Tropical non-tidal sailing …with a side of lobster

So, where in the world do you sail in non-tidal waters whilst enjoying some of the freshest lobster around? It has to be the islands of Antigua & Barbuda in the heart of the Caribbean.

Antigua is a well known Caribbean destination sitting like a jewel in the Caribbean chain between BVI and the Grenadines; but how well do people really know it?

Sure, it’s famous for hosting Test Cricket, the Classic Yacht Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week (a bit like Cowes Week in the sunshine; and just add rum).  But who would know that cruising Antigua and Barbuda offers some of the most idyllic coastal cruising AND passage making sailing.  There’s really something for every level of sailor here. With just 12-14″ of tide and a constant steady breeze from the East (well, 364 days of the year anyway) it’s a far cry from sailing in the UK.

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Antigua is an island with a meandering and interesting coastline comprising bays, harbours and inlets.  There are also uninhabited offshore islands to explore, nestling to the North and the East of Antigua. The beauty of these islands is that they offer some of the best snorkelling spots and wildlife-watching opportunities. Barbuda is Antigua’s sister island – a 25nm sail from Antigua.  The perfect passage to be entertained by breaching whales at certain times of the year.

Whales between Antigua and Barbuda

Whales between Antigua and Barbuda

A sail from Jolly Harbour Marina to Great Bird Island in the North Sound will take you around 3 hours.  A perfect amount of time to work on the suntan and look out for dolphins and turtles playing around your hull. There’s nothing fancy about uninhabited Great Bird Island; it boasts a nice lady who is dropped off by boat in the morning by her husband, after which time she sets up her little bar and makes sure the local beer is nice and cold. She bobs around in the water until a boat shows up. It does put your desk job in Southampton somewhat in the shade!

A short sail will take you over to Long Island where you can drop the hook. Here you’ll find a host of exclusive properties owned by the rich and famous.  It’s a perfect spot for a refreshing swim and celeb spotting (don’t worry, we all look the same in our Speedo’s).

The protected west coast of Antigua is perfect for coastal cruising and bay hopping; from Deep Bay with its sunken merchant ship (do watch the mast tip peeking out) to Carlisle Bay with it’s lush, green mountainside sweeping down to the white sand beach and turquoise water.

Carlisle Bay - lush vegetation and palm trees

Carlisle Bay – lush vegetation and palm trees

A blog about sailing Antigua would not be complete without a mention of English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard. Hang out with the yachtie crowd at the Mag Mongoose and find a stool at one of the many bars; catch up with the locals talking about island politics, politics and probably more politics!

The local people have a unique ability to teach you the art of relaxation (or liming as we like to call it).  Sit, talk, laugh, drink, eat a little food…. repeat!.

Green Island, just off Antigua’s east coast, can be as relaxing or as exhilarating as you choose.  For those with enough energy after all that liming, try your hand at kite surfing in protected Nonsuch Bay – a huge bay that is home to a wonderful Italian, hillside restaurant and art gallery called Harmony Hall.

Hide away at Green Island

Hide away at Green Island

If you are looking to make a decent passage and island hop, then Barbuda  fits the bill perfectly.  It’s a flat island so you’ll only catch a glimpse when you are about a mile offshore.  Good navigation is a pre-requisite. The beauty of the island is breathtaking.  You won’t find fine dining or music bars, but you will find two of the most stunning beaches you will ever hope to stumble upon and the freshest lobster being served at a couple of shacks on the beach.  Jala and Uncle Roddy will look after you.

Your very own island paradise - Barbuda in high season

Your very own island paradise – Barbuda in high season

The best way to get here is on the direct flights from either London Gatwick (Virgin and BA) or Manchester (in high season) on Thomas Cook Airlines.  Most flights take around 7.5 hours so plenty of time to do your homework on where to get your first cocktail.  With the 5 hour time difference at this time of year, you’ll be arriving around 3pm and you could be watching the sunset with a glass of something nice in your hand by 6!

No better place to enjoy your first cocktail - South Beach

No better place to enjoy your first cocktail – South Beach

A bit about the author:  Jackie Ashford is the co-owner of Horizon Yacht Charters in Antigua.  Having left her career in London some 12 years ago, Jackie and her husband now take pride in offering first class charters to sailors from all over the world.  Their love of sailing and all things Antigua is evident in the passion they put into every aspect of the charter experience.

