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Exploring the Enchanted Isles of Galápagos

Galapagos
The rugged, volcanic coast of Isabela Island in Galapagos National Park. Photo Credit: Jad Davenport

Experience the untouched wonder of the Galápagos, an adventure you’ll not soon forget.

Straddling the equator off the coast of Ecuador is an enchanted archipelago with some of the strangest wildlife on the planet. Roughly half the size of Hawaii but with barely enough residents to fill Yankee Stadium, the Galápagos Islands are a biological laboratory. Here, amid the cactus-covered landscape, wildlife evolved in nearly total isolation. There are blood-sucking finches, tree-climbing sea lions, underwater iguanas, and tortoises that hatched more than a century ago. Because of its unique wildlife and remoteness, the archipelago has become a mecca for cruisers wanting to experience Charles Darwin’s “Enchanted Isles.”

Since most of the archipelago is within a national park—and the surrounding waters are part of a marine sanctuary—the laws controlling mooring sites and island visits are extremely rigid. The best and easiest way to voyage through the Galápagos is not by private yacht but aboard one of the licensed expedition ships that offer voyages from a few days to a few weeks.

The Bishop of Panama, Fray Tomas de Berlanga, accidentally discovered the Galápagos in March 1535 when strong currents pulled his ship 600 miles off the mainland traveling from Panama to Peru. The cleric was stranded for three weeks, and his faith was shaken at his first glimpse of the bleak basalt mountains prickled in towering cactus forests. He wrote, “It seems as though at some time God had showered stones and the earth is like slag, worthless.”

It was, however, Charles Darwin who brought fame to the Galápagos. Although the naturalist voyaged through the islands in 1835 aboard the HMS Beagle—he only visited 4 of the 19 islands—it wasn’t until 1859 and the publication of his work On the Origin of Species that the islands became known to the outside world. But it would be another century before intrepid tourists ventured there when in 1969, the first cruise carrying just 58 passengers voyaged through the islands. Today, tourism generates a half-billion dollars per year, with nearly a quarter-million visitors exploring the islands annually.

Most tourists fly first to Quito, Ecuador, and spend a night or two exploring this Andean capital. From there, flights hop to the port city of Guayaquil and then to Baltra International Airport in the Galápagos. From the airport it’s a quick transfer by taxi and boat over to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the hub of tourism.

The town, the largest in the Galápagos, is lorded over by a giant, paint-chipped, albatross statue. The cobbled main street is lined with dive shops and souvenir stores. Visitors can explore the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station and see the successful tortoise captive breeding program, with opportunities to wander through enclosures that hold adult tortoises. More adventurous travelers can sign up for tours into the surrounding highlands, winding through eucalyptus forests and past banana plantations and coffee farms. There, among some of the last forest stands, guides can lead you to the last wild tortoises. The reptiles weigh as much as 500 pounds, are the size of coffee tables and spend much of their time grazing among the tall grasses in forest glades. Darwin and his crew brought 48 of them on board but, unfortunately, not for scientific study. He described them as such: “The breast plate with the flesh attached to it is very good, and the young tortoises make excellent soup.”

Abercrombie & Kent is one of the best cruising operators exploring the Galápagos. From Santa Cruz, their luxurious M/V Eclipse makes regular voyages among the islands. With only 24 cabins (all with sea views), this sleek 210-foot ship feels more like a private yacht; your shore parties are also smaller at 12 people per guide versus the standard 16.

Most voyages start with a wet landing on nearby Las Bachas Beach, where you might get lucky and see some Caribbean flamingos in the lagoon or nesting green sea turtles on the beach (November to February). Bring a pair of water shoes or sturdy hiking sandals for the wet landings and dry, lightweight hiking boots for the island hikes.

