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Old 05-26-2013
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BVI Charter Lessons Learned

I won't bore you with my itinerary of a week in paradise but just my general observations of the state of paradise.
Charter companies.
Just a few years ago there was only a handful of charter companies in the BVI. Now there is a more charters than you can shake a stick at. Seems everyone is getting into the act. Furthermore, it is not just in the BVI but everywhere up and down the east coast of the US. This industry in changing and in a big way.
The big guys, Moorings, Sunsail one company now but still operating as two plus their other sibling, Footloose for older yachts, used to rule the charter business. Now there are over 15 charter companies just in the Virgin Islands. That is increasing yearly. Brokers are the biggest reason for this escalating market. As the downturn years hurt sales of new and used yachts, brokers are turning to "Boating as a Business" to boost sales. Most of the big brokers are turning to this marketing scheme. They are consolidating this marketing scheme to charter their boats under a universal charter company like Dream Yacht Charters. This is a concern of mine. Having chartered from a few companies over my 20 plus years of sailing, I have found out not all charter companies are what they seem. Even the big companies your experience with vary by who is running the base and the infrastructure of base of operations.
Charter boats take a beating in use. We all know that. Three years of charter service will put over 10-15 years of normal use for a boats not in charter service. Maintaining those boats in a serviceable condition is a big undertaking for these charter companies. It is in this area that I worry about charter service for these new companies that are cropping up. I have found that they don't have the personnel to maintain these boats and/or depending on the lease back to the charter company how and when things will get fixed and who pays for it. So buyers/charter's beware here.
Concierge Service If you are a new to charter or new to the area or even new to sailing you might want to avoid some of the newer companies. You need to check out what services they offer. If you need a full boat brief, full chart brief, captain check out, provisions or crew charter you need to ask a lot of questions of the charter company you select. You might have to wait 3-4 hours on your first day of charter to get someone to your boat just to give you the required boat brief because they don't have the personnel on hand if they have a large "launch the fleet" day.
Safety equipment. Make sure you touch every piece of safety equipment. Know the location and how to use them. On my charter most of it was missing or wrong piece that fit its function.
Here is my list. Flares and gun (check onboard and current), life vests for each person, emergency tiller (put the tiller in the hole to make sure it is the right one, Mine was missing and the one they brought was the wrong one), portable VHF, flashlights, binoculars, fire extinguishers, bilge pumps that work (test them, one did not work on my charter), enough dock lines to dock the boat while out, anchor system that works and not a rust bucket (don't go there with me on this one), oil for boat engine and dinghy to name a few. If you find something not working or missing it will take time away from your charter to fix what is wrong.
Know how to reef the boat. DO IT AT THE DOCK WITH charter company demonstrating. I cannot over empathize this. My reef lines were labeled backwards. One 3 boats I have chartered the reef lines were not routed correctly.
Electronics. Expect the unexpected. Most work, well sometimes and if they do take it for a grain of salt. 100% of my charters most of the electronics were either not working and if they did were out of calibration. I ALWAYS DROP a lead line to check the depth sounder. If any gauge needs to work and work right is this one. Know if the depth soundings is water depth or offset for draft of the boat. Running aground is BAD BAD BAD. Chartplotters hit and miss depending on the area. If they did NOT put the datum correction in the software calibration and you rely on it to get you through some tricky passage, you will run AGROUND; BAD BAD BAD. My chartplotter had me on land more than once on this charter. You must be able to read the water and use PVR rules. Prudent seamanship is always paramount.
On my first day I always dive the boat to check for any underwater damage. Note damage and call the base immediately if you find any. Good time to cool off, check your anchor/mooring ball, state of bottom growth and propeller.
Plans. The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men Gang aft agley! Be flexible. Weather, boat problems, crew needs and that special place you will find will change what ever you dreamed about your charter. Go with it and enjoy each day. The BVI is a great place to enjoy and will suit every sailors needs from the crazy anchorages to solitude. Don't rush going from place to place just to say you have been there. I had goals for this cruise and so did each crew member, Make sure you cover most of everyones goals and not just your own. A happy cruise is a memorable cruise. For us, 7 days was not enough. 10 days would have been perfect. We just got into the flow of things when our charter ended. A seven day cruise is really just 5 days. The first day is wasted doing briefings and preparation and the last day you must return between 10 and 12pm depending on the charter company. Also your return to home must come into play here as well.
BVI weather. We had great weather and big winds. Drake Channel can get real choppy for those not used to such sea state. In some ways it reminded me of the Gulf Stream chop with a north wind. We had winds on 3 days over 20 knots and in some areas up to 30 knots. The monohulls got beat up going from place to place. Most of the great snorkeling spots were unusable and dangerous even when picking up a day mooring ball. We witness people getting hurt trying to get on a bucking boat. Not a memorable cruise. Save the Baths, Indians, Dogs for a calmer day or your next cruise.
davidpm and ksr767 like this.
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Old 05-26-2013
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BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Good tips! Which charter companies do you recommend? I've only done Horizon.
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Old 05-30-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Asking which charter companies would I recommend is like asking which hamburger places makes the best burgers; Wendy's have it your way! or McDonald's for example. If you are new to sailing and chartering I would stay with the the big boys, Moorings, Horizon, CYA or TMN. It you have experience, know sailing inside and out the smaller/newer companies might work for you. Remember it is your precious time to spend sailing in paradise not fixing the boat at the dock, getting a boat/chart brief sometime that day, or finding required safety equipment.
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Old 05-31-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melrna View Post
Asking which charter companies would I recommend is like asking which hamburger places makes the best burgers; Wendy's have it your way! or McDonald's for example. If you are new to sailing and chartering I would stay with the the big boys, Moorings, Horizon, CYA or TMN. It you have experience, know sailing inside and out the smaller/newer companies might work for you. Remember it is your precious time to spend sailing in paradise not fixing the boat at the dock, getting a boat/chart brief sometime that day, or finding required safety equipment.
Did you mean to type CYOA and TMM?
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Old 05-31-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

