I'm taking my 15-year old wooden ketch offshore for the first time in her life. I'm wondering the safest place to cruise for the winter. She draws 5.5 ft and I've heard that can present some difficulties in the Bahamas. Where is a good first-time cruising ground to gain a better sense of my boat's capabilities? For more details about my boat, please check out my site http://novascotiansailor.blogspot.com
Don't worry about your draft. Ours is 6½ feet and although we could not go everywhere, we still had a great time in the Bahamas. I would not say it is the best place to "gain a better sense of my boat's capabilities", but if you go there by cruising down the eastern seaboard, you will have done that anyway. In cruising terms, Cuba is a bit similar, many shallow areas and deserted islands. However the big cities such as Havana, Cienfuegos, Santiago can all be approached in deep water. Don't forget US yachtsmen are not permitted to go to Cuba, nor can you go direct from the US unless you lie about your destination.
It is more demanding to sail direct to the East Caribbean. Best is to leave from somewhere like Beaufort NC and sail south of west until you reach about 62ºW, then head south. Newbies think they can go out along the island chain from Bahamas to DR to PR, but against the trade winds and currents that is hard, very hard. If you can afford to have your yacht delivered out there for the winter season it would certainly be a perfect area to get to know it.
Nice boat, by the way. Certainly looks up to the job.
Last edited by AndrewB; 09-15-2007 at 12:44 AM.
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Cuba is certainly worth the attention (and I see you are there already!), but the eastern Caribbean is very easy sailing, once you have negotiated the "thorny path", as they call the stretch of water between roughly Miami and St. Maarten (eastern Caribbean). The reason they call it this way is because mostly you have the wind and current against you, but we found a few days with little wind and were able to motor until we reached the BVI and from there on it was easier. We loved the Caribbean islands. All the islands have good anchorages and since the wind direction hardly ever changes, you have very secure anchorages. Most of the islands are a day sail away from each other, so if you don't want to do overnighters, you don't really have to. You can sail every day, you never have to motor and you have good water everywhere. We draw 6' and 3" and we didn't have any trouble anywhere (well, we did ran aground, but that was our own stu**** fault).
Tobago Keys: beautiful snorkeling in crystal clear water; you will have to negotiate a few reefs, but they are easy to spot and the anchorage is really safe in about 12 ft. of water
St. Maarten: A dutch island, very secure anchorage inside the lagoon and good food (on the French side)
Les Saints: quaint little island with a beautiful fort and nice walks (good anchorage)
Martinique: Big, nice anchorage and pleasant towns
Saba: very quiet, lovely anchorage and you can have a good walk up the mountain
St. Eustatius (Statia): Rolly anchorage, so you will need a stern anchor, but once secure, you can walk up and down the Quill, an extinct volcano and be in a total different world
St. Kitts: interesting, but we went into the marina, too much swell in the anchorage (the winde glasses rolled off the table
Nevis: We anchored in front of the cute town and it was totally fine
Grenada: we were still able to anchor in the inner bay in town, but I did hear they are going to change that (we were there 6 years ago....); we hiked and saw lots of nutmegg trees
Dominican Republic: not really in the eastern caribbean, but if you do think about taking the thorny path, a good stopover; we went to the eastern side (Samana) and it's just breathtakingly gorgeous there; go a bit further and visit Los Haitises, the National Park and you are all alone in very good anchorages (and you can see the best cave drawings ever!)
Anyway, I can go on about a lot more islands, but I would say if you want to see what your boat can do, this is certainly a very good way to go!
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