Another favorite stop is Puerto Egas on Santiago Island. Here, guides lead you on a hike along an old salt-mining road to the Fur Seal Grottos, beautiful tide pools and caves where penguins sleep and play. Ask to see “Darwin’s Toilet,” a cool lava tube that fills and empties with the swirling tides. Later that afternoon, the ship sails to Bartolomé Island for a hot, hour-long hike up the 300-plus stairs to the summit for beautiful views of Pinnacle Rock and Sullivan Bay. Afterward, take the ship’s zodiac out to the snorkeling grounds, where you’ll spot harmless whitetip reef sharks and Galápagos penguins. Bring bug spray to ward off the pesky horseflies on the beach.

Rare land iguanas are the draw when the ship circles back to Santa Cruz Island to explore the cactus forests of Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill). Wear a yellow shirt or hat. (Land iguanas feed on yellow cactus flowers and will scamper over to you for great photos.) Then it’s off to the blood-red beaches of Rabida Island to photograph sea lions.

Another favorite landing is at Tagus Cove on Isabela Island (Darwin was here), where you can hike through the palo-santo forests up the rugged slopes of a cinder cone to photograph the views and see some of the famous finches and mockingbirds. There’s also wonderful kayaking in the cove and a chance to snorkel with penguins again, or traverse a mangrove swamp by panga at Elizabeth Bay.

Few tourist boats make it to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, so count yourself lucky if your ship’s itinerary includes dropping anchor here at the only approved mooring spot at the island; you’re about to see a slice of “the real Galápagos.” A mere million years old, Fernandina is the newest and westernmost of the Galápagos Islands and also the most volcanically active. Its misty caldera rises more than a mile above the surrounding lowlands and erupts spectacularly about once every 10 years. Fernandina is a glimpse of the Galápagos as they were long ago when life first found them. There are no introduced species on this remote volcanic island. Out on the shimmering black surface, only a scattering of lava cactus—a pioneer species—cling to the cracks and crevices. Red-throated lava lizards scamper across sometimes drawing the attention of the islands’ most dominant land predators, Galápagos hawks, often seen perched on palo santo trees. The lava field you’ll walk over is cabled and sinewy, frozen in long, ropy braids. It’s so sharp that it tears the soles off tennis shoes and can cheese-grate your knees if you trip, so wear boots and long pants for the hike.

An afternoon sail to nearby Punta Vicente Roca on Isabela Island offers a fantastic few hours of snorkeling with inquisitive sea lion pups and sea turtles. Sea lions want to play, so don’t just sit there. Spin, blow bubbles, make noise under water, and don’t be surprised if they tug on your dive fins and mouth your snorkel.

Gardner Bay on Española Island is one of the longest white-sand beaches in the Galápagos, and you’ll have complete freedom to explore it without a guide (but not into the desert beyond). Leave your boots but bring your hiking sandals, swimsuit, towel, and snorkel gear, and spend the morning swimming in this stunning bay with frisky sea lions. The next stop to nearby Punta Suárez includes hiking the 2.5-mile trail through colonies of blue-footed and Nazca boobies. Near the high sea cliffs, you should pass some of the 12,000 breeding pairs of waved albatross. From April to December the babies are learning to fly, an amazing and amusing sight.

On your last night, you’ll pack your bags for an early departure, followed by one last zodiac ride through the mangrove swamps of Black Turtle Cove and a stop at the ship’s store for souvenirs. Choose something that brings to mind your epic adventure to this land that time forgot, but you surely will not.

EXPEDITIONS:

Abercrombie & Kent; abercrombiekent.com
AdventureSmith Explorations; adventuresmithexplorations.com
Lindblad Expeditions; expeditions.com  

Words and photos by Jad Davenport, Southern Boating Magazine December 2016

Clean on Demand: Installing a Deck Washdown System

deck washdown system

Add a deck washdown system for a squeaky clean boat.

