BVI Charter Recap
My family and I just got back from a 1 week charter in the BVIs so thought I would do a recap of our trip. This is something I had been dreaming about for a very long time and finally had the opportunity to make it happen. It was not exactly what I had anticipated but it was a great experience and one I would definitely do again.
Our trip started with challenges just getting to the islands. We had an early flight out on Friday morning and made it to the airport and arrived for our connection with plenty of time. We boarded our flight only for the airplane to lose all power taxiing to the runway. After a long wait they took us off that plane, put us on another plane only for the exact same thing to happen! That flight was cancelled and with no more that day were booked on a flight the next day. Our 11am flight ended up getting pushed back to 1pm which now put us at risk of not making the last ferry to Tortola. We scheduled a water taxi to take us over which was a good thing since we would have missed the very. After many delays and frustration we finally made it, 1 day late. We slept on board anxious for our adventure to start. Bobbys market arrived with the supplies we had chosen to order online. Everything was delivered in great condition and exactly what we ordered. They did a great job for us.
The next morning we went through the boat briefing which introduced us to some systems we had no experience with such as a propane stove, refrigeration and an electric windlass. Following the boat briefing we went through a chart briefing which gave us pointers on stops and areas to avoid. Our plan was to do a counterclockwise route around Tortola returning 6 days later. Once we completed the briefings we were free to go and we cast off our lines.
Motoring out we ran into our first problem having trouble raising the main. A call to the base and they sent someone out to give us a hand and the problem was quickly resolved. Apparently the reefing lines were a bit snug and freeing them allowed the us to raise the main. A quick sail across the Drake Channel brought us to the Bight on Norman Island. My 14 year old son took the helm to pick up the mooring and did so well this was his job throughout the trip and only got better. A dinner with the family on the Willy T, which we found is not a family restaurant, and we settled in for the night.
We were awoken the next morning by an early thunderstorm with very heavy rain and high winds which caused some anxiety for my family. We were secured to our mooring, very happy we did not anchor, but gear we were not familiar with concerned us. We came through it fine and set off for Cooper Island with a stop in Deadman's Bay on the way for lunch. We picked up a mooring on Cooper island and ate dinner aboard.
The next morning our destination was Virgin Gorda with a stop at The Baths on the way. Everyone says the Baths are a must see for any BVI charter and they are not wrong. This is an amazing jumble of huge boulders at the water's edge with a trail through and over the boulders to a great beach. Unfortunately we had to make it to North Sound for the night so could not linger as long as we would like so had to get on our way.
The seas throughout the trip were lumpier than expected so decided to motor the final 2 hours up to Saba Rock resort in North Sound. We made it up without incident and I was now faced with backing a 40 foot boat up to the dock between pilings so there would be no chance to throw lines to someone on the dock to help me get the boat in. This is not something I have any experience with. The boat did not back up well at all and that coupled with my lack of experience made this take some time. Roughly 30 minutes of effort and multiple tries and finally made it in with no damage. A cold Carib beer tasted remarkably good!
Being able to have AC while plugged in to the dock convinced my crew that we should stay here 2 nights and give us a chance to explore the area some more. This was a good choice as this ended up being our favorite stop. A dinghy ride around a nearby island brought us to the picture perfect beach were were looking for, the only one we really had all trip. We spent a couple hours there enjoying a beach almost all to ourselves with some swimming and snorkeling. We then zipped over to Bitter End and took a Hobie Wave out for some fun with my kids. My son had an especially good time as I handled the sails while he moved his weight as far forward as he could trying to bury the bows. We never flipped the boat, as hard as he tried, but had a great time. Dinner at Bitter End and then bed.
Casting off the lines at 7am the next morning we began our longest sail downwind to Little Jost Van Dyke. This was the most pleasant sail of the trip with a lovely 4 hour sail down the north coast of Tortola to our next anchorage. We were on our mooring by 1pm and headed to Foxys Taboo for lunch and a hike to the Bubbly Pool. This was our only hike of the trip and while the pool was nice the tide was not quite right so there was no bubbly. A quick trip over to Sandy spit for a quick swim on this unique little island. It was amazing how quickly the beach dropped off going to over my head about 10 feet offshore.
