to try to control the future I reckon might end up south of the equator 😁 Though cruising things can and often do change in a moment.

Last trip south I was in Cape Verde just about to set off to Carib & couple boats came into the anchorage - "We're off to Brazil tomorrow, wanna come"...
"Yeah, alright" 😂

What good timing that was. 😎
 

Kelpie

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I'm anchored in Prickly right now.
Wasn't hard to find a space. We've spent most of the summer round at Woburn, hard to imagine running out of room there.

Saltwhistle is one of the few places, possibly the only places, where we've moved on due to lack of space. It's just charter cat central in high season, with beach shacks pumping out music. We visited again out of season and it was wonderful. And you can walk round the whole island in a couple of hours do you can pick one of the three other anchorages, which are all nice anyway.

Tyrrel can get busy. We were there for Brett, and so was everybody else. In hindsight we would have gone somewhere else because the holding further out in the bay, where we found space, is not good. Several boats dragged nearby in only 35kts. Imagine what would have happened if it had been a proper storm.

We spent last summer in the Balearics. I think that's immunised us to busy anchorages so the Caribbean feels wonderful by comparison. We don't have to put fenders out at anchor, we've not been hit by anybody, and we don't need to get in to arguments when people anchor too close.
 

noelex

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This is our first time cruising the Caribbean so I don’t know how it compares to previous years. It is much busier than the cruising grounds of Scotland and Norway, but that is to be expected. It about on par with the eastern Mediterranean. This means there are many crowded anchorages, but if you are prepared to anchor away from from the well known well protected spots you can still have the place to yourself.

We have been anchored in our current spot for 3 days now and no other boats have joined us.
 

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For off the beaten track places in the Atlantic, yet free from human dangers (piracy etc), have a look at Bijagos archipelago, Guinea Bissau. We spent 1.5 months there, in November we were the second yacht of the year; fantastic place to feel lost.
As you mention Brasil
North coast of Brazil, the dune is about 200m high we surfed it down with the kayak, there are red egrets flying all around you, fishermen bringing shrimps. The "village" has just a few huts, for some reason there is a high concentration of albino persons, meaning during the day there are very few people around, and at night they all come out. Walk there during full moon, lunar place indeed. Cruising as going to "different" places.
I am now planning a third trip to Brazil, for the return leg I will most probably skip the Caribbean altogether and sail straight north to Iberia or Azores; Carib is very beautiful but really not my thing.
 

GHA

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For off the beaten track places in the Atlantic, yet free from human dangers (piracy etc), have a look at Bijagos archipelago, Guinea Bissau. We spent 1.5 months there, in November we were the second yacht of the year; fantastic place to feel lost.
As you mention Brasil
North coast of Brazil, the dune is about 200m high we surfed it down with the kayak, there are red egrets flying all around you, fishermen bringing shrimps. The "village" has just a few huts, for some reason there is a high concentration of albino persons, meaning during the day there are very few people around, and at night they all come out. Walk there during full moon, lunar place indeed. Cruising as going to "different" places.
I am now planning a third trip to Brazil, for the return leg I will most probably skip the Caribbean altogether and sail straight north to Iberia or Azores; Carib is very beautiful but really not my thing.
Cheers, yeah already been looking at Guinea Bissau 😎

Still no idea what might happen, though Caribbean is more than the windies s'pose. Columbia sounds enticing, then there's central America & the canal should it be time to have a look into the Pacific. Gotta get out of the Atlantic one day..
Been watching Sweet Ruca on youTube, looks incredible going down round the bottom but solo on a 33'er so remote might be pushing the risk envelope a bit too much. Which would leave South Africa suppose, but then back up the Atlantic or pretty much southern ocean, which the boat could handle but not sure I'd want to.. Hmm.
One thing at a time 😊 First off think I should spend some time in the worst the Canaries wind accel zones can deliver and try to break the boat. Find anything not tough enough where it's easy to get out back to calm water pretty quickly. Take it from there.
One thought about Guinea Bissau was how to stock up again to get across the Atlantic? How did you manage?
Already got charts 😎
PE27L98.jpg
 

john_morris_uk

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It all depends on what you want I guess.

