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My wife and I are new to sailing and are working on our ASA certifications.

We are planning a Nov 2015 trip to BVI and I was wondering some opinions about whether we should do a bareboat charter in order to go where we want or would you suggest signing up for a Flotilla for our first chartering.

Bareboat sounds nice cause you can do what you want, however being part of a Flotilla and having some guidance also seems to have the feel of security for a couple of new sailors.

Suggestions , opinions welcomed.

Thanks
dcrowley3
 

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We did the flotilla the first visit to BVI for the back-up in case of problems, but also to learn the territory. It's not follow the leader. You have the day to explore on your own and meet up at that night's designated location. I recommend it for the first time especially if you haven't had much sailing experience. We used Sunsail and provisioned at Rite-Way. It was all good. On subsequent trips you'll be comfortable making your own itinerary.
 

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The first time my wife and I chartered in the BVI we went by ourselves and had no problems at all. We were worried about whether or not we knew enough to go it alone, but the worry was for nothing. It really is pretty easy.

I would say that your decision should be based mainly on the social aspects of a flotilla--being with others, meeting new people, that sort of thing--rather than on whether or not you need the guidance of a leader. A lot of people like the social aspects of a flotilla. In the BVI, it is so easy to get around, and see where you're going, that you really don't need the guidance of anyone else.
 

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We did the flotilla the first visit to BVI for the back-up in case of problems, but also to learn the territory. It's not follow the leader. You have the day to explore on your own and meet up at that night's designated location. I recommend it for the first time especially if you haven't had much sailing experience. We used Sunsail and provisioned at Rite-Way. It was all good. On subsequent trips you'll be comfortable making your own itinerary.
+1

We've followed the same path and the flotilla experience was awesome, mainly due the great folks that accompanied us. It certainly gave us good insights in getting around the islands for future trips and tips about the anchorages. FWIW, we now bareboat in the BVI and wouldn't do the flotilla there again but would consider it if we ever do Greece or another unfamiliar cruising area.
 

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D,

Are you a sailor? Go it alone. Don't worry about it. The GPS will keep you off the reefs. The folks are friendly. It's a fairly safe area. The islands are what . . . 5,6 miles apart? How can you get lost. I'd moor at night for security's sake. Also, bring a set of battery Christmas lights to string up your mast. Helps finding home when you're in with a hundred other rentals and have a couple of Pain Killers in you. Oh, and the ice isn't dirty, it's nutmeg! PM me if you need a charter company. We prepared a sailing resume' and were approved in 10 minutes with no ASA training. We've got about 3000 NM under our keel though. If you get to Garner Bay on Joust Van Duke, tell Cynthia that I said "Hi".
 

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I would say it depends on the amount of experience you've had beforehand. You state that you're working on your ASA certifications...will that be the extent of your sailing experience? If so, I would suggest the flotilla for the peace of mind/reassurance that comes with being with other sailors.

If you plan on owning your own boat before next November, or at least chartering several times before on similar boats, then by yourself would likely be fine. I've been twice in the last three years...on our own both times but had previous experience chartering and owning. If we had only our ASA certifications and not much experience, we probably would have felt better with a flotilla the first time out...
 

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You don't need to join a flotilla, unless you want to. I suspect you'll see more by joining one, as you may have more confidence to press on. You'll likely have a few more experienced folks around to soak up some tips. However, you may also feel slight pressure to keep up. Go with your gut on this one. No right or wrong.
 

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We just booked for a week bareboat in BVI in April 2015. We haven't been to BVI, but have heard it's wicked easy (compared to Maine sailing).

A lot of charter companies will set up for you to have a paid skipper for a day or two. These guys (and gals) know the area and can give you a day or two of confidence building before you head out on your own.

IMO, planning the sailing, then changing plans, then having something go wrong and your wife blame you is all part of the cruising experience.

Choose wisely.
 

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We haven't been to BVI, but have heard it's wicked easy (compared to Maine sailing).
It is. Compared to sailing pretty much anywhere. And all of the charter companies (at least, all of them that I've ever used) conduct a "chart briefing" before they let you leave anyway. At which time you will get excellent advice concerning places to go and things to do, as well as best places for anchoring given the current weather forecasts.

Again, for a lot of people the social aspects of flotilla sailing are a major benefit. And I certainly wouldn't criticize anyone who is unsure of themselves and chooses a flotilla for that reason. But the BVI is such a dead simple area for sailing around in that--if you know anything at all about boats--there really is no reason to be unsure of yourself.
 

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I was apprehensive on Chartering in the BVI as well. We went in April this year. We have only been sailing only short 3 years or so with our own boat and that has been all river or near shore sailing. I have sailed as a kid on small scowls, and hobie-cats and sunfish.
We chartered the Sun-Sail 36I Jenneau. Here is a short synopsis.

