Cuba’s by far the biggest island in the Caribbean. Roughly 1,200 km long x 200 km wide at its widest point with something like 3,700 km of coastline it’s the ideal destination for Canadian boaters, right? Canadians can and do go by boat to Cuba but it’s not always simple. The Cuban government, the American government and the currents in the Straits of Florida complicate passage but don’t let any of those deter you. For those who do cross to the land of sunny Latin skies and the convertible peso, there’s a quite reasonable array of marine facilities and a very warm welcome.


It’s an awkward fact of life for us at Canadian Yachting magazine that while we know the majority of our readers are power boaters, the majority of people who want to write about their cruising experiences are sailors! In addition to that, the greatest attraction seems to be far-off and exotic locations that can be both expensive and challenging to anyone’s skills as a skipper. So, we wanted  to offer the power boater’s perspective too and to remind our readers that some of the most memorable and spectacular scenery is really closer than you’d think.

As exotic and exciting as a bareboat yacht charter sounds (and is) it can still be accessible to the yachting novice because the preparations and details are all clearly spelled out and frequently, are reasonably priced too! For example the Sunsail website explains that yacht sailing is available to all. You don't need any previous experience to start and the cost is comparable to a villa holiday.

As I left Toronto to join our flotilla in Tortola I must admit I had some sympathy, (not much mind you) at having to leave behind the other two Galley Guys, Andy Adams and Greg Nicoll whom both had other commitments. The first leg of the trip took us from Toronto to Miami and then on to St. Thomas  where we were met by Elvis our taxi driver who took us to Red Hook Marina where Captain Camille of Dolphin Water Taxis shuttled us over to Tortola.

Shaun Clare and his wife Anne are members of the Britannia-Rideau squadron. In April 2012 they chartered La Bella Vita, a 42-foot Robertson and Caine Leopard catamaran, and toured the US and British Virgin Islands. They will continue exploring the area in April 2013, and are including Anegada once again on their itinerary. While Anegada is off limits for many charterers, some charter companies may allow their boats to be taken there if the charterer can demonstrate sufficient navigation and sailing experience. Shaun and Anne were required to submit a sailing resumé, which included a transcript of their successfully completed CPS courses.

Spring is a beautiful time in the Caribbean. The trade winds become more gentle and the persistent northerly swells found in the winter boating season, formed by storms “up north”, subside. This general calming of conditions opens up a plethora of anchorages throughout the islands just when most cruising sailors are beginning to leave the Caribbean for home. Even the more popular anchorages become less crowded as a result. So why is everyone leaving?

St. Maarten is one of the tiniest islands in the Caribbean; for its 37-square mile size, it packs a huge punch in tourism, with duty-free shopping, 37 beaches and 325 restaurants. With so many places to eat, you can find a wide range of cooking styles and ethnic food, including French, Italian, American, Mexican, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese and Chinese. St. Maarten boasts the highest concentration of fine restaurants per square mile in the entire Caribbean — don’t forget the roadside stalls with their focus on local farm to fork. Their offerings are authentic Caribbean and downright delicious.

altThe horn signals the start of the Round-the-Island race in the 31st running of the Heineken Regatta.

Our boat incises the waters off Sint Maarten’s south coast with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.

On every side the white triangles of other boats decorate the horizon line; in the distance I can see the misty blue heights of Saba.

altIt hits me as hard as the waves crashing into our bow just outside the shelter of Sunsail’s St. Vincent base, strong as the thirty-knot winds gusting out of the east, that I have not planned this trip as well as I should have.

We ship two good friends as crew – both relatively experienced sailors – but they aren’t ready for this. Nor am I.

Supposed to be a bucket list adventure but it starts as a romp from hell.

destinations-caribbean-grog-smallFrom the ubiquitous red shirts and baseball hats with the yellow map of Barbados emblazoned on them – the secret code of serious sailboat racers worldwide – to the Royal Navy tradition of serving up a thick, syrupy and brain-befuddling concoction daily to her sailors, it seems like rum and boating are synonymous.

For what sailor worth his salt doesn't savour a ration of grog? Almost a moral imperative.

Boat Reviews

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DIY & How to

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Environment

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Lifestyle

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An easy salmon dish with homemade teriyaki sauce and a Sriracha cream sauce that will knock your ...
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This flavour-infused pasta dish is terrific for any season.  It takes a little bit of prep time but ...
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Cooler days and cooler nights make everyone want to prepare something warm and comforting... This ...
This is a simple recipe too.  The only challenging part is rolling up the tortillas without ...
This recipe is great for a make-ahead easy yet satisfying on board meal.  You can use chicken or ...
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Marine Products

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50 amp cordsets from marine electrical products manufacturer Furrion feature Powersmart™ blue LEDs ...
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