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My wife and I are thinking of bareboating next spring either in BVI, USVI, or the Bahamas. This would be our first time doing this and want to minimize any issues. We both have been sailing most of our lives, mostly boats under 25' though. We have owned a Catalina 22 for the past 3 years on the Chesapeake Bay and sail several times a week during the season as well as do multi-day cruises as much as possible. My main concern is qualifying seeing that most companies don't offer anything less than 30'. We both feel confident in our abilities and don't want a captained vessel as this would be a "couples" vacation. So my main questions are:

1. What would be the best location for a first time bareboater taking into consideration cost, ease of navigation and moorings.

2. What location is easiest and cheapest to fly to.

3.What location is best for being able to get off your plane and on to your boat quickly.

4. Are there any companies that have boats under 30' and if not, with our experience to you see any issues with us qualifying.

Thanks in advance for any insight.

**** Haensler
 

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GC:
Interesting twist.......
1) BVI
2) Many looking for cheaper way to BVI - fly to St. Thomas, USVI then ferry to BVI........
3) Almost none....... some say USVI - beside the land transport, most companies want you to go thru Chart briefing, Boat briefing and then you need to provision the boat either shopping yourself or having the charter company arrange
4) I have not seen any......some will do 32 or 35'
Here's a 32' from Sunsail"
Sunsail Odyssey 32 - Sunsail

Do you have any experience with inboard engines? How do you feel about open water?
What are the type of things you and your wife like to do for activities and evening settings / activities?. ie; swim & snorkel then beach bar & restaurant ashore...........that could influence recommendation
 

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Discussion Starter #3
GC:
Do you have any experience with inboard engines? How do you feel about open water?
What are the type of things you and your wife like to do for activities and evening settings / activities?. ie; swim & snorkel then beach bar & restaurant ashore...........that could influence recommendation
Thanks for your response. Yes I have a little experience with inboards. We both feel comfortable on open water.

We like to snorkel, explore deserted beaches, find quiet moorings that have access to a decent place to eat. We like to find out of the way places where we can get to know the locals a bit. We are both musicians and love finding indigenous street music.

Thanks for your help. Sometimes the best answers come in the form of new questions.
 

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Picnic Sailor
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Welcome to Sailnet, Genesis. We were also small boat sailors when we did our first charter with Sunsail. It was not an issue, we chartered a Beneteau 43, the briefing was very thorough, and although the size did take some getting used to but Sunsail had no issue at all with our experience.
 

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In the BVI about the smallest boat in the charter fleets would be the 32 and it is OK for a weeks sail for two. You will be far more comfortable in a 36 as they generally have better ventilation and handle better in most conditions.

If your going in the prime season Nov to March, then the larger boat is strongly recommend. That is when the Northern Swells are more frequent and the winds tend to be higher making smaller boats more uncomfortable than most larger boats.

Most BVI charter companies offer On-Board accommodations the night prior to departure. You will generally be uncomfortable as these locations are sheltered and you will have little if any breeze reach you. You will typically have the required Brief as previously indicated before you can take the boat out.

Flights into St. Thomas USVI are always cheaper than into Beef Island BVI and more frequent. Prices can be half the cost at St. Thomas. Spirit has $300 - $380 round trip tickets from many Easter US airports. You should attempt to arrive before 2:00 to allow yourself time to reach the ferry boats to BVI or you will be stuck in St. Thomas overnight... not my fav place.

You can charter out of USVI and several nice locations exist even if your heading to BVI for most of your stay. But if your only going for a week to 10 days it is probably better to head directly to BVI to get your boat. USVI to BVI is normally a windward pounding giving the area the UpChuck Alley name.

USVI is a better starting point if your going to be in the area longer... a month or so, then you can take your time with visits to Christmas Cove, St. John's many National Park moorings for swims and hikes then on to BVI. I will take you several weeks/ months/ years to really see the BVI. Most charter people try to see it all in a week. While it is OK to do the Circle of Tortola and visit some of the most interesting spots, you will have a better vacation for two if you are more selective and don't rush yourselves.

Decide what your interest are and then plot your course!

When are you considering going down? I'm generally in the area from December until around June.
 

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GC:
RC has given a very good summary of chartering in the BVI / USVI area.

As to your preferences:
The BVI will provide opportunities to do all the items mentioned. The time of year does matter as it affects cost, crowds, boat availability, etc along with the ability to truly appreciate the beauty & people.......true for all vacation areas but certainly for the BVI which hosts the largest charter "fleet" in the world.
There are shoulder periods that offer great sailing conditions, less crowds and often discounts...........so carefully planning can provide a great time.

Based on your experience & comfort, St. Martin & Anguilla could be an alternative & interesting option.
 

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Chuteman and RC's info is particularly succinct and accurate on the points. We chartered with Sunsail on a Jeaunneau 32 this past winter and had a great time.