Dinner was going to be on the boat grilling some burgers on the grill. It was a lot harder to get the charcoal started in the wind than I expected but we got it going. Burgers cooked and while we were eating we noticed a visitor to our boat. Apparently some items thrown overboard while cooking attracted a small nurse shark looking for more. The poor guy had a wound on his back and had lost its dorsal fine at some point. He hung out for a little while to entertain us. We named him Bob.
The sail the next day was in 20-25 knot winds in very lumpy seas again. Under main alone we made our way to the Indians for a little snorkeling. The sail was something and I succeeded in hitting the waves just right and giving my crew a few unplanned showers. Fortunately it was warm out so it was more pleasant than anything. The snorkeling would have been better if the sun was out but it was cloudy so my daughter and I had a nice time and then moored in Great Harbor on Peter Island for our last night. An early start and we motored over the next morning in a torrential rain storm and ended our trip.
Our impression of the trip was it was not quite what we hoped for. At least where we went, which is really the most popular stops, are all about beach bars. Finding a beach to hang out on was very difficult and the only one we found was at North Sound. We found no historical sites we could visit and there were no hikes except the Bubbly Pool. We were told there were many hikes in the area of North Sound but did not have time to check them out. These were the things we were looking for and they were in short supply. The focus seems to be sailing from mooring to mooring and checking out the beach bars located at each one. We were hoping for more beaches and cultural and historical sites and from what we found the BVIs may not be the best area for this.
The vendors we worked with on the other hand were exemplary. BVI Yacht Charters met every expectation and the boat and service they provided were just right. I would easily recommend them. We found this charter company through Ed Hamilton and would also highly recommend them, especially to the first time charterer. They were a great help in picking the charter company and boat and provided much very helpful information to help us in every aspect of the trip. Recommend both companies without reservation.
I would do the trip again but don't think it would be with teenage kids. I think from what we saw the focus seems to be beach bar hopping which would be great with some other couples. Despite the areas we were not so pleased with it was a great trip and enjoyed much of it. Our daughter goes to college in the fall and it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time together as a family and we succeeded in creating a lot of wonderful memories.
Sounds like a bumpy start with the flights and getting to know the boat systems which can dampen spirits. I've always been lucky with the weather in January..it's sounds like you had a few bouncy days.
I tend to agree with your assessment that there's an emphasis on beach bars and the focus is definitely not on kids. Willy T's is definitely not a family spot in my experience.
However, we've taken hikes on most of the popular spots..Norman Island, Jost Van Dyke, and Virgin Gorda ..( a loop around the Bitter End yc) are always great for stretching your legs. They don't advertise the trails..and we rarely see anyone else on them while we're there. With the exception of the trail up the hill at the baths. ..
One of my favorite beaches is the one at Cane Garden Bay...it can be a little crowded if a cruise ship is in..or rough in a swell....I've been lucky with perfect beach days on my visits...
If you do go again, and feel adventurous..you can head to anagada and long stretches of empty beaches...
Overall, it sounds like a success.. At least your teenagers stayed awake..
I took my teenage nephew on a trip and he slept for 5 days...only waking up at meal time...
Your story proves that certainly this is not the best season of the year to sail in the Caribbean, Leewards and Windwards alike!
Not only is the weather very hot but also too humid and hence unstable and stormy.
Everything we heard was this was a great time to go. The winds are not supposed to be as strong as during December and January and the temps are basically the same. With the 20 know winds we saw on average I think this was pretty close to winter conditions. Not expected but made for good sailing conditions.
We had Cane Garden Bay as a possible stop but decided on Little Jost Van Dyke instead. We had not planned on Anegada because I thought it was off limits to charterers. Our charter company said we could go as long as we cleared with them first and the weather looked OK. Decided against it because we were leaving Virgin Gorda Thursday and at that point did not have enough time.
It sounds like you had a good time despite not everything meeting your expectations. Since I live and sail around here year round and do charter briefings, a few things caught my attention. Did you make it clear to whomever did your chart briefing what specifically you were interested in? Did you say you were more interested in quieter beaches and hiking than in beach bars? Playing averages, most of the year, the vast majority of the folks I deal with are here for the bars and associated "action". This time of year all the charter companies offer steep discounts and kids are out of school which tends to bring more families. Generally when I see a family I'm giving clear warnings about what sort of things that occur on the Willy T.