As a marine surveyor I’ve often wondered why many boat manufacturers don’t include a deck washdown system as standard equipment. After all, the “stuff” a boat owner has to deal with—from fish blood to the fragrant evidence that Uncle Joe had one too many margaritas last night—is easier to remove sooner rather than later back at the dock, after it has dried to a concrete-like consistency. In addition, rinsing your anchor chain prior to storage not only reduces corrosion (particularly in the case of freshwater washdowns) but also keeps the un-hygienic smell of Davy Jones’ gym locker from permeating the entire boat. Installing a washdown system is easily within the ability of most any DIY’er. Here’s how to make it happen:

Water supply options
Start by planning out your entire installation (hose runs, pump location, power supply, etc.) before drilling holes. Consider the washdown system’s water source. Most are plumbed as a “raw water” system utilizing the water your boat is in. In the case of saltwater fed systems, this means you’ll still want to deal with the salty residue left behind once back at the dock (to avoid corrosion issues), but in my opinion, a salty boat is better than a nasty one any day.

A second option is tapping into the boat’s freshwater system. This will typically limit the amount of water you can use (based on tank size) but does have the advantage of reducing the effects of corrosion on metal components via freshwater washdowns.

A third option is plumbing your system to draw from both. This gives you an unlimited supply of saltwater to power off grime, plus the option of a final freshwater rinse with minimal drain on your potable water supply.

Freshwater washdown systems are plumbed into the freshwater system at some convenient point (possibly near the tank). Raw water systems require either a dedicated thru-hull or connection via a “T” fitting into an existing raw water system hose.

Using an existing thru-hull is the most common route, as most owners tend to shy away from cutting additional holes in their boats. It also has the added benefit of allowing you to complete the installation with the boat in the water by simply shutting the seacock of the raw water system you’re tapping into.

Choosing a pump
Pump selection (and adequate water flow) are the most crucial aspects of the system. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to power off anchor chain crud with a wimpy stream of water. The trick is finding a moderately priced pump that not only provides adequate pressure with minimal power draw but can also stand up to the marine environment.

A typical deck washdown pump’s output pressure ranges from 3-12 GPM (gallons per minute) with prices of $100 or less to over $1,000. Buying a deck washdown package (a kit that includes pump, deck fitting, deck hose, etc.) will often save money. Also, the pump’s warranty can vary from one to three years—the longer coverage period, the better, of course.

Washdown deck fitting
Washdown deck fitting

Installation considerations
When selecting a location for your washdown pump, choose an accessible area well above where bilge water accumulates. The pump should also be between the water supply and planned deck outlet, ideally as close as possible to its power source to simplify wiring runs. As pumps are more efficient at pushing water than pulling, the location should also be as close as possible to the supply thru-hull or freshwater tank.

Be sure the pump installation itself is in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and that it includes an intake strainer between the pump and water supply in order to prevent pump damage due to debris.

Pumps vary in their ability to self-prime or lift water vertically in order to start pumping. Some are rated at 8-9 feet, while others may only be able to overcome 2 feet of “head” when pumping. Make sure the location you’ve chosen doesn’t exceed the pump’s self-priming ability.

If installing a freshwater-only washdown system, don’t be tempted to simply cut into the system and use your existing freshwater pump. You can do it, but don’t expect too much from such an install. Pumps used in freshwater systems weren’t designed to move large amounts of water quickly and lack the pressure of a good washdown pump. When planning your install you’ll also need to figure out where to locate the deck outlet. Most folks simply mount it on the foredeck (close to the anchor) as cleaning ground tackle is often viewed as its primary job, however there’s no rule saying you have to put it there.

Regardless of where you decide to install the outlet, make sure you have enough space beneath the deck to accommodate the hose and associated fittings and that you won’t be drilling into anything unexpected (wiring or cables) while cutting the mounting hole. Seal the edges of the hole with thickened epoxy when cutting through cored decks (balsa, plywood, etc.) to prevent water intrusion into the core (and rot) later on. Bedding the fitting with a suitable marine caulking will help in this regard as well.

Installation of a pressurized washdown system is an excellent return for a relatively small investment of time and money. Cleanups after raising the anchor will be a cinch, and you’ll find so many other uses for the system—hosing off the dog, rinsing the dingy, giving the kids a bath—you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

— By Frank Lanier, Southern Boating Magazine November 2016

Keeping Up with the Watermakers

Watermaker Maintenance
Watermaker Maintenance

“Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink. Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.”

