Caribbean vs. Mediterranean Experiences
Updated: May 3
Besides the obvious geographical differences, we found our experiences between the two sides of the Atlantic differed significantly. Compared to traveling in the Mediterranean, here is how we found the Caribbean experience to be different:
The turquoise Caribbean waters
The turquoise blue hues of the Caribbean speak for themselves! How could we not spend another winter here?
Tradewinds more consistent in Caribbean
Click to view short video to see & hear what it sounds like when we are "flying" at 9.2 knots in the Caribbean with the mainsail and jib.
For the most part, we had pretty steady trade winds once we cleared land. We didn't have to change sails very often and there were only a few instances when we had almost no wind, but it was usually short-lived. The Mediterranean was much more unpredictable and kept us on our toes more.
Spent more time in the water (snorkeling, swimming, paddle boarding, knee boarding)
Given the warm, humid weather, we lived in our swimsuits during the day. Although there were several decent areas to snorkel, Tabago Cays Marine Park in The Grenadines was noteworthy as the water was particularly clear and there were sea turtles everywhere we looked. In terms of the variety of sea life, coral reefs and water clarity, the Jacques Cousteau Marine Reserve in Guadeloupe and Buck Island in St. Croix really stood out, but neither were easily accessible. We had to swim or paddle board a half mile each way and the second time we had a dinghy drop off. Buck Island proved more of a challenge as we had to jump off the back of the boat (and later get back on) while the boat was moving with the current and bobbing up and down in large waves. Not an easy task for Captain Dale to pick us up, while trying to avoid coral heads and not run us over.
The knee board was added to our sea toys when we reached Antigua. It took several tries to figure out the optimal speed the dinghy had to ramp up to and to figure out how to best position your knees on the board. We were fortunate to have the entire bay to ourselves in St. Kitts so we could experiment with tugging the knee board and paddle board.
Fresh Produce Delivery and Pizza Delivery/Pick-up
(L-R). Fresh fruit vendor in St. Vincent, Cute produce boat in St. Lucia, Pizza Pi VI delivery/pickup boat in St. Thomas
We were visited by fresh produce vendors on a daily basis at anchorages in St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, offering fresh produce and fresh bread for a handsome price. It was actually quite convenient sometimes, since they carried fruits we could not find at the grocery stores. Our favorite was the pizza boat, Pizza Pi VI, anchored very close to us in Christmas Bay in St. Thomas. It was a novelty to order yummy pizzas from there and pick it up in our dinghy right after snorkeling.
Besides boat vendors, there were many boat boys in speed boats in St. Vincent, who would follow us a ways in to an anchorage, hoping to make extra cash by helping with tricky mooring lines. They were typically very helpful and we were thankful for their help. There were other boat boys that were quite aggressive and would literally hang on to the side of our boat trying to sell us tours or other boat cleaning services. Christine was a little freaked out by the ones who would not leave us alone.
More Dinghy Docks = Greater Access to Land
Dinghy Dock on Union Island (Grenadines). Our handsome sea-based Uber driver
Having convenient access to land made shopping, going out to eat, going to the beach, running errands so much easier. We enjoyed having the freedom of being on land or at sea on a whim. Access to land in the Mediterranean is granted only if you are in a marina.
Not as pedestrian friendly
Typical streets in Caribbean (1st & 2nd photo) vs. pedestrian walkway in Cartegena, Spain (3rd photo)
We found very few sidewalks or pedestrian walkways, so we had to be vigilant about watching for cars, though the islanders seemed to honor a pedestrian's right of way.
Hassle with clearing in and out of each island country (8 different ones)
Abandoned customs office in Wallilbou Bay, St. Vincent. Antigua site offering rapid PCR tests for over $200 pp
NO picture can describe the inconveniences we had to go through to enter and leave each island country! Here is a summary of what caused us heartache in the Caribbean:
Caribbean time = Unpredictable + Half Speed. Listed hours/days were very rarely followed by Customs and Immigration. They do not work during lunch hours, nor do they tell you when they will be back from lunch! Hence, we spent hours waiting for them to come to work and sometimes we had to just go back the next day.
Each island country seemed to want to use their own electronic immigration form. Sometimes it wasn't even clear which electronic forms they were using. A big thanks to Megan, who was responsible for filling out all of our electronic forms for each island country!!! She is now a customs and immigration expert!
A few required hard copy forms to be filled in at Customs and Immigration and needed 3 copies for each one of us. They offered up carbon paper (when was the last time you saw carbon paper???). for efficiency sake, but there was never enough, so you had to share one sheet with everyone else in line.
Martinique and Guadeloupe had a slick system where you could go to a bar or shop and clear in and out of the country on a computer terminal.
Covid test requirements varied by island country. Some required rapid PCR tests within 48 hours of arrival, so not only did we have to find a facility close enough to our next destination that would provide it, we had to paid $100-$200 for each of us to get tested. We even got PCR tests in an outdoor hotel bar once with a nurse who had to take a ferry over to administer it. Some required proctored rapid antigen tests within so many hours of our arrival, but a few island countries never even asked for the results.
Several crowded Covid testing facilities were breeding grounds for catching Covid! In fact, one member of our family may have contracted it from a testing facility or the customs office.
Lots of short, intermittent rain showers followed by frantic sprints and then rainbows
One of many rainbow sightings Christine opening one of the bow hatches
Typically, we keep all of our hatches (cabin ceiling windows) open for good air flow. Anyone who has stayed on board with us knows that Dale, Megan and Christine have become sprinters, deftly trained by the unpredictable rain showers in the Caribbean. During the day, the minute we hear or see rain, we all make a mad dash to our cabins or on deck to slam close all 10 hatches and our galley windows. It's the nautical version of Whack-A-Mole. The funny thing is that 8 times out of 10, by the time we have finished closing all the hatches, the rain has passed.
Every cabin has at least two hatches, one of which is above the bed and no one wants to sleep in a damp bed. In St. Lucia and St. Vincent, we had brief rains at least 4-5 times/day it seemed. We've also had a lot of midnight wakings when we are rudely awaken by pelting rain on our faces/feet and then we're forced to do the midnight Whack-A-Mole. Whenever it rained during daylight hours, we were almost always treated to a striking rainbow nearby.