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Mike31 10-19-2004 06:58 PM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
The admiral came home from work today and told me she needs a break and wants to do a charter in the BVI''s. (oh, my arm, my arm). Anyhow, we haven''t chartered in the region before, and I would like some input as to things to see, itinerary, etc. We will have our 20 y/o and 16 y/o kids with us (sadly). We plan to hit the Baths and Cave for snorkeling, but everything else is pretty much open.

Any and all constructive input is greatly appreciated.


Paisan 10-19-2004 08:05 PM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
In 2001 I spent the better part of a month sailing the BVI''s.

Recommendations right off the bat - I chartered NorthSouth - very reasonable prices, but the boats show it. You''re not getting "show room boats." We had minor issues all the time, but I''m handy, and nothing was structural or serious... stuff like the doorhandle to the head came off, forward hatch leaked... I fixed it all, and kept sailing happy for the price break. I''d recommend them with the caveat you should know you''re not going to get "new condition" boats.

Also - do NOT provision through the charter service. I chose not to, but heard from SO many others that I made the right choice I''m convinced. We went grocery shopping and hung out in Nanny Cay all the first day. Set sail the second, and did "supplemental shopping" along the way. We did breakfast aboard (cooked in the galley) and sandwich lunches and went out for most dinners. You''re usually headed to a beach pub for happy hour, you get hungry, you eat... you drink more... you get the picture - its GONNA HAPPEN! Couple of nights we "stayed in" we barbequed onboard.

I was there a long time though - long enough to sail around Tortola once, and then up to Virgin Gorda YC, and back to Nanny Cay. Many anchorages I stayed more than one night because they were just SO nice... couple of recommendations:

Manchioneel Bay - OMG, maybe the best. Just to the South (?) is a reef, between Cooper and Salt Island, and it is AMAZING. I snorkeled with a family of sea turtles, and "fled" from a shark - found out later it was just a Nurse Shark, no fear, they''re herbivores... ''course I''m thinkin'' maybe I smell like herbs... (none in particular.....) The anchorage is awesome, the bar there rocks, and there are goats on the shore - they''re a trip to watch.

Also incredible is Jost Van Dyke - it was blowing a gale when I was there, so White Bay (I think, the one to the North) was pretty lumpy, and I only dinghied over to the Soggy Dollar - but I hear that''s quite a spot. Sorry to all the big fans out there, but Foxy''s was a disappointment to me.

Norman Island was fun... quiet (near the Caves and the Indians). But, crowded. Too many people at the Indians to try getting over there - decided instead to get a VERY early start and ensure a good spot at the caves - well worth it, the fish were cool.

Monkey Point - on the North West Side Tortola is UNBELIEVABLE snorkeling - never in my life have I seen so many fish in one place - barracuda''s and all.

But most of all... the sailing. OMG, the sailing. Was in a 36 Jenneau, and loved EVERY minute of the sailing. Did I say the sailing was incredible? It was!

Have a blast, feel free to ask questions - in case you couldn''t tell, I had a great time!

Mike31 10-20-2004 08:44 AM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s

Thanks for the input. This may seem like a dumb question, but do we need to bring heavy foulies, or just a lightweight set?

p32 10-20-2004 12:06 PM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
Foulies?? You''re in the Caribbean mon, don''t need no foulies!
Just kidding, personally when we went in late May we did not bring any and did not miss them. Did get very wet one morning though. When we went I allowed each of us to pack one (1) carry-on bag each. It was a struggle with the wife and kids (girls 10 and 7) but we still came home with stuff we didn''t wear. Made travel through the airport so much quicker.
You didn''t mention the sex of your kids, these suggestions may be more applicable for boys, but certainly my girls enjoyed them as well. They were not old enough to go off on their own as I''m about to suggest you consider though. Since we had the kids, we concentrated on family activities more than the bar scenes that seem to be topics of most charter reviews I read of the BVI''s.
I get the impression (from your (sadly) comment) you might want a little privacy for you and your wife. Here''s some suggestions I think would help.
Family together stuff. For sure go to the Baths (amazing) and the caves (good to quite good). While you''re in the area of the caves, get to the Indians (great snorkeling) early. It was my experience that if you get to a spot relatively early you''ll have some hours of uncrowded time to enjoy. I also found another area to spend time was in the area of Sandy Spit, Green Cay, and Sandy Cay. We spent two days in that area. Snorkeling is very good off Sandy Spit once you get through the dead coral right off the beach. The trail on Sandy Cay is worth hiking for a little exercise and good view from the top of the hill.
Now for some private time with your wife. We also spent some time in North Sound. There is a variety of activities available there. First, the resort allows use of their facilities for charterers. Send the kids ashore to use the pool etc. you and your wife have the boat to yourself. Second, There is also an amazing reef system to the North and East of the sound. I have never really seen anyone comment on this reef area in reviews, but its spectacular and the water is the clearest of anywhere we snorkeled. Take your dingy through the passes either side of Saba Rock and head along Eustatia Island into the area labeled Eustatia Sound. If your kids are adventurous they could spend all day exploring this reef area, again leaving time for you and your wife on the boat. During the time of year we were there this was a trip straight upwind (safety in case of dingy problems) Third, there are a variety of rental toys available from the resort. You and your wife, or the kids if they''re able, could use these to explore the sound area. There are a number of easily accessible (by water) but totally private small beachy areas around Prickly Pear Island.
We had a great time in all these areas. Finally I''d like to comment (my opinion only) on charter companies and some things that improved our trip. 1)This is an expensive trip with a family, don''t cheap out and save a relatively insignificant $500-$1000 chartering from second tier company and ruin the trip with a problem boat. 2) We had a boat with three staterooms, (Sunsail Jeanneau SO40). It was nice for each girl to have their own room. 2b)We provisioned online directly with a store, not through the charter co. I think that worked pretty well. We still went to the store ourselves for perishables and things where we were concerned about constant refrigeration(meat), but the heavy lifting (drinks)had been done. 3) Insure you get a good (RIB) dingy with a 9.9 or better motor. You''ll want a dingy anchor too. The ability to plane in a RIB opens up many possibilities for independent dingy exploration by you or your kids (the privacy thing again!). 4)Pack light, I read somewhere to set out all your stuff, then leave half of that behind, and you''ll still have too much. From our experience that''s accurate. 5) If you have handheld GPS and VHF bring them. GPS is not really needed, just cool. The VHF will be appreciated if you or you kids are off in the dingy. 6) The binoculars on our boat were poor, next time I may bring my own, depending on luggage room.
Obviously there are many more places/things to see/do (and we did) in the BVI, but on our trip, with kids, these were the things we really enjoyed. Of the things I mentioned the Caves/Indians would be the only one we''d skip next time. This not cuz they weren''t good, we just would want to try something new.
One more thing, we booked a night at the motel on site at Sunsail the night before and the night after the charter. For us it worked out well providing ample time to provision, relax, and get on island time!


