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Dufour 24 Swooner
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Hello Sailors!

I am at the first stage of planning my first sailing vacation, and figure the first thing to choose is where we should go! It seems like BVI is the most popular destination choice, but for a US based sailor, wouldn't it be easier to get to the Bahamas, even to sail there from Florida? Has anyone done this with a bareboat charter?

Why BVI over Bahamas?

Some background: I'm a mildy experienced daysailor, who just bought a boat in SF Bay to train myself and potential crew for the vacation of a lifetime (I do have my ASA 104 cert). My crew will consist of my lovely wife who is not a fan of heat, and a newborn due in July. My plan is to go when the kid is around 7 months, so Feb-March of 2016.
 

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I've been to both many times and like both. But, there is no comparison. The BVI are substantially easier to get around, almost no skinny water, line of sight navigation to everywhere, more anchorages and islands than you will ever get to in your first trip. Bahamas are better suited to catamarans, imo, unless you are cruising your own keel boat between the islands.

Charter in the Bahamas and you're essentially contained to one big island and several anchorages or its out islands. Sometimes two.

Bahamas are less expensive for the same boat and there's a reason. But that could be a good reason to go to save a few bucks. However, a catamaran in the Bahamas is going to be more than a mono in BVI. Not so sure about being easier to get to. Closer, but flights are plentiful and cheap to St Thomas and you take a ferry over to BVI.

Enjoy the planning. You need this.

 

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I've been to both many times and like both. But, there is no comparison. The BVI are substantially easier to get around, almost no skinny water, line of sight navigation to everywhere, more anchorages and islands than you will ever get to in your first trip. Bahamas are better suited to catamarans, imo, unless you are cruising your own keel boat between the islands.

Charter in the Bahamas and you're essentially contained to one big island and several anchorages or its out islands. Sometimes two.

Bahamas are less expensive for the same boat and there's a reason. But that could be a good reason to go to save a few bucks. However, a catamaran in the Bahamas is going to be more than a mono in BVI. Not so sure about being easier to get to. Closer, but flights are plentiful and cheap to St Thomas and you take a ferry over to BVI.

Enjoy the planning. You need this.

The Cruising Guide to the Virgin Islands: Nancy Scott, Simon Scott, Ashley Scott, Julie Johnston: 9780944428986: Amazon.com: Books
I booked my BVI charter through Ed-Hamilton Company and received the Scotts cruising guide for free. (I assume that they still do that for customers - verify for yourself.) So you might want to hold off purchasing it untile you decide how/where to charter. This is one of several benefits of using them.
 

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I booked my BVI charter through Ed-Hamilton Company and received the Scotts cruising guide for free. (I assume that they still do that for customers - verify for yourself.) So you might want to hold off purchasing it untile you decide how/where to charter. This is one of several benefits of using them.
True. I'm sure they still do. However, it would be a pretty good way for the OP to learn the breadth of VI sailing to make their decision. If a wasted $35 is a problem, I would suggest they not go at all. :) As you know, it's not inexpensive.
 

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Might I suggest you consider a charter with a Captain and crew/cook for your first charter. Yes, it's a little more money but, IMO worth it and may save your marriage or at a minimum your future sailing plans. I say this because you sound all gung ho and ready but, your wife may not be. Putting her along with a new baby on self charter sailing could be a BIG stress inducer. Consider this scenerio a day of sailing she's seasick (or the baby is) and then when you reach the anchorage you expect her to cook or even look at food. Good luck with that!:)

Now consider the same charter with crew. You could probably still spend as much time at the helm as you want. I'm sure that Captain would be glad to let you handle it. You would also the benefit of his experience and local knowledge of the area and cruising in general. If something breaks on the boat he is going to fix it while you look over his shoulder or relax on deck nursing a beer. Meanwhile your wife is enjoying time with the baby. Taking a nap when she wants too and is not stressed about having to make lunch or dinner. Which scenario will make it more likely she will want to get back on another boat and go cruising with you? :)

P.S.
In the time you are mentioning you can still get some nasty squally northern fronts blow through the Bahamas. Though the BVI's will be more crowded it might have better weather.
 

