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I recently had a conversation with my sister Diane about attempting to coordinate a spot to meet up when she is down in the Caribbean early next year. She, along with some other family members, plan on visiting a resort in Jamaica in early February. She commented that, if it were possible, she’d like to grab a flight to an island that we could sail to in order to meet up. I explained that we’ll likely remain in the Windward and Leeward islands again this season (yes, we’ve decided to put the Western Caribbean on hold for at least another year, more on that later) and offered St. Maarten, Antigua, and St. Lucia as options. She did some checking and found that in addition to St. Maarten, Barbados was one of the most economical places to fly to. This got me thinking about Barbados.

To most non-sailors, my sister no doubt included, Barbados probably seems like most of the other islands in the Windwards. If you take a look at the chartlet below though, you’ll see that it lies a good distance east of the rest of the islands. Specifically it lies about 87nm east of St. Vincent and approximately 130nm ENE of Grenada. Remembering that the trade winds in this part of the world blow from the east, this makes getting to Barbados a bit of a tough sail. Impossible? Of course not. Long and uncomfortable? Quite likely. This is no doubt why Barbados only receives a tiny fraction of the boat traffic that the rest of the island chain does.

In spite of this, some people do venture to the island, including a couple of our friends, Wade and Diane on the Canadian sailing yacht Joana. I read their posts about Barbados when they first wrote them and again today.

“One of the reasons that we will be happy to leave is that this anchorage at Bridgetown, Carlisle Bay – is probably the worst anchorage that we’ve stayed in, in the past 3 years. There is no dispute about it. There are periods of time that it quiets down, and periods when it is downright nasty. The problem is that Carlisle Bay is not a natural harbour. It is surrounded by white sand beaches. There is a lot of maritime traffic. The Atlantic Sea bends around the peninsula and creates a harmonic roll that is well beyond comfortable (two foot waves with white caps that are not aligned with the wind). It got so bad in the end that we just couldn’t stand it by day and couldn’t sleep at night. We figured that we had two options: rent a hotel room or leave. In the end, we chose a third option, tying a stern line to a nearby mooring ball. This had the desired effect of pointing our bow into the swell, instead of taking the swell on the beam – and continually rocking the boat from side to side. It also had the undesired effect of taking our hatches out of the direct wind, so it became hotter inside the boat. You can’t have everything.”

To be perfectly honest, the above description, and the other things they wrote, don’t really inspire me to want to sail over a hundred miles to windward! Will we go there someday? Perhaps. Our experience may, of course, be different. But, to my sister and anyone else looking for a place to meet up, how about we not consider Barbados as a viable option.

24 Comments

  1. I did a delivery to Barbados a few years ago and while getting there wasn’t bad, I’d say the island was less than “yacht-friendly” in terms of Customs and facilities.

    • Some of the other things our friends wrote seemed to imply that it wasn’t set up for cruising yachts either.

      I’m sure if someone paid me to deliver a boat to Barbados the sail wouldn’t be all that bad either though. 🙂

  2. Don’t blame ya! With all the other beautiful islands, why put yourself through that?! =)

  3. I vote for St. Maarten! I loved the island!!

  4. Dear zero to cruising,

    You might consider first sailing up to the North of St Lucia or martinique and then go down to Barbados. You should encounter more favourable winds most of the time on this passage. Regards

    • Hi Ana

      Definitely, when the Christmas winds are blowing from the NE. As it stands, we could likely (hopefully!) make it on one tack from here too, with the wind out of the SE as it is now. The questions remains, why go there?

      • We have been there 2x on land vacations. In my limited island experience (Cuba, SXM,USVI, BVI, Jamaica) the Bajan beaches are the most spectacular in terms of expanse and sand. quality. On the south and south east coast though it can be tough to get into the water as the waves and undertow can knock you on your ass. Bathsheba on the east coast has house sized waves breaking way out but from the beach you can easily wade. Similarly Cattlewash has same thing. The west coast is for weenies (mostly pasty white Brits) as it is too glass smooth, calm waters. We did however see lots of sailboats moored there. Aside from the beaches though it has other things going for it…it is safe, friendly people, great food, very lush countryside to explore and hundreds of rum shacks. I have just finished my 2nd bottle of Mt Gay Black which, even at 100 proof, is the smoothest rum I have ever tasted. Other than the west coast I think you would have to take a slip in a hot marina. But keep it on your “to do” list as a place to visit. You can even get your NHL fix at Berts Bar, owned by the rich dude who owns the Senators.

        • I’m sure you can appreciate that traveling someplace via plane/land is not the same as sailing your “house” there.

          As for beaches, south of the Bahamas, I’d say that Antigua/Barbuda has first prize out of the many islands we have visited.

      • Hi Mike,

        Well a good reason for those of us who are not US citizens is to get a B1/B2 visa for entry to the US. It is the only place in the Caribbean this can be obtained. Apart from that yeah why go there?

      • Hi,
        We crossed tha Atlantic from Cape Verde to Barbados,
        so it was the first island we arrived to. It was nice (but not much more than nice),
        the anchorage indeed is not very nice and you need a fast dinghy to go ashore because it is far from the anchorage. I would not sail especially to Barbados instead of you.
        Enjoy your time in the Caribbeans!

    • If you’re suggesting that we meet there, I have two words for you to consider… international airport. Pretty sure Saba does not have one. It is a reasonable sail from St. Maarten though.

  5. Hey Mike,

    Would love to meet you in Barbados. What you think? 😉

  6. If you’re still in Grenada at the end of January, maybe we could meet up. We’re only there for a week, but I would love to meet you and see your boat. BTW have you sampled Grenadan rum? If so, what do you recommend?

  7. Mike, you might want your sister to check out my experience with trying to meet someone who was sailing. Here’s the beginning of a five part series on my blog: http://sailsoutherncal.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/never-make-a-date-with-a-sailor-part-one/
    In essence, I learned my lesson the hard way but had quite the adventure to tell afterward!

    Good luck and I do hope you connect with your sister!
    -Barb

  8. It’s true that getting to Barbados is not the most comfortable crossing ever… however Barbados has a lot to offer… amazing beaches.. good restaurants .. from high end restaurants to rum shops with delicious food and lime time.. Barbados rum is one of the best in Caribbean and rum punch s very enjoyable.. endless opportunities to party or just relax .. we also have quite a few sailing regattas organized by Barbados Yacht Club or Cruising Club.. which are always great fun..
    If you are not too much into lengthy and rocky crossing, why not to fly over and rent a bare boat directly here? Drop me a note with your wishes/thoughts if you are interested…

    • We actually did end up flying there when we had to obtain our US work Visas. Unfortunately we were only there for a couple of days so didn’t have a lot of time to enjoy the island.

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