Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
My wife and I have chartered in the BVIs several times and I am considering our options for out next charter. It would be us and our three children (5, 8, 12), maybe another family but probably not. My biggest concern is the sailing conditions. I don't mind a bit of a challenge but I'm not sure we're looking for sustained 25+ knot winds and steep 10' swells on a daily basis. We have been in similar conditions in the BVIs a few times, but had the peace of mind of the Sir Francis Drake Channel being a couple tacks away. Also, having chartered only in the BVIs we typically grab a mooring ball or tie up at a slip so anchoring isn't quite second nature to me. I do know how to anchor so it is probably more of an issue with my confidence/comfort in my abilities since we haven't had to do it very often. Finally, having plenty of distractions to occupy the family with is a priority as well. We like the beach but also like having some dining and shopping options as well. With all that said, I am considering the following possible locations for our next charter:
BVIs again - We know it well and can just relax and have fun, albiet at the same places we've been to several times over the years.
USVI/SVI - Never sailed the SVIs and very little in the USVI. However, it seems that the SVIs don't offer very much in the way of onshore activities. Also, I wasn't terribly impressed with the small amount of time I have spent in the USVI.
St. Martin/St. Barths/Anguila - Seems like there is alot to do and see but limited and potential crowded anchorages along with potentially hairy sailing conditions.
Antigua - Similar to St. Martin in that sailing can be rough and alot of anchoring required.
One way Antigua to St. Martin - Would visit a lot of islands and seems like quite a bit to explore and do. However, we might be forced to make passages in big seas and we would spend a lot of time clearing customs.
Abacos - Seems like it would be an ideal place to charter in terms of proximity (from the Pacific NW), climate and activities ashore. However, I've read comments and trip reports where the winds were very light and entire trip was spent motor sailing. If I am chartering a sailboat I want to sail.
Can anyone offer any insight on the above choices? I would especially love to get some input on sailing conditions in St. Martin/Antigua as those would be my favored choices. Is the sailing really much tougher than the BVIs, or do you just end up sailing with a reef or two more often? Also, is anchoring/mooring a challenge at those places? Would a mono or a cat be a better choice for those passages with potentillay big wind and swell? Of course, any other comments about all of the above locations would be appreciated as well. Hopefully this will also help others who have similar questions.