Caribbean sailing 2022: the rules and where to go
Grenadian-born Lexi Fisher gives us a Caribbean sailing and venues update for the 2022 season, including regulations in place for the major destinations
These days it’s hard to predict what the world may look like in a few weeks, let alone a few months, but many in the Caribbean sailing industry are cautiously optimistic for the upcoming 2022 cruising and racing season. Although the days of spontaneous island hopping might be over (for now, at least), there is value to be found in slowing down, and being a little more intentional with your time.
The challenges presented by the fact that most islands are separate nations with individual entry protocols are not insurmountable. Tourism, both land-based and yachting, has long been a mainstay of the Caribbean’s economy. Sailing and related services have fared well compared to the traditional tourism industry, and technical and general yacht services, marinas, and nearby restaurants are largely open and fully operational.
Most islands now have well-established and easy-to-follow protocols, though there are still some quarantine requirements and restrictions on freedom of movement. These are generally greatly decreased if you are fully vaccinated (many islands require proof of vaccination for dine-in restaurant service, for example).
General safety protocols like social distancing, masks, and hand sanitising remain in place throughout, though compliance and enforcement vary. Some islands require visitors to have Covid-19 health insurance.
You can choose to see these regulations in one of two ways; as a cumbersome hindrance to the freedom to roam that may have attracted you to cruising in the first place, or as a necessary regimen to keeping both the local population and guests safe, allowing us to continue to be visitors to this glorious part of the world.
Many cruisers, especially charter guests with limited time, are opting to stay on a single island or set of islands rather than spend additional time in quarantine. This often requires some planning, research, and a willingness to go off the beaten path and visit anchorages you might normally have passed by.
It has also helped develop even closer-knit yachting communities, especially for liveaboard cruisers who have been riding out lockdowns and hurricane seasons on their boats instead of flying home. As a result, special interest groups are more popular than ever; weekly domino games, group fitness sessions, and volunteer initiatives are a great way to connect with cruising and local communities.
Most islands have a cruisers’ Facebook page where you can stay up to date on events and regulations while planning your trip, and a regular VHF morning net so you can stay in the loop once you’ve arrived.
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How busy destinations are likely to be will depend on historical and current local government regulations. Martinique, for example, had been closed to non-European visitors since the beginning of the pandemic, and although they have recently re-opened, word has been slow to get out.
Many charter guests will once again be opting for the untouched beauty of St Vincent and the Grenadines, where visitors can easily spend every night of a 10- or 14-day charter in a different anchorage of shallow, turquoise water.
Many liveaboard cruisers that would otherwise have hauled out for hurricane season in Trinidad have instead stayed aboard in Grenada this year, and are now venturing north as other islands begin to ease restrictions.
Here we take a look at some of the southern Caribbean’s top cruising destinations to see what the 2022 cruising season has in store; what kind of freedom of movement to expect, and what entry protocols to prepare for.
Entry requirements and safety measures within and between islands can change at short notice. Always consult official government sources for the most up-to-date information when planning a passage.
Caribbean sailing destinations for 2022
Caribbean Multihull Challenge: 4-6 February – smyc.com/caribbean-multihull-challenge
Heineken Regatta: 3-6 March – heinekenregatta.com
Facebook cruisers’ group: Sint Maarten Cruisers & Boaters
Morning Net: 0730, VHF Ch10, Mon-Sat
Government Info: stmaartenehas.com
Vaccination Rate: 60%
Like Martinique, St Maarten remains a popular destination for sailors looking for a more European experience. Boat yards are busy with short-term haul outs and minor repairs for yachts getting ready for charter season.
There are some differences in Covid regulations between the French and Dutch sides of the island, but you can move freely between sides by car or on foot. As of 1 November 2021 there is no mandatory entry Covid test for anyone fully vaccinated within the last year, or if you are arriving from a low risk country. Covid-19 health insurance is required.
Antigua & Barbuda
RORC Caribbean 600: start 22 February – caribbean600.rorc.org
Superyacht Challenge: Antigua, 9-13 March – superyachtchallengeantigua.com
Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta: 30 March-4 April – antiguaclassics.com
Antigua Sailing Week: 30 April-6 May – sailingweek.com
Facebook cruisers’ group: Antigua Cruisers
Morning Net: 0830, VHF Ch74, Mon-Sat
Government Info: visitantiguabarbuda.com/travel-advisory
Vaccination Rate: 48%
Antigua has a full regatta season planned for 2022, and will no doubt attract a lively crowd, while its sister island of Barbuda offers a serene escape. In addition to the regattas, the Salty Dawg rally is scheduled to arrive in mid-November, with most participants expected to spend a significant amount of their time cruising locally.