RealityCheck mentioned this already, but staying on the boat the night before is usually cheap - $75 in our case. A hotel would have been $250 and it gives you a chance to provision. We got in on Saturday morning, dropped our gear and got possession of the boat around 3p; plenty of time to provision and load in.

As well, make sure you get an early check-out. The chart briefings are usually around 9 and you can get a 7 or 8am check-out, where they run you through the boat and check everything. If you get your check-out sorted, you can head out as soon as the chart briefing is done.

The rest of it is a cakewalk.
 

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Except for motoring to and from the dock, there is nothing about sailing that is more difficult on a large boat then a small boat. I think the charter companies are well aware of this. All your sailing on a smaller boat is action with a quicker response to everything you do. You're larger boat experience will be just like the smaller boat, but in slower motion. I've found all the charter companies very accomodating.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Wow! What great responses everyone. I can't thank you enough. You have given me much food for thought and bolstered my confidence with a larger boat. Our main concern right now is cost. With everything included, a cruise in BVI or USVI might be out of our reach THIS YEAR. We might have to settle for a smaller boat in the Florida Keys. After researching, it looks like with airfare and all the extras, we can cruise for about half the price of a VI bareboat, which is substantial to us this year. We found a little company out of Marathon that has a completely refitted Balboa 27' for $800 a week. It draws 22" with board up which will allow us to gunkhole without a dinghy. The boat has good reviews and was featured in a Cruising World article a few years ago. It's not ideal but it will have to do this year.

When this economy picks up, a VI bareboat will be much more doable. Thanks for the warm welcome and I hope to be a contributing member of this forum for years to come. I hope to be able to report back with a glowing post next year!!!
 

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1. What would be the best location for a first time bareboater taking into consideration cost, ease of navigation and moorings.

2. What location is easiest and cheapest to fly to.

3.What location is best for being able to get off your plane and on to your boat quickly.

4. Are there any companies that have boats under 30' and if not, with our experience to you see any issues with us qualifying.

Thanks in advance for any insight.

**** Haensler
****...I will give you my opinion on your questions but first, I would suggest that you WILL have difficulty qualifying with any of the major companies. You might try to get an ASA or equivilent set of certifications for keelboat in the interim. Altenatively...you might try either qualifying for a flotilla cruise or take a captain on for 2-3 days of the trip until he certifies you as qualified. Now your questions:
1. Abacos Bahamas.
2. Abacos Bahamas
3. Abacos Bahamas
4. Not that I am aware of.

Despite the above...I would encourage you to go to the BVI's for your first cruise. It is another world. Join a flotilla and no worries! Get a mid-30's sized boat. Don't be scared...it will be easier to handle than the C22...REALLY...and you need it in those conditions!

EDIT...Just noticed that no one else has the Abacos...most are probably not even aware of them. Moorings has a base in Marsh Harbor there & they are EASIER than the BVI or USVI...40 minutes from Miami or Lauderdale and you can be on your boat in a 10 minute taxi ride from the airport. The water and the reefs are BETTER than the BVI's but the land is flat and unattractive and it is not open water sailing. I did a rather extensive thread on them here. Those of you who have done the BVI's already might wanna take a look!
 

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First Timer needs advice

I would suggest the the BVI is by far your best choice, I have chartered there as well as sailed my own boat throughout the caribbean and it is a delightful place - easy to get to - easy to get around - and very safe; unlike some other caribbean destinations.

There are any number of companies to choose from, but Moorings/Sunsail are number one in nearly every category -shore side support - quality of boats - ease of provisioning etc.

Your experience to date should not be an issue.
 

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camaraderie-

If they've owned a boat (sail or power) and spent time on the water, it would be a rare firm that would give them static about the BVIs. I've seen couples with 40+ foot cats motoring from mooring to mooring with their only experience being a Boston Whaler they owned for a couple years.

If one doesn't know how to operate the boat or doesn't feel comfortable going on their own, getting a captain makes sense. But, it doesn't take much to get the charter firms to toss the proverbial keys to a boat, big or small.
 

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pschoonveld, I tend to agree with you based on my experience elsewhere in the world with both Sunsail and Moorings.

I'm not saying it is right.....but as I said above we were concerned about our experience ( 27ft boat in sheltered waters, and some club racing) when did our very first charter. We were somewhat shocked when It appeared that we were more experienced(or maybe just more sensible?) than some other charterers.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
This has been incredibly informative everyone and you were right. We just got approved by a charter company for a 30-32 in BVI. Hopefully this economy will pick up next year and we can afford a bigger boat in a better location. At any rate, we are very excited about doing the Keys. Most of the negatives we have heard are from folks who have never cruised the Keys. We have found some very positive blogs from folks who have actually done it. We'll be heading out of Marathon and hitting Sombrero Reef first off which from all the pics I've seen is an incredible snorkeling spot. Thanks again for all of the great responses.
 
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