What area is better to sail – the Caribbean or the Mediterranean? When starting out many new cruisers consider buying a boat in either the Mediterranean or the Caribbean but which makes more sense for you and your partner/family? Read the following article to understand what makes the two areas similar and different.
Let’s start with the similarities – Caribbean or the Mediterranean
Both areas have a good amount of sea to travel around. Whether you feel like a short sail or a long one the area accommodates for both. Both the Med and the Caribbean have loads of anchorages, a variety of cultures, and great people (sailors and locals).
The two sailing areas both have set seasons. The Mediterranean season is from May to November. From December to April most full time, boaties find a marina to ‘winter’ in. The weather gets cold and the seas are rough.
The Caribbean sailing season is from November to July. Most insurance companies request that boats are out of the Caribbean by June or July. Boaties have the option of finding a hurricane hole – an area that’s has been deemed safe when a hurricane hits or they have to go above or below the hurricane area.
Other than those very top-level similarities, the Caribbean is substantially different than the Mediterranean!
25 Differences Caribbean or the Mediterranean?
In the Caribbean, the following are different than sailing around the Mediterranean:
1. Services come to you.
Laundry (pick-up and drop off), ice, water, diesel, boat taxi service, souvenirs, fruit, veg, fish, breakfast (croissants, bread, pastries), pizza, and takeaway meals. In over two years of sailing in the Mediterranean, we only had three people ever come up to us offering a service.
Once in Turkey, an ice cream boat came over and a few times we had fishermen stop by our boat asking if we’d like to buy some fresh fish. In the Caribbean, we’ve been offered all sorts. Each country or island seems to have different offers but overall, we’ve been approached at every island from Grenada up to Antiqua with some sort of product or service.
At times it can be annoying but overall it’s great to meet the locals, of which are usually full of character and contribute directly to the welfare of someone that’s gotten off their butt to provide a service in return for an income.
2. There’s wind and often it’s constant.
When crossing between islands it’s often very, very strong. In the Med, our experience was that it was either blowing extremely strong or not at all. We motored at least half the time we were in the Med.
In the Caribbean, we only turn our engine on to leave and enter a mooring. Any sailor that’s been elsewhere and then entered the Med has been known to state that the Med is actually not a great place to sail.
3. People prone to seasickness will have a more difficult time in the Caribbean.
As per above, the wind blows so the seas are big and boy they are swelly. In the Mediterranean, I got seasick every now and again. In the Caribbean, I used to have to sleep when we sailed to avoid turning green more often than not.
4. The water is warmer in the Caribbean!
In fact, it’s much warmer. Swimming in the Caribbean is quite pleasant. Never do you jump in and get a shock.
5. The beaches in the Caribbean are like walking on silk…
…and for the most part, they’re all very clean. Sure, there are some beaches that aren’t the cleanest but in comparison to the Mediterranean, the Caribbean beaches are so much better. We found the beaches in Italy to be appalling – filled with rubbish, fishing hooks, glass, and cigarette butts. The rest of the Med was better (Turkey, Greece, Spain, France, etc) but still not as nice as the Caribbean.
6. The Caribbean or the Mediterranean – where is it easier to catch fish?
We’re not massive fisher-people but hands down, we catch much more fish in the Caribbean than we ever did in the Med. Fishing for us consists of putting two lines out off the back of the boat as we sail to our next destination. We have no strategy or special techniques and we always use the same lure – it’s a squid. In the Med, we rarely pulled up more than a Styrofoam case. In the Caribbean, we easily pull up a Mahi-mahi, Tuna or Wahoo on all our long passages.
7. There’s more fish to see!
As a lead-on to number 6, snorkeling in the Caribbean is much, much better than the Med. This is probably one of the most noteworthy differences. In the Med, not only would I get cold quickly but also the water was often murky and I’d be lucky to see much of anything. In the Caribbean, we’ve seen thousands of fish at once, stingrays, pufferfish, moray ells, barracuda, sperm whales, small colorful fish, and loads more. The difference is astounding.
8. The Caribbean or The Mediterranean – what’s better for ‘Island Time’?
What would take weeks in the Med takes days if not hours in the Caribbean. All service providers are quicker in the Caribbean – restaurants, bars, shops, and boat services.
9. There is way more rain.
Fortunately, it’s often at night that a big downpour hits, but it’s not uncommon to have squalls throughout the day. Very rarely does rain last all day long. In the Mediterranean, it doesn’t rain nearly as much during the sailing season. The Caribbean or the Mediterranean for less of rain – head to the Med!