I can’t read those lines from the seafaring classic The Rime of the Ancient Mariner without thinking “Those guys sure could’ve used a watermaker!” But owning a watermaker is only half the equation. Like any onboard mechanical system, a reverse osmosis (RO) unit requires routine maintenance to ensure proper operation. While the manufacturer should be consulted regarding maintenance requirements for your particular make or model, here are a few requirements that will be common to most any unit and help ensure yours runs smoothly.

How they work

In a nutshell, a watermaker or RO system uses a high-pressure pump to push saltwater (supply water) against a semi-permeable membrane reversing osmotic flow. A portion of the supply water (roughly 10 percent) passes through the membrane’s microscopic pores and emerges as freshwater, which is then pumped to the ship’s water tanks. The remaining 90 percent—along with the salt and other solids left behind by the desalinated water—are flushed away by excess supply water, which flows past the membrane and is pumped overboard.

Pre-filters

A watermaker’s supply side (between the seawater pickup and the membrane) consists of a low-pressure pump, pre-filters and a high-pressure pump. Most systems use two pre-filters, typically a 20 or 30-micron filter, followed by a 5-micron filter. As oil can quickly damage an RO membrane, many systems also include a supply water oil separation filter.

Watermakers need an ample flow of water to operate, which means keeping the pre-filters clean. If they begin to clog, supply pressure (and output) begins to drop. Most watermaker units have a gauge to monitor supply pressure. Regular monitoring and replacement of these filters will not only increase freshwater output but is also better for the RO unit itself in the long run.

In addition to the pre-filters, most manufacturers recommend installation of a sea strainer at the supply water intake thru-hull. It should be sized to filter out anything larger than 50 microns or so. The strainer itself should be cleaned regularly as part of your routine maintenance schedule.

Membrane maintenance

The heart of your RO system is the membrane. Membrane life expectancy for a well-maintained system is around five years but can be much longer in systems that are used regularly and scrupulously maintained. While operating your system in water that’s blue or at least somewhat clear looking will help reduce maintenance and increase membrane service life, just as important to longevity is how well the system is maintained while not in use.

Most modern watermakers come with (or have the option to add) a manual or automatic membrane flushing system. This allows you to draw freshwater from the vessel’s water tank (typically weekly) and pump it through the membrane, purging the system of saltwater. When flushing, make sure the water used does not contain chlorine, which can quickly ruin your membrane. Use “product” water (i.e. water produced by the watermaker) whenever possible. If using water from your vessel’s freshwater tanks, make sure it is chlorine free. Systems that will be out of service for extended periods of time (six months or longer) should be flushed with a biocide per the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Pumps

High-presure pump
High-presure pump

The high- and low-pressure pumps in your system also require routine maintenance. Some may require oil changes and seal replacement every 500 hours or so, but many newer units can go significantly longer between service intervals, sometimes as high as 8,000 hours. Others can be water cooled and require no oil changes. The first place to look is the owner’s manual, which should specify the required maintenance items and intervals for your particular system.

Finally, use these simple tips:

Do…

Keep the membrane wet. Allowing it to dry out will drastically reduce service life.

Use the system regularly, even daily, if possible. (Watermakers hate inactivity.)

Check the system routinely for leaks, corrosion and other issues.

Flush the system with freshwater after each use.

Clean the pre-filters often, weekly if the system is used regularly.

Install a supply line oil separation filter.

Monitor the system daily while in use, and keep a log of output, water quality, etc.

Preserve the membrane with biocide solution for longtime storage.

Don’t… 

Use the system in silty, oily or polluted water (harbors, for instance).

Operate the system with insufficient supply water flow.

Use chlorinated water to flush the system.

Let the RO membrane(s) dry out.

Clean the unit with harsh chemicals. Use soap and water or mild glass cleaners only.

— By Frank Lanier, Southern Boating Magazine January 2017

Quick, Get Back in the Boat!

