INSIGHT: LIFE ON THE OCEAN WAVE - Caribbean: The Lesser Antilles - Insight Guides

Caribbean: The Lesser Antilles - Insight Guides (2016)


The steady northeasterly trade winds that carried Columbus into the New World have made the Caribbean one of the top sailing destinations.

The image of sailboats cruising in the gentle waters around the Grenadines seems like a dream - quiet sand-fringed bays below rolling hills, rustic harbor towns, and lively beach bars. Visitors from all over the world flock to the Caribbean harbors during winter months, either with their own boats, on bareboat charters, or renting large yachts with a skipper and a crew. The season kicks off with the arrival of yachts from Europe taking part in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers just before Christmas in Rodney Bay, St Lucia. The old English seafaring tradition has influenced international regatta competitions in the British Virgin Islands and in Antigua, but you can find yacht clubs on most of the bigger islands organizing inter-island races at different times of the year. For local color, look out for races between traditional wooden fishing boats, such as at Anguilla’s Carnival in August, or beautiful schooners, ketches, and sloops built as early as 1909 racing off English Harbour during Antigua’s Sailing Week (April).

Island hopping

Sailing during the night and fun-filled days spent on different islands: cruises on the luxurious all-inclusive waterhotels are big business. Cruise ships mainly begin their routes in Florida, San Juan, or Barbados and offer guests 24-hour entertainment with a break during the day to explore an island or shop in tax-free malls. Some cruise lines offer themed holidays such as those for gay travelers or even romantic novelists.


Sailboats at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, Antigua and Barbuda.

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It’s all in the game

When visiting the Carib Territory in Dominica you will see large wooden canoes carved out of a single tree trunk. These are identical to the canoes used by the tribes on their migrations from the Guianas and the Orinoco basin northward up the island chain centuries ago. They also used them when they went to war and for fishing. They were skillful at killing fish by using spears or by throwing branches of matapisca - the local name for the Jacquinia tree - into the sea, which would slightly paralyze even large fish, but didn’t harm humans. They also caught fish using baskets, nets, or lines; fish and shellfish were their main source of protein and most of their settlements were close to the sea.

Today, big-game fishing enthusiasts fight tuna, marlins, and wahoo while strapped to comfortable seats on motor boats. Equipped with special rods, private charter boats offer day-trips on many of the islands, or you can book a whole week’s adventure on the waves. Smaller companies also provide angling gear, but the tale of the blue marlin or grouper that got away is up to you.