The Antigua Observer reported recently that some 35 megayachts more than 150 feet long are already registered for display at December’s Antigua Charter Yacht Meeting. That’s a 25-percent increase over last year, and no less than a warning flag for anyone wondering when the race to book Caribbean marina slips will begin. (Competitors, start your diesels…)
One thing I know for sure is that with so many superyachts headed to the Caribbean this winter, the most popular ports such as Gustavia in St. Barth’s and Simpson Bay in Sint Maarten are going to be packed tighter than a library’s bookshelf. Yacht after yacht will line up along the well-known quays, with the overflow charter yachts swinging side deck to side deck in the harbors.
I can think of no better time for a charter itinerary to include the island of Saba, where the only traffic jams typically include wandering goats. This five-square-mile island is to the west and south of Anguilla, Sint Maarten, and St. Barth’s, making it an easy stop on any “regular” northern Caribbean route. Saba has no fewer than eight eco-zones, literally changing from desert to rainforest before your eyes as you hike up the trails. My last hike on Saba left me feeling similar to the way I felt in the Galapagos Islands: both impressed by, and completely immersed within, pure nature.
Why don’t more superyachts avoid the crowds and go to Saba, then? Because the island offers no marina, and its deep, volcanic base makes anchoring offshore all but impossible. Yacht captains must heave to for several hours while charter clients go ashore or go scuba diving (a favorite local activity because of the underwater formations). Visiting Saba can be, quite frankly, a pain in the neck for the yacht’s crew.
Now, I respect charter crew and don’t want to make unnecessary work for them, but Saba is pretty darn cool—and with so many superyachts heading to the Caribbean this winter, it will make an excellent off-the-beaten-course destination for anyone booking a charter. I know that when you think of superyachts, Saba isn’t the first island that comes to mind, but take my advice and make it number two or three on your short list if you truly want to enjoy some unique Caribbean cruising this winter.
Kim Kavin is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer who specializes in marine travel. She is the author of six books including Dream Cruises: The Insider’s Guide to Private Yacht Vacations, is editor of the online yacht vacation magazine www.CharterWave.com, and writes the blog at www.BrokerageBoss.com.