I’m writing this from Isles Des Saintes (There were loads of buoys available and lots of room to anchor.)

It’s more than twenty years since I first sailed in the Caribbean and I agree that it’s busier. However there are hundreds and hundreds of sheltered bays where you might find yourself the only boat. Tyrell Bay and Prickly Bay seem to be marmite places and I agree that they can be busy but we’ve always found somewhere to anchor when we’ve visited.

Mrs M and I have actually commented on how quiet everywhere is atm but in truth the season’s only just beginning.

We’ve just had the last few days beam reaching north in 15-18 knots of warm breeze in calm seas. What’s not to like?

The Caribbean is NOT cheap any more. Food can be eye wateringly expensive if you’re not careful. Eat what the locals eat is one way and it’s possible to eat out inexpensively. Portions can be ‘generous’ and sometimes Mrs M & I share a meal. Avoid the charter boat traps…. Cruise ships landing thousands of tourists for the day. encourage a lot of attempts at price hiking too. No complaints but we just go somewhere else.

This is today;

IMG_5155.jpeg

9a79353a-60a4-4eef-9ed2-a22a018e0897.jpeg

Me showing off todays catch.
 

Roberto

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One thought about Guinea Bissau was how to stock up again to get across the Atlantic? How did you manage?
Already got charts 😎

In the islands one can buy next to nothing, not even fish as everyone is fishing by himself. Throw a bare line in the water it comes up with a fish. I would definitely not go to Bissau (capital) with the boat, it's a sort of ship graveyard and with 4-5m tides it can get dangerous. Best option is to become friendly with one of the fishing camps in the islands, go there and take a beer. Some of them are like 5star safari lodges in Kenya: they have pirogues going every 10-15 days or so to Bissau to victual, as usual around the Embassies area one can find basically everything (IIRC you went to Gambia, imagine Barra area near Banjul). The fishing lodges are usually very friendly, in particular with the very rare yotties appearing there. I had even made plans to open a "marina"there, then everything went ni anotherdirection. Example I needed new batteries, the local CAT dealer had them in Bissau, the lodge immediately offered to deliver them free of charge to the beach nearby by plane, with the light aircraft which brought guests from Dakar airport. Every time the aircraft sailed over our boat it swinged wings, pilot door open and himself waving his hand. Africa at its best.

Anecdote. Wife +younger daughter went to Bissau before the transat for provisions. We were crossing to Fernando de Noronha, short crossing, we wanted 90 liters of bottled water. Wife goes to mineral water warehouse, sees 1.5l bottles and says "I want 60 of these". Ok M'am no problem, I'll deliver them at the pirogue.
I had remained on the boat, late at night the pirogue arrives, loaded with an incredibly large amount of water bottles. I gave a very puzzled look at the boy on the pirogue and he immediately replied "don't worry Sir, the second half of the bottles is just coming with the other pirogue".
Actually, while my wife was saying in the warehouse "I want 60 of these" she was pointing at a 6-pack of 1.5 liter bottles, so we were being delivered about half a ton of mineral water. Again, we took just what we really needed and the fishing lodge bought the exceedance.

Sorry, I could go on for hours; it's very difficult to suggest places to people one does not know, we both have been here on ybw a long time, I got the impression you might be interested. :)
 

GHA

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Sorry, I could go on for hours; it's very difficult to suggest places to people one does not know, we both have been here on ybw a long time, I got the impression you might be interested. :)
Thanks for the post, does look really interesting! Was already on the radar. Suspect having just been anchored for a little while in the inoffensive but utterly soulless south coast of Lanzerote has reinforced the desire to get well off beaten track again. An allergic reaction to hearing hotels calling bingo and full English breakfast 🤣
I'd been down Senegal before but not the Gambia and regretted missing that opportunity ever since. As they say, you only regret what you didn't do.. 🤔😊
Clock is ticking though , I should get out and try hard to break the boat first. Last time going up from Brazil the poor boat was not very well, no engine,batteries trashed, windlass bust.. In far better shape now and simpler plus I'm not quite so green , lots toys onboard but no big deal if they don't work. But be good to find any weakness while still near the shops. On your own down there 🤞
 
