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Old 11-10-2011
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British Virgin Island Cruise - First Time

Probably 10,000 threads on this forum about this, but anyway....

Going to British Virgin Islands in Jan/Feb for the first time (7 night cruise)

What islands, locales should we not miss?
What are good bareboat chartering companies? (How far advance should we book?)
How difficult is anchoring, mooring, docking (what I mean is availability?)
Should we eat mostly on the boat or on land? (Restaurants?)

And finally, my wife and I have been primarily in-land sailors (Puget Sound, San Jan Islands) should we be prepared for ocean sailing (sea sickness? )

Thanks ahead, big fan of this forum.
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Old 11-10-2011
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Minnewaska will become famous soon enough Minnewaska will become famous soon enough
Here is how you get at them. Type this into a google search british virgin islands

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Old 11-11-2011
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I'll give a stab at answering some of your questions:

The BVI and surrounding waters are some of the easiest and most forgiving sailing waters in the world. The trades almost always blow from the same direction, the islands of the BVI protect boater from the Atlantic swell most of the time, the anchorages either have mooring balls or good holding at less than 30 feet. Most anchorages have mooring balls and with few exceptions the anchorages have one or more bars and restaurants ashore so that provisioning and cooking aboard is optional.

7 days is a short itinerary for extended cruising. The island of Anegada is beautiful, but will involve hours of sailing and is the only stretch where you are in the open ocean (albeit partly protected from the Atlantic swell by the large Anegada Reef). Due to the protection in the Sir Francis Drake channel and other locations in the BVI the chances of severe seasickness are pretty minimal and getting ashore to terra firma is never more than an hour or two away at slow sailing speeds.

Transient docking while on charter is possible in many places - but at over $1 per foot (plus electricity and water) it can get expensive.

The standard first night for charters is Norman Island and the Bight, as that is a short and easy sail from all of the charter bases on Tortola. After that the usual route is a counterclockwise trip around Tortola, that way the upwind legs are in the protected Sir Francis Drake channel waters and the downwind leg from Virgin Gorda's North Sound (or from Anegada) to Jost Van Dyke will be in open waters to the north of Tortola.

If you really want in-detail information on sailing and chartering in the BVI the traveltalk online BVI forum is a good place to visit.

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Old 11-11-2011
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Amazon has BVI Cruising Guides, You will want one, so buy now.
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Old 11-11-2011
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Be sure to hit the Baths in Virgin Gorda.
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Old 11-11-2011
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Highly recommend you get a Virgin Islands cruising guide ahead of time. The most popular is the one authored by the Scotts, but the Pavlidis (Seaworthy Publications) guide is also worth it and--given the cost of your vacation--buying both would be reasonable.

If you haven't had a mal de mer problem in your home waters, you won't have a problem in the BVI--even to Anegada, which I don't put in the same category as ocean sailing. Except for the Anegada trip and going to weather on either side of Tortola, you won't be sailing very long before your next anchorage, so you can tuck in quickly if your crew start to get queasy. As someone else mentioned, the clockwise route is probably preferable because you can break up the windward slog into smaller pieces.

We've taken a slip several times at Spanish Town (Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor). It is an easy reprovisioning stop, has showers, and you can refill your water tank. The slip fee is very reasonable IMHO, and even for a 42 ft boat was only twice the typical mooring fee. We have used this marina to make a landward approach to the Baths and avoid swimming in from the dinghy tie-up there. We always treat ourselves to a sunset dinner at the Top of the Baths restaurant--it is only a little pricier than, say, say the Cooper Island restaurant, but very reasonable for the noteceably higher quality of food and service.

Some logistics issues: You need to bring your own mask, snorkel, and anti-fog gel, unless you want to take your chances on a poor fit. You should be able to live with the fins provided by the base.

If you like to get rid of the salt after the daily swimming events, you should plan on replenishing your water supply once you've been out several days. I've already mentioned Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbor at Spanish Town, but you can readily get water at several facilities in North Sound, such as Saba Rock, Leverick Bay, Biras Creek and Bitter End. Another water stop is at Marina Cay, which also has an OK Pusser's Restaurant. Check the guides for others.

Depending on the charter base fees for a first night aboard, you may find an overnight ashore is cheaper (and more comfortable) if it is only for a couple.

Having the charter base provision is a real convenience, especially after your long trip, but you'll have to live with the inevitable surprises. You may not save enough by provisioning yourself to justify the time and energy it takes.

Regarding charter bases: We've chartered from a couple of places on Tortola, but it's been quite a few years. We have since migrated over to Island Yachts at Red Hook, St. Thomas for our most recent 6 or 7 Virgin Island charters, but that's another story. You may want to charter out of Tortola for the first time in the BVI to avoid the extra complication of checking in and out of customs and immigration as you go from USVI to BVI waters and back. You'll also maximize your time in the BVI--7 days goes pretty fast, so you might consider a 10-day charter, if your time and budget allow.
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Old 11-15-2011
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Thanks all, particularly Zanshin and Fallard! Very helpful info.
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Old 11-18-2011
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We just returned from the BVI two weeks ago on a ten day trip. It was my 8th time in ten years. Everyone above has given you great advice. The sailing is easy, all the Islands are within an hour or two. Provisioning has greatly improved over say the last three years. On Tortola Bobby's Market and Rite Way are now like walking into a grocery in the U.S. Big and lots of variety now, albeit a little more expensive. I know Bobby's has a provisioning service and will deliver to your boat or come pick you up for free if you plan to do your own shopping. We probably eat dinners on board the boat 50% of the trip. The charter companies that I have used in the past with no real complaints are TMM, BVI Yacht Charters, Pro Valor, Dream Yachts and now Sunsail. I was really pleased with Sunsail. The service was good, friendly and the boat, a 2006 43 Beneteau was in great shape. I think the two must see's in the BVI are the world famous Baths and on Jost Van Dyke the not as famous Bubbly Pool. Short hikes are required to really see both correctly. Anyway I hope this helps. You'll have a great time
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Old 12-14-2011
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When provisioning, make sure to check out the RiteWay stores in Tortola. It is definitely better (and cheaper) that Bobby's Marketplace or Ample Hamper. I just returned from BVI's and was very pleasantly surprised by their products and service.


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The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.
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