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Tall Ships in the French Caribbean - Windward Isles & Barbados

The Windward Islands around Guadeloupe are the hot and steamy tree covered islands you imagine when historians talk about the spice islands. On Islands like Dominica locals are more likely to go into the rain forest to their plot with a machete to get their fruit and vegetables, than pop into a shop. The average daily high temperature in January is 28 degrees Centigrade (83 F) with lows of 19 degrees centigrade.with the driest period being in our prime sailing holiday months of Feb- April. 

Guadeloupe and Martinique are the centre of the Caribbean's Creole culture, boasts a spirited blend of French and African Influences. Dominica is a nature lovers paradise with waterfalls and few tourist trappings with British and French influences and a lot of jungle and wild black sand beaches on the windward side and a protecting coral reef to leeward.

Further South the Grenadines are much more low lying with classic turquoise seas, sandy beaches so white you need sunglasses at breakfast and coral reefs to snorkel over.  This is a popular yachting area and you will see the attraction.


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Tall Ship Voyages in the French Caribbean

Martinique or Guadeloupe are often used by our tall ships as a base to explore. Large mountainous islands with international airports, they also have the right French romantic mix of wild nature and chic tourism services.

If our voyages do not cover the part of the Caribbean you want to explore, please contact us as there maybe more in the pipeline.

Oosterschelde blue water sailing in the Caribbean. Photo Arthur Smeets
Oosterschelde blue water sailing in the Caribbean. Photo Arthur Smeets

Martinique - Volcanoes, flowers & Josephine Bonaparte

Martinique's most famous colonial daughter married Napoleon Bonaparte and became Empress Josephine. The island towns have shops full of Parisian high fashion, every village sells bagettes but nearly a third of Martinique is forested and other parts are given over to pineapples and sugar cane.  The coastline is cut by deep bays and coves and the steep volcanic interior feeds many rivers. You can still anchor off sleepy fishing villages and remote beaches untouched by development. When Columbus sighted Martinque, the local carib indians called the island Madinina or 'island of flowers


Guadeloupe, the centre of the Caribbean's Creole culture, boasts a spirited blend of French and African Influences.  The island archipelago consists of Grand Terre and the 1467m steaming volcanic peak (La Soufriere) on Basse Terre, and offshore islands of Les Saintes, Marie Galante and La Desirade.

The average daily high temperature in January is 28 degrees Centigrade (83 F) with lows of 19 degrees centigrade. Voyages in January and February are well outside the wettest months (July-Nov) with the driest period being Feb- April. 

Route de Rhum

Guadeloupe is actually an overseas department of France.  Bananas, sugar and rum are her main exports, and tourism is relatively stylish. Pointe De Pitre is the race finish for the famous singlehanded French yacht race 'Route de Ruhm' from St Malo in France to Guadeloupe.

Yo Ho Ho and a barrel of Rhum on Sailing Cargo Lugger Grayhound
Yo Ho Ho and a barrel of Rhum on Sailing Cargo Lugger Grayhound

Humming birds, mangroves & rainforest waterfalls

There is an extensive national park on the rugged slopes of La Soufriere with verdant rainforest and magnificent waterfalls, with mangroves and fine beaches. There are humming birds on Guadeloupe, as well as mongooses, racoons and on La Desirade and Les Saintes you may even see an iguana.  The ships crew are well used to planning shore excursions and hiring minibuses so you can enjoy a mix of tall ship sailing and the occasional 'day safari' ashore.


Dominica - for Marine Nature Reserves

Some of the best dive sites in the Caribbean are on Dominica, only 60 miles sailing South from Guadeloupe to the capital Roseau. The coast of this lush, green island has many Marine Nature Reserves that attract divers from all over the world but you don't have to be a diver to enjoy them. In Scott's Bay, Dominica you can swim off the beach with a snorkel and face mask and swim from shallow coral and 12ft of water to a sheer underwater wall of coral and cliff - descending 1000ft. Alive with fish and coral and up-welling plankton, this sunken volcanic crater is also deep enough for Sperm Whales to swim close inshore.  Whilst  our sailing ships cannot anchor in the marine reserves, most does have large ships boats to go where the mother ship cannot.  Frigate birds with their huge wingspan often swoop the beaches, and the local fishermen still use canoes dug out from a single tree.

Hauling nets in Scotts Bay, Dominica
Hauling nets in Scotts Bay, Dominica

St Lucia, St Vincent & Grenadines

From Martinique or Guadeloupe you may reach as far South as the Grenadines in your tropical island hopping by tall ship, passing St Lucia or St Vincent on the way down or back. With North East trades sailing back to Guadeloupe on a square rigger would  be the harder direction, but the downwind blast may be worth the struggle back. On schooners like Oosterschelde or Blue Clipper, sailing to windward is likely to be more possible and with warm spray over the bow, a lot more fun that a beat in colder locations. Bequia has a rich seafaring tradition of boat building, whaling and sailing and Mustique is a get away haven for the rich and famous. The attraction of the Grenadines for sailors are the stunning white sand beaches,  crystal clear seas and extensive coral reefs. 

Grayhound towing her ships boats between islands in the Caribbean
Grayhound towing her ships boats between islands in the Caribbean

Caribbean style Itinerary

As with all our sailing holidays the Captain has many considerations to plan for when choosing the weeks itinerary so these islands are only an informed guess at where you might sail.  Weather, swell from unusual directions, customs clearance regulations and new marine wildlife reserve anchoring restrictions or even booking an alongside berth to change crews, fuel or water the ship can all affect the plans for the 10-15 days. Even the time of day and whether the sun it ahead or behind you can influence pilotage in these coral reef strewn coastlines - but it is all fascinating stuff the Captain or mate will brief you each day to explain the latest plan !

Which ship for my adventure?

Three masted topsail schooner Oosterschelde has started a bit of a winter trend by splitting her winter season into two very appealing cruising grounds: Beginning the winter off the West Coast of Africa, she has become a sailing and travel expert on the Cape Verde archipelago. In February or later she crosses the Atlantic with sailing guests for a short Caribbean Season, including voyages that begin in Martinique or Guadeloupe and also further North in St Martin and Cuba. She is away and gone by the start of the hurricane season.

Blue Clipper is also a three masted schooner with gaff sails but no square sails....but she does have plans to add a couple of yards at some stage. Like Oosterschelde she has elegant accommodation with the added bonus on en suite two person cabins.

Lord Nelson is a square rigger so plenty of excuses to go aloft and play out your 'Pirates of the Caribbean' fantasies. She is a purpose build sail training ship so the accommodation is a mix of unisex communal cabins for able bodied sailors and some 2 berth cabins for sailors with certain disabilities, like wheelchair space needed or safety features for blind sailors or those with limited hearing. They would share the two person cabin with their allocated buddy so you might get lucky. Her voyages generally start and finish from Antigua so she can go North to the Leewards or South to French Caribbean and Windward Islands described above.

Hammock on Blue Clipper
Hammock on Blue Clipper
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