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snmhanson 04-23-2013 03:08 PM

Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
My wife and I have chartered in the BVIs several times and I am considering our options for out next charter. It would be us and our three children (5, 8, 12), maybe another family but probably not. My biggest concern is the sailing conditions. I don't mind a bit of a challenge but I'm not sure we're looking for sustained 25+ knot winds and steep 10' swells on a daily basis. We have been in similar conditions in the BVIs a few times, but had the peace of mind of the Sir Francis Drake Channel being a couple tacks away. Also, having chartered only in the BVIs we typically grab a mooring ball or tie up at a slip so anchoring isn't quite second nature to me. I do know how to anchor so it is probably more of an issue with my confidence/comfort in my abilities since we haven't had to do it very often. Finally, having plenty of distractions to occupy the family with is a priority as well. We like the beach but also like having some dining and shopping options as well. With all that said, I am considering the following possible locations for our next charter:

BVIs again - We know it well and can just relax and have fun, albiet at the same places we've been to several times over the years.

USVI/SVI - Never sailed the SVIs and very little in the USVI. However, it seems that the SVIs don't offer very much in the way of onshore activities. Also, I wasn't terribly impressed with the small amount of time I have spent in the USVI.

St. Martin/St. Barths/Anguila - Seems like there is alot to do and see but limited and potential crowded anchorages along with potentially hairy sailing conditions.

Antigua - Similar to St. Martin in that sailing can be rough and alot of anchoring required.

One way Antigua to St. Martin - Would visit a lot of islands and seems like quite a bit to explore and do. However, we might be forced to make passages in big seas and we would spend a lot of time clearing customs.

Abacos - Seems like it would be an ideal place to charter in terms of proximity (from the Pacific NW), climate and activities ashore. However, I've read comments and trip reports where the winds were very light and entire trip was spent motor sailing. If I am chartering a sailboat I want to sail.

Can anyone offer any insight on the above choices? I would especially love to get some input on sailing conditions in St. Martin/Antigua as those would be my favored choices. Is the sailing really much tougher than the BVIs, or do you just end up sailing with a reef or two more often? Also, is anchoring/mooring a challenge at those places? Would a mono or a cat be a better choice for those passages with potentillay big wind and swell? Of course, any other comments about all of the above locations would be appreciated as well. Hopefully this will also help others who have similar questions.



johnnyquest37 04-23-2013 03:12 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
Are you set on the Carribean? There are other places that might suit you.

snmhanson 04-23-2013 04:55 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
I'm not opposed to other locations, however travelwise we might be limited. The Carribean is reasonably accessible to us both from a cost and travel time perspective. I looked at Tahiti and it would have been approaching $2,000 each for tickets and probably two days in travel for each direction. I haven't looked into Europe due to the same reasons, plus I would like to get more experience before we have to deal with some of the differences involved in sailing there. I am always open to different ideas though.


johnnyquest37 04-23-2013 05:26 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
Depending on what time of year you are looking at, you could look at Pacific Northwest, Chesapeake Bay, or the Great Lakes. These areas might have what you are looking for without the issues associated with anchoring in the tropics and trade winds, etc.

hillenme 04-23-2013 08:38 PM

I've chartered several locations in the windwards and actually found it easier getting into an anchorage. There isn't the drag race to the next port you deal with at BVI. you can show up at 430 and get a mooring ball. It's much less crowded. If you pick a harbor where you have to anchor you may have the whole place mostly to yourself. The conditions you describe are probably not avoidable anywhere in the Caribbean although they are not assured anywhere either.

Dog8It 04-23-2013 09:55 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
A few additional places to consider for the Caribbean:

- St. Vincent / Grenadines: good sailing, short distances from anchorage to anchorage, outstanding snorkeling. Though most anchorages are rolly thus a cat would be a good choice.

- Belize: secluded, no crowds (yet), good snorkeling, sailing within the reef (i.e., protected), etc. Again, cat is preferred though here due to skinny water in many anchorages.

Next year, we are looking into doing a one way charter from Antigua to St Martin. Only problem - how to convince the Admiral for couple day-long passages between the islands. If that does not work, I will try to get her aboard for a charter in Koh Chang, Thailand.