Installing a boarding ladder
Photo credit: Kuznetcov_Konstantin / shutterstock

Installing a boarding ladder? If you’re an avid cruiser, you’ll need one! Spend time at any yacht club tiki bar and you’re bound to hear the tale of a cruising couple, an impulsive mid-ocean swim, the inability to climb back on board, and the telltale fingernail marks found later on the transom of the unmanned vessel.

In an effort to keep you from becoming the fodder of such sea stories, here’s the scoop on choosing and installing a boarding ladder on your vessel so that you can safely enter and exit the water from the deck or swim platform. Boarding ladders also make it easier to board a dinghy and assist in retrieval of personnel in a crew overboard (COB) situation in calmer waters.

Boarding ladders should be constructed from non-corroding materials such as plastic, aluminum or stainless steel. Aluminum ladders weigh less and are cheaper, whereas stainless steel ladders are stronger and more durable. Boarding ladders can be fixed or portable and come in a variety of styles. However, for the purpose of this article, we’ll concentrate on three types:  Swim step ladders, transom ladders and removable ladders.

Swim step ladders
These are typically mounted to a power boat’s swim platform. However, installation of a swim platform ladder is an option for smaller vessels (those powered by outboards or I/O drives, for example) that typically don’t have space for a full transom platform. Due to their proximity to the water, both units normally require no more than three steps to meet the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) requirement regarding extension into the water. When not in use the ladders can either fold up onto the swim platform itself or telescope out of the way underneath.

Transom ladders
These are hinged units typically found on sailboats. Many ladders are constructed so that they become an integral part of the stern railing or pushpit when raised and secured in place. When lowered, they provide an opening in the stern railing and a means of entering and exiting the water. Transom ladders designed as part of the stern pulpit are generally factory installations, but aftermarket units can often be easily installed depending on the vessel’s transom configuration.

Installing a boarding ladder
Telescoping swim platform ladder.

Removable ladders
These units, as opposed to portable ladders, are attached using permanently mounted brackets. These brackets are typically bolted to the gunwales or deck of a vessel and utilize keyhole slots, cotter pins or some similar arrangement that allow them to be easily installed and removed when not in use. Some units are rigid one-piece units, while others are hinged so that they can be folded up rather than removed when not in use. Others still are telescoping or even accordion-style units, which can be adjusted to facilitate boarding a dinghy or fully extended for water entry or exit.

Mounting considerations
ABYC standards state that all boats must have a means of unassisted re-boarding that must be accessible to and deployable by a person in the water. ABYC also calls for each boarding ladder to be able to withstand a vertical downward static load of 400 pounds without permanent deformation in excess of 1/4 inch, and for the top surface of the lowest step to be at least 12 inches below the waterline with the boat in a static floating position. In general, ladders should be located at a spot that makes the vessel easy to board such as the side of a sailboat adjacent to the lifeline. If the ladders are mounted on the stern, they should be installed as far as practical from the propellers.

Installation tips
As with any project, the first step is to thoroughly read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions. Next, visualize the installation and do a “dry run” in order to identify and address potential problems beforehand. Does the location you’ve chosen for the ladder meet manufacturer and ABYC recommendations? Are the mounting hardware and backing plates sufficiently robust, and can they be reached on both sides for tightening?

Ladder installation on a swim platform is typically a straightforward affair. For installations that require drilling into the hull, always verify what’s on the other side before drilling in order to avoid collateral damage to equipment, wire runs or Aunt Martha’s picture. You’ll also want to ensure all mounting hardware is properly bedded with a suitable marine-grade sealant, and that when holes are drilled through any cored portions of the hull or deck, the exposed coring is properly sealed to prevent moisture entry.

Even when properly installed, some of the above ladders may fail to meet the ABYC requirement for easy deployment by a person in the water, particularly those that should be removed and stowed while underway. One possible solution is the installation of an emergency boarding ladder. These units, typically some form of rope ladder utilizing rigid steps, are collapsible, lightweight and can be easily installed on most boats. Most are stored in a canvas bag and deployed by a grab rope hanging just above the waterline.