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Roberto

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@Roberto Where did you get a visa for Guinea Bissau ? Seems a bit vague online, looks like visa on arrival possible nowadays but that's probably just at the airport. Dakar maybe?
I got it during a stop in Lisbon. At the time there were two options: visa to be used during the following three months, or visa to be used during the following six months, I took the second type; both were rather expensive.
My advice would be to make the entry formalities directly in Bubaque, not stopping in Cacheu like one can read here and there (and particularly NOT going to Bissau). They will stamp the passport and allow you 30/60 days; the official was surprised I already had the visas, most probably he had the possibility to grant them himself; the sort of cabin where he worked was indeed at the local airstrip. Have a look at this in Google Maps satellite view
11.30335861695937, -15.839159270330901
As usual in similar places, the more you are strict and compliant in following the rules, the less you put yourself in the hands of local authorities :)
Should you decide to go don't hesitate to ask, I have plenty of info: salt water hippos in Orango island, sea turtles in Poilão island, etc etc :)
 
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mattonthesea

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I was in the Caribbean in 2010 as well. When I looked back through my notes, and wrote in the book, I realised at a lot of it had felt like a party for Northern Europeans.
 

GHA

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I got it during a stop in Lisbon. At the time there were two options: visa to be used during the following three months, or visa to be used during the following six months, I took the second type; both were rather expensive.
My advice would be to make the entry formalities directly in Bubaque, not stopping in Cacheu like one can read here and there (and particularly NOT going to Bissau). They will stamp the passport and allow you 30/60 days; the official was surprised I already had the visas, most probably he had the possibility to grant them himself; the sort of cabin where he worked was indeed at the local airstrip. Have a look at this in Google Maps satellite view
11.30335861695937, -15.839159270330901
As usual in similar places, the more you are strict and compliant in following the rules, the less you put yourself in the hands of local authorities :)
Should you decide to go don't hesitate to ask, I have plenty of info: salt water hippos in Orango island, sea turtles in Poilão island, etc etc :)
Thnx, the little ducks are rapidly lining up 😎
Looking on navily sounds like it's become easier in Bubaque
Anchorage Ilha Rubane on Navily
"Thanks to Solange and her contacts, it seems that the problems with the local authorities have been resolved...for the moment. We paid 2000 CFA francs per person in and out (approx. €3) for immigration, nothing more ... No customs papers, not necessary in the islands!!! We were there in May 2023."
 

john_morris_uk

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I was in the Caribbean in 2010 as well. When I looked back through my notes, and wrote in the book, I realised at a lot of it had felt like a party for Northern Europeans.
There’s some truth in that. However in a few places we’ve made some friends with local people and found bars and cafes they use.
 

Roberto

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Thnx, the little ducks are rapidly lining up 😎
Looking on navily sounds like it's become easier in Bubaque
Anchorage Ilha Rubane on Navily
"Thanks to Solange and her contacts, it seems that the problems with the local authorities have been resolved...for the moment. We paid 2000 CFA francs per person in and out (approx. €3) for immigration, nothing more ... No customs papers, not necessary in the islands!!! We were there in May 2023."
Excellent.
The photo I have on our blog it's us at that anchorage. :)
Solange and Bertrand became dear friends, you know, sending greetings for New Year and so; the pontoon they now have was originally my suggestion, they sent me an email "the pontoon is there, now come and set up your marina". One should have several lives to live.
 
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GHA

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Yes I should have said that I did the same as you.
Same here mostly - eat where there is no menu & is full of truck drivers or fishermen. Brazil you can stuff your face for less than you could make the same meal for. They do like big portions! 🙂 Actually not so long ago I realised I'd sailed to loads of places & didn't really get to know many people there apart from sailors & expats. Really must try hard to reverse that.
 
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