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pkurtz 01-17-2013 10:58 AM

Grenadines v BVI
We are trying to make a decision between Grenadines and BVI. We have chartered in the BVI four times before. I am looking for some straightforward advice on the conditions in the Grenadines both from a captain's perspective and a crew comfort perspective. Most of the crew (excluding captain and mate) will have little experience on boats. We will also have a child. I have read a lot of the posts and blogs and it appears that 20-25 kts winds are common and seas are rougher. Also many anchorages are rolly. I'm aware of the differences between the two as to services, things to do, etc. I've spoken with many charter cos and brokers and I get the "oh yeah, its great, just a little windier" with no real advice on the location considering what I've seen on the 'net.

The questions are: is there a best time to go the the Grenadines when the seas are at their calmest (I've been told that is summer and that Dec, Jan and Feb are the worst)? With an inexperienced crew am I just look at a uncomfortable trip for most (would it be better to do after we do the BVI with this crew)? From a captain's perspective, what is the experience level for the Grenadines?

Tim R. 01-17-2013 11:51 AM

Re: Grenadines v BVI
I have chartered in both places so I should be able to give you a comparison.

Yes, the trade winds do blow through the Grenadines. Most people start their charter in St. Vincent and sail a broad reach down the islands. This means beating into wind and currents on the way back. The passages between the islands are exposed unlike the lake-like conditions you experience in the BVIs. Once behind the islands it calms down significantly. This is where most the anchorages are. With the exception of Mustique, the islands are more impoverished than the BVIs. Not many beach bars like you see in the BVIs. Many less charter boats and a lot more full time cruisers. Most of them heading for SA for hurricane season.

We were there in March 2010 and always had a comfortable anchorage. 3 couples and one of them had never chartered before and had very little sailing experience. They were fine but not every newbie would be.

There is also more boat related crime in the Grenadines but I have heard very little on the violent side unless you go poking around the farms along the west coast of St. Vincent. Those farmers do not like people poking around in their "crops". Majority seems to be stolen dinghies. You have to lock them everywhere you go. Natives will offer to "watch" them for a price. I think some of them take your cash, your dinghy and then disappear. I you do not pay them, they take your unlocked dinghy and still disappear. Lock your dinghy.

Not very many natural sights there except for Tobago Cays marine park and turtle sanctuary which is very cool. Have a lobster bake on the beach here.

There are scattered moorings but nothing like BVIs. You will anchor most everywhere but you will not usually swing much because of the trades.

Expect to pay the same premium for most things like provisioning and eating out.

Navigation is mostly line of sight except for getting in and out of Tobago Cays.

With a child and some beginners, I would do the BVIs. There is more for them to enjoy.

We are going back to the BVIs for a small flotilla this March. We like it better than the Grenadines.

Faster 01-17-2013 12:19 PM

Re: Grenadines v BVI
Haven't done the BVIs but thoroughly enjoyed the Grenadines.. Tobago cays, Bequia, Mareau all have unique charms, Union Island is another interesting spot. You will run into 'boat boys' offering assistance with mooring, anchoring, watering, 'tours' etc. Some can be rather pushy but some are the real deal. Their services don't cost a lot and I think you are a)helping support the local economy and b) creating a bit of goodwill that can imply a bit of security.. eg if you brush them off altogether they might not 'notice' someone borrowing your dinghy....;) Some of these guys row/motor miles out to offer assistance...

Things may have changed but recently we've heard cruisers are avoiding St Vincent's northern sections - there's some significant ganja plantations at that end of the island....

But overall our experiences have been very positive there, we esp liked Bequia and the Cays.

hillenme 01-17-2013 12:58 PM

Re: Grenadines v BVI
I have done the Grenadines the last two years in a row (1st week of March). 2010 from Grenada to Tobago Cays and back and 2011 from Grenada to St. Lucia. It is a wonderful cruising ground. We always left from True Blue, Grenanda (Horizon Yacht Charters). I think if you are going all the way down to the Grenadines you might as well see Grenada too, it's beautiful.