Rope ladders are convenient emergency ladders due to their compactness and flexibility. However, they’re harder to climb than rigid units, making them less than ideal as primary boarding ladders. If installed, it’s always a good idea to test deployment and ease of use in calm waters before they’re actually needed. One trick that can make them easier to board is weighting the lowest rung of the ladder to ensure it fully extends when deployed. Finally, while many cruisers likely plan on using their boarding ladders during a COB recovery situation, preparation should include various scenarios such as recovery of an incapacitated victim. It’s crucial that COB and recovery drills are not only understood by all on board but also practiced on a regular basis. They should also include captain and crew role reversals, to ensure recovery can take place if the captain or crew is incapacitated.

— By Frank Lanier, Southern Boating Magazine December 2016

Island ‘Rum’inations in Barbados

Barbados
Crane Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches along the quiet southern coast of Barbados. The beach was named not after the beautiful bird, but after an industrial crane used to transfer goods from ship to shore.

Barbados beckons to those seeking pristine beaches, a bottle of rum and a touch of history.

Traditionally known as the first landfall for New World-bound ships from Europe and Africa, the small country of Barbados is today more famous among cruisers for its beach beauty and restored British architecture. The island also proudly lays claim to being the birthplace of rum.

While cruise ships coming from Europe still keep Barbados’ “first port-of-call” fame intact, American cruisers often discover Barbados toward the end of a voyage down the Antilles. Slightly outside of the hurricane belt and with several protected harbors, the island is a popular over-wintering spot.

Barbados is a coralline island (part of the secret behind its more than 80 snow-white beaches) but makes up for its relatively flat interior with a varied coastline. The most remote and uninhabited corner of the island is the far north where ironshore cliffs rise up from the sea. The coastline turns gentle as it sweeps south along the Caribbean side. The Platinum Coast—so named for the amount of money concentrated in the villas and hotels around Bridgetown—sweeps down along the west coast. The island’s far eastern shore turns wild again, with elegant beachfront resorts giving way to small fishing towns and a more easygoing local life.

Amerindians from South America originally settled the island before the arrival of Europeans in 1627. The advent of the slave trade and the establishment of sugar cane plantations quickly turned the island into a hub for trans-Atlantic business.

More so than anywhere else in the English-speaking Caribbean, Barbados retains much of its colonial architecture. The grand Georgian and Victorian mansions of the upper-crust British administrators and the sugar barons’ coral-stone “Great Houses” out on the plantations remain as enduring monuments to what was once one of the richest ports—thanks to sugar—in the Empire. More than a dozen 17th and 18th-century buildings still survive throughout the island. No less remarkable are the brightly painted chattel houses—mobile wooden homes built by freed slaves. This architecture is unique to Barbados and a testament to the unbroken African spirit that not only survived the darkest days of the slave trade but also prevailed.

To get a good sense of Barbados’ history, head south to the Sunbury Plantation House in the heart of St. Philip’s sugarcane country. The 300-year-old plantation has been restored to its original grandeur and serves breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and candlelit dinners. Hunte’s Gardens in the cool highlands of St. Joseph offers a private botanic garden with whimsical statues, winding paths and shaded benches for quiet contemplation. Enjoy a chilled glass of rum punch at the end of your tour, and shop for souvenirs in the nearby nursery.

Hurricanes rarely strike Barbados. The climate is deeply tropical with northeast trade winds keeping the highs to an average of 78 degrees, and daily rainfall amounts to less than a quarter inch. Beachgoers quickly find the water just as delightful, with a year-round range in the low 80s. The island experiences two mild seasons: the dry season (winter and spring) when the temperatures dip slightly and less rain falls, and the wet season (summer and autumn) with warmer days and more precipitation.

The roughly quarter million locals, known as Bajans, are mostly descendants of African slaves and West Indians but retain strong cultural ties to the British. Cricket games, high tea and horse racing are among some of the favored pastimes. Islanders share a conservative, religious outlook on life—more than 75 percent are Christians—and Sundays can be particularly quiet days, especially beyond Bridgetown. This tradition comes through on a daily basis with the polite nature of Bajans; visitors are besieged with “good morning” greetings and smiles.