LateSail have 10 day charter offers in Antigua from just £1160. Click here to see more offers

Sailing with Kids

Travelling with children always requires a little extra thought and preparation. A sailing holiday is a no brainer when it comes to kids, it is the perfect way to make sure the adults and children enjoy their holiday while also enjoying their time with each other.  This is a unique experience for children filled with plenty of opportunities for learning and fun, and there are of course some tips we can offer to make sure the children, and the adults, get the most out of their family charter holiday.

Planning

dad_kid_sailing

Thinking of bringing children along on your next charter? Catamarans are the best option. They will offer plenty of room to play and stretch out both the inside and outside. They also help to avoid any possible fear and/or seasickness with the kids since they will be more stable in the water. The trampolines in the front of the boat will surely be a big hit too. When planning your sailing route, keep the distances short, 2-3 hours at most if possible. The British Virgin Islands are a perfect destination for kids in this regard. Much like putting children in the backseat of a car for an extended road trip, this could help avoid the inevitable “are we there yet?” complaints. Sailing shorter distances will keep the kids interested and active, allowing them to enjoy their time during those sailing periods that much more.

Safety

family

Like any holiday with children, safety comes first and foremost. There are plenty of ways to make sure your kids are safe and secure while on the boat.  Before even leaving the marina, make sure you have the appropriate life jackets for the kids. It is best to have the children wear their life jackets whenever above deck, especially at night. Lay down the rules before setting sail, make sure the children understand basic safety commands and procedures while on the boat (no running, listen to the skipper, do not swim alone etc). Sun protection while on deck and in the water will also be key, especially in the Caribbean. As long as you keep these basic safety guidelines in mind, this will be able to be a stress free and enjoyable trip for the adults and children on board.

Have fun!

snorkelling

There are endless activities to keep the kids entertained during your charter. Take plenty of toys on board, and not the electronic kind – there will be no need for iPhones or video games on this trip. With the scenery constantly changing, and new activities to explore at every stop, the kids will stay plenty entertained. Depending on the age, it is always good to have books, music, and some board games at hand for any long sailing distances. The beach and water toys are what will really keep their attention though. If possible, rent a paddle board or kayak for them so they can explore a bit. Snorkel gear, especially in the Caribbean, will also be a must. Kids will love swimming around and getting to see all the sea creatures, you can even make a game out of it. If they somehow get tired of playing in the water, take the opportunity to teach them something new. There will be plenty of cultural activities and room for learning, especially if in the Mediterranean. Teach them about sailing and give them some tasks! Show them the charts and instruments, and even let them press some buttons or help steer. These will be the things they will go back home and brag to their friends at school about.boy_on_yacht

A charter holiday may not be the first thing that comes to mind when brainstorming your next family holiday, but it is a great opportunity to expose children to something new and exciting while also giving them plenty of opportunities to learn and explore. Not only will the children enjoy their time on the boat, but it will be a great way for adults to also get to relax and enjoy themselves at the same time. The good thing about being on a boat, versus let’s say Disneyworld, your will have a much easier time keeping the kids under your watch. This gives you more time to spend together and less time running after them.

You may be Ben Ainslie, but you still need a sailing certificate to charter in Europe…

We receive countless enquiries from charterers who have been sailing all their life, own a yacht,   or have many years of experience, but they have never qualified, why would they need to?

no_licence

Over the years more and more countries are making it a requirement that the charter skipper has a sailing licence, or sailing certificate. It is neither the broker, nor the charter company that stipulate this, but the local authorities, and as time goes on it is becoming more strictly enforced and regulated. We already share your frustration on this, for those of you with vast sailing experience it can be a tedious process.

So what do you need to do?  You need to contact the RYA to establish where your nearest sailing school is located, and take it from there. It does not need to be time consuming, you can complete an RYA ICC assessment course in just one day for approx. £120; a RYA Day Skipper course would take longer (usually 5 days minimum, or a long weekend for the practical). You may even decide to go all the way and become a Yacht Master.