10. On all the islands except for the French Islands (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St Martins, etc.) locals all speak English.
On the French islands, there’s usually someone around that speaks English and in the capital cities, it’s easier to find English-speaking people. In the Mediterranean, most Greeks know English but the Turkish, Italians, French, and Spanish do not.
The more touristy the place you are, the more English the locals will speak. NOTE: I don’t think that Europeans should learn English for our sake. I personally have had many amazing experiences with people that can’t understand a word I say. Part of the fun of the Med is figuring out how to communicate. The reason I’ve included this point is that it’s a noteworthy difference.
11. The food is different.
Even the French food on the French islands is unlike what you get in France. Due to the different vegetables, fruits, and availability of meat and fish most dishes are totally different from what you’ll eat in the Mediterranean. Both areas, however, have excellent food.
12. You can get fish and lobster and it’s not the most expensive item on the menu!
Fish in the Med is very expensive. I think it’s a supply and demand thing – the Med has been overfished and there is no longer a good supply. A reduction in supply causes an increase in price.
13. Rubbish is not floating by every few minutes as you find in Greece, and worse, in Italy.
Turkey is very clean but for some reason, their neighbors are not as interested to clean up their act. Similar to my comment about the beaches, the Caribbean seems to be cleaner on land and in the sea.
Take a break from this list and consider trying out the Caribbean with us on Britican. We offer 7 to 10-day cruiser experiences. Visit Britican Experience for more information.
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A WEEK-LONG BLUEWATER CRUISING EXPERIENCE|
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From the outside looking in, the Britican Experience might seem like any other charter vacation where you get to see the environment of living in a small space and the freedom of being able to pull up anchor and move to the next lovely tropical paradise. The Britican Experience is about immersing yourself in the life and culture of a boat community and the daily practices of having a floating home that moves constantly, the trade-offs you make for this life, and the peace and serenity of a much simpler existence. You are enveloped in the experience as soon as you meet them! When we met the Britican family it was as though we had known them all our life.
For us, the Britican Experience was really about a change in mindset. We became comfortable calling the boat our home, and it became routine to consider how to keep it safe, clean, and comfortable. We dined with great people, ate delicious food, planned and prepared for passages, fished, stargazed, chased rays and turtles while snorkeling, raced hermit crabs, trimmed the sails, steered into harbors, and made decisions every day due to the changing conditions and environment. After not too long we were in the swing of things, embracing the need to be flexible, not making decisions based on a schedule, and realizing that a crimson horizon and a cool sundowner are perfect introductions to a lifelong excursion of blue-water bliss.
The Britican Experience is an affirmation, a reality check, a confirmation that this is the lifestyle and life that we indeed are going to pursue. It gave us the confidence that we could reach for and grasp what the Britican crew is experiencing every day.
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14. The sun burns you quickly as you’re closer to the equator – you have to increase efforts to stay out of the sun.
The sun in the Caribbean is often at 11 – you will burn in minutes. It also feels hotter.
15. The Caribbean or the Mediterranean – what about anchorage space?
There are also way more mooring buoys available. Many islands have designated areas for mooring buoys so to help the coral survive. I can’t think of an island or country that doesn’t have buoys in place. Even Dominica has a mooring ball field in Portsmouth now. And when mooring buoys are not in place, there are plenty of good anchorages.
In the Mediterranean, you can find mooring buoys in a few select places. In Greece, they’re not kept up so it’s imperative to dive down to see what you’re attaching your boat to. For Italy, the only place I saw them was off Taormina in Sicily. The Balearics did have a few mooring buoy fields. Overall, it was very uncommon to find mooring buoys in the Med.
16. The cost of marinas and mooring buoys is WAY CHEAPER!
Many marinas are around the $50 USD/night and mooring buoys are around $10 USD. In contrast, in the eastern to middle Med, marinas will run you around €100 to €200/night. The western marinas can go up to €400/night. Italy in the high season is ridiculously expensive. On the positive side, there are loads of places to anchor and or tie up to a town jetty to avoid having to go into marinas.
17. The crime rate amongst boaters is higher.
You have to always hoist your dingy up onto the davits (rather than leaving it tied onto the back of the boat). You have to lock your outboard and your dingy when tying off to a jetty. Furthermore, whenever you leave the boat, you lock everything up. In the Mediterranean, we never locked our boat or our tender accept when we were in Italy and Sardinia due to recent theft reports.
