BVI Cruising Advice
We (two adults and children ages 10 and 15) just returned from Tortola after leasing a 32' Beneteau from the Moorings during the week of December 26 through January 2, 2008. Here are my impressions from a first-time, bareboat cruiser with minimal sailing experience.
1. The Moorings were overwhelmed. Although the boat was delivered clean and in good condition, the 9:00 a.m. cruising briefer never showed-up, so the briefing was conducted by the receptionist at 9:45 a.m. She did a good job, though, but it was essentially a PowerPoint presentation.
2. The provisioning for our boat was not delivered until about 11:30 a.m., even though ordered weeks ahead of time. Many items were missing. There was no QC exercised by the Moorings. They delivered and left it to us to check that everything was there. It took until about 1:00 p.m. until we received everything.
3. Our boat briefer rushed-through the boat operations. He, too, was over whelmed. The Moorings then sent someone else to go over the boat, and we soon learned that this was his first day. He insisted that the boat's GPS was not a GPS. That all it was only an electronic map. This took another walk back to the office to request a knowledgeable person.
4. We finally left the Moorings at 3:00 p.m. and raced for the Bight at Norman Island. With the winds at 22 knots coming straight down the channel, with only the genoa up and motoring at 2500 rpm, we made it there in 1.75 hours, which was just in time to get one of the three mooring balls left at 4:45 p.m.
5. Given that this is the busiest week down there for chartering and the high Christmas winds during the week, (we heard that the previous week was just great) it was always chancy trying to find a mooring. This added to the trip's anxiety when going from place to place. You had to arrive early, but this depended on the location, number of available moorings, and the day of the week . . . especially as we approached New Years.
6. While away from the Moorings, I needed an explanation as to how to properly reef the sails. I should add that the Christmas winds down there during that week were incredible. Just about everyday they were 20 to 25 knots and the waves anywhere from 5 to 7'. The surges at night howled! In any case, when I called the Moorings from Soper's Hole for customer service, I received voicemail. It took many calls to get through to someone. When I finally did, it took a real effort to understand the guy due to his thick native accent and fast-paced of speaking. He was knowledgeable and very helpful, though.
7. Given the high winds and waves, we spent a lot of time motoring about. I attempted to go from Little Harbor on Jost van Dyke to Trellis one morning, but had to turn around. The waves had to be at least 7', and the bow kept on plowing into the oncoming waves. The trip would have taken 6 hours or so given the head winds if I were to keep the engine at 1800 rpm.
8. When you are doing a lot of motoring about, cruising seems like nothing more than a rich man's campout. The 32' boat is the smallest I think the Moorings has, and we only saw a few of them out during the week. Given the winds, I would recommend nothing smaller than 37' for a family of 4.
9. Be aware that the taxi situation on the islands is very expensive. They charge by the person, and many cab drivers will request whatever they can get. Unfortunately, many of them have a lousy attitude, too. While moored at Little Harbor for two days, we spent about $100 per day in cab fare just trying to get to the beach at White Bay. One time, we took a cab driven by Foxy's son, who was rude, truculent, and impolite as if he was doing us a big favor.
In closing, I would definitely go back . . . we did manage to get in one good day of sailing (our last day) when the winds were more like 10 to 15 knots. And, it is a great place to sail. I would lease a larger boat from another outfit, possible Horizons at Nanny Key. We heard good things about them. Given my sailing abilities at this point, I would not take a chance with the Christmas winds again. I would go later in the spring or early summer.