If you prefer to undertake this in sunnier climes, there are many sailing schools overseas that we work with and could recommend.

Once completed, not only will you be proud of your achievement, you will have the freedom to charter anywhere in European waters.

Packing for your Charter

Now that you have your charter planned and you are counting the days until you set sail, it is time to start thinking about packing for your trip! Packing for a sailing holiday is not quite the same as packing for a resort stay, so we do have some tips and suggestions for you to keep in mind. First things first, let’s start with the luggage itself: soft-sided bags is a must, duffel bags, backpacks etc. You are working with limited storage space on a boat, so it is best to have luggage that is more easily stored and moved around than giant wheeling suitcases.

Clothing

jumping_from_sailing_boat

You will want all the usual items of clothing you would bring on a beach holiday. Swimsuits and cover ups will probably be what you spend most of your time in while in the water and on deck. It is always good to have t-shirts and hats to help protect you from the sun. Depending on the time of year, it is useful to have a windbreaker or light rain coat just in case. For shoes, street shoes and beach shoes are really the only must haves. If you are one who likes water shoes, those are handy too. To keep the boat nice and clean, you will probably want to go barefoot when on deck. If you do not like the barefoot idea, then bring along some non-slip shoes that will not leave marks on the boat. If you are someone who is very attached to their sunglasses, you should consider getting a strap to keep them in place.

Practical Things

sunbathing

There are some obvious items you will want to have on board, but probably so obvious that you may not think to pack them. Ziplock bags for electronics will rightfully be one of the most useful items packed. It is best to keep money and electronics stored in dry bags/ziplock bags to avoid any unfortunate accidents. Seasickness pills are also a staple, especially if one of your crew is known to have a rough time on the water. Do not forget the sunblock! This will most likely be a sun-filled holiday, and burns are never fun. Try to avoid using tanning oil on deck as it can stain the wood or fabric on the boat. Make sure to have a small beach bag to take ashore with you, along with a separate beach towel from the ones provided on the boat. Flashlights are also good to have on hand. If you are light sleeper, do not leave behind the earplugs or eyeshades.

Fun Things

Fun

Now that you have all the practical necessities in your bag, leave a little extra room to bring some fun things along for your charter. Firstly, make sure you bring some music. All boats have CD players which can tend to be more reliable than iPod hookups, so have both on hand if you can. Playing cards are also a great thing to have when lounging around on deck or at night. It is common for sailboats to fly a flag of where they come from, so if you have a country/state/school flag, bring it along! It is always a great conversation starter with the other sailboats.

Leave Behind

Leave_behind

While there are plenty of things to remember to pack, there are also plenty of things you can leave behind for your charter holiday. Any navigation tools or charts can be left behind, the charter company will provide these materials for you. Boats will also be equipped with cooking and eating utensils, so no need to worry about those. Boats will always have a first aid kid, though a rather basic one. Ladies, leave your fine jewelry and makeup at home. You will probably spend most of your time in and out of the water and lounging in the sun, so these things will just not be necessary.

Pre-Departure Notes

life_vest_children

A few other things to remember before your leave for your charter, be sure to bring your passports as well as photo-copies of them. Also, print out your base information to show to any taxi drivers, especially if travelling in a non-english speaking country. If you plan to fish during your charter, check to see if you need to obtain a fishing license first. Be sure to bring a copy of any sailing credentials if on a bareboat charter. For small children, we recommend bringing your own life vest for them that you know fits well and comfortably.

With these packing and pre-departure notes in mind, you should be in shape for a worry-free and enjoyable sailing holiday!

Robinson Crusoe. Where To Avoid Your Friends and Everyone Else For a Week!

Where to really escape the crowds

You’ve left the marina, the engine is off, the sails are up and the only sound is the water gently lapping against the hull. This is the freedom and escape you’ve been eagerly anticipating.  Next stop, a calm secluded bay for lunch and then an afternoon sail into the next port, but what then? A busy marina with yachts jostling for spaces– families shouting as they try to negotiate tight moorings, port papers needed NOW, and people running, dancing, talking. Where did the peace and quiet go? That tranquil feeling just an hour ago was the calm before the storm! Yes, it is part of the fun of sailing (especially in the Med), and for many a key ingredient to a great sailing holiday, but what if you REALLY want to escape. You dream of your own deserted island. A self inflicted Robinson Crusoe (without the shipwreck of course!). Consider the following a treasure map you can only reach by water, will you dare to explore?