2011 weather was very different from 2010. Seas were uncharacteristically large for the time, double what we saw in 2010 (occasional 20 footers when passed the lee of St. Vincent.) All the locals said it was rare. Tobago is gorgeous and worth at least one day, more if you've provisioned for it. George is one of the more well known boat boys and treated us great both years. The majority of folks will anchor in the marine park between Baradol and Petit Bateau, but we enjoyed anchoring in the channel on the north side of Petit Bateau. If the weather is like last year the current will be extremely strong - looking down through the trampoline while anchored you would have thought we were making 9 knots.

Union Island is a great place, check out Happy Island while you are there.

Bequai I could miss next time - while sitting in a bar having lunch some sort of official (cop or military) in plain clothes fired off a "warning shot" with a handgun about 6 feet from the back of my head at a drug dealer. They proceeded to arrest the guy on the front porch of our restaurant, while several more started climbing throught he roof of a tin shack next to us. I never felt we were in danger (the drug violence does not touch crusiers I believe) even during this situation, but it's all related to the drug activity on St. Vincent that I hope isn't wrecking a great crusing ground. Walilabou is neat stop on St. Vincent (the set from Pirates of the Caribbean is still mostly intact there), but check a cruising guide for the names of the two boat boys worth dealing with - it's incredibly deep and you'll anchor Medditeranean style to a tree on shore, so the help is needed if you're short handed.

I believe the only place outside of Grenada and St. Lucia we ever grabbed a mooring was Union Island.

Minnewaska 01-18-2013 05:02 AM

Re: Grenadines v BVI
If most of the crew has little experience, can I assume they haven't been with you on the past BVI trips? I certainly understand your desire to do something new, but if they haven't been before, I suggest doing BVI. People go there without a boat and your familiarity could really help make it a great experience for your crew.

pkurtz 01-18-2013 11:12 AM

Re: Grenadines v BVI
None of my current crew has been on past BVI trips. One couple has been on our Catalina 36 a couple of times. This would be for a catamaran. None of the current and prospective crew have been to the BVI either by land or boat, so it would all be new to them and of course, less stressful for us since we know area. We definitely want to do the Grenadines. At last part of this crew would probably be repeaters, so we would plan it for next time after they have had an experience in the BVI.

Pelham 01-19-2013 11:40 AM

Re: Grenadines v BVI
I've chartered the BVI 3 times and St. Vincent and the Grenadines once two years ago (in May) out of Blue Lagoon in SVG. We made it as far south as Union Island in the Grenadines.

As for sailing conditions, your description was right on in my experience. The sails are longer and less protected in the SVG which is great for sailors. Seas and winds could build a little but nothing that a reef couldn't make comfortable. That being said if you had an inexperienced crew that might be weary of 15-20kts and 4-6 ft seas on some of the windier days, the BVI might be a better choice. Also, you probably will have to anchor everywhere in SVG. Moorings are not maintained or reliable there like they are in BVI. It's cheaper, but does require you to be comfortable selecting a spot and setting the hook. The descriptions above of petty crime were similar to the warnings we got and we had offers to "watch" the dinghy, but we always locked everything and never had any trouble.

As for the environment and culture it really depends on what you're after. As you know, the BVI can be quite crowded (no so much in the off season) and has lots of options for food, services, shopping, etc. SVG has some too but is a little more off the beaten path. You'll find fewer cruisers and more (friendly) locals. It felt more like the "real" Caribbean to me. And as one poster already commented, the Tobago Cays are spectacular - we stayed longer than we'd planned since it was so wonderful.

So, it really depends what you want out of the trip - exciting sailing and local culture or short easy days with easy mooring and lots of access to services and first-world comforts. Both have their advantages.

If I were taking inexperienced crew, I'd probably go back to the BVI to save myself work but with a crew that could lend a hand I'd be back in SVG in a heartbeat - its a terrific place. Maybe BVI this time and start making plans for SVG next time? If you like to explore, you won't regret the SVG trip for sure!

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