To help you better understand where to find more sand, trails and fewer bars please visit Traveltalkonline dot com. There is a enormous amount of info there that will better prepare you for a return visit. Hopefully you will come back. From what you are describing, I would suggest you look at St John in the USVI. Very few beach bars. Many secluded beaches. Miles of hiking trails with historic ruins to explore.
Feel free to PM me for any other info.
I was interested to read your take on BVI chartering, especially with BVIYC, as we're heading down there in two weeks. I've been dreaming of doing a BVI charter for sometime an it's finally happened. In all the years of looking, not doing, I also came across Ed-Hamilton and have found them to be very good, knowledgable professionals who go out of their way to guide. They were able to answer all of the questions that you just can't get answered from a website.
We are also planning a counter-clockwise rotation of Tortola but with BVIYC, we're taking advantage of the 10 for 7 deal offered during the summer months. I to have read that the weather is hotter and rainier then but I think I'd rather be there in heat and rain than in Connecticut (in heat and rain)!
Which boat did you take? We've signed up for Ruby; a 38' Beneteau. This boat is about 11' longer than the one I currently sail at home (26' Seafarer)
Anyone in particular at BVIYC we should ask for?
We're also using Bobby's Market for provisioning, nice to hear you had a good experience with them!
What about returning the boat? What time did you get back to the dock and how was the clean-up/turn over?
The current plan is to head to Peter Island first, Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda) and the baths, North Sound for 2-3 days, reach across the north coast of Tortola to Jost Van Dyke then Norman. Unfortunately, the weather I've been seeing for the BVI's over the past couple of weeks has been rain with wind/rain and a chance of rain. Hopefully we'll get a weather window?
Looking forward to the trip in any event and will be sure to post an update upon our return.
Ed Hamilton's is a great resource. I have used them a couple of times for my charters.
Anagada does have the most beautiful beaches and the handful of restaurants are definitely more family oriented.
Foxy' Taboo on little Jost is very nice and there are a couple of very private beaches near the anchorage.
We also went to big Jost and met some locals who gave us a great tour of the island.
Peter Island has good hiking to a very nice beach on the east side of the island.
Baths are best when picking up a mooring early in the morning near the little beach at the South end(devil's cove?) and walking towards the more public beach area.
The Caves on Norman Island are also a great place to check out.
BVI Charter 2009
I know that it is a long way away, but my favourite spot for history and culture, and a few beaches is Turkey. I once had to move my boat ahead when stern-tied becuase my rudder was over a column in the water.
JK, I think you will also have a great time. We did, probably with the choice we made it just was not what we imagined as I described. Probably with some more knowledge before hand, which we tried to get, we would have been able to find what we were looking for. We had been to St John before and our expectations were based on what we found there, thinking the Virgin Islands would all be similar.
Regarding your questions.
- We took out Shiraz which is a 40' Beneteau and is 11' longer than the 29' Ericson I sail at home. The boat did not feel as big as I thought it would and was very manageable. You should do fine. My only complaint with the boat was the cockpit was so big and the main and jib sheets so far apart it was hard making sail adjustments on my own sometimes. Not setup for easy singlehanding. I'm not sure I liked the dual helm arrangement either as I found I always picked the starboard helm for some reason, regardless of what tack we were on. Maybe just needed to get used to it. Otherwise was good.
- No one in particular at BVIYC I would recommend, everyone I dealt with was great.
- Returning the boat was easy. We had a 2:30 flight out on Saturday so spent the last night at Great Harbor on Peter Island and motored over early Saturday morning. We left at 7am and were at the fuel dock by 8am. Once we tied up at the fuel dock they took over filling up the tank and bringing to her slip. We cleaned up our garbage, packed and did the boat checkout which was easy and no problems. We caught the 10am fast ferry over to St Thomas and got to the airport in plenty of time for our flight. The security line was scary long but moved very quickly we were pleased to find.
Have a blast and can't wait to see what your experience is.
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