1) Trust your judgment. If it looks like its not right "chances are its not".

2) Get the communication package (Radio) and Cellphone to the charter company in case "for help" if you have engine or systems failure .

3) Study the points of interest:
The Baths National Park, Virgin Gorda Gorda Peak National Park, Virgin GordaNorth Sound, Virgin Gorda White Bay Beach, Jost Van ****
Smuggler's Cove Beach, Tortola Cane Garden Bay Beach, Tortola
Sage Mountain National Park, Tortola Soper's Hole, Tortola
Road Town, Tortola Rhone National Maritime Park & RMS Rhone Shipwreck
Anegada Island Sandy Cay Norman Island Peter Island
Just to name a few.

4) If you are not proficient on anchoring, practice some before you go. There are mooring balls to use for day use and for over-night, however while exploring places off the beaten path you will need to anchor. All the boats have windless anchoring systems and makes it easy just lay out proper scope and use a snubber system otherwise you will be up all night.

5) Study the bottom in the shallow areas before you inter. Know the shallows, like the entrance to north sound at Virgin Gorda to the north between Liverick bay and Moskito Island there is a reef just under the water Colquhoun reef.



This information will be in the guide book that the charter company sends you in the mail.
The way we did it was we left Road Town and headed south to Normand Island first a bought 6 mile sail, stopped at the Indians first for a dive. They have only like 5 or 6 moorings at that snorkel site. Be there early or don't get a mooring. By the way, that's the deal with all anchoring. Be there early or you will have to stay on your hook. Lots to see, lots of fun. Like all sailing adventures have a back up to your back up plan and make sure your wife can help. Our Sun-sail boat was in great conditions and all systems worked flawless for 8 days. We did here other people complaining about their experience while we were there. Be we had a great time. I would say no Flotilla unless you your wife would feel better. You defiantly want her to have a good experience. It doesn't need to be your last charter. My wife and I can't wait to go again.

Have fun and drop me a PM if you want any other questions.
Here is the link to the time we had. Cheers

S/V East Coast Lady: Our BVI Story
 

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Good list above. I will only add one thought. If the OP is legitimately apprehensive about cruising the BVI's, anchoring is not necessary, nor recommended. Just get to the mooring fields by 2pm latest. Plenty of time. The problem with anchoring is the limited space at popular sites. It's unlikely anyone apprehensive will want to be off the beaten path much.
 

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Navigation question. What is the consistency of the winds in January/February? And what is the condition/speed potential of your average charter boat? We will be chartering a Beneteau 43.3. Can I assume that we can cruise at 7kts without breaking a sweat in winds in the mid to upper teens? With the islands so close together, am I looking at only a couple of hours between stops? If it is important to be at a mooring at 2PM, how early are people usually leaving the moorage? 10AM? 7AM?
 

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You can assume your boat will sail slower than it's supposed to. :)

Bareboats are not typically in prime sailing condition. Some even have shortened sails to keep clients from over taxing the rigging. Nevertheless, there will always be somewhere you can get in 2-3 hrs on just about anything that sails.

We usually get up, have some coffee and breakfast and start sailing in the morning. Since you wake up aboard a boat that is in sail ready condition, it takes near nothing to get going. I prefer to arrive and spend the afternoon/evening ashore, so no need to hang around in the morning. Unless you go back ashore in the morning or are a very late riser, it's just not a problem.

We take at least one day over the course of a week to just stay put and not leave at all.
 

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So, I should plan on a more pedestrian pace of say, 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 kts boat speed? About what time do you take off, 8-9 AM? My charter agreement says no night sailing, but it sounds like I don't really need to aweigh anchor at dawn (before seven) either?
 

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It's vacation, so why trim for the last few tenths anyway. Sit back and enjoy the scenery. Once you adopt island time for yourself, it's zen.

I would say we are always comfortably underway between 9 and 10. No rushing.
 

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We follow Minnie's general guide, wake up, enjoy breakfast and head out mid morning arriving at our destination early in the afternoon. To expand with some more details--- Cooper, Great Harbour and in especially windy conditions, Sopers Hole moorings, are some of the most challenging to get later in the day. Norman is probably the easiest. As mentioned, have a backup plan or be comfortable anchoring in deeper more exposed waters. Not a big deal on Jost Van ****, for example. If Great Harbour is full a quick motor around the corner and you are in Little Harbour or in a few more minutes you can be in Diamond Cay. If Sopers is full for example, you must choose between anchoring in some pretty deep water or a longish trip to another place.
 
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