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post #1 of 13 Old 10-09-2006 Thread Starter
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Thumbs down Need Help chartering First Boat in Caribbean

I am looking to charter a sailboat in the caribbean between Dec 10-24th.
Does anybody have any good suggestions on where to a good place is to charter a sailboat. Obviously this probably is effected by where I am planning to sail. I was thinking BVI for the first time, if anybody has suggestions on this I would appreicate it. We are looking to sail ourselves and just jump around from island to island.
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post #2 of 13 Old 10-09-2006
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The BVI is nice to sail in - quite easy and lots of things to see and places to anchor. The big players are SunSail and Moorings, and then many other smaller charter companies ranging from large operations with many boats to 1-2 ship operators.
Do you want a single or multi-hull? What size and what length? What price category (pricey but with lots of beeps-bells-and-whistles or less expensive)? I just looked at many charter/ex-charter boats in the BVI two weeks ago and got a good feel for the charter companies and their maintenance methods.
The BVI is a wonderful place to sail in - you'll love it.
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post #3 of 13 Old 10-09-2006
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We went through Ed Hamilton, a broker of sorts, but they did a great job for us and it didn't appear to cost extra as they must get paid by the charter companies. They find out your experience level, what type of experience you're after and then go to work. We ended up with Horizon and had a 6 week old boat. A great experience.
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post #4 of 13 Old 10-09-2006
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I love the BVI's and there are any number of good charter outfits there. BUT...I would not go there from 12/10-12/24 as you will be in PEAK PEAK season and fighting other boats for the moorings wherever you go. Realistically you will have to be at your evening anchorage no later than 2pm to get a spot. If you can wait a month or two and not do it during a school vacation period, you will enjoy yourself more.
If the time period is fixed...possibly consider a less crowded area...The Abacos in the Bahamas are wonderful as are the Grenadines (though a bit more difficult for beginners...don't know your comfort level with Christmas Winds/Seas down there. ) Moorings has a big fleet of monohulls and Catamarans in the Abacos...there is plenty to see and do there and the water/reef life is beautiful BUT you can easily get a "cold front" that will drive temps into the 60's in December...kinda like south FL.
I can't think of a better place than the BVI's but if you can switch your dates a bit, you'll get a much better experience.
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post #5 of 13 Old 10-10-2006
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For a beginner at chartering the BVI's is the best place. All sailing is eyeball, short trips, lots of good anchorages. It does get a bit crowded but there's still lots of room especially if you anchor rather than pick up moorings. Another good point is that support is close at hand. Nearly all the companies have good chase boats and all boats are cell phone equipped so you can just call them if you need help. The only down side at that time of the year is that the winds might be a bit stronger (the Christmas winds) but then again, these winds sometimes continue to February. Bahamas is not a good spot for chartering in December especially the Abacos. If you are unlucky enough it might be one cold front after the other and if you've only got two weeks it's a real bummer. Sailing is easy but weather is iffy. At least in the Virgins it's 84 degrees and sunny with the odd shower. For the Caribbean I would think that the Virgins are your best bet. Lots of different companies too so you can shop around for the best deal.

Rick I
Toronto in summer, Bahamas in winter.

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post #6 of 13 Old 10-10-2006
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I only did it once, almost 30 years ago, as a chaperone/skipper with a bunch of prep school kids on spring break, with three 42' boats out of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas.

So we did the much-travelled Francis Drake channel, out to the Bitter End in Virgin Gorda and back, over about 9 days. It's perfect for first-time charterers, as you have plenty of easterly tradewind, but relatively sheltered water between St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, and the islands just south of them.

I suppose it's more crowded now.

I was a New Englander then, stocked up with all the charts beforehand, got the Cruising Guide out of the library, only to find the chart they gave you on board was a glorified plastic placemat (and used as such), with anchorages shown in magic marker. Surprise! With the clear water, fair weather, and eyesight navigation, the placemat was all I needed.

