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  #1  
Old 02-11-2012
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Flotilla sailing with Sunsail

Hello to all,

I am planning on booking a Flotilla Sailing vacation in the BVI with Sunsail. I am a licensed motorboat captain with over 10 yrs of motorboat experience on the shore shore of Long Island including offshore runs to wrecks and the canyon for fishing. The only sailing experience I have is some Kiteboarding lesson I have taken this last summer if you can include that.
I will being attending a Sailing School to obtain my basic keelboat, coastal cruising, and barefoot charter courses. I plan on chartering a 36 ft vessel for my family in July because I will be done with the course by June.

Is the extra fee of Flotilla sailing worth the cost of peace of mind?

Is there anything I should know about going in July?

Will the courses taken give me enough experience to safely operate a 36 ft. vessel?

Do you have any helpful advice or any knowledge of things I should
know which I might not be aware of?

I would like to thank all in advance for their responses
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Old 02-11-2012
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I've watched the Sunsail flotillas come into harbours in the afternoon and the chase boat usually gets there first, anchors, then uses 2 dinghies to help the boats either pick up mooring balls or anchor as they come in. That, I think, is one benefit for those charterers who don't have experience anchoring or in picking up mooring balls in conditions that can be a bit gusty. Apart from that you get a group travel effect, can meet and eat/drink/party with others in various harbours in the BVI.
If you are comfortable with picking up mooring balls and handling a sailboat then a flotilla might not be what you are looking for. Realistically, if one can't sail a boat then having an experienced skipper on some other boat within visual range isn't going to help with that aspect.
Navigation in the BVI is simple line-of-sight with relatively few dangers and trouble spots. The wind is almost always from the same direction and there are numerous anchorages available with services ashore (by services I mean restaurants and bars).
The courses you are planning on taking should be sufficient for the BVI and you might find that with the courses under your belt you'll have more experience than many if not most of the charterers. By the time you've finished the ASA classes you probably won't want to join a flotilla but would prefer to spread your own wings and discover the BVI.
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Zanshin,
As I mentioned before I have no experience on a sailing vessel... Although I am taking the mentioned courses I am well aware that nothing can compensate for actual time on the water. I hope the school that I have chosen will live up to my expectations. I have already read several books to be better informed when I do take the courses. This will be our first trip to the BVI and we will trust Sunsail in showing us the more popular areas. I am sure these areas will be more crowded than other areas but I don't know if I will be comfortable setting out on my own just yet.
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Old 02-15-2012
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Last month my husband, daughter, and I chartered a 36 foot Jeanneau with Sunsail in the BVI. We had only been sailing for a little over one year. We took all the courses you mentioned and bought a small trailerable sailboat to practice on and give us confidence sailing. We also became members of Marina Sailing, which allowed us to rent boats in the size range of the boat we were going to charter. I would highly recommend doing that. Your lessons will start you out on small boats, and you will graduate to larger ones, but you won't be logging in very many hours with the lessons alone. Although being part of a Flotilla will be fun, it doesn't replace sailing experience, as Zanchin mentioned. The BVI is a good place for your first charter experience, and we had a great time, but there were some pretty scarry moments, especially with 6 foot northern swells and winds in excess of 30 knots. You will probably not experience that kind of weather, since you are going in July, but you may want to log in more sailing hours than just your lessons, so you can have fun and not stress. The good news is that with your extensive motorboat experience, you can always lower the sails and motor if things get tough.
We are doing a flotilla in the San Juans (Washington State) in May, because we like the idea of meeting other sailors and socializing, since we will be sailing alone. Not necessary, but should add to the enjoyment of the islands. I think you will have a terrific time!
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Old 02-16-2012
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Flbkroxie,
Thank you for your reply. I do plan on acquiring a sailboat in the future and chartering sailboats until i find the right vessel for us. I will not be able to log in many hours before the trip because I will be finishing up the course just before the trip. I understand official hurricane season begins June 1. Our time is limited to the month of July. I am concerned about the weather or being rained out while we are there. Do you or anyone else have a better idea of the weather in July? I know the weather is a guessing game but was wondering about the norm during the month of July...
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Quote:
Originally Posted by watukie View Post
Flbkroxie,
Thank you for your reply. I do plan on acquiring a sailboat in the future and chartering sailboats until i find the right vessel for us. I will not be able to log in many hours before the trip because I will be finishing up the course just before the trip. I understand official hurricane season begins June 1. Our time is limited to the month of July. I am concerned about the weather or being rained out while we are there. Do you or anyone else have a better idea of the weather in July? I know the weather is a guessing game but was wondering about the norm during the month of July...
After I started sailing and go my first certification, I sailed in flotilla in Turkey three times. It did wonders to increase my competence and confidence. I also met some great folks.

I have been in the BVIs twice in the summer. The weather in July will be hot. Being on land or in a marina is uncomfortable; on the water is OK. There will be some isolated showers, but I have never experienced a "rain-out" or a hurricane. the worst aspect is having to close ports during a shower at night while sleeping. You will need to get everything open after that rain stops.
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Old 02-16-2012
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We are a fan of flotillas -- one in Italy, two in Greece and one in Croatia.

It is possible to get a lot of experience out of flotillas. Before we went, we got pilot books, charts, charting software on our GPS and plotted likely marinas and anchorages.

Last edited by TejasSailer; 02-16-2012 at 05:20 PM.
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My wife and I will be sailing in a BVI Sunsail flotilla later this year. This is our first charter and I want to be absolutely sure that she enjoys herself so that we can go again in the future. The flotilla idea really eased her anxiety level, plus I know she will enjoy the social aspects. If it was up to me I'd just charter a bareboat, but I don't want to sail by myself. Seemed like a good compromise to me.
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Old 03-01-2012
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flotilla is worth it

for our first Caribbean charter, several years ago, we sailed a Beneteau 373 on a Sunsail flotilla in the BVI. At that point, we owned a Seafarer 30, and had two seasons of Chesapeake sailing under our belt, but were still very much "newbies". Flotilla was the best decision we ever made. I agree with all the above posts. It was great for us to have the Sunsail lead boat choosing the best spots to moor each evening, and planning out the route with their local knowledge of conditions in mind. The other charterers were from several different countries, and we loved the social aspect and making new friends, several of which we are still in contact with. You can participate in the social stuff as little or as much as you like. there is no pressure to "join in". Make no mistake: you have to sail your own boat, and everyone sails individually to meet at the destination... taking various routes and detours along the way. But, there is peace of mind just knowing that the Sunsail skipper is a radio call away, and happy to help you out or give advice. The daily chart briefing is worth the flotilla fee alone! (BTW, a welcome party with cocktails was also included in the fee). We had never picked up a mooring ball before that trip, and the first day, there was our flotilla captain, beside us in his dinghy, talking us through it. Years later, we still think of his helpful advice when performing the maneuver ("Mon, there are only two speeds while approaching a mooring, forward and neutral!") So, highly recommend a flotilla for first time charter. For the experienced sailors on this forum, it may seem like overkill, but for first timers it takes a lot of the anxiety out of the experience. This is supposed to be a VACATION after all, and just knowing that you have back up, and the fun of being with a social group makes it more relaxing. Not having to plan all the details of where to go and which restaurant to choose is really pleasant the first time out. We charter every year, and haven't done another flotilla, but would certainly consider it again sometime. Have a great time!
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