Single handed sailing in BVI - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 40 Old 05-12-2015 Thread Starter
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Single handed sailing in BVI

Looking to base out our of a Tortola Marina the 1st season ...with my jenneau 36. Apprehesive on solo sailing... Thinking of a jack line starboard and port attached to handrails.fore and aft to cockpit.... And wearing a harness. Maybe rig swim ladder to release from below and add a safety pull rope ladder on side. And obviously refrain from autopilot. Picking up a mooring ball might be challenging. I guess.... Just go slow and plan four steps ahead. Just until I can make friends to come along once in awhile.

Is anyone out there doing it now. Any comments would be appreciated. Thanks
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post #2 of 40 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

Been single handing for years including an Atlantic transit and many 500 NM + offshores. The BVI is a great place to learn, easy sailing and short trips.

Fair winds and following seas

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post #3 of 40 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

If you do a search of Zanshin, he's a member here and on other forums. Zanshin has been single handing around the BVI-St Martin some 40ish foot boats and is currently on a 57'. Clearly it can be done and the BVI is an easy place to gain experience.
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post #4 of 40 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

I started singlehanded sailing in the BVI years back, on an ex-Sunsail Jeanneau 43DS. This is now my 4th boat and I'm still singlehanding in the Caribbean (this note comes from Deep Bay in Antigua, where I'm waiting for the winds to abate before continuing on to Dominica via Guadeloupe).

I rig jacklines when sailing on passages and wear a climbing harness during the night or if I ever have to leave the cockpit. I don't usually bother with an inflatable vest, since as a singlehander if I go overboard I'm dead anyway and a vest would just prolong the inevitable.

I'm not sure why you would want to avoid using your autopilot - that's my crew member when I tack.

Picking up mooring balls can be a chore, but at least they have long painters in the BVI (unlike the French islands). I found that once you get a feel for your boat and it's inertia that picking up a mooring ball is straightforward if one makes sure to get exactly downwind of the mooring and let the boat coast so that it would stop several feet past the ball. I keep steering until the mooring is just disappearing from sight straight ahead, lock the wheel and walk forward. No need to run, if I have it wrong then running won't help. This is a lot easier now with the heavy boat, since a gust of wind won't whip the bow around. The alternative is to use a very long line running from the bow cleat back to the cockpit, then reverse upwind to the mooring and hook it from the cockpit. I've done this in very stormy, wavy and gusty conditions where I knew I couldn't pick up the mooring normally and wasn't allowed to anchor (which I would have preferred).

The only task that gets me very nervous is docking. It takes me over 30 minutes to put out all the fenders I have and set up 4 lines (forward, aft, forward spring, aft spring) and flake them over the lifelines. Once I've got one of the springs attached then things are easy, but I do always see if I can get someone at the dock to help me, preferably one who knows how boats work. Luckily I haven't docked in over 3 months and the next time will be when the boat gets hauled for the hurricane season.

Don't sweat it and take things slowly, as you already noted it is a matter of planning ahead and trying not to get behind the curve!

P.S. FarCry, thanks for the recommendation. I didn't see your post since I was typing my response when you submitted it.
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Last edited by Zanshin; 05-12-2015 at 11:10 AM. Reason: added postscript
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post #5 of 40 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

My understanding is that many coral heads are uncharted and the charts are old.
How do you singlehanders scout for them, without a crew member to help you watch for them?

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post #6 of 40 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

I can't think of a better place to singlehand than the BVI. Be sure you have substantial ground tackle, so you can anchor in the deeper water outside mooring fields. All chain and plenty of it, along with a reliable anchor.

I would definitely wear a pfd when singlehanding down there. If you keep a radio clipped to it and and have to cut yourself loose from a tether, the water is warm enough that you would live until the rescue. A good radio and handheld gps, even better. Or a PLB for that matter.

If you're not fully familiar, you may want to look into immigration requirements. Standard is only 30 days, but I know that extensions can be had. Perhaps its just a money grab, but I get the impression that the BVI is trying to get you to move on and make room for the next fresh wallet.


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post #7 of 40 Old 05-12-2015
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

I've been there all of once, in 1977 as "chaperones' for a bunch of prep school kids from Massachusetts, out of Charlotte Amalie. Three 42-foot sloops. What fun, I thought the kids would screw up a perfectly good sailing adventure, but they actually made it better.

My impression, the Francis Drake Channel is a good spot for just sailing without getting tossed and exhausted by high seas, because it's protected. Beat east, run west, strong breeze either way. So if you're set on solo, why not there, it's as good as any and better than most..
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post #8 of 40 Old 05-12-2015 Thread Starter
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

Zanshin - thanks so much for the info. I'm excited ..as I haven't done serious sailing since the late 90's. It's just me now..a young 64. Picking up boat in Nov. on Tortola. will probably dock it for a few weeks to make provisioning and adding "wants" easier. saves on dinghy trips to ball. But ultimately settle and base from a mooring ball.
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

I would stay nearby, until I did a good shakedown and felt all systems were sound. Maybe even a few out and back trips. Nanny Cay is a good place to be, if you need work done.


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post #10 of 40 Old 05-12-2015 Thread Starter
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Re: Single handed sailing in BVI

Thank you for your reply and encouragement. I was there 30 yrs. ago with a crew... (a lot has changed...but still a protected area for what I want to do)
now it's just me...a young 64. anyway I've got the jack lines, harness, hand held gps and radio. even thought about rigging the swim ladder with a latch below...in order to reach or a pull rope ladder. what is a PLB again?
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