The religious conservatism notwithstanding, the Bajans also share a common love of partying. Friday and Saturday nights see locals gathering at rum shops to debate politics or heading to the beach for an evening fish fry and impromptu party.

The island’s endless celebrations are another draw for cruisers. February kicks off with the Hometown Festival in St. James Parish, followed by the Oistins Fish Festival food fair and the Sandy Lane Gold Cup horse races at the historic Garrison Savannah Racecourse. There’s a Barbados Reggae Festival in early spring before festivities culminate in summer’s Crop Over Festival to celebrate the close of the sugarcane harvest. This spectacularly colorful multiday celebration has evolved into one of the wildest carnivals in the Caribbean with dancing bands, late-night parties and copious amounts of rum.

It doesn’t take much effort to find rum on Barbados. The island is the self-proclaimed birthplace of and rum capital of the world. Rum shops (small, local bars) are ubiquitous around the island and a popular gathering spot for locals and tourists alike to enjoy a rum punch or Bajan painkiller. The island’s rum heritage goes back over 350 years, but it wasn’t until 1703 that the island began exporting its alcohol. That was the year Mount Gay Rum first began operations. A popular way to explore the rum culture is to join a Mount Gay Rum Tour and see how the island’s oldest distillery makes rum. Not surprisingly, the tour ends in the bar with a taste-testing session.

Barbados’ capital, Bridgetown, is worth a visit, whether you’re looking for the latest nautical charts or need to fix a prop. An attractive port, Bridgetown and its garrison have been named World Heritage Sites. The harbor often looks more like a glacier since it’s bow-to-stern with iceberg-white cruise ships for most of the year. But just a short taxi ride downtown provides access to malls, duty-free shopping and blocks of beautifully restored colonial architecture. The inner marina and Chamberlain Bridge create a safe haven for small boats, while Independence Square, in the center of the city, is a great place to relax, have a picnic and take in views of Parliament.

Beyond the marinas, sailors will find plenty of adventure. The annual Mount Gay Round Barbados Race (January 16-24, 2017) celebrates the island’s nautical history, while a variety of smaller regattas are held on weekends throughout the island.

Barbados is also popular for water sports beyond sailing. Scuba divers will find plenty of dive sites scattered along the coral reefs. Much of the dive action is clustered around Carlisle Bay Marine Park near Bridgetown, as it’s home to a half dozen shipwrecks. Based on Pebbles Beach, Dive Barbados Blue is the only dive shop on the island with staff marine biologists. Their two custom dive boats can reach most of the dive sites between Carlisle Bay and Oistins Bay in a few minutes. The jewel is the Stavronikita, a 365-foot freighter sunk in the Carlisle Bay Marine Park. Dottins dive site off Holetown is a great place to spot sea turtles and barracuda.

Surfers are drawn to the east coast around Soup Bowl, an internationally famous surfing spot. The island’s near-constant winds (frequently onshore) and sheltered waters also make Barbados a mecca for kite surfers.

Story & photos by Jad Davenport, Southern Boating Magazine November 2016

— BARBADOS CRUISER RESOURCES —

DOCKAGE

Port Ferdinand Marina and Luxury Residences
Retreat, St. Peter; portferdinand.com
U.S. & Canada (855) 346-8662
Barbados (246) 272-2000
-82 residences, 120 full-service berths, ships’ store, and marina services

Port St. Charles Yacht Club
St. Peter; portstcharles.com/berthing
(246) 419-1000 ext. 2230; Dockmaster Derek Ince
-Berths up to 200 feet, 6 megayacht berths up to 250 feet, 2 offshore mooring buoys for yachts greater than 250 feet

MOORING/ANCHORAGE
As always, we encourage readers to consult their most up-to-date and preferred cruising guide for the safest anchorages with the best scenery.

 

READERS' CHOICE