18. There’s a big issue with viruses spreading through mosquito bites.
Luckily for boaters, mosquitos are usually not prevalent in breezy anchorages. As long as there’s a breeze, which is almost always certain, you won’t see a mosquito. The issue, however, is when you go to land. We always get bit when we head to land to grab a bite to eat in the evening. In the Med, there are definitely mosquitos but the risk of getting bit by an infected one is non-existent to low. The Caribbean or the Mediterranean for bugs?
19. Dedicated dingy docks are available everywhere.
In contrast, in the Med it’s often a real pain to find a dock – usually, the best bet is to beach the tender and pull it up onto the sand. Aside from Greece, where the whole country is set up for tourism and boaties, it’s often a real pain to find a place to leave your dingy.
20. WIFI connections in the Caribbean are hit and miss but getting better.
Thus far the best WIFI I’ve discovered is on the island of Dominica – one of the least touristy countries in the Caribbean! Some islands are still on 3G. Most islands have good enough WIFI for email or Facebook but you can forget uploading blog pictures and uploading video will never happen.
Furthermore, there’s not one carrier that properly covers all the islands. The average cost of 1gig with a new SIM card is around the $50 USD mark. You have to buy a new SIM card for every country. In the Mediterranean, Italy comes up on top for an Internet connection – not only is it a great connection but it’s the most inexpensive at 15 to 20gigs for 30 euros. In Greece, you get 1 to 2 gigs for the same price but at least there is a connection! If you’re a blogger or anyone relying on a good Internet connection (for uploading content) the Caribbean can prove to be difficult in some areas.
21. Currency is not consistent.
The Caribbean has many currencies – Euro, Eastern Caribbean Dollar, US Dollar…In the Med, the Euro works everywhere.
22. The Caribbean or the Mediterranean for provisioning?
There are fewer cities in the Caribbean and in some cases you can visit several islands and not find a grocery store larger than a mini-market. We’re fortunate to have a large freezer so we stock up on meat, frozen veg, and bread when we find a good supermarket. In the Med, you’re never too far from a good market, grocery store or hardware store. Our favorite places to provision are on the French Islands. Make sure to read: 8 Reasons To sail To A French Caribbean Island
23. Chandleries and boat services are not as prevalent as you’d think.
If you’re down in St Vincent & The Grenadines it’s hard to get parts. Grenada is much better but having anything flow in can prove to take time. Your best bet is to pay a friend to fly out with what you need. That being said, make sure you have a substantial dingy repair kit and core service and replacement parts on board before sailing around the Caribbean. In the Med, the chandleries are hit and miss, however, you can have a delivery from the UK or anywhere in Europe arrive within days of purchase.
24. The history is nowhere near that of what you’ll find in the Mediterranean.
Sure, there are some old carvings on rocks, and Napoleon has some forts. There are 19-century ship battles and wrecks in addition to tales of old-style pirates but you won’t find any amazing Greek or Roman ruins nor will you see extravagant churches, incredible mosaics, or an eclectic cultural history of music and artwork.
25. This space is reserved for you to add something below regarding the Caribbean or the Mediterranean?
What have I missed? Please add a comment below.
There you have it! The 25 differences between sailing around the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Ultimately I can’t say what is better – the Med or the Caribbean. They’re both amazing for different reasons. Knowing what I now know, however, I’d suggest that anyone sailing around the world starts in the Med and then heads west to the Caribbean…If we started in the Caribbean and went to the Med I think our expectations regarding certain facets of sailing would be too high…but that’s another article 🙂
Need More Information About The Caribbean versus The Mediterranean?
- Check out all the places we’ve been in the Caribbean – Caribbean Sailing
- Check out the wonderful time that we spent in the Med – Mediterranean Sailing
- Also, read Transitioning from Sailing Around The Med to The Caribbean
Come Sailing With Us In The Caribbean
|THE BRITICAN EXPERIENCE - A WEEK-LONG BLUEWATER CRUISING EXPERIENCE|
|During Merrill's Sailing Lifestyle Experience he learned how to book out and into a different country, what it's like to fly a mainsail, genoa, and staysail, how to anchor, tie onto a mooring ball and dock up at a marina. And unfortunately/fortunately Merrill managed to experience what it was like to ride out a surprise tropical storm. If you'd like to experience what it's truly like to live and cruise on a bluewater sailboat, come join me for a week. Check out our availability here: Click here for more information.|