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Originally Posted by FarCry View Post
Did you mean to type CYOA and TMM?
Yes,, I hate spell checker on my Mac.
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Old 05-31-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Part Two
Provisions - For the first time I order all my provisions online. I used Rite-Way. They delivered all that we ordered at the time I specified. I was not there when they showed up due to the ferry leaving very late in St Thomas. When I arrived all the food was properly stored on the boat. Wow Wow Wow. Even had a 6 pack of beer on ice. Wow Wow Wow ( I quickly put another 6 pack on ice before the crew arrived). All the fresh fruit and vegetables were top notch ( I was a little worried about this to be honest). I have to give Rite-Way 5 stars out of 5. Outstanding service. Many thanks..
We provisions once more in Virgin Gorda for bread and fresh vegetables. Pricey but worth it. We cooked every meal on-board the boat except one lunch I think. We had two chefs (me and another crew member) who love to cook on the boat. So not a problem.
Meats for dinner and lunch, I ordered from Omaha Steaks online. With the discounts, I feed 4 crew members, 10 meals for under $120. I love the individual packaging. Makes it real easy to pack into a large flexible Igloo with ice packs. They were still frozen when I arrived on the boat. BVI customs did not say anything when I told them about it.
Spirits - We ordered 3 cases of beer from Rite Way. Price was good. We got all the liquor from Duty Free or brought from home. If you go through San Juan or St Thomas stop by the Duty Free there to get the Good Stuff (sipping Rum, Scotch, and Whiskey 15 years or older). Mixing rum I would order either through Rite Way, Bobby's Marketplace or Tico. Find the best price.
To Generator or Not to Generator that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The countless engine hours to charge the batteries and double fuel bill of outrageous prices, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, if a generator is not working.
We had a big cat with big energy needs. With no way to monitor the batteries except voltage (French built-in amp meter not working properly) and no generator we had to run the both engines minimum 3 hours a day or more to keep up the refrigerator and freezer needs. I won't mention the batteries were on their last legs. With most charters discharging the batteries less than 50% daily they take a beating. I looked at the battery charger and I don't think it was a smart multi-charge battery charger to de-sulfate the batteries. I mention this in my debrief. Not sure they understood what I meant.
That is all for now.
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Old 05-31-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

We used Rite-Way online this past time as well. We were there when they arrived and all was proper, except they sent more of something than we ordered. I think it was mayo. We gave it back to the delivery guy, but I have a feeling it didn't go to the store.

The only thing we didn't like were the tomatoes, otherwise all other fresh fruit and veg was good.

Still, we ordered too much and left a nice supply for the cleaners.
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Old 06-01-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Excellent post! I'd only add a few tings -based on happenings on my bareboats in the BVI since '99.

1. Validate your initial water fill by going to each tank with a hose before you leave the dock. The time to find out that you are completely out of water is not when you are spending the night on Jost or Anegada!
2. Not only should you check out your reefing gear before leaving port, you might want to consider leaving port under a single or even double-reef if you have any doubts about the wind and sea state out of the harbor. It is always much easier to shake one out than put one in on a strange boat.
3. Be very flexible about your ininerary. Don't make your trip the the BVI something like that old move: "If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium" Move into Island Time when yuu land in St. Thomas and don't let the inevitable disruptions to your plans bother you. When you are vacationing in De Ilons, your only schedule that matters is being on the hook before the sun goes down.
4. If you have glitches on the boat that you can't readily fix yourself, make sure that whatever is involved is absolutely necessary before you call for service assistance. If you can get by without it, you might consider having the charter company come near the end of the day when you are at a new harbor - hopefully closer to their base.

I've only used Sunsail and ProValor in my past 8 trips and while they were not event free, would give a good reference to either.

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Old 06-01-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Quote:
Originally Posted by Melrna View Post
Asking which charter companies would I recommend is like asking which hamburger places makes the best burgers; Wendy's have it your way! or McDonald's for example.
Wendy's of course!
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Old 07-17-2013
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Re: BVI Charter Lessons Learned

Between Moorings, Dream Yacht Charters, TMM, and Conch which is most likely to have a properly working boat ready for me and get us out on time? I'm thinking Moorings is probably the most likely to have their act together and everything ready, but perhaps I'm just thinking that because they cost more. Is Moorings really a first class operation?
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