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Breathe Deep: Cruising the Caribbean

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Caribbean, St Thomas Bay

If there was ever a place made expressly for the exhale moments in life, it is the Caribbean.

Laid back lifestyles, simply fabulous weather, and stunning scenery, both above and below the waterline, are just a few of many reasons.

More than 7,000 islands are flung like gemstones pulled from a necklace in a graceful curve. To the east off the southern tip of Florida lie the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, leading into the Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles that make up the remainder of the Caribbean island chain.

In the 15th century, as Columbus sailed in search of the islands east of India, he instead landed in the Caribbean. Thinking he had arrived at his intended destination, he dubbed the natives “Indians.” When the discovery was revealed to be part of the “new world,” the islands became the West Indies, which embrace the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic; and the Lesser Antilles Islands that follow in a gentle, southerly turn.

The Leeward Islands, according to the English language, include the Spanish Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra, the U.S. Virgin Islands of St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, and Water Island; the British Virgin Islands of Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Anguilla; Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Barbuda, Antigua, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, le Desirade, Iles des Saintes, and Dominica.

The Windwards, again in the English language definition, include Martinique, Saint Lucia,

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada. Some consider Dominica to fall in with this group. Other countries use different divisions between Windward and Leeward islands. Further to the south, pointing to Venezuela, are Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago.

With the exception of the occasional hurricane, the Caribbean is not only a prescription for relaxation, it is also a seafarer’s dream. The tradewinds are gentle; the water is  clear, blue, warm, and filled with interesting creatures; and each island is within close proximity to the next in the chain, making for enjoyable short trips and safe harbors. The Caribbean climate is conducive to year round cruising, but during the June 1st through November 30 hurricane season, traffic and prices reflect the low season’s meteorological challenge.

The Virgin Islands continue to find favor with seamen of all stripes due to the abundance of facilities, services, marinas, good captains and yacht charter professionals. The popularity of this hub can deliver increased traffic, but the intricate coastlines offer many bays, cays, and natural harbors to tuck into for privacy, with many uninhabited islands that beg for daytime adventure. Other charter hubs include the Bahamas and the Grenadines, but no matter which island you choose, there is bound to be a way to get the yacht of your dreams delivered, stocked and ready for your bespoke voyage.

From the point of embarkation, the route and ports of call are only limited by the number of days on the water. There are islands with appeal for every lifestyle, from the quiet elegance of Barbuda, to the glamour and sophistication of St. John and St. Barth; or the multiple beaches of Anguilla, to the island without a beach, known as Saba. Generally, the northern isles are a little more developed, have more nightlife and amenities than those in the lower reaches of the Lesser Antilles, and as such, provide a more serene environment. Think less jet ski and urban crush, more serenity and privacy.

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