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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.

Clearing in

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 time. 

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 being enforced.

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 tourist track.

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 limited manoeuvrability.

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.

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