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True. I'm sure they still do. However, it would be a pretty good way for the OP to learn the breadth of VI sailing to make their decision. If a wasted $35 is a problem, I would suggest they not go at all. :) As you know, it's not inexpensive.
I guess I do my economics differently. $35 is still $35, no matter how much you're paying for the rest of the trip.

There are lots of sources of preliminary info on the BVI. Some of them are free on the web, and there are other cruising guides that you can buy. Since OP now knows that he might be getting the Scotts guide for free in the future, he might want to consider buying something else right now or using the free sources available to him. Then he'll eventually have multiple sources to consult, which we all know is good navigation practice.
 

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I agree with TakeFive. There's plenty of information on SailNet about the BVI from previous questions answered to first decide where you want to go. Also look at:

BVIPirate.com Site Map

Traveltalkonline

http://www.noonsite.com/

At the bottom of this (and all) page is a Similar Threads area that lists other threads of the same topic.
 

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I'm not insisting the OP buy that book, but for someone who has not decided where they are going, or even if they are going, let alone who they are booking with, it's not even likely at this point that is duplicate money. I'm probably old fashion, but a good coffee table book is way more engaging for me than online research. The later is as informative or better, but I suggested having the book to sell the idea of going to the VI at all. Seeing it on the table when having coffee in the morning, flipping a couple of pages, maybe his wife does so on her own, etc.

Someone else made a comment about Bahamas weather in the winter and I did recall something worth mentioning. I've only been to BVI in the winter and the weather has always been predominantly "Caribbean like". I've been to the Bahamas at all times of year and on a dozen different islands. In the winter, especially in the northern islands, it's not quite Caribbean like. It's warm, but not impossible to see a day in the upper 60s. The water isn't quite as warm either. I actually prefer to be in the Bahamas in the shoulder seasons.
 

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We were recently in your position - moderately experienced day sailors, recently purchased our first boat, and booking our first bareboat charter in the Caribbean. Only difference is that we have two teenagers, not a baby. We wound up going to the BVI in June of 2014 and had a great time! But, having been through that, I have to repeat the recommendation to look at a crewed charter.

With a baby that age, that will likely be mobile (crawling, not walking), one adult will always need to be available to tend to the baby. That means the other adult will need to be capable of singlehanding. Can you pick up a mooring ball, tack, reef, raise or drop sails all singlehanded? If a squall pops up, will you be capable of handling the boat singlehanded?

Plus, if this is your first child, you may not be aware of how baby-induced sleep deprivation works, and for how long it can last. Sailing can be physically tiring, and if you're not getting enough sleep at night, you won't be at your best, let alone having a good time.

We traveled with our kids when they were young, and while it could be very rewarding, it was never relaxing. Think long and hard, and don't make any financial commitments until after the baby shows up. They have a way of changing everything.

Good luck!

Mary
 

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We were recently in your position - moderately experienced day sailors, recently purchased our first boat, and booking our first bareboat charter in the Caribbean. Only difference is that we have two teenagers, not a baby. We wound up going to the BVI in June of 2014 and had a great time! But, having been through that, I have to repeat the recommendation to look at a crewed charter.

With a baby that age, that will likely be mobile (crawling, not walking), one adult will always need to be available to tend to the baby. That means the other adult will need to be capable of singlehanding. Can you pick up a mooring ball, tack, reef, raise or drop sails all singlehanded? If a squall pops up, will you be capable of handling the boat singlehanded?

Plus, if this is your first child, you may not be aware of how baby-induced sleep deprivation works, and for how long it can last. Sailing can be physically tiring, and if you're not getting enough sleep at night, you won't be at your best, let alone having a good time.

