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Passport111

First Caribbean charter, looking for advice

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Bare-boat.  I've wanted to do this for a few years with the kids but my wife insists on going adults only first to get the lay of the land which is probably a good idea.  We want to invite one or two couples with us.  None of our friends sail.  They like the idea of it but I need an easy sell to close.

I'm looking for the best location and charter company to get the best price (flights and boat) from the midwest, good cruising grounds with lots to do if people want off the boat for a while, and I think a catamaran is best for our friends.  Mid April is what I'm thinking but can be flexible if there are much better times to go but do want it to be during the cold months up north.

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No-brainer. Go to Disneyland for sailors - BVI. I hear it's fine for charters now after the devastation of the hurricanes. Moorings/Sunsail or Horizon are reliable.

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yup BVI is the way to go.

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BVI. Yes. Random advice from a repeat bareboater:

1. Hopefully your wife sails. You want someone onboard who knows how to pickup a mooring, cleat a line, helm the dingy, can tack the genny sheet, raise the main, and generally help when things go badly. If you have to teach everyone how to make up the winches, not crush their fingers in the mainsheet, etc., you will not enjoy your vacation. When my ex and I chartered, we sought guests who knew a bit about boats.  Over the years we developed a farm team of decent sailing apprentices. 

2. Tell your non-sailing guests it will be like camping, but on a boat. Many people think they will be wearing linen slacks and sipping martinis on the lido deck. When one of the heads clogs and the smell wafts around the boat, reality does not smell sweet.

3. One of our rules was that no one was allowed to check their airline luggage. Everything had to be carry on. If someone's bags gets lost in PR or BVI, you don't want to sit in the airport waiting for their bag. They won't be happy and neither will you.

4. Make a list for your guests. Things to bring. Things to not bring. Do's and don'ts on the boat. I think there are a few lists on SA. "DUCK means duck right now." 

You will have a great time. Go to Anegada and rent a car for the day. Spend an afternoon at Cowreck Beach. Lunch at Loblolly. Report if Bloody Mary and her guy are still alive (you'll know them when you see them). 

Snubber

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Thanks for advice and great list of tips.

Yes the BVIs was on my short list but just thought I'd check about the  Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Florida, etc. to keep cost down.  I of course don't want to throw good money after bad so if the value just isn't there with the other locations then the BVIs it is.

 What recommendations are there for charter companies?

 

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33 minutes ago, Passport111 said:

Thanks for advice and great list of tips.

Yes the BVIs was on my short list but just thought I'd check about the  Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Florida, etc. to keep cost down.  I of course don't want to throw good money after bad so if the value just isn't there with the other locations then the BVIs it is.

 What recommendations are there for charter companies?

 

For Florida, sailing out of Pensacola and along the ICW west past Orange Beach is easy and fun.  We went West then East, out Perdido Pass and into the Gulf for the run up to Pensacola Bay, then tucked in behind Ft. McKree.  Did a couple of nights on the hook, a couple in Marinas, and generally had an easy and good time.  Good food all the way.

We drove there from MO.

We went through Emerald Coast Yachts, and 4 of us were on their 36' Catalina.  I think they have bigger boats, but can't remember.  Very nice folks.  PM me if you would like more details. . ..

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You will not go wrong with BVI.  And if you want your best bang for the buck, check out http://thecaptainscompass.com  Older boats that have some scratches, but if you can get past this, the prices are incredible...about half or less of what the big guys with shiny boats have.

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Had friends go to BVI last month, they said it was till very torn up with the exception of Jost Van Dyke. The Bitter End and Last Resort are still completely flattened, along with a bunch of other places. Guessing you're planning a year out, so it will be a lot better by then. It's a lot less crowded though! No fighting for moorings!

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The Bahamas are also friendly for sailing especially in April. We chartered there last year. Try Cruise Abaco. It's shallow water and the winds aren't as consistent as the BVI but it's a great place as well with good infrastructure.

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Ok sounds like BVI is still the first choice and Bahamas is a good second.

I'll look into Captains Compass, thanks.  I have no problem with some cosmetic issues on an older boat but hopefully won't be dealing with a bunch of breakages.

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2 hours ago, Passport111 said:

Ok sounds like BVI is still the first choice and Bahamas is a good second.

I'll look into Captains Compass, thanks.  I have no problem with some cosmetic issues on an older boat but hopefully won't be dealing with a bunch of breakages.

You can deal with breakages with the newer boats as well although less likely. We have done the '2nd tier' companies a few times and they were fine, we never had a problem. But you do have to do your homework. There are lots of busted cruise stories out there. Going with Moorings/Sunsail is definitely more of a known commodity but as has been said you pay for that newer boat. Pros and cons with both...

Have Fun!

