Sponsored by Fraser Yachts specialists in Caribbean Yacht Charter
The Eastern Carbbean is undoubtedly one of the world's finest sailing areas. From St. Thomas in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south, each island offers distinctive landscapes and cultures all within easy sailing distance of each other.
The variety and unique character of each of these islands draws visitors back year after year for the opportunity to explore new sights and to revisit favourite hideaways. Idyllic beaches and secluded bays lie just around the corner from the more sophisticated pleasures of glamorous resorts, great restaurants and exclusive yacht clubs. Marinas en route will help you stock up on supplies.
Although the many differing cultures and landscapes ensure that there's a surprise waiting at every landfall, you'll find there is one characteristic that remains delightfully constant throughout the region: the typically-Caribbean relaxed and laid-back atmosphere.
Yachts catering to every taste and need can be found in the charter fleets in the region. So all you have to do is to decide between a fully crewed yacht or a "sail-it-yourself" bareboat. Click here for a listing of charter companies in the region.
Here are some of our favourite places to sail.
The pretty U.S. Virgin Islands have a distinct culture of their own. With short passages between them, hopping from one island to another is easy.
In fact, the natural beauty of St. John is an experience reserved only for those who are lucky enough to visit it by boat as it cannot be reached any other way.
There is plenty of underwater beauty to explore in the coral gardens surrounding St. Croix. But with its historic sights and photogenic landscape dotted with windmills, you'll find there is also much to tempt you ashore.
Comprising some 60 tiny islets and cays, the British Virgin Islands offer excellent sailing and a relaxed, low-key atmosphere. Here you can moor in horseshoe bays of white sand beaches dotted with palm trees. The water beneath you is so clear that you have the feeling you are literally floating on air.
Virgin Gorda, which overlooks the private resort of Necker Island, offers sheltered coves, ideal for overnight anchorage. Snorkellers and divers should make for Anegada, where they'll find miles of coral reefs to explore as well as many shipwrecks.
Scattered over 150 miles of the Caribbean, the Leewards offer open water sailing with good broad reaches, but generally longer passages than in the Virgins. There, first stop for anyone trying to escape the crowds must be tiny Anguilla with its powder-white beaches.
A short hop away is lively island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. Half French, half Dutch, it is the smallest island in the world to be shared by two nations and each side offers an entirely different cultural experience. Be sure to try your luck in the casinos of Sint Maarten.
Further south lies fashionable St Barts, very much a place to see and be seen in. Berth in Gustavia and treat yourself to a gastronomic experience in one of the world-class restaurants, or just relax and mingle with the 'rich and famous' on the stunning beaches at Anse du Gouverneur and Anse de Colombier.
The largest of the British Leeward Islands, Antigua, with its famous 365 beaches, is centre of Caribbean yacht cruising. Antigua's Nelson's Dockyard is also a national park with restored warehouses, boutiques, inns and restaurants.
View the active volcano on Montserrat, the most southerly of the Leewards, then sail south through the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, stopping off at Dominica, a paradise for nature lovers, en route.
Cosmopolitan Martinique, though, is reminiscent of the south of France, with its chic cafés, excellent restaurants and flower-filled balconies.
St. Vincent, an island of spectacular views, and the Grenadines offer excellent sailing conditions and an idyllic combination of sophisticated enclaves and accessible West Indian life. Delightful Bequia and the island of Mustique nearby, are perhaps most famous as the holiday destination of celebrities and royalty alike. Try the Tobago Cays too - perfect for their secluded beaches.
At the southernmost tip of the Grenadines sparkling streams and waterfalls and golden beaches make Grenada, for many, the most beautiful of the Windwards.
To the east lie Trinidad and Tobago. Busy Trinidad is a complete change of pace, home of the Carnival, steel bands and calypso. Here you can dance in the streets and party till dawn, retreating finally to the peace and calm of your yacht to watch the Caribbean sunrise.
Click here for a list of other sailing resources including yacht clubs, regattas and festivals.
Sailboat Photograph © Philippe Odent, 1999