Bridgetown, Barbados N 13 05.892 W 59 37.371
Playground of the British rich and famous, and home of Rihanna
Barbados is known for its beautiful beaches, expansive
mansions, and lavish parties. There are highly competitive cricket matches and
lots of famous inhabitants and visitors, but the facilities for visiting yachts
are limited. Nevertheless, Barbados, though technically outside the Caribbean
Sea, is one of the closest destinations for yachts crossing the Atlantic for
the winter season and worth a visit.
We arrived on the morning of Christmas Eve. How sweet that
was to spot land after three weeks at sea. We pulled out our little Christmas
tree, pre-trimmed with lights and ornaments, and put it out on deck as we sat
listening to island carols on the local radio and ate the last of our
provisions with fresh fruit and vegetables from the street market in
Bridgetown. The supermarket was so crowded that we couldn’t get near it. It was
like everyone on the island shopped that day.
But the major department stores and boutiques in Bridgetown,
a city by island standards, were open and we managed to find small gifts to
exchange on Christmas Day. All in all not too bad.
There are only two ports for clearing in: Bridgetown and
Port St. Charles, the latter being about 10 miles up the West coast from
Bridgetown. We checked in at Bridgetown. Some of the guide books specify that
you can anchor out in Carlisle Bay and dinghy in but the new requirements are
that you must bring the yacht into the dock where the officials reside,
which is the dock used by cruise ships. There is a serious swell in that dock
area and care must be taken to place fenders and adjust spring lines to avoid
damage. Alex went ashore to check in, while I spent what felt like hours
fending off for dear life while he was gone. You must hail the Bridgetown
Signal Station on VHF Ch 12 or 16 for permission to enter the harbour and clear
customs. If you come in when a cruise ship has just arrived, you will have to
wait for as long as several hours as cruise ships have priority.
The normal hours of operation are from 8 am to 10 pm.
Outside normal hours or on holidays overtime charges are applied. There
are four offices to visit: customs, immigration, health, and port authority –
in that order. Each requires a copy of the clearing in form so you must fill it
out in quadruplicate. The officials were very nice, although it did take some
Animals are not allowed entry without quarantine. Yachts
with animals must remain at anchor only and animals cannot leave the boat. They
did not need to see the pet passport or immunization records. There was
no word from any yachts of officials boarding their vessels upon clearing in. Yachts
must clear out in the reverse order of clearing in and pay a fee of $100
Barbados ($50 US) plus and anchoring fee of $8.33. All crew must be accounted
for as leaving with the yacht or departing by other means. The officials were
very kind and friendly, but quite serious. You may not cruise to other ports
without permission and you may not anchor anywhere but in designated areas.
Anchoring in coral carries a $25,000 penalty and possible imprisonment. This is
As this is a cruise ship port of call, the duty free
shopping is right there near the customs and immigration offices. You must
bring your ships papers to buy duty free. We were able to resupply our cocktail
beverages and wines at duty free prices in time for Christmas and New Year
celebrations! How convenient.
The anchorage at Carlisle Bay
Carlisle Bay is a large anchorage off one of the most
beautiful beaches in Barbados. It does get quite rolly as the anchorage is
fairly exposed but the holding is reasonably good in sand. Anchor off the
Boatyard Restaurant and Bar but be careful about coming in by dinghy as the
swell can be difficult to negotiate. If you want to swim off the beach,
consider anchoring the dinghy just beyond the breakers.
In Bridgetown, there is a commercial harbour with no room
for visiting yachts. Diesel, petrol and water are available but difficult to
access. There is a substantial and very convenient dock in the centre of town
for bringing in a dinghy. Go past the bridge and you will see it to starboard
along a long stretch of wall around a park.
Things to do
Barbados was not the most yacht friendly destination
although the Bajans are lovely people. The Doyle Guide to Barbados is
indispensable for visiting yachts. As we arrived at Christmas, there wasn’t
much to do as everything was closed for much of the week.
There is a fabulous market at the head of the
town square. Colourful stands with fresh fruit and vegetables as well as bread.
Lunch at the Bridge House can be a very nice experience, although more on the
The Boatyard is where everyone in the anchorage eventually
ends up. It is the shack on the beach with loud music and worn umbrellas. They
have a dinghy dock at the Boatyard, but it is metal and one dinghy was cut in
half when it was trapped underneath with the substantial swell that comes in.
Otherwise, take your dinghy into Bridgetown and walk the short distance to the
Boatyard ($10 cover charge buys you a day membership, a chair and one drink).
Better yet, go a few feet farther down the road to Lobster Alive.
It’s a bit more upscale (and pricey), the food is excellent, and it’s a bit
less rowdy. They also let you buy lobsters for take away if you feel like
eating on board.
Barbados is known for some of the most beautiful beaches in
the world. They are worth exploring as each is a bit different. Quite a few
have the classic “palm tree down to the white sand” look. There are plenty of
places to stop and have a refreshing Bajan beer – Banks. We spent several days
riding the island from beach to beach on our bicycles.
Barbados Yacht Club is legendary and a beautiful facility
with showers, a lovely beach with huge old shade trees, a beach bar and
restaurant, WiFi, a bar in the clubhouse and formal restaurant. Contrary to
what one might expect of a yacht club, there is no mooring or docking available
there. Visiting the BYC by dinghy is possible but tricky as the beach is
subject to breakers so the return trip by dinghy can be hazardous. The yacht
club is a fair distance from the dinghy dock in town but within bicycling
distance and there is a great bus system which can take you anywhere on the
island. Visiting yachtsmen may be given temporary membership for up to ten
days. It’s a great place to while away some time. The beach is lovely with
chairs and a lovely bar and excellent restaurant right on it. Try Bajan Flying
Fish, a local specialty, for lunch or dinner. Accompanied by the local Banks
beer, which is excellent, it makes for a delectable lunch.
They have fresh water taps as well so you might want to
bring some jugs for water.
Water is available at the yacht club and the commercial
harbour but not dockside. You must fill gerry cans and transport them to your
vessel. Yacht services (riggers, engine mechanics) are limited. Both are
available in the commercial harbour but again very tricky to get to with
Banks are plentiful. Shops and markets are easily accessible
from the dinghy docks past the bridge. There are two supermarkets and a fresh
produce market. Produce is excellent. The selection in the supermarkets is
limited and quite expensive.
Stamps are available at the book store near the dinghy dock.
The mailbox is a small hole in the wall near the fire station.
The public library just off the dinghy dock has free
internet access but you must use their computers. There is an internet cafe
(expensive) across the street. The bar/restaurant The Boatyard has WiFi for
patrons and boats anchored close in reported having access aboard. WiFi is also
available at the Barbados Yacht Club free of charge with temporary membership.
There is a laundry service operating out of the building
across the road from the Barbados Yacht Club. There was a three day turnaround
and the price was somewhat steep.
The public transportation system is excellent and it is
possible to explore the entire island by bus. The fare was $1.50 Barbados
regardless of how far you wanted to go.
There are some repair facilities and a Doyle Sailmaker but
overall, Barbados is surprisingly not a yacht friendly destination. We did not
find or hear of a chandlery in the vicinity of Bridgetown. We had sail repairs
and steering repairs that we desperately needed and were told our best bet was
to sail to Grenada.