5 Tips to Finding Your Own Sailor's Paradise
This past two weeks have been busy back in the Shard Multimedia studio as we are working full-time editing the next episode of Distant Shores - number 122. It's about the George Town area in the Exumas, Bahamas, and it covers some of the most beautiful waters we have cruised anywhere! It got me thinking about how we plan our cruises to find and enjoy amazing sailing paradises. Sheryl and I have cruised for nearly 25 years and in that time our cruising style has evolved and improved. Many people have asked us how we plan our cruises, so I took time out from editing today to put together my 5 top tips for finding your own sailor's paradise to help you design the perfect cruise.
- Plan time to explore - schedules and deadlines make it more difficult to find that perfect place - and when you do you might have no time left to enjoy it. We recommend leaving plenty of extra time in your cruising plan to allow you to take advantage of opportunities. We often make big jumps between destinations that we would like to spend more time at. This year we planned extra time in the British Virgin Islands, a favourite destination, then jumped directly to the Turks & Caicos and then the Bahamas where we planned a long cruise leaving time to explore more leisurely.
- Get off the main route - don't always just follow the purple line marked on the chart. Increasingly we see sailors running from waypoint to waypoint on a standard cruise agenda. This may work well for you if you don't have a plan ready yet. For instance, the traditional thorny path route to the Caribbean gets you through the standard Bahamian destinations pretty quickly, so you could plan more time on the return trip to poke into places you just got a taste of on the way down.
- Ask like-minded cruising sailors for recommendations. On the dock or in that characterful sailors' bar (eg. Peter's Cafe Sport in the Azores, Chat-n-Chill in the Bahamas, Yacht Marine in Marmaris Turkey) you can ask sailors coming the other way what their favourite stops were. But also check out how they cruise to see if what they like would appeal to you. Many of our best cruises started over a drink or dinner with fellow voyagers.
- Explore in the dinghy. Even inside an anchorage you can find that ideal spot. When you get to a new place you can see how things look from the other side of the bay. You might find that perfect hidey-hole for an extended stay. We have a number of this spots in various places where we wiggle in to a sweet anchorage and spend a few days just soaking in the ambience! We sometimes carry a portable "dinghy depth sounder" in the form of a leadline (see below) to check if there is enough depth to bring in the mothership.
- Check all resources - cruising guides, chart kits etc. In the Bahamas we see many people using just one chart kit. We spoke with more than few cruisers who complained the place was too crowded - but they were all on the same route! We have the Explorer Charts, plus 5 different cruising guides (Yachtsman's guide, Steve Pavlidis Guides, Abacos Guide) Navionics Platinum Charts (with satellite overlay) plus we use Google Earth to explore other potential options. In areas like the Bahamas many potential interesting anchorages are not shown just because there are too many options. Check out virtually the entire western side of the Exuma islands chain. There are many interesting spots to anchor.
What’s your paradise look like? Please post your pix or comments below!
Additional ResourcesDinghy Depth Sounder - given to us as a gift by fellow cruisers years ago. We still use this and its easy to make. It's just 25 feet of light line with a fishing sinker on the end. Coloured ribbons mark the depths and there is a hand-loop in the end. Ours has ribbons every 2 feet - the first 3 are red, then 3 yellow then 3 blue. If you make a special one for your boat you can mark depth up to your draft in red then additional marks in another colour. Just knot the line around the ribbon and you are ready to explore! Other cruisers use a portable electronic sounder here.
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