Join Date: Dec 2012
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Rep Power: 0
Re: Navtours in Bahamas - Anyone have experience with them?
I just returned from a week long charter in the Exumas through Dream Yacht charters and the Navtours base.
First (and most important) the bottom line: the Exumas were beautiful and I would go again and use Dream/Navtours.
The Exumas: much more spartan than BVI or the Windward islands. In November you will have the anchorages to yourself, with maybe 1 or 2 others. There are not many "beach bars" though some upscale resort restaurants. We ate on board most nights. The navigation is fairly straightforward (we stayed on the banks and did not navigate through the cuts to the sound, simply because it wasn't necessary). The water is gorgeous and and the scenery stunning. Nice hiking and Thunderball grotto is a necessary stop, as is Shroud Cay and Leaf Cay.
The base: the Navtours base is nice. Located on Nassau about 20 minutes from the airport at a private marina and resort. You have use of the pool, bar and restaurant - a nice way to ease into a vacation. There is a good grocery store a few minutes away and Navtours will shuttle you to the store and back. They will even provide bags to carry your groceries. The store has everything you need.
One minor downside is that the base is a full days sail from the Exumas chain. That means that a 7 day charter turns into a 5 day Exumas cruise and one day in and out. That said, it is a nice sail. You do have to cross the Yellow Banks, an area with about 10-12 foot depth and several large coral heads that can ruin your day and are reported to come within 4 feet of the surface. I believe it. In good conditions (on our way out) with a clear sky and sun overhead it was easy to see the coral head against a white sand backdrop. We quickly got used to dodging the coral. On our return, with overcast skies and 20+ knots of breeze whipping up a chop, it was much harder to see the coral but we managed to get through without incident.
The Boat: we chartered a monohull (Dufour 382 - wish we could have chartered the Jeanneau379). The Dofour was adequate, but it's clear that the boats suffer and don't quite get the same level of care as in other bases. We arrived around 1pm and went shopping to prepare to board at 4:30 per the charter terms. After shopping, they told us to have a drink at the bar (they gave us 2 drinks tickets) and they would let us know when our boat was ready. Around 5pm, we inquired on the status and they said they weren't quite done "cleaning the boat" and wanted to do a good job before turning the boat over. They brought 2 more drink tickets. OK, no problem. About an hour later, they said they weren't sure when it would be ready. But, they said they would buy us dinner while we waited.
We went in search of our boat and found that the prior charter had run aground and significantly damaged the rudder. They had removed the rudder for repairs and were having some difficulty reinstalling the rudder. Still, they assured us they were making progress,so we went and enjoyed a very nice dinner (and bottle of wine) on them. The meals were not cheap and it was a very nice gesture on their part.
By the time we finished dinner, they told us the boat was ready. We loaded up around 9pm or so. The boat had a noticeable diesel odor and we learned that it had also had a diesel leak (apparently the filter gasket failed). They did their best to clean it up, and the bilge was full of baking soda,but the foam insulation was soaked and while it wasn't awful, it was noticeable - particularly when motoring and the heat hit the insulation.
Since there was only the two of us, we slept in the v-berth forward and with the breeze, had no odor while sleeping. A minor issue for us.
We had a few other issues with the boat. The batteries were barely adequate. The house batteries barely kept the fridge running overnight. I generally turned off the fridge in the wee hours and then started them up again in the morning as we ran the engine to charge over breakfast. For some reason the solar panels were disconnected. The start battery was worse and failed once (this could have been affected by operator error) but we managed. We did try to get some assistance once, but it was too rough for the chase boat to get across the bank. They did their best to accommodate but we ended up fixing it ourselves.
I mention the above not to discourage anyone, but rather to set the expectations. The area is simply more remote than some other cruising grounds, and you need to be flexible and prepared to make some repairs on your own (just as you would if it was your own boat). The reward is an unspoiled and remote island experience. Worth the trade for us. Next time, I would either try a one way charter, or just go for a longer period. We just didn't have enough time to really see what we wanted. The wind was against us the whole way - we sailed south into southerly winds and then when we turned around, so did the wind and we beat back into northerlies. It made for longer sailing days and less time to explore on land.
Set your expectations and go and have a great time.