Good luck in your searches,

jackdale 04-23-2013 10:05 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs

I have sailed the Leewards (Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Baths, St Martin). It does get more open with bigger winds and bigger seas, but that is what sailing is about. The biggest issue was getting a spot inside at Gustavia. It is also very expensive.

Anchoring: at least 5:1 scope, dig in, and dive the anchor. Constant winds will mean not much swinging.

Abacos - nice sailing. SHALLOW. Two anchors. Whale Cay presents a problem, but not insurmountable.

FarCry 04-24-2013 03:13 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
snmhanson I'm curious what you mean when you say "Never sailed the SVIs and very little in the USVI. However, it seems that the SVIs don't offer very much in the way of onshore activities". Specifically, what onshore activities are you looking for? Understanding the age of your kids, it would appear you are not looking for beach bars.:D Are you requesting restaurants, shopping, hiking?

MurrayClift 04-24-2013 05:39 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs
You are correct on the light winds up in the abacos. We have been there at least 5 -6 times. Not once have I ever had to use two anchors and whale cay is nothing to worry about. Not once have we ever had to stop at it. I have seen it a little rolly, but nothing you haven't seen down south in more open water. The Abacos are completely different than the Caribbean so it still may be worth a shot. The snorkeling is great also. Rent a power cat instead? If you go in the summer, you will have beautiful weather.

fallard 04-24-2013 06:43 PM

Re: Chartering Options Beyond BVIs

Originally Posted by FarCry (Post 1020898)
snmhanson I'm curious what you mean when you say "Never sailed the SVIs and very little in the USVI. However, it seems that the SVIs don't offer very much in the way of onshore activities". Specifically, what onshore activities are you looking for? Understanding the age of your kids, it would appear you are not looking for beach bars.:D Are you requesting restaurants, shopping, hiking?

FarCry: Being from the area, you could probably identify a number of activities on St John that would appeal to kids and keep them happy for a week's charter. snmhanson could start the charter in Red Hook, where there are a number of restaurants (including Subway), a dive shop, pastries, coffee, etc. available in addition the the market. Mollie Malone's makes a good breakfast stop before departing for Leinster Bay for the first 2 nights on a mooring. There you'd have swimming/snorkeling from the beach for the youngest or off the dinghy near Waterlemon Cay. There are hiking trails where you can see abandoned ruins, get a panoramic view of the Drake Channel and Tortola, or do the tour of the Annaberg sugar mill--well worth the time and small entrance fee.

The 3rd day might be spend backtracking along the north shore and exploring the beach scene there. There could be a fancy meal at Caneel Bay to break out of camping-on-the-boat mode or exploring the camp ground at Maho Bay, although I am not aware of their policy for boaters (but I think it's friendly). Then there's Trunk Bay (but beaching/launching the dinghy can get exciting.) The moorings to the east of Lind Pt or even off Caneel Bay resort offer an opportunity to dinghy into Cruz Bay for shopping and restaurants, in addition to checking out the National Park visitor center.

One way or another, they might work their way around to Salt Pond Bay for more beach activities and snorkeling, especially off the boat. There are short hikes past the salt pond to Drunk Bay with the assorted mystical figures lying on the rocks or the longer hike up to Ram Head. You could easily spend 2 days here, but you are eating on the boat. If Salt Pond Bay's limited moorings are not available, right around the corner are the Lameshur Bays, which I've never seen filled. If anchoring isn't too scary, they might venture into Coral Bay and check out the laid back scene there for another restaurant and shopping experience. On the way back, one could make a detour for Christmas Bay or maybe another restaurant stop at Cruz Bay, using the aforementioned mooring field, for the last night of the charter. The next morning is an easy, 20 minute jog back to Red Hook.

I took my 8 and 12 yr old grandsons on a charter to the US & British Virgins a couple of years ago and they loved it. We spent 4 of our nights on St John. I suggest reading up on the history to make the area even that much more interesting. The slave rebellion on St. John is not kid stuff, but it is interesting and might help us northerners understand a little more of the background of the locals. The pirate legacy is always a fun thing for the kids, who at 8 yrs, anyway, can read Treasure Island before they go.

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