Thailand… depart from Phuket heading South East:

Thailand

Koh Rok Nok

Uninhabited, superb snorkelling, wildlife, stunning powder beaches and coral reefs highly… sounding good yet? If you are feeling extra adventurous you can hire a tent to go camping in Had Koh Rok.

French Polynesia, start from Raiatea on Tahiti:

More uninhabited islands than you could count let alone visit, due to massive variety of sea-life the only company you will find here will be a school of dolphin or a humpback whale. Bliss!

Polynesie

French Polynesia

 

Santa Luzia, Cape Verde, leave from São Vicente

As former hermitage Santa Luzia is ideal for those looking to escape civilization for a few hours. This beautiful island is uninhibited and your arrival will be greeted by crystal clear water lapping against stunning white sand beaches set against the backdrop of magnificent volcanic mountains. Apart from the odd local, spear in hand, fishing in the reef you will find yourself all alone for a day of tranquillity.

Cape_Verde

Playa Paraiso, Cuba… sail from Cayo Largo

Feel as though you have been transported into your computer’s tropical island screensaver by visiting Playa Paraiso. A 2.5-mile-long stretch of white sand on a 17-mile-long uninhabited island 60 miles off Cuba’s southwest coast. The only thing that can make tranquillity better is a Palapa Bar that serves only rum and cigars – which is good because this is the only civilization on Playa Paraiso. Feel like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall by taking a charter from Cayo Largo.

Cuba

The LateSail team have years of experience arranging charters in very corner of the world, and are full of helpful tips and advice to help you plan the perfect escape.

BVI Full Moon Parties

Once a month, if you time it right, your charter could coincide with the famed ‘Full Moon Parties’ of the British Virgin Islands. What better time to enjoy beachside festivities than under the light of a full moon? You will not want to miss this opportunity to go ashore for a night of entertainment, dancing, and drinking. The first full moon party was held back in 1989 at the now renowned Bomba Surf Shack , by Bomba himself, and has been attracting crowds looking for a good time ever since. Whether you’re looking for a wild night of partying or a fun family celebration, checking out one of the full moon parties is a must. Take some time off the boat to enjoy this local tradition ashore, where you can enjoy all the music, cuisine (emphasis on the drinks), and entertainment that these parties have to offer.

FullMoon_party_3

Bomba’s vs. Trellis Bay

There are two main places on Tortola to soak in the revelry of the full moon celebrations, Bomba’s and Trellis Bay.  Bomba’s is located on the West End at Capoons Bay and is known for being the rowdy epicenter of these celebrations. A structure held up by surf boards and driftwood, the bar itself if a site to see. The party will not get started until later in the evening here and will carry into the early hours of the morning. Dance the night away at this notorious beach bar with a lively crowd and great drinks, where the people watching may be as enjoyable as the provided entertainment. This will definitely be a more adult atmosphere, especially as the evening progresses and the alcohol keeps flowing.

FullMoon_party_2

If you are looking for a more family friendly experience, do not worry, there are other options.  The celebrations at the Trellis Bay Cyber Cafe over on the opposite end of Tortola, on Beef Island, are known for being a bit more suitable for children and families. The festivities take place on the beach lit by huge ‘fireballs,’ hence why it’s known as the “Fireball Moon Party.” At midnight one of these massive fireballs is lit up right in the bay making for a great spectacle for everyone on the beach. There will be plenty of island flavour to be enjoyed by all ages including a Caribbean buffet, local musicians and artists, and colorful performers.

These are the two most well-known places to celebrate, but there are plenty of other places that take part in the revelry, like CocoMaya Restaurant on Virgin Gorda.  This night of beachside celebrations only happens once a month, so if you happen to be sailing around BVI during one of the dates below,  you will not want to miss the chance to experience this shore-side local tradition and party with locals and tourists alike. If not, you may even want to purposely plan your charter to overlap with one of these legendary parties.  After this nightlong lively beach party, you can set sail and recover from the comfort of your boat under that warm Caribbean sun.