We traveled with our kids when they were young, and while it could be very rewarding, it was never relaxing. Think long and hard, and don't make any financial commitments until after the baby shows up. They have a way of changing everything.

Good luck!

Mary
As a captain and crew couple, we love all you who are recommending fully crewed term charters over bareboating. Thank you.
However, the BVI's are about the easiest place to sail a boat that I know. There is very little current, almost no tide, steady trade winds and moorings in almost every single place you might wish to anchor. You are never out of sight of several islands (landmarks) and fog is almost unheard of. You couldn't get lost if you tried. It is mostly deep water and the bareboat companies have been operating there since the mid 70's, so they are pretty good at advising folks who are new to the area or a bit worried about navigating the area. For most, their goal is for you to have a great time, so they will do all they can to make it so.
But thanks again to those pushing crewed term charters and our phone number is 1-xxx-xxx-xxxx
Also, I don't see the baby as being all that much of a problem. Should you wish to put the baby down to nap or to pick up a mooring, etc. just build a nice pillow lined enclosure on the forepeak floor (or any cabin with a door) and voila, no problems.
We actually had a bunk in the salon which had a lee cloth and that became the baby's crib. Circled the bunk (with lee cloth up) with netting and she was perfectly happy and safe in any weather. From 3 days after birth, till she outgrew it, this was our daughter's crib on a circumnavigation.
Kids are no excuse not to go sailing. Of course they require a bit of attention when aboard a boat, but there just as many, if not more, dangers ashore.
Boat kids ROCK!
 
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I didn't focus too much on the infant. I think that is dealer's choice and only the parents will know if they are up to it. There is definitely the potential for an infant's needs to overwhelm the parents.

I recall taking our first born on a vacation to the outer banks when he was 5 mos old. It was a no-brainer. But, we were in a beach side condo. It was easy to feed him, put him to sleep and keep him penned in.

We took another trip when we was more like 18 months. That was a disaster. When we needed him penned in, he didn't like it and the stress of dealing with that cut our vacation short. Among other things.
 

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If you really want to go on this vacation, do it before the baby. Everything after the baby is a crapshoot. No pun intended; or was it?
I think he nailed it. It is a crapshoot - might work out fine, but might be a total disaster. The problem is you'll have a very expensive vacation that's at risk if it doesn't work out.

If you were experienced cruisers who had a deep knowledge of the various weather/sea scenarios you might face, and you were confident that you could singlehand while the wife stayed below with the baby, then maybe you could go for it. If you were experienced parents who knew all the necessary parenting tricks, then maybe. But being new at both means an awful lot could go wrong.

Remember, also, that you'll be climbing in and out of a dinghy with an infant. The success of PFDs for a child that age is questionable. It's not gonna be easy.

I'd suggest booking sometime during the 2nd trimester and enjoy it while you can. We took a land-based Hawaii trip when my wife was expecting our first child, and have never regretted it.
 

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Why is the BVIs the most popular charter destination?

'Cos its better?

It really is the best place for a new charterer to have ago with a boat. A populated island every night, only a few hours sail between them (and to a hospita for paranoid mothers), you dont even need to anchor if you dont want to, you dont even need to cook ever, you dont need to do nothing becauseits all a totally encapsulated vacation on a boat place. You can even have the charter companies buy your food and booze for you if you are too lazy or stupid to walk accross the road to the supermarket.

The Bahamas... I dn't think there is any charter companies operating in the Exhumas, the water is so shallow yu can ground anywhere, anytime in a ten foot dinghy, towns dont exist they are villages, some with a shop, some even get provisions once per week.
The Bahamas are a cruising dream, but not a charter dream.

The BVIs win hands down and thats why its the most popular charter destination.

You sure dont need a captain and crew... The just clutter up the decks and take control of the wheely bit whenever the fun really begins.

Go bareboat yourself and learn a stack quickly and have a fabby holiday. :D
 
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