We are enjoying some pretty amazing days here in the Caribbean. Tango is perfect for this environment! Just a few months ago we did not even know whether we would cross the Atlantic or not, so we did not spend too much time planning and doing research about the Caribbean islands. Off course we prepared well for the potential crossing, since this was something we were dreaming about going through with. The fact that we did not make any plans for sailing in the Caribbean have given us a lot of positive experiences. We have felt free to explore in our own pace, and we constantly can adjust our plans. There are however a few challenges when having such a laid-back attitude, which we now are discovering.
One issue that requires a bit of planning ahead, is the upcoming hurricane season. We have talked to many other sailors here, and gotten a lot of good tips. Since we were already sailing north, we had been thinking of going all the way up to Florida, where there are a lot of safe marinas during the season. This way we would also have the opportunity to see Bahamas – which we hear is amazing!
Seemed like a good plan to us, so we started having a closer look and plan. And as you look into things you can also learn that things are not always as easy as they first appear. Going up to Florida would mean needing to acquire a B2 Visa for the US, which we at the moment do not have. The Visa regulation also includes the American islands in the Caribbean, like US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Without a B2 Visa we would have to sail past these islands, and that would mean a pretty long journey from the British Virgin Islands. Another issue if we decided to go to Florida, would be the sail back to the Caribbean next season, with wind and current normally working against us. We have had enough of sailing in harsh conditions, so we seek to avoid it if we can.
Many sailors we met said that we would be able to sail into American waters if we first entered with the normal ESTA Visa with a commercial vessel. It would be easy for us to take the ferry from the British Virgin Islands to the US Virgin Islands and get a stamp in our passports. Others again said this is a loophole, and it is not the recommended way to enter. For us, this loophole felt like cheating the system, and we quickly decided not to take advantage of it. If we want to enter American waters at a later occasion, we will make sure to have the correct papers in advance. Soon after we made this conclusion we heard about someone sailing with the ESTA through US Virgin Islands with no problem, but then got kicked out from Puerto Rico. We do not want that in our passports.
Since we already were quite far north in the Caribbean when we started looking into this, we decided we wanted to see the British Virgin Islands never the less. Even though it most likely would mean turning around there, and beating against wind and currents on our way back south. More to follow in this matter 😊