Mike31 10-20-2004 03:20 PM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s

Thanks for the great info. The kids are both boys (ages 20 & 16), so I think sending them off on their own will not be a problem at all.

Do you happen to remember the name of the store that you provisioned through? I looked over Sunsail''s provisioning list and they seem to be very expensive ($25 for a case of Pepsi).

We are looking at a 3 cabin Sun Odyssey 45 with the kids in the aft cabins, so hopefully there will be more privacy than I envision.

p32 10-21-2004 07:11 AM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
The name of the place we used to provision was Bobby''s Marketplace . We were a little reluctant to rely on them for all our provisions since it was our first time, but I was very happy with their service and would use them again. We too looked at the Sunsail provisioning service and were unimpressed. In general, I found most food items were quite a bit more expensive than US prices, I keep reading on the web about 15% over US prices, my experience was that its more like 50%+. There was a Store called "Ample Hamper" (I think) at the Sunsail base but their selection was much less complete than Bobby''s, but they did have the basics and you can''t beat the convenience. If you go to Bobby''s its a taxi to Roadtown($20 per person each way if I recall, adds up for a family of 4).

While we were happy with our Sunsail charter, I would look into using Moorings next time just for the convenience of being in the "big city" of Roadtown for provisioning.


Mike31 10-21-2004 08:23 AM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
We are going through Sunsail because this is our first charter, and Moorings told me I would need a skipper for at least 1 day, whereas Sunsail certified me to bareboat, so a rather easy decision. I found Bobby''s website, and plan to use them for most of the provisioning. On the front end we are staying 1 day in San Juan due to flight arrangements, and then 1 day on the back end at the Sunsail base. Should be a great time. The 20 y/o is looking forward to being somewhere where the drinking age is 18 (wife is not too fond of that).

Valdare 10-21-2004 04:13 PM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s

Looks like I am too late but VIP is in St. Thomas, you could probably have saved the day on the front end. Flights every 1/2 hour to St. Thomas. We have a boat with them and everyone we have had contact with that has sailed with them have had nothing but great things to say.

I am short of time but will give you some ideas about where to go next week. We''ll be going in early Dec. for the 8th time. Some great snorkeling all over the place.

John _/) _/) _/)

p32 10-22-2004 08:26 AM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
Since you obviously have significant experience in VI chartering and are recommending a US based start, I''d be interested to hear your thoughts on a couple of questions. I''m assuming since you own a boat in charter you researched the differences between USVI and BVI starts. The trip I outlined above was our first and only (but not last) VI charter.
1) You mentioned flight availability. For our trip airfare for our family (4) was the biggest single expense. A quick look on orbitz this am did not reveal any significant price diff between St. Thomas, US and Beef Is. BVI from Tampa, FL. I realize this stuff changes all the time, but have you found in your experience that flights are any less expensive to US VI than British? Is there a departure fee for leaving St. Thomas as there is from EIS?
2)When you sail from St. Thomas, do you stay in the US or do you travel to the BVI as well?
3)Related to 2: If you go to the BVI do you need to check in and out, and if so what is the "hassle factor" involved? Do you then need to check back into the US?
4)Provisioning for us was tedious. As I mentioned before, next time I''d make more extensive use of the online service we used, and that will help, but still I found prices much higher than I read to expect and selection to be about what I''d read to expect (somewhat limited). How would you compare USVI vs BVI for provisioning?

I enjoyed the charter we did more than any other sailing I''ve done and would happily repeat it as done, but I''m certainly open to options that could improve it even further.

Thanks for your time.


rhans 10-22-2004 12:49 PM

Last minute charter in BVI''''s
Hiya Brian
I''m not John but I''ll give your questions a shot, and no I don''t own a boat in charter there but do spend quite a bit of time in the BVI''s
1.While often there is no price diff. between flying into EIS or STT, as mentioned, the choices of flight times are much greater into STT. Don''t remember ever paying departure tax leaving but that might have to do with to many Caribs.
2.If you charter with VIP out of St. Thomas. being on the east end you''re close enough to the BVI''s so it''s more of a choice than logistics.
3.No need to check out of the US but you need to both check in & out of the BVI''s and then back into the US. BVI''s C&I that we use are either West End Tortola (Sopers Hole) or Great Harbor JVD, both painless, then pick up a ball in Caneel Bay St Johns and take the Dink to Cruz to clear into the US.
4.Here''s a big one for the location of VIP. There is a fairly large market within a short dingy ride with price fairly close to the mainland. Besides that these people are great to deal with IMHO.

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