FullMoon_party_1

Plan your visit for a 2015/2016 Full  Moon Party! Dates:

Saturday, 4th April 2015

Monday, 4th May 2015

Tuesday, 2nd June 2015

Thursday, 2nd July 2015

Friday, 31st July 2015

Saturday, 29th August 2015

Monday, 28th September 2015

Tuesday, 27th October 2015

Wednesday, 25th November 2015

Friday, 25th December 2015

Saturday, 23rd January 2016

Monday, 22nd February 2016

Wednesday, 23rd March 2016

Friday, 22nd April 2016

The Joys of Spring Sailing in the Caribbean

As the seasons change, so does sailing. Springtime in the Caribbean offers unique opportunities for those looking to traverse the blue waters and enjoy the region’s natural wonders.

Antigua_CarlisleBay

Antigua_CarlisleBay

First, you have the weather. During the winter you may even need an extra layer at night; summer has moments when it is stiflingly hot, but spring weather tends to be friendlier for all visitors. It is mild, pleasant and relaxing for those looking to get away from the stress of city life.

If you’re a lover of nature, then spring is the time for you. There are few things as astounding as seeing the Caribbean islands in full bloom. The trees are greener and the colour that the flowers add to the mix creates some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

Sailing in Cuba

Sailing in Cuba

Another advantage of sailing in the Caribbean during this time of year is that you won’t be alone. In addition to enjoying the beaches and attractions each island offers, there are also plenty of events. From carnivals to regattas and other sailing competitions there is a lot going on. If you prefer to avoid the potential crowds, hold out until late spring. You’ll also find better discounts at that time.

Springtime also offers some of the safest weather of the year; the temperatures are not extreme and the risk of experiencing any kind of tropical storm is minimal.

Barbuda

Barbuda

Here on our site you’ll find both last minute spring charter offers and options for those who are looking to sail in late April and May. Contact us with your requirements and we can help recommend the best places to go based on your needs.

Is it Time to Book your BVI Yacht Charter for Spring?

If you haven’t solidified your spring sailing trip, now might be the perfect time to do it! Firm up those plans, book your flights and get your charter squared away.

Sunset, Tortola, BVI

Sunset, Tortola, BVI

 

As anyone who’s been there knows, sailing the BVI during the spring months is simply a joy. You’ve got the Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival from March 30th to April 5th, and as the official site says it’s a week of warm water and hot racing. This is a chance to see some beautiful boats and join in the festivities. Everyone’s there to have a good time- you can even join in the social media frenzy leading up to the event by following the hashtags @springregatta and #BVISR.

Sailing in the BVI

Sailing in the BVI

 

If you don’t come during the regatta you can still take advantage of the distinct benefits the BVI offer during this time of year. In fact, if you’re willing to (or want to) bypass the crowds and expense of the regatta itself you can get some good deals on airfare as well.

There are winds of 10-15 knots from the northeast and temperatures from the low 70° F | 21° C to 85° F | 29° C. As you can see it’s a very comfortable time to visit the region.

The number of people in the area also help make springtime BVI yacht charters a good idea. There are enough visitors around to have someone to chat with at bars like the Soggy Dollar, but not so many that its jam packed. You’re also avoiding the really low summer season when it can be hard to find open restaurants.

Soggy Dollar, BVI

Soggy Dollar, BVI

 

Sometimes all it takes is one person to take the reins and plan a great group yacht charter in the BVI- maybe this year it’s your turn! Visit our site and check our real time booking option or call our advisors and we’ll find a charter offer to suit.

LateSail Regatta Overview

Why and when should you book with LateSail?

You will usually see us promoting the values of booking last minute or taking advantage of early or promotional discounts, but with regattas you typically find little or no availability last minute and discounts are scarce or none. If you are organised enough the best prices are to secure before the next season’s prices are released (ie book in the first half of 2015 for your 2016 charter). You also have the advantage of a wider selection of yachts available and from the company with the best list prices.

regatta

 So why book with LateSail at all for a regatta?