And yes, we did get through it, with 19 high school kids, and 5 "adults" in their 20s, with no injuries, no arrests, no mishaps. What an excellent time. I went into it thinking it'd be a great trip if we didn't have the kids, but in the end it was more fun with them.

I've digressed. But try the "big four" islands above, you can't go wrong, unless they've become more crowded than I saw them in March of 1977 (which is likely).
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post #7 of 13 Old 10-10-2006
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Been sailing the Virgins for 37 years. Kept my boat there for 11 years, until 3 years ago. I agree with much of the advice above re: the BVI being the ideal place for a newbie charterer.

The suggestion to reschedule your charter almost anytime except the Christmas holidays is a good one, both because of the crowding (which isn't really a huge problem; you can still anchor in a few places, but the moorings have multiplied like rabbits and they're still often all gone by early afternoon)..and the potential problem of the so-called "Christmas Winds". These don't come every year, and when they do come they usually blow for only a few days. However, two BIG caveats:

1. Christmas winds are not just stronger-than-normal tradewinds; they are mini northers which can blow like stink....40-50 knots is not uncommon; and

2. Christmas winds rarely but sometimes blow for many weeks, as they did in 1992-3.

Bottom line: if your only time window is Christmas, by all means go, but be prepared for crowded anchorages and possible weather unpleasantries.

Re: companies, there are lots. Moorings is top notch, but also expensive. Sunsail is probably next in terms of maintenance, experience, etc. The Moorings spinoff, Footloose, is a possibility. They use boats from the Moorings which have been moved out of service, and are cheaper. Heard good things about Horizon. Heard very few good things about North-South.

Be flexible. Have fun!

S/V Born Free
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post #8 of 13 Old 10-10-2006
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I should have named names in my previous post. The ex-charter boats that I looked at from Sunsail, Moorings, Footloose, TMM, Horizon were all well-maintained. There are web sites out there where yacht owners from the aforementioned charter companies are selling their unused "owner time" at significant discounts over list and this is a legal option on their part. The site that springs to mind is this site
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post #9 of 13 Old 10-10-2006
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Discloser we have a boat with VIP in the US VI St. Thomas.
Check them out great people and you'll save a day of your trip.
We always go down the first two weeks in December (past 5 years). Only lost two days last year due to the Christmas Winds. We were at Culebra and had 50kts at night, and 45 the next day.
That time of year you need to be into your anchorage (mooring ball) by 4:00PM at the latest anyway because it gets dark pretty early that time of year. IF i were going at your times I would do the BVI's the first week and spend the second Week doing the US VI. St. John has some great anchorages. The south side is great and empty 99% of the time. Salt Pond has some of the best snorkeling and hiking in the islands. Our opinion. We normally spend the last two days on the south side, snorkel buck island off St. Thomas before returning the boat and catching a 3:00 PM flight home.
St. Thomas also offers some good provisioning and Cruz bay on St. john is a great place to re provision after you check back into the US. This is also my wife favorite place to shop. She is happy with one day of shopping. One thing we didn't know until a couple of years ago, you can usually catch a bus from any of the anchorages to Cruz bay. So no need to go to Caneel Bay, catch a mooring ball and dingy in. Caneel bay may look like a tranquil anchorage but it is not. When we do we slip around to the North side of St. John. Snorkeling at Cinnamon bay is great. Very Rocky at night.
Hope to see you the second week in December.

S/V Better than Popcorn
US VI VIP Yachts
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post #10 of 13 Old 10-30-2006
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There are several places to charter from. Sunsail and Moorings are the biggest and are very good. The sailing is relatively simple in the area and you can easily sail on your own. However, you migt want to consider a flottila offered by both. You get to sail on your own but the organize the overnight anchorages and set up gettogethers with other group members ALLthis is optional but it is a good way to meet people from all over the world and you have the peace of mind of having help close by if needed. We did this a couple of years ago and it was great for first time charterers in a new area.
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