Having remained open since June 2020, Antigua’s yachting industry is still going strong, and there is no quarantine or arrival testing required for those who are fully vaccinated.
CORC Windward 500: 16-20 May – caribbean-sailing.com
ARC rallies: arriving December 2021 and January 2022 – worldcruising.com/arc/event.aspx
Facebook cruisers’ group: St. Lucia Cruisers
Morning Net: 0800, VHF Ch69, Mon, Wed, Fri
Government Info: stlucia.org/en/covid-19
Vaccination Rate: 20%
With two ARC rallies arriving in St Lucia this year bringing three times the number of boats (a combined 280) compared to last year, yacht services are up and running and looking forward to a busy season.
Yachting industry leaders are working towards a ‘bubble’ agreement with St Vincent to allow more freedom of movement for those on sailing holidays.
National parks and major attractions are open to locals and visitors alike, though on different days, regulated by a system of coloured wristbands. There is no arrival quarantine requirement for those who are fully vaccinated.
RORC Transatlantic: start 8 January – rorctransatlantic.rorc.org
Grenada Sailing Week: 30 January-4 February – grenadasailingweek.com
CORC Windward 500: 16-20 May
ARC+ rally: arriving December 2021 – worldcruising.com/arc_plus/event.aspx
Facebook cruisers’ group: Grenada Cruisers Information
Morning Net: 0730, VHF Ch66, Mon-Sat
Government Info: covid19.gov.gd
Vaccination Rate: 25%
Grenada developed entry protocols early on that allowed cruisers to spend hurricane season in Grenada, south of the hurricane belt. Despite a major Covid outbreak this summer, boat yards are currently busier than ever, and with a new leg of the ARC+ added to the roster this year, there are over 100 boats scheduled to arrive at Port Louis Marina in early December.
Non-nationals must be vaccinated to enter Grenada pending a negative PCR result. With falling infection rates the nightly curfew and restrictions on alcohol sales may soon be relaxed.
International charter guests are arriving in Martinique again – a welcome return after regulations issued from mainland France meant only Europeans were allowed entry for most of the pandemic. Now fully vaccinated visitors can enter without testing or quarantine, charter businesses are fully booked.
A spike in cases over the summer saw a nightly curfew imposed, which will hopefully be reduced in the coming months.
Caribbean sailing regatta circuit
This season event organisers are anticipating the return of most pre-Covid regattas and a full season of racing, with a shift of emphasis away from the shoreside parties and live music events towards on-the-water action.
Major events including St Maarten Heineken Regatta, Antigua Sailing Week and the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600 race are all scheduled to return. The iconic superyacht event, the St Barths Bucket, is due to be held from 17-20 March 2022. Organisers report strong early entry numbers, with 25 superyachts signed up and more pending.
Currently entry to St Barths requires vaccination and a negative PCR test, but no quarantine. The island’s glitzy multi-class regatta, Les Voiles de St Barths, is also scheduled for 17-23 April, 2022.
The British Virgin Islands’ BVI Spring Regatta is set to run from 28 March-3 April, although current entry protocols for the BVIs include a four day quarantine for partially vaccinated people.
A new format race, the Caribbean Ocean Racing Club’s CORC Windward 500, which was developed in 2021, is set for another round in May 2022. As a new ‘Covid safe’ offshore, each team starts and finishes in their own country, with courses set and results generated using GPS tracking technology – negating the need for entry protocols, quarantines, or risk of changing government regulations.
Michele Korteweg, president of the Caribbean Sailing Association, explains: “We see an increase in the confidence of boat owners to make the crossing to spend the season in the Caribbean. The Caribbean has invested in technological developments, as many processes have had to be done digitally to reduce contact. This should help with overall logistics (clearing in and out, the availability of supplies, online provisioning etc) and make it more attractive to spend time in the region.
“The Covid pandemic allowed regatta organisers to review their events and reinvent our products. I personally saw this period as a ‘forced’ reset.
“We are far more focused on sailing and want to offer world class racing. The social aspect of the events will vary throughout the Caribbean, but the overall consensus is we want to host safe and professional sailing events. Feedback from the sailing community also showed us that socials and parties aren’t expected.”
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