  • Our experience of finding the right yacht from the best fleets and what should be included – will it include a CSA certificate? A higher refundable deposit? Is a spinnaker available? The race entry itself?
  • As a broker we are impartial, so our role is to find an option that suits both your budget, level of performance and type of yacht. We are not trying to push a particular product above another.
  • We think outside the box. No yachts left in Antigua for ASW? That’s ok, we have an option you can charter from St Martin instead (or pay a premium to have moved to Antigua for you)
  • Bareboat, skippered, crewed or cabin charter. We offer them all.

What yachts are available?

Not all charter companies are happy for their yachts to participate in regattas (or insured for that matter), so depending on the regatta you are looking to race in we know and will check with all the fleets that have suitable options. After that, much like a bareboat charter, we will look to find the best size, berth and model of monohull or catamaran for you.

Differences to consider vs bareboat?

  • Some companies require you to take a longer minimum length charter than the regatta itself, and often you need time to prepare.
  • Refundable security deposits are often extra, and only third party deposit insurance available
  • Not all companies have spinnakers available, but often the bareboat class doesn’t allow them anyway so you don’t need to get stuck on this point.

What organised regattas are available to book through LateSail?

regatta_2

In short, there are lots throughout the Caribbean and Med, and as long as it isn’t outside of usual restrictions (between multiple countries for example), we will be able to track down any yachts available in the market to charter.

The following Caribbean  regattas are the most popular:

Antigua Sailing Week, 25 Apr – 1 May 2015, 23 – 29 Apr 2016, 20 Apr – 5 May 2017

St Martin Heineken Regatta, 5-8 March 2015, 3-6 March 2016, 2-5 March 2017

BVI Spring Regatta, 30 March – 5 Apr 2015, 28 March – 3 Apr 2016, 27 March – 2 Apr 2017

Organise your own regatta or flotilla?

If you are part of a sailing club or looking to do a corporate sailing event, just let us know how many yachts you need (matching  or not), dates and destination – and we will put together the best package for you. As always, our price guarantee always applies.

Bareboat, Flotilla, Crewed or Cabin Charter?

Bareboat, Flotilla, Crewed or Cabin Charter… which one is the best for me?

At LateSail we pride ourselves in not only getting you the best price, but also finding the best fit for you. That might mean the specifics of the yacht, the charter company or recommending a destination to sail from. Another broader decision to make is whether to sail bareboat, flotilla, crewed or by the cabin.

We will often have feedback along the lines of “I’ve always sailed bareboat, I don’t know why I never tried flotilla before… it was fantastic!”

So whether you are new to sailing or have been doing the same type of sailing holiday for 50 years, maybe 2015 could be the year to try something different, or at the very least read to the end of this blog!

Below we have highlighted some of the key factors for each of the types of charter.

Bareboat

bareboat

A great way to hone your sailing skills on a variety of yacht models, the ultimate freedom, a smart alternative being committed to owning a yacht, and it is a competitive market so you can be price conscious as well.

Flotilla

Flotilla2

 

A flotilla is a sailing convoy, numerous boats following an agreed route in company. You have the support a lead crew as part of the flotilla so good for confidence building especially if you are new to sailing, but equally good if you have lots of experience but enjoy the added social aspect of a meeting and socialising with many other like minded individuals. Particularly good for families as there is always something for kids to do.

Crewed

crewed

Sail on a yacht with permanent crew who take pride in the yacht and know the sailing area like the back of their hand. It is much more service orientated than just adding a skipper to your bareboat charter and in the Caribbean food and drink (to a high standard) will typically be included in the price. There is a wide range of options and prices vary depending on a number of factors. The yachts typically have many amenities on board such as wakeboarding, windsurfing and diving. We know the boats, and very importantly, the crews, and we work with you to tailor make the perfect holiday.

Cabin

cabin

 

Perfect if you are a single person or a couple looking to relax for a week without the responsibility and cost of hiring a whole yacht. The majority of cabin charters you will find yourself being waited on typically doing as little as possible. If you are looking to gain some extra sailing experience there are options for this too, and you could also gain a sailing certificate at the same time.

Everyone’s idea of the perfect sailing holiday is slightly different, but the LateSail team expert advice is on hand to help you find the perfect match, and of course, with our guarantee that you will be getting the best price possible.