 

 

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4 hours ago, Passport111 said:

Thanks for advice and great list of tips.Yes the BVIs was on my short list but just thought I'd check about the  Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Florida, etc. to keep cost down.  I of course don't want to throw good money after bad so if the value just isn't there with the other locations then the BVIs it is.

 

from transportation to charter, BVIs will be hands-down cheapest. Aside from being the best for your purposes. Want to keep the cost down? Charter a mono. And look at B brands instead of Sunsail or moorings. BVI Yacht Charters and Horizon are both good. Fly into STT and take the ferry.

You can save some by eating on the boat, and will hear that a lot. But having been down there a slew of times, I think you miss the best part. Sure, eat breakfasts and most lunches on the boat, as well as your boat drinks. But save your money by going for the smallest mono that will fit you comfortably, and skip all the add on nonsense (SUPs,, kayaks, scuba, blenders, provision packages, whatever else they try and sell you). Then use that money to eat and drink your way through the BVIs like it was meant to be - it's vacation after all!

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Virgin Islands is the safest bet in terms of wind reliability, being able to tailor every day’s sailing to be anything between 1 hour and 8 hours etc.

Two different options on how to go at lowest cost: charter out of St Thomas (CYOA has cats that are well maintained at lower charter rates than cost of big companies. They take a more conscientious line to making sure you can sail before they let you head off on your own so fewer breakages. There are one or two other companies out of St Thomas but not sure I remember them having cats) or charter out of BVI - having flown through St Thomas and taking ferry, because flying into Beef Island is expensive. More companies operating out of BVI but more credit card sailors leading to more chance of boat trouble. The flip side is that they can get to you to repair/replace more quickly. You pays your money and you takes your choice......

in terms of what is ‘up and running’ in BVI: White Bay and Great Harbor on Jost are both fine. Anegada basically hard to tell there was a hurricane, Virgin Gorda Leverick Bay all good but the rest of North Sound is in the process of being redeveloped and probably not going to be ready in 2019 and the rest of Virgin Gorda is a bit hit and miss in terms of what is up and running. Cooper Island totally up and running. Peter and Norman Islands ok but the Peter Island resort seems to have been destroyed. Tortola seems to have been worst hit. Sopers  Hole still looks and smells apocalyptic, Trellis Bay trying to get back on its feet but yacht hulls still scattered on the beach.

USVI basically back up and running. St John - Cruz Bay, Caneel through to Mahoe Bays all good. Great St James, Water Island and most places on St Thomas (including Magens) all good. Have not made it to St Croix this year but heard it is mostly ok. Puerto Rico may be in better shape next year but Culebra basically fine and Vieques was always pretty basic outside of Esperanza/Puerto Real in terms of facilities but all the bays on the south side were great if you like a bit of quiet seclusion in a beautiful setting.

You cannot go wrong in Virgin Islands if you want to sail and party. Bahamas can be fantastic but a little more variable in terms of conditions. There are arguments for going further south (as there always were before the hurricanes but there was a reason that the Virgins were no. 1). These are mostly made by opportunists who are relying on videos of Virgin Island devastation rather than first hand knowledge.

Hope you have fun.

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I've charted from St. Thomas with Island Yacht Charters. Good outfit - but they only charter Island Packets if I remember. Still, if it is your first time and you only have a week or 10 days, I would go with one of the Tortola outfits. Take the ferry over, deal with customs that way, and play around in the BVIs. USVIs are really cool, BVIs are first-timer paradise.

My first time in the BVIs was 2002, and i don't remember it being nearly as developed as the last time i went in 2015. My guess is that even after the storm, there is more than enough to have a week of fun in the sun.

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I'll second the advice on packing if you invite nonsailors and not just for the lost luggage issue. My parents travel with a minimum of three large suitcases each and I know they are not alone. I tell them if you can't carry it on a plane you can't bring it aboard.  Besides what do you need for a week in the Caribbean? A bathing suit , hat, sun shirt and toiletries. 

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2 hours ago, jimbojones said:

I'll second the advice on packing if you invite nonsailors and not just for the lost luggage issue. My parents travel with a minimum of three large suitcases each and I know they are not alone. I tell them if you can't carry it on a plane you can't bring it aboard.  Besides what do you need for a week in the Caribbean? A bathing suit , hat, sun shirt and toiletries. 

REMEMBER NO HARD SIDED CASES NOT EVEN CARRY ON ONES. Soft sided duffles only

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On 8/2/2018 at 10:11 PM, TQA said:

REMEMBER NO HARD SIDED CASES NOT EVEN CARRY ON ONES. Soft sided duffles only

Good tip. We also use our soft boat cooler as a suitcase. That way we have it to use down there as well without taking up space.

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